Crisis Town – Ep. 4: “The Wretched Robbery”

It was a bright and sun-shiny day. The birds were singing. And an old woman was being robbed.

“Help! HELP!” She called out with her old lady voice, but no one heard, or cared.

The mugger pulled at her purse, but the old woman’s grip was too tight. “Please! Just let go!”

“NO! HELP!” Suddenly, a man descended from the sky and he landed just beside them, arms akimbo. “Thank God you’re here! Please, this man is trying to take my purse!”

“Hm,” said the man and he proceeded the point at the mugger with his index finger like a gun. But instead of bullets, his finger launched a long, bright beam of pure energy.

The mugger screamed and let go of the purse. He held his hand. It was mildly scalded, but still hurt. “Ow!” See?

The man stepped closer to the mugger and said, “piss off.” The mugger ran off in the opposite direction.

“Oh thank you so much! I was worried no one would–” but before she could finish, the man snatched the purse from her. “Um, are you seeing if he took anything? Because I don’t think he did.”

“Sorry ma’am. But you are behind on your payments. As a result, it is my duty to take your purse and other personal items until the debt is paid off. Make sure to provide payment information to the debtor’s website. If you don’t have access to a computer or the internet then too bad.” And the old woman watched as the man proceeded to float back into the air, arms akimbo, with the purse dangling from his wrist.

The man’s name was the Repossessor. He was once an ordinary man, but in order to pay off his debts he donated himself to science. A few experiments later and now he had superpowers which were used for the betterment of mankind, one purse or car at a time. The Repossessor! You might call him a hero, but he’s just doing his job!

“Son of a bitch,” the old woman muttered to herself.

Back at home, the mugger was running his hand under some cold water. “Much better…”

“Son, sonny? Sonny boy,” his father called out from the other room.

“Yeah dad.”

“Are we still poor,” his father asked.

“Yup dad.” As soon as he said this, the water stopped. “Welp. They turned off the water again. No more water, I guess. So that’s cool.” He shook his head. He couldn’t wash away the guilt of trying to steal from an old lady. Somebody’s grandmother. He felt like a piece of shit.

“…Son. Sonny? Sonny boy?”

The mugger, who we’ll go ahead and call Franklin, sighed. He walked into the living room where his father was sitting, drinking some sour milk. Don’t know why I decided to add that detail, but there we go.

“Son. Sonny? Sonny boy?”

“Yes?”

His father turned up to him. “It’s going to be okay.”

“Yeah…I hope so…I hope so…”

“Want to see what I have in the basement?”

“…No?”

“Come on! We’ll make it a thing. Come on!” His father, whose name was Gus, led his son down into the basement whose walls were lined with servers, wires, equipment, and other electronics. “You know that project I have been working on?”

“No.”

“Well, here it is!” The two of them stood in the center of the basement. Franklin looked around and shrugged. “Oh, right. Forgot to reveal what’s behind this curtain!” He pulled away the curtain at the back end of the basement, revealing something that was quite peculiar. Franklin moved in closer with caution.

“What is it?”

“Why, it’s a robot!”

Franklin eyed the incomprehensible pile of metal and lights that laid against the wall. “Okay…”

Gus smiled with anticipation. “So…isn’t it great!”

“Um, yeah dad…look, I’m going to send out 500 applications tonight. Maybe I’ll finally get an interview…”

“Bah,” Gus exclaimed. “Just bah! You don’t need a job! Not with this!”

“I’m sorry, dad, but I just don’t see how this will help us.”

“That’s because…I haven’t turned it on yet!”

Franklin didn’t get it, but watching his father getting giddy like a child was somewhat inspiring. Gus waddled over to the pile and after some tinkering, the parts stirred to life. Suddenly, the parts and pieces assembled into a robotic humanoid. It hummed and buzzed and glowed with life. “Oh! Almost forgot!” Gus placed a black beret on the top of the robot’s head.

“Wow. I mean, it’s cool. But I still don’t understand…you want to sell him?”

“No, no! Don’t be ridiculous! What you’re looking at here, is the town’s greatest thief!”

Spetch was an ordinary French bank robber with the ability of running slightly faster than most. Until, one day, he was dragged behind a horse for his crimes. His situation was dire until a savvy old man decided to place his brain into a machine-body. That’s when he became…Spetch! The town’s greatest thief! Watch out, ya stupid Americans!

“Beep-boop, stupid Americans,” Spetch said with a robotic monotone.

Meanwhile, Larry was at the bank. That’s it. Well, if you want to know why, it was because he now had less than 0 money in his account, and he desired to know the reason. He stood in the long queue.

“I need to take out another loan,” the old woman from before was at the teller’s window.

“Sure, can I ask what this loan is for,” Todd the teller asked.

“I need to pay off my other loan. You see, it’s been tough ever since my husband passed-on. The medical bills and–”

“No worries! We are here to help! Please sign here. 13.2% interest rate. Good, now sign here. You don’t need to read that. Aaaand we’re good! Thank you for trusting Best Money Bank for all your financial needs. Next!”

Larry waited and waited. Finally, he approached the window.

“Why hello Larry,” Todd greeted him. Todd, if you recall from the first episode, helped Larry take down Spetch. Following those events, Todd’s makeshift stand soon became the only bank in town. Now he had an actual building and was filled with pride. “How can we help you?”

“Um, so I checked my balance and it says I’ve been zeroed out. Is there any way to check if my account has been hacked or something?”

Todd grinned. “Oh yes, Larry. Let me just–” he proceeded to slap his fingers on his keyboard. “Okay. So it looks like you weren’t hacked, so that’s good!”

“Okay…so how do I have no money now?”

“Well we had to charge you a minimum balance fee. Next!”

“Okay, wait. I’m sorry? What’s that?”

“Well, if your account balance falls below the minimum threshold then we charge you $25.”

“So…now I have no money?”

“Well, you now have a sub-optimal balance it seems.”

Larry looked around. “Okay, look. Can you help me out? Please?” Larry didn’t like to beg, and he didn’t want to use the time he helped Todd out, but he was desperate.

Todd thought for a moment. “I’m sorry, but this is our protocol. I have to treat you just as I treat everyone else. You see, consistency is a major pillar of good customer service!”

“Right. Right…” But just as Larry was about to leave, the plate glass door to the bank shattered. Everyone stared as a large robotic person stepped onto the shards.

“Um, excuse me, sir,” Todd said to the robot. “That’s a bit much.” However, Todd lost his professional demeanour when he noticed the black beret resting on the robot’s head. “My God…”

“Gimme. Your. Money. Yankee scum,” declared Spetch as he stomped slowly into the bank. Everyone started to panic. Larry ran and crawled underneath a table. The security guard didn’t even try.

Todd stood frozen. “I…I can’t believe it’s happening again…I thought he was gone for good…”

Meanwhile, Franklin and Gus were just outside the bank, not-so-discreetly hiding behind a trash receptacle. “Dad, I don’t think this is going to work.”

“What do you mean? Look at him! He’s kicking all sorts of ass! Did you see what he did to that door?”

“Yeah, hard not to notice…but how are we going to escape?”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ve got an Uber ride coming.”

Inside, Spetch marched over to Todd. “Where. Is. The. Money? Americans.” But Todd couldn’t speak. He started to shake as the robot towered over him. Larry watched from underneath the table. This is where he started having an internal debate:

“You have to do something!”

“Er, why?”

“Because Spetch can’t get away with this!”

“It looks like he can.”

“You and your sarcasm! Look at you, cowering underneath a table!”

“I don’t see how this is my responsibility. I do so much shit for this town, but get nothing in return.”

“So? What if that was the only reason people did anything good?”

Spetch proceeded to pound on Todd’s keyboard. But before the keyboard could be completely destroyed, a voice rang out.

“Halt there, property-destroyer!” The Repossessor stood where the entrance once was. Spetch slowly turned his metallic head.

“No,” Spetch responded and returned to killing the keyboard as the traumatized teller watched in horror.

“Fine. I will deal with you later,” the Repossessor declared as his heroic stare laid on Larry. “You! I am here for your leg!”

Larry wasn’t paying attention, still stuck in his solipsistic debate. “What?”

“You have failed to pay your debt. Now, let us make this easy: provide me your leg, citizen, and I will be on my way.”

“Please help,” Todd pleaded to the Repossessor. Spetch tossed the keyboard over Todd’s head. “HELP!”

Just to ramp things up, a couple of squad cars appeared in front of the bank. A couple of cops got out. “Oh shit.” Franklin and Gus tried to hide a little bit better behind the trash receptacle.

“Officer McMooney.”

“Ted.”

“What we got here?”

“Welp. Looks Spetch is back in town. That’s no good. And we got the Repossessor on scene.”

“The Repossessor?”

“Yep.”

“Well, I guess I gots to leave then.”

“Hm. Why?”

“Well, you see, I’ve got a lot of debt I’ve accrued.”

“Ah. Comes to think of it, I’ve got a lot of debt too.”

The two officers nodded to each other and left the scene. Gus wiped the sweat from his brow. “Those pigs nearly got us.”

“Dad…this is getting to be too much,” Franklin said, but Gus ignored him.

Meanwhile, Larry unlatched his mechanical leg and the Repossessor grabbed it with ease. “Thank you for your compliance, citizen. When everyone follows the rules, we all become heroes.”

Larry didn’t know what he meant.

“Now…” The Repossessor turned and shoved Spetch who fell to the floor. “I have come to repossess this bank.”

