Pale HorsebyHeathen Hemmingway©
The sound was driving him insane. From some unseen place water was slowly dripping and the sound echoed and multiplied, reverberating throughout the blind space he occupied. He had been sitting there for some time, trying to make sense of his predicament. When he first came to he was gripped by a blind panic; he couldn't see even with his eyes open. He quickly realized that someone had put something over his head, apparently fabric of some kind tied off at the neck. He could feel the tight pinch of the fabric against his neck as he craned his head from side to side, trying to loosen whatever it was that was covering his head. At first he tried to reach up and remove it, and only then did he realize that his hands were tied, and very tightly. With a tug of his legs, his growing fear was confirmed; his legs were bound as well. He was sitting upright, presumably in a chair. He tried rocking back and forth to upset the chair in hopes that he could squirm his way out of the tightly bound rope once he was on the floor, but the chair would not move, even a fraction of an inch. It felt as solid as bedrock, and he could only assume that it was bolted to the floor.
At first he didn't notice the sound as he tried to shake off the delirium he felt upon opening his eyes, realizing he had no idea where he was. When he first heard it, the sound was only a faint presence; a distraction in a silent alien place. As he tried to calm himself, however, the sound of the dripping water seemed to slowly amplify, and after what seemed like an eternity the sound began to dominate his senses. The rhythmic sound echoed in a hundred ghost clicks from everywhere around him and he found himself wishing very much that it would stop. It seemed to be drilling into his brain with those slow, metered drips of water.
The last few moments he remembered came to him in startling clarity; stumbling out of the Soho bar after a few drinks too many, trying to flag a cab with no success and then darting into the alley behind the bar when he saw a patrol car cruising toward him. The last thing he needed was to be arrested for public intoxication, so he made a quick decision to hide out in the damp, stinking alley until the cruiser had passed and then hail a cab to make his way home where the comfortable recesses of his bed waited for him. He watched the cruiser pass and waited a few moments then staggered his way toward the street. He remembered his shadow playing long onto the sidewalk in front of him, swaying a bit as he staggered along. And suddenly there was another shadow there, behind his own, right before the world went black.
He heard a brief screeching sound and the dripping water suddenly stopped. The man bound to the chair inhaled quickly and muttered under his breath.
"Oh shit." He whispered to himself.
"I've heard it put that way before." A man's voice said from the blackness. "And that sound was really starting to drive me nuts, man."
The man in the chair started, the soles of his feet lifting a few inches off of the floor and his entire body instinctively tensing. He heard a click and instantly light bloomed overhead, showing through in muted and random patterns, stabbing at his eyes. He could only make out vague shapes through the fabric. His response was immediate.
"Listen asshole.' He hissed through his teeth, clearly infuriated. "I don't know who the hell you think you are, but this is the biggest mistake you've ever fucking made."
Several moments passed in silence, and then his captor spoke.
"Hmph." The man's voice grunted. "And I thought it was when I bought a Pontiac Fiero. Interesting."
"Do not fucking toy with me man." His captive snarled. "I'll give you one chance to get me out of this or you're a ghost man. You're a goner."
"Well now, I don't want that, now do I?" The man's voice responded, and then suddenly the world was bathed in harsh light.
The man sat there squinting and wincing as the light stabbed at his eyes mercilessly, the room full of odd spectral colors. As his vision resolved into clarity, he saw a thick brown canvas bag sitting in front of him on a small card table, the kind you buy potatoes in at the grocery store or the farmer's market, and sitting across from him at the table was a man dressed in black.
"Oh man you have fucked up no..." He started to growl, but lost his words when the man in black darted across the table, reaching at him with a closed fist. Instead of hitting him as the man was expecting, the man in black opened his gloved palm and flicked open a razor, swiping the blade within an inch of his face. He could feel the slight movement of air; the blade passed so close to his skin. He sat there like that for several long seconds, his eyes bulging.
"It would seem that I have your attention." The man in black said flatly. "That's good."
He sat the razor in the middle of the table and put his elbows down in front of him, lacing his fingers together and lowering his head.
"You know..." He said, looking down at the table. "I really don't enjoy this job."
The man tied to the chair started stammering. "L-L -Look man. I don't know how much you're being paid for this – this whatever it is man but I can match it and beat it, get us both out of this easy."
A tear crawled down his cheek as he sat there staring at the man in black, fighting back the urge to bawl and beg for his life. He was hoping for anything, any type of response that would suggest he could talk his way out of anything.
