Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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The Killer's Choice

by John Biggs

Molina and I had an agreement: I'd shoot the baby, he'd give me an apartment and a little freedom. I had a rifle, an SV-98 that someone had brought over from Chechnya in a crate of Italian sinks. It had a silencer and a scope and I fitted an after-market laser sight.

The sight kept dropping out, the red dot winking like a retinal flare. I was on the roof of the building next to the place where the baby was being kept. The baby was immune to a few often fatal diseases, something that makes it extremely valuable to the Religious because it could turn AIDS from the hammer of the gods to another venereal disease, like dripping herpes. It would turn the horrible truths of creationism stale, defuse God's wrath from Old Testament to New Testament.

So I was assigned to go up on the roof, among the pigeons and the dead televisions that someone had stored up there, aim the long nose of the 98 at the baby's room in the window across from me, and wait. Like the man said, waiting is the hardest part.

When you look through the reticle you see the brick. Take your eye away and you see the building. I see the baby through the window, playing in the light, surrounded above by an oblong of shadow cast by a flyaway curtain. Molina made me in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, caught like a man paralyzed and trucked on a gurney from Morocco up onto the coast of Spain and into Paris. There I did small things, rifling desks, shaking down small businessmen, shooting children who sold drugs in Molina's blocks. I taught myself to think.

I had a poster on my wall of the New York skyline. It was newer, with the Net in place, the Leyden jar that crackled at the sky like an antique bug zapper that never worked. I killed my first man at age eight, a child soldier in the employ of the world, an errant sprat, deadly and slope-headed.

Molina is below, in his car, waiting for me. He is that kind of boss, thoughtful, improvisational. Some nights he takes me out to dinner. Some nights he has two men tie me down and he beats me with hose, just so I'll remember that I am still a debit on his spreadsheet. The cost of my safe passage, the surgery, the gun. All red ticks. This one shot from one-thousand feet will be one black tick.

I look at the bricks. All red ticks. The surgery, painless, needles in the brain. The passage in the storage well of an unmanned shuttle to JFK, dropping out like a dead man onto the tarmac and then finding Molina, warm and safe as houses in his car. He offers me a coffee and takes me along roads that are nameless to a house that no one will ever find. Molina has too much money for things like discovery.

There will be more babies like this one, genetic mutations bred out of our species ingenuity. This one will not turn the tide, but the risk is too great. The Religious have money and have paid Molina. I look through the window. I love this baby, this small man caught in my sight. He is rolling a plastic tank across the window sill, now. He doesn't see me. I breathe, pause, wait for my heart to slow and my finger to stop shaking.

Red ticks along the brick wall. Molina's window ajar, a little smoke coming out. Cohibas, the tourist's brand, a fitting image for Molina: the perpetual tourist.

A brush of brown hair. Perhaps Molina, perhaps not. I squeeze.

Freedom is a mistake.


© 2003 John Biggs

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