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I leaned my back against the desk in the middle of the room. I clenched my teeth, trying to alleviate the sharp pain in my stomach. Looking down only made me cringe even more. The painful sensation was emanating from the open wound in my abdomen. The scissors that one of the attackers used as a crude weapon was lodged in my skin at least a good inch or so. I debated briefly on what I should do before climbing to my feet.

My eyes darted around the room in a frenzy. Bodies of both my former colleagues and the attackers littered the floor. Not what I was looking for. A chair, a floor lamp, a fake plant. Ah, a medical kit, hanging from the far wall. I scuffled over, still clenching my stomach. It took a few good yanks to remove it from the wall. I slammed it on the desk and popped it open. Bandages, no. Saline, no. Sterile syringes, where the fuck is the gauze? I began throwing stuff out onto the floor before finding the roll of white wrap and some absorbent pads. Thank God.

Without a second thought, I gripped the scissors by the handle and yanked. One final sharp pain before dulling down. I threw the bloody instrument to the side. Lifting my shirt revealed a decent-sized gash. Great, it probably needs stitches. I reached for the needle, still wrapped in plastic. I tore it open with my teeth and began the process of sewing myself back together. My needle work sucked, but the gash had stopped bleeding for the most part.

I was so absorbed in my work the faint voices coming from the hall made me jump. It was more of them alright. I hastily wrapped myself up with the gauze and a couple pads. I pulled my shirt back down and frantically searched the room again. Spotting a golf club in my dead boss’s hand, I immediately went over to grab it. Sorry man, but I need this more than you do.

Gripping the handle of my improvised self-defense weapon, I made my way to the door. I peaked out the tiny crack down the hall. Two of them with their backs to me, one with a baseball bat, the other with an army knife. What these people lacked in equipment, they made up in numbers. I tip-toed out the doorway and down the hall. Getting in range, I swung the club at one of the back of one of their legs. He yelped as he fell face-first on the floor. The other turned around, brandishing the army knife in his hand. He made a lunge at my throat. I reeled back, barely avoiding the blade but losing my balance in the process, landing flat on the hard floor. He hovered over me, blade ready to lunge again. I saw my opening, so I sent my foot flying straight to his groin. Might be a cheap shot, but I’m trying to survive here. His knees bent and he propelled sideways down to the ground. I sprang back up, quickly grabbing the knife from beside him. I threw the golf club back down the hall and took off towards the exit.

The entry doors swung open as I ran out into the street. Law enforcement were just arriving at the scene. I ducked into an alleyway down the street. In the haze of all the confusion I managed to avoid contact with anyone. Last thing I want is to be dragged to a police station to be questioned. I turned to take one final look at the office that was my former workplace. A SWAT team charged in as indecipherable shouting filled the air. I certainly wasn’t willing to stick around any longer.

I made my way down a couple of blocks, trying not to attract any unwanted attention. I zipped up my jacket to cover up the bloody stain on my shirt. Checking my pocket, I still had my last paycheck from work folded in half. At least there’s that. I was only a few more blocks away from the bank when I felt the familiar urge again; I had to take another piss. Really have to lay off the coffee. Seeing no gas station or fast food joint with a public restroom around, I slipped behind a nearby building with a dumpster against the wall. About as good as any other place. I unzipped my pants and did my business while trying to keep my mind occupied. Any thought that would take me away from my current situation, I welcomed it. I was quickly pulled out of my fantasy world with a loud clicking sound and the pressing of metal against the back of my head.

“Don’t move, asshole.” A gruff voice spoke behind me. Immediately, I knew what was going on. He had a gun pressed to my head. Son of a bitch must of snuck behind me while I was lost in thought.

Without even waiting for his order, I raised my hands above my head. “Turn around.” I wasn’t very willing to follow his command, but I also wasn’t in a position to overthrow him yet. Alright. I’ll play your little game. I obeyed, turning my body around to meet his. It was one of the assailants from the office, same getup and all. For whatever reason, he didn’t just shoot me when he had the chance. His first mistake.

My eyes darted around. If it hadn’t been for my sunglasses, he would’ve suspected I was planning my escape. I searched for any sign there might be more of them somewhere. No one else in sight, just him. His second mistake.

With a fast twitch of my arm, I snagged his wrist and pulled it away from my face. The gun erupted, sending a bullet whizzing mere inches past my head. I wrestled with him for a good couple of minutes. Before I knew it, I was poised above him on the ground. I slammed his hand down on the pavement, releasing the pistol from his grip and down the alleyway. Giving him a solid punch in the throat, I got to my feet and ran to retrieve it. I almost slipped away when he pulled me by the leg sending me back down to the unforgiving asphalt. A wave of pain shot through me, agitating my fresh stomach wound from earlier. He crawled over my achy body in an attempt to hold me down. Back to pitiful, toddler-level fighting I guess. I scrambled for the knife in my pants pocket. Gripping the handle firmly, I brought the blade up and sunk it into my assailant’s neck. A splatter of deep red sprayed on my face as the man struggled for a brief moment then went limp. I yanked the knife back out and kicked his lifeless body off, sending it rolling beside me.

