With a lingering pain in his chest, Cradle walked down the moist sidewalk, next to the bus stop, scarcely trying to recall what his life had been like, long ago. A cigarette in his mouth, he knew he was to die, however he never quite expected that it would be like such. The streets were dark and void of anything, or anyone. It wasn’t quite the same as it was when he was alive, however, his only contentment was that in this life, death was not to come again, and that whatever he did here didn’t deteriorate his body. If he’d shot himself, he wouldn’t misplace his life, it’d be right there where he left it, in his body. At least that’s what he could expect, after attempting to poison himself futilely.
“Son of a bitch.” He said with a slight musical atonement that would relate words to actions unintended. He dropped the cigarette from his mouth as he flung the creature off his shoulder. It was a centipede, a small one, red and brown, and it left a lingering double-dotted bite mark on his neck. To think that God or whoever was the creator of this damned place would think of a less nuisance infested world. Checking his pocket, for the hard cardboard pack of his endeared vice, he found no refuge in the embers of burning tobacco.
“Motherfucker.” He said, rubbing the sore wound that would never fester into a malicious disease, recalling how his antiquated body was like, long ago. Immersed in the thought, he recalled his dying mother, ill to the bone with a barrage of incurable diseases thanks to her line of work. He recalled his father, who had died on his 19’th birthday, quite some years ago. He recalled his two sisters, who had moved on with life, slowly decaying as time passed by; as they lived their lives without him. His wife was pregnant, and such was the case during his past life. Averting his trail of thought from the dismembered memories of what once was, he returned to his current, and yet similarly distorted life.
“Asshole.” He mentioned to the creator, who was clearly nowhere near him, or so he thought. If there ever was a creator, and they’d met, he would probably have attempted a homicide. The next pack of cigarettes would be at the convenience store uphill, and it would be a ten minute walk over. Checking his watch, he noticed that he still had 15 minutes before the store closed. Undisclosed to his line of sight, there was an old man, around mid 80’s, with a long gray beard that draped over his chest, wrung tightly against the man’s suit. A large gut hung from the man’s centre, which made the man’s breathing more incandescent as it moved, shifting shadow and mass. The man had quite the formal look with a tie bulging from beneath the dark double-breasted coat he wore. It was fairly unnoticeable until:
“One want?” Said the man, startling Cradle. Cradle winced over in shock.
“Want what?” Cradle replied, tossing the empty pack towards the filthy sidewalk, encompassed with litter.
“A cigarette.” The man said, offering an open soft pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning cackled its worst. The man was sitting on a dilapidated bench in the bus stop, a paper bag next to him with what surely contained a bottle of some oddly branded liquor. The cigarette pack claimed that it was detrimental to one’s health, and a physically dangerous substance. The irony of tobacco, its enemies, and its users. It never ceased to let a smile drip from Cradle’s face, and this time was no exception.
“Sure.” He said taking one from the pack. Why wait when he could satisfy his cravings now?
“Thanks. I needed one.” He added, lighting the stick.
“Sit, sonny. Listen.” The man offered. Seeing as he wasn’t going to do anything quite productive, although that didn’t perturb him, for the rest of his miserable second chance at life, he sat down. Luckily he died with just over 3 billion dollars in his hand, and it remained with him through the afterlife, if this was the afterlife.
“Alright.” He said, sitting down, next to the old man. The old man took a swig from the bottle in the paper bag, and released a self satisfying sigh that seemed to echo down the streets. Haunting in a way, although he knew that nobody was hurt here, a chill rose against his spine, the tingling sensation reminding him of his former life. Quite close, however, nothing here was ever quite the same. Everything was extensively bland, to the point of being hackneyed, but at least there was some little taste left.
“What’s a nice night like you doing on a guy like this?” The old man drunkenly asked, turning to Cradle with such familiar green eyes.
“Well, I don’t know about the night, but I’m pretty sure I was walking home when you offered me this.” He replied, holding out the cigarette.
“Heh. Well, nobody doing knows what they’re here anymore. Even I don’t… Anyway, the name’s Earl. A meeting you pleasure.”
“An equal pleasure to meet you. Are you drunk, or do you just have some grammar issues?”
“Well, since ever I blew my head from the brain, I’ve funny been talkin’ like this.”
“I see. Tough, huh?”
“Yep… That’s why hires nobody me. I’ve tried. I’m it sick of.”
“Well, here’s life been good pretty, actually. I donation get others from. Day it through gets help.”
“So, what was it you wanted to tell me?”
“Oh, nothing that. It’s lonely just lately I’ve been, and I share to something you with wanted.”
“Mhmm, and what would that be?” Cradle said, taking another puff from the cigarette.
“Well, foggy seeing as its how, or vision my blurry is, I talk to wanted you. See you, its doing difficult this, nobody because talks with to want me… I be used to a speaker public. One day, decided I enough I’ve had. Went on shot I myself and. See I how react people to me. Understand do me they, but hard it’s them for. So talking I do don’t much, nowadays.”
“I can see how that would trouble you. Misery loves company, and I guess I’m here to revel in your story, huh?” Cradle said.
“Wanted no, I just say to something someone die before I.”
“You’re gonna die? Now?”
“Oh, okay. Well, you can’t get much dead-er than this.”
“Yep. You how bout’? Story a have me for?”
“You know, I gave up my entire life for my dream. Chased it, and I was forced to do something I guess I could say I’m proud of, even though that would classify me as somewhat troubled mentally. I took chances, did everything the books and people told me to. I sat when they said so, jumped when they told me, and still, all my dreams were flushed down the toilet. I made a company, and my partners turned on me as soon as the recession came about. I was forced to steal from them. Hell, I stole almost everything. It was good, at least, when the cops finally found me, I caused a big shootout, killing some bystanders, and a few cops as well. That’s when it turned to shit; some punk-ass SWAT sniper took me out from across the street. Worst feeling ever, being shot. Anyway, I didn’t die then. I was still alive, although my arm was nearly blown off by that son of a bitch. I realized I didn’t want an eternity in prison, so I just ended up shooting myself with my own gun, right in the heart.”
“Head at shoot least didn’t you your.”
“Yeah. Those sons of bitches. My mother was dying, my father was dead, and I was also pretty much an undead asshole, walking with a beat, not knowing what was going on with the rest of my only family, my two sisters. Heh, I guess you win some, you lose some, life’s a joke, and I’ll be damned if anyone can prove that otherwise.”
“Yep. Strike the name’s. Are you?”
“Cradle. That’s what they called me. I always cradled almost every possession I had when I was a kid and the name kinda stuck. What’s with strike?”
“Ahh… I see. Nice to know, Strike.”
“Advice piece one I’ve you for got. Again it don’t do, sure for that’s. Life’s here better, so waste don’t chances your. You’re have that money lucky to. It do good with. Worth it’s not do to again that. Trust me. Worth this its time it.”
“See, anyway, around you.” Strike added as he stood up and began walking away. Cradle checked his watch; it was 20 minutes too late for buying another pack. Fractious about the scenario, he cursed again under his breath. Strike disappeared, and Cradle noticed a stick left on the bench. Picking it up, and contemplating on whether or not the creator was actually half bad, he read a small penned inscription on the stick. It read:
‘Good luck, Cradle. Be better.’
“Yeah, right, Strike.” He whispered under his breath, lighting it up. Walking in the opposite direction now, he headed over to the other convenience store that was open 24 hours. Although it was farther, his need wasn’t quite fusty just yet. Cradling the lighter in his hands, he continued walking down the road, pondering on whether or not his gun which was back at his apartment was still loaded.
(c) Anachronic Works 2012