Content Warning: This story contains graphic violence, swearing and some heavy themes.
Blue and red light flickered and forced the growing shadows to recede and return like waves lapping on a beach. The sun was setting and its yellow fade basked all in a sinister overtone that only exacerbated how long the day had been. The house, like all the others on the street was modern. It was large and carried sharp angles that made the shadows contort when touched by the opposing shadows.
The house was quiet, its shutters down and its electricity off, it looked as though abandoned. The front door had a small hole that went all the way through it. Surrounding it was a large circle of blood, brain and hair. The circle changed colour as the flickering blue and red lights made it look purple and black in vibrant alternating moments. On the path that lead up to the door a body laid out. Now blue, as the blood had left through the holes in its head, it had gathered flies as the hot summer night continued.
The child’s body had laid there most of the afternoon, in plain sight for all those around to see, but none ventured to get it. The father of the boy was being held back from going near him, distraught and screaming he had collapsed in a fit of sorrow not hours before. The circle of cars surrounding the house formed a barrier none would cross. As the sun set their blue and red lights had turned the normal suburban street into an otherworldly scene.
The commotion outside of the house was not shared by those that remained inside it. Six people huddled on the floor of the bathroom, they sat on the white tiled floor. A small stream of urine was still dripping through the drain in the center of the floor. They remained there, stunned and quiet. Four young children, the same age as the one laid out on the path outside, were hugged between the arms of two women who prioritised only their safety. The women had been young students themselves before the events of the day, now they were nothing. Their attention had shifted from the anticipation of the night’s promise of drinks and clubs, to merely living, even just for moments.
The huddled group looked to the tiles of the floor and at the shoes of the figure, leaning against the doorway. It had a bottle of Chivas Regal in one hand and a Glock in the other. The figure moved the bottle to its lips which themselves were surrounded by a long and filthy black beard.
The figure moved the bottle back down to its side, on its way it passed a dirt and blood smeared singlet and a large butchers knife that was tucked in beneath its belt. Its hand shaking ever so slightly as the bottle came to rest.
The sound of a phone vibrating caused the group to jump, a normally unimpressive sound, it was deafening against the silence. The figure transferred the neck of the bottle to the grip of the Glock, so that the same hand held both. It reached into its pocket and pulled out the phone as its vibrations emitted a louder tone. It pushed the green button and the commotion from outside was transferred into their world via a small but loud speaker. The man held it to his ear and listened.
This is detective Robert Butler. How are you holding up in there? Is everyone ok?
The man’s raspy, now tipsy voice breathed back.
We are fine, Robert Butler. Everyone is just fine.
I’m glad to hear that, Lee, I really am. I don’t want this situation to get any worse, as I am sure you don’t either. My priority right now is to make sure no one else gets hurt and that includes you. But I need you to tell me how I can help, what can I do for you, to make sure everyone stays safe?
A smile broke out across the Lee’s face, his yellow, decayed teeth exposed.
Mr Butler, I’m not leaving this house alive, we both know that.
No Lee, you can leave here, safely. I can help you with that. But you have to help me, too. Now I’m sure you had a reason for doing what you did today, and I’m not here to judge you. I don’t care what happened earlier, my priority is to get everyone out of here safely. I mean that.
I wonder, Mr Butler, how many times you have said that to someone like me? I’m sure in some cases you meant it, too. You know, I have spent today travelling your fine city. Travelling to the houses of different families and shooting their various children. I have shot dead eight boys and two girls today and now I have two more hostage. Now here you are, talking to me and trying to convince me that all will be alright if I just surrender and bring these people out. Ten children. Dead. I won’t make it past the first doorstep. No, Mr Butler, I imagine this ends here, tonight.
Lee took another gulp of the scotch, some of it dribbles down his bearded chin. He doesn’t flinch at the bite any longer.
You say you have killed many people today, Lee. Children. To me, honestly, that is a matter for tomorrow, right now, I only care about the people in that house and their safety. There has to be something you want, something you need. It’s yours if you just let them go.
