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Allania Berkey Mar 2016
The clock struck midnight
I was restless and thoughtful as could be
I noticed that I had been tossing and turning to a beat and rhythm that plunged above in the sky
It was a thunder-storm
bang, crash, thump
The sky illuminated in glory
Envy

The thunder roared and crashed in the middle of the night and the trees helplessly yearned for serenity
Ironic
It was calm earlier that day
Imagine
The breeze was right where it should have been and the sun was warmer than a hot skillet on a stove top
Peace
The sky was fostered in a pacific blue
And the clouds resembled dreams
Love
I remember it was 1:05 pm to be exact and I was feeling blissful
I decided to ride my bike through a quaint old town, two miles west of my house
Adventure
I stopped and stared at this little old man painting in the park
He was painting a tree, with pink, red, purple and gray
Odd
I couldn't help, but noticed how he was enticed by his surroundings
Interesting
I continued to bike away
It was now 2:45pm and I was feeling a bit famished
To the right of me stayed a cunning unforgettable coffee shop
I insisted to go in
Hesitation
Something about that coffee shop struck me that day, just like the little old man painting his introspection in the park
The room reeked in comfort and patience
Something I did not understand
Silence
Contemplatively, I bought a cup of coffee--black, I also companied that coffee with a blue berry scone--my favorite
I sat by the window to admire the sunlight and how the warmth cherished my skin
I sipped my coffee--startled
I noticed something peculiar about this coffee shop and this day
Instantly, I was left with an uneasy and unsettled feeling
Thoughtful
My black coffee was much more bitter than usual
It is as if the taste could not go down my throat
Something was wrong, I felt it
As I looked around the room everyone else was enjoying their cup of coffee
They also seemed to lack any hesitation
The tone in their voices create a harmonic rhythm in conversation
I noticed that every time they took a sip of their coffee they found it sweet, rather than bitter
I turned my head and looked out the window for a moment
Suddenly, I noticed that the sky was diminishing in its tints of blue
Wonder
I looked down at my watch
It was 3:35pm, I had to get home
I paid my bill and scurried onto my bike
Remember
The sky was calm throughout the entirety of the day
It was lovely and ideal--until it wasn't

No one expected a storm
No one expected disaster
But somehow, I did

I laid in bed that night waiting in anticipation
Waiting for my world to collide
Thunder and lighting seemed to have fought its way through the sky
Time
There wasn't enough
Concurrently, I felt bitter-- just like my cup of coffee in that cunning old shop
Ambiguity
I was left without answers
I was left without sugar and cream
creek, scratch, thump
The tree branch slid against the slide of my house
I noticed it all
It's starting
All the anticipation and anxiety I felt throughout the day was finally coming to its end or maybe to its start
The sky started to illuminate an illusion of sunlight
It was 11:30 pm and the day it almost to its end
I laid in bed thinking
I thought about my day and everything that it was missing
I notice it all
The little old man in the park painted a tree with a usual set of pigments, he defined ordinary, while sat alone comforted by the mere work of his creativity
The people in the coffee shop arrayed and encompassed patience, harmony and happiness
I was struck by discomfort because I unware of all those wonderful things
I knew all about the thunder and how it was provoked in the sky
I understood the lighting and its wish to shine
I thought of the beat and tempo that they would together make
Sometimes it was bitter, but sometimes it was sweet
I understood thunder and lighting
I understood why they danced viciously in the sky  
Finally, the clock struck midnight and it was now tomorrow
Fear
The storm was coming to its peak
The thunder fought its way with the lighting just as viciously written words floated on a piece of paper
The lighting struck back with ferocious and willful ambition
Relentless
The lighting held its ground, but didn't give up its hope
BANG
Memories
It was 1:05 am
The storm had reached its end
The thunder and lighting seemed to have parted their ways
Their fight was tortious
Nobody won, rather they both lost
It was 1:25 am
The rain had finally stopped
The trees have found their peace
It was 1:42 am
As I laid in bed, I thought about my day
I just want the storm to stop
Just like the the thunder and lightening, the little old man in the park and the people in that cunning old coffee shop, all have found their comfort and patience
The thunder and lightening have similarly found it in their bitter sweet good bye
It was wonderful
I noticed that as much as they fought throughout that darling midnight blue sky, they were attracted to their rhythm—A rhythm that was worth saving
The sweetness was found in their beat as they danced throughout the night
The thunder and lighting created a bittersweet combination
Just like the coffee I wish I would of had
A natural disaster that was intended to create a craze in the sky
The thunder wanted to be sweet, as did the lighting
Two peas in two different pods
Their negativity created the sweet appreciation of warm sunlight
I notice it all
The sun was the sweet
The day was calm
The thunder and lightening both knew it all too well
That night, the reminder of it anyways, I laid in bed and I knew that someday the storm would go away
It was 2:25 am and I finally shut my eyes
Gandy Lamb Feb 2019
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
The repetition symbolizes the cycle of life.
Nat Lipstadt Sep 2013
The dot by your name,
The yellow lighting bolt
High tide warning
You have sent me a message private.

A tap, a flick,
We are communicating,
Comparative woes and lives
That could not be more different.

There but for history's twists,
We would share the same country.

But here comes the confess.
I do not rush to read them,
A savory, a wine that must decant,
Just knowing that you care
Put me in your prayers
Is nothing short of insanity.

Who puts me in their prayers?
Who confesses to saying prayers, anyway?

The pleasure of knowing that a you-message awaits,
Eye candy for the my mind,
But more real more truthful is
I am afraid for myself.

Distance real and virtual cannot be overcome,
Your troubles, a surrounding circle.
No angle, no escape, and I am there,
Next to you, as close as I want to be,
I, cannot be close enough.

Do you notice that I write these days
Tween midnight and six,
When the painkillers wear off?

You gift me 97 pages of reveal,
After page 2, you make me squeal.
Wordy tears are unveiled at 100am,
Force myself to open, to it, deal.

Three times a day, with food. Pain killers.
So from now on,
I will eat at midnight, take that pill,
And maybe sleep.

But for now, but for you,
There is no pill that drives away the pain
That is ten years old and still haunts.
Different pains, different pills.

But what I can do,
Is put you in something
With which, I am way out of practice,
Knee'd, put you in my prayers,
Which always get answered, tho
Ain't necessarily positive.

This pain has me hobbled.
Besides, when in the past,
Knee'd, always made Him uncomfortable, so,
I write vertical, standing up,
Overlooking the East River
And you reject my your-composure admiration,

Ok.

Here is a funny word that captures you,
And me ironically, the now stand-up poet.

aplomb
— noun

imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance.
the perpendicular, or vertical, position.

You possess it by the kilo.

If you say it out loud,
One of us will laugh,
And one of us still be weeping.

100am and the prayer thing comes back to me,
Way too easy.

But reciprocity of kind
All I ask for.

I know the creator is up, listening.
Cause we talk, as you know.
None will be more surprised than
He,
To see a black dotted, yellow lighting message
From his earthbound buddy.

Will it be opened,
Or like me,
Left unread, for the savory pleasure
Of knowing he has me vertical too,
Asking for his intercedence?

I don't know.
So while we wait, I give you this poem
Free and clear.  You own it.
This lighting poem,
This prayer.
For whom this belle poem rings, will know it. Let it stay that way too, please.
Rachael Judd Feb 2015
Anxiety
Controlling my everyday life
Anxiety
Taking my heart and throwing it against the wall
Anxiety
Wrapping around in my head to consume my thoughts
Anxiety
Crying and screaming against my throat
Anxiety
Crashing and thrashing its way into my body making me shudder
When theres a knock at the door
Anxiety
Lighting fires to my insides
Anxiety
Making my hands shake so someone will notice im unbalanced
Anxiety
Life ***** and I want to leave this place people call home, because no where is home anymore and I cant feel safe unless I am free
Dark clouds roll over, rain fall's down. Lighting strikes perfectly and hits the ground, clouds clear up rain settles down.sun comes out and wipes away the frowns.
The clouds will clear up eventually XD.
Irate Watcher Sep 2014
The router's a strobe light;
I can't connect.
The microwave fritzed,
I can't heat.
The circuit shut;
guess no electricity.
Ayo no technology.
Let's talk ancient
philosophy,
NOT whether
Beyonce is a feminist.
Let's have a bonfire
and roast meat
cause none of us
were vegan
before this.
Let's light candles
in the streets.
Pray batteries die
on LCD screens.
Cause we were alchemists
before technology,
the versed probing
the multiverse,
thrilled,
lighting our golden
embroidery on life.
Now were just bored.
Coy toys to tied strings,
webs that touch
everything,
but the space between.
Declaring Sunday a sabbatical from LCD screens.
Lighting one candle
with another candle--
    spring evening.
Em MacKenzie Sep 2017
Combining each thought and sharing a single mind,
while all living things rot, there's a darkness that can blind.
We believe ourselves are invisible, never worthy of a second glance,
and even when miserable, we all can receive a second chance.

Darling have you heard the story of the sun and the moon,
a love that was eternal, yet ended far too soon.
And even though opposite, they made the other complete,
as at night the Earth was moonlit and in day the sun brought heat.

And they were outlined by the stars,
forever lighting up their connection,
and in between came Mercury and Mars,
barely sliding by detection.
Yes it's truly a sorry and sad tune,
that old love story of the sun and the moon.

Shining for eachother and lighting up the world,
with a love that could smother and emotional tides always swirled.
Passing by and on the go, barely glimpsing a sight,
but the moon will always glow and the sun will always shine bright.

Darling have you heard the story of the sun and the moon,
with disaster so contagious, they were always truly immune,
and even though apart, they shared a soul together,
and they shared a heart, and they shared the skies forever.

And they were outlined by the stars,
forever lighting up their connection.
In the history books and memoirs,
there's some things they fail to mention:
they were both adoring and made the other swoon,
that old love story of the sun and the moon.

It wasn't well hidden; they danced a dance of pure seduction,
and they felt it was forbidden, as it would lead to their destruction.
So they kept their space, to give us both the dark and the light,
and now they rise and set as a race, it's competition and a fight.

And they were outlined by the stars,
forever lighting up their connection.
The constellations near and far,
tell the tale of their affection.
It may not be of glory, and it may just tell of ruin,
but we all should remember the love story of the sun and the moon.
V May 2015
Lighting
Oh so beautiful
Lighting up the sky
Long, fingerlike projectiles
Racing through the darkness
Lighting everything in its path
Yet, child, be wary
It is not unlike a leopard
Sleek and graceful
Yet dangerous if you attempt to harness it
'Tis akin to a wild animal
Yet so beautiful
I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
blue mercury Apr 2018
kiss me in your backseat
like nothing has ever been like this before
'cause you kiss like a promise
like you have never wanted anything more
than me

and just maybe, i'm crazy about you baby
and i guess it's a mess but i've always loved messy
things

and with your lips on my neck, i feel like the best is yet to come
and with my heart on my sleeve, i hope you can see it beats like a drum

and i'm wrapped around your finger and my gaze might just linger on your face
and i can't help but notice what we've made of this moment in this place

is beautiful
you're beautiful.

in the streetlights, with your brown eyes looking into my heart
hold me tighter, with your bright lights lighting up the dark
you're lighting up
i wanna give you wild love, the kind that never slows down
Purcy Flaherty Jan 2018
Initially she began contacting me over the course of a year or so and increasingly over the last few months she started visiting me, helping me, caring for me and occasionally employing me in different ways.

She’d just had a break up a few weeks before, explaining that things hadn’t been right in the relationship for some time!

She presents herself as respectful, thoughtful, gentle, kind and considerate and after what seemed to be a very short length of time; unexpectedly declared that she had feelings for me; regarding love, admiration, desire and some other adventures.

She then began to bombarded me with love talk; occupying around 70% of my time gaining my trust, I was swept off my feet; she took a great deal of interest in me, learning everything about me, what I liked, where I would go, always asking what I was thinking feeling, how she could help and I was flattered and she was charming, though a little awkward at times.

As our friendship grew she started sharing her back story, including some tragic life experiences; she vilified her past lovers, and ex-partners and branded them as crazy, or bitter liars and troubled souls; slowly gaining my sympathy, whilst securing my allegiance, and keeping me on side; keeping me close; drawing on my compassion loyalty & trust!

During intimate moments she would sometimes seem a little awkward, false, over enthusiastic, or a little insincere and I made allowances for this given my knowledge of her backstory. Re: (The tragic life events & experiences)

She began to choose and buy me clothes; outfits, take me shopping, gradually altering my outward image and appearance.

She introduced me to her friends; but was careful to keep me and them at arms-length, I realise now that she was building an alternative profile of me in their minds and that the people she introduced to me rarely exhibited the behaviours or characteristic that I was led to expect.

She soon started to embroil me in her own rituals and compulsive behaviour’s, explaining that tasks needed to be performing in very specific ways to prevent her getting distressed!

She made many promises : ‘The hook’ It was my expectation i.e. waiting for some of those promises to materialise that kept me hanging on; This increased her control and exited her too. (None of her promises came to fruition!)

