Bewildering Stories

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To Be Born

by Eric S. Brown

I can still hear his breathing behind me, a wet sputtering noise. It takes me a moment to turn around though I can’t say why. Red bubbles pulsate as he tries to sit up and reach for the gun near his mangled form. I raise my own hand as thunder floods the room with a flash. His head snaps back as the bullet shreds his brain. There’s a dull thud, then the room is silent. I look around at the bodies of his guards. One lies broken in half near the door, two in puddles of red riddled with entry wounds from my 9-mm rounds, and the last beside him, arms stretched out and lying face down, showing the hole in the back of his head where my hand entered his flesh.

Smoke lingers around the barrel of my weapon and I watch it drift away into the air. Fighting down the desires inside of myself to flee and just run away, I walk calmly, stepping over the dead, out of his office onto the street. Sirens blare in the distance but they have no meaning to me. I am above the law, or so I am told.

Sometimes I wonder what it is like to die. I imagine that is natural given my relationship with death. What concerns me is that I have begun to wonder what it is like to be born.

I have never seen the sun rise. I have never made love to a woman nor felt the comforting hand of a friend. My brothers and I do not talk. We are not allowed to. I listen to the technicians though as they tuck me into my vat at the end of each night. I listen to their worries, small talk, and lives and then wonder what it is like to be them. They never speak to me. They clean away the blood, make needed repairs in my tissue, and place me inside my home. The suspending fluids pour in and the blackness comes. I wonder if that sensation is what death is like; alone in the void with only your thoughts echoing in the emptiness.

I have never spoken a word that “they” did not give me, but I long to. I wish to ask Tech designate Carl about his children and how little Michael is doing with his “cold.” To ask Tech designate Terry about her kitchen and see if she has repaired the “grease-fire” damage. But I do not. I have seen what happens to my brothers who show “thought.” I have even eliminated some of them. Perhaps soon my brothers will have to “deal” with me.

I stand in the alley and watch the black van pull in, its door already sliding open. Agent designate Jason motions me inside. I climb in and sit motionless, eyes staring forward, seeing nothing as we drive away. He and his partner, agent designate John, will take me home to the lab now. I look forward to the vat and the void, for perhaps the blackness will amend these feelings. But if I awake again, John and Dennis will have no chance against me if I refuse to return again to the void. They were “born” and I was made. Made to kill for my country, though I am not sure I know what that is.

Copyright © 2003 by Eric S. Brown

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