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This is the second issue in Volume 6 of A Long Road to Fortune. It is titled A Toast to the Past.
April 18th, 2010
It’s almost been a month since it happened, the incident that changed his and their lives forever. It all started so well. Just six friends getting together for an evening out in the park, chattering and sipping juice. Incredibly innocent, there was no warning to what followed as it all happened so fast. Liza still remembers running to that alley and helping her friends up to safety. It was a fool-proof plan, so perfect...yet it crumbled and Ashton was the person to face the consequences. But she ran as far as she could as soon as she got over the fence, not bothering to look back to see if he made it. In her fit of cowardice, those cartel bastards let the knives have their way with Ashton’s abdomen, as he were just some low life or animal nobody would miss. In truth, not many would miss him-- but he was far from a low life, so undeniably damn far.
"Hurry Ashton!" Liza exclaimed. Ashton was on his way up the fence when he was pulled down by the two men from the cartel.
"Hey, look who it is! The infamous Ashton! What an honor." said one of the two men.
"What do you want? Money? Fortune? Your wives to love you again? Because I can give you all but the latter." Ashton replied.”
Liza faintly hears this as she continues to dash away from all the danger but suddenly stops. She’s safe for now, and she’s aware of it but cannot find calmness. While in panic, Liza stands still in one place. She shifts her vision around to her surroundings. Cars drive past her in both directions and she swears she can hear Lucas calling out to her but it’s all a blur until a dreadful sound joins the atmosphere-- that of an ambulance.
Liza snaps herself back into reality. She nearly dozed off once more, sitting beside her best friend in his coma. It’s his birthday so this why she dropped by for a visit. Truth be told, she wasn’t a frequent visitor of his, considering herself to be guilty for what had happened to him. However, today’s date demanded her presence and she’s here to comply to this inner demand she holds tightly. There’s no present with her because what could she possibly offer him that would even be remotely appropriate? Nothing. At least in her mind. Liza continues to look at him and begins to chuckle. She’s very well dressed for this visit. New jeans, new blouse, and her lips are covered in her new red lipstick. The tragedy in this is very apparent to her.
The sound of her music box comes into her consciousness, one near like a melody. It was melody she was raised with, one she often used to seek comfort in. It’s a soothing sound but its indubitably just Liza’s head playing tricks on her. No music was present anywhere in the room and there never will be. It’s all fine with her...she was finally finding solace in the situation. Blankly staring at the unconscious Ashton, Liza spaces out while her gaze is on him. For a second she swears she can see him moving but it’s simply a product of some weird optical illusion. Liza isn’t going to question it.
Instead she gets this sudden jittery rush of anxiety, as if she knows she came here to do one specific thing apart from keeping Ashton company in his special day. It’s those feelings she’s trying to fight back but simply can’t. She’s ready to admit it-- she’s madly in love with this boy. These feelings haven’t always existed, her sympathy and love for her erratic childhood friend have always been there but never did she consider him the love of her life, a title that he now holds without any objections.
Tears run down her face critically slowly yet she knows she won’t even sob. Rising from her seat she instead opts to stand directly by his side. There she gently places her right hand on his chest and slowly moves it all the way up to his left cheek before finishing by running it through his hair. This is when Liza bends herself down and suddenly, her lips are making contact with Ashton’s. This kiss doesn’t last very long as Liza feels guilt soon after. She doesn’t know if Ashton feels the same way even though she’d just done it-- she has stolen Ashton’s first kiss. As much guilt as she feels, it’s not exactly bad. This isn’t so bad in her eyes.
“Please come back. I really miss you.” Those are Liza’s only words to Ashton for the entirety of the visit but she leaves happy.
Soon Liza is outside the hospital, walking back to her delightful home. But she turns back to the hospital for a moment. Many people are beginning to crowd the entrance. Liza recognizes a woman amongst the crowd. She holds balloons, flowers, and a photo album in her hands. It’s undeniably Patricia, Ashton’s aunt. With her cherry red lips, she gives the woman a heartwarming smile, one she’s not aware that she received.
7 months ago
Another lousy weekend night in the town. Not much changes for Mario except of course the obnoxious noises of fireworks carelessly going off constantly. December may be all cheer and glee for some people but Mario can’t help but detest all the noise it brings along with it. Other people laugh and talk cheerfully about it-- but Mario can’t. It was this month 20 years ago that he’d experience such a damn misfortune. He chooses to no longer think about it and instead continues his short trek past the zocalo, and on his way to the bar. In his right hand Mario holds a can of Corona, one of the town’s most beloved beers.
