WHEN A MAN DIES WITHIN
Gazing down at the familiar lines of the white cigarette packet that he clasped in his right hand, eyes crumpled up a little against the invasive brightness of the crisp early Spring morning light, David could not help but manage a slightly wry smile at the warning sign printed in bold lettering just under the lip of the flip open top. ‘Smoking can kill’, a rather beautifully graphic small colour photograph emblazoned upon the rear cover as he momentarily flipped the pack over in his hand, depicting the aftermath of years of carnage within the confines of one addicts mouth. David thumbed the roof of his own mouth with his right hand, still gripping the cigarette between his index and third second finger as he tapped his upper front teeth and ascertained that they were correctly in situ. Placing the cigarette into the moist confines of his mouth he drew on the tiny object, sucking in a stream of gloriously addictive chemicals infused and entwined with beautiful harmony, Benzine, Formaldehyde, acetone and ammonia blended with arsenic, hydrogen cyanide and tar, what a sumptuous concoction to calm the nerves and brace a man at the beginning of yet another fast paced day in the rat race commuter zone of the city.
At his feet lay a collection of discarded nicotine butts, enjoyed to the very last, the filters bent and crushed upon impact with the floor, dropped from height and stabbed with the under sole of David’s perfectly shiny and bulled up black Italian leather designer shoes. Back arched against the wooden window plinth of the shuttered backstreet printing house, David stood resplendent in his city garb, clothed for combat with the corporate crew, two piece Saville row tailored suit and silk shirt capped by a loud and vibrant hand stitched mauve tie, Armani belt with silver buckle that glistened in the morning sunlight and neatly cropped mousy brown hair, his face closely shaven and bathed in musky oils that renewed and reinvigorated those dying skin cells that every man of a certain age fights a daily battle with. Ten minutes from the office, a freshly brewed caramel macchiato with extra topping in his left hand, from one of the many Starbucks seemingly on every corner of every street in each and every major city of the Western world these days. Placing his lips over the tiny flow hole of the white plastic cap placed securely over the drinks cup, emblazoned with vibrant corporate motifs and one of those dinky little brown corrugated slip on hand grips to prevent inadvertent burns to ones hand, he drank a gulp of the tasty beverage, which had cooled down considerably during the smoking of his fifth cigarette in twenty minutes.
First the cooling flavour of the whipped synthetic cream atop of the drink entered his mouth, seducing the papillae and taste receptor cells situated in the upper surface of his tongue and soft palate, followed by the warmth and delicate caramel flavour of the luke warm coffee which flowed smoothly through his mouth and into the welcome of his stomach. The cup drained, David placed it with his left hand back onto the wooden window plinth, dusty from the city debris, building works and fallout of daily life as the army of workers passed by in their droves. Placing the empty packet of Malboro cigarettes onto the plinth to his right, he pushed his arched back off the railing and pulled the base fronts of his jacket down, dabbing both sides with his hands to smooth any creases. The boss was always fastidious about the appearance of his staff, reprimands dished out with daily monotony to all and sundry caught with shirts not tucked in or shoes not polished to within an inch of their lives. David considered that it must have been the military influence on his distant past that had left it’s mark on a man who seemed never to have had a moments fun in his sad little life.
For a few moments, David glanced at the passers by, dreary faces, fixed stares, down turned lips on the way to a myriad of workplaces across the length and breadth of the city of opportunity, the city of dreams, A young fresh faced whiz kid with a Kensington accent and carefully orchestrated streaked hair passed by, cell phone to right ear, barking words of a conversation that he wanted everyone else to hear and be impressed by. Share dealing, money making, subservient recipient on the other end of the line fawning to his vocal commands as he blended into the oncoming flow of people like a tiny prop forward felled by the advancing scrum in a rugby match. An itsy bitsy size zero sauntered past, tiny footsteps barely registering upon the cement paving slabs as her minuscule form and painfully gaunt features stared at the array of people queuing for the coffee shop, and a black dude with iPod earpiece tapping out a tinny drum and bass beat of some obscure and soon to disband through apathy band, slunk past with a hip induced swagger and ill fitting jeans with an arse that virtually dragging on the ground. David raised his left arm, pulling back the jacket and shirt sleeves to reveal the big Omega watch face that showed nine in the morning. Time to begin another day just like any other. Only this was a very different day in the heart of the city, one that would not go unnoticed.
