The flip side of hope, desperation leads to its own type of victory.
|"Walking with a friend in the dark
is better than walking alone in the light."
-- Helen Keller
Hope can be a crutch. It is the nightlight, for reality, there to soothe even in the dark times. The only real strength lies in the relationships one shares. They can be good or bad but in reality, their existence is what counts. Heroes don't just associate with the good. Heroes can be as defined by those they fight as much as by those they protect. Often it is hand in hand with their enemies that they meet their end.
"Can you reach that bar or not?" Julian asked snappishly.
"No, it is just too far out of my reach!"
"If it is so easy, then you come do it!" Juan barked back.
"I would if someone hadn't dropped a building on me!" Julian snarled.
Juan turned and threw up his hands, "I didn't tell you to follow me in here! If you could have kept your goody two shoes out of my business, neither of us would be trapped down here!"
"You were planning to blow up a building! I had to stop you! People could have died!" Julian pointed out.
"Yeah well, we still might! If I don't get something to brace that beam so the rescuers have time to find us! Why couldn't you just mind your own business? It is Sunday, shouldn't you be at church with your family or something?"
"What family? I have been on your trail for five years, who has time for family?"
"Friends then?" Juan asked.
"You are the only significant relationship I have..."
"Man, that is sad... so when you die the only person who reacts at all will dance on your grave?"
Julian frowned, "It hasn't always been that way... We were almost friends once..."
"That was a long time ago in another life..."
"How flipping cliche! Another life..." Julian scoffed.
"Flipping? You are staring down the double barrels of death and still can't spit out a swear word? Come on Julian, just one itty bitty swear word won't send YOU to hell. Or should I say H E double hockey sticks?"
"Juan, we are all the decisions we make in our lives, each decision counts."
"And you believe I made all wrong ones," Juan threw up his hands.
"Not all, you know right and wrong. You just talked yourself into believing what you did counted as right."
"You don't know me! You never did! That is why we were never friends." Juan shouted. As if motivated by his anger the rubble around them shifted sending dust and pebbles rolling down onto the free portion of Julian's left leg.
"Juan, you can still make the right decision. If you were truly evil, you wouldn't have cared about bringing this building down when it was empty. You would have brought it down around all the people who work here. If you were truly evil, you wouldn't have run back in here after me. Your actions betray your motives."
The lantern which was their only light in the darkness flickered. Juan seemed hesitant too, "Say I conceded that point... What makes you think I was trying to be evil in the first place?"
"Are you asking why I have been on your trail all these years?" Julian asked.
"Yeah, I guess I am."
"When that man died in the first explosion, tell the truth, you were sorry for it!"
"Why didn't you stop?"
"Why did you start?" Juan exploded. More dust trickled down through the ruins. "I'll tell you why I didn't stop. This corporation is what is evil. Insurance? It is just a shakedown racket. If they really wanted to help people..."
"This is about your mother."
"You don't know!" Juan sat down hard, "They could have saved her, all they had to do was pay for a little medication in the beginning. Instead, they would rather pay for a nursing home and a ventilator!"
Julian shifted what he could, his foot no longer hurt and that bothered him, "If it's any consolation they probably won't want to pay for this either." Julian gestured at the leg trapped beneath a concrete pillar. The lamp flickered again. They had been trapped for hours. Help wasn't going to get there in time.
Juan chuckled stiffly, "Yeah."
"Why didn't you become a cop or a lawyer? You could have gotten back at them legally."
"Not as a cop, maybe as a lawyer, but the immediate gratification of blowing up their property was just so tempting."
"Juan, you aren't the only one I have been after all these years. I have a good case for criminal negligence put together against this company. The DA was going to file on Monday. I could have gotten it together years sooner if you hadn't been distracting me all these years, or even better if you had helped me."
Juan blinked, "Seriously? You aren't just saying that to get me to try to move that pillar again are you?"
Julian grimaced, "I think the weight of the pillar is the only thing keeping me from bleeding out at this point."
"Why were you after them?"
"I told you we were almost friends. I saw what happened with your mother. It was wrong, sick, twisted, evil."
The rubble shifted again. "This place is coming down Juan. Would you try to brace that other pillar with something?"
Juan just sat there in silence, then he exploded into motion. He began wedging rebar and rubble beneath the precarious supporting pillar. "You could have told me you were investigating them..."
"When? This is the first time I have been close enough to say two words to you." The lamp gave out. All was darkness.
Julian groaned in desperation and from the aching numbness of his leg.
Juan paused, "Shh!"
Julian fell silent, barely daring to breathe. They both listened carefully. There was the sound of rubble shifting in an unnatural way. Together they shouted, "Down here! Help!" The impromptu unison gave both men pause.
"Hello? Is someone alive in this mess?" A muffled new voice entered the conversation.
"Yes!" They both yelled. Spontaneously, the two men embraced. They both pulled away. A fine shaft of light penetrated the dust and debris. "Yes! You're getting closer!" The two men realized that this had united them in a way nothing else could have.
"If I turn myself in, confess to everything, do you promise you will make this company pay?"
"Juan, I am doing everything in my power. I have been for fifteen years."
"We weren't just almost friends you know. I have looked forward to each of our encounters," Juan admitted.
Rubble tumbled down from the point of light, "You guys hang in there! We're going to get you out of this mess."
The sound of hydrolic equipment and shovels covered everything, except, Julian saying, "Me too."