The Tragedy of Knowing the Debt Collector

The path looked bottomless, it was open to so many possibilities for Ernie to discover. He peddled in a blurred rage of stamping feet. The 15-year old might boy as well be 8 or 9, but he was having the time of his life and that is all that mattered. He sprinted down the bush track, a coke can jammed in his rear reflector. It rubbed up against the tyre to make it sound like it had an engine. The surrounding foliage looked lush and fresh, his face tilted upwards, complementing it. Ernie was a young minded boy, he just loved to have fun, and at this moment he hadn't a care in the world. He looked at the bushes, trees and leaves scattered on the ground, all a splendour to the senses.

He looked at a rose bush he passed, he turned back in the direction his excited feet were peddling, then he had to look back, to re-check what he had glanced at. The roses were black. Black as night. Ernie stopped, and looked at them, all black. He began to walk down the path, he looked ahead, the trees looked dead, they were dead, the leaves sparse, baring dirt and filth. The sounds of the birds he heard before were gone, sounds of crows forcibly replaced it, he looked back to where he had been, green again, he wanted to turn back, but like he was scripted to keep on walking. A chill of death surrounded him now, he was no longer in some state of bliss. In one foul swoop of fortune all his fun, his lack of worries had turned into an uncertain path towards doom. He felt in his mind that he was walking towards disaster.

Knock! Knock!

Ernie awoke from his sleep, the remnants of a perfect dream gone horrible wrong lay fermented in his skin, a sweaty stench that he disliked more than being awoken. He supposed he was thankful that a knock at the door had awoken him, the dream had turned into a nightmare that he dared not let his mind contemplate towards a possible ending. His mind focused on the knock he had heard now, but he was calm, rest assured that his dad who always stayed up late would answer it.

"It's been a long time Jack" A deep voice spoke to his father, they didn't seem like they were old friends.

"Yes, not long enough" His father's voice sounded grave. Ernie's heartbeat began to pick up pace. He quietly crept out of bed, and snuck up to his door peering through the small opening in his door. From here he could see everything that was about to unfold.

"Do you have the money?" The man, dressed in a dark black and broad suit asked. His father looked at him, his face not of the confidence that the usual father figure is meant to exuberate on a daily basis. He was about to crumble. Ernie had seen this face a few times, but most of the time we would gather himself up or cover up his worries. The crumbled face lay with unanswered questions, this frightened Ernie who had no idea who the big man in the black suit was, or why he was here, and for what money? There were too many questions, and they couldn't be answered without putting himself in danger. This seemed a private matter, which his father could not resolve. If his father could not resolve the grave situation that he faced, there was certainly no way Ernie could appear as the unforeseen hero. He father's faced changed from that of a crumbling man, to that of a crumbled man. He broke down, he leant his elbows on the dining table as he knelt down with no-where to go. Ernie had only seen his father cry twice. The first time was at his father's funeral. The second time, Ernie had found his father alone, sitting on his bed crying for no reason he had known, when his eyes met with that of his father, he felt a very strong sense of not being meant to be here that we walked off with no questions asked. The incident had been subconsciously erased from his mind in the months passed, nothing had arisen from it, and for that reason it hadn't plagued him.

"I gave you five fucking months!" The man bellowed.

"I know, I know," His father looked up frantically, "Keep it down, my family doesn't need to know about this." His father wanted to salvage his dignity and pride to his family, if he could salvage anything at all. His eyes widened in horror. Ernie's mirrored it in sympathy. The man in the black suit held a pistol matter-of-factly in the air. His father stared at it at first in horror, and then in anger.

"Give me a fucking break!" His anger held no rationality. "How much fucking money have you got, I make a mistake, lose some of it and you want to blow my brains out, like it will rid your fucking problem. Well let me tell you this, if you think blowing my head wide open will bring your money back, you've got a fucking lot to learn." Jack knelt down, not crying, not grunting an angry expression, but a frightening mixture of the two.

