A Walk Through Hell in Gasoline Boots (Content Warning)
It was pouring rain outside the trendy coffee shop on this suburban town's trendy town square on the trendiest Tuesday ever. It had been raining for three hours and was absolutely coming down in cats and dogs when he arrived at the shop's entrance. Daisuke stroked the rectangular bulge in his front jean pocket, one hundred pieces of valuable paper.
He'd been waiting in the coffee shop for over two hours at this point. After thirty minutes, he said he'd wait another half hour and then bolt. An hour after that and here he is, still waiting. He'd had three cups of coffee, a slice of tiramisu, and was working up the courage to ask the waitress to refill his mug for the fourth time. He was nervous and the caffeine and cream wasn't helping his nerves.
Fun fact, drinking coffee doesn't sober you up. Coffee's a stimulant. Booze is a depressant. You're not sobering up when you chug a cup of Folger's before your eight hour shift at the Big Red speedy checkout lanes. You're simply making yourself more alert as your three shots of Stag and two glasses of shandy brew through your bloodstream. Good luck.
Dai had not had a single drop of alcohol in the two days since he began this little adventure he saw himself jittering up a storm for. There weren't many things he found acceptable to drink for. Birthdays, New Year's Eve, maybe St. Patrick's day? He wasn't a big social person so social drinking wasn't a concern.
The damn flash drive and the late bitch, he thought, those are my concerns. He held up his mug and almost concurrently his phone vibrated twice in his hoodie's front pocket.
“Shit,” he muttered, putting down the mug and grabbing at the phone.
A text from an unknown number:
TouchedbyFire en route. Dealing with business. Don't leave Daft's Coffee. There soon. Srsly. Don't leave.
He had to laugh at the username his contact was using. A redhead who watches Game of Thrones. Seriously. Not the most clever anonymous moniker to use. From what he had been told, the redheaded guess was an accurate one. A smart tech could have a short list of potential candidates within a good hour if you direct line two 8.4s of Red Bull and had no distractions. Dai could have it in twenty minutes with the right computer. His computer.
That thought made the hair stick up on his forearms. He almost felt like he needed to hide them, his hoodie's sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His computer...damn, what a sore subject.
* * *
Rachelle, Chelly to her friends and many lovers, couldn't be bothered with the ridiculous amount of stress she was under. The idea of having to meet up with Jack made her stomach squirm, but the Rising Sun guy was paying out the wazoo for the drive and it wasn't like she didn't need an extra ten-thousand dollars. It was beginning to rain. Getting her clothes soaked didn't bother her much. If she ran the world her way, we'd all be a bunch of naked people under umbrellas.
“Jack, pick up the phone, I'm outside your apartment building and it's fucking starting to rain,” the redhead teen shouted into her phone's receiver. She had gotten his message machine for the fourteenth time. It was a bit extreme to text someone that many times with no reply. To leave that many voicemails? Inconceivable! She had to laugh at herself. Jack had her in such a fuss that she was quoting The Princess Bride. Damn him, she hated that movie.
She debated on clicking on his number again as a drop of rain dodged her jacket and red hair and landed smack dab on her screen. Chelly dried it off as a text message came through her encrypted messaging app, the same app that she and her fellow commissaries had been using for the six months the Allies had been running codes. Call them paranoid, the guys like Jack she had to pick up flash drives, terabyte externals, and, one weird time, a whole fish that had a collapsible USB drive inside its stomach. They would write the codes and malware and phish programs and put them on sticks and hand them off to her or one of the other girls and have them hand-delivered, eyes only, swallow a cyanide if caught type shit.
It wouldn't shock her the least bit to find out that the flash drives were full of nothing but pictures and info on random women. A misogynistic boxer stain, Jack had always had the mental picture of himself as mankind's digital knight, slaying the female beasts that had the audacity to break up with their boyfriends. He had called it cyber-policing, keeping people in check, or just trolling, but the truth was that Jack liked the idea of anonymously making people's lives miserable behind a keyboard and mouse.
