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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.
Dustyn Smith Nov 2013
And it stings in the shower
Just the water running over
Let alone to wash it with soap
So you leave it alone
You tried to go around it before
But that only made it worse
And you can't wash above
Because it runs down into the cuts
So they notice the smudge
That was there yesterday
And didn't quite rub off

They wonder why
You don't take as long as you used to
And they notice that your body wash
Is still three quarters full
Even though you bought it six months ago
They wonder why then
If your soap is still full
And you don't shave in the shower
Why do you need more razors
When you just bought a pack
Not even a month ago

They noticed in summer
But now its winter so its okay
For you to wear long sleeve shirts everyday
You hid your t-shirts so you could tell them
That you had nothing else to wear
They noticed that you never went swimming
You sat on the beach or in the car
They begged you to come in
And said you lost your swimsuit again
Even though you knew exactly where it was
You just couldn't let them see your scars

They notice the smile on your face
But not the pain behind your eyes
And they don't care to see the fear
That they might find you out
Its easier for them to believe the lie
Than to face the truth
And help you
They would rather the easy way out
To live in ignorant bliss
Than to notice your scars and cuts
And ask you what was wrong

And eventually they stopped noticing
The no longer asked you
How your day went
They met your cries for help
With harsh words of get over it
And calling you an attention seeker
But that really is all you want
Is for someone to pay attention
To start noticing again
That you are not okay
And you can't just get over it

Too often do these things go unnoticed
Or they are mocked
As a cry for attention
And ignored as a call for help
Too soon do people end their lives
Because its easier for you
To live in ignorance
And not deal with it
They say ignorance is bliss
But it only is for you
Not for the people suffering everyday

So it is up to you and me
To break through the ignorance
And see the fear and pain in their eyes
Because if we don't say anything
Then they won't either
I know this because I've been there
And I still put on that mask
Because I was told to just get over it
But that only made it worse
The fact that I should be able to get over it
But I couldn't

So it is up to us
To see behind that mask
And ask someone if they are okay
To see the cuts and scars
And lend out a helping hand
Because if we don't then who will
We need to speak up for those too afraid
Of speaking for themselves
To make a point that it is not okay
Just to say get over it
And we need to start noticing
Morgan Mercury Oct 2014
My love is vast.
My love is strong.
My love is driven by the thought
of you noticing me one day.
Although I am told that some love never blooms
like flowers struggling during the bitter colds.
I have nothing to offer you.
All I have are my bones.
They hold me up
on days I feel like a bird with broken wings,
but I will always love you with the lights on.
I will care for your wounds
until you're able to fly again.
Until you can reach the moon.
So play your guitar
and sing your songs.
I will admire you from afar
as you carry on.
Don't worry about me.
I'm not trying to come off as a creep
but I love your eyes,
and how they look like dark coffee.
I love the way you speak.
Each word a melody.
Every sentence a song.
I'm caught on your hook.
I could listen all day long.
I'm lost in your music
while you're lost in this madness.
So don't worry my dear,
the flowers will someday bloom.
I shall save these words for you.
I'll read them out to you,
but only once during the blue moon.

You're a sweetheart and a really brave bird.
So walk with me to the edge of the earth
and I will share you all my secrets,
and you will share me yours.
We'll tie them both to balloons
and let them go.
Lay with me down on this pearly dew-drop grass.
We'll watch the clouds travel to and fro,
just stay with me in this perfect spot.
You don't have to go.
2014
Zoromir Jan 2014
Some days I find you clustered 
in the corners of my bathroom mirror

and sometimes I find you in the lines
 of my own hands,
like you’ve 
been sitting there for centuries,

waiting for me to notice you
and I'm noticing you.

I' m noticing you all the time.

But the thing you don’t understand
 is
that I'm trying to stop noticing you
.
But trying to stop noticing you,
is 
like trying to stop noticing 
that the ocean is blue
or that
 all the oxygen in my veins 
left when you did.
Carla Jul 2018
You miss a meal,
Then it turns to two,
A day passes,
And no one notices you.

Craving nutrition,
There goes a week,
Those many hours,
Longing for something to eat.

Using the same excuse,
"I'm not hungry, I just ate,"
The numbers keep dropping,
Was sixty-three, now fifty-eight.

You can't go back,
People are noticing you,
They say you should eat, and you say,
"You have something better to do."

It's harder than you think,
Just leave me alone!
Stop telling me to eat and drink!
If I need you, I can find my phone.
This poem is about an eating disorder, it’s dangerous and those that have it can be greatly effected. Not only them, but those around them as well.
Styles Dec 2015
I know you love it,
I can feel your vibe.
you don't just see me,
you see my other side.

I saw you looking;
how you stared for a while,
noticing you smiling,
when I caught you,
for the second time.

must of been those stunning eyes
or that curious smile, you caught my eye
Wanted you closer as the seconds went by
instead of just flirting, I wanted to be by your side.
eyes feeling on each - locked out the world
left each other stuck inside.

I saw you notice me,
and I noticed for a while.
As I looked on, I noticed your style.
And now I'm feeling you, lovin your vibe.
noticed your eyes feeling, watching me move
like a movie --- we should roll, and chill
then take a ride

Close your eyes, and
let me climbs inside.
Touch your soul,
while I ease your mind,
rock your body,
sooth it with mine.
giving you the real me,
until you are addicted to that natural high.
Don't rush a think,
lets just take our time.