Todd was confused. “I’m sorry?”

“You are behind on your payments. Therefore, this bank is no longer yours. Please vacate the premises.”

“What? No…I–I was going to pay. It’s just been tough! This is not fair!”

“Ha…Ha…” Spetch laughed. However, with his new robotic body he was unable to stand-up, rolling on his backside in perpetual struggle. “Get me…up…” Then Spetch’s lights started to fade, and his voice slowed: “stupid…ameri…cans…” until it final fell into a soft, metallic hum, and Spetch’s body stopped moving.

At this point, Gus and Franklin realized their plan failed and they ran off.

“Hey, um, Repossessor?” Larry asked from underneath his table. “Since you have my leg, can you fly me home?”

The Repossessor turned around. “No,” and turned back to Todd. “Now sir, let’s make this easy on yourselves. I know this is difficult news, but you knew this was going to happen. So there are no excuses. I will give you 5 seconds for you and everyone else to leave.”

Todd cast his eyes down. “Fine,” he said, “fine…I guess I have no other choice. I thought I was providing a service, helping my community, just like you…” as he said he grabbed his backpack. “My purpose…”

“I apologize, citizen. Now, please, move along, or–” but before he could finish, the Repossessor fell down. Everyone was startled. Larry squinted and looked up at Todd, a handgun shaking in his grip.

As soon as they heard the gunshot, Gus and Franklin fled. Police soon swarmed the bank and Todd and Spetch were taken into custody. But, fortunately, The Repossessor was not dead. A bullet to the head was not enough to deter him though he was unconscious for some time. And Larry kept his leg, for now. However, he still had less than no money.

As Larry walked back home he thought about what he should do and what he can do. Then he started feeling very, very depressed. “Hello Larry…” Larry turned around.

“Oh, it’s you…” Larry sighed as he saw a man with a red tie, suit, and sunglasses standing there with a smirk. Larry remembered this guy, he had offered to help Carl the Cowboy survive his coma if Larry assassinated the mayor. “You know,” Larry said. “Whatever proposition you have, I’m not interested. I don’t want to sell my soul for rent money. And besides, Carl ended-up waking-up regardless of you so I don’t even think what you do or don’t do matters.” Did I mention Carl, at this point, was out of the hospital and about? No? Okay.

The mysterious fellow nodded and smiled. “Oh Larry,” he said. “How do you think Carl was able to survive?” Interesting thing to note was that Carl was awake for a while before the mysterious man noticed, so he was lying and hoping Larry didn’t know this.

“What do you mean? I didn’t kill the mayor.”

“No…no you did not. And that’s okay. That’s okay. We decided that Carl was more useful awake than as a vegetable. And we also decided that working with you would be beneficial for all of us.”
“Yeah, okay. Whatever. Look, I’ve got to go–”

“What if I told you that you can keep your apartment…forever?”

Larry stopped. He knew it was too good to be true. There had to be a catch. “Alright. What would I have to do?”

The mysterious man rubbed his red tie as he devilishly smirked.

Crisis Town – Ep. 3: “A Wicked Proposition”

It was a bright, sun-shiny day, until it became night, and Larry was wandering the halls of a hospital. He didn’t know where he was going and his new leg was awkward and cumbersome, but he was now adamant about seeing his friend. “Um, excuse me,” he approached one of the nurses. She smiled.

“Hello, Larry.”

“Do you know where they put–wait, how do you know my name,” Larry asked. 

“Well,” the nurse replied, “I take it you don’t remember me.” 

Larry looked at her, and finally said, “nope.” But then he felt bad for such a glib response. “Sorry…”

“Don’t worry, Larry. Not many people seem to remember me,” she said, still smiling the same smile. Larry was starting to get creeped out by this. 

“Um, okay. Do you know where Carl is?”

“Who’s Carl?”

“He was admitted not too long ago. In a coma. Wears a hat.”

“Oh, right. Right…” Silence.

“So…?”

“Oh, yes. Sorry, what did you need?”

“Where’s Carl? Where’s his room?”

“But, aren’t you going to ask who I am first?”

Larry squinted his eyes. “Are you…did we go to high school together?”

“Yes! So you remember!”

Larry did not remember. 

“Um…sure?”

“Yeah,” she remarked wistfully. “Where do the times go? Where do they go…?”

Larry nodded, but wasn’t sure why. “Um, so, um, can I–,” but before he could finish that thought he received an unsatisfying DING on his phone. “Sorry,” he said. He checked and noticed that he received what seemed to be a very important email:

Hello Larry,

It is me, your boss. Listen, Barry is out today. He said he has some family issues that need to be handled. He will be fired soon. However, this means that we will need someone to take care of the night shift tonight. Would you be able to accomplish this task? You won’t be paid extra. 

Sincerely,

Graham Houston

Regional Assistant Manager

A-Store: Buy From Us!

P.S. Normally I would text, but didn’t. 

Larry couldn’t believe it. But at the same time, he could. “Shit fuck,” he said half-quietly to himself. 

“So, how do you like the new leg? That looks like one of the newer–”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a lot of time. Do you know where Carl is, or not?”

The nurse’s smile disappeared. “Well,” she said. “He’s just in the room over to my shoulder here.”

“Really? This whole time? I mean…thanks,” and Larry brushed past her and stepped timidly inside the room. Meanwhile, the nurse simply walked away.

Larry peeked inside and saw Carl in his bed, hat on his head, his eyes closed, and the surrounding machines beeping in a slow, constant rhythm. He stepped closer, slowly. “Um,” Larry said. “H-how’s it going?” Carl didn’t respond. “So, um, I should have been here long before…now. And, I guess I shouldn’t have put you in that situation. Shit, now look at you.”

Larry stood there for about a minute, trying to find something else to say. Finally, he said, “Sorry. Sorry for this, and sorry for having to leave now. I have to be at work soon. Shit, hope you wake-up. Those cows won’t wrangle themselves,” he winced at this last statement, but he realized that such things were always awkward. He tried not to beat himself up too much. 

He left the room in a semi-hurry; as he marched down the hall awkwardly (you know, due to his new leg,) a man wearing a dark suit, sunglasses, and a red tie appeared before him. 

“Hello…Larry…” he said with a cool voice and devilish smirk.

“Um, no.” Larry tried to move around the man, but the man stopped him.

“Um, maybe you didn’t hear me. I said ‘Hello…Larry…’ then I made a smile like this. That means I have a proposition for you. And, trust me, it’s in yours, and Carl’s best interest.”

Larry sighed. “What? What is it? I’m tired.”

“Well, it’s simple really–”

“Let me guess. I have to perform a task and if I accomplish it, you will save Carl somehow. However, there’s going to be some fine-print bullshit right? Like he’s going to be a zombie, or I’m going to have to sell my soul, right?”

The man adjusted his tie nervously. “No…But, hear me out. All you have to do, and it’s real simple, is to kill the mayor.”

“Kill the mayor? Like assassinate him?”

“It doesn’t matter how you do it, but once he is dead then Carl will wake-up. A life for a life. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? After all, we all know you’re no fan of the mayor. Well, neither are we. Think about it, Larry…”

“Riiight.” Larry brushed past the man and continued down the hall.

“Think about it…think about it…” The man watched Larry turn a corner. The man then went over to Carl’s room. That’s when he saw a middle-aged woman sitting beside Carl. 

“Hello sweetie, I got you a pudding cup.”

Carl’s eyes opened with delight. “Ah, thank you ma’am.”

His mother sat by his side. “Was that Larry?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he started to spoon the pudding with glee.

“So, did you say ‘hi’?”

“Nope. Pretended that I was still in a coma. Yeah, I didn’t right feel talking to him right now.”

“Well,” his mother said, “you do what feels best.”

The mysterious man saw all this. “Huh. Well…hm…” but then he shrugged and walked away. 

Larry felt slightly better after finally seeing Carl. But, he didn’t seem to be in such a great place. Should we take up that mysterious man’s offer? Why did he want to kill the mayor? Larry knew killing was wrong, but so was leaving Carl to possibly die, especially now he had the power to do something about it. Larry tried not to think about it. He now had a different mission. He hurried as best he could to his room, passing by a custodian. He searched it, but couldn’t find his clothing. “Where the–” that’s when he noticed the custodian tossing his clothing in the trash barrel. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”

The custodian raised his eyebrows. Not sure why he did that. “Yes?”

“Um, my clothes. You just threw them away!”

The custodian blinked at him. “OK.”

“…OK? Can I have them please?”

“Well, do you have proof?”

“What?”

“You must be deaf. Do you have proof that these clothes are yours?”

“Yes! I was the patient in this room!”

“Well, do you have proof of that?”

“Um, well I’m wearing a hospital gown.”

The custodian wasn’t buying it.

“And why the hell would I be lying about this?”

The custodian smiled and shook his head. “Even if you were the owner of these garments, I would advise not donning them.”

“Huh?”

“Well, I tossed them in this here trash receptacle. And, well, let’s just say your clothes aren’t the only things in this barrel,” he then smiled and continued down the hall with the trash. 

“Well…fuck.” Larry now had to rush back home and put on some proper clothes. That’s when he heard another DING! He checked his phone:

Hello Again Larry,

It is me: your boss. You may not have received your previous email. Just in case you haven’t, we need you to be handling the store right now. If you don’t then there will be consequences. 

Sincerely,

Graham Houston

Senior Regional Assistant Manager

A-Store: Buy From Us! 

