Monday, August 8, 2016

Black Beret

Herod’s hand didn’t so much as quiver as he held a pistol against the child’s head. The weapon felt like it weighed nothing, a feather in his grip. His index finger was tensely squeezing the trigger, ready to pull the lever at any moment.
Across from Herod, a man wearing a black beret clenched his jaw, so tightly Herod didn’t think the man’s teeth could handle the pressure. The man’s eyes never wavered from Herod. The man sat still as a statue in his chair. He had his arms up in surrender. Gith was his name.
Herod stared into Gith’s amber eyes. All Herod could see was death, brutality, and chaos. The eyes of a tyrant
Gith peered back into Herod’s amber eyes. Gith saw a broken man, one who had suffered and lost. The eyes of a victim.
How the tides have changed, thought Herod. Someone shifted beside him, and he took his eyes of Gith for a moment. The soldier beside him was holding a rifle, trained on the back of a woman’s skull. He was young, no older than eighteen, though it was impossible to tell. He had seen more loss and hardship than some saw in their whole life.
The woman was on her knees. She shook, as she tried to stifle her cries and fear. She knew they weren’t going to make it out alive. They were going to fare no better than Herod’s family had. Herod was going to make sure of that.
Herod met Gith’s eyes again, and he could see the fire brewing inside the man. Herod saw nothing but pure hatred. That made him smile. Now Gith knew how Herod felt.
Gith looked at his son and smiled weakly. He was trying to reassure him everything would be alright. Gith knew it wouldn’t be.
“Be strong my boy,” Gith whispered. They may have been across the room, but everyone heard it.
“Quite!” shouted Herod. His voice seemed to echo back and forth across the room. “I hear one more word out of your mouth, and I swear I will blow his head off.” Herod was more scared than he cared to show, but he never flinched. The barrel never left the boy’s head.
The child was sobbing. He wasn’t even old enough to understand what was going on. Gith grew a scowl and screamed at Herod.
“What kind of man kills a child?” bellowed Gith. Herod couldn’t get over the fact about how similar Gith’s voice was to his own. Herod had said those exact words not long ago.
“I would ask you the same question,” responded Herod. The only memory in his mind was the bloodied body of his son, lying in the dirt, a bullet wound in his head.
“You have no idea who you are messing with here. Do-” started Gith, but Herod didn’t let him finish before he shouted.
“I know full well who I am messing with!” Herod howled the words. He couldn’t contain his fuming rage. He didn’t even want to try.
Herod’s words made Gith scoff. That irritated Herod more than he already was.
“Who are you?” Gith asked, with no fear in his voice. Despite his family’s precarious situation, it seemed Gith still controlled the room. Gith adjusted the black beret on his head.
Herod spat at Gith, how typical that Gith wouldn’t even remember who he was.
“You bastard, you don’t even remember what you did, do you?” Herod held in his cry.
“Please enlighten me,” Gith said without an ounce of fear in his voice. Herod nearly pulled the trigger, he had threatened that he would. If he wavered now, how could he bring himself to do it later? But Herod didn’t do it. He needed Gith to know why he was destroying his world.
“You killed them…” Herod trailed off, as he started to choke up. “All of them!” He roared those last words. It made Gith’s wife jump, and his child screech.
“Oh, I remember now,” started Gith, as he stood from his chair.
“Sit back down,” warned Herod. He pressed the barrel to the child’s temple. Gith slowed his stand but didn’t sit back down.
“You’re from that town, Dark River.” Gith was wrong, and he knew it. He was trying to taunt Herod. “That's not right. We drowned everyone in the river after we tied rocks to their feet. No, with that scar on your face something else happened to you.” goaded Gith, indicating the large scorch mark that stretched across Herod’s cheek. It was the only mark that separated the two men’s identical faces. Gith took a step closer to Herod.
“One more step and your son is as good as dead,” threatened Herod, and he meant it this time. Gith paused, his hands still raised.
“I know exactly who you are.” Gith was unfazed by Herod’s words. Herod didn’t reply, waiting for Gith to continue. “I’ll never forget that night in Red Mill.” As Gith said the words, Herod’s heart leapt. His whole body quivered at the memory of his home, and the state he had left it.
“Don’t you dare say that name,” spittle flew from Herod’s mouth. His legs were going weak, and he wanted nothing more than to sit down and cry. Herod feared that he would. Gith cracked up and chuckled.
