The following prompter was provided;
Write a story using the following components:
1) A Machete
2) A Diamond
3) A Fifty Foot Tall Woman
Title: The Point of No Return
I woke up with a start. The sun had begun glaring into my face where I slept. And for yet another morning, it took several minutes for me to remember who, and where, I was. As it all came back to me, I decided that I wished it hadn't. How do we get ourselves into situations with no end in sight? What is it that drives us to make the choices we do? And then, when we realize that we have made the wrong choice, what is it that drives us to follow through regardless of the consequences?
I remembered sitting in my friend Chuck's living room, it all seemed clear to him. "It won't bring her back, Jeff." He said, using my given name for emphasis. "Just give it up. He'll do something again and then the law will be all over him. People like that can't help it, they will always return to their ways."
"Yeah, like they were all over him this time." I snapped back. "Come on Chuck, they did everything they could to assist him except go in there and help clean out the store. No way Chuck, I'm done letting incompetence make… ‘technical' mistakes, so he can go free." The latter as I walked out of his condominium, and at the same time, my life.
That was two years before I found myself waking up in a godforsaken section of South American desert. Maybe Chuck was right. In the two years following that afternoon, I had been reduced to little more than a vengeance machine. I had no friends and few acquaintances. I owned nothing other than the clothes I wore a .357 magnum, and a folding knife. Was I just going on momentum? Did I still want to see Jack Fenn suffer, or just myself? I tried to ask myself if I would change things knowing how life had turned out, but I really couldn't answer that. It just seemed like a form of useless mental masturbation. I was no longer the person who left Chicago that day. And I really didn't know who that former person was anymore.
I thought about Davie, the closest thing I had to a friend in my current life. We had originally met in a French prison. And I saw him again in Bonn and then Antwerp. David Rhoarbach had become a soldier of fortune after his time with the US Army in Viet Nam. He'd wondered Europe and Africa, following conflicts, for many years before becoming involved in Diamond trafficking. Working both sides of the law in the diamond trade he'd eventually settled himself in Johannesburg as a legitimate broker in industrial grade diamonds. How he ended up in the French prison he never did tell me. But he did tell me he could put a trace on Fenn. I never forgot that, and when I learned he was in Venezuela I immediately went looking for him.
I remembered my meeting with Davie in the El Chamaco cantina outside of Paratacsin. I would never have been in such a place during my former life. It was the kind of place that made a Biker Bar seem friendly. With his muscular build, and wary way of carrying himself he could fit right in with this crowd. But his jovial attitude, and almost boyish smile, never seemed to mesh with the any of the places where I met with him. Davie got a couple of warm beers and came over to the table to sit down. "You're boy met with Enrico Ruiz, an IDB in Carta Hena last week.
"An IDB?" I asked.
"Illegal Diamond Buyer." He continued" He's said to have exhausted his stash from the Chicago job some time ago and is going to be jumping a dig by some professor named McQuilliams south of here. Take a look at this." Davie handed me what looked like a lump of glass. "Word is the professor found more than history in his explorations. That's a gem grade raw uncut diamond. Rumor has it the professor is wading through them like gravel, and now your boy is going to secure it all for the Ruiz Family."
"I'll leave in the morning, do you have directions on where this McQuilliams is?" I asked
"Look Jaydee, these guys aren't like the Chicago Hoodlums you're used to. They don't have any rules about ‘if you're not a player, you're not a target.' These guys deal in lives and deaths of governments. They'll squash you like a bug and won't even have to bribe anyone to look the other way. Maybe now isn't the time. Keep your distance, let him finish his deal. Then you can move in on him safely."
"No way." I said returning his sample diamond back to him. "He slipped me once in France, leaving me in a French Prison for 9 months." I noted Davie's uneasy movement at the mention of the place where we had first met. "I don't want him getting his hands on any money now. I've got him on equal footing, and I want him in my sights."
Davie slammed his fist onto the table, "You're determined to be a dead hero if it kills you. Damn it Jaydee, wake up and smell the stuff you're shoveling. These guys will kill you before they have their morning coffee. And if they're angry they'll make it slow and painful and consider it entertainment. The grease spot they make of you won't even have a name when they get done. You can wait, just a couple of days, that's all it would take."
