Taps then took me to the shed where the other human cattle were kept. Inside rows of rickety bunk beds surrounded a few crude tables held together by duct tape and hope. The only thing missing was a harmonica player blowing out the blues in G.
George and Joyce came over.
"Good to see you still breathing. What's the word?" George asked.
I said, "Met the man in the charge. He, uh, definitely scares me. So I kinda hope I get a chance to shoot him in the face."
Joyce punched me in the shoulder, "But you're alive. Not everybody comes out of that trailer."
I nodded, "Got that an impression myself. Though things aren't exactly working out for the best."
"How's that, sir?" Nigel called down from the rafters. I waved to him.
"They're selling me to someone named Caliban."
A collective gasp preceded a group sigh. Many shook their heads sadly, while a few others made the sign of the cross. One individual, a stocky black man, climbed out of his bunk. He walked over with the look of a man about to bury his only child. He took me in his arms, and held me in the best hug of my life. It was the kind that might banish every nightmare a person has ever had. Then I felt him pressing my face into his chest... quite hard. Hard enough I started having trouble breathing.
I patted him on the arm to let him know it was time to let go. He held me tighter. I slapped at him.
He said, "Hush now. It's better this way."
Someone started singing, "'Memories seep from my veins. Let me be empty. Oh weightless and maybe I'll find some peace tonight in the arms of the angel. Fly away from here...'"
I kneed my hugger in the balls. The second his grasp slackened I jumped away.
Staggering back he groaned, "What the fuck man?"
I gasped out, "Oh no... oh no... no what the fuck me, what the fuck you?"
"Al meant well," George said.
Rolling my eyes I said, "Oh well, in that case. My bad. I just thought I was being murdered. No big deal."
Patting Al on the back Joyce said, "It's kinder than what's going to happen to you."
"The lady is quite right," Nigel said. I gave him the finger. He frowned.
I said, "Kind would be snapping my neck from behind, so I've got no idea what's happening."
"Fair enough," George said. His eyes moved in a suspicious manner. I heard a few shuffling steps behind me. Spinning around I caught a young Asian teenager sneaking up on me.
Pointing a finger at him I said, "Back off! Think you can sneak up on me? Just cause you're Asian doesn't make you a ninja." -- the boy walked away, shoulders slumped in disappointment -- "If I ask then you guys can kill me. Not before. Okay?"
A murmur of begrudging acceptance came from the others.
Nigel said, "Perhaps if you better understood your predicament, sir, things might be different."
"Then enlighten me."
"Very well. Mix Hendricks is, without question, a vile individual. However, Caliban is a monster." -- climbing down from his perch Nigel recited:
"Then he gazed on a town by besiegers taken,
Nor cared he who were winning;
But he saw an old maid, for years forsake,
Get up and leave her spinning;
And she looked in her glass, and to one that did pass,
She said -- 'pray are the rapes beginning?'"
I commented on the morbid beauty of the piece, but its meaning, given my current situation, somewhat escaped me.
Nigel sighed, "A few months back I had the distinct displeasure of being near Caliban's camp. Fortunately, anthros don't appear any different from other animals, so I was able to observe the goings on without drawing attention to myself."
The baboon shuddered. His eyes glazed with the look of one peering back into memory. I swallowed hard, uncertain if I really wanted to know what horrors awaited me down the river.The others drew near as Nigel went on, "Caliban believes that when people interact with one another energies are exchanged. At no time is this more intense than during sexual relations. Furthermore, he believes all the energy a person possesses is released at the time of death. Ergo, when two people are sexually engaged, willingly or not, they begin an exchange of energy, all of which can be consumed should one die amidst coitus."
I considered this a moment before saying, "So he thinks that by screwing someone he connects to them then by killing them mid-fuck he can suck up all their power."
A half smile crested Nigel's face, "Very concise."
I said, "Why can't he just be a normal cannibal and eat me?"
Joyce remarked in a hollow tone, "This place fosters special kinds of madness."
George asked, "Are you saying you'd be fine with this if he weren't fucking you?"
"No, they're both horrible scenarios."
Nigel placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. With eyes like a grandfather comforting the loss of a beloved pet, he asked, "Would you like us to kill you now?"
