New Life Resolutions
There is a time in everyone's life where time stops. Where the world as we know it ceases to spin. Where everything freezes like a movie on pause, and seconds turn into hours.
And now, standing in an abandoned house in some god-forsaken country, every inch of my body screaming pain, my life literally in the hands of a man with no soul, that time was now.
The sound of the door slamming in Marta's face echoed like a drum beat in my ears. Throbbing in sequence with my pounding heart and the adrenaline flowing through my veins.
I didn't want her to see. I didn't want her to see me die.
For I was going to die. I knew that. This hold I was in now, how many times had I ended a life the same way? A quick twist and it was over. Like flipping off a light switch.
I am going to die.
And at that realization, like every novel cliché, my life played over again behind my eyelids like a VIP pass to a movie I didn't really want to see.
I saw the shards of my childhood. Broken memories of a nonexistent mother in a perfect picture frame, and a drunken father leaving bruises the shape of beer bottles. Hours spent in a basement doing nothing but watching a small black beetle try to reach the world outside, but resisted at every step by a dusty pane of glass.
Of an all consuming desire to belong, and satiety of that desire when I joined the Army. Of the feeling of helplessness when every one of the soldiers in my squadron, men like brothers to me, were picked off one by one till all was sunk into darkness and oblivion with the sound of the earth exploding.
Will you commit yourself to this program?
Will you commit?
Will you commit?
Will you commit?
Then the memories, sharp and clear, of all my missions in Outcome. Of every person that died by my hands. Of Nikki, the light in my life that I never deserved.
My heart cried out her name like a groan. I could still see her face: panicked and full of fear for.......what? Me?
Why did she take care of me? Why did she laugh with me? Why did she pity me? Why did she stay with me? Why didn't she see me as the monster I am? Was it because she couldn't, or because she choose not too? Yes, I saved her life. But for what? Only to destroy it later.
What was my life but years spent shattering others? Pursuing constantly what I thought to be the right path, wanting only to belong and make the world a better place, while in reality I was accomplishing the opposite.
I deserved to die.
The hand on my neck shifted to grip at my jaw, preparing, as if in slow motion, for the final movement that would snap my spinal cord and end my life.
My heart screamed inside me.
No! I don't want to die!
I wasn't done. I didn't want that to be all. I didn't want the life I had lived up to this point to be the whole story. Not when I was just beginning to write it myself.
I wanted to put Outcome behind me. I wanted to start a new life. I wanted to have a job dedicated to protecting people, not hurting them. I wanted to fall in love. I wanted to get married. I wanted to move into a white-picket fence house with her. I wanted to make a family with her, being to my children the father I never had. I wanted to watch them grow up and have children of their own. I wanted to grow old, surrounded by love and peace.
I wanted life.
Suddenly, I was no longer in Manila, but back in the gym at boot camp.
"Men." laughed a woman as she punched a sandbag relentlessly, her short golden haired braid bouncing against her back. "You think you all are conquers of the world, that you are invincible." She stopped pounding the bag and turned to me who was watching her amusedly, slightly out of breath but her eyes bright and cheeks flushed.
I had admired June Monroe from the moment I had first met her for two reasons: that she had been my only true friend, accepting me for who I was, not what I wasn't, and that she was everything I wished I could be too: strong, kind, confident, and smart.
"I could bring you to your knees with three words." She smirked.
"Oh yeah?" I said. "And what's that?"
"Grab. Twist. Pull." And she laughed at my face.
The flashback evaporated into grim reality.
Marta had wondered why I had stared at her that way when she had dyed and cut her hair. She didn't know that it was because she look so much like her once living alias.
Did you know her? Marta had asked.
Not any more, had been my truthful answer.
I could bring you to your knees with three words.
Grab. Twist. Pull.
GRAB! TWIST! PULL!
Snapping awake as if from a dream, time began moving again and the world began spinning. The muscles on the arms wrapped around my neck and head, flexed. I went into the offensive. My hands moved.
And I brought him to his knees.
Without looking back, I dove on the floor towards the gun. Feeling its cold metal weight in my hands, I rolled over to see my attacker standing over me, a blind rage flashing in his eyes and pain contorting his face. He pounced. I fired.
Once my ears stopped ringing, the silence in the house was deafening. For a long while I just lay there on the floor, watching the smoke from the gun waft up in tiny spires to evaporate like ghosts.