This was his 12th can and he was finally showing some definite signs of being drunk. The bar is right there in the distance and he can spot groups of people speaking outside of it, all dressed neatly with some form of an alcoholic drink in each of their hands. Mario simply scoffs and downs his can of beer. Following this, he easily crushes and tosses the can back, not caring about what it may or may not hit.
As his presence becomes more and more known among the people enjoying their night out at the bar, faces turn to him. The reception is mixed, some sigh, some curse, some don’t give a shit, and some even look down in fear. No faces are happy to see him but he frankly can’t give less of a damn about what they think. He instead continues on before stopping at the entrance of the bar-- or at least one of them. Mario looks inside-- nothing interests him. Just two people sitting at the bar, a very hot woman and some pale guy drowning his sorrows. The woman isn’t drinking, just sits there tapping her foot as if she were waiting for someone. While the girl is one of the most attractive he’s ever seen in this town, he knows she probably will not be interested in a hothead like himself. This bores Mario to no end so he turns his sights back on the exterior and likes what he sees. He came here looking for fun and he is just about to get plenty of it.
Some gang members leaned against a truck like a couple of faggot tools--- according to Mario’s current thoughts. There were only about three of them anyway and he knows they can’t fight for shit. Their tactic is in their intimidating appearance and demeanor, but good luck scaring a guy like Mario. So he power-walks over to their location with a big ol’ angry grin on his face as they continue to chatter amongst themselves. Mario knows they still have yet to notice him approaching so he makes the most out of this reconnaissance. As soon as he’s close enough, he proceeds to spit on one of the gang member’s shoes. All three of them notice and curse at him but only one of them, the one whose shoes Mario just spat on, jumps into action.
“Motherfucker!” he yells at Mario. While he does unleash an impressive left hook, Mario dodges it with facility and instead pulls the gangster close and knees him right the stomach. Mario follows by quickly smashing his fist at the side of the gangster’s face and the latter spits out blood in retaliation. The other two are left shocked by Mario fearless demeanor.
“Fuck. Get the others, this guy is crazy!” one of them yells. The other tool runs into the bar to get the desired backup as Mario finishes wrecking the gangster he originally assaulted.
The other gangster pulls out a knife and paints a look of craziness on his face but this only makes Mario more motivated. He lets him make the first move as he tries to stab Mario but gets his wrist grabbed and twisted in return, causing him to drop his knife. Instead Mario rams his head into the gangster’s face and sickening cracking sound is heard. The other gangster falls on his face with a broken nose as he desperately clutches it in an attempt to contain the bleeding. Not too smart. By now the fight has already called attention but the people seemed to be divided, witnessing two separate scuffles. Apparently one of the bangers had also gotten into an altercation of his own inside of the bar.
Mario pays no mind to the crowd that chose to observe his scuffle and instead turns to the gangster clutching his nose. The one Mario had dispatched earlier was already running away in fear. The cheating scumbag in front of Mario, one that dared to use a shank in fist fit only infuriated the drunken Mario even more. To relieve himself, Mario opted to begin kicking the side of the man’s face not stopping until two other gang members jumped back from behind. To calm the beast, they struck him with a bat across the back of the head. Everything after is a blur to Mario as he finally loses consciousness due to the power of the blow.
The next day he wakes up inside a small prison cell. His head is a mess, hungover and still feeling the pain of last night’s blow. He remains seated for a while before getting up and looking around. He’s been here before a couple of times and for the same shit too but Mario is expecting to be bailed out once more. As always. But he looks at the watch mounted on the wall across his cell. It’s 4 PM the next day and no one from his powerful family has come to his aid.
Eventually he gets impatient and begins to shake the bars, causing a ruckus on the room. He yells asking for service and soon it comes. A fat cop stares him down, shaking his head in disappointment. Mario knows him, his name’s Donny.
“What the hell Donny? Why haven’t I been bailed? You called my aunt right?” Mario asks. Donny continues to stare him down, not saying a word.
“Talk to me Donny, come on! Where’s my aunt?” he asks desperately. He hated being trapped in the interior of a cell.
“Mario, it’s not that simple this time.” Donny says as soon as he opens his mouth to speak.