How had she even ended up dating Jack? Oh right, she realized, the free rent and cash money for making deliveries. She wasn't a computer whiz nor was she even that competent with technology in general. She was seventeen, svelte, porcelain skin, and red hair that made her look like a scarlet nightmare when it was wet. Which it was now getting, because fuck this rain, she thought looking up at the blackening sky.
“Fuck it,” she muttered. After all, she had a key to Jack's apartment. He hadn't asked for it when their super serious relationship ended. Yeah, super serious. He wanked nineteen times a day and her needs just weren't worth the extra chafing his beat-offs had afforded him. God forbid he want to have the real thing when it's sleeping two feet from him every night. Two months of living together and one affair with the Mandingo looking motherfucker down the block later and she had deuced out.
She made the trek inside of the apartment building's narrow walkways and found the door to Jack's apartment already opened a smidge.
Her radar for bad shit had always been decent. You can't leave an abusive house at fourteen and not have a good radar for bad shit. You're fourteen, you don't even know what sophomore year tastes like yet, and you are on the road hitchhiking. Sure, you do what you have to survive and sometimes the assholes don't even take you two miles up the road before asking you to get out. But, she had never gotten in the car with Richard Ramirez or Ted Bundy or whoever was grabbing national headlines this year for serial killing at the pro level and for this she was proud of her ability to not walk into a bad situation.
But this was ten-thousand dollars we were talking about. That's not peanuts. After paying back Jack, that was five thousand crisp green dollar bills she got for just handing a guy a flash drive and bringing a manila folder with the exact weight of one-hundred pieces of paper in it back to Jack. Canada and its fantastic free healthcare were just two deliveries away.
Ignoring her intuition, she nudged the door open and walked inside. It was dark. Between the dark rain clouds blotting out the sun and the black-out curtains Jack fancied from Big Red Retail, the room was nothing but the absence of color.
“Jack?” she whispered, reaching her hand up and down the doorway's wall. She remembered living here enough to recall the light switch being somewhere near the door's edge.
A computer modulated voice set to a very low bass whispered from the other side of the dark room. “He's not here, Rachelle Dawkins.” Her heart jumped. “And I sincerely doubt the lights are going to work with the power turned off like it is. Damn shame. How inconvenient.”
Shit, she thought, I'm dead. This is how it ends. Seventeen years? What a disappointing run.
“Funny thing, the darkness. Made for a decent post-glam rock band name. Had a good single.” The voice was moving or the speaker the user was on was at least. “Dave Chappelle called Charlie Murphy that as Rick James before punching him with a unity ring. Simon and Garfunkel sang for JFK's death rattle 'Hello, darkness, my old friend.' They should have listened for a reply though. Because the darkness is never and will never be your friend.” The voice stopped moving. The modulation made the speaker's identity impossible to note. The voice was only a few feet away from the redhead at this point. “What are you doing here, Chelly?”
She mustered up what little courage she had and whispered bravely, “Only my friends get to call me that. You ain't no friend of mine, stranger.”
“But we are friends. Good friends. Jack White said he could tell we were gonna be friends. Led Zeppelin said a sad man seen on the streets had no friends. Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman were Friends with Benefits. That's us. We're friends with benefits. The benefit of my friendship,” the voice was in front of her now. She was frozen with fear. She could smell adrenaline on the person's skin. “is that I stop things like this from getting into bad Japanese hands.”
At first, she shuddered. The voice's hand was on hers. Almost instantly though, it slid back off, leaving a small flash drive in her palm.
“What is it?” Chelly asked the darkness.
“His revenge.” The person scooted forward and reached for the door handle. “Have a good life, Chelly. Get some better friends and call your mother.”
Rachelle had a million questions to ask and wanted to ask them all. The door to Jack's apartment creaked open and she could barely make out the outline of a hooded figure wearing a plain white bandana with the modulator taped inside of it, slung across the person's face desperado style. The figure's hood was up over their hair and forehead. In the pale light coming from the sky, green eyes could be made out on their face.
The figure turned back around to face Rachelle. “What?” the modulator spewed.
