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Mad Hatter's Lament
Arthur, Venture, Writer, Drawing, Philosophy
 “Death frights us. Death is a perpetual torment, for which there is no sort of consolation. There is no way by which it may not reach us. We may continually turn our heads this way and that, as if in a suspected country, but we can't forget death.”

Montaigne, 1533-1592

The time was a quarter past midnight in the train yard of the North Loop. It was the Summer of 1967, the town was rife with crime as vandals ran the street gangs, and prostitutes lined the streets of the cities northern business districts. It was in a tiny Warehouse off one of the side alleys of First Avenue North that it happened. It was there that I, tied to a chair, staples in my hands and face, cheaply made electrodes strapped to my wrists, would make a discovery; learn the mistakes of my actions. But let's take it back a bit first why don't we? Find out how I, our hapless hero, wound up in such a predicament.

12th November 1966. I'm leaving a bar, I'm an indistinguishable type, kinda plain looking, brown Driza-Bone, ratty Fedora, and cocky swagger. Simon Hatter. Mad as a hatter they liked to call me. It wasn't my fault I was born to cause trouble. Growing up in a poor family in the down town ghettos, I was bound for mischief. I joined my first gang at thirteen, knocking off letterboxes and harassing the elderly. By the time I was twenty I was committing armed robberies with my buddies, and sometimes, murdering snitches for the mob. I was ruthless, had a real knack for crime. My best friend Robert on the other hand, didn't like what I was up to. I would tell Robert of all my escapades for the big bosses of the mob, the people I whacked, the drugs I'd run from one side of town to the other. It was this friendship that got me into the most amount of trouble. Robert was the weak link in my loyalty, or so Ivan Lucky thought. He was the big cheese Mr. Nimble's right hand man.

“Hey Simon, I really don't know about this”, spoke Robert, spectacled face half hidden in the shade of the red brick building they were hiding behind, the alleyway they had chosen as their hit point disguising them in the dead of night.

“What are you worrying about? You're not even supposed to do anything, just leave everything to me”, I answered calmly, in an attempt to placate my childhood friend.

“This is 'illegal' Simon!” emphasised Robert, in a hushed tone, “We could get caught!”

“Relax! It'll be dead easy. Man walks past, I grab him, pull him into alleyway, you hold that knife- No not like that! You gotta hold it threatening like, like this”, I grabbed the knife and held it so that the blade pointed sharply away from my face, “Y'see?”

“I got it.”

“Good, here he comes.”

The man staggered out of the club and began sauntering down the street, evidently drunk, and reeking of the sour mash he had consumed over the course of the night. I dashed quickly out of the corridor and grabbed the man by the scruff, pulling him deftly into the alleyway and slamming him into the wall. The drunk groaned.

“Look here pal, you give us all you've got, or my friend here gives you the knife,” I threatened, pointing at Robert who, maintaining a calm expression held the blade firmly in his hand, his countenance while oddly serene caused the victim to feel incredibly uneasy. He lashed out at Robert. Pulling from my grip he dashed at the young would-be mugger. Robert freaked, closing his eyes and throwing the blade in front of him. He didn't expect the impact as the knife sunk into the drunkard's chest, pushing him backward. The man dropped to the floor wheezing. Eyes wide with terror, the boy opened his mouth to scream, but couldn't muster any sound from his throat. He dropped the knife, and silently, ran as fast as he could from the alleyway, forever scarred by the evil deed he had just committed.

“Damn... Kids...”, the stabbed man coughed.

Casually I breathed a sigh, and smiled one of my half smiles,”Ah well, looks like I'll have to finish the job,” I muttered, looking sideways at the dying man. As he leant to pick up the freshly used blade, a shimmer of light reflected in the moonlight, the man seeing my intention moved to grab my ankle.

“Ah! Now now!” I spoke, deftly moving out of the way and stomping my boot onto the man's knuckles, causing him to cry out. Blade now in hand, I moved toward the struggling to breathe drunk. The victim looked up into my murderous eyes, while I, hovering over him like a vulture over it's prey swiftly passed the knife from one hand to the other, all the while smiling a maniacal grin. The moon glinted strangely in the poor man's eyes as if silently pleading for mercy, but there was to be none, as I jumped behind the man onto his shoulders; passing the blade from ear to ear under the drunk's jaw, I sliced open the main artery, spraying thick warm blood all over the alleyway floor.

I searched the man's pockets and came up with fifty bucks. Not bad for a man who'd spent his entire night gallivanting with the whores in the club. Most of these types are pretty dry. With professionalism in mind, I disposed of the body and made my way home.

