To tell you the truth, he did not really know what he was doing. It came from within him, something that had welled up over years and years, festering and bubbling under the surface. The mere thought, the idea did not well up into his conscious until it was too late to do anything. Even then, he did not truly know what he was doing there. But even so, he wasn’t so sure that he would’ve changed his mind, given the chance.
Thomas entered the Citadel, and walked up to the counter of the lobby. “Hi, what can I do for you.” The woman’s voice droned, like a pre recorded message. It was more of a statement anyway. “Meeting with Mr Christopher Hemlock”, Tom said, the waver in his voice apparent - but ignored by the lady. She handed him a slip of paper. “Go sit down over there, you’ll get a message when he’s ready. The receptionist pointed to a seat in the corner of the room, which had obviously not been looked after. Moving quickly, he made his way over there. He sat, and waited with a nervous tap on his legs. He thought. What if it doesn’t work? Is this really worth it? The thoughts ricocheted off of his mind and filled him with holes, his thoughts threatening to fall through. Although, that might not be entirely incriminating. This idea of his had never actually been thought, kept separate from himself. Hidden, in a locked corner of his mind labelled DO NOT OPEN. And when he did have those occasional close encounters, he would mask it under nebulous names, like it, or this or my idea. In a way, it was the only possibility for success. Had Tom known what he was doing, they would’ve been able to see it, because lies seep out at every pore. They scream to be told through every ounce of your body, they wriggle up through your skin and widen your eyes and make your hands move and force you to hear the echo of every sound that passes its way down the hall. Needless to say, he was scared. To pass the time, he looked around the room, stealing quick glances at people’s faces. Old, new, red, blonde, black, sharp, smooth, soft - they all blended into one and the same. Some stared at their phones, others ate. Some made mild small talk that went nowhere. Others still simply stared into space. But there were some features that they all shared. Little things, the sort of things that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking for them. But there, always there. The dark rings under the eyes. chapped, dry lips. Heavy breathing, like the mere act of pulling in air was a struggle. Tom did not know why, but these things stuck out to him, pinpricks of light in an empty room. Then his name was called.
He walked past to the right of the receptionist and through a pair of grey doors, into a long and somewhat wide corridor. Where he was supposed to be going was to the elevator - which was in the wall directly in front of him. He pressed the button for the elevator, and then looking both ways, slipped into a room labelled Security just to the right. The lock was tough, but a bobby pin and some coercion did the trick. Just turn that one off, and that one …. And that one too … there. That would give him some time. Just a friendly chat, he reminded himself. The bing of the elevator doors reminded him of where to go. Slipping back out into the corridor, he walked into the elevator, hearing the loud thump of the metal doors as they closed. At the top, he opened the circuit board for the elevator and cut a coppery - reddish wire. No one was coming up here any time soon. And with that, he took those final, quiet steps, heart thumping loud and his thoughts scattered like dust. Christopher was sitting down, laid back behind his desk when Thomas walked in . It was like a spider’s den, dark and shadowy, filled with a smoky haze. This was the control center, the start of it all. He had been here before. There was no one else in the room, just him and Christopher. He shut the door behind him softly. Click.
Then, he pulled a 44. Magnum out from under his jacket and pointed it at Christopher’s head.