P.S. Hurry up now unless you want to end-up like Barry. Toodles. 

“Well, fuck.” Larry hurried down the opposite side of the hall. Larry needed this job. He needed the money. He remembered the end of the first episode where his landlord threatened to evict him. Larry did not want to live on the streets. His apartment was bad enough. 

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the mayor stumbled out of a bar, leading a group of other drunkards in business suits. “Yeah…yeah! I’m the king! I’m the king of this won! Take that, dad!”

“No, you’re the mayor!” One of the drunkards corrected with a sardonic grin.

The mayor pointed at him. “Yeah. That’s right. I’m the mayor. I’m the mayor! And I stopped Spetch! And the Exiled One! Boo-yah! Now watch me get on this horse.” The mayor wobbled towards a lonely horse that happened to be in the middle of the street, nibbling on some trash. It was, yes, Carl the Cowboy’s horse. 

“Um, sir.” Leanne popped her head out from behind the crowd. “Sir, that’s not…why? Why are you doing this?” She asked, exasperated. But the mayor either did not hear this or did not care. He grabbed for the horse like a toddler reaching for an off-limits toy. 

“Aw,” he said, sliding his hand along the horse’s side. “Such a gracious creature. Now stay still. I need to impress my friends still. Come on.” But the mayor had only been on the horse once, as a child, but that was many years ago and he didn’t have his father to help him on. As he was about halfway on the horse, the horse suddenly bolted off, flinging the mayor onto the ground. He got up and watched the horse race down the street. 

Back at the hospital, Larry was searching for the stairs. He wandered the halls, tried to follow the confusing sign and directions, but there seemed to be no exit. Larry was getting frustrated. Muttering to himself, he pulled-out his phone and activated his GPS app. The battery was at 55%. Should be enough. 

“In 20 feet, turn left,” his phone’s GPS suggested. Larry obliged. Suddenly, three dots appeared on his screen. “Recalibrating…” 

“What?”

“Make a U-Turn and turn right.” 

“…What? That’s where I came from!” 

“Technology, am I right,” a voice scoffed. Larry looked up and saw the janitor from before mopping up some floor nearby. “Back in my day, we didn’t even have phones.”

“Hey,” Larry snapped at the janitor. “I’ve got to get out of here! And I don’t need any snide remarks from some fucking custodian!” As soon as he said this, a wave of regret and shame washed over him. But the janitor was still just mopping the floor, not even acknowledging what was said. “…Sorry.”

“It’s alright. I’m used to it. People look down at the janitor. Think they’re better. But if it weren’t for the janitor, their world would be a mess. And not just because there will be piss and urine everywhere, but because they will realize that they have no one they can look down on. That’s when they have to confront their own insignificance. Or they find someone else to pick on. We’re just a bunch of simple, broken animals. You know–” The janitor finally looked up, but Larry was gone. But then he appeared again.

“Turn left here,” his phone said as he stepped back into that same hallway. He stared back up from his phone and when he saw the janitor again, he let out a sigh.

“Really? This shit again,” he said. The janitor snickered at him as he continued cleaning the floor. 

“This is serious. I could lose my job.”

“You know what’s more important than jobs? People.” Silence. And the janitor continued mopping the floor. 

“Ok,” Larry said. “Thanks for that…” Larry stared down at his phone and then back at the janitor. He sighed. “Sorry, but…do you know where the stairs are? Or elevator?” 

The janitor looked up at him and gave him a quizzical smile. “Trying to get out? Then why are you looking for the stairs? Or elevator?”

“Um…what?”

“You do realize you’re on the first floor, right?”

Larry scrunched his nose. “Er…no? I’m pretty sure I’m–”

“I’m just kidding you, pal. See, you have to have a sense of humor working in this hellhole. Haha.” The janitor shoved his mop against the linoleum. 

“So…?”

“What? Oh. Right. The stairs. Well, I can tell you. But first, let me ask you something.”

“No.”

“Why are you here?”

Larry cast his eyes downward. “I was visiting…a friend.”

“Well, isn’t that nice. How is he, or she?”

“I mean he’s in a hospital…so…okay, are you going to tell me how I can get out of here?”

“You know, they rolled-in someone not too long ago. I believe it was Carl the Cowboy. Is he your…friend?”

“Yup. Now–”

“You know, Carl does a lot of good for the community. Would be a shame to see him go. The cowboy thing is a little weird though.”

“…Okay. If you’re not going to tell me–”

“How did you come to know Carl? I take it you go way back. I bet you’re actually quite good friends, more than you like to admit.”

“Um, why–”

“Did you meet on the streets, battling crime? Or did you meet in high school. Did he rescue you from a couple of no-goods making fun of your piece-of-shit haircut and pockmarks?”

Larry glared at the custodian. 

“Anyway, the stairs are just down the hallway here, but, just remember: if Carl dies, it will be your fault, and the community would be worse off as a result. You would be worse off. Goodnight!” And the janitor continued his work.

Larry opened the door to the stairwell and saw said stairwell. He was on the third level (not the first.) He hurried and made his descent, but when he reached the second level landing, a woman wearing a hospital gown and in a wheelchair was waiting there. He was about to brush past here when she said, “please, I need help.” Larry stopped and gave her a side-glare. “Please. Hurry, help me down before they find me.” She seemed worried and scared. 

“Sorry, but I have to get to–”

“I’m being held against my will. They want–”

“Again, I’m sorry. It seems pretty bad. But I really have to get to work. I’m already behind.”

“Please…” She stared up at him with wide eyes. Larry glanced down the stairs then back at her. 

“I…” Then he checked his phone.

“Please!”

“Alright, alright! Fuck! Jesus Christ!” He placed his hands around her and attempted to lift her from the wheelchair. 

“Hurry!”

“Sorry, it’s just awkward!” Finally, Larry lifted her and tossed her over his shoulder. “Why the fuck am I doing this?” And he slowly stepped down towards the lower level. Taking it one step at a time. “You’re crushing…my shoulder…”

That’s when they heard a door opening.

“Oh no,” the woman screamed. A couple of police officers stomped out of the second level entryway and rushed towards Larry. Larry staggered down the stairs, trying his best to speed-up, but he swayed under the extra weight. It didn’t take long for the cops to catch-up.

“Okay, okay. You can have her.”

“What?”

“Here,” Larry handed her to the two officers. “Sorry, but I just don’t ca–” Suddenly, electricity bolted through him, and he fell down the stairs. 

“Dude, did you have to tase him?”

“Yes.” And the two police officers carried the woman off, leaving Larry at the bottom of the stairwell, his body on the ground, against the wall. 

Meanwhile, the mayor and his group of buddies stumbled through the streets, tripping over trashcans and homeless people and laughing at the stars. Suddenly, the mayor had a great idea. “Hey, let’s dig up a grave!”

“Um, what,” Leanne asked. But it was too late. They were already in front of the cemetery. The mayor searched his pockets.

“Come on. Come on…Oh! Here ‘tis! HaHA!” The iron gate creaked open and the drunken group shambled among the headstones. 

Larry’s eyes opened, facing some ceiling tiles. “Oh…” he groaned. He was back in his room. And the nurse from before was there.

“Hi!” She smiled widely. “It seems like you’re not quite used to your leg yet. Took quite the tumble! But no worries. We are here to help!” She then checked the clipboard. “You’re going to have to get out.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It seems like your insurance company is no longer covering the costs for your stay. Apparently they don’t cover gunshots. Nor do they cover leg-replacements. Soooo off with ya. Sorry,” but here smile remained.

“Fine. I just have to–” But as he was about to check his phone it went black. “You’ve got to be shitting me!”

“Don’t worry.” She grabbed his phone and placed it to a charging pad on the side of his new, robotic leg. “Isn’t that something? Say, you want to go out sometime?”

“Um…sorry, I have to go. I’m late for work. If you don’t mind, can you take me to an elevator?”

“Oh sure! It’s not like I’m busy or anything, after all I’m just a nurse!”

They stood in front of the elevator. Larry waited and waited for the elevator to get to their floor. “So…” the nurse said. Larry gulped. “I don’t believe I got an answer…”

“I’m sorry?”

“You know…I know a nice place. They serve spaghetti.”

“Uh…but you would have to pay…” 

She chuckled at this. “So, is that a yes?”

“Um…what the fuck?” That’s when Larry noticed that the lights indicated that the elevator was now going back down. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Back at the cemetery, the mayor and his cohorts were making good progress on a grave they had randomly selected. “This was such a great idea,” one of the yes-men declared. 

“I’m glad you agree, Steve,” the mayor said. “After all, I am America’s MayorTM.” 

Leanne was standing just outside of the group holding a lamp. “Um, isn’t that Rudy Giuliani?”

“Rudy Giuliani,” the mayor sneered. “Last I saw him was at the mayors’ convention. What a tool!” 

“Say,” Steve said, “whose grave is this anyway?”

“Hm. I don’t know,” the mayor turned his head and squinted at the tombstone. “Oh, it’s my dad! Huh. What a coincidence!” He proceeded digging while the others exchanged glances. 

Finally, Larry exited the hospital, the cold air swiping at his gown and stabbing into his buttcrack. But, he was not deterred from his mission. He hurried down the street and in the distance saw a bus slowing down at a stop. “Wait,” he cried out. He shuffled as quickly as he could, but his new leg was not quite broken-in yet. “Wait! WAIT!” But the bus sputtered away. Larry stopped, gasping for breath. DING! He pulled-out his phone off the charging station on the side of his new leg (pretty cool, huh?). The email:

Larry,

You are fired.