"Davie, I don't give a damn what they do to me after I'm done with him. I haven't had a thought about my life after Fenn for the last two years." I told him. Somewhere inside me I knew that I really didn't care what happened once Fenn was dead. Because as far as I was concerned, there really was no afterwards. My life for the last two years had been dedicated to one moment. And no, I wasn't going to wait a minute longer than I had too. "Thanks for the directions Davie, I won't let anyone know where I got them."
"Yes you will, Ruiz's boys spend enough time with you and you'll tell them anything they want to hear." He answered. "Don't worry though, I'm outta here, and covering my tail nicely. If you live, look me up in Joe-Berg, like I said before, I can use a man like you." And he left.
From there I followed the two ruts they laughingly called a road south to the wide spot called Juarigil. When I asked about professor McQuilliams I was informed that there was no way I wanted to follow the foolish man or the silly people that were with him. I also learned that two other foolish men had followed the strange professor into that part of the jungle, that I should not approach, as well. Armed with all that good advice, I headed out of the village to find the place Davie told me about. How did he put it, "A remote dangerous and almost unknown location."?
It was the kind of path you expect to find in one of those movies you walk out of in the middle. I mean it had all the b-movie elements you could ask for, the menacing overhang of jungle canopy, the mysterious sounds you could hear in the issuing forth from within. I was waiting to hear the suspenseful music and see the native making religious gestures as I headed in. The thought struck me Fenn might be setting me up. I was ready to simply walk out of the whole situation myself when I realized I needed to follow the path into the jungle weather it was a trap or not. It was my only connection to Fenn now.
I was unsure as to where he might be leading me; a desperate man will do almost anything, and go almost anywhere, when he knows a pit bull is on his trail. But did he even know I was this close? Was he just doing something to get funds and be gone again, or was he leading me someplace where he and his friends could put an end to my headlong chase? I decided that being as close as I was, there was no way I was going to allow any obstacle of man or nature to stand between satisfaction and me.
Jornada del muerte, the natives called it. 'The Journey of Death.' And it would eventually take me through La cuchiaro del diablo or "The Devil's Spoon." Well it was certainly going to be the journey of death for one Jack Fenn and I couldn't think of a better candidate to serve up to the Devil, if I had anything to do with it at least. Every morning he was alive was an insult to me. Every day he saw the sunshine burned a hole in my gut.
The jungle was getting darker as I continued my trek. There were clearings in places where you could see the sky peek through the canopy. But overall it was getting thicker and darker. Fenn and his partner were no outdoorsmen, that was clear. I kept finding jettisoned equipment about every two miles or so. As night began to fall I had to decide if I would press on or set up camp. I wanted to press on through the night with every fiber of my being, but I remembered the warnings of the natives and set up a traveling camp instead.
As the night closed in around me, I couldn't help seeing the morning that started it all again in my mind. Nighttime always does that to me. There was nothing to make that morning special. We were going to stop at the bank before heading to Florida on Vacation. As we walked toward the bank, Stacy did as she had always done since I knew her; she turned, without warning, into a shop where we had no intention of going, Goldberg's Jewelers. And as I had always done, I took two or three steps before I realized she had turned. But that morning it was enough to make all of the difference in the world. I don't know how it may have been different had I seen and turned with her.
Glass exploded everywhere around me. I could hear sirens or bells or something. I was looking back to the entrance of Goldberg's when I saw the face I would never forget. He was holding up something long and strangely shaped and I saw it coming as he rammed it into my face. I felt the wall and sidewalk come up to meet me, before I saw red, then faded to black. My next memory was a white ceiling and a lady in green clothing informing me Stacy was dead. That was all it took, two steps, and she was no more. Two steps and I was hospitalized. Two steps and the world was changed forever.
Two million dollars, that's what the newspapers said Stacy was worth. At least that's what they had taken from Goldberg's. They had been quite professional right up to the point when Stacy had walked in on them. But apparently something had snapped when she walked in and one of them opened up on her with a pump shotgun. They wouldn't even let me look at her at the funeral. I never got to tell her good-bye.
