By Tea Rainey
I remember it clearly, the bone chilling cold that could steal the very life essence of mortal men. That’s not to say that I’m immortal, but rather I had a clear grasp of my own mortality. I ignored the cold and held my body firm and still as the time ticked by.
Time is a strange thing. We as humans cling to it almost as if we could grasp it like it was some kind of entity. I remembered a time when I would have done the same thing, desperately reaching for each second as it ticked by, wanting so badly to hold those single moments and never let them go, never let them fade into the memory of whatever higher power steered us towards our own inevitable bitter ends. Why do we always chase things that we can never hold or control? Why do we cling so bitterly to ideas that we can scarcely understand? The answer has always eluded me, even now.
But in that bitter cold, I held an almost ethereal understanding of it; I could almost touch what I had never before even considered, I felt as if all time had stopped for me. It hadn’t really of course, but it was important none the less. It made me realize just how far we as a people will go just to make amends for time that has long since passed. I remembered the moments clearly as if they had only transpired moments ago, rather than years.
I lay on the roof covered in snow, I had lain there for hours as a storm spewed its contents onto me. I didn’t bother to clean myself off since the snow would give me camouflage that I was much in need of. The chill was the most memorable part of that endeavor, although it didn’t register to me at the time. I couldn’t face the cold because it had become a part of me in every sense of the word.
My motives were far from good, indeed, I would most likely be counted among the demons many believed to infest earth. I would be seen as evil and abhorring something to shun in society. I had long since resigned myself to that fact especially since I would never regret nor change my course of actions.
I waited never recognizing the signs of passing minutes and hours. They meant nothing to me anymore. The only thing that I cared about in those moments was a man riding in the back of a black Mercedes. He was a powerful man full of greed and hate, never understanding the consequences of his own actions. It occurred to me that he had a similar perception of time to my own. What could ever hold a deeper meaning when you had nothing but yourself to live for?
I heard the faint whispers of tires as he rolled up slowly. He was the first to arrive at his arranged meeting. If I remembered correctly he was here to buy drugs or something else among the immoral and illegal lines. He had enough money I was sure he could buy anything his black heart desired. But there was one thing money could never afford, and that was time. This particular man was running out of that luxury.
I twisted and turned the dial on my scope pinpointing the very spot that held the most clarity for the shot. His blackened window was held perfectly in my sights. I waited patiently knowing that he would soon step out. It was in his nature to do the idiotic and mundane. Not to mention his drug lord had finally showed. Just when I thought the man was going to chicken out his door opened and he stepped into the open.
I had been waiting for that very moment for over a year, but to see his face again was torture. His ice cold eyes held nothing and could even be called soulless. His black hair was trimmed short and neat along with his beard. His face was all hard lines and angles hollowed out almost savagely from extended drug use and alcoholism. He would have been handsome, he used to be handsome. At one time I could have liked him, but he took something valuable from me and I had no choice but to return the favor.
“Take the shot Echo.” Her voice whispered to me almost sweetly. I could hear her like soft music floating on the wind, blessing my ears with her fading song. I looked to my side and saw her outline. She was tall, standing in at about 5’9”. Her shocking red hair fell about her face and shoulders in an untamed mess that could never be controlled. Her green eyes were electric and full of life and mischief. She was wearing her favorite outfit consisting of old faded blue jeans and a loose fitting blue blouse to contrast her hair.
She was different from me I was two inches taller with frosty blond hair and eyes to match. She was all warmth where I was nothing but ice. My hair was straight and hers always held a wave. If we were compared I had to wonder if we would be seen as opposites. She put her hand on her hip and tilted her head at me.
“Come on Echo you’ve waited so long… Why wait now?” I blinked slowly as she beamed a smile at me. Was she crazy? Time was nothing now, what was a few more seconds?
“Quiet, Fox,” I whispered to her as I turned back to my sights. I heard her laughter like ringing bells that were so soft you couldn’t help but yearn for their melody to return.
“Take the shot.” Again it was that whisper that was so faint, so tangible. It didn’t have a beginning and it didn’t have an end. All it did to me was make me more aware of the seconds ticking by. It made me yearn to hold still that time when she spoke to me, and hold her voice in my heart as I continued to do the unthinkable.
I aligned the cross of my scope onto the man’s head as he walked up to the drug lord. I had to wonder if he was as painfully aware of the seconds that floated by as I was. He had lived for some forty odd years, and now his time was up. If he had an hourglass that indicated his life he had only a few kernels of sand left. If I were in his shoes I would be desperately grasping those last seconds and pulling them to me in an effort to prolong my own life or even go backwards from that very moment. I had hoped that he would feel that same exquisite pain that I had. But he cared for no one, so I couldn’t give him the torment that I had gone through. The only thing I could give him was an end. I wanted so badly to call his name so that he could look into my eyes and be hyper aware of his own doom. I wanted him to see his end, to grasp it even before it struck him. I could even go as far as to say that I wanted him to suffer a little before he expired. But I couldn’t be choosey, and I couldn’t wait any longer.
