Friday, February 1, 2013

Issue #45 -- February 2013

By Christopher Grant

Chain-smoking, I wait for her.

This is the last one. I've been waiting for her for a long time.

The others started off easy but gradually got more and more difficult. The one previous, I can't even recall his name.

Funny, I can remember the first one, what his name was (Decker), the smell of black licorice on his breath, the sweat stains on his shirt, just under his arms. I didn't know they could sweat.

I put him down as quickly as possible but that's not saying much. I had the drop on him the entire time, and he wasn't made very well. Something with the brain circuit and everything not connecting correctly.

He stared at me while I levelled the gun and his mouth started to work, his jaw going slack and then snapping back up and doing it a second time. I could almost hear the rotors moving.

I had to shoot him.

When you do this job, the job that I've held for the last four years, you are asked to do a great many things but nothing so important than putting these things down. In fact, that's the essence of this job.

I am a glorified killer, sans the glory. A garbage man taking out the trash. I am Number Seventeen.

I've been asked, usually by a rookie, if I've ever killed someone that may have been a human by mistake. My reply, "I don't make mistakes."

These things were made to look like us, feel like us, have thoughts and feelings like us, to act like us, in every way.

Sometimes, I wonder whether I'm one of them.

Number One says we shouldn't think that way, that what we're doing is right and there is a difference between us and them.

Number Two says that as well, only she says it so that you believe it.

I smoke the cigarette down to the filter, light the next one off the last remaining spark.

The one previous to this one. I wish I could remember his name.

All I can recall is that he kicked like a mule when I finally put the gun to his head and squeezed the trigger. Even after his head blew out in different directions, his body kept jerking, death throes straight from a nightmare.

Number Two will have to say something damn good to make me believe I won't dream about that moment when I return to the tube tonight.

The doorknob rattles. I drop my cigarette and touch the gun at my hip.

She's too smart for this. It's not her at the door.

The glass door behind me shatters and I feel her fingernails dig deep into my neck, searching for the jugular. I turn my head, try to loosen her grip. It works only for a split-second.

I have to make a move. I bite her fingers. The metallic taste may be her flesh or my blood—I cannot say which.

She screams and goes to the floor, curls up into a ball and puts her hands up over her face.

"Don't shoot," she begs.

It's not what I expected. Fight and now flight or at least self-preservation.

"Do you know what you're doing?" she asks. "What you've done?"

Her hands are up, shielding herself, but her voice is confident.

"Never let them talk," Number One has said over and over again. "If they talk, they get into your head. If you let them in your head, they can make you do anything they want."

"Shut up," I hear myself say. It's a distant voice. I never say anything while I'm doing my job. Just get in, get out. It's easier that way.

"You have no idea what kind of game they've got you playing." She ignores my words. "They have you killing your own kind."

Over and over again, Number Two has said, "They will make you believe whatever it is that they need you to believe, in order to save themselves." When Number Two says something, you believe it.

"I said, shut up!"

My shout doesn’t deter her. She no longer shields herself, no longer curls up in a ball. She's standing, smiling, walking toward me. She has my gun now. She takes it and tosses it across the room. It makes a hard noise as it hits the floor.

She stands in front of me and grabs my face, her soft hands against the harsh stubble. She kisses me and her lips meld with mine.

"You are amongst friends," she says when she breaks the kiss.

I was wrong.

She wasn't difficult. In fact, she might have been the easiest of them all.

She had to know. How could she not know?

The back-up piece, in my waistband, up and firing once, twice, three times right through her stomach. Her blood, or pseudo-blood, spraying, splattering my clothes, my shoes.

The look on her face was the same as after she'd kissed me. As if she felt nothing, the smile still in place.

And then she's falling away from me and from this world.

When I finally come in from the cold, Number One greets me with congratulations on a job well done.

Number Two smiles. "By morning, you won't remember a thing."

Christopher Grant is the editor/publisher of A Twist Of Noir, Eaten Alive: Zombie Stories, and Alternate Endings, all which can be found on the glorious Internet. He is also a writer of crime/noir and bizarro fiction.


  1. You painted one hell of an eerie picture. Well done!

  2. I loved this one. I liked that I didn't know everything. I see a lot of inspiration from Blade Runner here -- which is a good thing because it's a great movie and this is a great story. It got better the further I got away from it.

  3. Wow, Christopher! Even at the end I'm not sure I believe Number Two anymore...

  4. PKD claimed that Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep was his response to reading about the Nazi concentration camps. He said he thought no human being could do what was done there. He thought it must have been robots created just for that job. Here Christopher takes that thought farther. The question is fascinating. Does a human being convert himself to a robot as he copes with an inhuman job by passing the buck upward to his faceless superiors, his Number Ones and Twos. There's a consideration of other moralities and possible resistance here also. I don't think that Number 17 can crawl out of his spiderwebbed trap like the more famous Number 6 did. Interesting questions, my friend. Interesting indeed.