my living nightmare

There is a place that is so horrid and scarring that the government won’t even put it on the map. The crime statistics are so mind-blowing that the news doesn’t bother reporting on everything, as they would never manage to fit the days occurrences in the half hour provided. The place is remote and looks as bad as it smells. There is a thick layer of smog above the town that makes everything constantly feel dark and dirty. That place is my home.
I didn’t want to go there and I’ll tell you why. The place is worse than anyone could imagine and the things you see there are far more terrifying than any Hollywood movie could create. It is the real deal, the things that real people have to go through every day. If you ever thought your life was bad you may be able to relate…but I doubt it, because these people aren’t like you. They have seen things you will never see, heard things you will never hear, and have got through things that not even therapy may be able to cure… It truly is a living nightmare.
My mother died in a car accident when I was twelve so it is just my dad and I. When mum was alive he was always strict and overprotective of me but after losing mum, everything changed. We moved to Greenbank Village to escape from the memories that mum left behind.
When I reached eighteen I got out of the area at the first opportunity. Two years later, I decided it was time for me to go for a visit. Walking down the graffiti covered streets; everything was still dark and unclean. ‘Out of Business’ signs were all over the boarded up stores. The streets felt deserted, but they always had. I reached one store that forced me to stop. The old donut shop. It was boarded up but the large sign on the top was still there.
‘You lost?’ A young man around my age asked me. His eyes looked familiar to me but there was a scar down his left cheek that I couldn’t recognise.
‘No…I used to live here, just a couple memories in there.’ The words dribbled from my mouth and I couldn’t stop looking at the scar. This was so unlike me. I wasn’t rude normally. I don’t stare at things people are already conscience of and I don’t tell strangers things they don’t want to know. This place did something to me though.
‘It’s horrible I know…’ He said shyly and embarrassed when he noticed where my eyes were locked.
‘Oh. I’m sorry!’ I apologised, ‘It’s not that. It’s just…it’s familiar but I’ve never seen anything like it…’
He looked at me as though I was insane, which was how I was actually presenting myself but it was just so intriguing. ‘I got it here actually…as in the scar. Long story…’
‘I have time.’ I shrugged, the words slipping from my mouth like soap. I don’t know what I was thinking…
His eyes fell off my face, reached the sign above us and seemed to turn hard.

