Stepping outside, I saw that the whole complex was suffering from the outage. Everything was half-shadowed, the only light source being the ever-dimming orange glow of the sky.

“Man, what the fuck!” Pharaoh came out of his room a few seconds after I had come out of mine. “I can’t see shit.”

“I think it’s an outage.”

“Makis better fix this shit fast. I swear to—” Whatever Pharaoh was saying, it was cut off by a loud shriek coming from below. “Uh-uh, no way.”

As my feet took me down the stairs, Pharaoh’s took him back into his room. As I got closer and closer to the source of the screams, they started to sound more like cries, and they were coming from the manager’s office at the front of the complex. Rounding the corner, past the LED welcome sign, past the flagpole, and into the parking lot which led to the manager’s office, I began to recognize the voice. It was Mrs. Rodriguez. She was speaking in Spanish. Shame I didn’t pay attention during those classes.

Door ajar, I stepped inside and looked across the room. Five people, all in shadows. One, a man, was kneeling on the floor and holding his head. Three figures stood above him. They were holding what looked like miniature baseball bats in their hands. Mrs. Rodriguez, the only figure I could recognize, was in the corner and shouting words I didn’t recognize at the men whose faces I couldn’t make out. It didn’t take me long to realize the one on the floor was Makis.

“Who are you?” the tallest figure asked while pointing his club in my direction.

“A guy who lives here. Who the fuck are you?”

“A guy, huh? Well you stuck your head in here so now you’re going to help me, because this pathetic little man on the floor wouldn’t. Which room does Maybelline live in?”


“The slut, the whore! Where does this cunt live? And who is William Watkins? This fool won’t say.”

I was hoping on waking up from a bad dream right about then. I had covered my tracks as far as I could tell. Even used a fake name when I registered the card. “Maybelline, uh, I don’t know her. Will, though, he-uh, lives a few doors down from me. Maybe Maybelline is his girlfriend? Sometimes he has a girl over.”

The shadowed men were silent.

“I can show you the way.”

“Don’t go with them—” Makis was doing his best to be a man, but a swift kick to the gut put him out of commission midway through his sentence.

My goal was to get these assholes away from him and Mrs. Rodriguez. If that meant taking them on a hunt for a girl that didn’t exist and pretending that I wasn’t the guy they were looking for, fine.

“Mahkmud, stay with the whore and the greasy pig. Don’t let them call anyone, don’t let them speak at all. You don’t need to listen to their lies,” spoke the tall figure.

As I led him and one of his thugs out of the office and towards the apartments, I got a better look at them. They were both Arabs, and while the thug was dressed in a Puma tracksuit that made him look like your typical bargain bin thug, the leader was dressed in a classy white wool suit that contrasted his brown skin and thick black beard. Hanging on the tip of his nose were circular eyeglasses, and resting on the top of his head was a rounded and intricately weaved white skullcap. It didn’t take me long to deduce that the suited man was Khalil’s brother, Ali.

“So, uh, why are you looking for this girl?”

“She has committed a grave crime.”

“You don’t look like a cop.”

“There are greater laws than those of this degenerate land.”

“You’re not a cop, though.”


It was the longest walk of my life, leading two men who wanted to kill me towards my room. I had never been good at thinking on my feet. Sitting in a comfortable chair, in a dark room, with a computer at my fingertips, I could do just about anything I wanted to. But out in the real world? I was a fucking loser. I dropped out of college and then I dropped out of life. Wasting away in my own filth, I thought I’d escaped reality. I thought I’d escaped consequences.

With each step up the stairs, my heart beat one pace faster, and my blood got one degree hotter. Walking down the balcony towards my room, I examined all my options, trying to MacGyver my way out of the situation. All I could come up with was jumping off the balcony and into the pool. Not exactly up-to-par with turning a stick of chewing gum into a bomb. Immediately following the conception of that genius plan, mental images of me being savagely beaten as I tried to crawl out of the water played through my head. Right as I gave up hope, and considered just admitting who I was and trying to reason with them, my mind gave me another idea.