“Well why the fuck not?” Mario asks.
“You’ve committed murder. You don’t get bail for that.”
This was all Mario heard right before widening his eyes in shock. This is what his aunt Sofia always feared he’d end up doing. Mario scoffed at the absurdity of the idea every time he thought about it but not now-- now it mocks him.
“What the hell?!” Mario yells.
“I got reports of you kicking an injured man’s head over and over again. Then it turns out the same man dies later from trauma to the head. I’d say this needs no explanation on my part. But how do you feel about this?” Donny responds to the distraught Mario.
“Fuck this. Fuck fuck FUCK! Those fuckers were never supposed to drop dead! Fuck them!” this is just one of Mario’s raging monologues. Donny never changes his look of disappointment and leaves halfway through Mario’s incoherent rage, leaving the grown man to think about his actions.
Mario dives his head into his palms in anger. Life just hates him to death. Even if he did deserve being incarcerated for murder, 20 years later, Eva didn’t deserve what happened to her. The world works in mysterious ways and it never ever got tired of looking down on Mario Galeana, because his happiness can’t fucking last.
Early May, 2010
The world had been hell for quite a while now but it was finally starting to look like it too. Arsonists are currently lighting the Apolonio on fire and trashing random homes to their hearts desire. Right now he’s armed to the teeth with weapons as Gustavo drives his truck around in search of people to recruit. Seeing as how the people of Tecpan had decided to take it upon themselves to destroy everything around-- but he knows this arson is the work of the loud Costa Grande Cartel. Everything to be expected of them is currently ravaging the streets. Gustavo’s home is considerably far away but he’s not bothered by it as every weapon he’s collected over the years sits pretty in the back of his truck. So far, he’s only managed to rescue two men. One stands at the back of the truth holding a pistol tightly while the other sits. The one standing is clearly shaking scared but the look on his face would tell you otherwise. This is the man we know as Francisco Navaja.
“Doing good back there boy?” Gustavo yells at him while poking his head out the window. Francisco replies with a nod.
“Yeah just fine.” he lies. Gustavo can tell. Francisco is wearing a vest and packing heat for protection. What he is to do now is keep an eye out for any people to recruit. After driving around for a couple more minutes, Gustavo hits the car’s horn in frustration.
“We won’t find any fucking body like this. We’re parking and searching in fucking houses.” he commands. No objection from either.
“By the way...what’s your name?” Francisco asks the other man. This man is short and has brown skin. He gets to his feet and shakes Francisco’s hand.
“Sorry savvy, name’s Bristol”. he says while the handshake goes on.
“Francisco.” he replies.
“Well, nice to meet ya.”
Their chat is cut short due to the off putting circumstances in which both are visibly stuck in at the moment. Eventually, Texta drives past the intensely heated arson and parks his truck at the riverbed. No one should be around to attempt to steal his weapons but Gustavo decides to leave an armed man on guard duty anyway.
“Any of you ever killed a man?” Gustavo asks. Honestly, he’s not expecting any replies, specially from the terrified Francisco. Francisco himself isn’t going to say a word. What business would he have killing men anyway? But alas, one reply fills the air with the most nonchalant-ness both men have not seen in a while.
“One or two.” Bristol replies. Francisco has turned to look at Bristol with wide eyes.
“Heh. Fucking good. Shoot anybody that tries to pull a fast one over you, got it?” Gustavo orders him. Bristol simply raises his bottom lip and nods quietly.
“Sounds good boss.” he replies.
“Excellent. Now come on kid, we’re going out.” Gustavo says.
After a few minutes of jogging, both are back at the Apolonio. Some flames have begun to die out but it’s still proving to be a task to breath easily, so Francisco and Gustavo cover their noses. Francisco hears exactly three bullets ring out in the distance. Pinpointing their exact location is just too much of a chore right now, although Francisco can swear they came from the few houses located past the alley on Gral. Cesareo Ramos. Despite this, the shots are promptly ignored and Gustavo leads Francisco on. Not a single soul is present in the area apart from the both of them-- or so it seems to them.
