Do you live in a city guarded by caped crusaders or tight spandex wearing super-humans? Do they save innocent and helpless citizens, serve justice with brazen fists, and shake hands with the mayor? Are there police officers working side by side with heroes to eliminate crime? If you answered yes to any of these questions consider yourself lucky; at least you live in an area that gives a fuck about its community.
I live in a place that used to thrive. In the suburbs dotting the city there were happy homes of happy families, parks full of laughing children, and plush green grass with rows of fragrant flowers. Booming businesses, busy sidewalks, and honking vehicles populated the inner city. There was no stress or disturbing news to report, but that was life before they came and sabotaged our joyful existence. My city is now known as Black Spot to anybody still living here. But it’s known as “the emptiness” to anybody who cares. Emptiness because we’ve got nothing left to offer.
Superheroes are a symbol of hope and peace. Hell, even super villains are considered good guys in someone’s eye. But what we have here far surpasses any mastermind schemes to rob a bank or send a satellite deep into space to control the world. The “they” I referred to earlier are a menacing group of thugs. They’ve turned this city inside out. Imagine a human body turned inside out. All of the innards, guts, and disgusting attention to veins, tissues, and muscles would be exposed. In this example the beauty would literally be skin deep but this city has no more beauty. It has faded into the darkness when they came.
They are called The Midnight Bureau. You could imply many assumptions by that name. You might think they’re a bunch of paper pushers, stuffing envelopes. Maybe they’re bosses to Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Whatever you guess will be nowhere close to what they actually do. I’ve seen them in action. They only wear black, their trench coats, fedoras, ties, pants, skirts, and shirts. They even wear masquerade type masks. This is their official costume. That might be the only thing that’s considered cool about them. Any little kid will think the dark outfits are the shit and then get their dreams crushed when their homes are destroyed, their parents are taken away, their pets are found strangled to death, and they’re left with nothing but a note on the wall saying who was responsible.
I was a victim when I was younger. My father left me home alone; he went in search of a job. He did not return, even after midnight. That’s when they came. I heard footsteps outside the front door, more than one person, so I hid in my bedroom. They must’ve picked the lock because I heard metallic scratching and plucking noises. I could see four sets of legs from under my bed; they were stomping through my home. I heard glass shattering, drawers crashing, and chairs bouncing off the floor. What I didn’t hear was my dog, Jester, barking, growling, or even whining. Once all the strangers left I found the place was a pig shit sty. The little remaining food we had was smeared and stained all over the kitchen. Most of my father’s belongings were stolen and the rest were bent or broken. I found Jester lying under the kitchen table. His furry belly was still and his eyes were whiter than a ghost. I remember hearing chuckles when the dark figured strangers left the house. I noticed graffiti markings on the living room walls. Things like TMB, The Midnight Bureau, Claimed Territory, and yours is ours. We had a family portrait hanging on the wall; it was hung on the wall when my mother was still alive. It was a beautiful picture and probably one of the last times I smiled. But now black blobs covered both my parents’ faces. Next to the framed picture was the logo of The Midnight Bureau, a circle with a small line drawn from the center up through the top of the shape, much like a clock striking at twelve. I was sixteen and have been on my own ever since. I want revenge but I don’t know how.
Staying home would have been suicide. The Midnight Bureau inhabits all homes after wreaking havoc. After searching for my father, I returned one night to see all the lights were on. There were silhouettes dancing around the window’s illuminated glass. I tried hard to stay quiet when I tiptoed up to my home. I could see what they were doing when I peeked over the window sill. A man was shuffling through an old record collection. A woman was straddling on top of another man, kissing his neck. My body stiffened at the sight of these invaders; how could they just take over somebody’s home? Why would they?
My footing was lost when I turned away from the window. I stumbled and fell to the ground, my face planted into the dirt. I heard the front door open while I lay on the cold dying earth. One of them called out. I did not answer. They shouted again but this time I sprang from my position and ran through the backyard. They yelled and tried pursuing but I had already cleared the fence and weaved my way through the overgrown grass fields behind the house.
Now, I survive by staying hidden; I wander from abandoned buildings to dine on dumpster remains. By no means is it glamorous, I admit, but it’s all I can afford. Black Spot is considered a wasteland and it’s treated as such. The members of the Midnight Bureau are just glorified raiders. The bastards are ruthless. The goons I was able to flee from were just beginning their careers as psychopaths.