“...it was Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake who were in Friends with Benefits, not Kutcher and Portman. They did No Strings Attached. They came out the same year so like, the confusion is understandable.”
“Oh, huh...” the voice replied, turning back to the exit. “Good to know.” The voice walked away and never looked back.
Chelly looked down at the flash drive in her hand. The clouds briefly parted and the sun shone through the doorway and up into Jack's living room. She screamed. Jack looked up at her. Or, at least, his eyes were pointed in her direction. There wasn't much of him to see anymore.
* * *
Jack Carpenter was going to make this little bitch's life a living hell. He had buckets of webcam footage from her little shows she had put on for her boyfriends on his computer. Pictures she had sent via Snapchat that he had screen shot with a modded apk-file of the application. Pictures that showed everything the little salacious bitch had to show. And there was plenty to show.
She hadn't even realized that her webcam had been hacked. Jesus. It flashed green at all times indicating recording and she didn't even have the common sense to turn it off. Dumb little bitch. What a treat when one of his friends convinced her to put on a little strip tease. At the final tally, twenty-seven-thousand viewers clicked on for the live stream and over a hundred thousand had downloaded the Dropbox linked wmv file of the whole show before the fascist little censors took it down. That was just a start. Oh no, he thought, I don't just want a few guys to know what you are. I want the world to know.
That meant using BanzaiRisingSun and that meant in a cruel dash of irony the bitch would have to deliver her own hacked webcam's feed information.
He pressed the small USB flash drive into his computer and began uploading the specifications and a few bonus pictures for services rendered. It was going to be so sweet. She was going to give the hacked stream information to the man who could livestream it on the Darknet for all eternity. He had already reached out to BRS and set up a standard commissary meeting at Daft's Coffee Shop in the Town Square. Small world, Jack thought, the world's leading darknet dastardly deed maker lives within driving distance to our humble little town.
Tomorrow morning, Rachelle the bitch would come by, pick up the flash drive, deliver it to the slant-eyed pervert in the coffee shop, and by midnight tonight a million little perverts will be slapping it to the girl who was oh so eager to fuck the nigger down the block. She deserves this, Jack thought. She deserves this and whatever else happens to her. Hell, she'll be a little celebrity. Might even get some fans on the streets. They'll say hey is that the redhead who cheated on JackOfAllTrades? Why yes, their friends will reply, I do believe that's the dumb nigger fucking slut herself. And she'll think why are all these people looking at me. And she'll know...down in her core...down in the bottom of her empty little slut soul...she'll know it's because they know just who you are.
He smiled as the files finished uploading. Jack unmounted the flash drive, set it down on his desk, and felt his neck go limp as his head slammed down hard onto his keyboard.
The troll had been out for four hours. The sun had gone down and the apartment was completely dark. At first, she had worried that the troll would wake up as she was setting things up. She didn't need that. She'd put him down in a fight of course. Two nerve punches and he'd go down like the little frail boy he is but she didn't want this to go to hands. After two hours and the completion of set-up, she inserted him into the contraption and locked Jack's head into it's new wooden box. Her Toyota was parked at the other end of the complex's parking lot and that's where she safely stowed all of the equipment tonight's festive trial would require. Lined up and down and around the sides of the oak box were eight perfectly measured slits. She checked her duffel for the last few necessary pieces, confirmed their existence, and sat down on Jack's couch which was perpendicular to the stand and box that Jack's head now held up his body from. She was getting comfortable when she remembered the handcuffs. She cuffed Jack and sat back down.
Now he just needed to wake up for his trial.
Four hours was a long time. The paralysis concoction she had sprayed on his keyboard was so sensitive to touch that she was shocked that he had made it as long as he did after returning from the bathroom.
In a creepypasta type of twist, Leeloo Ripley Freeman had actually been living in Jack's apartment for a few days at this point. He slept a lot. He jerked off a lot. It wasn't terribly difficult to get out of his unused linen closet for a bathroom break anad she had packed enough rations for three days in case the concoction didn't work. Even little acne-covered cum stains like Jackson Carpenter needed to leave the apartment on occasion for their daily dose of perservative-filled fast food burgers and weed.
