Chapter 8: Inevitable
Life became a blur.
Nino never saw Rivaldo again, they didn’t share a seat during the court case nor did Rivaldo even show up back at the school. Rita, likewise, did not show at their house again.
It would only be months later that Nino would learn Aiko, his mother, was still contact with Rita. And it would only be years later that Nino would see Rivaldo again.
Until that day, life was a blur. Nino had indeed the ability to be a good student. A respectful and obedient son and he had not lacked motivation when it came to his mother. The sight of her after his days in prison, distressed and in a personal upheaval that he had never witnessed, had scarred Nino in a weird way.
In fact, it made him feel even worse than what the policemen accomplished, in that alleyway of destiny, where his and Rivaldo’s life had been allowed to continue, and their pursuers’ had not.
Nino did not want to see Aiko like that ever again, and that motivated him to stay out of trouble which, much as it was hard to admit, was far too easy. Easier than it had ever been.
For different reasons, albeit still sad ones, Rivaldo’s absence was truly impactful in the way everything stabilized and became safe for Nino.
Boring and uninteresting and unimportant.
For Nino had other abilities, abilities that would have otherwise gone undiscovered, had he got his whole life living as in those two years. Nino’s ability to keep a cool head in situations of great stress and danger would have brought no attention upon itself. His strong stomach would have, at best, be a sign that Nino could put his studying proficiency to good use as a doctor of some kind.
Had things always occurred as they had in those follow years, perhaps they wouldn’t have felt so empty. So devoid of meaning and impact.
Grades. Parties. Soccer games, watching and playing. Video games, movies, none of them added anything and none of them impacted anyone.
Nino threw himself at relationships. He was especially interested in getting in the middle of that of others; chatting up the girl until she was enamored with him enough to experience sexual relations, sometimes without telling the boyfriend.
It was the one behavior Nino had that contained any thrill to it and wasn’t a hundred percent abhorred by his parents, who justified it on his age and teenage flair.
However, Nino realized he was just doing it for the danger when he was attacked the first time. The exhilaration quickly exhausted itself in the few seconds it took Nino to drop the attacker, knocking him unconscious.
It wasn’t the same thing. And now unable to lie to himself, knowing he was pursuing relationships for the sake of breaking them, he felt too ashamed to continue.
His mother would be heartbroken.
Nino did not feel a darkness inside him. He had no desire to kill or hurt anyone, but that day, however distant and intangible, had stuck to him impressions that had become a stronghold in his heart.
He had skipped a few steps, Nino knew. There was the playground scuffle, fighting back against a mugger, the soccer match brawl involving a knife somewhere, and then came steps D through L or something, and after all those, came shooting five people dead.
Nino never talked to anyone about it. His father didn’t want to hear it, his mother wouldn’t like to hear it, and Bruno and his other friends didn’t believe what they heard, not that Nino had described any feelings to them.
“The thing that surprised me the most was the look on their faces. I didn’t see the first couple of them, but the others…it’s not like they’re angry. They don’t scowl from beyond the grave, they’re not smiling or even crying, it’s just this…surprise. This shock.”
Nino paused, looking up from the computer.
When all else fails, go to some anonymous forum board online and put it out there.
“Nobody’s expecting it, I think. Even when there’s so much pain, even when you get them right in the head, and they don’t even have time to think, the realization still hits them, and the brain reacts without personality or will, it just reacts. If there’s any tears it’s from the pain of dying, from the fear, because the moment they die, the expressions just flattens…surprised that it actually happened.”
Nino nodded at him, with the same easy smile he carried with him wherever he went. He knew for a fact he had only lost it that day, in the alley, when he had been robbed of any and all agency. It was funny how the lawmen had filled him with more dread and desperation than any mugger or criminal ever had.
“No matter how certain, I don’t think we ever accept we’re really dying. I think we’re always surprised.”
Nino submitted the comment and waited. He was in a thread of posts following someone who had posted “I am a professional assassin, and I have killed over thirty people, ask me anything.”
Obviously, it was probably false. Someone commented to Nino.
“Cool story, bro, any question in there?”
Nino chuckled and wrote, “I guess the question is: is it true? I’ve only killed five, and two by surprise, so I don’t know, that’s too small of a sample size.”
The supposed assassin never replied, and Nino was happy about it. In a weird way, he preferred that it was the case with everyone, and not just with the ones he had personally killed. That would make it worse.
Because that look of sudden, shocking realization on their faces had been all too real and, without question, relatable. That’s how Nino would look if the cops had killed him back in that alley, he was sure of it.
Time went by. He laughed, having fun enjoying a life more blessed than many, but Nino was haunted by that day and everything he had done. And not particularly in a bad way.
It had been nothing like in the movies, but it was still close to them, and his imagination, than his normal life. Going after bad guys for the sake of a friend, making sure they never mug or hurt anyone again.
“The thing is, that’s not exactly true,” Nino found himself writing on yet another day, on another forum. “I mean, I could always go be a vigilante, nothing’s stopping me. But I’m not going to put my life on the line for people I don’t know.”
“That’s screwed up, man,” said someone in reply, “if you care that much, you can like join a kind of town watch, make some citizen’s arrests, at least help out with small crimes.”
Nino laughed, that man was clearly from the northern part of the world.
“Where I live, even someone just stealing a pair of ten dollar sneakers is most likely packing a pistol,” Nino explained, shaking his head with a smile. “At the very least they’ll have a knife, and it’s not just for show, they will kill. So no, it’s not that simple.”
“Damn, that’s screwed up, where do you live? Africa?”
Haha, I wonder where this guy’s from, Nino thought to himself, in jest.
“Sure, why not? Anyways, as I was saying, I’m no hero. I know that much by now. But I also know I can put my life on the line, I even liked it, but I don’t want to now. That means there’s a reason.”
“Obviously, you’re gay for this friend of yours.”
Nino laughed again, not regretting taking part in these anonymous online forums at all. They were violent and super mean, but anonymity was a fantastic feeling.
“That might just be it.”
While Nino was pretty sure he wasn’t gay for Rivaldo, the statement still would hold true.
There was a movie the two watched one, and a particular scene that they idolized. The protagonist shows up at the house of a childhood friend he hadn’t seen in years. He tells him he needs his help immediately, he can’t tell him why or with what, but some people are going to get hurt.
His friend pauses for just a second before asking if they’re going to need a car.
That kind of loyalty and brotherhood was what the two had always looked up to, and always sought to foster. And it was, frankly, beyond morality and any sense of righteousness.
It was a scary thought, really. It’s a damning thing, for the real character of a person to be dragged into the light. But there comes a time in everybody’s life, if they’re lucky when that happens.
That one even where they are faced with a choice that puts everything on the line, the status quo of their everyday life and so much more, stating that things cannot continue both ways. A fork in their lives that forces them to go one way or another.
Nino’s father did his best to not let that day of shootouts and killing be that event for Nino. Did his very best throughout those two years to guarantee that they would indeed be several decades, if not a century, by keeping that choice away from Nino.
But for some, it is as inevitable as the rising of the sun.
Or in our case, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, or the chance meeting of two mothers, that decades later result in Rivaldo reaching out to the only man he can absolutely trust with everything in the world.
“Nino, I need your help. I can’t tell you why, I can’t tell you for what, but it’s dangerous, and people might get hurt.”
These are journal entries from the protagonist of the comic book Aegis Omega. If you’re not familiar with the story, I invite you to change that and read up on it:
Also consider checking out my Patreon. You can follow these updates weekly over there: