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Belonging

We are all desperate to belong. The question is how much are we willing to pay?

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Belonging by Aidan Thorn



Stress lined a face that should have bore no signs of age. Desperation, hunger, and fear told on that face. And it was those and uncountable other problems that led him here this evening. Lying in wait, a multi-storey car park, a blade twitching at the end of his arm as it shook from nerves.
           
The multi-storey was sparsely populated with cars, but those parked inside were high-end. Beemers, Mercs, Audis. He’d picked a floor with only one car—a Silver Merc, personal plates and alloy wheels you could see your face in. Trendy bars and restaurants surrounded the area—there was even a theatre. A place people with money went to be served by those who had none. He was just three miles from where he lived, but he might as well have been a million—he had nothing in common with these people.
           
Footsteps approached. The hard soles of expensive shoes echoed on concrete. He hid behind a pillar next to the Merc and brought the knife to chest level; he gripped it in tight to himself—an attempt to stop the shaking.
           
The car chirped electronically as its indicator lights blinked orange and it unlocked.

He breathed deep and stepped out from behind the pillar—between the car and its owner.

“Keys, wallet, watch.”

It was supposed to be a demand, but the words left his mouth in a choked whisper.

The Merc’s owner was a big man, the sort of big that comes with good living rather than hours in a gym. And as he gazed upon his attacker it was not fear or shock that influenced his features—but pity. He held out his arms, palms face down in a calming gesture.

“OK, OK, whatever you want. Just put the knife down.” He pulled open his heavy wool coat with exaggerated slowness to show he wasn’t going to try anything stupid and reached inside for his wallet.

Rich people didn’t fear losing a few possessions; they always had, or could get, more. But the attacker wasn’t just there to take what the rich could get more of— he was there to take everything. He lunged forward and with an uncontrolled and unconscious action stabbed at a flabby mid-section more times than he could count.

Now there was shock on the man’s face—shock and panic. He stumbled to the floor and the hand that had been reaching inside his coat flopped loose, dislodging his wallet, which fell to the concrete next to him.

“But … I was going to give you what you wanted,” he said in a weak tone drenched in confusion.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” The attacker’s voice was puny; the gravity of what he’d just down rattled through him.

Cruel laughter echoed through the car park, the forced laughter of a person trying to demonstrate his satisfaction with what he’d just seen. A man walked out from behind the next pillar. He was holding an iPhone in front of him. He’d recorded everything. He got in close to the dying man bleeding out on the floor and let the camera linger on him while he died. When he was sure that he was gone he switched the phone’s focus to the attacker.

The screen showed a young boy, thirteen at most. He dropped the knife to the floor. His eyes were filled with tears, but he tried to hold them back, tried to look tough, as he looked over the phone screen and into the eyes of the man holding it.

“You’re one of us now, Derek. Welcome to the Far Street Crew,” said the voice of the cruel laugh from over the screen. “Cold motherfucker like you will go a long way with us.”

Young Derek Gibbs had passed his initiation. Being one of the Far Street Crew meant he’d never feel hungry or have an empty wallet again. But what he’d done here tonight would leave a hollowness in the pit of his stomach that he’d never lose.


Aidan Thorn’s short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves Off, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western Digest and Shadows & Light as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Near to the Knuckle, Pulp Metal Magazine, Shotgun Honey and Spelk. His second short story collection, Urban Decay, will be published by Grit Fiction in Spring 2015.