One Hundred and Thirty

A peek into the past – Rameez:

Covered in bruises and fresh wounds, it takes me a few seconds to recognize him.

He’s tied to a chair, thick, strong rope disallowing him to move.

His head lolls to the side, almost resting on his shoulder.

His eyes are closed.

My heart stops, my blood turns to slush.

Time seems to stand still.

“Dad,” I breathe.

Hesitantly, I take a step forward.

Scar’s firearm turns to face me, but I don’t see it.

My gaze is fixated on my father’s swollen face.

“Dad,” I say again, my shock-filled voice echoing loudly in the small room.

My feet slowly step in front of one another, until I’m standing right in front of him.

He looks even worse up close.

I touch my hand to his bare chest, feeling his visible ribs.

‘Please,’ I beg silently. ‘Please, let him be alive.’

It seems like forever, but then, finally, I feel a faint thump; slow and dull against my fingertips.

I feel the tears streaming down my face as a feeling of relief overtakes me… a relief so overwhelming, so strong, so brief..

The soft click of a pistol being cocked causes me to whirl on my heels.

They’re watching me; all three of them, but their expressions show no emotion.

Deep inside me, the hate my heart holds against these men begins to rise.

It happens terribly fast… and I wish it didn’t have to.

I’d like to have felt the moment my weight connected with Fang’s, as I lunged across the room and landed atop his chest, for a little longer.

I’d like to have seen the look of shock on his face for a little longer; so that my mind could have memorized it.

I’d like to have heard the sound of his nose bone breaking a little louder; so that I could replay it.

I’d like to have basked in the satisfaction of seeing his grin gone; knowing that it was I who took it away; for much, much longer.

But it ends as quickly as it started.

All it takes is a single finger to pull the trigger.

*****

The entire room seems to shake as a deafening blast pierces the silent night.

A burning sensation, boiling hot even through my jeans, hits my shin as the bullet swooshes past, missing me but a millimeter.

My ears ring ceaselessly, the explosion so loud, that I don’t even hear myself screaming.

Fear engulfs me, perforating any hope of survival.

I open my tightly clenched eyes and find myself staring into stormy green orbs.

Cold metal presses hard against the skin on my forehead.

My entire body is shaking.

I watch, paralyzed with torturous emotions, as Venom’s finger curls around the trigger.

The angry eyes are suddenly replaced with a slideshow of memories as my life flashes in front of me.

“Don’t.”

His voice is like a singing nightingale to my ears, his word choice the only song I want to hear.

I turn my gaze, forgetting the barrel destining my death.

His eyes are open now, but just about.

“Dad.”

My voice is hoarse, a mere whisper, barely audible.

He doesn’t look at me, his gaze unwavering as he stares Venom in the eye.

“Don’t,” he repeats.

Just saying that one word seems to use every ounce of energy he has left, but a blazing fire dances in his eyes.

“Shut up,” says Venom, looking irritated.

He turns his gaze back to me.

“What the f*** was that?” he demands, his voice cold.

I open my mouth to reply, but the words refuse to come out.

“ANSWER ME!” he yells.

I flinch, his sudden loud voice causing my heart to speed up even more.

“Rameez.”

I glance at dad.

“I said shut the f*** up!” commands Venom.

Dad looks at me, trying to get his message across through his eyes.

Don’t fight. 

I read him, and even though fight is exactly what I want to do, I don’t.

“I’ve brought the money,” I say to Venom.

*****

My fingers work feverishly on the thick rope.

I need to calm down. I need to calm down so that my hands stop shaking. I need to calm down so that I can untie dad. I need to calm down so that we can get out of here. I need to calm down!

‘You have 7 minutes to get out before this building blows up.’

Venom’s menacing voice plays in my head.

7 minutes.

I swear loudly in frustration.

Every part of me wants to collapse to the floor, lay there, and just forget everything.

Rivers of tears flow from my eyes, blurring my vision, as I struggle with the knotted rope.

‘Why? Why me? Why us? Why???’

My mind, completely exhausted, is at the brink of giving up.