I sat up on the ground to recover from the attempt on my life. Something inside me spoke. For a brief moment, I felt...relieved. Some of the stress building up from today’s events melted away. I glanced over at the body beside me. Surely killing him wasn’t the cause...yeah, him and his comrades had tried to kill me, but that didn’t mean I harbored anger towards them. I’m not going to stoop to their level by mindlessly killing people. That’s absurd.

I broke off the thought with the realization I was having difficulty breathing. A small red puddle expanded from the body and seeped into my jeans. At this point I didn’t particularly care. If anyone asked, I had a rash on my legs that I scratched until it bled.

Tearing off part of the guy’s shirt, I wiped my face off before tossing it aside. I reached for the pistol that was now owner-less. Looks like a semi-automatic, probably 9mm. I didn’t bother with reading the specs engraved on the barrel. I was just glad I had something to defend myself with.

Getting back on my feet proved rather challenging with my sore legs. I leaned against the wall of the building for additional support. The faint smell of urine reminded me that my fly was still down. I hastily zipped it back up. Would be bad enough if someone saw me down an alley with a dead body, much less with my pants unzipped and my privates hanging out.

I waited for the pain to die down but it only got worse. It shot through my arms and legs with increasing intensity. I couldn’t have hit the ground that hard...at least I didn’t think so. I was still gasping for air. Then the head-pounding started. The sounds of the streets were drowned out by a slight ‘Thu-Thump’ noise from my chest. My vision went blurry for a split-second. This definitely wasn’t the result of the fall. That would mean that...oh shit.

My hand automatically slid into my jacket pocket. Empty. I checked the other one. Nothing. I check my pants’ pockets. Only the folded-up check from before. My mind raced at the sudden realization. The pipe I had stashed, my fix to help me get through the day, was gone. It must’ve slipped out somewhere, probably back in the office.

With all the strength I could muster, I pressed on. Can’t walk out in the street like this. Have to stick to the back alleys. I just hope there aren’t any more surprises waiting for me.

I had only made it a couple blocks before doubling over and hurling. The donuts I ate for breakfast lie in a putrid brown puddle on the hot ground. My throat burned and the horrid taste lingered on my tongue. The throbbing in my arms was unbearable. My head felt like it was going to explode, and that God-damned thumping in my chest was getting faster and louder. I had to cough just to get any air, and it only made the burning worse. Everything started to blur together. I couldn’t tell where I was going or identify anything in view.

With no strength or will to go any further, I collapsed in a heap on the cracked asphalt, shaking uncontrollably. If there was a way to physically feel like death, I’m sure this would be it. I reached for the pistol I claimed earlier. Putting the barrel up against my forehead with a shaking hand, I readied my trigger finger.

With my vision glazed over, I don’t even know how I saw it. I pulled the gun away and squinted through my glasses Was it...no, it couldn’t be. I stretched my neck out for a closer look. A square base, small round funnel shape, and a fat mouthpiece. Just like the pipe I had lost.

Whether it was the one I dropped or somebody else lost, I didn’t care. I extended my arm out. Too far away. I painstakingly pulled myself across the ground. Mere inch by inch I got closer to my prize. It seemed like hours had past before I had it in my grasp. I held it in my shaking palm, devoting the last of my energy to holding onto it. Oh please be full. At least half. A quarter. Just a quick puff to make the pain go away. I stared into the chamber. Only a few tiny drops congealed at the bottom. It’ll have to do.

I broke out my lighter and lit the end, put the other end to my lips and inhaled with all my might. A small rush of euphoria shot through my body. My over-taxed mind was cleared, the throbbing stopped, the thumping quieted. I sucked in a breath of air. The nasty taste was still stuck on my tongue, but at least I wasn’t completely miserable.

I hopped to my feet and tossed the empty pipe aside. Just have to finish this last errand, then I’m going home. I continued downtown to the bank a few blocks away. The occasional police car or SWAT truck blazed down the street. Didn’t need to guess where they were headed.

Arriving at the bank, I took the folded check out of my pocket and set it on the counter. “Need to cash this please.” I muttered to the clerk. She typed away at the computer, stamped the check and handed me an envelope with the cash and receipt. I turned to walk away when I froze in place. Three men armed with rifles and shotguns kicked in the doors. One of them fired their rifle into the air as everyone ran around in a frenzy. The two cops standing guard attempted to apprehend the robbers. I ran back to the counter and leapt over it, sliding across and down on the floor where the clerk was kneeling in the corner. More gunshots and some shouting, then the sounds of bodies hitting the floor. The robbers began shouting their demands over people’s whining and pleading.

Gun in hand, I poked my head out to get a glimpse. Two were facing in my general direction, the other was threatening one of the clerks behind the other set of counters across the room. From the way they were dressed, they probably had bullet-proof vests on, so I had to watch my aim  I rested the barrel of the gun on the countertop as I looked down the sights. The bumbling idiot didn’t even know what hit him before he fell to the ground, bullet lodged in his forehead. I retreated back behind the counter as the remaining two fumbled around demanding the culprit to show themselves.

