"Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet, sent to exterminate humans for the greater good of mankind."
The four other men in the cramped, undecorated military room looked at one another in silent disgust. But they were a unit and "The Scythe", as he was called, was one of them and the unit was god, never to be questioned. Bitches to the end, they proudly never refuse an order.
In a sense, The Scythe was quite refreshing. He never gives a rationale. Peters fought for his Christian principles, a holy warrior killing for God. Hendershot claimed his obedience as honorable and dutiful, the applauded homecoming patriot. Robinson saw a world where "the bad guys need taking out", just like in the movies. And Phillips, while viewing himself as a hypocrite, called these missions "moral" hypocrisies - a future suicide candidate.
But The Scythe felt alien for a reason. Killers, butchers, psychopaths and the like had certainly existed throughout history, smiling as they gave birth to sanctioned or unsanctioned murder. This new breed, though existing for only the shortest of times like the final blinding flash of a light bulb before burning out forever, walked successfully in two worlds. Eventually he must choose one: life or death. But before that time - before the bill comes due - the flames of hell cannot touch him.
He was neither warm nor cold, nor somber or delightful, nor robotic or animated. What he was, was detached. Money meant nothing to him. Approval was his true currency. But like a child who's become self-aware The Scythe knew he could manipulate it, even control it, living on the weakness of strangers. How funny, he snorted, that the so-called strongest of leaders were in fact the weakest of men. "Where would you be without your killers, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Great Leader? Who would love you then?"
Yes, he knew the haunts of the minds of men in power; men who praise Jesus while driving the nails into his screaming body.
To The Scythe, this made him de facto ruler of the world, like samurai of yore. Above, in fact, mere simple humans with their petty woes and worries. He'd chosen not to be blind, to read the writing on the wall. Fools who close their eyes deserve their misery - and misery to come. "Some men ask why. I ask why not." This was his response when asked why he killed.
In the last operation, a husband and his pregnant wife had been shot to death. The bullets must be retrieved or their missions from God could be compromised*. Protecting the lie was protecting the truth, they said. Peters refused on moral grounds (though would have had he been alone). Hendershot tried but started puking. Robinson froze at this real life order. Phillips suggested they take the bodies with them to bury in secret. The Scythe whipped out his razor sharp knife.
With neither pleasure not disgust he removed the bullets, looking up afterwards like an innocent child having cleaned up spilt milk. Just do it. Why hadn't anyone else wanted to? It wasn't easy but it wasn't hard. Sometimes, only he could measure up.
He loved the accouterments, his tools of death. The Scythe was fascinated with the latest methodologies of killing. It felt as if the entire world was scrambling to his support, obsessed with finding newer and more efficient ways of ending life. He stood infatuated, marveling at the precision. The trouble they must have gone to! Yes, he'd come to this planet to own it, to bend it to his will.
This is what politics gives us
Like eating and sleeping, sex must be done. The killer was never sure what sex gave him - but he certainly knew what a lack of it meant. Until the moment of release he'd not realize how much the oppression of his dual life compressed his body, diverting his mind from the single focus of subsidizing the detachment he needed to live in the floating world. It's good to be god.
Before a mission, he played soulful symphonic hymns. Someone once told him that fed a tender heart. The Scythe only knew it helped in the mission, the blood of a lamb upon the altar of death. He'd seen red-faced protesters in heated condemnation of his acts. But this too fueled him, absorbing their energy. Only one thing drew the killer's ire.
"I hate these families who live in their homes oblivious to the world! They are nothing but parasites. They should be praising us, thanking us, worshiping us. Those miserable little worms!"
"Actually, most do," rejoined Peters, who never left the world of onward Christian soldiers.
"But not all! Not all of them!"
No one directly confronted The Scythe - though everyone wanted to inside. From world leaders to hotel doormen, the killer inspired a corner of hatred in the hearts exposed to him. Yet never a word was spoken. Partly in fear, but mostly in knowing to reject the killer was to reject an understanding of the world greater than their own. "Who am I to question the order on whom so many depend?" Prisoners with a key.
Only one exchange was ever heard, initiated by raw recruit infuriated by The Sythe's blatant detachment.
"You're a barbarian!"
"Mankind has always been barbarians. Read your Bible."
"But we're supposed to be civilized now, what we do means something more than just taking life. We're preserving it."
"We're preserving nothing. The future is now. Live in the now."
"That's a lie! We're bringing stability to the region. We're saving the world." The last words were spoken almost as a question.
"It's those who most believe they are saving the world who most destroy it. Better to save yourself."
"Nothing works if everyone is just out for himself."
"You really think the world is there for you?"
Later, the soldier committed suicide, his mind torn between truth and illusion.
The Scythe claimed to be an old soul. He lamented the passing of the Dark Ages, when it seemed he had all the time in the world for endless wholesale slaughter. Back then, murder in the name of God thrilled him, a certain perverse ecstasy filled his soul. He still needed such excuses back then. But even then his eyes were starting to open, losing the need for facades and fairy tales.
Finally, the crystallization was complete, knowing who he was: a man without a future. In a dream more real than any waking moment, he recalled driving nails through an innocent man's body. He was fighting himself to do this act of insanity, judging himself on the wrong side of justice. "How this man must hate me," he cried inside his horrified Roman armor.
And then, he heard the last words he ever expected. "Please forgive me," spoke the man with eyes reaching deep into his soul.
Hearing this, he instantly wanted to pull out the nails and surrender his life in everlasting freedom. Every fiber of his being cried out for this in pure undeniable desire. If this man could forgive him, if this man still thought him worthy of saving even during this act of cruel savagery, then life did have meaning; the world meant nothing. He must save himself to save the world.
But he had not the courage to do as he wished. His heart hardened in bitter despair, making him a drunkard the rest of his days, reliving the moment of his lost chance for salvation, torturing himself daily in a misguided hope for atonement, grasping onto wild rationalizations that he could somehow reverse the curse. He'd been offered heaven but chose his place in the world, bringing centuries of tears.
How to be a good citizen
And what does it say of a world that has a place for a man like this? The blind man says men like The Scythe do not exist. Lovers of lies call him a "necessary evil". The self-deceived laud him as a savior of the world. He knows his time is short but he knows his time is now. One day, only the living will survive.
"You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied,
"how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up
with you? Bring the boy here to me."
The song before battle