"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Richard Brewer woke up to the sight of sunlight streaming in through the window. He had been dreaming of Laura and his old home. The sound of a train followed by the shaking of the walls reminded him of where he really was. He leaned up, feeling his muscles aching. His throat felt healed, albeit still a tiny bit sore. This was a different kind of soreness though, not one that felt sick, but rather one that felt like the inner tissues were regenerating from the sickness itself, kind of like the soreness one gets after a weight-lifting session.
“Marty?” he called, glancing about, realizing that he sat on a comfy bed instead of a hard cot.
“Richard?” came his mate’s voice on the other side of the door. The doorknob turned and Marty stuck his face in. He looked paler than usual.
“Hi,” said Richard, looking over to Marty’s desk and chair. “What am I doing here in your room?”
“You’ve been here for two days about. You want something to eat?”
“Really? Two days?” he asked. It had felt like it had been eight hours, a normal night’s sleep for him.
“I must have been really sick.”
“How do you feel now?” Marty asked, letting himself into the room and stepping over to the bedside. He ran the back of a hand over Richard’s forehead. “You’re not hot.”
“Thanks,” laughed Richard. “Ah, it must have been living up in that filthy room. Bloody hell, it’s got to be that. Where have you been sleeping?”
“I haven’t been,” Marty said. “Do you want some food?”
“For two days?”
Marty shook his head and grabbed the chair from the desk behind him, twirling it around and setting it by the bedside.
“Well,” Richard said, feeling his own forehead. “I feel better. I can’t believe this place. You’ve got to get yourself out of here pronto, mate.”
Marty nodded, looking strangely meek and solemn.
“What’s wrong?” asked Richard, noting this. “You look right and miserable.”
“Are your legs better?” Marty asked, pointing to the foot end of the bed.
Richard moved them about in a scissoring gesture, nodding. Marty stood up, tucked the chair back under the desk, and then motioned for Richard to follow.
At first Richard looked like he was going to throw up. Marty had done so already numerous times in the snow covered bushes at the far end of the yard. His friend managed to keep his last meal, a meal that was probably days old, down. Richard knelt over the window well, shaking his head, unblinking.
“I don’t believe it,” he said finally.
“It took me a whole twenty-four hours to believe it,” Marty said glumly, glancing about the yard for any sign that anyone else could see them. The houses behind them were still covered from sight by the snow hill that had accumulated between them. The house next door’s entire side was encased in an entire snow wall that itself was encased in a thick wall of ice. There was no sign of any of the windows.
There was no way anybody had seen the event through the blizzard at the time, and now no one could see the aftermath. The storm of the century had seen to that. They were snowed in and Marty had not left the house once since it happened.
“Why the mannequins too?” Richard asked as Marty loomed over his shoulder.
“I guess, when I was freaking out so bad, I got them from the basement and covered him up. If someone finds him they might not notice him.”
There were three mannequins from Ivan’s basement that Marty had tossed in on top of him. He could barely see him underneath the sprawled fake bodies. Marty noticed his two arms, but they looked as white as the false limbs. His face was covered by the torsos and heads of the two directly on top of him.
“Oh fuck. What have we done?”
“You were delirious. You don’t remember. You could pass a lie test if I hadn’t just told you.”
The older man nodded. “Well, I know now,” he said, and then lowered his voice, looking around at the tall snow banks beyond their clearing in the yard. “If we’re caught we both go to jail though. This is at least manslaughter, if not second or first degree murder.”
Marty felt vomit in his throat again. He turned away.
Richard sighed. “Jesus Christ, Marty.”
“You're the one who brought me the cinder block,” he said dryly, fighting the urge to yell at him to shut up.
“Yes, you did, and you called me Nigel too. What the fuck is that?”
Richard shook his head. “Nigel? I did? Oh no. Oh shit. Marty, I must've been having a flashback.”
“Well, your little flashback has me in huge shit!”
