by Martin Bolton
I forgot to cry when my parents were murdered. My eyes were busy. Busy recording every detail of the horror they beheld.
Those eyes remained busy for ten years. Too busy to sleep. Too busy to see the world in which I dwelt. Too busy replaying the scene that defined me, frame by frame, in minute detail. Busy gazing into the future and seeing only vengeance.
The day after they died, or maybe it was a week, or a year, I found myself in a psychiatric ward. White walls, white floor, white sheets. A dazzlingly bright room with the sun streaming through an open window. A cool breeze delivering the scent of flowers in a vain attempt to distract me. This was a bribe from nature itself. A ploy to tempt my mind from its path.
But the light was superficial, temporary, fleeting, fickle. My busy eyes could see the patient darkness that waited beyond. I cursed the light, for it hid itself from me, taunted me. The light could not be seen, only the things it chose to show me could be seen. Things that burned me like fire and ice.
The darkness showed itself, and only itself. The darkness was truth.
Richard appeared that day, the first day I can recall since the killing. He was eating a banana. His thick, black fingers delicately peeled the soft yellow fruit with surprising dexterity. His twinkling eyes were calm and thoughtful as they contemplated the staple snack from beneath the shelter of a heavy brow. His lips pursed in quiet concentration.
Scratching his massive chest with one hand, he popped the entire banana into his gaping maw and glanced at me.
“Moo mom a mamama?” he said.
I stared at him, dumbfounded, while he chewed and swallowed.
“Do you want a banana?” he repeated, breaking off another and expertly peeling it.
I shook my head.
“Musa acuminata,” he grinned at me, displaying a massive set of yellow canine teeth, “first described by the Italian botanist Luigi Aloysius Colla in the book Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino (1820).”
I reached out a hand and he tossed me a banana.
“I’m Richard,” he said.
“Marmin,” I replied.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Martin,” I said, having swallowed the yellow mush.
“What are you doing here, Martin?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “I awoke here alone.”
“You’re not alone now,” he said.
From that day on, Richard stayed with me always. He talked me through simple every day things like cleaning my teeth and dressing myself and wiping my arse. He distracted me enough from my purpose to help me function. He helped me escape from the psychiatric unit and take control of my destiny. He made me strong again. He became my only friend.
* * * *
I sat on the bed in the hotel room, Desert Eagle polished and loaded, checking my watch repeatedly. It wouldn’t be time to go for hours, but I couldn’t relax. This was the culmination of ten years sleepless work. I was born the day they took my parents’ lives. Whoever I was before died that day too, for I recall nothing of his life, and he knew nothing of mine.
And today I would die too, for the act I was about to carry out was my sole reason for existing. I wondered if, the moment the lives of the men I had hunted all my life were extinguished, I would just fade away. Vengeance was all I was. My only memory was death, and death my only will. As a salmon spawns and expires, so must I kill, and render myself obsolete.
Richard calmly watched me as I stood before the full length mirror, muttering to myself and checking a small arsenal that I concealed in various places about my person.
“Moo mo moo mam a moice,” he said.
“You know you have a choice,” he repeated, having swallowed a mouthful of banana.
“There is no choice for me,” I replied, “I exist for one purpose only.”
Richard’s face suddenly looked so sad, and a tear ventured forth from one watery eye.
“You can take the high road,” he said, “you can choose to live. All these years I have hoped you’d change your mind. I still believe you can see more than the darkness.”
“I see nothing but death.”
“Then open your eyes!” Richard roared at me for the first time in ten years. He reared up to his full eight, towering above me, and beat his fists against his chest.
He shocked me then, and something about the way he looked at me seemed to shine through the darkness. His glittering eyes bore into mine imploringly, his thick brow furrowed with pain. Pain he felt for me.
I stared at him wide-eyed, and felt something break inside me. My legs gave way and I slumped forward. Richard caught me in his massive hairy arms and crushed me to his chest.
My eyes fought to remember the details of my parents’ death, but like a dream the image faded. I felt so tired. As he held me I cried. Ten years worth of howling, breathless sobs racked me and I gave in to them. I died and was born again in the arms of my friend.
“Well done, boy,” he whispered, and when I looked up, Richard was gone.