“Once, before, there was a man. He considered himself something of a scientist. One day he was seated in his garden, taking in all that he owned, content in his solitude when he notices an intruder slinking by. He claims it is out of scientific curiosity, advancement, whatever, but he reasons that the slug is composed mostly of water. To prove himself right he sprinkles a healthy dose of salt all over the it,” he finishes as he looks up.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“What question was that again?” The man who had gotten within inches of killing the leader of the free world asked.
“What is your name?” The interrogator asked once more.
“What is in a name, et cetera et cetera. Besides, don’t you have my papers with you? People still say papers, right?”
“They identify you as North Korean,” she replied.
“Well there you go.”
“You don’t look Korean, not even in the slightest.”
“I am adopted.”
She sighed in reply.
“Why did you do it?”
“Does it matter?”
“I should hope so. Otherwise what is the point?”
“Chaos. Nihilism. Insanity. It could be anything.”
“You got me there. Clever. No, all I want is to watch the world burn.”
He shook his head in reply.
“Don’t be ridiculous. If I wanted chaos, then I would have actually finished the job and vanished.”
“You just said you wanted to watch the world burn, ergo chaos.”
“See that is where you are wrong. I want it all to end. Everything, or mostly everything to die. It would have been better, less messy if I played a more active role myself but I like it better this way. A little bit more entertaining.”
“How is that? If you don’t mind telling me.”
“Because you caught me?”
“Sure,” she replied.
“There was this guy I knew who had this great idea for a novel. Great plot. Basically, it was about the end of the world. It starts with you guys attacking one country out of arrogance, and another retaliating because they have had enough, setting off an entire chain reaction. Dominoes falling and all that.”
“Sounds interesting. How does the book end?”
“He never wrote it.”
“Why is that?”
“He kept putting it off, claimed he didn’t have the time until he actually ran out of time.”
“How did he die?”
He smiled once more.
“Oh, you think I am doing this because I lost someone? Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, this was over fifty years ago.”
“So why are you trying to end the world then?” she asked, glossing over his claim of old age.
“Last night a man walked into his house a lot earlier than he had planned to. He goes straight to the kitchen to find some food. Finding none, he starts the process of preparation before heading upstairs to his bedroom to change into something more comfortable. What he finds instead is his wife, in bed with another man, going at it like it is the end of the world.”
“So, your wife cheated on you?”
“The man takes this all in, the grunting, the moaning, the screams as they were discovered with cold detachment. He changes into something a lot more comfortable, turns and leaves the room. As he is watching the pasta boil he gets an idea, a spark. He leaves it all behind and heads into his study where he spends the rest of the night finishing up his work, running calculations and simulations over and over again until he is certain he has gotten it right.”
“Gotten what right?”
“A way to safely synthesise a matter-antimatter reaction. An unlimited energy source, if you may. So, this morning he reports back to work, papers in hand, inclusive of proofs and asks to see his boss and his bosses as well. These sorts of things tend to take a while to organise. As it stands, he is still in his lab awaiting summons. As of end of day today he would have met just about every general they can throw at him. In a month’s time a working prototype will be ready, give it a year and we will have FTL capable shuttles launching into outer space.”
“You don’t believe me. In maybe two minutes time the message is finally going to get to the Chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff and he is going to leave the observation room. Now usually when something like this happens I tend to sabotage experiments meant to recreate but not this time. Because what is going to happen now is in a year’s time this technology will be used to try to end the war. Really want to see that blow up in your collective faces.”
She said nothing for a moment.
“You are insane.”
“Please, give me a little more credit.”
“You expect me to believe that you can somehow see into the future?”
“Of course, not. I don’t expect anything of you. I merely was answering a question posited to me.”
She sighed in reply, before pausing to check her watch for the umpteenth time.
“So, what do you do for a living?”
“You like your job.”
“A lot more than I did my previous one, I can tell you that.”
“What did you do before?”
“Oh, I was a hitman.”
“So, you have killed people before.”
“I wasn’t terrible at my job, if that is what you are asking.”
“Tell me about the first time.”
“He has been called away, hasn’t he?”
“Chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff.”
She paused a beat before responding.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
He smiled a little before replying.
“It was considered a rite of passage of sorts, something to help them see the kind of man they are leaving behind. They picked someone whose death wouldn’t leave that big an aftershock in the continuum, positive or otherwise. It was this kid, fifteen years old, a man by society’s standards back in the day, a complete waste of space if you ask me. Hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
“Why is that?”
“He is not coming, you know.”
“Your partner. He is not coming.”
