Song: “Execution” by Luke Eskelund
“Long time no see, friend,” Sixteen chuckled, leaning his shotgun over his shoulder.
“What do you want?” I asked him.
He chuckled again, but didn’t answer. Instead, two other agents stepped out of the shadows next to him. The next second the barrel of his shotgun was leveled at me and he was firing. I dove to the side just in time and the feelings blasted harmlessly past me. The other two agents opened fire too, splitting the night with their shotgun blasts. I rolled behind a parked car and loaded my pistol with feelings.
Before Sixteen and his goons could surrounded me, I popped out from around the corner and shots were fired by me. I knew exactly where I needed to shoot and how. Three feelings were shot into a fire hydrant and water came gushing out causing one agent to slip and smack his head on the curb of the sidewalk. I pivoted and one of the streetlights was shot by me and the plastic casing dropped onto the second agent’s head, knocking him out. Lastly, I spun towards Sixteen just as he was aiming at me and his gun was shot out of his hands by my feeling.
There was always a way.
I sprinted back to Six’s apartment, banging on the buzzer like my life depended on it. Six opened it just in time for a feeling to burst through the lobby’s window as I rushed in.
“What’s happening?” she cried as she locked the apartment door behind me.
“They’re coming for me,” I replied. But my voice was rising. Why was my voice rising? And why did my body feel so hot all of a sudden? Before I knew it, I was running to one of the walls and snatching an Uzi down.
“What are you doing?” Six asked. “You don’t know how to use that! What if you hurt somebody?”
“Shut up and lemme think!” I shouted. Then, like the gun had a life of its own, it went off and a flurry of rejections was fired in Six’s direction. The wall was riddled with holes behind her, but my jaw dropped when I saw her hit the floor on her knees.
I wanted to apologize, but the words didn’t come out. Instead, I just looked down at her with a straight face. Why didn’t I feel anything? And why was my body still burning? Six stared up at me with fear welling up in her eyes. She sprang to her feet, sprinted away from me, and disappeared out the window.
That was when I realized my chest was throbbing. I looked down and saw a deep blue stain spreading underneath my shirt. And then I realized what this burning feeling inside of me was. Anger.
I had been hit.
There was a bang and a hole the size of my fist was blasted through the door. Another bang and another hole. I steadied the Uzi to aim, but by the time I was in position, the door was being kicked down and Sixteen and his goons leapt into the apartment. I opened fire and a mess of feelings was sprayed at them. What happened next was unbelieveable.
The walls, floor, even the ceiling, were turned to swiss cheese, but my three giant targets standing in front of me were untouched.
Sixteen chuckled as I snatched another magazine and scrambled to reload. But none of them took a shot at me. Why weren’t they shooting? What were they waiting for?
Then, when the second the magazine was clicked into place, something came crashing through the roof and landed a few feet in front of me. I jumped back and watched as a man in a hood stood to his feet in between me and Sixteen. He was dressed in all black too, but his face was covered by a mask that veiled everything but his eyes. I had never seen him before, but the way he moved and the way Sixteen and his goons had stepped back when he’d landed told me that this guy wasn’t someone to mess with. And just when I was thinking this, he pulled a gun from his belt I’d never seen before: a barrel as long as a shotgun, but the cylinder of a revolver and the sights of a sniper rifle.
“If you’re wondering who I am,” the man said to me. “And why they’re here…I hired them to come for you.”
I looked from him to the three agents behind him then back at him, confused. “Why?”
“These are all the people you failed to take down,” the man in the hood replied. “Why didn’t you?”
I blinked several times. What was this, a pop quiz? “Because…because there was another way.”
The man in the hood frowned. “You had one job. Shoot them with a rejection. Straight in the head.”
“What do you want?” I asked.
The man took a step forward and I instinctively stepped back. He held his arms to his side and stared straight at me. “Shoot me.”
I stared back at him then at Sixteen behind him. “What?”
“Shoot me,” the man repeated. “One shot to the head.”
I didn’t move.
The man in the hood dropped his arms and breathed a disappointed sigh. “The world needs better heroes.” He cracked open the cylinder and unloaded the feelings so they clattered to the floor. “The only way to make them is to break the old ones.” Then he pulled out a handful of anger bullets and loaded them into the cylinder. He looked up at me. “Good thing no one will miss you.”
I gasped as he aimed at me. I lifted the Uzi to fire, but my hands were shaking too violently for me to pull the trigger.
“Nothing you say or do matters,” he went on. “Because at the end of the day, Nine, you don’t matter.”
He fired one shot and the feeling blasted into my skull. The last thing I felt when I hit the floor was burning anger pulsing through my body.
Artwork by Jessica Bryant