She gradually had a hand in almost every aspect of my life i.e. my home, my work, my friends, family, my finances, the way I dressed, the food I ate and many other things besides, much of which I didn’t realise until our relationship was finally over.

She often took immense pleasure in duping, individuals or companies out of something through theft, shoplifting, or getting something for nothing, a profiteer, a chancer!


To question or challenge her authority would result in seeing her façade slip and watch her decline into meltdown. It's at that point, she would lose composure, and I would see her irrationality come to the fore; revealing the real person underneath; childish, contrived and very fragile; It’s as if control is the glue that holds her together, without it she just falls apart, during this time she can’t be consoled and it’s impossible to calm this escalating situation; in fact at this point that she would attempt to regain control by ‘gas-lighting’ me, she would distort the truth; who said what; in an attempt to damage my self-esteem, to make me question my own mind, my words, my intention and any actions, apportioning blame, pointing fingers, making me feel guilty, use rejection, or using hurt, sorrow, tears, shame and even threaten liable or legal action, and then use *** to pacify or regain control over me and my actions.

These episodes would appear often; though irregular and without provocation, I would always be deemed at fault! I found silent compliance was less stressful than engaging in discussion.    

She never took responsibility or made any apologies for her conduct.

She would set me tasks and go out a lot and lie or bend the truth as to where she had been; I never challenged this behaviour!

When the relationship was finally deemed over! I was both devastated and relieved.


I began to see my new position in the cycle; as she immediately begin to vilify me in order to give credence to her new backstory, I felt very confused, disorientated and emotionally fraught, shell shocked! questioning, how much of our relationship was true and how much was a lie? For everything I thought I knew was now knitted together with a very complex web of loyalties, lies and half-truths.

Her pattern of repetitive and controlling behaviours have seemingly remained unchanging throughout all her relationships!; (I know! as I was contacted by many of her previous partners and other casualties since I shared this account.)

Within two weeks of being apart she told me that she had fallen in love (My replacement) someone she’d had her eye on for some time, some-one she admires, someone kept in the background, a friend a mutual acquaintance, and thanked me for bringing them together.
The grooming of her new lover would have come about in exactly the same way as previously described. It's her M.O. (Her pattern of behaviours, her techniques have remained fixed.)

She’s incredibly self-conscious, her biggest fear is that other people will find out about her true demeanour, her image and appearance is everything to her. She's afraid that people will shun her for being so very different. She is a wolf, that’s not a malevolent creature par-say; but you don’t want to be her pray.

Full circle:
I too have joined the ranks of the discredited; labelled a liar, troubled, bitter and crazy. (I Know this because secretly contacted members of my, family, friends and some fellow musicians; and they shared these conversations with me.) I suspect that she may even attempt to vilify me with authorities or threaten some form of legal action; as she has to others in the past!

I'm still drawn to her despite my knowledge of her sociopathic nature, and all the things that go with it, her charismatic boldness, her ****** power and her Svengali like intelligence.

I’ve had to block all means of contact and cut her off entirely to curtail my pathological interest, for despite everything that’s transpired, her lies, her infidelity, her deceit and appalling behaviour, I feel no malice towards her; quite the opposite, I'm drawn, intrigued, bewitched, beguiled by the person hiding underneath the façade!

Now the dust has finally settled; I’ve somehow remained sound of mind, and I don’t feel guilty anymore; I’m aware that I’ve been manipulated into thinking and acting in ways that don’t truly represent my character; and that I’m just one of many people seduced by a sociopath.

She’s just another natural human variant , an attractive person devoid of empathy for others, that’s developed a narrow set of skills and mirroring behaviours, that allows her to blend into mainstream society in order to feel safe, secure and in control.

She would have preferred to keep me hanging on, like many other dependants, adding me to the hareem; a bank of beguiled individuals that she occasionally calls upon to perform simple tasks, or to simply monitor and re-assess her handwork.

The last time I saw her she opened with nervous politeness and finished with veiled cruelty, I left feeling drained, uncomfortable and quite fazed.

I’ve written this account to help further understand what had transpired during this complicated relationship, I’m not sure publishing this account will be useful as to others.

But I’ve not mentioned any names; and at any rate the next person targeted; will ignore any pre-warnings as just bitter ramblings, and most individuals are driven by the natural pursuit of love, *** and romance rather than following advice of some seemingly bitter ex.

Bittersweet! The reason you and I might attract the attention of a sociopath is because we shine like stars; stars are both attractive and further enhance the image and status of the sociopath and the people around them; a sociopath will orbit a shiny star and use its energy to slingshoting into a larger more attractive orbit, either stealing a bit of its shine or destroy it in the process; To these people love, *** and desire is simply a tool for manipulation and gain.

Expect high drama.
She loves to watch you *** unstuck!
mjad Apr 2018
You keep lighting up my screen
But Im always leaving you on seen
I got games to play and things to do
I'm really not thinkin much bout you
I am busy, I got homies
You just ain't my one and only
what a boy explained to me goes through his mind when I hit him up, just put more rhythmically by me
Jeff Gaines Mar 2018
OK Reader, I'm going to tell you a tale … with great trepidation. You see, this tale, well, it's kind of like telling someone that you've seen a UFO. They want to believe you, but … it's never really been proven scientifically. Not to mention the fact that most folks who believe in such things are often the tin-hat wearing types, written off as … lets be nice and call them “odd”. And, of course, the more you swear to it, the crazier you appear. It's an epic tale, spanning 30 years of my crazy life.

  But, It's a story I want to tell, because it happened to me. I can barely understand it myself, let alone explain it. So … I'm just going to launch into it and you take it any way you wish.

*  *  
Where Can You Be?

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I'll search with gazes and I'll search with cars,
I'll search the cities and I'll search the stars, well …
I'm gonna find you, oh, wherever you are,
I'm gonna find you baby …  near or far, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I thought I'd found ya, but she wasn't you,
that girl she left alone and blue, well …
I know that's something that you'd never do,
your love has always been strong and true, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

If you must settle for some other man
and deviate from our immortal plan, well …
I hope you realize I will understand
and I'll try and do the best that I can, but …

Where will I be?
Where will I be, my love?
Hoping the next life sees …
our destiny!


Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

~Wednesday, April 1st, 1987
10:30 P.M.



  I was singing in a band back in those days and, as it happened, this was the last song I'd ever write for it. Just after this, as it does, it all came crashing down and the band was finished. But in those last days, they pondered this song, with great puzzlement. You see, it was unlike anything I'd brought them before. It wasn't rock … It wasn't a ballad … it wasn't even structured like a “normal” 80's rock song.
  
  No bridge, no solo, no loud grinding guitars, etc. It even had bits where I hummed, yes hummed, the melody, like a lullaby. As they read the lyrics and I described how it went, they all looked at me like I had three heads and asked where this had come from. It was nothing like anything I'd written before. I could only tell them when and where I'd written it, but had no explanation of what inspired it. It had just came to me, so I wrote it down. They didn't know what to make of it, or even what to do with it.

  One of them said it sounded like a late 70's or early 80's adult contemporary song or even in the vein of The Eagles. Another asked if it was about reincarnation … And I honestly, until that moment, hadn't thought of it that way, I didn't think like that at 24 … but then, one of them said it was “Haunting” …

  “Haunting”?

  “Wow”, I thought, I'd never had anything I'd written described as that before. When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that it was haunting to think that this poor guy is desperately seeking a girl, that may or may not even know that he exists … in a world with billions of people in it. To top that off, he fears that she may off and marry someone else if he doesn't find her in time.

  This, along with the suggestion of it being about reincarnation made me rethink and rewrite the song. Well, a few lines in the last verse and chorus anyways. It actually made the song flow better and seem more complete. In a way, it actually made the song make more sense … to me and them. Sadly, we never did anything with it. There wouldn't be time. Ha … Time … how ironic. Over 10 years later, came this …


For Someone I've Never Met

Please save a place for me,
deep inside your heart.
Always know that I think of you,
as we both practice our arts.

Our worlds are full of temptations,
so very hard to resist …
and the good Lord knows
we're both far from,
sixteen and never been kissed.

Wealthy men with jaws divine …
Temptresses with looks so fine …
Paths that lead our hearts away …
Paths that surely lead astray …

They'll lead us there every time.
They'll leave us there … so  unkind.
Our hearts must shine,
night and day.
Through any darkness … they'll light our way.

If you never touch my face …
If I never look into your eyes …
We'll always have the comfort of sharing
the same
big, blue sky.

If I never smell your hair …
If you never kiss my lips …
Always know the search for your smile
has launched a thousand ships.

So, I hope you save a place for me
in your heart so sweet and kind.
Please, save a place for me …
Heaven knows you've one in mine.

~Thursday, September 9th, 1999
9 A.M.



“For Someone I've Never Met ” poured out of me in the midst of another breakup from the second, and last, girl that I wanted to marry. That emotion, never found me again. I looked at it on my computer screen and smiled, seeing “Where Can You Be”, in my mind, on my tattered old note pad that I called my “Song Book”. The memory of me writing it while sitting in my Z-28, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico as a beautiful heat lighting storm sent bolts across the sky, came flooding back; as did the debate of reincarnation I'd had with my pals in the rehearsal room all those years before. Here I was, again, writing about “someone” that I sensed, for lack of a better term, was out there … somewhere.

  Well Reader, do you believe in reincarnation? I was never really certain, but, as you can see, I had twice written pieces to someone I wasn't completely sure existed. I had always “sensed” someone out there beginning with the period after I wrote “Where Can You Be?” and thereafter. So, there they were, each written after losing someone I was deeply in love with. Each came out of nowhere, as they usually do. By the time I was in my 40's, I began to think I was either imagining it all (a side effect of being a hopeless romantic) or that I had just somehow missed this person and our “moment”.

  And then …



Epiphany

There was a place.
There was a time …
There, I stood … still unknowing
and everything seemed fine.

But there in that place …
at that moment in time …
the moment I saw the eyes,
I'd never believed I'd find.

Well, what could I say?
What could I do?
In a world filled with billions …
and there … was a you.

I'd always known you were out there …
even written of something amiss.
I never, ever stopped looking for you …
because my heart always said you exist.

My breezy Fall became harshest Winter.
My crazy life left my health running out.
I'd resigned myself that our moment had passed …
but this moment … it removed all doubt.

Well, what could I say?
Tell me, what could I do?
There we stood, staring … alone … in a city of millions …
yes, there … there was a you.

Oh, that mistress fate, she is just so cruel.
Frustration, a curse to be mine.
   I'd searched for you my entire life …
but now … my clock … knows a limit of time.

You see, I would never venture a love with you,
while knowing I'd have to leave you … hurt and alone.
I could only admire from afar … stoic and aloof …
while turning my heart into stone.

Nothing I could ever say and nothing I could ever do …
But now, at long last … at least I finally knew.

There, you stood … green seas, gazing up … into skies of blue.
My long-awaited revelation … become sorrow-laced realization.
There really is … a you.

~August 12th, 2009
  

  Typical of my life-long Charlie Brown syndrome … After being told in 2005 that I had “the lungs of an eighty-year-old man” and that I had “Six to Ten years” to live, I made a conscious decision in that Doctor's parking lot that I could never have another girlfriend and that I must face this alone. I don't see woman as objects. They are glorious creatures that are here to be our partners and friends and to make our lives amazing. I could never, ever knowingly let a woman fall in love with me, all the while knowing I was going to die and leave her. It's not in me to do such a thing, lonely or not.

  Yes, I'm still alive, I'm stubborn like that. But, some days are better than others and my new doctors say that they don't give people “time limits” anymore … because of people like me. I can't afford the lung transplant. So, as Bono so aptly put in one of his songs: “The rich stay healthy, while the sick stay poor”. It is what it is … and like the energizer bunny, I'm still going. Good for me.

  In the moment that I met her, the morning that followed, and the amazing speed of our nexus over the next several months combined with a string of synchronicities (Coincidences? Did I mention that she too, was a poet and writer?) that not only came after I met her on the sidewalk in front of the publisher we shared, but in those pieces I had written before and in several after; I was pretty much convinced I had actually found her. I have NEVER experienced anything like this, or her, in my entire life.

  So, after all this time, here she was … and there wasn't a **** thing that I could do about it. Besides, she was much younger than I and it probably would never have worked anyways. ****, the universe is rotten sometimes, huh? Maybe, if I'm lucky, things will balance out better in the next life. I can only hope. But I'm reminded, worryingly so, of the **** The Alarm song: “Collide”:

“All of these thoughts pounding in my head …
with the words I've wrote, in the letters I've never sent.
The distance in our lives may change …
Times that you can never erase …
But will our worlds collide?
Will our worlds collide, the next time?”



  Only time will tell.



  “Colors”, and a few others, were written about/for her. But, I could never show them to her. I would never endanger my friendship with her. I just wanted to keep her in my life. That, and that alone, was the only motive I'd ever had with her. I looked forward to seeing her marry, hearing her stories of her three kid's adventures; Hubby, all greasy, working on the car in the driveway, rabbits in her garden at night, eating her precious organic veggies or even about her new curtains. Just to know that she was alive, happy and doing well. I found a solace in her voice I could never describe and I was completely content to just have her in my life and watch hers unfold. Only I could end up in this odd position.

