• February 28, 2024

There Is Always Hope – A Drama Short Story by Alexandra Costigan

Droplets rained down from the rooftops above, fat globs of water that crawled their way down Alex’s face as he carefully, frantically made his way down the alleyway. He peered around the corner with bated breath. The coast was clear.

Quickly, swiftly, cat like he made his way down the cobblestone street, the voices behind him barely making themselves known, a whisper on the wind. He wondered what they were saying, but he let the thought go as soon as it arose. He couldn’t afford to lose a second of his focus, or it could be all over.

SHIT

A dead end. Alex looked over his shoulder and to his relief, he did not see the pack of men chasing him. But he could hear their voices growing louder, an impending presence, and he knew his time was running out.

A little more clumsy, he ran into a narrow pathway to his left, only wide enough for one person. He made his way through, his movement slowed by the lack of space. But he was methodical, one foot in front of the other.

The voices had come close enough to make out what they were saying. Alex froze in place.

“Where did he go?!”

“He’s like a fucking fish, slipping through our fingers.”

“Boss isn’t going to like that this happened again.”

“Well, maybe Boss can come out here and chase him down then, if he thinks it’s so easy.”

“Are you kidding? That cannonball? He’d get winded after the first block!”

“Would you lot SHUT THE FUCK UP and remember why we’re here. I thought I heard something over there, let’s check it out.”

Okay breathe Alex, nice and slow

He began shimmying his way down the path, moving as quiet as possible, trying to keep his frenetic nerves in check. They were coming towards him, his senses could feel it. He’d be caught for sure.

And as if his thoughts were being played on a loud speaker, a voice stretched out from an invisible place on his left.

“IN HERE!” A raspy voice said in a shouted whisper.

Alex didn’t have time to question who this was or why he was helping him, he had to get off the street. He quickly followed the man, shrouded in shadow, into the small dark room. The man pulled the door to a quiet shut, and they both stood like statues in complete silence, holding their breath.

Not a moment later, a loud shuffling could be heard along the walls of the man’s small home.

“You sure he went this way?”

“It’s a dead end and I KNOW I heard something. There’s no where else for him to go.”

“Yeah? Then where the fuck is he?”

“Slippery little fish….”

The minutes felt like hours, and the two hidden men did not move. The shuffling eventually stopped, and the voices grew quieter and quieter until they disappeared completely. They both exhaled, Alex felt his shoulders slump a little. The shadowy figure reached up and pulled on a lightbulb hanging from the low ceiling, revealing a short gray man in a dirty black sweater, white hair spurting out from underneath a worn New York Yankees cap, an unkempt bushy beard to match.

Alex gestured to thank the man but before he said a word, the man silently put his finger to his lips, before he motioned to the room behind Alex.

“They may still be close by,” he whispered.

The men moved into a small kitchen connected to the entryway. The tiny space was all but taken up by a small stove, refrigerator, separated by a tiny silver sink and a small amount of counter space eaten up by a microwave oven and several opened boxes holding all sorts of items. A round, oak table sat in the middle of the room with two chairs.

Alex pulled out a chair and sat, allowing his body weight to collapse with exhaustion, while the man grabbed the teapot from the stove and toddled over to the tiny kitchen sink. The dark space was lightly lit from the lightbulb in the entrance.

“Thank you. You saved my life back there. I thought I was a goner.”

The man nodded as he filled the teapot with water. “No thanks needed. I noticed the patch on your left shoulder.”

Alex ran his fingers over the small diamond shaped insignia, an eagle flying with the flag in its beak.

“Are you a Freedom Fighter?”

“Oh no.” The man was a little gruff, which set Alex off. He stood up.

“Then how do you know what this is?!” He gestured roughly to the symbol on his shoulder.

The man put the teapot down and his hands up. “Relax, relax. It was my son who told me about your little rebel group.”

“There’s someone else here?!?”

“No… not anymore.” A wave of grief crossed the man’s face and Alex understood. He felt a little silly for being so aggressive, and he sat back down.

