“Keep Shilo safe…” Marni’s final exhale is barely noticeable over the screams of the newborn. But Nathan heard. He heard.
There’s bile catching on the back of his teeth as he retches painfully into the toilet. It’s been three years since his wife’s death, three years under the thumb of Rotti, three years of gore and lies and death.
He still purges every night. After he cleans himself off, the horrors of the night catch up with him and his stomach rebels, sending him sprawling to the toilet just like the night before. And the night before. And the night before. And the night-
There’s a rasping noise close to his ear, like a fly beating its body against the walls of a house. And the pressure of a thick hand against his mouth, smothering his screams.
“Shhh,” a man says again, pressing harder. Nathan quiets and looks up at his new Keeper. Rotti stares back down, false pity barely covering the contempt in his eyes. “You’re a monster,” he whispers into Nathan’s ear, “and I’m going to make sure you never forget it.”
The grief stricken man swallows down a sob as he’s dragged away from his mutilated wife and his squalling child.
Keep Shilo safe, keep Shilo safe, keep Shilo safe
He has to make himself like it. He has to make it into a game. With every warm slice he makes himself grin, makes himself laugh, makes himself feel like he isn’t hollowed out inside, isn’t disgusted by his work. If he didn’t surely he would kill himself. And who would be there for Shilo? He needed to keep her safe, keep her away from the horrors of the street. Horrors like him.
A man screams. Nathan screams back as he tears into the flesh, ripping organs out without care. There’s only one in there that needs to be spared.
A woman tries to crawl away and Nathan kicks her in the gut. He pretends the thrill of satisfaction he feels is a figment of his imagination. After all, he is only pretending to like it.
His judge, his jury, his executioner.
Rotti stands before him, the only other occupant in the room, sneering down at the slumping form kneeling on the tiled floor.
There’s a rustle of paper.
“It says here that you have an organ from GeneCo. A stomach?” The heavy set man feigns disinterest, but his clammy hands clench the papers with ill hidden excitement.
Nathan nods pitifully. The organ in question churns with nervousness. It doesn’t want to be parted from the body, not after being there for so long. Rotti is staring at Nathan’s gut like he would like nothing more than to rip it out.
“Well, because you killed your wife, your medical license has been revoked, of course. How will you maintain your payments Mr. Wallace? How will you pay me back?”
“I can manage.”
“Not from prison you can’t. And what will happen to that precious daughter of yours? What’s her name? Shilo? She has no living relatives, so she’ll have to be sent to foster care.” Rotti pauses and lets his statement sink in.
Keep Shilo safe, keep her safe, keep Shilo safe, Keep Her-
“Please, no,” Nathan cries. “That’s a death sentence. They’ll rip her apart. They’ll sell her organs on the black market.” Nathan has tears streaming down his face. He had just barely managed to save the child. To have her doomed so quickly is like a stab to his already broken heart. The businessman gives nothing away. His face is like stone... waiting. Waiting for-
“Please, I’ll do anything.”
Rotti’s face breaks out into a grin.
Years of vomiting his stresses into the toilet finally catches up with Nathan. And while he swore to himself that he wouldn’t put himself more under Largo’s thumb, he needs a new esophagus.
Rotti laughs at him when he submits a request for the organ.
“I already own you, Wallace. What more can you give me?”
Nathan barely has enough spirit in him to continue on living. He kicks himself for being so weak. What does a pathetic excuse for a man like him have to offer to a rich man like Largo?
Nathan’s face pinches in anger and shame but he agrees. He signs the dotted line.
How is he going to explain to Shilo that he needed to shave her head to pay his debts? That a man like Largo wants her hair because it is so similar Marni’s?
He feels sick. But he needs the organ to continue the job. To continue providing for his daughter. To keep her safe.
The first time he gets aroused while mutilating a screaming victim he freezes. The still alive man kicks him in the shin and manages to wriggle away and disappear into the night.
“No, no!” Nathan howls into the grim night. His shrill cries go unanswered, no one dares to approach him. He stumbles to the side, his suit becoming a prison. The killer rips off his mask and barely manages to avoid his shoes when he loses his lunch.
He’s done. He cannot continue. He is turning into a monster, something that isn’t suited to be a father to his child.
He’s dragged out of his house by GeneCo security three days later, convulsing. They aren’t gentle. They use the electric prod more than strictly necessary. They hold it against his skin until it starts to smell like cooking meat.
He hears a muffled cry from in the house.
“Shi, don’t look,” he croaks as loudly as he can manage. He hears socked footsteps running up the stairs and breathes a sigh of relief.
Keep Shilo Safe.
“Don’t forget who you belong to,” his Keeper spits at him hours later. Nathan manages a nod. He’s having trouble focusing. His nerves are on fire, his muscles are twitching, his thoughts disjointed and sluggish. His face is bruised almost beyond recognition.
Keep Shilo Safe.
“Get out of my sight,” Rotti sneers at the man, before turning away.