“DO NOT MOVE,” Christopher not-quite-shouted. “Don’t even think about trying anything.” Christopher put his hands up, slowly. There was a silence. “Do you know why am I here?” Thomas didn’t know exactly where the words came from. Christopher interjected. “-Look, if you want my money, then you can have it. I’ll just open the safe for you” He went to stand up, moving fast. “NO!” Thomas definitely shouted this time. “Sit down, and keep your hands where I can see them.” There was a twitch, a bead of sweat rolling down Christopher’s forehead. He sat down. Again, the silence came. It drew out long, too long. It hung in the air, turning stale as Thomas’s momentum stalled. He could almost see the plan start to crumble before his eyes, a horrible rolling wave of realisation on the distant horizon, yet unknown but threatening to tear his world apart all the same. Then he remembered that there was no plan, not really, and so he spoke:
“I don’t want your money. I don’t need it. I want to see you crumble.” The words dripped out of Thomas’s mouth, laced with venom. He turned the gun on its’ side, still pointing at Christopher. “There are 16 rounds in here. Steel - cased, cold to the touch. This was not well concealed. Anyone could’ve spotted it out, could’ve done something, could’ve stopped this like they should have. But no one did. Do you know why?” Christopher was nervous now, that was for sure. Sweat welled up on his forehead, his voice trembling ever so slightly. The veins on his hands were vibrant and pulsating, like Thomas could see his erratic heartbeat. Eventually, he spoke. “You don’t want to know why. You think you do but you don’t.” The words hung in Thomas’s head. He had to do something. “Let me remind you who’s holding the gun.” He pulled the hammer back with his finger, hovering millimeters away from shooting. “Don’t know why you think it matters, anyway. Those people down there are worth nothing. They are pond scum, ashes, dust. Insignificant. In a perfect world, we’d be able to get rid of them, the entire lot. But I guess only one of us gets to live out their fantasies.” A smile crept along his face, a slow, hateful march. “Wow, you really are clueless, aren’t you? What did you think was going to happen, that you were just going to waltz on in here and have me confess that I’ve been a very bad boy? Who do you think I am?” Thomas struggled to stop his hand from shaking. “I think that you’re evil,” thomas said, the grip of his hand tightening around the harsh metal. “Oh, so if i’m the sinner then you’re the saint? Come to deliver me from the grips of tyranny?” HIs expression darkened, the shadows under his eyes growing deeper. He leaned in, his voice a maniacal whisper: “I am so much worse than what you think I am. You have no idea about the spider’s den you just walked into, and I don’t think you have any way out." Christopher laughed, bitterly. “You think you’re the only one?”
Then Thomas shot him.
The barrel of the gun barked, the flash of incandescence lighting up the nightmarish room. Christopher howled, but only at first. Blood crept up and around his fresh pressed pants, like a leaky faucet pooling at the bottom of a bathroom. It was slow, sluggish, a deep and ugly red, as if the very blood this man had was corrupted, broken. Then, thomas took his turn. “I want to hear your last words. I want to taste the confession of every sin, every crime, every injustice that you have ever made against humanity.” He walked around the table, placing the very tip of his gun at the base of christopher’s head. “Feel that?” Christopher’s nodded, shakily. “Savour it. Because it might be the last thing you feel tonight.” Silence filled the room, once again. His hand was steady, unwavering. But then, there was this weird sinking feeling, that slowly precipitated down his body - like he was falling. The shadows seemed to darken, the lights dim, the dirt and grain of the room growing … heavier, somehow, as if that made any sense. Thomas could hear a sound, small, insignificant. Like a rolling tsunami, it grew louder and louder, a guttural cackle that he could finally hear was coming from Christopher. “Funny that you should mention ‘feeling’. Tell me, when was the last time you felt anything at all? Happiness? Sadness? Anger? Anything beyond a passing thought?”
Thomas tried not to think. He tried to keep his mind closed, secure. But the walls were starting to come down. “Or maybe you can’t really describe it. A little tingling sensation, somewhere down below where it cannot be found. A nagging sensation that keeps you up at night, makes you uncomfortable, that tells you there is something evil out there, something to be scared of. But you don’t know it, do you? You have thought about it so much, tried to grasp for a ledge at its corners but forever failing to see anything tangible, anything real, like an infant. Just a nagging feeling. So instead of trying to see it, you instead just act. Make a move, point a gun, just to be someone, just to make a difference.” Thomas smacked the back of the gun across Christopher’s head, hard.“You think you know me, but you don’t,” Thomas spat.
