N is for The Neighborhood

I’m summoning a monster.

~*~

Gerry had collected what he could from the list, much of it out of his reach and budget. There had been substitutes written from previous summoners, but he wasn’t sure how trustworthy they were. Would they know that Kevlar was better made than chain mail and where the hell was he supposed to get either of those?

He checked his watch and ran the back of his chalk covered hand across his forehead. The pentagram was drawn, candles lit, circle cast, and incantation chanted.

Nothing.

Suddenly, there was shouting and someone was banging on his door. He barely had enough time to grab a jacket before his neighbor rushed him down four flights of stairs along with others outside to a gathering crowd. When he turned around he saw the flames shooting out of the windows of the ninth and tenth floors of his apartment building.

Police were arriving, pushing the crowd back as the fire trucks came through to battle the all consuming flames.

And then, right before his own eyes, the fire was extinguished. Firefighters were entering with their protective and SCBA gear but the ones on the ground paused with the hoses and watched as the black smoke cleared, leaving the charred remains of the top floors as proof that the fire ever existed.

The crowd was stunned silent, then the wails broke through as people frantically tried to get a hold of friends and loved ones who might have been up on those two floors.

Hours later, when the sun was setting, he was allowed to return to his fifth floor apartment. Seven floors were deemed safe by the city’s engineers. Those who lived on the eighth floor were provided shelter by the Red Cross. Those who lived on the ninth and tenth floors were still unaccounted for.

He rushed upstairs and entered his apartment. He hoped no one had gone inside. The chalked pentagram was bad enough. He didn’t want anyone to think he was crazy. He entered his living room and nearly jumped out of his skin. There was a man seated in the chair by the window. He stood up when Gerry entered.

“Who the hell…” he stopped short. The man was dressed in all black, coat outlined with green trim that matched the green line bisecting his face.

“You’re it?” Gerry gasped for breath. “You’re the guardian?”

The man nodded. “I am.”

“How did you get up here?”

“Your circle.”

“You came during the fire?”

“The side effect of an unacceptable offering,” he said.

Gerry squeezed his hands. “I didn’t have much to offer.”

“Don’t worry. It’s been covered.”

“How?”

“The lives upstairs.”

Gerry’s mouth dropped. “How many?”

“Eight were taken.”

He collapsed into the couch. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. I’ve never done this before. How was I supposed to know that was going to happen?”

The guardian crouched down. “Why did you summon me?”

Gerry fumbled with a manila folder sitting on the side table. The guardian took it over to the window. There were pictures, mostly mugshots, names, last known addresses, and a laundry list of offenses.

“You want me to protect you from them?” he asked.

“No, I, I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he shook his hands. “I want you to kill them.”

“Usually ends up being the same thing,” the guardian said. “In this order?”

He shrugged. “Whatever is easiest.” They sat in silence. “You look, no offensive, human. And so young.”

The man smiled. “None taken.”

“You have a name?”

“J.E. Just the letters.”

“First and middle initial.”

“No. That’s all. And you?”

“Gerry. With a G.” He clasped and unclasped his hands.

J.E. could feel the static of Gerry’s anxiety beating against the wall in his mind. “I can protect you from most things but I can’t protect you from a heart attack,” he teased. “Chill, Gerry with a G. I’ll take care of things from here.”

~*~

It looks like the other one.

~*~

Gerry pulled the case out from under his bed and presented the contents to J.E. on the kitchen table.

“I’m good, thank you.”

“You come packing heat?” Gerry asked. J.E. opened his coat and Gerry gawked. “Arrows? Son, unless those are some hocus-pocus arrows, you’re in for a rude awakening. These guys have guns.”

“I am familiar with guns.”

“We’re not leaving this place until you’re carrying one.”

J.E. obliged him and Gerry nearly fell over when J.E. had to undo his scabbard to fit the holster under his coat. “What are you? Robin Hood? You actually kill people with these things?”

“All the time,” J.E. smiled. “I’ll show you.”

~*~

A monster to clear out the monsters.

~*~

“I’ll take you to Andre first,” Gerry said as he pulled out of the parking lot. “He’s on probation. Ankle bracelet gives him a curfew so he’s always at home in the evening. Lives on the first floor too, so we can make a clean get away.” After a ten minute drive, he pulled into the parking lot of another apartment complex. “It’s there.” The curtains were open and the lights on. The man, Andre, was standing in front of a stove. He leaned back as if calling to someone in another room.

“I’m going to drive by slow. You shoot, okay?” J.E. gave him a look. “What? It’s what the kids are doing nowadays.”

“The kids? You’re not that old,” J.E. laughed. He got out of the car and leaned through the window. “Go ahead and pull around to the exit.”

“You sure?”

“This is what I was made for, G. I’ll meet you on the other side.”

Gerry pulled away but watched through his rear view mirror as J.E. slung off his bow and notched an arrow. “You were supposed to use the gun,” Gerry muttered to himself. J.E. let the arrow fly and he heard the shattering of glass and someone scream.

He was a tangled mess of nerves when J.E. finally got back to the car. “What took you so long?”

The guardian shrugged. “It’s a nice night.”

“We have to go before the police get here.”

“Don’t you think it’ll be suspicious if they see a car speeding away from the scene?”

Gerry sighed. “Ok. I give. Let’s go home. One is enough for tonight.”

~*~

It’s done. It’s happening. It’s for the best. Remove the weeds.

It looks so human.

~*~

“I’ll handle the other ones on my own,” J.E. said. Gerry was in the kitchen, trying to prepare dinner. He hadn’t eaten all day but he wasn’t hungry.

