“Carl, wake up!”
The sound of Mike’s strained voice brought me back to reality, painfully. My hands were tied behind my back and my legs had been drawn up behind my back as far as they would go. The pain was incredible. I opened my eyes but the dim light of dusk was unbearable. I closed my eyes and groaned.
“Carl, it’s okay, I’m right here.” I recognized Mike’s voice but fear of pain kept me from opening my eyes. The pain in my head was thrumming a little less intensely and I didn’t want to encourage it.
“Mike?” My voice was hoarse, “what happened?”
“These people took us, we’re at the gates. Todd and Bob, their leader, are talking.”
I wasn’t ready for complex thoughts yet. I strained against my bonds, attempting to ease some of the pain in my back, hands, and legs. It was no use, I was tied up too tightly. Moving restored some blood-flow to my feet and hands, but as the numbness receded pain replaced it. I decided staying still was probably in my best interest.
“Listen buddy,” the haggard man, Bob, shouted, “open the gates or these two guys are gonna die.”
“Don’t do it Todd!” Mike yelled, “don’t risk everything for us.” I opened my eyes in time to see one of Bob’s henchmen, another huge man covered in untreated hides, harshly kick Mike in the ribs.
“Stop!” I shouted. Ignoring the pain erupting in my head.
“You want one too?” The henchmen asked.
I shut up.
“If I let you in,” Todd’s voice seemed distant, like he was shouting from far away, “what are you going to do to my people?”
“What d’ya think buddy? We’re going to have tea and fucking biscuits with em’!” Bob’s henchmen laughed. “If you don’t open the door soon, we’re not just gonna evict em’ we’re gonna to execute em’. Nice and slow like.”
“I can’t let you do that. These are my people, they built this place, they won’t just leave without a fight.”
“I see your point,” Bob turned to the henchman that had just kicked Mike. “Chris, kill that big un’, maybe it’ll encourage this to move along a bit.”
Chris raised his gun and pointed it at Mike’s head. Everything was moving in slow motion. I heard the gun go off, I watched the bullet hit Mike’s head, and I heard myself screaming “no!” but it all seemed detached, like a dream. Once the gun smoke had dissipated everything sped back up to normal speed and became all too real. Mike wasn’t moving. A pool of blood was growing under his head. I realized I was still screaming and stopped. The sudden silence was jarring.
“Okay!” Todd shouted from the distance. “Open the gates.”
“Good call old man.”
“Why?” I screamed at the top of my lungs. Mike was dead. My life was over. Ignoring the pain in my body I thrashed against my bonds. “I’ll fucking kill you!”
“Feisty one.” Bob laughed, “maybe we should shoot this un’ too. Seems like more trouble we don’t need.”
Chris raised his gun.
“Do it!” I screamed. I had nothing left to lose, “I fucking dare you!”
“Stop!” Todd yelled from the wall, “kill him and I won’t let you in. Every man, woman, and child in here will fight to the death to keep you out.”
“Touchy, touchy,” Bob said. “We’ll leave em’ be. Now open the damned gates. I want to see what y’all are hiding in there.”
I heard the gates grinding open on their rope hinges. “Stop Todd! Don’t do this! Let him kill me!” I screamed.
“To late for that old boy,” Bob said, “the gates are already open.”
Someone grabbed the ropes binding my wrists and dragged me backward through the dirt, I assume, toward the gate.
Bob made a sharp whistle of satisfaction, “nice place you guys got, no wonder y’all wanted to keep us out.”
I couldn’t see anything but hoped Todd was glaring bloody murder at Bob.
Being dragged through the dirt had brought new levels of pain to my limbs and back. I struggled with all my will to keep myself from crying out in pain and sorrow.
“Now,” Bob continued, “you gather everyone up right here. Anyone we find hidin’ will be shot on sight, you understand.”
Todd spit on the ground loudly, “I’ll do as you say, but I want you to know one thing.”
“What’s that?” Bob replied.
“Today, you win. Someday, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but someday: I’m going to kill you and everyone around you.”
Bob and his henchmen laughed. “Well, we’ll just have to see ‘bout that. Now, you go gather everyone up. I’m short on bullets and I’m sure y’all don’t want to see how we kill hideaways when we don’t have any bullets to spare.”
I decided to stay quiet and bide my time. Maybe if I keep quiet they will untie me and I can take my revenge. If I fail and they kill me at least I’ll be dead. Bob had ripped out my soul. I had nothing left to live for. I might as well try to kill him, what do I have to lose?
I laid still on the ground for what felt like an eternity, holding my tears until I no longer wanted to cry. Without an outlet to release my sorrow I was being consumed with rage – the torment of Mike’s death was too much for me to bear. I could feel my blood pounding in my ears. My vision turned cloudy. How am I going to live now? Without Mike I have nothing. As soon as they untie me I’m going to kill Bob, his men, and anyone else who came with him. Or I’m going to die trying. I wanted nothing more than to see Bob’s blood spill out on the grass like Mike’s had.
“Is that everyone?” Bob asked, “I hope so, for your sake.”
“This is everyone.” The rage in Todd’s voice seemed to amplify my own. My jaw was cramped from clenching my teeth, I had to consciously relax my face to stop clenching; I was starting to feel like my teeth were going to break apart.
“Boys,” Bob said, “you know the drill. Pick out the strong and the pretty uns’ throw the rest of em out the gate.”
A short scuffle, a gun shot. I couldn’t see what happened but by the screaming and crying I knew: Todd had been shot. I didn’t have any tears left to cry, pure rage was I was capable of feeling now. I simply awaited my turn.
“Don’t anyone else get any bright ideas.” More crying and scuffling. I could hear mothers crying out for their children, wives calling out for their husbands. It was a symphony of sorrow and Bob was the conductor.
It was dark out by the time the screaming and crying had calmed down to a soft murmur of gentle sobs. I had watched a stream of old women, old men, and small children forced through the gates. “What’d’ya want me to do about this un’?” Chris asked, moving to where I could see him.
“Put ‘im with the other’s we’re keepin’. He looks strong.”
What exactly is going on? Chris grabbed my bindings, I braced for another drag through the dirt but it never came. Chris untied my bindings and the blood poured back into my hands. Another round of pain, I bit my lip to keep from crying out. I sat up and surveyed my surroundings. Bob had a lot more men than I had predicted. I counted twenty in my immediate vicinity. The moment I laid eyes on Bob my vision tunnelled and the pain in my hands, back and legs disappeared. I stood and started moving toward him, weather I was walking toward death or vengeance didn’t matter; I had Bob’s blood on my mind.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Chris stepped out in front of me, blocking my path to Bob. “Don’t you get any stupid ideas. You’ll end up like your leader, brains spread all over the ground.”
I tried to push Chris out of my way but he deftly took my hand, swung it behind my back, and had me up on my tiptoes before I could do anything to stop him. Eruptions of pain in my shoulder brought me back to reality. Now was not the time for revenge. Bob has at least a dozen men within arms reach, there was no way I’ll get close enough to kill him. I relaxed and Chris eased his grip on my hand. The pain in my shoulder subsided.
“Now, follow me all nice like and I won’t have to give you a beatin’.” Chris released my hand and started walking toward the main cabin at the centre of camp. I followed him as quickly as my aching body would allow.
Revenge can wait. It seems like Bob is planning to keep us around for awhile. Eventually he’ll let his guard down and I’ll be there, ready. I will have my revenge, Mike will have his justice.