I glance at my watch, and swear again, thrice this time.

The burning feeling of hate is better than the feeling of slowly consuming helplessness, because hate fuels you, whereas helplessness drains you.

“Son.”

I look up, wiping my eyes with my stinging hands so that I may see my father’s face clearly.

“Go,” he whispers.

It takes me longer than it should to register what he said, to understand what he’s implying.

“NO!!” I yell in shock. “No! I’m not leaving you here! We’re going together or I’m not going!”

My words encourage me, and I try not to think about the seconds ticking away, lessening the time left for us to get out.

I breathe deeply.

Concentrate! Think, Meez, come on!!

I close my eyes briefly, willing myself to devise a plan.

But it is as if my mind has suddenly switched off.

Frustrated and terrified, I open my eyes and stare out into the dark night through the glass of the window.

The glass of the window..

Glass..

THE WINDOW!!!

I almost laugh out aloud; it’s been there the whole damn time!

I charge forward, gathering all my strength.

But, at the last second, afraid of the impact, I lose momentum.

I hit the window hard enough to feel a shooting pain run up my arm, but not hard enough to break it.

It takes me 4 tries before the window gives away, the glass slicing my skin as my arm smashes through.

The pain is easy to bear, because the stress of getting out before the shack explodes overpowers it.

Working quickly now, a newfound hope keeping me going, I use the sharp glass to cut at the rope trapping dad.

But it’s slow progress; the rope is thick, my hand unsteady.

Finally, after an endless eternity, the rope comes free.

“Dad,” I say, standing up, dropping the glass.

He’s out again, f***!

“Dad!” I say urgently, my voice louder this time.

Nothing.

“DAD!” I plead. “Get up, please! We have to go!”

I shake him slightly, but still he doesn’t respond.

I glance at my watch.

1 minute.

“F***!”

“Dad! Get up!” I beg, trying to wake him.

Inside my head, I count the seconds.

55… 54.. 53..

Unable to stop them, the tears begin to flow from my eyes once again.

We’re so close… so close.

I look at the smashed window, the cut rope, the bloody gash on my arm.

All that effort… for nothing?!

49.. 48.. 47..

My brain is in overdrive, trying to think of a plan.

46.. 45.. 44..

Dad woke up when the gun went off…

Loud noise..

He woke up with the deafening sound!

I begin to scream at the top of my lungs; it feels strangely good.

40.. 39.. 38..

Dad’s eyes open.

“YES!” I yell.

“Dad! Come! We have to go!” I say to him urgently.

35.. 34.. 33..

“I can’t, Rameez,” he says softly.

“What?! I yell. “You have to!!”

He tries to stand up, but fails, his drained body, unable to do it.

Oh god no… please.

Repeatedly he makes an effort to lift himself up, but each time, his face contorts in pain, and he sits back down heavily.

25.. 24.. 23..

“Rameez.. p- pu- pull.. the.. ch- ch-chair- .. to..”

I understand immediately.

I grab the chair from behind and pull with all strength.

My wounded arm screams in pain, but I keep going, adrenaline pumping through me.

19.. 18.. 17..

I kick the door with my leg and move again.

But the chair doesn’t fit through.

I swear angrily, gritting my teeth.

14.. 13.. 12..

Quickly I turn the the chair around.

“Dad,” I say, shaking him.

He looks at me through his barely-open eyes, acknowledging that he is listening.

“Help me. I’m going to have to carry you.”

He nods slightly and leans a little forward.

I lift him with my good arm, and almost throw him right over.

He doesn’t weigh as much as I expected, his body having clearly taken a terrible change in the last few days.

But my own body is in not much better a state, and I’ve only walked a couple feet before the weight begins to seemingly increase.

9.. 8.. 7..

Clenching my jaw, I force my feet in front of one another.

Suddenly, breaking through the silent night, a loud ticking noise sounds.

“NO!” I yell in horror.

My timing didn’t correlate!!

I dive forward, falling onto my back to take most of the impact.

In front of me, I watch in sheer horror as the shack goes up in a burst of bright flames.

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