Another blow to the stomach. The sharp hiss of air escaping and then a hoarse, whooping cough of an inhale was all Marty could hear and it made him feel sick to his own stomach. It occurred to him that if George died he would abruptly cease to be. He felt like he should take action, should step in and do something, anything, just make it stop. But the cool, crisp night air had drained him of his bravado and a niggling little voice in the back of his consciousness berated him. “Haven’t you saved him enough times already? Let him learn to fight back on his own.”
But it was his own existence that was at stake. Marty was torn. He gnawed on a fingernail and watched, silently praying that George would suddenly gain a sizable amount of courage or something would happen to interrupt the beating.
Biff’s hand drew back as he yanked George toward him by the collar of his shirt. “Listen up, you little shit-face. I told you not to go into Lou’s… didn’t I?” When George didn’t answer, Biff shook him violently back and forth. “Didn’t I?”
“Yes!” George managed to choke out. “Yes, Biff, you did. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please let me go.” One of Biff’s friends suddenly became animated in the shadows, as he hefted George’s bike up into the air and slammed it into the oak tree Marty was hiding behind. Metal screeched against itself as parts of the bike collapsed like so much wadded up notebook paper. Marty closed his eyes tightly and held on tightly to the tree trunk, his fingertips sliding over the rough surface of the bark.
“And your little butthead friend? Do you know how much money he cost me?” Biff punctuated his questions with jerks on George’s collar, drawing a strangled sob from the other boy’s throat every time. “Three hundred dollars! Three hundred goddamn dollars!”
“I’m sorry!” George’s voice was a desperate screech that cut into Marty’s ears like feedback from his amplifier. “I’m sorry, but I barely… I barely know him. Please, Biff, please—” He was cut off abruptly by a punch to the face, a cracking noise that made Marty jump and squeeze his eyes shut even more as nauseous waves of guilt swept over him.
“Ah, shit.” A new voice, one of Biff’s friends, broke the silence. There was a pause where it seemed as if everyone present held their breath. “Cop. By the fence.” Marty could hear George sobbing and snuffling, but trying to muffle it.
“Shit.” Biff’s voice was loud and boorish, making Marty hate him more in that single instant than he ever had in his entire life. “Let’s get the hell out.” And there was a slight scuffle of huge, football player feet in the wet grass as the little gang had abandoned George and his useless bicycle. The policeman wandered, infuriatingly oblivious, in the other direction.
When he was sure that he and George were the only two left, Marty stepped from his hiding place and approached the other boy. George was kneeling forward with his hands over the lower half of his face. A few stray locks of hair had fallen across his forehead and into his eyes; Marty shoved his hands into his pockets to resist the urge to brush them back into place. George’s breath rattled ominously between his lips and Marty watched, mesmerized, as a drop of dark liquid dripped from between his palms to the clover patch below. “Hey…”
When he realized Marty was there and he hadn’t known it, George’s head snapped abruptly up from where he’d been resting it in his hands and his knees slipped slightly on the grass; he extended one hand jerkily to keep his balance, but the moisture on his fingertips did nothing but cause him to slip further backwards. His eyes were wide and faintly wild as he stared up at Marty and they sparkled with moisture in the faint, faraway light of the streetlamps. Blood, which looked black in the dim light, streaked down over his mouth and chin; when he parted his lips, Marty saw that even his teeth were stained with it. He grimaced involuntarily at George’s gruesome state, which caused the other boy to lower his eyes, hunch his shoulders, and cover his mouth and nose again with his hands.
“I’m sorry.” Marty blinked when he realized George was the one apologizing to him. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” His voice was thick with fluid and very low; Marty had to strain to hear the individual words. “I’m sorry…”
Marty sighed. “Oh, shut up,” he commanded gently as he crouched down
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
I hate him, hate him, hate him. It was an orchestrated mantra within his mind, coordinating everything. Right foot came down on hate, left on him. Hate. Him. Hate. Him.
The building was dark and shadowy and still with the absence of people, but Willard could hear the footsteps of his army behind him, their tiny paws mimicking his steps.
He tightened his grip on the green metal pole, the murder weapon still tinged with the blood of his best friend. His leather gloves squeaked the way Socrates had in his final moments, and Willard’s palms sweated inside the soft fleece lining. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes.
The rats clumped behind him, waiting and watching silently. Willard took a deep breath, the air shaking inside his lungs, and reached out with one hand to hit the call button for the elevator. The ancient chains creaked and groaned as they propelled the little cage, the conveniently portable torture chamber, down to his level. The gates drew back like a cat’s claws retracted, and Willard stepped inside, feeling the slight give in the machinery as it accepted his weight. He turned to meet the eyes of a thousand rats that sat staring at him.
Willard hit the pole against the solid swirls of the closed gates. “In,” he said, softly, and the rats obeyed, pouring like liquid around him, pushing themselves into every available space and crevasse. As they swirled around his ankles, miniature claws quickly moving up the legs of his trousers, Willard used the soiled end of the pole he held to press the button for the floor of the offices. The button lit up cheerily for the barest second before the monsoon of rats and fur and tails covered it. The gates remained open for a moment and the sea surged and swelled around Willard’s waist, up to his chest, his shoulders. When the doors finally closed, catching and decapitating the last few unlucky soldiers, the crush of small bodies was up to Willard’s chin.
He sighed as the elevator jerked upward, and the movement of his breath displaced the rats around his chest slightly, causing a wave of indignant squeaking. He could feel movement around his hands, his calves, between his legs. The touches were slightly erotic; the fur of the rats was soft and sleek and felt good when it brushed against his bare skin. The memory of soft fur made him think of Socrates; he swallowed heavily as the weight of tears thudded in his chest. No rat’s fur could ever be as soft as Socrates’ had been