The Package

(My first story, so critique is very welcome, and I’d love some tips on how to improve! This is only the first bit- a prologue, if you will, but I’ll probably write some more if there’s an interest :D)

It had been over in minutes, or maybe even less- seconds, perhaps.
It had been the swerve of the wheels, the curve of the rubber on gravel, that had ignited the flame to tear my life apart. There I had been, face pressed to the dust of what had fallen up ahead, breathing in the smoke that tumbled from the broken gearbox as fast as the wind would carry it…

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(An unnamed back alley, central Moscow)

It was a package. Another mysterious brown package, and I had been coerced into delivering it. Again. I had no idea what lay beneath the careful creases and folds. Drugs? Illicitly brewed alcohol? A severed hand cut from the arm of a wealthy man, en-route to his family? Or perhaps it was just something quite vanilla- an old issue of Playboy magazine, perhaps- though I doubted people still read it. I hadn’t thought to enquire as towards the contents. When your boss is as tough as a bathhouse wall (adorned with garish tie and shirt in place of tiles), you don’t usually leap to ask such private questions.

The street, as expected, was dark and dirty- nothing special. Even in the moody gloom of midnight I could make out the piles of rubbish that leaned against every doorway and wall. If it wasn’t strikes, it was the local Mafiya branch. Lazy bastards, the lot of them. Killing faceless lackeys on their own terms, instead of just letting them clean up the rubbish as a punishment. My mother back home, bless her soul, often joked that at least my job cleaned up the dirt instead of creating it, whatever that meant.

I turned a corner, leading shaky steps into the darkest paths, avoiding any noise that made me stand on edge, however small, and then…I saw him.

Lit by the moon’s ethereal glow, the man who would relay my delivery stood waiting beside a wall of moulding brick. Middle-aged and smartly dressed, he looked the part of an oligarch or banker, though in these dangerous alleyways neither profession would dare to tread. A large expanse of paunch rolled out from between red suspender braces, somewhat hidden by the folds of his jacket, and he held a lit cigarette between his fingers with an odd, slightly feminine elegance.

I coughed loudly and he whipped around to face me, causing what little light there was to shine across his portly face. An expression of revulsion on his lips, he ventured forward to cast it towards me, furrowing his brow as he did so.

“Good evening. I trust that you have brought the package?” He asked, gently puffing out smoke from his mouth as he spoke. I nodded, suddenly feeling worried for my safety, and handed over the parcel with my hands shaking. He sniffed, letting his eyes fall across it, and snatched it up without another sound, choosing to stuff it unceremoniously in a smart black briefcase that, strangely, I hadn’t noticed. With one swift move, he pulled up the collar of his coat against the cold, letting the fur tickle his cheeks, and vanished into the night.

I checked my watch- it was just about 3am- and decided to begin to drag my freezing body back to the hostel I had made my temporary residence. Stupid employers didn’t even give me any insurance- or a guarantee of decent accommodation. As I made my way back to the veritable safety of what I tried to call ‘home’, my mind whirled with thoughts aplenty. What had been in that package? Why had it not rattled or creaked or done anything to show that there was something inside it? Why had it been so carefully packaged, and yet so carelessly undecorated?

Only one thing was obvious to me- I was sure that this wouldn’t be the last I would see of the blasted thing.