This story is by Kelvin Ortiz and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Smog, cement, blood, sweat, and the damned. These are the bricks that build broiling Hell on Earth. From which Devils possess men and those that outlast the stew shape into monsters. So sets the scene, a war-torn city with suffocating poverty at its heart and a collection of crumbling complexes at its center. Almost all infested with the dazed, lustful, and stray.
On the roof of an infested apartment complex’s edge sits a young man with no shoes. He holds a pen in hand and a crumpled pad in lap. He writes:
I sit above Hell, here, and write to Heaven.
With nothing in my possession except this unconquerable soul that rattles the center of my chest, and wages grumbling war at the pit of my barren stomach. I write with it warming my near frozen fingertips, for I have no warmth to my name.
Why? I have to ask. Why have you turned your back on me, on all the world below me, yet not the plates of plump-fingered politicians? Why must you damn the murderers, the rapists, the thieves below my barren feet, yet not those that commit such acts in the thousands to the tune of trumpets and the taste of valorous conquest?
What innocence can we have here, here in this Hell you’ve cast us in? Dead bodies decorate our streets, most of them defenseless children–Every drop of water we drink is tainted, every breath of air choked with smog, and the scent of sewer-bile.
I spit on your blood-soaked throne and curse the day that your just Arse saw fit to take it. Let such rulers tremble at the feet of trampling revolution–straight from the depths of Hell, and see where your neglected children shall succeed where your favored has failed!
With a flourish of his pencil, Guenin rips the paper from the pad, stores it away, and makes way to an abandoned apartment for the night.
The ice-cold hands of winter in Manhattan rattle Guenin’s body beneath a patched and crusted wool blanket. Its fingers clasped tight over his spindly ankles and wrists; Guenin’s own fingertips as frigid as the Hudson, with no flow within blood vessels, almost frozen shut. Numbly they fumble to stretch his crusted blanket by the edges–staking it over his shameful starvation by black fingernails and bare heels.
Thick knuckles rasp against his plywood window.
They’re either some thugs sent to screen for doped up squatters or some roaming dopemen looking for buyers. They all knock, as long as Guenin doesn’t make noise they always move on to the next hole on their daily quota. Guenin shuts his eyes, not letting a sound slip from his lips. Abruptly, the knocking stops.
“Mallory Guenin,” They say.
His heart skips, all warmth drained from his core. Guenin’s heart pounds in staccato time with the man’s thick knuckles banging on his board of a window.
“You have the summons to appear in preliminary court.”
Guenin shoots up and dashes over to peek through a crack in the battered door of his abandoned apartment.
There are two men, dressed in close-fitting suits with silver guns on their hip holsters. They look like brothers. They have the same height, same blond hair, same face except that the older, more patient one standing off to the side has a don’t fuck with me scar snaking down the side of his face.
The younger one, brandishing a badge in the palm of his hand, slams his heavy fist against the plywood again. “30 seconds Mr.Guenin, or we’re breaking down the door.”
“Got a warrant?”
The scarred man steps forward. “We don’t need a warrant to take you. Come nice and easy or this’ll get ugly.”
Guenin scoffs. “I know my rights.”
“Either you open up or we’re comin’ in.”
Guenin sneezes before stumbling back to his crusted wool blanket. Rolling up into a corner, he stretches it over his body. “Shove it.”
The older man shrugs, he backs away and nods to his partner.
The room’s door nearly breaks in half as its hinges are ripped from their steads and the whole boarded mass slams down onto a cement floor with a thunderous crash that makes woodchips of plywood. Rotted Insulation powder pours from the torn open wall, clouding the air with choking particles though the two brothers walk through untouched by it. Not a speck so much as finding a spot on their suits.
Guenin can barely blink the choking dust away in time to see the younger man unlatch his silver gun from its holster.
The older man grunts. “We have devices to unlock doors Shamus”
“We have plenty of devices that take up time we don’t have.”
The older man sucks his teeth. He turns to the doorway. “I’ll watch for witnesses.”
“You do that.” The younger man says, stripping Guenin of his blanket before kneeling beside him.
“What the hell are you people?”
They both go about their business despite Guenin’s concern. The younger man presses his silver gun’s barrel deep into Guenin’s arm. After a moment, there’s a high-pitched ding from the man’s pistol. He nods with lips curling into a smirk. “We’ve got em’ Shamus!”
The older man gives no sign of excitement, he simply tosses a circular phone-sized device over to his partner. “Get the job done before we’re seen.”
The younger man sucks his teeth. “You’re no fun.” He turns to Guenin and places the device in the center of his forehead. All goes eye-filling black in a flash of blinding white.
“Mallory Guenin, you are on trial for the murder of 36-million people. You’ve been found guilty of Genocide in the first-degree. How do you plead?”
“I haven’t killed anyone.”
“Not yet, but you will. You can either be killed or mentally handicapped at birth.How do you plead?”
A hill’s-height upward sits a Judge with bleached hair. His spectacles are a myopic white. They sit atop his hooked nose at the center of a wrinkle-folded face. Every time his eyes fall on Guenin his lips nearly sneer. A black gown drapes loosely over his stiff shoulders, hanging down to a polished stone floor; He sits behind a desk made up of cobbled obsidian. A plaque in front of him reads Timeline Judiciar Necchi.
“How do you plead, Mr. Guenin?” The Judge repeats.
The courtroom falls into a deep silence in anticipation of Guenin’s response.
Guenin, sitting in a metal chair behind a metallic desk. Looks on his chained-in-place filthy hands, three capsules, and a black baton laid neatly in line-order from one end of the desk to the other. His chest quakes with rage, and misplaced pride. He tries to tug his hands from the chains, then he bangs them against the desk, then he lifts the desk all together before the baton is lifted by a thick hand and thwacked down the back-side of his head.
“I’ve done nothing wrong!” He yells.
There’s an immediate uproar from the courtroom, hundreds of thousands of voices all shouting curses and objections behind Guenin’s ears.
The uproar dies down as Judiciar Necchi feverishly bangs his gavel to the point of exhaustion. “Ordeh, Ordeh, Ordehr in meh Court!”
He waits until the court has settled before continuing. “Unlatch the Defendant’s chains.” The thick-handed man seems hesitant. “Do as I say.” Guenin’s chains are unlatched.
“Let it be known that Mallory Guenin at this moment is unaware of his crimes, but he shall be by the time this trial has reached its end. Let it be known that the next word from the defendant’s mouth will be his decision, and he has not but an hour to come to it.” The Judiciar points to the purple capsule before Guenin. “The center capsule will reveal your deceased memories, the red to your right will have you killed at birth, and the blue to the left will have you mentally handicapped at birth. You have one hour Mallory Guenin.”
The purple capsule is shoved down Guenin’s throat, and he lives the rest of his life in an instant. He leads a revolution with the written word, he leads a charge from Hell to the sound of Valor and the sweet taste of Freedom. He leads his people and does what’s best, and yes, the Hell he knew does change, but it only spreads with every decision he makes. It all ends with a gunshot to the head. A tyrant wearing his face atop a bloody throne.
Two minutes into the hour silence slams down on the courtroom.
A blue pill solely rests on an empty desk.