“I remember the names of all the places I have conquered, the faces of every life I have taken.” Gith trailed off for a moment as he stepped forward. “Your wife, she was beautiful. Even after I splattered her brains across the dirt.” Gith’s mouth twisted into an eerie smile. Herod’s fingers twitched. He watched Gith through slitted eyes. Fiery anger burned inside him.
Gith continued forward, slow paced, as he spoke. “And your little boy, was he ever handsome. Quite similar to my boy. It is a shame that he had to go.”
“Quiet.” Herod tried to scream, but it was no more than a quiver. A tear rolled down his cheek. Gith grinned.
“Do you know why they and the rest of your pathetic village are dead?” Gith asked, spitting the last words. He was only a few steps away now. “Because men like you lead them. Cowards who aren’t willing to do what they need to do, to ensure their family's survival.”
“Shut up!” screamed Herod. He took his eyes off Gith for a second as he tried to control his emotions. Gith lunged at Herod.
It was too late.
Herod squeezed the trigger of his gun. The shot rang through the room, making Herod’s ears buzz. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Gith stopped in his tracks and let out a horrible shriek.
Herod’s heart pumped faster than it ever had. He raised the gun again and fired another shot. The burning shell from the bullet fell to the floor as Gith’s wife did the same. The soldier holding the rifle stood in horror as he watched the atrocity.
Gith turned to Herod, his eyes looking like a wolf’s. Herod raised the gun one more time. The final shot exploded into the air. Gith’s lifeless body landed at Herod’s feet, as smoke rose from the weapon’s barrel.
He looked over at the soldier. The young recoiled at the sight of Herod’s amber eyes.
Someone burst through the door behind Herod. It was another soldier. He was breathing heavy, mud and blood covering him head to toe.
“Commander, the- the town is secure.” The person stuttered as they saw the dead bodies on the floor. They hadn’t expected to see the boy.
“Good, good,” replied Herod, as he lowered to a squat. Both men didn’t know what to say to Herod.
“What are your orders, sir?” asked the newcomer. Herod took Gith’s black beret into his hands. It was wet with blood. Herod wiped his bloodied hands on the dead man’s jacket; it didn’t come off.
Herod straightened to a stand. He didn’t hesitate with his reply.
“Burn them all,” stated Herod in a tone that raised no question. The vendetta wasn’t over until everyone was dead. With a clenched jaw, Herod placed the black beret on his head.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


I stood in the doorway to room seven for what seemed like the thousandth time. The bright whiteness of it was all too familiar. The creases between the walls, floor, and ceiling were lost in their pale color. It appeared as if they were all one plane. Had there not been a vibrant red seven painted on the opposite wall, it would have been impossible to tell where the floor ended, and the wall started. There wasn’t even a mark of dust or dirt.
They pushed me further into the room. They being the Red Men. At least that was what I called them. The Red Men always wore the same crimson colored uniform, which covered them head to toe. Black boots shielded their feet, and black gloves their hands. The only opening in their uniform being the eyes holes in their red balaclavas.
I couldn’t comprehend the reasoning behind their fancy garbs. They had no reason to try and hide what they were; I already knew. They called themselves Humans. I preferred Red Men.
They watched me as the white steel door sealed behind me. The door slid seamlessly into the wall. Luckily I didn’t need to remember where the door was. I counted on the Red Men to opening the door again. Otherwise, I would get lost in there forever.
I walked to the center of the room, though, how I knew it was the center I could not say. I had to duck to avoid the only light source. The hanging light bulb was tiny, but it filled the room with a nearly blinding light. It puzzled me why the Red Men built the ceilings so low. The eight feet that it was, while high enough for them, was not nearly enough for me. That wasn’t what mattered, and I was getting side tracked. I had a job to do, that was after all, why I was in room seven.
I began my work. I first held out my pale arms, the small pair outstretched, while my longer pair I slightly bent. My skin was nearly the same color as the room. So close that if I let my vision blur, my arms would seem to blend with my surroundings.
I bent my four wrists inwards, making hooks out of my arms. I let the six fingers on my hands sway back and forth. I started pulling atoms from the air, deconstructing molecules and turning them into new ones.
   As I did this, the temperature in the room began to spike. If it weren't for my high resistance to heat, I would have been vaporized in a split second.
   I continued my work, and soon an orb of pure energy was floating between my palms. It sparked, and bubbled as it tried to exploded outwards. I didn’t let it. All it took from me was one thought, and I could bend the power to my will. I willed it to condense into a tighter form. The energy became more unstable. I forced the atoms to combine with themselves, starting the process of fusion. In moments I had a star between my hands, no larger than a Red Man’s head.
