I get in the car and drive back to the motel. He’s still in bed and the door is open. He looks like he’s freezing from the cold wind blowing outside. I figure it’s a fair punishment. “Get up and get dressed,” I command dryly. “I tried to tell you—” he says. “Don’t even try,” I stop him.
As I hand him his shoes, I notice the soles are slightly wet. Someone has taken a walk. “Get up, now!” I shout at him. “Ok, ok…” he mutters. We get into the car. “Call whatever lowlife you know who can give us a gun,” I say. “What, right now?” he asks. I just throw him a look, and he quickly understands.
“Ok, ok. Give me a sec…” He pulls out his phone and calls somebody who owes him a favor, and agrees to meet him. We drive to the outskirts of the city and park in an abandoned factory. I would make a joke about how cliched it all is, but I’m not in the mood for jokes. We pick up the guns and ammo and leave.
I know it would be too obvious if we went back, so I decide to do one better. We drive all the way to the park where matches and he first met. “How do these work?” I say, taking one of the guns and inspecting it. “Whoah, whoah whoah, wait!” he exclaims alarmed, before taking it from my hands. “These kill people, remember? You have to treat them with care.”
“Here, look. You just load them like this.” He inserts the clip. “Then you cock it.” He shows me how. “Aand now you’re ready to pull the trigger. But for now, let’s put on the safety.” He flicks a little “switch” on the side of the gun. “Just for… safety.”
I grab it again. It feels heavy. It feels… powerful. I aim through the windshield at random things on the street. “Ok killer,” he says, pushing the gun down from my hands. “Now we wait. He’ll recognize our car, so we should go to that diner over there.” We enter the diner, order something to eat and sit down. At first I have my eyes peeled on the street, but eventually I fall asleep. You have to understand, I had been awake for more than one day straight. I dream of my friend, trapped by flames, falling, ever falling…
“Wake up, wake up!” he says to my ear as he shakes me. “What?” I say, confused. “Look! Right there!” I see a man walking away from the park into the street. “Is that—” I ask. He nods. “But why is he… How?” I ask. There’s something that doesn’t feel right. Did matches track us down? Did he come back? If so, why didn’t he see the car? “It looks like you were right and he did come back here after all,” he says.
“I don’t know,” I say. “This doesn’t smell good.” “What, why?” he says nervously. “He’s right there! Let’s go. Take this, it will keep you focused.” He hands me a small pill. At first I hesitate, but then I swallow it with a gulp from my coffee. He stands up and walks out of the diner. I slowly pick up his pace. There’s only an hour or two of darkness left before sunrise. He could lure us anywhere and no one would notice. “Wait,” I call for him. But he won’t listen, and only walks faster toward the man.
We’re in a half-abandoned part of the city. There’s no one on the streets. We can barely even hear a sound. But I know there’s people inside the rundown buildings that surround us. I feel dizzy. Matches enters one of these buildings. Before we go in after him, my dead girlfriend’s brother (now my “partner” like in the cop movies) signals me to stop with his hand. He pulls out his gun and takes the safety off.
I do the same. Now I’m shaking. We go in. The first floor is filled with rusty machines. We look around but see nothing. “Let’s split. I’ll take downstairs, you go upstairs,” he whispers. “What? No!” I whisper back. “You’ll be fine,” he says before disappearing into the dark.
There is no light in the building, no way to see what is in front of me. I reach into my pocket for my phone, but it’s gone. I must’ve left it in the car. I slowly crawl upstairs, shaking. The first two levels are vast, empty spaces filled with graffiti and trash. The windows are all covered with old newspaper so the light can’t get in. But when I continue going up, I hear people. At first I think it’s him, matches. Then I realize it’s just junkies shooting themselves with heroin, or something similar.
The smell, oh god the smell. Some of them are relatively clean, but others… others look and smell like decrepit corpses. The next floor, I can finally see. All the walls are lit by candles and covered by a grimy substance. There are four doors in front of me, each with a different symbol. One has the same symbol he had carved on his chest when he came bleeding to my apartment. I open it slowly with my left hand, using my gun with the right hand.
