I’m just walking back. It’s only midnight, so Jack is probably still delivering. I couldn’t sleep, so I left early this time. I had to forgo my uniform, so I took a few projectiles with me from my rock collection. One of them is smooth, long and thin, and I can use it like a roll of nickels to punch any opposition down if my powers fail again and I get caught.
The scene is completely different at eleven. I researched at what time crimes occur the most, and the graph said in early morning, probably two to four a.m. I knew going out that this was probably not going to be a productive sortie; I usually leave at 3 a.m., after a sleep cycle, because there’s still crimes, but less people around to prevent them. That’s what I’m for.
I dropped down from my window wearing jeans and a dark gray hoodie over my most casual T-shirt. I walked for a few minutes, giving myself time to adjust to the new situation of hiding in plain sight. At this time, the eerie quiet of The Streets hadn’t settled so heavily on Four Oaks, and was punctured by loud, echoing heeled steps and raucous drunk laughter.
This was another unsuccessful patrol. I guess I should feel happy, because if I’m not needed, it means people are safe.
Jack also moves around at night. I asked him once, if he ever got scared while making deliveries. He showed me his knife, a cool, serrated piece of work. A press of the button on the hilt and the blade pops out with a “swish”. I don’t need to worry about him.
I’m so jealous of Jack. He just seems so free.
The other day I woke up and showered before going to the store, and as I passed through the kitchen, I saw Jack sitting on the counter, legs crossed, taking deep breaths. At first, I just thought, huh, I didn’t know he meditated. Then I realized, he doesn’t meditate regularly or anything. He just felt like doing it, so he did. In my shut-in period in senior year, it hit me that I could do so many things with my time, and yet I always ended up with the same boring shit. Re-watching the same TV series and anime, cycling through the same music. I even stopped climbing after the bar incident, because I knew how people were going to look at me, and I couldn’t be bothered with it.
Jack is the complete opposite of me. He’s clearly smarter than me, and he dropped out of high school, just because he wanted to. He’s doesn’t need a degree poking out of his back pocket. Sometimes his existence makes me feel like such a waste… I don’t know why I’m talking about this (laughter) what was I saying? Yes, I wish I was more decisive. Charles has a great poker face, but after six months it’s easy to see when he’s impatient with me. He keeps saying that I need to take more initiative.
One of the few times that I did take initiative was to get the job at Goodwick’s. My parents were kicking me out of the house, and I only had a couple weeks to find work and lodging. I was walking around, trying to take the longest route to the local Walmart. My father had instructed me to go ask them for a job, and I was dragging my feet, in every sense of the term. That’s when I saw the “Help Wanted” sign. I just felt so tired of being so powerless, and I walked in. My confidence fled the moment I reached the now-familiar till, and I stammered something about wanting a job, and he took me to the back to conduct a quick interview. I was quite nervous, so I don’t remember how it went, but I must have done well because ten minutes later, I was trying on a uniform and being directed to the broom closet.
At least, I can take pride in my work. Charles only needed someone part time, but once I started, he decided he could do with more help than that. I hate the job, but it’s nice to be needed, as they say.
And that’s it for this evening’s story time. If I go to bed right away, I can get five hours and thirty six minutes of sleep.
I haven’t walked this particular route in a couple weeks, after the close call last time. I even caught Charles looking at me sideways a few times, so I wanted to lay low. That said, I won’t last much longer against The Streets if I don’t challenge myself to always improve, so here I am again. The streetlight opposite the shop is dead, which puts me at ease as I walk to the glass door. I extend my power to the door and tentatively push it. Silently, it opens. (door chimes jingle).
My blood begins to race, and I can feel things falling in place in my head, except the realization is just beyond my understanding. The moment I step in, I can tell something is different. The air feels alive, as if it’s expecting something. I knew I shouldn’t have come back… but I’ve gotten this far. Perhaps tonight, I’ll find some real crime here. I move my wooden sword to my right hand, and flex fingers that had been holding on too tightly for too long. Why am I so tense? I need to relax.
I crouch and make my way to the register, carefully avoiding anything that could betray my presence. I’ve been investigating this place ever since I started going out, and it’s never felt so menacing. The blood is pounding in my head. I’m on my knees behind the till, feeling my way around the cash drawer.
Wait. Why didn’t I need to unlock the door?
My stomach lurches, I drop the recorder on the counter and lay my ear to the cool surface. I concentrate on my power, doing the opposite this time, pulling the sound in, and I hear, clear as a bell, the creaking of floorboards upstairs. Shit.
(Door chime jingle)
“Charles! Right on time tonight. Eager, yeah? I have some great stuff for you this time.”
“Evening Jack, did you only just come in? I thought I heard something.”
“I ain’t playing ghost in your own creepy shop, calm down. Damn, it’s darker than usual in here today.”
“Well, I’d rather not light up right here for all the neighbors to see, if you know what I mean”
(A small chuckle) (A booming laugh).
“Oh, that was terrible… wait, what is that?”
“Are you fucking recording this?”
I had to get a new recorder. Charles wrecked my old one. I’d never seen him like that, red faced and furious without the hint of a joke in the corner of his mouth. Once it was over, the gun fell from his fingers. He walked around the counter, breathing hard, and lifted me by the arm before pushing me onto the till, the sharp edges of the screen bruising my ribs. “I should have called the police the first time I caught you sneaking in here! Look what you’ve done, you fucking creep!” He jerked me to the side so I could see Jack lying there. He pulled me back to face him. “Now listen very carefully, you autistic little fuck! You were never here. Some druggie came to my store, high, to rob it, and I acted in self defense. Got it?”
I must have nodded dumbly. He bent down and picked up my wooden sword, and struck the counter once, twice. On the third strike, the cheap replica broke. My recorder was beyond recognition by then. He pushed me to the door. “Now get the hell out of here before the cops arrive. Scram!”
I didn’t go to work for three days after the incident. The police seemed quite happy with the explanation Charles gave them, they didn’t even ask me for a statement. The Oak Monthly came out that week, with a large headline: “Local robbery, Goodwick defends his wicks! Crime continues to rise in Four Oaks”.
When I got back to work on Friday, I recognized Charles’ expression. A bland smile, eyes slightly widened, the rest of the face frozen in place. I think it’ll take some time before he goes back to cracking jokes with me. I would never have guessed that I’d miss those puns. Now, there’s an oppressive silence in the shop whenever it’s just us two.
I’ve stopped going out at night; it’s too dangerous. I’ll need to find a new hobby, or else I’ll die of boredom. I just want to forget everything for a bit.
Oh, and find a new roommate.
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Thanks to anyone who made it this far. I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this story, especially the precise and critical ones!