Exclusive to the blog, you can now read the opening scenes of Collide! Enjoy and please feel free to share it with your friends.
An Excerpt From Collide by A.C. Dillon
Banks are not usually quiet places.
Correction: on a grand continuum of noise levels, a bank rates fairly low when compared to, say, hockey arenas, concerts or the grocery store on a Friday night preceding a long weekend. It would also likely be found lower in the scheme of noise ratings when collecting data from a financial institution versus the home of a single mother raising three small children in a New York City slum. But make no mistake: banks are not silent. The sounds of pencils scribbling deposit slips; the tellers offering help (but not providing it without a fee, of course); the computers busy cranking out stock portfolio options and new client agreements; calculators whizzing to offer the “guaranteed best mortgage rate” (fine print: from our particular institution, as compared to this week’s rates alone) – they create a certain decibel level that speaks volumes. It says, There is life within these walls. It says, Capitalism is alive and well, Marx.
When the only sound within the walls of a financial institution is quiet sobbing and the muttered “Shut the fuck up!” from the lips of a man clothed in black and clutching a semi-automatic, it is not “business as usual”.
In fact, there is no business. And Marx is laughing as the once secure cogs of the capitalist machinery proverbially piss their pants.
They sit quietly, obeying their new masters. Husbands, wives, lovers, strangers, employees and customers are lined up against the walls behind the counters. Five men stand guard in various positions. The police that have begun to mill about outside with frenetic energy are unaware of the precise number of hostages. Hostages? those inside simultaneously wonder within their rattling skulls. It has yet to sink in, to hit them.
This is a hostage situation. This is not a test. The Emergency Broadcast System is getting a proper workout. It springs to life slowly, lazily, muscles atrophied, out of shape from years of Must-See TV distraction and desensitization.
A young woman in the line-up dares to speak from beneath her damp blonde locks. “Please, what do you –”
“Shut up, bitch!” the tallest man snaps, eyes upon the police cars outside.
The detectives are not moving. These are not Hollywood officers, hasty and dramatically storming the building. They are not aware of the full extent of the crisis here, and so they remain outside, awaiting the arrival of a hostage negotiator. They are playing it cool. For now.
(The Hollywood circus show will begin later, after the Coming Attractions are previewed.)
There are nine of them: three employees, five customers, and a Purolator delivery man who now wishes he had not brought his package on time. He will work harder next time to be slothful – if there is a next time.
The shortest man in black keeps an eye on them. He stares at the woman who has identified herself as the assistant manager, the one who dared to ask a question, the one who now nervously bites at the short nails on her right hand. He has a question. The blonde may have the answer. He makes his inquiry.
“Is there a storage room, an attic, an upstairs of some fucking sort?”
The assistant manager, a girl named Jane who does not run, says, “There’s a storage closet upstairs. No windows, just a few boxes –”
“That’s enough information.”
The short man looks to his partners, who nod. They have already discussed Plans A through C prior to this debacle. The tallest man (who, unknown by his captives, is John) eyes the line-up against the wall.
“Listen up!” he yells. “You will all, when I say so, rise slowly, slow like molasses. You will then follow Blondie to this storage room or whatever the hell it is. I will fucking watch you and so help me, I’ll lay out anyone who makes a move to run, attack, sneeze too loudly. Everyone behaves and this ends quickly, provided the pigs cooperate. Am I understood?”
Heads nodding. Bobbing. It makes John think of the Bobblehead dog in his mother’s car on the front dash, a stupid golden retriever bob-bob-bobbing. John tells them to rise. The gun is cocked, loaded. He has no qualms at this moment about using it. He is only as important as his role in their cause. The blonde looks to him and he tells her to move. She leads them, a perfect line of short and tall, fat and thin, to a small stairwell in the western corner of the bank. They follow up the stairs, feet clanging against metal and flimsy carpet, keeping pace with her as she reaches the dimly lit landing. A solitary light bulb is swinging overhead, keeping time, the metronome of a sadistic piano teacher holding a reluctant pupil hostage with never-ending scales to perform. Blondie pauses briefly, eliciting a grunt that shakes her from her panic-induced reverie, then spins the grungy silver knob, leading the quivering mass of people into a room. Its walls are lined with banker’s boxes of old requisitions, closed accounts, various papers. John tells them all to sit. They barely fit comfortably. He almost feels bad for them.
“I’ll be right outside. You can talk I guess, but I’ll be listening. Any funny business and someone will get hurt.”
He locks the door and stands guard, his body rigid, tense. He isn’t human right now, not in the usual sense. He is an important part of the machine, one cog among a select few, one necessary piece of a puzzle. The mission is all that matters right now. Humanity is on stand-by.
Inside the room, the strangers glance around. A young girl, maybe a college student with hair in waves tumbling in a tangled mass down her back, fidgets with her black sweatshirt, upon which is the word Tool. She looks around slowly, as if memorizing her surroundings, then whispers.
“Are we going to die?”
A middle-aged man, greying hair giving him an almost distinguished look, removes his suit jacket. “I don’t know. It depends.”
She sighs. “Oh. Then we’re going to die, I figure. ”
An auburn-haired woman clutches her eleven-year-old son in a corner, crying quietly as she rocks her child. His blue eyes are glazed over, unseeing. He cannot bear to see this. It’s too much. The Purolator employee silently begrudges him the freedom to panic without judgment.
The girl speaks again. “If we’re going to die, we might as well get to know each other, I suppose.”
Assistant Manager Jane snaps angrily, “Why? What’s the fucking point?”
“Well…..” She swallows hard and shrugs. “What else is there to do?”
“I want to talk.” The boy’s sudden speech catches the entire room off-guard. “What’s your name?”
The mother kisses his forehead gently. His eyes are clearing of the fog within them moments ago.
“Jenna. What’s yours?”
“Michael. I’m eleven. How old are you Jenna?”
“Twenty. I work in a used CD store. Do you go to school Michael?”
“Uh-huh.” Michael nods, wrapping and unwrapping his coat strings about his fingertip. “I’m in grade five. I like math.”
“My mom and I are supposed to go on a trip today. We came to get money for the trip because mom says having cash is important in an emergency, and we’re in one. Why are you here?”
Jenna sighs. “It’s a very long story, Michael.”
“Tell it,” the Purolator employee says suddenly. Insistently.
Jenna shakes her head, subtly shooting a dark look at Jane. “Nobody’s interested. We’re all too scared.”
“But maybe if we all tell stories, this will be over sooner,” Michael’s mother says, wiping tears from her yellow-purple cheeks. “Distraction.” She looks down at her son, then back at Jenna. “Please?”
Jenna gazes at the faces surrounding her, terrified but… hopeful? They’re desperate to escape, if only in their minds. She sighs deeply, leans back against a box.
“Okay. I warn you, though; this ain’t no fairytale. And we’ll all take turns. I’m not the only one talking.”
And Jenna begins.