There’s a red circle painted on the floor with markings on it. Inside the circle, there are several corpses of what look like animals. The stench is overwhelming. I run back to the stairs and throw up. I refuse to go in there again. I need to find… Suddenly a very loud noise comes from downstairs. Is it a gun? Did someone shoot?
I rush down the stairs, gun in hand. My heart pounds. The first level below ground is very dark and completely quiet. Only rusty machines and trash. Although there’s a smell… like meat being cooked? I continue my descent. Pitch black silence. I point my gun in front of me. One more floor to go. The smell overwhelms me. The air is thick like a smoke cloud.
There’s a corridor with a dim light at the end. I hear voices. I try to sneak up, but the ground is covered with glass or something, and I make a lot of noise. “Come here where I can see you,” says a man’s voice. “Yes, you in the darkness.” My mouth is dry. I point with my gun and step forward, shaking. The smell intensifies.
There’s an old man cooking something on a pot. By his side, on the floor, there are four piled-up corpses. My partner has his shirt ripped open; he’s currently sitting on a chair, unconscious. “And you are…?” the man asks. “What have you done to him!?” I shout, pointing at him with my gun.
The man turns to my partner. “She’s feisty, this one.” He looks like he expects an answer from my partner, but my partner stays unconscious. “You’re welcome to join us, child,” the man says, pulling up a chair for me at a table. “Dinner’s almost ready.” As I come closer, I discover the corpses are missing their eyes. There is a vat filled with a blood-red liquid. I look at the boiling pot in disgust and point my gun at the man with renewed enthusiasm.
“You sick f-word! What is this place!?” I shout. “I don’t understand,” says the man. “I thought he explained everything. I thought you were ready to take his body.” I just stare at the man, amazed. “Worry not, child. The body and blood of the saviour will cleanse you. He forgives all our trespasses.”
I close my eyes and open them again. This time, I don’t see him. I see mother. I see mother looking down on me, even laughing. “You killed her,” I say. “She was, she was innocent!” I shout and begin to cry. “Why mother!? Why!?” I shout at her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says calmly, her voice turning graver as she speaks. “And why!? What for!? What did she mean to you!?” She raises her hands, trying to appease me. “Just put it down so we can talk, ok?”
“It’s matches! He’s got my gun!” shouts my partner, who has just woken up. “He’s cooking up some guy. Shoot him, quick!” he yells in distress. Mother looks at him, then at me. “No, look—” She reaches into her back with her right hand. I fire the gun. I hear a shout. I’m the one shouting. At first I’m afraid, not expecting the recoil from the gun. Then I realize I’ve shot a man in the chest. His blood starts pouring out.
“What have I done?” I say, shaking. The gun falls from my hands. My partner comes to me and hugs me. “Shh, It’s ok, it’s ok,” he says, caressing my hair. Then he takes the gun from the floor and takes me by the hand. We rush to the stairs. It’s like I’m in a dream, like none of this is real. Once we’re back at the first level, he whispers to me “wait here.”
“No! Where are you going!?” I ask, grabbing his arm. “To get rid of this place,” he says before vanishing back into the darkness below. I can’t follow him. I’m dizzy and everything spins around me. The walls crawl around me and I hear voices creeping in. What have I done? I shot a man. I shot a man in cold blood. I have to call the police. I have to tell someone. I look outside and see demons flying around. Wh-what is going on?
He comes out quickly. “Let’s go,” is all he says. We start walking away. He grabs me by the waste, pushing me to move forward. “What did you do?” I ask. He stays silent. “What did you do!?” I shout. We keep walking, faster and faster. He looks to me and says, “What needed to be done.” Oh no, he didn’t. “Did you—” I tremble to ask. “… set it on fire?” I ask.
He doesn’t say anything. I turn and head to the building. I try to run to it, but I’m too dizzy. All the flying demons are looking at me. The world is spinning and my legs feel heavy. I try to go faster, but I stumble with something and fall. It feels like I can’t stop falling.