‘LIVING THE LIFE’ is a series of four short stories that take place in the year 2020 in a fictional State named Callisto located in the Northern part of the United States. In Callisto, life is the same, yet different, because no one outside the State really understands anything about what actually goes on here. Along with the location; the characters, events, and conversations, are completely made up and you’re not meant to find morals, or meanings, or signs; But neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what you think. Here we meet one of our characters, at home, watching T.V, praying that things start going his way. And fast.
LIVING THE LIFE, CHAPTER 3: IGNIS
There were two minutes left in the Super Bowl and Alonzo was sitting on his couch in a deep sweat. He waited an eternity for his favourite team, the L.A Rams, to make it to the Super Bowl, and he thought there was no chance they would lose the game. Sadly, for Alonzo, it looked like the Rams would crush his dreams; the Oakland Raiders had control of the ball, winning 33 – 27, and time was dwindling.
Alonzo was insanely confident that the Rams would win. In fact, he was so confident that he bet an outstanding amount of money on them: $20,000. The problem, or the bigger problem, was that Alonzo did not have even close to that amount of money. He was that confident. And now, as he watched the game clock hit zeros, with real tears in his eyes, he realized his life was soon to be over.
Alonzo shut the T.V off and launched the remote out of the room. He watched the back cover and the batteries fly out as it smashed into the front door of his apartment. He slammed his head back on his couch and wiped his tears. He was literally crying a waterfall, but he had to get himself together quickly because he knew his phone was about to ring. He struggled to think of the different scenarios of how to get out of this. He thought he could say that he needed a week, then rob a bank? Run away and never come back? Kill the man who would shortly call? Kill himself?
The phone rang and Alonzo flinched. Here we go. His heart beat. His eyes stung. His breath was short. He answered.
“Hey, Alonzo, how are you, man?” Said a mans voice. He sounded casually concerned.
Alonzo couldn’t move a muscle to say anything, but he hopelessly forced himself to. “Hi, Orwell. I’m a complete wreck right now.”
“Jeeez. I can tell, man; you sound done for. I called the others before I called you to give you some time to grieve.”
Alonzo was scared that if he tried to speak his heart would fly out of this mouth. He could only breathe, but even that was tough.
“Guess I’ll make this quick so you can get back to it: When can I pick up the money, Alonzo? The 20,000 dollars. In cash.”
Alonzo had never felt this sorrowful in his entire life. At this point in time he figured that he was already dead. Why prolong it? He thought. End it all right now. He clearly didn’t care about his life, anyways, if he bet all that money he didn’t have.
Alonzo’s stomach was turning in every direction possible, he had to hold back his vomit. He couldn’t kill himself.
Orwell’s voice cut off his thoughts. “Alonzo. Now I know you’re going through some stuff right now, but when can I pick up the money?”
“Orwell, I don’t have the money.” Alonzo began crying again. “I’m so sorry.” He was weeping. “What can I do? Is there anything I can do? I’ll do anything, Orwell.”
There was silence over the phone then Orwell continued talking in his casual tone. “Alright, Alonzo, calm down. Are you home? I’ll come over and we can talk about your options.”
“Really?” There was the smallest bit of relief in Alonzo’s voice, but he was still shaking.
“Yes. I’ll be over within the hour.”
Those were the last words Orwell said before he hung up the phone.
Alonzo lifelessly sat in a mess of his own sticky sweat and tears.
Alonzo anxiously and nervously got up from the couch when he heard the knock at the door at 1:30AM. He picked up his heavy feet one by one and let them lead him to the door as his heart continued to pound.
He opened the door to a tall, cleanly shaved, smiling, middle aged man, in a precisely fitting black suit.
“Alonzo.” Said Orwell, who walked in like it was his apartment. He kept his shoes on, too, and Alonzo hated that. He kept his mouth shut, though. “Get me a drink.” Orwell took a seat on the couch opposite the one with Alonzo’s grime.
Alonzo rushed to the kitchen and took out a glass. He asked Orwell if he had any preference in drinks and he said to make it strong. Alonzo looked around his mini bar, sweating, mind racing, and pulled out a bottle of Virginia Black. He fixed Orwell his drink and served it to him in the living room.
Alonzo stayed standing, waiting for Orwell to give him permission to sit down in his own apartment.
Orwell took a long sip and smiled. “Good job, Alonzo. Feel free to take a seat.”
Alonzo quickly sat down.
Orwell took a short sip of the smooth Virginia Black, spun the dark liquid around and around in the glass, then glared right through Alonzo’s soul.