  I feared that she might get weird-ed out because I'd never displayed any romantic inklings toward her, so, to suddenly read these might make her feel a bit, lets say: uncomfortable. Actually, I didn't write them with any romantic intentions, per se; I just did what I always do … write what comes out. Still, there's no denying that they come across romantic. Again, so, so Charlie Brown. (long sigh)
  
  It is what it is. I also have to ponder the fact that maybe all those Charlie Brown moments in my life were preparing me for this one big, painful one. That does makes sense … ******' Universe.


Colors

Well when you're Green, I'll be your Brown.
Like the earth that loves the flowers,
I'll will be your solid ground.

And I'll be your Azure, when you are Verdigris.
We'll be thee most beautiful ocean
that eyes have ever seen.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
Mixing all of the colors … I'll make everything alright.

Now when you're Blue, I'll be you're Red.
If something should make you wanna cry,
I will feel your pain instead.

And I'll be your Orange, whenever you are Pink.
We'll be thee most amazing sunset,
that the sky could ever ink.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … and make everything alright.

Should you be Violet, I will be your Beige.
Like a sleepy moonlit desert,
pasteled in dunes and sage.

And when you're Grey, I will be your Rainbow.
We'll be thee most soothing rainstorm
the world has ever known.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … yes, I'll make everything alright.

With love on my palette, painting a glorious sunrise …
I'll color all your mornings with a smile and brighten up your skies.
If you should find yourself in sorrow from someones hate or lies …
I'll take the stars down from the heavens … and paint them in your eyes.

So whenever you are Black, I will always be your White.
I'll mix all your colors with a promise … everything will be alright.

Yes, I'll mix all of your colors with a promise … Everything's gonna be alright.

~  Winter 2012



  I wrote this after she had rang me up one afternoon lamenting about her life at the moment, troubled that her latest novel hadn't done as well as she'd hoped and now she had to be waitressing to make ends meet. I tried my best to cheer her up and assured her that she was strong enough to handle anything and that she must keep chasing her dreams. I wrote it as a poem, but I can't help but notice it looks like a song, though I've never heard music for it. Those repeated verses look just like choruses to me.

  Earlier in the day, I had been looking at a booklet of paint swatches. I guess, up there on my roof looking at the Manhattan skyline, her sadness and me looking at all those colors melted together somehow and, as happens, out came this piece. Even this, became another synchronicity as she would name her next novel “Show Me All Your Colors”. I remember seeing it in the bookstore and looking straight up … shaking my head at the sky. Was this the universe telling me to show and tell her all this?

  Well, if it was, I stuck with my gut and kept it to myself. My God, if you only knew how many of these synchronicities there were between her and I. It simply boggles my mind. I wanted to call them “coincidences”, but there were just so **** many of them … Each so unique, they just couldn't be called that. I don't want to tell them all here, because like I said, the more you swear to it, the crazier you sound. And I'm sure your questioning my sanity by now, aren't you? (Smirk)


  OK, OK … this one is definitely romantic. I wrote it one night, drunk to the bejeezus. I'd done what we called “The Crosstown Crawl” with my pal Tristan and a gaggle of assorted waitresses we knew. This involved starting at Brass Monkey on the west side highway in the Gansevoort District and ending at my favorite hookah bar, Karma, on the Lower East Side … Drinking in, and often being “asked to leave” (Read: Kicked out of) every bar that took our interest as we walked (Read: staggered) west to east, staying below 14th St.

  On my way home from the city on the J train, I thought about all the phone conversations we'd had while I was on this train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. Being drunk, I guess, I caught a bout of sadness that I'd never get to tell her any of this or even how I felt about it all. Before I hit my elevator, this piece was swimming in my head. It's about as mushy a piece as I've ever written … if not thee most! Not the norm for me, but this is, after all, a lot to keep pent up inside you. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone.


For My Little Red-Haired Girl …


You …

My Love.
My Queen.
This Shining Light in my eyes.

My Laughs.
My Dreams.
My Soft, Contented Sighs.

My *****.
My Lavender.
My Dew Covered Rose.

My Smile.
My Cinnamon.
The Joy in my heart … ever inspiring my prose.

My Best Friend.
My Co-Star.
My Fearless Partner in Crime.

My Breath.
My Cohort.
My Side-kick throughout time.

My Snow-capped Mountain.
The Wind caressing my face.
My Vast Green Field.

The Ivy Covered Wall
that harbors my soul … ever refusing to yield.

In a different time ...

You … would have been my Life.

You … would have been my World.

You … would have been my Everything

and I will always love you for my own special reasons.

It is just a shame … and I'm so, so sorry … that you … must never, ever know.

Maybe next time.


~Charlie Brown




   When I came-to in the morning and read what I had wrote, I had to laugh a bit. It is borderline corny, very beautiful, very telling and very sad … all at once. I shook my head, laughing and told myself :

  “*******, Sam … yer losin' it. Get your **** together, will ya?”

  I guess in my stupor, I was imagining what it would have been like to write something for her. I don't know … There it was and I was stuck with it. I almost deleted it, but, my finger wouldn't press the key. As I told you before … I'd NEVER show this to her. She'd probably never speak to me again.

   As a sadder epilogue, that eventually happened. I still don't know why, but we haven't spoken in years. Maybe she sensed this emotion in me and ran away. Or maybe, just maybe … she thought I'd pushed her away somehow … but for whatever reason, we drifted apart. I guess I'll never know.  As you can see by reading this, that was never my intention. But, like I keep reiterating … It is what it is.

  One day, I called her number to catch up and shoot the breeze. I hadn't spoken to her in a few months as she'd been busy promoting her new novel and I didn't want to pester her. But … it was disconnected … I checked my emails … nothing. I'd never been so confused, she just closed me out. I didn't want to bother her. I was sure she had her reasons and if she wanted to reach out to me again, she would. She had my email and my phone number. But, for now … she was gone … and that was that.

  So, what do you think, Reader? Do I get the Tin hat … or a Badge of courage? Am I bat-**** crazy … or just eccentric? I'll leave it up to you to decide, because as I said, this all happened to me and there isn't a thing I can do about any of it. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thanks for letting me vent.

  Wherever she is … she will always mean the world to me. I can see her green eyes if I close my mine and look for them. Sometimes, on occasion, her face haunts my sleep. Still, I like to picture her, kids playing in a sprinkler behind her, digging in her garden, wearing gloves too big for her hands and a smudge of fresh dirt on her cheek … it makes me smile.


-Sam Webster
Brooklyn, New York
2013
OK, you can stop scratching your head. I'm sorry if you feel like I tricked you or was playing a prank … That was not my intention. This piece is experimental writing, of sorts. If you are wondering, it's titled “Somewhere … Out There”. But I didn't want to put a title at the head of the page, as that might have clued you in too early.

I also confess that “Sam” the narrator is, on no uncertain terms, based loosely on myself. But hey, what better way to string you along? Besides, as Stephen King said, you “Write what you know”. As far as I 'm aware, using poetry within a short story like this, or in this manner, has never been done before. Welcome to the future!

It really belongs in my “From Thee Edge” Collection with the rest of my Twilight-Zone-esque short stories. (You can now read some of these fiction short stories here, posted in my "NoPo@HePo" posts, along with some non-fiction essays. I hope you enjoy them.) But, because I pieced together several of my poems to not only tell the story, but as a vehicle to carry it along as part of it; I wanted to put it here on Hello Poetry just to see if I could convince you long enough to get you through the story … while having you believe it was me speaking to you and that it was all very real to me. Thus, making it feel real to you as you read it.

Was I having you along right up until it was signed by someone else? Or, at least until the narrator addressed himself as “Sam”?

If so, then I accomplished my mission. I'd love to hear your comments on it. If you've been reading any of my other posts, I'm sure you've figured out that I like to run wildly outside of the box sometimes. This was just, as I said, an experiment in a different way to tell a story … fiction or otherwise. As always, I hope that I took you on a journey and, more importantly, that you enjoyed it.

~Jeff Gaines
L.A.
(Lower Alabama)
2015
ghost queen Dec 2018
you are the center, the sun in the sky
warming, lighting, guiding those below

you are the core, the hub in the wheel
forming, maintaining, strengthening the circle

you are the earth, the bedrock beneath
supporting, stabilizing, reinforcing our lives

you are the reason for our being, our births, our lives
nurturing, nourishing, caring for our hopes, our dreams

you gather, sort the fruits, roots harvested from the land
tending, stoking, reviving embers smothering in the hearth

your strength transcends your body, your mind, your heart
from the first child, to the last, your love, affection is forever

you cradle, caress, kiss, comforting the child
reassuring, protecting, shooing monsters away

you are the strong, tough, steady woman in our lives
fierceness of a lioness, tender as a kitten, loving her child
Thank you Mom, for the sacrifices, you made for me.
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/3419782/tough-chick/
Renée Casey Jan 2017
I used to think I wasn't pretty.
my legs were too big,
my body too tall,
my face too round.  

Then, others started telling me the same.
That I deceived them with my photos
and lied with my camera.
That I told untruths with angles and lighting.

*******.
My face is beautiful, and it is mine.
My legs are strong and healthy.
I walk tall with my head high.

My camera. My lighting. Mine.

I choose the angles and the lighting to tell my story.

My hips are wide and ****.
My hands are deft and sure.
My skin is soft and fragrant.
And they're mine.

Not yours.

Go sell your self-loathing to someone else.

I'm not buying.
Mik Josefchuk Jun 2014
If our love was like a galaxy,
We would be the stars.
You would be the brightest ones,
Lighting up the dark.

Our love is like the most complicated of puzzles;
Confusing,
Endless,
But seemingly possible,
Nothing could take apart you and I.

Our love is like an anchor,
Weighing each other down,
"She hates him, he loves her,"
There's not much of her now.

If our love was an ocean,
You'd be the crescent waves.
I would be the beautiful creatures,
You control my every day.

If our love was a galaxy,
We would be the stars.
You will always be the brightest ones,
Lighting up my dark.
I wrote this about the person I've had feelings for since the day I've met him.
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: So Aziel what's your plan with Frank?
Aziel: Well he is going to help me destroy the Order Of The Silver Knights and in return I shall help him get the Witch who cursed the Forest Of Whispers.
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Well I'll give you some valuable information who your looking for is Bethilda N. Lement. She is a very powerful Witch who with her Elemental Plowness is able to obtain what she wants.
Aziel: Well well ...so the Old Hag still holds the grip over the Forest doesn't she
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Indeed she isn't someone to take lightly now she is well rounded and knows how to fight. She controls The Tavern Of Doom Dragons. In her possession are 3 fully grown Dragons. Blair the Oldest Dragon Claire The Mother Dragon and Aurora the youngest one of them three.
Blair the Black Dragon Claire The White Dragon and Aurora the Stone/Lighting Dragon. Many have meet their doom entering in her territory Cyclop Human and Vampire Alike.
Aziel: I don't have anything to fear.

