Jayce Wellspring sat in the main square of a small town called Hell’s Basket. It wasn’t much of a town. People clumped together in the square like wet dog hair. Children walked hand in hand with their parents. One of those children, an ashy skinned young’un with bright red hair and green eyes, looked at Jayce.
“You got many friends,” the child asked. Jayce looked at him and spit in his direction. Jayce shook his head and looked away. “Naw, I ain’t got none.”
“Why not? Everybody has a friend.”
“It’s been my experience that friends are temporary stop gaps in life. You might call ‘em seasonal. They’re here one minute and gone the next.”
“I got tons of friends, mister.”
“Well, I ain’t. Go on, boy. Get some yonder.”
The child turned and gave him the finger. Then, he disappeared in the nearest clump of people. “Figures,” Jayce muttered. People wandered through and Jayce gave ‘em not a look. He was in this dumpy town for a reason. The flyer he had shoved in his pocket said the city council had need of a hunter. He had to kill time until the council would see him, so he sat on the bench.
As I said earlier, Hell’s Basket ain’t hitting on much as far as towns go. There was a lot of people out, and every block seemed to have a religious center. Some people had a dire need for religion. Even Jayce. The problem was that in the evolution of humanity all sorts of religions had spread across the globe.
There seemed to be as many varied religions as there were varieties of people. So, Jayce figured you picked one until you found one that fit your situation. It’s what Jayce did. “Everybody wants to be right; no one wants to be wrong.” A malnourished woman with skinny hair walked up to Jayce. She pulled out a piece of paper and studied it. Satisfied, she put the paper away and pushed herself to her full height.
“You’re Jayce Wellspring, correct?”
“I am Model 1010110. Please follow me.”
“Yeah, ok.” Jayce spit and the woman led him to a massive building in the center of the square. The council was situated at the top floor of the building. It too was narrow. Somehow skinny, narrow, and malnourished seemed to fit the town image. Even the buildings were starved.
Model 1010110 led Jayce to a small area and motioned for Jayce to have a seat. A row of television screens were on the table. They all clicked on and the faces of the council appeared on the screens. Unlike the town folk and the buildings, they seemed relatively healthy. “Strange.”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Wellspring. We trust you had no issues finding our town.”
Every face stared at Jayce and they all appeared to have had a cactus shoved up their chimneys. He leaned back in his chair and waited for them to continue.
“We appreciate that you answered our request for help. We understand you have no friends?”
“That is unfortunate. Who do we call if you should expire?”
“If I have expired you should call no one.”
The room grew quiet. Finally, the silence was broken by a small voice. “Would you like to know the job?”
“That’s why I am here.”
“Certain parties have shown themselves to be traitors to our cause. We want them removed in a timely fashion. Do you accept?”
Model 1010110 brought in a package about an inch thick and handed it to Jayce. The voice continued. “Inside the package is the list. Should you fail, your body will not be recovered. If you succeed, you will have riches beyond measure. Do you understand?”
The room went black when the screens clicked off. A soft hum sounded when the room lights clicked on. Model 1010110 came into the room and escorted him back to the town square. Jayce took the package and went off in search of a room. Along the busy square were several hotel rooms. They were all expensive. Jayce continued to walk until he came upon a raggedy hotel on the edge of town. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.
The only light in the foyer was natural light, the curtains had all been pushed back and sunlight drifted in through the dirty pane glass. An old man, skinny of course, with a walrus mustache was half asleep behind the counter. Jayce walked up and the old man peeked at him through one cracked eye.
“You have a room?”
“Yep.” Jayce nodded and reached for his money. The old man rang him up and handed him a key.
“You’re in room 6. Keep trouble to a minimum.”
“What’s the name of this joint,” Jayce asked.
“Hell’s Homey Corner.” Jayce arched his eyebrows and nodded. “Figures.” Room 6 was in the middle of the hallway. Jayce inserted the key and opened the door. The kid from earlier sat on the couch and watched cartoons.
Jayce nodded and walked to the bed. He placed his bag on it and sat on the couch with the kid. Jayce picked up the phone and called the kitchen. He ordered himself a turkey wrap with guacamole.
“Alright, kid. What are you doing here?”
“I’m watching cartoons.” Jayce growled and the kid looked at him.
“You’re Axelrod Carter. CEO of Rankin Enterprises. What are you doing in my room?”
“My, my, look at that. You figured that out all on your own. I am on your list but before you kill me, I want to talk.”
“Of course, you do.”
“I would like to make a counteroffer and explain why I am on your list.”
A knock came from the door and Jayce answered it. It was his wrap. He paid the skinny woman who brought it to his room. She too had skinny hair. She held out her hand for a tip. Jayce nodded and closed the door.
“You have until I have finished this wrap to make your offer.”
“Okay. I was on the council. What happened here in Hell’s Basket was supposed to be an isolated incident.”
Jayce motioned for Carter to continue. It’s hard to talk with your mouth full. “The people of Hell’s Basket are poisoned.” Jayce stared at the child. “Mmmhmm.”
“We took away all positive things in Hell’s Basket. They have been bombarded nonstop with bad news for years. The council wanted to see what would happen if we narrowed their focus.”
“They’re starving to death.”
“Yes. They have begun to turn on each other. At first the incidents were isolated. A murder here, violent protests and mob slayings there. Now, it has started to happen more frequently.”
“You want me to believe mobsters are causing this? You just admitted to being the force behind this crap.”
“No, mobsters have nothing to do with it. Mobs of people go out and kill people. They’re feral.”
“Mmmhmm.” Jayce wiped his mouth and nodded. “Let me guess, Axelrod. You want me to kill the council, right?”
“I want you to kill all of us, and free the people of Hell’s Basket.”
“I’m not done. Before you can strike the council, you must weaken it.”
“And how, pray tell, am I supposed to weaken it IF I decided to take you up on your offer?”
“There are five communication arrays. If you take them out, then the people will gradually snap out of it, but first, you must kill me and everyone on the list.”
Jayce nodded and waved his hand as if to say ‘duh.’ Jayce went to his bag and pulled out his sidearm. Most hunters used laser blasters or some other fancy type of weaponry. Jayce preferred the old-fashioned stuff. His weapon of choice was the 9mm.
“I haven’t finished. Before you kill me, you will need my help to destroy the arrays. It’s no simple task. After the arrays are down, then I want you to kill me.”
“Because I have sinned. There was no reason for us to do what we did. We just wanted to mess with people. Now it’s out of control. Look at them, hunter. They don’t smile. There is no laughter, the people are downtrodden. We killed hope.”
“If I kill you all, I won’t get paid.”
“Yes, you will.”
“Underneath the council’s building is a vault. It is filled with gold, jewels, and rarities galore. I will give you the combination of the vault prior to my death.”
Axelrod and Jayce shook hands, and the deal was sealed. It was time to get to work.