“So, what do you mean you don’t have the money?”
“Orwell, listen,” Alonzo sputtered. “I love the Rams. I thought they were gonna win for sure.”
“But you bet twenty thousand dollars.”
“Yeah. I know. You see, I love the Rams, I thought they were gonna win for sure. And I bet a lot so I could win a lot.” Alonzo was pleading for his life.
“Twenty thousand dollars, though.”
“I love the Rams, Orwell, I thought th-”
“I know. You thought they were going to win for sure. Well, they didn’t win for sure. They lost for sure. Now I need to know 2 things for sure: how much money can you give me? And when can I expect the rest?”
“I can give you 5 thousand. That’s my entire savings account.”
Orwell nearly spat out his drink. “5 thousand, Alonzo? You owe me 20!”
Alonzo was trying his best to not start crying again. Orwell presented himself to be a very patient man but seeing Alonzo, a grown man, behave like this, really put him on edge. Orwell threw the rest of the Virginia Black down his mouth, swallowed harshly, put the glass down hard on the center table and stood up, looking down on Alonzo.
“I’m going to assume you won’t be able to pay me back anytime in the near, or distant, future. Usually, if someone tells me that they can’t pay me back, I’ll kill them right then and there and be done with it.”
Alonzo’s heart, which hasn’t stopped beating at 300 miles an hour since the game ended hours ago, dropped into his stomach. He thought, at least he didn’t kill himself and die like a coward; al though this wasn’t much better. But he didn’t want to die. He was only 28 and had so much more to accomplish. Sure, he made one mistake, but who doesn’t. If God was real, Alonzo hoped he, or she, would send St. Michael to help him.
Orwell continued. “To be honest, Alonzo, I see something in you: You take risks. Stupid risks. Big risks. As it so happens, I’m looking for someone like that, so here are your options.” Orwell stopped talking.
Alonzo glanced at the ceiling of his apartment to see if St. Michael was there. He gazed all around to see if there were any signs of a divine presence. Was he going to survive this?
“Your first option is accepting the fact that I will have to kill you. Your second option is to work for me.”
Alonzo could’ve fainted. How did he go from losing it all to…winning? Just like that. Then he remembered that there was always a catch when things sounded too good to be true.
“What would I have to do for you?” Alonzo asked tensely.
“Ask yourself if that matters, Alonzo. Yes or no?”
Alonzo didn’t hesitate any longer. “Yes! Wow. Thank you, Orwell, thank you!” He stood up and intensely shook Orwell’s hand.
“That’s what I thought, Alonzo.” Orwell punched Alonzo square in the face. Alonzo toppled back down onto his couch and gently felt at his face, extremely perplexed. He looked up at Orwell, and Orwell punched him again. Right in the face. Alonzo tasted blood and gulped. He could’ve sworn Orwell just spared his life.
“Forgive me, Alonzo, you owe me twenty thousand dollars.”
“Getting punched in the face is better than dying.” Alonzo tried to sound funny.
Orwell raised his clenched fist at Alonzo and he jumped back about five miles. Orwell couldn’t help but laugh.
“Back to business, Alonzo. Before you start working to pay off your debt, you have to do something for me.”
“Anything, Orwell, I’ll do it.”
“You’re going to have to kill someone. It could be anyone you want, even a stranger. A life for a life. I believe in that.”
Alonzo didn’t know what to think or say. He just stood there, waiting for Orwell to elaborate on the madness that was coming out of his mouth.
“Send me proof on snapchat or something. Just kidding, call me when it’s done; one of my men will check on you and tell me if you have indeed done the deed.”
Alonzo still didn’t know what to say. He was able to mumble something but Orwell didn’t hear him.
“What was that? Speak up, Alonzo.”
Alonzo gathered himself. He had to stop acting like a bitch right now. He got a second chance at life and he supposed that this would be his life now. What choice did he have? Knowing that he didn’t have any, he lifted his head up, adjusted his posture, and said, confidently. “Okay, Orwell. You can count on me.”
“I’m not counting on you, Alonzo. Count on yourself to get the job done.” Orwell began walking to the front door. “I own you now, Alonzo. I can do whatever I want to you, whenever I want. I can make you do whatever I want, whenever I want. Your life is in my hands. Think of me as God; the one who saved you.”
The first thing Alonzo did on Monday morning was take a couple Tylenol’s because he woke up with a huge headache from nearly getting knocked out last night. The next thing he did was call in to work and ask for the whole week off. Alonzo told his supervisors at the post office that he was in a major crisis. The only question they asked was whether or not he’d be back on Monday. He said yes and the easy part was out of the way. It was simple to get days off in Callisto; no one really cared what people did with their lives.
