Jason found himself dragging his feet home from another failed job interview... this was the fourth one this week! He really needed to get a job soon... he had bills to pay, and the last thing he needed was to wake up realizing he had no running water or electricity... or, heavens forbid, no INTERNET! What would he do without internet? He shuddered as he considered how bland and terrible his life would be without the one place in the world he found refuge!
Jason was frustrated with society. For some reason, he just never got along with people. Everyone always gave him that look of pity, as if he was beyond help.
So what if he couldn't speak?
A voice doesn't mean anything right? Actions should speak louder than words, right? But no! He can't even get a decent job after moving to East City, simply because of a minor nuisance. That's why Jason loved the internet; it gave him a voice without him needing one.
Jason arrived at an intersection and paused to gather his bearings. After all, being a new face in East City, taking a wrong turn would be bad; he'd get lost and would be too embarrassed to try to get help from people. He turned a corner into an alley-way. He was sure if he made a left here, he would get home.
As Jason emerged from the alley-way, he found himself staring straight into the face of a Cobra! Or a cobra-head statue, he realized. Day five in the city, and already he was being bombarded by odd sights. Not to mention, now he knew he made the wrong turn! Luckily he could just turn around, but for some odd reason he felt compelled to examine this weird snake head.
Upon further inspection, he was able to make a sign out on the Cobra's head; “The Cool Cobra: Food and Fun!” Weird. Why have the name of your business placed in such an obscure location?
As Jason pondered the thought, another large banner, hanging directly over the doorway to the left of the cobra-head immediately caught his attention. “Now Hiring!! We'll take any loser for the job!” it said in bold letters.
Jason thought he finally had a stroke of luck. What were the chances?! Here he was looking for a job, and now... although the banner's wording was dubious, and the place was awfully suspicious. Should he check it out?
“Ah, screw it!” Jason thought. At this point he had nothing to lose; so long as he got a job, nothing else mattered to him at this point.
Jason walked through the open doorway to find a staircase leading down to the left of him. Taking the staircase, he arrived at another door. Another sign advertising The Cool Cobra hung above the door frame. This was the place. He took a deep breath, and opened the door.
Immediately he was greeted by the stares of the shop's occupants. As he scanned the room, he saw a young woman, sitting at the bar. She was quite attractive, wearing a blue hoodie with a strange symbol on it resembling a cobra and a pair of shorts. She was a little on the small side, no older than 16 by the looks of it. Definitely too young for him, Jason thought. Standing on the other side of the bar was the bartender; a burly man well over six feet with the same blue hoodie, and the same marking as the woman. The bartender's dexterity was apparent as he elegantly handled the glassware while his gaze was focused on Jason. Off to the other side of the room was a lanky man quietly smoking a cigarette. He too wore a blue hoodie emblazoned with the cobra symbol... but unlike the others, he wasn't looking at him. As a matter of fact, he didn't even seem to register Jason's presence in the room.
“Oh boy, a customer. Hey Spitt, take care of this.” the woman gestured to the bartender as she pulled out her phone and began texting, or so it seemed.
As if on cue, the bartender, or “Spitt” as she had called him, began to address Jason.
“Hello there! Welcome to the Cool Cobra! How may I help a dapper young man such as yourself?” Spitt asked politely.
“Dapper?” Jason thought. He looked down and realized he had never gone home, so he was still in his interview suit... although this might be helpful for making a good first impression, he thought.
Raising a finger, as if to ask for a moment, Jason began rummaging through his suit pocket until he procured a notepad and pen. This was common practice for a mute such as himself; writing was the only way people could understand him.
As the woman and Spitt looked on with mild curiosity, Jason quickly jotted down, “I cannot speak, so I will use this notepad to communicate. I saw the “Now Hiring” banner outside and was wondering if I could get the job?”
Jason ripped the notepaper out of his notepad and walked over to Spitt. Jason handed Spitt the note, and then stepped back to wait for the response.
After a few seconds, Spitt looked up and addressed the young woman.
“Hey Rin, this guy wants the job!” Spitt amusingly gestured.
As if suddenly aware of Jason, the guy smoking in the corner suddenly jolted upright and cut Rin off before she could answer.
“Then HIRE HIM!!! We haven't had applicants in ages!!” he yelled.
“Glad you could join us, King. Why do you always say unnecessary things? Of course we're going to hire him, with or without your consent.” Rin stated icily, annoyed at the man's interjection.
The guy Rin called “King” began to retort, but Jason could no longer here them. He's gonna get hired?
HELL YES!!! Score! Finally he can get an income! No need to worry about anything anymore!