Just kidding. You are not fired. But you are on the precipice of having to search for new employment. If you are not at the store in 15 minutes then we will have to decouple our working relationship. Thank you. 

You piece of shit. 

Sincerely,

Your boss,

Graham Houston

Chief Regional Assistant Manager

A-Store: Buy From Us! 

P.S. Are you coming to my promotion party on Saturday?

As soon as Larry placed the phone to the side of his leg, he felt it go slack. “Huh?” Suddenly, the leg stopped glowing. He tried moving it, but nothing. “Really? Are you fucking kidding me?” Checking his phone, “it’s not even fully charged!” He looked around. Not a soul in sight. It was dark except for a couple of flickering streetlights. And it was horribly cold. Larry proceeded to drag his lifeless leg. 

A couple of blocks and he stopped. Even though he lived here all his life he had no idea how to get around. His sense of direction was abysmal. “Well, at least the phone is at 35%.” The GPS guided him down the block and turning down a dark and dirty alleyway.

“Hey youse!” Larry pulled his eyes up from his phone. Homeless people were surrounding him. Their claws reaching out towards him. “That’s a pretty snazzy leg! Could get a pretty penny fors it! So…how much for it?” They snickered, their teeth drawn.

“Um…” Larry wiped the sweat from his brow. “It’s…not for sale…”

The homeless folks looked at each other then cast their gazes downward. “Ahhhh. Well, let us know once it’s on the market…” and they slinked off into the darkness. Larry continued down the alleyway, because the GPS told him to. 

After a couple of minutes, he realized his phone was now at 5%. “Oh shit!” Then it died. “What? There was still some power! Fuck!” He placed it back on his leg, but remembered that his leg was dead. He looked around. He was on an anonymous street corner. It was cold. And dark. Because it was still night. 

“Excuse me sir, would you like some Atomic Sponge?”

Larry turned and saw a middle-aged man wearing a business suit. “I’m sorry, I have to go.”

“Or maybe you would be more interested in some Stinger. We’re having a clearance sale currently.”

“No thanks…I have to get home.”

“Home, eh? Well, can’t help you there, but I still have some Black Tar Heroin left. It won’t get you home, but it will get you close.”

Larry didn’t know what that meant. “Actually, I can’t go home. I have to get to work right away. I don’t have any time to dress…”

“Hm. A working man. Or should I say, a wage-slave,” the business man opined. “You see, son. Ever since the banks went under in this town, I realized I could no longer be subservient to the wills and tribulations of others. That’s why I went into business for myself. Now, how about some Black Tar Heroin?”

In some other part of town, the mayor was now alone in his grave-digging endeavour. Leanne was still there, but she hadn’t picked-up a shovel. “Sir,” she was starting to get concerned. “Sir? Come on. It’s getting late. Maybe you can pick this up tomorrow…”

“No! When you start something, you have to finish it! That’s what my dad always ta–oof! Sorry, just threw-up in my mouth. Anyway, you want to give me a hand? Wait, did you feel that?”

Leanne looked around. “Yeah, it was like…a chill?”

The mayor dropped his shovel. 

“Sir? I think it’s just the wind.”

“No. No! Something’s not right. Get me up! GET ME UP!”

Leanne sighed and went to the edge of the hole and held out her hands. The mayor snatched for them. “Pull me up!”

Leanne struggled. “I’m trying!”

“Come on! Come on! It’s coming!”

“What?”

“Oh my God!”

Back to Larry who was tired and moving slowly down the sidewalk. He was on the verge of giving-up until the sound of something caught him. What was it? It sounded like…that’s when he saw what appeared to be a horse slowly walking out of an alleyway. In the dimness of night, he was only barely able to recognize the creature. 

“Isn’t that Carl the Cowboy’s horse?” Larry approached the horse carefully and gently stroked it. The horse snorted. “Oh God, please don’t be another dead end. Please actually be helpful.” When he said this, the horse laid down and waited for Larry to jump on the saddle. Larry started to tear-up. Larry got on and the horse started galloping down the street. 

The cold air brushed past him, the lights blended in his peripherals. And in the distance, he saw the A-Store that he worked out, glowing. He was almost there. Almost there. But then, he heard screaming. “No, I can’t…I can’t lose my job!” But the screams continued, sharper and louder. The store was so close. Larry closed his eyes and shook his head. “No…” He opened them and directed the horse to make a sharp turn left, away from the store.

Moments later, they stopped in front of the cemetery. Screams perforated the air. Larry fell off the horse, landing on the ground. He brushed himself off and told the horse to stay-put. He entered the dark, spooky graveyard, moving closer and closer to the source of the terror. In the distance, he saw the glow of an electric lamp. Finally, he saw her. A woman standing over an open grave. He soon recognized her.

“Larry?” Leanne walked over to him. “Thank God you’re here. The mayor just started screaming. I think he’s having a panic-attack.” Larry’s eyes shifted over, peeking into the hole where he saw the source of the screaming. 

The mayor looked-up at him and stopped screaming. “Oh, hello Larry,” then he went back to screaming. 

That’s when Larry remembered about the proposition from before. And he remembered Carl. The guilt. The shame. And also what the janitor had told him. Then he thought about how if the mayor “disappeared” no one would really care, but if Carl passed-away, the town would certainly be worse off. Larry looked down at the mayor and then back at Carl’s horse which was still at the entrance of the graveyard. Larry grabbed a shovel and pointed the handle-end at the mayor. “Here,” he said. “Grab this.” The mayor squirmed in the dark hole. “Come on…come on!” Finally, the mayor snatched onto the shovel and Larry helped pull him out of the hole. Larry gazed upon the mayor’s pathetic body as it shivered next to the tombstone. 

“Thank you, Larry,” Leanne said. She approached the mayor and brushed the dirt from him. “Your wife is going to be so worried.”

“Bah,” the mayor responded. 

Larry stood there. Not knowing what to do. He then remembered the shovel that was still in his hand. He eyed it, his mind traveling down to the sharp spade. 

The mayor up-chucked more of his stomach contents into the open grave. “Sorry…dad…” Leanne and the mayor started shuffling away. But Larry didn’t move. He then dropped the shovel. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t articulate a reason why. There were just fragments of thoughts and images bombarding him. 

“Fuck,” he said to himself. “I’m useless,” and watched as the two stepped into the darkness surrounding the lamp’s glow. 

“Hey! There’s the horse,” the mayor noticed. 

“No,” Leanne quickly responded.

Larry was about to leave as well, but was interrupted by a cawing of a crow. He looked and saw it hobbling onto the top of the headstone. He spotted a little, white paper rolled and tied to its leg. He immediately knew the message was from his boss. He grabbed it and the crow flew-off. Larry started to unfurl it, but stopped and dropped the paper, letting the air have its way with it. 

“Well,” Larry said to himself as he started walking away, “what a day. What a fucking–” but before he could finish he slipped on the shovel’s handle and landed right into the hole, smacking himself on the coffin. He stared up at the rectangle of night sky hovering above him. It was peaceful with the stars staring back at him. For a moment he thought he would be okay, or not. It didn’t matter, he now knew. 

Above, he saw the horse peering down into the hole. He turned away and returned with the shovel in its mouth. “Please don’t start burying me,” but the horse instead offered the dull side of the shovel. “Oh, thank God.” 

Crisis Town – Ep. 2: “The Exiled One”

It was a bright, sun-shiny day in the town. The leaves were singing. The birds were gathering light from the bright, brilliant star that defined all our lives. People walked around. It was a good day. But Larry didn’t know any of this because he wasn’t in the town. Instead, he was on the outskirts of town walking across sandy dunes. Oh, it was a bright and sun-shiny day for the desert as well, a little too bright and sun-shiny.

Larry stumbled across the sand. His throat and mouth dry. His vision hazy. “This is…dumb…” The sun sank its fangs into the back of his neck. A couple of shadowy vultures made themselves known, circling high above Larry.

Now, you might be asking, “why is Larry here in the first place?” Well, Larry had little other choice. He needed that rent money.

Earlier that day:

“Ok. Ok. Ok. Yes. YES! Yes. No. Maybe. Sure. Why not? Haha. Bye. Ok.” Larry stood in the opulent office and watched as the mayor spoke into the phone. “Ok. Ok. OKAY! Alright. Sure. Fine…Fine! Ok. Love you too! No. It’s just a figure of speech.” The mayor finally hung-up the phone and shuffled through some papers. Larry waited impatiently and sighed audibly, but the mayor didn’t seem to notice. Finally, after some time, the mayor finally looked up. “Oh. Oh! Larry! Come to pay your pal a visit? Your buddy?”

“Um…you said you had something for me?”

The mayor stared at Larry blankly. Then, he finally remembered. “Oh yes! You know the outskirts of town?”

Larry was confused by this question. “…Yes? I’m aware that this town has outskirts.”

“Okay. Good, because most aren’t. Or don’t. And we like to keep it that way. You see, Larry, if I can call you that, there have been some no-good happenings occurring in the outskirts. We’ve had reports of strange beasts lurking about and some possible evil swelling in the distant horizon. And I need you to make sure that doesn’t happen. Or continue to happen.”

Larry glared at the mayor. “What?”

“I need you to kill the evil. Or bribe it. Or something. Just make it go away. Election’s coming up. Can’t afford to–”

“I’m just going to stop you right there. What the fuck are you even going on about? Evil? Is this some Dungeons and Dragons shit? And if it were, what makes you think that I can even handle that?”

