Serendipitous accidents (or more plausibly matriculated manipulations via the mind of of Mr. Episkopos) are mostly responsible for shifting the mood in this country towards a place where it could come to somewhat accept the new (gods?) manifesters. In the year immediately predecessing the birth of the new calendar, many new manifesters awakened with a stronger moral fiber than those that had come before them. These new “heroes” chose to emulate the behaviors of the staged hero and villain fights that METRops had created in their early years. These very comic book-like actions on the part of these new heroes gave people hope, while the world collapsed around them.
* * * * *
“Hey! You from around here?” Eric continues to move downward away from the cut out.
“No.” He doesn’t draw into personal conversation. The situation had become tense, and Eric is met with an all-too-familiar uneasiness.
“Who are you?” Another voice questions. This voice has a more interrogative tone, and slightly more verocity. “Who do you know?!”
Eric arrives at the bottom of the long descent. He is aware of at least two men being in the clearing under the bridge, and suspects the high possibility of more antagonistic collaborators. “Nobody.” Eric looks back up the embankment towards where he came. A man stands in a black hooded wind-breaker. Toward the right is clear, but a man at the top level is nearly aligned directly behind him moving ahead, around the bend, and past the man in back– it’s now or never.
“Drop the bag and walk-” Eric leaves the gang leader’s sights mid-demand, and the lackey sneaking out to pounce the boy from inside of a busted drain pipe half scrapes and half splashes into the river.
“He had to go that way!” Eric hears the gang scampering far behind him. He has taken refuge in a much higher, less obvious, abandoned drainage channel drop-out. They’ll never find him here, yet his heart rate doesn’t decline. He knows, in this moment, though he is free of the grasp of the foster system, and his abusive former foster parent, no new non-violent shimmering age has been ushered in by this transition- the broken state of humanity has once again reared its ugly head, as it had always done, inevitably.
He steps back and reminds himself to breathe. Perhaps thinking about something else will calm his mind. As he skillfully places a second-hand flashlight in some exposed rebar- positioning it to provide a soft over-the-shoulder reading light- he retrieves the tattered war manual from his devoted compatriot, returning to its folded page:
“19. Thus one who is skilful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Eric’s smile emerges anew. He waits for the group, nervously, but empowered. These tyrants will not be victorious.
Grabbing a crumbling chunk of concrete, Eric aims around the next turn of the rushing Trinity and sends out a decoy, the falsehood of a misplaced step. Four seconds, and the anticipated chatter of stones scurry down and around to the perky hunters ears. Their speed quickens.
“Oh! We got you now, you shit!” The leader and two others take the corner first.
Eric gathers two decently sized pebbles. The two straggling henchmen in the back are knocked unconscious in tandem, and both fall feet from murky rapids.
Eric acquires another sizable hunk of man made stone similar to the first, and launches it back toward the initial plot of his river fiasco.
The boss turns the corner grunting like a rabid pig in heat, barely managing to miss his loyal subject’s limp frame. “FUCK!” The two able-bodied lurkers tag along as he dashes angrily, in a very animated manner, back toward his headquarters.
“I’m gonna skin this snot-nosed little shit, boys.” Eric returned to his recently discovered salvation guide:
“20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
He peers across the waterway to a set of three lower, larger pipings. That’s the place. He empties his bags contents behind him, and turns off the flashlight. A huge inhale, a long exhale, a few steps forward, and a hop. He hangs the bag, now full of rubble, in open view, and returns to his previous spot. After the alpha-thug nears or reaches base camp, he’ll surely turn around, and then he’ll see the prize. A minute or two at most, that’s all it will take. Eric prepares for his next step, excitedly rushing through scenarios, happily cool and collected amidst such chaotic circumstances.
Minutes pass, but no men pass by. Could it be that the men just gave up, or perhaps searched further back up the river? Maybe, they checked the highground?
They are unlikely to be clever enough to be weary of the bait, even with the previous mishaps. “When should I head back toward the school, I wonder,” Eric questions. “Wasn’t somebody supposed to…” a fuzzy image of the man from the train flashes back to the surface of Eric’s mind as the rain cloud above begins to release, “…Yeah! What’s his name?”
“Omar!” Eric hears behind him. The sound wave strikes his skin like a bolt of lightning, “Omar Natiq! That’s what my name is!”
Eric springs forward, almost falling clear out of the perched cylinder- face first- into the torrential current of the Trinity. “Where did- How did you- How?” Eric stammers, completely white in the face.
“I’ll explain it all! Let’s head back!” The man’s words now rang out with large ferocity and personality- he even moves with flare. Where did all this energy come from?
“–but, you see, these guys–”
“I put the lot down for a nap, seems you tucked two in yourself. Great job!” The man replies giving eric a boisterous pat on the back, “I’d love to play all day. Unfortunately, we have events to attend, Eric, my boy!”