Monday, February 15, 2010

Chapter 8

The next few years passed without much event, at least as far as Trystix, Olivia, and I were concerned. The tower became our little bubble inside the world as we watched Lena grow from a precious infant to beautiful little girl. She looked like her mother, full of life and a happy smile on her small face. Her hair grew long and curly, just like Liv’s, and she had more energy than a hummingbird. During this wonderful time, I began to bond with my niece. I spent the extra parts of my day playing games with the little girl. Lena had become more to me than even my golden lighter; she was proof that there was still some shred of Jared Donovan left inside the monster Trystix created.
This is not to say I stopped working for Trystix, however. As more opposition arose, more buildings burned. Suspicions continuously turned on Trystix, but they could never be proven beyond mere speculation. Like his plan originally dictated, I became more or less a ghost, a notion, even a boogeyman to some. My work became less extravagant as the city of Chicago became more or less Trystix’s personal playground. Except for that Trystix rarely left his office, and his playground was full of starving women and children.
The United States had been struggling as a nation since I was little, but I had never thought much of it until those years. The war debts still hadn’t been paid off. The great brains of the nation couldn’t come up with a way to pay it, save borrowing from other nations. The government, trying to buy its way out of debt, spent more and more on ‘buy-outs’ and ‘bail-outs,’ only to end up even worse off than before. For some reason, the government felt buying out all health-care and financial institutions would somehow result in profit. It blew my mind that Trystix had managed to become a billionaire during this horrific nightmare. But the politicians didn’t have the luck, charisma, or the boogeyman to do their work for them. They had their own small-minded agendas, and that’s what caused the Break.
The Break is the name we gave the day when the government announced it’s failure, therefore announcing their hope was lost. They said they had a few outside sources who needed their money, and they’d pushed their debts too far. The countries we borrowed from were in dire need of their money as well, and we had none to give. They announced that the banks could offer no salvation. They said that the nation was going under. Leave it to a politician to announce the end of the world as we know it.
Trystix came to me one night as I was playing blocks with Lena on the floor. She loved building things and knocking them down, giggling. Ever since she could pick the blocks up, knocking the little buildings over that we made was her favorite activity. I could definitely relate to that.
“Can we talk a bit, Jared?” he asked.
“Sure. Talk.”
“Privately, maybe?” Trystix didn’t usually avoid talking business in front of his four year old daughter.
“I guess.” As I got up, I messed up Lena’s hair. She looked up with her meanest scowl she could muster, only to start giggling when I smiled at her.
We walked to his office and he shut the door. This was definitely going to be an interesting discussion.
“Jared, are you happy?”
“What the hell? Since when does anyone’s happiness matter to you aside from your own?”
“Come now, Jared. Bear with me. Are you happy?”
“I guess. Stuff burns, and I play with Lena. I have money, a motorcycle, access to anything I want. Not bad I guess.”
“Does that mean you are?”
“Trystix, just spit it out. What are you getting at?”
“I’m upgrading. Would you mind taking care of my house while I’m gone?”
“Upgrading? What do you mean?”
“I can’t talk about it now…Will you watch the tower?”
“It’s not going anywhere, boss. But you know I don’t like secrets. What’s going on?” He only smiled.
“Buckle up, Jared. Life will never be the same after tomorrow.” With that, he rose from his chair. As he walked away, he started chuckling to himself. He was always doing that…Quite annoying really.
The next morning, I heard the elevator door open. Trystix was supposedly long gone on his little adventure, so I found it interesting that I had a visitor. I hard small feet thunder across my hardwood floor. I smiled, knowing who had come for a visit. My bedroom door flew open and Lena jumped onto my bed.
“Uncle J, Uncle J! Wake up!” She then started jumping on the bed, laughing the whole time.
“What is it, little one? Why so much energy this morning?”
“Daddy is the king of the world! It’s so cool!”
“What? What do you mean, Lena?”
“On TV! You should watch!”
Olivia came in my room just then, looking like she hadn’t slept in a week. With Lena, it wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t think I tornado could wear the kid out.
“What’s she talking about, Liv?”
“Like she said, turn on the TV.” She looked somewhat sad on top of the exhaustion. I did as she said, and, sure enough, Trystix was on every channel. He was holding one of those enormous checks, signed to the United States Treasury. He was in the middle of a speech, stating he was only doing his part to help the nation.
“My purchase of the Eastern United States, and my partner Micah’s of the West, will only last until we have the nation back on its feet. We seek no glory, no power, no envy; we just want the nation to stay together, and the only debt the United States should have is to itself. With this check for five-hundred billion dollars, plus another five-hundred billion in stocks and bonds in Trysticorp, the nation will rise again and become the world’s foremost power. Through my corporation, and the cooperation of Pandora of the West, we will overcome! We will seal this Break!” His speech was followed by a thunderous ovation by the surrounding crowd on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I was dumbstruck. Trystix had just purchased the eastern half of the United States of America. I had no idea how he pulled this off, nor did I know who Micah was. I didn’t enjoy the idea of him having partners that I didn’t know. I really didn’t like his having secret partners who now would own the other half of the nation. Apparently, he had some deal worked out to ‘help’ the nation, along with Trystix. This sounded awfully dangerous to me. In a matter of twenty-four hours, Trystix had the nation in the palm of his hand. Like Lena said, Trystix was now king of the world.

