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Atlantic City. A once beautiful place where movies stars lived and where the crown of Miss America until it was corrupted by drugs and crime. Those big beautiful neon lights of casinos was a facade for what went on inside the city. AC was the sin city of the east coast.
An old fashioned apartment stood just outside of the center of Atlantic City. Inside the crumbling complex, room number 12 was a single bedroom, three hundred square foot studio apartment. It had a small kitchen complete with a stove top, an old Kenmore refrigerator, and a marble counter top. A table was in the middle of the kitchen with one lonely chair. Gray light shone through the curtains that hung over the window at the left hand side of the room and the fading day was sucking the color out of everything, making everything appear almost monochrome. A rug was in the center of the bedroom and a twin sized bed was tucked away into the far right hand corner. Across from the bed, was a fireplace with a film of dust coating it and a picture of a couple intertwined in each other’s arms was hanging next to it. The room smelled of alcohol and musty mildew. It was cold inside the bedroom which gave off an empty atmosphere. The room was dead silent and not a soul made a sound.
Suddenly, the silence was interrupted. The door at the entrance of the apartment opened and a dark figure of a man stood in the shadow of the doorway. The man flicked the light switch on and he finally stepped out into the light, revealing himself. He held a Jack Daniels whiskey bottle in one hand while trying to fix his long, untamed, greasy hair. His face was pale and gaunt with a jawline that could cut paper. His sunken black eyes looked hazily around the room. He wore faded black jeans, a utility jacket with a stained white t-shirt underneath, and a pair of combat boots. Under his ragged and distressed clothes was a dog tag that read Lance, Cato 856 71 4028 USMC B Positive Catholic, with the word Catholic sloppily scratched out. He was once a member of the Marines before being honorably discharged. He was a soldier. Trained to kill. Trained to survive. Trained to obey like a dog. Even while drunk he walked with a soldier’s precision. Cato sat himself down in the corner of his bedroom, shrugged his jacket off, and took another swig from the bottle. His arms were revealed to be a mass of scar tissue from his final tour in Syria. His callused hands traced the outline of a scar that was once a bullet wound. He trembled from the memories of everything that had happened and finally downed the rest of the liquor. The alcohol burned his throat on the way down, but it failed to warm his cold, empty heart.
Cato got up and went into the kitchen. He opened a drawer that contained a Glock 17 pistol, a Ziploc bag with a cloudy white powder inside it, and a pack of medical needles. Cato reached for the needles and powder and laid them on the granite counter top. He got out a measuring cup from a cabinet and poured five milligrams of powder and five milligrams of water, just like the dealer instructed him to. He stirred the solution with a plastic knife together until it became a milky white substance. Cato got one of the syringes, stuck the needle in the solution, and pulled back the tab until it filled all the way up to three milligrams. Cato pulled his shirt off and then injected the liquid into his pale shoulder. His muscles tensed as he pushed the injector down more and more until nothing was left in the syringe. He sighed and then pulled out the needle from underneath his skin. He could feel the PCP kick in immediately. There was an orgasmic burst of tingly euphoria starting from his chest and then radiating throughout the rest of his body. He had a feeling of total peace, both mentally and bodily. Dopamine flooded his entire system as the Angel Dust did it’s job. It felt like god was rushing through every inch of his being. It was a full body orgasm. Cato craved for more. He filled another needle and injected it into himself again. Halfway through injecting the second dose, Cato suddenly felt like he was falling into a deep hole and the world around him was getting darker and darker. He collapsed onto the floor with the needle still stuck in his arm.
Cato laid in the red sand behind a small sand dune in full Marines combat gear which consisted of a fifteen pound Kevlar flak jacket, camouflage trousers, and heavy duty combat boots. Black soot and gunpowder stained his face as Cato was taking cover. He cradled his standard issue M16 assault rifle in his arms. The smell of death, destruction, and hell filled the air. He heard gunshots being fired, bullets whistling past him, and shouts in Arabic and English. Everything was a chaotic mess around him. Fear weighed his chest down but there was no where to go. A man beside him yelled, “Get your ass up Private Lance and fire!”
Cato shouted back, “Yes staff sergeant!” Cato got up and fired blindly at the general direction of where he thought the enemy was. The gun pounded against his shoulder as he shot at the Syrians. Empty brass cartridges rained down into the sand until Cato completely emptied his magazine.
“Aim you fool! Don’t waste bullets you motherf...” There was a sonic boom of a sniper rifle and then the staff sergeant suddenly went limp and slumped over. On the back of his head was a crater where the bullet exited.
“Staff sergeant? Staff sergeant Lee!” Cato flipped his body over and on his forehead was a clean hole that was gushing blood. Parts of his skull were lying behind him like an unfinished puzzle. His face had no expression at all and his eyes just looked straight into Cato’s. The staff sergeant’s blood and brain matter stained Cato’s uniform. He stared at his fallen comrade. He had never seen a man be killed so close to him. The life of a man who had a family, who had a wife and a kid, was taken away instantly right in front of him. All from the simple pull of a trigger of a sniper rifle that was about four hundred yards away. Cato let out a shaky breath, stood up, and looked at the battlefield around him. His face took on a dazed expression, like he was looking a million miles away. Grenades were going off everywhere and IEDs dropped around him. He watched as his friends were shot into pieces by .50 caliber machine guns and then blown sky high when artillery rained down on their dead bodies. Wounded men were screaming for their mothers and yelling for god to save them from this agony. One man walked around disoriented while carrying his left arm that was blown off. Tears streaked down Cato’s grimey face as he witnessed all this. Cato thought, does God or even Heaven exist? Am I already in hell? Why can’t anyone up their stop this?
“Allahu Akbar!” yelled a Syrian. He wore a vest with what looked like red sticks of dynamite duct taped to it. He ran straight into a trench where a group U.S soldiers were. A second later, there was an explosion and what was in place of the group of soldiers was a group of dead bodies.
“Hujum!” another Syrian yelled in Arabic. The enemy approached closer now. Cato was suddenly shot in the arm and chest and he fell backwards into the fiery red sand.
“You’re never gonna get me you damn terrorists!” Cato yelled. He was awake now, but his mind was still back in the battlefield. The needle he never removed was still stuck in his arm as he got up. He raced for the drawer where the Glock was and picked up the pistol. He pointed the gun at an imaginary soldier. “I won’t tell you anything!” he yelled, “I’ll kill myself before I tell you anything!” He then pointed the cold steel of the gun into his temple. He clicked the safety off. “Get away or I’ll do it!” In Cato’s mind the soldiers in their black veils and their AK47s loomed closer. “God help my soul,” Cato whispered. He pulled the trigger and he collapsed to the floor.
A woman was sobbing as she watched the news. The South Jersey news that day headlined, Man in Atlantic City Found Dead in his Apartment. I thought you’d get better Cato, the woman thought. Tears rolled down her face as she continued to watch.
“Local man in Atlantic City, New Jersey was found dead in his apartment. Officials say that the cause of death was drug induced suicide. A pistol and a bag of the highly addictive drug PCP, or what users of the drug like to call Angel Dust, was found in the room.” Iris Amaretto cried as pictures of her boyfriend came up on the screen. She thought that the therapy would help him. She thought that she could break through into his mind but nothing worked. She rubbed her five months pregnant belly while her tears rained down onto her oversized t shirt.