Lee lowered the phone from his ear and wiped his sweating brow with his forearm. He looked at the huddled group on the floor, he bit his lip. One of the shaking woman looked up and made contact with his eyes, she quickly looked back down when she saw him looking back.
He grinned at her reaction and he moved the phone back to his ear.
We want steaks. Six of them.
He paused and a bottle of champagne, something expensive. You do that?
You sure this is the time to be drinking, Lee?
You saying you don’t want a drink? Lee laughed at the phone. He heard a chuckle return.
Good point, if not now, Right? I think I can manage that for you, Lee. But you have to help me too. Please, let them go.
Lee licked his lips. I don’t think so.
Well how about this, I’ll personally bring the food in, we sit down we have a nice dinner and when you are ready we all leave together, safely?
You come in with the stuff, I’ll let one of them go.
Lee paused and took another sip of his scotch,
you come, alone, unarmed obviously.
Ok, Lee you have a deal, but I’m trusting you here, you have to let the children go, and I want your word that no one else is going to be hurt tonight.
One child, Butler. One.
There was silence on the end of the phone.
Ok, and your word no one else dies tonight.
Lee hung up the phone and put it back into his pocket.
He sighed, and one of the children looked up at him, Can we please go? I don’t want to be here anymore, I’m scared. One of the women gasped and held onto the child stronger as Lee took slow steps towards them.
I’m sorry little man, but you can’t go, not yet, but this will be over soon. Lee leaned in closer to the boy and looked him in the eye.
And between you and me, I’d never hurt an innocent child. And I’m not going to hurt you or your brother.
The child was crying under the arms of the woman guarding him, What about Tommy, you hurt him.
Lee stood up abruptly and turned to walk out of the bathroom.
Thomas wasn’t innocent.
The yellow glow that dominated the sky had since rescinded and now only the blue and red cast the shadows. The door to the bathroom was locked and Lee sat on the couch in darkness. The Glock now sitting on his lap, the bottle of scotch having slipped from his hand, was now on its side, staining the carpet. The silence was once again broken by the angry vibration of his phone. Lee moved one numb hand into his pocket and after some effort, it emerged with the phone, its bright screen caused his now wide iris to slowly close. He thumbed the screen for the green button he finally caught it.
Lee, I have the food and the champagne. I’m on the front step, please come and let me in.
Lee hung up the phone and dropped it into his pocket. He got up shakily and stumbled down the hall to the bathroom door, he turned the key he had left in the lock and the huddle jumped as he swung the door open, it banged against the opposing wall as he let it go. His long scarred finger pointed to the innocent child.
You. C’mon, time to go.
The child looked up at the woman who had held him the whole night, she nodded to the child and wiped away her tears as she let him go. The child stood up on weak legs that had grown tired from a night of disuse. He walked out of the room as Lee closed the door behind them. They walked to the entrance where Lee grabbed the back of his shirt and spun him around. He knelt down so that their faces were at the same level. Lee sniffed as he tried to stay awake.
Listen to me little man, I’m sorry about all this, I’m sorry you had to see Thomas like that. I’m sorry that this shitty world has dumped all this on you.
Lee spoke through tearful eyes, his dehydrated mouth left strings of white saliva between his lips as he spoke out his scotch filled words.
But I need you to promise me something. Two things actually. One, I need you to let the man on the step inside the house when you go and then close the door behind you, slam it shut to be sure.
Ok, the boy said meekly.
The second thing. I want you, no I need you to promise me, that all this, this badness, you won’t let it inside you, don’t let this world turn you into something bad, Don’t ever forget what’s good. Please. Don’t ever turn out like me or Thomas. Please.
The boy was balling too.
Lee smiled as he wiped away the boys tears, ok, time to go.
The boy nodded as he opened the door. Butler stepped inside, carrying several large foil containers which had steam visibly rising through the flickering lights. He turned to the boy.
Go son, now!
