The Problem with Promises
The girl is sleeping. Her hands are curved round the edge of the bunk, her golden hair shiny in the dim light. The glow around her has faded to purple, and even I know that means scared. How can you be scared when you’re asleep? She looks peaceful. Yippee doodah, she looks fine! I’m glad she’s stopped crying. She was makin’ a hell of a racket.
Oop, she rolled over, and her eyes blinked while they were closed. The light in the room is swayin’ a bit, and I can see the room clearer when it comes over to my side. The walls are dark green and the ceiling is dark green. There’s a TV, that stands for ‘TeleVision’, in the corner. For a moment I forgot where I was but then I remembered. Yippee doodah, I’m down here, with the girl, the one the Big Boss told me to get. I got her, and now she and me are down here. I’m waiting for her to wake up.
The girl snuffled a bit and her eyes is openin’. She’s looking right at me, and the glow around her gets sharper, turning into a circle, instead of the oval it was before. She’s still lookin’ at me. I feel nervous, so I touch the gun by my belt. It’s just a little pistol, but the girl still screams. It’s a horrible sound, one that could rip me right open, if it weren’t for the stitching I knows is called ‘skin’. So instead of being split down the middle, I stand up off the bed and go towards her.
“It’s ok,” I says, kneeling down beside her. Her eyes are wide, and her glow is turning a vivid red. That means terror. I don’t know what to say, so I just say, “I’m sorry. I won’t hurt you.”
The girl swallows her screams and edged towards the wall. Her eyes glisten with tears and she looks like a rabbit, big teeth and all. Her button nose is twitching like a rabbit too. “L-Leave me alone,” she says.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” That time she screamed and I fell backwards.
“I’m not goin’ to hurt you. Just shush.” I remember what Big Boss told me, and I stroke my gun. The girl’s mouth closes and she sits up.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she says, her voice close to a whisper.
“I’m not goin’ to hurt you.” I smile and point up to the TV. “Do you want me to turn it on?”
The girl swallows, her hair twisting down the sides of her neck, like a snake. “N-No.” Her glow is turning purple again. “Wh-where am I?”
I shake my head. “Big Boss made me promise not to say. He said it would be bad. B-A-D, that spells bad.”
The girl nods, still staring at me. She doesn’t speak for a long time. Eventually I say, “Do you want some food? I got biscuits.”
The girl blinks and shakes her head. “Please let me go.”
I shake my head again. “Big Boss made me promise not to do that.” I pause and add, “He made me promise quite a lot of things.”
“W-what’s your name?”
“I promised not to tell.”
The girl nods again, and I start to think she has a problem with her neck. Why don’t she just say her yeses and noes?
“Why am I here?”
“You’re here because your daddy did something naughty to Big Boss. He said we is holding you for ‘ransom’.”
The girl nods again. Her glow is turning a funny muddy brown colour which I think means shock. I don’t see that colour very often.
“Are you ok?” I ask. “You sure you don’t want water, or biscuits?”
“No, I’m good. Are you retarded?”
“I don’t know. That’s what them boys at school called me, so maybe. Are you?”
A smile flashes on the girl’s face and she shakes her head. “No.” She pauses. “My brother had a boy like you in his class once,” she muses, her eyes drifting. “He was retarded.”
“Could he see the colours?”
The girl blinked and looks at me. “The colours?”
I nodded and stand up off the dirty floor. I can’t remember why I was down there in the first place. “Yeah, the colours.” I narrow my eyes. “You ain’t a doctor, are you?”
The girl smiles again, just a quick one. “No. I’m too young - only fifteen.”
I relax and smile. “Yippee doodah, that’s good! My mama made me promise not to tell the doctors about the colours. The colours are floaty, like clouds. They go around people.” I motion round the girl’s frames with my fingers, mirroring the way the glow curves around her body. “Like that. Yours is a muddy brown colour, but it’s turning grey. That means no emotion. You is calm and blank, like a sheet of paper. One without any words on it.” I grin. “Could that little boy see the colours?”
“I-I don’t know. You can see auras?” The girl’s glow has turned pink that means amazed.
I shrug. “I don’t know. Is that what they’re called? The colours?” The girl nods and I nod back. Maybe both of our necks have problems. “Then, yeah, I guess I can. Yippee doodah, I can see auras! Is that good or B-A-D?”
The girl shrugs and glances down at the bunk. Her thin fingers are playing with a loose thread on the cover thing. There’s a ghost of a smile on her face. “Good, I guess. It depends what you use it for. How can you see them?”
“I don’t know, missy. My mama said a part of Satan lodged in me when I came out her tummy, but I don’t know. I think it was a piece of God instead. What do you think?”
This girl shrugs. There’s a short silence. “What’s Big Boss’s name?”
“He made me promise not to tell you. He has an aura the colour of beetroot though. That means B-A-D, bad, bad man. But me and him are friends, so it’s ok. He’s the only friend I’ve ever had you know. He’s a bad man, but he’s my friend, so he can’t be that bad. He’s nice to me, but only when I do what he says. If I don’t, he’s mean. ” I glance up at the girl and tilt my head. “Am I good or bad? Can you see the colours?”
“Oh, well, yippee doodah, never mind. Say, are you sure you don’t want biscuits? I’m gonna have one, cause my tummy’s about to grrrr.”
