ILLUMINATION
Published in

ILLUMINATION

Home Invasion

*short story by Peter Korba alias Rich LaFleur

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Risen up like a mummy from a thousand years of sleep and wrapped up in century old bad ideas, repeated yet again, like a curse no man can fight off. The shock of “resurrection” and morning sickness settled down like the morning itself and now was gazing brightly through the window of his psyché. He hit the bottle pretty hard. Got up all growling and swearing, started doing what others seemingly do quite effortlessly. How can we lose our wits drinking, if the wit is the one doing the drinking? Growls. For the sake of a better name, that’s the name of this grumpy character, an average Joe as far as he could tell.

He was old — and he felt even older. He was a stranger on familiar ground, in his own house. Presumably. Somehow just couldn’t quite remember where he was. What country, what planet? And he’s been like this for a long time. But he didn’t know that either. Needless to say, after a night like this, he felt an almost primal need for coffee. And so he walked off, as if by instinct right to his tiny summer kitchen to make some “delicious” (nasty, dry and bitter) stove coffee. The kitchen almost metaphorically mirrored his mental state. Everything was in state of decay. Late stages.

He drank about half of his coffee and was allowed a minute of quiet, before all of that blissful ignorance would wither away. It felt inevitable. People talk a lot about the “sixth sense” and Growls felt it pulsing as anxiety in his chest. In reality, he might’ve just heard the footsteps of heavy boots approaching his humble abode. The doors burst open. In walked a man. Long, greasy hair by the shoulders, unkept, wild resemblance of a mustache, wore a green hunting vest, with a grey collared shirt underneath and a pair of jeans. On the hip hung a big iron. The gun was better taken care of than his general appearance. But why care about that when you have such a piece by your side. And some action it certainly had seen. Once again what gave it away was the state of the man, the hand that held it, not the gun itself. Right arm held close to the body, fingers tapping the hip. His left hand swung freely as he crossed the door, indicated no lack of confidence. Like a soldier with a sense of bravado, questionable trigger discipline and muscle memory training. But still somehow seemed off, as if unhinged, as if he was so so ready to break off his programming. The kind of guy who failed military academy. But he seemed a little old for that. No. Dishonorable discharge. The man stood quiet with the doors wide open and wind blowing in the miniature dunes of sand. A real spaghetti western moment. The little shack in the middle of nowhere and the inside of it, the two rooms by the size of one stood with a question in the wind. Each one had a different interpretation…

After the two has-beens finally quit staring on one another, the home invader spoke: “Well, this is it sheriff. I’ve come for you.” It was hard to pinpoint the emotion in his voice, despite the intent being clear. There was a sprinkle of sadness and nostalgia behind those words. They weighed a ton on the home invader. And it was as if a relief for him to have finally said them. Laid to rest. Not to mention the minute of silence beforehand. The home invader truly came in as if concluding a decade old quest. “It was way too easy to get here. Old age get ya before I did? Or you done wiser and just stopped running? Word of advice — that gun behind the counter, don’t bother. I was always the quicker shot.” Growls more dumbfounded and generally confused than scared had to take in the words of the stranger for processing. It took him so long to respond in fact, the home invader grew impatient by each second and this did Growls no favors, whatever it is the stranger came here to do. “After all of that — locking me up, shooting my brother. Whatever happened to the rest. I’ve only met one of us by chance since I got out. And he might just be coming over to pay you a visit as well.” The stranger chuckled like a hyena with a shot up lung and after the short giggle got slightly closer to Growls, with the gun still pointed at him, grabbed and dragged a small wooden chair closer to himself and sat his bottom down on it.

“Yeah the old skinner, we used to call him — you might consider yourself lucky he ain’t got here first. But make no mistake. While I’m no animal like he is I ain’t gonna spare you nothing. I made my hike all the way here, some folks might consider that spite. For me this is more a closure. Am I not doing just about everyone included a favor? I mean look at yourself sheriff. What a mess of a man you’ve become. Back in the day you would’ve locked a man looking like yourself right now up for looking like this! Well I’m sure in the end, years ain’t kind to nobody. You remember my daddy. What the bottle done to him. What the years brought on. Hell, I guess I never really thanked you for that. And do you remember? You called me a good kid. But you had a habit of shooting the bad apples. Well, what do you know? I think you missed that one.

Years’ve passed and I’m ready to confess sheriff, like I did to the pastor. I murdered her. In blind rage. And the kid inside her too. I’ve been repenting for not one, not two, but three murders sheriff. For the last few years. But no more. The way I see it now, what the years have taught me and what teaching my own son taught me about what’s right , raising a kid, when providing for a family all by yourself? you know, you people, you scumbag townspeople coming over enforcing your “sacred law” on people who’ve lived and bled and now sleep under all this holy ground, rolling in their graves full of hatred for all the satanic machinery, big town nonsense, no sane man can understand — things that you’ve brought here. I’ve seen it all. It’s degeneracy! And people, people like our daddy, whilst a flawed man, stood for what’s right and lays, for what’s been a long time now, with a hole in his chest. And there ain’t been no one like him since! Well who else if not the bloodline should carry on? This is so much more to me. I carry my family legacy now. For years, locked in institutions you’ve brought here, I have avoided my own nature, disregarded my own blood! My legacy! My fight! Well, no more. The poetic thing is, the thing which I regret the most in life has set me free over time. And like the great hero of the west — I stop by here sheriff, unannounced, as might be rude in these parts, but I can’t stop now in this path I’ve chosen — steps by which my own son shall walk one day, should I fail or when I inevitably fall old. I will burn it all down sheriff. I will. I promise you that. You do know I always kind of liked you. It’s why I’m wastin’ away with words here with you now sheriff. Maybe in your final moments you can see that you ain’t been right, you ain’t fought the good fight, you ain’t done what’s right. Same as I did in that humid filthy cell they put me in all them years ago. You’ve done a lot in life sheriff. Consider yourself retired.” The last few words were marked by the distinct cocking of a revolver. And a few mere moments after that — a shotgun blast.

