A short story written by me, drawn from street experiences I had, mixed with a touch of fantasy. Enjoy, it was written for school and I don’t feel right about selling it….
“Hercules and the Prince”
I am about to give you a look into hell, the underworld, where living demons and monsters lurk and prey upon others who show any signs of weakness. No compassion exists where we are going. There aren’t any redeeming qualities to be found in this account. As a member of the cultural subset known to some as The Portland Street Kid, I was required to do many evil things in the name of survival. One time I was used as a translator to collect a seriously delinquent drug debt from another street kid, who happened to be deaf. The lessons of this experience stay with me today, opening to my eyes to the harsher, less hopeful, but valid realities of life.
There is a place called Portland. A nice university is nestled in its heart. There are elaborate squares, forested parks, and public transportation terminals throughout the entire place. Portland is a lush and green Rome with ancient trees everywhere and turn of the century buildings rise above the grid streets. As the sun sets on the western hills, the sidewalks begin to team with men and women in professional suits, scurrying from cubical maze to transport structure. All are heading for their homes at some secluded, gated community forty minutes up some clogged freeway. Day in and day out they do this, without question or without pause, never noticing
the creatures that inhabit the very same spaces they do. As if in parallel universes, the street kids are almost invisible to the professionals; sometimes a suit may throw change or give a condescending glance to the huddled balls of ‘pitiful’ in the urine
soaked beggar roosts, but nothing more. Never a conversation. Never a genuine hello.
Once upon a time I was a professional. I wore Banana Republic for work and Abercrombie for casual. I became a master of the words, “How may I help you sir?” Soon though, this life became burdensome to me, the monotony and the never-ending never changing future. Life was perfectly planned; six-months promotion, two years raise, five year evaluation, on and on until retirement, casinos, and finally
death. My spirit was breaking due to this new inescapable reality. I couldn’t imagine a way out of the American Dream, with its nine-to-five grooming of institutions responsible for more death and murder, in this century alone, than any other social
entity in recorded human history.
When all was hopeless a black veil fell over the sky altering my vision, and I actually began to see them: the kids who were darting around like ethereal wraiths. Some appeared like dark forest elves, squatting under trees, looking out from underneath hoods, pierced, tattooed and drugged. Sometimes they would be seen so briefly you couldn’t actually verify if you really saw anything at all. Was it a shadow, or my imagination? No it was a real human being; someone who exists in the same space as I do yet survives in a manner I could never have imagined until I actually experienced it. It was this curiosity that had me, in a single afternoon, walking from my employer’s skyscraper onto the street, and effectively leaving my entire life behind. Naively I felt like I was Buddha going into the wilderness, little did I know, I was walking directly into the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
When I was a child I had a deaf neighbor, a Klamath Indian girl, called Rachael Moon, and she was the same age as me. She and I played together throughout our earliest years. I still vividly remember sitting in a field of tall barley grass facing each other as we taught ourselves sign-language. Later in life we both received formal training from the tribe, but to the amazement of the instructor, we still continued to communicate with our own variations in the silent language. Many years later I looked up from my spot on the sidewalk to see four figures approaching me. I was wearing a black trench coat with a Satan smiley face patch sewn to the inside lapel.
Underneath my armor was a 119lb representation of me, close to death, full of needle holes, seeping life into the ozone. I had a crudely shaven head with four to six inch pieces of black hair hanging in no particular direction. The group of shadows crept across the sidewalk until theirs touched mine and a chill filled me. Calmly I clutched my knife; also, caressing the knob which would spring the blade open if the need arose.
A monster was approaching me. He was wearing baggy black jeans covered in crude white symbols, and large patch jobs with red and black threads forming gross X’s. I knew him. Usually I tried to avoid Hercules because he was a brutal villain and I knew he had killed. This is the nature of hell; you can’t avoid your demons for they will seek you out. He was a crazy, homeless Nigerian with beautiful midnight blue skin and white bulging eyes. His face was nothing but angles of precision pointing to a long elegant neck and a nicely proportioned, shirtless body; with flawless muscles uncovered by meth, and gleaming with a drug induced sweat. He was accompanied by three street cronies. The boys were younger, weaker, but strong enough to be in his crew. Their facial features were tucked behind the shadows provided by their hoodies. They appeared like pale, gaunt, demonic, monks all swaying, grinning and gnashing at the teeth. The group stopped about three feet from me, forming a semi-circle, totally surrounding me. I said with a serious tone, “I work for Shade.”
Hercules grinned wide. His teeth were still healthy, and they gleamed brightly as he assured me with a heavy accent and a deep baritone voice, “There is no problem between us Prince. No need to evoke such protections.” Shade was my master and friend. He was a dark and powerful influence on these streets, and he plucked me up as soon as I landed there. Through one chance encounter he found favor with me, and from that day on, my position in the tribe was set. I gave up my slave name, and was given the alias, Prince. Hercules continued, “I need you to talk to that deaf kid.” I knew who he was referring to; a good looking kid, kept to himself, certainly
a result of his handicap, but apparently he was capable enough to get himself in trouble with this thing.
