- Part 1 and 2 -
- Part 3 -
Sneeze minus six minutes.
Harold grunted heaving his ample body up the narrow stairs. „Damn you stairs.“ The chilli kicked him in the guts repeatedly, before he noticed the dark silhouette staring at him. It stood quietly at the stairhead, in complete silence, waiting and staring. „Captain Pain, sir. You wanted to see me?“ Harold gasped. He felt stupid for being startled like this.
„Move along. I have work for you.“ The dark figure said and turned to walk away. The movement looked so slick, as if it was floating away from the stairs. Harold stared at this for a second or two, and thought of the first time he met Pain.
That one damned November night… On Earth, to be more precise United Territories, Bay area 132-ish. Harold wasn’t sure, he had been wandering the whole night, climbing fire stairs, hiding in the shadows, looking for the perfect spots to observe his favorite apartments, or spying out new ones to visit. From time to time he encountered other humans on the rooftops, but he preferred not to interact to with any them. The night was his hunting ground, and had no impulse to ruin it with the babbling of other humans.
He had been followed for quite a while. Harold knew that, felt that, under his skin, on the back of his nape. It burned like a short circuit, like a loose wire. The hot tingling warned him whenever he was in danger. He had dubbed it his “creepomatic sense”. He remembered the soft gleaming of a cigarette always behind him, in some distance…
That blasted night he kept himself busy. His mind didn’t come to a rest after visiting his favorite apartment. The peaceful elegant atmosphere, the paintings, the books, the liquor – it usually calmed him down, after a stressful day at the museum. He remembered, that particular day was hellish. Someone clogged the ladies lavatory on second floor. Coincidentally several school classes visited on that day and some jerks blew up a stall in man’s restroom floor level. What followed was an ungodly mess he had to mop up, and all the toilets had to be sealed off that day.
When Pain got to him, he was in a vulnerable position, bodily and in mind. He had been ignoring all the unusual noises and his creepomatic sense, which was screaming at him. He was deliberately kneeling – also very unusual for him- ready with the lock and turning the doorknob. Fifth door, ninth lock, his mind kept on blustering.
Suddenly he became aware that someone was standing behind him, but far too late. The side of a hand came crushing down on the side of his neck, like an airplane onto a mountain side. Short violent blow, well placed.
The world went black.
In his first shock he nearly shat himself.
Coming to tied up like a the cattle he saw in old cowboy movies and documentaries, he knew that something awfully bad was about to happen. Either he was going to be branded or arrested.
He thought a detective, or worse – the police had him. Though the universe being the universe and having a sick sense of humor, the police would have been the best thing happen to Harold. But not with this universe. No, sir!
The man bringing him to bay seemed a dark muscular blur with the most disturbing grin he ever saw. It was Pain himself frowning at him, patting his head. He looked so damned proud of himself that Harold wanted to punch that face with a chair.
Pain sat on the floor in front of him, in the hallway he just opened the door to, in his hand a can of beer. What followed was half an hour of calling names, negotiating, which involved being kicked in the nuts and bowels. Harold shuddered at the memory and decided to push those thirty minutes back into the furthest corner of his mind. His subconscious stated that there was an agreement at the end of that half hour. He would keep opening doors, never asking and that he would follow Pain wherever he went, as his servant or lap dog or whatever pet Pain felt suitable. In exchange he wouldn’t be arrested, nor going to jail. Even better he was under Pain’s protection, or supervision – you may call it what you like…
Nothing much changed since then, maybe the lighting got better, and he had a ridiculous amount of space between him and other people’s apartments, the Earth in general.