I was awakened suddenly by an unfamiliar noise. I felt once again that sudden disorientation you get in a strange place, when you know where you are, but you somehow cannot believe it. As I sat there in the darkness, under the canopy, I couldn't help wondering if my nightmares were now my driving force, or were they, in fact, my ‘escape' from the real nightmare?
Something was dying a horrible death out there and I was beginning to believe those native superstitions. But I didn't care. I checked the loads on the Security Six and the Redhawk. Hot loaded Hydrashock rounds in each of them. The .357's were tipped with mercury as well. Somehow I knew the end of this was near, and I would be released from this nightmare. I thought again to something Davie had once said to me. "As dead as you are inside, I don't see how you can possibly have any passion left for anything, Jaydee. It's like you no longer have the capacity to care about anything at all, how can you care about this? Look your boy plays with a rough crowd; as defeatist as you are, do you think you're going to have the balls to face them down along with him when the time comes? Or are you looking for him to finish the job he started in Chicago?"
Was he right? Was I beyond the capacity to care any longer? And the thought of Fenn killing me no longer bothered me at all. Was this in some way a death wish on my part? It seemed that getting to him was almost like finishing a chore, like taking out the garbage. It was as if this was just something to do until I died. Was I really dead inside and just waiting for my body to catch up? When did that happen? When did I die too?
As I stared into the jungle during the night I realized that I wanted to cry for Stacy, but the tears were no longer there for me. I'd cried my last for her long ago. Sitting there, awake, watching the night sky, hearing several dramas of life and death all around me, I felt assured my own drama would soon find its own end. What was it that drove me to this point? What was it in me that said go, and never stop? I heard a sudden noise near me, I gripped the Redhawk and sat up alertly. Somehow during my vigil, I'd fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew it was morning. I headed out to pick up their trail where I'd left off.
I came upon them in a clearing unexpectedly. If I had had some warning, I would have been able to slap leather before his partner was able to engage me with the machete. He was fast and vicious with the tool. It was all I could do to fend off his attacks. I realized that my opportunity with Fenn was slipping away as I saw him leaving the area while the other man occupied me. I had to return my attention to the matter at hand before I was cut down like a vine in the trail.
The area was unknown to me, so I was paying too much attention to my footing as he came at me. He was fast I'll hand you that. No sooner would I parry off one slash, another was coming from a different direction. I had to keep moving in order to deflect his ceaseless blows. The clang of metal on metal was going through my head and arm. My hand was beginning to tingle from the impacts. My shoulder began to ache. I could feel each impact hammer through my arm. I'd never seen someone so vicious. His attack was relentless, a non-stop series of blows aimed haphazardly at any point on my body. He gave me no openings at all. My breathing was coming in gasps. My balance and footing were becoming unstable. With each swing of his machete I could feel myself coming one step closer to the end of my quest.
I had no idea how long we'd been playing the scene out when I realized, he wasn't coming at me with skill, but simply slashing as if I were foliage in the jungle. That was why he was as fast as he was, yet I was able to continue to deflect every attack. All in all he was basically a street thug. This told me that I needed to change my tactics. I waited for a high arcing downward thrust and caught it on my blade, but this time I gave in and allowed it to drive down toward me. I quickly grabbed his wrist with my free hand, and kicked him in the groin. His response was instant, and I pushed him off. I came in with some wide attacks and let him deflect the blows before circling around and thrusting my blade directly into his chest directly below the sternum.
His look was one of disbelief. It had never occurred to him that this could happen. He was used to dealing with people who cowered from him, not someone ready to fight back. This was a completely new experience for him. He fell backward and found himself sitting with his hands on his chest trying to hold himself together. He looked like a child trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, but the blood wouldn't stop. I threw my machete into the ground and begin collecting my things.
As I gathered my gear he called out to me with a strained voice. "Senior, you cannot do this. You can not leave me here like this."
"Why not, you were willing to do the same to me" I said. "But then," I continued, "you're probably right." I pulled out the Redhawk and let him see it.
"No, no Senior" he tried to shout, "Madre de Dios." The crash of the 44 magnum was deafening in the jungle. I had no doubt that Fenn knew who won.
I went through his pockets to check out who he was. The name Hector Ruiz showed up on his papers. Probably a family member. Well they weren't going to like me anyway, adding him to their list of things against me didn't make any difference. At least none I'd care about.
