Explosions ripped through the building, regular pulsing detonations that grew louder and more deafening as he regained consciousness. His eyes remained shut as if to ward off the searing heat and blinding light. He was drenched in sweat and with each new explosion, he felt a wave of nausea ripple over him.

Matt rolled over to the side of his bed and, without opening his eyes, vomited into the bucket that he’d placed there for occasions just like this. The explosive percussion of his heartbeat quietened just a little, and though still drenched in the sweat of the terminally hung over, Matt felt as though he might just live through this one.

He tentatively reached out an arm, making sure not move any more than necessary, and fumbled around on his bedside table for his cigarettes. He knew that this would be achieved much more quickly if he opened his eyes to see where they actually were, but he knew that if he did, the god of morning-after-tequila would bash him over the head with a shovel.

With the cigarette successfully retrieved and lit, Matt decided it was time to defy the gods and open his eyes. The blinding whiteness of day flooded in, but he resisted the urge to vomit again. The nausea settled, and Matt lay staring at his alarm clock. The green numbers pulsed 12:00am at him. He was momentarily confused but then remembered that he had never bothered to set the time on his clock. He had figured that the combination of him being both unemployed and completely antisocial meant that there was really no point in knowing what time it was.

After what seemed like hours of it still being 12:00am, Matt sat up, and took stock of his surroundings. He was a little shocked to see that the room was remarkably tidy, with only an empty tequila bottle half embedded in the plaster of the opposite wall as any indication to the last nights proceedings. A massive flat screen tv almost covered another wall and, as per usual, it was on.

“Moontown FunFair” screamed the letters on the screen, through mute-button silence. A video montage of rollercoasters, and ferris wheels, and small children vomiting up half digested hot dogs after too many rides on the pirate ship, flashed up in front of Matt’s bloodshot eyes. Evil clowns waved huge bouquets of fairy floss at the camera, as the words “Come Along, It’s Totally Awesome” flashed up.

Matt thought for a moment, but the lure of something being totally awesome proved too much for his resolve, and completely out of character, he decided to go and check it out. He lit another cigarette and rolled out of bed, still fully clothed from the night before, shoes and all. He reached for his wallet and keys, and after four attempts, managed to pick them up. Then he pushed open the door, and stumbled out of the apartment.

 

 

Matt strolled through the alleys of the fun fair, a little frustrated that it wasn’t as ‘totally awesome’ as the television had led him to believe. The hotdogs had been pretty good, but with the packs of small children wandering around, looking pale and nauseated, he wondered how long it would be before he was inadvertently wearing one on his feet. He paused for one last look around, and decided it was time to leave while his shoes were still clean. Then, off to his left, he heard a familiar cracking sound. The shooting range! Memories of fun fair shooting ranges flooded back from his childhood, memories full of proud pats on the head, and the requisite fluffy toys that came with winning. Matt followed the sounds, and soon enough, found the stall that he was looking for.

The scrawny, pimply teenager in a fluorescent pink carnival shirt grimaced at Matt as he approached. Without a word, he handed Matt a rifle, and walked away from the stall. Matt watched him go, and as he did, he noticed that this part of the fair was completely deserted. Screams of terror and joy could be heard in the distance, but along this alley there was nobody. Matt shrugged, turned back to the stall, and took aim at the little yellow ducks as they swam jerkily along the rusted metal tracks.

CRACK! Ting! CRACK! Ting! Again and again, Matt knocked the tiny metallic water birds from their perch. The ducks started to move faster, but he still didn’t miss them. Faster and faster, until there was only a yellow blur screaming across the stall, but still, without fail, Matt hit every single one he was aiming for.  Then, as quickly as they had started, the ducks screeched to a halt, and Matt took out one last one before he ran out of ammo. The kid in the pink shirt appeared out of nowhere, handed him a folded piece of paper, and walked away again.

Matt was a bit puzzled by this turn of events. Normally that sort of shooting was rewarded with a giant pink elephant, or a bloated stuffed panda, or something to that effect. This was the first time Matt had ever won a piece of paper.  He turned it over in his hands a few times, just to build the suspense, and then opened it with a flourish. He read the contents, looked up to search for the pink clad teen, looked back down, and read it again. His brow furrowed as the remnants of the tequila blocked some of his neurons from firing, and he read it for a third time. Inexplicably, it was addressed to him, by name. It read “Matthew Duncan. Your services are required. Be at the Golden Duck Chinese Restaurant at 8pm sharp. Sit at table 13, and order the Honey Soy Shrimp.”

Matt looked around again, trying to figure out what was going on. Instinct told him to throw the note away, and just go home. Boredom told him to go get some Chinese food. Boredom, and curiosity, won the day. Matt checked his watch. Apparently it was 12:00am. Matt cursed his inability to set the time on any clock he owned, and hoped that it wasn’t yet 8pm. As he walked away from the fair, his instincts screamed at him to turn back and go home. He told his instincts to shut up.

