Chapter 13:


Max Caliber

After I got in the car, George drove us far outside the city. Something about his body language made me think it would be best not to talk. In fact, I only opened my mouth once. He didn’t take his eyes off the road; he didn’t respond. I was left without an answer and anxious as to what had caused this shift in demeanor.

We stopped on a viewing spot of the city, alongside one of the roads leading into the nearby mountains. We were alone, and the sun had set a while ago. With the sound of the handbrake being pulled up, he turned to me with a gun in hand.

“Tell me everything, you bastard,” he ordered as he pulled back the hammer of the revolver. His eyes were cold, and I was starring back at him like a deer caught in headlights.

“Whoa, calm down there,” I replied. Trying to deescalate the situation. I raised both hands and put on the best smile I could.

“Talk, you son of a bitch,” he shouted and put the barrel against my head. It was strange, my entire body went numb and icy, but I was completely rigid.

“Listen, what are you asking about?” I asked as my heart was beating in my throat. My eyes went cross as they were locked on the barrel. My mind is racing.

“I saw you and that pig. I listened in on your conversations. You’re planning on selling us out,” he shouted. While he was fighting to contain his rage, I went pale.

“What are you-,” I began to protest before he pressed hard with the gun against me. I grew fearful his finger would slip and pull the trigger.

“Don’t play dumb with me. I know everything. Just tell me why. Why would you throw away your war buddies in their lowest times? Why would you throw us all away for that pig?” he demanded with tears in his eyes. I knew I couldn’t fain ignorance. I knew if I didn’t do something soon. He’ll kill me regardless of what I said.

“I didn’t have a choice,” I began to say, raising my voice a little. Hoping this would draw in a debate.

“Bullshit. I don’t believe you,” he shouted once more. Shutting down any attempt at a dialog. I have to try again.

“Listen to me. This is for your own good,” I tried again.

“Lair. You’re only doing this for yourself,” he cried. Tears visibly running down his face. Failure. Try again.

“I’m using him,” I said with as serious of a tone as I could muster.

“Shut up,” he said. Strike three.

“George-” I began.

“I said shut up, Reinhard,” he threatened and adjusted his grip and tilted his head forwards. His eyes revealed what he was thinking. George was always easily consumed by his emotions.

“George, please don’t,” I protested calmly. Locked in front of his gun.

“I’m sorry, Reinhard. I just can’t bear to hear you tell me any more lies,” he confessed and wiped his tears with his sleeve. My opening.

I felt my instincts take over. I turned into a spectator as my body acted on its own. In a flash, my hand shot up. Rammed the gun up against the roof. Where out of fright, George pulled the trigger. The stray shot punched clean through the roof. His eyes fixed on his gun, spooked by my sudden reactions. He never saw my other hand draw. Then as easy as crushing an ant. I pulled my trigger. Not only did the window behind him exploded. But a torrent of blood spewing out with it.

I snapped back into control. Shaking. As before me was the remnants of his skull, pumping out blood. His body was limp. I had killed many times before. Yet, I had never killed a friend. This was my first time.

I stumbled out of the car. Not once looking for any witnesses, and collapsed against the road barrier at the edge of the outlook. I stared at the corpse in the car. The blood sprayed all over the interior and outside the window. For a moment, I just sat there. Letting myself go completely.

The tears came out, unintended. My body snickering and shaking at what had just happened. The fear of being held at gunpoint by a friend. The shame of acting as if he was my enemy. The regret of knowing I can’t turn back time. It all washed over me. For how long, I’m uncertain. But I only knew one thing.

“Enough now, get up,” I said to myself as I wiped my tears away. Not gently and sorrowful as George did. But rough and forceful. Leaving my eyes and nose red. I took a deep breath. Galvanizing my nerves and stopping the shaking. Stopping the snickering. Stopping the tears. Stopping everything I felt.

“No turning back now. I have to go all the way now,” I said aloud to only myself and the wind to hear. It was strange. I felt my determination of earlier return. The confidence in myself rushing back in. As it trickled down my body and filled my legs. They started to move.

I walked over to the driver’s side window and furrowed my brows. I clenched my teeth and deepened my breathing. I took in the sight of the cold corpse. I imprinted the image into the back of my eyes.

“This is what happens when you get careless,” I warned myself. Then, as if from deep within, a single scoff forced its way out. A skew smile appeared.

“One less to save,” I heard myself say. As if the person who had done this steeled me for a brief second. Yes, this wasn’t my doing. This was his and now. I simply have to focus on the objective at hand. Adjust my plans accordingly. Attack the enemy a knew. Kill the enemy. So that others may be spared. Wage war and win.