I took a deep breath, losing myself to the numbness and my own experience. The gun leveled and stayed perfectly still. My finger almost of its own accord pulled the trigger. But in that moment a body guard of his lunged and blocked my path taking the bullet for his master. Laughter echoed all around me as my sly Fox taunted me. I cursed under my breath loading my rifle again. The man was running now, they were all running. But they could never run fast enough. Time was on my side because I had no concept of it. They could run, they could walk, and hell they could even crawl it made no difference. The only change was that I had to work harder to reach my goal.
I followed him with the sights and when the feeling that always accompanied a perfect shot lit up my veins and my senses I pulled the trigger again. Blood exploded as another guard went down. But this time the brutish man’s body wasn’t enough to save his master. The blue eyed villain fell. He was wounded, but not dead. This would not do. But I had to turn away from him to end the drivers who were desperately trying to escape me. While I wanted to be a better more moral person and let them live I couldn’t jeopardize my mission. I killed them all.
When I was finished I looked back to the man who had taken everything from me. While still alive I could tell he was coming close to his end. I stood and brushed myself off. I wanted to be a little more up close and personal for this last bit. I turned and began to make my way off the roof. The snow fell softly and quietly around me, and there was no trace of my elusive Fox.
I made it to the bottom and stood in front of him. His sharp eyes pierced me down to my hollow soul.
“Am I graced by the all famous Echo? What a shame you’re nothing more than a girl.” He gurgled sarcastically. I didn’t move a muscle as I kept my face cold and distant. The fact that he knew my nickname was irrelevant.
“Randy Cochevski.” I said it with the most venom I could muster. Even as he bled out he still managed to make me feel soul crushing pain.
“Tell me why you decided to kill me, and maybe I’ll let you leave this place alive.” He held his chest and began to shake as the seconds took their toll. I almost laughed.
“Even if you didn’t it would make no difference to me. Death and life hold no more meaning then day or night. If I live for ten more minutes or ten more years I could care less.” I said it softly as if the words actually meant something to me. He scowled at my words.
“Then what? Were you hired?” I didn’t understand his need to know. Maybe it was every dying man and woman’s wish to know just why it was that their lives were draining from them. It wouldn’t do me any harm to give a dying man his last wish. Perhaps then he would regret his actions for the first time in his life.
“Do you remember a year or so ago when you broke into a home and attacked the people who lived there? Two girls, barely on the cusp of womanhood. Do you remember what you did?” I asked. He smiled, his blood stained teeth making me sick to my stomach. But I stood firm none the less.
“As I recall I was looking for something, and those two girls refused to give it to me. I took this precious little red headed one and… What did I do again?” He cocked his head as I was dragged back into those terrifying moments.
He held her hair back from her face as he drug a knife down the side of her cheek. Blood followed the cold steel blade like the tail of a falling star. Tears stained her face as she shook with sobs begging me to help; she begged anyone for help. He kept asking over and over again for the location of a stash. I didn’t understand what he was asking for, we had only just bought the house. But with our lengthening silence he grew angry. I wasn’t sure if he decided that he had miscalculated or if he just wanted to leave nothing but pain and misery in his wake.
He asked one last time and if I had known the consequences of our silence I would have crafted a lie or told him to take me instead. But we both cried and denied any knowledge of his stash.
I remembered clearly what he did next, I would never forgive, I would never forget. As I cried and struggled against the arms of my captors he took that cruel blade and he sliced it across my love’s neck, cutting deep and without mercy. She let loose a strangled cry and fell to the floor clutching her wound desperately. At that point they let me go as sirens began to wail. They all disappeared like ghosts as I crawled brokenly to her side.
I picked up her weak form and clutched her head to my chest. I screamed and wailed as she slowly began to relax and cool in my grasp. I looked down for one last moment as that wonderful spark in her eyes was extinguished. I remembered so vividly wanting to snatch time into my greedy fingers and tear it apart, I wanted to hurt it, I wanted to hurt everything. I wanted to stop those seconds permanently and rewind them so that I could take her place or even save her from those monsters. But no matter how desperate I was I couldn’t stop it, the seconds stole her away from me and there was nothing I could do. From that moment on I lost myself, and I lost my sense of time and mortality. She was my beginning and my end.
I came back to the present and stared down into those crisp eyes. I felt a burning hatred rise up. No matter how long had passed, he had taken away from me everything I had ever held close to my heart. If he got to play god with our clocks of life then I would too.
“Randy your time has ended. May the gates of hell open wide for your damned soul.” I pointed the gun right at his head. His eyes widened for a millisecond and shock crossed his face as I pulled the trigger. His head rocked back violently and then he was gone. He was over. I could finally continue my work without having to worry that he would find and end me.
I turned away from the gory scene filled with red snow and silent wails. In front of me stood my Fox, all sass and beauty. Her smile was as I always remembered.
“Echo you did it!” She laughed. Her red hair waved gently in an unseen and unfelt breeze. Her eyes glinted with joy and something else I couldn’t quite name. I let all the tension out of my body, releasing a sad sigh.
“That’s right Fox we did it. We can continue on.”
“What now Echo?” She asked. I began to walk by her with grim determination. As I did so her form shimmered and was gone.
“Now my lovely Fox, we continue down the list.” Once again I became nothing more than an echo, appearing only when I wanted to, and always being nothing more than a ghost among ghosts. I was nothing and yet I was everything.