For whatever reason I had returned to my hometown and was walking down the small street where I grew up when I saw my neighbor walking with a younger girl who was frantically approaching mailboxes randomly and removing the contents.
This seemed weird, but not enough to stop and ask what was going on until I reached my own and found that it was full of loose change piled around the other mail. As I was counting it, the two walked up and that’s when I noticed that what the girl was carrying was a large envelope filled with change, along with upon further inspection a traffic ticket or something that carried a pretty hefty fine … of which the girl had tried to pay with change.
As I asked her why in the world she’d tried to mail so much coinage and didn’t instead just go down to the police station to pay the fine directly, she hinted somewhat scared that she didn’t have any other choice and that she was the victim of some new people on the block paying a prank on her…
And it wasn’t long before I would find out exactly who those new pranksters were…
…because apparently they were a gang.
The thugs had taken up residence in the house kiddie-corner to my own, and soon two of them had come out into the street to see what the fuss was about, causing my change-toting neighbor to bolt and leave me to fend for myself. It started with some verbal harassment, along with noticing the graffiti that they’d done to colorfully change the name on the mailbox as well as a couple of signs in the front yard for a business we were running.
I don’t know why, but I guess I had a feeling that a fight was going to erupt anyways, so despite my nature I threw the first punch and knocked one of the thugs on the ground.
The second guy honestly never really did much of anything except watch and egg his buddy on, who thankfully (and surprisingly) wasn’t much of a match for me! Although we struggled for a while, I always managed to keep the upper hand but it never slipped my mind that eventually more of this guy’s buddies were going to show up and that was going to be the end of it for me…
That said, somehow the struggle subsided and we ended up arguing some more that devolved into these thugs negotiating their bribes that they expected from us to get them to just leave us and everyone else in the neighborhood alone. Now we were back in their house and their demands were ridiculous – they wanted me to pay for a solar system to get them off the grid at their house, and I said no.
I countered saying that I’d give them an XBox or Playstation if they’d just drop it and let it go, around which time someone much more senior – possibly a father figure – arrived and sort of chuckled at the exchange before he put the fear back into me and confirmed that there would be no bargaining.
To show this, he pulled out a box cutter and began cutting up a section of the carpet, as if to show that the alternative was just to kill me right then and there, and roll my body up in the carpet before disposing of it out of sight.
The old man’s counter to me was that I was going to help them sell drugs, and although I had no idea how that was going to work, at the time it sounded better than getting rolled up in the carpet.
* * * * * * * * * *
Flash forward, but back in time – I lived in a society that was heavily monitored by … someone.
I found myself in a small camp that very much just felt like a normal state park, except that there were cameras attached to some of the buildings and whatnot and we all knew that we were constantly being watched.
I was sitting at a picnic table with my family just enjoying everyone’s company, and spirits were generally upbeat until I for some reason had to go back inside for a minute. Ducking to the side of the building, I was trying to time the camera so that I could sneak in unseen when this guy walked by and, noting what I was doing, he mentioned that he sold tools that people like myself could use to avoid being detected by the powers that be…
I didn’t quite know what this meant, but he didn’t give me much time to figure it out because suddenly he had to leave in a hurry and eventually I just went back inside, cameras be damned.
There I found another family meticulously counting a pile of coins that had been dumped on the table, and shortly after I entered another of them came in – presumably returning home from work – and deposited more change for the family to get to work counting. As I helped them stack a few rows, I commented that it seemed weird that only coins and not bills had survived because bills were so much easier to carry and use … only to be countered by one of the older women who simply explained that they didn’t pay us enough to warrant using any larger denominations anyway … as she continued carefully counting out the pennies as if their food and shelter depended on it.
And then … word got to me that I was being pursued.
I quickly said my goodbyes and took off running long before they showed up, disappearing into a nearby field that was filled with that very tall, iconic wheat that made it very easy to hide in. A couple of men approached on horses, however they proved to be friends – one of them handing off their horse to me and pointing me in the best direction while they took off in the opposite to hopefully slow down my hunters.
Eventually making my way through the fields, I came to a small town on the water where I was able to momentarily relax, and in my quick explorations I found an enemy tank that had been left by the side of the road and happened to be remote controlled.
Needless to say, I had some fun with this, using the remote to send the tank tearing off down the road until it accidentally got derailed on a bridge and just sort of stuck there blocking foot traffic.
That’s when they showed up again, and I was able to duck underneath a rail bridge just before it crossed a large body of water between two countries – myself running one way undetected while my pursuers could be seen through the slats above rapidly running the other way looking for me. I knew that all I had to do was get to the other side and somehow I would be safe, but with the bridge above me covered with troopers, that was going to involve a lot of swimming.
* * * * * * * * * *
And then in a very much unrelated tale, we were at Disneyland with Cleo trying to get around a parade route and somehow she ran off following one of the floats and ended up getting hit. A worker brought her back to us, pointing out that she had broken her back leg, and we were left trying to figure out what to do about it.