Ashes to Ashes – 3 – The Vagrant

He looked up into the sky, letting the rain splash his face. He closed his eyes, savouring the cleansing feeling of nature’s kiss. Then he remembered the pollutants that turned the rain to acid. Suddenly, he felt as if the water were burning his skin. He rubbed his face with his hands and pulled his dirty, torn shirt over his head.

“They’ve turned the rain into acid!” he yelled to everyone around him. Most people on the busy street ignored him, but a few made the effort to turn and give him a dirty look. He didn’t care how people looked at him. If they reacted at all, it could only mean that they had heard him. That was all that mattered. He had to tell everyone, he had to spread the news.

“They never tell you what they’re doing! They made the rain into acid, they poisoned the water, and they control you! Everything you do, it’s what they want you to do. If you don’t do what they want, they call you crazy! They censor you! You can’t stop them, but that’s what they want you to think. You write them letters, you vote, you protest, you petition… but you can’t control them, they control you!”

More people were starting to notice him now, mainly because he was getting louder. People were no longer content to give him dirty looks and many were loudly telling him to be quiet, or crossing the street to get away from him. No one understood. A woman walked out of a building near him, looking confused. He decided that he could help her. He could make her understand.

“Miss!” he yelled as he approached her. She turned slightly, but didn’t really seem to notice him. He yelled again as he approached her. He reached out and grabbed her shoulder, turning her around to face him.

“They’re trying to control you. They’ve always wanted to, but now, it’s even easier.”

“What? Who are…? What are you talking about?” she asked irritably.

“They have a virus, a weapon, a tool,” he began in earnest. “It seems harmless, like a cold or a flu. I know because they infected me with it,” he began coughing but continued talking with every breath he managed to take. “At first you cough, you sneeze, you feel dizzy. But then, it gets worse, your stomach hurts, your ears hurt, your muscles hurt all over. Soon, you can’t move without feeling pain. Nothing, not booze, not drugs, will get rid of it or even help with the symptoms. Believe me, I tried everything! They figured that no one would care if a crazy old man went missing or died. But then they cured me too. They infected me with a disease and then they cured me with their special cure. Only they can cure it. That’s what’s really important! They want to control you! Yeah! Obviously, the cure makes you weak-willed, like the fluoride in the water! Like a zombie! Well, not like a zombie, I mean everyone is like a zombie! But I couldn’t say no to them. But I got away! I had to! I have to warn everyone! I’m warning you!”

“Let go of me!” she said, alarmed by the vagrant’s ranting.

“Did you hear me?” he cried in anger. She kicked him in the shin and wrenched her shoulder free from his grasp. He screamed in pain and bent over to rub his leg. When he looked up, she was gone. He stood for a moment, wondering if she had understood him.

He started walking again, shouting out a warning every few steps. He suddenly bumped into someone. He looked up and felt ice grip his heart. Two men, dressed in black suits, grabbed him and pulled him into an alley. He tried to scream, but he was punched in the stomach, knocking the air out of him and dropping him to his knees. He saw dark spots appear before his eyes. The two men picked him up under his arms and dragged him back out of the alley. They walked him down the street, where they came to a sleek, black sedan. They opened the door and shoved him in. They both got in the car and sat on either side of him in the back. In the driver seat, a blond man flicked a cigarette out of his window, checked his watch and pulled away quickly from the curb.

Crushed in the back seat between the two men in black, he clutched his stomach in pain. He wondered what they intended to do with him. The car was going very fast, he guessed that they were in a hurry. They came to a red light and the car stopped. The light turned green and the driver accelerated quickly again, but suddenly a woman appeared from out of sight. The driver slammed on the brakes, but the car slid and hit the woman. The impact rolled her onto the hood and threw her in front of the car. The vagrant recognised her. It was the woman he had spoken to, the only person he’d been able to warn. She landed on her back, her head bouncing painfully on the asphalt. As she laid motionless, blood began to trickle from her nose and eyes. He realized that she was already dead. He started crying, feeling utterly defeated as he was slammed back into his seat by the car’s sudden acceleration. They would kill him too, he was sure, and no one would ever find out.

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