Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grey Smoke


            “He must be killed!  He’s become so emaciated; I can barely stand to look at him.  But I also don’t want to make him suffer anymore.  He must be killed.  And soon!”
            “I am sure it’s inevitable, Mr. Grey.” Linder replied, “It’s not your fault things got this out of hand.”
            Mr. Grey opened an old iron gate leading into his estate.  It creaked as it closed itself behind the two gentlemen. 
            Mr. Grey was dressed to the nines in a blue pin-stripe suit.  Everything about his was always so dapper, from his hair down to his shoes - even including his socks of which were rarely visible. 
He walked with a cane just for the visible presentation of it all.  He believed a cane made a man look and feel more sophisticated.  The more extravagant the cane the better, he always said.  The cane he walked with today had the head of a gorilla molded in 24 karat gold as the handle.  The eyes of the gorilla were small diamonds, but one of the eyes was now missing.
Linder on the other hand is a little shadier.  He always dressed in dark drab colors and kept a large brimmed hat pulled over his eyes and most of his face.  His dark hair was always stringy and unkempt flowing down over his shoulders.  If he was outside, you could rightly assume there would be a cigarette or a fine cigars fumes passing through his lips. 
As they walked Linder opened up the left breast of his trench coat, reached in and pulled out a small bottle of Southern Comfort.
“I have some finer choices inside, if you care to save what you have in that bottle of yours.” Grey offered.
With one last big swig Linder coughed back, “I’ll drink both…and refill my bottle before I leave.”
Grey smiled slightly and politely, “Touché.”
As they ascended some stone stairs up to a large wooden door Grey stopped suddenly. 
“I must warn you again.  This is not a pretty sight.  I’ve had to make some minor…’adjustments’…and a few…’restraints’ have become necessary.  I do so apologize for these matters, but I assure you they were very necessary.”
Linder took a drag from his cigarette and waved his hand carelessly into the air as if to motion “whatever”.  He was about to take another drag but was stopped when Grey abruptly grabbed his wrist.
“I don’t think you understand the graveness of this situation or what you are about to encounter.  I assure you, you have never seen or imagined anything so beautiful and so disgraceful ever.”
Linder shook his hand free and motioned with his eyes for them to continue walking in.  Grey let out a small sigh before turning back around and continuing on their route into the house.
Inside the house hung large paintings and mosaics everywhere.  Art pieces on every shelf in every corner.  A large bookshelf took up an entire wall of a hallway.  A sliding ladder was at the end of the hall with a single book sitting on one of the rungs.  Linder stopped in front of the ladder and took one last long drag from his cigarette before extinguishing it on the cover of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. 
At the end of the next hall was another shelf full of framed photos and a vase of plastic daylilies.  Grey reached behind the vase of flowers and pulled on something that released the shelf from the wall.  He pulled the shelf toward himself revealing a dimly lit descending staircase.
On the back of the shelf hung several flashlights.  Grey pulled down two and handed one to Linder. 
“You may want this.  Just until we get to the bottom.”
Linder took it and flipped the switch to the ‘on’ position and nothing happened.  He hit it into the palm of his hand twice and then it flickered before lighting up the wall in front of him.
“If you could close the entry behind us, it would be greatly appreciated, sir.”
Linder found a rope tied to the side of the shelf, which he used to pull the shelf taught to the opening.  As soon as he heard a click, he let the rope go and went down the stairs carefully. 
Along the walls were scrapes and nicks taken out of the walls.  There were a few pictures that were hanging up and each of them had broken frames and cracked glass.  One of them, a photo of Grey standing next to his yacht, had dark red stains streaked across it.
At the bottom of the stairs was a single path to take.  No turns, but the walkway did curve to the right at a constant arc. 
At the end of the hall stood Grey moving his light along the walls.
“There should be a switch here somewhere.  I can never seem to remember where though.  Ah, there it is!”
Grey flipped the switch and three dim lights turned on revealing a door to their right. 
“One last time.” Grey warned, “Prepare yourself.”  And with that, he unlocked the door with a key from his pocket and opened the door slowly.
The room was dark with shadows covering every corner.  A small bowl sat in the middle of the room full of maggots.  The stench of sulfur and burnt hair filled Linder’s nostrils as he winced. 