   I took the star in my right hands, and in my left, I started to reform molecules again. Some of the atoms I needed weren’t present in the room, so I was forced to make them myself. With a thought, I summoned more particles into existence. The Red Men never understood how I worked and thought on such a small scale. I never understood how they couldn’t.
   Within a few moments, I had a container floating between my hands, the same size as the star. I made it out of metal, one that I previously created. I placed the case on the ground and enlarged it, so it was triple my width, and as tall as my knee.
I opened the chest up, and slowly placed the star inside. With the thick walls and all the insulation it required to contain the star, there was just enough room to fit it in. Not the most efficient way to store a small object, but it was the safest. Without being contained, this star was capable of creating a colossal and devastating explosion.
   I closed the lid, and spawned a lock into place. I vacuumed sealed the container and secured it. To me, the whole process had felt like just mere seconds, but in reality, it had taken me a total of three hours. Such was the way of creating.
A noise sounded, and the door to the room folded open. In the doorway stood two Red Men. They were wielding rifles, rifles that I had designed for them. They waved the weapons like they were their hands, indicating to me that it was time to leave. I complied. I had no reason not too.
We exited into a hallway. It was dark and dreary, completely the contrast to the bright room I had just been in. My three black eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dim light yet, and I was blind. Visually blind at least. I had no problem following the Red Men while they lead me down the corridor, as I listened to the sound of their boots echoing off the walls.
We arrived at another door. It slid open and revealed a room identical to the last one I had been in, except for the red eight on the opposite wall. I walked into the chamber before the Red Men could shove me in. Just like the previous, I walked to the center, avoiding the hanging light.
I spent the rest of the day going in and out of several different rooms, and in each one, I created something else. In one I created several thousand more of the rifles the Red Men were carrying. In another, I created a mechanical thing that the Red Men used to travel. They called them vehicles. The Red Men didn’t think I knew what I was making, but I overheard them talking through the walls. I knew what the things names were.
After going to fifteen different rooms, I was done for the day. It took me twelve hours to complete all the work the Red Men had set out for me to do. Some I things I could do quick, and others took some time.
The Red Men forced me down a long hallway to one last room. This one was my favorite. It was my room. The Red Men pushed and shoved me from behind, acting as if I didn’t want to do what they said. Sometimes the Red Men confused me. What else was I going to do?
The door to my room slid open like all the others before. I walked myself into the bright room. Each of them was the same, even my own. Pure white everything. Expect mine didn’t have a red number.
What mine did have, though, was an object at its center. It was also white, and if you didn’t look at the right angle, you might not even notice it was there. I did. I knew exactly where that object was.
It had four legs, a flat horizontal surface, and a vertical surface. I sat in it, and I relaxed. I would spend the next twelve hours sitting there, enjoying my time before the Red Men returned. It was my favorite time of the day.
I rubbed the back of my head with one of my arms. The Red Men had put a mark there. I didn’t need to see it to know what it was. I could feel what it read.
They were numbers. Two ones and a three. One hundred and thirteen. One. One. Three. What the numbers meant…
That had never occurred to me. Never before had that thought crossed my mind. What did those numbers mean? I felt them every time I came back to my room. That had been the first time I wondered what they meant.
At first, I didn’t think it mattered. The numbers were nothing… just numbers. Or were they?
I tried to put the thought out of my head; it was starting to hurt. I had never thought questions like that before, and I didn’t like it. But the questions didn’t leave.
Soon it became overwhelming. Inside my head, a floodgate opened. Thoughts poured into my mind like rushing water, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.
Why did the Red Men put the numbers there? What did the numbers mean? Did it have to do with why I was in the room? Why was I in this room? Why did I go to the other places? Why was I creating those things? What were the Red Men doing with those creations? How did I get here? Why was I here?
Who am I?
The light above my head shattered, spraying broken glass across the room.
It was completely dark.
It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the new light. For the first time in all the days that I had been, I was seeing my room clearly.
The walls of the room were dirty and decaying. In many places, the concrete were chipped and gouged. Nail marks scratched into the walls, ceiling, and even the floor. I hadn’t realized how small the room was, no more than six feet wide. Dark stains littered the cold, hard floor. They looked like blood stains. Probably were.
The floodgate of my mind opened wider as I looked at my surroundings. The light above me had been blocking my view of reality. Was this the only thing I didn't see clearly? I stood, and the wood object I was sitting on tipped over. It broke into large pieces when it hit the floor. It was as fragile as my mind.
