Blood spattered sails

I pour myself a generous handful of pills. The shakes are getting worse. Each trip I take another few pills more than they recommend. Maybe I should tell the medics about it. I knock the pills back and look up the location of the cache on my wrist terminal. Two meters ahead, under a hedge. I open the case to see the usual: a rifle and a chip containing a dossier of the target. I snap it closed again and follow the directions to the hide site.

I hunker down on the top of the hill, between a few trees. The site’s more exposed than I’m used to, but the intel’s good. It always has to be. Has to be perfect. I pull the info from the chip, then destroy it. The target’s a little boy. Looks maybe five years old. As I put together the rifle I wonder what he would have grown up to be, what he might have done. It’s an old model rifle, practically an antique, but you never forget the basics. The suppressor snaps into place and I swing the muzzle down toward the lake.

He’s crouched at the edge of the water, splashing around in waterproof boots, playing with a model ship. I used to have one just like it. I slow my breathing, flip the scope cover, and take the boy down clean. The parents take a few moments to realize that something’s wrong.

I disassemble the rifle quickly; I can already feel the tingle in my fingers and toes. I slide the case into the hollow of the tree and glance at my wrist: another thirty years backwards. So far from home already, and I keep getting further away. The air around me crackles and my hairs stand on end. I jump again.

4 thoughts on “Blood spattered sails”

  1. This is wonderful – a bit more serious than your usual fare, a little darker, and I think the language really works with it. I love the title – after reading the rest, the image is very powerful. I see the whole thing done in silent black and white grainy film 😉

    What really works for me is the methodical description of minute detail – the intel, the rilfe, the boy – a kind of cold and clinical description that really fits the cold distanced nature of the subject. I like how a larger story is hinted at – the pills are suggesting something is _wrong_ and in a longer piece would inevitably lead to major fuck-up on a future mission, but in this little vignette it’s perfect just being hinted at. I really like how his plight – far from home and getting further – is so much more real to him than that of the little boy and his parents.

    This works really well, thank you!

  2. Enjoyed the cold perspective and the sci-fi aspects. I like the moral ambiguity – I assume he’s a good guy acting with wisdom through hindsight but nothing in the text actually speaks of his motives.

    The small touches are lovely: ‘parent took a while to..’ + ‘old model rifle’ + ‘pills’
    I find the suggestions without deep explanation (pills, jump, caches etc) very effective in this context.

    Not much to criticise really (except maybe the very subtle connection to the topic) – snappy, fun sci-fi story full of texture and life.

  3. It’s Quantum Leap! Only with a killer :) Great, nostalgic stuff. This piece grabbed me. I like the succinctness and the detail. For example, snapping a suppressor (rather than a silencer) into place, and swinging the muzzle down. There is no undue detail, merely specifics. I enjoyed this. Also, how action is often implied and occurs between sentences:

    > Two meters ahead, under a hedge. I open the case to see the usual

    There are some places were I thought things could have been a bit more specific, for example, the “few moments” mentioned below:
    > The parents take a few moments to realize that something’s wrong.
    But that’s a minor nit.

    I like the pacing in the last paragraph; there’s a bit of tension that builds as he’s thinking about moving further back in time. Then it ends with the short sentence.

    Anyway, I liked this a lot. Two thumbs up!

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