Here’s a much belated 10th installment
Crisp and Pure
The soft crunch beneath my feet, the weight of my boots leaving behind a trail for anybody to follow, is satisfying to my ears. Through the dark grey blanket above I see more snowfall hurtling towards the earth, covering the buildings with a soft white icing that mixes both happiness and terror into one. A screech of a child’s joy bellows out from the nearby alleyway… must be having a snowball fight. I listen again, a small smile on my lips. My smile quickly stops. That’s that joy – that’s terror.
With one hand on the hilt of my sword I run down the alleyway, crashing past snow-topped piles of old clothing, crockery and boxes. I suddenly slip on a patch of ice and fall forward. Luckily my hands cushion me and I scrabble up to carry on. For the love of the gods don’t let me find what I think I’m going to find.
Head in my hands I look down at the small child, a ragged-clothed boy with cloth bags for shoes. His young form is marred by the appearance of blood and stab wounds. I fall to my knees and grind my teeth together. This is wrong… so wrong. I cross myself.
A sudden banging occurs behind me and I look around, the tears still stinging my eyes as I fight back this abysmal scene. A man stands there, long knife in his hand and a crazed look on his face. Is he drunk? No… he’s psychotic. The twitches and feral looks are a give away. He’s talking to himself. Where the hell is this guy fro… oh God.
‘I’m looking for someone else to get in my way like that little shit did.’ His spittle freezes as it shoots out of his mouth, his dirty face and beard almost catching it.
I look onward with a disconcerted look. ‘I know who you are… and the order is for you to be brought back to the lock-up.’ I look back at the child’s body. ‘Alive.’
‘Alive? Well ain’t that dandy.’
I can feel the anger in my chest. I stare back at him as I walk slowly in his direction. My eyes are locked with his. My hand still rests on my hilt. ‘This is a city that will struggle with the oncoming troubles.’ My hand slips down from my sword and onto the knife next to it. ‘My orders are to take you back alive.’ My hand grabs his wrist and my knife plunges into his gut. I twist it around slowly before bringing it out for another strike, this time into his lung. Again I twist. ‘But to have you alive means only to have you escape again and murder another.’ I glance into his eyes, a distant echo of thanks for the release I’ve given him wanders across him.
His body falls onto the snow, no screams of agony. I drop my knife and kick it, I myself screaming instead. Two deaths, one innocent and one necessary. But why? Why does the world we live in insist on destroying itself with needless slaughter and war? I look up into the falling snow and I can feel my warm tears rolling cold down my cheeks.
The realisation suddenly hits me… this single life is gone. So much potential has been lost. My job as a city guard now is to take the body to the morgue and face the music for the orders I just ignored by murdering that lunatic escapee. A simple broken order does not compare to a broken life. I carry on.