BAM! BAM! BAM!
The news report blasted from the tv. It was footage of a man being shot on a roadway nearby. He took several bullets to the chest, eventually falling over.
"Hugo, you seeing this?" said Carlos.
"He's taking it like a champ!" Hugo answered. "You think he's on drugs?"
"I can't tell, doesn't look like any drug I've ever seen."
"You do drugs?"
"No, but my neighbor does. If the city keeps going down the drain maybe I'll join him, but let's hope that doesn't happen."
Hugo sat on the couch in front of the tv. Carlos rested on the back board. The man on the news had somehow survived the gunshots and attacked an officer. Several more rounds were pumped into him before he finally flopped over. When the news went to commercials, the noise in the room died down. From the window in the small apartment, a collection of upset murmuring came. Hugo stepped close to the glass, gazing into the street below. At the nearby intersection, a crowd had formed.
"Another one?" said Hugo.
Carlos had opened a bag of chips and dug through it looking for one with the most seasoning. "Another what?"
"Looks like a protest. Looks like they're surrounding something. There's an ambulance. Is that... maybe a body bag? Is it cool if I stay here tonight?"
"You're always welcome to stay. It'll probably be gone in a few hours, though. You want me to text Dad?" Carlos had found his chip and shoved the whole thing in his mouth.
"I'll do it," Hugo answered. He took his phone from his right pocket and sent a message to his dad. His phone vibrated, with a bubble saying, 'Message not delivered.' "No signal."
"Let me try," said Carlos. He wiped the chip dust from his fingers onto his shirt and turned on his phone. "Looks like the system is down today. It's fine. You can get to school late tomorrow."
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
"Who's at the door?" said Hugo.
Carlos got up and peeped through the little hole in his door. "Ah... it's him," he sighed. "Go away!"
"Ugh. Hugo, get behind the couch, he looks messed up." Carlos turned to a drawer and took a pistol with his left hand. With his right, he unlocked the door.
"Chermin, what do you-"
The door flung open, and the neighbor flung himself onto Carlos. His eyes were blurry, and a needle was sticking out of his inner elbow.
"Ah!" said Carlos. Hugo jumped from behind the couch, finding his brother wrestling with the neighbor who was snapping his teeth at Carlos. "Hugo! Stay back!" Carlos's pistol had slipped from his hand and just barely out of reach. Hugo watched, his heart pounding.
"Get off!" Hugo yelled, but it fell on deaf ears. Carlos reached for the gun.
"Hugo! The gun!" Hugo saw it but couldn't move. Carlos tossed the neighbor away and crawled for the gun. "Cover your ears!" said Carlos. Hugo put his hand over his ears and look away.
A bullet ran through the neighbor's head and sprayed blood on the wall behind him. He flopped over, lifeless. Hugo looked up. Seeing the mess, his heartrate rose.
"Hugo!" said Carlos. "Are you okay?" He looked into Hugo's eyes, trying to get his attention. "It's okay man. I won't get in trouble, it was self-defense. Self-"
Hugo's eyes looked down onto Carlos's forearm. A bloody bite mark was imbedded deep into Carlos's flesh. Three streams of blood had already formed, starting to drip onto the hardwood floor.
"Oh, it's fine. I have some wraps. Who needs healthcare?" said Carlos with a smirk. "Not me...obviously," he mumbled. He helped Hugo lay on the couch. Taking a box from the cupboard, Carlos opened it revealing a stash of basic medical supplies. "When the signal comes back, we'll report the body."
By sundown, Hugo had fallen asleep on Carlos's couch. Carlos set up a line of pillows parallel to the couch and slept on those. Staring at the ceiling, sirens and screams echoed through the streets. The neighbor's body was now sat up against the wall, staining the paint with dried blood. Flies buzzed in addition to the ambiance. Carlos's forearm pulsed, gasping for help.
"Hugo," he said with a tired and raspy voice. "Hugo, wake up."
"Huh? What?" said Hugo, rubbing his eyes.
"Can you get some melatonin from store? I can't sleep."
Hugo got up as his eyes adjusted to the dark. He froze when he saw the body.
Hugo stepped to the door and left. The impact of the door closing rattled the nearby doors of the apartment complex. He made his way down the hall, finding one door wide open with the smell of vinegar filling the hall.
"Ugh," said Hugo. He turned a corner and walked down the stairs, eventually into the lobby. It was empty but the lights were still on. He pulled on the front doors, but they were locked. "Damn it." Hugo peaked through the blurry glass and saw a person standing just outside the door. They slightly leaned side to side, as if they were being mind-controlled by a supervillain. It was too dark to see much other than their silhouette. Hugo stepped back, frustrated at the doors.
Leaning over the front desk, Hugo found the receptionist fast asleep in her chair. In her hand was a keychain with almost a dozen keys. Without a sound, he pulled them from her grasp and quietly searched for the right key. At every slight rattle, he would look back to make sure the receptionist was still sleeping.
When he shoved the first key into the lock, it wouldn't come out. Pulling harder, the door shook and the person outside was startled. Hugo's eyes darted between the keys and the stranger. He took a longer look through the glass to find several more strangers waiting outside. He stepped back, running to a window with metal bars on the outside. The street was littered with people, wandering aimlessly. For a moment, the sirens and screams stopped. Hugo tossed the keys back to the receptionist and speed-walked up the stairs. Finding his brother's locked door, he knocked.
"Carlos," he whispered. Shuffling his foot, he heard the crumble of a paper. He looked down to see an old receipt under his foot.
He picked it up and read a poorly written message. "Hugo. Go to 219. The lady there is nice." The receipt was for a pack of melatonin supplements, bought a week ago.
"Carlos!" Hugo said, shaking the handle harder. He pressed his ear onto the door, hearing the shuffling of feet on the other side. Getting to his knee's he looked under the door, seeing Carlos's bare feet just on the other side. "Dude, open it!"
Carlos kneeled over and put his face to the floor, looking under the door. "Ugh," he said, with his tongue out. It tasted the crumbs on the floor while it reached for Hugo.
"Carlos?" said Hugo. His brother continued to gnarl at him. Hugo ran to the neighbor's open apartment. He coughed and held his breath, searching for something. He knocked over a pile of junk, finding a rusty and gooey hammer. Picking it up, his stomach turned but he held on tight. Coming back to his brother's apartment. He smashed the door handle and flung it open.
Carlos stumbled back and fell over. He had the same look in his eye as the neighbor and reached for Hugo with an open mouth. Hugo, violently shaking, opened the drawer and took the pistol. Carlos lunged at him. When he was only an inch away...
The pistol flung out of Hugo's hands, spinning to the floor beside Carlos's corpse.
Hugo opened the door to the roof of the apartment complex. He zipped up the backpack he had borrowed from his brother and leaned over the front side of the building. More lifeless people stood in the streets below him. They stared up at him with longing eyes. Groaning, clicking.
He gazed upon the Los Angeles skyline. Screams, sirens, and fires decorated the city. Tonight, Hugo slept under the stars.
Comments (0)See all