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Long Shadows

Sins beneath the city of Angels

By Koby SampsonPublished 2 years ago 9 min read
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Long Shadows
Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash

Ira was pinned down to the concrete with enough brute force to keep his hungry bones prostrate, while the three men laughed at the animal sounds Ron made when they stomped on his ribs and stomach. After a critical blow, Ron spat blood like old faithful.

Ira remained still, while trying desperately to keep from withdrawing into himself as the mind tends to do in such situations, to grapple with the terror and the impending trauma instead of submitting to it.

He wasn’t too worried about himself as much all around distrubed, but he was frightened for Ron. Ron was all of 53. This would likely be permanent.

Ira hadn’t eaten that day.

He was pretty sure those two Twinkies had been yesterday, and attempted to summon whatever individual iotas of strength he still had in him.

He hadn’t shit them out, so he really must’ve needed them.

Ira had never been in a fight before, in his prior life or the current. He’d always thought he would have been a valuable addition to one. He was six-one and used to be one-ninety. Last he had managed to check on the scale in the Mobil station, he’d shrunk to 160.

The one in Dockers was straddling Ira, sitting his sweaty ass on Ira’s lower back with his legs on each side. Ira had heard something of his pop back there when he first collapsed onto him.

These boys had the girth of a life of optional hunger.

The one in shell-toes had a large camcorder over his shoulder, with a light attached at the end.

He’d only been out here a year, and struggled to identify the two hired guns. Probably from another part of town. Definitely domicile-challenged.

They were younger guys, older than Ira and more raggedy, so they’d been around longer, were more jaded and hungry.

The alleged director of this production was a largely mute short guy in a 2 Live Crew shirt.

Dockers pulled a beer out of his windbreaker, and clapped it upside Ira’s head, spraying foam over them and the concrete as he cracked it open.

The pain was searing, and he could not survey for blood with his hands. He took breaths as deep as he could with his ribs pressed against the concrete. He lay pinned among shit of rat, cat, dog, human, and above-ground refuse banished from the light of day. Ira tried not to think about their bodies turning to sludge down here.

Nobody would be looking for them.

Rons grunts and cries echoed throughout the dark dank eternities.

As soon as Ira had seen the camera he knew what was about to go down. He’d never seen it happen but had sure heard about these guys. Took it as a yarn from around the barrel fire.

Blustering and coughing, they eased off Ron as soon as he stopped delivering on his terrific animal sounds. The director motioned to Dockers. He stood up, relieving Ira’s torso. He grasped Ira under the arms and dragged him over the cement to the pool of light.

The talent rolled poor Ron to the side.

Ira lay breathing jagged.

“Stand up. You’re gonna stand up and take this shit.”

Ira clambered up and stood, his knees prepared to buckle, stifling whimpers. That would only make the animals harder.

Ron appeared to be stirring still.

He took a searing open-handed slap to the face that bounced off the walls. This got a good admiring laugh from the crew, they were not expecting that.

The bones of his ass kissed the concrete and shot up the kind of pain that makes the teeth chatter.

He got right back up and spoke to his coworkers.

“That was solid, man.”

The stunned silence gave way to shrieking laughter that billowed down the tunnel.

Ira still managed to feel some of the innate satisfaction of making one’s peers laugh, even though the dread creeped back in with the realization that no joke could salve over their intentions for him.

“Hey… how’s the independent film scene these days? I don’t get out to the movies much”, Ira tried.

They snorted.

“Oh it’s booming. Second California gold rush”, said Mr. DeMille.

“You will tell me if this makes it to Sundance, right?”

The two recruits waited awkwardly to the side for the exchange to be over so they could start earning their smokes and vodka and clean syringes and whatnot. Whatever the flavor of the bribe.

DeMille signaled them to proceed.

They spread out to two ends of a semicircle with Ira at the center, and the one on the right, burlier one, laid a ham fist into Ira’s gut.

He involuntarily shot out a high pitched yelp that he hoped would jolt the cozy fuckers out of their sleep topside.

The other stepped in and held Ira by his shirt, held him upright for more blows.

Ira could feel something extra behind the blows, like a roll of quarters.

Ira Beckett stood prone for a torrent of relentless pummeling, the vocalizations of agony reverberated through the concrete catacombs, up through the asphalt and the ether to God and sonny Jesus who stared and snickered at their sheep getting shorn.

He felt the cartilage in his nose tear and the rush of hot blood run down his mouth.

My cup runneth over, Lord. You’re gonna beg for my forgiveness.

Ira reached a primal threshold, his quota of physical pain, and could hold up his bones no more. He went limp and heavy as a wet towel.

The hired muscle ceased their assailing and assessed their broken quarry.

The one holding Ira looked to Mr. DeMille, who made his hands into a timeout “T”. They let him fall to the floor and sauntered over to the crew.

“Okay you fuckers, that was real good”, DeMille lavished.

Dockers, DeMille, and Camera One clapped and whooped. Their stars smiled weary smiles.

Ira looked over at Ron. He was still breathing.

