This article, GHOST - Starting Out, Starting Over, is still being written by its owner StrangerThings. They apologise for the inconvenience.
Situational awareness is key.
I know that what I just said sounds like the most vague, nondescript piece of pseudo-advice you’ve ever heard. I mean, really, when are you not aware of your situation? You’re aware of when the freeway edging up to the exit only to be cut off by that one asshole that’s been tailgating you for the last mile. You’re aware of when you come home from work one night only to walk into your bedroom and find your wife’s naked, sweating body coiled around her twenty-year-old tennis instructor. You’re painfully aware when you swim blearily back to consciousness in a dark, dank room, tied to a chair, with two burly men glaring at you like you’re paid-by-the-hour juvenile who couldn’t keep it in his pants.
But, and stay with me because this is the crucial part; there’s a difference between being aware of your situation and understanding it. Back when I served, that difference was what kept burqa-clad maniacs from ventilating my body several times over with Cold War-era AK-47s, and I’ve clung to that tiny distinction ever since. You see, it’s all about noticing the little details. Was that guy on the freeway just being a dick, or was he distracted? Was he on his phone? Eating a cheeseburger? Having a smoke? Upon reflection, was your wife banging the kid that’s a decade younger than her because she doesn’t get enough after hours, or does she resent the whole marriage so much that she’s just hatefucking the poor guy? How much Is the clenched, blunt-knuckled fist swinging towards your face going to hurt?
I suppose at this point I should mention that of the three scenarios presented, the first two were theoretical. See? Details are important.
Said fist catches me right on the jaw, sending a red-hot lance of pain searing through my jaw and leaving me with a coppery taste in my mouth. The guy beating on my mug certainly knows how to throw a punch; a strong right hook that he made sure to step into beforehand. So not just an inexperienced goon. Good to know.
The other guy in the room gives out a weary sigh, his face shadowed thanks to the glare of the industrial floodlight directly behind him, the only source of light in an otherwise lightless room. It shines on his curly hair in a fuzzy, slightly greasy halo.
“Now, I’d say this isn’t personal, but honestly you’ve real pain in the ass these past few weeks,” He says. “So maybe it’s a little personal.”
Maybe he elaborates, but I’m not listening at this point. Too busy soaking in those all important details. Focus. Observe. Adapt. Worry about the knee-high shit you’re in later.
I’m in a low-ceilinged concrete room. The air’s stale, and it practically reeks of mold and… other things. There’s something dripping on my head and puddling on the floor and thankfully it’s not blood. I can see pipes on the far wall, rusty and flaking, next to a dirty grey door with a surprisingly shiny handle. The floodlight is certainly out of place but judging by the amount of stains caking it’s neon-yellow exterior it’s been here a while.
Deductions, Sherlock? I’m underground, probably in a sewer judging by the overpowering odor of fecal matter, in a room that most likely doubles as my captor’s version of a midnight rendezvous. Less flowers and chocolate and more beatings and impromtu kneecappings I’d imagine.
Deep shit. Deep, literal shit.
“...I mean, did you think you could just go ‘round shooting up the entire neighbourhood and we wouldn’t find out? Are you just stupid? Is that it?” Halo Guy finally finishes.
“Fuck you.” I reply, spitting red. Okay, I’ll admit, that wasn’t the most witty of retorts.
He nods. “Original. You write that one down?” I guess we’re in agreement then.
Halo Guy and his friend are both dressed simply but not cheaply. They both have sizable bulges in their pants and, as if it wasn’t already obvious, are definitely not pleased to see me. The one responsible for the rampant abuse of my face has some serious metal threaded through his. Rings in his lower lip, nose, and both ears glimmer like tiny gems in the harsh white light. So professional goons then, smart enough to get the drop on me but not so smart as to worry about little things like skin infection or easily recognizable mug shots.
“Look,” Halo Guy continues. “I’d love to stay here and play with you a little more, but it’s late, and I think we’re all tired. So I’m gonna make a call, and then we’re probably gonna kill you, okay?”
This time I keep my mouth shut. For the best really. What with my head throbbing and all I probably couldn’t manage anything more than yet another uninspired ‘fuck you’.
“Okay. Great. Glad we’re all on the same page.” Halo Guy leans over to Piercings and whispers something unintelligible before turning to leave.
His hand is around the doorknob when he seems to remember something. “By the way,” He adds, turning. “Isn’t Ariel a girl’s name?”
I want to tell him once again once again go perform an action that is anatomically impossible. I want to scream something vulgar just for the sake of expressing my frustration at my abject failure of a job. I want to berate myself for landing myself in this uncomfortable seat because of my failure to take my own advice and be aware of one tiny, incomprehensibly important detail.
But instead I black out.
Let's be honest, that was probably the best thing that could have happened at this point.