24 Aug The Namesake
He smirked. That was a piece of cake. He dodged another one. All these things his mother taught him, came in handy and turned out to be … so NOT true. She told him he had to be a decent guy, help others, and spread good vibes and joy. Not everyone was so lucky to be blessed with his brain and power. If it was up to him, he would change the old ways so the guys stop comparing who “has it bigger” and measure the size of their brains instead. That’s where the real strength was! His family was so poor when he was growing up but as he moved up in his career, the circumstances changed. He had everything he could ever want. He was finally able to give his mother the life that she deserved after going through such a difficult time when he was young. Losing his siblings, starvation, and hard work. He deserved it now!
Most people didn’t dare doubt him. True, he was on the smaller side, but everyone was very much aware of what he was capable of. In his early adulthood, he realized he had to defend himself so he got involved in martial arts. After the first few encounters with his peers, they got the message not to mess with him. It gave him a taste of what may come in the future. You could make people do anything you want if they are scared of you or depend on you (which is basically the same thing). The languages came later – seemed to be the logical next step. Growing up, he saw very few people around him that spoke any other languages but their native. Becoming fluent in German and English gave him another advantage. The rest was history. Slowly but surely, he fought his way to the top. Calm, reliable, manly. A man’s man. Maybe he wasn’t handsome but most women found him appealing thanks to his soft tone and open smile.
This day looked like any other. The August sun was already high in the sky and everyone he saw on his way to the office was in a summer mood. The dress code around here was pretty tight (he didn’t allow for any nonsense), but it was hard to deny how much it elevated the mood to see all the colorful skirts that fluttered when the girls turned sharply around the corners zooming by him. He got comfortable in his office waiting for an important call when the secretary informed him of the new visitor.
“Tell him to come in,” he replied calmly, letting go of the intercom button. The guy that came was his right hand so perhaps he decided to bring the news in person instead of calling. Maybe he is right- it was safer this way. The door opened quietly, he didn’t even have to look to confirm who walked in. He recognized these quiet, slight shuffling steps of his assistant.
“No, he refused to pay. Also, said he won’t back down.”
“Still thinks he can take me, ha? How foolish of him. He had good potential… So what did we end up with?”
“Hmmm… let’s just say he suddenly didn’t feel too well.”
“Should be clean. This substance was tested before on a few prisoners. Satisfactory results.”
“So, we shouldn’t worry about him anymore?”
There was a pause. It made him finally look up at his assistant.
“Well? I really don’t care for hesitation, you know.”
“For now, he is still alive but we are monitoring the situation.”
“I hope so. Because I would not tolerate any more failures. Is that understood?”
The assistant nodded, swallowing hard, and backed out of the office.
He threw the phone on the long desk in front of him. Ever since Covid started, he has been much more careful. Yes, he had no interest in getting sick but mostly he was worried about someone from his surroundings going crazy after vaccination or sickness. He heard horror stories about people who survived Covid and lost all their marbles in the process. That was one of the reasons he had to find a new assistant. Pitty.
He walked over to the window – what a beautiful view of the square. All these people walking around would have no idea what hit them when the time comes to show them the full strength of his power. Let them think for now that they are free to do whatever they want. The naivety is priceless. What’s next? The world is his oyster. All those lands up north, they are now his. Beautiful! The air there is so clear you can drink it by the glass! He was glad he got rid of his first wife. His young mistress was so gorgeous, an athlete! The summer is about to start so maybe he can spend a few days with her there, at his new estate… She’s been bugging him lately about not spending enough time together. How could she not understand how busy he was? His business demanded his full attention.
Whenever his advisors were trying to discourage him from the new risky endeavor, he laughed in their faces. Well. Not really. He was always polite, calm, and collected. Even now when many were slamming his name all over the world. They were calling him pure evil, terrorist, criminal… so many negative synonyms. They did not know him at all. It wasn’t that he liked killing all these people. If they would have agreed to his conditions, nothing would have happened but people were stubborn. They got in his way. He simply didn’t have any other choice.
When he was in a good mood, he liked to entertain. On occasion, he could fire up a few jokes. No one ever expected it from him because people were afraid of him. He was The Boss after all. He demanded complete and full obedience. He got back behind his desk and picked up the phone to read the latest update. His name was in the news again, this time in connection with a horrific bloody fight that sparked in the southeast region. The phone blipped and vibrated in his hand. He huffed frustrated about the distraction but then saw it was his girl calling. He smiled and answered.
“What’s going on, sweets?”
“Have you seen the news?”
“Yes, I did.”
“This is so awful. They keep replaying these bloody scenes over and over. They look so real!”
“I know, but we talked about it. You know, none of that is true. It’s fake! They are all envious of my success, our success. Just trying to rattle my cage. Remember the last time when we had to deal with such a situation?”
“I guess, but that was different, it was all about money.”
“Kick all that nonsense out of your pretty head. I paid them off. This is going to be the same. The news stations are just trying to get higher ratings, that’s all. Don’t worry. I will see you later. I have some summer plans to discuss with you. ”
They hung up. He looked at his phone for a few more minutes before he clicked off the news with determination reaching for his laptop. He had about ten minutes before the next meeting, just enough time to do some work.
“How could you allow for this to happen?!” He was furious. He thought his latest plan would work in accordance with the same template that was used so many times before. It should have taken a week to execute from the beginning to end, a month maximum. It’s now been almost six months and things have gone from bad to worse to dangerously close to a complete and total failure. His team was sitting at the end of his long desk. They were looking all around the room avoiding, with all their might, glancing into his eyes.
“Explain it to me!”
One of them sighed and replied quietly, keeping his hands interlaced tightly on the top of the desk in front of him.
“He didn’t leave and his… I don’t know. Everything there goes against a normal understanding of human instincts. They are all ready to die but would not give up an inch. And that guy… I don’t get it! No one could have predicted it!”
“Who are you talking about? That clown they have for a boss? How is it possible that they are ready to follow him until the last drop but would not choose to save themselves or all their places? We offered them money to change sides, right? Impressive jobs, relocation assistance, what the hell else do they want? Why wouldn’t they just give up their territory?!”
“They all sound like a broken record. They trust in God’s will and believe they will be saved because they are protecting their home. They are all inspired by their leader. Anyone in his shoes would have run! But he didn’t! What’s worse, he’s ignoring all our communication. We have never had this happen before!”
“Are you saying he is not afraid of ME?” His voice dropped almost to a whisper. This was unspeakable. In the last twenty years, no one ever tried to cross him. This little schmuck with his stupid jokes can’t possibly be a worthy opponent! He grabbed a glass from his desk and threw it across the room into the wall. “Get out! All of you!”
He was alone again. His hands were slightly shaking. How could his team underestimate these people and their leader to this extent? He was so sure he would have a magnificent legacy left after him but… He was being defeated and by whom?! A bunch of farmers with their Comic in the lead! He hated that his nemesis was younger, stronger, and, undoubtedly, a better public speaker. The entire world wanted to follow him. This guy still managed to care for his team and the people around him even though he reached the very top. Was he ever like him? Suddenly, it occurred to him that they shared a lot of the same talents. Perhaps that should have been his first clue. He ended up in a war with himself… The one war he wouldn’t be able to win. They even had the same first name – Vlad! A namesake that will not be forgotten for generations to come.
“The Namesake” is a short story by Ela Mikh, Submitted into Contest #159 in response to: Write about a character who’s never encountered a problem they couldn’t buy their way out of — until they do.