“Be careful where you walk.  He is back in that corner, but he tends to throw his feces across the floor.”  Grey whispered.
Linder looked down and noticed he was already tracking crap across the floor.  He had taken a few steps with it already, leaving marks across the stone floor.
“He’s back behind this wall.  He is chained up, but the chains give him enough slack that he can move a good twenty feet or so.  So if he lunges at you, be ready to fall back a little – just enough so he cannot reach you.”
Linder nodded and Grey didn’t even look back to see a response.  He just assumed that Linder would do it automatically even without a warning.
Grey’s flashlight lit a corner up enough to make out a small frail body hunched over in the corner.  It’s bones looked as if they were trying to burst out through his tight fatless skin. 
Linder stared intently, peering through his half-closed eyelids.
“Hello…?” Linder was attempting to establish contact through a warm welcoming sentiment.  “Hello…?”
The creature’s head turned towards the two men standing in the middle of the room.  Both of their flashlights now pointed its direction.
“Are you sure it’s actually human?” Linder asked quizzically.
“Quite positive.”
“How can you still tell?”
“Now?  Well, you can’t now.  I had to do too much to it.”
“Do too much to it?”
“It’s hard to tell from a distance, but I had to ‘seal’ several of his senses because honestly, he was just getting on my nerves.  It was bad enough that he had gone askew from what I was projecting.  I had very high hopes for him, but now this is what I have.  I have this thing.”
The creatures face was turned towards them.  The eyes had been stapled shut.  It’s lips were sewn together on one side and it’s fingers were somehow burned or fused together. 
“He looks nothing like you…”
“No.  Not anymore he doesn’t.  We used to look exactly the same.  Exactly.  Down to every last freckle and mole.  I thought he was perfect at first.  But then…then I realized he had so many faults.  So many issues I didn’t want to have to deal with.  So at first, I asked him not to leave the house.  He refused my request, so I left him down here.”
“Why did you forbid him to leave the house?”
“I couldn’t take the chance of him going out into the world and making decisions for me.  Simple as that.  He has the same physical structure, but his brain hadn’t fully developed.  Could you imagine an idiotic version of me walking around making horrible ignorant decisions in my place?  Ludicrous.”
“Does he even know we are here?”
“At this point, I am not sure if anything is registering.  I think his brain, for the most part, has shut down.  No train of thoughts, no thought process, no decision making.  He just sits down here and eats.”
“With the mouth…why did you…”
“He got too loud.  He would yell and scream and it would echo through the house.  At least this way, now that I cut out his tongue and closed off half of his mouth, at least this way he can still eat and stay alive.”
“And the eyes?”
“His would creep me out at night with his staring.  Now his head just wanders when he thinks he heard something.  Plus, without his sight, if he ever happened to get away, he couldn’t see where he was going.  That gave us an advantage in case he ever attempted to escape.”
“What went wrong?  If you don’t mind me asking…with the experiment.”
“I’m not quite sure, to tell you the truth.  I designed the clone to be a perfect representation.  The only difference would be that the clone had absolutely no life experience or memories.  It was created starting with the brain capacity of a newborn baby.  As a few weeks went by, because the brain inside was already at the adult stage, the learning and ability to retain information grew exponentially.  But the maturity level took a turn for the worst - the very worst.  After another week it became demanding.  It would throw a tantrum if it didn’t get its way.  Then it became rebellious and loud.  So eventually it came to the point of all of this,” Grey pointed to the creature huddled in the corner, “and I was really hoping it would turn out to be a pacifist.” He said with a slight chuckle.
“Do you really think it’s deserving of death?” Linder asked compassionately.
“I didn’t bring you here to question its existence.  I only brought you here to do what I myself couldn’t get myself to do.  I need you to do this one favor for me.  I will forever be indebted to you.”
Linder looked over at Grey and looked him straight in the eye.
Grey said with a very calm and collected voice, “Yes, yes I do believe it needs to come to this.  Let me bring you what you will need to complete the task.”
Grey’s cane made louder taps against the stone floor than his shoes did as he left the room.  The tapping echoed in the halls before it paused to let a creaking resound throughout the chamber.
