The Taker

It was four pm and Byron had his supplies, so he could live for another week. The tuna and the bread along with every other stuff of life was unceremoniously stuffed into the duffel and the backpack. He was walking home with the fact that he was encumbered and therefore vulnerable. The clouds looked more ominous.

The day was filled with clouds, cold and wet but Byron had miles to go before he could rest. The hood on his head was a constant trepidation as it could not stand against eastern gusts. There was a man behind Byron, a known entity in the neighborhood. Byron on his more whimsical days had thought of the man as an apparition due to his ability to always be faintly, in the periphery of the world.

The sidewalk merited Byron’s attention and he found himself split between three interests. There was the odd footing beneath him, the cars in front of him and the man that was surely following Byron. The mental balance was akin to high wires and glass walkers. Byron was of neither discipline and wavering distressingly.

The ghost in the trench coat was gaining on Byron. His hard soles tapped against the sidewalk, making it apparent that he was solid. Byron chanced a good look at the man. He was black and old and drooping into a cheap suit, which he wore for he knew no other way to dress. The red feathered black fedora sat on his head, vibrant and jaunty but in context, just another prerequisite of dress.

To be poor is to know that anything one has can be taken. Byron had been poor all his life and he had grown a sense when he felt that someone wanted to take. This intuition was remarkably capricious and Byron tended to ignore it. As the well dressed community specter came closer, a little voice screamed in Byron’s head. He ignored it as he could do nothing else.

Down the alley and Bryon was two paces in front. Byron put down his bags. He turned knowing confrontation to be inevitable. He was staring straight into the yellow of the man’s eyes. The man walked closer still. The two were a strange contrast. Byron was dressed to the fours in cherished old sports memorabilia and ratty jeans. The old man was dressed as a he was told a man should, including gloves and garters. Despite standing a head above the old man, Byron knew he was no match.

In his forty years, Byron had learned how to fight, how to survive. On that day, Byron had walked two miles and had nothing left to throw at the old man. The old man however had a knife which appeared from pockets unseen. It was thin, pointed, double sided. slight and ornate.

“Will it hurt?”

“Not for very long, I assure.”

There was a coo in the old man’s voice, Byron was being talked to as if a cat. He was being put down and the old man was being kind. For a motion, Byron fought but the jab never connected. The knife was in Byron’s side, then across and in the neck. With his hands grasping Byron by the hair, the old man retreated into the open and abandoned shed. Byron was still trying to breathe.

Arthur relished the taste of blood. It was an old weakness of his and he would partake when given the opportunity. It rarely sustained him and after finding Byron’s wallet he went to retrieve the groceries, hoping for a meat heavy diet. Then the rain came and all those fears of stain left. Acetate was a marvelous fabric. Arthur wondered how he lived so many years without it.

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