I made too many mistakes the last time. I remark, bandaging my gashes and bruises from defeating The Fire Mamba Brotherhood’s cult leader. Too many mistakes, too many pauses. Maybe I AM getting too old for this, I think back to his words.
“You're getting slow old man!” He roars, parrying my thrust and locking me in his sights. “Never have I thought I would have the chance to actually beat you but here we are!” He chuckles, shooting his semi-automatic, following me as I dive for cover behind the concrete wall we ripped up. I growl as I reload my customized M16. “What's wrong? The deaths of your family finally getting to you? The realization that you coulda saved them but didn’t?” I can feel his smile grow. That was the last I heard of his voice before I put a bullet between his eyes.
Shuddering, I tighten my hands into fists and stand up from the couch, magazines strewn across the floor and fast food on the tables. One single tear runs down my face, tickling my chin as I sense another presence and throw a knife I had in my cargo pants at my sliding door. It stops midair and hovers, like it hit an invisible wall.
“Hm, not bad Ashten,” A half mechanical and female voice says. “He said you had grown weak and feeble but once again, with the burial, he was wrong.” My eyes scan the room, making sure she's the only person that's snuck into the apartment. I slowly lean down and grab my pistol that was under a Mcdonald's wrapper. “There's no need for that Ashten.” She responds. I twirl to where I heard the voice and point it between where I think she is. That's when she makes herself show. From head to toe the mysterious figure slowly becomes visible, elegant and silky black hair, glowing red eyes, a metal jaw, half metal arms, metallic breasts, human torso, glowing red and green hips, and half metal legs. I fumble and almost lose my grip on my gun. Eisla. My head rings with how familiar her face looks. I regain my posture as she raises her eyebrow at me, as to notice my fault. I drop my tough guy stance and walk over to my fridge, grabbing and cracking open a beer.
“Want one?” I deadpan. I turn to see her sitting at the bar, twirling a knife between her fingers. She winks and smiles at me.
“Sure.” She smirks. I open one and slide it over to her.
“Well, here's the two things. One, if you wanted me dead I would already be on the floor with my throat slit. Number two, if I’m gonna die tonight make it hurt.” I say, taking a large swig. She chokes on the beer, obviously not expecting that response. “Honey I’ve done this for thirty plus years I can tell and feel exactly what people are. I read you like a book. So what's the gig.” I stare into her eyes, trying to threaten her. She coughs a few times before taking another sip, setting the beer down and standing up, walking over to where I was standing. I don’t back down, knowing full well she could kill me in a second. She stands right next to me, a full head and a half shorter than me, 100 pounds lighter, and no doubt very agile.
“I was here to evaluate you Ashten. Nothing else. You have shown me that you are very much capable of destruction still. That will please my master.” She smirks, never breaking eye contact. I have the sudden urge to cup her face and I cough violently, distracting myself from the feeling I haven’t felt in decades.
“Then get your ass outta here. I coulda shot you where you stood but I didn’t.” I respond.
“And I coulda slit your throat before you even knew I was in your apartment.” She retorts.
“Fair point.” I ponder. “But why me?”
“I was told you were a formidable opponent and could be used for many exciting experiments and tests if I were to bring you in. But I’m feeling nice today.” She smiles seductively. I raise the pistol to her forehead.
“Try anything and you’ll get a bullet through the cranium.” I smile innocently. To say she wasn’t tempting was a lie, but I know better. Especially with these types of people. I crack my knuckles and toss the pistol in the drawer next to me, then saunter back over to my couch, flipping on the National Geographic channel. I look up to see her still standing in the kitchen, feeling her arms and neck, like she doesn’t know who she is. She starts to go lower and I avert my gaze, focusing on the TV for the time being.
“You are human, correct Ashten?” my train of thought is broken upon hearing the question.
“Well, yes I am. And you aren’t?” I respond cautiously, not knowing where this is going.
“Do you believe in love?” I hear her quietly say. I balk, bile rising in my throat.
“I did once. It's gone now. Buried with my family.” I say stone-faced.
“What happened?” She asks. I grind my teeth.
“I’d rather not talk about it ok? I don’t even know you. I don’t know your name, who you are, what you are, where you came from, I know nothing about you.” I say, trying to stay calm.
“Eislen. My name is Eislen. I was modified after being in an accident. I was given these amazing powers and I was built to be perfect.” She responds. It's so close to her. I think. No. Stop. Taking a deep breath, I look up and is about to respond when I realize she's no longer standing in the kitchen. She was gone. I hold my position for a second longer before I break down into tears.