Right hand reaching inwards towards the inner breast pocket of his jacket, David’s palm settled around the handle of the small black Beretta PX4 sub compact handgun that he’d easily purchased for a few hundred pounds from a friend of a friend who had contacts in the know and spurious advertisements on Ebay where decommissioned weaponry could be ‘Easily converted for authenticity of the collector’. The weapon of divine retribution felt so cool to the touch falling to his right side as he twisted his head and neck to flex the muscles which audibly crunched. Moving forwards into the jostling crowds, David said good morning to an oncoming gent with a pin striped uniform and look of bewilderment as the three inch barrel met his gaze and a single bullet was expelled through the air into his temple. Before the hapless first victim had fallen, David was continuing without a missing stride, through a side alleyway as screams erupted from shocked passers by now long behind him. Tunnel vision, eyes searching as the victims streamed across his line of view, David pivoted around, barrel following the head of a white uniformed restaurant worker, Chinese descent as he scampered from one fire exit door to another across the alleyway, another two shots flying with consummate grace and balletic energy into the unwilling flesh of the mans skull. In the doorway, a second man, thick set, holding a tray of freshly basted chickens in his hands, stood frozen to the spot, eyes staring straight at David’s. David raised a left index finger to his mouth, pursing his lips as if to tell the man to keep quiet, before moving onwards into the opening streets before him. Five more bullets covetted the air as three more victims fell like human dominoes, a pretty young twenty something woman with ocean blue eyes and mismatched dark eyebrows to her over dyed blonde hair, a jogger with the passing scent of sweaty testosterone as droplets glistened and leapt in all directions from his muscle packed running torso, and an out of sorts punk with shocking pink hair, thick black eyeliner just like his dear old grandmother probably still applies and elephant bone ear graffiti, who screamed like a stuck pig as the bullet pierced his upper torso causing him to spin on his feet before falling to the ground clutching the entry wound as his final breaths spurted out.
Moving out into the main drag, a road away from his place of work for the last twenty odd years, David peppered the passers by with random shells that dazed and grazed, finishing off two more bodies that lay writhing in blood on the unforgiving concrete floor, before aiming at a single mother leaning over the grey plastic and chromed metal handles of her child buggy in which nestled her two year old brat, outside a confectioners store just yards from his workplace. The woman straightened up and stared back at David with a terrified expression, frozen to the spot like an animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. The child screamed, more for the taste of chocolate treats than any understanding of the perilous situation his mother now faced as David tilted his head to the left, gazing into the woman’s terrified brown eyes before raising his pistol towards her head and pulling the trigger, which clicked to signify that the thirteen bullet magazine had reached it’s conclusion. She would have died, he would have killed her, the brat too, if not for the limitations of the tiny hand gun and the necessity of both time and haste. He smiled and waved the pistol as if to tell her to run, whilst reaching into his pocket and retrieving a second loaded magazine which slipped effortlessly within the gun handle with a satisfying clunk once in place.
