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panic prone

the abandoned

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Knock, knock.


2:44 AM. I remember the screaming, bright red numbers waking me up from a sleep I had just started less than an hour ago. Brushing the sheets of the bed off to the side, I barely made it up in to a seated position before I heard it again.
 

Knock-knock. Knock, knock, knock.

Aggravation settled over grogginess by now. Visitors were uncommon even during normal hours, but my definition of 'normal' was quite estranged. Sleep was a rarity, and had it not been for a lack of it in the past few days I'd of probably still been awake until the sun rose the following day. But it had been four days since I got any sort of complete rest, and tonight was supposed to be the night that changed. Instead, I found myself stumbling around the apartment and grabbing whatever clothes were on the floor near the bed before making my way to the front door. And not a moment too soon..
 

Knock-knock-kno--

Unlocking the door, I could hear myself naturally lash out before I even fully opened it.
 

"What the fuck do you want?"

On the other side of the door, a woman in what appeared to be in her mid-twenties still had her arm raised as if she was knocking on air. The ambient noises from the city could be heard behind her, nearly drowning out a voice that matched her frame - petite and frail - which only exaggerated my negative demeanor.
 

"If this is about money, I don't have any. And you can't fuckin' stay here. Now go away."

Just as I was about to close the door on her, she got the courage to speak up.

"They told me you're the guy to see."
"For what?"
"Murder."

The next few minutes were all about damage control. Within a short period of time, I had grabbed the woman and forcibly pulled her into my apartment, locked the door, and made note to check every window for anything unusual before directing her to sit on the couch. When she refused, I made her. It wasn't that difficult with how little she was.
 

"I have so many questions to ask you. Who sent you here? How did you know where to find me? And what kinda person knocks on a stranger's door this late at night asking if they're some sort of hitman? That's ballsy, lady. Real ballsy."

She didn't answer, so I obliged her with a more enthusiastic approach. A solid backhand did the trick.

"Ow! What'd you do that for?! Christ - I was sent by Christian. He told me about you at the bar down the street.. mother fucker! That's going to bruise!"

Christian. That son of a bitch. A colleague with a mouth on him who thought more with the head underneath his waistline than the one above his neck. I followed up my thoughtful 'interrogation' technique by grabbing the woman by the back of her head, pulling her up until she was looking directly up at me.
 

"Listen to me real good, lady. I don't know what Christian told you, but I ain't who you think you're looking for. Let me guess." I pulled her head back up as she struggled to look away, and could feel the tug of my fingers pulling at the roots of her hair. She squirmed and groaned out in pain, but I didn't care one bit. "Abusive boyfriend? Someone steal something from you? Was it drugs? Money? Both?"

My fingers let loose from their grip, leaving her to fall back on the couch and grab at her scalp. She winced, pausing for a few moments before responding.

"My fucking boyfriend took everything from me! I was trying to get off this God damn block. There's nothing good here, man. You should know that if you live here. I had a lot of money.. I'd of given some of it to you! I just need it back. And I need him gone, because he'd never let me live if I retaliated against him. Look at me, I can't do anything to defend myself. Food is hard to come by. There's alcohol, and there's drugs.. and that's it. Please, please! Just help me out."

She was groveling at this point, moving from the couch to the floor and on her knees. I took a few steps back, knowing that this was all a part of the way things worked. They'd start off neutral, and then they'd either fight back or they'd beg. She chose to beg.

And she was right. The world was a dark and miserable place, and this city was just a small stain in the black abyss of the world today. The remnants of civilization that existed were ragged slums, inhabited by drug abusers and streetwalkers who fought for a place on top of the steaming pile of shit that we all called life. Food was an expensive commodity, which made sense when the world had only five percent of it's crops that it had thirty years ago. Money was still valuable, but you had to have a lot of it to do anything in this world. And even with a pile of cash, the amount of resources remaining were finite and shrinking daily.
 

"I'm sorry. I really am. But I can't help you. Even if I got your money, and even if I took care of your boyfriend problem, you'd still be in the same shithole that we are all in here. Leaving this place isn't going to do anything."

I wasn't getting through to her. She struggled, but eventually got to her feet and gave me a cold glare. Her next sentence changed my life.

"I was going to move to Shreveport."

Edited by panic prone

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FLASHBACK: 47 YEARS AGO

The world was coming to an end.

