The Greatest Enemy

Some would say he was athletic, a star waiting to be born.

As far as he was concerned, he was bored.

Curtis was an oddball, really. Tall, broad and handsome, he was once thought to be the one man who would make it far. He had been the homecoming king of his high school, the guy who got the girl. The bully, in many cases. Now he was the classic fuck-up of college and life, constantly on the run from both the cops and something else.

He tried not to think about it too much.

Curtis knew the headache that would follow simply wouldn’t be worth it.

Boredom, really, was the greatest enemy to exist. In all its glory, Boredom was a force that mocked all who tried to destroy it. Curtis had raged against this force since his early years as an adolescent. He remembered, quite well, how he’d sit in his room staring at a wall with his unread textbook resting across his stomach. He’s count the upraised paint-blotches etched into the wall, made from once-dry sponges, as if they were the most fascinating things in the world. The next day, he’d pass his test with flying colors.

Sometimes he wondered how he passed high school.

Then he wondered how he even made it through the entrance exam of his college…

It wasn’t like he attended. Curtis recalled the sky, so bright a blue it looked like someone had painted it with alien, oil-based paints. His phone was tossed on the grass beside him that day, silent yet lighting up with frantic calls from his mother and enraged voicemails from his father. He was sixteen. He knew pain would answer his lack-of-attendance once he got home. His father wasn’t a nice man. Too many years on the Force saw to that.

He didn’t go home, that night.

The next day, his mother hugged him before making arrangements to get him in a dorm.

In college, he was intrigued. The students were new, the faces fresh. The buildings were large and spread out over a large campus. The teachers actually knew what they were teaching, which came as a great shock to him. Police patrolled the campus, though. They watched the students, constantly observing as if waiting for one of them to suddenly turn into monsters and murderers. After three days, Curtis lost interest.

He was bored.

It wasn’t all that surprising, really.

He skipped classes, yet still, somehow, stayed on the roster. His mother called frequently, always delighted to talk about the subjects he was supposed to be learning about (Curtis couldn’t remember what he was supposed to be learning) and how his father was so proud of him. Every time, after they said their goodbyes, Curtis would start to laugh.

It was never a happy sound.

When he stumbled across Joshua for the first time, things seemed…okay.

There was art, parties and loud music. The bass of the impossibly large speakers made his bones hum and his head pound. The liquor helped with the last one, making him feel warm and alive like fire was in his veins. Josh was an interesting man, dark hair with a pierced lip and always wearing eyeliner. Curtis didn’t ask questions when Josh shot up.

Wasted and passed out, Curtis took him home.

The needles rested on his coffee table in his front room, after that.

When Josh offered him a pipe for the first time, Curtis was curious. He took it without question, turning the glass instrument this way and that. He asked how it was made. It was silent, those long few minutes. Then Josh asked, “The bowl or the drugs?” Curtis saw the glint of amusement in Josh’s eyes, then. He remembered laughing, the rainbow pipe resting on his knee as he answered, “Both.”

Josh never had an answer when he asked him that.

Curtis stopped expecting to get one, though why he still asked…he still doesn’t know.

Six months later, Curtis dropped out of college. Josh moved in, around then. Had a run-in with some bad people, he had said. Needed a place to lay low until things blowed over, a nervous laugh leaving his mouth. Curtis had opened the door without questioning him, a knowing, sad smile on his face. He had taken the dark-haired man’s jacket and shoes.

Josh lived with him after that moment.

There was something unspoken between them, a sense of static in the air.

Curtis never questioned it. Josh came and went, always careful. He would leave early in the morning and return when it was pitch-black outside. He was often tired, shoulders slumped and body shaking. Curtis made soup. Josh always ate it, smiling and asking a question or two about his day. Curtis told him everything, watching as the light came back into Josh’s eyes.

One day, Josh didn’t come home.

Curtis waited all night. He waited all day. A week passed.

He had been a college fuckup, his future soaked in gray matter. Curtis could recall when he made his way down that bleak hallway, white walls rising on all sides of him. There was a cop on either side of him. Not a word was spoken. One put a hand on his shoulder when they stopped at a door, her face lined and her eyes too old for someone who looked so young. The other one waited, face expressionless. Nothing was said as the door was opened, a cold air seemingly rolling out from the room and coiling around his body.

From a young age, Curtis knew what it was to be cold.

At twenty-seven years, he learned why it seemed to cling so tightly.

The morgue was silent, a faceless man standing across from him silently waiting. Curtis was still, unmoving. He didn’t know how long he had stood like that, eyeing the already open cooler and the sheet-clad body. Perhaps this faceless man was waiting for him to say he was ‘ready,’ but Curtis beat him to the ball. He had reached over and unveiled a face he hadn’t expected to ever see again.

Joshua was a rare soul, something old and new all-at-once.

There was no such thing as ‘boredom’ when he was around, a monster destroyed.

Dark-hair, runny raccoon eyes. Curtis remembers tracing that face, fingers ghosting over a sharp cheekbone and the familiar scar curving across it. He remembers pressing at a naked limp, voice devoid of emotion as he said, “His lip ring is missing.” No one seemed to know what to say, then. Curtis turned, eyes dark as he asked, “Did you find him?”

The cops seemed to know what he meant.

He wasn’t surprised; they had likely had this question throw their way many times.

Now, ten years later, Curtis stood in a field of iron filings. A smoking tower was behind him, windows busted out. Haunted screams filled the air, a choir of unheard voices that would no longer be ignored. He turned a ring on his finger, solid black with ‘C&J’ engraved on the inside. He felt those letters burning his skin as he eyed the man trying to crawl away, begging for mercy as Curtis withdrew his gun.

“You’re a cop!” The man yelled, face blackened from ash.

Curtis smiled. He raised the gun, eyes dark. “Where were the cops when you killed him?”

He was foretold to be an athlete, a star that would go so very far in the world. He knew better. He was bored, mind occupied by things others could not see. His ears heard faint whispers, his skin picked up the cold winds of change. He was a dropout. Everyone told him he wouldn’t get far, that he wouldn’t get anywhere. Then he met the sun, a dark form which bled the whiteness of his imprisonment.

His Commanding Chief didn’t ask how Sarco died, only acknowledged he was dead.

Curtis was numb, fatigued and disinterested in the world.

He was content as he stood over a grave, a handful of flowers in hand. A black ring shone on his finger, always there. A black earring, once pierced through a lip, rested on his ear as he stood there silently standing. The graveyard was empty, the sky unnaturally blue. It was almost a mockery, this brightness. As he crouched down, laying the flowers across the grave, his gaze shifted to the headstone.

Where there is darkness in the world, there is also light.

For the first time in months, Curtis let himself close his eyes and smile.

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