In reality, a woman could see their silhouettes in the distance. She’s unarmed and nearly petrified but she hopes they’re anything but hostile. But then it hits her-- she has the element of surprise. She could hide from them as they walk pass her to get a closer look and she decides to do just that. Gustavo and Francisco reach her side but she’s safely secluded behind a parked car. Looking at both men, her eyes light up in fear. The hulking size of the older man and well as their equipment do nothing to alleviate her fear. Hiding is the best choice of action and she follows through with this. It’s working to her favor and both men are slowly disappearing into the fog. Her sighs of relief are heaven on earth for her but a sudden groan snaps her back into reality. She turns and an infected has already piled itself on top of her.
The woman does the best she can to wrestle the infected but its jaws are getting closer and closer to her neck. She begins to scream and cry in fear. All it takes for her life to be over is a bite from this-- this monster. Her eyes close at the sight. At this point she’s ceased her resistance and accepted her fate. The infected’s teeth need only one more second to reach her neck but it’s a second too soon. The infected is harshly pulled off of her and stabbed through the head with a combat knife. Her eyes remain closed throughout the entire ordeal yet open again as soon as she hears the knife leave the infected’s skull. In her vision is now Francisco, who gives her a hand up. She hesitantly grasps his hand and is soon pulled up by the man. Upon standing, her eyes suddenly shift to Gustavo or “the hulking man” as she knows him. He stands over the infected and places his knife back in its satchel. Her gaze returns to Francisco who looks at her puzzled.
“Hey I know you, you’re Yuri right? The medics’ daughter right?” Francisco asks. Yuri nods in reply.
“Yes, that’s me. Th- thank you.” she adds. Sudden comfort befalls her. She trusts these men to keep her safe and soon Gustavo joins them.
“Hello ma’am. I see you’ve met Francisco here. I’d love to introduce myself and chatter but a fuck ton of these malditos are headed this way, so we have to fucking go.” Gustavo says to Yuri.
“Oh hell. What are we waiting for?” Francisco adds.
The three of them begin their run back to the truck in hopes that Bristol has kept it secure. Yuri, who instinctively keeps a bit of distance behind them, observes both closely. Maybe facing this apocalyptic world won’t so bad with their company. Within her rises a willingness to smile but she controls it. There is still nothing to smile about in such a world.
There she stands, dangerously atop a large building. It’s one of the tallest in Acapulco but Paloma is unfazed-- this is her thing, her calling, what she does best. Her gaze planted at the street below. She’s at the very least 70 feet up in the air and not even a chill fills her body. This is fearless Paloma who always fights her way past every challenge. She turns to see the actor who was to shoot her. He’s quite tall and handsome, Paloma enjoys the view. In his hand, is a gun made to look like a glock but it’s designed to shoot blanks. Once he catches a glimpse of Paloma doing what he thinks is sizing him up, he offers her a wink in return.
The scene is simple. As soon as the director yells “action”, the man will shoot exactly three blanks at Paloma causing her blood patches to break and create “bullet holes”. After the shooting, Paloma is to stumble back and fall face up off of the building. Then, land safely on the sizable air cushion set up for her where a red square marks the target for her desired landing spot. She just dons her trademark sassy smile while taking a peek at the cushion. Paloma doesn’t even bother to take a breath-- she’s more than ready.
“Three, two, one, action!” the director yells. Not even a second after, Paloma is shot and “shaken” with three blanks. The blood patches concealed under her clothes go off at the perfect moment and after stumbling back just enough she’s already plummeting down to the street below. Paloma twists herself as soon as the camera is out of range and sticks her landing without a hitch. The sheer excitement of the stunt has her laughing and smiling in joy. After making her way off of the giant cushion of air, Paloma regains her stance in the street below. As crew members shake her hand, clearly impressed, a text comes from the director who is back on top of the building. The take was absolutely flawless, perfect in every way. It is all thanks to Paloma.
“Great job Paloma! I knew we hired the right stunt double!”
“Man oh man, beautiful and fearless? You’re absolutely wonderful! Call me too!”
“I wish the world was filled more people with your beauty and talent!”
This is just some of the praise Paloma hears amidst her thank yous to the rest of the cast and crew. With the stunt being a success, Paloma quickly calls her driver to come and pick her up. Soon after, she’s on a car in the Costera of Acapulco. Paloma has a photo session in Manzanillo for an upcoming appearance in a local magazine. Just some modest photos she agreed to do for free. She leans her head in her seat, staring out the window and to the beach decorating the view. Nothing to complain about in her life, it’s magnificent.
