There's regular family and there's Gutter family. Where sometimes someone leaves you, sometimes someone saves you. And salvation? May just be a lot like Hell.
Paradise Is Where I Expected To Be by Mark McConville
There’s no hope. I’m stranded in a pool of blood, beaten to the point of facing oblivion. I can hear another man, screaming from the pain, hitting his bloodied hand off of the warehouse floor. I can also hear cars in the distance and a radio playing plastic pop music. The screams begin to fade, he starts to fall deeply into a seizure, shaking and sputtering blood. I’m his fucked observer waiting for the same fate.
My eyes start to close, the room spins, there’s signs of death coming in my direction, the blackness, the darkness beginning to impose. My saviour is long gone, she’s probably on the road, driving off into dreamland, away from blood and torture. Paradise is where I expected to be, after today. I expected to be rich beyond my wildest dreams. But they took it all from me, left me here to rot.
I used to be innocent. Grasping onto a normal life. This spiral into the darkest of money making ended all that. I had a beautiful wife, her eyes like gemstones, and her admiration for me rooted. Now, I’m possibly going to stop breathing. The pain in my abdomen is fierce and my legs are burning, I don’t think I can walk. I try to move, but I yelp like a deer with a broken leg.
My smashed phone rings. I can’t make out the number or name. I answer it, praying for someone to listen to my woes.
“Yeah it’s James.”
“Are you okay?”
“No, not really. I’m bleeding badly.”
“Who is this?”
“You don’t need to know. I’m coming to get you. Where are you?”
“I’m at a warehouse, I don’t know exactly. Why do you want to help me?”
The phone goes silent. And now I feel like there’s some sort of guardian angel coming to save me.
My head is dizzy and the bleeding is getting worse. My hope is dwindling, and my fate seems to be studded in death’s grip.
I feel tired, desperately tired, like a baby who craves the warmth and security.
The sky is pitch black. The man next to me is dead. Life pulled from him in such a barbaric way.
As my eyes droop even more I hear the sound of a car coming straight towards me. The lights are blinding.
The man helps me into the back of his car.
He drives off as my eyes completely close.
I wake up in a clean bed. I can hear the ticking of the clock. My senses are beginning to rejuvenate.
I’m bandaged up and alive. The pain isn’t as fierce; there’s a drip feeding me painkillers.
I look around the shell I find myself in. There’s nothing here but my bed.
The door opens and in comes the enigmatic hero.
“You okay, James?”
“Yeah, thanks to you. Why go to all this trouble?”
“I’m a doctor, I like to help people.”
“But how did you know I was needing help?”
“I sensed it.”
“What do you mean you sensed it? Do you have superpowers?’”
“Well, tell me. I’m happy that you saved my life. But it’s not adding up.”
“I knew you needed help. Someone phoned me, they didn’t want to see you so I said I would go and save you.”
“Who phoned you?”
“I can’t say.”
“I need to know.”
He hands me a picture of a woman and a child. The woman in the snapshot is Joanne, my ex-wife.
“How did you get this?”
He doesn’t reply.
“Who is the boy?”
“That’s me, aged nine.”
“Why are you with Joanne?”
“Joanne is my mother.”
I gaze into the boy’s eyes. They’re blue like mine, his nose is shaped like mine. I keep on looking.
“You’re my son?”
“Why did Joanne keep this quiet?”
“She knew that you were involved in criminal activity. That you were working for a gang.”
I lower my head in shame.
“I know you’re a man that doesn’t let things lie. You hold grudges, you crave revenge.”
“How do you know?”
He opens the drawer from under the bed. He hands me a revolver. I’m bemused by his actions. He hands me crutches.
“Come through to the kitchen.”
I fix the crutches and go through the hall to the kitchen. There’s a pool of blood.
I look at the battered face of Estevez, my old boss, the man who left me to die. He’s tied up.
“I have contacts like you. You’re not the only one who is heartless and has killed people.”
I’m alarmed that my son has taken people’s lives. He truly is like me, a man who has created wars, who has bludgeoned, who has adhered to the rules of a criminal organization. He looks like me, he plays like me, and his eyes are fixated on Estevez like a wolf ready to kill its prey.
“Do it,” the boy says, rage burning inside him.
Estevez cries. The tears run down his face. He begs to be released from the shackles. He wants us to forgive him.
I raise the revolver and point it to his head.
I close my eyes.
And I pull the trigger.
The boy laughs…But I feel dirty…