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Should Have Known Better

by Kevin Charlton about a year ago in fiction
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Short story/Thriller

The pipeline was slippery. I was crawling across it, trying to get to the middle so I could leap into the canal. They grease it with tar to prevent us from days like this. The boats were ignoring the no wake signs, speeding without regard for the manatees. It made things more exciting when I stood up and cannon-balled into the water, my feet landing safely on the bottom missing any broken glass or sharp rocks usually trapped there. I pushed upward, swimming against the strong current; splashing through the surface, I was staring at the front of a speeding boat. I quickly duck-dived – a trick I learned when surfing in choppy water only it's much easier when you don’t have a board. After dropping low in the water, I swam to the shore and jumped on my Dino bike. I was already running late for our game of Hunt.

Hunt is a game for kids who are too old to call it hide-and-go-seek. We played in an old abandoned warehouse surrounded by woods filled with forts. There was also a launch ramp right on the ledge of the canal to do neat tricks on our bikes that we technically didn’t have to land. Although the entrance looked more like a dead-end road, if you looked hard enough, you could see the opening in the brush we used to get there. Walking through the trail meant your feet were going to get a little wet, but since today I had on flip flops, this wouldn’t be an issue. As I carried my bike around a fence then walked it up an old boat ramp, I could smell the fires burning. We lit them in big metal containers to ward off any mosquitoes. I spotted the warehouse and noticed four other bikes set down in front of the door. Our bikes were marked by pegs and looking down I noticed our whole crew was here. I set mine down next to the others and walked inside. There my friends congregated around an empty hole in the floor where a board had been removed. I watched as Ryan put in his Walkman. I was able to catch a glimpse of the cassette: Yamm Kronie Express #297.

Wow, they just came through the neighborhood last week passing out numbered tapes for free to promote their mixes. They are notorious for talking during current songs, making them outrageous and fun. Ryan put the old board back. After nailing it down, he turned to me and said, “We are going to come back in twenty years and retrieve the Walkman, making it a time-traveling Walkman capable of reaching our ears in the future.”

It seemed like a really cool thing to do, especially for a twelve-year-old.

20 Years Later

With my alarm buzzing I reached over and silenced the noise. Switching on the television, I started on my morning coffee. Today’s top story: “A Yamm Kronie Express mixed tape number 299 has just been auctioned off for a record breaking 10 million dollars. Yamm Kronie Express started out in the 80s and now has become a worldwide sensation with music streaming everywhere. They take ordinary tracks, making them extraordinary with their cut on the mike tricks and fresh new mixes. Tune in later today for a fresh peak at this internet sensation; breaking all the rules they have finally arrived. Coming up, our top stories and weather in your area. We will be right back after a word from our local sponsors.”

After getting ready, I headed out the door with a fat joint and drove to the warehouse to meet the others. Being the first to arrive, I finished my joint and relaxed in my souped-up 79 Firebird, thinking about what this day could mean for my future. For me, it simply meant more to do. I've settled into a duplex in the same neighborhood we grew up in. Working as a fifth-grade teacher while managing my marijuana habits seem to be going very well together. I’m motivated to be the very best teacher each and every day, so I can get stoned at the end of that day. Weekends too. It being Saturday, it doesn’t stop until Sunday night.

Luke hasn’t been around in years. After graduation he went to college, taking up software engineering. Dropping out after just two semesters, he started smoking meth to feel better about his life and for the past two years it has only gotten worse. Right now, he is out free on bond from two separate felonies on two completely different days.

Ryan and Bryan are two brothers with the same problem. Crack. Two crackheads that have been smoking under the radar for the last two years.

“Bro, do you really think we are going to be millionaires after today?” Bryan asked. “Definitely going to be millionaires. The last numbered tape auctioned off for some serious cash,” said Ryan.

They pulled into the parking lot just as Tammy pulled up on her motorcycle. Tammy is just recently divorced and is now a single mom to a 5th grader who likes to curse me out when I call on him for answers. One of my biggest motivators to smoke heavily when I get home.

We all walked up to the entrance together and I noticed it no longer had a door. We entered the warehouse. The halls and rooms were close together built within the open warehouse spaces. Just a bunch of old offices that once held the people that worked here.

The concrete had cracks in the walls, the air blowing through the windows carried with it the smell of dirty saltwater. I shivered as it blew through the abandoned building. We found the old wooden board. Luke pried it open with a crowbar he was carrying. The board popped out easily. While Luke was setting down the board, Ryan reached in and picked up the Walkman, he replaced the batteries and hit the play button.

“It takes two to make a thing go right. With a can in your hand, it says it takes two to make it out of sight ” came blaring through the headphones.

“Clank, clank.”

“What was that noise?” asked Tammy and we all looked down the hallway into a room lit with morning sunlight.

“Clank, clank, clank.”

There was definitely somebody else here. An old soup can came tumbling across the floor stopping just in front of Luke's feet. He looked down at the can, then ran quickly away from it and crouched behind another wall just as an explosion went off, causing mass destruction throughout the warehouse. One brick hit Tammy in the head, squishing her skull. She collapsed to the floor dead. The rest of us were lying flat on the ground, covering our heads. Debris fell from the ceiling as clouds of dust formed around us. When things settled, Bryan was the first one up; he ran across the warehouse into a small room filled with tables and empty metal cabinets. One by one we got up and ran for the room. Once safely inside the room, Bryan took the tape out of his Walkman placing it in his pocket. He threw the Walkman out into the hall, causing it to bounce, then slide across the wooden floors. I watched it with my eyes as if it would somehow free us from this predicament.