Talent were wiping the blood off their knuckles over by the cluster of bags and equipment.

“You were recording right, Hal?”

“Of course I was fucking recording, goddammit.”

“Okay gents”, DeMille announced. “Here you are for all of your hard utility.”

He unzipped the duffle in the center and retrieved two cartons of Chesterfields a man each.

“Now, if you’d like a small bonus by way of a fifth of vodka each, you could go give them a shower.”

Camera One propped the apparatus back up.

Only one was willing or able, and waltzed over to Ron.

“No”, Ira managed. “You fuckers leave him alone now.”

The man looked back over his shoulder, then moseyed over to Ira.

“Touching stuff”, DeMille said.

Talent unzipped and unleashed. The crew giggled like ten year olds burning ants.

Ira tried to hide his face from the stream but grazed his broken beak on the floor and bristled with pain. It got deep into his ear.

He trickled out to another smattering of applause.

“Wunderbar. Excellent.”

They collected their compensation and split.

The crew muttered amongst themselves.

“I liked those guys. Real enthusiastic. They got ‘it’. Either of you catch where they were from?”

“Canoga, Reseda-ish.”

“That’s right, they got the van.”

Ira could feel his heart beating all over his body.

“Well fellas, good job today. See you Sunday.”

Dockers tossed Ira and Ron their share, a carton, and set a fifth between them.

“You can fight for it when you wake up.”

The crew, all packed, set out into the tunnels, traversing the urban catacombs back into the lovely summer night Ira had seen before the bag went over his head.

Their flashlight and laughter faded into oblivion, leaving the two twitching and whimpering, wet with blood, sweat, and piss.

Ira slid backwards into darkness.

- - - - - - - - - -

There was nothing and then there was something and Ira awoke with his cheek plastered to the floor with dried blood.

The aches and pains of his body drowned out those of his mind and soul, thank bloody Jesus.

His thoughts immediately went twenty feet over to Ron, who lay broken by the wall.

Ira strained against the radiating pain in his neck to get his head up. With light crackling that tickled his ear, he peeled his profile off the concrete. He brought his hand up to feel his face, but decided against it. He didn’t want to know yet.

As he got up, his ribs and stomach nearly killed him. Legs were fine, arms too.

Ira stood straight as he could and let all his blood drain back to where it should be, reorienting himself. Between his nose and chest, breathing was dreadful.

He waddled his way over to Ron.

“Ron. Hey bud.”

A bit of sunlight had made its way this deep inside, and Ira could see that Ron lay facing the wall. He hadn’t faced the wall last night.

“Ronnie.”

He grumbled low.

“Ronnie.”

“My mom called me Ronnie.” The craggly voice echoed as if from a crypt.

“I know, you retired it like a jersey when she passed.”

“They gone?”

“Been gone.”

“We been here the whole night?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t nod off again, I need to see how you’re holding up.”

“Wish I was fucking dead and buried, that’s how I’m fucking holding up.”

His granite slab of a voice cracked. He cried.

Ira was silent, out of shock and respect. He patted his shoulder. Sobs convulsed him and he winced.

Ira had heard Ron describe, in a voice still as a ship in drydock, the sound of an M2 bellowing flames in the dead of jungle night, of the sound of a village that had been reduced to dead ashes prodded by the wind.

Crackling. It was just crackling like a bunch of dying campfires.

He’d heard Ron tell of the shrieks of mothers who’d realized it was their children inside of the smoldering huts, but he had not heard Ron cry. Not ever. He would be sure not to mention it to anybody, especially to Ron later.

“Sorry.”

“Fuck it.”

Ron took his hand and hoisted himself up over the course of a minute or two.

“Don’t get old, Ira.”

“You’ve told me, I’ll sure as shit try.”

When Ira made sure that Ron could stand without assistance, he retrieved their wages.

“Hey, how’s my nose man?”

Ron surveyed it, then took Ira’s face into his hands, placing one on his nose.

“Wait--”

“Ok three, two-”

A bright shaft of pain tore through his head as his nose was forced back into place. His nasally cry boomed.

“Goddammit man!”

Ira flinched back, letting the vodka slip from his grasp. Ron snatched it right out the air and unscrewed it, filling the basin of his cupped hand. He forcibly brought Ira’s head near as he struggled.

“Stop moving, you don’t want this in your eye.”

“Jesus fuck!”

Ron dribbled the vodka onto his nose.

The fumes forced his eyes shut so that he could see fireworks show behind his eyelids as his nose seared.

Ron left to give his wounds the same treatment while Ira stood there and sparred with the pain. When he finally opened his eyes, the tears they’d been swimming in spilled out.

“Fuck!”

“You’re welcome.”

“You know they got Neosporin and isopropyl at Paz de Cristo.”

“Paz is seven miles away. Shut up and get the camels.”

“They’re Chesterfields.”

Ron scoffed.

“Cheap fuckers.”

Short Story
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About the Creator

Koby Sampson

I’ve been a writer since I was about eight years old, and am now looking to make the transition to professional writer. If I could get paid to do this, each day would be better than the last.

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