Copyright is held by the author.
Lucas Crane was not a young man. His memories far outweighed the life that still lay before him. And yet he toiled, for that’s all that mattered. Life for him was his work: general labourer with Ever-Green Landscaping Company. It was good honest work; it gave him purpose, and took his mind off his past. Despite the constant ribbing of his co-workers, most of who were about half his age, Lucas out-worked them all. He felt he had to work hard to shut them up, to prove his worth to his boss, and to keep himself in shape. Long gone were the atrophied muscles and the abdominal spare tire.
Gone too was the cheating, spendthrift wife, and the ungrateful, blood-sucking kids. They had lost interest and left him shortly after Mr. Lucas Crane LLB, of Lucas Crane and Associates — a prestigious law firm with deep-pocketed clients — decided he’d had enough. He had simply walked out of his plush corner office one day and, without a parting word to his administrative assistant, rode the elevator down 27 floors and stepped into the bright morning sun, never to look back again.
Of course, he had said nothing of his past — or much of anything at all, in fact — to his co-workers or his boss, Henry. But Henry Van Dermeer, proud proprietor of Ever-Green Landscaping Company, was able to read Lucas and could sense his tumultuous past. Nevertheless, he respected Lucas for his quiet composure and, out of admiration, had given him a small gift one day.
“What’s this?” Lucas had asked on that day. A bright yellow rabbit’s foot sat in his open palm.
“It’s a good-luck charm,” replied Henry. “Keep it, it’s yours.”
“You don’t really believe in these things, do you?”
“No, of course not. But the wonderful thing about good-luck charms is that they work whether you believe in them or not.”
“Thanks, Henry,” chuckled Lucas. He shoved the rabbit’s foot deep into his pocket, never to be thought of again.
Today was just like most days of Lucas’ renaissance: a day of heavy, back-breaking work. A day where a job well done was measured not by finding legal loopholes for the benefit of dubious clients — a memory which still brought an unbearable feeling of guilt and self-reproach — but by the amount of dirt on his hands, and sweat on his brow.
“We need to dig three trenches over there at the back, Lucas,” said Henry as he extended his arm and motioned it back and forth in the general shape of a semi-circle. “It’s already staked out with markers and string. I’ve got to go and see about another job, so get Jimmy to take the backhoe off the trailer and tell the rest of the guys to make the trenches at least three feet deep, no less.” Henry valued Lucas for his no-nonsense work ethic, and would often place him in charge of the crew.
One-hundred-and-twenty cedars were to be evenly planted in three adjoining rows, creating a privacy fence, at the back of Rocco Felice’s two acre estate. Now there’s a name from the past, thought Lucas. He wondered if Rocco would recognize him if, by chance, they should cross paths today. Not bloody likely. I’m over 20 pounds lighter and no longer dressed in absurdly expensive business suits, thank you very much.
Eight years ago Lucas had successfully represented Mr. Felice as his defence attorney and had rescued him from an extortion and money laundering indictment. The prosecution had asked for 20 years. To his bitter amusement Lucas felt Rocco Felice, or “Capo”, as his close friends and associates referred to him, was somewhat responsible for his rejuvenation. I got you off a 20 year rap and you helped me get rid of 20 pounds of fat. Legal fees aside, not a bad trade, eh Capo?
It was more than just the distasteful practice of helping known felons walk away scot-free that had eventually sickened Lucas. Thinking back further, he recalled how the immoral manipulation of the justice system was one thing, but the general malaise of society as a whole was quite something else. It had strongly affected him, and made him re-evaluate his life. He was convinced that driven by corporate greed, corrupt governments, the spin doctors of Madison Avenue, and the culture of the have-and-have-nots, people in today’s society had become selfish and greedy. His wife and kids included. For Lucas, the world was a shallow and heartless place.
There was a sudden thump, followed by a loud metallic screeching sound, as the backhoe hit something hard. Lucas gave his head a quick shake to clear his mind and, with shovel in hand, walked over to have a look. Jimmy had jumped off the backhoe and was standing beside it, staring down into the freshly dug trench. The claw of the back hoe had scratched four shiny gouges into the surface of a large rusty box, which lay partially exposed at the bottom of the trench.
“What the hell is that?” asked Jimmy.
“Not sure,” replied Lucas as he scrambled down into the trench. “Get the backhoe out of the way and come down here to give me a hand.” Using his shovel, Lucas began to clear the dirt away from the box.
“Shouldn’t we tell the homeowner about this first, or at least wait until Henry gets back?”
“No, it’ll be okay. Henry put me in charge, remember?”
“Okay, but it’s your shrivelled old ass on the line, not ours.” Jimmy and two others from the crew clambered down into the trench and joined Lucas. Digging with bare hands and shovels, they managed to uncover the strange box. Lucas brushed away loose dirt and rust from around the top and discovered a recessed groove, indicating some kind of lid.
“Help me out here, will you?” asked Lucas as he jammed the blade of his shovel into the groove and pushed down, using the tool as a lever.