The story went that the depressing town of Greenbank Village had a small group of teenage boys that had stolen a couple of police shotguns. Two boys, Crew and Harley, had pulled themselves out of the group that had committed the crime a while ago but knew it was their old friends that had stolen the guns. They contemplated telling the police but the criminals would just have a little fun, nothing severe.
There was a girl named Ricki. It was her sixteenth birthday but she didn’t want to celebrate it. Her two best mates, Harley and Crew didn’t want her to do nothing so they insisted to take her to the local donut store. The cooking donuts smell waffled through the air, destroying the thick smell of cigarette smoke that normally surrounded the area. Harley bought Ricki a warm cinnamon donut and one each for themselves. They went to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ but then Harley, the quick thinker he was, jumped up, grabbed a straw and then stuck it in the donut. Ricki found it hilarious as she had to pretend the straws were candles and had to listen to her friends’ attempt, very badly and off key, to sing Happy Birthday.
Just as Ricki took the last bite of her donut a siren blasted not too far away.
‘Do you think that there has been one day in our lives that we haven’t hear that noise?’ Crew complained.
‘That’s close but.’ Harley replied, ‘And that’s a police car, not an ambo.’
‘Wanna check it out?’ Ricki asked eagerly. Ricki hadn’t lived in Greenbank her whole life like the boys had, so she still found every siren exciting (except when she was in bed and wanted to sleep).
Before anyone could agree or object, a gunshot blasted and the window on the opposite side of the store shattered. Harley looked at Crew pained, knowing exactly who had shot the gun. Crew clenched his teeth and looked at Ricki, who couldn’t take her eyes off the shattered glass. ‘We gotta get outta here.’
Just as the three teenagers were about to get up, two boys kicked open the flimsy door each holding a shotgun. ‘Give us the money!’
‘Oh, knock it off Luke!’ Crew boomed at the tough looking male who had his gun pointing toward the timid man behind the counter.
Luke’s focus immediately moved to Crew giving him a death glare before returning his eye contact back to his original target. ‘If you don’t give us every cent, we’re gonna shoot ya.’
The middle aged man at the register was pale and shaking. He was obviously trying to contemplate what to do. Ricki felt like she was in a movie and suddenly somewhere the hero was going to coming bursting through the window (that wasn’t smashed) and save the day.
Crew did not look impressed. The football forward stomped obviously to the front counter blocking the way of a clear shoot. ‘Luke, put the contraption down. You’re not gonna shoot anyone. Not that stupid mate.’
Luke’s eyes narrowed, ‘Mate? You’re not my mate! You dunno what we’ll do…Zeek!’
The male standing beside the adrenaline filled boy aimed his gun toward Ricki, who was still trying to comprehend what was going on.
‘Leave her alone.’ Crew calmly said.
‘Aww…big Crew gotta save his lil’ girlfriend.’ Zeek teased lamely.
Crew wasn’t impressed with the comment. ‘Knock it off and leave the girl alone.’
Zeek’s eyebrow raised slightly as he walked over to Ricki. Ricki began to feel her stomach roll as she stared at the gun that was coming toward her. ‘What exactly is shooting me gonna do?’
Zeek ignored her question, made sure the gun was touching her head and with an evil look in his eye, ‘Anything you wanna add?’
Ricki swallowed hard but her mouth was so dry it didn’t seem to help. Crew’s cold facial expression didn’t change and Harley couldn’t understand why he didn’t do anything. Harley was absolutely horrified seeing a gun at his best friend’s head so without thinking his actions through; he punched Zeek in the head. Zeek was forced to move the gun away from Ricki as he stepped backward from impact.
Luke couldn’t be left out of anything so he picked up a piece of glass that hadn’t completely shattered, ran the few steps over to Harley and tapped him on the shoulder. Harley idiotically turned around only to meet the glass in Luke’s hand scrape deeply down his left cheek.
Ricki squirmed at the look of the injury but now was so angry she could almost feel steam drifting off her, ‘Too far!’
Without thinking she kicked Zeek so hard in a place that boys would rather never be kicked and snatched the gun from his hand at the first opportunity of weakness and swung it around so it pointed straight toward the pathetic looking boy whom she had just injured. She would never actually shoot but she had to try to convince them she would. Anger flickered from her eyes and for seconds Luke looked hesitant but said, ‘Wouldn’t do that girlie. Would have a murder on your conscience.’
Although she knew Luke was just trying to get into her head, she realised that this wasn’t the movies. This was the real deal. She could be dead if she didn’t anything stupid unlike the movies where they pretend to be dead and wake up when the scene ends. Dead. Hesitation and fear for her life crept in and it showed. A bleeding Harley got up and took the gun from her shaky grip.
‘Get out through the window.’ He whispered to the pale birthday girl as he took the gun.
Crew noticed Ricki slowly backing up and knew exactly what Harley was doing so he decided to distract Luke by playing him up. He definitely distracted him from Ricki and shot toward Crew. A loud cry of pain blasted as the man from behind the register fell to the ground.
‘What did you do that for?’ Zeek screamed at Luke.
‘I was aiming for Crew!’ He yelled back at his useless friend.
‘Run.’ Crew mouthed to Harley in the confusion. Ricki had already made her way out and Harley, being good at hurdles, jumped out the window, dodging the glass shattered across the floor. The two began running as Crew climbed through the window. Crew was very level headed and thought his ideas out before acting upon, unlike his two friends. He decided to run in the opposite direction, making sure that his old friends noticed his direction.
Just as he expected, the two began frantically running after him, determined to catch him. Crew nearly swore when he remembered that unlike him, they were not without a gun. This made his run harder because he had nowhere to hide that wouldn’t put others in danger. Crew realised that the road him and his friends were running on connected into one big circle, so he was going to run into them. Before he knew it he could see them running toward him. He boomed at them to turn around but instead they came toward him.
Harley made it to him first and puffed, ‘Gotta plan?’
Ricki came up behind less than a few seconds after, ‘Cause running is so not working for me.’
To make sure they stayed moving Crew kept walking, so the other two followed. ‘We’re coming up to an intersection. Harley, you and Ricki will go right, I’m going left. They are after me.’
‘Sticking together.’ Harley commanded. ‘Crew, you and I always have.’
Ricki was kind of over the corny moment. She decided that this birthday really did feel like an action movie, but a corny soap opera one. It was really sweet, these guys were real mates, true mates, but at the moment she was scared for her life and just wanted to get out. ‘Go together.’
Crew was shifty at the idea but the two boys watched their friend jog down the street until they saw their two new enemies charging in their direction.
Once the boys reached the intersection they didn’t notice Harley and Crew but did begin to jog down the street Ricki had just begun trekking. Harley automatically felt his stomach drop in fear of safety while the calm Crew boomed loudly, ‘Luke!’
Luke and Zeek were panicking and didn’t hear Crew over their own thoughts. Guilt was beginning to kick in and they were becoming frantic. Harley reached slowly into his pocket and pulled out the contraption that he gladly hadn’t become acquainted with yet, pointed it toward the sky and let out a gunshot that seemed to make the world freeze for milliseconds. The noise definitely got the attention as the boys quickly turned their heads in shock.
‘Run and we’ll tell the cops where you guys are and what you have done. What has it been? Theft. Damage. Oh, and murder.’ Crew’s voice was cold and didn’t sound impressed. Because the police didn’t have witnesses Crew knew that Harley and himself were just as suspected, he knew his old friends were panicking and not thinking straight. Crew couldn’t decide if he would dob them in but he had to keep them from Ricki’s path.
The expression on Luke’s face changed to vulnerable but tried to sound tough as he said, ‘Not if I have anything to do with it!’
Then Zeek held up the gun and with a shaky grip he shot toward the innocent pair. Harley’s eyes widened as Crew floppily fell to the ground, gripping his right side. Harley had always been a quick thinker, even in situations that people do not normally think straight. Zeek pulled the trigger once more and Harley screamed and fell. Making a scene, he saw Luke smile and the two ran in Ricki’s direction. Harley knew Ricki would be fine because she had plenty of time. Once they were out of sight, Harley got up.
‘Drama skills amaze me.’ Crew said through gritted teeth, trying to smile.
‘Hey, as long as i looked like I was hit.’ Harley replied cheekily, ‘Let’s get you help.’
Crew no longer had the ability to talk. He shook his head slowly, putting all his effort in, trying to breathe…it was just like the movies. An exhausted, pale, weak looking birthday girl collapsed metres away from her two friends. She Cuffed, ‘I have never run that fast, that long my whole life…this place is a circle…can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t…oh my gosh…Crew?’
Although it was obvious Crew was in severe pain, he kept a weak smile on his face.

