Rust: Episode One
by Alan Augustson
22 February 2017

Pike flicked his last butt at a skinny pigeon. Direct hit, though it barely registered with the bird. The butt skipped gaily along into a pothole so big it had claimed an entire car, now completely consumed by rust. He sighed; that would likely be his last cig for months. Damned if Pike knew where the supplier was even getting them, or wanted to know what the tobacco was cut with. He afforded himself a chuckle over his delusion there was any in there to start with.

He rested his chin on his folded arms, sitting on a crumbling stoop. Wishing he knew how not to think, he gazed up at the brown sky, then shook his head sadly and returned his gaze to the brown ground. Not much different anymore. Likewise the brown buildings, the brown water, and the people of all colors going brown with dirt.

There was the distinct sound of a young girl’s whimper. Instinctively and with a sick feeling in his gut, he stood. Just then he saw her: about twelve, he figured, and pretty. She was walking fast, and cast pleading eyes in his direction before moving on, picking up her pace to just short of a run and without a glance back. Pike didn’t need to look to know what was coming. He came down from the stoop, turned abruptly, and a pack of six boys screeched to a halt, predatory looks switching to panic in an instant.

His game face was on, nostrils flaring, eyes narrowing. One of the boys stammered, “Y-yo, Pike, no problems. We didn’t mean to scare her-”

“No,” Pike shot back, “you meant a hell of a lot more. Doesn’t matter to you she’d likely have bled out and died, does it?”

The boys were silent for a minute, then: “Dude, we’re really sorry-”

“No, you’re not, and that’s the problem. You’re sorry I happened to be here. You’re sorry as hell that your fun got interrupted. And you’re gonna be even more so for what I’ll do if one of you makes a move I don’t like. But you’re not one goddamned bit sorry for trying to gang-rape a little girl. You had better hope to hell I don’t find out later you succeeded.”

The oldest boy, maybe seventeen, suddenly went red and sneered. “This is bullshit, Pike. There’s a half dozen of us and one of you. You can not take us all.”

A collective oh, shit rippled through the group as Pike’s expression went utterly cold.

“I could, actually,” he nearly laughed. “But I don’t have to.”

He displayed the two-foot-long length of pipe that was well known as his weapon of choice. With the grace of a swan in flight Pike grabbed the alpha boy and drove the end of the pipe into his face. There was a sickening crack, and the kid flopped to the ground as if he suddenly hadn’t a bone in his body. The other boys knew: their pack leader would never get up again. They trembled, and a sob escaped one of them. Another began to cry outright as Pike turned to them once again, the grin of a shark on his face.

“Now, as I was saying,” he half-snickered, “if I ever find out a single one of you stuck his filthy little dick into anything that didn’t want it there, I will come for all of you. You’ll each get this pipe so far up your ass it’ll take your tonsils out. And you will still be alive as I peel the fucking skin from your face!”

One of the boys spontaneously vomited in fear; Pike ignored him. “And I guaran-goddamned-tee you… your final thought on this earth will be an understanding of what it is to be truly sorry. Now. Go away.”

Crying, the boys scattered in all directions. Pike noticed he was trembling, himself. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe out his murderous anger. His eyes watered with tears, and he blinked them back. He didn’t like himself like this. When calm again, he looked at the limp body at his feet. Don’t waste a thought on him, he thought. Just one less asshole.

Pike spat on the thing that was once a seventeen-year-old boy, and calmly walked away.

“Burn in hell, and good riddance.”

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Social scientist, public policy analyst, emergency management consultant and author. U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former firefighter. Former candidate for U.S. Congress.

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