Retribution

This story won the Last Line Story Contest held within the club in October 2020.


Red dripped from my knuckles, trailed down my wrist, seeped between my fingers. It splattered the ground as I shook my hand and clenched it into a fist once again. My left forearm was pressed against his neck. I could feel him struggle for breath beneath it, which added to the satisfaction as my right fist met his jaw in another crack. 


His forehead was split open, and so was the skin just under his left eye. The other eye was swollen shut, and blood gushed from his broken nose. The front of his once-gray shirt was soaked crimson. 


"Stop,” he wheezed. I eased my forearm slightly. He sputtered and coughed, "Please.”


I sniffed. “But, why?”


“Because I didn’t--” He spat a mouthful of blood onto the floor. “I didn’t do whatever you- whatever you think I did.” 


“Really? Then who hijacked my car and spilled beer all over the dash? Who crashed it into my parents’ garage and called the police to the party that night? Who got me thrown in jail?” I asked, littering the questions with more than one expletive. 


“I swear it wasn’t me!” he shouted. Hopeless agony tore across his features. “I left before any of that happened. I left as soon as you and-- you and Josie--” I backhanded his face.  He started to mutter to himself fervently.


“I don’t give a--” He ducked when I threw another punch, so a jolt was sent up my arm when it met the brick wall behind his head. He continued speaking under his breath. That only served to anger me further. “Son of a--” 


A shiver passed through my body. It was suddenly very cold. The air became thick, hard to breathe. I watched his body slip down the wall and to the floor, briefly paralyzed, eyes locked on something behind me. My mind slowed, confusion usurping my logic, my will. The only thing that made sense was that there was something behind me, and that something was powerful. I could feel it emanating as if it were heat from a furnace. 


Except it wasn’t heat, it was cold. I vaguely remembered my chemistry teacher telling the class that cold was just the lack of heat, and cold was not its own energy form, but this sensation seemed to turn her lesson on its head. The cold felt more like a presence than any heat I’d ever been exposed to in my life. 


I took a step back. The air resisted as if I were underwater. 


I opened my mouth to speak and the cold entered me. It consumed my lungs, rushed down to my toes and fingertips. I shook my head, and that was the last action I remember being able to control. Time slowed as my body moved against my will. 


My right hand reached into my pocket and slipped out my Swiss Army Knife. It flipped it open. My body knelt to the floor before it brought the blade to the man’s face. 


I wanted to vomit as I watched my own hand carve it into a mess of flesh and tissue beyond recognition. I wanted to close my eyes, but they remained open. I wanted to scream, but my vocal cords were dead. I wanted to run away, but my feet were anchored to the ground. 


Nothing-- I was in control of nothing-- no part of my body at all. 


And then in the distance I heard the sirens. Or were those the screams of the man I had just mutilated? He brought shaking hands to his face and rolled around on the ground. I felt my lips curve up into a smile. 


What the hell?!?!?!?! I screamed in my head. 


Time snapped back to normal. The air lost its thickness and the August warmth returned. Reality set in. 


What the hell?!?!” I screamed. I screamed it over and over again until my throat was torn. I raked my fingers through my hair and down my face. The other man might have still been screaming, but I couldn’t be sure. My own shouts had deafened me. 


I turned around, looking for something, anything, to fix this situation. I spun in circle after circle, but there was nothing. The warehouse was nearly empty. I could see nothing but bricks, metal beams, a dirty floor, a man who seemed to appear out of the dirt and dust--


No. Not a man. 


It was tall, slender, and white. It glowed, but was purely solid. It stood in the corner. Its wings stretched from its head to its calves.


I screamed at it the same question I’d already repeated two dozen times: “What the hell?!?”


It shuddered, it blinked in and out of my vision three, four times in a second, and then it was in front of me. With it was that same cold and thick air I had hoped was gone forever. 


It lifted its white hands with its slender, pointed white fingers, before it gripped my face. It wrapped its digits around the back of my head and squeezed my jaw between its palms until I heard a series of cracks. I moaned. 


“Weak bones, weak mind.” Its voice had an echo that reverberated through the room. 


“Stop. Please,” I whimpered. 


“Weak man,” it crooned. 


It drew a razor sharp nail down the side of my face before it winked from existence. I fell to my knees and brought a hand to my face. My jaw was unnaturally soft, and it felt as if someone were stabbing four hundred knives into it. 


Sparing a glance for the other man, despite the horrible injuries to his own face, I saw he was just as terrified as myself. I couldn’t vocalize my horrors, my questions, anything. 


There were, in fact, sirens in the distance, now. They grew louder each second. I struggled to get to my feet. I saw the guy that I had beaten and carved up to within an inch of his life do the same. I looked at him for a second. 


“Why…?” is all I could manage to get out. He turned his bloodied face toward me. He shook his head. 


Retribution,” boomed the voice of the being. I just about collapsed to the ground again at the sound. The other man nodded. I didn’t know what to make of his nod. I didn’t know if he agreed with what was being said or not, or if he had called it upon me, but he nodded nonetheless. 


Retribution for me, or for him? I wondered.


I saw him, and he saw me, and in that moment of shame and fear, we both turned and silently walked away.