It took half the chair with him as well. With little hesitation, in walked another young man with a smoking double barrel in both hands, probably still processing his split second decision to be a savior of one man only to doom another. Dressed better and more sharply in general than the now reduced to ashes stranger that came before. He had a very short, almost embarrassingly so mustache, and a young, kind, slightly pale by genetics face, covered in the shadow cast by his long sombrero . He wore a grey collared shirt and on he wore a deputy badge, proudly displayed near where his heart was, always beating for justice. Leathered muddy shoes, dripping sweat and breath barely catching up, indicated he had been in a hurry and likely ran for quite a while. “Sheriff… thank god.” The deputy closed the doors behind him and started walking towards Growls, whilst avoiding the bloody mess he had made just a moment ago. “Stay back boy!” Growls growled at the young lad. Taken aback by this, the young man wondered what it was this time that had gone into the old sheriff. The sheriff had a dynamite fuse of a temper, even in his hay day. And he was always down bad on his luck, as if he had offended the fair lord himself. Though the young deputy was not aware of any particularly foul deed that the sheriff might’ve done to deserve such slow burn agony of old age misery, misery that wasn’t just an aging process, as it honestly started to rear it’s ugly devil-horned head ages before the first wrinkles on sheriff’s forehead.

Swift justice delivered by the lord had been the best explanation for the needless and excessive cruelty all around him ever since the womb dwelling days, as stories he heard later in life filled him in on the details, by his smoking while pregnant mother. A big test from the lord was watching his daddy slowly wither away by Tuberculosis, his sister’s brain matter splattered on their patio by a stray bullet from one of the two drunken cowboys, dueling in the early evening, the love of his, so far rather short life, falling for another man and riding with him into the sunset. The sunset horizon they rode into ends in a town, not even particularly far away, but in this economy, she might as well be lost forever to him. And in his mind, the good lord had it all planned out, he couldn’t just deal with his actual, real emotions. It had to be grander, it had to be bigger. No one wants to suffer for no reason. And he wasn’t gonna stand by no more. He will deliver justice, divine or not.

In one look all of this and more was revealed to Growls, even the fact that the boy had rode all the way here almost buried in the scorching red sand, as part of his grand, red dead redemption, just to save a frail old man who only remembered him vaguely, somewhere deep inside. And yet their relationship was clear from the very start. Whatever has and whatever will happen — Growls was like a Greek mentor of old to the boy.

The retired and now useless, growling sheriff tried to comprehend the scene and protested leaving but in the end figured he needed the air anyway. Just as he reached for the doorknob, someone unkind enough did so for him. Only they came inwards instead, visiting the lonely sheriff and his sidekick.

An imposing, much older man and his two goons, twin twig-for-arms skinny brothers, invited themselves in. Sporting a leather jacket, brown cowboy hat and suit pants the man cast a long shadow over the couple. The two wannabes were just copying his style. Nothing quite distinct about them, only perhaps the lack of free thought. Maneuvering around the hallway, sheriff and deputy had very little wiggle room to do anything. And so as they slowly walked backwards from the men facing them, with double barrel pointed up on the guerilla of a man and two forgettable goons — he reacted by showing an ugly toothless grin. “Skinner…” Deputy seemingly doubled down in size next to the new uninvited stranger-danger, especially with the fear in his voice. “Any last words?” The guerilla spoke with fake interest. Growls this time took the guerilla head on as he no doubt grew sick of everything that’s happened so far. Worst. Morning. Ever. “Yeah. How many of you damn people are gonna show up at my door?”

This time there was no heroic last-minute rescue, as there was presumably only one kid deputy sidekick from way back where the two “heroes” came from. Wherever that was anyway. Didn’t exactly matter anymore. A man should know why he died, but the sheriff didn’t. Drunken comatose, amnesia and in the end just a man running from his past sealed off not only his fate but the means of escape, thanks to the unforeseen visitors. In a world where the brutal and vicious get their way, the lesser evil only get so many chances to get out of harm’s way. Growls died dazed and confused but the sheriff’s sense of duty in him made the blow easier as he stood there with grace in his final moments. And the deputy? Well he stayed true to his guns… Perished as quickly as he had been brought in to the moment. All his life he had carried the pain of others. His load was taken from him by one last painful experience.

They were both buried nearby. It takes a certain kind of dignity to take the time and shovel to bury a man, but it’s not redemption. Not that the goons were after it. Like wild wolves they tore each other apart eventually, though some years later after this evil deed. When there was no more prey left, cannibalistic pursuit of power ravaged their ranks. They lived young, wild and roamed free, but died old, feral and hunted by the law.

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