While I reaffirmed my own strength, a car pulled up behind me. I wouldn’t even have noticed if it wasn’t for the woman’s shriek. I turned around with a heavy sigh. It was a young couple. Clearly overcome by the heat of the moment, they wanted to be alone with this view. Sadly, they had to see this.

“How horrible to be surrounded by so much death,” I said and raised my gun. The woman kept screaming. The man went pale and raised his hand. “Get out of the damn car if you want to live.”

The man complied and got out. The hysterical woman was refusing to budge. In all actuality, she might have just been entirely consumed by the moment.

“Get her out of the car, or you both die,” I order. My voice sounding foreign to even me. My sight set on her, but my eyes locked with his. Standing before me, this man. He seemed far more a boy than a man. Must have just gotten this car.

“Now,” I shouted. He jumped into action and scrambled to get his girl out of the car. He pulled her out and then stepped in front of her. He shielded her from my devilish gaze.

“There you go, mister. Now please, just take the car and leave,” he said. I was impressed. Perhaps the boy was a man. He was not only protecting the woman he cared for. But he had the guts to say that to me.

“Sadly, it’s all in vain,” I said out loud. Unwittingly uttering my thoughts aloud. The boy gulped and stretched his arms out. Fully covering the now cowering woman. Easy.

“We won’t tell a soul about this. Just let us live,” he shouted. Clever boy. Negotiating for your own lives. Knowing well, possessions can be replaced, but life is lost.

“No,” I said. Feeling the kick of the gun. Watching as the round tore straight through the woman’s shield. In bedding itself in her chest. They both tumbled backward and crashed in the dust. I walked a menacing walk over to them.

“Please,” was the only whimper the woman could manage beneath the corpse. I raised my gun and put her out of her suffering.

“I’m sorry. But I can’t be careless ever again,” I offered up my excuse to the two corpses. With that, I took their car and drove back into the city. Even though I had been consumed by the other me. He was sensible enough not to return home with this car. Instead, he stopped next to a group of Ash heads. Tossing them the keys and returning on foot.

When I finally saw my house, the porch light was on, but the rest of the house’s lights were already out. I slowed down my march to a saunter. I had to bury what I had done today. I had to. I had no other choice.

But even as I steeled myself, I found my hand shaking as I reached for the door handle. Why now. Why would I be shaking now? Is it because of her? Was I scared to return home a monster to my loving wife? Was I afraid that this side would devour me? Was I afraid of myself?

“Show her,” I mumbled to myself. “Show her the real you. Show her your hunger, your rage, your evil.”

I opened the door and stepped into the dark hallway. I felt like a burglar. The house was strange to me now. Nothing felt warm. Nothing felt familiar. I slipped my gun into the drawer of the little stand next to me. I took my sinister steps in.

With the creek of the steers, I prowled through my own home. I didn’t turn a single light on. Not one. No, for I needed the darkness. Here I couldn’t see my own reflection in the picture frames I passed. I couldn’t be scared of myself.

When I came to the top of the stairs, I saw sharp lines running down the hallway. Light, from my bedroom. Judy was still awake. Waiting for me. Good. Very good. She’ll see me.

“Hello,” I heard coming from my mouth. It broke the eerie silence that had enveloped the house. I heard the shuffle of someone in the bed.

“Who’s there?” I heard a muffled voice reply from the bedroom. Judy. By Judy. I’ll show you what I am. What I became. What I always was.

“It’s me,” I declared and gripped the door handle. Slowly creeping the door open. I felt my eyes adjust to the light. Then as I stepped into the room. I saw her.

It was strange. How a woman could so easily make anything, a man felt irrelevant. They would simply look at you with their soft eyes. Such pure intention when their gaze finally meets yours. Then in that instant, you felt the worries of the day melt away. That is what Judy did. Unbeknownst to her.

When I saw her slightly frightened look on her face as she kept the duvet tight to her chest. I forgot everything. I let my coat drop down to the floor. I stepped out of my shoes faster than ever before. Then much to her surprise, I rushed over to her.

“Honey,” she said with a slight panic as I rushed to her. Then as I took her into my embrace, I kissed her passionately, and we crashed onto the bed. It was a long deep kiss, and I could feel her body relax and pulling me closer. At that moment, she did more healing to my soul than I could have ever done. When I finally pulled back, I looked at her with a frighting intensity.

“I love you,” I said, and for some reason. It came out hoarse. As if I was fighting back the tears. But with those three words. I saw her melt before me.

“I love you too,” she said in the sweetest way possible. Those were the final words I needed to hear before I could finally forget about everything. I ran my hand through her hair once more before kissing her once more. 

Real Aire