~Meanwhile...~

Bethilda Lement: Adreanna I want you to learn more about my Dragons start training with Aurora but be cautious she may be only three years old but she is powerful and robust. Lement screeches then Aurora hovers over the Mountain Of Shen* where the Tavern Of Doom Dragons is located. Adrianna Develve places a strong spell in the Dragon Aurora she finally succumbs to her authority.
Adrianna and Aurora go take down the Golem Of Steel  in the Hidden Ruins Of Odom.* The Golem stands 15 ft high weighs 2,500 pounds. Holding a crest of an almost impenetrable diamond in the middle of his chest. Emanating from the Crystal comes all his power and it's his only weak spot. Then Aurora and Adrianna make an impressionable entrance to the ruins and attack the Golem head on. Golem Of Steel: Here stands the infamous Adrianna Develve...well isn't  this a surprise.  I see that you have grown some and are able to maintain your powers well to face me. I know what you want you want the Crystal in my chest...that will be over my dead body. Audon's Crystal* is powerful enough to consume 1000 Well Trained Witches therefore young Witch you don't scare me. Now as for that Dragon well ... perhaps you stand a chance after all.  Adrianna Develve: I usually don't pick fights with powerful DemiGods like yourself but I  am in desperate need for your Crystal. Therefore, you will hand it over or I'll take it by force.  Golem Of Steel:  Good Luck.
Aurora shields herself with Stone Armor and goes head on collision with the Golem. He dodges the attack and  counterattacks with a strong fist to the  Dragons body and knocks Aurora down cracking part of her Stone Armor. The young female Dragon counterattacks with a powerful lighting blast hitting The Steel Golem in the right shoulder injuring him. Develve attacks with a powerful mind blast knocking down the Golem Of Steel on it's back. The Golem Of Steel bleeds blue blood out of his shoulder blade and runs full force towards Adrianna Develve.  She  dashes the attack and counterattacks  with a Shadow Ball attack hitting him in the chest and expanding all over its body. It's a possession Ninjutsu technique making him practically paralyzed for about 2 minutes till he breaks free from the technique but sustains a considerable amount of damage. Adrianna Develve seeing that the Golem Of Steel is showing a sign of weakness she takes advantage to try to inflict him with a spear of lighting into the chest impairing him and he bleeds out the mouth but as the last resolution The Golem Of Steel punches the Audon Crystal shattering it into 5 individual pieces him losing his life in the process however what he didn't know is that Adrianna Develve collected all the pieces however there was a violent explosion at the site shattering huge boulders of steel and inflicting Aurora gravely. Adrianna Develve  hurries and performs a powerful healing spell leaving her drained of all power. Adrianna Develve hurries to get out of the ruins because they are crumbling down. She manages to recover Aurora briefly from there they fly to The Tavern Of Doom Dragons Of Doom Dragons right when she pulls in with Aurora who is injured from the boulders hitting her body and face at high velocity even the Rock Armor was perforated. The Dragon lands barely with Adrianna Develve who gets the Wrath of Granny Bethilda N. Lement. Aurora breathing heavily and bleeding out the mouth slipping in and out of consciousness ...Adrianna Develve barely getting off the Dragon.
Bethilda Lement: What the hell  happened to Aurora she is in really bad shape. Adrianna your completely drained I see you did good by healing her however, she must rest for about 3-4 days now and fully recover from that gruesome fight with that **** Golem Of Steel. Adrianna are you Ok darling? Go get some rest I see you used the forbidden technique of Soul Healing Transfer. Well now you'll live 12 years less thanks to your little sharede. Develve I am thankful that you saved my Dragon from dying but hell consequences are quite dire.
Develve: Here Granny Lement I got Audon's Diamond however it's shattered in 5 separate pieces.
Bethilda N. Lement:  Let me guess the Golem Of Steel did not want this to fall under the wrong hands for it is a powerful relic. Smart move buying time however, useless due to the fact that we got the diamond under our possession. Adrianna we are going to search the Master Forger Of Relics* who can aid us recover this valuable relic to it's original state. It's said that he resides in one of the headquarters of the Order however, he has worked with Witches, Pagans and Nacromancers before so am sure that as long as we provide the right monetary value to repair the relic he'll work for us.
Develve: Why don't we just kidnap him and make him do the work or he pays with his life?
Lement:  Good objective it may have to work that way for us.
Develve: Im aware that the Cyclop population in the Village Of Chalekathan are not taking your threats seriously well ElderLord Gromm has not paid his fee from allowing them to live and not be consumed by the curse itself.
Lement: By killing him we can set an example of what can happen to them if they don't cooperate with our cause.
Develve: It dangerous though he is a strong Leader with lots of powerful influences. Plus he is a highly skilled Witch Doctor/Shaman able to manipulate the forces of nature. Known to use 3 Godly Deities Aikune Chalekathan & Eion. Aikune the cherubim of the Northern Side Of Heaven. Chalekathan the Spirit God embodiment of The Forest Of Whispers and last but not least Eion the mythical creature with an Eagle face 6 wings and the body of a Lion. Embuted with heavenly essence making him a very formidable foe.
Develve:  We will take care of our responsibilities soon but our primary mission is to talk Ayeiton Balderoux III* the Master Forger Of Relics.
: Whoa had no idea he was The Kings kin.
Lement: Indeed he is now go and lay your head and recover some energy because we need to practice your magical plowness.
Adrianna heads towards the Guest Room.

~Meanwhile in The Forest Of Whispers~
Frank Deltoro gets introduced to Gromm ElderLord Of Chalekathan by Jhino.  He also introduces Navarro Castleworth who is pleased to meet the famous Elder.
Gromm: Hello young man I am the protector of this village which has sustained numerous attacks by Lement's Dragons. Develve also partook enthusiastically with her Grandmother in attacking innocent hard working Cyclops. Making them slaves of the Curse which drives them mad and homicidal attacking friends brothers and family so we had to do the inevitable put them down.
Nevertheless, I pray to Deynave Dion High Saint/Priestess Queen Of All Shamanism to protect the lost souls of them Cyclops who fought the curse till the very end but unfortunately lost the fight and in turn lost their lives.
Frank: My condolences to your friends ElderLord Gromm.Am sure they in a better place now at least not suffering. However, I have a personal matter to score with Lement. She kidnapped and murdered my only daughter 10 years ago she was a...his voice gets trembly and he lightly clears his throat..at the same time a solid solo tear drops from his only Eye symbolizing a Fathers great pain and suffering from such an atrocious act." Gromm regains his composure. I got a personal score to settle with Mrs.Lement due to the fact that she took a piece of my heart and soul she killed my daughter. Develve played her part in the kidnapping of my baby girl 10 years ago she would be 18 years old today if Shaila Dair Sultran were alive...her appointed time to be brutally killed by my hand is coming...Bethilda N. Lement has been suppressing her powers for the last 300 years I believe she has some sort of powerful anti-chi barrier put up extending tremendous lengths so even if she is active in The Forest Of Whispers we wouldn't know how to tell due to this **** barrier.
Frank: So your bloodline comes from the Ancient times from the powerful Cyclop Of Royal Priests/Witch Doctors family Sultran.
"A gentle wind blows and Aziel telepathically communicates with Frank.  Aziel: Frank, be careful where you thread I been informed that Lement's Grand-Daughter Adrianna Develve recently gathered Audon's Crystal a powerful diamond known to give its user Bending Steel abilities and higher sustainability. Adrianna Develve has plans to use the Crystal to fully cover the Forest Of Whispers covering every inch of Forest with the Curse which drives all living creatures with a conscious mad totally subseptable to their influence.
However, to you those must be terrible news so my question is...you been in Chalekathan Village for 1 hr and a half you have 5.3 hrs till daylight removing the Darkness powers you currently control.
Frank: I am aware of this Aziel don't worry I'll take care of business.
Aziel: Keep an eye out Navarro I don't  trust him I don't know what intentions he has...plus he is part  of that shady Tower Of Frejoird but perhaps you can use his hatred towards the Order Of The Silver Knights. He can maybe be a reliable source. Be careful Frank.

~Meanwhile in Aziel Castle~
Isis: Well...Aziel aren't  you such a concerned individual...I didn't  know you had a soft spot towards mere humans.
Aziel: I usually don't...but Frank is different from the rest. He is courageous trustworthy and he put his life at risk by helping me regain all my vampiric power. I am in much debt to him...am having second thoughts on your plans to **** him after he completes his assignments that we have agreed upon. If he makes it out alive after all this...he at least deserves a reward and to live.
Isis: Chuckles at Aziel Aziel looks at the Empress with great focus.
Isis: C'mon I'll just have some fun with Frank I wasn't planning to ****** him.
Aziel: I'll  think about it now leave me be I got couple of things I need to take care of.
Isis: Fine Darling I'll  leave you be. You know you are the handsomest of all the brothers you have.
Aziel: Well now Isis you flirting with me...I doubt you'll want my erected tool up your stash. Don't you remember am a Vampire?
Isis: I'm aware of that. Adventure sounds fun plus I never had *** with a hot vampire like yourself.
Isis: Well Doll that is going to be some other time I am working against the clock right now.
Isis: Fine you *****...I'll leave. However, keep in mind that Im watching you closely. Plus remember I still keep contact with DarkLord for soon your Father will be back in this plane of reality.
Aziel: So I have heard.
Isis: Well I have found some juicy
Information about Uriels wereabouts he is in a Modern Castle in America. Amelia St and Cross. Residency 106. He is a huge celebrity in Russia and Germany. Keeps his bloodlust at check with fresh blood always for him to self medicate. Looking only 19 years old he is quite the chick magnet though not my taste his Gothic Progressive Horror Rock made him quite famous. Got 5 albums however kept his personal life well hidden from his fans. Many fake and supportive accounts claiming to know the real Uriel Governale. Though no one truly knows he is a vampire for certain. I know because I searched the private records and found out that he belongs to a High Ranking Secret Society known as Maximillion Vampire Clan. Which performs innocent human babies to be given as a sacrifice towards Baphomet and Azmodeus* 2 Of the Demon Lords of Hell. Your brother belongs to this hidden organization that operates in the Shadows but their latest project is to revive your Father the Progenitor most infamous VampireLord of all time. Dracula! Humanity will cease to exist if he were to be revived. All they need is a vial of blood from all of the current 8 saints and they have their eye on Saint Lauren Glennwald from the Eastern Side of Germany from a small rural community town known as Hertzentmort. She currently 25 years old is on a mission to collect Papal papers for the Order for you know they are closely tied to the papalcy. However, she got body guards that are Elite Knights with very powerful Anti-Witch spells and very accurate at pinpointing weak points in any battle with powerful Witches. So going alone isn't very advisable.<br>
Aziel: I greatly appreciate your information I'll take a look on what my little brother is looking to do. I'll take care of him. Don't you worry I'll be seeing you later. <br>
Isis: Alright..."She steps towards Aziel and rubs his chest and says...my reward is waiting for me...and looks down his pants" <br>
Aziel:  Now your tempting me to destroy that *****... but here this is what you'll get "he shows her his ****"<br>
Isis: Mmmm I can't wait baby...well that's a massive apparatus you got in there just hiding.<br>
Aziel: Hahaha...right. Soon enough I'll be all yours to play with. No leave me.<br>
Isis transforms to a cloud of dark myst and leaves the premises of the Castle.<br>
<br>
~Meanwhile in Uriel's Castle~<br>
<br>
The Maximillion Vampire Club had a secret meeting in the Uriel's Castle. There where many prestigious and famous guests there and so was the Highest Ranking Vampire of the Club Maximillion Virgil Vann himself. Inside the Castle where also uninvited guests from The Order Of The Silver Knights pretending to be Vampires. His name Michael Neil Stalwart & his partner Aalyaah Black. Both of them infiltrated the party somehow the Order Of The Silver Knights caught wind of shady operations in the occult club and decided to check it out. Michael & Aalyaah belong to Stealth/Infiltration part of the Order known as The Dark Ones
. Even the last 5 remaining Dark Priests from the Cathedral Of Skylor* where 13 years ago Baphomet was revived and mortalized to walk upon humans granting favors for a price. Ultimately the price Demon Lords require of humans is their souls to consume them and become more powerful. This 5 Dark Priests where very important in the ceremony taking place because tonight at 3 a.m. they will unify their powers to revive Azmodeus. They were successful on bringing back Baphomet back to life so they are trying to revive another Demon Lord. In Baphomet's revival they used 666 unborn fetuses with 6 babies 3 male and 3 female all born under the sign of Capricorn and all must be 3 months premature. With this requirements met...Baphomet was revived to this plane of existence, however since he was violent and still hellbent from transitioning from the hellish plane to a mortal one he killed and consumed 3 Dark Priests in the process of fully coming to his senses and being able to recognize them and thank them for what they done. Baphomet promised that he would aid them 5 Dark Priests revive all 13 Demon Lords and in turn 2 Of the 5 remaining Dark Priests must sacrifice themselves to the Demon Lords for the strongest remaining 3 get a extraordinary reward.
Pagan Paul Jul 2018
.
In a costume of conflicting emotion,
of crossing diamondic colour,
with regal posture in grief,
the Harlequin and the King,
a display of opposites
creating a composite being,
that eases her body
gently into the waiting water,
to float away serene,
on her journey to the nether.

Midnight blue and emerald green,
the regalia of ermine,
both ostentatious and humble,
robeing the aspects,
understated in crowning splendour,
the gentleman King bows,
and the Harlequin laughs,
the bi-polar reaction
to the tragedy of misfortune,
with a sting in the myth-tale.

With the dark hues of mourning,
a legend passes on her way,
across the streams of time,
on a voyage to discover herself,
carrying her Harlequin in a purse,
holding her King to her breast,
owning them both in her heart,
the medicine wheel spins,
knowing the grapes of wrath
yield the wine of spite.

The motley speckles of attire,
a starry parody of night skies,
lighting the decorated funeral barge,
gliding along the rivers of space,
worn with the mantle of sorrow,
and it sails into the sunset,
as the Harlequin and King observe,
the mandala turns,
the bier of the Queen departing,
bears their sadness forth.

The Harlequin laughs and laughs 'til he cries,
his heart grows cold, then withers and dies,
whilst the King, statuesque, memoirs his life,
lamenting the legend of a Queen, his wife.



