The King stretched and gazed into a mirror. Sneering, the man rapidly splashed water onto his face from the dirty sink. Some of his red hair clung to his sloped forehead.
“Woo!” he yelled, jumping a foot off the ground and crouching, psyching himself up.
“What are you going to do?” he asked his reflection, giving the mirror a wicked grin with hatred in his eyes.
“That’s right. You are gonna plant those explosives you got from before, and then you are gonna blow Execution Central sky high!” he cackled maniacally, discussing this plan with himself.
“The night ain’t over yet,” he huffed, inhaling through clenched teeth before snarling and letting out an unprovoked scream, like an ethereal declaration of war.
He glanced back at the mirror one more time, before leaving the bathroom. The mentally unhinged King of the gang’s eyes sparkled. He squinted at himself, as he had done many times before.
Even scrawnier and smaller than he was now, the red-haired boy was squinting at himself. He puffed his cheeks and made a popping noise with his mouth. His eyes shut tight as he giggled. The small ginger boy strode out of the bathroom, into the hallway. He wiped his face with his forearm, chuckling to himself. He spotted his mother and his father sitting on the couch, watching some kind of program.
“Hey, get over here, kiddo,” the boy’s father smiled.
The child ran over and flopped onto his parents like a ragdoll.
“Ow, Noah! You know better than that…” his mother fussed at him.
The red-haired boy nodded, looking down, “S-sorry, mama.”
The parents gazed at him and ruffled his hair. Their hands rested on their child gently. On the screen across the room, a commercial was playing.
“Are you tired of working your butt off for nothing? Are tired of getting pushed around? Well, have no fear, the new i-R models are out right now!” the man on the screen walked by a lineup of androids, each dressed in a fancy tuxedo, “Talk about being dressed to impress! These intelligent machines are only the latest in a long line of convenient technology made just for you, by the genius minds here at-”
The commercial was about to talk about the company that created the i-R androids, but the family’s attention was suddenly pulled away. There was a pounding at the front door.
“I’ll get it,” Noah’s father shrugged and walked over to open the door.
“Oh shit-” he hissed as he peered through the hole in the door.
“Open the door, now!”
“Honey?! What is going on?!” Noah’s mother jumped up from her seat, leaving Noah to sit in front of the electronic entertainment system alone.
He watched his parents move across the room. All of a sudden, the door smashed open! Men in navy blue uniforms pushed their way inside. Toting large firearms, they were all masked by large helmets.
“Are you Thompson, Noah Sr.?” the man at the front of the group yelled.
“Y-yes! Please- Don’t hurt me-!” Noah watched his father drop to his knees.
The man in uniform cocked a shotgun, and Noah’s mother suddenly charged at the man, screaming. Boom. Blood splashed across the room. As his mother’s corpse tumbled to the floor, Noah watched the man cock the shotgun again. Noah’s father had tears streaming down his face as he dropped to the ground, crawling toward his dead mate.
“You have been found guilty by the High Inquisitor, and have been sentenced to death.”
“No, no, wait- you don’t understand!” Noah’s father cried, clutching the corpse of Noah’s mother.
He was covered in her blood as he screamed, “I did it for my family! Please-”
The executioner aimed. Boom. Without hesitation, the skull of Noah’s father was blown apart right in front of him. Noah was shaking, his red hair matching the splattering of blood that had fallen on him. The executioner took aim again, this time, pointing the weapon at Noah.
“Hey! He is just a kid!” One of the other executioners grabbed the leader’s shoulder.
The man turned his masked head back and forth a few times, before shouldering the shotgun, “We are done here. Move out.”
The executioners nodded and filed out of the room. Noah’s cheek twitched, the freckles on his pale face jumping. He had no idea what had just happened. All he could comprehend was that both of his parents were broken, on the floor. Red was everywhere. Noah crawled over and curled up in a ball beside his family. No tears came to his eyes. He slowly let his head rest upon the blood-drenched floor. The crimson liquid clung to his face as he stared blankly at the wall.
After the food ran out, Noah stumbled into the streets. He coughed occasionally, inhaling the smog. The hungry child looked around, easily losing track of where his home had been in the city. Just when it felt as the darkness was closing in, at the very end, a gentle hand took his. Noah blinked his eyes open, the next thing he remembered was waking up in a soft bed.
“Hey buddy, you doing alright?” a young man smiled at him.
Noah did not speak, a little confused and frightened. The young stranger patted his back.
“Things are going to be better, friend. Chin up, ok?” the young man grinned.
Noah was more surprised by the next words to come out of the boy’s mouth, “Just you wait and see- when I am king, nobody is going to suffer.”
