*Wordcount: 1026 words.
The shot echoed across the courtyard, and the throngs of people slowed a moment, confused. Some screamed, those closest to the collapsed body. Some ran, and even more scanned their surroundings, unsure of what the sound was exactly.
The second shot was still unexpected, and another body fell. This time, more people realised what was happening. Or, at least, realised that this wasn’t a good place to be right now.
One man still scanned streets and buildings, until he glimpsed a glint of reflected sunlight. He raised his hand to point, and his voice to shout.
The third shot felled him, and more people screamed.
In the bell tower, James looked out over the crowd. Below him they fluttered and fled, flailing away like insects under the might of a bored schoolchild. Of course, he was no schoolchild. He had left those years behind him, and had looked forward to the future.
But that was irrelevant now, with the rifle in his hand and his eyes on the dispersing crowd. All of it was irrelevant, so he might as well.
The fourth shot hit what looked like a child, and James stopped for a moment to smile. School truly was awful, and he was momentarily glad he could help out someone else by saving them that brand of torture.
In fact, the more he shot (by now, six), the more he realised that he was helping them. Saving them from the rat-race of life, which ends in death anyway. They would die of mundane, sometimes painful, things. This was quick, almost merciful. These thoughts lifted James spirits, and that would not do.
He was here for a reason, and he needed to remember that he was no helper. No saviour. He was ripping these people away from their lives, and robbing their family members of something precious.
He burned this thought into his mind, and kept shooting.
The rifle itself was a beauty, even though James didn’t know much about guns. He couldn’t even remember the name of the rifle, and it was etched into the side. It didn’t matter though, as he had more than enough bullets, a sight, and, as luck would have it, a silencer (it should be noted that silencers really only dampen the sound; they don’t make the drastic difference that people expect these days thanks to movies and, well, other media).
The sight and silencer came with the rifle, James recalled. It was a special or a deal or something, and James’ father had been quite pleased at the bargain.
Why a rifle intended for hunting animals (and certainly nothing else) was sold with a silencer was beyond him, but he wouldn’t complain.
He stopped to do some reloading, having lost count of the number. The courtyard below was mostly empty, save for the bodies littering the ground.
A few people were still trying to stumble their way out of sight, and some cradled the bodies on the floor (he could leave them for last, they weren’t going anywhere).
James cocked the gun, and looked out through the sight.
For a moment, James wondered what his dad would say. He wouldn’t be happy, to say the least, but James honestly wasn’t sure. The more time that passed after his Father’s passing, the less James could hold on to the memory. The person behind the image was slowly lost to him, and that had made him sad at first.
Now, he felt nothing. He had taken the guns without remorse; they didn’t belong to anyone anymore.
He had practiced, on his own, where his dad used to hunt. Bottles, cans, paper targets, but nothing living. That could wait, he wanted to save his killing for people.
He used to buy ammo for his father, who was friendly with the clerk at the armoury, so that wasn’t an issue.
When he felt he was ready, James went out and walked.
He walked until he found somewhere that looked suitable.
It had taken days, but he was content. This worked out well.
The last fleeing person was down, and the very few left were still folded over their loved ones. Like fish in a barrel.
James heard the sirens for the first time, and in truth they had been blaring for a few minutes but he had been too focused to hear them.
Oh well, time’s up. He would be damned if he let a policeman take his life.
He laid the rifle down, and picked up the note he had written before embarking on this murder pilgrimage. It detailed why and how, and read a little like this (but not exactly).
He read through it, considered it, and took out a lighter.
He held the note as it burnt to nothing, the flames licking at his fingers and leaving black marks across them.
He watched the ash dissipate in the wind; he stepped onto the ledge of the tower.
Honestly, he thought his reason was a good one. It seemed solid and tangible to him, and he felt like others would understand even if they didn’t agree.
It felt like some truth of the universe laid bare, and it had changed his life when it occurred to him. James liked the idea of leaving a record, of changing lives.
But there was something more important than that. Something that stopped him from telling a single soul and that compelled him to burn it away.
It was his reason. His alone.
The reason for all of the pain he had caused, the lives he had taken, was unique to him. The thought of sharing it was more painful than losing his father had been.
If he would take one thing with him to his death, it would be that. His reason.
He pulled out his father’s handgun, feeling its weight. It was simple, lacking elegance or style.
But it was real, and assuring.
He stole a look behind him – careful not to fall – and saw the red and blue flashing. They were close, basically here.
He turned his back to his work, and checked the handgun.
It was loaded with a single bullet.