The girl looks at me, and there it is, that smile again, quick as a cat across her face. “Just one,” she says. I smile and walk over to the chair again. There’s a biscuit tin underneath. I open it and choose a chocolately one for the girl and an orangey one for me. I put the tin back under the seat and walk over to the bed again. I hand the girl hers and take a big bite of mine. It tastes N-I-C-E, that spells tasty.
I wipe the crumbs from my mouth and wait for the girl to finish her biscuit. She’s a-nibbling at it, picking away at it, like a rabbit does with a carrot. She looks like a rabbit too. Her button nose twitches and she looks up from her biscuit.
“What else did Big Boss make you promise?”
I scratch my head and think. “Well,” I says, my mind running circles around itself, “he made me promise not to let you hurt yourself, as well as me not hurting you. He made me promise not to let you out. And there was one more thing, but I can’t remember now. Why was you asking?”
The girl nibbles her biscuit again and shrugs, her hair bouncing off her shoulders. “I don’t know. Why don’t you just break the promise? Do you not like me?”
I shrug. “I like you an’ all, but you can’t break a promise. You can never break a promise.”
“Why? If you like me, you’d let me out...” Her glow shimmers and bends and fades in and out of her body. “Please, mister!”
I take a step back and touch the gun on my belt. It’s cold. “I promised not to, missy. I can’t break a promise. It’s B-A-D, that spells bad, and bad means naughty and naughty means no presents for me at Christmas. I’m not letting you out. Now, finish your biscuit.”
The girl opens her mouth but I touch my gun again and she shuts up. She looks down and eats her biscuit. I go sit back down on my chair. We sit in silence for a few minutes, maybe longer. I don’t know. Time passes strangely. It goes all jiggery when I’m sad, and all pokery when I’m having fun.
The nest thing I knows, the walkie-talkie in my pocket is doing a jig. I pull it out and press the button, like Big Boss told me too. “Yippee doodah, is that you Big Boss? How are you doing?”
There’s a mighty crackle and I see the girl look up. Her glow turns red, and she drops the biscuit. Big Boss starts talking, and he sounds scared. “The FEDs are comin’, man. We’re busted. Look, remember what I told you? Remember what you promised? About if the cops come?”
I look inside my brain and a little light pops up, like in cartoon. “Oh, I remember now! I forgot and now I remember! Yippee doodah, I figured it out.” There’s a smile on my face, and then I think that Big Boss can’t see it, and it vanishes.
“Right, yeah, that’s good. I need to go, but remember the promise. They’ll be in the bunker in a few minutes. Get ready. Over and Out.”
There’s a beep and then there’s silence, apart from my breathing and the girl’s breathing. I look over at her and smile. She’s pressed up against the wall, her eyes wide and full of fear. “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”
I shake my head and walk over to her. “Of course not. That would be breaking the promise that I wouldn’t hurt you, because killing someone means hurting them. Yippee doodah, I ain’t gonna hurt you! Now, I need you to get under the bunk, so you don’t get hurt.”
The girl swallows and I touch my gun again. She moves then, crawling off the bed and sliding onto the floor.
Her glow shines through the bed. I turn away from her and face the door. It’s locked and covered in shadow, but it doesn’t matter. There are footsteps, big, angry footsteps coming from outside. I swallow, and I feel scared.
I swallow again and take my gun out from the ‘holster’. It’s all heavy in my hands. Big Boss made sure it was ready to be fired. I look at it for a moment, seeing my face reflected in the shiny black metal and then I look at the door again. The footsteps are louder and my hands start shaking. Big Boss made me promise. But I want to break the promise. He made me promise to do a scary thing, and I don’t want to do it. But you can’t break a promise, that a law.
“What did he make you promise?”
The girl’s voice seems very quiet and whispery under the sound of the footsteps. They’re almost at the door - I can hear them talkin’ now, shoutin’ almost. The girl repeats herself, but I don’t look away from the door.
“What did he make you promise?”
There’s a thuddin’ at the door now, shaking the wood and making the floor quiver. They’re trying to get it open. I hold the gun steady and pull it towards my face. It’s pointed at the door now.
“What did he make you promise?” The girl’s voice is a little louder and I turn to answer her, but I can’t, I’m frozen and the door is shaking and water is trickling down my trouser leg and the girl is still asking me, and then BANG!
The door shoots off and there’s a group of men standing facing me. They have orange glows. That means business, as my mama used to say. They all have big masks on, and that makes me scared because I can’t see their face. They also have big guns, but they don’t scare me, because I know they won’t have a chance to use them.
I tighten the grip on the gun. One of the men says somethin’ but I don’t hear it - it’s all a fuzzy blur inside my head. I tilt my head to the side and look at the girl under the bed. I can’t see her face neither, but that doesn’t scare me because I know she has one, one that looks like a rabbit.
“The Big Boss made me promise not to tell the cops. They said they might hurt me to make me tell, and said there was only one option. He said I couldn’t betray him. He made me promise. That’s the problem with promises. You have to keep them.” Tears blur my eyes and I blinked them back. “If you don’t mind, would you be my second friend?”
The girl says something but I don’t hear it either. Instead of asking, I just nod. “Thanks, missy. Good luck.”
I face the men again and a smile crosses my face. I stroke the trigger of the gun with my finger and point it towards my head. “Goodbye. You was a nice friend.”
One of the men bounces forward, but it’s too late. The bullet shoots out and goes into my head. I hope the girl didn’t see. It was messy. I saw it while I was floating upwards, towards heaven. My body collapsed forward and the men swore. Their glows turned pink, and then I see something for the first time.
I see my glow.