“What the fuck is going on?” asked Luke.

“I think we just got a grenade thrown at us,” replied Ryan. He continued, “We need to get in that room. Whoever this is is covering down in there… has to be.” We all saw the room he was talking about.

With Luke in the front with the crowbar, we followed behind him, easing our way along the wall until Bryan got restless running around us into the open space. A gunshot echoed throughout the warehouse, and I watched as the back of his shirt exploded, and he fell helplessly to the ground, his eyes wide in a death stare.

Ryan was the first to react, yelling at everyone, “You fucking idiots. You got my brother killed.”

Nobody said anything and Ryan sped ahead of us to get to his brother's body. Looking down, he started to cry. He reached into Bryan’s pocket and removed the tape. “I love you, brother,” he said, then he stood back up and took a bullet in the head falling dead next to his brother, with the tape still clutched in his hand.

“We have to fall back,” said Luke.

We ducked into one of the abandoned rooms.The room had a stained mattress with a crumpled sheet. I ran out to Ryan and grabbed the tape out of his hand; I sprinted back to Luke. Grabbing the sheet, I wrapped it around my hand and punched out the window, making sure to clear out any loose glass before climbing out of it. Luke crawled out behind me forgetting the crowbar. We were now in the backyard of the warehouse surrounded by a block of thick woods.

Eddie grew up in the same neighborhood with everyone else. He wasn’t actually there when they hid the tape, but he sure heard about it when they talked about it. Wishing he knew which board it was under, but finding out from Luke in a phone call that they would be getting the tape today was all he needed to have the advantage of surprise. After dressing in his new army fatigues, he grabbed his new gun, knife, and grenade. He bought it all on the black web for next to nothing. He figured he was going to have to kill everyone anyway. If they had just invited him, all of this would have been avoided, but just like he grew up the only kid on the duplex block in a neighborhood full of houses, he was the only friend not invited here today. Now with three down and only two to go he would be walking away with the tape. Watching Luke and Micah climb out of the warehouse window, he was sure they would be running away.

Following behind them, he watched as they approached a fort made of plywood and palm leaves. He was ecstatic when they entered the fort, trapping themselves inside.

Once I escaped from the warehouse, Luke followed me into a fort built by whoever is currently playing in these woods. Once inside the fort, I noticed an old, stinky couch with a baseball bat leaned up against it. I grabbed the bat and told Luke to go sit on the couch. I hated to do it, but whoever was trying to kill us wanted the tape and would eventually find the fort anyway. There was an old horse blanket for a door with a great vantage point to hide with my bat. About twenty seconds later, in walked Eddie holding a handgun dressed in fatigues.

Pointing the gun at Luke, he said, “Give me the tape,” just before I clocked him with the bat. He fell to the floor holding on to the gun. Luke stepped around him, and we quickly walked out of the fort leaving Eddie behind. We made it about three steps when I heard a shot and felt the spray of blood, brains, and skull fragments as it exploded out the side of Luke's head. With my face covered with Luke’s gush, I ducked behind a tree as bullets ripped into it. With the railroad tracks just up the trail and the train whistle blowing loudly, I made a break for it. Jumping onto a moving train can be tricky. Running along side of it, reaching out, I was able to hoist myself up the steps and onto the platform at the back of a moving container, unaware Eddie jumped on as well just two containers back. With the tape in my pocket and the will to survive, I climbed to the roof of the train and started walking towards the back.

After leaping over a small space onto the container behind mine, I froze watching Eddie climb onto the roof with me.

He pulled out a gun. “Give me the tape,” he said.

I placed my hand in my pocket like I was about to give him the tape, but, instead, I took my hand out really fast and pretended to throw the tape over his head. He looked but didn't see the tape. Instead, he felt my foot as I kicked him in the face. The gun dropped to the rooftop, and I was able to kick it off before we started wrestling around on the moving surface. He was able to mount me, just sitting on top of my chest punching me continuously in the face until I reached up, pulling him towards me easing my way up his body with my own.. I wrapped my arms around his neck, then wrapped my legs around his waist squeezing with all of my strength. He was able to poke a finger in my eye. I let go and grabbed my eye. He kicked me in the face causing me to fall off of the roof.

I grabbed the top ring on the ladder with one hand as my body swung aimlessly in the wind. Finding the ringer with my other hand, I was able to land my feet on the ladder. This time climbing down to the platform. The back door to the container swung open, and Eddie now had a Rambo knife. It was pulled back and came down quickly. I sidestepped his swing, countering with a well-placed jab of my own. My fist connected with his chin; he dropped the knife. I picked it up and stabbed him in the throat, then I pushed him over the railing, and he fell between the two cars as his body was crushed underneath the steel wheels.

I jumped off of the train, rolling with the impact. I stood up and started walking back to my Firebird. Pulling the tape out of my pocket, I looked at the number 297 – perfect. Getting into my Firebird, I fired it up, put the tape in the player and drove off. The music played loudly over the speakers: “It takes two to make a thing go ri wha wha, wha...” The tape was getting eaten. I quickly went to pull it out, and the tape ejected, keeping the brown belt as it tangled together. I watched as it ruined tape number 297.

The End

“copyright Kevin Charlton 2020”


About the author

Kevin Charlton

I started writing fiction this past summer and I wanted to share my short stories.

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