>O44[total_collapse]

The world was supposed to be quiet.

Some kind of recognition, Skrimp thought, anything.

But police sirens wailed in the distance. The sound of an advertisement played low, yet at the forefront of his consciousness.

This noise was always there. The city never mourned.

They had come out of the depths of the slaughterhouse, covered in blood. It soaked into their clothes and skin. It filled their nostrils.

Skrimp was the one to bear the weight. Carefully, he’d pulled Frode from the dark and taken him out into the light. Over the long walk, neither he nor Delilah had spoken.

Finally, they stopped. There was nowhere to go next. The only thing which existed was the noise filling Skrimp’s head.

His own quietness made him aware of it. It brought every absurdity to his mind, to simply stop him, frozen, lost beyond thought. As Delilah sat beside him, caught in her own thousand-yard-stare, he kept on scratching at his arms.

His entire body was crawling, now. He had never felt so unclean.

We have to do something with him, he thought, horrified.

There was no ground to lay him in. The city would mulch his body and feed it to the rats, Skrimp knew. There’d be no stone or ceremony. They treated it like garbage.

His scratching intensified.

This was nothing special to them. Not death or life. Nothing was sacred. He would watch them carry the body away, with no other option but to let his friend rot on the street. His only fucking consolation that it wasn’t personal.

He wanted it to be. He wanted the world to notice.

Skrimp forced himself to stop tearing at his skin. Slowly, he looked over at his friend.

To his other side, wrapped in a blanket from the car, Frode lay in the snow facing skyward. His lifeless eyes took in the grey. His own clothes, soaked and now frozen on the air, were tattered and worn. His face was bruised and scraped. It was clear that even from the days leading up to his death, Frode had been beaten down at every step. He was so much older than he used to be.

The sight of it broke Skrimp.

Everything Skrimp had done since Wally, it had been under the fantasy that… if it were all to happen over again, things would be different. He would have had a say, he believed, if only he had given a damn.

“It’s n-not… supposed to be like this,” he said.

Delilah shook her head. “It was always like this. You care about something… and it gets crushed under the wheel.” Tears ran down her face, but she seemed not to notice anymore. “I should have known better than to try…”

Skrimp’s face contorted with a flash of anger, quickly fading. He had nothing to say in response, even though he so desperately wanted the words. How could she say that?

He hadn’t seen me in years, he thought. What did I care, huh?

“He was in so far over his head…” Skrimp slowly stood up and began to pace forward. “What k-kind of f-f-fucking…” he struggled to even speak, gritting his teeth. “That idiot…

“I knew this would happen,” Delilah absently said.

“And you d-didn’t stop him?

“What could I do? I didn’t even know how he was going to die, or why… I just knew it. It’s what happens to people like him… and you.”

“People who give a shit?” he bit back.

“Yeah…” Delilah said, shutting her eyes. “…People who give a shit.”

Skrimp fell on his knees, letting his head rest on the hood of the car. His nails raked over his scalp as his insides churned with fire and tar. He wanted to hit something. Anything.

“If I had been there, we coulda made it. It didn’t have to happen!” He slammed the side of the car. “Tell me I’m wrong!?”

“No one could have changed it.”

“Frode could have,” the words flowed with his anger. “You could have. I could have!” He pounded the car. Skrimp screamed out, “I could have!”

Suddenly, he stood. The headrush left his ears ringing.

For a moment, all was silent.

“Skrimp?”

“Ever since that day…” he told her, “I’ve been trying to be the guy… who would do something; who could stop it. Make it right. But it’s not the moment they go…” He took a deep breath, seeing clearly for the first time. “It’s all the ones running up to it, Delilah. Every fucking second we pretend…” She had opened her eyes, now, staring at him. “…We pretend it’s not our job.”

“Our job?” she asked.

To put an end to this.

Her own realization played across her face. She understood. “It has to stop.”

“All of it,” Skrimp said.

“And we can do it?”

It doesn’t fucking matter,” Skrimp growled. “That’s what Frode knew. There’s no win but death. There’s them, feeding the machine, and us. There ain’t no f-fucking negotiation. No democracy. No dialogue. We kill them. For Frode.”

“…We kill them?”

“Yeah, Delilah… we kill them.

 

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