Take the Shot
Last night, I overheard these two kids talking about the manga series they were reading. Have you ever listened to two nerds talk about manga? Use the buddy system if you do, it may be necessary for someone to drag you away before the sheer amount of information they retain, the convoluted plotlines, the talking gender-assigned weapons, and competitive fanboy condescension triggers a murderous berserker attack.
When I’d more or less overcome the urge to scale the shelves and attack from above and beat them both to death with a One Piece boxed set, I found myself thinking about what they were talking about, or at least about the few keywords of their conversation that had stuck with me.
So later, on my lunch break, I came up with this. I only had twenty minutes, so it’s rough and awkward. There is a lot sitting in the shadows, just behind what I was able to get down on paper….
“You have the shot,” the voice said.
Through the scope the boy slouched lower in his metal chair. One hand rested on the table, fingers around his cup. The fingers of his left hand drummed along his thigh.
He looked quite relaxed. Quite free. It was abnormal. No one looked like that. Since he had sat down, he had not once looked around, or over his shoulder. When two police officers had passed by the small patio, he did not look up. He did not even notice. The other customers had noticed. They had all put down their cups or silverware, they had watched the patrol pass by and continue to the corner, where they turned and headed for the last checkpoint on Zraly Street before the wall. Only after they were out of sight did anyone return to their paper, their conversation, their meals or tea. Except this boy.
But it wasn’t right to call him a boy when they were very near in age. He had always been like that to her, too. Relaxed. The city around them had never seemed to exist for him. The people, the places, they did, they were all there for him to interact with, to navigate through. But the real city—the one that built the wall, that enforced the curfew, and that armed the police patrols, that city never seemed to exist for him.
She had never been to this part of the city before.
When he slouched, the barrel of the rifle pointed at his chest from twelve stories up and half a block away lowered a fraction of an inch. The brain attached to the rifle hadn’t even noticed the movement. There was no realization that such an adjustment was necessary, no calculations to determine how much in order to keep the target perfectly within the crosshairs. The target moved. The rifle moved. The brain attached to it was no longer a part of the equation. The girl possessing this brain was no longer a part of the equation. Training had eradicated that, eliminated every trace of individual thought. Nearly.
“Take the shot,” the voice said.
The girl hesitated.