City streets are usually bright and full of life, but not where I live. After 10:00 pm no one dares venture outside. Gangs haunt the streets like ghosts looming in the shadows.
But unlike ghosts, gangs are not silent. Gun shots, shouts, cries, and sirens are such familiar sounds at night that I'd think something was off if there was actually silence.
I stand outside my parents apartment building and press my palms up against my ears. The sky is dark but it's not yet nine. I can hear my father shouting curses and names at my mother. I don't want to hear it anymore. Fifteen years of being a coward listening to the cries of my mother as my father hits her. I wish I could help her, but I'm scared and my fear gets the best of me.
My father is a cruel drunkard, and if he catches sight of me when he's drunk, I go to bed feeling like a piece of raw meat that's been pounded down.
I raise my eyes to the stars that are only imaginary. Only light I can make out is the flickering street light that is right outside my front door. I let out a long sigh and remove my hands from my ears as the crying stops. My father is probably passed out now.
Cautiously I tiptoe back up the steps to the front door and I peer inside. My mother is on the ground covering her face in despair, and as I expected my father is out like a light.
I cannot bring myself to enter. I spin on my heel and head towards the blaring rap music a block away.
Although it's unsafe to walk the streets alone, I don't care. Nothing matters anymore. If I die maybe then I'll be noticed, but that's doubtful. The music gets louder and louder as I approach a graffiti covered building that us kids call The Hex.
The windows in this building are mostly broken and boarded up, save a few that have bars in front of them. My heart pounds in my chest in a irritating rhythm from the blasting music.
Unlike most of the buildings in this area, this one actually has life. It's not just dull, dark, and silent, but painted with color; it's bright, and it's lively.
Despite my longing to be within the building and to feel accepted by those within, I hold back. One wrong move could cost me. Sweat beads on my forehead as I take a step closer to the building to get a better view of what's going on inside. Some burly guy is leaned up against the window and I can't see a thing. Rats!
Watching my footing so as to not step on any broken bottles and make noise, I circle the building. It feels as though my hair is standing up on my head like a wolf aware of a foe. I've never been so bold as to circle this building in the dark. Kids in school have told me stories of people they knew who snuck back here at night. They never saw them again.
I breath heavily as I near the alley behind The Hex. My stomach feels hallow with fear but I must know what's going on in there. There's a window that's boarded up, but there's a crack in it. Bingo! I press my eye against the crack to behold what's inside.
My lungs begin to burn. It smells of...smoke! Unchecked, I begin to cough. A large muscular man holding a cigarette stands up upon hearing me.
Suddenly the whole place is in an uproar and I dash back around the building, but not soon enough. Hands grab me from behind and hurl me to the ground. I break my fall with my hands, scraping them painfully against the ground.
I'm lifted back to my feet by my shirt almost instantly, and pinned against the outside wall. My head is spinning in pain and confusion. Many dark shadows surround me but I can't make out faces.
The one who has me pinned up pushes me harder against the wall and I feel as if I might shatter like an empty glass into fragments if he pushes me with any more force. I can hardly breath, and with his large arm against my chest he can probably feel the rapid pounding of my heart. The air I struggle to breath is suffocating with the strong scent of smoke and beer.
"Well boys", I hear the one holding me exclaim, "looks like we've got ourselves a snoop!"
My face shows alarm as he continues, "and we kill snoops...."
Between coughing fits I say in a voice that sounds a little too high for my own, "please...I didn't mean to..."
He lessens his grip on me and reaches his free hand into his shirt.
"Execution time young one", he says with a smile.
I can make out the shape of a gun in the darkness, and whether it be from fear or lack of air, I black out.
When I come to, I open my eyes just a crack, and can't see a thing. My body feels sore, as if I was perhaps thrown to the ground...again. Remembering the last words I heard spoken, "Execution time young one", my heart begins to race.
Am I dead? I move my hands to feel my body to see if I was shot, but they're stuck! My hands are beneath me tied behind my back. In sudden terror I begin to shout for help.
To my relief the door opens, but I regret yelling that very instant. It's the man with the gun. I cannot see his face, but can make out his figure against the light behind him that floods only a small part of the room I'm in. He's fairly tall, and slightly stocky, but for the most part he appears very muscular.
Feeling the blood drain from my face, I mumble, "I'm...sorry."
He enters the room, his gun drawn. Each step towards me sends chills cascading through my body. Maybe I was wrong, maybe dying isn't what I want. I'm scared to die, I don't wanna die! Sweat trickles down the side of my face as he stands over me.