“I will pay you $300, fresh from the coffers.”

Larry thought for a moment. “Fine,” he said. “Fine…”

“Good! That’s great to hear! Now maybe you can bring your buddy, Carl the Cowboy. I’m sure his horse would be ideal for such sandy terrain!”

“Um, he’s still in a coma.”

“In a coma? Well that’s disappointing of him. Well, anyway, off with you. I have to sign some important documents.” He proceeded to sign said documents. “I don’t even know what most of these say. I just don’t have the time…why are you still here?”

“What did you mean by strange beasts?”

The mayor shrugged.

“I would like to know what I’m getting myself into.”

The mayor sighed. “I will let you take one of our scouts. She’s among the best of the best. The brightest. Snack attack.”

Later:

“Greetings Larry! So, are you ready to venture forth across the outskirts of town?”

“No.”

“No,” she asked with a smile. The scout was a young woman wearing drapes like Lawrence of Arabia. She also had a gingery complexion which cannot be ideal for such desert conditions. This detail will not come into play later.

Larry looked out. The two of them were standing at the edge of town where the buildings and streets abruptly ended and the world suddenly opened into an endless, desolate, sandy landscape. “How far are we going? And I only have some water. We probably need more, right?”

The woman laughed and slapped Larry on the back. “Ah, I love these first-timers! When I was young I would always sneak out to see the outskirts. It’s not nearly as bad as you first think. Now, where is Carl?”

“…He’s in a coma.”

“Oh. Well, that’s disappointing. May find some bandits along the way. But, we all need a good rest now and again.”

Larry shook his head. “Can we just go?”

“I thought you said you weren’t ready?”

“I…I don’t care. Let’s just get this over with.”

The woman shrugged. And from there they commenced their trek along the dry, dry land.

They walked for hours and hours. And the woman, Sabile, spoke endlessly about this or that. About how great the desert is. Larry wasn’t a fan.

“You know, people look at the desert and think, ‘well, there’s nothing here. Let’s move on.’ But there is life here. Buried beneath our feet. Grand, wondrous life.”

That reminded Larry of something. “So, what are these strange beasts that were spotted?”

“Oh,” Sabile said, “right. Yeah, I didn’t actually see any.”

“…What?”

“Let’s keep moving.”

“No, no, no.” Larry put his hand on her shoulder and they stopped. “So, why the fuck are we out here?”

“Well,” she searched for the right words. “I had a hunch.”

“A hunch?”

“That is what I said, buddy.” She swiped Larry’s hand from her shoulder. “I know this desert inside and out. And I know when something’s wrong. I can feel it.”

Larry remained skeptical however. This was likely some sort of con that the scouts pull to justify their existence. They tell the mayor that “something is going on” and the mayor gives their department more money. Larry was cynical like that.

“So, we’re out here because of a hunch. Jesus Christ…” Larry started to walk away.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to tell the mayor there’s nothing out here. Or, no, I will tell him I defeated the evil. It was just some unruly ground squirrel, but it was dealt with.”

“Larry, you’re going to die.”

But Larry didn’t listen. Instead he walked off in the direction he thought the town was. He couldn’t see the town in the horizon, or anywhere, but he knew they had come from this way.

Some time passed, and Larry still stumbled across the sand. His throat and mouth dry. His vision hazy. “This is…dumb…” The sun sank its fangs into the back of Larry’s neck. A couple of shadowy vultures made themselves known, circling high above him.

That’s when he finally collapsed. His mind felt dry, crackling underneath the heat. His bones were on the verge of crumbling into ash. His skin didn’t feel too great either.

The sand was hot. His thoughts were receding. All he could imagine was a calm, blue ocean, caressing a shoreline. He then realized he’s never been to the beach. He never really thought about that until now. Now, he would happily die in a plastic chair, overlooking the blueness of a sea.

“Well, well, well…” Larry opened his eyes and struggled to cock his head up. He squinted at the silhouette that rose before him. “You ain’t lookin’ too proud there.”

“Carl…?” Larry coughed.

Carl was before him on his majestic steed. “Now Larry, I’ve got a pickle to…pick with you.”

“…What,” Larry asked, dazed and with a raspy voice.

“How come you ain’t haven’t visited me at there hospital yet? After all, it’s your fault that I’m at death’s door.”

“I…I needed help…sorry…I didn’t–”

“Maybe you didn’t mean to put me in that there situation. But you could still come by and visit. Why haven’t ya done that yet?”

“I…”

“After all, remember all the things we’ve been through?”

“…No…”

“Remember how we first met, back in high school? I saved your ass by them injuns, I mean bullies.”

“…No you didn’t. We’re…barely friends…”

“Yeah, well…” Carl scratched his head under his hat. “You still feel guilt though. And plus, let’s face, you don’t really have anyone else. No one else…No one else…”

“Wait, come–” Larry’s cough worsened. He closed his eyes. It felt like he was going to burst into a poof of smoke. Until:

“Larry?” Sabile crouched down and poured some water into his mouth. “Geez. You’re looking rough. Are you okay?”

“Just…dandy…thank you.”

“You shouldn’t have run-off like that. Man, these first-timers…”

“…Home…Carl…”

“But, I…guess I should say something. I was thinking about what you said earlier. And, well, maybe you were right about my hunch. Maybe it was all just BS. Ever since I was a kid, I always felt alone. Always felt like there was nothing for me in the town. I think as a result, I’ve developed a connection to the desert. Because I had no choice. Because–”

But before she could finish, Larry said, “I…don’t…care…,” and started coughing again. “Can you…”

“Oh, right.” Sabile helped bring Larry to his feet. “Don’t you worry. We’re just an hour or so from town, and from there we can…hello?”

In the distance was a figure. Standing there. Watching.

“Is that Sam…no. Today was his day off. Wait a minute…oh crap.”

“What?”

“Oh geez. Don’t move.”

“…Will do,” Larry coughed. Sabile shushed him.

“Don’t make a sound,” she said in a whisper. The figure remained in the distance.

“So…what the fuck?”

Sabile’s eyes widened. Her voice quivered. “The legend is true…I think…that’s the Exiled One.”

“…Okay? Who is that?”

“No time. We’ve got to go!” She started running with Larry shambling slowly behind her. “Come on!”

Larry’s heart raced. He looked back and saw the figure floating slowly towards them. “What the…” He tripped and landed face-first into the sand. Larry tried to rise back up, but his bones ached and his nerves screamed. Sabile stopped and saw Larry’s struggle, then saw the figure, and continued running.

“Wait…” But then a shadow filled the sand around him. Larry stopped. His arms shook. And a chill ran through his heart as his world faded.

And that’s when Larry died.

“Who?”

“Um, Larry, sir,” Leanne said. “Our scout reported that he was taken by the desert.”

The mayor rubbed his chin. “And Larry is…?”

Leanne just accepted this idiocy. “He’s the guy who you sent to fight ‘the evil’ that was reportedly present in the outskirts.”

“Ah yes! Larry. Larry, Larry, Larry. How is he?”

“…Dead, sir.”

“Dead? Well, that’s no good. I’m going to have to find someone else now. Think, think, think. What about–”

“Still in a coma, sir.”

“Oh, darn.”

“But, um…there is something else.”

“What?”

“According to the scout, she saw The Exiled One.”

The mayor cocked his head. “I beg your pardon?”

Leanne gulped. “The…Exiled One, sir. Apparently, he is real. And possibly dangerous.”

Silence in the air. Leanne watched as the mayor slowly rose from behind his desk and walked over to the window. “Sir?”

“Maybe,” the mayor said. “I wasn’t cut out for this job. Like, who knew a job in public service would be so bothersome? All I wanted to do was play golf and wave at people. Well, there’s only one option,” he declared, “we must shut down the town.”

Leanne was afraid he was going to say this. But there was no other option. That night the streets were shut-down and strict curfew was placed. The edges of town were blocked-off via police blockades. And the mayor watched from his window, stern and a little bit scared, waiting for the hideous figure to emerge from the horizon.

“This is it,” he said, “no more running. No more hiding. This may not be what I wanted, but this is the role I’ve accepted. Even if I don’t accept it. It is my duty.” A bead of sweat rolled down his right temple. “Come on, you bastard. Come!”

At the edge of town, at one of the blockades, a couple of cops waited, rifles ready. Meanwhile, there was a sniper fixed on one of the roofs. The sniper peered through his scope in anticipation, scanning the outskirts. The sniper was born for this. He had been waiting for this moment all his life. But, not only that, but he reveled in the idea of being the slayer of The Exiled One. People would finally like him. People would finally respect him. “Yeah!” He pumped his fist and continued searching with his scope.

But then he saw something. A strange figure entered his sights. “I’ve got something,” he said into his walkie-talkie, “I think this is it.” He squinted through the scope. “Oh boy,” he said to himself. “This is it. Here we go.”

The other cops drew their weapons nervously. The mayor wiped the sweat from his brow and slowed his breathing.

The sniper followed the shadow. It was coming in closer and closer. “Yes. This is it. It has to be! Permission to fire!”

“Wait until it comes in closer. We need as clear a shot as possible. Fire too early and it will either be startled or rush-in. And we just can’t risk that,” the voice on the other end insisted. But the sniper shook his head and continued following the creature.