That sensation came back, more obvious than before. I might have let it be if it wasn’t for them shouting angry obscenities. Threatening demands quickly turned into paranoid arguing with each other. The realization that I was the cause of it all made my hands shake in giddy excitement. They were getting unnerved, almost to the point of complete panic. I bit my lip, stifling the crazed laughter I so desperately wanted them to hear.

Then I snapped back to reality. Stay focused, dammit! You still have to get out of here alive.

I peered over the counter again. Only one robber in sight, rifle pointed down at the cowering civilians. The other must have retreated behind the other set of counters. I popped out, squeezed off a few rounds and ducked back down. Rifle rounds pierced the wall behind me. He shouted something barely coherent, probably a threat to the hostages’ lives. I popped out again, firing off a couple more rounds. The bullets entered his chest as he was forced backwards. The rifle flew wildly in his hand, hailing lead in random directions. Unfortunately, I was in the path of one of them. It grazed my shoulder, ripping away at my jacket and shirt. I grasped the wound in response.

The third robber rose from behind the other counter unleashing a barrage of bullets at me. I inadvertently slipped as I ducked down. My right knee cap knocked against the counter, popping it out of place. I moved the palm of my hand to quickly pop it back in. The slight pain didn’t particularly matter to me. I was too absorbed in the increasingly sadistic feeling running through me. For the first time that day, I felt in-control. I wasn’t just some bystander who had no way to defend himself. My concerns for the others’ and my own safety melted away. All I wanted was to kill this bastard by any means necessary.

...Any means necessary…

I glanced over at the clerk cowering in the corner. Not even giving it a second thought, I hoisted her from the ground and onto her feet. I held her by the neck in front of me as she begged for her life. The robber hesitated. Guess he didn’t want to make good on his threats. Taking advantage of this situation, I quickly aimed and fired. The shot went clean through his skull, sending him falling backwards.

My heart raced with overwhelming excitement as the last of the unidentified assailants let out one final shriek. The feeling I was suppressing, that ecstasy-like high I got from bringing harm upon another, was now pumping through my veins. Up until now, I had been a victim in someone else’s murder plot, just another name to add to the list of fatalities in the news cast later in the day. And I had only killed in self-defense, not because it felt good...at least, not until now.

The unnatural high was wearing off. I needed more.

My eyes scanned the room, counting off each and every last survivor. More than a dozen in total. My face cracked a smile. This is going to feel real good.

The clerk began struggling to get free from my grasp. She pleaded with me in-between sobs and incoherent murmuring. Without turning my head, without looking at her, without any acknowledgement of her pathetic whimpering, I shifted her to the side and put a bullet in her cranium. The other hostages panicked in response, stumbling to their feet and bolting for the door. I hit the ‘emergency lockdown’ button underneath the counter. Iron screens came down and blocked their path. Whether they liked it or not, they were trapped in here with me.

I climbed over the counter and retrieved one of the assault rifles the robbers had used. One of them reached for the pistol from the dead cop’s belt. I sent him a couple shots in response. They clamored to the impassable barrier, whimpering, pleading, crying, begging.

“Please don’t do this!”

“We won’t tell anyone, we swear!”

“Just take the money. Take it and leave!”

I held the rifle out in front of me, completely deaf to their words. My finger slid under the trigger guard. I twitched my head, cocking a crooked grin.

Then a flash erupted from the barrel.

Then another.

And another.

The sounds of gunfire drowned out the wailing of the civilians as they dropped dead one-by-one. Eventually, they all laid in a heap on the floor. The deafening sounds of gunfire and screaming were replaced with the sweet sound of brass hulls hitting the floor.

Then, complete silence.

Then the faint sound of sirens outside. I had already figured the emergency lockdown had triggered a silent alarm of some sort.

“This is the Paradise City Police! We have the building surrounded! Lay down your weapons and come out with your hands up! If you do not comply, we are authorized to use force!” A megaphone echoed outside.

Oh good. More victims to feed to my raging new addiction.

I plucked a spare rifle clip from the first dead robber and replaced the empty one. I deactivated the lockdown, and walked out the double doors. Cop cars and SWAT vans lined the streets, and more pulled in behind them. At least two dozen officers stood behind the vehicles, guns armed and pointing at me. “Drop the weapon and put your hand in the air! You have five seconds to comply!” The megaphone boomed again.

Idiots. They should’ve just taken the shot when they had the chance.

In one blurred motion, I aimed the rifle into the crowd, peppering the area with speeding lead. Everyone retreated into cover as I moved the barrel to and fro, not aiming for anything in particular. Two officers bent over their cars limp, seemingly dead. Another fell onto his back severely wounded. The satisfying sounds of chaos filled my ears once more. I savored every precious moment, knowing my end was near.

The rifle clicked as the hailstorm abruptly stopped. Out of ammo. The remaining law enforcement personnel came out of hiding, guns pointed at me in retaliation. I threw my arms to the side as I bellowed my final words with a smile.

“I regret nothing!”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Written by Richie "Ball-Lover" Marcus

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