Exquisite Red

She was pretty. Not that it should matter, but still…even after a lifetime of having every strand of humanity ripped out like weeds in a garden…except he was the weed in their garden…he still felt shadows of emotions sometimes. It never amounted to anything; he thought of it like a cloud passing over, momentarily blocking out the sun. A very short moment, like it was almost thinking of watering the barren wasteland below. But it always knew better, knew not to waste itself over soil that’d never yield anything. So it hails a passing breeze to take it to better prospects.

He tried to line her up. For an instance, he had her, that sweet spot of death dead-centre on her forehead. Then a strand of hair fluttered across her face and he found himself following that painted hand as it brushed the offender back to its place, his crosshairs drifting away as if the wind that had graced her had also tried to throw this threat off its mark.

He allowed himself a moment of weakness as he studied her face. Her eyes panned across the street lazily, the deep black drinking in the sight. Panned across the street, but never up, never to the man on the rooftop looking at her. Her fingers drummed on the bench handle, the perfect red nails tapping a tune on the worn-out wood. He wondered if he’d recognize the tune if he could hear it. He racked his brain, trying to think of a song, but he couldn’t remember any. He lowered the rifle ever so slightly. She was slumped back in her seat, the text of her t-shirt lost in the creases. Yoga-pant clad legs crossed gracefully at the ankles, her bare feet brushing the rough stone inches away from her discarded slippers.

Her feet suddenly groped around for the footwear, and she stood up. He moved up again, his breath catching in his throat at that smile. He tried to imagine her smiling for him, then laughed. It’d be a strange butterfly that floated around graveyards. And now where did that butterfly go off to? Anger washed over him, fury cold as the cement he was lying on, anger because that smile was for someone else, anger at the man standing in front of her, anger for the man’s head blocking his view of that smile, anger at those hands holding her, anger at the hands running through the tumbling brown waves of her hair; every lesson forgotten, he pumped the trigger in a frenzy, but no red holes appeared in that fortunate body, the body did not crumble down, that smile did not die. He cursed as he fumbled with the safety trigger. The damned thing stuck as ever. It shouldn’t, he thought. You couldn’t find a finer rifle anywhere, every part manufactured with the utmost precision, locking in perfectly, gleaming black steel polished every night. Aye, but that safety always stuck! He tore his eye away, not trusting himself to show restraint. He couldn’t afford to mess up, he’d come too far.

By the time he looked back, he was gone, and all that remained of the smile was a slight curl of those exquisite lips, like a part of her mouth had forgotten that he’d left.

His hands shook as he refocussed, his heart beating a wild erratic tune against his ribs, like a desperate pounding at a  prison door, like it too wanted no more to do with this wretched residue of something human. It too… he pondered on his choice of words. It too…who else? Ghosts of memories flitted through his mind, a smile like the girl below had smiled, a hand like the girl’s painted ones that he’d once held… He shivered. He was certain those memories couldn’t be his. He’d never felt warm flesh, that was one thing he could be certain of.

He cursed, pulling out a small box and shaking out a couple of tablets. He bit down hard, the bitter taste flooding his mouth. He swallowed and waited for his heartbeat to steady. The drug acted fast, and he had her in the crosshairs again. He lingered on the heart, then the forehead, but settled on one of those dark black eyes, eyes that wouldn’t ever shine when those lips it shared a face with parted in that smile they had smiled. This time, he felt the recoil as he pulled and watched the bullet go home.

Somebody screamed. Soon, they’d be looking all around, searching for the soul cruel enough to extinguish a life like hers. But they’d never look above, never look to where he stood, watching.

He felt a cold trickle down his face, and he gingerly touched his other eye. He winced, even though it had stopped hurting long ago. It still bled. It had gone through him clean, like the bullet he’d just fired.

He remembered the smile again, and felt burning bile rise up his throat. He forced it down, then spit over the edge of the roof.

They wouldn’t smile for him.

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