It’s been too long for me to remember all the pain and suffering I may have caused. The path I am on nearing its end, a supernova. I try to feel an ounce of guilt or an ounce of empathy, but I get nothing. Duty above all, as my father used to say. Without responsibility, there is no coherence, no purpose. I am who I am, there is no doubt about that. I have come to terms with the decisions I have made, with the actions I have taken, with the death I have wrought. After all, I am just correcting the wrongs of the universe. 

I reach for the doorknob, and I turn it slowly, millimeter by millimeter. I give the door a slight push, whispering to the darkness. I move through the doorway, a shadow of nothing. The light of the moon penetrates through the curtains hanging over the window. I stand for a brief moment and take in the sense of danger, the sense of security. I look at the bed but only see the sheets pulled forward. A glimmer of light reflects off the array of awards and plaques displayed on a mantel. I turn to my left and notice the bathroom door closed, light creeping through grabbing the dark by the throat. The sound of running water stops. 

The beating of my heart intensifies, louder than crickets.

The doorknob turns.

I don’t wear a mask. I have this thing about them seeing my face before they die. The spiral scar that covers my right eye becomes the focal point of their final thoughts, for that brief moment death escapes them. My heartbeat almost ceases when the door opens, and I see his eyes widen. I know words are being formed, his lips bending to articulate the correct phonetic sound, but the bullet flies faster than they leave them. A grunt and red mist fill the bathroom; his body falls back, blood oozing down the wall behind him. 

My lower back aches, a rush of electricity runs up my back; a release of tension flows through my veins. It’s like this euphoric rush with a mix of inebriation, a coalescence of stars. It takes me a moment to muster my composure. Even after all this time, it still feels like this is my first acquaintance with death. 

With a shake of my head, I leave the apartment and exit the complex. I make my way down to the parking lot and into my car. I sit for two minutes, counting in my head as I exhale and inhale. The silence calms my heart rate down. I need to let go of the adrenaline less I lose focus. I grab the laptop from the passenger seat and log in. I click on the only program allowed on the machine, reminiscent of an ancient version of G-mail. It only contains a list with twenty slots. I stare at the entry for Ruben Clark—a once prolific writer and activist, according to those plaques that were displayed on his wall—and click the terminated button. 

There are two more people on the list. I don’t know their names until the previous one has been entered into the machine as terminated. The list just contains a placeholder to signify there is another person that needs to die, that the universe needs more correcting. The spiral of dots appears on the screen, anticipation gets the best of me.

Edith King is the next name that loads, illuminated by bolded text. I’ve heard this name before, but I can’t place it. The machine doesn’t tell me who they are, there are no Facebook timelines or Instagram Stories. Only a name and location. Nothing more. And if you’re wondering, their location is updated in real-time. I don’t know precisely how the technology works, and it doesn’t concern me. It is an instrument for me to enact my duty to serve my purpose. 

The location reads: 981 Rigel Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I’m in no hurry to leave Philadelphia, but time is one thing I do not have. I was given this chance to live again, and I will not waste it with the banalities this modern world has manufactured. My life holds a deeper purpose, no need for Tweeting or faux posts, no need for the flashing lights.

I fuel up for a full day on the road. The drive is the only thing I will think about, for the time being, long highways and road jams. I long for the night drives—something about the sky illuminated by the multitudes of stars and planets, the unreachable. I try not to fixate on what’s to come, on what’s at the end of the road. These past two years have been a test. A test of who I am and my place in the cosmos. I can’t begin to explain why, but I know I’m doing my part to make the world a better place. The feeling is undeniable like knowing your head is on your shoulders; it’s there, you just can’t see it without the help of a mirror. 

The drive ends quicker than I would have hoped for. I’ve only been to Colorado a few times when I was younger, still as green as it could ever be, a childhood utopia. I drive through the streets of Colorado Springs and stop at a gas station. I check the laptop, and Miss Edith King is still at the given location, the machine doesn’t lie. I used to plan out my approach to these moments. Strategy, the key to success, my father would say. But at this point, strategy doesn’t matter. I go in, I do what needs to be done and get out. Simple. Plans complicate things. Besides, there is only one plan I abide by: correct the wrongs, save the universe. Simple. There is no higher expectation.

The first deaths were hard on me, anguish isn’t something I’m accustomed to. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, but the gut feeling that manifested in my hesitation was too profound, as unmistakable as knowing up from down. I’ve come to realize the importance of the job, and since I’ve come this far, I have to see it through to the end. 

I park my car in front of 981 Rigel Street. I look at the clock—3:00 A.M. The Witching Hour. I can assure you, though, I am no witch. I make my way on foot; the relatively few street lamps flaunt the sense of security. The house, bathed in moonlight, is unremarkable—brick-built, slanted roof, windows protrude like eyes keeping watch, the lawn manicured, a wreath hanging on the front door, a typical modern house. 

