08 Mar Pedestrian Monsters: Part Two
As the sirens screamed, the man wiggled his bike pedals through the door frame.
The other one, Roger, repeatedly kicked at his partner-in-crime as he said, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.”
The man twisting his bike frame, screamed, “Quit hitting me.” After giving that warning, he went back to contorting himself through the doorway.
Roger stopped kicking him. He juggled the game console in his grip while reaching into his belt loop. As he did this, discs slid down the front of his pants and dropped through the bottom of his pant legs. From his belt loop, he pulled out a hunting knife. It was a blade big enough that you could see it from across the street.
He pointed the knife at his fellow thief.
When the man with the bike saw it, he burst through the door, twisting his foot in a way that feet aren’t made to twist. His ankle let out a loud snap. And he howled like a coyote that just wriggled its paw free from the toothy grip of a metal trap.
Reaching for his injured ankle he limped into the middle of the empty cobblestone street. He leaned on his bike as he rolled it along with him. When he put pressure on his twisted ankle, he whimpered like an injured animal.
Roger followed him into the street. He reached for the man with his serrated blade.
The man rolled his bike into the moonlight and I could see more of him. Chest hair crawled out from under his shirt collar like spiders crawling out of a hole. His scraggly beard grew in thick patches on his cheeks. He was dirty to the point where he looked like he’d been sleeping on the ground for the past couple of weeks.
The man wheeled his bike through the empty street, limping away from Roger holding him at knifepoint.
And Roger jogged after him, clutching the game console, screaming garbled obscenities while slashing at the space between them.
I sluggishly whipped out my phone, staring at my screen where I had dialed 9-1-1 earlier but never hit the call button. Again, finding myself hovering my finger above that call button. Not pressing it.
Once you call the cops on someone, you step into their business. You become an active participant in that person’s conflict.
The thieves saw me.
It’d be easy for them to find me walking around the neighborhood one night and jump me when I had my headphones in, totally oblivious to my surroundings.
Even worse, when the cops question you as a witness, they might suspect your involvement.
They might search you and find hundreds of dollars of LSD on your person.
First, they get your phone number, then they raid your place, then they find more drugs hidden around your apartment.
Seeing the danger of Roger closing in on him, the man dropped his bike. It rattled as it hit the ground. He limped away at a faster pace, slipping off his backpack, lightening his load.
Roger carefully put down the game console on the curb. Its tentacles waved about as if it was trying to stop him from stabbing his friend.
Then he ran at the man who was hobbling away on his broken, clicking ankle.
The man twisted around and just as Roger lunged at him, he hid behind his backpack, holding it out, like a shield.
Each of Roger’s stabbing thrusts sunk into the backpack. The man hunched behind it. He wobbled with each blow, moaning whenever he put weight on his fractured ankle. His shoulders slumped as he doubled over, absorbing the jabs. He shouted, “Leave me alone.”
Roger yelled, “Just give me the discs.”
I flinched as I saw the knife run across the man’s fingers as he held out his bag, defending himself.
Peering down the street I looked for the familiar black-and-white door panels of a cop’s patrol car.
Roger grabbed onto the backpack as he clutched his knife. He pulled at it as the man pulled back. They played tug-of-war in the middle of the street until the zipper tore open, and exploded with shiny discs. The discs reflected the moon above us in their iridescent plastic as they fell. They scattered onto the ground looking like shattered fragments of space rock.
Roger jerked the ripped-open bag one way, then the other way, as he cried, “You owe me.”
The man shook the backpack, Roger along with it, as he shouted back, “I don’t owe you, shit.”
And Roger stabbed him.
The man’s eyes grew wide. He sucked in the air. Each breath sounded like he was taking his last. Gasping, he stared at his partner-in-crime who had just slid serrated steel into his vital organs. He stumbled towards his bike on his broken ankle that kept snapping whenever he put pressure on it. It sounded like he was dancing on brittle twigs.
I pressed the call button on my phone, dialing emergency services, listening to it ring.
I wasn’t about to watch someone die and do nothing.
Roger hugged the backpack. He snuggled his trophy of discs, and said, “You should have just let go.”
I curled the phone against my ear listening to it ring.
Stumbling around, the man tripped. He smacked knee-first into the road, and his leg gave out a loud crack. He screamed and sobbed at the same time. Crawling on all-fours he dragged himself onto his bike.
He lay there, weeping, yelling curses at Roger, foam spitting from his lips. His yelling turned into barking. The kind of bark you hear when you walk by a chained-up dog.
Roger shoved the game console into the bag. “Why did you make me do that?” He said. He hunkered in the street and gathered the discs. He watched the man writhing in pain cry.
All the phone did, pressed to my ear was ring.
Roger sauntered over to the man. He took the bike by its handlebars. He wheeled it away, as the man clawed at it like a child being robbed of its teddy bear. Roger tore the bike out of his grip and the man screamed, “No, no.”