I made my way through canopy once again following the path Fenn had pursued. I was walking faster now. I could smell him. I could feel his presence. I could feel my hands on his throat crushing the life out of him. There were no French police to bribe here. There were also no German border guards to bribe here. And there were no British punks to buy here. There was only Jungle, and his money was no good to the jungle.
I was gaining on him, but it was beginning to look like I'd be running out of jungle soon. As I crested the hill I could see it before me. It was large and menacing. The devil's spoon was aptly named. I was unlikely to see a more hostile environment anywhere, anytime soon. Even where I stood I could feel the heat in the breezes that were blowing. It took me some time to find Fenn's trail leading out into the furnace. By the time I was underway into the desert the sun was going down.
The night was as cold as the day was hot. I huddled into a crevice in some rocks and waited out the night. I didn't want to pass Fenn somewhere in the night. And I wanted to be sure to avoid giving him an opportunity to sneak up on me. I was as close as I had ever been and I wasn't going to let this one slip by now. Unlike under the canopy the night was silent out here. It was almost eerie as I sat there. Images kept coming to me, as I drifted between the states of sleep and waking. I saw Stacy before she walked into Goldberg's, and after. I saw Fenn coming out, and hitting me with the butt of his shotgun. I saw the face of Hector Ruiz. I felt nothing. I'd killed him like he was of no consequence, and I felt nothing. When did I become like this? Would Stacy have ever approved of the person I'd become in her name?
And then I was waking up in the desert with the sun in my face and allowing my life to catch up with me again. I made myself ready to tackle the desert heat as I followed Jack Fenn's path for yet another day. I picked up his trail quickly and began the arduous task of following him through what can only be described as the most desolate spot on the earth. He'd made his way through that wasteland during the night. Damn it, once again he'd gained ground on me. I was that close, and now the desert had helped him gain the advantage once again. Every time I get close, he manages to pull something off. I wanted to scream at the desert. How is it he could always manage to pull something off? I plodded on through the day's heat.
The sun was like a hammer beating against my head. Every step I took drained me a little more. Somewhere in the desert awareness of everything faded. I was simply following a set of footprints, that was all I could comprehend. My mind had to keep it simple or I would have collapsed very early on. I felt weakened as the sun went down. I would have to be out of this barren terrain by tomorrow since I did not have the water to make it another day.
Another cold night, another series of visions. Had I sentenced myself to a life of madness? Was this to be my lot, mindlessly driven during the day, and suffering the hellish consequences during the night? Why was I unable to find satisfaction? Had following Fenn somehow become such a part of my life that I would do something to insure I never caught him? Was it I who let him get away each time? The next thing I knew I was looking at the sun again.
I began my trek once more through the heat of the day. It was well past midday when I saw the double up of his tracks. Making his way across this terrain during the night he'd taken a wrong turn, and he had to double back. He'd lost time. And I was in a position to catch him again. I could see the hill in the distance where he was headed. Had I gained enough on him? I began to walk faster. I could feel myself nearing him.
I climbed the hill going back into the jungle on the far side of the Devil's Spoon. His trail was harder to follow without his partner along, but I was able to discern where he was headed as I followed deeper into jungle. The heat and humidity were almost intolerable I was tempted to shed my shirt, but the protection from bugs was essential
As I neared the top of the hill I saw evidence of other people in the area. But when I arrived I noted that people were no longer in the camp. What was left of it was a mess scattered all over the clearing. Tents were collapsed. Equipment thrown everywhere. Whatever went through this camp was thorough. And it wasn't Fenn. Diamonds were strewn everywhere as well. What was an archeological dig doing collecting raw diamonds like that? I picked one up, it was roughly the size of a golf ball. What the hell was going on here? I was about to head across the camp when I saw the first one. He looked as if a steamroller had gone over him. I was unable to contain myself.
After wiping my chin with on a corner of a collapsed tent, I began to survey the rest of the camp.
Suddenly there was a commotion deeper in the jungle on the other side of the camp. I drew the Redhawk and made my way toward the noise. It sounded like a bull elephant smashing through the tall trees. I was hoping that Fenn had somehow gone the same way. I reached the edge of the jungle overlooked a clearing that extended out into a valley. As I emerged from the denseness I stopped, and I stood there stunned, as I stared with an amazement that bordered on stupefaction.
