How Nothing Feels

By
I pulled my brown Nike sweatshirt tighter around my frail body. I had expected the night to be cold, but not this cold. The sound of my tattered shoes against the paved surface of the sidewalk seemed too loud as I continued on my way. I thought about my shoes some more in an attempt to rid my mind of thoughts about what had taken place the previous hour. You could barely even call them shoes at this point. The ragged soles had all but fallen off and the laces had long since been replaced with a string tied just tight enough to keep them on. And to think minutes ago I thought I’d never get the chance to walk in them again. “NO!” I muttered, “I must stay focused, I must get home!” Realizing I had just said the words out loud, I quickened my pace.

At that second I heard footsteps. Instantly I froze in place. “No, it can’t be,” I thought, “impossible.” I regained my senses and hurried on, even faster than before. As soon as I began to move again, the sound came back. The steps were uneven, and heavy. This time, instead of stopping to listen, I walked still faster, until my pace was all but a jog. The steps quickened, but soon died off. “It’s just my imagination,” the words ran through my head, “I’m just hearing things.” Even with this running through my mind, I did not slow my pace. A snap of a twig, the dull ‘thump’ as something landed behind me, a sharp pain in my lower back, and an intense agony throughout my entire torso. I felt an immense wave of exhaustion come over me as all the energy was drained from my body. I looked down to see the bloody tip of a rusty fire poker protruding at least half a foot from my abdomen. I fell to my knees as I realized that the object projecting out of my body looked eerily familiar.



I’d never been a hard worker. Ever since I was twelve years old I’d had the same plan for my life. “Get as much as you can, as quick as you can, as easy as you can.” Twenty-four years later, my opinion had not altered. It just makes no sense why, when so many other people in the world are working, I have to work as well. If I can obtain what I need without paying, why pay? Most people will work hours to earn such a small amount of money, when I can make the same amount casually taking money from tourists on a crowded street. If a person is wealthy enough to take a vacation to Portland Oregon, then a person is wealthy enough to spare fifty or so dollars. It is not really stealing as much as it is bringing a wealthy person down to earth, teaching a person to be more careful with their belongings in the future.

I am proud of my work and have every right to be. I, Fraser Thomas, am the number one pickpocket in the world. There is no doubt in my mind. I have never been caught, never suspected, and never failed. I make a living of pick pocketing, and think of it as an art. So many strategies, so many subtle movements to use to lull the victim into a false sense of security so I can walk away with my prize, an accolade to my success.

The day was a typical fall day. It wasn’t too cold and the leaves were a brilliant array of reds and yellows in the late afternoon sun. I couldn’t help but admire the scenery while I focused on my soon-to-be victim. The perfect approach to use in order to make off with the fat wallet extending beyond the end of his pocket began to form in my mind. I selected a generic-looking wallet from a few I kept inside the pocket of my sweatshirt. It was stuffed with torn pieces of paper approximately the size of regular bank notes, as to mimic the weight of a full wallet. The fake in my hand was black as opposed to the brown of the wallet in the pocket of my target. Moving closer, I readied myself. I slammed in to the stranger, maybe a little too hard, making sure to knock the wallet out of his pocket. “Oh!” he exclaimed. Quickly I bent to pick up my prize, making sure to switch the stranger’s wallet with my mock wallet. As I slipped his wallet up my sleeve, it opened just enough for me to see the name Mark Walter on some sort of ID card along with a local address. So he was local. I stood back up to my full height, and got my first good look at Mark. He wasn’t particularly tall, or particularly short. A little too much eating as a kid had left a considerable bulge in his stomach. “I’m terribly sorry sir,” I lied, “I’m just so out of it today.”

“Apparently so, but I would appreciate it if you would return my wallet to me, I will be needing it where I’m headed,” he responded. Mark Walter had a deep voice, friendly enough to demand respect, but there was something in that voice that caused me to suspect that he was up to something. How had he seen me switch the wallets? Everything had been executed perfectly. Then the anger set in. I had been caught. In a second, the reputation I had been building my entire life was gone. I would not let this Mark get away with taking my dignity, my pride. I would get my revenge!

“Oh no!” I hoped that didn’t sound too fake. I continued, “I must have mixed it up with my own, here.” I handed him his wallet, he thanked me and then walked away quickly. He looked so content, so proud of himself. But it wasn’t over. It was far from over.