It’s been five years since I lost my father; I assume he’s been dead. Any of the people left in the city are either too drunk or too scared to be helped. I don’t blame them. I’d drink myself to delusions too but that wouldn’t feel like the right way to die. I still want revenge, not only for what they’ve done to me but what they’ve done to the city. I grew up during more joyful times. Around the age of thirteen my life was just the same as any other teen. My parents were alive, they had successful careers. I was doing average in school and I even had a girlfriend, her name was Miranda. I haven’t seen her since our eighth grade formal. Back then the police had the upper hand; they could catch crooks with no problem. There was no corruption, fires, body bags, or death.
There’s a reason I compare them to superheroes and villains. They claim to better society and bring justice to the city. Eliminating scum and giving to those less fortunate. At least that’s how they acted, like a fucked up Robin Hood. In the beginning, people trusted the Midnight Bureau. They told us the midnight symbolized watching the community at night. That they had their eyes on us and everybody felt safe. My mother was suspicious but dad told her it would be okay. And everything was okay, until she died. It was sudden, according to the police she was seen being kidnapped by somebody. That’s all the information I know. But when my father never came back, I felt an ominous shiver in the back of my mind.
That was my story but now you’ll hear my life. Right now I’m sitting in the only remaining skyscraper in Black Spot. I’m at the top floor trying to fix one of the old computers. It’s dangerous because the Midnight Bureau has already taken control of this building. I snuck passed the fuckers unnoticed. I’ve been studying their schedules for two long years. There’s a pretty big guy who stands outside the building; his skin looks like it’s turning green, it must be from years of just eating shit. I call him Hulk because I’m not attuned to meeting new people, meaning I’m not going to ask his name. Hulk is a pig, and not just by his eating habits. He stares at any woman within his vision, he even approaches them. When he took a long gander at an elderly lady I slipped from behind the corner of the building I was standing at and crept behind him. That’s when he went for her. Hulk tried to smooth talk her but she just ran. By the time he turned back to his post I already made my way inside.
Just because I described Black Spot as a wasteland doesn’t necessarily mean it is one. People still roam the streets. Prostitutes with their limp legs hobble from corner to corner. Rich fat cats and their henchmen occupy restaurants and clubs. Beggars call bus stop benches home and bathe in brown watered fountains. The Midnight Bureau doesn’t kill people without reason, but I don’t know what those reasons are yet.
Inside the building were no members. Perhaps they had all left for a secret cult meeting. I didn’t risk using the elevator incase there were any stragglers. So, I hiked up to the top of all one hundred and eight stories and entered the main office. I have no idea what the building was used for but the room was ritzy. Gold and silver ceiling tiles, hand carved desks and shelves, and a chair that still had that fresh leather scent, all decorated the office. I blocked the door with other chairs and a table hoping it’d be enough to stop Hulk from smashing his way inside. I booted up a computer to try and find any information on the Midnight Bureau. There was a file labeled TMB, seemed too easy but I clicked it anyway.
We at the Midnight Bureau are obligated to serve and protect our community. As you may be aware, the world is a cruel and unruly place. But there is still hope. If you care to join our cause of nobility and honor, you can help us reach our goal to end misconduct and disobedience. There is much work to be done and we stop at nothing to triumph over tribulation. Please consider making this world a better place. Your children and your children’s children will thank you infinitely. Good luck.
--Pryce Monterey, Chairman of the Midnight Bureau
I don’t know what kind of shit this is about but it made no fucking sense. They want to rid the world of suffering by causing more pain? How brainwashed do you have to be to give in to this? I was dumbfounded but continued clicking around. There was an icon in the form of their logo that I was about to click on, but I heard gunfire erupt outside the room.
I rushed to the barricade and started tossing everything behind me. I nudged the door open and peeked through the crack. There was another shot and that’s when I made my way out the room. If I stayed inside I was a waiting target. My only chance of staying alive was to keep moving. It was risky but I managed to get down to the fifth floor without hearing anymore shots. I stopped and felt my pulse raging like rapids. I waited for about a minute then got to the bottom floor. I opened the door from the stairwell and sidled against the wall towards the main door. Then, I was compromised…
“Hey, stop right there!” A woman yelled. No use in running through the doors, she had me. I turned around slowly with my eyes closed, fearing the worst.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Gary…”I muttered softly.