"What if I kill your fucking family?" He screamed. His face changed instantly, the word's brought about instant submission to the man's petty woes.

"Please, not my family, my account number is 999765423, and the pin is 9987." Ernie smirked at this inside, he knew the number wasn't 9987 but 7899. He had seen his dad type it in too many times to forget.

"Get up!" The man grabbed his father by the sparse tuft of hair that naively hid the top of his head. Jack screamed as he was dragged along the ground. And he dropped him again. He could see the action a lot clearer now, like the man knew he was there. His father knelt before him. The man lowered the gun the crown of his head. His father was now quiet, not much use in saying anything. His eyes were blank like they were already dead. In his mind, I guess they were, Ernie thought to himself.

"I'll say a prayer for your family for you," With that the man turned his head and stared right into the frightened eyes of Ernie. He felt a sudden chill and a rush of fear and impending doom that he almost choked on his own tongue. The man looked down again and without a pause or a refection of the impact he was about to have, he pulled the trigger, the loud gunshot echoed off the walls in the room. He heard his mother awake with a tragic scream. He walked up the hallway, a confident walk. He burst open the door, and his mother's final scream muffled into a choking fade.

Ernie fell back when the two sets of eyes met once again, he clambered clumsily to his feet.

"I know you know something boy!" The man roared. It was kind of an official recognition that the two knew each other existed. This frightened Ernie more, but with an ounce of determination that held Ernie's sanity intact he burst through his window.

The pain was dull and more in the background than thoughts of evading certain death that stared at him right in the face, more frightening than the stone cold eyes of that unnamed man that had first stared at him, ripping all possibility of normalness in his stereotypical, white-picket fenced life. He once again clambered to his feet again, and in the dead of night he bolted away from his home, with no practical thoughts that could seep through his frightened mind. He looked behind him, the man raised the gun, his stone cold eyes now an excited rush of fury. In a couple of frantic jolts of desperation the bullet whispered past his head. He turned around again to continue running. Whack! A dull thud brought him to the ground. He lay helpless on the bitumen in from of a black sedan. Was this another fucking bullshit dream? He now felt like he was in the fucking godfather. He almost convinced himself that that was the case, until he realized that he couldn't think strait as he realized he was slipping out of consciousness.

Ernie woke up. His body was instantly hit with confusion, he felt a massive shock to his senses. Sweat cascaded down his back and down his face. He looked up to face bright red orange light that came from the UV heaters that beamed down on him. He looked around to attempt to figure out where the hell he was, he looked at his wrist, and found his watch was gone. The warehouse was almost completely empty, except for him in the middle on a rusty old seat and the UV heaters. Questions and possibilities confused him. Thoughts were overwhelming to the point he could almost explode. He went to get up, and then yet more sank in, he was brought to ground by yet another less than kind dose of unreal reality. In frustration he let out a muffled scream. Grey packaging tape encasing emotions that were unbeknown to the whole world, and at this point it might have been safe that way. With nowhere to go, and nothing to do, he looked up. The familiar stony stare hit him again. He already hated that stare, for the impact it had had in the short time he knew it and for the mind that existed behind it. He had no idea what his father had done, but it had something to do with money. There are more important things in the world than a shit load of money, He thought to himself. He looked coldly back at the man, his face never flinching. Ernie closed his eyes, trying to tell himself the current environment that this was not reality. He opened his eyes, still the same place, the same restrictions and the same unknown future. The man was not there though. The metal platform that he was standing on was now an eerie empty space. He questioned himself, what do they want with me? Probably information of some sort about his father and his money, he supposed. Well they weren't going to know anything no matter what they did. He sat there pondering what was to come next.

He began to whistle a quiet tune that was of no significance. It seemed to distract him, until the power was sucked right out of it by a stiff and predictably stony hand. Ernie now froze, waiting for some sort of stony man speech that meant nothing in the end. He supposed they would ask him for information, and he would refuse like some self-righteous do gooder, and then he supposed they would get really pissed off and blow a bullet in his brain. The other option would be to tell them everything he knew like a wimpy little kid, and they would kill him anyway.