But just as he felt the elation of getting the job, his reasoning began kicking in... this was way too easy. No interview? He just walked in and he gets hired? Something's up...
He noticed that the room was suddenly quiet again. Looking up, he noticed that all eyes were on him. Hastily, he wrote “Am I really gonna get hired?” and handed the note to the man named Spitt.
“Of course you are! Welcome to your first day on the job! King, give the newbie your old jacket and shorts. We'll have to order a new one for him eventually, but yours will do for now.” Spitt said as he place the note on the counter.
King paused for a moment to consider this, then shrugged indifferently.
“Fine...I'll go get it.” King said as he walked to a back door at the opposite end of the shop Jason never noticed until now. King's strides were lazy; Jason noticed he dragged his feet a lot.
“King must be a pretty laid back guy.” Jason thought.
“But he seriously can't talk? Well, I guess that's a good thing. I won't get annoyed at newbie as often then.” Rin concluded.
Jason waved the comment aside. Instead, he wrote another note asking what his job entails, and handed it to Spitt. Spitt seemed like a nice fellow, and he trusted him to respond well.
But this time Spitt merely shook his head. “You'll find out tonight; we here at the Cool Cobra have a little “test” of sorts you need to pass before we consider what you can do for us.” Spitt said.
“Ah, so there was a catch” Jason thought exasperatedly. Well, it seemed like he had a good chance. That King guy mentioned there haven't been applicants in a long while, which meant even if he did poorly, he would still likely get hired.
King returned from the room he went into and handed Jason a folded hoodie with ripped sleeves and a pair of shorts that looked a bit too small for him... and a weird pair of shoes to boot
“Go to the door I just came from and get changed. After that, we'll take you to the testing site.” King said lazily.
Jason went through the door in the back to find a storage room... pretty typical of a bar, he assumed. He changed out of his suit, and as he thought, the shorts were a bit small. The hoodie was also small, but it kinda accentuated his lean build a bit... he could forgive that. He thought it made him look cool!
As he exited the storeroom, only Rin was left in the bar. Confused, Jason began pulling out the notepad and pen he stashed in the hoodie pocket, but Rin held up a hand to stop him.
“King and Spitt went to the testing site ahead of us. I'm going to guide you there now.” She said, almost as if the lines were rehearsed, and she had said it all before...
Jason's doubts were growing. But still, he decided to follow Rin as she gestured for him to join her and left the bar.
They meandered left and right through the alleyways. Jason knew for sure he wouldn't be able to find his way back to the shop after the fourth turn.
After roughly 32 turns Jason and Rin came upon an old warehouse. The door to the warehouse hung loosely open, and the inside was pitch dark.
Rin walked to the door and gestured inside.
“Here is your test. Once you get in, you'll understand what you have to do. If you pass this test, then you'll officially get that job you wanted. If not, well... we'll take care of that suit for you!” Rin said in a cheery tone. Somehow, that only served to further unnerve Jason.
Jason stood in front of the doorway, and looked into the thick darkness of the interior. What was the test all about again? Thinking back, they were all pretty vague about the job and test. Not to mention, that Rin girl was saying weird things. Looking back, he realized she had disappeared. Not good.
Jason wasn't usually one to panic, but now he was on the verge of panicking. How was he going to get home? Moreover, what kind of test involves the absence of the testers? Had he been tricked?
As he contemplated these thoughts, he heard a sound coming from deep in the warehouse. His senses on high alert, he started moving towards the sound. Rin had said he would understand what to do when he actually went in, so there was no choice but to move forward, despite his misgivings.
Jason crept forward silently. Whatever was making that noise was definitely in the center of the warehouse. Slowly but surely, he began making his way towards the center.
When he reached it, he saw.. a man, lying on the ground! And not just any man; he had a gag on his mouth and his arms and legs were bound by cuffs. The heck? Jason was confused.
Then he noticed the chair, not even three feet from the guy. He walked over, no longer afraid of the noise, and found three things on the chair; a gun, a key to the handcuffs, and a note.
Picking up the note, he read it:
“Kill him or free him; the choice is yours.”
This was stupid. This wasn't a test; this was common sense. Who in their right mind would kill someone? Obviously the goal here was to prove you were a moral person. Without even blinking, Jason picked up the key, walked over to the man, and began undoing the cuffs.
He had finished with the hands, and was working on the feet. The man stopped moving strangely, but Jason didn't pay it any mind. He finished un-cuffing the legs... and was rewarded with a kick to the face.
Jason's glasses flew into the darkness; he reeled in pain and staggered back. The man got up quickly, but he was on the ground soon afterward. Jason was on full alert again; he had freed the man, and in return he got kicked in the mouth... something wasn't right. The test should be over, right? He made his choice.