“What? Speak up before you get your funeral today,” she threatened. I could hear parts of the gun clicking as she walked toward me. It made me think it was larger than a handgun, perhaps a rifle of some kind. A handgun was something I could disarm her of but a rifle takes finesse.
“Gary Sayre,” I called out while opening my eyes. The muzzle’s black eye stared back at me.
“Gary Sayre? The same Gary Sayre that dumped me back in middle school? Well what’ll you fuckin’ know?” She lowered the gun.
“Miranda? What are you doing here?” She was a goddess by Black Spot standards. Her hair was the color of rusted metal, her skin was whiter than the dust floating from crumbled buildings, red freckles formed constellations on her face, and her eyes were darker than midnight. The clothes she wore were tattered and filthy. The rifle she carried was automatic. It’s kind of today’s fashion to swing a rifle over your shoulder instead of a purse. I was relieved for a moment until I realized what almost could’ve happened. “Wait, what’s with the gun?”
“Oh!” she said. “I’m sorry. But it’s a long story. I’ll tell you on the way.”
“What do you me-“ She grabbed my arm before I could finish and marched out the building.
Once outside I saw Hulk’s body on the ground. Half his face was ripped from his head like it had gone through a paper shredder. His greenish hands, large build, and black clothes were all the clues I needed.
“Did you kill him?” I asked while she kept pulling me in her direction. She didn’t answer. The only reason I cared was worrying if I could be next. It wasn’t unusual for people to carry weapons around town. Anything to stay alive. You could mug somebody if it meant something to you, not like there’s any police to stop you.
“Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see,” she said nonchalantly.
“Is this because I didn’t call you, like seven years ago?” That was my attempt to get answers.
“What? No, don’t be ridiculous. That was a long time ago.” She finally answered something.
“Can you tell me what’s going on?” I stopped myself from going any further which forced her grip to be lost. She turned to me, looked around, and stepped closer.
“There’s a resistance. I’m taking you to them.”
“Look, Miranda, it’s nice seeing you again but I don’t need help from anyone,” I said stepping back.
“Yes, you do,” she stepped forward. “You think you can take out every member of the Midnight Bureau by yourself? Do you have any idea how many there are?”
I couldn’t answer that question.
“It doesn’t matter. All I have to do is find out what happened to my parents, what happened to the city, and how to stop it from getting worse,” I snapped. Thinking of the past pisses me off to hell.
“How do you plan on doing that?”
“I’m going to find Pryce Monterey.” I held a slightly evil grin at the end of my sentence. But it quickly disappeared.
“You don’t even know what to do, where to go,” she pleaded. It felt like pleading to me. But I haven’t heard anybody beg me for anything in awhile.
“I know I have to kill him,” I told her. “Then it’ll all end.”
I turned away from her to go back to where ever I could find a place to stay in Black Spot.
“We know where he is,” her words froze my stride. “Come with me and we’ll go together. You’re not the only one who wants to stop this.”
She’s right. I could use help actually, but I didn’t want to make friends. I only knew everything about a few areas and members of the Midnight Bureau, like Hulk. Then I realized it was close to six, Hulk is to be relieved of his position shortly. I saw a dark figure in the distance, they were on the opposite side of the street walking towards the building we’d just come from.
“Hey, we have to get out of here. I’ll go with you, but if we don’t leave right now, they’re going to find us.”
“You two! Stop!” the figure shouted. It was coming towards us at an alarming speed. He was like the Flash and I was stuck in slow motion.
This time I grabbed her arm and lead the way. She told me which direction to go. We ducked behind the old library, which hasn’t been used in years, and continued running to the tree line. The person was shooting at us, Miranda returned fire, and I ran a weaving pattern trying to avoid getting bit in the ass.
“Do you know how to use that or not? Lose him,” I yelled.
“Quit running like an idiot and I can get a better shot,” she shouted.
I stopped suddenly and crouched behind her. She sprayed a few rounds into air and knocked the person down. She crept over to make sure they were dead.