© Pagan Paul (24/07/18)
.
zebra Sep 2017
she was queen for a day
brought to you
by
the Red Cross
and
Freezone
to lift off
those painful foot corns
and lets not forget the good folks at
HEET
for those  aching back muscles
strong
yet doesn't burn
and comes with a handy dandy applicator

she could have anything she wanted
all she had to do
was ask for it on
TV
after becoming the winning contestant
for a life more tragic then all the others

the competition was stiff
who would break hearts the most
and get the biggest ovation
for all who came to see the suffering
and move the needle
on the
life ****-o-meter

which lady of endless sorrows
would be the gleeful queen
of white knuckle terrors
the winner
of the race to the bottom
circa 1958

and i was eleven years old

the winner was wrapped
by her very own glittery subjects
in a  plush royal queens cape
and placed upon her crown
a twinkling tiara
then enthroned
and bestowed a bouquet of flowers
from the magnificent
Carl's of Hollywood

she a mottled exhausted woman
withered by life's harrowing cruelties
hollowed by fear and heaping despair
flickered like staccato lighting
on black and white TV
for all of America to see

cause every
dinner cookin
vacuum cleanin
dish washin
bathroom scrubin
dirt sweepin
house wife goddess
of the vacuum cleaner and handy scrub
would flop herself on the couch
with a jin and tonic
put her feet up
hair in curlers
before dinner
and dishes
for the squabbling  brood
and her very own tyrannical
Ralph Cramden
huba huba hubby
king of her cracked castle
and
grab a pack of
Marlboro's.
Pall mall reds
Kent's
or
Chesterfield cigarettes
blow smoke
and watch
QUEEN FOR A DAY

today's
QUEEN FOR A DAY
Miss Clarice Williams
trembling almost to the point of tears
implored humbly for a gurney
so that her fifteen year old son
who was mentally slow and shot in the stomach
could be rolled outside on the porch
and feel the sunlight on his face
for the first time in years

they lavished her
with the Bomgardner Hydro-level cot
for the paralyzed
sure that it would do just the trick
plus
a miniature transistor ham radio
so you could even
hear what there sayin
all the way in Japan
plus
a Teltape tape recorder
and a brand new
automatic laundry machine and dryer
from the nice folks at Westinghouse

but thats not all

a star studded vacation
where the stars stay
at the deluxe knickerbocker hotel
where you can lounge at the pool
or your own royal suite
and have dinner
at the exotic
Polynesia Beach Combers
Wicki Wicki Room
all the way in the land
of the
hoochi coochi
Devon Webb Dec 2014
We are critical.

We find flaws in
everything we see
because nobody
wants to write
about perfection,
even though sometimes
we wish we could just stay
staring into that
unblemished surface.

2. We are never satisfied.

We live our lives upon
mountains of
scrunched up
bits of refill and
ideas we gave up
trying to
express.

3. We never forget.

We write words about
eye contact made
three months ago
that we replay over
and over in our minds
even though it
stopped
being relevant.

4. We are fickle.**

Our emotions flash
from one
to the other
like strobe lighting that
disorientates us
until we feel as if
the world
will never be still.

5. We are exposed.

We don't know how
to keep our feelings
to ourselves so
we'll write them
down for
you to find
'accidentally'.

6. We are vulnerable.

We wear our
hearts on our sleeves
and won't lift a
muscle to fight back
if somebody tries
to break it
because we thrive
from the pain.

7. We will never stop.

We will never stop
feeling and
we will never stop
hurting,
we will never stop
breaking and
bleeding and
loving
even though the cycle
is endless
and we know what's
coming next.


We are addicted
to agony,
but we agonise
for the art.
It's worth it though.
Harold r Hunt Sr Jun 2014
The thunder and lighting.
When I was little I hear a boom and the lights went out.
As we was in the dark my parents sat us about.
We ask what that noise was and why did the lights go out.
My mom, said that was thunder and lighting.
We wondered what caused it.
She said with a smile.
Those are little men in the sky and they are bowling.
That is the thunder you hear.
The lighting comes from the men getting a strike.
Which causes the sky to light up.
I looked at my mom and said with a smile
I want them on my bowling team.
Cuba Dec 2014
My little flame haired narcissist
My little blame game arsonist
Match filled scarred fists
Lighting fires on the night shift
Making money out of cat calls
Beating down your glass walls


I know you’re sorry
But you don’t know how to say that
You don’t know how to apologize
For the war cries or the lies
For all the times you ran the rinse cycle on these eyes and left my head spinning
Because to me it was never about who’s right or who’s wrong
and to you, to you it was always about winning
No matter what it cost, no matter what you lost
Dry mouthed and on principle denying yourself water
Singing to the world about being a single mother while denying your daughter a father
Why would you ever ******* bother
Why bother trying on these shoes and shouldering the weight of your own problems when I was always there, ready and willing to try and solve them
Why bother confessing your sins when I had already absolved them
You’re not a single mother if someone else pays all the bills and makes sure your daughter is fed.
Your tongue was always sharper than knives but you could never be bothered to break bread


My little flame haired narcissist
My little blame game arsonist
Match filled scarred fists
Lighting fires on the night shift
Making money out of cat calls
Beating down your glass walls


I know you’re sorry
I just don’t care
Why don’t you go find where I’m not
and you could stay there

My little flame haired narcissist
My little blame game arsonist
Match filled scarred fists
Lighting fires on the night shift
Making money out of cat calls
I see through your glass walls
Bryan Lunsford May 2018
With rose petals at the floor of your feet and with candles lit lighting up our scenery,
I know I've never felt more complete than I do right now (with you here with me)

For you are my perfect symphony,
As here, I watch our hearts carry the beat,
(In the midst of our bodies producing this heat)
And I lay you down–where our hearts melt degree by degree,
Making love to you, there, delicately and ever so sweet
T'was the night before Christmas, And at the back of the bar

Sat a man all alone, Lighting up a cigar

The waitress ran over and waving her hand

You can't do that here, Smoking is banned.

If you must smoke that thing, you can go to the street

And stay away from the building, by at least fifty feet

The man took a puff and with a voice like a croak

He said, "You're kidding, right miss? You're making a joke"

I'm sorry, but sir..I'm afraid that it's true

But the law is the law, and it's not only for you

That we must say **** out, please extinguish your smoke

So our place can be filled with other fine folk

For ninety two years I have walked on this earth,

I have broken no laws and you know what it's worth?

Bupkiss, no nada it's not worth a thing

Would that law still apply if I was a King?

I've been coming in here for 60 odd years

And I think I've consumed a truckload of beers

I've smoked in this corner on many a night

Now you say **** out, I don't think that's right.

I fought for this country at the end of the war

I came home with a war wound, and you know dear...what's more

I came to this bar to have drinks with my friends

Who all weren't so lucky and met terrible ends

They died on the beach, heart as big as a house

Taking on the unknown for their country, their spouse

They battled for honor, the right to be free

And they all weren't as lucky, to come home like me.

I was here in the sixities when Camelot died

I was here with my son, and we both sat and cried

It was that night in November, I remember it well

That my son said he'd joined up and was heading to hell

He had joined the marines and was all set to fight

For freedom and honor and he knew it was right

Because I'd gone before and stood with others like him

And I said just be safe, and come home son...my Jim

In the years he was gone, I came down here to think

Of why he was there and I shared smokes and drinks

With friends, all now gone from this world of distrust

Now they all lie beneath us, decomposed back to dust.

My son made it back and we came right down here

To spend time with our friends, both from far and from near.

The years passed us by and my grandson joined too

And we sat and we prayed in this bar, for we knew

He was fighting for freedom and the rights we hold dear

Like having some fun, over smokes and some beer.

He never came home from his war, don't you see

That's why we're sitting alone here, just you and me

Tonight is the night that his letter arrived

Saying "We regret to inform you...that no one survived"

So, each Christmas Eve I come back to this bar

To savor my memories and to drink from this jar

And I finish each year thinking of what now is gone,

Of my battle scarred boy and his now deceased son

Now, you come and tell me that I must go outside

To continue my smoking and so I'll abide

'cause for 92 years that I've been on this earth

I've broken no laws and you know what that's worth

Then the waitress reached back and she pulled out a match

From a box on the bar with a rusty old catch

She said Sir, I am sorry I didn't mean to offend

For this one night each year, the law I can bend

So please light one for me on this Christmas Eve Night

And Thank you from all who continue the fight.

Merry Christmas and HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019
A Christmas Eve Poem that was posted earlier, I have not added much, but, I think it is fitting to read so those of you who haven't seen my older works, and The Street Poems, may get a chance.
Andrew T Hannah Jun 2013
A Surreal Epic of Existence

Prelude to the Journey…

I smiled yesterday when I beheld the morning’s brilliant colors,
Etched with gold, across the canvas of the heavens, hanging…
High above all those mountains of the world, gigantic brothers,
A wilderness of clouds, where there can be no human taming.
I did not always smile when I looked up to that noble height…
For I have seen how terrible goodness can be, when untamed.
Once I thought my sojourn in this flesh was from a divine spite,
But now I know it was a gift, and for it I need not be ashamed.
God once walked as I do now, and suffered the same stress…
Betrayal, love, and passions too, though no Church shall admit,
The true nature of divinity, lest all their secret sins they confess!
You are told you are alone in the universe, by leaders so unfit,
That they themselves are fed a diet of lies and stories invented.
But we walked amongst you since the very dawn reincarnated,
Having lost our first flesh in conflicts long past and unlamented.
We guided the steps of ancients, as monuments demonstrated!
And yet we are born as children: your own, and live our span,
The better to remain hid, in plain sight, our faces clever masks.
I am the eldest, and I remember still my kindred’s lofty plan…
And though I wear the human face, I am beset with alien tasks.
Helping they who lack the knowledge to see what lies outside,
You have seen me in the darkness, blazing upon my own pyre.
Where I am waiting to lead the way, where the angels glide…
Anyone can follow, if they are dedicated enough never to tire.
Ironic, since I myself have known helplessness and still oft do,
It is only human after all, and in your form I was so re-forged!
The image of God, whose own blood is in all of us hither unto,
From the first to the last, alpha to omega, like a sharp sword.

Prologue: (My Mask is Slipping)

As a child: I was a servant at the altars of the heart so sacred,
Singing hymns of the immaculate: without seeing the depravity.
It was only when I myself wore the crown of thons, naked…
My spirit exposed through my pain, that I realized the gravity.
What man believes is sacred, is profanity disguised as graces,
And those who lead the sheep to slaughter are mere butchers!
Forcing innocents to wear porcelain masks to hide their faces,
They rob children of their childhood, bound with crude fetters.
As a teenager: I walked in nature, disgusted with all humanity,
My exodus was from those who had defiled all I cared about.
Finding faith in an angel fallen, I discovered my own sanctity,
And in her name I found the means to cleanse my feral doubt.
Then came marriage, and betrayal by a wife I gave up all for,
The dissolution of our union then loneliness without cessation!
A mortal had pierced my flesh, leaving me to bleed on a floor,
My heart was torn from its’ moorings without any elaboration.
But the angel remained to calm my anger and ease my agony,
My only light in the blackness that has overcome my waking!
Reminding me, that I was more than this flesh and mortality…
The angel tries to keep me from harsh trembling and quaking.
And then I see: I am more than my tears and life’s traumas…
I let slip, the mask behind which the scars of my tears etched.
Then I sense the heat of the night more intense than saunas…
As I long to dance with abandon, until time itself is stretched!
Mortals may betray one another with impunity, but never I…
I do not betray; rather I pour my heart and spirit forth whole.
Creating a phylactery, of all I am, and with an innocent eye…
I demand to be loved as I am: pearl white and black as coal!

Canto 1: Sacrifice of the Doll

Part the First: (The Bleeding Shores)

Do not call me, doll, for I have departed your ancient cavern,
You are lifeless, a mere toy, and not a real child in any form!
A boy’s red ruby lips I spy drinking in the dreariest tavern…
Whilst true children singing, frolic in the fields filled with corn.
I am going home, upon the wings of the great silver griffon…
Far from the shores now bleeding red from defiled memories.
There is no return, for me, to the glories of the first ignition…
When the mind eternal, was ignited all with pleasing ecstasies.
In the stars, there are words unheard that I do want to recall,
For I came down so very long ago, among the first to so fall!
Eldritch nightmares born of the stuff of the pure chaos of old,
Are waiting for signs at the threshold to be released by magic.
The forbidden incantations return to my spirit, aflame so bold,
That my spirit nearly forgets: the origins of this time, so tragic.
When children drink, and true children hide themselves apart,
Whilst the waters bleed and the corn withers upon the stalks!
That is a sign that change must come, and so I work my mind.
The face in the moon is a grimace of tormented fear, horror…
Whilst I stand upon the precipice with my hand over my heart,
And amongst the long rows of corn, my black shadow walk!
Watching over the innocents whose souls are of my own kind.
The summer heat turns orange, the moon: in celestial corridors.
My mournful cry can be heard in the sound of the lonely wolf,
And in the wild abandon of the lion when he is on the prowl…
I feel the pain of nature, I long to bring back paradise craved.
I have seen the terror of the land, as the blood ran in the gulf,
Black blood of the earth: which causes living things to howl…
As man has the foolishness, to say what is or is not depraved!

