Monday, April 7, 2014

Those In Between: A Short Story

This week at Beyond the Trope is all about tropes, and when you listen to tomorrow's episode (do it! do it!) you'll hear us challenge one another to do a short story using two random tropes from the grand TV Tropes website. Here's my answer to the challenge. Can you guess what my tropes are?

Those In Between

Another body hits the edge of the pavement, and Kevin winces. It’s not so alive that it notices, but not so dead that it doesn’t whomp quite wetly as bones crack on the cement.

For a moment Kevin thinks he’s going to have to go down there and tip the body into the river, but the weight of the legs pulls it slowly off the edge and down into the black waters. He flips the next body over the railing.

When he’s done, Kevin bags his things, wipes his hands on the sides of his pants, and crosses himself. “In the name of the dead, the dying, and those in between.” He mumbles the words and then picks up his bag and leaves the bridge, whistling minor keys into the night air.

The silent streets swallow up his footsteps as he goes from light post to light post. It takes four long strides to wade through the pool of yellow light at the bottom of each light post. He likes the way his shadows split into four different people when he stands in the middle of the light. It’s like standing at a crossroads of himself, though he never turns back or to the side. Just headed home, always whistling.

He veers to the other side of the road and kicks a pebble into the gutter. It ricochets off of the curb of the sidewalk and skitters back into the middle of the street. Ahead of him, a street signal blinks red. In his head it says, “Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.” He walks under it and waves at the lights as he passes.
Then Kevin slows, stops, and takes three steps backward. Someone is there. A shadow that is not his shadow reaches out from the street and waves. He sees five fingers wiggle on the end of an shadow arm that’s elongated by the angle of the light behind it. 

His phone rings, and Kevin pulls it out of his pocket without taking his eyes off of the new person. This person isn’t supposed to be here. There is never anyone here at this time. His palms begin to sweat, and he struggles to swallow.

Kevin swipes his thumb across the screen and leaves a bloody trail that transfers to his sideburn and cheek when he lifts the phone to his ear. “Busy,” he says.

The person in the street walks toward him. He can hear the click of heels, the soft breeze of breath moving in and out of a body.

“I know you’re busy.” The woman’s voice comes from the phone and the person in front of him in a strange echo. A moment later, the extra sound from the woman’s phone abruptly disappears – she hung up. Four more clicks of heels and the woman stands in front of him like a specter. Black leggings, black boots, black jacket.

Kevin feels the blood drying on his cheek but doesn’t try to wipe it away. He is covered in it, so it doesn’t matter. Now he will have to make yet another trip back to the river. He sighs. It is more exercise than he was expecting for the night’s work, but it has to be done. He unzips his bag and grabs Walter, 360 degrees of poisoned spikes with a handle the length of Kevin’s arm.

The woman steps into the light. She smiles and drops a hood Kevin hadn’t even seen she was wearing. Her bangs are long and bleached white, and her hair is as red as the dried blood on his hands. She nods at the bag. “Your friends?”

Kevin holds the bag defensively against his chest with his free hand. “They don’t like snoops.”

“I know what you were doing out at the river, Kevin.” She makes a tutting noise with her tongue on her teeth, which are white and startling against all the black.

“I have to take walks to clear my head,” he says automatically. And to clear the basement, he adds silently.

“That little boy never did anything to you,” she says. “And the woman. They were innocent.”

Kevin considers her. “My friends didn’t like them, so I sent them away.”

The woman shakes her head slowly while shrugging off her jacket. It pools at her feet like oil, and she steps out of it and even closer to Kevin. Click, click. Her arms are covered with plates of metal, her fingers guarded with silver knuckles.

“I’m required to give you a chance to change,” she says as she tugs on the black gloves attached to the metal knuckles. “But I don’t think you will, will you?”

Instead of answering, Kevin lifts Walter with both hands and throws it at her face.

She ducks and catches Walter by the handle as it flies over her head. In one fluid motion she whips the mace back at him. The poisoned spikes hit him in the sternum right below his collar bone, and he hears the bone snap more than he feels it.

The woman brushes her hands off as though wiping away a layer of dust. She picks up her jacket and folds it over her arm, then crosses herself with her other hand. “In the name of the innocent, the helpless, and those without hope.” Her heels click away, growing fainter in the otherwise silent night.
Kevin lays with Walter on the cold cement sidewalk. Some of his nerves tell his brain that something is wrong, and he opens his mouth to cry out for help.

But Walter shushes him.  Shhh, it’s all right. It’s all right, Kevin.

He smiles and closes his eyes, and wraps his arms tighter around the mace as it whispers to him from the middle of his chest, drinking the blood pumping from his heart onto the empty night's pavement.

Did you guess the tropes? Shoot me a comment and let me know what you think they were!

Michelle promises that she's a perfectly normal and functioning sociopath. She personally would never hide the bodies in a river, but that's a story for another time.

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