The young man had a twinkle in his eye as he finished the story. I couldn’t help but smile from a couple minutes into his story. I wasn’t smiling because it was a happy story, because it was far from it, but because of something different. ‘Crew died with a smile on his face. Zeek was charged with two murders and Luke went to jail for theft and assistance in murder. Harley didn’t deal with the loss too well and was forced into rehab. It was the worst birthday Ricki ever had but definitely the most memorable.’
The stranger I had befriended looked up at me, eyes wide with astonishment, ‘How did you know that? Unless…no way…’
My lips pressed together, trying to hold tears back, I couldn’t believe who was standing before me. ‘Changed that much, huh?’
All of a sudden Harley gave me such a massive squeeze that I could hardly breathe. It felt so good and I felt so safe.
After rehab of two years he returned home. People accused him of being weak, but he is the strongest person I have ever known. Crew wasn’t the first person he had to watch die, neither was it mine, but it was the most devastating. Harley had to watch his mother get killed and his father getting dragged to prison, he watched many other friends die or get taken away from him. He lived in a nightmare.
I came back to face my past because I had always run from it but I learnt that you can’t run from a place that was part of you. Hearing the story Harley told had to be one of the hardest things I had listened to in years, as the images from the day were still alive in my mind. But as weird as this may sound, I’m so glad I heard it, I got to see Harley strong and alive, I got to see my past without it swallowing me and bring me back to a place that I had worked so hard to escape from. But no matter how scary this place, how high crime statistics, or how dirty, this place is still my home, but it is no longer my living nightmare…

my living nightmare

JessiMika

HELENSVALE TC, Australia

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