I didn’t stop at 209. I went down to 213. “This is it. Will’s room. But before you go knocking down any doors, I gotta tell you: you may wanna pretend to be a cop.” If Pharaoh thought the cops were at his door, he’d be sure to get his camera out and I thought that might deter them from any serious violence.

“Why is that?”

“Well, Will has got a gun and he’s a little bit paranoid. I see you two brought some miniature baseball bats—“

“Cricket bats, not baseball.” The thug corrected me.

“Sure, but gun versus cockroach bat or whatever insect bat you’ve got, gun is gonna win. So you probably wanna figure out a way to ensure he doesn’t bring his gun with him. Maybe you should just come back another time, like tomorrow or—”

“Do not worry.” Ali reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a Beretta Nano. “I have a gun, too. One of the positives about this country: we are all equal here.”

“Oh, uh, yeah…” I had just brought two armed and angry Arabs to Pharaoh’s door, and truth be told, he did not have a gun. I wasn’t sure how I could’ve possibly made the situation any worse. “Great.”

Ali banged on the door and there was no reply. It was nearly pitch-black; the sun had set. I started to think the best option would be to get ahold of the police. Unfortunately, my phone was in my apartment, and Pharaoh only had a landline which would be dead from the outage. You’d think a neighbor would’ve already called someone, but there isn’t much community solidarity when half the people living in the building are in the country illegally.

“Will, is that you? Who the fuck is slamming on my door!?” Pharaoh yelled without coming out.

That was it, they knew. Even in the dark I could feel their eyes on me, and as I jumped onto the balcony railway with my right leg, I heard the swishing sounds of their bats and then the yelp of Ali as he was hit. With both feet on the railway, I jumped towards one of the trees and wrapped my arms around it. Sliding down, I could feel the skin on my hands and arms being cut open by the rough bark. Reaching the concrete, I nearly slipped and fell into the pool but managed to steady myself and run outside towards the office.

Grabbing a fire extinguisher from the hallway, I heard Ali screaming orders in Arabic, and then one set of footsteps coming down the stairs. Not waiting to see who it was, I continued towards the office.

As I stepped inside, Mahkmoud asked who it was. I replied with a burst of fluid from the extinguisher. Crying out while he twisted and turned, I used the red cylinder in my hands like a battering ram against his skull. Then I closed the door and pushed a bookshelf in front of it before the next guy could arrive.

“What’s going on!?” asked Rodriguez. She seemed to be holding Makis to her chest like a baby. In less hectic times, I’d have envied him.

“Well, they kind of want to kill me. So maybe you could call 911 or something.”

The bangs of someone trying to open the office door and then throwing themselves against it echoed in the tiny room.

“Oh God, oh God,” she whined while pulling out her phone and dialing.

Then there were three much louder bangs as a gun went off outside. One round came through the door and shattered a cactus pot.

“Makis, is there another way out of here?”

Makis, despite his pain, managed to come through with an answer I was glad to hear. “Yuh…yes. The bathroom in the back, it has a…a window.”

As Rodriguez yelled through the phone at the 911 operator, screaming for them to send the police, I picked up the bat laying on the floor and went towards the bathroom. The window was a square, and if I was only a little bit bigger, I would’ve gotten stuck. But after breaking the toilet seat to climb up there, I slipped right out of it and onto the asphalt.

Running back towards the apartments, I could hear Ali continue his unintelligible rant. Now, the entire complex was paying attention. People were poking their heads out and asking what was going on in at least a dozen different languages.

I got up the stairs and on the balcony just in time to hear Pharaoh swinging and hacking and yelling at the guy in the tracksuit. “You call that a bat? This is a bat, motherfucker!” The track suit thug was no longer an issue, now it was just Ali.

Another gunshot, coming from the parking lot, preceded the other tenets returning to the their rooms and locking their doors.

“Where are they?! Where is this lying swine, and where is the slut!? Where is Maybelline, where is Will? My brother, my innocent brother was tempted and deceived by this dirty whore, by this filthy bitch! This is an unjust land, an unjust people. You sicken me! You disgust me! No decency, no shame, no honor!”

