Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flood of Darkness


...Almost six months ago...

Jack walked outside for the fresh air, but that is not what he got. The polluted urban stores smelled of odd meats and foreign spices. De-feathered chickens and ducks hung outside the small food stores. Each and every store owner was of Asian decent. This was off-putting to Jack at first. Growing up in Oklahoma, he was not used to such diversity. After more than a moment's thought, it became clear... Jack was out of place in this big city. And all he wanted to do was go home and see his wife.

He walked into the closest shop and bought a soda. The can cracked open and the refreshingly cold soft drink settled his anxiety. He walked back out to the street and stood on the curb, sipping his Coca-Cola, observing this fair city's ethnic underbelly. It was midday now and business was occurring all around him, as usual. A fish market across the street seemed to be the center of all the commotion. That is when the adjacent alley caught Jack's attention.

Down the alleyway, a kid was being thrown against the wall by two thugs.

Jack ran down the alley yelling, "HEY!" But they did not stop. When Jack got to them, his army training kicked in immediately. His first attempt to subdue one of the thugs went successfully. Taking them by surprise by his unrequited intervention. While still sprinting, Jack drops the first thug with a forearm to the neck, freeing the kid. The other thug whips out a switchblade.

Jack hesitates. Instead of fight or flight, he tells the kid to, "RUN!" And in doing so, Jack lowers his guard and gets stabbed in the side. He exhales an empty sigh of shock. The thug runs away in the other direction. Leaving Jack, gasping on the dirty floor, leaking his blood into the broken pavement. His senses are tinged around the edges. Jack lies helplessly staring at the curbside he was just standing at. He watches as the people walk by; and he thinks about how clearly he saw that kid being mugged from there, wondering how none of these people had the common decency to help him.

Jack stretched out his hand and grabbed the ground, pulling himself over to the wall. He props himself up with his elbow, and falls his shoulder onto the wall. With the new structural support Jack can get his legs under him and pushes himself to his feet. His hands too busy clenching the knife wound. Blood smears down the alleyway wall as it trails Jack, who is desperately trying to get back to his apartment... just across the street.

Dr. Randolph sits inside the apartment. Busy analyzing Jack's blood and looking over his charts on a small desk set up on the other side of the living room from Jack's bed. Besides the kitchen and the bathroom, the desk and bed made up the entire interior decor of their place.

The door almost breaks as it snaps open. Jack stumbles in, in the same distress as before in the alleyway. "Ph- Jack!"
"It's okay it's okay."
"What happened?"

Jack sits on the bed and takes his coat off. Blood is still everywhere, but he is no longer panicking. "Some punk stabbed me."
"Right out on the street?...In the middle of the day?"
"In the alleyway," Jack went on as Dr. Randolph tried to examine the wound, "I was helping a kid." The doctor looked but could find nothing. It had happened again. This time much quicker.

Dr. Randolph grunted.
"What is it Doc?"
"Your condition might be accelerating."
"There's only one way to find out for sure..."
"Doc?" Jack stood up, reluctantly giving in to what Dr. Randolph was insinuating.

Dr. Randolph walked out from the kitchen with a knife and stuck it in Jack's arm.

"DOC!" he jumps back, "A BUTTER KNIFE!?"

Jack throws the knife on the floor; insulted. Dr. Randolph unflinchingly observes the pulsing wound on Jack's arm. The veins in his arm, around the wound, turn blue like the plant. Blood squirts out at first, but is sealed back in his body. Dr. Randolph wipes Jack's arm with a towel. There is no scab, nor any scar tissue. The skin just reconnects and intensifies.

"Amazing..." Dr. Randolph exclaims.

Jack walks away from him. "That's enough testing for today," he says as he slams the door behind him. He covers the ripped and stained shirt with a different, clean black jacket (Randolph's jacket). Jack walks back outside, down the stoop, and back onto the sidewalk. He feels no different from before. No fear in the law-abandoned streets of Chinatown grip him. He was a soldier. One thing was for sure though, he wasn't in Oklahoma anymore. He looks around for any signs of the thugs, rubbing his side (where the wound was).

"There he is!" a kid says behind him, "That's the man right there, Grandfather."
Jack turned around to see an old Asian man with a long white mustache and goatee, holding the shoulder of his grandson, the same kid Jack saved in the alleyway.
"Come with me," the old man says earnestly. Ushering Jack with his thin wooden cane.

They walk next door into one of the shops. The old man follows behind Jack, poking his side, mumbling, "Where is it?" "Where is your wound?" They bring Jack through the storefront and downstairs to an empty dojo.
"My grandfather would like to thank you for saving me with a free lesson."
"No thanks, kid. I'm already trained."
"Where is your wound...from the alleyway?" The old man says still prodding and poking.
"No wound. Kevlar." Jack insisted. "Does your grandfather understand me?" Jack leans in close to the old man's face, shouting, "...KEV....LAR...."

The old man does a backspin, tripping Jack off his feet with a kick. Jack's back hits the mat and he blocks another blow to the face. Jack tries to get back up, but cannot. The old man continues to trip him up, spinning around the mat, laughing. His technique is youthful. He is swift and precise. He fights fluently, never wasting a breath. Jack is out of moves. He lays back, winded. The grandfather stands over him.

"What good is being indestructible if you cannot get off the floor?"

"Leave me alone old man, I'm havin' a bad day."

"You have a tremendous gift, Philip Dresden. I can show you how to harness it."

"How do you know my real name?"

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