This is the fourth issue in Volume 4 of a Long Road to Fortune. It is titled Demon.
7 years agoEdit
“Alejandro's grades haven't lowered one bit. His test scores are the highest in the class and his homework is always clear of mistakes.” Mr. Barrera said. The man sat in his office, cup of coffee on his hand. He wore brown slacks and a plaid blue shirt. He was distinguished by his ridiculous mullet and permanent bags under his eyes. In his right, free hand, he held one his student's progress reports which was being read to the parents. “Mr. Valdez, Mrs. eh-what was it again?” the teacher said. “Bermuda” she replied. “Sorry about that. Anyway, Alejandro has been constantly acting out in class. More so lately.” Alejandro had always been a rebel, especially during school. He'd never been violent though. “He's been increasingly violent towards his classmates and not only that...” Mr. Barrera stopped to adjust his reading glasses. “He's been cutting class as well. It's getting to be a habit now. The other kids and I just won't have it.” Mr. Barrera went on to say. The disappointed looks on both of the boy's parents were hardly met with a response. On the drive back home, an answer was demanded. “Well,what do you have to say for yourself, Alejandro?” they asked. The boy took a deep breath. “I'm tired of your bullshit. Simple as that!” Valdez retorted. “Son you better watch your-” but Mr. Valdez was interrupted. “You've been controlling me all of my life! I don't want to be a doctor, I don't want to learn to play piano, and I really don't want to write in this stupid cursive crap!”. A silence of disapproval filled the air, both parties the source. “And by the way...I joined a gang.”
An awfully serene morning revealed itself over Tecpan de Galeana. The panoramic view of the entire town showed an ant farm of groseros, all scattered around the municipality. But our focus is turned to a particular abandoned warehouse just standing tall at the very end of the long Reforma street, a good distance away from the marketplace.
Within it laid a soul that hadn't been heard from in ages. She was wearing a blue sweater for the morning wind, slightly torn at from the bottom. She wore a pair of ocean blue jeans, stained with blood, dirt, and sweat. Her only pair. Naturally, without access to clean clothing or running water, she reeked.
Mimi arose from her sleep as soon as the sun shined over her face from the large open windows. She'd spent the night laying herself atop some old cardboard boxes, a luxury in her eyes. She'd been living alone for about 3 weeks now. But time had flown by so slowly that it felt like months to her. The rest of her group had either abandoned her or become a meal.
She looked at her digital clock, which was plugged into the wall next to her. The time read 11:45 AM. This place wasn't much of a home but how could she complain? It was one of the few places in town that still had electricity. She couldn't continue to mope though, she had to check her rations and check the street below. Without any further hindrance, she arose from her suite and left it.
The interior of the warehouse was dull. Just 2 floors, access to the roof, and enough room to fit several crates of fruit in each. Between the large stairs was a small locker. The lock on it was broken and the door wasn't closed so she did very little to get the door to open. Once inside she marveled at her supplies. They weren't much, they weren't impressive, and they certainly wouldn't be enough for her.
2 cans of beans, 5 fiber bars, a rotten mango, 3 bottles of water, and a small jar of painkillers. Behind them, a can of beer made itself distinguishable.
“Damn it. I'm almost out of everything...sigh”
And with that, Mimi grabbed her last can of beer and opened it. It tasted like crap by now, but it was still enough for her to feel better. She was tired, starved, and just barely quenching her thirst.
“I'll check the street after finishing business with you my friend.” Mimi gave her beer an affectionate rub and chuckled at her action a second later.
It really was a pitiful sight thrown in with the apocalypse but this is all that belonged to her now. At least she had something to call her property though, she couldn't complain about that as much as she wanted to.
It had been about 4 days since the cartel attacked the marketplace and Jacobo and Pedro were just getting ready to start the massive corpse burning. The men of course took their time, half-assing their job. Pepe had offered to help them burn the bodies which he only did so to keep an eye on them. Both men had begun to sit down just minutes after getting to the zocalo, the blazing hot sun taking a toll on them already.
Pepe had already started piling up the bodies when he spotted both men and sighed.
“Hey, we don't have all day! Let's start alright?”
“Fine.” Jacobo replied, sticking his hand out to stretch himself up from the ground.
“Just don't make us puke.” Pedro replied.
“That's up to you really.” Pepe remarked with a grin.
“Shut up.” Both men told him. Pepe figured he just needed to put up with them a little longer.
As Paco and Jacobo piled the bodies, they came across a bald corpse, distinguished by a pair of sunglasses still on the face. The right lens was broken and the body hideously disfigured. Paco and Jacobo both spat on it.