"And there's no easy way out." The man in black replied, with a tone of finality in his voice. He reached in his jacket and removed something from an inside pocket, dropping it unceremoniously on the table. It was a photograph of a brown-eyed girl, a big toothy grin on her sun-freckled face. She had chestnut-colored brown eyes, and a big purple unicorn was painted on her right cheek.
"Listen man..." his captive started, but the man in black held a hand up, the palm open. 'Stop' the gesture said.
"You know, life is ironic." The man in black said, his voice gruff and a bit strained. "And death is, too. That girl was crazy about horses. She had all kinds of horse posters and stickers everywhere in her room, books and magazines and DVD's. Probably just about every kid's movie about horses or with a horse in it. Her mother told me that her greatest dream was to own a horse one day."
His captive thought to himself; 'Yeah what's so ironic about that? Most little girls are crazy about something.', though he didn't dare say it aloud.
As if in response the man in black looked up, staring him dead in the eyes.
"So anyway, her parents had a big surprise in store for her birthday, just two days before you happened along and did what you did. They had already bought the pony, got him a nice little saddle and a bit and bridle. Even had a horse blanket made just for him with her name on it. Everything was in place to drive her out to the stable and have her big day with her new pony. But none of that happened. Instead they had a funeral a week later. And you, you just so happen to have a violent allergy to horses. Anaphylaxis, I believe it's called?"
"Yeah what about it?" The man in the chair snapped back, holding onto to some small shred of pride.
The man in black sat there studying him for several long moments, and then sighed. "We'll get to that in a minute. So anyway, after a little digging I discovered that you're allergic to all sorts of things, but you have a particularly bad allergy to animal dander, horses in particular do a real number on you. Your face and throat swell up real bad, and it cuts off your airways and whatnot. You have to get one of those shots or else you just might kick the breathing habit. "
The man in the chair felt he had to do something, either to change the conversation or convince the man in black that he was mistaken, as he sat there eating him alive with his eyes, that razor just a few inches away. "Look man." He finally exhaled. "I don't know where you're getting your information from but not only do you have the wrong guy, but you've got me all wrong. And seriously, man. You've got to check your sources better." He finished, trying to fake a convincing smile.
Apparently the man in black was not convinced. He stood up and removed the razor from the table, sliding it into a pocket.
"My sources are pretty limited on this, I admit." He replied as he left the table, disappearing into the gloom just outside of the circle of light that shrouded the small table. "Although since you were pretty much my only source, I'll take the risk that the information I have is good."
"So you're just going to leave me here?!?" The man asked, panic making his voice tremble.
"Not yet." A voice echoed back to him from somewhere in the dark. "You see, social media is a real bitch, man. I believe it's the exact opposite of privacy. Matter of fact, I wouldn't have known about your deadly allergy to horses if it weren't for you putting it in your profile, right there on your page on the internet. For everyone in the world to see. You've got about a thousand 'friends' online with similar allergies. And a bunch of them have the same allergy you do. You're even a member of an internet social group for people with severe anaphylaxis. "
From somewhere in the darkness the man heard a ruffling sound, like a ship's sail catching in the wind. He suddenly smelled a cloying, musky odor and felt something heavy fall over him, like a big, thick blanket. The odor instantly grew stronger and assailed his nostrils.
"You might think this is the easiest part of the job for me, but it's not. For some damned reason, leaving is the hardest part." The man's voice drifted to him from, and he heard a low screeching noise, followed by the sound of the dripping water. "Maybe you'll figure it out for me while you're taking a breather under that horse blanket."
He tried to wriggle out from under the blanket, but the heavy fabric seemed to cling to him. He could only move a little from side to side and forward, not enough to dislodge the stinking blanket. The strong animal odor of a horse enveloped him, and already he felt his throat restricting and drawing to the size of a pinhole. He tried to speak, but his breath was a harsh wheeze. He saw spots before his eyes and felt dizzy and disoriented. He heard a muted click and the world went dark. He tried to call out to the man in black, to beg for his life. Instead all he could manage was a weak cough.
As he sat there fighting to breathe, he could hear faint footsteps fading away in the dark and the steady drip of the water echoing from the gloom. As he took his last pained breath, he heard the man in black's words echo in the dark.
'You know, life is ironic. And death is, too.'
Fade To Black
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