They had a nickname for us. It wasn't a particularly good nickname, but we accepted it. The other kids called us the Abandoned. We were the group of children who sneak out at night to do God knows what. It wasn't long before we found our base of operations. The abandoned apartment building. Ever since we've been called the Abandoned. It was the perfect hideout, to escape adults and the problems they gave. Sometimes we were just rebelling against the curfew, but other times we just needed a place to be really alone. There were plenty of rooms in that building.
The building wasn't even finished by the time money ran out. Concrete walls, now windows and very few doors. To us, it was perfect. The artists of the group would save up their money to buy spray paint cans and decorate the main rooms we spent all our time. Some were large pictures; others were possible logos for our 'Abandoned Crew'. We reveled in the pseudo-comradery, but just enjoyed the feeling of belonging to something. It was a wonderful irony to our name.
Some of us were more constructive. We could turn an ordinary pile of wood into a chair, or a table, or anything we needed really. The building began to look more and more like a place to spend our time. Then there was Ryan. Ryan was our 'leader', but he was more of a dictator. Needles to say he was downside of our little operation. He tended to throw orders around for the sake of annoying us, but unfortunately he was the biggest and oldest of the group. Not much a bunch of wimpy, skinny kids can do against Ryan the Rhino.
Sometimes Ryan gave unnecessary orders that we were going to do whether he told us to do or not. It gave him a sense of power when we actually did what he told us to do. I built makeshift windows that didn't have any glass. I would use different colored plastic to create panes, but it wasn't enough. There was always something he wanted added to his own space. He had the best looking door, the well-made furniture and most of our comics.
Ryan wanted pictures of his favourite cartoon characters in his room. He would shout at the artists that he was once friends with to create these personalized murals. We went along with it however. It was far easier to do as he asked. Despite all this we still called him a friend, but if we were smarter back then; we would just admit that we were using him too. Nothing quite beats having a bully on your side. When there were other kids that would make fun of us he would step forward and make them eat their words. It was terrible looking back on it, perhaps we were the bad people, but at the time it gave us confidence.
When we had done all we could do for Ryan he would fall silent and the abandoned building became quiet again. We saw less of Ryan, but it didn't bother us. It gave us time to work on projects for the rest of us. We now focused on lighting. The building had a certain charm to it when it was lit by the sun, but at night it was a confusing maze. We couldn't go all out with a generator and LED light bulbs. We didn't have the money for that. We were teenagers and most of us would spend every bit of money we made on comics before even considering saving. Today those comics would be worth a fortune if Ryan didn't throw them around the building after reading them like a used rag.
However, lighting was the problem we had to deal with and there was a quiet girl in our group who came up with the answer. We bought as many candles as we could, but then we just took them from our homes. We couldn't light the whole building, but we could light our rooms. Soon we finished the projects and the building became a second home. We would spend our time talking, reading and playing dumb games. That was when Ryan changed everything. Something in his mind flipped a switch and whatever pent up aggression he had seemed to make itself present.
We heard strange sounds one night. It was on the floor below ours. We all looked at each other and climbed down the stairs. We were teenagers, but we were terrified. The sounds became louder and we soon realized it was the sound of fighting. We found Ryan and a bunch of the older kids from school fighting among one another. We ran up to Ryan and asked him what was going on. Why were there other kids in the building and why they were all fighting?
He explained that he was turning the Abandoned building into an underground fighting ring. He knew the older guys would like to throw a few punches, create a few bruises and maybe make some money from it too. Ryan was rather entrepreneurial about it though, he would charge them each a dollar to take part in the fighting. He realized there was only so much we could do with a pile of wood and decided to use the money to kit out his room. He had plans for wallpaper, carpeting, more comics and anything else that could make his time more enjoyable, as if he didn't get enough kicks out of working us like dogs.
We were all shocked at we saw and heard. He had been planning this for nearly a week and we only found out now. That night was opening night for his fight club, but it was also closing night. The older kids were strong and just as aggressive as Ryan, perhaps more, they didn't spare any hit. Eventually the inevitable happened, we heard a sickening crack and fleshy thump as a guy hit the ground. He wasn't getting up and he wouldn't be. The rest of the group and I realized what had happened while the rest of the older guys just stared. The artists ran to the police and the builders and I ran to the hospital. We took action while Ryan panicked.
That was the last day we saw many of the older kids. We had stopped talking to Ryan and avoided him. We returned to our second home only once to collect our things, passing by a white chalk outline of the teenager. Other kids told us that we could always go back to it, our haven, our place, but it was tainted, cursed by the events of that night. We could not return and we never did. I never saw Ryan's face again until I watched the news last night. First the news caster showed the building at which the suicide took place, then a picture of the man that hung himself. I knew that address, I knew that face. Ryan returned to the apartment building and decided it would be the last place he saw. Something’s you will carry throughout your life and I believe Ryan carried the blame that belonged to the kid that threw the fatal punch, not him. We abandoned him just like his parents and with nobody to turn to, he turned to the rope. I know carry that blame and I will carry it to my last day.