The boy ran out, then stopped and ran back, Lee could hear the people outside calling him in a chorus of distressed sound. The boy ran back to the door and slammed it shut, then ran passed the blood smeared pavement where Thomas’ body still remained.
Lee got wearily to his feet, he pushed himself up by leaning on the wall. His Glock firmly in hand.
Hello, Lee. Is everyone ok? I would like to see them if I could. Give them their food. Is that alright? Lee motioned to the bathroom with the pistol.
No sudden movements.
Butler opened the door and saw the group on the floor, they looked up in confusion at the new man walking through the door, he quickly placed the containers on the ground.
Are you guys alright, are you hurt? They shook their heads as one of the women quietly stated they were ok. The other was still silent. Thomas’ blood still encrusted on her arm.
I’m going to get you guys out of here, soon. Just hang in there a little bit longer. Butler picked up two of the containers and another brown paper bag and took them out to the living room where Lee was already sitting, in the darkness. Butler placed the containers on the table and turned on a lamp nearby. The light came from below and illuminated a small area around the table. Butler could not see Lee’s eyes but he could see the tears slowly forming down his cheek.
Butler took a seat opposite Lee. So, these steaks smell pretty good, I’m pretty keen to try one, how about you, Lee?
Lee sniffed back the lump in his throat, I don’t care about the fucking Steaks, Butler.
I know, I imagine you have had some time to think. I’m sure it must be hard, to be alone, especially with the events of today on your mind.
You have no idea. Today has easily been the worst day of my life. Lee chuckled through the tears, and I have had some shitty days, I can tell you.
Me too, Lee. Me too. Can I tell you something?
There was a pause as Lee motioned Butler to continue.
You don’t seem like the kind of person who would do something like this, you seem, calm, even remorseful. I have seen a few people who have snapped, in fact I have unfortunately even seen someone go on a rampage before. Usually there is no talking to them. No sense of control or logic left in them. They don’t order steaks and champagne. Usually they threaten, they act erratically. Most importantly they don’t get drunk and cry all night, that’s remorse, and that is the one thing I have never seen in cases like these before.
Lee looked at the champagne bottle and turned it until the label was in front of him.
You try killing ten children and then see how you fucking feel about it.
That’s my point, Lee, I consider myself a normal person, whatever that is, and I don’t think I could kill a child, and you don’t seem like the kind either.
You would be surprised, Robert Butler, what you are capable of. We all do what we need to do. You are more of an advocate of that then most people. We both know that.
Im not sure I understand.
Sure you do, I didn’t kill these children tonight because I wanted to. I did it because I had to. Thomas, Louis, Alec, Daniel, Grace, Derek, Nathan, Sarah, Rajiv and Ali they all had to die. They were monsters.
Lee unravelled the gold coloured metal that covered the Champagne cork. He popped the cork with his free hand and sent it flying into the roof. He heard a yelp come from the bathroom, that in turn made him jump. He watched the fog emerge from the open bottle. He fought back tears as he cracked a smile.
Cheer up Mr Butler, this is a celebration.
Lee took a long drink of the champagne, most of it flowed down his chin and covered his bloody shirt.
But right now, they are children, Jesus, I never thought it would be this hard. What if this doesn’t work? What if we were wrong? What if others just take their place?
There was a pause as Lee stared off into the black nothingness of the rest of the room, What if nothing changes?
Butler leaned forward, what are you saying, Lee? That these children somehow deserved to be killed, shot dead in front of their families? That it is somehow, right?
Lee stared back into Butler’s vengeful eyes, his own still red and weepy. Yes, Butler, that is exactly what I am saying. It had to be done, but that doesn’t make the pain of actually doing it any easier.
Lee sat back and slouched, the champagne dripping down the bottle was held in one hand and the Glock in the other, both positioned on the table.
Two billion people, Robert. That is how many were killed outright. Devastated cities. But it was the hunger that most of us remember the most, the endless search for food. When you grow up in a city and that’s all you know, you lose everything when it is taken away, we had no survival skills, everything we needed was at the supermarket. What the fuck were we suppose to do when it just disappeared, vaporised in an instant.