Part the Second: (The Crucified Souls)

The doll is laid lifeless atop the altar, prepared for a sacrifice,
In the cavern where the limestone shapes the wettest arches!
A thing un-living, but with living souls trapped still, as if in ice,
Within the cold porcelain shell that so never with feet marches.
Serpentine blade held high, it drops precise into a doll’s neck,
And it cannot call out, because a doll has not any voice to cry.
A boy walked out of a tavern then, looking like a vile wreck…
Whilst as a man I attend to higher things, my body full purified.
In the voids beneath the spaces, witnessed in the rugged rock,
Voices echo loud in the darkness, calling up names unspoken.
The ferryman brings the souls delivered to him, to a far dock,
Where each must pay the copper coin, the old desired token.
So they come to drink those waters that cure all of life’s ills…
Freed from their porcelain prison to feel death’s darker chills!
Whence came those souls into captivity, no mortal may speak,
But I freed them in an instant, removing the nails that pierce…
Every man is he that was put up on the cross of old Golgotha.
And every woman too, as all were made to feel such torture!
I was there when the primal sacrifice was implanted so weak,
And yet so strong that it endured in the psyche all these years.
That doom was sealed behind a wall of fire long ago in Terra,
So that the stigmata of it might endure, even in the vast future!
Mine was the hand that signaled that doom, mine to release…
Yet, still old illusions persist, and I cannot awaken a multitude.
I, who devised the iron web that enfolds much of what is real,
Cloaking it in unending trickery am, myself, longing for peace.
For I too was entrapped, until my liberation rough and crude!
An angel freed me, and now I strive to break each cruel seal.

Part the Third: (The Return of Light)

Risen from the slumber where colder, electric dreams reside,
The forgotten intelligence is invoked, the arcane spells cast…
The eldritch nightmares return to thence amongst man abide,
Reminding us of the things banished to Hell in some age past.
Mine the hand that raised them up, light in the dagger’s glow,
The stuff of my power left to flow, like blood run swiftly free.
Out of the abyss, rises the girl-child of a lost millennial flame,
She who is the angel reborn lets her illumination clearly show.
And all are blinded who have not the innermost eyes to see!
The unbelievers are, in a single instant put unto lasting shame.
From the star of six points, a goddess works her sacred will,
And as she crosses the scarlet threshold, she brings the light.
For a single instant, all in Heaven and all upon Earth are still,
As the long day ends, bowing before the coming eternal night.
In the darkness, radiance far fairer and so perfect descends,
Whilst those who gather in my name: have lost my true path.
The wrath of angels descend upon their minds, closed shut…
Entrapped in the iron web, they cannot flee of such a prison!
The light blinds them for they never truly saw it, and it rends,
Tearing away the churches built for naught but mortal wrath.
There, the unfaithful ******* themselves: like a wanton ****,
Inventing dogma to pass on, forgetful of logic and of reason!
Faith need not be a fearful thing, yet some have made it thus,
And look for an end to come before they seek their reward.
Whilst they should be creating the paradise they left behind…
But in an image of freedom: rather than of servitude and fuss.
Too much time had been wasted in converting by the sword!
Mankind looks to the light for salvation, their eyes long blind.

Interlude Alpha:
This age is one of barbarism cloaked as gentility to sell lies…
Did you purchase some today by design or mayhap chance?
You should know this era to be neither intelligent nor wise…
Else you would not march, when you would prefer to dance!
My nights are filled with nightmares; my days are too much…
I used to dance with one I loved, and bask in purple sunsets.
Now I am haunted, by so many memories I can never touch,
That it fills me with ****** anger, and countless cold regrets.
I recall how once in desperation, my wrist rode a razor edge,
If it were not for my family I’d not thence have lived beyond.
A man abused as I was, and used like cutters upon a hedge,
Must rise higher than it all in order to survive it all, my friend!
I survived, I transformed, I ascended and in the end became,
So much more than I was, until no more did my spirit erode.
But still I wait in loneliness for a maid to awaken my flame…
And I burn, oh gods I burn until I think that I might explode!
The skies darken more and more, and bright forks crashing,
I hear the drums of fury in the heavens, giants of old winters.
The gods grow angry and I behold trees uprooted smashing!
Angels are trampling the grapes of man; they, the vintners…
I am reminded of when the battleship that sailed all galaxies,
Descended one day amidst clouds boiling with its’ steam…
To lay waste to *****, and Gomorrah, for their indignities!
I was there, when the wicked did perish with a final scream.
And as people mock me, wishing me ill because I am good,
I ask God how long I must be forced to bear such suffering.
But I am not alone, and to many I am in fact misunderstood,
So God forgives, for now; but I have not, his understanding!

Canto 2: Sacrifice of the Spider

Part the First: (The First Smile)

Black skies boil with rage unrepentant, and in righteous fury!
A being made flesh I am, though not of mortal understanding.
In cavernous places I have walked, where demons oft scurry,
And worse places still: in search of a love not too demanding.
In the stucco halls wherein my unmoving throne was raised…
Upon a hill of sorrows where lost souls labor in mundane toil,
I wait and plan to transcend the bonds the faithful so praised.
To my right hand is the altar where fire and sulfur always boil!
I force a smile upon my face, for one will not come as willing,
As in the hours when I was a golden youth filled with ideals…
Which I have paid for dearly, beyond the price of any shilling!
Now I long to pay back those who know not how this feels…
The madness born of solitude, the anger born out of contempt,
For you who despise me without cause, provoking my wrath.
What impunity has man, to think that he might ever be exempt!
When wiser civilizations than yours did sink: in the fiery bath.
Do I speak of Hell, which the faithless do not realize is come?
Nay, for their eyes have been gouged out by their own nails…
I speak of torments, far beyond that which devils have done.
The first smile shall me mine, when every cruel wish so fails…
To save the flesh of those who spit upon me as I walked on,
Never realizing that my face was just a mask, hiding another.
Only the fool pays no any attention to the piper’s lonely song,
Thinking it only a melody passed from a sister unto a brother.
But in what celestial ****** has been born the thing alchemical?
It dwells within me, the secret sin of a bonding long forgotten.
Would that I could force the world to hear music whimsical…
Like unto that which guides my spirit in all that was begotten.

Part the Second: (Cold Revenge)

The blood roses bloom in gardens where desire plants seeds,
I, the hand that waters those hungry beasts whose thirst rises!
In my search for love, I have fed the beasts of desire’s needs,
And what would cause you to blush has, for me, no surprises.
Oh human, with what impunity did you dare to exclaim aloud,
That you believe love to be beyond my reach; and you smile!
Like a coward, you degrade me and run to hide in the crowd,
In your feigned superiority, you make yourself an animal vile.
Conjoining your words to your tongue, like a web to a ceiling,
You become a spider; then flee on eight legs to a filthy nest…
Having already become unworthy of any warm human feeling,
In thinking yourself better, you sink lower than all of the rest!
That means my life is worth, a thousand times, your very own.
I become a creature of the night, and wait for you, oh spider!
Think not that I cannot hear. the creaking of each leg bone…
Your odiousness goes before you, the horse before its’ rider.
And in your own web I catch you, my sharper claws immune,
To your toxic poisons, as cannot ever save your eight eyes…
Which I dash from their sockets, without a fear, and so soon,
That your own pain consumes you, like fire lighting the skies!
Forcing you to recant all that you say, lest pain overcome all,
The powers you thought did not exist do manifest ever visibly.
And I ascended still higher, all the more to relish of your fall…
You should never have resulted to any such childish mockery.
The clocks of your house all melted, for time is not your ally!
In abandonment of the chaos that is joy, your order is ended.
A new order rises in its’ place born of chaos none may deny,
Whilst you sink lower into perdition, for all that you offended.

Part the Third: (The Last Laugh)

An angel appears before me and so thinks herself a goddess,
But to call her an angel is to imply that she holds any beauties.
Those whose ego is larger than their grasp are oft the oddest,
For they fancy themselves perfect, ignorant of their cruelties!
You think love a prize and I a beggar for mere crusts so stale,
That lesser men than I have eaten heartier meals than yours…
But your kitchen is so bare: as your oven goes cold and pale,
Making you prize yourself beyond the worth of your chores!
Like a harlot who charges a fortune for her meager charms…
If you think love a prize, and I a beggar, you are so mistaken.
What you call love is a disease that shames one and harms…
Both mind and soul alike, making the body at last to weaken.
You saw only my mask, and would not dare look beneath…
Making me a phantom in the darkness, lurking in the shades.
Round your neck, your false esteem hangs as a dead wreath,
As I leave you to your barren world, awaiting my handmaids.
They rise from the ashes you leave in your wake, my kindred,
Their hands take me far from where your feet stumble about!
Lie in the cemetery that awaits those who live as though dead,
I cannot raise you incorruptible; you have far too much doubt.
Carried hither by the silent maidens who weep ****** tears…
To my castle, where I shall brood again upon mankind’s way!
I cannot feel regret for those who give in to their foolish fears,
Any more than I can transform a leaden night into golden day!
Such is the power of the alchemist who knows his true limit…
And in the dark arts I was schooled by beings from the abyss.
Thusly, am I set about to transform my creation as I see fit…
We are the demiurges of our realities wanton for any hot kiss!

Interlude Omega:
T
I found this one in my basement. Seems I wrote it a year or two ago but lost it.
Kara Buis Nov 2011
**** incandescent lighting,
My worst enemy.
Or maybe it is me, the toughest critic, the hopeless perfectionist.
Brushing my teeth and I can’t even look in the mirror,
Can’t face my own face because I don’t want to see.

Tired of picking apart my imperfections, subtle flaws
That seem

To scream

To shout

To blare

“Look at me! Focus on my faults!”

Makeup, diets, exercise, fashion.
All vain attempts to be who society wants me to be, but why can’t I just be me?
I don’t know who I am, who I am supposed to be, what I want.
Others stare.
I wonder.
What’s racing through their minds, what flows through their streams of conscious observations?
“She looks nice. She looks tired. She looks lost.”
All labels to describe me
From the outside looking in.

Sometimes I feel like I do know.
An epiphany? Enlightened? Omniscient?
But at the end of the day, I look into the mirror…
Just a quick, accidental glance.
“I don’t know you, and ****… that incandescent lighting makes you looks fat”
Morgan Mercury Oct 2018
I once thought there wasn't any life outside of this town,
but I was okay with that because it had everything I needed.
But what do I know?
We are all so young,
running through parks,
climbing up mountaintops.
Strolling past all the shops
and driving around this town going nowhere in particular,
I thought that it simply could not get better than this.

We loved each other like the stars
I thought that nothing could separate us.
We were sure to last,
but little did we know
that all these days will belong to the past,
and everything that we always did
now live on pages on thousands of papers
and in pictures tucked away in a box of old things.

Happiness was in the air that day
when we all were together once again.
The moon shined bright that night,
lighting the path that we once drove down every day.
This city just seems so small now that I have broken all its walls.

I drive past all the places we left marks on in this city.
The now vacant houses that once held so many memories,
the lunch table where our love blossomed,
the midnight drives to the movies,
getting excited over slushies,
and the lakes we learned to float.
I look back on all these places
and think about all the things we ever did,
I simply thought that it could not get any better than this.

Setting the new year on fire.
Dancing to the sounds of Grease.
Picking peaches in celebration of spring.
Watching all the bands we ever loved.
I would forget all my stress and worries thinking about it all.
Can it get any better than this?
                                                                  
I want to thank this town for all the stories I wrote.
All the times we felt like children.
All the times we rose with the sun.
All the times I felt loved by all the people that were my stars.

As I'm driving through this town and watch it grow smaller in my eyes,
I imagine a time when I was not alone.
I know getting older can seem quite strange at times,
but what do I know?
All I know is that there is just so much to see,
and sometimes the grass isn't always green as it used to be.
But as long as I have these memories,
it couldn't get any better than this.
2018
Inspired by South London Forever by F+TM
Shofi Ahmed Mar 2017
Keep rolling, like sailing, rowing the science voyage.
Discovering a new discovery, then much happens:
a new crescent, new moon on a new turn is found,
yet a night to be invented eclipses it furthermore.

