The Night Takes No Prisoners
Jerry is thirty and looks fifty. Unshaven, without a bath in weeks, his hair filled with lice. His eyes, sunken far back into his skull; he weaves his way in and out of the city streets in search of scarred food to keep himself alive to meet another morning.
At one time, Jerry had a family, a well-paying corporate position and all the other attributes a man would ever want.
On a day Jerry can’t remember, his world fell away from him. The pressure of Corporate America got to him before he knew what hit him. He turned to alcohol, drinking away his problems and ended up swallowing his pride and puking it up in one of many dark alleys to become his new home.
Sometimes, Jerry would sit on a cobblestone corner and listen in his head as the computer’s whir; listen in his head to the instruction of the day’s business agenda and start talking to himself about what he has to accomplish before quitting time.
Other times, Jerry would walk through the city park, or walk along the tall oak, pine trees, and watch children play. He would stand in the park’s shadows, watching, as if seeing his own children play; and would smile a drunken smile through rotting, broken teeth.
Late at night, in the frigid months of Winter’s Father, Jerry would huddle between cans of rotting garbage and nestle his head against concrete pilings, falling asleep, dreaming how he once curled his head next to the smell of fresh amber and soft, red hair, as well as the laughter of twin girls playing in the back yard. All the memories go away in daylight hours with the help of a fifth of whiskey or a cheap bottle of wine.
When the Mother of Summer rages, the permeated sweat that festers his body, and charges him with a fever; he wanders aimlessly, never knowing where he is, or why he is.
It was one of many summer nights that found Jerry curled in a twisted mash of flesh down by the river; dead, in his own twisted way. No longer a man, no longer a person; only a number for the city to deal with.
… and the night moved on
Here name is June, barely fifty, but to look at her closely, you would have known that once upon another time, she had to have been a real looker; but time, lived by her daily shopping on the streets, foraging through remnants left behind by the neighborhood, has a way of changing people. A pair of tattered gloves, an old scarf, a woolen sweater moth-eaten over time, and shoes that don’t match and slightly too big, and an old gray woolen skirt streaked with age, is her attire.
Today, like all her yesterdays, she shops for new clothes as she loves wearing something different every day. As she walks, her gray skirt billows away from her somewhat lean frame and its bottom meets the top of her one brown and one red sock. June doesn’t care. She loves color.
She eats what she can find that has been freshly discarded by local’s restaurants when possible. She has scruples to a point. She would say, “Never eat yesterday’s food today. You could get sick as a dog.”
In her daily travels, she would fall back into a relapse and remember the old days. The days when her husband came home from work every day. The days when she would bake peanut butter cookies for her boys when they came home from school. She would remember the picnics shared and the many nights the boys would get sick and she would take care of their needs.
She remembered a time when her husband and the boys decided to go to the supermarket one afternoon because she was ill. She remembered being told there was a terrible accident; that her family were broadsided by a truck and killed.
She would shake her head at that point, squeeze the memory from her mind and she would tell herself it was a story she read somewhere, that she never had a family.
When her day was over, she would take her shopping bag of goodies, drag her feet behind her as she headed home. It would take her sometimes four or five hours because if she lived elsewhere than where she lives now, most certainly the bluecoats would arrest her. The very thought of being locked away makes her shiver.
Two hours beyond dusk, June would find herself staring at the skyline of the city’s early night lights. “Such a waste of money to keep them on all night,” she would say.
She looks at her house covered by several layers of tarp to keep out the rain and keep her home, made from cardboard, dry.
Inside, several layers of old carpet cover her floor she found lying around a large dumpster behind a carpet outlet on one of her many shopping trips.
Behind her home, there is a large hole she uses as a latrine, and a few feet away from there, is another hole she uses as a cooking pit.
Tonight, sleep will find her as it does every night. Inside, sitting crossed-legged, holding two dolls, rocking them back and forth, singing a lullaby.
… and the night moves on
Jack is seventeen. Jack is a fine son, a good student and very popular with the girls in his school because of his looks.
Jack has parents who are community oriented, “Pillars of society,” say the neighbors. “Jack is a fine young man,” say the neighbors.
Jack isn’t who they think he is.
When the sun disappears from the large blue ceiling, the night finds Jack on the other side of town at a party, just like other parties he has been to; so why should this one be any different?
The crowd is mixed with colors of both sexes and the booze is plentiful, so are the drugs.
Jack is an addict, and has been ever since he was thirteen, but that wasn’t so bad. At seventeen, Jack’s habit has taken over the rational side of his life.
Lately, he’s been skipping classes, forging school reports, forging his parent’s signature for teachers at school. Jack still has a calculating mind, but his brain cells are slowly dissolving.
Jack started with the pills. The red ones, the yellow ones, the blue ones. Other times he would get prescription pills from a friend’s source and pop those as well. Jack would follow it with a little alcohol and before the night was over, he would not only be drunk, but high as the sun at noontime.
On this particular night, the booze flowed, and drugs oozed out at him. Jack popped a pill here, a pill there, before the announcement that some primo Mary Jane from below the border had arrived along with a kilo of cocaine.
