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A Terrible Misunderstanding

A Terrible Misunderstanding

It was a cold night. The wind blew with the intention to pierce and shred whatever came in its path. Snowflakes that were once gently gliding towards the ground were now guided forcefully in the might of the wind. And no matter what position he stood in, whether or not he had his coat collar turned up or sleeves pulled low, Hale couldn’t prevent the wind from biting him. He hurried along the frozen path, warming his gloved hands with his breath every now and then. The distant placing of the houses provided little, if any, shelter against the wind. But then again, today was an important day.

He took a sharp left turn between two houses, climbing over the fence as he did. He scanned the surroundings, turning about and looking for potential sightseers. He half grinned when he realized that only he was stupid enough to be out in this weather. Ten paces from the fence, he stopped short and crouched. Glancing here and there, he took off his glove and lightly dusted the area on the ground. He gasped as the coldness bit into his hand yet he continued dusting till he found what he wanted to find. A c-shaped groove in a round plate of wood, a lid of sorts to a hole in the ground. He clicked his tongue in satisfaction as he, very carefully, slid it to the right, revealing a dark hole in the ground. Warming his hand again, he covered the lid with snow so that it can be replaced over the hole when he is in it. Replacing the glove on his hand, he jumped into the hole, dropping nearly six feet into the ground. Finally he stretched his hand to pull over the lid, leaving himself in darkness.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Hale fell to the ground, allowing the heat in the area to warm his body. He shone his torch in front to reveal several steps leading downwards into a tunnel. The tunnel was cut into earth supported with planks of wood. Several feet ahead it widened to a circular area with more pathways leading elsewhere. Crossing the space, Hale checked the clock. It was nearly half past ten in the night. He had approximately ten minutes before…

BOOM!

Hale was blown against the circular wall by the impact of the explosion. Rubble and debris fell from in between the weak ceiling supports, hurting his already frozen arms and legs. He was not on his feet yet, when another blast shook the tunnels, this time some meters beyond him. Hale saw the momentary lapse as an opportunity to run back to the entrance. His heart skipped a beat when he saw that the entrance had been destroyed. Angry now, he fumbled about in his pockets for his spare flashlight and a map and moved forward towards the circular room. Three of the five tunnel entrances had been obliterated in the blasts. There was no time to consult the map now; he darted off towards the one on the extreme right as another blast behind him threw him off balance again. He quickly took off, shining his torch in front of him, avoiding fallen beams and heaps of debris and rubble. The tunnel zigzagged and tilted downwards as he crossed more and more land. Nearly three minutes of running brought him to a small widening, that was illuminated by a small hole in the ceiling. And in the center of the wide area, illuminated by the light was a man crouched on all fours. He was coughing up blood and clutched his left side. Blood oozed out from between his fingers. Hale stopped short and half hid behind a fallen beam. That man, with his blonde head and scarred ear looked almost like…

“Matt?” The man slowly turned his head, his blue eyes piercing the darkness before him.

“Good God.”

Hale dropped the flashlight and ran towards him, carefully shifting Matt’s weight onto his own body and lowering him onto the floor slowly and as painlessly as possible. Matt winced as Hale clutched his bloody side and tried wrapping it with his muffler.

“Hale, stop. Listen.”

“This will only take a second. Let me wrap this, then you can ride my…”

Listen.” He coughed some more blood. Hale stopped, worry and questions clouding his eyes. “I don’t understand, you said there was a meeting, the council…”

“They didn’t wait.”

“But, they all texted me-”

“-they were here. I know. They left as I came.”

“But I wasn’t even present! And you look like-”

“As was supposed to… happen. And now, for the final clause of the discussion.” Matt closed his eyes. Hale was trying to comprehend what did he mean when suddenly, he sprang up, knocking over Hale and punching him hard in the gut. Hale doubled over, gasping for air. He leaped aside as Matt came at him again, throwing another ruthless punch. Hale wasn’t sure what was happening, but one thing was clear; he was getting annoyed with the camaraderie. As Matt, moved forward with another attack, Hale used the velocity of his attack against him. Dodging his fist, he grabbed at his elbow and pulled him forward. Inertia resisted the force to stop and he fell face forward on the ground. Hale didn’t let him get up, he grabbed him by his coat and slammed him into the wall, a gun jammed in his gut.

