Guy left Capitol and, on his way to the bus stop, he got out his cellphone and called Thea.
“Hello?” she said. “Guy, where are you?”
“You were right, Thea,” he said, trembling from knowing how mad she was going to get knowing he’d been with Petunia again.
“About Petunia?” she asked. “Where are you?”
“Going to the bus stop by Capitol.”
“You didn’t screw her again, did you?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.” He was choking back sobs.
“You asshole! Just like Dad, and his whore-chasing! Like father, like son! Why can’t you ever hear anything I try to teach you?”
“I learned the truth from her myself! I felt her write HELP on my leg as she was…sucking me off.”
“Just like Dad! Always thinking with your dick. Always being a dick!”
“She likes me, Thea; she told me.”
“As I said: thinking with your dick, and being a dick.”
“I asked her if she hated me for fucking her, and she told me, NO.”
“Capitol makes her say that, Guy.”
“She didn’t say it. She wrote it on my leg.”
“In your dreams, Guy. There’s no way she’d like a customer.”
“No, really. She—“
“Would you shut up? I got a text message from someone who works in Capitol. They say they have information I need to prove that what’s going on there is criminal. They said to go to the Eastville Shopping Mall at 8:00, in front of the Starbucks. You’re coming with me, as part of your redemption.”
“OK, I will.”
“Don’t disappoint me again, and don’t fuck Petunia anymore!”
She hung up.
That night, Thea and Guy waited and waited for Jim.
“Where is this person?” she asked. “It’s 8:30.”
“Do you suppose Capitol found out about their disloyalty?” Guy asked.
“Don’t say it, Guy,” she said. “Don’t even think it.”
Mark was in his office. He took out his cellphone. It was 7:00.
“Jim?” he said into his phone after dialing. “Come to my office.”
After hanging up, he clicked on an app. He clicked ‘Creeps’, then ‘Yellow’, then ’10’. He got up and walked out the door, then stood in front of it, where he had two big, musclebound men ready. Jim rushed over within five minutes.
“You wanted to see me, Boss?” he asked with a frown at the sight of the other two men.
“Yes,” Mark said. “Let’s take a walk.”
“Well, I, uh, have to go somewhere,” Jim said in a shaky voice. “S-some im-important business…has come up.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Mark said. “We’ll be finished with you soon.”
“Jim, you’ve been working here for almost half a year now. We got you out of jail with a referral from the McCluskey family, whom you worked for in that drug deal when you got busted. They said you were 100% loyal.”
“Yeah, that’s me. Loyal.”
“You know the nature of this business is, well, controversial. Not everybody likes what we do here.”
“Yeah, like that woman and her brother who came here today. Good thing we were able to stop her from getting any proof about Petunia.”
“But giving Thea Cummings proof is only a phone call away, isn’t it?”
“Not if you don’t have her phone number.”
“I had her number written on a piece of paper in my office this morning. Then you came in, and we chatted about getting Petunia ready for Thea and her brother. I left the office for a few minutes. When I came back and you’d left, I noticed that piece of paper was gone.”
“Yeah, but other people come in and out of your office all the time.” Jim laughed nervously. “It wasn’t me. Anybody could’ve taken it.”
They had reached an area in the hall with access to the ‘escape’ tunnels. The musclemen pulled off a screen high on a wall, showing an entrance.
“True, the missing paper alone wasn’t proof of your theft,” Mark went on. “But it was enough to make me suspect you. You must know I have technology to trace and track all phone calls and text messages within my sphere of influence, right?”
“Look at this,” Mark said, showing Jim a record, on Mark’s phone, of Jim’s text message to Thea.
“Strip, Jim. Down to your bare ass. Then crawl in.”
“I’m not just some girl from the Third World, or a runaway from out of town. I have family and friends. They’ll look for me—“
“What? Here? The fundamentalist family you ran away from when you were a teen would disown you in a second if they knew you’d been working here. The McCluskey family would never help you or your family if they knew you’d tried to rat me out. Loyalty is very important to them, and to their reputation. Boys, strip him naked and shove him in.”
As one of the musclemen held Jim and the other pulled his pants down, he struggled and said, “What about when my friends in town ask where I am?”
“What about them?” Mark asked. “How will they be able to prove what really happened? As far as they’ll be concerned, you were fired, then you disappeared. We can forge a suicide e-mail for you. It’ll be easy to believe you killed yourself, since you have no future with a criminal record, without even any mafia willing to give you a job. In any case, the yellow Creeps will burn your insides so thoroughly, along with your face, and even your teeth and your fingertips, it’ll be impossible to identify the corpse as yours, if it’s ever even found. You know what this technology can do, just as Thea and Guy now know, since we traced your sending them a downloadable file explaining how Creeps work.”
Jim was completely naked now, and the musclemen shoved him into the tunnel entrance. “Please, Mark. Don’t do this!” he screamed.
“You should have thought of that before you chose to be disloyal to the company,” Mark said. “The McCluskey family surely taught you about the importance of loyalty, didn’t they?”
The musclemen put the screen back on, bolting it shut. Jim frantically crawled through the tunnel, knowing there was no escape, but desperate to distance himself from the squeaking noises of the Creeps coming from behind.
Mark and his men chuckled as they heard Jim’s shuffling and panting from out in the halls. They followed him so they could continue hearing his struggle to survive, as hopeless as it was, through the screens that appeared every twenty feet down the halls.
All customers were in soundproofed rooms enjoying Commodities on the other side of the building, so Mark had no fear of anyone hearing Jim’s screams. He just kept crawling and crawling, his heart beating faster as he heard the screeching Creeps’ getting louder and louder, closer and closer to his ass.
Just then, he felt one crawling up the base of his foot, from his big toe, along his sole up to his heel. The tickling sensation made him jerk his leg, banging his foot hard on the floor of the tunnel. The sharp pain added to his confusion as a second, then a third, then a fourth and a fifth Creep ran up his legs.
Amid the noises of the Creeps’ screeching and his own screams, he could still hear the laughing of Mark and his men. The Creeps scurried towards his buttocks, which he tried to close, but, too late: one squeezed its way into his asshole. Now his head and limbs were heard banging all over the walls in a rapid iteration of knocks. Jim’s murderers’ laughs got louder.
“He’s got one up his ass by now, he must have,” Mark laughed. “Got a Creep wiggling up your rectum yet, Jim?”
“Fuck you! Bastards! Aaaah!!!” Jim screamed.
The burning inside began.
Jim felt it first as a small ball of fire in his intestines; the ball grew bigger and hotter, burning through the intestinal mucous membrane and cutting into the surrounding organs, including his appendix, his spleen, and his stomach.
Two other yellow Creeps got into his body: one slipped into his right ear; the other went in his mouth, down his throat, and into his lungs. The first burned its way into his brain, then burned his eyeballs out, hollowing the sockets; it also burned through his nasal cavity, burning off his nose, and burned into his mouth, destroying his teeth. The other Creep burned out of his lungs and reached his heart. Other Creeps burned into his bloodstream, the burning travelling through his arms, hands, and fingers, destroying his fingerprints.
Now his body lay motionless.
“He’s not coming,” Thea said. “It’s almost 9:00. Let’s go home.”
She and Guy left the shopping mall.