Her mind did that thing again, the thing it always did. Didn't Sublime sing about marijuana smoking calming people down? Cheech and Chong used to smoke weed in all sorts of unfamiliar places usually making people around them uncomfortable with their lack of respect for basic law abiding, but they always seemed much more calm, much more high after smoking a so-called joint. Thomas Pychon's famous private eye, Doc Sportello, lit up joints more than any other character Leeloo could remember reading in a book.
Her parents had named her after two characters from two science fiction movies. They said they wanted this daughter to grow up to be a badass. They weren't wrong. She wasn't going to be fighting alien queens in metal exoskeleton suits or beating the snot out of Mangalores in her lifetime though. Looking up at her fresh catch, she thought proudly that this route would have to suffice.
After four hours, Leeloo had grown restless. She had already examined everything on Jack's computer. He hadn't been able to lock the unit before giving his keyboard a headbutt so the vast amount of information were at her fingertips. What interested her most was the conversation Jack had been having with a user she knew all too well. A Japanese national in America on a permanent visa. It seemed like last week's catch had let her straight to a direct line to BanzaiRisingSun.
She had no interest at reinserting the flash drive BRS and JOAT had been discussing on their tor-encrypted chat. Based on her study of Jack and the smug smile that he got on his face after unplugging it, she could estimate a guess that it was the flash drive Banzai was going to be ruining a poor girl's life over. Oh, and look at that, he was going to “pay” her in a stack of dollar bill shaped Polaroid snap shots of men's phallic members. How charming. She noted the time that Banzai would be at the coffee shop, checked her watch, and knew what she had to do. She thought of Janeway and the rest was easy.
Jack woke with a startle. The internet had said that the specific compound she had used usually led to victims waking up with jolt. She walked behind him, tied on her bandana gear, made sure the modulator was turned on for maximum effectiveness, and waited for the inevitable...
...scream. “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” Jack yelled, trying to move his head around inside the slitted box. “WHO DID THIS?”
“Calm down, Jackson Carpenter, everything is okay. You're exactly where you need to be.” The modulator effectively lowered her voice down four or five octaves.
“WHO ARE YOU?”
“It doesn't matter who I am.” She had to stifle herself before accidentally quoting Bane's mask speech from the opening scene of the Dark Knight Rises. Her brain, always active, never stopping.
Jack began to calm if only to a slight degree. He wasn't yelling anymore but his voice was still a hollow shell of the bold man he had envisioned himself being. “Look, if you let me out now, I'll let you go. I didn't see shit. I won't even call the cops. Please.”
“Pleases and falsehoods will not increase your chances of ever leaving this apartment again, Jackson Carpenter. You're exactly where you need to be.” She made a final check of the box's sturdiness before walking around to the front.
He could see her bandana-covered face through the front slits when she leaned down in front of him. The bandana wasn't necessary. The voice box wasn't necessary. Like any good district attorney, Leeloo Ripley didn't go to court without having sufficient incriminating evidence against the accused. The sentences were always the same. Her creed was simple enough that she had it inked on her shoulder blades: death to trolls.
So, no, technically the troll's worst nightmare, the desperado disguise complete with talkbox wasn't necessary at this junction. During the execution, they would be crucial. She just never wanted to risk a troll spouting off at the webcam, listing details about her including the fact that she was indeed a her.
“Jackson Carpenter, you stand accused of being the worst type of human being in the modern world. You ruin lives. You ruin lives and you do it for fun. You hide behind encryptions and virtual privacy networks in your pursuit of anonymity from your crimes. You are a troll. How do you plead?”
“I don't have...any...fucking idea what you're talking about, dude.” Like Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs, the world was short on a list of lies for the blatantly guilty to vomit out when they stand before a firing squad. Tim Roth also starred in Lie to Me, a short lived Doctor House as a police informant ripoff. Ironic, Leeloo thought shrugged.
“Jackson, I've been through your computer. I've seen the kiddie porn. I've seen the harassing emails and direct messages. I've seen the hacked webcams and credit card phishes. I've been through your fourteen Dropbox accounts. I've seen this and who it's meant for,” she held up the flash drive meant for delivery. “all I have to ask is...how do you plead?”