Early May, 2010
San Jeronimo, Guerrero
Paloma stands in Natalia’s living room. It’s small and modest, not fancy by any means. Natalia herself sits in her only couch, watching Paloma intently. Paloma is currently horrified at the outside. The streets of San Jeronimo are completely ravaged by infected and not a single soul seems to be present in the town apart from them. Her driver had been called two days ago and she still waited for him. Obviously, by now he wasn’t going to come. Heck, Paloma didn’t even know if he was still alive anymore. After seeing what these things are capable of up close, Paloma decided that the best thing for her to do at the moment was to keep Natalia indoors. Protecting her is currently the fire to her fuel.
Both women go a long ways back, friends since their teens. Paloma has always felt connected to Natalia, loving her with enormous passion. When the news of her cancer reached Paloma, she was devastated. Losing something like the love of your life is never a good thing to hear about. Paloma turns her gaze back to Natalia, whose hair has been eradicated thanks to chemotherapy but she’s still the most beautiful woman in the world to Paloma. As soon as Paloma turns, Natalia expects a smile from her as usual but is thrown off guard when Paloma is terrified. Paloma has never been terrified for as long as she’s known her so this is something Natalia refuses to believe. But soon Paloma is already right in front of her, opening her mouth to speak.
“Honey, we need to leave right now. It’s only a matter of time before they find us. Grab our bags we prepared for emergencies and meet me by the door. Hurry!” Paloma commands.
“It’s that bad?” Natalia asks. There isn’t a lot of pitch in her voice due to the advanced state of her cancer. Paloma gives her a nod in return and Natalia is off to fetch both bags.
Soon after, both are out and about on the streets. They move cautiously, avoiding to be seen by infected. Most have migrated to the opposite side of town and those few stragglers who still linger around trail far behind our duo. Natalia constantly looks back at the infected but Paloma keeps her sights forward. What she needed the most right now is a car. But no luck, not a single car is in the vicinity. The closer they inch to the town’s not very far entrance, the more terrified each grow. The car is vital, as word that a group rally formed up in Tecpan had spread fast. Their intention, to get everyone back to Acapulco, and eventually to safety.
“Paloma, they’re getting closer! And there’s more of them!” Natalia says to her. Paloma is just now realizing it too; suddenly they’re surrounded by infected.
A car is seen in the distance, parked right near the OXXO in the town’s entrance. Paloma regains hope and begins to speed away to the car, recklessly pulling Natalia along with her. Natalia has trouble matching her pace and begins to pant uncontrollably. Pretty soon, Paloma and Natalia reach the car. Paloma sighs in relief when she sees the keys in the ignition. Proceeding to smash the window with her elbow, Paloma seats herself right inside of the driver’s seat. She turns the key and the sound of the engine roaring proportions her with an uncanny comfort. The amount of gas in the car is very little but Paloma prays that it will be enough to get her and Natalia to Tecpan in time to make the fabled rally. Natalia struggles to get the passenger car door open so Paloma reaches across the door and opens it herself. Amidst her panic, Natalia plops on the car seat, barely closing the door behind her.
The drive to Tecpan is long and completely unpleasant. Natalia is currently hyperventilating without a stop and Paloma’s pressure is off the charts. She keeps focused on the road and eventually Natalia stops making noises, perfect for Paloma to continue concentrating. Running over numerous infected on the way, Paloma’s eyes widen at the marvelous sight-- the city limits sign of Tecpan de Galeana.
“Yes! Yes!” she says excited. A single tear of joy runs down her face.
“Natalia, you see this? Natali-” Paloma’s speech is interrupted by a loud and violent groan from an infected Natalia who wastes no time latching on to Paloma. As she wrestles her infected friend amidst tears, Paloma loses complete control of the steering wheel.
“Natalia please nooo!” Paloma says in sorrow, but Natalia is long gone. Their struggle is cut short when the car crashes against a pole in the entrance to the town of el Cerrito, just before the women can reach the bridge to Tecpan. Paloma loses consciousness as soon as the car crashes.
Paloma regains consciousness several minutes later. A nasty gash extends down the side of her face but the blood that should be running down it has been wiped clean. It doesn’t take her long to realize it but she’s lying down on the ground a few meters away from the car. Slumped over against it is what she presumes is what’s left of Natalia. Her head has been smashed open and her brain and skull fall out of her head slowly. But something else catches her attention and it is the fact that she’s been stripped to her undergarments and right in front of her stand four shady looking men. One of them bends down to Paloma and looks at her straight in the eyes. Paloma is disgusted by his visible lust. He grabs Paloma’s chin and begins to lick her gash. Paloma instinctively hooks the man on the side of his face but he responds by doing the same. His blow hurt the already injured Paloma much more than her’s hurt him. This feisty behavior only excites him further.