“Keep your voice down,” Richard said, looking around. “Neighbours might not be able to see us, but they could still hear us.”
Marty shook his head. “No one's out in the snow, he replied. “He really doesn't remember, does he?” he thought. “At least he has an excuse. I got none. I struck out at him in cold blood. Assault is assault. Murder is murder.”
Richard walked over to Marty's side, his face dead serious and showing signs of fear. “What now then? What is to be done?”
“I don't know,” Marty replied, feeling the start of tears in his eyes. “We're fucked.”
A train’s whistle sounded in the West.
Marty stared at his friend, unsure of what he was saying. “Turn ourselves in? Say it was an accident? Tell the police the truth. He treated us terribly, you had nowhere to go, he threatened us, which he kind of did, said racial slurs, we flipped out, knocked him down and then threw a brick at him.” Marty chuckled. The laughter was out of fear and the fact that their explanation, though truthful, would come across as ridiculous.
“Still manslaughter,” the Englishman said. A cold wind came in then from the railroad side as the train noisily stormed by, knocking some light snow down towards the two. The train was unseen over the tall metal wall. “I don't know how many years that gets here.”
Marty sighed, thinking of the stories some people he had known in the past who had gone to jail had told him. Sure, it would be a Canadian jail, on the international scale that was not too bad, but still, Marty doubted he would do well in jail. He didn’t want to spend the next few years among the Spades of the world. What would his family think? What would his dad, who had already distanced himself from his son, think of this? Would he bail him out, defend him, disown him? He never imagined his father doing something like that. He wondered about his mother.
His knees felt weak.
“Manslaughter, yeah,” Richard said quietly. “I guess that's what we do. It's the right thing to do, isn't it?”
“And then where?” asked Marty, suddenly thinking about his future. “Where is my life then? After I am out after a few years? I have to live with it. I killed someone,” he looked around, lowering his voice at those words. “Where is my future jobs? Can I work in security? No. I can't have a career now.” For a second the thought of his books, if he were to someday be an author, selling more because he was a killer came through his mind, but he quickly shook it free. “Fuck, fuck this. Fuck me.” He lowered his head, staring at the snowy ground.
Richard grunted. “Or we walk away? Say we left early?”
Marty looked up. “What?”
“Well,” said Richard, again glancing about the yard. “Who knows besides the two of us?”
Marty looked to the sky.
“No,” said Richard, as if he understood exactly what was on Marty's mind. “You're not religious, you told me. It's only you and me here. Everyone else moved out, even Nicky. I haven't seen him for a month. The guys in the basement, the Brazilian guy and the others, they all moved out. I say them leave a few weeks ago. No one is upstairs. It's only you and Ivan, or was you and Ivan, on the main floor. No one knows. No one could have seen anything. The snow covered up everything that night. Has the snow dropped off at all since I was asleep?”
Marty shook his head. “The snow has been falling all the time, no breaks.”
“So no one saw anything then,” said Richard.
“Is he serious?” Marty asked himself. “He is actually saying we walk?”
“If he ever is found,” Richard lowered his voice to a whisper. “We can say we had no idea. We didn't know. We lived here. We stopped hearing from him. He had alcohol problems. All kinds of misadventures can happen.”
“I feel sick.”
“There's nothing you can do to change the past, nothing either of us can do, is there? Look, Marty, brother,” he said, kneeling over to Marty's side. “Look at us, both of us, we've been treated like shit from everyone; employers, capitalists, landowners. We're the exploited class. This is the one time we fought back. Things happened and ended up where they did. Ivan pushed us. We didn't mean to do it like it happened. The only thing that matters now is where we go from here.”
Marty shook his head. “This is wrong.”
“What was done to us was wrong too,” Richard sighed, getting back up. “But what can we do? We either fess up and face the price and live the rest of our lives like we've lived up to this point, running and afraid; being treated like shit.”
Marty looked up at him, tears running down his face. “Or?”