Before long, the room is filled with the sweet odor of smoke and heads are buzzing as people begin laughing at things that aren’t funny, and Jack is one of those people.
Jack hits on a girl a year younger than himself and they walk into one of four bedrooms at the party. Twenty minutes pass before the girl screams and others run to where the screams were heard.
As people rush inside the bedroom, they see the frightened girl staring at Jack.
Jack is standing on a ledge of a second-floor balcony window, naked as the night, arms outstretched, feet together and his head staring straight to the stars filtering the night around him.
He heard the commotion behind him, begging him to come down. He shook his head, no. Jack knows that once he jumps to his death, the bad side will be gone, and the good side will live on.
Jack started shaking in the cold sweat that blocked the pores in his body. Below him could be heard the crashing waves as they rushed upward on the jagged rocks below. Jack pushed off and away.
On his way down, Jack never screamed. He smiled with one final thought before he smashed into the rocks below.
He wondered if his mother would still bake him a birthday cake tomorrow.
… and the night swallowed him and moved on
Her name is Melinda, and she is in trouble.
She ran away from a broken home, run by a father who was never home very much, and a mother who cheated on her husband, forcing Melinda to do all the work. If she didn’t, she would be punished, mostly with whippings. Melinda couldn’t take the abuse any longer, and after saving what money she could, she bought a bus ticket to the big city. It was in the city she decided she would begin her life, her new life.
Melinda wasn’t off the bus ten minutes before a young man, well dressed, came over to her making conversation. Starved by all this freshness in her life, Melinda fell into the man’s trap. He talked her into spending a few weeks in his motel room. “It’ll help you save money,” he said. “Nothing will happen,” he said smiling. Melinda believed him.
Inside the motel room, the nice young man turned into a regular Mr. Hyde. He ripped Melinda’s blouse from her body, slapped her face, and shoved her body to the bed and raped her. When he was finished, he redressed, took what money she had and left her on the bed; her face a massive series of bruises building, her arms filled with the same, her virginity shattered, and she was alone. For the briefest of moments, Melinda felt as if she were home again.
Melinda slowly came around to the way the real world operates. After her injuries healed, after she formulated a plan of survival, she found a job. Not a regular job, but it was still one of independence, working the streets at night. But Melinda never became your average hooker.
She would take her johns for a spin and her fee was high, and it would always end the same way.
Melinda always insisted the johns buy a motel room someplace outside the city. Once in the room, Melinda would pull from her purse a knife and she would use it on every man who touched her behind closed doors. When she was finished, she would shower away the blood, redress, replaced the knife back into her small purse, and leave unnoticed.
By her third month, Melinda found out she was pregnant. She made up her mind to give up the baby to a foster home. She knew she couldn’t take care of a baby on her own, not with what she was doing.
Bye the ninth month the baby came and with all the months that came and went, over a hundred men were murdered. She always took great pains to cover her tracks, but the law catches up to you eventually.
Melinda had looked at the small face of her child, a girl, and suddenly all the hatred and anger she had been feeling disappeared. She didn’t want to give her daughter away. She wanted a real job and raise her child better than she was taken care of, but the law wouldn’t let her and now she’s in trouble.
As much as she wanted to take care of her daughter, Melinda knew it was only a matter of time before the police came for her.
She asked the lady across the hall to watch her baby for a short period of time. The lady, your typical grandmotherly type, smiled and said yes.
Melinda went back inside her apartment, walked to the bedroom dresser, and pulled out a gun she bought a long time ago. It was loaded.
She walked to the patio window and looked seven stories below and watched as tiny orbs of light streaks from cars went in all directions. All the sounds from below reached up to her. The shouting of angry men, laughter from a distant corner, horns blaring, tires screeching and brakes whining, and people dying.
Another sound that approached her building was the sirens of red and blue lights from police cars. Melinda knew they were coming for her. She didn’t invest in a police scanner for nothing.
She closed her eyes, and in the dream held within her mind, she could see the police taking the elevator to the seventh floor. She could see the doors close behind them as they got on and she watched the doors close behind them as they got off. She could feel them approaching her door and ringing her doorbell.
Melinda opened her eyes wide in fear, not for herself but for her daughter. Melinda knew she wouldn’t be able to take care of her. Melinda prayed as the trigger was ever gently pulled back. Melinda prayed a good family would take her daughter in and treat her as one of their own.
The short muzzle of steel weighed heavily in her mouth.
The doorbell rang.
Melinda never heard the deafening roar of the bullet.
… and the night, like all the ones to have passed, with those yet to be, has claimed its share of the burden of life for one night.
… a message from the night
Step right up, try your luck and see if you can survive.
The next time you are walking, wherever that may be, listen to the branches sway, listen to the gentle bending in the wind; or is it someone following you?
When you walk down a dark street to get to your car and you pass under a dimly lit streetlight and see your shadow for a fleeting second; or is that the shadow belonging to someone directly behind you?
The night holds many unexplained mysteries. When you are surrounded by the hours of nightfall, be careful not to become one of the unexplained, one of the forgotten, one of the lonely; one of the frightened.
… and don’t say it can’t happen to you because it can. I know it can. You see, the night follows you everywhere, even when you sleep.
You can run, but you cannot hide.