Alonzo was sitting on the same stained couch from last night, hoping that what happened was actually a dream. He contemplated his entire life, questioning what he could’ve done to deserve this. Was it something he did in a past life? It must’ve been, because he tried to be a good person everyday; there was no way he deserved bad karma. If he was getting bad karma now, being a self proclaimed good person, imagine the kind of karma he would get after killing somebody. Then he thought it could be because he bet all that money on the game. What kind of witchcraft possessed him to bet 20 thousand dollars on the game, knowing he didn’t have anywhere near it. He tried to kick that thought out of his head.
The next thing Alonzo had to dwell on was if he would really kill someone. Could he really kill someone? The thing was, he had no choice. He knew Orwell was not joking around when he said he’d kill him, so it was his life or a strangers life. Alonzo felt sick thinking that he would have to do it. How would he do it? Where would he do it? When would he do it? Who would he even kill? Waves of thoughts splashed around Alonzo’s head and he couldn’t keep up. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t ease his tension or take slow, deep breaths. He couldn’t relax.
Alonzo closed his eyes and visualized all the ways to kill somebody. He didn’t want to see too much blood, he’d throw up everywhere. He didn’t want to poison anyone because that’s what women do. He could run somebody over, but there would be witnesses. What was the best way to kill someone? Pushing them out a window? He did live in an apartment, he could take the person up to the roof and push him off. He put that option in the back of his mind. He reached for the handle on the center table and pulled open the drawer to get the remote control. When he looked inside the drawer, he saw a lighter, and then the idea instantly came to him. Fire. Fire was the best way to die. Alonzo thought that if he was going to be killed, being burned alive would be a mighty good way to go. It would be disturbingly painful to suffer through, but what a spiritual experience it would be; all of your sins would be cleansed from your body as your soul rises up to the heavens. That sounded beautiful to Alonzo.
He opened the notepad app on his phone and typed out his plan:
Go to walmart to buy a gas canister,
rope, rubbing alcohol, a shovel, new
gloves, a new toque, and a jacket.
Go to gas station, fill up canister to
dump over whomever. He will be
tied to a tree. Will light matches, toss
them on him. Use shovel to dig a
grave to bury the body. Kidnap the
unlucky person, knock him out, bag him,
drug him with xanax, drive to the woods
in the middle of nowhere. Pour the gas
over him, then light him on
It was still only around noon when Alonzo finished typing out his plan but he wasn’t sure if he should wait to get his inventory tomorrow or get it today and do it today. Was he even going to do it? Just then, Alonzo yawned. He felt himself getting quite sleepy so he made up his mind to take a quick nap and decide what to do later.
Alonzo woke up outside in the cold dark, surrounded by snow covered trees. He watched the fog leave his mouth when he exhaled. He looked up at the sharp, crescent moon and the millions of tiny stars floating around it. He began walking into the darkness. He stepped over a hedge and ducked under a fluster of branches and saw a wide open space, blanketed with light, soft snow, with a giant tree planted in the middle. Alonzo started walking towards it, but when he blinked, his eyes opened and he was in his bedroom.
He lay there staring at the ceiling, wishing he could stay under his warm comforter forever. He lifted himself up and sat on the edge of his bed; his dilemma was the only thing on his mind. Then he remembered his dream and it was like an imaginary light bulb lit up inside his head. He recalled the exact spot in his dream and he suddenly realized that that’s where he needed to go.
Alonzo jumped out of his bed and went back to the living room, where he noticed it was already dark outside. How long had he been asleep for? He picked up his phone from where he left it and when he turned on the screen, he was stunned to see that it was 9:59PM. He’d been asleep for the entire day. Alonzo didn’t concern himself with that fact because his primary concern was getting to that spot in his dream as soon as possible. He grabbed his keys, his wallet, and his phone from the center table and raced to the front door. He put his old jacket on, then his boots, then his toque, then zoomed out.
He was nearly running through the hallway of his apartment to get to the elevator. He repeatedly pressed the down button until the doors finally opened. He hit the parking lot level on the panel and the doors closed.
They opened up to the chilly parking lot. There were faint, wet footprints all over the garage with small puddles, and traces of snow. Alonzo carefully sprinted to his Honda Civic, unlocked the doors, and got in.
