Based on the short film by Rahul Dowlath, Bryan Smith and Imtyaz Rahim. Short story written by Rahul Dowlath.
A Short Story (Based on a Short Film)
It was going to be a good day. The best day of his life. Redemption. The very thought tasted sweet in his mouth, and for second – almost unnoticed – what could’ve passed for a sliver of a smile crossed his hardened face.
But effortlessly he pushed such thoughts away from his mind. There was work to be done. A quick glance at the luminescent-green digital clock fixed into the wall next to his workbench glowed 2:59 am. Despite the early hour, he was wide awake, his mind sharper than ever.
Only four hours to go. Redemption never tasted sweeter.
Dominic Lewis heaved a sullen, exhausted sigh. The clock on the corner of his computer screen read 3:30 am. It mocked him, jeering at the futile efforts of his night’s work.
Not a single damn lead! The frustration seeped into his very bones, accentuating the dull ache emanating from them.
He resigned himself to shutting down the computer, hauling his tired body out of his chair, and taking fewer than five steps he collapsed on his cold but inviting bed.
Not even five minutes later, his mobile phone beeped, the rattling noise rising Dominic from his slumber.
“Yeah?” he answered sleepily.
“Dom – stop whatever the hell you’re doing, and get over to the office pronto.”
The voice was quick, sharp, tinged with excitement.
Dominic groggily rubbed his eyes and, slowly, roused himself into a sitting position.
“Wh-what?” he managed to mumble.
“Get over here, now! I’ve got a new lead!”
Smoke cascaded around the room, obscuring the figure that sat huddled on the thin bed at the centre of the room. A man dressed in a long, black trench coat leaned casually against the steel door frame, smoking a cigar.
His voice was gravel, the words creaking sharply out his cancerous throat. The figure sitting on the bed simply nodded. More smoke puffed into the cramped chamber.
“It’s a big day today. And there won’t be any mistakes. It’s time.”
The man in the trench coat disappeared through the door, leaving only a trail of tobacco-infused smoke in his wake.
“So, what’s this all about?”
Dominic skidded into his editor’s office, heaving heavily. He glanced at his wristwatch. It ticked into 4:00 am.
“I’ve got a new lead. It’s time. It’s going to happen… today.”
Dominic’s face turned ashen. His eyes were heavy, tired. Yet, at this new development, his face twitched with a mixture of fear and excitement.
“Well, then. That settles it. I’m going in.”
He grabbed a small digital camera and slipped his lithe frame into his signature dark-brown sport coat. His editor regarded him with a worried expression.
“You sure about this, Dom?” Uncertainty crept into her voice.
“What? Of course!” Dominic replied incredulously. “This is probably the biggest break this hell-hole of a paper has ever had!”
And without another word, he turned on his heel and disappeared out the door.
Dominic Lewis had joined the small newspaper three years ago as a junior writer. He mostly covered rather dull stuff – local petty crime, small events; nothing exceptionally groundbreaking.
The newspaper, The Daily Times, wasn’t that much of a paper either. Covered more by advertisements than actual news, it was hardly read by the city.
But two weeks ago, something remarkable happened. The Daily Times’ editor stumbled upon evidence that could place the fledgling newspaper on the map – finally.
She immediately began researching, and eventually Dominic joined her in the quest for clarity. He realised that if they could break this story, then there were some major deals just waiting for him to sign.
Dominic pushed through the glass doors of the news house’s entrance. A breath of fresh air washed over his face. Dawn was creeping across the horizon, the first rays of sunlight touching the tips of the taller buildings.
He took a deep breath and walked down the slowly-brightening street.
A large, hulking man leaned against the brick wall, hidden in the shadows of an alleyway just-off the street where the Daily Times offices stood.
He had a short beard, bloodshot eyes and a shaven head. He wore a dark leather jacket with a thick silver chain hanging around his neck. His complexion was olive, perhaps middle-eastern. A single, small silver hoop pierced into his right ear.
The man watched intently as the figure exited the Times’ office. The person stood for a beat in the fresh morning air, savouring the quietness of the street. Then he was off, walking carefully down the deserted street.
All this the middle-eastern man watched keenly from the sanctuary of the alley’s shadows. As the newcomer turned a corner at the end of the street, the middle-eastern fellow pulled a sleek mobile phone from his jacket pocket.
He tapped a few commands on the phone’s touch screen and waited for an answer.
A click, then shallow breathing on the other end.
“We have a situation.”
“What is it?” the recipient rasped.
“There’s a tail.”
A short pause followed this as the answerer contemplated the new development. Then a single, short reply broke through the radio waves.
The line went dead.
The magnificent structure loomed overhead, casting Dominic in shadow. It was an iconic piece of architecture, revolutionising the city’s skyline. And if he didn’t act quickly and get his job over with, Dominic knew the skyline wouldn’t look so grand anymore.
He moved to stand under a tree in the small park next to the Stadium. And as he did so, something out the corner of his eye caught Dominic’s attention.
Someone was watching him from under the coolness of shadows near the Stadium’s entrance.
The man was dressed in a black leather jacket and a thick silver chain glinted in the sunlight as he stepped out from the shadows into the emerging sunlight.
The park around the Stadium wasn’t very busy; it was, after all, quite early in the day. A handful of joggers stretched in the open expanse surrounding the concrete-and-steel megastructure, anticipating their morning run.
Dominic became a little weary. A lack of sleep, juxtaposed with his rushing adrenaline at the appearance of this mysterious man tore at his very fibre, a rock of stress overcoming his worn mind.
He fought it and finally came to a decision.
He entered the Stadium.
