Zack Logan shuffled along, slump-shouldered, wearing an overcoat, the
brim of a New York Yankees cap pulled low over his eyes.
He couldn’t even remember when he’d stopped walking with vigor and
resorted to shuffling. If he had to take a guess, it must have started right
there when he’d left his doctor’s office, a little less than three months back.
That’d been enough to break any man, especially at the age of forty-two.
He could still remember the words his doctor had spoken. They were
burned into his memory. “I’m so sorry, Zack. The tests have confirmed you have
cancer and it’s pretty progressive. You have four, maybe five months to live.”
It’d knocked him for a loop, like a baseball bat alongside the head. Who
the fuck would ever have thought? There he was – a big, strapping guy, at
six-foot-three and two-twenty; all muscle, without an ounce of fat; a former
college football player and ex-Navy Seal.
Boy, when some men fall, they fall hard.
Maybe it was in repayment for all
the Taliban fighters he’d killed in Afghanistan; a lot of them with a bullet to
the head while they lay there, wounded, their eyes begging for mercy. Not all
of them had been willing to sacrifice their lives for Allah. Not all of them
had wanted to meet their seventy-two virgins in paradise.
Had God forsaken him because of that? But hell, a lot of men have done a
lot worse things. Has Kim Jong-un been struck with cancer? Have Putin or
Ayatollah Khamenei been hit with the Big C?
No, they haven’t. But, after all,
in this crazy game of life, little children, even babies, are struck down
early, while the biggest pricks on earth seem to live on forever.
Thinking of all of this, he couldn’t help a bitter laugh, his breath
trailing off like smoke in the frigid night air. And just a laugh, a simple
fuckin’ laugh, brought on tentacles of pain, shooting through his entire torso.
Struck by a sudden dizziness, he paused and began to hack, coughing up three
phlegm-balls and spitting them into the gutter.
Four to five months,
Finally pulling it together, he walked another three blocks through the
blighted neighborhood, smelling the stench of garbage and eyeing the rundown
buildings, crudely decorated with all manner of graffiti. The whole damn scene
made him feel even worse.
Every now and then, he passed a man or men lurking in the shadows, the
ends of their cigarettes glowing red. As he did, he couldn’t help challenging
them in his mind. Come on, you worthless
fucks, if you want a piece of me. I may be
nine-tenths dead, but I can still kill you in a hundred different ways.
A half-block further along, he stopped to survey a building across the
street, with its windows painted black. It was the local headquarters of MS-13,
otherwise known as Mara Salvatrucha. The violent organization
was mostly made up of illegal immigrants from El Salvador, specializing in
vicious machete attacks, execution-style shootings, gang rape and human
trafficking. Their sick motto was “mara,
viola, controla”—kill, rape, control.
Bracing his shoulders and taking a deep breath, he strode across the
street; instead of shuffling, flung open the door and entered the building.
Man, I feel great,
all of a sudden. I’m flying high—higher than the moon.
There were about three dozen gangbangers in attendance—dressed in tank tops
and baggy jeans, with shaven heads and arms festooned with tattoos. Some of
them even have tats on their neck,
cheeks and forehead. They all turned toward him, scowling, as if operated by a
One of them, most likely the leader, stepped forward and flicked open a
gravity knife. “What the fuck are you doing here, puta?”
“It’s called urban renewal.”
And then, with his entire life flashing before his eyes, like a movie
projector on steroids, he fingered the button in his pocket, hearing the
detonator click beneath his overcoat.
Gerald E. Sheagren is a 70-year-old retiree, who
lives in the historic town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, along with his wife
Sharon and two crazy cats. If he's not reading, he's writing. Over the past 25
years, many of his short stories have appeared both online and in print. He
writes in every genre but his favorites are crime and horror. Some of his
stories have appeared in such publications as The Horror Zine, Blood Moon
Rising, Sanitarium, Hellfire Crossroads, Hardboiled, Thirteen O'Clock Press,
Dark Dossier, The First Line, The
Storyteller, and Noir Nation.