The Victim

Chapter Two: Friends

Grug

When he wakes up, I’m already there, watching him from behind a cup of tea. He notices me staring and struggles to ask “C-can I have some water?” I don’t say anything as I bring him his water. No straw. He notices there’s no straw, but he sees my facial expression and wisely realizes it’s not a good decision to ask why.

“So, where is she?” he asks. “Really?” I say sarcastically. “That’s what you have to say?” He looks ashamed at his glass of water. “You come in here, dying, and that’s all you have to say?” “I just, I—” he tries to explain, but I don’t let him. “What happened? And tell me truth, or I swear on my little sister’s grave, I’ll leave you out on the street to die.”

He finally looks into my eyes. “Ok, ok, I’ll tell you everything,” he says. “Do you-do you remember the man that played with matches?” he asks. I nod. “Well. When I met him, I didn’t know what he was up to. But he was all I had left, only he wanted me. So I decided I would do whatever he asked me to.”

“The morning after those guys were beating him up, we went to see… a guy. All he told me was ‘look tough.’ I did my best. We got to a flat filled with topless girls and people doing meth and heroin. But when he stepped in, it was like the world stopped. They all watched him quietly from their seats as he walked up to their boss. The boss gave matches some money and drugs from a safe without saying a word, and we left. I stood at the door the whole time, hiding under my shades.”

“I-I should’ve suspected he was no good news right then and there. But that power, I mean… The people in that room had guns, and even they were afraid of him. You don’t know how good that felt.” He seems to doze off, then comes back. “So anyway,” he continues, “we had a hotdog for breakfast and took the subway. All the while, he was carrying a bag with the money and drugs.”

“So we walked for a while, and we finally got to our destination, a flat in the city. A goon packing a gun opened up. ‘Who’s he,’ asked the goon, pointing at me. ‘Nobody,’ said matches. We dropped the bag off, received another bag and left. Then he took a bundle of bills from it and gave it to me.”

“‘Wow, really? For that? Thanks so much,’ I said to matches. He looked at me tiredly, not wanting to hear my gratitude. Next thing we did was get on another subway. I didn’t ask where we were going, I knew he wouldn’t like it. Once again we walked through a half-deserted city up to a park, where we stayed the rest of the day.”

“‘Wake me when no sun,’ he grunted. I waited by his side until dusk, watching people come and go. I realized that day I hadn’t thought about my sister at all. I knew it could help me, so I promised myself I would do my best. Eventually dusk came, and I woke him up. He looked tired, with bags under his eyes. That is, until he pulled a few meth crystals from a bag and smoked them. Then it all changed.”

“‘Holy f-word that’s good!’ he shouted. An old couple nearby stared at him. ‘Whatcha lookin at, dried c-words!?’ he shouted standing up. ‘Ok boy, let’s see.’ He took a paper from the bag with the mugshots of a couple of thugs. ‘Do you have my coffee?’ he asked. I shook my head. I had no clue coffee went hand-in-hand with meth. ‘Next time you will,’ he replied.”

“‘Ok, so we need to beat these two ugly motherf-worders. They’re selling outside their territory,’ he commented casually before starting to stretch. ‘But, shouldn’t you, like, rest or something?’ I asked naively. ‘just yesterday you got—’ He shot me a threatening look. ‘That never happened! Feel me?!’ I shut my mouth.”

“‘Now let’s see…’ he said reading the papers he had. ‘They should come here today at some point. They drive this ugly piece-of-s-word,’ he said showing me a picture of a rundown brown car. ‘Keep an eye out for it.’ I started looking at nearby cars, but none matched the picture. I thought we would stay there for a while, waiting for them. But he just took off in less than a minute.”

“Without saying a word, he marched toward a group of thugs with a bottle of water in his hand. I thought it was strange that was all he would carry. There were four of them, just chatting up. One of them looked like one of the guys he’d shown me, but a closer look made us both realize he was wrong.”

“‘The f-word you lookin’ at?’ threatened the alpha male from the pack of thugs. ‘Nothing, chill. I thought you was someone else,’ replied matches, before turning away to leave. ‘Hey, come back. You sound familiar…’ said one of the thugs, grabbing his shoulder. Now matches was really angry. You see, he never forgot a face. Quickly, we all realized who everyone was. The guy who called him out was one of the punks who beat him the day before.”

“It all happened too fast. Matches didn’t say a word. He just took a big gulp from his bottle of water, turned around and spit it on the face of the guy calling for him. The other thugs were confused by the move. ‘The f-word?’ said their alpha male. The victim tried to yell, but choked at first. ‘I-it’s him, it’s him!’ he finally managed to say before trying to turn away. But matches grabbed his neck and held him in place while he emptied much of his bottle on the guy’s head. I just stood there, frozen.”

“Matches dropped the bottle and lit a match with his free hand against his trousers. Then he lit the guy’s face on fire, still holding him. The screams were horrible, made worse by the smell of his hair, which quickly caught on fire. Matches’ gloves and clothes also caught on fire from some of the accelerant that had fallen on them. But he didn’t care, and walked in flames toward the others.”

“They ran away from him in distress, leaving their mate behind, who cried out for help but got none. Matches took off his clothes and left them on top of the screaming man, who was now rolling on the floor, trying to put himself out. He emptied the rest of the bottle on him and threw it into the pyre. People started coming, attracted by the screams, but we left quickly.”

He pauses for a moment. “Oh, the smell, if only you knew…” he says, as a tear rolls down his eye. I take his hand in support. I run my fingers through the burn marks that cover them. “Is that how you got these?” I ask. He nods. “I-I tried to put it out,” he says. “But matches dragged me out. And that was just the beginning…”