"Oh Eisla… I'm so sorry. Everyday I miss you so much. I want you to come back to me. Please.” I weep, not realizing an invisible figure is standing in the corner, wondering what the liquid coming out of her eyes is.
"He wasn't afraid of me," I think. "Not only that but he didn't care if he died… No ordinary human is like that. They all fear death. Why does he welcome it?"
"Don't worry about it Eislen." Gav says. "Either way he's gonna die for what he's done.” He scowls. A lightbulb goes off in his head. "Wait a minute that's perfect!¨" He rejoices. He rushes over to me and grabs my shoulders. "Ok ok so here's what happened. Around thirty years ago his family was murdered in their home while he was out with friends. For every year after that he goes back to the same place where he found the bodies and doesn't bring any weapons. This is perfect. Why have I never thought of this before?¨" He laughs, letting go of me and walking back to his desk, sitting down and resuming his studies. "On that day this year you will travel to where he found those bodies and put him down to rest right next to his family." He smiles with glee.
"I don't know… that seems kinda mean.¨" I retort, putting my pointer finger and thumb between my chin and frown.
"Child, there's some things in this world you don't want to bother learning. Compassion and love are two. Mercy is another. You hesitate and you get killed.¨" He huffs.
"But Ashten is an exception to that." I read his next words perfectly. He hangs his head.
¨Yes, but are you not going to punish him for killing my entire family? He didn't even let my extended family live." He says angrily. ¨I made you to ki-I saved you because I care about you Eislen." He coughs. "You were the best cousin I ever had and I couldn't let you go."
"Yet you use me to kill countless people and not experience this world like I used to. I don't even know you because you said my memories were lost in the crash." I look up at him, still frowning. I can tell he is getting frustrated. This is when I can make sure he tells me to piss off so I can go and do my own thing.
"Ok you know what? Just go alright. Just go. I gotta finish my studies and I don't have time for this garbage." He points at me to leave, an anger filled face flushed out.
"Ok then. I will speak to you tonight." I responded curtly, turning and leaving, walking a little ways before looking behind me and adjusting my course to run into Ashten's apartment.
I splash water on my face and stare at myself through the mirror. I'm still shaken from meeting Eislen last night. Today is my day off, or as my enemies like to call it, ¨The Sabbath¨. Today is usually when I write in my journal and plan my next few months, whether it be food or business wise. Other times are when I just want to relax and I walk around the city. I decided to test the waters and the community, along with the markets. I start my walk by going downtown, about a mile from my apartment. It is very beautiful, and I explore the different market places, buying spices and eating from a popular restaurant in the area. About halfway through my day I sensed that someone was following me. I glanced behind me, pretending to be looking for my wallet. I lean down and approach the figure, covered by the many bodies and many stalls. I slowly pass the figure, who is searching for me, and I come up from behind them and pull them into the alley I spotted earlier in a choke hold.
“Who are you? What do you want?” I question.
“Its...Eislen.” The choked response answered. I let go immediately as the hooded figure doubles over, coughing up a fit.
“Why are you following me? What's so interesting about me?” I squint at her, the red glowing faintly outlining her slim body under the clothing.
“I wanted to...see what you do on a normal day. And to learn more about you.” She responds, taking deep breaths. “I should have expected someone like you to have that response to someone following you. I am not smart sometimes.” She murmurs. I furrow my eyebrows.
“I’m not trying to let you in on info about me. It's just gonna hurt you and the last time I did that I got backstabbed.” I frown, trying to walk past her but she blocks my way.
“Please just give me this one chance?” She asks, looking up at me with her bright red eyes. Something moves inside me and I don’t speak, in fear of it wavering. I nod instead and push past her, glancing behind me and catching a glimpse of a smile as she scuttles after me. For the most part I ignore her, until she appears next to me and asks what certain things are. While in the middle of explaining how mangos grow, a cart goes by carrying animals. A dog barks, startling her as she rushes into my arms. My face grows red, separating her and moving on walking. For the rest of the day I tried to not think about it. To finish off the most odd off day I’ve ever had, I do what I always do. Making my way down to the beach I pull out an old Polaroid and snap a picture of the sunset.
“Turning twenty and still going strong.” I remark, pulling the photo out and waving it around. “ Eisla would be proud.” I smile sadly, before remembering that Eislen was behind me. I wipe a tear away and stand up taller. “Let's get going I’m not trying to make problems for myself.” I say, ushering her away from the beach and starting to walk home. Its dark by the time I arrive at my apartment. I open the door without saying a word to Eislen until she grabs my arm. I violently pull away and reach for my pistol until I realize it wasn’t a threat.