“She’s alive and well. We hit the jackpot compadres.” The man in front of Paloma says.
“I’d know that face and those fine boobs anywhere. She’s the famous Miss Avila. 35 and single.” one of the other men says. He holds a magazine where Paloma is modeling a swimsuit in the cover, but quite tastefully.
“What are we waiting for? Let’s all fuck her at once! Sound good mama?” the third man says to her.
“Go to hell you bastards.” she replies harshly.
“Oooof. You’re getting me in the mood.” the man in front of her says. He’s got a gun holstered on the right side of his hip-- but so do the others. Paloma could grab the gun but there’s no way she could escape being shot down by the other three men. But she wasn’t about to be raped either.
“I know you’re going to like my piece. It’s nice and big...perfect for putas.” the man remarks. Paloma grits her teeth in anger. She’s defeated, these men weren’t going to leave her be anytime soon. Pretty soon the man is standing up again.
“Get on your knees baby. It’d be a shame for me to have to use this. Tch.” he says while pointing on his gun. Paloma hesitantly complies and the man begins to undo his belt. Pretty soon, Paloma finds herself forced into pleasuring the man with her mouth.
His constant moans of pleasure bring about envy from all the other men, who get excited from just watching.
“That looks fucking great.” one of them says.
“Feels fucking great. Used to doing this huh bitch?” the man says in response. Paloma keeps her eyes closed while doing the deed.
One of the other men can’t keep himself from participating and soon he’s behind Paloma. He proceeds to harshly pull her up and rips her underwear off harshly.
“Hey watch it fucker! Get the fuck back! You know I don’t share!” he threatens.
“Fuck man, fine. If you’re that fucking selfish. Geez..”
“Go loot the car instead.” he orders. “Same goes for the rest of you!” he adds as soon as he turns his face to gaze at them. They curse at him but he doesn’t mind. They comply and make their way to the car, leaving the man alone with Paloma. His moans intensify, he’s enjoying himself and it makes Paloma sick to her stomach. But he closes his eyes and Paloma opens hers. She turns to see the other men turned away from her, far enough near the car. A few tears escape her eyes at the sight of Natalia’s corpse. The man’s eyes remain closed. Big mistake.
Without any further hesitation Paloma crunches down, sinking her teeth on the man. His sudden satisfaction is exchanged with that of excruciating pain. He screams but Paloma doesn’t budge. The others ignore his screams as they’re too busy marveling at Paloma’s supplies. Instinctively the man shoves Paloma away from himself. Wrong choice of action.
The combined strength of the man’s shove and the intensity of Paloma’s bite cause his genitalia to be completely ripped off, with Paloma spitting it out as soon as possible. The man’s screams of pain intensify and he stumbles back on the ground, staring at the bloody stump where his penis used to be. Paloma managed to grab the man’s gun just before being shoved away and she doesn’t waste time-- she’s up on her feet and points her weapon at the other unsuspecting men. Pulling the trigger without thinking, Paloma guns the other men down recklessly. One of her shots hits one right through the back of his neck while the others receive numerous bullet wounds to their backs. It doesn’t take long for them to die.
With maniacal rage on her face, Paloma walks over to the man on the ground. He’s bleeding out excruciatingly slow as he clutches his bloody stump. Standing in front of him, Paloma raises her gun with a face so devoid of sympathy and filled with so much hatred that the man becomes frozen with fear.
”YOU FUCKING BII-” the man goes on to say but is cut off as his chest explodes with blood when Paloma unloads the rest of the gun’s clip on the miserable scumbag who just had his fun violating and defiling her.
Paloma stares down at the man’s corpse. Zero life in his eyes. She begins to cry in rage and carelessly tosses the empty gun aside. After today, she can no longer be the same Paloma Avila.