"That is a tall glass of nope," -- I grinned -- "Because I've got one thing none of you has."
"What's that?" Al asked.
"A total lack of experience here. With no idea how likely failure is, I still think I can escape."
Al said, "You sure you don't want me to kill you? It would be much easier, and a guaranteed success."
"Still going with no; and you're getting a little creepy."
"Just saying I'm right here if you need me."
"Thank you. I will keep that in mind."
Tapping his own radio collar George began a ponderous list of reasons why escape would be highly unlikely. What others might view as discouraging -- guard towers, bloodhounds, the obvious tracking collars -- offered a list between the lines. After summing up all the ways which had thus far failed, George inadvertently suggested maneuvers no one had tried.
A plan formed. A brazen foolish plan so ludicrous it just might work. Joyce was right. This place fostered a special kind of madness.
I shared my plan with the others.
Afterward Al asked, "You're sure you don't want me to kill you?"
I replied, "When I get out of here, and tell this story to others, I will only refer to you as Creepy Al."
Nigel remarked, "It is not the best idea."
"Therein lies the brilliance," I said, "It's too stupid for anyone to try. As such, no one will see it coming."
The ape held out a hand, "Then by God, the best of luck sir."
We shook hands. George shook his head. Joyce gave me a kiss on the cheek along with an ominous goodbye. The rest dispersed around the shed looking glum. The prospect of an escape had rekindled their will to live, but the absurdity of my plan snuffed that fire right out.
I decided not to wait. Hesitation would only lead to second thoughts. So I went to the door, tried the handle, and finding it unlocked I stepped out into the Oakland Raiders' camp. The guard by the door glared at me, but I didn't stop. Walking at a slow, calm, steady pace I just kept on going. One foot in front of the other, my ultimate trajectory the gate at the other end of the compound.
A pair of Raiders walked passed me. Hands in my pockets, I nodded to them, and said, "Sup?" -- continuing casually ever onward. The men up in a watchtower observed me with expressions typically reserved for those watching a dog with a pink mohawk riding a unicycle.
Seventeen feet and closing, I noticed that although the bus blocking the front entrance meant no vehicle could come in there was more than enough space for a person to slip through.
"Where the fuck is he going?!"
The sound of Lenny's shout triggered plan B. I ran for the exit. Bullets pounded the ground around me.
"Don't shoot! He's too valuable!"
Thanks Lenny, I thought, that improves my chances.
I'm going to pause here to describe an interesting device. It is, in essence, a shotgun shell containing 2 lithium batteries, wire, and a set of barbs at one end. When it hits a target the impact is like being struck with a spiked hammer. Almost immediately this unique device then allows the target to experience 1.3 milliamps coursing through one's body. It doesn't sound like a lot; however, it's enough to cause a man, literally running for his life, to seize up and fall flat on his face, giving his pursuers more than enough time to catch up, and begin beating him mercilessly.
Thanks to this infernal contraption, I failed to escape.
After being disciplined by a rain of gun butts, Lagos carried me to Doctor Elsa's. She found nothing seriously broken, just a smattering of savage bruises. She told Lenny it might even make me seem more valuable to Caliban, the escape attempt a sign of my vigorous spirit. Lenny agreed. Still, there was one laceration above my eye.
While Elsa saw to it Lenny and the giant departed to send word down the river.
Elsa said, "In less than a day Caliban will come for you."
She smirked, "You do have -- Was heißt das? -- spunk."
"Thanks. I guess."
Lowering her voice Elsa said, "I can get you out of here."
Not sure if I should trust her, but unwilling to miss an opportunity I asked, "What's the catch?"
"Take Joyce with you."
"She is my lover."
I shook my head, "No, why are you helping me?"
Elsa blushed, "I don't wish to be here. I only do what I do so the Raiders will leave me alone. If I didn't have value as a doctor they'd do things to me. Terrible things.""I don't doubt it."
She looked me straight in the eye. She looked terrified as if even mentioning escape put her at risk. I held her hand, and asked what our next move would be.
Elsa smiled, "First, we must kill George."
COMING SOON! PART 6: STABBY TIME FOR GEORGE