“Canned soup alright with you?” Gerry asked.

“I don’t eat.”

“Well, obviously. You’re so skinny.”

“I mean, I can’t consume human food.”

“Oh.” Gerry dumped the soup into a tupperware and tucked it into the fridge. “Then what do you eat?”

“Don’t worry about it. The guardians don’t need to eat like humans do.”

“Ah, okay.” He hesitated then went into the living room to sit down.

“You’re not chill at all,” J.E. sat across from him. “I can feel you.” He took off his coat and rolled up one sleeve. On his upper arm was a black line, two inches long, tattooed across his bicep. He pressed it. “This is you and it’s wrecked with guilt and anxiety.”

Gerry broke down. “I’m not a bad person. I never wanted to kill anyone in my life, but these people.” He sank into the couch. “I grew up in this neighborhood. My wife and I, we were going to raise our children in this neighborhood. It’s one of the poorest in the county but most of the people are good and stick together. Then these fools show up,” he slapped the folder.

“They started preying on the good people. And then their enemies showed up and then they’re shooting at each other at night, then during the day, hitting houses, killing people while they sleep, hitting children as they walked to school. Police won’t do anything. We’re powerless to do anything.” He rubbed his eyes. “I want to pull the weeds. I want the flowers to grow in this garden again. Do you understand?”

J.E. nodded. “And that’s why it’s better if I go solo.” He smiled. “You’ve done you’re part. You’ve bought the weed killer. I can spread myself out and do the job.

~*~

Let him do what the other one did. Use their weapon against them.

~*~

It took him one week.

Each day, Gerry would get up and find a page from his folder on the fridge with a red X over the picture then maybe part way though the day, a page would slip under his door. A couple reports showed up in the paper but people were numb. It was just another wave of gang violence. It didn’t matter that they were being felled by arrows. No one blinked, even when one was hacked. J.E. returned from that one with a cut lip and a black eye.

“I told you to use the gun,” Gerry said.

J.E. just smiled. “I’m getting it done, aren’t I?”

~*~

He’s almost like a brother. A brother bought to my side.

~*~

Gerry had to keep reminding himself that this man wasn’t human, but sometimes, usually in the evening, as the sun was going down, Gerry would unload onto him, usually talking about his wife, his kids, and J.E. would listen.

“I can’t wait to see them again,” Gerry said. “When this is all over. I’ll go back to them.”

“They’ll be happy to see you. They must miss you.”

Gerry nodded. “I talk to them everyday. It’s better that they’re not here.”

~*~

You killed them all. It killed them. It doesn’t matter. You’re all the same.

~*~

The last page in the folder had no picture, no name, but a brief physical description – male, 6′ to 6’5”, 200 lbs, double lines of navy blue. “You’re going to have to help me out with this last one,” J.E. said. “I don’t have much to go off of.”

“Neither did I,” Gerry said. He sat across from J.E. at the kitchen table as the sun was setting. “You have someone back home, where you come from?”

“I do.”

“What’s her name?”

“T.N.”

“Just the letters?”

“Yeah.”

“Any kids?”

“That’s not something we’re allowed to do.”

“But there are others like you?”

“Yes. Plenty.”

“Where do you come from?”

“We were created by an Overlord.”

Gerry worked the word with his mouth. “Like a god?”

“Somewhat.”

“Is she, T.N., good to you?”

J.E. was staring out the window and Gerry wasn’t sure if it was his own state of mind that made him think it or if he truly did feel like the guardian was aching. “She’s the best.” J.E. rubbed his eyes and turned as Gerry pulled out the gun.

It happened so fast. He didn’t have time to undo the safety and J.E. was out of the chair, both hands on his arm. He bit him, a full mouth, teeth-sinking kind of bite. It was molten hot for a split second, then two injections of ice hit his veins. The gun fell from his numb fingers and J.E. calmly sat back down.

Gerry couldn’t feel his fingers, his arm, his shoulder, his lips as the venom crawled through his body. “You knew?”

“I’ve felt it in the back of my mind all week.”

“You can read my mind?”

“I can read your feelings,” J.E. was suddenly stern. “You didn’t tell me about the other guardian.”

“The first gang was small. They were going to lose their territory. Should have but then they had him.” Gerry was shaking as the venom squeezed through the blood brain barrier.

“There was a drought that summer but you’d find puddles in the middle of the road in the morning, like it had rained. Rained blood.” A bead of blood ran from his nose as tears squeezed from his eyes.

“She went to pick up the kids from school. She crossed its path bringing them home and it killed them all.” He coughed as his breath came in gasps. “I found what they had used to bring it here. Bought it with my life’s savings. I wanted them to be wiped out then wipe out what killed them. I didn’t know.” He gasped. “I didn’t know you’d be different.” His eyes rolled back as his head tilted forward.

J.E. sat in the chair, even when the blue light flashed and a gatherer appeared next to Gerry’s slumped body. It hissed at him, because it couldn’t feed off of the dead and J.E. shrugged. The gatherer wrestled the body from the chair and dragged it into the blue.

J.E. covered his face. Deep down, he had known his family was dead. Kill by a guardian.

Just as deep, he knew T.N. was dead. Killed by a human.

The blue light engulfed him and he disappeared.

~*~

A/N: This story is set in the same universe as my post for G (The Guardian), but focuses on a different guardian. Thank you for making it to the end. I invite you to share your thoughts and critiques below.

~*~
N a2z

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4 thoughts on “N is for The Neighborhood

    • The Guardian, The Neighborhood, and The Past are all short stories utilizing characters from my current novel project. I write the stories to help develop the characters and give them “exercise”.
      Thank you for reading!

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