As Ali continued his little performance down by the pool, loud enough for everyone to hear, I dropped the bat and went into my room to grab something for him.

“I come to this country, I start a business that is worldwide! I add value to this worthless shopping mall culture. What do I get? I get called a raghead! By who? By inbred degenerates and kaffirs on welfare! Worthless pigs who aren’t even fit to clean my floors look at my wife and snicker! They undress her with their eyes, and then they question why I cover her? Why she covers herself!? How dare they, I demand justice, I demand respect! I demand—”

Holding the old CTR monitor above my head and standing at the edge of the balcony, I cut him off, “This is America, man! We make porn and superhero movies! You came to the wrong fucking country for respect.” Sending the clunky thing sailing down, I heard it make contact with Ali’s head, but not before he got off one last shot.

The bullet clipped me in the knee. I fell on my back and cried. Call me a pussy, fine, but I’d like to see you be stoic in a situation like that. Pissing myself, I felt the urine drip down my leg, enter the wound, and mix with blood. I couldn’t move. I could only scream, cry, and keep on pissing myself. It wasn’t a good look.

Pharaoh kneeled down to help me. He grasped my hand, telling me, “You’re gonna make it, Will.” Only to notice the pool of piss forming and to quickly jump back. “Woah, that’s some nasty shit.”

A few moments later, I heard the police sirens. Soon, the blues and reds of their lights were dancing off the stucco walls of the Orange Palm. As I was carted into an EMT van, I watched Pharaoh talk to a reporter. He was still dressed in his kimono and was now wearing a wide smile across his face as he bragged about taking on what he believed to be a terrorist.

The van doors slammed shut, the engine went on, and the rhythm of the road rocked me to sleep.


“How did it feel?” asked Artie. We were in my apartment, him leaning against a wall, and me in a wheelchair.

“You know in a movie when someone gets shot, and then they keep on fighting?”


“Well, imagine that, and then imagine the complete opposite of that.” I winced. It still hurt like hell. “How’s the new job?”

“It’s the most boring shit in the world, dude. I’m getting nostalgic for delivering food. Not even joking. The money’s good, but I don’t know. I feel like I’m still just killing time. So, you learn your lesson?”


“The universe was warning you to stop doing what you were doing. You could’ve died. That’s a life lesson. Karma, dude.”

“It wasn’t karma, Artie. It wasn’t the fucking universe. It was cause and effect. Because I wasn’t smart enough to realize that even though I used a fake name for the credit card, I was getting stuff delivered to me, and I was using Ali-Way. Which was started by none other than Khalil’s brother. I was stupid, I fucked up, and then this happened. No karma involved. Just a bunch of 21st century bullshit.”

“You have no idea what the word karma actually means, do you?”


“Forget about it; I forgot I was talking to a dropout. So, Ali-Way? That’s like an Etsy for stuff made in third-world sweatshops, right? What the fuck did you buy from them?”

I groaned and dug out my custom blue baseball cap from under a pile of clothes, tossing it to Artie.

He squinted and read the words, “Make California Comfy Again.” He cringed. “What is this shit?”

“It’s my custom hat. Designed it myself; they had that feature.”

“Make California comfy again, huh?” He muttered more insults under his breath. “So how would you do that, dude?”

“Well, first I’d suggest we order some Chinese food.” I pulled out my cellphone and started dialing. “Next, I’d wait for a nice young girl to get here with our order.” Pulling out the remote for a newly purchased television, I continued, “Then, once she arrives, we could enjoy the company of friends, some fine food, and a pirated flick. Is there anything in this world better than that?”

He was silent for a moment, looking out the window at a yoga lesson that was underway. “I guess not. But you need to remember something.”

“What’s that?”

“To order some fucking drinks, dude. I’m not drinking out of the tap again. I don’t trust it.”

I laughed. “Okay, I can do that.”


For all installments of “Cyber Punk,” click here.

  1. Disc 1
  2. Disc 2