Concrete Jungle Short Story
Awoken by what seems to be birds chirping in the neighborhood he’s grown so much to know. He slumps out of bed, lazily strapping on his belt and slipping on his dirty air force kicks. He opens his shades to find a burning sun beaming on his face. The chirping slowly fades to the ghetto bird.
“They been floating around since the killin’ last night,” said his ma.
“It’s so hot, and that chopper isn’t helping with that loud propeller,” he responded. The man grabs his Niners hat and stares at his drawer.
It wasn’t the drawer, it was the contents inside. The infamous Tec. He looked back at the black and white bird outside, with a number drawn under its belly. As he looked down he could feel the Tec’s knockback. He could feel his finger still twitching and writhing with numbness.
“You ready for breakfast?! I got some ham on the pan ready,” yelled his ma across the house.
“Uh… Nah, I can’t eat, don’t feel too good,” he mumbled as he tried to walk away.
“You betta eat, I ain’t wastin’ this hog! Whatchu need, some Pepto?” she said.
“I need to walk, I’ll come back and eat up after some ball,” he said and left.
Soon as he stepped off the porch he could feel nothing but the unrelenting gaze of an unknown being. He couldn’t breathe, he could feel like someone was out to get him. He slicked his head up expecting a full crew ready to drop him. He clenched his left fist as his right hand sought the iron. In seconds he could feel like it was hours. Staring at the concrete he began to raise his head and gat.
“Yo! Was’ good man!” It was his buddy down the street. He was holding a speaker next to the corner store.
He could feel his lungs be able to receive air, he let it go and walked over. “Hey,” he couldn't feel a thing as he responded.
“So I was tryna go down to play-,” his buddy kept talking.
The man couldn’t understand, he couldn’t hear. His friend looked at him differently. Growing ten feet tall and as black as the dark side of the moon. Staring at the man, creeping over hunched back and all. The man stumbled back and looked down.
Just then he could feel a hand grab his shoulder. Dazed, he sees his friend confused looking down at him.
“You don’ look good. I gotcha bro, let’s light and head down the court. You’ll be chillin’ then,” his buddy said as he pulled him up.
“Aight, I’m cool,” he said looking down at his feet. His feet looked different. Unrecognizable.
“Yo you comin’ or you jus’ gonna stand there like a statue,” his friend said.
“Ya, my bad,” he said after finally taking a step.
“Yooooo, check them, ladies out 'cross the way! You should try and spit some game boy,” his friend jokingly said as he pointed.
The man, instead, gazed behind him. Looking, trying to seek anything around the surrounding alleys. The uncertain feeling of being watched. The feeling that someone is out to get you.
“Hey you gotta cut that out, you always was tryna smooth talk now you can’t even look or talk to me straight up,” his friend remarked.
“I’m fine, you buggin’ out if you think I’m messed. Just chill I ain’t in the mood to talk thas’ it,” he replied sternly. They kept walking.
As they made it to the court they laid up for the next 2 on 2. After about twenty minutes he gets on the court and begins the play. The man focused on the ball. The ball being dribbled loudly. Tunnel visioning to a point where all that remained in his vision was just the streaks and bumps on the surface of the ball. Each bounce getting louder. The ball was mesmerizing him. The ball slamming each time it touched the floor. His ears were ringing from the ball. Each bounce becomes a bullet. Casings hitting the floor as each bullet gets shot. Louder and louder. Police sirens in the background. The shouting of the players drowning the court. Every sound so loud he can feel his legs and gut tremble. Just as he felt back in the moment last week… SLAM. Such an acute pain. The bullet hole through the brain, a death feeling as his head hits the floor. The world goes silent. He opens his eyes as his buddy stands over him.
“Yoo, you good? My bad I thought you was open,” his friend said, “I didn’ mean to hit yo face,” he said sarcastically.
The man tries to snap out of it. His mind is still lingering on what’s really going on with him. The game finishes with a loss, partially because the man did nothing but stand in one place. But nevertheless, he was relieved to get off the court and sit on a bench.