Elsewhere, Jose was up and about, happy to have survived Roberto's attempted murder of him.
“Remember the time when...” Jose asked Mario. “You went out of your way to elbow Valdez in the gut, just because he said he though reggeaton was good music?”
“Don't even remind me. I get the urge to elbow him again.” Mario responded.
His tone of voice was pronounced and loud but lacked the usual anger accompanied by Mario's angry monotone, which was nowhere to be found at this moment.
“I'll say. I didn't know people actually liked that crap.”
“It's disturbing really. “
“How'd you react if I were to go find Alicia and Manny and ask them if they like reggeaton?”
“They don't, at least I think they don't. Anyway, I guess it would depend on their answers.”
“What if they've said yes?”
“Then I'd feel obliged to give them affectionate ass beatings. God knows they'd deserve them.”
Jose laughed at Mario's response knowing full well Mario would never even think twice about harming his twin cousins. Mario smirked at Jose's reaction and gave him a pat on the shoulder. Both men sat on the inside of the marketplace, asses planted on some old stools. Each man had a sling holding their left arms, broken in the aftermath of the Costa Grande Cartel's attack.
This bothered Jose to no end. He'd always been left-handed and he'd been itching to start drawing again soon. His duties as a guard weren't forgotten about either. All he could do in his tent now was enviously eye Max Gomes, who he'd decided to give his notebook and pencil for the time being. In the distance, he could hear Paco gawking teasingly at Max's drawings. Max didn't share Jose's natural talent for art and his drawings were crude and disproportionate in comparison. Max seemed to shut out Paco's teasing well enough, for now anyway. Soon enough, Sandra arrived to oversee her son's creation and cause Paco to shut up. Who wanted to piss of the son of a cartel killer anyway?
“So. When do you think they'll let me back on the guard shift?” Jose asked to Mario.
Mario turned to face him with an annoyed look. “Not any fucking time soon. You got your head beaten the fuck up by gravity and how would you do any shooting with your right hand?”
“I'm still a pretty good shot.”
“Heh, you think? Even if they'd let you I'd stop you.”
“I could shoot you you know.”
“The last guy who tried shooting me is dead.”
Both men could not help but chuckle at their banter, taking their focus away from their mocking injuries. Jose didn't know why Mario was in such a good mood today, it was just one of those things that couldn't be preceded.
Mendoza stood up within the medical tent. He'd only woken up a few hours ago and his head was giving him a hard time. Losing Manuel and Juarez also made him depressed. Sure, things like these happened in the line of duty all the time but having spent as much time with them as he had, he couldn't help but feel they were like sons. Especially Manuel, only 19 and full of energy.
“This will take some getting used to.” Mendoza though to himself, resting his hand on his bandaged face and new eye patch.
He was still alive though, and so were the rest of the injured folk. He was one of two people still inhabiting the medical tent as patients. Yuri was better, Jose was better, Mario was better, and Valdez had gone out on a run with Francisco. With the cartel only looming in the distance, Mendoza feared for his people. But the revolutionary within him thought otherwise, the cartel didn't scare him one bit.
He knew what he had to do. It would take time, people, and effort to make it a reality. But civilization could be rebuilt. This time, the world's old customs not to act as stepping stones to craft society's new reborn state.
“I'm the man for the job.” he said out loud to himself.
Ashton hadn't woken up yet though, he still laid on one of the beds, breathing steadily. Liza slept on a chair next to him. Yuri stood outside the tent while Sandra and the rest of the medics were gone. She peeked into the tent every once in a while. The sight of Liza resting next to Ashton just made her think about Francisco and how bad she felt about things.
“Maybe I should give him a chance...” she whispered to herself. What worried Yuri though was the fact that if she did give Francisco a chance, it would be out of guilt, not love. She was snapped out of her trance when Ashton began to shake uneasily.
In his dreams, Ashton couldn't help but think back to that day, the day of his stabbing. He'd never been much for dreaming. In this dream, all he could do was stand still as the color black replaced the walls and the skies, leaving him standing on a brown platform. But one thing was visible, a brown chair turned away from him. A seemingly unknown woman was seated on it. Ashton though he could recognize her hair, a unique shade of brown he'd never seen on anyone else. He gathered enough confidence to call out to the woman on the chair.
“Hello.” Ashton said to the woman.
His suspicions were correct when the chair turned and the woman revealed herself.
Ashton was staring at his dearly beloved aunt, Patricia Leon.
“Hello Ashton.” she said
Ashton stood there frozen. Not knowing why he was seeing her in the first place made him uncomfortable.
“Is that how you thank your aunt Patricia? I saved your life, I expected more.”