That was the moment when his heart finally stopped trying to beat out of his chest. Alonzo took a deep breath and exhaled out. He knew he would be fine. He wasn’t sure what made him come to that realization, but he was positive that no harm would come to him. He had that eerie dream and now knew exactly where he had to go. He trusted that everything happened for a reason, and believed that this was leading to his destiny. Whatever he needed to do, he would do. Alonzo started his car and drove off.
Around two hours later, Alonzo got off the highway and parked his car on the side of the snowy dirt road. He stepped out into the cold and surveyed every direction in the vicinity. He got back in his car and continued driving. Alonzo was driving around the outskirts of Callisto; there were only back roads, crops, and forests. He was looking for a specific spot to enter the woods. He drove past a stray mailbox that had figures painted on it but it was too dark to make out what they meant. After driving for a couple more minutes, Alonzo stopped his car on the side of the road. Even though he told himself that he would be okay before he made this long drive to the middle of nowhere, his heart was back to speeding and his stomach was in tight knots when he turned the ignition off and got out. In the dark, he bravely followed his destiny into the woods. Step by step he slowly crept through the trail he was imagining. He had no idea where he was going, or what direction he was going in, but he continued hiking.
Just like a typical horror movie, he was expecting to hear a twig snap in the background, but when it actually happened, Alonzo was not ready for it. He stopped in his tracks, stopped breathing, and didn’t move a muscle. He let out a breath and saw the fog escape his mouth. Then he looked up and saw the sharp, crescent moon, with a million tiny stars shining down on him. This was the place. Just like he did in his dream, Alonzo turned around and walked further into the darkness. He began hearing noises; it sounded like someone was struggling to breathe or like someone trying to call out but couldn’t. After stepping over a hedge and ducking underneath a fluster of tree branches, Alonzo discovered where the noise was coming from.
He found himself where he was before he woke up from his dream: In a wide open space, blanketed in snow. He saw the giant tree in the middle, that was still alive in the dead of winter. Alonzo looked at the tree in awe; it was a spectacular oak. The trunk wasn’t even brown, it looked like space gray, and the shinning moon’s aura made it look silver. Then he noticed that there was someone tied to it.
Alonzo charged right at the tied up man; he noticed was also blindfolded. He ripped the piece of cloth out of the mans mouth and untied the blindfold. The man looked like he was in his upper 40’s.
“Who’s there?” The man yelled. “Orwell! Is that you? Answer me!”
“I’m not Orwell. Who are you?”
“My name is Nate. I’ve been tied up here for hours. How did you find me?”
“I’m not really sure myself. Why did you think I was Orwell? How do you know him?”
“He’s the one who tied me up! It’s my fault, I know. I borrowed money I couldn’t pay back but I thought my business was going to be successful. I invested in myself and I failed. I’m doomed because of it.”
Understanding exactly how he felt, Alonzo felt incredibly bad for the man. But what could he do? Alonzo wondered why he was here. What did this have to do with him? He followed his destiny and it led him to a man tied up to a tree in the middle of nowhere because he had a dream about it. Was he going mad? Maybe this was all a dream and he just couldn’t wake up. He never imagined he would be in this predicament at any point in his life. Just then, his phone rang. He looked at the screen and saw that it was Orwell.
“Alonzo, where are you right now?”
“I’m outside. I’m by the woodsy part of Callisto, you know where that is? Listen, there’s th-”
“I know exactly where you are, Alonzo, don’t worry. You’re right where I want you to be. Remember when I said look at me as God?”
“What do you mean, Orwell? There’s this guy here, he’s tied to a-”
“You’re a genius, Alonzo. I told you that you had to kill someone and you thought of an impressive method. Of course. Fire is the best way to go. I saved you the trouble of buying the supplies and finding a victim. This man is not as innocent as he made himself look. Not even close; you thought what you did was bad? This guy Nate, he emptied his kids’ saving’s accounts, took all his and his wife’s retirement funds, too. It gets worse; then he divorced her. Then he lost every single penny at a Jersey casino in Jersey. His ex wife, soon to be a widow, has been miserable ever since. I met her while I was getting brunch at the diner she works at. That’s how I know all this, Alonzo.”
“So what do you want me to do about it?”
“What do you think? Kill him. Look behind the tree he’s tied to and you’ll see what you’ll need. I’ll know when you’ve done it. And when you do, drive back to your apartment.”
Orwell hung up and Alonzo was left in the quiet again. He shivered as a breeze blew by him. He walked back to Nate, still tied up to the tree.
“What was that about? So are you gonna let me out or what? I’m getting frostbite out here.”
Alonzo bent down right in front of Nate and looked him right in the eyes. “Did you steal your wife and kid’s money and lose it all at a casino?”
