The Biscuit Story: Psychological Thriller Short Fiction By Michael Couvaras
Michael Couvaras, author of The Biscuit Story, is a Zambian born, London based writer and filmmaker. In The Biscuit Story, a man spends most of his days living a mundane work existence in a small town, however his past can not be escaped. He now faces a psychological and physical game in the wilderness…to the death.
‘Flee an enemy who knows your weakness’ – Pierre Corneille
The fact that all these boxes – stacked one on top of another, twenty kilograms each, all ready to be shipped out into nowhere – don’t bother you at this point in time is very frightening. The factory you’re in right now has that feeling, that sinking feeling which makes you wake up and say…‘why’? You’re not in the mood to eat either because your mind has told itself that it isn’t in the mood for anything else but dread.
It’s 2:30 after midnight, you’ve got that kind of yawn that says it all, after two years with no sign of promotion your hands have pretty much become used to doing the deed: pack and shut up. It’s not like you wanted the job, you needed it…and let’s be honest that booze isn’t going to buy itself. So, here you are, with your hands digging inside one of those make it yourself boxes; you fold it open and put each side to the opposite and within a minute and forty seconds you’ve made a complete box. Good man.
It’s not like you wanted the job, you needed it…and let’s be honest that booze isn’t going to buy itself.
It’s 5:30 and time has surprisingly moved fast and well, I guess that’s what happens when your brain becomes a mere mechanism within a gigantic and controlling system; you aren’t even going to count the number of Captain Biscuits you’ve packed because that could only lead you to do something bad, again. You’ve got thirty minutes left and it’s time to move on quickly, you don’t really put too much into packing but more into pretend packing, you’re so damn exhausted.
It’s 6:00, you know it’s time to go and so you abandon whatever it is you’re doing; the safety boots feel heavier than they were eight hours ago and the night shift blues begin to seep through the back of your heart – once again – but it’s over for now, you can live for a few hours.
After you’ve clocked out you take a stroll down to the parking lot and take a swig from the flask you’ve missed so much. Feels good. You get into your rust bucket of a VW, you got it in a bargain, then, you can’t help but notice something is a bit off. A biscuit. It’s hard to explain what it’s doing on the passenger seat, because it’s just there, staring at you with a slight crumpled face. You’ve never been a paranoid person but when you pick it up and you see that cracked surface, gleaming back at you, your mind begins to wonder… ‘It wasn’t here this morning, I don’t eat biscuits from here, I didn’t pick anyone up, so who put it here?’
So who did put it here? You take a lie back down into your seat and start to think of every possibility, could it be Matt pulling a prank on you? Could it be that you were so drunk and hungry before the shift that you ate a pile of Captain Biscuit Originals? I don’t think so. The paranoia slowly starts to disappear as the Vodka hits your insides. You throw the biscuit out the window and turn on the car. “It’s okay, you’ll be fine”!
When you arrive home there isn’t much of an argument as to whether you should sit down in front of that old television of yours and watch something or listen to some blues and drink yourself blind; now, you know where to go and that’s the bed. After you’ve had a few sips of your Vodka laden flask your head meets the pillow and the rest is history.
It’s 5:30 after afternoon, you’ve washed your face and with a slight feeling of the head ready to burst you set out to put the work boots back on and get moving. Breakfast isn’t too fancy, a piece of toast with a slab of peanut butter and that does the trick. You sit down to eat and read a page from the Evening Special, it’s a week old but it’s worth it, for the sake of getting your mind off the biscuit you found in your car.
After the plate and cup are washed you get your jacket and give your flask a quick top-up of whiskey. You open your door and then you see it again, your heart falls down, your mind goes upside down and there it is, on your welcome mat, outside your door. The biscuit.
Breakfast isn’t too fancy, a piece of toast with a slab of peanut butter and that does the trick.
Before you can question what the hell it’s doing there, in a flash, a fade to black. Sounds of: cages rattling, fists fighting, bones breaking, skin scraping and rage boiling and all this broken down into the second of realization.
Where are you now? The scent of the night smashes you like a train straight out of hell, the safety boots you’re wearing are starting to feel heavy which doesn’t make the situation you’re in any better. The situation you’re in being basically what you started for you haven’t been doing your job as decently as you should, have you? For a slippery descent into drunken mistakes led to this, that, and of course a bunch of other stuff.
Okay so you’re in Oakmill Placids, and it’s starting to chill over and the Syrup pumped trees are starting to let out the smell of a twenty-four hour diner. Anyway, it’s a little too late to be thinking about grub now; your stomach has shut itself off for a bit while you’re in a state of a rage-fuelled desperation. Let’s take a look back.
You’ve worked at the Captain Biscuit factory for a year, a job you resorted to once the writing dried up; so, you decided to get a gig working in a warehouse institution that smells like sugar and cinnamon. You dated a girl called Allison, for a while, but that was purely for sex; then once that faded you started taking afternoon classes before the shift in graphic design…for some reason.