Something was off in her tone of voice. Distant from that sweet sound she'd always make, her tone was cold, ruthless, malevolent. Not at all like Patricia.
“Well, you sound awfully angry about it.” he replied.
Patricia got a sinister smile.
“You're the one coming up with this. I thought you knew me better”.
“I know you as well as I got to know you. I'm thankful for that...but today it feels different.”
“I take it you don't know what the meaning of this is.”
“But you're making it happen.”
Ashton did not know what his aunt meant. So he watched as she rose from her chair and approached him. She made her way over to him with grace, as Ashton always thought of her as elegant despite her choice for a husband.
The closer she got, the sadder Ashton got. He couldn’t cry though, he never could.
“Why are you apologizing?” Patricia asked with intent.
Ashton closed his eyes as soon as she spoke.
“Open your eyes...please.” Patricia pleaded.
Ashton complied and was met with a grim sight.
Patricia had lunged at him, green and snarling. She sunk her teeth into Ashton's throat, much to his lack of resistance or even cries of pain.
Mr. Chet had finished burying their people on a secluded part of the soccer field. Manuel, Juarez, and 9 others. The sun didn't bother him anymore, as his sore body demanded much more attention.
“Joaquin!” a voice called out to him. It belonged to Gustavo Texta.
“You stubborn little fuck. We said we'd bury them.” Gustavo said to him, devoid of rage.
Mr. Chet turned around to see his old friend and planted his shovel on the ground as a “friendly” gesture.
“You were taking too long, so I helped myself to the task.”
“You talk with a lot of honor, you know that? I know you've got nothing to feel honored about though. You're selfish and you kill, just like me.” Gustavo went on to say. “Makes it ironic that you called out Saul on his lack of honor.”
“I never claimed to have any. So I don't appreciate you putting tones in my mouth.” Mr. Chet responded.
“But everybody says otherwise, ain't that right?” Gustavo mocked.
“I don't control what other people say about me. They're wrong though, I'm not exactly happy about their opinions but it is what they choose to believe about me. I can try to change that, but I wouldn't do you the favor.”
“Whatever. I'm not here to argue. I heard you were leaving first thing tomorrow.” Gustavo said, his tone of voice serious and highly unexpected. Mr. Chet looked surprised, but saw this as a facade nonetheless.
“Don't tell me you're here to say goodbye.” Mr. Chet responded.
“I'd like to think part of us still see a bit of friendship in each other.” Gustavo said.
“We were never friends. Just forced to put up with each other.”
“Until you got us kicked out. Strike one for selfish.”
“Is there a point to this somewhere Gustavo? Or are we going to keep at this verbal dance of ours?”
Gustavo took a deep breath to avoid losing his cool.
“Do you remember what I said to you back at my office over in that school?”
“Very hard to forget about that.”
“I never told you if I was telling the truth about it or not.”
“I know you weren't. You're manipulative and slimy, I'd expect bigger lies from you.”
Gustavo couldn't help but take visible offense to that comment, even though he knew it was too close to the truth.
“What if I told you I really wasn't lying.” he responded, clenching his teeth together while doing so.
Mr. Chet close his eyes in an attempt to calm down.
“I'd say you're full of shit.”
“The only reason no one's bothered to verify this for you Joaquin, is because they fear you. Maybe even respect you enough to keep you from the truth. Francisco and Yuri, though, they'll tell you the same thing I'm telling you. You killed Daniela. Simple as that.”
Gustavo didn't take pleasure in breaking the news to Mr. Chet. Mr. Chet knew this, and knew he was telling the truth about Daniela.
A tear fell from his eye.
“I'm sorry Joaquin, I really am.” Gustavo said with a calm tone of voice sprinkled with pity.
Mr. Chet grabbed the shovel and threw it away in anger.
"I'm going to head back. Thanks, I guess." Mr. Chet said, walking about from Gustavo. That single manly tear engraved in Gustavo's memory.
Mimi sat on the roof with her binoculars handy. She peeked around town but was met with the same sight everywhere. Groseros by lot, pound, and pack. She grew tired of this very quickly. She'd been doing this for too damn long and getting the same damn results each time. Mimi always expected to get a different result though. She really was insane...or was she?
"What...the...hell? What the hell is that?"
She couldn't believe her eyes. Smoke? What could be causing flames this early in the day? Especially coming from the zocalo. But then it hit her.
Mimi knew she had to investigate the source of the fire she could finally spot. Maybe she wasn't crazy or hallucinating after all. Unlike the fire she thought she could see when she was high on painkillers 4 days ago before the rain came and took it out, she was sure that this one was real.
She needed company. She really did.
|A Long Road to Fortune Volume 4|
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