The creature covered its ears at the creaking noise.  It began shaking it’s head violently from side to side and tried to make a screaming side out of the open side of its mouth.  Only the attempt at a noise and a bit of drool found its way through the creature’s lips. 
  “I pity you creature.  I really do.” Linder spoke gently and gracefully.
The creature heard this and lunged for Linder.  Linder took a few steps back shocked and horrified as he tried to escape.  He fell backwards on the stones and the creature jumped on top of him.  He was pinned down with the face of this monster directly above his. 
Both were breathing heavily, but this thing started making high-pitched wheezing noises.  It was almost as if it were sobbing or trying desperately to speak. 
Linder was too shocked to move.  It didn’t matter anyway – with all the surgeries and restraints done to this being, it had no way of doing too much damage to him.
  Both just laid there as their breathing started to calm a bit. 
“My god, you look even more gruesome up close.” Linder stated as a matter of fact.  “So repulsive.”
Linder’s concentration was broken when a blunt object swooped in front of his face and landed inside the open part of the creature’s mouth.  Grey forced the creature up, slowly lifting the end of his cane higher and guiding him backwards until it’s back was flush up against the wall.
Disappointed, Grey hollered over his shoulder, “I told you to be careful.  He has a temper and can get quite violent.  Do you not remember me telling you that?  You must be careful.  It’s just in his nature, there is nothing you can do about it.”  He paused for a moment.  “Nothing you can do as long as it’s alive…”
Linder was only half sitting on the ground still.  His clothes a bit ruffled and scuffed from the fall.
Grey was still holding the monster in place, “There behind you on the table is a box.  Go open it and pull out its contents, if you will.”
Linder shuffled to his feet and made his way to the box.  It was a fancy hand-carved wooden box.  On the lid were two ornate roses with their stems intertwined and dancing about each other.  Linder took a moment to admire the artistry of the box before opening it and revealing the contents.
“Hurry up!” shouted Grey from across the room. 
Linder glanced up then back to the box.  Inside were two revolvers.  He grabbed one and made his way over to Grey’s side.  He did his best not to look at Grey, but even more to not look anywhere near where the eyes of this thing used to be.
Grey barked out a few commands, “I am going to drop my cane and let him go.  You need to make sure that he stays over here and that you keep full control of the situation when I do that.  I won’t say when, because I know he can hear me.  I will signal you with a nod.  I will then back away and you do what is necessary to end this.  Do you understand?”
Linder just stared at the creature with slight admiration.
“Yes, yes.  I get it.” 
Both men paused as the creature shook a few times trying to get the cane out of its mouth with its paddle-shaped hands.  Eventually the creature gave up and let its arms down to rest. 
Grey looked over at Linder.  Not moving his head, Linder looked back with only his eyes.  Grey slowly nodded his head and stepped back keeping the cane in the creature’s mouth and fully extending his arm that was holding the cane.
Linder stepped over putting himself directly in front of this morbid being as Grey pulled the cane away.  Linder quickly grabbed the throat of the creature to steady its head and placed the gun into its mouth.  Both their faces became more and more tense.  Linder gritted his teeth before noticing tears coming from the creatures stapled eye lids. 
A loud bang rang through the chamber followed by a second bang.  The first noise had startled Linder so much that he accidentally pulled the trigger, completely not meaning to. 
Blood had splattered against the wall and on to Linder’s face and hands.  Linder wiped his face with his sleeve only to find he smeared the blood, not actually wiped any off. 
Linder took a couple steps back and let the limp corpse slide down the wall.  As it hit the ground, the body slumped over with a thud.
“What the hell was that?” Linder yelled over his shoulder.
“Perfection, that’s what it was!  A perfectly executed plan!”
Linder noticed that Grey’s voice echoed as if they were in two different rooms.  He quickly turned to see that the door to the chamber was shut.  There was a small window in the door that was cracked open with Grey’s face peering through it. 
Linder walked over to the window with a scowl on his face.  He was still trying to wipe some of the blood from his face.
“You slammed the door shut!  You scared the crap out of me and made me accidentally pull the trigger!”
“I just gave you a little more motivation.  You were hesitating.  Had I not closed the door, you would still be standing there full of sympathy for that wretched beast!  I did you a favor, you ungrateful human!”
“I was making sure I was doing the right thing.  That thing, that thing was crying!  It was in pain and distress.  It had feelings and emotions!”