Tecpan is facing a massive heat wave and not a single soul is feeling particularly lively. Specially in the gloomy household we’re currently observing. It’s thrashed and run down. Furniture is very minimal and roaches move around the darker corners of the room, where countless amounts of dust gather around. A young boy sits on the floor, playing with only five marbles. This is Santiago Hernandez. He wears a worn out pair of shorts and stained, white tank top. He’s only ten years old so he seeks fun in this house, one where the people and the home itself are slowly falling apart. His father is currently sleeping, his big ol’ gut hanging out. By his feet are several empty cans of beer. He’s out cold, completely. Santiago liked it this way. When awake, his father had a fondness for beating on him and his brother to “toughen” both up. It made Santiago sick but it’s not like there was anything he could do about it.
These beatings have only increased following his mother’s suicide a few weeks back. His father blames both Santiago and his brother for her suicide but Santiago knows who that bastard really blames is himself-- he just can’t let his own children know for whatever god damn reason. As Santiago continues to play with his marbles, his father lets out a big nasty snore. Santiago just chuckles.
“Snore away, you fat worthless bastard…” he remarks quietly. Right after, he hears the door slam behind him. His brother has come home. He too wears a tank top like Santiago but only to show off his tattoos. He holds a syringe in his hand, and Santiago can easily spot the gun stashed in his pants.
“Watchu looking at?” he rudely asks Santiago. He scoffs while doing so. He tries to intimidate Santiago despite knowing his brother doesn’t scare easy.
“Just you, and what a fucking mess I see.” he retorts laughing.
His brother grits his teeth at Santiago. The next thing he expect is to receive a blow to the face from this asshole he has the “pleasure” to call his brother. But he’s too caught up on that heroin of his that he lets Santiago get off Scott free this time.
“Whatever. I don’t have time for this.” he replies. With that, he’s off down the corridor to his room.
Santiago takes a minute to ponder once again. He hates his family, everybody-- including himself. They’re all so flawed to hell. His father is abusive, lazy, and a drunk while his brother is a thug who’s deep into drug addiction and is part of who knows how many criminal operations...and then there’s Santiago himself. Rude, selfish, and off-putting. He hates people of all kinds because in their smiles they try to hide their flaws, ones they try to pretend they don’t have. For a 10 year old kid, this makes perfect sense.
But there’s also Santiago’s mother. She was far from a bad person yet she was just so undeniably miserable. Everyday she’d cry at least once and her own husband shut her up with his fists. Santiago never knew if she had bigger plans for herself and just fell into depression when his fat ass father got her pregnant with his brother. There’s one thing Santiago can’t deny however-- he misses his mother greatly. He misses her hugs, her kisses, and her overall affection. He can’t remember the last time someone other than her showed him that much love. So with that, he can’t help but cry.
“Why the hell does life have to be so flawed and imperfect? Why can’t things be good for everybody? What’s the point of being alive if you can’t be happy?” he thinks to himself amidst his tears.
Extremely complex thoughts for a ten year old boy, but he knows this is not his fault. Nor has it ever been.
Santiago lays on his sofa, completely sold out. It’s 12 in the afternoon on a weekend morning and the sun begins to enter the room through the window. He snores loudly during his slumber and shifts around the sofa. He only awakens when the sunlight pelts him right in the face. He opens his eyes slowly and covers them much faster.
“Ugh…” he groans. Behind the couch where he currently sleeps is a dining room where his aunt and uncle are already munching down on brunch.
“Heheh. There you are Santiago. Just in time for eggs. Come, grab a bowl.” his uncle tells him.
“I’d rather brush my teeth first…” he says in between his yawning.
“Please do. You don’t want to add eggs to that breath of yours.” his aunt jokes.
“You’re funny tia. I’ll be down in a second.” he replies. Both his aunt and uncle smile.
Moments later he’s down and about, and already filling his plate with eggs and beans. He grabs a empty chair and seats himself. He begins to chow down furiously, grabbing a tortilla. He uses it to grab pieces of egg and beans and stuffs it all in his mouth.
“Quite an appetite today I see.” His uncle comments. Santiago drinks juice while keeping one eye open at his uncle.
“I’m always hungry. Shouldn’t ya’ll tell by now?” Santiago replies but his tone is far from rude. Everybody shares a small laugh.
He’s been living with his aunt and uncle for about five years now. Reason for this being very dark. Simply put, his father up and offed his own useless ass. At the same time, Santiago’s brother got caught doing whatever the hell a criminal like him does. Murder, drug charges, everything. He was never going to see the light of day again so he’s tried his best to forget him. Thanks to him however, Santiago has taken it to despising criminals of any kind with all of his being.