The next few months went smoothly, job to job I did for the mob earned me more respect, and a higher pay. Robert swore he wouldn't say anything, and I believed him, why would he? We're best buds after all. Sure it was a dodge job, certainly didn't want to kill the guy, but it was his first, and only, time out. I covered for him, he covered for me. At least that's what I thought. Turns out the mob got to my good buddy. As it happens the guy we whacked was a very important figure to the mob, and they were pretty damn pissed that he was found dead, face half eaten by maggots but still recognisable, in a dumpster in south Minneapolis. They came for me. Jack Swift rolled around in his old Mercedes and picked me up at about half past eleven, Summer had just rolled around and it was beginning to heat up pretty bad. I wiped the sweat from my brow and turned to Jack, who always had something witty to say. Today he was in one of his rare humourless moods. Something wasn't right, and I knew it. My mind kept turning to the man in the alleyway, the look on his face before I ended his life. Something wasn't right about that night.

“You done goofed Simon,” Jack turned to me, a severe expression on his otherwise handsome face. “There was a body found in the trash down on the south side – you know anything 'bout it?” he asked out of courtesy. I eventually found my voice, “I'm not sure man, I'd have to look at the guy, I whack a lotta people, and y-you know I do”, I stammered. The rest of the trip we remained silent and I couldn't help thinking that I was in deep shit. We arrived without ceremony at the hideout, a nickname I used for the house of operations, walking inside I felt the air thicken and suffocate me. A great sense of foreboding found it's way into my soul and wouldn't leave.

We walked through the last door and the first thing I noticed was the smoke in the air, and then Ivan leaning against a heavy wooden desk. Behind the desk sat Mr Nimble himself. Taken aback I looked nervously around the place.

“Sit down,” spoke Ivan, in a gruff voice.

I did as I was told and found the nearest chair in front of the desk, all the while my stomach was doing somersaults.

“We have a witness that places you at the location of a certain mugging that took place a few months ago, this mugging didn't end well,” said Mr Nimble, steepled fingers in front of his face causing his white suit and swept back hair look ever the more menacingly calculated.

“Y-you do?”

“Yes, I believe you know him, a mister Robert Forrester”


“Oh indeed Mr Hatter, for you see, that man you mugged was of high importance to me... You see, he was my cousin...,” He allowed the sentence to hang in the air for a while before giving a nod just past my shoulder. Everything suddenly went black as I was pulled from my chair and a hood was thrown over my face. A sharp sensation was the last thing I felt as I slipped into unconsciousness.

“Do you fear Death..?”

I tried to focus my eyes, and gain an understanding of where the voice came from, and where I was. As vision returned I went to move my arm to my eyes to shield them from the harsh light, but found that they were bound to my side, my arms strapped to the chair.

“Wha- What's going on?” I mumbled to the voice. I started thinking that maybe no-one had said it, maybe it was all in my head.

I was suddenly jolted awake, my body convulsing as shocks ran through me. I widened my eyes, and they finally saw their surroundings. I was in a warehouse. This strange man with stapler in hand was bent over me, and I could make out another figure strapped to a chair opposite to where I was bound. “Robert?” I whispered.

“That's right!” The torturer exclaimed with unsurpassable glee. “And it's up to me to give YOU a compromise!” he chuckled madly to himself. “You have a choice, either he dies... or you die!” at that he burst into a fit of giggles. I felt another course of electricity run through me and I screamed.

“Now what will it be sonny Jim?”

“I... I have to choose... Him... Or me?”

“Don't repeat what I said!” the torturer screamed, as he rammed the stapler onto my hands three times each. “And one for that oh so pretty face,” he said sweetly as he pressed the stapler to my forehead. My heart began racing, waiting for him to push down. A sharp pain ran through my head. Please, I thought, why. As more electricity ran through me I looked at my friend, convulsing in time to me. He didn't deserve this. It was all my fault. I cried in agony. The pain suddenly ceased.

“Well?” asked the man, raised eyebrow and confused expression crossing his face.

“I choose... I choose...” I thought about my life up to that point and how cruel I had been to so many people, ending lives here and there, taking pleasure out of it. It was like a giant machine. They didn't care about the work I did. I was just a cog. Just another chump they had trained to kill, but didn't give a rats to maintain. Robert didn't deserve to die for my sins.

“You're taking too long!” cackled the torturer, as he turned up the electrodes and continued to staple my hands and face. He turned and began doing the same to poor Robert. It was then that Robert woke up, eyes rolling in his head; he focused on me. He saw what was going on, and tried to scream, but the gag they had in place prevented it, and all that came out were muffled pleas.

“I choose Death!” I cried. Unavoidable I prepared myself for the great beyond, what was to come, if I would go to heaven, or hell. I begged for forgiveness from any higher power that I may be granted mercy as the hot lead entered my chest. I slipped out of consciousness for the final time, like a great weight was being pushed on my back, I fell... And never woke up.


(c) Arthur Venture 2010


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