Professor Callous sat in the darkness of the cabin, clutching the steering wheel with clammy hands that slicked the leather circle. He touched the warm, moist bandage on his chest, feeling the fresh stitches that hid the weapon just above his heart. Beneath the layers was an unstable microchip that slowly began its break down, cascading atoms inward into a digital spiral of condensed nuclear reactions. It ticked soundlessly but the warming of his chest signaled the count down of the tiny bomb. It was a bomb like no other, built from digital nano-techs coupled with cellular constructs in the human body.
In the passenger seat was his first and last book. His sickly green hand caressed the raised text, feeling it like Braille, “Things Forgotten: A Reflection of Humanities Lost Morality, by Professor Shawn Callous”. The chip was rapidly decaying his cells, contaminating his body with radioactivity. Time was running out now. In the rear view mirror his eyes stared into themselves. The tears were soft and green as they streamed down his face. He grabbed the book, holding it against his chest.
“I’m doing the right thing, right? Yes, yes. Every fallen city, every fallen world has risen anew, a better place. I’m doing what must be done,” his voice crackled, mixed with tears and phlegm.
The car headlights led the way ahead, forming a warm pocket of light that the professor desperately wanted to be engulfed him, but an intruder obstructed his path and he slammed on the brakes.
Leon stuffed four pieces of gum in his mouth like a child and tossed the yellow package away. Richie was beside him pulling out a blanketed corpse from the trunk.
“Leo, quit fucking around and grab his legs for Christ sake!”
Leon’s lips smacked a “Sure boss.”
It was an empty, dark and quiet night staged for the mobsters and their mischievous ways. Trees on either side of the road stood as jury in the darkness, the moon judging from high above. Moonlight bathed them with its rays, contrasting the scene in hard darks and whites.
Leon’s labored breathing was a sign of his obesity, and Richie nicknamed him “Chubby Fingers” which circulated quickly among his fellow Mafiosi. Oppositely, Richie was small and thin with large strong hands which earned him the name “Butternuts” for reasons only a man would understand.
“Jeez Richie, this place never gets good. It’s always spooky out here.” The smell of dead leaves and soil lingered in the darkness. Leon looked around wondering if the old horror stories of the Fire Beast that burned people with black fire in these woods could have been true. He shivered at the thought.
Richie burst into laughter. “You scared?” He almost dropped the body from the laughing. “What could be worse than us out here?”
He led them down into a dark patch of high grass a few feet into the woods. Like a creature of the night he could find anything in the dark. It was a respectable instinct that made him one of the deadliest hit men on the east coast.
“All right Chubbs, just fucking drop him. My arms are hurting already.”
“Hey Rich, why we leave the flashlight back there?”
“Leo, if I can see someone out here, then someone out here can see me. You know what I mean?” But the fat man didn’t.
“The car, you fucking idiot, the car. If some cop or state trooper stops by our car, and no ones in there, then they’ll look around the trees. If no lights are in the trees, no cop is in the trees. Got it? They don’t see us 'cause we’ll be hiding,” Richie tapped Leon on the Forehead.
For a few seconds, both were silent before Leon replied.
“Okay by me.”
Richie sighed, “Let’s go numb nuts.”
“Uh, should we cover up the guy? Someone will find him out here boss.”
“Who gives a fuck Chubbs, fuck him. The fucking rat bastard deserves to be eaten by something out here.”
They walked back to the car with the faint light of the moon as a guide. Richie searched the trunk for any belongings of the deceased.
“All right, Leo, get me the flashlight, I can’t see crap back here.”
Leon grabbed the flashlight from the driver’s side and brought it to him. The flashlight accidentally clicked on while he was opening a fresh pack of gum, blinding Richie.
“Fucking Christ!” Richie smacked the flashlight and gum from his hands, sending them hurling into the street.
“Oops,” cried Leon. He ignored the flashlight and went for the strewn pieces of gum still tucked in their silver foils, lying in the middle of the street.
Neither of them noticed the two spherical headlights emerging from the darkness down the road.
“Oh shit. Leo!”
The car screeched to a halt, missing Leon by a foot. He got up and backed away from the car. Richie quickly grabbed the flashlight from the ground and switched it off, his other hand grasping the butt of a pistol in his jacket. It was too dark to see the man’s face in detail but the glow from his eyes and body was like nothing they’ve seen before.
“A ghost,” whispered Leon.
Butternuts didn’t believe in ghosts, but something was strange about this person, something cold and empty. “The eyes” thought Richie. They were like two flaming sapphire stones pitted in a hollow face. Glossy reptilian-like skin bounced back the moons rays giving the figure a green aura. The man had an object held against his chest.
“Something ain’t right,” whispered Richie. He slowly slid the gun from holster and cocked back the hammer.
“Wait,” Leon kept moving backwards until he bumped into their car. “Just, just let him go. He’s sick or something.”
There was a few seconds silence, broken only by the sound of night critters and the lonely whistling of the wind. Then the car sped off into the dark road ahead, vanishing within seconds. The two stood in silence. Richie sighed with relief his grip still on the gun. He caught sight of the silver gum sticks twinkling like stars against the black asphalt. “Something”, he thought “wasn’t right”.
Professor callous watched the two men from his rearview.
“Bloody demons almost ruined everything,” he snickered in a raspy voice. A vicious cough almost sent him off the road. The smell of ammonia and burning plastic permeated the car. He looked down and realized the smell was coming from the green glowing mucous from his coughs. Looking in the mirror was like looking at a glowing creature from the abyss, with its self-sufficient light as its guide. He thought, like the energy of those sea creatures, his own body’s “light” pulsed in his veins as cells in his blood, giving life to this unique and special, cybernetic bomb; powerful and undetectable. No one could find him or it.
From out of the darkness and over a hill rose the final stop, the Emerald city. He was too weak to clap and bounce with happiness, but his heart burned with joy.
The inner city was alive with human activity. “Like bugs,” he thought.
Seconds later the “bug bomb” clicked, imploding into a finite point before exploding like a mini-supernova. The professor smiled. He was free from the darkness, swallowed by the warmth of the light.
Leon whistled an unknown tune as they drove to the city. Richie sat quietly in the passenger seat in a deep “thinking” quiet; a breathless trance separate from the outside world. Chubbs tried to break the mood, never having witnessed his cohort like this before.
“Umm, hey Rich, what did the umm, chicken say to the, uh… no wait, what did…you…” Chubby Fingers scratched his head and spent the next few minutes in his own “thinking” quiet. He began beating his fingers on the steering wheel rhythmically with the whistling.
“Leo shut the fuck up please.” He wasn’t asking but demanding for the silence.
“I know it’s the guy, huh? Yeah, he spooked me too boss.” The Fire Beast ran through Leon’s mind.
“Just drive Leo, alright? Don’t fucking talk to me.” He lied. He did want to talk about it but what would he say? Fear was not an option in their line of work but something gnawed and chewed deep within him.
Leon found a couple of sticks of Juicy Fruit in the glove box and shoveled them in his mouth. The gum relaxed the large killer, freeing him from thought and numbing him to the world. Like a telepath he offered a stick of gum without any words. Richie Gladly accepted.
The cityscape was bright red with traces of yellows bubbling in its center like an artificial dawn. The two reapers of death would have been angels of mercy for the city, which now burned and bled innocent lives. If Richie had only pulled the trigger, thousands would have been sacrificed. But how could he have known a maniac set out to destroy his hometown? Maybe a stick of gum could have satisfied the professor and he would have reconsidered his actions. Gum for a gun? Makes you wonder.