500 Words

I am trying to write more. I seem to express that in a lot of my blog posts of late… But now I have a goal: 500 words everyday until it becomes second nature. I can do that, right? No problem.

Here are two days worth of that goal. (I’m not going to publish every single 500-word snippet, but I did want to publish this.)

The following is a story idea I started years ago but never finished. Story of my life, right? Please excuse the poor quality of this introduction. My brain is not braining well tonight. Here goes:

***

Thomas McQuinn walked down the street, legs quivering in fear as three police cars shot past, their sirens ominously blaring in his head long after they passed out of sight. With every step, the bulk in his right pocket bounced against his leg, still slightly warm, not letting him afford a moment to forget about what he just did. He could hear newscasts yet to be aired, detailing the brutal acts committed against an entirely innocent family. He was a monster.

He had done many criminal deeds in the past few weeks, but none of them involved murder. Ordinarily, he would rush home to see if his family was still alive… But not this time. He let the weight of his actions settle in the crevices of his mind. He wanted to feel the strongest sting of self-condemnation. He wanted it to burn in his mind. He had committed murder. He had never killed a soul prior to that day. Now he had killed three.

As he continued down the road, another police car roared through, disturbing Tom’s self-loathing. A cloud of dust kicked up from behind its tires, hanging in the dry Tucson air. He reached a crossroad and turned left, walking through the dust cloud that had yet to settle. He watched as it clung to his clothes and his skin, wishing it would completely cover him; hide his shame.

A taxicab sat waiting for him, engine purring. He got into the back and sat there without a word. The driver did not look back at him, nor ask him “Where to?” but drove him to the destination set out for him.

Tom rested his hands on his gut and tried to hold in his sobs. What would he tell his family if he ever got to see them again? Would they forgive him if they knew it was to save them? Would he ever be able to live with himself?

He tried gulping in air between dry heaves. The driver still did not look back. Tom began thinking about the family he had killed: a couple and their child. He wondered about the intricacies of their lives. If they were a blue collar family or a white collar family… If the kid was in fourth or fifth grade… If they ever went to the state fair… What they thought about the current president… If they believed in God.

Do the ends justify the means? If he did not kill this family, his own family would be killed. Zee made that very clear. Was it right? If his family knew, would they, in their sense of justice rather be killed?

Would the madness ever end?

The taxi began taking roads he was unfamiliar with. He had thought he was done for the day and he was supposed to be going home. Apparently not. Something within him raised alarms in his head, but the rest of him drowned them out in sorrow. It did not matter what happened next—it was unforgivable what he did.

***

He turned onto his avenue a little later than normal Friday night. The dog at the corner house started barking at him as he drove past. He winced, hoping none of the neighbors would awaken because of it. As he pulled into the driveway he began thinking of dinner. His oldest son was eating more than his fair share—the growth spurts of adolescence were hitting him hard—and would often not leave enough leftovers for his hard-working father.

Tom grabbed the key to turn off the ignition, but held it and sighed. He and his wife got into a fight just a couple days ago over his recent rash of late homecomings and the thought of going inside to get confronted yet again was less than heartwarming.

“I’m doing it for you,” he said out loud before finally twisting the key. “I hope you understand that.”

When he walked inside, it was completely dark. Not a light was on. Strange, he thought. I guess she went to bed. He couldn’t blame her. She spoke her piece. He was still late.

He waited for his eyes to adjust before heading upstairs, trying to avoid the spots on the stairs that squeaked so he wouldn’t wake the kids. His bedroom was door was left open just a crack. No light inside either. He noted it felt rather chilly as well. Tara must have forgotten to turn on the heat. Stranger still. He walked into the bedroom and began taking off his tie when he noticed the bed. Empty. Still made.

He left his tie half-finished and began walking to the master bathroom. “Tara? Honey?” No answer. No one in the bathroom.

He walked back downstairs. Maybe he had passed her in the living room and hadn’t realized it. He stood on the staircase and looked out from above the railing. No one was in the room. Fear was rising in his heart as he ran back upstairs. He ran to his son’s room. “Tara?” He opened the door, still somewhat cautious of awakening the children. Darrin’s bed was empty and made as well. Then to Liz’s room. Her bed was made. Brendan’s crib was also empty.

He began to get scared but was sure there was some logical answer. He pulled out his phone and called Tara as he walked back downstairs. He could hear it ringing from the bedroom. Fear grew. He called Darrin. No answer. Fear grew. He called his mother-in-law, thinking she might know something. Voicemail.

“Hey, Susan. It’s Tom. Just wondering if you’ve seen Tara recently. Call me back soon, please.” He hung up, hoping his panic didn’t come through in the message. He ran into the kitchen. “Tara! Darrin! Liz!” He thought for a moment and even screamed for his two month-old, hoping a stray “goo” would graze his ears and allay his worried mind. He didn’t hear a thing. He ran out the front door and paced on the porch for a minute, scanning the dimly-lit street as he searched his mind for answers. He ran back inside and screamed, “Anyone!” No answer.

He ran back outside and looked, then back in again. He knew it made no sense, but he hoped to somehow catch a glimpse of them. His breathing intensified. “Where are you?” He rested on his knees to catch his breath and looked up. And that’s when he saw it.

The mailbox post for his house was cemented in the ground at a cockeyed angle. This was no doubt frustrating for the mailman, but was more convenient for the McQuinn family because they had a better viewing of the red flag. Tom looked out the window and saw the red flag was up and the mailbox door was open. He ran outside and leapt across the yard to the mailbox. Maybe, somehow it was a clue. Reaching inside, he was somewhat surprised to pull out a piece of paper. His nerves shook his arms as he read the note.

Mr. McQuinn,
Please do not worry. Your family is safe. And with your cooperation, you will be safe too. You and I have a little misunderstanding to settle. If you do everything I require of you, your debt will be paid and your family returned. Once you have finished reading this, you will be taken into custody where you will await your first orders. Thank you for your patience.
Zee

Tom was confused. He reread the note as his pulse and breathing began to increase. He looked up.

There was a sudden burst of motion and noise from behind him. Before he had time to react, something was pressed into his face.

Blackout.

***

Well, what say ye? Please leave any sort of constructive criticism in the comments section.

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