During one of your classes you met Lana, had sex with her then that ended with you fighting off a guy called Johnny: who claimed to be her ex. You punched him – he punched you. Johnny got arrested but because of the drug operation he ran…so, could it be him?
The past begins to be familiar to you as you roam these cold and echo plastered woods, you have no idea what the next surprise is going to be because you know this is some sort of twisted game you’re in. It all began with the Biscuit, that God damned Biscuit!
You decide to lie standing up against a tree to put your head together: it’s pounding like a sledgehammer held by a million construction workers went straight through it. So, you search your pockets in hopes of getting some aspirin and to your own surprise…there is none; despite the fact that you always have it on you by dint of habit. There are some chimes out in the hollow, sounds of a bell calmly ringing, but as soon as you start to realize that it’s there, it suddenly disappears.
You decide to lie standing up against a tree to put your head together: it’s pounding like a sledgehammer held by a million construction workers went straight through it.
Your mind is lost. This unexpected twist of consequence and fate, which all began with the discovery of a biscuit on the passenger seat of your car, has flung you into a life and death battle with a person who’s likely intention is to have you dead by the end of it. I need to start moving and I need to move lightly.
I grab a tree branch that’s lying in the frost, I hold it with both hands and I turn my head in each direction in a state of fear, my swollen fingertips don’t make my hold any firmer. I feel like the branch could just slip out my hands anytime soon, in that case I won’t even bother picking it up because I know that’s probably going to lead to my death blow. There it goes again, the Bell. The chills start running down your sore spine.
You don’t know where that sound is coming from but you start to follow it anyway: you cross through a berry shrub, lower into a curve and fight through a mound of snow. Then you go and drop it, the branch. You don’t know what to do, yet, the question soon becomes clear “should I pick it up or make a move?” The answer simple… “I need to defend myself!” So, and though, my spine (and spirit) is ready to shatter right there, I bend painfully toward the branch whilst turning my head three-sixty, again, to check that nobody was coming up from behind me.
Come on, you’re nearly there, just a little bit lower, got it. You rise up with your head still turning left, right and centre. You’re good to move on. The sounds of the bell have become more faint and seem to be closing out in the distance, your curiosity has become greater than your fear and you’ve started to ignore the fact that someone is out to kill you and has purposefully dragged you out into the open woods for a sick game of Cat and Mouse. A thought comes across me, a reminder, that I’ve forgotten who I truly am, what I was, and what I did?!
The treading is getting to your knees, your feet blister with a frosty feeling which eats close to the bone; your survival instincts are in full force and even though you’re half dozed, you’ve still got something in you that keeps you alert.
From the blackened horizon the sounds of howling night wolves pierce through the barren land, achingly symbolic of the animalistic nature of your existence. The Wolf and the prey: although, in this case, just who is the prey exactly…him or me? But alas, perhaps we’re both just lost dogs in the cold night?!
There’s a stream of blood flowing out your ear; so, it’s official, you’ve just got some serious trauma to the head and you may pass out anytime soon. Does this have anything to do with Monty Pike? Does this have anything to do with a life you lived elsewhere? Something you buried.
The sky eats the trees like flame to fuel, it’s almost hypnotizing and confuses your geography, you’ve never been out this far in the night; You can’t see the threat and you sure as hell can’t see how much blood you’re probably losing.
Monty Pike is an interesting thought. It was the last job, the one that brought you down to Oakmill Placids. You’ve tried to ignore that so much that you spent too much time writing cheap crime fiction in order to make this whole other identity up, the long nights at the factory – the short days at design classes, come on you’re not fooling your Self. So now, tell yourself, who exactly are you?
You sure as hell know how to handle yourself in uncertain conditions, don’t you? You fought your way out of what would have been a fatal situation; you cannot, obviously, remember details but habit is habit and you’re well trained at whatever it is you once, or twice, did. There’s a small crevasse by a grassy knoll up ahead, you need to sit for a while, for these haggard legs are sure to give in anytime soon.
You’re sitting straight up in a trench covered in frozen grass and every inch hurts, you can taste the metallic blood spilling from your nose and ears while your left eye twitches as a reminder that you’re on your way out…maybe.
It’s time to recollect: just who were you?
You were a man with high morals once, a gunman who pulled the trigger only when it mattered. Five years down in narcotics evolved into a permanent placement with the DEA and within three short weeks since the big bust in Vallejo, you went from being an ordinary field marshal to being a bona fide Head of Intelligence.
That’s when the shit got really bad. Your relationships took a dive, two of your partners claimed you had a rage issue that led to you putting a pistol in the face of a Chilean teenage witness who refused to tell the truth. You clearly cared about getting your leads; you just took it a little far, that’s all. Now you’re here but not for that, for something you clearly had coming, you know what it is right? Monty Pike.
It wasn’t like you planned what had happened at the Pike. As an insider, the Cartel had trusted you with their lives; your promise, to bring back the brother of the Head of the Varez Cartel in one piece from his captors, turned sour when they realized it was all just bait. You and a few agents abducted the gent so you could get them all in one place, a set up that ended in a lot of shots through a lot of temples. The fact that the brother was shot wasn’t your fault though; you weren’t that kind of man by any means, but in a situation like that, everyone was bound to die. Except you, the sole survivor, it looks like even that bullet which sliced through your neck sadly failed to end you.
