Stories About Power
rating: +16+x

trigger warning for violence and sexual assault

I gave the homeless man a dollar and he grabbed my wrist with a filthy hand and asked me if I had ever seen the sun die. “Not like the night,” he said. “Sometimes it just goes away.” I yanked my arm away. His eyes, nearly black, didn't turn away. No, I told him, I’d never seen the sun die. “You know it,” he said, “but you don’t see it. When the sun disappears and the world mourns.” The woman with me stood nearby, watching. Normally I wouldn’t have given the man two glances but I’d had the feeling it would get me laid tonight. Already I knew it’d been stupid. My boss was expecting me for lunch in ten minutes, and I had left late. As I stepped back I hoped he wasn’t the type of bum who carried a blade. He kept talking as I backed away. “It goes away when it gets tired of us. Tired of seeing man killing man. It always comes back because it loves us, but I think one day it won’t. It’ll realize there’s nothing it can do to help.” My laugh at this felt forced. The sound, louder than it should have been, echoed through the empty street. It shouldn’t have been empty. It was noon on a Wednesday. Just me and her and him, and he was wandering off now, clutching his hands under his armpits and shivering even though it was almost 90 degrees out. Seven minutes until the meeting. It’d be close, but doable. My partner struggled to keep up as I almost jogged down the block. “That was nice of you,” she said. “He was high and he’s going to spend it on more drugs,” I said. “The city should do something about them.” We passed somebody collapsed on the sidewalk and this time I looked away. In my peripheral vision the body looked like a heap of garbage. I still felt dirty from where the man had touched me. Ahead of us loomed the modernist, glass-and-steel restaurant. I’d have to scrub my hands in the bathroom before meeting my boss. As I grabbed the door handle I stopped and looked at my reflection in the window. It must have just been the pane catching light at an odd angle, but there was a spirit floating in the air behind me, a shimmer in the shape of a man. I turned around and the sun flashing against my eye made me wince. Blue lights danced in my vision. When they cleared up, I saw the man again, standing across the street from me, smiling. He pointed up to the sky and said something I couldn’t hear. Without thinking, I looked at the sun. It looked back at me, and I wanted to weep.

I’d failed two classes this semester, which meant I didn’t want this bro at the bar trying to get between my legs. He was cute, and I let him buy me a drink, but as soon as his mouth opened I realized there would be nothing worthwhile coming out of it, just braggadocio and nonsense about a coffee-analysis startup. I pretended to listen while keeping a close eye on the drinks he ordered me, and when he asked if I wanted to come to see his place said that I was feeling tired. He called me a stuck-up whore. Demanded I pay him back for the drink. Fortunately I was tight with the bouncer. After he shoved the guy out the door, I ordered a drink of my own and checked my phone. More missed messages from a different boring man. I chugged my beer and left. I probably should have felt uncomfortable on the dimly lit streets, but the cool air and gentle breeze reminded me of a night long ago, and I reveled in it until I saw startup boy ahead of me. He’d acquired a bottle of liquor but lost his suit jacket. “You biiiiiitch,” he hissed. “You fffucking bitch.” When he got close I pulled my knife and he ran. Dropped the bottle as he fled, and it didn’t break, so I took it as a trophy. Enough of this, I thought to myself. What’ll Mom think? She’ll want an intervention. Yet the liquor was hot in my throat and warm in my belly and I could almost pretend I was still being held, on a distant lost night. I must have made it home somehow, because I woke up at noon in my bed, fully dressed. My heard hurt. It was cold. Sometime while I was asleep a front had hit the city. Shivering, I stood at the window. Most of the buildings on the street were boarded up. A couple of kids kicked an old soccer ball around on the sidewalk. I smoked as I watched them. One of them grabbed the ball to keep it from the other, and the game descended into a brawl, interrupted when a man came charging out of a nearby apartment and dragged the offending children indoors by the ears. I thought about the time a boy in high school had grabbed my ass and I’d kicked him in the crotch. Flicking the half-finished cigarette out the window, I turned back to my room. Something caught my eye under the bed. A red sweatshirt. I picked it up. It was dusty and must have been lying there for months because the smell of you still clung to it, a smell of cinnamon and ash.