Nathan slowly gets to his feet. He needs to be strong. He needs to continue his work if he wants to keep his daughter alive.
He needs to be the Repo Man. He needs to be the monster who gets off on gore, who revels in the pain and blood. But he will never let Shilo see that part of him. For her, he will be Nathan. Only Nathan. The Repo Man will never lay a hand on her.
Shilo squints in the darkness of her room, her world. It is the middle of the night, a quick glance at her clock confirms the lateness of the hour.
There’s a sound nearby.
A deceptively strong hand grips her shoulder out of nowhere and the young girl stifles a scream.
“Shi, Shilo it’s just me, please be quiet,” a rough voice pleads from somewhere to her left. Shilo nods obediently and turns towards the voice.
“Shilo, you must promise me. You must promise me, if you ever see a Repo Man, you run. Run.”
Shilo’s heart is beating a mile a minute, and a small bead of sweat trickles down her neck. She feels like a trapped animal but she can’t understand why.
The hand tightens. “Shilo.”
“Yes,” she whispers. “Yes dad.”
There’s a small exhale. Shilo remains frozen in her bed, waiting. Waiting for something, anything. An explanation.
There’s a shuffling noise and the pressure is gone from her shoulder.
The empty room does not reply.
“Why can’t I go out dad?” the teenager shouts. She’s defiant, restless. Nathan can hardly blame her, but he’s already pushed to his limit for the day. For the week. For the year.
“You can’t Shilo, you just can’t. It isn’t safe.”
He thinks of what he’s protecting her from. Men like Luigi Largo who fuck anything that seems weaker than them. Scum worse than graverobbers, keeping hoards of living people chained in warehouses to harvest cheap, knockoff Zydrate from over and over until they’re sucked dry. People like him, who rip organs out of living tissue and hand it over to GeneCo. Monsters. He turns to leave her room but freezes when he hears his daughter mutter to herself.
“I hate you.”
Something in him shatters.
Keep her safe, Keep Shilo, Keep Shilo, Keep Her, Keep
His wife is bleeding from every orifice, there’s so much blood everywhere. Her eyes are cold and dead like a doll’s, staring at him and accusing him.
“Please Marni, I didn’t mean to,” he cries, but it’s too late. His wife is dead and it’s his fault, and there’s blood everywhere-
He wakes up screaming.
Slice. Laugh. Screaming.
Repossess. He is the Repo Man.
Vomit. Shower. Crying.
Guilt. He is Nathan.
Keep Shilo Safe.
He is barely a man; he is two broken halves that can no longer be called the same person. He is Nathan, and he is the Repo Man.
I’m sorry. Everything I do, I do to protect you.
It is not safe outside. Don’t you see? There are monsters around every corner. There is sickness and poverty and sewage and carnage. I’m just protecting you.
Your organs haven’t failed. You haven’t caught the virus, or whatever it is that causes the illness. You are healthy and safe.
He burns the letter like the dozens he has written before.
The first time he kills, he does a sloppy job. The organ is damaged beyond repair because he couldn’t make the woman stop moving. His hands had been shaking.
Rotti was not pleased, and he made sure Nathan knew it.
The third person he kills, he manages to salvage the organ.
The twentieth, he can pretend that he feels nothing for the worm squirming beneath his knife.
By the time he reaches one hundred, it isn’t so hard to pretend.
The Repo Man is snarling and rabid. He’s out for blood. For the first time, Nathan welcomes the rage and enthusiasm that comes from his darker side. He wants Rotti to pay.
How dare he trick his Shilo into leaving? Going outside, where it isn’t safe, where she could die, where she could leave him.
When Shilo looks him in the eye, tied to the chair, her legs move on their own. Some half forgotten instinct is making her tense, making her back away from whatever is inhabiting her father’s body.
“I killed her, you stupid son of a bitch!” Rotti crows. Shilo doesn’t understand what’s happening, but the Repo Man’s answering scream chills her to the bone. She starts to shake as her father stills his struggling and grins coldly at the businessman. He doesn’t look at her and she’s not sure if it makes it better or worse.
“Shilo,” he growls, and it sounds so different from the father she knows that she wants to crawl out of her skin. But she is ever dutiful, even after rebelling and running away. In her core she always wants to please her father.
“Yes dad?” her voice quavers. She can feel her heart beating a million miles a minute, like so many years before. A half remembered dream.
“What do you do if you ever see a Repo Man?” He still isn’t looking at her, still grinning wolfishly at Rotti. Rotti is moving towards the Repo Man, brandishing an electric prod. The older man doesn’t seem to notice how the Repo Man is slowly loosening his bonds, doesn't seem to notice what kind of danger he is in.
“Shilo,” he states again, simply. And for a second, she could hear her father, not the Repo Man.
And then the screaming starts. The sound of snapping bones and blood spatter and a laugh that sounds so much like the man who raised her but isn’t.
She runs, and she doesn’t look back.