“I uh...I had...fun? Is that what humans use to express joy?” She asks.
“Yes fun is the right word. I didn’t but I’m glad you did.” I respond. Before she can say anything else I pull out a knife I had hidden and hold it against her throat. “What are you trying to do? All of you assholes have a motive. What are you trying to get at? What's the big idea?” I growl at her. I lock eyes with her, sensing a slight fear radiating from her. Her eyes are wide and the red is bright.
“You were on guard the entire time? You were never calm? How did I not detect that?” She stammers.
“Lets just say I’m good at what I do.” My voice hardens more. “Now answer the questions.”
“There is no motive. I..my master does not know I am here.” She quickly says, voice quivering as I press the knife harder. “Please I know nothing! My memories were wiped after the crash my master said happened to me. I know nothing! Please! I have done nothing.” She pleads. I snarl and let go of her, putting away the knife and storming into the apartment. Upon reaching my suite, I close and lock the door, tears stream down my face.
“I can’t keep going on like this. I’ve grown old. My posture is crooked. My techniques are flawed. My enemies are plotting against me more and more. My motivation is gone. I have nothing to fight for.” I cry, sliding down the door until my knees hit my forehead. “Please just give me a sign that everything will be fine. Or just take me now.” I whisper. “DO IT!” I yell out, voice cracking.
“I’m taking away your privileges Eislen. No out after dark. No exploring. Not until I fix-until I know what's wrong.” Gav stutters, locking the gate behind me. “Sorry that it has to be like that but you bring this upon yourself little lady.” He shakes his head. I lay down on the bed, mechanical parts whirring in my ears.
“I’m a monster.” I whisper. “That's what people think of me. If anyone saw the true me they would be scared. But Ashten, there's something about him. I can’t explain the feelings I have. I have no idea the extent of how deep these emotions are.” I wonder. “The..breakdown...I think that's what humans use when you cannot hold emotions back anymore...that Ashten experienced last night...I wonder what ails him? He has the skill to take out whoever he wants. Why is he trying to stop?” I ponder these questions as I reach down to my plug and insert it to the back of my head. “I will find the answer to these questions when I am done transferring my data.” I sigh, laying down stomach first, closing my eyes. “Today was the greatest day of my life.I don’t care about the consequences.” I muffle through the pillows, quietly smiling.
Gave sneaks in, spotting a sleeping Eislen. Slowly he creeps over to her database storage, typing in the password for the monitor. He glances sadly at her, shaking his head and clicking restore.
I wake up in a cold sweat, another nightmare ruining my rest. Startled, I find myself on the floor, then remembering what happened yesterday. I slap myself a few times and call myself stupid, walking to the bathroom and shed my clothing for a shower before the day starts. “Eislen is nothing. Eislen is nothing. Eislen is nothing.” I repeat to myself in the mirror. Over the water running I hear a crash. I jolt around and pull on my boxers, sliding a pistol from my hygiene drawer out and into my hand, safety off. “Who's there?” I yell out, slowly creeping out of the bathroom. I glance left and scan the bedroom before slowly moving to the right, where I see a kitchen knife poke my nose “Fuck.” I stutter before I drop to the floor as the knife slices the empty air where my neck was.
“Oh c'mon Ashten you're better than this.” I hear the air say, feeling a boot connect with my gut. The air rushes out of my body, being thrown against the doorframe of the bathroom.
“Eislen?” I hold my stomach and ask, recognizing the voice.
“Who?” The voice responds, throwing the knife at me. I jump up and shimmy to the right, the knife burying itself in my mattress.
“Really? I just spent twelve hundred bucks on that thing.” I whine, pulling it out and whipping around, pointing it around the room, trying to find the invisible attacker.
“So...I learned about your family. So tragic. If only you could’ve saved them.” The voice seems to echo throughout the room. I clench my teeth.
“So what? What's done is done, you can’t change the past.” I snarl, swiping at the air a few more times.
“Oh but you could’ve changed the future Ashy. You could’ve saved them. Too bad you let that girl distract you, ‘mr. loyal’.” I can hear the venom dripping from that sentence.
“Shut up Eislen. Now. Just...shut up.” I force out, tears threatening to fall.
“Instead of following your gut you went against it for a little you time, causing you to lose everyone and everything you loved. That's really too bad.” She mock says. The tears fall, hitting my arms.
“You think I don’t beat myself up everyday knowing that you could’ve saved everyone if you didn’t take that little time for yourself?”