He had run out of sacrifices. Andre Roberts had been sent to the pit, he knew, Eric Weems had been presented the world as a free agent and then plunged into the dark fires, and Dan Quinn had sternly drawn the line at Damontae Kazee. Keith Armstrong could not believe that it would end this way, with Quinn selecting a young defensive back over him, but he knew it to be true.
That was why he was frantically packing his bag on this Tuesday morning. Into a duffel bag went his picture of Devin Hester in a floral frame, his “You’re Not Good Enough to be an Asshole” quilted pillow, his 32 identical Falcons collared short-sleeve shirts. The only thing he would leave behind were memories of his long and distinguished service for these Atlanta Falcons. Perhaps, with time in Costa Rica, he would be forgiven.
He was so intent on his packing that he did not notice the figure at the door until it spoke to him.
“Going somewhere, Keith?” Dan Quinn said.
Armstrong turned slowly and fearfully to face the head coach. Quinn looked thinner than he had earlier in the year, his eyes an odd shade of red, his form concealed in a flowing robe.
“Just...just packing,” Armstrong said. “For California, of course. The Rams! The Rams are coming.”
“Perhaps you meant the lamb,” Quinn answered, his gaze steady. “They will yield before us as a sacrificial lamb. You and I know something about sacrifice, do we not, Keith? And we know who is accountable for all of these penalties, these poor returns, these mistakes.”
Armstrong looked at his throw pillow. It spoke to him now, as it ever did.
“I know exactly what you mean,” Armstrong said, standing up straight. “And it’s wrong, Dan, what we’ve done. Failure is a part of life, and we’ve been treating it as though it is doom, all to send a message we don’t even dare speak out loud. Also, at some point, I’m going to have Ty Sambrailo returning kicks, and what then. What then?”
Quinn slumped a little at the doorway.
“You know that we can’t stop now, Keith. Think of what would happen if we did not make these sacrifices. Think about the number of butt-based interceptions we would suffer if not for the Great Metal Falcon’s benevolence. Think about what would happen to me,” Quinn said, his voice rising.
Armstrong had heard enough. He slung the duffel bag over his shoulder and stood toe-to-toe with Quinn.
“I won’t be a part of this, and I won’t be going to your office to fall into that ridiculous trap door. You’re not a Bond villain, Dan. Honestly, it’s beneath you,” he said, and then he shoved his way past Dan Quinn and headed down the halls of Flowery Branch toward freedom.
He hadn’t taken a dozen steps before the floor opened up underneath him, and his body was bathed in the malevolent red light of the pit. As he fell, he turned to see Quinn looming above him, and his final weary cry rang through the halls of the facility.
“Seriouuuuusllllllyyyyyyyy?” he screamed.
As always, the floor closed, and Quinn stood alone in the hallway. His face betrayed his fear and weariness, but by the time he turned and smartly entered his cavernous office, he was a mask of stone once more.
The Great Metal Falcon sat in the corner, squatting like an iron toad with great silvery wings. A beat of silence passed before the two, and then the Great Metal Falcon’s voice rumbled out like a thunderstorm in full swing.
“We thinking Dave Toub for special teams coordinator? I like that guy,” he screeched.