“It’s alright; he’s not going to chase us anymore.” She kicked the body for extra measures. She bent over at the waist; her ass mesmerized me. I haven’t seen an attractive woman in years and the one I happen to run across is an old ember. I’d say flame but we really didn’t get far. I came to when she walked back and handed me the man’s pistol.
“The hell do I need that for?” I held it away from myself.
“To fight back. How else would you be able to?” She shoved it closer.
I didn’t want to kill anyone if I didn’t have to. I relied on wit, stealth, and speed to get out of any predicament. I know how to fire a weapon, how to swing a club, and how to build a bomb. But I’m not stooping to their level of destruction.
“Hey, Miranda,” a voice called out from the tree line.
“Paul, hey, what are you doing over here?” She jogged over to the man.
I couldn’t hear anything after that. They were pretty close to each other and I lazily made my way to them.
“Paul, this is Gary. We knew each other when we were kids,” she had an unusual pep in her voice. A lot more laid back than when I tried talking to her.
“Hi, nice to meet you.” He wasn’t cheerful.
“Yeah, how ya doing,” I responded.
“Roberto is waiting for you,” he said to Miranda. “We better get going.”
Miranda walked into the woods, Paul behind her, me behind him. Paul is taller and better built than me. The hair to his beard resembled a dead cat’s fur. His hands were bruised and his clothes were as dirty as Miranda’s. We passed a short brick structure half buried under leaves. There were remains of clothing and food later in our walk. I’ve never seen or heard of anybody living in the wooded area. I never had business here so I stayed out of it.
“We’re here,” Paul said.
“All I see are more leaves,” I scoffed.
He pointed to the ground and it began to open up, swallowing the leaves into a black pit. Miranda stepped down onto a ladder inside of the hole. Paul allowed me to go next. The descent was longer than I expected. When my foot reached the ground I looked up to the opening. I couldn’t see any of the trees. Paul lead the way through sets of tunnels as sewer-like stench filled my lungs. It wasn’t a scent I wasn’t used to so I wasn’t bothered much. I held Miranda back to lessen our pace creating a longer gap between us and Paul.
“Who is he?” I whispered.
“Paul is one of the higher members of our organization.”
“Wait, I thought it was a resistance, how organized are you?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll introduce you to the chief and he can answer your questions. Why are we whispering?”
“That’s why,” I pointed to Paul. “I don’t even know him. How can we trust him?”
“Wait,” she stopped. “I haven’t seen you for how long, what makes you think we can trust you?”
“Miranda, you know me.” I was in a state of disbelief.
“No, I know who you were. Not who you are,” she yelled.
“Is this because I didn’t call you back?”
“Damn it Gary. No, that’s not why.” She stormed passed Paul.
Paul looked at me then turned and continued walking. I took longer strides in order to catch up.
“You know, she’s got her own way of things,” Paul told me.
“Yeah, I think I got that.”
The rest of our way was silent until we arrived at a steel door with a large orange circle painted in the middle. Miranda banged on it three times with an angry fist. An armed man opened the door and allowed the two in before stopping me.
“Who are you?” His stiff arm almost knocked me down.
“Gary,” I said while removing his arm. “I’m a friend of Miranda.”
He looked at her and she nodded.
“What, no apology?” I asked sarcastically.
That was my wit coming out. I’m not doing it to be funny but it happens when I’m nervous. It’s the only way I know how to cope with tampered emotions. I followed Paul and Miranda passed staring eyes. There were more members of this resistance than I imagined; each with unique qualities about them. There was a woman sharpening knives, a young boy beating a wooden board, and young girls practicing martial arts. Of course there are more than them but I figured I’d save time.
An older man with a weathered face and hair greyer than rain approached us. He wore a long brown trench coat, like Gambit, and carried a make shift blade.
“Roberto, this is Gary. I found him when I went to the tower,” Miranda said.
“Hello, Gary Sayre,” he said with a smile.
“How do you know my last name?”
He waved his fingers and walked to a room further away from the communal area. I followed into the room and found myself surrounded by photographs and newspaper clippings of different people and events. I saw one that used to belong in my house as a child. The graffiti infested portrait of my family that hung in my living room is now hanging in this man’s office.
“What are you doing with this?” I pointed at the picture.