My thoughts turned to the door. It was clearly visible in the corner. Another thing the light had been hiding. What was beyond the door? The corridor, I already knew that. What was beyond the hallway?
I hit my head with all four of my arms. Why was I thinking these things? Why hadn’t I before? Why wouldn’t the floodgate close?
I was overwhelmed with the sense of being trapped. I felt as if I could barely move in the tight confines of my prison.
I wanted out.
I imagined the door opening, and in reality, it followed my command. The door slid open silently. I hesitated. I wasn’t entirely sure I could will myself to leave. That had never happened before; my body almost didn’t know what to do.
The silhouette of a Red Man appeared in the doorway. His rifle raised, and he started to shout. I was too busy trying to control my thoughts to pay him any mind. I looked past him and saw more Red Men coming closer.
I made to take a step closer, but the Red Man in the doorway aimed his rifle towards my head. It occurred to me that he didn’t want me out. He was going to use that weapon to hurt me. That is what the rifles did.  Then I would never be able to get out of that room and close the floodgate of my head.
I couldn’t let that happen.
With one thought, the Red Man’s rifle crumbled into ashes. I imagined him gone and out of my way, and suddenly I was covered in his innards. Red blotted my vision, and the floor was slippery with gray matter. The Red Man was no more than a red stain. I wiped my eyes with the backs of my hands and stepped out of the room.
Thunderous bangs nearly shattered my ears as I appeared in the corridor. Projectiles… bullets started flying towards me, faster than I could move. Bullets that I had created. Bullets that intended to kill me.
Luckily for me, they couldn't fly faster than I could think. I forced the shots to slow with my mind, and raised my arms so I could catch them. Opposite of me stood four Red Men, thirty feet away. The origin of the bullets.
All I needed was one thought, and the Red Men exploded, just like I had done before. I took off down the hallway, unsure of where to go. All I knew was I had one goal. Stop the floodgate from hurting my head. Escape seemed like the only way to do that.
I don’t know how much time past, it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, before a siren filled the corridor. Light bulbs that didn’t hang from the ceiling, but were attached to the walls, started to flash red and yellow. I didn’t know what it meant, but it didn’t feel right. I never remembered it happening before. I realized then… I had a fear of the unknown. I didn’t like it at all.
A voice suddenly appeared. It echoed down the halls and seemed to be everywhere at once. Who it was, I had no idea, and neither where it originated. Just another question to add to the flood.
“Warning. Escaped Specimen. PM 113.  Exterminate at all cost.” I understood its words and knew PM 113 had to be me. Were those numbers my name?
I wasn’t meant to leave my room. That much was evident. Maybe I shouldn’t have.
Marching boots filled the area, drowning out the constant wail of the siren. I needed to get out of there. I continued to run, passing several doors. Some of them I recognized as rooms I'd been too. I did my best to try and put them behind me. I discovered a different door. One that I had never seen before. The door had a sign on it that read: B5. Next to that was a strange image of several short lines connected to each other. One was horizontal, and the next was vertical, then horizontal, and so one. Each line was higher than the last. There was a word printed. Stairs. I wondered what that meant.
I burst through the door, and found myself in a dingy area, much like my room had been in the real light. I stood on a platform. To one side, the ground rose in short steps, progressively climbing upwards. The other end had the same leading downwards. I chose to go up, taking the steps three or four at a time.
I passed three doors on my way up. As I climbed to the fourth landing, the door reading B1 burst open. I tackled the Red Man, who appeared in the doorway. I crushed him with my body weight. His chest collapsed under me.
He wasn’t alone. Rifles were trained on me, inches from my face. I used all four of my arms to grab as many of them as I could. I pointed them to the ceiling as the Red Men pulled the triggers. Bullets punctured the roof. I superheated the rifles with my mind, burning the Red Man’s hands through their gloves, and melting the guns at the same time.
I grabbed one of the Red Men with my hands and tossed him into his companions. I put as much force as I could into the toss, killing everyone instantly. I continued before any more Red Men could arrive.
This floor was different than the one I had previously been on. The hallways were wider, and the ceilings taller. There were more doors, but I ignored them all. Expect one.
The corridor ended in a black wall. More hallways lead away to the left and right. Ahead of me, the wall had a large steel door.
I stopped when I reached the dead end. I looked at the steel door. Something about it gave me a feeling like I had never felt before. An emotion I didn’t know how to describe.
