Lucius was in the moment, heavy breath and careless thoughts. He was operating on adrenaline and hate, both rushing through his veins as his sweaty fingers clenched the butt of the pistol in his hands tighter and tighter with every passing moment. Time was racing, and yet the moment was rich and still. There were so many moves he had to make after this one, so many considerations and swift actions and all of these were looming in the back of his mind, congealing into a plan. He was going to need a plan. The thing in his hand, the metal instrument that in a moment was going to kill was also the lynch pin. Pulling its trigger was sliding it out of place and the whole system around him was going to collapse into a hazardous mass of metal, mangled. He assumed he wouldn’t make it out alive. He didn’t care. What would come tomorrow was an afterthought, lost in the rage and the warpath. It was a winding trail that came from a darkness behind him, miles for which he was ignorant. He was clear now. He came to know his world in the past seventy-two hours with startling and abrasive clarity the likes of which shattered all he stood for. He wasn’t even sure what it was he once stood for. Peace? Love? Paradise? Whatever it was, he stood for something else completely now. It was blaring its message in the front of his mind. It craved the blast that was coming next.
Lucius swiped his blonde, sweat soaked bangs away from his eyes for a clearer shot of his prey, reeling on the floor before him, weeping, pleading. Lucius placed his right hand against his left to better wield the pistol, and steadied his stance. Though his body was thin, his forearms were thick and muscular, and as his fists squeezed, his veins surged and rose from his flesh. What laid before him was something he once loved. A friend. But the hate, the adrenaline, it swirled in his mind and, fueled by a betrayal, consumed all of what love remained for the squirming man at his feet.
Lucius zeroed in on his face, clenched and tear drenched. The image drew a grin slowly across Lucius’ face. He enjoyed the misery. He had never enjoyed such a sadistic pleasure before. But that was before the death of an innocent.
“Lucius,” a quivering voice interrupted his focus, pulling it momentarily to his side. Nathaniel, the sixteen year old boy, cousin to Lucius, loyal and trusting, stood upright, jaw clenched to stop it from chattering. He mustered enough bodily control to ask, “What comes next?” He was both frightened and eager for the answer. Whatever it would be, he was one hundred percent with his cousin.
There was only one word that came to Lucius’ mind.
Nathaniel drew in a sharp gasp of air, swallowing his fear. In a final attempt to appeal to what perhaps remained of his cousin’s old sensibilities, he asked, “What about peace?”
Hearing the word aloud, what he had so frequently preached in his old mindset, stung his ears. There were two sentiments that came simultaneous. The first was of longing, that feeling of absence and loss one has when an ideal dies within them. The second was of the dying, a voice of ridicule for the foolish naivete that once endeavored to change his world. It was this second sentiment that drove him to do finally what he had been building towards in the previous moments.
“Peace,” he repeated with disgust. “There’ll be peace when we’re dead.”
An image of his resting corpses brought solace to his pained heart.
“If we do this, if we go through with this, Lucius—” Nathaniel couldn’t finish with his eyes open, so he shut them tight and said, “We’ll be dead before dawn.”
Lucius’ calm, yet broken voice replied softly, “Then there’ll be peace tomorrow.”
His finger twitched and tightened, pulling and drawing in the small trigger it wrapped itself around. The head swung violently backwards, a splattering of blood and brain matter painting the floor behind it before the entire body jerked and threw itself on its spine. The crying was over, the quiet pleading was finished. The traitor was dead.
The heat and the rattle echoed in Lucius’ wrist. The tingle sneaked into his bone and swarmed throughout his frame. It was inside him now. It was in his core.
It defined him.
And sometime earlier, Titus Dicaro was rubbing his head, not with his fingers, but with his closed fists, scrubbing his scalp with his knuckles, whining to himself and cycling through the thousand different voices in his head that yelled at him, listening for the one to tell him what to do. It was a mismatched chorus of unsynchronized vocals, each originating from its own dark corner of his mind. Mostly, they were negligible, but in times of great stress they descended on him in what felt like a biblical swarm that consumed his clarity. He couldn’t think straight. It was a mess of noise and garbled words running into each other clouding any decision he considered making for himself. He was haunted. But he had brought the ghosts upon himself.
He tapped the end of the pistol against his temple. None of his demons stopped, so he tapped harder, then began banging. He swung the metal against his temple with such force that his vision twisted upside down. He didn’t care about killing himself, or rather, hadn’t the free mental space to consider that end. He just wanted his brain to work, to give him the answer to this situation he found himself trapped within.
And then it happened. Above the cacophony of voices rose a single whisper. It was distinct, familiar. It was the voice that had propelled him into kidnapping his victim in the first place. Though Titus knew not to trust it, it refused judgment in favor of silence. What it said was two short words.
Titus decided he would appeal to the voice. He would appease it in an effort to ally himself with the strongest of the multitude. Titus stopped scrubbing his scalp and wiped the snot from beneath his nostrils and off his upper lip with his sleeve. He stood and charged out of the bedroom, wrapping around the corner to enter the what would be called the living space of his garden apartment, though it appeared unfit for such an activity. All his things, clothes, drugs, and otherwise, lay scattered across the floor stained with food and rain water that poured in from corners. Roaches scattered to his footsteps, leaving the only living thing, a girl, bound to a chair in the center of all the chaos, to the will of Titus. His shaky hand rose the pistol slowly, like a heavy weight, and stepped in towards the girl until the end of the barrel was hard against the side of her head.
Titus ignored her as he did what the voice had commanded. The matter within her skull was released into the chaos of his room, and the force of the bullet tearing through pulled the rest of her down with the chair, falling to its side.
He watched the blood empty out and felt the same happening within him. Cold.