“I found that in your home after the Midnight Bureau ransacked it” He took it down and handed it to me. “Your father and I knew each other quite well,” he added.
“What do you know? Tell me what happened to him.” I felt a craziness swell behind my eyes.
“Gary, calm down. We can sit and talk,” he motioned to a bench. I snapped out of the daze and sat down.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I reacted that way,” I said with my hands covering my face. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“Of course. He told you he was going to find work or any way to support you. But he actually came to see me. We were developing plans to take back the city. But one night as he returned home to you he was attacked. They severely beat him and left him to die. When he did not return I ventured out and found his lifeless existence in the street. I attempted to bring him back to life but it did not work. I found your name scratched into his arm. I believe it was his last message of love to you.”
I could not react peacefully to this. My mind was filled with rage and determination. I stood and looked Roberto in the eye.
“Where is Pryce?” I muttered through gritted teeth.
“We believe he is in the abandoned theater at the western entrance of the city. But I warn you Gary; do not let anger cloud your judgment and chance of survival. You need to keep your senses about you. I will have Miranda and Paul travel with you. Please, do not kill Pryce. Bring him here and I shall reason with him.”
“Why? After all he’s been doing to the city? He’s ruined our lives and stained humanity with irreversible catastrophes,” I yelled.
“He’s my brother,” he said solemnly. “I shall deal with him myself.”
I reluctantly nodded to him. Miranda and Paul waited for me outside the room. I walked passed them and lead the way back out of the tunnel system and up to the forest. Paul took the lead from there and we headed the same direction we came, passing the brick structure and discarded clothing. Night has begun to show its face, it’s getting dark and disgusting.
“It’s almost ten now, if we cut through Bridge Street we could probably make it to the theater before midnight,” Paul said.
“The quicker the better,” I added. I kept looking at the pistol that Miranda gave me. It felt powerful.
“Gary, are you alright?” Miranda asked softly.
“Yeah, I’m just anxious,” I told her.
“I’m sorry I yelled earlier. I just-”
“It’s alright. I’m sorry I kept bringing it up,” I interrupted.
“You’ll get your revenge. We all will,” she said with a maniacal smile.
That really turned me on. Seeing her joy in seeking revenge made more attracted to her. It almost felt like middle school all over again; except this time it wasn’t just about physical attraction.
“The reason I didn’t call was because I was scared,” I admitted.
“What? Why were you scared?”
“I didn’t want to grow attached and then lose you forever if something happened.”
“But I’m back, aren’t I? I guess you never lost me. Losing means you’ll never get it back. You just misplaced me is all,” she smiled.
I boldly reached for hand, held it to my lips, and softly kissed her frigid fingers. I felt a warmth rush over her palm and as I looked at her I could see her freckles blend into her shy expression.
“Hey, you two look,” Paul pointed ahead. “Members of the Bureau.”
I could make out four figures in the distance. We snuck behind a building that used to be a bar and inched our way closer to them. But we were still pretty far from them.
“I’ll draw them closer,” Miranda whispered. She left Paul and I standing against the building.
“Wait, Miranda,” I reached for her.
“She’ll be fine,” Paul said.
Miranda yelled from the middle of the road. They didn’t react. Then she fired her rifle at them to which they responded with more shots. She took cover behind the building again.
“You’re crazy,” I told her.
She just winked and reloaded her weapon. The Midnight Bureau soldiers foolishly came within our range. Paul shot at two, killing them instantly. I fired at a skinny bastard but missed. He returned fire, hitting Paul in the leg. I stood from position and shot the goon in the face. Paul was writhing in pain as Miranda sniped the last member as they ran away. We quickly applied pressure to his injury.
“Stop! Stop, I got it,” Paul screamed. He pushed us away and reached into the wound. He let out a terrifying cry and pulled his fingers out with the bullet in his grasp.
“Let’s get you back,” Miranda said as she tried to help Paul up.
“What are you doing? This will only slow us down,” I called out.
“Are you kidding me Gary?” she whined.
“He’s right,” Paul faintly said. “Go without me.”
“Are you going to be okay?”
“I’ll be fine Miranda, I’m a strong guy,” he gave her a weak smile.
“We’ll stop them,” I told him. My first real words of trust I showed toward him. He nodded as Miranda and I kept going.