“What makes you think I am expecting him?”
“You keep checking your watch. You are angry at him, rightly so but he is not coming.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Why do you think I picked North Korea?”
“If your narrative is anything to go by, nuclear war heads. You are under the impression we are going to retaliate by nuking them.”
“Oh, that is a done deal, okay? After all, it is you morons who elected a loose cannon into the White House. No, that is not it. It is because of you, you see.”
“In about thirty minutes time a beat cop is going to find your partner in a dumpster somewhere, stabbed to death. First impulse will be to rule it out a robbery gone wrong, that is before they run his prints and find out he is a cop. So, in an hour’s time, maybe, your phone is going to ring, and you will know.”
“What did you do?”
“Me? Nothing. I have the mother of all alibis. I was trying to assassinate the President of the United States.”
“This is not funny.”
“it actually kind of is, if you look at it from my end.”
She was on her feet faster than he could react, his face slammed into the table. His response instead is laughter she sits down.
“And we are back to that. You people are sadly lacking in your creativity.”
“This is not a game.”
“Actually, it is. You just don’t know it yet. Unfortunately for you, human nature is going to be the downfall of you all.”
She leans back, resigned.
“He was selling secrets, you know. Started with the Chinese before the North Koreans came into the picture. More money and all that shit.”
“Nothing earth shattering, mind you, but he still had access to some pretty interesting stuff.”
“You are full of it, you know that, right?”
“Just last year. You were being shipped to yet another military installation just like this one, cloak and dagger stuff. There was a break in protocol, well at least according to you, and instead of a military escort all the way you were asked to travel half the way on your own. There was a rendezvous point in Portland, I believe, but you got there a lot earlier than anticipated. You booked a hotel room because he likes taking advantage of room service, his words, not yours, and you just wanted to relax before the circus started. You left the room a little over half an hour after him, went outside for a walk. You saw him talking to an attractive woman, Asian, I believe but you didn’t approach them out of fear he was stepping out on his wife again. You really should have approached them, Mellie.”
“Who are you?”
“Does it matter?”
“What do you want?”
“I told you.”
“To destroy the world.”
“Ultimately, yeah. But that is not what I told you I wanted, did I?”
“It’s a game. You want to play a game.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Doesn’t matter. I am of the opinion the game is rigged. Either way it goes, I get what I want.”
“Then what do you want from me?”
“In every movie I have seen where a superior intelligence tries to destroy the world, humanity somehow manages to survive. There are those cases where you all band together and fight the common enemy together though I don’t see that happening in this day and age. There are also cases where one of the bad guys is somehow convinced of just how great and worthy of saving humanity is and he somehow turns against his people to fight for you. That’s bollocks. I have lived amongst you people for over two thousand years and I can comfortably say nobody in his right frame of mind would consider you worthy. Seeing as I am a sporting guy, however, I am willing to give you all the opportunity to prove me wrong. In twenty-three minutes’ time three things will happen simultaneously. The President will get released from the hospital with a clean bill of health and the first thing he hears will be Korean assassin. Your phone will ring and the news that your partner is dead will reach you. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will conclude his meeting with just about everybody who is anybody in NASA meaning he wouldn’t have heard anything we have discussed here today. You can choose to get to the President through the CJCS or you can do it yourself. I doubt there will be much of a difference either way.”
“And if he opts not to listen?”
“Oh, I know he won’t listen. That isn’t in doubt. Killing him won’t do you much good either because just about everybody in his immediate circle is just as crazy and paranoid as he is. Must be a great time to be American, isn’t it?”
“Why are you doing this, any of this?”
“Me? Am just doing my job.”
“And what job is that?”
“You people have this idea that you are the best this universe can ever hope to offer. Every encounter with alien life ends with you on the winning side. I was sent here by a federation, if you can call them that. My job is simple, always has been. Observe, intervene where necessary and judge. I am supposed to determine if you are worthy to join us. If not, I am supposed to make sure you can’t be in a position to discover we exist.”
“What does that have to do with ending human life as we know it?”
“You are taking this a lot calmer than I expected.”
“You are either insane or you are actually telling the truth. Nothing I can do either way.”
“Aah, a nihilist.”
“More like a fatalist.”
“It is a test of sorts, something to make sure my actions aren’t tainted by bias.”
She ran a hand through her hair, blew out in frustration.
“So, you are an alien. Like E.T.”
“If E.T. had the power to destroy reality as you know it, yeah.”
“No other reason?”
“You know the other one.”
She buried her face in the cupped palms of her hands before letting out a long drawn out sigh.
“I can’t convince you otherwise?”