The human condition had killed the world, depleting all of its natural resources to the point of exhaustion. Governments started to counter-act the epidemic in various ways, ranging from limiting the amount of offspring a couple can produce (and eventually banning all reproduction of children), to world-saving ideas such as an eco-sphere bubble that could encompass sections of the world in their own virtual environment. While some of these eco-systems were able to be launched in various cities around the world, the cost to create these environments were too much to be a long-term solution.

So, politicians turned to the private industries and launched another space race some seventy-years prior. Hundreds of companies worked to not only build ships that could transport a mass influx of human cargo, but also ways to colonize another planet. The goal? A full, planetary migration to the planet Titan - the only planet feasible enough to our kind, despite the atmospheric challenges that would lie ahead.

By the end of the race, only one firm - eCoONE - had proven viable to "saving the world". eCoONE was able to sustain enough traction in its developmental plans by eating up smaller firms with positive test results and funneling money from its few eco-sphere bubbles it manufactured in previous attempts to sustain life on Earth. The issue was that by the time they were ready for transport launches, most of the governments in the world had either dissolved or fractured greatly. This resulted in the full privatization of space travel, and eCoONE let greed take the wheel and steer. Only the wealthiest could purchase seats on their shuttles, and what cargo room remained was filled with precious valuable - such as the ever-dissolving quantity of food, jewelry, and other commodities that were more important than the average human being's life.

And then they left, leaving the remnants of the world in chaos.

The leftover civilizations struggled at first, but there's always the shepherd and the sheep when it comes to human nature. Some of the corporate executives for eCoONE believed that the eco-spheres that were installed and fully operational could sustain life for thousands of years, and they opted to remain and create their own "new world" that was independent of any laws or governments of the past. All-in-all, seventeen eco-spheres existed on planet Earth.. and every single one of them was governed and controlled in a different way. The only consistency was that unless you had a lot of cash or something invaluable to provide, you'd never step a foot inside one of them.

eCoONE used the spheres as a foundation to build a new world, and with it they began to monopolize every aspect of life on Earth. Starting with food and water, they monetized every crook and cranny they could find until they found a suitable way to keep people living on the edge of poverty. Crime rates skyrocketed outside of the spheres, and the world slowly began to die. Men became animals. Animals became extinct.

We evolved in to something feral, and the world would have been better off dead.

Edited by panic prone

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Louisiana was the first state to fall apart. The events of Katrina back in 2005 paved way to an economically struggling state, and it didn't take long for the local government to go belly-up when shit really hit the fan. The governor's plea for federal assistance was denied four times - citing a lack of manpower - before he realized that his state was in disrepair. Dissolving any laws and encouraging citizens to move out of the state, what remained were small pockets of societies that either were too old, too sick or too stubborn to leave. Back when it all began, it was fascinating to watch on television. Half of the stations commented that this was an absurd move from the state's government and that we'd recover from our crisis, while others hinted that this was a sign of what was to come. Unfortunately, the latter was the case.

eCoONE waited for the media to focus on other things - like other states starting to dissolve in the months following - before making a move towards establishing the foundation for what would be the first eco-sphere. They bought out the entirety of Shreveport and its surrounding areas, and it wasn't long before construction began. Within eight months, the outside skeleton of the eco-sphere was fully built. Another four months went by and eCoONE's primary base of operations was constructed and fully staffed within the sphere's massive dome. All-in-all, the entire construction process from buying the city to making the eco-sphere fully operational took a little over four years.

"How did a girl like you come up with enough money to move to Shreveport?"

The woman rubbed her bruised jaw, glaring at me as if I insulted her in the worst possible way. "It's none of your business. That sure as fuck got your attention thou-- ow! HEY! That fuckin' hurts man!"

I immediately grabbed another fistful of hair on the back of her head, pulling her in so I could get a good look at her. "You came to my house, lady," she struggled to get free, only to be comforted by my free hand reaching to clasp around her lower jaw. I cooed at her like she was a toddler, and she responded in kind by crying and squirming as best she could. "You came, hey -- hey, stop fighting -- you came to my house. You asked for my help. And if you really have enough money to get to Shreveport, and you want it back, you're going to answer my questions. Otherwise I'm going to throw your ass back out where you came from and your little boyfriend is going to run off to Shreveport without you."

My grip loosened, and with that she pushed away. Hands reached for her head again, and I could hear her murmuring a few choice words that I pretended I couldn't make out.