The tears were freely running down Lee’s face.
You wouldn’t understand that part.
I don’t understand any part, Lee. What are you saying?
Lee looked down and fidgeted with the metal foil he had taken from the champagne bottle.
It didn’t get a name, it wasn’t committed to history, there was no winning side to record it. I guess it was World War III, but it wasn’t really a war, it descended into every man for himself so quickly, so fucking quickly. The planet was scorched because it was easier for it to happen than not.
Butler sat back in his seat, he looked Lee up and down.
World War III? So you are from the future, Lee? Is that what you are saying?
Lee nodded his head slowly, about thirty years from now, I think, we lost track of time after the devastation.
Butler eyed the Glock in Lee’s hand.
Why are you telling me this, Lee? We both know that didn’t happen.
Lee looked up and glared into Butler’s eyes, a smirk twisted the watery stream that had cleaned a streak down his face.
Well, not anymore, now that they are dead.
Who did you think they were, Lee?
Corporation heads, Politicians, Soldiers. They did it. The orchestrated it all. They took the next step up from the age of terror, they realised that fear was power, and the orchestration of fear was big business. They started small, car bombs, shootings, enough to make the average person apathetic, trusting the system as the lesser evil.
But then they started to think bigger, they realised they could enslave whole populations, purely through terror. They made everywhere dangerous except where they wanted people corralled. But we started to wise up, a few of us saw what was happening, and we fought back. We knew it was they who were the bigger threat, eventually we realised they were the only threat. We had everything we needed on them, we found enough legislation and lawmakers willing to make a stand, we had them in a corner.
Lee looked down at his Glock, the sweat now perspiring between his fingers and the grip.
The people still hadn’t turned you see, only a few of us took a stand. So those sick fucks, those innocent children, little fucking Tommy out there. They did it. They did the unimaginable.
Butler, sat forward in his chair, himself now sweating.
They dropped the bombs. Delhi was first, a neutron bomb. Killed every living thing in the city, but it left the buildings standing, they didn’t need to hide anymore, they blamed it on extremist this, terrorist that, blah blah, who gives a fuck right? They were in control and they wanted to make damn sure the world knew it.
Lee, took another swing of the champagne, watching Butler the whole time. Our resistance turned violent, we went after those we knew held the real power, the corporation heads and the few Politicians and generals that they had bought, we went after them all.
We had planned to hit them, on the same night, cut the head off the snake. Ha, we were so fucking sure of our selves. We knew everyone wanted this, that we could take back our lives, and bring justice to them all. We were so naive. They infiltrated us from day one. Before the plan was even fully discussed. They foiled the attacks as we put them into action, we were killed by our own guys, bought out for trinkets and scraps off the rich kids tables.
The reprisals were the tipping point. They decimated the cities of the world, literally. They held a lottery the sick fucks. Had all the names of all the cities in a big box. They pulled them out. One by one and every tenth name, they stopped counting and cut to their other cameras.
They showed the ICBM being fired and followed it on a map, like some sick, game show. Then they showed it hitting, and then they did it again, every night.
We were the third city to be devastated.
Butler looked at Lee, you really believe this don’t you?
They brought in containment units on the cities that remained, death squads, summary executions for any that stood up to them, or questioned anything the leaders did.
When me and my family finally made it back to civilization, that’s what they called it, not me. We were put to work, for months we slaved, did what we were told. One day I made the mistake of snapping at a guard captain, who pushed my wife. He did it for no reason, just because. So I snapped. I told him to pick on someone his own size.
So he held me down and made me watch as he beat her to death, then he moved on to my son.
Butler sat there, stunned, he looked down at Lee’s left hand and saw the tan line where his ring would have been.
So what happened next? Butler kept him talking and eyed the Glock on the table.