“I have lived through wars waged in the name of a god who changes to suit your whims, lived through justifications of cruelty, through crises of faith, through both wars. I was in Hiroshima when the A-bomb fell. I have seen the cruelty humanity is capable of. I have seen you people fuck up the ozone, contribute to global warming while refusing to take responsibility for your actions or even admit it is happening. Jesus, I was there when you morons voted in Donald freaking Trump. You people are the worst. Believe that, if nothing else.”
“We are also capable of good, you have seen that also, haven’t you? Do those people deserve to die too?”
“There was a time, before, when I was a lot younger. I used to see the evil perpetuated by those in power, I used to see how those with little were mistreated and taken advantage of and it would make me angry. I tried. I tried my best, in the hopes that maybe I could help humanity change. Do you know what I realised? People weren’t angry. They were apathetic, at best, so they sit back and do nothing, hoping the world would somehow fix itself. The fact that the world was getting worse and its inhabitants didn’t seem to care, didn’t want to change anything about it made me even angrier. It pushed me to the point I was ready to pull the plug, wipe out the disease that is humanity off the face of the planet but I didn’t. it wasn’t time. Not yet. But it was then that I realised I couldn’t allow you people to join us. It was then that I realised just how unworthy you all are. You are all culpable, the good, the bad, the neutral. You are all guilty of the good you didn’t do.”
“If your people are so good then why send someone to commit genocide? Or does murder not register?”
“The necessity of evil. It has nothing to do with you people. It is all about us. It is the answer to the question just how far would you go to protect your people, your home, your family, your friends, from an invading force they have no hope of conquering, of surviving.”
“From what you tell me, your people can easily wipe us out in battle.”
“There was a time before, our society was just like yours. People in power were corrupt, the poor were taken advantage of. After a while, however, people got tired, got angry. So, we rose up, fought back. We fought not just against the system but against ourselves, our nature. We get urges like you people do, sure, but we rise above it. We are not controlled by our baser urges like you all are. It isn’t about the war, you see. It is about the taint. Humanity has a stench and we would rather not smell it.”
“You know we just lock you up, throw you in a hole you couldn’t possibly hope to dig yourself out of in a thousand year even.”
He laughed at that.
“I have lived hundreds of lives, as different people in different circumstances in an attempt to understand the human condition. I used to think I had known love, that I had loved and had been loved in return. A little over a decade ago I met someone. She was a student in the university I was teaching in. I hadn’t entered a committed relationship yet as this person so I chose to pursue her, purely out of academic interest, you see. It evolved into something else, however, something I could neither predict nor control. I didn’t have a problem with that, though. I was content, happy. Five years went by, we got married and settled down. The next logical step would have been to try to have children of our own though this was never discussed. Still, I came back home one evening and found her alone in our living room, curtains drawn, lights out. She had just found out she was pregnant, you see. Usually this is the part where you whoop in joy, celebrate and all that. I had never managed to sire a child before, you see. Children tend to live a noticeable imprint, making it difficult to uproot oneself before the neighbours notice you haven’t aged in over half a century. She told me, however, she had no interest in having the child. It would be selfish, you see, having a child in a world as cruel and unfeeling as ours. We keep messing everything up and leaving it for our kids to suffer the consequences of our actions. Having a child, she said, is the most selfish and unfeeling thing a human being can do. She wanted me to support her decision, you see, despite the fact that I could see it was killing her. So, I told her. I told her everything; who I am, what I am. The whole shebang. Just last night I tried to get her to talk me out of this, all of this, but she wouldn’t. She told me it would be selfish to let the world be just because we live in it. We have had our chance, she said, yet all we do is make it all worse. For our children, she said, we should let it all burn. Pay for our sins instead of transferring them to the future generation like we so often do. Now one thing you need to understand, my wife is a little like me. She isn’t immortal, not completely, just a little bit harder to kill than the average bear. Knowing this, however, she is okay with rolling the dice. Either she survives or she doesn’t, she doesn’t have a problem with that. My conviction isn’t in doubt here, you see. I do this knowing that I damn my son to an uncertain future, knowing there are friends and acquaintances I might never see again. You could try the jail thing though, see how it all goes. Now if you don’t mind….”
He got up, still shackled. She considered going for her gun for a moment but her phone started ringing.
“You really should pick that.”
I had intended, upon completion, to enter this into a short story contest. I chickened out at the last second and here we are. I would like to develop it further into a full length novel, something i am sure will take me ages to complete, lazy bastard that i am but for now enjoy this, my first attempt at ending the world. 🙂