(Small TW: mentions of torture and death)
Let me tell you a story.
I grew up hearing how lucky I was: I lived in a three-story mansion with two loving parents and a younger brother, and every year, during summer vacation, my mom and dad would take us to places like the Bahamas, Paris, and Egypt just to name a few.
However, whenever I was asked what my parents did for work, I could never answer because I truly didn’t know.
“Ooh, your parents must be spies for the government.” one friend theorized during lunch hour, and we laughed at how ridiculous it sounded.
When I got home that day, though, and I jokingly brought it up at dinner, both my parents went dead silent leaving my brother being the only one laughing at my statement.
The silence was short-lived, and my parents forced a laugh. “You kids come up with the strangest things these days.” my Dad responded.
That night I didn’t get much sleep, but I didn’t say anything about it after that, and after almost a month I forgot about the assumption altogether.
That, though, didn’t last too long either as when I was 12, the summer between my 6th and 7th school grade, my parents announced our next vacation trip; Hawaii.
As usual, my brother and I were ecstatic and we started packing as we were leaving the following morning, but I was unaware at the time that this vacation trip would change everything I knew.
We rented a beach house on Oahu island, so we had a beautiful view of the big, blue ocean. When we settled in, I stepped out onto our balcony and breathed in the salty ocean air that was blown in by a soft breeze.
I thought to myself, “Something feels different about this vacation,” and at the time I assumed that was a good thing.
Boy was I wrong.
The first week was normal vacation stuff: swimming, building sand castles and even going on tours through the lush jungles. Sure, Mom and Dad would abruptly take off and leave us in the hands of a hired babysitter who traveled with us every year, but they were always back for dinner so we barely noticed and continued to enjoy ourselves.
Then the second week hit: Mom and Dad left more frequently and this time they would leave days at a time. When they did return they were exhausted and didn’t have the energy to play with my brother and me.
When we asked them where they were going, they told us they were working, and had to meet with some clients here.
That evening, after dinner, my brother and I went out to the beach to put the finishing touches on our latest castle, and I could tell that he wasn’t as happy as he usually was.
“Why are they working, Izzy? We’re on vacation.” my brother asked with a pouting face.
“I don’t know, Tyler,” I answered honestly, “If they have to work, though, it’s probably important.” I could tell he wasn’t satisfied with that explanation and was getting pretty upset.
Who could blame him, though? In all the years we’ve gone on family trips, work was never this bad. I was even starting to feel a little bit angry myself.
Then, a couple of nights later-one of the few nights my parents were actually there- when I left my room to get a drink of water, I heard my parents talking in the kitchen and then a knock on the door that made me freeze next to the entryway.
The door was opened, and heavy footsteps stomped into the kitchen. “What is taking you so long?” a deep masculine voice boomed, and I knew it wasn’t my Dad.
I slumped against the wall as a million questions raced through my head, but I continued to listen.
“Sorry, sir, the target is more elusive than we originally anticipated, and please keep it down. Isabell and Tyler are sleeping.” My Dad replied; his voice was frantic, a tone I’d never heard my dad use.
“Target? ‘Sir?’ What was going on?” I asked myself, and I had to keep my hands clamped over my mouth to stop myself from making any noise and give myself away.
The intruder growled, making me flinch, and he responded, “We can’t afford to lose this target. If you do, I’ll have no choice but to-”
I heard glass shattering, a gasp, and then a body roughly falling to the floor with a thud, and I couldn’t but shoot up from my hiding spot and look into the kitchen.
On the floor was the body of a bulky man, and standing above him were my parents staring in shock. The window behind them was broken with a single hole in it.
“We’ve been compromised!” I heard my Dad exclaim.
My Mom said something-maybe calling my name-but I didn’t hear her; my hearing had become muffled as my eyes were glued to the motionless body of a complete stranger.
I felt hands shake me back to reality and I snapped my eyes upwards to my Mom’s frantic expression.
“Mommy, what’s going on?” I muttered; I could feel tears threatening to fall.
“Izzy, honey, I need you to go get your brother and then get outside. Don’t waste taking anything else, understand?” she ordered, stroking some of my hair.
When I didn’t answer right away and continued to look at the corpse in our kitchen, my Mom shook me again, “Understand?!”
Finally, I nodded, and I sprinted into Tyler’s room, woke him up, and pulled him down the hall with no explanation.
He protested and tried to get me to let go because apparently, I was hurting his wrist, but I followed my mother’s orders and led Tyler out the back door.
“Izzy, what’s going on?” he cried with fat tears pouring down his plump cheeks.
I couldn’t answer; a lump had formed in my throat, and my heart was pounding loudly in my ears.
Mom and Dad rounded around the house, each carrying a backpack. They took our hands but didn’t say anything other than asking us if we were okay.
My Dad held onto Tyler’s hand, and my Mom grasped onto me as they led us into the jungle that we had toured as a fun activity mere days ago.
“Mommy, what’s going on?” I asked again, pushing past the lump in my throat.
I heard her sigh, and she squeezed my hand. “Are you a spy?” I persisted.
“No, honey, assassins. We kill for money,” she explained in a soft tone of voice.
Again, she sighed, “To keep you and your baby brother safe. Now stay quiet, please.”
I leaned my head against her arm as we continued to walk behind my Dad and brother, following her commands and being quiet.
“We’re here.” My Dad whisper-yelled after a few minutes of walking in the dark jungle and using the moon as our only source of light.
We came to a clearing where a few tour-guide jeeps were parked, and we made our way over to the nearest one.
Tyler and I were placed in the back, while Mom and Dad were seated in the front, but my Dad didn’t even get to put the keys into the ignition when…Bang!
I heard the gunshot and then the gasp, but it wasn’t mine, or my Mom’s, or my Dad’s.
Looking next to me, guess what I found: Tyler, my baby brother, holding his bloody chest in shock as his skin began to turn pale.
“M…Mom…” he uttered weakly before falling into my lap.
“Tyler!” I screamed with horror. I tried to put pressure on the wound but it was too late; within seconds his once bright, blue eyes were left staring at me lifelessly.
My Mom pulled out a pistol and shot at the jungle while my Dad finally got the car started and drove us out of there.
When dawn broke and we reached the rendezvous spot at a private airfield, I had to watch my baby brother, who was only seven years old, get rolled away on a stretcher with a tarp covering his entire body.
The whole drive I returned to a state of shock, my body’s way of keeping me from doing anything rash, but now the adrenaline was wearing off and replaced with anger, and pure hatred.
My parents embraced me, but I didn’t return the love. Instead, I told them, “Make me an assassin.”
“What?” My Mom asked, and both of my parents tried to get me to change my mind, but my decision was made, and two days later I was given to my parents’ employer to be made into a merciless killer.
Now, seven years later, I found you: the sniper who decided to kill my baby brother with no remorse.
You thought you could get away with it, but now look at yourself: bound and at my mercy.
I grew up hearing how lucky I was, so now let me ask you something as I make you suffer cut after cut: Was I really that lucky to go on that trip?