An Ordinary Backpack

Writing Prompt: A thief robs a man at gunpoint and takes the man’s backpack. While the thief starts rummaging through for valuables, the man runs away and shouts, “It’s your problem now!”

It was an ordinary backpack. Leather straps holding firm to fabric, the top drooping down to seal the contents beneath a crinkled lip. But it wasn’t Rick’s backpack. It didn’t belong to him.

Rick tossed the backpack onto the kitchen table, throwing aside the plant filled vase, shattering several plates.

“What the hell are you doing?” Joules screamed, rounding at Rick from her seat in the living room.

“Come look.” Rick said, pointing at the backpack which seemed to writhe about the table, thrashing from within like a fish caught in a net, “This is it, Joules.” he smiled, “This is it.”

“This is what?” Joules rolled up her sleeves revealing a patchwork of monochrome skull tattoos, “Have you been drinking?” she grabbed Rick’s jaw between a hand and turned his face to better see his eyes, then slapped him, “What the fuck have I told you about drinking? You know…”

“I know.” Rick scowled, cutting Joules off mid-sentence, “Don’t you think I know?” he pushed her hand away, with some effort, turning glassy eyed back to the table and the backpack on top, “But this isn’t the drink, this is… this is something beautiful, Joules. Just wait until you see.” he reached for the bindings of the pack, seeming to pull back before finally making up his mind.

And with a flick of the wrist the head of the backpack fell loose…

**

Several hours earlier;

Rick was desperate, and worse than desperate, Rick was drunk.

He’d spent the morning, the afternoon, and the best part of the evening drowning his sorrows in the Hog’s Heart. A pitiful excuse for a bar. Half the lights were on the blink, and the toilets may as well have not been there. The Hog’s Heart wasn’t the type of bar you’d take you fiance, or even the type of bar frequented by those more rowdy groups of friends. It was the type of bar home to vagrant loners, lost souls who wanted nothing more than to lose themselves inside the bottle.

Perhaps there were answers, somewhere deep at the bottom of a bottle. Or perhaps there weren’t. Either way the troubled minds of the Hog’s Heart would find out, even if it damn near killed them. A life without answers was barely worth living, or so they’d surmised.

There was Bianca, mother of twins, twins she’d lost in a car accident. Not drink driving, not even close. It had been a gunman stalking her apartments parking lot at night. He’d demanded her keys, she’d refused, the twins had died. She’d never understand why he didn’t kill her. Did he run out of bullets? Was he saving the last for himself? Some final act of repentance for his sins…

There was Larry, ex-banker, emphasis on the ex. He’d fiddled accounts for major corporate clients, and absorbed by his work he’d barely noticed his wife fiddling accounts of her own. It was meant to be his revenge, Larry catching them in the act, a means by which to scar the accused. Only when he’d stormed in on the affair, shouting divorce to the high heavens, his wife had lifted her head to look him in the eyes… and laughed. She’d let her lover commit himself to her whilst staring down her husband, and he’d watched, unable to remove himself, unable to look away. She’d broken him, beyond repair.

And then there was Gareth. It was Gareth, the unlovable oath of a barkeep that kept the good times coming for a price, that had sent Rick on his way.

“Times up, Rick. You know I’ll serve you past your due, but if you can’t carry yourself home to live another day,” Gareth had settled a paw of a hand, hot and sticky, on Rick’s shoulder at this point, “then who’ll come back tomorrow to keep paying my bills?” Gareth snorted a laugh, slapped his good friend Rick on the back, and pointed for the door.

Rick grumbled, swiped a bottle from the bar when that fat prick Gareth wasn’t looking, and stumbled on his way. Only the bottle had felt a little light, and not at all like a bottle…

When Rick was outside, the fresh air swooping in to fill his lungs, he felt his senses slightly sober up. Not by much, but by enough to grasp what it was that he’d stolen from under Gareth’s counter. It was a gun. He’d not the mind to know what sort, it was small, light in his hands, with a clip two bullets short of being full. That’s when he’d seen the stranger, the one who’d owned the backpack before him.

**

Lucky had his hood pulled low over his face, trousers tucked into socks tucked into his trainers, the backpack heavy on his shoulders, crashing down against his thin framed back as he ran.

One thought cycled through Lucky’s mind, a message on repeat; don’t drop it, don’t lose it, and by the God’s don’t you dare open it! Just take it to Hannah, and then walk away.

It had been a living nightmare, the bizarre shadow dweller who’d first approached Lucky and then forced the backpack upon him. And once those straps where up and over his shoulders he felt he didn’t have a choice on how to carry on. They bore into him, latching onto his skin through the cloth of his hoodie. And it wouldn’t let go, the backpack, it bound itself to him and threatened to tear him in two if he even thought of taking it off.

That was, until he’d met Rick.

“Slow down there, pal.” Rick slurred his words, grasping for the gun hid under his jumper, “I said…” he brought the gun to light waving it wildly about the air, accidentally letting off a shot that screamed against the night, fighting back the silence only to watch it descend with more force than before, “…slow down, pal.”

“Look,” Lucky managed to tell himself to stop, to tell himself that if the backpack didn’t kill him then this madman surely would, “I don’t want any trouble.” he raised his hands and found suddenly the backpack felt lighter, the straps slipping from his shoulders.

“Give it to me.” Rick sniffed, gesturing the backpack, only to his eyes there looked to be three, maybe four, “Come on, hand it over.”

Lucky gently peeled the straps from his hoodie, the cloth beneath them damp from whatever poison had sealed them in place, “Here.” he held the backpack out, a heavy sigh of relief fleeing from his person.

Rick reached with the wrong hand, let off another shot, and cursed as he threw his own hands to his ears.

Lucky froze, he felt the dampness in his shoulders drop suddenly to his crotch, “Christ man, I said you can have it!” he threw the backpack at Rick, “Please, it’s all yours.”

Rick started grinning, and with half his teeth stained by strong spirits that grin was certain to unsettle.

Lucky ran, each step carrying him forward with a greater determination to be free of the backpack and the madman with the gun. He couldn’t say why he did it, why he thought it would be a good idea to potentially anger not only the man but the backpack too, but when he was no more than a dozen steps away he cried over his shoulder, “It’s your problem now.”
And whether or not it was a delusion of the drink Rick could have sworn the backpack chuckled, sagging as it made to wave goodbye.

**

The present time, with Joules;

“This is something beautiful, Joules. Just wait until you see.” Rick reached for the bindings of the pack, seeming to pull back before finally making up his mind.

And with a flick of the wrist the head of the backpack fell loose… letting out a long awaited groan.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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