Orandamned is a redemption story. Cliff James is killed during a Wallstreet riot, and is sent to Purgatory to atone for his sins, only he doesn’t know what his sins are, and as it turns out Purgatory is a fancy-goldfish fish-tank. Cliff wakes up in Purgatory as an Oranda. He meets a dark angel, a number of other inmates, and he grows fond of his keeper Aliya. Things go sour, and the inmates begin to suspect Aliya’s boyfriend, who has a key to her apartment, is actually the serial killer the news has been covering for some time. Can Cliff and the inmates, as goldfish, do anything to save Aliya before it is too late?
“Mr. James, Mr. James!” Rudy’s voice came shrill from across the crowded Wallstreet intersection. Cliff didn’t have the stomach for another Rudy-brand calamity that was half in his damn head and half the present and ongoing situation.
Cliff raised a hand over his head without looking to signal Rudy. “Yeah, just one damn second!” He turned his attention back to the kid across the counter. The Starbucks manager was a young, posh kid, 17 or a bit older… he’d never known true need his whole damn life, everything given to him. Well at the moment the Movement had need, and it was Cliff’s job to make sure he got something. “Look, I can’t leave here until I get something. As Jr. manager here at Starbucks I’m sure you’re in a position to work it out with me.”
“Mr. James!” Another frantic call came from the doorway now and the cafe’s patrons all stopped sipping their specialty drinks to stare blankly at the door and the red-faced fool standing there.
Ciff felt his teeth grind. “Just a moment.” He wheeled on his associate. “I said one damned minute! Whatever you’ve got to tell me it can wait, Rudy. Now shut it!”
He turned back to the seventeen year old manager and tried to offer his most pleasant smile. “Now all I’m asking is that you order an extra shipment of your breakfast pastries… and if it’s an issue of money, money we’ve got! What were asking is that you give it to us at-cost, or as near to it as you can. I’m not trying to be unreasonable, but there are 2,000 people out there that need to be fed and…”
Rudy’s hand had taken a firm grip on Cliff’s collar. “James… S.W.A.T.’s here, fully geared. People are scared.”
Cliff felt his heart give a great kick, something akin to a first kiss and jumping off a cliff without a parachute… from all over the country there’d been numerous stories about police brutality. It was becoming a trend, and S.W.A.T. was not something to be trifled with. He turned to the kid-manager across the counter. “Well talk later, yeah?” Again the kid was silent and doe-eyed. “Yeah. Good.” And with that he turned around and made for the doors.
As soon as he was out he broke into a run, Rudy was panting to keep up behind him. “Why didn’t you tell me!?”
Rudy wiped the perspiration off his brow. “I tried!”
“Bull!” Cliff wondered where he should go, and his panic kicked up a notch when he caught sight of a man wearing black armor, probably kevlar, taking a position on the roof of a three story building… right above the bulk of the movement.
Rudy looked flummoxed. “But I did!”
Cliff pushed into the crowd of protestors. “What’d you say, James!? …What was that supposed to tell me huh?” He bumped into a man with dreaded hair, and he noticed the man stood rigid, tense, fists balled at his sides. He barely even noticed Cliff as he ran by.
“Yeah, I did.” Rudy insisted, “I said, Mr. James! When else do I say, Mr. James!?”
Cliff chuckled, “Like every damn day!”
They burst through another group on their way to the committee tents. Cliff hadn’t meant to, but the group was moving together, and not paying attention to anything but their small cluster. This time a slender kid with gauges in his ears spit and pushed Cliff to the ground. His elbows were instantly bloody.
“Watch were you’re going!” Shouted one of the cluster as they made their way forward.
The movement, had become a sea of protesters. Cliff had never felt anything like it exactly, but he could feel its’ energy. People were angry. It was like the swaying grasses back home, dancing as a precursor to the storm to come. Cliff worried what a storm of people might look like.
Rudy was standing over him offering his hand. “You alright?”
Cliff took his hand and brushed himself off. “Yeah, that guy’s a fuckwad!” Rudy nodded his head in agreement. Someone shouted from across the plaza. The leaves of the blossoming mulberries wavered in unison on a strong gust of hot air, a blast shook Cliff and set his heart at a rapid beat. What the hell was that! He was on his ass before he knew what was happening.
Rudy was beside him, eyes closed, and a trickle of blood was leaking out his nose. People were running around him, and Cliff had half a mind to join them. Shit! Shit! Shit! He knew he was the only one who could help Rudy. He checked for a pulse. It was there. He’d taken a first aid course his sophomore year of college, but he couldn’t remember a damn thing. His heart was pumping against his ears, and his vision seemed to narrow in on itself. What’s happening?
He looked up. People were running on mass. Somebody’s elbow clipped the back of Cliff’s ear as they ran by and pain shot through his skull. “Hey!” He shouted but nobody seemed to hear him. “Hey, this man needs help!!!”
An older man, maybe thirty, with grey in his beard broke off from the crowd and knelt beside them. He peeled Rudy’s eyelids back and grimaced. “This kid’s going into shock! Fuck… alright, keep this elevated.”
Cliff did as he was told while the stranger went to work. He looked behind him and saw a column of smoke rising up into the air. A woman’s scream cut through the pitch of the panicked crowd and Cliff saw a mist of red rise into the air and the body that young, posh, Starbuck’s manager sprawl out beside him, dead. The man with grey in his beard fell back yelling in horror as blood pooled out beneath the body, and Cliff couldn’t suppress a gag.
Rudy slipped out of his grip as a foodless clear bile fought its way up Cliff’s esophagus and out his mouth. He peered up through watery eyes… eyes that stung.
“Fuck, I’m out of here kid.” The man with the grey beard sprung to his feet and was off with the rest of them. What the fuck is happening. Cliff stood and saw a flash of light at the top of a three story building. There were similar pops of light, snipers firing into the crowd, everywhere. The people were surrounded. Someone had set off a bomb, probably paid by the government, and the people were being executed for it.
Cliff could already read the headlines, Blood on Wallstreet, and he swallowed that bitter lump in his throat and clenched his fists. Through the grey fog that was rolling all around them, heavy and low, Cliff saw the beetle like heads of shielded S.W.A.T. marching through the crowd like Spartans, and he knew someone had declared war on them. A kid in a black leather jacket broke free of the crowd and hurled a glass bottle at the advancing execution squad while coming to a stop beside Cliff. Their eyes met for a moment, reflecting the fear they both felt in their marrow and bones.
A man at the head of the team raised his hand above his head and pointed in their direction. Suddenly all the yelling seemed to disappear, and eerie quite, surreal, descended upon Cliff and his mind folded in on itself to a time when he was six and playing chess with his older sister while his mom and dad watched CSI in the living-room. He had no idea where the memory came from. When he came to he saw the man atop the building… He saw him checking sights, sights locked on him, they must have thought he threw the bottle. He looked back at the leather clad fool that stood beside him and saw a look of horror paint his face red.
Cliff was dead before he felt the bullet, and darkness became his only company in the void of the unknown and ever after.
-to be continued-
Immediately after writing, polishing, and posting this piece I came across this article about police brutality. I think it’s a good read. It is not my intent to demonize law enforcement, but as they are people, they are also flawed and dangerous. I’ve seen Riot Gear police in my neck of the woods before, and police on horseback riding through the streets surrounded by inebriated college students (doesn’t sound very smart to me), and let me tell you… they can be scary as fuck, and it wasn’t so long ago they could kill and write it off as accident. As always, thanks for reading.