He was silent. He breathed heavy at first, the mountain of evidence falling onto him. It must have been suffocating. “I...I don't know...”
“That's fine. Your verdict has already been reached. Some of you,” she stood up and clicked a few keys on Jack's computer, his webcam lighting up. “like to admit to what you've done before your sentence is carried out.”
His quiet voice was stoic but muffled by the oak box. “No. I don't have a goddamn thing to say to you, dude. You aren't a judge or a jury. You're psychotic.” He went stone face. Christ, Leeloo though, is this pride? Is he proud?
She picked up her duffel and set it down hard on the couch. Unzipped, the bag's contents made a loud clanging noise. She had sharpened the eight swords before taking up residence in Jack's linen closet but the live feed was on and already gaining subscribers so the effect of her sharpening one or two was all for dramatic effect. It was on a ten minute delay and her car was a fourteen second jog from the front door if someone actually turned wise and hacked for the signal's origin.
“I was watching a program a few weeks ago, Jackson Carpenter. 'Exposing Magic's Secrets' was the title. They went through and detailed how each and every illusion is performed. I loved it. You see, I have a mind for that type of thing. I have a mind for learning secrets and exploiting them.” She tapped the box with a sword. “Obviously.” She stroked the sword's blunt side. “My favorite one was,” she gestured at the box and its occupant. “the head in the box illusion. You know? Magician puts assistant in box, stabs eight swords into it, removes swords, ta-da, big reveal and the assistant is fine!”
Jackson didn't move. When confronted with all of your sins at once, it's hard to come out of shock. And when your sins are as shocking as his, it's exponentially harder.
“Well, the way they do it is they perfectly angle the swords,” she aimed one of the swords at a slit on the back top corner, shoved it in, and stepped back. “around the assistant's head.”
Jackson had screamed briefly at the steel blade ramming its way into his personal space.
Leeloo leaned back down in front of him. “Needless to say, you should sit still.”
She aimed another sword into another slit and shoved. She did this seven times total. The box looked like, from the outside, Jack was impaled seven times. He wasn't of course. That was the trick to the illusion.
“Of course,” Leeloo said lifting up the eighth and final sword. “They typically use a collapsible sword for the final one.”
She slammed down hard on the center slit at the very top of the box. She felt a hard crack and then thrusted completely through. She pulled the sword out, the blade covered in red blood and brain matter. Leeloo pointed the sword at the webcam and modulated her voice. “Death to trolls. I'm coming for you.”
* * *
What a waste of a time, Daisuke thought, as he pulled into his house's driveway. He took the bulge of undelivered paper and set it into the glove compartment of his Dodge. Three hours waiting and the woman doesn't even show. Perhaps JackOfAllTrades was bluffing. Perhaps the girl looked at the flash drive. It didn't matter. He'd wipe the conversation and move on to the next paying project.
He walked into the door of his house, took off his shoes, and called for his wife. “Honey, I'm home. Meeting got cancelled.” He walked into the house. It was quiet. His son should be running around, toddlers are rarely this quiet.
Daisuke reached the living room and saw a picture on the coffee table. He picked it up and quickly looked around to see if any of his immediate family had seen it. The graphic nature of the webcam screenshot would be too much for him to explain away. Had he been this careless with his work?
From behind him, a voice came through a modulator, deep and dark and brooding. “Her name was Janeway Joan Freeman.” Daisuke looked up; he could feel the paralysis kicking in. “After what you did to her, you killed her.” Her catch fell to the ground. Leeloo crouched down next to the barely conscious man. “I want you to know,” she lifted off her bandana and modulator and spoke in her soft voice, her green hair spilling out from under her hood. “that your wife and child are dosed on sleeping pills and will not find you when they wake up.”
Daisuke sputtered, “What...do...you...want...from me...”
“You? Nothing.” She replaced the bandana back on her face but a smile could still be seen forming under it. Through the modulator, she spoke, “death to trolls, Daisuke.”