“Your suffering is already over now. What is your name?” the young man asked.
“Noah.” The small boy coughed.
“Nice to meet you, Noah. I am Kain.” He patted Noah’s arm lightly.
“Just rest here until you are ready to get up.”
Eventually, Noah stumbled out of the room. The bright, artificial lights were almost blinding for his light eyes.
“There he is! Everybody, this is the newest member of our ragtag team!” Kain beamed, announcing Noah’s entrance, “His name is Noah, and I bet that all of us are going to get along fine.”
Everyone in the room nodded in agreement, the assortment of young men and children smiling and waving at Noah. The room’s walls were made up from tan cement blocks. It looked a little dusty, but Noah felt a little cheerier, seeing so many people happily greeting him. One boy that was about Noah’s age was wearing a hoodie that covered his face, but Noah could still see him smiling. Another boy was wearing navy blue denim pants and standing by another doorway.
“Well, right after breakfast, we are going to head out and take some stuff we need.” Kain declared.
Everyone smiled and nodded, except one boy, that just stared at his bowl of food.
Noah appreciated the chance to eat. He listened to the other boys tell jokes and felt like part of the crew right away.
“Alright everyone,” Kain stood up again once the meal was over, “Let’s get to it!”
Everybody nodded and followed Kain outside. Noah stuck close by, but noticed the one boy who was staring at his bowl earlier was trailing behind the group a bit. The gang traveled down the road to the train station. The boys divided into pairs, Kain leading Noah, to show him the game.
“Alright, now this is going to take you a lot of practice, so just watch me first,” Kain explained and walked off.
Noah observed the young man bump into someone and apologize to them, bowing his head. Kain smirked as he walked back over to Noah.
“See that?” he asked.
Noah shook his head in total confusion. Kain furrowed his brow and held open his hand to reveal a few bits of the common currency.
“This was in that guy’s pocket.” Kain explained, “The train stations are so busy, nobody notices.”
Noah felt his stomach lurch a little; somehow he knew that it was not entirely right. However, he just watched Kain’s demonstrations for an hour or so. Eventually, Kain took his hand.
“Come on, Noah. There are some executioners around here now, so we should all get moving,” Kain led the way back to their home base.
Noah and Kain sat in silence as Kain counted the money he collected.
“This is weird,” the older boy remarked, “The others should be back by now.”
Suddenly, the boy in the hoodie and the boy in the jeans charged inside, breathing heavily.
“The executioners! They got them!” the boy huffed.
When Noah heard this, he jumped to the conclusion that his new friends were just executed, like his parents.
“What?!” Kain growled.
“Warren and Dan, they got both of them!” the boy in the hoodie buried his face in his hands.
Some of the other boys arrived through the door, all looking solemn.
“How the hell did that happen?!” Kain’s tone changed.
All the young men were silent. One of them gestured at the shy boy that had been staring at his food earlier.
“Did you do this?” Kain questioned him.
“No, no!” the boy looked around desperately, looking for anyone to help him.
The crowd simply stared him down.
“No, K-Kain, I swear! I didn’t do nothing!”
Kain did not believe the boy, shoving him to the floor. The boy cowered in fear.
“Please, wait! I can explain!”
“Explain, then!” Kain yelled, making everyone step back in fear.
“The executioners, they were about to g-get me, so I just pointed to what Warren and Dan were doing- I swear, I thought they were going to run faster!” the boy stumbled over his words.
“You snitched!?” Kain spat on the boy.
The younger boy quivered, “N-no, I just pointed! A point is not the same thing as snitching, r-right guys?”
He looked around at the room of faces, but no one took his side. Noah gulped, watching the confrontation. Kain cracked his neck side to side menacingly. He slowly treaded around to the other side of the room, picking up a metal pipe. He circled around the boy like a wild animal.
“No, please-!” the snitch screamed, pleading.
Kain ignored the cries and raised the pipe into the air. After a brief pause, there was a crack of breaking bones. Kain proceeded to batter the boy with the pipe. Kain smashed the snitch’s head over and over with the slim metal pipe. He grinned and chuckled with glee as he brutally cracked the skull into splinters. Bright crimson blood splattered against Kain’s face. He slowly turned to Noah, and the rest of the group, dropping his pipe on the ground. It fell from his twitching fingers with a clatter before rolling across the uneven floor.
“We are a family; you never betray your family,” Kain huffed and smiled sadistically at Noah, “Got it?”
Noah shuddered and agreed with the rest of the group, “Got it.”
Noah, the King, pulled himself together as he returned to the present. The red-haired man stared at his reflection in the mirror, shaking his memories from his mind. He stalked off, slightly hunched, and headed into the gang hideout.