This is the result of the “Opening Line Challenge,” where you take someone’s original first line and use it to create your own story.
David Koehn’s line is my first- thanks to him! A character I’ve been writing now and again kept leaping into my head for this one, so I decided to go with it…
Ichabod had whiskey eyes no matter the light upon him. Fancy up the description, make it poetic, but the eyes meeting mine across the steel table were a mess; rheumy and bloodshot and yellowed. The orbs of an old man in a head with hardly more than a handful of grey hairs.
Sometimes eyes were a giveaway about the emotional state of a man, and often they reflected the nastiness of the life he’d lived. But always, without fail, the eyes said nothing by the time I was done.
* * * * *
I’m good at my job. That’s not a boast, and I’m certainly not looking for extra praise, it’s just that in my line of work immediate, discernible changes are valued above all else, and I deliver.
For much of my younger life I didn’t understand my talent and therefore, didn’t nothing to hone it, which made my early twenties a contorted span of self-exploration and fuck-uppery. I spent too much time trying to figure out ways to stop my abilities from exiting my body, and it wasn’t until my back literally started to bend under the strain that I learned the most valuable lesson of my life: you cannot deny who you are.
* * * * *
“Am I supposed to be scared, you little fucker?”
Ichabod owned his sneer, the laconic curl of his upper lip displaying teeth a shade of sienna similar to his eyes. I could smell the crusted vomit on his stolen clothes from my seat almost four feet away and wished I’d had a few minutes more to eat before they’d brought him to me. I crumpled the paper around my less than half-consumed sub knowing I’d never finish it.
Heels rapped cement in the hall and even Ichabod looked over as several men squeezed through the doorway. Their huddle maintained its shape as they moved behind my chair.
“Prisoner 924,543. Class six offender,” announced the individual at my left shoulder. As the sole man in the room I half-way respected, Blane Jones held the dual positions of Lieutenant and someone I hadn’t known long enough to lose faith in.
“No need to go easy on this one, Voss. He belongs in Hell more than Lucifer himself.” Jones shook his head, gaze on Ichabod’s flat, sloping face.
“I got rights, you goddamn bastards. I got rights.” The prisoner jerked the cuffs binding him to the bolted-down table and offered his unflattering sneer once more.
Technically, he no longer did. Everyone present save Ichabod knew his liberties had been revoked, but I wasn’t about to get into all that with a worthless waste of skin. One of the gathered detectives mumbled something about “beasts” but I ignored him too. It was time to get started.
Leaning away from Jones, I flipped open the view panel on the digital camcorder on its tripod and started to record. Jones restated the prisoner identification, the case number, and date and time. In the meantime I began to probe the air surrounding Ichabod.
Leached hatred had formed a fetid greyish mass behind his head that seemed reluctant to dissipate. Resisting the urge to gag, I gave the cloud a firm mental tap and when Ichabod’s eyes widened and he jerked in his metal chair I heard a detective’s hissed cuss of surprise. Having so many bodies in the room was a distraction, but one I’d learned to work around in order to continue my job.
“Wha, wha, what are you doing?” Voice rising, Ichabod stared at me, and already I could see the fear spilling from his pores. He could hardly handle stage one. I cleared my throat before speaking, allowing part of my focus to return to the room.
“You may want to have the gag handy. I think this one’s going to be a screamer.”
“Sure thing, Voss.” A stirring and the soft slide of shoe soles on concrete followed my warning and in my wide-open state the click of the door latch was like a shot when a detective left the room. Ichabod was sweating and I found my gaze drawn again and again to the beads forming on his formidable forehead. When I heard the detective return I took a long, slow breath.
“I’m going in.”
The room vibrated in my vision, the periphery becoming a blur, and I was surrounded by foul smells and a searing liquid sensation, the cesspit turning my own thoughts turpid. My mind skittered, an instinctual backpedal of self-preservation. I wanted nothing more than to get out of Ichabod’s vile essence but instead I pressed further.
“Nnnnnnnnuhhh.” Ichabod’s teeth chattered, and the moan passing from his lips reminded me of almost every other low-life I’d fixed. No matter how caustic of mouth they’d been, nearly all were reduced to muted mewling. I wanted to speak but my own jaw clenched so hard my molars ached.
“The gag,” I ground out before slipping completely inside. On some level I knew Ichabod was wailing, even felt the tremor of his vocal chords, but my focus had narrowed to the silver sliver before me. A black crust encroached on most of the trembling surface and as I drew nearer I could tell it had actually gone deep, the dense blackness a permanent part. I ran my mind across the inky mass like a blade and watched the sliver pale.
* * * * *
“You okay? Can I get you some coffee or something?”
Blinking away blurred vision, I looked over at Jones. His goatee was going grey in tandem with his head hair and I felt a somewhat misplaced satisfaction in knowing my own paler crown would keep me from looking older up top for years.
“Sure. That sounds good.” The wall at my back felt hard and cool, and I pressed my shoulders into it as Jones walked down the empty hall. My whole body hurt and if sliding to the floor would’ve helped I’d have done it. Pain seemed to be my pal more often than not lately.
Opposite me, a matte doorknob turned and the door swung inward to reveal two men from the room I’d left, each flanking Ichabod as he shuffled forward. They swung a hard left before me and paused as one detective stuck out his hand.
“I’ve never seen anything like what you did today.” He grinned and his head moved in a half-shake. “Look forward to working with you again.” I nodded once, forever unsure how to respond to compliments.
Observing the listless Ichabod, I saw drool on one side of his chin. The handcuffs were gone, no longer necessary. Law enforcement could cease wasting time on security measures after I’d been with their prisoners. Ichabod’s looked as though he might have a hard time finding his own mouth at mealtime.
The three of them proceeded around the corner and I stared at pocked ceiling tiles, waiting for caffeine and thinking. My work saved money and prevented felonies and after time with me no criminal was ever a repeat offender. But my purpose was not all roses and rainbows, and my conscious violations of others troubled me more than some of the time. It felt good though, the living true part, and if my fate was to be a damn good SoulBreaker, I just might have to accept.