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“Answers.” Hale growled, clicking the barrel into place.

“Wow. Your power of persuasion is intimidating.”

Hale slammed the butt of the gun into his bloody side, and Matt nearly blacked out with the pain. A hollow scream escaped him.

“I can do more than intimidate my friend. Now, answers. Where is the council? And why are you attacking me like a maniac? I barely escaped the blasts to find you playing stupid pranks…”

“Its a pity you escaped the blasts. It was an even greater pity i was too close to the second blast. I was hoping you and I would never need to face each other like this-”

“Come again?”

“You stupid being! Your death was the essential clause of the meeting today! No one was supposed to come, I was the one texting you. That’s the fun part about calling from restricted services. I wanted you here, alone, because I never wanted you to escape.”

“Why would you ever say..”

“You are so naive sometimes. Even when you are part of the federal council. Do you really think anyone else knew about these tunnels? The one we roamed about as kids?”

There he had him. Hale was curious why Matt would choose this place. He couldn’t get Matt over the phone to ask him. Then again, they always have had curious places for meeting in the past. And he trusted Matt to consider this important enough to reveal this place to everyone. Maybe he wanted a place away from prying eyes.

“Why did you have to tread so close to that case of the murdered federal minister? You could have easily lived on. You could have easily made yourself a powerful career. You could have married and traveled with your family like you always wanted. But honesty is like your shadow isn’t it? Wouldn’t want to be shadow-less for a friend right? Especially if that friend was a conspirator in the murder of the minister. You knew didn’t you? Everyday I woke up to the dread of death on my shoulders. Because everyone moved on, but you didn’t.”

“She was my friend. A great human being, an honest worker. More dedicated than anyone. She deserved justice. Even if it meant digging your grave in the process.”

“So I was right.” He sighed, and took out from his pocket a remote. Hale stared, and Matt took the opportunity to push him to the ground. The gun flew away from his hand.

“Remember that one time I pushed you over the sand castle you built? In that circular room? You didn’t even cry. You had spend like three hours on it.  You kept on laughing, trying to swim in the sand, pretending to drown and gag over it.

I remember one thing about that day. You were staring up at the light, lying on the floor. And suddenly you said, ‘have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be buried?’ I was speechless. Afraid. You continued, ‘I sometimes feel that one should be buried in a place he loves. In a place that carry his memories. They should die with him. There is no point for them to live on when the vessel itself is gone.’ I was horrified, utterly terrified of you that day. You looked at my face and laughed, and said it was just a line you had read in a book.”

Matt pressed a button and somewhere along the room, three timers beeped. “Let your childish dream live on.” And slapped Hale across the face with the remote. His eyes rolled back, but he held his grip on Matt. Matt struggled to get away, kicking and slapping him in the process. Hale wasn’t there, his mind had shut off and he was moving on the orders of a new life. He kicked matt on both sides, pushing him off himself and rolled over towards his gun. Before Matt got to him, he had pulled the trigger. Pain shot through Matt’s left leg and he clutched at it, panting heavily. Hale went over to him and stood, looking down at him with a blank expression.

“I never intended you to die. Even if you had taken a life. I only wanted you to see,” he threw a paper at his face,”that I never stopped caring, like you did.”

He jumped and grabbed a broken plank hanging from the side of the hole in the ceiling and pulled himself up and out, losing himself in the wind.

**************

Matt’s body was dragged out of the debris of the blasts that shook the whole city late yesterday night. In his hand was a medical report of a federal minister who everyone thought had been murdered. Instead the report said she committed suicide because she was depressed.

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