Mixed in with the confusion, and my churning stomach, I was lightheaded. My body shivered. My hand shook as I reached forward. I think this is what true fear felt like. Why did this door give me this feeling?
Something about it wasn’t right.
I opened the door, a cold breeze flowed out as a fog clung to the ground. I walked through. It was tall enough for me to do so without crouching. I wheezed as I stepped in, the frozen air burning my lungs.
It was chilly, frost dominated the floor, and ceiling. The metal ground was ice cold on my feet. Before me stretched an endless hallway. It was spacious, with my arms outstretched my fingers just brushed the walls.
The walls were lined with several hundred chambers, which ran the length of the hall on both sides. Each one was only a few feet wide, and just taller than I was. They stuck out only a foot or two. The pods were made of some kind of organic material, or at least it appeared that way. Their glass front was covered in fog, making it impossible to see inside.
I slowly made my way further into the freezer. With each step I took a deep breath, the air coming out like a wispy cloud. The cold ground stuck to my warm skin. There was an eerie presence in the room I could not quite place. Eventually the hallway came to an intersection. It continued in every direction infinitely. I couldn’t see an end to any of the corridors.
I turned to the pods against the walls, taking interest in them for the first time. Beside each one was a rectangular box, less than a inch thick. The box greeted me with a screen and an array of buttons. I couldn’t decipher any of their meanings.
I looked into the pod. Through the fog I couldn’t see anything. In the distance I could still hear the sirens. I needed to get out of there. Suddenly that didn’t matter. I needed to know what was in those pods.
I used my hand to wipe away the fog, but I was surprised to find that my hand stuck to the glass looking substance. It was not glass at all but some kind of slim. I pulled my hand away, and the slime stuck to it before snapping back. The whole surface rippled.
I placed my palm flat against the “glass” this time and pushed inwards. The material began to stretch as I pressed against it. It started to screech as I forcefully placed my hand through it. Finally the membrane tore.
Hot pink fluid rushed through the hole, and spilled onto my feet. I jumped back and watched as it poured out. Steam rose from the ground, when the liquid made contact.
The hole grew bigger from the gushing liquid. It poured faster and then slowly died down to a slow drip. The entire pod seemed to be empty of the strange liquid.
I carefully stepped close. The liquid was already growing cold with the chilly surroundings. I used my hands to open the membrane-like glass more. A body flopped onto me.
I instantly threw it down, and instinctively leapt back again. The pink fluid coated the body. It was unnaturally skinny, its white skin tightly wrapped around its bones. Its four arms were contorted at odd angles I didn't think possible.
I didn’t know what to think as I stared at the being before me. My heart was racing, pounding. This body had the same anatomy as me. Tall, pale complexion, four arms. I was shaking. Before then I never had thought about others like me. Before then I hadn’t thought about a lot of things.
In its current position, its back was to me. I gingerly approached the body and used my longer arms to cautiously turn it over. Its limp head rolled, and its three lifeless eyes stared into my soul. My knees buckled, and I collapsed.
I closed my eyes, covering them with my palms. I couldn't get the image out of my mind. This body, this thing, it looked exactly like me. I’d seen my reflection in the glass before. I was aware of my appearance. High cheekbones, thin lips, tall head. This thing was me.
The memory of its lifeless expression burned my eyes. I refused to open them.
I crawled backward, trying to get away from the abomination, and crashed into another pod behind me. It nearly toppled over. I hadn't realized I was breathing so heavy. It felt like my throat was closing.
I steadied myself and carefully climbed to my feet. I looked at the other hundreds of pods. They lined every inch of the wall, an impossible number of them.
One question burned in my mind. One I didn’t want to be answered. Were they all me?
I wanted the answer to be no.
Somehow I knew the answer would be yes.
I regained my composure, at least as best as I could. I didn’t look back to the dead creature. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Its face was still fresh in my skull. I would remember that image for the rest of my life… however long that may be.
Against every nerve in my body, I turned to three other pods. I needed to know what was inside, to confirm what I already knew. I opened the three pods, using my nails to tear into the flesh of the chamber. Pink fluid gushed out of the pods, exactly like the first one. I let the liquid rush over my feet. I didn’t care this time. Three more pale white bodies tumbled out of the chambers. Each one looked the same. Exactly like me.
Something was not right here. The Red Men, they were much more sinister than I had thought. Why did they have hundreds of bodies that looked exactly like me? Were they prisoners like me? Were they even alive? A dreadful thought occurred to me.
Were they just copies of me?