Richard smiled slightly, very slightly. “Or we stay here, cover up the evidence completely, and know nothing about it. Shit happened. Now look, the two of us; I was homeless before this happened. Now I can live here. We are both jobless. Now we have a place to stay, at least for a bit, just until this winter storm passes us by. Then we can go out and go on with life.”
Marty stood up, wiping his cheeks. “People will come looking.”
Marty remembered Ivan saying that night that he had no family. “People.”
“Which people? Renters? Who's going to put the ads up? The only people who would come by are, maybe eventually tax people. We can just say we don't know where he is and that we haven't seen him, but we'll tell him they came by. By the time that happens we can leave.”
Marty looked at the house, seeing his room's window and Ivan's beside it. “Confess and go to jail. Hide it and you own this house.” He thought of the suitcase of money he saw in Ivan’s room before. He had tried to go into Ivan’s room, just a few hours before. It was locked, but he knew he could find a way to get in if he wanted to. “You get everything. Everything is yours. You don't have to run anymore, Marty. You don't have to be poor. You don't have to be dependent on others for life.”
“This is ours,” he said, getting onto his feet and leaning back to take in the full sight of the house. “All of it, the house, the money. This is our revolution, our fightback.”
He ran some cold water in the sink in the downstairs washroom, unable to block out Ivan’s face from his mind. Part of him laughed, the part of him that was not horrified.
“Ivan must have been crazy, or a sociopath,” he thought “What kind of person behaves that way? What kind of person treats people the way he did?”
Marty and Richard had decided to hide Ivan while they figured out what to do. They took some paint cans from the basement and threw them on top of the pile of mannequins, and then placed a large wooden board over the top of the window well, concealing its contents completely. They used the superglue they had used to make the greenhouse on the edge of the board, making it impossible to remove from the window well’s top. They then piled up some of the pieces of the destroyed greenhouse on top of the board, making it look like it were just a collection of junk like everything else Ivan stored in the yard. As they worked they said nothing to one another.
“I shot at people in the Falklands,” Richard thought as he rubbed his eyes, raising his face to look into the mirror. “I know I might’ve killed before. I was a soldier. All that killing and being killed for the sake of the government and imperial hubris. You finally realize that your real enemy isn’t the one you fight in war, but your own bosses, your own exploiters. I should’ve gotten out of here before. None of this should’ve happened…and now Marty, now that kid, he’s terrified. Is he going to call the police?”
He gazed in the mirror. His face was pale as well, looking so different, so much older than he remembered being. “Everything I’ve lived through comes down to this.”
There was a knock on the door behind him.
Marty opened the door. “Hey. I guess we can look for the suitcase of cash that Ivan had. If we’re going to live here we might as well have the money.”
"Let’s find the money, then decide what to do. We’re snowed in here for at least a day or two, so we’re not going anywhere and no one’s coming here.”
“Alright,” said Richard, nodding and wiping his face with a towel. “Let’s find the money then.” He put the towel back on the rack and the two of them headed for the stairs. Richard flicked off the basement hallway light switch. Just as they reached the first step they heard a door open.
They both stared down the hallway as a man came out of the farthest of the doors in the basement. He looked to be middle-aged and was bearded with long, brown hair in a thick pony-tail at the back. He made his way to the washroom Richard had just exited, went inside and then closed the door behind him.
Marty shot Richard a wide-eyed glare. “I thought you said everyone moved out,” he said in a whisper.
“They did. I swear I was down here just a few days ago and all the bedroom doors were open with nobody inside.”
“He must have just moved in,” said Marty quickly, sounding panicked. “Holy shit.”
“Can he have seen anything?”
“I never saw him before. Who is he?”
Richard realized something as he took another look down the hallway. “Oh shit,” he said, shaking his head. “Oh shit, not good.”
“What?” Marty asked, elbowing him.
“That door down there. That room is the room that has the window to the backyard with the window well."