Chaos behind him, David stood before the giant glass and polished chromed entrance doors to Smyth and sons near Piccadilly circus. “Your future in our hands” read the experted sign printed black words etched across the tops of the entrance as David smiled and entered, despatching the security guard with a single shot as he reached the brass elevators at the rear of the lobby, pressed the white plastic button and entered before allowing the arriving occupants to make their exit. A momentary decision allowed the pretty Asian girl in the short red skirt clutching a blue file close to her chest, a vending machine repair guy in uniform with his identification badge hanging from his neck lanyard and a spectacled lady with mousy brown hair and a look on her face suggesting that she had never had a days fun in her entire life, to walk away with their lives. A calmness swept over David’s mind as he thumbed the elevator button, floor thirteen, and the location of his tiny desk amongst the hordes of likewise crammed into the cattle shed confines for so many years of his working life prior to his dismissal just one week earlier. Thought’s of how humiliated he had felt being outshone by Philips and Robertson’s presentations, the new kids on the block with savage intent, delusions of grandeur and such a youthful appetite to establish a name for themselves at any cost to those who they deemed as rivals. A life’s work down the pan, hopes and dreams, aspirations of greater heights, a home and family life with the trappings of contentment brushed aside like the trinkets on his desk as he was ordered to gather up his belongings and never darken the doorstep of the building in which he had spent twenty years of late night’s building portfolio’s, protecting assets, courting the key clients, kissing corporate ass and being treated like something that the boss had stepped in and did not much care for.
All for nothing, as the elevator door pinged, coming to an abrupt halt with David’s stomach taking nano seconds to catch up with the forces of gravity. Bright lights, the hubbub of office life, startled faces as he walked through the centre pathway, a mind so focussed on what he was about to do that everything seemed to haze and move into slow motion. Gun raised, seeking out the perpetrators of his personal demise, David shot Anthony Phillips between the eyes, the body slumping to the ground as he turned and hit a terrified Bill Robertson who had tried in vane to make a bid for the fire exit door before succumbing to two rounds that blasted through his neck and face. David continued, sniping as he walked purposeful strides, not a care in the world for those he took down, no rhyme nor reasoning behind each kill, just the anger at his peers for standing by and watching his demise, the inner turmoil and self loathing, the feelings of betrayal as he lined up the two instigators of his downfall within the gun sight and fired twice into each cowering carcass, limbs flailing wildly as the desks shunted sideways and a nest of important documents flew into the air like doves of peace given their ultimate freedom. And up ahead the door to Robert Smyth’s office, the great man himself standing in the doorway with a look of bewilderment on his fat little face as he turned and reached for the internal phone located on his solid oak captain’s table behind him. David pushed onwards, entering behind his ex boss, loosing off a bullet into his back, Smyth instinctively reaching for the wound with his right hand whilst dropping the phone and slumping into his dark wood and green leather captains chair, adrenalin coursing through his veins as he looked up at David’s blank expression and sinister eyes. David raised the gun sure and slow, blank expression, a fearsome stare as he fired two more rounds into Smyth’s body before turning around to view the carnage in the office behind him. Cowering bodies, some heading for the exits like stampeding cattle, treading on fellow workmates who had fallen in the crush, the sounds of Police sirens in different parts of the city heading ever closer.
All went eerily quite for a few seconds as David thought about the life he once had, red and tearful eyes staring up and around the tiny dimensions of the room in which he had spent so many wasted years of subserviance and tedium, the room of his very aspirations that was never to be. A slight smile forming upon his lips, the pain of his demise, the realisation of some of the dreadful deeds that he had done this very morning now beginning to dawn upon a troubled conscience as he placed the barrel of the Beretta into the warm confines of his mouth, sweaty fingers wriggling and writhing on the hot to the touch metal trigger. After a brief pause of quiet reflection and thoughts of his own wife and family, he aimed the barrel low and flat in his mouth and without further hessitation managed two single shots which severed his spinal column at the point it met with the base of his skull, before his body hit the ground, a spray of bone fragments, brain matter and blood splattering the desk and contents behind him as he fell. Life can change in an instant, the mind can become blurred with rage and humiliation, for you can push a man just so far before he snaps, in whatever way he feels appropriate. The Understanding, contemplation, empathy that we feel or that indeed we do not, matter little when the human brain reacts to a given situation. And in the cold light of day, you can take anything away from a man except the belief he has in his own inner self and his pride, because without them, he dies within and truly has nothing left to live for……
Written March 28th/29th 2011
Photograph taken at 06:45am on June 2nd 2011 in Carnaby Street, Central London, England.
Nikon D700 56mm 1/30s f/2.8 iso200
Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED IF. UV filter
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