 

 

The interior of the Golden Duck was resplendent in its red and gold paint and over abundance of paper lanterns. Waiters bustled around the almost packed restaurant in their high collared silk shirts, taking orders and bringing meals at breakneck speeds. One such waiter grabbed Matt by the sleeve, and all but dragged him to the last remaining table, which just so happened to be number 13. He placed his order as the note suggested and in the three seconds between him ordering his meal, and the meal arriving at his table, he glanced up at the clock on the wall. 8pm on the dot.

“Your complimentary fortune cookies, sir”

Matt watched the receeding back of the waiter who had paused only long enough to deliver the cookies and the mildly accented intonation. He gave a mental shrug and cracked one of the cookies open. Pulling the paper from inside he read “Get up, and leave via the kitchen. Don’t eat anything and don’t pay. Leave now. Go to locker 13c at Central Station. The combination is 39-92-13. Your lucky number is 6.” Matt thought that this information was just a little more specific than the general fortune cookie rubbish, but thanks to the lasting powers of tequila, didn’t really think much of it. He popped the fragments of cookie into his mouth, cracked open another, and pulled out the note. In a delightful blue cursive print were the words “Are you serious? A fortune cookie tells you to leave, and not eat, so what do you do? You stay, and eat the cookie. Get out right now! Your lucky number is 6”. Matt leaned back in his chair, at the same time shocked and hungry for more of those delicious cookies. As he rose from his chair, he picked up one more cookie. The note inside said “Matthew, you’re an idiot. Stop eating the damn cookies. Get out now!!! Your lucky number is still 6”

 

 

The locker bays of Central Station were deserted when Matt arrived at what his watch suggested was 12:00am. The huge Central Station clock begged to differ and held its hands at 8:45pm. Matt found his way to 13c, and with the combination provided, opened it. As the door opened, a faded green duffle bag slid out onto the floor with a raucous clatter. Pinned to the bag was another note. Matt wasn’t surprised. “Go to the men’s toilets on the second floor. Go into the third stall. Lock the door behind you. Do not open this bag until you get there.”

Matt paused briefly to consider listening to his instincts, which by now had formed a marching band and were letting off fireworks to get his attention. But he was, surprisingly, having quite a lot of fun with all these notes and cryptic directions, and it was the most he’d been out of the house in weeks, so he once again ignored his instincts. Flinging the bag over his shoulder, he headed towards the escalator to the second floor.

The toilets were empty. Matt pushed all the doors open to make sure. He stepped into the third stall and locked the door behind him. On the back of the door hung a tuxedo. On the obligatory note that was pinned to the tux were the words “Put this on, but leave the top button of the shirt undone, and the bowtie untied. No reason for this. It just looks very cool. Once you’re dressed, open the bag and follow the directions inside”. Matt changed into the suit, as instructed, and then opened the bag, which he’d placed on the closed toilet seat. Inside the bag was a huge pile of guns, ammo, grenades, some night vision glasses, a bullet proof vest, and for some reason, a tin of breath mints. Matt figured it was time to finally listen to his instincts. There was nothing, except the occasional sound of crickets, and a tin can bouncing along in the breeze. Matt shrugged, and pulled the next note out of the bag.

 

 

The line to get into Bar Victor wound around the block, but as per the note, Matt ignored the line and walked straight up to the bouncer. “Have the nuns arrived yet?” he asked. The bouncer shook his massive, shiny head, but stepped to the side and ushered Matt through the door. Once inside he made his way to the bar and ordered a shot of tequila. There had been no mention of this in the note, but Matt figured he would need it, now that his instincts had abandoned him. He drained it, then took the breath mints out of the bag. He shook the tin lightly, until two mints fell out onto his open palm. He checked his watch, realised it still wasn’t 12:00am, and looked up at the clock behind the bar. 10:30pm.

A figure moved from the crowd towards Matt. The lady in red that the note had foretold of. She reached Matt, and took one of the breath mints from his hand. She put it in her mouth and motioned for him to do the same. Then she leaned forward and kissed him, at the same time, slipping a hand into his pocket. Matt knew that when she left there would be a note waiting there. She pulled away, kissed her fingertips, touched him lightly on the cheek, and walked away. Matt picked up his bag, and left the bar.

Matt knew instinctively that this would be the last note. Well, not really instinctively. He knew it mostly because the note started with the words “This will be your last note”. The note then went on to give an address. That was all. Nothing more. No directions, no explanations. Just an address. And because Matt still had nothing better to do, he hailed a taxi and went where the note told him.

 

 

Deep in the heart of the industrial district, Matt threw a hundred dollars on the front seat of the cab, and told the driver to keep the change. He got out, and started walking towards the darkened warehouse that was his destination. He found a small side door, and was surprised to see another note.

“Get the guns out of the bag. Strap on the vest. Kick down the door and start shooting”

Matt took the guns from the bag, strapped on the bulletproof vest, put the night vision goggles on his head, and attached some grenades to his belt. He picked up the guns, and just before he kicked down the door, he glanced at his watch.  It told the right time.