Finally, he said, “screw this,” and pulled the trigger. The shot rang out through the night. The cops looked at each other. The mayor stood there. And the sniper saw the figure. It had stopped. But it was still standing. “Damn!” But as he was about to make another shot, a voice called out.

“Wait! WAIT!” The figure raised its arms. “Don’t shoot!”

The sniper furrowed his brow. The Exiled One was saying not to shoot. That means it was afraid. He leaned back into the scope and fixed his sights on the figure. “Steady…steady…”

“Don’t shoot! I’m just a–”

BAM!

Another shot rang out.

Silence. Until it was announced by the sniper: “Target is down. I repeat. Target is down.” However, when the officers approached the figure they were surprised.

“Well, this is the Exiled One, huh? Seems like a pretty normal guy to me.”

“Yeah…wait, it looks like that one guy who caught the Frenchman. What’s his name again?”

“Oh yeah. That guy. Pfft. Show-off.”

“Anyway, let’s grab him. We accomplished a lot tonight.”

“Hell yeah we did.”

However, it didn’t take long to realize that the person they shot was not the fabled Exiled One, but rather a citizen by the name of Larry.

Larry slowly came to. His eyes nearly blinded by the fluorescent lights. Looking around and it was clear that he was in the bed at a hospital. Word of Larry’s awakening came to the mayor who swiftly came by to pay him a visit.

“How are you feeling?”

“Uh…”

“Good. Leanne, flowers. These are for you. We also brought you a card. Within you should find a Target gift card worth $20. I hope this will be enough to forgive the town. The man who shot you has been fired and will never maybe work in law enforcement ever again.”

Larry didn’t say anything.

“Well, at the very least you can say something, Larry.” The mayor tried a different tact. “Okay. I’m sure what happened to you was very traumatic. After all, everyone thought you were dead. The scout even said that The Exiled One had taken you. Can you please explain what happened exactly. Did you kill it?”
“No…”

“Then how did you escape?”

“Um…”

“Dammit man! Tell us! TELL US!” The mayor started shaking Larry until Leanne pulled him back. “Sorry. As you know, this information is very important. So, if you could…”

“I…”

“Yes?”

“Asked if I could leave…and he said, ‘yes.’”

The mayor stared down at him. “What?”

“When I passed-out…he brought me to a cave. And there were others.”

“Others?”

“They had been there for years. People who just hung around. Played video games. Smoked weed. Ate the fish in the cavern ponds. It smelled awful.”

“I’m sure it did. But tell us about the Exiled One. Was he a mystical creature? Was he harvesting these people?”

“…No. He was mostly just kind-of chill…He was large and deformed. His face was a skull. But he was pretty cool other than that.”

The mayor and Leanne exchanged glances.

“He said that being exiled turned him into a monster. And gave him powers. But he mostly just wanted…”

“What? What did he want?”

“…Friends.”

“PFFT!” The mayor interjected. “Jesus! How lame is that!”

“He said the reason he was exiled was because he was…weird. No one really liked him so they threw him out. Now, anyone who gets lost in the outskirts becomes his friend…it wasn’t for me though.”

“Hm. Right. Because you’re so Mr. Popular here,” the mayor retorted. Leanne shot him a look. “Sorry. So, um…now that we know the Exiled One is mostly harmless, we can tell everyone that he has been defeated. It was truly an arduous and bloody battle. But you came out on top. He even tried sniping at you and you had lost your leg as a result, but you managed to slay the creature. Good job.”

“What…?”

The mayor sighed. “Don’t make me repeat myself. This is the story we are going with and if you divulge anything to the contrary then I will have you arrested. And here, here is the financial compensation that you were promised. $200.”

“You said $300…”

“No. I’m pretty sure I said $200.”

“No…”

“…Yes. Don’t try to gaslight me.”

“Asshole…”

“Right. So I guess we best be off. It’s time to get shit-faced. You can come, Leanne, if you like.”

“Um–”

“That’s the spirit! Toodles, Larry. You did good today. You did good.”

Larry was now alone in his room. Alone. He thought about his conversation with The Exiled One. How the loneliness and bitterness mutated him. At first he thought it would be cool to have those kind of powers, but then he realized, it wasn’t really a life. The people he had rescued seemed to like him, but only because he gave them food and weed. They didn’t really care for him otherwise. It also made him think about Carl. Carl was perhaps the closest he had to a friend, and he felt guilty for not at least visiting him. Well, he was in the same hospital as him, presumably, so he had no excuse.

Larry pulled away the sheets, but that’s when he saw it. His right leg was gone, replaced by machinery. His new leg was metallic and had blinking lights. He was not expecting this. But he didn’t let it faze him. He rolled out of bed and swayed for a bit before finally finding his balance. And from there he exited into the hallway, stumbling, searching for Carl’s room.

Crisis Town – Ep. 1: “The Black Beret”

It was a bright, sun-shiny day in the town. People were shopping. People were driving. People were even going to the bank.

Todd, one of the bank tellers, smiled as he helped people in line. However, things were about to change…

“Hello, welcome to City Money. How can we be of assistance?” Todd continued stretching his enormous smile as the man approached him.

The man didn’t respond at first. He was a strange, foreign-looking personage. He wore a black beret.

“Would you like to deposit or withdraw?” Todd asked, hoping to help guide this peculiar individual.

Once again, the man didn’t respond.

“Um…do you speak English?”

The man shot him an arrogant glare and hopped onto the counter. “Gimme all your MONEY!” He then did a karate pose that was quite intimidating.

“Oh. Um. I left my wallet at home. Sorry.” Todd joked, hoping to defuse the situation. But it didn’t work as the man lept down onto the floor and started running about. Todd’s heart dropped. His eyes widened. He had never seen somebody so fast before.

The man just kept running and running. People started screaming. The security guard pointed his gun at the man, but his hands shook. He couldn’t get a good aim on him. Finally, he gave up and ran home.

The man ran back to the counter. Beads of sweat were racing down Todd’s face and ears. “Alright. Alright. Please don’t hurt us!”

“Youz stupid Americans! Gimme your fragile American currency!”

“Okay. Okay. Just don’t kill us!” Todd complied and handed the man a sack full of fragile American currency.

“Yes! I am Spetch! Fastest man in all the realms! Stupid Americans!” The man sped out of the bank and onto the street. Todd thought he was about to have a heart attack. He collapsed onto the floor. And everyone else were either shellshocked or frustrated by that man’s blatant lack of Patriotism.

“Wait,” someone said. “Does that mean we have no more money?”

“Yeah! What now!”

“Yeah!”

And they started to crowd the counter.

Hours passed and the mayor of the town was leaning-back in his office, sucking on a cigar like it was his mother’s teet.

The mayor’s assistant, Leanne, entered, holding paper. “Sir. Mr. Mayor. Sir. Mr. Mayor. Sir.”

Finally, the mayor responded. “…What?”

“…Sir. Mr.–”

“You know you don’t have to do that.”

Leanne paused. “…Sir. This is the THIRD bank he’s robbed. TODAY!”

“Wow. My God.” The mayor stood-up, shook his head, and sat back down.

“Yeah,” replied Leanne.

“Wow.”

“…Sir. What are we going to do? He can’t keep robbing these banks. Pretty soon the town will be in dire straits.”

The mayor sipped his coffee. “Yes. That would be bad. Especially since the election is coming up in 3 years.”

“Yes.”

“Well. Looks like I’m going to have to make…a phone call.”

“Okay.”

“Yes…”

“…Sir?”

“Yes?”

“To whom are you making this phone call to?”

“Well. To the only person who can stop Spetch.” The mayor turned to a large, red telephone that glowed on his desk like burning coal. He closed his eyes and sighed before finally reaching for his, clutching it to his ear. “Get me…Larry,” he intoned.

The mayor sat there, bored, as the phone rang and rang. Finally he hung-up.

“Was he…not there?” asked Leanne.

“No,” the mayor sighed once again. “He’s probably busy doing something real important. With any luck, he’s tackling this bank-robber situation. I’m going to call again in 5 minutes.”

15 minutes passed and the mayor tried the red phone again. This time, Larry was on the other side…

“Hello Larry. It’s the mayor. Listen, we desperately need your help. I know last time things weren’t so good. We didn’t know that boulder would nearly crush you. But, you see, we have a notorious bank robber in our midst and he’s robbing all of the money in our banks. And he’s French. We need you to stop him. Can you do that? Please?”

Larry was a man. He was sitting in his small apartment watching reruns of Jerry Springer and eating apple pie. He was not fully clothed. And smelled. Larry thought for a moment. “Well, I’m kinda busy at the moment.” Larry looked around his nearly-empty apartment.

“Please.” The mayor was getting desperate.

“Would I get paid?” Larry asked.

“Larry, you know we don’t have the funds right now.”

“Um…have you tried the police?”

“Larry!” The mayor pounded on his desk. “We don’t have the TIME for this! TIME is running out! We need you to stop this madman right now or else you are going to JAIL!”

Larry scratched his head. “What?”

“That’s right? JAIL!”

“Yeah. I heard that. But you can’t just throw someone in jail for not doing something. At least I don’t think…”

“Larry! Don’t make me blackmail you and then hand the FAKE EVIDENCE over to the police! You’ve got 13 hours! You’ve got to stop this Frenchman! He’s very fast! Click!”

Leanne stepped over to the mayor’s desk. “Well, what did he say?”

“He said he will do it.” The mayor sat-down (he was standing earlier,) and lit another cigar.