“What? No way. Where’d you hear that? Orwell’s a liar! Please!”
“Tell me the truth, did you steal your wife and kids money and lose it all at the casino?”
Alonzo knew that this fraud Nate was slimy. He could sense it as soon as he heard him talk for the first time. He didn’t wait for a reply this time. He got up and walked behind the tree and sure enough there was a filled up red gas canister, rubbing alcohol, a box of matches, and a shovel. But how did Orwell know about his whole plan for the fire? And how did he know he would be here? He didn’t have any time to think about it. Alonzo grabbed the supplies and brought them back around to Nate’s side.
“What are you going to do with those?”
“Stop acting stupid, you already know you’re dead.”
Nate sulked, still tied to the tree.
“You’re going to burn me alive? Are you crazy? Then bury my body right here? Come on now. This isn’t the times of the savage, we’re civilized. Untie me. Orwell wont know. I’ll act dead. You’ll never hear from me again.” Nate sensed that he was wasting his breath but gave it a try anyways. His voice cracked with every word.
Alonzo picked up the gas canister and stood up over Nate, looking down on him. He was trying to act brave the entire time but now that he had to finish the job he was hesitating. He heard Nate continuing to beg for his life, but he drowned him out and focused on himself. Up until last night, Alonzo was going through his days minding his own business. He went to work, came home. And repeated. He lived a basic life. Then he bet $20,000 on the Super Bowl and in an instant his life was a dream. Last night he was on his couch crying, and a little over 24 hours later he was in the middle of the woods about to end someone else’s life. He knew he had no business being involved in murder and crime but that was his old self. This was his new self, the person he had to be. At least for right now. He was given the opportunity to live and he chose to live. Who knew how his life would be after this but he was sure it would be a thrill.
Alonzo picked up the gas canister and brought it over Nate’s head. He began pouring. Flows of gasoline showered onto the the top of Nate’s head and streamed down all over his clothes. Alonzo drained the entire can. Nate was making the similar muffled sounds he was making when Alonzo found him tied up. This time it was because his mouth was full of gasoline. Alonzo dropped the red can and picked up the matches. He ripped out the match and without hesitating, struck it and threw it on Nate’s body. He continued to do so until Nate’s body became engulfed in fire. Alonzo thought he was squeamish but as he stood under the stars on the cold night staring at the flames, mesmerized, unable to hear Nate’s discomforting screams, he knew he did the right thing.
Nate continued to scream, louder and more painfully than anything Alonzo had ever heard before. Alonzo turned away from Nate, picked up the shovel, and started digging. He felt the edge of the shovel cut through the soft snow and the frosted forest floor.
Alonzo’s hands were stone cold numb by the time he finished digging Nate’s grave. He tried untying Nate’s nasty body from the tree but he was in too much pain. Alonzo took the shovel and jammed the sharp edge into the rope and kept doing it until it ripped. He manhandled Nate’s body and dragged him to the grave that was barely deep enough. Alonzo spent the next twenty minutes covering him up. He picked up the tools he used and left the scene without a trace.
The elevator dinged as it opened up to the 9th floor. Alonzo stepped out and walked to his apartment. He unlocked the door and Orwell was there to greet him.
“Finally!” Yelled Orwell from the living room. Alonzo was dead tired and wasn’t in the mood for exclamation mark sentences. He sluggishly made his way to the living room and took seat on his usual couch. Orwell already made himself a drink, Alonzo knew it was the Virginia Black. The two of them stared at each other. Alonzo watched Orwell take a sip.
“I’m proud of you, Alonzo. I’m glad to say that you can start working for me to pay off your debts.”
“Thank you, Orwell.” Alonzo was truly grateful. “Thank you. You won’t regret giving me this chance. What will I have to do?”
“I know I wont regret it. I have a business that involves dealing drugs and weapons, like guns and explosives, things like that. You’ll have control of my inventory and you’ll be responsible for getting them sold. By any means necessary.”
Once again, Alonzo had no idea what he was getting himself into but he knew he’d have the time of his life, and he also had to accept Orwell’s offer. Alonzo nodded.
That put a smile on Orwell’s face. “You proved yourself to me tonight, Alonzo. You really didn’t think about killing Nate, you just did it. You became the person you were always meant to be and all it took was you betting money on the Super Bowl.”
“What do you mean?”
“Think about it. Last night, we were in this same spot and you were crying uncontrollably. Tonight, you did what you had to do to save your life. How do you feel?”
“Like…” Alonzo took a while to think about his answer. “Like no one can stop me.”