The man began rising again, and again he fell. This time though, he was inching closer to the chair, and – Jason soon realized – the gun.
Oh no. Oh shit.
Jason knew what was happening. The guy was going for the gun. That's bad! Really bad!! What if he gets shot? Jason mind began racing with unease and fear.
Jason looked around frantically for any sign of King, Spitt, or even Rin. But there was no one.
His attention quickly snapped back to the chair as he heard a clicking noise. He looked to see the guy he uncuffed, now standing, albeit unsteadily, on his feet, with the gun in hand. His finger was on the trigger.
He never knew what it was like to scream, but in that moment, he really wanted to scream. Jason wanted to talk, to reason, to somehow explain to this guy that this is all a mistake, he didn't do anything, he is innocent.
He saw the guy begin to pull the trigger. And Jason ran.
He ran and dove behind a crate. He heard three gunshots from behind him; a searing pain began welling up in his left calf.
He had been shot.
He heard the guy coming closer. Oh crap. Oh Shit! He was so screwed right now.
He tried to think, but nothing came to mind. He had no way to escape; he had no idea where the entrance was anymore; he was disoriented.
Desperate, Jason decided he was gonna try to disarm him. After all, he seemed unsteady on his feet.
The gun guy was just on the other side of the crate... he had to act.
The gun guy began taking a step to the side of the crate; Jason jumped out and kicked the hand wielding the gun. As the man winced in pain, the gun went flying into the darkness. Jason breathed a sigh of relief. Disaster avert-
Jason didn't even see the punch coming. The punch to the gut winded him. The kick that followed was just as vicious.
Apparently, the man had gotten used to walking again, Jason thought as he staggered and fell to the ground. The guy was on him immediately. He brought both of his hands around Jason's neck and began gripping.
Jason never thought that this man was trying to kill him. He didn't even think of the possibility before.
And yet, as he was lying on the ground, being choked to death, he slowly realized that he was dying.
Jason panicked. He flailed and landed a blow to the guy's side and winded him. The man fell to the side, but Jason was in full panic mode. This man was trying to kill him. Jason, still on the ground, gave the man another punch. And another.
Jason got up, and this time he was on the man, gripping his neck.... this man tried to kill him.
He squeezed. Harder and harder. The man, whose mouth gag Jason had never removed, prevented Jason from hearing his muffled cries. He squirmed and struggled, flailing and hitting Jason over and over, but Jason never stopped his constriction... this man tried to kill him.
Slowly, the man started to struggle less and less, until finally... he stopped moving altogether.
Jason got up... and looked at the man he had just choked to death.... the man he had killed.
The warehouse lights turned on. Standing on the second floor was King, Spitt, and Rin, along with a bunch of other people, all wearing the same blue hoodie with the cobra-head marking.
They began clapping. Jason, still in shock from killing a man, could not comprehend what was going on.
King was the first to speak up. The laziness and indifference in his voice was gone.
“Yo Newbie! You actually managed to kill that guy. Holy sheeit, that was nice! You didn't even use the gun, just straight up choked him! Nice job!” King exclaimed happily, with a thumbs up to boot.
Rin started laughing.
“Hahaha!! the look on your face is priceless noob! You passed the test!! Congrats!!!” Rin said between bursts of laughter.
“Well done Newbie! You wanted a job, but our jobs consist of killing people. If you couldn't kill someone, you'd be pretty useless! But you passed splendidly!! Looks like that criminal we caught was pretty useful after all, eh King?” Spitt said in high spirits.
“Yeah! Man, we haven't gotten a new member in ages!!! Finally I've got another rookie to pick on! Welcome to the Cobras, Newb!!!” King exclaimed.
“Hey King, aren't you forgetting something? You gotta name the newb now.” Rin declared.
“Ah right. Sorry Newbie; I got too excited!! No one in the Cobras use their real name when we're together; it protects our daily lives so to speak. After all, killers can't exactly be roaming around the city during the day, right?” King explained.
“Now, what to name you” King wondered aloud.
After some thought, King lit up.
“Hmmmmm.... let's see. You wear glasses. I guess Specs is a good name for ya! I dub thee Specs of the Cobras!!! King announced in mock-dignity.
Jason didn't register the cheering and applause around him, nor the members who came to congratulate him. He didn't notice that he had been named, nor did he realize the glances of approval from King and Spitt. He didn't even notice Rin pick up his glasses and put them back on him, with the first smile she ever gave him on her face. He didn't notice anything around him.
Only one thing swirled through the chaos of his mind.
“I killed a man.”