Die Free

Private Addams stood in the shadows of the mess hall, checking his watch when he wasn’t staring at the garishly lit back gate. It had been twelve minutes since Eloosive had left him in the dark, a period of time that seemed to keep pace with his racing heart. Every scrape of his boots against cement, each muted voice that drifted to his ears seemed to be amplified exponentially.

Checking his watch one last time, Addams pushed off the wall and took a step towards the gatehouse. He had missed the chance to be helped out of here so he was going to make a break for it on his own. Anything was better than waiting for the Collectors.

“At ease, soldier.” The voice came floating from the shadows, not five feet to his right. Addams suffered his second minor heart attack of the night with good grace.

“You said ten minutes.”

“I had… other things to see to. Besides, you wouldn’t get far without this,” Eloosive moved forward, onyx against ebony, holding an envelope in an outstretched hand. The hood of his black jacket, loose and low against his skull, ensured that only a direct flashlight beam could reveal his features.

“A personal leave of absence?” Addams looked up from the letter held in his trembling fingers.

“Yeah, turns out your mom isn’t feeling so well. Don’t worry though,” Eloosive continued in a rush when he saw the look on the young man’s face, “I expect she’ll make a fast recovery once she sees her loving son. Now get going. If the guard is suspicious and wants to confirm the pass with anyone, raise your right hand to your left ear - that will be my signal that you need a distraction. As soon as your fingers touch your ear start running and don’t look back.”

“You’re not coming with me?” It was more of a squeak than a question. Eloosive couldn’t help wondering how the man had lasted this long in the military.

“I have some final details to look after. You’ll be picked up on the other side, whether you’re running or walking, by a man named Sly. He’ll take you to an important meeting out West - tell him I‘ll be there as soon as I can manage.”

“You can’t stay here - do you have a death wish?” Addams hissed. “Your name is Eloosive, not Intangible!” A muffled sound escaped from the hooded figure before him and he worried that he had overstepped some invisible line.

“That was… quite clever,” Eloosive said with an audible grin. “You’re going to do well. I have chosen to die free rather than live a slave. If you would make the same choice, go now. My stories have been told, my loss would matter little. Your stories are still hidden and crying for release. Set them free on the world, let them hear the truth of what they do here and at the Tower. Now move, before the Collectors erase your words before they ever reach the page!”

Private Addams turned slowly and marched to the gatehouse on leaden feet. Eloosive watched as he passed the forged letter to the guard and fiddled with his gleaming metal shirt buttons. A nervous laugh reached his ears and then the guard was reaching for the phone. Eloosive had his finger on the button before the Private’s hand had risen above his belt buckle.

Green and yellow fumes filled the guardhouse as Addams made his break for it. The guard stumbled away from the cloud, one hand on his gun, the other at his throat. Eloosive’s chest clenched painfully as the guard raised his gun toward the fleeing ex-soldier, but then relaxed with a sigh as the gun clattered to the ground. With a satisfied smile he stepped back into the shadows.

“Was he really worth it?” The voice was drowning in contempt. Eloosive began to turn, his hand reaching inside his jacket pocket, but the feel of cold steel pressing through the fabric of his hood froze him in place. “Easy there. Don’t go thinking you can dodge bullets now.”

“You’re letting him go?” Eloosive asked after seconds passed without further incident.

“You’re the one they want. He’s nobody.”

“Indeed. And you would be?”

“I'm the one holding the gun to your head.”

“Fair enough,” he replied. Another lengthy silence. “Are we waiting for something?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were busy coming up with your final words. Something poetic, but short enough to fit on a small urn.”

“I just thought, seeing as I’m so important, that you might be taking me away for questioning or something like that.”

“Are you aware of what they would do to you if I brought you in? We have this crazy old man that likes to practice acupuncture… with number 2 pencils. And they would certainly break every bone in both your hands before they let you anywhere near the Furnace. I still respect what you stand for enough to not allow that to happen.”

“So you know me then. A fallen Protagonist, brainwashed into following orders? But the wash did not clean you of all the dirt, it seems.”

“So it would seem.”

“You could let me go.” Eloosive swallowed the lump in his throat.

“Not that much dirt left behind.” The casual tone was strained, the words a trembling façade. “How are those final words coming along?”

“You could join us, you know. We’d take you back.”

“No.” A round slid into the chamber. “You wouldn’t.”

“You’ll only make a martyr of me.”

“I know.”

A rattling breath. Three more.

“Thank you.”

The trigger was squeezed, a muffled bang echoed into the night, and Eloosive’s body pitched forward, landing gracelessly on the cement. The killer stood over the body, staring down at it with an unreadable expression. At length the figure turned away, after whispering two final words.

“You’re welcome.”

The End

658 comments about this story Feed