“Why do you want me to sign to him?”
“I need to ask him for some money he owes me.”
“Does he owe?”
I scoffed, “Like it matters.” I leaned around and looked at the giant damn chain that Hercules carried with him. You couldn’t buy this at True Value, the links were at least an inch and a half long and the entire thing was about a foot and a half in length.
Squatting so he was looking me in the eye Hercules quickly looked left and right, then with a movement of his hand he threw a small plastic bag at me. My hand emerged from my pocket; and I plucked it from the air in a flash, then quickly returned my appendage to its dark burrow. In between my fingers I could feel tiny crystals scraping against each other exciting my senses, for they knew the pleasures that tiny bag would soon bring. With payment in hand I stood up, “Where is he?”
“I don’t know, we gotta find him.”
“Let me get high.” I didn’t wait for permission. Walked past them and into a McDonalds, past ‘suits’ and ‘pretties’, gaining access to the restroom unseen. The next three minutes are full of activities and processes that I refuse to teach you here. I did them with the utmost skill and precision. A ceremony in the name of pleasure, as if it was my religion. Soon I was stalking down the street as the sun sank lower and lower, so no longer was I a soul being tormented by a demon, I was the demon,
searching for the next victim to torment.
It was totally dark now, and our resolve was doubled, because the chill gave us strength. We searched hard, while scanning everyone within eye shot. Questions were posed to some; other debts were collected and more were made. It was about eleven when we finally saw him. He was headed up a sidewalk in between two dark and uninhabited buildings, perfect! With a motion of Hercules head the three cronies ran clear around the block at speeds only the hunt can call. I had been walking all day, my legs were warm and I was primed for a sprint. At first we just casually walked after him, but like any good street kid he looked over his shoulder frequently. Without ceasing movement he turned to face us, upon seeing me he smiled, he trusted me; I was one of the only people he ever communicated with. My betrayal suddenly became apparent, and he had to see the look on my face, because he bolted.
Instantly the African and I were flying after him, but the kid was fast, real fast. Next to Hercules I was simply back-up. I watched from my vantage, as the cronies rounded the corner at full speed. Like fighter jets the boys gently swooped in closing
off the boy’s escape. The kid stopped running. Panting he put his back to a wall, and everyone clopped to a stop surrounding him. Now usually threats and physical jostling would ensue, but for some reason Hercules restrained himself with this kid. I remember wondering if it was due to some tribal superstition, or just because Hercules wasn’t going to waste his breath threatening a deaf person.
The kid looked at me and signed, “What is going on?”
I told him, “Hercules wants to ask you some stuff.”
Hercules pushed on my shoulder hard and said, “Hey what are you saying to him?” It was clear we both didn’t trust each other at all.
Replying shortly, “Tell me what you want to say and I will tell you exactly what he says, I will not shorten it.”
“Gooood you do that.” Hercules looked at the kid, “Where the fuck is my money?” Without hesitation I signed the less than civil question.
To my utter shock the kid responded with, “F-k him.” Shock simply because the kid was surrounded, in the wrong because he owed the debt, and it was Hercules!
I looked at the kid with a questioning furrow of my brow, but he nodded in defiance. I shook my head as I spoke words I never thought I would say to a murderer, “Fuck you.”
Hercules suddenly looked at me inching his face closer, and I noticed his white eyes had begun to turn red around the edges, “What did you just say to me?” Everything he said sounded so ominous.
I pointed to the kid and said, “He says, F-ck you.”
Hercules snapped his head to the boy and reached for his belt. I heard the chain’s dull clinking as he brought it around, so we could all see it dangling from his sinewy hands violent grip. He whipped it; smacking it against the wall next to the kids head, making marks in the stone, “Give me my money or I will bust your head with this!” He made the weapon jingle with an emphatic jerk of his arm.
Suddenly I began to realize that my morality wasn’t going to allow me to go through with this but I signed the threat to the kid anyway. He paused for a moment and looked at the chain, he looked at me and then smirked raising his hand and signing his response to Hercules himself. A common sign used by all Americans at one time or another, a nicely upraised middle finger. The monster roared like a wounded lion and reared his hand quickly bringing it down. Three links on the end of the chain caught him in the temple, more than enough to send the kid to the ground bleeding. Hercules grinned and almost laughed as he looked down with murderous intent; the cronies shifted from foot to foot cackling like Hyenas. He cocked his hand back but this time it’s path was interrupted by my own hand, reaching out and snapping a hold of his wrist stopping it dead. Hercules almost growled as he slowly looked from his arm to my face, he shook his head, “My boy you shouldn’t have done such a thing.”
The next several moments I will not tell you of fully. Let’s just say I plead the fifth, but I will give you a couple of hints; consider that I am still here writing to you and well, let us just say Hercules and his cronies learned why I was a part of Shade’s crew and they were not. The deaf kid survived his shot to the head and I lifted him up so he could live another night to die another day. The lessons of that night were many; I have realized the laws of the homeless subset were no different than the laws where I once existed.