A chill ran across Cancer’s skin. A gentle breeze blew cold air over him, but that wasn’t what had woken him from his stupor. The sound of a fist banging against the door was growing more insistent and irritating.
“Open up,” a voice called from the other side. He huffed out an annoyed sigh, reaching under the pillow for his gun. His vision was blurred and sleepy. He felt like he hadn’t slept at all. He wasn’t even sure how many days it had been since he got to the hotel anymore. The comfortable blanket of opiates was still wrapped around his mind. It took a moment to stand up without the support of the wall.
The banging got louder. “Open up, or we’re coming in,” the voice warned him. Cancer’s eyes flashed with anger. Memories of police shouting the same thing at him through the doors of various squats and dingy apartments he’d scraped together the money for and bitterness chased them through his mind. He shook his head. Flicking the safety off the gun, he pushed the desk out of the way and opened the door.
The barrel of his gun hovered frighteningly close to the stomach of the tall man standing in front of the doorway. There were others behind him, but he was big enough that Cancer couldn’t see them all - though the man’s bulk was made up of an almost intimidating amount of muscle, rather than fat. He recognised the man he had threatened in the kitchens shifting his weight from one foot to the other anxiously at the back of the group. Cancer almost felt small next to this man stood in the doorway, though they were similar in height. That feeling was nothing next to the urge to shoot the person that had woken him up.
Realising the gun pointing at his belly was loaded and ready to shoot, the man decided a calmer, slower approach to reasoning with the stranger in his building was a better option to take. He raised his hands above his head, his own gun pointing harmlessly at the ceiling.
“We just wanna talk, okay? No guns.”
Cancer was neither convinced, nor was he entirely free of his urge to kill someone.
“What’s to talk about?” he grunted, trying not to give it away that he was higher than any kite had the right to be.
“No weapons,” the large man insisted. When Cancer simply watched him, he put his gun down on the floor at their feet to prove his point. Reluctantly, Cancer lowered his gun, but neglected to put the safety back on, and kept a firm grasp on it, waiting for an answer to his question. “Can we talk about this like civilised human beings?” he asked once the gun wasn’t pointed at him any more.
“Didn’t know there were any of those left,” Cancer remarked dryly.
“I know, it’s hard to know who to trust nowadays,” the man replied, a faint smile on his lips. He fell quiet for a moment, the smile fading as he tried to work out how to word what he needed to say to the angry, skinny man.
“We want you out!” a high pitched voice from the back of the little group piped up.
The large man held up a hand to silence them before any other comments were made. “No, nobody’s saying that.”
Cancer held back a humourless laugh, “That guy just did.”
“That guy’s a dick.”
“Hey!” the protest caused the man in the doorway to look behind him.
“What? It’s true,” he said, turning back to face Cancer. “Look, all we’re trying to say is that we’ve managed to maintain some sort of civilisation here, we’ve established some order. We don’t need anything… or anyone, fucking that up,” he gave Cancer a pointed look, “you understand?”
Cancer felt his teeth grind against one another as his temper began to flare again. He wasn’t sure why he was reacting so negatively. It wasn’t the first time he had heard such a speech. Maybe it was just the salt in the wound for him. He had found himself alone, separated from his only friend and been met with nothing but hostilities wherever he went. It was beginning to take its toll on him.
“Fine,” he snapped, “I wasn’t planning on staying much longer anyways.”
A nod was his reply. “Just so long as we’re understood.” The man bent to pick up his gun and Cancer felt a rush of adrenaline spike through his heroin haze as he imagined kicking the man’s gun away to bring his knee up into his face. Somehow he restrained himself and snapped back to the outside world as he realised the man was speaking again. “We’re going to protect this place. No matter what it takes.” Cancer snorted a laugh and slammed the door shut before the man even had a chance to finish sounding threatening.
Glancing at his bag, he thought wistfully of having another tiny hit, just to get back to sleep easily, before collapsing back down on the bed.