“Hold on,” replied Jimmy. He used his shovel in similar fashion at the adjacent corner and let the handle bear his full weight. The others in the trench took a step back, as if afraid of what might be revealed.
An agonizing shriek of corroded metal pierced the air as the lid began to give way. With a sudden burst it finally popped off, as if pushed up by some unknown force from within. They shoved the lid aside and let it fall to the ground. Lucas drew nearer, and as he peered into the darkness within, an eerie green vapour rose from the box and wafted up into his nostrils.
“G-g-get me a flashlight,” stammered Lucas to no one in particular. He felt dazed and confused, as if drugged.
“There’s one in the truck,” said Jimmy. “Just a minute.”
A moment later, with flashlight in hand, Lucas was sitting on the top edge of the box. He now felt strangely energized, anxious yet fearless. His legs dangled precariously into the open box as he shone the light downward. He could see nothing, only total darkness, like a black hole sucking even the light into its deep abyss. Then, slowly, a soft glow of light appeared from deep inside. To Lucas’ eye, the glowing light seemed to be about 30 feet down. That’s impossible, he thought.
The light grew stronger, vague outlines began to appear, and then a bizarre sight caused Lucas to question his sanity. Unbelievably, he discovered a spiral staircase winding its way up from the darkness and ending just below his dangling feet. Without a word to anyone, he slid off the box and landed on the top step of the staircase. He could barely hear the shouts of disapproval and alarm coming from above as he descended the stairs without hesitation.
When he reached the bottom he paused to look up and found the uppermost section of the spiral staircase to be in complete blackness. Around him faint shadows moved furtively to and fro, strange whispers buzzed softly in his ears. His dim surroundings seemed to be without dimension, no walls or ceiling, but for the stone floor beneath his feet. A sharp pounding sound startled Lucas and he turned in its direction.
“You’re next, Mr. Crane. Follow me, please.” A uniformed bailiff emerged from the shadows and motioned to Lucas to proceed alongside him. Too bewildered to protest, Lucas complied and they walked speechlessly toward the sharp hammering sound.
“What’s that noise?” asked Lucas, breaking the silence. “It sounds vaguely familiar.”
“It should, Mr. Crane. It’s a gavel.”
“A gavel? Hey, just what’s going on here anyway?”
“You’re to stand before a tribunal. You’ll be judged by Mr. Scratch. I suggest you prepare some kind of defence, Sir.” The bailiff came to a stop. “We’re here now.”
Lucas stopped walking, and before he could say another word, bright beams of light exploded onto his face. He quickly raised his arm to shield his eyes. The lights began to dim and as his eyes adjusted, a ridiculously tall judge’s bench appeared before him. He lowered his arm and tilted his head back to see the top of the bench. It sat vacant.
“All rise,” ordered the bailiff. “This court is now in session. The dishonourable Mortimer Scratch presiding.”
An imposing figure, its face hidden in shadows, floated across the floor wearing a full-length black gown. Lucas guessed he was at least eight feet tall. Judge Mortimer Scratch reached the bench and drifted ghostlike up into his seat.
“Next case, bailiff,” he summoned.
“Yes, Sir. The High Court versus Lucas Crane.”
Scratch looked down at his bench, presumably reading pertinent court documents. After a moment he raised his head and looked down at the defendant far below. “You are charged with crimes against humanity. How do you plead, Lucas Crane?”
Gripped with fear, Lucas fired back, “Look, asshole, I’m not playing along in this kangaroo court. So why don’t you just —”
“SILENCE!” Scratch bellowed, causing the floor to shake. “Do not contempt my court, Mr. Crane. You shall address me as ‘My Lord’.”
“Fuck you! Just who do you think you are?”
“I am all that you once stood for, and more. I am the King of Chaos, the Sultan of Sin, the Earl of Evil. I hold court here. NO ONE ELSE!” Mr. Scratch narrowed his eyes at Lucas. “Now, how do you plead?”
“Go to hell,” replied Lucas.
“And just where do you think you are, Mr. Crane?”
With a sudden lump in his throat and at a loss for words, Lucas shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet. Unexpectedly, his fingers found the rabbit’s foot. He squeezed the charm in his hand and silently pleaded, Get me out of here.
Lucas awoke in his small one-room apartment feeling well rested. In his hand was his rabbit’s foot. He looked at it puzzlingly, trying to remember, and then dropped it like a hot potato. From the sunlight shining through the window he guessed it to be around mid-afternoon. He had never slept in this late before and felt an enormous urge to empty his bladder. As he stood at the toilet relieving himself, a vivid recollection ran through his mind. He flushed and turned to the sink to wash his hands.
“Now, that was one hell of a dream,” Lucas said to his reflection in the mirror. He surveyed the stubble on his chin and unwittingly wiped a green powder residue from the end of his nose. He smiled and added, “Yep, if you’ll pardon the pun, one hell of a dream.”