"Your father really fucked you up, no way out of this fucking mess now. So you got two choices, you can either…" The man talked like he was in complete control that was probably because he was in complete control. But Ernie wouldn't let him get the better of him, he interrupted and began to mock him in a deep 'need a fucking Soother' voice.

"…Tell me everything you fucking know, we get all your father's fucking money, and we fucking kill you quickly, or you can be a fucking bitch about it and we fucking kill you slowly, and both of us get fucking fucked over." Ernie snickered at himself. In a kind of pessimistic attitude he knew he was going to be killed, he thought he might as well get his life times worth and fuck this guy over too. The man looked at him in his stern stony stare that in Ernie's attitude didn't affect him, it was overdone anyhow. "But I think I'll take option C. The one where you and your bum chums spontaneously combust, a little dog called Lassie comes and ties me free and I live happily ever after."

"Smart ass! That's not a fucking option!" Ernie's words were not giving him any justice. The man raised his hand and drew it back down in a motion of anger. Ernie's face went with it. He let out a shrill cry, the only evidence that he was a young boy, and not some mentally disturbed old man, that didn't give a damn where he was headed. Ernie raised his again, determined to act defiant against the man's will. He returned his own stony stare, revealing a kind of unforseen darkness that had arisen from being stricken. With his face upright, you could clearly see a bleeding scar on his formerly pure cheek. "Don't fucking think you've got one over me, you'd better fucking talk kid, you'll regret it if you don't."

Ernie snapped, but it didn't do much good. "Regret what! You've fucking killed my mother and father, your going to kill me one way or another. What would make me want to fucking give in? So just fucking do your worst, it won't matter in the end!" He vented all his emotion to the man, who was also highly strung. The two stubbornly held onto Bitter hope of a resolution in their favour, but bubbling below the surface was an acceptance that this was going to end with both either no better off or in Ernie's case dead either way.

"Fucking little brat!" The man slapped him, and then stood back looking back at Ernie with a blank and frustrated expression. Silence filled the room until he picked the gun from his jacket. He placed it forcefully on the centre of his forehead. Ernie's heartbeat began to accelerate. "I'll fucking do it," he said, he began to tighten his grip on the trigger, but stopped. "Too easy." He walked off again leaving Ernie in completely alone and in silence.

Ernie awoke in darkness. He hadn't been knocked out, he had just drifted off to sleep. He felt no heat. The heaters had disappeared. He didn't show any sign of relief at that or any expression of confusion, anger or sadness at his situation.

Bang!

Spotlights covered his body. The light opened up his mind to the full extent of his situation. He stared around in horror as he realized he was on the metal platform that the man had first cast down that stony stare when they first made contact in this hellhole. He was attached to a crane like machine and when he looked down he saw what was in place of his empty plot of concrete where he sat, a large pool of water sat there. Steam radiated out of it, it was boiling hot.

"Its not water," the familiar voice said, "its vinegar." Ernie turned to face the man with the stony stare. He had a wicked smile etched across his face. He was the textbook definition of evil. Then Ernie's heartbeat hit breakneck speed. His heart could have exploded right then, and in reality Ernie wished it did. He bet that way he would die a lot quicker that way. In the man's hand he held a small box-cutting knife.

"Now what's going to happen is I'm going to cut little slits all over your body, then dip you into boiling vinegar. Don't you regret it now!" With that Ernie felt hopeless. There was nowhere to go and his fate was sealed, he was sealed into a fate he never wanted to experience. So with all his want and determination, he jerked the seat, it dangled momentarily over the edge and before the man could pull him back into his fantasy revenge, he fell. With an outstretched head he hit the side of the pool and in an instant felt less aware. He lay on the ground, his head bled like no tomorrow, and in Ernie's case there was no tomorrow.