“Yo I’m finna head down to my car and roll a zoot, you gonna keep weird or you down?” his friend said.
“Uh —” the man mumbled.
“This prolly’ ‘bout last weekend, ain’t it? Come on bro, I got something better. I got me some xans that will make you’ll feel better and you can cut this out,” his friend said.
The man got up and they headed to the car.
In the car, his buddy begins his thing but the man just blankly stared out the window. Scanning every person out on the sidewalk. He slumped down lowering the back of his seat to avoid all contact with passing cars. He tried to compose himself. Leave his anxiety behind. He looked at the pill his friend passed him and was ready to alleviate all the pain away. He swallowed the pill quickly. He ended up floating out of his seat and into the sky. He was on a cloud floating feeling good. The smoke filled his lungs and he felt as his friend told him he would, better. He began to feel odd. The cloud he was happily floating on became darker. He began falling as did raindrops around him. He crashed back into his seat. The car was racing as raindrops crashed around him. He felt like he couldn’t breathe, feeling so desperate he opened the door seeking safety. He fell out but he couldn’t catch himself. His hands were gone, he lost feeling in his legs. He closed his eyes and scrambled for his gun. The same black towering figure from before stands in front of him as he crawls on the ground. He screams in terror looking for anything to save him. He struggles but finds the trigger. His inner thoughts and anxieties erupt as his finger moves to the trigger.
BANG. BANG. BANG.
Silence. He opened his eyes. His hands were back, but they were different. As he lay on the floor he looked over. His friend. His best buddy since grade school lifeless beside him. His hand still gripping his gun. He felt like it was his mother’s hand. He never wanted to let go. He felt safe alongside it. He closed his eyes and as he opened them his family, all his friends were looking at him. His home in the background. The gun in his hand was no home. The gun faded into a clump of thorns and broken shards of glass. Stabbing his hand to the flesh. He doesn’t let go, staying close to the shards. He looked down to see his hands and kicks were wine red. The red that dreads the air. The red that keeps our lives afloat in existence. His hands marked with the blood of those who lost their lives at the hands of this man.
He stares at his friend’s body as it grows darker and darker. His friend seemed possessed floating straight up again staring down at the man. Just then bodies of people began crawling from the ground. Crackling and tearing through the concrete street. Each body having wounds, riddled with bullets and slashes. In his fear, he was reduced to ashes amongst the crowd of figures. He recognized a few of them. Victims to the smoke and others innocent casualties in his mind. With each body walking towards the dark figure to be joined into one colossal being.
“Why,” they said.
He tried to raise his head as he replied, “I didn’t... mean to.” He shook his head as he cried. He was no longer confused with fear but instead fearful of hell for the terrible things he’s done.
Dark with no street lights. The chopper in the sky shining a light around him. The corner store, his home. Everything disappeared. And he appeared alone. His neighborhood is gone as he gets up and stares at the black figure. He lay down and began to pray under the spotlight. This was no paradise, his mind was crumbling. He closed his eyes under the spotlight.
He feels the cold of the night. Opening his eyes he looks up and sees a light. Not a spotlight from the police but a broken down orange-tinted streetlight. His best friend is beside him, snoring loudly. He got up and shook his friend until he snored no more and without a word they began heading home. With each step transitioning from one light to another. Passing scorned homes and junkies under any cover that could be spared. Homelessness plagues our city filling its neighborhood under bridges and storefronts.
“We liv’ in trash,” the man said.
“No doubt,” his friend replied. Each one now holding a mutual grudge they passes a church.
“Wanna confess ya sins?” the man said jokingly. But his tone was serious underneath. His friend and he laughed it off, but he had it lingering.
They are a few blocks away from their homes when they cross the street walking past a soccer mom van with a mother and child in the front seats. He thinks of his one 2, both sleeping in different homes from his own. He feels like he lost that unconditional love when he walked away. The same love he lost from his own father.
Just as they reached home the streetlights turned dark. A new light rises as the sun greets the world.
“I’m gonna head over to my kids,” the man said, “I want to go see my kids.”
To the products of a violent society.