I began to tail Mark as soon as I was sure it was safe. I followed him off the main road, down an alley, through a building, back onto a smaller road I didn’t know existed, around two lefts and a right and onto a road lined on either side by apartment buildings. Mark Walter turned suddenly, opened the door of an apartment and closed it behind him. I crept around a corner up to the door, quietly testing the doorknob. Locked! Had he heard me? Did he know I was following him? There was something strange about Mark Walter, and it was starting to annoy me. I wanted an end to this, so I sat behind a dumpster by his apartment door in the shadows and waited.

The light hit the metal in front of me just enough so I could see my reflection. As I waited for Mark to exit, I studied myself in the rusted corner of the dumpster. I tried to keep looking decent, for nobody suspects a good-looking young man to be a pickpocket. My clothes were casual, a white tee shirt underneath a brown Nike zip sweatshirt, jeans and battered shoes. I was about six feet tall, and skinny. Living like me does have a downside; it is hard to keep a well balanced diet.

Crash! The noise aroused me from my thoughts. I tried to become as invisible as I could, slouching down behind my makeshift hideout. A man walked into my view. Another crash! He had picked up an empty glass bottle and thrown it at the wall of the building. To my delight he headed towards the same door Mark had disappeared through. The man looked to be in his mid-fifties, about the same age as Mark. As he went to the door, I shifted slightly, now holding a stick I had found near me in my left hand, and my head angled so I could watch the newcomer. He wore an old-looking red and white plaid shirt and dark brown pants. The pants were rolled up to his knees, revealing his pale legs. He had a muscular face concealed by a weeks worth of stubble. The man knocked on the door in a pattern that sounded familiar to me, that I just couldn’t name. Mark’s voice came from behind the door, “Yes or no?”

“Maybe,” replied the man outside the door in a monotone voice. The door opened and he entered. Quickly and silently, I slid the stick towards the door and blocked it from closing completely. Waiting for the low, quiet voices to subside on the other side of the wall, I stood at the ready. After what seemed like hours, there was no sound coming from the building and I got my first chance to glance through the opening I had made. The room was empty. Slowly, I stood up, quietly opened the door and stepped inside.

The first feature of the room to hit me was the strong odor of what smelled like a mixture of cigar smoke and burnt bread. From what I could see the apartment was just cluttered enough so that a person in my situation would get the sense that the living space belonged to a teenager who had gone too long without cleaning his room. The next affront to my senses was the ugly wallpaper. Every wall I could see was covered in the same hideous pattern of small light blue squares with orange dots. There was a couch pushed against the wall facing a TV and a door that I assumed led to a bathroom. To the left of the couch was a small mini-kitchen with several dishes scattered on the counter waiting to be washed. Directly next to the kitchen was a door, framed by the only light on in the apartment. The door was slightly ajar, seeming to invite me to descend the staircase beyond. It was almost calling out to me, “Fraser,” it seemed to say, “Over here, Fraser!” I shook my head. It was only a door. Yet, I felt obligated to see what lay beyond it. A gateway to a mystery that remained unknown. I could hear voices coming from behind the door. One voice was distinctly recognizable as Mark’s, the other I only assumed belonged to the stranger who had just arrived. I now had a choice: move on, down the staircase and seek revenge on Mark, or turn on my heels and run. I decided to finish what I had set out to do.

Slowly, I advanced towards the door, stepping carefully as to avoid a loose section of flooring. The distance from where I stood to the door couldn’t have been more than fifteen feet, but it seemed like fifteen yards as I crept towards the opposite side of the room. When I reached my destination, I clasped the doorknob and began to hear a quiet rattling coming from an unknown source. Realizing my shaking hand on the doorknob was producing the sound I quickly loosened my grip. Slowly I pushed the door open and took a step to the first stair.

Creeeeek! The step made a painfully loud noise as I shifted my weight to it. Instantly, the lights were off. I realized only now how late it had become, how dark it must be outside, and how dark it was where I stood shaking. I couldn’t stop now, Mark was scared, and he and his buddy were hiding from me. I continued descending the staircase, none of the other steps making any noise. I could have sworn when I was at the top of the flight of steps there had been only a short distance to the bottom. As it had been with walking to the door, it seemed like the distance to the bottom of the stairs had tripled. It felt, as I descended, that each step was a farther and farther drop. That every time I stuck my foot out to move down one more stair, I was falling. Falling into the dark oblivion that lay before me. Falling with no hope of survival, until a stair saved me at the last moment, keeping me from falling into the darkness forever. Then I took my final step, and too late realized that there were no more stairs. I stumbled and fell as my foot hit the floor far earlier than I had expected.