Had they anticipated my escape, and prepared by making duplicates? I started to pace, my whole body filled with chills. I rubbed the back of my head. I felt the numbers.
I quickly knelt down and looked at the back of one of the body’s heads. Printed in black letters were the number: 235. I looked at the other creatures. 233 and 234. I ran over to the first one and checked the back of its neck. 246.
I stood in disbelief, in shock. I didn’t want to believe what I was thinking. They weren’t copying me. I was just another one of the copies, another one of the numbers. One-hundred and twelve others had come before me. What had happened to them?
Why were the Red Men doing this? Just another question for the flood. I needed them answered. I needed the floodgate to close.
My body grew weak again, but I caught myself before I could fall. My stomach began to spin. Something about it didn’t feel right. Discolored liquid forcefully ejected from my mouth.
I clenched my stomach in pain, as the liquid spewed from me. It had a horrific taste, and it burnt my nose. I was gasping for breath, trying to keep it from happening again. Never before had that happened. I had no idea what was going on anymore.
I heaved again, and the same liquid left my mouth. I doubled over and fell to my knees. I spat the taste out of my mouth. I couldn’t control myself anymore. My body wasn’t moving with my mind. Water was falling from my eyes in little droplets. It felt as if I was dying. Maybe I was. The eye water reached my lips, and it tasted salty. My whole body was convulsing.
I tried to take a step forward, but my legs were too weak. My body wanted to curl into a ball and lie down. I knew I shouldn’t, but I wanted to. I need to figure out what all this meant, why the Red Men were making copies.
I thought back to the rooms where I used to work. It felt like a lifetime ago. The rifles, the unstable stars, the vehicles, and all the other things I had created. They all had one thing in common. I hadn’t realized it until now.
I needed to get out of there. I needed to leave the copies behind.
Back towards where I had entered, the steel door opened,  and several Red Men rushed in. They opened fire with their rifles. I pulled one of the pods in front of me, to shield from the flying bullets. I didn’t have much time. My instinct took effect, and my other emotions disappeared. At least I pretended they did.
I darted towards them, forcing pods to jump in front of me to absorb the bullets. I was only a few feet from the Red Men now. They were different than any of the Red Men I had seen before. They wore bulkier outfits, with helmets. These helmets had a clear visor that was pushed up and out of their faces. From where I stood this made it look like they had horns.
I dodged past them before they could even react. I willed the ceiling above them to collapse as I jumped out of the steel door. As I ran all, I could hear was the screams of the buried Red Men.
My only thought now was to get out. I didn’t know how so I did the one thing that made sense. Go up. Eventually the building had to end. That was the one sure way to find an exit. The building wasn’t infinitely tall. I hoped it wasn’t.
I found the stairs again. I could have used my thoughts to climb my way through the floors, and to the roof, but I didn’t know what was above me or where more Red Men would be. I wasn’t about to test that.
The alarm was still ringing through the whole complex. Each floor I climbed to, I could hear it on the other side of the door. No Red Men found me in the stairwell. I wish they had. I was in the mood to end more of them.
I had raced up nine more floors before I reached the top. The last door was bolted shut with a large lock, similar to one I had created. That did little to stop me.
The light blinded me as I walked outside for the first time in my existence. I wondered if I was the first of the copies to do so. I shielded my eyes, but everything was so bright. My feet crunched on the hot rocks that covered the roof. I found the edge of the roof.
When my eyes finally adjusted, I wished I had stayed blind.
Everything around me was in ruin. The remains of once tall buildings lie covered in rubble. Down below in the streets, decaying bodies were in stacks. As I stood there, ash started to rain down from the sky. It was horrific. That wasn’t the worst of it.
Machines on wheels with large rifles on top drove through the streets, running over the bodies like they were nothing. Red Men wielding rifles walked through the streets. A flying vehicle, zoomed overhead, with a package hanging underneath it, that looked oddly familiar. The star.
I had created all of these things. All of this destruction and death was done by my work. Why had I never realized this before?
Footsteps appeared behind me. I turned, and someone stood several yards away from me. It was a Red Man, except he wasn’t wearing the usual crimson outfit. He didn't hide his face, revealing a head of brown hair, and a clean shaved jaw. He wore slim black pants, with a similar black jacket that cut in a V, showing a white shirt underneath. In his hand, he held a pistol, another weapon I had provided for them.