I cannot remember how I first met Douglas Cherry, but we’ve known each other for at least ten years and only seen each other in person three times. We talk rarely, he always the one initiating our conversations and the one letting them die out. This time it was, “2pm, Saturday, Rico’s Diner.” At 1:45 I was outside, waiting, pacing while rolling an unlit cigarette between my fingers, until he showed up at 2 exactly. He stared at me. “You’re clean,” he said. I nodded. “Since September.” He opened the door. Inside a sign told us to sit anywhere. I chose a booth as far from the door as possible. The upholstery was peeling off the seat and the table was covered in crumbs. When the waiter finally arrived Douglas ordered, without looking at the menu, 3 scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, 4 sausage links, and a bottle of coke. I asked for coffee. The food came and looked like it’d been regurgitated. Douglas spoke as he ate. “I’m doing some government shit right now,” he said. “Classified stuff. We need guys and I remember what you used to be. In?” The reflections of the lights shuddered in my still-black coffee as I stirred it. “You know I’m not.” In response Douglas pointed at the waiter with his fork. “Think, amigo. I could pop him now and no one would care. Every week I’m meeting hot foreign chicks and nailing the shit out of them. They’re paying me so much money I can’t even spend it. You’re perfect for the job. Say yes.” I looked at him. It was my first time really looking at his eyes. They were blue and full of nothing. “It’s not about money,” I said. “Or women. It’s my life now. I’m done.” Douglas snorted. He placed a 100 dollar bill on the table, said, “Split it with the waiter,” and left. As soon as he was gone I pocketed the cash. Money wasn’t the point, I’d meant that, but if he gave, I’d take. Walking home I kept my eyes on the shadows. It was hard to see in the rain and the flashes of lightning made me dizzy. The door to my apartment was unlocked. I opened it silently and waited. And waited. And waited.

The next time the fat man came to fuck her Alice stabbed him in the throat with broken glass, took the keys, and fled. By the time the alarms went off, she was stumbling through the forest lit only by the stars with three other freed women. They would send dogs after them, she knew, and when they came to a river she had them wade downhill toward the current. She had no idea what she was looking for, only that she had to keep running. Eventually the woods opened up into the side of a highway that they were able to follow until they came to a gas station. An old woman was working at the counter. When the four women came in, dressed in rags, covered in bruises and scars, she reached for the telephone, then reconsidered. Without asking details she gave them soda and mini-cakes and let them rest in the corner. When her husband arrived in a rusty pick up truck, she convinced him to bring them home. There the women ate real food for the first time since they were teenagers. They slept in beds with actual blankets. When Alice woke up in the night, gasping and sweating, she was able to fall asleep in only fifteen minutes. The next morning the house was empty. Alice, who could just barely remember how to cook eggs, made breakfast for the others before stepping outside to look around. The field around the house was vast and barren. A single, leafless tree swayed in the heavy wind. Alice went back inside. In the kitchen she found three bodies with bullets in their heads and a tall man drinking a cup of coffee. His hair was long and he wore a white t-shirt tucked into jeans and in his other hand was a gun that he lifted up as Alice entered. “Down,” he said. When he pulled out his dick she clamped down on it as hard as she could with her teeth, felt spurting blood, heard him shriek. The gun fired into her shoulder. The man stumbled, fell back onto the table, still bleeding and crying like an animal. The gun fell onto the floor next to her. She picked it up and without thinking squeezed the trigger over and over, until the chamber clicked empty. As soon as she dropped it the pain hit, like her left arm was engulfed in flame. It wouldn’t move. Whimpering, she limped out of the house. The sun was beginning to set. Clouds of dust roiled in the wind. She walked onward, leaving a trail of red behind her.

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