Months went by in the medic quarters of that safe house; there you woke up screaming from your coma, then, with the knowledge that you were still alive along with the knowledge that Cartels take revenge to a whole other level, you threw up, then, you threw up again and, finally, you wished that you were dead, like all the others. So, they granted you with a new identity, and you, Mr. Krump, you found a job in Oakmill Placids at a Captain Biscuits, which is pretty similar to death…almost anyway.
So Mr.Krump, am I paying for my sins in the cold?
The cold shimmers violently, it’s a sign of what’s to come, and the brutal last stand with what you think is revenge in the form of a ghost. You get back on your feet and the pain of broken bones disappears, the adrenaline rushes through your veins and you forget whatever bleeding you have.
You grasp sturdily onto the branch and stand with full alertness, your training and battle mentality return, you know you have to face the demons, the demons that you yourself created. For a mere moment the beauty of nature shakes you alive again: for the sounds of celestial winter birds, snow flakes touching soft ground and the air whistling though the oak of the trees filter your shell-shocked ears; but only for a mere moment for too soon the sharp pitch of that bell returns and, like a bullet out a chamber, a solid figure, wrapped wholly in black, sprints with a hum of death towards you, and with every footfall your heart beats fifty times over it’s limit.
Your sight closes in, it’s too late now, you’re thrown off the ground, and your chest crackles. A punch to the face, a blade unsheathed, a stab to your shoulder, a scream of pain. You kick the figure in its chest, you grab the blade and pull it out of your body, and you feel no pain whilst adrenaline aids you.
A slash to your arm, you’re now engaged in a duel of sharp objects. The attacker goes right, you fend it off and rip left passed its throat. Once more, with the greatest of difficulty, you send your blade straight into the gut of the figure. Knowing that this may probably be your last moment alive you keep on stabbing and you don’t stop.
Five minutes have past and your blade is still rested in the stomach of your faceless foe, your mind has shut off for a few seconds and only the sound of cold air whispering reminds you that you can still function. You take the blade out and the body of the attacker drops down to the cold. You kneel down beside the body and take a look at what should be a face. You realize something, something chilling, a reminder of the truth, what you see is a brown façade with two black holes for eyes and no nose or even hair. You throw up.
Is this a dream…is this a nightmare? It’s very unlikely because you pissed yourself in the process. You turn the body over and slowly pull yourself up; the adrenaline still pumps and you begin to drag yourself down a vast horizon of trees, snow and echo. You try not to look back for your own sanity. You’ve already told yourself it never happened, but even after all the psych. tests at the force; they couldn’t save you from this.
You’ve spent hours treading through the wild forests, frost eats at your fingertips and eyes. Up ahead you can clearly hear the sound of a highway, it gives you hope enough to pull through, and after fighting through cold leaves and rock, you finally see the pleasing sight of tar.
Down the road, a truck treads slowly as your blood-drenched thumb flags it down. Eventually it stops, a window opens and a pail and chubby driver asks to take you to the hospital. You tell him that you’re fine and ask him to take you to the Immigration Department where you will plan your next escape to somewhere safe.
Two years have passed; you’re now in a different climate, a warm one: Where the sun, like a baptismal fire, washes you clean. You’re in Botswana, a country you never thought you’d wind up and possibly the only place on earth the Cartel wouldn’t be able to track you down. The African landscape has impressed you and you’ve decided to stay; you’re in the town of Maun, not much here but the fact that you’re running a tourist hostel and that it makes you quite a fair bit of money, more than you would earn back at Oakmill Placids anyway, which is good enough for you. Locals treat you like a petit King and you’ve attained a bit of a cult-like following amongst circling adventurers looking for affordable yet picturesque lodgings. Your new identity: Mr. Rodney Daniels.
It’s one thirty in the evening, you sit in the lounge of your chateau which neighbors your lodge, spacious and overlooking the night’s horizon. In one hand you have a glass of scotch on the rocks and it’s probably your twelfth one this evening, your eyes begin to strain a little as you fade somewhere else, before they’re completely shut there’s a sudden knocking sound at the door and your eyelid shuts wide open again.
Even after two years your mind still maintains an alarm system for such sudden moments. You’re still not safe. You reach for your top drawer, which is but a few strides away from the armchair you’re placed on. You pull out the 9mm Smith and Wesson, a pistol an old war-weary traveler left you while passing through your neck of the woods, and tuck it into the back of your cargo pants. Each step gets you closer to the door as a pocket of heavy air fills your eardrum. You reach for the doorknob as you place your body at the edge of the door; you furiously open it and thrust your way to the front, your pistol pointed…there’s nobody here. Until, you slowly lower you head to your doormat and there it is, sending the fear and dread back into you, that menacing feeling leaving you cold and still, as you see it…the Biscuit.
Then a thud to your head, a smash back to black, and THE END.
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