We arrived at the outside of Bridge Street where there was a heavier presence of the Midnight Bureau. We hid behind a row of dying bushes to monitor the area. There were five members scattered on the road, two on the steps to the theater, and one on the roof. Possibly more behind the place.
“Alright now what?” I asked.
“Now, we make our entrance.” She revealed a grenade that had been hidden behind her jacket.
“You are completely insane,” I complimented her with a smile.
She pulled the pin, kissed it, and stood up to fling it at the group in the street. I stayed seated behind the bushes and watched her chuck the bomb like Superman could. The explosion made my ass rumble but I watched her during it. Her hair swirled like the red leaves of an autumn tree on a windy day. The orange fire lit up her face, her cheeks glowed as she grinned at the destruction. The other goons fired at her but she did not move. I yanked her down.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Sorry, yeah, it just felt so good,” she said staring into my eyes.
She reached for my face, pulled it close, and kissed me. It was wonderful. For a moment I thought our fireworks could light up the dingy city. Then she broke free and shot at the rest of the members. She took out the two door guards as they came closer. The one on the roof was tough to hit. They both ducked behind something after every shot was fired. While he was focused on Miranda I assume he had no idea I was there. When he exposed himself to shoot at her, I aimed and fired. He fell from the roof and plummeted to the earth. We waited for the sound of anything: bullets, foot steps, whispers. But everything was silent; it was time to move in.
The door to the theater budged slightly. Miranda peeked in and then opened it the rest of the way. The sounds of violin filled the air. The lobby to the theater was full of new Midnight Bureau outfits and paintings of their clock logo were dotted all over. We opened the double doors to the stage at the same time, hiding behind them incase of more gunfire. The violin’s song grew louder. I looked through the space between the open door and the wall and saw a man playing the instrument. We emerged from behind the doors, walking together to the stage down a red carpet. He stopped playing when we arrived.
“Hello, hidden children of the night.” He spoke poetically and placed the violin in its case. “I heard you were here.”
“Pryce, come with us now,” Miranda said.
“For what reason am I to stay here? I’ve noticed my underlings have lost their will of control. They feast on violence, like barbarians.”
He stepped down from the stage and walked up to me.
“And who are you lad?”
“My name is Gary Sayre,” I answered.
“Ah, young Gary, thou art a strong soul. Venturing quite a journey in less than one day is a major accomplishment. You should rest your weary eyes. Would you care for a song?”
“No, we came for you not to hear your fiddle.”
It looked like I struck a nerve, his jaw dropped in astonishment. He quickly composed himself and sat in one of the tattered folding chairs of the auditorium.
“Why are you here Gary?” he asked.
“I told your brother I’d bring you back.”
“No, why are you here?”
“I just told you.”
“No, why are you here,” he emphasized even more.
I gripped the pistol tighter and raised it to his face.
“I came here to kill you!” I roared.
Miranda stayed back and yelled something but I didn’t hear her. I was intently watching Pryce to worry about anything else.
“Why?” he asked without a care.
“Because you and your fuckin’ noble cause killed my father.” The gun was shaking in his face. I was ready to squeeze, he just needed to trigger me.
“Your father died bravely, Gary. According to my servants, it took all them to bring him down. It’s an honorable thing to die that way.”
“Don’t you talk to me like you knew him, you sick bastard,” I spat.
He walked away from me, up the red carpet, and towards the doors.
“If you want to end my life, please do me the honor and finish it without me knowing,” he called out.
I thought of what he said for too long, he began to exit.
“If this means the end of your murderous gang then it will be my pleasure,” I said as I cocked the pistol. He turned around.
“Gary, this isn’t the only city with a Midnight Bureau,” he smiled.
I shot him as a clock struck midnight. His black fedora flew off as his body collapsed to the ground.
“Gary!” Miranda shouted. “How could you?”
“I’m sorry Miranda…I guess I did lose you after all.” I stepped over his body and out the doors.
Those were the last words I ever said to her. I don’t know what happened to her after that. I feel sorry I couldn’t let Roberto handle it but I was relieved at the same time. I never returned to Black Spot again. I’ve been wandering to other cities infested by the Midnight Bureau. It’ll be a long time before it’s over. Eventually, you’ll hear my legend.