At this moment the lights flicked on, blinding me! I twisted to my side as a crowbar slammed into the stone floor where my head had lay moments before. Acting on instinct, I grabbed the crowbar and pulled with all my strength, tearing it from the hands of the man who had just tried to kill me. Lurching upwards on to my knees I jabbed the weapon at whatever shadow was blocking the light above me. I felt a strange sensation as the metal rod I held in my hands sank deep into a soft but resistant object. It was not until the body crumpled to the floor and Mark’s pale face stared up at me with blank eyes, that I realized I had just killed a man. I looked at my hands, still covered with his blood.

A crack on the back of my head sent me hurtling forward onto the floor once more. I had forgotten about the other man. I found myself sprawled on the damp stone facing a dirty fireplace, and my eyes searching for my attacker. Against the wall then, I saw, were stacks and stacks of money, labeled with the marks of several local companies. I attempted to rise to my feet but was again knocked over by a hard kick to my ribs. I’d killed Mark, and if I didn’t kill this man too, I would be arrested. No doubt the cops would find out I made a living off travelers. I’d have to be quick. I reached behind me, grabbing a fire poker that had been leaning against the inside of the fireplace. Rolling back over, I narrowly avoided being hit with the crowbar I had stabbed Mark with. The stranger must have removed it from the body and was trying to use it on me. When he was winding up for another blow with the crowbar, I swung the fire poker in a swift motion, cutting into his ankle. The man collapsed, but not before I saw part of his bone sticking out of the injury I had just inflicted.

Wasting no time, I rose to my feet and sprinted out the building. Once reaching the road, my burst of adrenaline expired and the pain dug deep into my body. It felt like all my ribs had been ripped out and shoved back in crooked, and my head was throbbing. I hobbled as fast as I could to get as far away from that building as possible, trying to erase the ugly wallpaper and ghastly odor from my mind. I pulled my brown Nike sweatshirt tighter around my frail body. I had expected the night to be cold, but not this cold. The sound of my tattered shoes against the paved surface of the sidewalk seemed too loud as I continued on my way. I thought about my shoes some more in an attempt to rid my mind of thoughts about what had taken place the previous hour. You could barely even call them shoes at this point. The ragged soles had all but fallen off and the laces had long since been replaced with a string tied just tight enough to keep them on. And to think minutes ago I thought I’d never get the chance to walk in them again. “NO!” I muttered, “I must stay focused, I must get home!” Realizing I had just said the words out loud, I quickened my pace.

At that second I heard footsteps. Instantly I froze in place. “No, it can’t be,” I thought, “impossible.” I regained my senses and hurried on, even faster than before. As soon as I began to move again, the sound came back. The steps were uneven, and heavy. This time, instead of stopping to listen, I walked still faster, until my pace was all but a jog. The steps quickened, but soon died off. “It’s just my imagination,” the words ran through my head, “I’m just hearing things.” Even with this running through my mind, I did not slow my pace. A snap of a twig, the dull ‘thump’ as something landed behind me, a sharp pain in my lower back, and an intense agony throughout my entire torso. I felt an immense wave of exhaustion come over me as all the energy was drained from my body. I looked down to see the bloody tip of a rusty fire poker protruding at least half a foot from my abdomen. I fell to my knees as I realized that the object projecting out of my body looked eerily familiar.

I collapsed fully onto the road, arms to the side and staring at an awkward angle between up and sideways. I could not rest fully on my back because of the fire poker lodged in me. I strained my neck to see who had brought me to this terrible fate. I could not see a face, but caught a glimpse of a man limping away, his ankle twisted violently at an angle that wasn’t quite right. He wore a red and white plaid shirt, and rolled up pants. In his left hand, he held a crowbar. My thoughts turned away from my killer. I felt cold. Not just the cold of the night, but an internal cold. Pain seemed to leave for the most part, but a subconscious sense that I hurt remained. I felt alone.






I felt scared.













I felt nothing.





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