Twenty two years ago, a boy was born to a pair of addicts in a dingy apartment. Luca, he was later named, lived out his meager existence as a part of a low-income neighborhood in Oakland, California. Windows were barred, unregistered guns were hidden under pillows or in drawers, and knives and bats sat beside front doors in anticipation of intruders. Children looked four ways as they crossed the street - right, left, and twice behind them.
As this spawn of drug abuse grew, he blossomed into a vulgar and opportunistic leech. A foundation of anxiety, intelligence and shy curiosity was hidden away beneath an acetic demeanor and a plethora of bruises and cuts. His relationship with his mother waned as he aged - and he had no relationship with his father, beyond one-on-one conversations with the belt and the buckle.
In elementary school, he was the ‘troubled’ child. The marks of abuse were clear, but never reported. As more dotted his young flesh each day, they grew to be the norm, almost unnoticed beyond any particularly tender bruises.
In junior high, he found himself becoming the bully with a righteous mind - he targeted the unwise children who brought their parents’ cigarettes to school, bloodying his ‘rebellious’ classmates and stomping their substance conquests into the blacktop.
High school brought only more rage and disdain for addicts. Entire cliques centered around drug use - entire cliques scattered as the self-righteous boy marched toward them. Crackheads, heroin addicts and potheads were all the same, and learned Luca’s name well. Beatings were loosed upon them with the same lack of restraint his own father afforded him. This cultivated violence and anger came to a head one night, during Luca’s senior year. His father came home drunk and particularly enraged - with a bottle in hand, began laying a nasty beating on Luca. The boy mustered the courage to fight back, and found a knife in his grasp.
The wheels had been set in motion.
In and out the blade plunged, until the mass of drug-addled flesh lay still on the floor. It was almost rhythmic, almost automatic. Gasping for air, the boy stepped back, gazing upon his handiwork, and fled.
It wasn’t long before he was arrested - and even sooner he was found innocent, acting in self defense.
This innocence lasted only until the vile man was halfway through his 21st year. Homelessness allowed him to adapt to hunger, cold, and filth, but also left him bitter and exhausted. Begging struck a blow to the last of his pride, and he still held a hatred for drug use.
He took no issue with armed robbery, however.
Before he knew what was happening, he found his legs carrying him away, bloodied knife in hand. Something had gone horribly wrong - something he didn’t remember, past the adrenaline and terror. Forward he ran, ever running westward. As the thrill wore off, he felt the burning in his lungs. West, west - further west, to board a cargo ship. Further west to his freedom - west to his escape.
Further west, toward his damnation.
Several months later, Luca toiled away. He understood no one, beyond the broken English spoken by his landlord, his boss and the odd neighbor or two. Thankfully, factory work didn’t take a linguist - fit these two pieces together, put it back down, and off to the next. This agonizing monotony continued for what felt like an eternity.
It was a comfortable eternity, however - a safe eternity. An eternity that ended soon before Luca’s twenty-second year on Earth - that ended when the filthy denizens of Hell clawed their way upward. Panic and confusion were clear on every Chernarussian’s face around him.
Luca’s confusion was only enhanced by the cries and gibberish everyone around him uttered. As was natural, he shut himself away. The screaming rose and fell in frequency and volume over the next few weeks, only to be replaced by a low rumble. As it grew louder, a distinctly American voice flooded out from a loudspeaker into Luca’s barricaded apartment.
Luca scrambled outside, pushing civilians out of the way as he bolted toward a convoy of armored vehicles lumbering down the road. People flooded inside, and before he knew it, they began closing their rear doors.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
The metallic thuds grew more painful and more worrying as they drew on. One, two, three vehicles were locked. One remained - one chance at rescue.
Two foreigners boarded the slow-moving APC in front of him. An older man stood between Luca and his escape - in a blur, the man was laid on the ground, unconscious. Luca scrambled inside, and watched in near glee as the doors shut behind him.
He exhaled in momentary relief, and cradled his sore fist in his other hand.