“It had issues and complications.  It had hate and anger and violence.  It had to be dealt with and dealt with swiftly!”
“You had no right to force my hand like that!” Linder clenched his fist and punched the door with the side of his hand.
“So much aggression, Linder.  Did the creature get to you too?”
“Whatever.  Let me out…”
“I’m afraid I can’t, sir.  Not when you have a temperament like that.” Grey stated calmly.
Linder grabbed the door by the handle and the reached through the window at Grey’s face.  Grey had backed up just in time to barely feel the breeze of air pass by from Linder’s hand.
“Let me out of here!” Linder demanded.
Grey raised his cane up and poked it through the window placing it into Linder’s mouth.  Linder gagged and took a couple steps back before he could shake the cane away.  Grey dropped the cane to the floor inside the chamber.
“I won’t be needing that anymore.  You can keep it…as a…as a keepsake.”
Linder stood there enraged like a bull waiting to lunge forward.
“Sir, I must thank you generously before we depart.  So, thank you very much for a job well done.  Splendid!  Good show!  Hoorah!” 
Grey began to clap slowly.  A second clap began from inside the hallway.  Linder ran to the window to see two figures in the hallway.  One was Mr. Grey, the other was…him. 
“Have you met my partner, John?  This is the new and improved Mr. Linder.  The cloning process has been quite delightful.  With the smallest amount of DNA, I can make anyone I please.  Not only that, I can make them better!”
“You said that it was going wrong!  You said that things went bad and that’s why I had to kill off your creation!”
“Oh no, sir.  I never ever said that.  I said you needed to kill off that creature.  That monster needed to die.  That grotesque being in there had gotten so controlling and violent, it needed to be put to rest.”
The wheels in Linder’s head could not stop running a million miles a second.
“I never once asked you to kill of the creation.  I was asking you to kill off the creator, John.  Remember, we were created as pacifists.  We couldn’t do it ourselves.  And after burning his fingers together, he couldn’t even kill himself properly.  He could barely gouge out his own eyes, leaving him tormentuous pain so excruciating that I had no choice but to close up his failed wounds.  And there you sit.  No better than him.  Ready to kill me if I were just to open this door.  Ready to kill us.”
“You sick bastard.”
“I’m not the sick one, John.  You are sick.  Your entire human race is sick.  You are born with a sickness that only grows over time.  You want to fix things, John?  You want to make things better?  You want to end this vicious cycle?  I left you an exit, John.  I left you means to escape.  It’s sitting on the table right next to the door.”
Linder looked over and saw the second revolver still sitting in the box.  He grabbed it quickly and checked the chamber.  One bullet - already loaded and ready.  He pointed the gun out the window directly at Grey who was now no more than 3 feet away from the door.
“What are you going to do, John?  Shoot me?  Then what?  Then you stay down here rotting and starving until you die in a month or so.”
Linder moved the gun sideways and changed targets to point at the clone of himself who had remained silent until now.” 
“Shoot me?” The clone chuckled, “and do you think he will let you out if you shoot me?  Do you think either of us will let you out if you shoot the other?  Be realistic.  Think this through.  You only have one bullet and one path of escape.  You can end it all.  The power is in your hand.”
The clone reached into the inside breast pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.  “I don’t smoke, but I know you did.  I kept these on me just for this moment.  Here, have one for the road.” 
The clone raised the Marlboros to Linder.  Linder took one out and placed it in his mouth.  He then glanced up at his clone.
“Of course I have a light for you too.  I wouldn’t want to be in this moment unprepared now, would I?”
The clone took out a lighter and held it up for Linder. 
Linder inhaled to get the cigarette lit and then exhaled slowly into the clones face.
“For being a demented basket case, you look pretty good.” Linder complimented the clone.
“Flattery will not get you the keys, but I do appreciate the generous words.  Take your time, but we do have to run.  We have another appointment later today that we must prepare for.  Mrs. Grey shall be returning and we must make sure all is in order when she arrives.  So many surprises today!  So many surprises!”
Linder sat down in the middle of the floor where he stood.  His cigarette was in one hand and the gun in the other.
The clone poked his face through the window one last time, I should warn you though - cigarettes will kill you.”


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