I almost died.
I should have died.
And it was because I didn't die, that I was willing to live.
It was the thought of them, that made me scramble to my feet, averting my eyes from the scarlet halo that was rapidly forming around the head of the form on the floor, still feeling the gut-wrenching nausea all the same.
I legs felt weak all of sudden, whether it be from recent events or the heretofore lack of oxygen due to previous choke hold, is your choice, but either way I was forced to lean against the wall for support, and I took the moment to tuck the hot gun into my waistband.
I really had no time to waste. Who knows what trouble Marta and Nikki might be in now? But my only choice was to make my way as quickly as possible towards the warehouse where I hoped they would be waiting.
Taking the stairs up to the roof two steps at a time, I burst through the door and got my bearings, blinking in the sunlight. I could hear no sirens or screams, (God forbid), so I settled upon a direction that I estimated would take me to the warehouse, and took off across the rooftop at an unsteady run that quickly drew strength and speed as I progressed.
I was beginning to think that roof hopping is my new mode of transport.
Every step I took away from that awful house seemed to give me a new energy. My mind had never been so alert, so sharp, so filled with purpose, as it was now. My head was swimming with plans, possibilities, prospects for the future, that two weeks ago I would never have dreamed of.
I'm coming Marta. Stay safe for me. Don't lose hope.
I'm coming Nikki. Stay strong for me. Don't go where I cant find you.
My feet flew across the rooftops, moving faster and faster with each step. My lungs seemed to be expanding, compensating for the incredible amount of oxygen I was needing to function like this. No wall, or large gap between the rooftops slowed me down, and though my body was on fire with the pain of a thousand blows I had taken, it seemed but a far off sensation compared with the image of the warehouse floating in front of my eyes where I knew my girls would be waiting.
My girls. I don't know when I starting thinking about them that way, but that's exactly what they were: My. Girls. I would give my life for both of them, had offered up my life for them, and woe to anyone who so much as broke a hair on their heads. There was nothing I would not do for them, and if I was honest with myself, that abundance of emotion both scared me, and made me feel like I could conquer an army barehanded.
Marta, she was the piece to me I didn't know I was missing. She made me feel things. Things I didn't understand, or even want to understand. And while Nikki was my light, a link to a family and life I never had, Marta was what made me want to make a new one.
Unfortunately, even I cant run forever, and eventually I had to slow to a fast walk. It was then that I got off of my highway of roofs, and joined the civilian population on the streets. In no time, I was in possession of a motorcycle and speeding my way down the actual highways, following a mental map of this city where the warehouse was highlighted in blue.
Why blue? I don't know. That's just how my brain works.
At long last, the dark shape of the warehouse against the horizon could be seen, and my heart jumped at the sight. Around the perimeter was a large chain link fence topped with barbed wire, while the one visible entrance was a large double gate. The motorcycle hadn't even come to a complete stop, by the time I jumped off of it, leaving it lying on the curb and running for the gate. Inside the lock was a bent hairpin.
Atta girl, Nikki.
Passing through the gate, I ran for the warehouse door. At the handle, however, I forced myself to slow down. Who knows what could be waiting inside, and I needed to be prepared for everything. Taking a breath, I opened the door, and slipped noiselessly into the enormous warehouse.
Inside, illuminated by a thousand ceiling lights, was a multitude of private planes, their sides glossy with a fresh coat of wax. There was no immediate sign of life however, and I stood stock still for a moment, straining my ears for any sound, and picking up the distant noise of whispering far on the other side of the warehouse, I crept forward on hunters feet.
Peering around the fuselage of a bright red plane, I perceived that the source of the whispering was two forms seated on a stack of crates.
It was Nikki and Marta.
My heart stopped for a moment with relief at the sight of seeing them safe and unharmed, and I stepped out from the cover of the plane.
They both turned at the sound of my purposefully heavy footfall, starting up like birds ready to take flight, but upon seeing me their faces lit up into ecstasies of joy.
Marta made a sound that sounded like my name, and before I could even think, flew into my arms.
"You're alive." She repeated over and over again, and I felt a hot tear land on my neck.
I held her close, thinking vaguely of how she fit perfectly against me.
"Oh, Marta," I whispered into her ear. "How could I ever leave you?"