“Um…no I didn’t.” Larry’s voice crackled from the phone which had not yet been placed on the receiver and was lying lazily on the desk.

“He also said I was the best mayor ever and if I died people will cry and feel like they didn’t appreciate me enough. Heh. I think he may have a point.” The mayor puffed on his cigar.

“Oh geez,” Leanne responded.

“Okay…I’m just going to hang-up. Now…” Larry dug his spoon into his slice of pie and proceeded to not do anything about Spetch, the really fast Frenchman. The sun cascaded its glow down the curtains.

Meanwhile, Spetch went on to rob more banks, then convenience stores, then dog pounds, then back to the banks he originally stole from. If they no longer had money he stole pens and plate glass windows. He was ruthless. And very, very French.

Hours passed and the streets were filled with violence and blood. Buildings burned. Cars burned. Flowers burned. People were robbing trashcans. Cats stole from little old ladies. And people were starting to get angry.

“We want the mayor!”

“YEAH! The MAYOR!”

The mob crowded inside the foyer of the mayor’s house with torches and pitchforks.

“Okay,” Leanne said from the upper level down to the crowd. “The mayor is currently in a meeting, but if you form a line and fill out form ABC then–”

“FUCK YOU!”

“Oh…okay.”

Leanne rushed over to the mayor’s office, but the door was locked. “Mayor. It’s Leanne.”

“No!” A voice croaked from the other side. “I’m not the mayor! Go away!”

“Yes you are. And no matter what happens, you will always be the mayor!”

After a moment, the door opened and there was the mayor, unshaven and wearing a smelly bathrobe. “Leanne…I’ve failed…”

“You haven’t failed! You just haven’t succeeded yet!”

The mayor cast his eyes downward.

“Did you know that Tesla went bankrupt 4 times before finally inventing the electric car? Now, you stay right here and I will get the bazooka.”

“No. This is my fight. I have to face it. Like a man.”

“So you’re going to talk to them?”

“…No.” The mayor went over to his desk. Closed his eyes. Sighed. And picked up the red telephone.

Larry was asleep when suddenly his eyes popped open. He was startled, but quickly he realized his phone was just vibrating. He knew what it was about. “No! I said I don’t want to renew my car’s warranty! So stop calling me!”

“That’s nice to hear, Larry, but this is the mayor.”

“Oh. Um, how’s it going?”

“Remember a couple of hours ago I called asking you to take care of Spetch, the bank robber?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, I need you to take care of Spetch, the bank robber.”

Larry rubbed his eyes. “Um, are you sure you didn’t try the police?”

“LOOK! LARRY! This is SERIOUS BUSINESS! The people are DYING! They have no MONEY! Children are killing children! Moths are eating lightbulbs! This is a DISEASE!”

Larry thought for a moment. “Don’t the banks insure the money?”

The mayor’s eye twitched. “Larry…” he said slowly. “You fat piece of shit. If you don’t take care of your problem. I will make your life a problem. Got it?”

“…Alright. Fine.”

“GOT IT?”

“Yeah! I said ‘fine’. Jesus. I’ll…think of something…” Larry hung-up the phone and sat there for a moment. “Well, there goes my Tuesday.” He rubbed his forehead and then gazed at his hand which was now littered with white dead skin cells. “That’s gross.” That’s when he thought of an idea. Not a brilliant idea. But maybe something that could possibly perhaps maybe work. He picked up his phone and made a phone call.

That evening, at the edge of town, Larry sat behind a makeshift stand with a sign that read “BANK”. Larry scanned the area around him. No sign of the Frenchman anywhere. He pulled out his cowbell. “Bank! New bank in town! This is a new bank! We have money!” He placed his cowbell down and waited.

Suddenly, a shadowy figure emerged from one of the alleyways and shambled towards him. Larry’s blood ran cold.

“Oh, um. Hello sir. How can I help you?”

The figure stepped into the light of a flickering streetlight. “Are you…hiring?” The man was shabbily clothed. And smelled of feces and dead dreams.

“Um…no. Sorry.”

“But, you guys are new…please, I really need this job. I was a bank teller before all this happened. I loved my job. But then, a guy from Europe came and destroyed my life. I was fired. My name was Todd, but they even took that from me. Now, I am nameless, homeless. I sleep in puddles while my friends are getting married and enter middle-management.”

“Um…okay.”

“Please! PLEASE!”

That’s when Larry heard something in the distance.

“Look,” Larry said to the nameless man. “You have to go!”

“I’ve got credentials. You want to see my cv?”

“No! Please go!” The running became louder and louder.

“But…why?”

“Because this isn’t a real bank! This is just a sting operation!” But as soon as he said that, a man with a black beret suddenly appeared before the two men.

“Ah, a fake bank! Stupid Americans! I am Spetch! I do not fall for such trickery!”

“Dammit.” Larry said. “Well…fuck you buddy.”

“Who me?” The nameless man said.

“No, the French douche over there.”

“Oh…it would be nice if someone acknowledged me.”

“Say,” Larry had an idea. “I have an idea. Um, Todd.”

“No, I’m not Todd anymore.”

“Right.”

“They took my name. Remember?”

“Yeah, I don’t get that. Anyway, don’t you want to get revenge. I mean, the man who ruined your life is right there.” Larry said, pointing at Spetch who was just running back and forth on the street like a weirdo.

“Well…” The man scratched his head. “I do. Yet I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure…I just want my old job back.”

Larry pondered the situation. The Frenchman was in his grasp, but he just needed him to stay still in order for his plan to work. “Maybe if you just talked to Spetch and ask him why he did it. That might give you some closure.”

“But I don’t want closure! I just want my life back!”

“Fuck! Fine! We are hiring! In fact, you’ve been promoted. Here! You get to run…um… “Bank” now.”

Todd clapped his hands and jumped behind the stand. His composure suddenly changed and he no longer smelled. “Wow! Thank you! We are now open for business! And our business is helping you save for the future?”

Larry looked around. “Who are you talking to?”

Spetch stopped running and moved over to the bank. “Ah! So this is a real bank! I can tell because of the way that man spoke! Haha! You thought you could fool me with a double-bluff! Stupid, yankee, apple-pie eating bastards!”

“What’s wrong with apple pie?”

But Spetch ignored him and approached the counter. “Gimme your MONEY!”

The bank teller smiled. “I’m sorry, I left my wallet at my cardboard home. But if you like, we can start you off with a new account. Would you like to see our options for credit cards. We even accept medium-to-low credit!”

Spetch smirked and entered an intimidating karate pose. The bank teller’s heart shivered. Suddenly, he felt small. Really small. But then he realized he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t cower in fear. No, he was a teller. A bank teller.

“Sir,” he said. “I’m not going to give you our money. And if you’re going to do any–”

“NOW!” Larry yelled and suddenly a rope lassoed around Spetch.

“What the–” Spetch cried before being thrust backwards. His body fell to the ground and was dragged across the road. Larry’s plan worked. When Spetch was still, his partner, Cowboy Carl, was able to entrap him via rope. “Stupid! Americaaaaaaans!” Spetch called out as his body was brutally damaged by the speeding road.

“Whew! That was…dumb.” Larry watched as Cowboy Carl dragged the Frenchman through the streets. Meanwhile, the bank teller was confused.

“But…my first customer…”

“It’s alright, Todd. Or, Not-Todd. Wait. So, do you have your name back now? How does that even work?”

Not-Todd looked down at his hands. “I…don’t know…but, I have my job now and I guess that’s all that matters. But am I going to get fired for letting my first customer get kidnapped and possibly murdered?”

Larry shrugged. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Not-Todd smiled.

However, as Cowboy Carl rode through the city, dragging Spetch behind, some people started to take notice.

“Hey,” someone said from the darkness of shadows, “that guy has a horse.”

“Yeah, I want a horse.”

Suddenly, a large group surrounded Carl the Cowboy’s horse and he was forced to stop. “Easy there girl, easy.” The cowboy looked down at all the dirty and disgruntled faces. “Now y’all step aside. I’m doing very important business. You see, this gentleman I have in tow here is French.”

“Where’d you get the horse?”

“Well, now I don’t see how that’s any of your business. Now, if you excuse me, I would rather not have to pull out my revolver.”

But the group didn’t budge.

“Well,” Cowboy Carl said, adjusting his hat. “I reckon y’all bunch of banditos. Now, I gonna give you a second, but final warn–” but before he could finish, a box was slammed against the side of his head and Carl toppled off his horse and onto the street. The group tried to seize the horse but the horse wasn’t having it, stomping and kicking members of the gang.

“Ah! Americans! Stupid!” Spetch cried as he attempted to free himself. Fortunately, the rope was suddenly cut by a machete and an older man pulled him from the ground and quickly away from the maddened horse.

“You goddamn, good-for-nothing Reds!” Carl cussed. (He meant “Reds” as in commies, not Native Americans.) The gang managed to beat the crap out of Carl before the horse ran them off. Once the gang finally dispersed, the horse licked Carl’s salty, unconscious face.

The following day seemed to be a bit more mellow in the streets. There were still puddles of blood in most places, but people were able to walk around them.

Larry stood in the mayor’s office. “Good job Larry. Now, I can’t financially compensate you, as you know, but I can do something better. Open your hand.” And he placed a piece of cardboard in Larry’s palm. “A 35% discount at Sweaty Monkey Brows Spa and Cleanliness Center.”

Larry looked at the card then back at the mayor.

“It’s the least we can do.”

