223/366 – Kieran Cooke, Urban Legend

Day 81 of 100 Word Prompts: Card

Cash stood outside the guard booth, bored and struggling to stay awake as was his routine at work. Behind him, the company responsible for building the town as well as the amenities everyone enjoyed, and in front of him a town full of grateful people. He shook his head as the thought of how useless it was to have a guard in an area where everyone loved what the guard protected.

Cash stretched and walked to the far side of the barricade and walked back. He had discovered a month into the job that walking would keep him awake easier than the small TV inside. He couldn’t afford to lose the job. He was the only one in the family with employment, and the insurance was terrific.

He glanced back down the road toward the town and saw something move. He stopped walking and turned to face it, squinting to see the shape become clearer in at the edge fo the light. A man stepped into view.

The man wore a red velvet jacket, long pin-striped black and white pants, and a purple vest. His face and hands were the only skin Cash could see, and both were impossibly pale. The man’s stride was a casual walk, not rushing, but not without purpose.

“Excuse me,” the man said as he came to a stop. “I need to get through here.”

“I can’t let you do that without ID,” Cash replied, shaking his head.

“I don’t carry identification, but I can assure you that you know who I am, even if you don’t realize it. I would recommend that you let me pass,” the man said, a broad smile spreading across his face. “I didn’t come here for you.”

“Who the hell are you anyway?” Cash asked, raising his left eyebrow.

“I didn’t introduce myself, did I?” the man said, reaching inside his coat. While his hand was hidden, Cash felt his face warm, and his heart rate increase. He wasn’t sure what the man was reaching for, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out. The man’s hand emerged in a flash. Faster than Cash had thought possible. “My card, sir.”

Cash looked at the man’s hand in disbelief. Kieran Cooke, emblazoned in embossed silver, stared back at him.

“I-I’ve heard of you,” Cash replied, his hand moving forward as though on its own, taking the card from his hand. “In some stories, you are an angel.”

“In others, I’m the devil,” Kieran replied, his smile taking on a brief wicked appearance before returning to the casual smile he’d had previously, “but in all stories, you’ve heard. I am always honest and always upfront with my intentions.”

Cash nodded. “I thought you were an urban legend. Something that didn’t really exist, but served to teach moral lessons to younger people,” he said.

“That’s how I prefer it,” Kieran replied, taking a bow. “It’s my pleasure to meet you, erm-I don’t believe you’ve told me your name either.”

“I’m not supposed to,” Cash replied, shaking his head. “Both in my job description, and in the stories about you. It’s the name that binds.”

“Ah, a wise one then. This should be fun,” Kieran replied, clapping his hands together and rubbing them before him. He snapped his fingers, and a simple chair appeared behind him. He sat and crossed his left leg over his right. “So, how to pull your name from you willingly so that I can give you the gifts I have?”

“It won’t work,” Cash replied. “I know your tricks. I have no use for your gifts.”

“Don’t you, though?” Kieran asked, tilting his head slightly. “I mean, you are standing guard here at this pathetic facility that does nothing but hurt the people in the community. You know that, right? You know you’re protecting the wrong side of the fence here.”

“Plybafis is a reputable corporation. They are solely responsible for the school budget locally. They also built the hospital and most of the housing here,” Cash replied.

“Interesting that those are the three things you chose to talk about,” Kieran replied, scratching his chin. “The school budget, while generous, is influenced heavily by Brice Dillon, on the city council, who was backed almost exclusively by the company. I wonder how the curriculum reflects the values of the company.

“On the topic of the hospital, it is staffed almost entirely by ‘former’ researchers for the company,” he said, using his fingers as air quotes around the word former, “These men and women, while they are competent medical professionals, their first loyalty is to the company and frequently send information about the residents up the chain so that they can keep track of what they are doing to them.

“Finally, the housing is all wrong. Do you think it’s a coincidence that it is located in the valley? The company built it there so that it could keep better tabs on the citizens and have more opportunity to take the ones that pose a bigger problem with free-thinking.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cash replied, shaking his head. “I need you to leave the property or I’ll-”

“Call the police on an imaginary creature that doesn’t exist?” Kieran replied with a laugh. “Go ahead, call them. Tell them I’m here trying to get your name out of you.”

Cash suddenly felt stupid. “Regardless, I want you to leave. I don’t want anything from you.”

“Listen, buddy,” Kieran said, suddenly leaning forward in the chair, leaning on both his elbows, “I’m not actually here for you. I really do want to give you gifts. The people I really want to see are behind you, inside that building. I’ll tell you what. Don’t give me your name. Tell me what you want. I’ll materialize it and leave it here in exchange for passage through.”

Cash thought about it for a moment. Everything the man had said made sense, though he wasn’t sure why. It felt like his mind was clouded, and he could only think about the things that Kieran had talked about. He knew his name, and what he wanted, but both ideas were crystal clear in his mind, and were the same. His lips parted as though a tool had been inserted between his teeth, and he spoke.

“Cash,” he said, feeling his heart skip in his chest.

“There it is,” Kieran said, his eyes suddenly looking dark. He stood, snapping his fingers again. The chair vanished. “Thank you for your time and your company. You will return to your home and find in your kitchen one million dollars in used currency on your table. I bid you a good night.”

Cash’s legs began walking on their own. He had never been more scared in his life. He had no control over any part of him, no matter how he fought it. In his mind, he could see the money in his kitchen. He knew that Kieran hadn’t lied, but he was concerned about what the man was doing inside the building.

Cash didn’t have to wait long. Within a few moments of the thought, screams echoed from the building as an explosion ripped through the east side of it. The support columns out front cracked and fell, letting the overhang fall in front of the doors. More explosions boomed in the night air as the sound of sirens began a few blocks away.



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