He had a smirk on his face, and he made no move. He just stood there and watched me. It was as if he was studying me. After what felt like an eternity, he spoke to me.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” his voice was deep but soothing. It was a voice that made you want to listen. I tried to speak, but I couldn’t. I had never used my voice before. I tried again, and only a strange noise came out. By the third try, I was able to form words.
“What. Is. Beautiful?” I asked. My voice was like a vibrating hum, and it tickled my throat. My words were choppy, and it was hard to form the sentence I wanted to say. He smiled at that.
“All of it,” he said as he raised his arms, spinning in a circle. “Without you, I never would have been able to do this.”
“No.” I tried to say more, but my voice caught. All of this was a dream. None of it could be real. I wished that it wasn’t.
“Believe me, it is true. Well, you, and the others before you.” His demeanor never changed. He acted like he was the King of Everything. From the looks of it, he was.
“Why? Why do this?” All I wanted to do was end this man. It would be easy. All I needed to do was think it, and he would be gone. But something inside me stopped myself. I wanted to know. I needed to know.
The man spoke again, but he ignored my question.
“You know I thought we got it right this time. I mean, it did take you much longer than the last one.” It seemed he was more talking to himself than me.
“Longer for what?” Slowly my voice was starting to work the way I wanted. I was catching on quick. The man looked up at me as if he was just remembering I was still standing there. He smiled a sinister grin. He had the upper hand here. He had dealt with me before. One hundred and twelve times. I didn't want to believe that.
“You can clone a living being all you want. Rearrange their genetic code, make them stronger, faster, smarter. Anything you want. The one thing you can’t do is take away their free will. That isn’t for lack of trying. Everyone wants to think for themselves, regardless of who... or what they are.” The man’s words stung. It felt like I was in that cold room all over again. My head was starting to hurt, and I didn’t know what to think anymore. My head ached and I wished the floodgate had never opened. One emotion began to rise, and I knew it was the only emotion I wanted to feel. Anger.
“You made me do this? All of this. I-” I started to ball my fists. I needed to end this man. He interrupted me before I could continue.
“Yes, yes we have had this conversation a hundred times, and it always ends the same. I just hope the next experiment goes more smoothly. I can’t afford to lose any more men.” The anger in me was ready to explode. I needed to kill this man.

Before I could think, there was a deafening bang. The floodgate closed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Table

When I was eleven years old, my family had this antique table. Its leaded paint was chipped, and the wood was rotting. Notches and scratches covered the surface, from when I tried to show my sister how fast I could stab a knife between my fingers.
Underneath it was worse. Globs of long forgotten gum littered the underside, mixed in with snot from us nose pickers. Bug filled cobwebs were in every nook and cranny; it seemed my family wasn't the only ones who enjoyed meals at the table.
One of the legs had somehow become much shorter than the others. We stacked a pile of Lego blocks underneath to make it even. There were many dark rings, from where my father placed his coffee mug. The wood had warped, so if you sat in the wrong place, your plate would slide away from you.
The odd time my mom would hang a tablecloth over it when she wanted to appear fancy for visitors. The cloth was wider than the table, and it dropped to the floor on all sides. It made for a great hide-and-seek spot.
Every time I thought about that table, it reminded me of a day so many years ago I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count. It had been hot, hellish, nearly forty degrees Celsius from sunrise to sunset. There were no clouds in the sky, no wind and even the bugs were hiding away from the heat. My family’s house was on a busy street. There wasn’t a person in sight.
After sunset the temperature dropped, but not nearly enough for it to be comfortable. The house felt like a furnace. The Devil’s Furnace.
I remember I went to bed early that day. I was tired from heat exhaustion. I woke hours later. The house was a freezer, colder than the Arctic. We didn’t have air conditioning in the house. I could see my breath. Everything smelt like rotten eggs.
I climbed out of bed, and the hardwood was like icicles on my feet. I pulled on socks and sweater and even questioned putting on my winter coat. It was the middle of July.
I walked out of my room; frost covered the doorknob. I was going to find the thermostat; it was somewhere on the main floor. I walked to the top of the stairs. From where I stood I could see the front door. It was wide open. Sometimes my family could be buffoons. How hard was it to lock the door?
I took the stairs one at a time. Each one groaned in protest, the noise carrying through the whole house. The stairs were never used this late in the night.
I looked out the front door. Dense fog covered the street.  I couldn’t see past our front lawn. I bolted the door shut. The house was completely silent.
I turned around to head down the hall. The dining room was to my left. I could see the outline of the table in the dark.  I flipped on the light above the front door. The light seeped into the dining room and crawled down the hallway.
