Last Moments

‘Go off, kill them, you know what they’ve done.’

J stared at himself in the reflection of a shop window, running the words through his head. He did know what they’d done and they did deserve to die. He’d said it himself enough times. Words though, just words. Easy to say and easy to feel but a thousand miles away from this moment, hollow reverberations from a dozen instances of emotional explosiveness. Heartfelt at the time, still felt in fact, but ever more distant from where he stood.

The shop sold phones. He could see the staff in their identical suits, clambering through the Christmas rush as a flood of customers stripped the store bare in their anxious rush to spend all they could. It was a completely meaningless sight, there was a job to do, an important one. J was just standing there to pass time, to delay the inevitable a while longer. And it was inevitable, there was no escaping the work he had to do or where it would lead him. No weakness, no hesitation, this was what he was meant for. He had a purpose, a higher one, he could never again mingle with the sort of people on the other side of the glass. They meant nothing, their lives meant nothing. They may never realise it but they would live, work and die without ever knowing how alive duty, an iron clad purpose could have made them. Yesterday he’d said just that, staring into the camera, voice concrete with certainty, his words hammers beating that truth into the form of a message. Just words though and he still hadn’t moved from the shop front.

Resolve, another word, and he hadn’t lost his. His job, his duty, J would never ignore it, could never ignore it in fact. No more than he could escape his own skin. ‘Go off, kill them, you know what they’ve done’. Yes. That was the thought to fix in place, that memory of a heavy toned conversation before he had left.  The solidness of the expectation placed on him, a reassuring weight buried somewhere he couldn’t touch, somewhere where it couldn’t be weakened. That had been more than words. That had been truth, feeling, fact even. No doubts, no hesitation.

But he hadn’t moved. Still he was staring through the glass. Which changed nothing but it needed to last a moment longer, just a moment. He could see an image now, playing out in his mind, beyond the duty of words. He could go in and buy a phone. There was no reason to. He had no use for one, he had his duty. But he could do it – and then he could do what he had to.

The door was already opening, his hand leaving an outline on the polished glass. A wave of warmth rushed out to meet him, heating or an illusion of the artificial light but welcoming nonetheless. The staff paid no attention, busy with other customers. Anxious looking teens shadowing un-anxious parents, trying to radiate cool and failing miserably. A couple of guys staring disdainfully at stock as they explained each model’s failings to staff who looked disdainfully back at them. A huddle of teenage girls, idly prodding at iPhones as a side note to a deep and, to J, incomprehensible discussion amongst themselves.

He caught an eye, a young man in his early-20s. No, not young, his age really, but the lack of purpose had left him un-aged by that weight. The man smiled at him, offered to help. A sales pitch was already under way without any invite. Meaningless words, barely heard, which shook him back to reality.

J was outside, he hadn’t moved. Just a daydream for a few seconds, a last venture into monotony, an alien land now.  He had his duty. ‘Go off, kill them, you know what they’ve done’. Those were the words to remember, nothing else.

He turned away from the window and walked off. A hand drifted to the gun in his pocket. He had his duty. ‘Go off, kill them, you know what they’ve done.’

Meaningless words, but he had his duty.

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