Lee, held back his tears and clenched the neck of the champagne with clenched fist. The same tit for tat shit that always happened, the crowd went crazy, attacked the guards, they withdrew and bombed the whole place.
Butler, looked at the light coming from under the bathroom door.
Only this time was different, they used a new bomb, something experimental. I don’t know what happened to the city or the others, but I woke up back here, in this time.
So, you killed them, because you were angry, you wanted revenge, Justice?
No, they died because they had to die, I just saved the world, man. Don’t you get that?
Butler looked at the window, the faint blue and red still splashing on the ugly brown curtains. He had been inside for quite some time, without word from those watching anxiously outside.
I understand what you are saying Lee. He saw Lee sweating more.
Was there nothing else you could do? I mean you had a chance to set things right, you could have told the world what would happen, talk to those children or their parents-
Oh, yeah? Lot of good that would have done, who would listen to some crazy hobo, from the future? Hell people don’t listen to the naysayers with Phds.
No, Butler, this was the only way.
This is the only way.
Lee, tightened his grip around the neck of the champagne bottle.
It’s kind of funny, you know. When we planned to take these fuckers out the first time, we did so much researched, we looked into their schedules, their friends, their families, where they went to school, everything. We hated them so much, we’d read about them, every night, I would have dreams about what I would do to them when I found them. Now they are dead. I don’t feel anything, just empty.
I’ve heard a lot of people who have killed say something similar, Lee. Vengeance can never fill a whole inside, it has no ability to create, only destroy and hurt. The hole only gets deeper.
I knew you would be here today, Butler. I knew you were working. You’re right though, the only thing that would help me would be to have my family back.
I’m sorry, Butler.
It’s ok, some good can still come of today, you let these people go and we can get you help, believe me, it seems like the world is overwhelming, but it won’t always be this way, I know, I’ve been there.
No, Mr. Butler, you do not understand. I’m sorry for what I did to you.
What do you mean Lee, what did you do to me?
I knew you would be working today and I knew they would be at home. You left at seven forty three this morning. Seven forty six.
Butler’s eyes darted between Lee’s. Looking for a tell that he was lying. It wasn’t there.
He swallowed and hesitated. What did you do?
Horrible things, they are dead. All of them.
Lee could see Butler shaking, trembling he knew the feeling came right after his stomach had dropped.
Butler fumbled his phone out of his pocket and called. It went to the voice mail. Again and again.
He looked up, his eyes as teary as Lee’s. Why? He whispered. Why would you do that to them.
Lee clenched the champagne bottle and stood up slowly.
Because you did it to me. I’m sorry, I thought it would help, give me some comfort. It didn’t, they died for nothing. Just like my family.
Butler looked up at the dirty, bloodied man that loomed over him.
Don’t worry, Lee whispered, you’ll join them soon, you fascist pig. He brought the bottle down onto Butler’s chest, the blow left him gasping for air.
Lee walked back behind the table and placed the bottle down. He brought the Glock before him.
Butler gasped out his words, You are a dead man.
He fell forward off of his seat and crawled toward Lee.
I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, he gasped for air as his hands pulled him closer to Lee. He reached his ankles and grabbed at the filthy trouser legs.
Lee looked down at the man, he took aim.
Butler lurched up and threw his arm around Lee’s neck, he pulled himself up with it. His other hand grabbed the knife out of Lee’s Belt and pushed it slowly into his abdomen, He pulled himself up with his weight on the blade.
You didn’t predict this, did you, you fuck.
Lee closed his eyes and a smile broke out on his face.
This is the ending we were always meant to have.
Butler could smell Lee’s breath and feel his pulse dropping, He watched as his chest filled with air and blood. He watched as the shifting ratio of the two caused him ever more discomfort. He noticed the eyes of the man were unfocused and half closed. He finally stopped in that form of stillness that only a body can make.
But he did not notice the barrel pressed against the side of his head, but he heard in the final seconds, Lee squeezing the trigger.
The room filled with silence, until Lee felt the pain reach his heart and then nothing at all.