A dim light gleams through the window on the right side of the front door. She’s probably reading or watching TV. It’s something most of them were doing before I killed them. Sure, for a few of them I had to be a bit more creative, but I’ve always been one to think on my feet, and I got the job done, there’s no denying that.

 I feel like I should be waiting for her or whoever is sitting in the room to leave, but I am compelled to end this as quickly as I can. I approach the front door, and I knock (the foreboding sense still needs to be there). I hear movement from the lit room, shuffling feet nearing their end.

 I grip my gun. 

A click, the deadbolt shifting its place. The door opens. A draft of the cold night wind moves through me. The warm steel wrapped by fingers moves upward. 

A smile. “It’s about time,” she says, unmoved by my scar. 

I pull back the trigger, intrigued. 

“You can come in if you want and do the job here,” she says, her voice honeyed, inviting. 

I point the gun, guiding her in. I don’t know what caused me to not just go through with it right then and there, but up until now, I got begs and gasps. She is the first to be accepting, to anticipate my coming, and this, to me, is unusual. 

I close the door behind me, and I step into the foyer with the gun still pointed at Miss Edith King. The light reveals her face, wrinkled and strained, as if she’s been awake for days. Her green eyes pierce through the light, a shimmer of approval. Her hair, caramel, pulled back, a sign of readiness. I can see it now; her face on the billboard, “For the Future, For Change,” the slogan read. A senator. She wouldn’t be the first.

 “Are we going to stand around, or are you just going to shoot me? If you are, just get it over with,” she says, without any hesitation, without fear. 

 I can’t conjure the words. Why am I hesitating? I keep my gun pointed at her head. My finger inches away from the trigger. I put it down and tell her to sit. She obeys and sits in the chair, and then grabs a glass from the end table on her left and takes a sip. I can smell the whiskey, a hint of cedar. She asks if I want a glass, but I decline. 

 “Well, you asked me to sit, so I am guessing there is something you want to say to me. You know, you shouldn’t leave a lady waiting. So go on,” she says, finishing her glass, a real politician (if I would have to say so).

 “It occurred to me, at the moment you opened the door, this was never to be an easy task. I had some bumps in the road, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. See, when you’ve had to be on your hands and knees pleading with the heavens—pleading for your life—anything that comes after is an improvement. I’ve had to battle the demons inside, and when I was at my worst, the universe reached out,” I say, taking a seat in front of Miss Edith King. “I have to ask, what would you do if God spoke to you? I was never a believer, and I’m still not, but I do believe in something beyond me, beyond us. This world, I’ve come to understand, is full of lost souls, reaching out trying to hold on to whatever life they have left. They’re bound by their flesh, and they worship it.” 

 I straighten my posture on the chair, and Miss King shifts in her seat, relaxing her disposition. I’m intrigued by the fortitude of this woman (she is without a doubt made for politics). She smirks and leans forward, inviting my ears. 

 “You see, this world wasn’t made for us, at least not the way we want it to be; I learned this throughout the years I’ve served my constituents. We all know we’re playing the game, some of us are just better at it,” she says, her voice is commanding, a master orator. “We’ve been manipulating the system for as long as I can remember, and I will admit I’ve dipped my hands in the jar plenty of times, but I did it for the people. What every one of these lost souls doesn’t understand is the reality of their situation. Most think their little lives matter in the grand scheme of things, but they don’t. The machine can’t work without people being complacent, without people being attached to their physicality. We do what we must, so the gears keep turning. They like to fight for their rights, for their happiness, but they don’t understand—”

The bullet slices the air around us, and blood paints the bookshelf behind her.

 Her last thoughts may not have been on my scar, but she said enough. The arrogance, the entitlement these people think they have. She’s right about one thing though, this world isn’t made for them. This sad, pale blue dot is just a cog, albeit an important one. The universe needs this planet to survive, and I’ve been chosen to ensure this happens. The so-called leaders the people of this planet have entrusted don’t see beyond themselves; they only see what is in front of them, what they can grasp. They abuse their power and, in turn, say it was for the greater good. 

I leave the house and enter my car, no adrenaline this time, just relief. I open the laptop, and I focus on Edith King’s bolded name. Her idea of the way the world works only takes into account the life they know and understand on this planet. In truth, these people do matter, they’re parts of a whole. The universe can’t be manipulated, and it will do whatever it must to ensure there is a state of survival, of equilibrium. I click the terminated button on the screen. The spiral of dots appears and loads the next name and location: The Rectifier. 981 Rigel Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado. I smile. My work here is done; my purpose fulfilled, this body is a vessel, after all.

June 05, 2020 19:29

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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