“I’ve been there once. It’s not bad,” Leanne said.

“Um, thanks. Can I go?”

“Larry, before you go, do not feel guilty about Cowboy Carl. Or Carl the Cowboy. He’s in a better place now.”

“He’s actually in a coma. So, still alive.”

“Well, he won’t be for long. But don’t feel any guilt or shame about it. Even though it’s entirely your fault.”

“…Thanks.” But as Larry was about to leave:

“Wait! Just one more thing…”

“Er, why?”

“What did you do to Spetch?”

“I told you. I think he escaped. So, he’s still running out there. Or the street people ate him. I have no idea.”

“Well, I doubt he will be running around for much longer after being dragged around by a horse! HaHAAAA!”

Silence.

“I’m just going to go now.”

Larry was getting tired of this place. Getting tired of this town. Having to do things for the mayor, but gaining nothing in return. And now one of the people he mildly tolerated was in the hospital because of him. He wanted to leave, but he couldn’t leave Carl. These thoughts blistered in his mind. When he entered his apartment he found a notice stating that if he didn’t pay his rent soon he will be on the streets.

Meanwhile, there was a new threat growing. Something even more bad than a really fast Frenchman…

The Big Finish – Ep. 3: “Avoidance”

Ted took the long way home. He had no other choice considering he couldn’t drive a burning car. And plus he desired to avoid much of the chaos. But the earth still rattled beneath his feet every once in a while. And he would hear distant screams. The sky looked like the red underbelly of an ancient, sinister beast. And the hole. It quivered and continued to grow. It was an unpleasant sight. 

Yet, there was a thrill to it all. He didn’t want to admit it. He thought himself a good person; yet, there was something in all this, knowing that his final moments will be filled with excitement, drama, meaning. His life, like most, had been a dull venture up to this point. An empty, unexciting thing. But he was still scared, fearing for the worst for himself and others. 

Finally, he made it home. The building was still intact, but people were running from the entrance carrying items like televisions and stools. All the important things. He climbed up the stairs to his apartment which, fortunately, had not been raided yet. He plopped himself on the couch. As crazy as things were, he still found relief in no longer having to walk. His legs ached and his pores spewed sweat. Ted grabbed the remote, about to turn on the television, but stopped himself, watching himself in the black, lifeless screen. It wasn’t worth it; he knew what was going on, and plus the local news anchors always bothered him. He sighed, listening to the chaos outside. It was somewhat disappointing. It was his birthday, and he wasn’t even able to find mix to make his cake from. He sat down at his computer and played a couple hands of Solitaire

The Big Finish – Ep. 2: “The Bodega”

The town fell into chaos, of course. Ted watched from his car as people tumbled over themselves, ransacking the grocery store. “Ah man,” Ted said to himself. After nearly hitting a man dancing naked in the street he found himself at the bodega. He dreaded going to the bodega.

“Hey,” Hubert greeted him from behind the counter. Ted didn’t like Hubert. Hubert wasn’t a bad guy, just the opposite, but he was awfully chatty. Ted just wanted to live his life and move-on.

“Hey,” Ted greeted back as he hurried over to one of the shelves.

“Looks like the ‘pocalypse is happening,” Hubert said, his eyes never leaving the pages of his magazine.

“Um…yeah.” Ted was too busy scoping the now-empty shelves.

“Surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Shame though. I was looking forward to reading some more magazines.”

“Um, do you have any cake mix?”

“Man…I wish I read more magazines.”

Ted approached the counter. “So, no cake mix?”

“What? Nah. I don’t sell any of that queer shit.”

“Oh…”

“So, what you think is gonna happen once all this is over? You know, everything?”

“Um…I mean. Everything will be gone right? So…nothing? Everything will just be nothing, I guess.”

“Really?”

“I mean, yeah. Isn’t that what they mean by the ‘end of the world’?”

“Huh. I guess…that…that sucks man. That really sucks.”

“Yeah. Well, maybe it won’t be so bad. At least there’s…death…which may not be so bad.”

“I don’t know. I just–I just wish that I had–”

“Sorry, I’ve got to go.”

“Oh,” Hubert said. “‘Kay. Be safe out there.”

“Thanks.” Ted stepped outside and watched as a man battled a couple of racoons in the parking lot with a rolling pin. Now the sky was blood red and the dark tear quivered. Green lightning shot from its maw and the earth tremored. Also, Ted’s car was on fire now. Things weren’t very good.

The Big Finish – Ep. 1: “The Opening”

Once their dance was completed, they watched as a tear formed across the sky. The ground rattled and the opening grew and grew. 

“We did it! We summoned the elder god!”

“Nice!” They high-fived each other and ran off somewhere. 

Meanwhile, at the other side of town, Ted was driving his dumb car to the grocery store. But as he drove he noticed flocks of birds flying above. He squinted at the trees as they shook. There was also an unusual darkness that seemed to be spreading across the sky. 

“Great,” he said. “It looks like I’m going to die today,” and continued driving.


Written for the Photo Challenge #336 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. And I’ve decided to make this a series because why not? Well, I guess we’re going to find out why. What’s going to happen next? I don’t know. Stay tuned!

Beneath the Green – Ep. 7: “Away” (FINAL)

When Douglas found himself standing in a parking lot, he realized something. Oh crap, I left my golf clubs back there…But as he turned around the desire to walk back evaporated. It was as if something had completely lifted from him and the world. He stood there for a moment before continuing through the parking lot. 

Years went. The desire to return to the golf course would sometimes fill his veins, but it was to distract himself. Sometimes though he would think about life had he won that tournament. He would have been in Chip Hamson’s position, but what would that have led to? Eventually, talent and skill would have faded and he would have found his corpulent self floating lazily on a pool’s soft glow. He would have achieved things, but they would all have been forgotten and he would have spent his days in comfortable anonymity. But now what? 

Douglas ended-up working at a gas station convenience store. And, every once in a while, a look of recognition would stumble across his view, but then exit. No words. But he knew what they meant. Man, this story got depressing.  

One night, while Douglas sat at the counter doing nothing, he noticed a strange sound. He shifted his position and, a few feet away, the tile flooring started to break upward. Soon, a hole appeared and a dirty face appeared in the ground.

“Drat! Hit the surface again! Ugh!”

“Um, I told you we were–”

“I know what you said! You don’t have to rub your face in it!”

“Wouldn’t it be my face–as in yours?”

“SHUT-UP!”

“Hey,” Douglas said. The miner shot him a look.

“What? We’re busy! Lots to do!”

Douglas was about to ask him, but he just went silent. 

“What? Nothing?”

Douglas said nothing and leaned back in his seat. The miner shook his head and disappeared back into the tunnel. Douglas listened to the pickaxes puncturing the hard flooring and dirt underneath until they were gone. As silence buzzed in his ear, he felt his face turn into a smirk, but he wasn’t sure if it was actually there.

Beneath the Green – Ep. 6: “The Rough”

Douglas sat in his 10×10 room. He used to live in a large house in the country, but ever since disappearing for two days his fortune disappeared. He was in debt, but, when he was in the spotlight, he had others helping him stay afloat. Now, he was unneeded and, therefore, forced to suffer within solitude.

His fingers tapped on his laptop keyboard. He had spent days formulating his plan. This was it; he was going to get his life back by eliminating Chip from the picture.

That was when he decided to take a brief break and checked-out the news:

Chip Hamson, Golf Legend, Dead at 29.

Douglas went pale. For weeks, people were lamenting the golf legend’s untimely demise. And Douglas just watched.

Well, Douglas thought, at least Chip was no longer in the picture. Now, it was time for Douglas to take back what was his. He had to start from the bottom once again. At first, things seemed to be doing well. He won some tournaments, but then he hit a ceiling. It seemed like there was always someone better than he was. He spent hours and hours practicing, but he never seemed to get ahead. He was blocked from participating in major events and couldn’t even get a sponsorship. His life had been whittled away. All because of one little mistake.

One day he found himself alone. He was at the edge of a golf course, searching for his ball which had disappeared into the tall grasses. His mind had become heavy, distracted. Douglas muttered as he fruitlessly searched. But then, he stopped. His hands pulled away from the grass and watched as the blades returned to their original form. Then he walked across the green without direction.

Beneath the Green – Ep. 5: “The Hands of Sand”

Douglas clawed through the hole like an animal. He had to get out, the specifics didn’t matter. But the images blared through his skull. He kept seeing the miners digger deeper and deeper into the sand with no seeming purpose other than to dig. And there was the face who, like Douglas, had been pulled into the sandtrap. Whatever accomplishments or name that that face owned were long forgotten, smothered beneath the dirt.

“Oh hey, there’s a light.” A tiny light pierced the tunnel ceiling just above him. He pulled away the dirt and sand and, moments later, he pulled himself out.

He lied on his back on the green. He was in a large, green field. It wasn’t a golf course, but it was fine. The grass surrounded his skin. The sun loomed in its place of sky. It took him a while, but he was eventually able to get up; his body ached with every step, but the pain soon receded.

He found himself on a familiar city street, just a few miles away from the golf course. It was a relief to be out in the open, fresh air caressing his neck. But then, something horrified him. “Chip Hamson…” There he was; his smug face plastered on the bus-bench. But, it didn’t stop there. As he walked he saw posters, adverts, billboards, all showing Chip’s loathsome mug hawking watches and fast food. It sickened Douglas. Disgusted him. All it took was one mistake for Douglas to lose everything.

But, he had a plan…