The man continued. “When I bought this bunker a lifetime ago, it was for me and my son. In the beginning it was perfect, we were safe! We’d go on daily scavenges while the troops were back at headquarters, and we’d look for useful items we needed then or we knew we would need. That’s where I got this thing.” He shook the red, scratched teapot at Alex.

“One day, Tim found an old analog radio. I didn’t see the harm in letting him bring it with us. I was never one for people or society, so I wasn’t too devastated by our isolation. But Tim was. I could see it, it was eating at him as each day passed. I thought the radio would be good for him.” He sighed.

“But it was on that damn thing that he found out about your Freedom Fighters. Stumbled on your SOS channel and began listening to your news bulletins, guessing at what the code words meant, pointing out that insignia spray painted on the walls when we would scavenge. He tried to talk to me about it, but I wouldn’t hear it. Told him those idiots were going to get themselves killed, fighting a losing battle. I tried to tell him how good we had it, that he was safe! But he wanted more, and a few weeks later he left in the middle of the night while I was snoring away, thinking everything was fine.”

The man turned away from Alex and he wouldn’t have been surprised if the man shed a tear. He could feel his heartbreak, hear the shake in his voice.

“I never heard from him again. That was 5 years ago.”

“Why didn’t you go looking for him?”

The man slammed the teapot in the sink. “Because what’s the POINT?! Don’t you get it! They’ve WON.” He realized how loud his voice was getting and he paused. “It’s over. Tim didn’t get it either.” Shaking his head, he took the teapot, placed it on the small stove, and turned the burner on.

He pulled out the chair opposite of Alex and sat down. “What were you doing roaming the streets at this time of night, anyway? A Freedom Fighter should know better.”

“I have confidential documents in my possession, and it is of the utmost importance that they make it to our headquarters in Dallas.”

The man laughed. “That’s hundreds of miles from here! They sent you alone, did they? Not a wise move in my opinion.”

Alex chuckled dryly. “Trust is hard to come by as i’m sure you know. They know I’ll get it there, or I’ll die trying.”

“What is it you’re delivering?”

Alex paused.

“Like I said, trust is hard to come by.”

The man nodded and Alex said nothing more. The tea kettle sang with completeness, and the man poured two hot cups, one of which he handed to Alex’s frostbitten hands. He took a sip, and it comforted him down to his toes. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d held something hot, his fingers gratefully wrapping around the mug.

“Can I ask you something?” The man peered at Alex curiously. “Why do you still fight?”

“Someone has to,” Alex answered matter of factly.

“Yeah but how do you still BELIEVE in what you’re fighting for? It’s been 20 years.”

“All it takes is one day to change everything.”

“I hate to tell you this, but normal is never coming back. You have to accept it. This is the new normal.”

“Not a normal I’m willing to accept.” He paused and took another soothing sip of his tea. “Not if there’s anything I can do about it.”

“But what if there’s NOTHING you can do?” The man held his tea between clenched hands on the table. Alex knew he wasn’t being critical, but rather desperately trying to accept his own reality.

“I have to try. I have to hope I can. And sometimes, that’s all I have to go on. The hope that things can be good again. Different, but good.”

The man looked down at his tea and didn’t say another word, contemplating. The two men sat there in silence for several minutes longer.

Finally, Alex stood up and reluctantly placed his cup of tea on the table. Oh, how he longed to be able to take it with him. But there were more important things at hand than his creature comforts.

“This was a treat. Truly. But it’s time I get going. I’m on a clock.” The man nodded, and stood up, following Alex to the door.

As he reached for the handle, Alex paused and turned around.

“Why did you help me? If you don’t believe in our cause?”

The man sighed again, and this time Alex could see the tears escape from the man’s tired eyes.

“I hope there’s someone out there who did the same for my boy.”

Alex nodded, and turned to leave. As he opened the door the man whispered behind him.

“You can’t run forever, you now.”

Alex turned around and smiled.

“Viva la revolución,” he said with flair. Then he turned and disappeared into the night.

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