And the mysterious man with the leather jacket and silver chain followed him into the overwhelming bowl.
Dominic walked a good distance into the stands and felt the presence of his tail a short distance behind him.
Suddenly he stopped. Abruptly
“Why don’t we just get this over with?”
The question caught the tail by surprise.
“I know why you’re here.” Dominic still didn’t turn to face the man.
“How much do you know?” The man spoke slowly, in a measured voice. His accent carried a tinge of middle-eastern origins.
“Enough to be goddamn pissed-off at what you’re planning to do.” Dominic’s voice was bitter.
The man laughed mirthlessly.
“You don’t know half the story.”
Finally, Dominic turned to face him. They both stood not more than ten meters from each other, feet planted firmly to the white concrete floor of the stands.
“Oh yeah? And what’s it, then?” Dominic asked.
The man considered Dominic carefully. After a solid pause, he spoke, his voice a deathly rasp.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Dominic said incredulously.
The man laughed again. “You amuse me. You all do. All the same… no conviction, no resolve to progress. Always content to be stuck in the rut of this new lie… It once sickened me. But now, I know what I have to do. I know my duty.”
The man regarded Dominic with interest. He sighed, almost exasperatedly.
“Underneath specific seats all around the bowl of this stadium are explosives,” the man said as he reached for something in his pocket. Dominic’s eyes widened, his fear confirmed. The man pulled a mobile phone from his jacket pocket, unlocked it, and held it up so that the young journalist could see the object.
“This phone has been programmed to send a detonation sequence to each seat carrying the new flowers of a rebirth.”
“This is madness!” Dominic exclaimed.
Anger suddenly flared in the Terrorist’s eyes. With unexpected agility he lashed out, striking Dominic across the face. The reporter recoiled in pain, bent-double, grasping the point on his cheek where the pain stung like a fire coursing through his skin.
“Madness? Your naïve little mind, so corrupt by the sickness that has plagued this country, knows little of the great significance this act means. It’s an uprising! A godforsaken new dawn!” The Terrorist roared, his guttural voice echoing against the concrete of the inner-bowl.
Still gasping his face, Dominic turned to face him.
“You’re a monster…”
Dominic lashed out, his fist connecting with the jaw of the Terrorist. The man’s eyes widened in shock, and then contorted in the pain that followed. But he recovered quickly, and lunged at the reporter, tackling him in a forced grip that sent Dominic crashing into the plastic seats of the first row. The Terrorist proceeded to cuff him, repeatedly, in the face.
Blood blossomed on the young reporter’s face. The pain was unimaginable.
Dominic gave a great cry of fury, and with all his remaining strength pushed against the Terrorist, sending the man flying backwards and falling to the concrete floor as his back hit the railing.
The young reporter advanced on his attacker, face covered in crimson.
Suddenly, the Terrorist pulled a black metallic piece of death from his jacket pocket, and aimed the gun at Dominic. He immediately halted, caught in this new conundrum.
“Move any closer, and I’ll shoot.”
Time seemed to slow down. Blood rushed to Dominic’s head, the adrenaline coursing through his veins. This was it. This was how it was going to end.
“How you’ve become conditioned by this corrupt devil… there’s nothing, boy. Nothing! You’ll be fighting against a monster, if you don’t already become one soon,” the Terrorist spat out. “Here; let me offer you a deal. Step away, forget what has happened. I can offer you a new life. A new beginning in a new reality our Cause is creating…”
The gun still aimed at him. Dominic’s mind reeled at this sudden turn of events.
“Yes, at first, chaos will ensue. But that is trivial; it will pass soon after the second stage of our plan is performed. Recruitment. We must spread our creed, build the Brotherhood… and ensure that our Cause is heard throughout this country.”
“You really think that’s going to work, do you?” Dominic was amazed at the insanity of the man.
Dominic slowly sidled along the row of seats, as inconspicuously as possible, whilst the Terrorist spoke. He used this opportunity – the Terrorist’s eyes raged with a sickening madness, almost glowing with his feverish excitement at his absurd ideas – to get to a better vantage point.
In one deft movement, he leapt over the railing, and rolled out into the open expanse of the bowl. Quickly regaining his composure, Dominic dashed along the inside circumference of the stands. The Terrorist was taken by surprise, but quickly regained his stature and hurtled after his charge.
They ran to almost the halfway mark of the stands before the Terrorist fired a silencer-induced shot into Dominic’s leg. The journalist cried out in pain as he instantly crumpled to the surface.
The Terrorist approached slowly, his movements calculated; precise. Eventually, he reached Dominic, his frame looming over the young reporter.
He drew the arm holding the firearm level with Dominic’s face. The barrel of the gun was mere inches from the reporter’s nose, almost mocking him at his failed attempt.
The Terrorist’s hand tightened around the piece of death, aiming to fire.
But time appeared to slow; it was as if everything around Dominic became non-existent, and the only thing that mattered was him and the gun.
In a single, deft movement, forgetting the agony of his punctured leg, he rolled under the looming hulk of the Terrorist, his hands sharply jabbing the man in his sides. The Terrorist cried out in pain, his hand momentarily slackening its grip on the gun.
Dominic seized the moment; he hit the gun with the palm of his hand and quickly swept it up before the Terrorist could react.
Wasting no time, the young journalist fired two shots into the man. Eruptions of red liquid flew out the betrayer’s stomach as he collapsed in a heap on the ground, unmoving.
Dominic’s frame shook with with recoil of the firearm and the fear of what he did.
Redemption. It wasn’t a game worth playing, the young reporter mused as he drifted into the limbo of unconsciousness.