I could see the table now. The tablecloth was on it.
I continued down the hallway towards the living room.
In the another room, something fell to the floor. The deafening crash made my heart skip a beat, and I squeaked. Butterflies rose in my stomach. My heart pumped fast. It had sounded like a five-ton boulder meeting concrete, or at least it did in the quiet house.
Shattering glass followed the noise and then the creak of a floorboard.
Suddenly I found myself under the table, wide-eyed, rocking back and forth.
I laughed at myself. Why did I scare so easily? It was nothing. My dad was probably having a drink in the living room, and he dropped his glass. He did that quite often. He lived in his chair, a drink in hand. My mom hated how clumsy he was.
I started to question what the other noise had been, but I was interrupted by the clamor of footsteps. They sounded like the hollow banging of a war drum. They were slow and evenly paced. The floorboards didn’t creak. No one in the house had footsteps like that.
It felt like my heart was in my throat. I had no reason to be scared. The noise was most likely coming from my dad. I laid down on my stomach and carefully lifted the tablecloth, just enough to peek one eye out. I was expecting to see my father’s house slippers. With the sound, they were making I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that they weren’t.
Big, muddy boots walked down the hallway across from me. My body shook, and a chill went through my spine. I didn’t dare lift the cloth more. No one in the house had boots like that.
I recoiled back, and my muscles clenched tightly. I could barely think my body was tensing so much. I was breathing heavy through my nose, and my teeth were clenched so tight they started to hurt.
Each step the boots took echoed through the house. They went to the stairs. They began to climb them. For such thunderous footsteps, they moved so silently through the house. I couldn’t be the only one hearing them. What about my dad in the living room. I had a gut feeling he wouldn’t hear anything anymore. I wanted to cry.
My heart was pumping faster than I could think. It was so loud it was making my ears bleed. I tried to control it, but my body was shaking too much.
The footsteps reached the top of the stairs. They stopped for a moment. They started again. They were headed straight for my parent's bedroom.
I wanted to move but I couldn’t. My fear wouldn’t let me.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. Whose boots were those? I needed to call someone, to get help.
I didn’t want to leave the safety of the table. I couldn’t force myself too.
The door to my parent's bedroom creaked open.
The shriek of a banshee filled the house. My mother’s scream.
I covered my ears. The tears welled in my eyes.
Shouts of pain and cries for help followed the shriek. I did nothing. Silence followed.  Something slammed onto the ground. The heavy footsteps came back.
Fear petrified my body. My stomach felt sick. I wanted to vomit. My hands started to hurt, and I hadn’t realized I had balled my fists. My nails made my palms bleed.
My sister’s screams came next. I drowned it out with my own cry.
I bit my hand to stop my shout. I tasted blood in my mouth. The footsteps came back. I could hear something dragging on the floor. I didn’t want to know what it was. I think I already did. Sweat covered my body, my warm clothes sticking to my skin.
The footsteps started down the stairs. Each step they took was followed by a crash.
Step, bang. Step, bang. Something was hitting the stairs with each step.
The footsteps went straight to the living room. The dragging followed close behind. I pinched the bottom of the table cloth and peered through.
There was a long streak covering the hallway. It was dark and shiny in the overhead light.  It smelt like blood. I feared that it was.
I scurried away from the edge of the table cloth. I gripped my knees. Tears came. I stifled my want to cry out. It didn’t work. The tears flowed.
The footsteps started again.
This time, they were coming closer. My heart began to pump faster and faster. The steps seemed to be in sync with my heartbeat. They were coming right for me. Goosebumps formed on my arms, and I could feel the hair rising on the back of my neck.
They stopped.
They were right outside the table.
I muffled my cry, but I already knew it was too late for that.
I peeled the tablecloth up. The muddy boots were right there unmoving. It seemed like forever that I watched them. Before I realized it, I wasn’t looking at boots anymore, but knees.
Skeletal like fingers slowly wrapped around my own. They were colder than mine. They started to raise the table cloth. My breath quicken and I nearly passed out. I couldn't control my breathing.
An eye looked right at me.
It was a happy memory of a time so many years ago. I couldn’t help but think about it as I stand in front of a table, much like the I had. It is dark inside the home, but I have no trouble seeing. I look down at my feet. I wear heavy, muddy boots. In one hand I am holding an ax. Red coats the head of it. Blood red.
I lift the tablecloth and look into the eyes of a little boy. The boy is shaking, his eyes are wider than the moon. Just like me, he had been smart enough to take refuge underneath the table.