Living with this modest couple has actually been healthy for Santiago. Most of his erratic philosophical thoughts no longer dictate the way in which he thinks or behaves. They’re still there but put aside. Unlike his brother and father, he loves his aunt and uncle. They’re the best thing that has ever happened to him since discovering Saturday morning cartoons in his youth.
“Another busy day the dealership Santy, you up for it?” his uncle asks. Santiago gives a nod without hesitation.
“You know it. Hard work is honest work.” he replies.
“That’s my boy.” his uncle replies.
“Yeah, look at you being all macho! Someone as manly and handsome as you could use a lady…” his aunt replies. Santiago blushes and instinctively looks away from his aunt.
“Come to think of it, I know a girl who’d be perfect for you. She’s quite the looker and she’s very tall. Taller than you.” his uncle adds.
“She’s the Leons’ girl. Her name’s Patricia if I recall correctly. I met her at the marketplace the other day. Put in a good word for you…” she adds once more.
Santiago appreciates their worry for his personal and by now he’s gotten used to their support. However, he’s just not quite ready for a relationship just yet. He still needs to himself together on some other areas.
“I’ll look her up. Thanks tia.” he replies. He’s lying of course but his aunt and uncle don’t know.
Early May, 2010
Fuck. All three of them have no idea what they were thinking when they decided they could wait this all out. Zombies don’t exist, this is just a disease, blah blah blah. That’s what his aunt and uncle kept on saying yet obviously a cure for this looked impossible. But it’s too late to leave now. The outside of the house is surrounded by infected, bandits, and of course fire, courtesy of the Costa Grande Cartel. Those assholes made Santiago sick to his stomach. Their only plan now is to wait out the fire so they could at least venture out tomorrow morning and look for that much sought after group rally. The “saviors” according to everybody. It’s bullshit to Santiago but his aunt an uncle hold hope.
“You really think that group rally is here?” his aunt asks once more.
“It has to be. We need help right now.” his aunt asks.
“Help is never free though, specially at times like these.” Santiago responds to them.
“Well Santy, you can’t simply-” his uncle says until he is interrupted by a bullet flying through the door. Quietly, Santiago motions them to duck and soon enough they do. Bullets fly until the wooden door is smashed open. His aunt and uncle catch a glimpse of the man. His gun is fully loaded yet the way he moves and twitches, it’s all familiar to them. His numerous tattoos also tell them everything they need to know. Just some petty criminal drugged out of his mind, taking advantage of the situation. Santiago's brother's shadow. He begins to yell.
“I know you’re all in here! Give me all your shit right now! Food, drugs, everything! Or I cap the shit out you AND TAKE IT ANYWAY!” he yells. In his drugged craze, he doesn’t notice Santiago jumping at him from the side and soon both begin to fight.
The intruder is powerful but so is Santiago. This guy behaves exactly like Santiago’s older brother, someone he clearly hates with his all of his being. But Santiago loses the upper hand as soon as he is smacked across the face with the butt of the gun, causing him to tumble over in pain. Just before he can execute Santiago, his uncle yells from behind, running at him with a knife. But the old man can’t catch up with the intruder’s reflexes and is easily stopped with a shot to the temple. Santiago’s vision is blurry yet he swears he just saw his uncle topple over.
“Nooooo!” Santiago’s aunt yells from her cover spot. This gives her location up and the intruder, marches toward her. He raises his gun and pulls the trigger, executing the grieving old woman. With the blood splattered all over the walls, Santiago regains his stance and grabs his uncle’s knife. He leaps into action and begins to brutally maim the man who just killed the only people he’s ever loved.
“YEAH YOU MOTHERFUCKER! DIE PIECE OF SHIT! DIE!” he continues to curse as he sinks his knife into the man’s head over and over again.
Eventually, all that remains is a bloody mess where the head used to be. Santiago breaths heavily. All it took for him to become a maniac was some moron like his brother marching into his life. He’s covered with the man’s blood and he’s proud of it. He looks around the house, the door is busted and his beloved guardians no longer breath. So Santiago sees only option. He rises to his feet and continues gripping his knife. He turns his attention to the door where the outside is shrouded by a gorgeous white light.
He marches forward, his face devoid of expression. He gets closer and closer until he finally disappears out the front door and into the beautiful guiding light.
- This issue, particularly Paloma's scene, was incredibly hard to write. I apologize if you were deeply offended by the content!
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