Existential Sniper II

~ a short story

No breath now. All that was left was the finger on the trigger. And the mark…

There he was. Another year older. Wiser? No easy call came on that distinction. Could new dreams still imagine themselves into his being?

He stared down the scope, determined, newly unthinking.

Instead, he remembered.

The birthday hat fell to the ground as a rush to the cake began. He was overtaken by his peers. He resumed an intense panic. Would there be enough left for me? There was and he ate his fill, felt sick later. His parents were there, always capturing these moments from his treasured boyhood. Now, he could recall all the futures: the spaceman and the Texas ranger, the fireman and the priest, the army man…

The reverie snapped as four new bogeys entered the frame down his scope. Ozy and his own men welcomed them to the celebration. Apparently, they were on good terms. The men stood and talked on the villa terrace drinking before retiring inside for the first meal course that had just been prepared. Clearly, more freedom fighters for Ozy to woo and broker to. They were already bought and paid for, else they wouldn’t be here. He sighed, resumed his sighting. It had all been arranged, days ago perhaps, by men behind curtains. These curtains dripped with the lifeblood of a dozen nations, and their lives and the lives of their nations depended on this meeting and alliance. At this point in the conflict, no one was untouchable. Everything now, depended on alliances. They were all picking sides, betting on a winner. As death tolls rose and old empires fell in the midst of the latest conflicts, a reckoning was approaching. Perhaps it would be the final war ever waged. The possible furtherance of it meant that nothing would be left this time. There would be no winners, if Ozy and his violently radical ilk had their way.

That’s why he was here — to throw wide the curtains and sever the head of the beast with one strike. And it was imperative he succeed. One day, long ago he would’ve felt immense pressure at what lay before him here in these next few moments. But he had changed along with the world. The fear of shadows and of failure were no more. Nerves silently steadying, all that existed was the bullet and its journey…

What flavor was the cake? Did he have a favorite back then? What was it now? Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry? Who knows… it was stupid he would even be thinking of anything but the mission. He had fond memories of his childhood, no doubt about that. Even of his parents. He had lived well for the bulk of his life, better than most he knew. But why now? Why did his subconscious choose this random moment to remind him? His past lied and the distraction of his weaker self took him away from the task at hand…

He felt for the trigger. It was almost time. For him and his job here today, timing was everything. For a clear shot to open. He might only have a second…

We’re seconds available? He could remember it clearly, the night his father had been killed. It was no random act…

His closed his eyes and took a breath. His ritual. Focus. Take the shot as soon as you have it, then get out. This won’t be your last mission before this is over…

He didn’t become such an efficient killing machine by accident. All the training, the intensive simulations, the test missions he had to go on…the man he had killed with his bare hands… An accident?… he knew in his heart it wasn’t. He wanted him dead, wished for him to be destroyed…

Think of all the innocents this man and his regime had…

But is it really my choice to make, my judgment to enact upon the world…

What is one more death among so many, whom is more deserving…

What are the just deserts of another, how can you know, see the faces and the lights snuffed… what kind of toll does it enact upon the single soul? The collective?

He began to see more faces through the scope of his rifle. More people, far beyond this party. They stared up to him upon the side of the mountain. They knew him. And they watched.

What were all these faces? More distractions from the task at hand, more … They were familiar faces. But none of them was a friend or foe. Assignments was the best word for them. They were the faces of all the people he…

Ozy and his entourage was on the move. It was now or never…

What about the priest? Or the mother? Or the man with the dog? The despots and the democratically-elected leaders? The fathers, brothers, companions, lovers? These were people with roles to play…

I was just following orders, fighting for a cause I believe in, playing my role! A role which I excel at. And besides, isn’t justice blind? Certainly…

When was the last time my heart beat for something.

They call me the grim reaper, the angel of death, death incarnate, assassino, the ghost, revenant, dark-man, Beezelbub…

How many has it been? How long have I been here? How could I not know…

What was left of the person I once was…

The window of opportunity was fast closing.

~

I remember as a kid looking out into the woods, thinking I could be a wolf one day. An alpha, a pack leader, the Hunter. The power of the wolf was my destiny.

What do you want to be? mother asked. Smiled. When I grow up…

He pulled the trigger.