The man crawled on his belly after Roger. The whole time he blubbered. As he dragged his lame leg behind him, scraping it along the road. He made his way onto his feet and his leg popped again – louder this time – it sounded like it was crunching into pieces. He lost his shoe, pushing himself up to half-standing, on his injury, shivering as he did. His kneecap snapped in the opposite direction a knee usually points. His screams changed into wails which turned into heavy panting. His leg twisted and crackled until he was able to sit on his bent leg the way some animals sit on their hind legs.
I was watching a man transform into an animal you might see out of the corner of your eye during a nature walk.
It was dark outside but I could see his barefoot, its knuckles snapping into the shape of a paw.
He scrambled along the cobblestone, after Roger, picking up his pace. Hobbling on his hands and feet, he broke out into a quick, hunched sprint. Like a Rottweiler running at a mailman.
Roger looked over his shoulder. He pedaled at a frantic speed as the man sped up, hot on his tail.
Cycling as fast as he could, Roger clumsily rolled down the street.
The man caught up to him. He trampled over Roger. The bike flipped along with both men. And Roger plowed head-first into the ground. He bounced off the cobblestones, then landed. The man ran over him. He stepped on Roger’s neck sprint-crawling across Roger. He quickly scooped up his bike – dragging it along the ground – he limped away on his clubbed foot. This man changing into some kind of feral beast sobbed as he ran with the knife lodged in his ribs. Then disappeared around the street corner. A bloodcurdling howl of an animal in great agony echoed through the city block.
A small voice on my phone said, “Hello? Hello?“
I didn’t think anyone would believe what I saw: a creature of a man walking around, whimpering and barking like a dog. They’d guess I was on drugs and they’d be right. The only person who might believe me was Roger. Who was sitting in the middle of the street cross-legged, and he seemed high himself.
Roger cradled his head where it had been stepped on. Blood streamed down his forehead into his eyes. He curled into the fetal position and hummed to himself.
I moved to run but my sneaker crunched against a pop bottle somebody had thrown onto the sidewalk, it made me freeze where I stood.
He unraveled his body from the ball he’d folded himself into. He swung his fists at the midnight air as if an invisible man were attacking him. He stopped once he noticed me standing still. Wiped the blood from his eyes with the back of his sleeve, he stared at me, mouth agape. Then he said, “Give me your phone or I’ll kill you.”
And in that moment I was looking into the eyes of a monster.
He got up and slowly walked over to me, holding the bleeding gash in his head.
I felt I couldn’t move like the sidewalk had grabbed my sneakers and wouldn’t let go.
He toppled into me, ripping the phone out of my hand. Then he dialed a very short number. As he did this, he locked eyes with me and slurred into the phone, “Send help. I’ve been mugged by, ah, ah, a dog-man.” He cried to the Operator as if he had been the one who had been jumped by a knife-wielding assailant.
Laughter caught in my throat. I couldn’t stop smiling at the irony of it all.
A tiny voice inside my phone said, “I can hear you. Are you there?” The voice of a 9-1-1 operator.
Emergency services were already on their way, I could hear their sirens.
Roger spat at me, he said, “What are you looking at?” He squinted at the harsh glowing phone light through the blood pooling in the corner of his eyes.
I could smell the iron in his blood.
I stood in the building nook, frozen. I felt that strong gut feeling you get when you just want to run away.
Roger stared me down, he repeated himself, slurring, “What are you looking at?”
I broke out in a sprint in the opposite direction of home.
I didn’t want Roger to know where I lived.
Running away I looked back at Roger leaning against a brick wall bawling his eyes out as he talked into my phone at the 9-1-1 operator.
I didn’t stop fleeing until I reached the harsh light of a 24-hour-cafe.
When I clambered into the cafe, I slumped into a booth. That’s when I felt something wet against my leg in the spot where I had kept the sheets of LSD. The sheets had unraveled from their tinfoil wrapping. The ziploc bag split open. They had been rubbing against me through the sweat drenched lining in my jeans pocket the whole time.
I was so high I couldn’t sleep that night. I just sat in the booth, my eyes fluttering for hours on end. I couldn’t shut them without my eyelashes flapping like an insect’s wings.
These days, whenever I walk home late at night and I see any amount of violence, I just call 9-1-1.
I jog towards the fluorescent lights of an all-night café. Or a convenience store and I use their phone.
I let the people armed with shotguns, bullet-resistant vests and squad cars visit the danger for what it is. Because I don’t want to be the one who gets stabbed or bit or trampled.
And I don’t want anyone else to be either.
I also carry a knapsack around now, as I witnessed how effective they can be when protecting yourself from a dagger, and a pocketful of hallucinogens.
Josh Ackermann escapes his desk job by writing in his free time. One of his short stories, One Helluva Headache, was published in the English Bay Review. He’s currently revising two of his first novels. And he’s is the creator of the Falling For Stories podcast; among many other titles.