Chapter 7

“What have you done! You arrogant worm! What in the hell were you thinking? Everything we have worked for could fall apart because you couldn’t control yourself! You are nothing but a junkie looking for a fix! Your ‘need’ could cost us everything!” Trystix had turned a shade of purple by the time he finished his little tirade.
“What did you expect me to do? Sit and wait for you to decide when and where everything I do will happen? Hell no! You hired me to be a monster, to keep your hands clean! Let me do my job!” I responded with no less heat.
“A controlled monster! I’m trying to keep you from destroying yourself! If you are connected to any of the blazes, you go back to prison! I will not waste my time or money on getting you out again, brother-in-law or not!”
“I won’t be connected! I’m careful! I’ve burnt more of your wasted money than you spend on yourself sending the evidence to the burner!”
“Then at least tell me why I bother trying to talk sense into you, after all of this, and you feel guilty that some bum got hurt in your fiery wake?”
“Not hurt; killed! I…I don’t kill people. I am not a murderer!” I screamed.
“Oh, but you are now, my boy. And you can’t change it! You shouldn’t even want to! That only helps us! You say I need people to fear me? You’ve added to that smashingly. All your work benefits me, but no one can tie it to me. As long as you were as careful as you say…Otherwise you are on your own. You acted on your on volition; this is on you. But I guess I see your point. Cross a man in power, and bad things happen. They‘re the cause; you are the effect. Well done, my boy…By the way, Olivia went into labor tonight. You‘ll be an uncle by lunch time.” Trystix made his way to the elevator. He stopped a moment, then shook his head and laughed.
As he left my apartment, I realized how late it was. The sun would be up in a few hours. The sound of sirens had finally faded as they had realized they were too late. I didn’t know the full extent of the damage, but I knew it was at least a total loss of the Blanco building. The insulation alone would have ignited quickly; not to mention the chemical-soaked walls. I myself had only just made it out in time. I’m sure the news would be full of the details. I wonder if they’d even bother to mention the homeless man I’d…killed…
Accidents happen; no question about it. Some change little things, some change larger ones. Mine would change my whole life. I hated how I felt. I hated that, despite my best efforts, I’d become what Trystix intended all along. He had been right; I really hated admitting that. My sister was about to give life to someone, and I had just taken someone else’s.
Liv had the baby around noon the next morning. I decided I’d wait a while to see the baby. I hadn’t slept much that night, and I could hardly even look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t shake the image of that man’s face. I felt like I had finally lost my last shred of humanity. In a way, I imagine that I did. I spent much of the day in my room staring at the walls, hoping they’d just come crashing down on top of me.
It was late in the evening when I heard the elevator doors open. Trystix came in, smiling ear to ear. He had a small camera with him. He walked across the room towards me. It felt wrong to see him smiling at this particular moment…Then again, he did just meet his baby girl. He wordlessly lifted up his camera and showed me pictures of my niece Lena. She was beautiful; she looked a lot like Liv and nothing like Trystix.
“Cute girl. Sure you had anything to do it?” I asked with a half smile.
“You better believe it! She looks just like me!” He chuckled and looked strangely, well, human. “You should go up and meet her, Jared. It would mean a lot to your sister.”
“I know. I thought I’d get cleaned up first…”
“Jared…How long have you been awake? Did you even sleep? You look like hell, kid.”
“I feel a little less than hell actually.”
“Jared, it was bound to happen eventually. Move on. It won’t be your only death. The road to the top is paved with the bones of the weak.”
“So life means that little to you? You just got a daughter, and if she were weak, she wouldn’t matter to you?”
“I didn’t say that. I just mean…never mind. Just take your time. But don’t get soft on me! We’ve got work to do!” With that, he left.
Some things we do in life have very little effect on the rest of the world. This felt like one of the big things that changes everything. But there was nothing I could do to change it. I decided the best thing I could do was try and leave it behind to burn with the rest of the evidence. I knew I couldn’t do it that easily, but it was a necessity for me to maintain my own sanity and keep myself from giving up. I had to keep going. I had to live my own life, not weep for some vagabond’s lack of one.
After I had showered, I went upstairs to Liv and Trystix’s room. For some reason, she had decided to have the baby at home. I guess when money isn’t an issue, the hospital can come to you. I stepped out of the elevator to an army of white coats. I couldn’t believe how many people it took to have a baby! Liv was on a bed that had been hastily constructed in the main room; Trystix was in a chair next to her. The baby was asleep in her arms. I walked over to her, trying to smile like everything was fine. She looked up from her beautiful child, and, with tears choking her voice, said “Jared! Look at her! Just look at her! She’s beautiful!”
“That’s because she looks like her mom.” I said, giving Trystix a very pointed look to emphasize my point.
“Did you see? Did you see her eyes? She has the hazel spot like you!” she said excitedly.
“What?! Really? Let me see!” Sure enough, the little girl and I shared the trait.
Liv lifted her out towards me. I took her, hesitant at first, but the warmth and beauty of new life overtook me. I couldn’t hold in a laugh and smile from the first real joy I’d felt in a long time. Holding Lena, life felt a little more special, a little more precious. I knew that I had to be around for this gift from the heavens, this small miracle. I may have just been her uncle, but this little girl was a reason for me to keep living. The memory of the murder I had committed just the night before paled from the joy this small bundle had given me.
Later that day, as I was preparing to leave, I heard some doctors talking about some new disease that had surfaced across the ocean in China. Apparently, it was some form of fever that would cook the victim to point their skin would flake off. I marveled at the thought, then laughed it off as the flu of the month. Something like that couldn’t reach us over in the United States, the most medically advanced nation in the world.