“Oh I know you,” Christopher retorted. “I know you because I’ve seen you happen a hundred different times, with a hundred different people. 100 different weapons, 100 threats, 100 sweaty heads and chattery teeth even though it’s 35 degrees outside and you know what? I’m still here. So tell me, Thomas, what does that say about you?.”
Thomas unloaded 3 bullets into the ceiling, one sparking on the ceiling fan. “I’m … I’m not like those other hundred people, they didn’t shoot” Thomas’s voice doubted itself, wavering openly and over heaved breaths. Christopher did not say anything. Instead, he pulled up the back of his shirt, slowly. “You are special, to be sure. But you are definitely not the first.” His back was pockmarked with 3 scars, risen pinky-reddish terrain covering large sections of his back. So it was true, then. He had not realised, but the gun had come off the back of christopher’s head.
He moved to shoot, but it was already too late, Christopher spinning around and thrusting out -
Imbedding the blade deep down, into the depths of his stomach, down where he felt that first something within him aching to get out.
Well, now it left him, oozing out through his abdomen and seeping dark and ugly red into his clothes. Enraged by a burst of adrenaline, he pushed Christopher back onto the desk where he slipped and fell. He raised the gun, aimed, placed the bullet not quite square in his chest. Thomas felt light, a mix of the lost blood and heady rush of adrenaline. “I’m bleeding, but you’re dying,” hissed christopher. He was right. “Another bullet and you’re dead, too,” he heaved, his voice husky and yet wet at the same time.
He coughed, spat, his phlegm a thick, bubbly - blackish red.
Thomas stood with his gun in one hand, pointed at Christopher. His whole body shook, from head to toe. He was on the fringes, his energy clashing heads with his tiredness, eyes bloodshot and erratic, yet threatening to close - like a human juxtaposition.
“You see, the slave is not an antiquated concept. It may have changed shape over time, but the slave is not gone. Have you noticed, perchance, the way that those around you speak with laboured breaths? How they gaze with aimless, dull eyes? Did you see the defeat in their steps, the hours they let slip away behind a desk, clockwork repetition of the same slow movements, like the turning of the tides? The slave lives among us, everywhere, in everyone. There is a slave in you, because we have made a slave of you. Someone somewhere, a long time ago decided that freedom was not a right, but a privilege. Freedom was simply too important, too valuable to give to those who would mistreat it. Why give old joe from down the road the ability to do what he wants when he doesn’t know what to do with it anyway?
“Now,” He paused, savouring in the moment, the wake of crashing disillusionment breaking over Thomas. “if I am the slave owner and you the slave, then where is the whip?” He chuckled, softly. “Such methods are so brutal, so callous - like animals. Our method is far more elegant. We do not need force. Our whip is an idea.
Apathy, as it is called, does not lance out and strike. It does not welt or bruise or blister, it doesn’t bear scars, or cause pain. It is a sedative. The soul - destroying, mind numbing turmoil of the world we have designed. It eats away at you, bit by bit, moment by moment, crushing out hopes and dreams, sinking our teeth into your flesh until it is all you can do to just live. You forfeited your freedom from the moment you left your crescent moon, far before you even knew what freedom was. You’ve bathed in our moral sewage, waded through our sins for so long that you don’t even know that they’re there. You’ve worn your chains for so long that you don’t even see that they’re there. Everything you do, everything you see and learn and taste and touch and know to be true is orchestrated by us.” Christopher reached down, catching a droplet of his own blood on his finger. He stared at it. “And there is nothing you can do. Kill me, and you only seal your own fate. Kill me, and there are more still to take my place. Kill me, and the world will forget. Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. You went too deep down that rabbit hole, didn’t you?”
The door crashed down behind them, and black - clad figures poured in, faceless, silent except for footsteps. In those last moments, he threw the gun away, curling into a ball, facing the wall. As they came in from all sides, little thomas cried, and dreamt of his mother, a world away.