"Okay. Okay! I stole it from Frankie's--"

"You did what? You mean that stuff that happened like three weeks ago?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that was me.. or us. That was a few of us. But yes, that's how I got the money. God damnit! Why are you such a dick? You didn't have to hit me, you know."

I wasn't paying attention to her words, instead drowning them out with my own. I got loud. Really loud.

"I work for Frankie, you dumb bitch. You stole alotta' money from him. A lot. He even sent me looking for you guys.."

I was upset. I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe it was the fact that I could never find the people who stole from my boss, or maybe because I wish I pulled off that kind of heist myself. Either way, she got to me.

"You know, you ever wonder how someone could've stolen that much from Frankie and he still operates business as usual?" She asked, realizing she had gotten the better of me for the moment. I stood there trying to process my thoughts, half-attentive to her question. Still, she pressed on. ".. that guy makes most of his money outside of his club. That's the only reason he's still the king around these parts. Probably got a deal with those eco-fucks."

She was right. Frankie was angry when it all went down, but mostly because someone got away with it. I never really took the time to process it, and I didn't really care to. My life was as miserable as the next person down the hall, but at least I got a steady stream of food from Frankie to survive.. even if it was just to do his dirty work.

"Alright," I said lowly, clearing my throat before continuing. "Alright. I'll help you. But I swear to God, lady, if you are fuckin' lying to me or don't pay up.."

Edited by panic prone

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Surprisingly enough, the woman knew exactly where her boyfriend-turned-thief was. Frankie's kingdom (also known as Linden, Texas) was a small town just on the border of the Texas-Louisiana state line. Never above over two-thousand people in its prime, the city fostered maybe a few hundred at this point. When you live in a small town like that, everyone knows everyone. The boy's name was Jake, and he had been spotted just a few hours before I met her at my apartment door scouring the streets and talking about some grand heist. Probably jacked up on all sorts of drugs. I wouldn't have been surprised if he was picked up by one of Frankie's goons and dealt with already.

Kind've ironic, calling them goons. I guess I was one of them too.

Nonetheless, he was last seen at the same bar that Christian ran his mouth to her about. Apparently she had been hot on Jake's tracks, and just missed him. Instead of continuing the pursuit, Christian did what he does best - he tried, and failed miserably, at attempting to get in the girl's pants. Christian was really good at that. He was also good at hearing people gossip at the local pub, and made note of hearing that little Jake was going to the place he robbed just a few weeks prior: Frankie's.

"You sure he's going there?" I asked, coming out from the bedroom in a more suitable form of clothes. By now it was rolling on 6 in the morning, but Frankie's club never closed. There was always time for pussy and drugs in the world of the damned.

"Yeah, that's what he said. Jake has some balls on him. I've heard all about what Frankie does to people who cross him. Mother fucker is crazy, you know?"

Yeah, I knew. I once saw Frankie make a man kill his own daughter after pumping him full of all sorts of nasty shit. Cocaine, heroine.. and all because he had a bad day and this guy happened to be begging for money to feed him and his kid. The man was a monster.

"Doesn't matter. Frankie doesn't know shit about you or him. And unless Jake runs his stupid mouth in his club, it'll stay that way. I'll go get him and bring him back here. We'll figure out an action plan after that," I reached for my coat, which was previously draped around a dining room chair and swung it around to shove my arms through. It was getting a little tight across the waist, and it wasn't because I was bulking up. Fuckin' Frankie was making me fat. Maybe it was because there was hardly any faces to bash in when everyone knew you were the king of the castle. "In the meantime, you stay here and--"

"Stay here? Who the fuck do you think I am? I'm going with you and making sure I get my money!"

She had a point. Despite the fact that it was a terrible idea, I couldn't give her any reassurance that I wouldn't just take the money and leave. Fuck, I'd of probably said the same thing if the roles were reversed. "Fine. But you keep your mouth shut. Not a word. I don't care how strong of an urge; if you bring attention to Frankie that I'm in on this mess, and he figures out what's what, I'll kill you myself. We good?"

"Yeah. Yeah, we're good," she smirked at me, finding amusement in the power play. I wasn't giving her any reaction to feed her ego, and made my way to the door. Rattling the locks unlocked, I took a look back at her to verify she was, in fact, still grinning.

"And get that fucking smile off your face."

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