Will the voyage float at the newest dark energy frontier?
Will it now pierce verily the ******-skinned heaven’s last barrier
that divides the seen and unseen, holds the uncharted water?
Will it by design decode or recite the word, the language
the lock is coded in, the very command written on the stone?
Till then it won’t move, nor does one see the skin black or white,
and till then one won’t stop the sun lighting up the night!
The poem is from the book Zero and One: The Relativity of Science and Poetry available on Amazon.
Rizna M Rameez Dec 2018
Allah lights up the skies
So the rain can see where it's falling
Do you think
Allah will not light up your life
So that you can see where you're heading?
26.12.2018
Bryan Lunsford May 2018
With a paranoid soul,
I've been staring for hours and hours out of my peephole,
Where beholds a pair of secretive glowing eyes made of gold,
With it being that of a sinister little troll that's had my paranoia at tenfold,
I feel as my whole mind, here, begins to fold and nearly implode,
With my emotions no longer being able to go with the flow,
I decide to walk away, undress, and then snort a line of coke,
Followed by taking a hit of **** while I put on my bulletproof vest,
Oh, and yes!–surely if it's a fight that these little demons want to see,
Then it'll be a fight that I'll bring outside where I'll make them all regret ever trying to mess with me,
For no longer will I hide and allow them to whisper to me from my lone tree,
No!–For I will tell them all "I'll no longer be the one to carry out their evil little deeds",
And I will tell them that statement with a knife while rushing at their golden-eyed chief,
You know, just so there's no question of my authority,
Though, with a few steps outside, I see no pair of golden eyes within my vicinity,
Oh, and with "Such lies and deceit!" being the words that I have just screamed,
I hear a whisper whispering to me (as it's whispering from my only tree)
Where I decide to scream, "Oh, and you will not be making a mockery of me!",
Though, with nothing but a chuckle (as I know this voice is chuckling at me)
I pick up an apple and throw it directly at my lonely little tree,
There!–hearing with a loud screech and seeing a shadowy creature drop beneath,
It's with the sight of a hundred pairs of eyes lighting up my scenery,
And surely with my paranoia spiked to the highest degree,
I begin to wonder is this all in my mind? Though, I decide to entrust in my feet,
Where I run, and see this beast begin to chase after me,
I race towards my door, with it being "****** ******!" that I scream,
As it's with this peep hole, once again, and just like before consuming all that my eyes see,
I hear that whisper once more, hearing as that whisper turns into a roar,
And hearing as it tells me–like it's told me before,
That "Methamphetamine really isn't fun anymore"
Yenson Oct 2018
Criminal Gang Stalking

Definition:

The crimes committed through gang stalking an individual are covertly done, hence little in evidence is left behind of the crime, and the target is left with little in the way of resources to defend him or herself.

Isolation, through disrupting socio-familial ties in an intense slander campaign, is usually achieved once the actual stalking begins.

A pervasive slandering campaign takes place, projecting the target as an unstable individual, child molester, a person with hidden dark secrets, or a person prone to psychopathic behavior.

The criminals planning a gang stalking endeavor study the target long before the stalking begins. Psychological profiling is done, and this is to assist in the overall campaign that includes intense psychological harassments and demoralizations. Tactics used go well beyond fear, demoralization and psychological harassment.

The tactics used have been the protocol in campaigns against common people implemented by the KGB in Soviet Russia, Nazis of **** Germany, and the KKK in the early to middle of last century in America.

The accumulation of all the tactics and events in this dangerously hurtful organized crime against an innocent human being can led to trauma and will emotionally bankrupt the targeted individual, and may lead to death, as suicide is often induced through the assaults. The perpetrators of gang stalking are serious criminals who do great damage, and the acts done are very serious crimes by any measure.

Gang Stalking is a highly criminal campaign, one directed at a target individual, and one that aims to destroy an innocent person’s life through covert harassments, malicious slander and carefully crafted and executed psychological assaults.

Gang Stalking deprives the targeted individual of their basic constitutional rights and destroys their freedom, setting a stage for the destruction of a person, socially, mental and physical, through a ceaseless assault that pervades all areas of a person’s life.

What drives such campaigns may be revenge for whistle blowing, or for highly critical individuals, as outspoken people have become targets. Other reasons why a person may become a target individual for stalking: ex-spouse revenge, criminal hate campaigns, politics, and racism.

Gang Stalking may be part of a larger phenomena that may have loose threads that extent into a number of differing entities, such as government, military, and large corporations, though it is certain that organized crime is one of gang’s stalking primary sources, or origins.

The goals of Gang Stalking are many. To cause the target to appear unstable mentally is one, and this is achieved through a carefully detailed assault using advanced psychological harassment techniques, and a variety of other tactics that are the usual protocol for gang stalking, such as street theater, mobbing, pervasive petty disrespecting.

Targets experience the following :

A total invasion of privacy
Pervasive and horrific slander
Isolation through alienation that is caused by the slander. 4.Destruction of, or alienation from all things that the target holds dear.
Ground Work: A discrediting campaign is initiated long before the target is actually stalked. They, the criminal perpetrators, twist and fabricate reality through such a campaign, displaying lies that paint the target as a child molester, a person with hidden dark secrets, an highly unstable individual who may be a threat to society, a *******, or a longtime drug user, etc.

The slandering or discrediting campaign sets the stage for the target to become alienated in just about every social-familial- work environment, once the actual stalking begins. This slandering campaign is instrumental in eliminating all resource and avenue of defense for the target, before the actual stalking begins.

This stage is one that sees people close to the target, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers recruited by the perpetrator criminals, who will pose as law enforcement officials, private investigators, or a groups of concerned citizens.

The Gang Stalking is aimed at achieving one or all of the follow:

induced suicide
financial devastation
homelessness
institutionalization in psyche wards
Once actual Stalking begins: The target will endure a vast array of tactics: gas lighting, street theater, drugging, gassings, scent harassment, mobbing, subtle but frequent destruction of property, killing of pets

Psychological profiling will be done so as to initiate an intense psychological harassment assault. Staged happenings and planned or directed conversations will take place around the target in public or places of work, and serves not only to undermine the targets psychology, but also may be used to cause the target to thinking that he or she is under investigation for horrific crimes.

Stalkers will have studied the target to such a level that they know and can predict the person’s behavior. Again, often the target will think that they are being investigated for crimes that would be absurd for the target to have actually committed. Not knowing what actually is happening, the target is isolated and lives through a never ending living nightmare.

Once the target finds out that they are a target individual for gang stalking, or multi stalking, they may have some relief, but from what I have read, the stalking simply changes dimensions a bit, and continues.

Identifying the exact people who initiated gang stalking campaigns is difficult, or near impossible, and this makes it very difficult for people researching this phenomena to discover, in certainty, the roots and genealogy of the crime. Investigation of a “Gang Stalking” crime would require a great deal of resources, and intensity similar to ****** investigations.
WHAT THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW....THIS IS THE TRUTH.

Background information, please read 'Where Is Justice' by same author on this site.
This horrendous situation is happening in our Great civilised Nation,
Amity Sep 2014
Once upon a time,
there was a girl who was consumed by cigarette smoke.
She loved the feeling of inhaling
death each time she took a puff.  Maybe all she wanted to be was
death and
that's why she kept lighting butts.
Cigarette smokes are the clouds I hide in
Emma Russell Aug 2014
There are traitors in the castle
Hypocrites and liars
Spreading rumors, keeping secrets
Lighting silent fires
Pacing in the bedrooms
Quiet in the halls
Sneaking after midnight
Conspiring behind walls
Pretending to be royalty
Called themselves "king and queen"
Throwing out words like garbage
Not saying what they mean
Not taking time to think
Just playing a silly game
Betraying flesh and blood
not feeling any shame
Full of carelessness and greediness
But acting so sincere
Watching with fake smiles and laughter
Ignoring every tear
Throwing "traitors" in the dungeon
While deceiving on the thrown
Punishing those "committing crimes"
Not looking at their own
There were traitors in the castle
Hypocrites and liars
Bargaining with enemies
Igniting silent fires
Now there is no castle
No whispers in the halls
Nothing hiding behind doors
All that's standing are the walls
spacewalker Sep 2017
I near break my back
because I want an ***
I often hurl my lunch
because ninety is fat
I have two layers of foundation
but no moral support
If I could only stop my parents...
Abort, Abort

Yet I snap my back and puck my lips  
whiten my teeth and turn my hips
a couple filters can't be so wrong
a with the right lighting
I'll appear strong
This poem started out being one about bulimia but soon I found myself writing about a girl who relies on social media to provide her with positive feed back.
suicidal twitch Jul 2015
And in this courtroom
So filled with Four Nations
The Sun held her head up high,
Lighting the way for their tales and psalms:

I am the King of Spades.
Righteous ambition is my goal.
The bravery of the Spades is made known to others
Only through such matters.
Perseverance is our path to Victory
Endurance, our greatest desire.
We, the Spades, partner with Father Time
To belong as a mighty people
Forever more.

I am the Queen of Diamonds
The splendor and enjoyment of Life's beauty is my passion.
A Diamond's journey is a one of glorious awe
That no one can compare.
Loveliness surrounds this pretty people
And the Artist shall forever be pleased by them.
Our perception of artistry leaves most in awe
And this fact is forever the passion we strive for.

I am the Queen of Clovers
Survival is the sole lifestyle of the Clovers
In this wretched and unforgiving world
The Clovers must stay strong
Holding the clubs of the ancients,
We prevail
Onward shall we extend our power
The Clovers will remain
Forever the mightiest.

I am the King of Hearts.
The rapid spread of emotional ties
Is what us Hearts long for.
Threads of fate surround our people
Binding them to one another.
Love, lust, infatuation
Oh, these are the things that steady our nation!
So filled with Faith, Hope and Love
Our Hearts shan't fail us
As passion will never cease
To flow in our veins
—ah, yes!
This is the way of the Hearts.

And in this courtroom
So filled with Four Nations
The Sun laid down her head
Whilst the Moon finally awoke and,
Smiled his light onto them below.
This was made by my fanfiction friend called Sam-Chan who gave it to me! :3
NewAgeOfAnarchy Nov 2014
The ashes of the utopia will up hold its memory.
As the plundering and despair which the conquerors wish to install becomes reality
Emerging from the ashes of the utopia.

Comes the lighting of vengeance, which strike the conquerors holy city.
The utopias vendetta will be pay in the ****** ashes of the conquerors holy city.

The ashes of the utopia will forge a new order of anarchy, on the ashes of the holy city of vice.
©2014 copyright Michael Cross
Kiernan Norman Jul 2014
We didn’t bloom together the way we should have. We never eyed each other across neat soil; both self-conscious and self-righteous as we sipped the sun and, in quiet bursts, raced to touch the sky.  

We weren't planted by gentle hands in soft plots with room to stretch our limbs and shield our eyes, nor to bud in peace and thrive and find identity in both our own bold blossoms and as a pulsing piece of the whole lavish garden.

We didn't bloom because we erupted.
We running-start-swan-dived into stale dirt and were too close from the very beginning.
We didn’t sprout up straight; we snaked and lurked and left no bit of earth untouched by our vibrant, stencil **** fingers declaring ourselves alive.

By harvest we were tangled beyond repair.
By harvest I didn't know me from you and I liked it.

To be so entwined is lovely but depends on a balance
we could only begin to grasp.
To expand but not uproot requires perfect synchronicity maybe not beyond our years but certainly beyond our maturity. We spread out our emotions like tarot cards on a towel in the grass and reflected in your sunglasses I met the silent pieces of me.
In colorful, grim drawings those quiet, ugly bits floated up veins and settled under ribs.
They stayed silent. Until they began to scream.

And you and I- we didn't have the words;
not our own words that we earned and burned while stumbling across months and plains,
tripping over potholes and finding our feet quicker each time.
We had place-holders words we sang back and forth and splashed around and bathed in.
The words we spoke were profound and cardboard.
We were just reading lines, sharing identical scripts and an ache to be seen
so deep and desperate it was sinful.

We maybe shared the humid cling of regret; which hung heavy in stuck-air auditoriums,
it beaded sweat echoed, rolling down spines and turning blood to sticky wax as we whispered in the corner about the things we could say aloud while our minds never left the things we wouldn't dare.

We were mostly ill-equipped.
We joked about hurricanes
We didn't survive the first storm.

I want you to know you really hurt my feelings.
I want you to know you're the first guy I've given my feelings to hurt.
I want you to know I was terrible towards the end.
And I know that. But you gave up on me

You gave up on me at the exact moment I was giving up on myself.
Even as my tongue stung metallic and veins pulsed so hot and loud
through my eardrum that I felt I would explode- it was clean.
It was all remarkably clean.
and sterile.
There were no explosions.
No shattered plates, ****** knuckles or blown out voices
that scratched and rose in time with the sun.

Just a quick slash of rope-
an anchor cut loose and left to sink;
our secrets were set free to
rust over and collect algae.
We were suddenly off the hook
for any vulnerability we might have spilled
on each other in our fits of laughter
and hours of sleep.
A deep sigh of relief.
A deeper sigh of desolation.


The moment exists in sad yellow lighting that must have been added in restrospect.
I tweaked the floor of my memory too:
at that moment I was not wearing flipflops on linoleum- but sinking, slowly and barefoot, into chilly riverbed mud as it turned to ice.

I opened the door and there you stood.
You knew I had been crying and I didn’t try to hide it
it was too exhausting- running on fumes.

And I did expect something from you,
anything from you, that might dull the singed-dagger plunging
stab to my chest with each breath I gulped and spat .
I wanted anything that might reel me in from the cliffs edge
where my thoughts had carried me on horseback.

But you had nothing.
I watched your eyes glaze over my swollen lips and pinced, glassy eyes.
You threw back the melted, Picasso-esque mask where my face once was,
like a quick, sharp shot of warm whiskey.
Careful to avoid eye contact you slipped ‘**** this,’
under your breath and started to reach for my hand.

You started to, but then after a second suspended
you let your arm fall back to your body.
Head lowered, jaw clenched and you turned and fled with a new heaviness pushing down on your posture.
It looked painful and adult.
It looked like you finally felt the weight of our season.
And watching you go I shrank in lighter and thicker because I felt it too.