It was impossible. I was either delirious, or unconscious and beyond help. What I saw was a woman standing no less than fifty feet tall. She had raven hair hanging past her shoulders, and the build of an athlete. She was absolutely beautiful. She wore what appeared to be a bikini leaving her glistening skin exposed to the elements, but it appeared to do her no harm. She was 28 if she was a day. Had she been a normal size, I believe she could have convinced me to end my quest for Fenn and stay with her. It was a sudden noise to my left that broke my reverie as I looked at her.
Not thirty feet to my left, there stood Fenn, he was shooting at her. It was obvious that he saw her too… No, I must be delirious. Yet I could not deny it, he was standing there, two hands on his pistol, snapping off shot after shot. I stared in horror, or was it disbelief, as I watched what happened next. The woman lifter her foot and brought it down directly on top of him with the most sickening sound. It was as simple as that. Splat! Now you see him now you don't. I was aware of some warm spatters hitting my face, but something else was beginning to register in me.
"Nooooooooooooooo…." I screamed.
"He was MINE!" I shouted. I ran to the foot that covered him and began hammering it with my fists. He had taken my life with Stacy from me. He should have paid slowly. And now, this giantess, for lack of a better word, had taken my satisfaction from me. She had no right. Hitting her was like hitting a tree trunk wrapped with rope. I rammed my fists into her, once then again. Screaming at the top of my lungs as I hit her. "He was mine, you had no right!" I was barely aware of what I was doing as I slammed my fists into her again and again.
It was during my enraged demonstration of inferiority that I was hit by a wall.
I awoke in a soft comfortable bed. But I didn't know where I was. I tried to feel my surroundings, get my bearings when I heard a voice, it was loud, yet with softness, "You're awake now."
I looked above me to where the voice came from and my view was filled with the face of that fifty-foot woman staring straight down at me. I suddenly realized where I was. I was resting in the palm of her hand. I didn't believe it for a minute, it was impossible. I'd been drugged by Ruiz's boys, that had to be it. There was now way I could be experiencing reality. She couldn't possibly exist. And then I felt her lifting me.
She moved her hand around to look me over more thoroughly. "You seemed to be distraught over the fate of your friend." She said. "I'm sorry I had to thump you."
"He wasn't my friend." I said flatly. Why did I answer? This wasn't real.
"Oh… So that's how it is." She smiled, "I'm sorry I took the pleasure of killing him from you then. But perhaps I did you more of a favor than you think." She said. "When you set out for vengeance, you must first dig two graves. For you too will surely die in the process."
I was bothered by the way she had reflected my own thought process. "Why didn't you stomp me too?" I asked her. Brilliant, I was cooperating with my own delusions. What was next?
"You didn't use your weapon, that's why. That other person was hurting me, I will not allow that. So I ended his life." She made a frown and followed with, "But then, you're old life is over now too. You see, now that you have seen me you have a choice to make. You may come with me, to my home. Or you may join your companion over there. But be certain when you decide, I will not tolerate an attempt to escape. I will make it slow and painful for you if you do try to escape."
I stared at her for a moment and thought about what she said. Was I actually taking this situation seriously. Wasn't this a drug induced, or desert sun induced, delusion. Or did I actually die out there in the desert and I wasn't ready to admit it? I'd seen a movie like that with William Shatner once. Could it even be that Fenn had ambushed me and I was now in some state beyond life as we know it? I guess none of that mattered anymore. I had no life remaining behind me.
I decided that I could go ahead and give in to the delusion for now and find out where it was she planned to take me. As I told her my decision I wondered again about when it was. When did I reach the point of no return? The morning when I left Chicago, was it that early? Or as late as just a few moments ago when she destroyed Fenn? When you travel the wrong path it's hard to tell. But then how is one to know they are taking the wrong path at the beginning? Was that my point of no return, when I realized I was on the wrong path or was it when I no longer cared?
It was really of no consequence. I was going with her, that was clear, to a place where none of this would matter. I nodded to her and she cradled me gently in her hand to carry me. "We have a ways to go, but I think you'll like it when we get there, the rules are different, and so is life. You see, everything will depend on your Point of View."