Eli and the Assassin
“Can you wait outside?!”
Selfishness was never a scarce commodity around here, but when these two asked Eli to go out on a dark, drizzly night with a killer on the loose, they renewed the young man’s standards of lack of empathy.
Still, he left and closed the door, staring out at the shadowy street and listening to the howling of dogs that made up a ghoulish orchestra - something he never understood.
Are they mourning together or something?
Shoving the thought away, he glanced across the block and realized that each side of the street had only one wide building with several doors and internal divisions, but no space between houses to hide - and if a guard saw what he had it in his pockets, it would take hours to get to an authority relevant enough to explain all that was going on, why they needed all of it and let them go, but time was a luxury they never had these days.
Then, having nowhere to hide in the narrow street, he looked up at the roof and decided to climb up and wait for the idiots to finish their useless debate and get back on the road.
The only problem was that Eli wasn’t really fit – far from it, he couldn’t remember the last time he could lift all his weight with just his own strength. At least he was light enough to step where he wanted and not to break anything or pierce the rooftop.
So, thinking himself exceptionally clever, he jumped up and groped the top of the closed window and bolstered his feet on the underside, gaining momentum to grasp the straw on the roof and start rubbing his feet against the wall until he had both arms and head over the level, so he could hold on to the hand they lent him to go up and sit panting on the edge of the roof smiling as someone who did something so clever that no one else would conceive.
That feeling of excellence lasted long enough for him to breath and put his hands back, making himself more comfortable. Then he finally realized being accompanied and that someone helped him get up here.
Bad enough, this was the Assassin of Day and Night, and it seemed that he would be his forty-third victim.
Clad in tramp cloth over brown leather that seemed to cover his whole body, a one-eyed porcelain mask covering his face, and a larger-than-necessary hat, the killer bent down facing Eli and asked:
“Are you all right there, man?” The tone of concern almost distracted Eli that it was a female voice, not a male one. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t some supernatural creature, just a woman.
Eli held up two fingers to indicate that he needed a moment and realized by the scant glimpse of her eye that a smile sprang from behind his mask.
“I used to be terrified of the dark”, she said in such a casual tone as if small talking at a party. “When I was a kid, my mom used to lock me outside or in this old closet we had, one of those of really good craftsmanship, that don’t let a single drop of light through.”
She sat next to him, so close that they looked like intimate friends, and kept talking, paying no heed to how her many knives were horrifying the guy:
“It took a long while for me to realize that fear lies in anticipation, in uncertainty,” this was what Eli heard as he managed to control both his desperation and his heartbeat, which he could feel in his tongue. “It’s just like people say, that the bark is worse than the bite, you know?”
“I think I understand,” he started, trying to act as if in a party too, “but in my case I went out in the dark and found someone who has killed more than forty people in this town alone. Will fear be the worst part of my night?” His mouth was so dry and most of his strength was directed to avoid the diarrhea that wanted to ooze all over his pants.
“Sure,” she said, taking off her hat, laying on the roof, and letting the drizzle fall on her mask. “As far as I know, you’re just an outsider who’s already leaving, am I right?”
He nodded, and swallowed hard, unable to form words. Maybe he peed his pants, but wasn’t sure.
“In that case,” she continued, “I’m just a scary vulture in the sky, and your problem are the many snake eggs cracking around you.”
If he jumped off the roof, he would fall like a stone, injure himself and get caught, so that was pointless. If he got up, she would intercept him before taking a step, so that too was out of the question. If she screamed, the first one to react would be her knife.
And, to be honest, her voice tone was so comfortable and so honest that if she was planning to kill him that night, she wanted to do it by surprise while his guard was down. Besides, it may sound silly, but she had “the voice of a beautiful woman”. So, when would be a better time to gamble than this?
“If you’re not going to kill me,” he said, lying beside her, perhaps with his hip closer than the rest of the body, “may I ask why you’ve been killing this bunch of people?”
“Revenge,” she answered seriously. “They sent all my brothers to those wars, and each time the family got smaller, as opposed to the hole in my life. Even in this last one, my twelve-year-old brother was thrust into battle with just his clothing and a wooden stick in his hand while this horde of honorable knights protected in iron armor stayed in town. Ridiculous, all of them, ridiculous!”
“Did they at least handed over the bodies for some funeral service?”
She shook her head.
“So, there’s still a chance, then?”
“Chance of them having been enslaved, you mean?” She replied, for the first time with anger directed at him.
“Chance of life.” He shrugged. “I had to leave my family even younger than your brother. All of mine must think me dead, and yet, here I am! Alive and chatting the evening away with someone who could end my life before I would see the stab coming” he smiled, but she didn’t seem to react, so he sighed and continued, now as serious as her. “I should just shut up, I never understood why people fight wars, but I also never understood why people kill each other, so I shouldn’t talk about it.”
“But that’s my point,” she emphasized. “They kill people from other lands, and our own in the process, and that is called honor and heroism. I show them the pain they cause and they send men and dogs to hunt and murder me.”
“But aren’t they doing the same thing you are doing, but in their own way?” He asked after a moment, careful not to offend her. Not because of any intimidation, for it all went away when he realized she was just a normal person with human motives (brutal, but human).
“How so?” Her tone was really harsh.
“They killed yours and you wanted revenge. You killed theirs, and they want revenge. That’s how things are going, right?” He thought out loud, pondering less empathically and more logically cold.
“I know that what I’m doing is wrong, and I do it to show them there’s no honor in killing anyone. They kill to get inconvenient people out of their way, at the cost of lives they value less than insects, and call it honor. There is a whole chasm between us.”
“People with different opinions and a bunch of innocents end up dead. That’s the gist of it all, right?” Eli was convinced of his own point of view, but now he really wanted to understand her thinking, and how she justified it.
Alas, she got up and kicked him to get up too:
“You don’t understand and I pray you never will,” she lamented. “It’s better for you to go home or depart soon, before they realize what’s in your pocket.”
He agreed, as if coming back to his senses and realizing that he was talking to a murderer of more than forty people of all ages, including babies and the elderly, who left their bodies open on the stove of their own homes. And that, even if she was human, humans can be scarier than any devil.
She offered her hand to help him down but he grasped and shook it:
“By the way, my name is Eli. And I know what it looks like, but I’m not a thief, I’m a force for justice.”
She was quiet for a moment and answered:
“Just like me” she agreed in a serious, slightly ironic voice and helped him down, watching as he rushed inside the door.
And that is all that happened.
Of course, in the dozens of times he told the story, El added one or two bits here or there, like that the killer was the most beautiful woman in all the lands and they made love on the wet rooftop, or that it was a man whose arms were thicker than his own legs, whom he fought but managed to escape his immobilization techniques; and so on.
However, it must be stated for record that the number of victims actually remained forty-two and the Assassin of Day and Night was never heard of again.
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