We are not going to get a happy ending-
not with each other and not right now.
Maybe not ever.
And that will have to do.
(Though I will miss your hand in mine.
I hope one day you'll remember being tangled with me and it will make you laugh before you cringe because I didn't like to be alone.)

If I wanted to be alone I would just go home.
Duck Nov 2012
Supposing that we lit some candles.
One for each person on this earth,
we would blow one out at a funeral
and light one up at a birth.

The world would grow darker
every time we lost a fighter
but with every new born baby
it gets just that bit brighter.

If you travelled into a city that was dark and gritty
you'd know that they didn't have many in their committee.
But.. If the light was brilliant and bright
it would send a beaming message throughout the night.

Saying "We are here! And we are alive!"
Not wanting to be alone we endeavor to collide
and form one giant, shining beacon
that burns so fierce we're sure it can't weaken

We sparkle and crackle and bend nature to our whim
the mighty fire so strong it just had to gave in.
With it we forged iron and buildings, cars and computers
and lit paths of lives to guide commuters

We lit up the universe as far as we could see
Improving our lives greatly with technology
obsessed with our professed fixture on practicality
we completely forgot about morality

Our fires forged weapons which we aimed next door
In one swift movement we saw the effects of war
6,000,000 candles extinguished
over arguments on which light is most distinguished

So fixated on this light we blinded our eyes
and the candle smoke filled the skies.
We thought candles were good, they elevated us higher
but now all we have is thick smoke and fire.

The fire consuming all in its route
the root of our lives follow suite.
It's eating the oxygen and burning the grass
the sand is melting and forming to glass.

The glass it shatters into a thousand pieces
more candles are lighting, the temperature increases
The resources decline, as do the candles
buried in ash a hundred thousand scandals.

Now only a few lit candles remain
as they slowly melt and fade away.
Check out my YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/duckforpope
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Or just send me a good ol' fashioned email: duckforpope@gmail.com
authentic May 2014
As the liquor undulates down my throat,
burning a little more at each swallow
like lighting a match with wet fingers
I realize that in this moment
I am not worried about you
I am too busy sequestering my existence
with alcohol that does not remind me of you at all
the one thing that can not summon your name to my mind
one thing that makes me forget you, even if only for a little while
Fueled by liquid fire
nature’s neutrality doesn't do much
for this current wave
of lust and infatuation
I am only a girl
fragile, choleric
& craving something to fill the hole you left
And I know I will wake up in the morning
with regret, a headache, and an empty stomach
It can take 2 hours, 8 hours or a full day
to get alcohol out of your system.
but it's going to take
much more than time,
to remove you from mine.
just about a drunken night
Forty Days

A Season of Grief, a Season of Rejoicing

November 9-December 20, 2014

For Barbara Beach Alter 
It is Christmas morning in Saco, Maine, where today Bett, Aaron, Emily, Thomasin and our beloved cousin Marie find ourselves gathered to celebrate our first Christmas without dadima (our name for Barbara Beach Alter).  Brother Tom writes that already in India he and Carol with Jamie, Meha and Cayden (the only of her seven greatgrandchildren Barry never held) have celebrated.  Today Marty and Lincoln join us in Maine.

This gathering of documents—notes, drafts of memorial services, poems, homilies—is my christmas present to each of you.  It is a record, certainly subjective, of grief and rejoicing.

John Copley Alter
1:14 a.m.
Saco, Maine 
November 9

Loved ones,
Barbara Beach Alter died peacefully at 2:55 Sunday morning (today).  Bett and I had the good fortune to be there for the final beating of her good strong heart.  She murmured charcoal.  The nurse who was bathing her afterwards noted how few wrinkles there were, and it is true.
For those of you nearby you may if you want visit Mom in her room at hospice this morning (until noon).  Visit? Darshan? Paying respects?
Bett and I plan to be there around 11:00.
Much love to all. A blessed occasion.
John


November 10

Matthew 5:13-19
Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

yesterday in the early hours my mother died her saltiness
restored all that had through the months of her old
age and convalescence obscured the lens of her life cleaned
away so that for us now more and more clearly
as we hear about her through the memory and love
of so many people her good works shine forth in
their glory but it is to the days of her
convalescence the days of her dementia I would turn our
minds those of us who spent time with her at
Wingate long-term care facility remember that Barbara Beach Alter became
at times fierce in her commanding us that ‘not one
letter, not one stroke of a letter’ of the commandments
should be altered do you remember that those of you
and us who were given the work and gift of
spending time with Barry in those days in that condition

remember for instance how fussy she became about the sequence
of food on her tray how impatient with us for
our trespasses and violations how adamant that we look forward
for instance and not back at her how she would
say stop holding my hand and saying you love me
you have work to do o she was almost impossible
and certainly incoherent and demented in her obsession with law
and procedure fussy impatient imperious I do not forget being
scolded reamed out put in my place for having somehow
failed to do what the ‘law and the prophets’ demand

Barbara beach alter in the days before hospice in the
nursing home and hospital and even if we are honest
in the final years of her life found herself caught
up in the rigidity of her anxious desire to be
faithful to the laws and commandments of her life and
that made her at times extremely demanding to be with

amen and the epistemological confusion of course the clash between
her reality and ours it was all an ordeal for
her and for those of us who kept her company

and yet and yet through it all and now as
that ordeal for her is no longer paramount as she
dances in heaven all the wrinkles and discomfort of her
life removed and forgiven Barbara Beach Alter kept the faith
living in the midst such that those who cared for
her most intimately the strangers all professed your mother blessed
us


Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.



So, brother and sister, here are my thoughts about the memorial service(s).
Let’s find a time when we three can be present; that’s the most important thing.  My life is currently the least constrained by agenda and schedule.  And then the grandchildren, recognizing that Jamie may not be able to come.  So, our work is to find our when our kids are able to come. Bett and I are exploring that with our three, each of whom has some constraint: Emily, the cost; Thomasin, the piebaking demands, Aaron school.  But we are flexible.

Much love.

John



Walking in my mother’s wake today some trees
a gentle breeze some dogs a little boy
the neighborhood and I took joy from interaction

we are at best a fraction in love’s
calculation after all heaven I realize is not
above or below cannot be taught comes naturally

as death does walking in my mother’s wake
I found new allies learned yet again not
to take myself too seriously to be caught

off guard as a matter of principle and
not to insist that I understand but live
in the midst of forgiveness


in my mother’s wake I am reading these books for
some way to continue to knock on her door Wendell
Berry he can tell me some things and William Blake
he can take me closer and I remember she described
me once as an unused Jewish liberal so I am
reading about protestant liberalism but ham that I am also
reading Carl Hiassen’s Bad Monkey and Quo Vadimus that my
daughter left behind and mythologically Reflections from yale divinity school
no fooling Denise Levertov David Sobel Galway Kinnell’s translation of
Rilke some wake

November 11

Matthew 25:1-13
Jesus said, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

this morning in the wee hours my mother died one
of the wise bridesmaids whose lamp to the end was
full she carried always the flask of oil that is
joy that is the love of the kingdom of heaven
and of the bridegroom a flask always replenished by prayer
by devotion by a humble courageous living in the midst

she expected every day the bridegroom to come in other
words and she was also one who would never refuse
to share even the last drop with somebody in need

and at the end it is so clear the door
into the banquet hall was not closed to her as
it is not closed to any one of us foolishness
is to believe otherwise to believe that the bridegroom will
not come today in the early morning in the wee
hours that is when he comes in the midst of
other plans is when he comes even when we are
doing what we assume to be good work when we
are doing what gives us pleasure our duty joy comes
then unsummoned unpredictable random even according to all our best
laid plans my mother loved so many things her pleasure
included dancing late in her life terminally unsteady she invented
what we loved to urge her to do namely the
sitting jig and we grew up with images of her
Isadora Duncan dancing with white scarves in an enchanted forest

Barbara Beach Alter aka Barry aka dadima bari nani aunt
and daughter wife missionary is now I know dancing a
rollicking boisterous jig on the shores of a lake that
is as her grandson once confided to her god in
liquid form spilly Beach of course also dyslexic executive function
compromised she was but one who loved to be always
in the midst surrounded by loved ones some of them
absolute strangers she shared her oil because for her it
came welling up from an inexhaustible source a deep eternal
well of such illumination and laughter such giddy divine chuckles

for her there was to be no exclusion she would
not find the awful idea of being one of the
foolish applicable to anybody but happily she welcomed into her
midst so many it is hard to imagine how many

so there she is now a bridesmaid dancing for joy
in such elegant clothing with such perpetual brightness

amen hallelujah rejoice


sometimes I think she pulled us all out of the
magic hat sometimes I think she knit us all into
one of her theologically impossible sweaters and then with a
wink she passes through the eye of the needle and
is gone and we are left to play in her
honor endless hands of solitaire sometimes I think we are
no more than the hermeneutics of her life the epistemology
artless she was not her heart like one of those
magical meals for her then a doxology praise then praise
she knows salvation

what is a life’s work it is like a landscape
dotted with oases and gardens for the thirsty and the
lost it is like scraping through dry barren ground and
finding there suddenly not only the theology of paradise but
such seeds your hands ache to begin the planting what
is a life’s work what has been shut for too
long opens what has been shut for too long opens

a life’s work renews itself then with death the kernel
of hope that dies in springtime sprouting is what a
life’s work becomes

November 12

John 21:15-17
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

I know my mother very much enjoyed having breakfast with
god and that the meals of her nursing home drove
her nearly crazy and that when at last she found
hospice o she again could imagine the feast of heaven
at which Jesus breaks bread with us and speaks with
such clarity do you love me more than these I
know it was questions as simple and overwhelming as this
that dominated her final days do you love me love
being  one of the last five words she attempted to
speak do you love me she wrestled in her last
months with epistemology and psychology and theology and all had
to do with whether she could answer unequivocally you know
that I love you and that she could say of
her life that she had broken bread with god we
all remember in her life those moments when there was
a great gladness an innocent acceptance of what lay immediately
in her presence now those months in the nursing home
tormented her in precisely this fashion that it was hard
to accept to be in the midst of such mediocrity
and woe to be innocent and accepting but now praise
god there she is a happy guest at the great
feast and we left behind bereft can acknowledge that she
loved god in her own fashion as best she possibly
could and do you remember being with her there in
hospital or nursing home and she commanding us to move
beyond holding her hand and saying we loved her and
to feed the sheep to do that work which will
make of this earth this here and now an outstation
of heaven Barbara Beach Alter loved god in her own
fashion as best she possibly could we remember that and
that memory is today like a great network a web
of love and inspiration o we would gladly one more
time hold her hand and say I love you but
we know also clearly I think today what the work
is to love our neighbor as ourselves to work for
peace and justice I think of my sister with her
colleagues in WEIGO and how her sisters have understood her
grief  let us break our fast together then glad for
the worldwide web that in these days is reading the
gospel of the life of Barbara Beach Alter praise god


feed
tend
feed
in exchange for his three denials Peter is given three imperative verbs
feed
tend
feed
this is the commission Jesus after breakfast on the shore of the sea of Galilee gives to Peter
twice he says feed
in the commonwealth of Massachusetts 700,000 people are hungry
1 in 6 americans are hungry
living in uncertainty about their daily bread
more than 18,000,000 in Africa
842,000,000 around the world go to bed hungry


Marty and Tom
The thinking about the memorial service is taking this slow and cautious turn, namely that we have three services (at least), one in Sudbury, one in New Haven (allowing Stan and Chuck and others to come) at First Presbyterian (with Blair Moffett we hope), and of course one in India.
The date frame appears to be somewhere between December 17 and 20, unless you have other thoughts.
The actual cremation happens tomorrow.  Lincoln, Bett, Alexis and I will attend, and then of course there is In the Midst on Friday.
Love you more than tongue can tell.
John


the thing with a life well lived is that many
people have partaken the way let’s say a river moves
down through any number of different lives all the time
sedulously seeking the shortest path to the sea to steal
a line from somebody or other meandering a watershed within
which so many of us find a way to live
our own lives nourished and for each of us the
river distinct and different white water the slow fertile meander
the delta and we say to each other this is
the composite river


sometimes I feel like a sleepwalker trying to run a
marathon sometimes I feel like a speedbump in a blizzard

an arrow in a wind tunnel sometimes I feel like

a hazard sign in an old age home sometimes I
feel like a tyrannosaurus rex trying to ride a tricycle

and sometimes those are the good days when identity is
strong like an icicle in a heat wave is strong

I try to read wisdom literature at happy hour scotch
and Solomon can’t go wrong I think and sometimes I

feel like crying

November 13

four days ago we were left alone there with your
body after your breathing ceased and the proud stubborn beating
of your heart and in those four days beloved mother
so much I would love to say to you and
share the antics of the squirrel late leaves on the
neighborhood trees music Orion the network the atlas of love
your life has left behind and all the words we
are the gospel of today and I would sit with
you there then in silence as I sit now four
days later vigilant insomniac aware that the kingdom of heaven
is not more complicated than singing than love than dancing

we are all dancing the dance lord siva teaches and
the s

— The End —