Relax, baby just enjoy the ride.
Coming into my world,  while I dip inside.
give me the best of you like its already mine.
Introduce your Highness to her new shrine.
Abi Moss Aug 2014
Insecurity isn't an attention seeking excuse.
Its something we do without noticing and other people get concerned..
I don't understand.
Everyone takes insecurity the wrong way. And it bugs me.
anotherdream Sep 2018
she had strolled in,
with a smile on her face,
and I had a feeling,
that she'd come my way.

she walked over,
to where my table was at,
Sat down and smiled at me,
no words were spoken,
her eyes told me everything.

she was the one to
"show me I have reasons"
to love myself,
no matter the amount of mistakes made.

I learned to appreciate everything,
including myself.
because in everything,
there is beauty.

vulnerability through tears,
emotion through eyes,
frustration in confusion,
no matter how hard we try.

feelings are forever,
so be careful how you share them,
one can be hurt through so many ways,
we must remember that others are better.
A mix of rhyming and freewrite with a touch of love intertwined throughout :)
Carol Jun 2015
im hurting because my parents are too busy
im hurting because my friends don't miss me
it hurts to feel so alone
it hurts to constantly check my phone
and im hurting because no one's noticing
jeffrey conyers Oct 2012
You're worth noticing.
You are.
You are.
You're worth knowing.
You are.
You are.

You're like a gem so rare.
One handle with care.
A diamond that shines brighter than a dime.
There's no cost placed on you.
A lovely jewel.

You just worth noticing.
You are.
Truly you are.
You worth knowing.
It's true.
It's true.
There's nothing fake about you.
Everything is real.
And having you in my life.
Is better than the art thieves steals.

You worth loving.
You are.
You are.
Truly you are.
Riley OKeefe Aug 2013
totally platonic,

inadvertently robotic,

sitting on chairs two feet apart.
i am not noticing your mouth

i am not noticing your mouth
**
i am not noticing your mouth
Kate Eddy Jun 2019
The blaze took the house with great speed,
Those inside at once had fleed,
But all was not as it appeared,
For when at last the smoke had cleared,
Among the husk of the home
The children discovered they were alone.

They dashed about at a frantic pace,
Looking around for the smallest trace,
Fearing the worst was yet to pass,
One last glance the children cast,
It was then they noticed her cloth of blue,
And the fate of their mother they finally knew.

Running to where their mother laid,
They knew a farewell they'd have to bade,
Knowing that they couldn't stay
For their only relative live far away,
When their mother was put to rest at last
Julie knew she had to push them past.

Leaving the ashes of their past behind,
Hoping a new home they would find,
Julie did for her sisters all she could,
Knowing that reliving the past would do no good.
And so at last Julie and sisters journey began
To reach their home was the only plan.

When the sky turned black as night,
Julie knew something was not quite right,
Stopping their ride Julie and Linda can tell
That something must not be going well,
As they returned they were alarmed to see
Their sister Clotild drowning in the sea.

Julie at once knew what to do,
Into the water at once she flew,
Clotild's head went slowly down below,
The fate of her sister Linda afraid to know,
But when Julie came to the surface at last
Seeing Clotild, Linda knew the danger had passed.

"Clotild, what were you thinking?" they wished to know,
Clotild answered simply saying she was hot and wished to go,
To cool her feet with the fresh feel of the sea
At the time not seeing where the fault could be,
Please don't do that again, they'd scold,
For had they not known, a different story would of been told.

Racing to where the smoke had led,
Each took in the scene with dread,
As flames spread across the little town
Chaos had evidently ensued all around,
Julie looked about the destroyed land,
Knowing what it was like to see the damage firsthand.

What Julie saw then made her blood go cold,
For upon a burning threshold
A girl lay unconscious in need of aid,
Julie knew if she stayed
Or if she delayed-
A heavy price the girl would of paid.

Julie ran as fast as she ever had before,
Diving last minute towards the floor,
Dragging the girl safely away,
The girl opened her eyes as if to say,
She felt she was going to be okay,
Julie couldn't imagine how she'd come to be alone,
Thankfully, evidence of life had clearly shown.

Many had seen what had transpired,
The courage of Julie they had all admired,
But when asked why she put herself in harm's way,
She said, I couldn't very well let her stay,
Julie then took her to where Linda and Clotild stood
Knowing that she'd done all that she could.

It was clear that the girl had no home,
As tattered clothes had clearly shown,
Julie realized that there was one thing she could do,
Knowing that the girl's options were few,
She decided to offer her a chance to restart,
For with them she'd always be a part.

Frightened she was when she finally awoke,
Noticing in gentle tones the sisters spoke,
What happened? They wished to know,
Tears at once began to flow,
They listened to the tale she wished to be told,
As the story of Chloe began to unfold.

I'm an only child, I only had my mom and dad,
In fact they were the only family that I had,
I had to do homeschooling for we were too poor,
Yet, even with that I'd been happy as none before,
Then today fire took my home and the next I'd known
I was fighting for life on my own.

Julie didn't know what to say,
Yet she noticed even now Chloe seemed to be okay,
As if she'd accepted what had passed,
Hoping her parents would feel peace at last,
Linda and Clotild felt like they could relate,
It seemed as if tragedy was the common trait.

As they continued on their way,
Julie and her sister's story they relay,
Finishing with when they had met,
There was something Chloe couldn't forget,
She looked at Julie asking,"Why help me?"
For the reasoning she did not see.

Julie looked at her kindly and without hesitation said,
If I didn't move I knew you'd be dead,
I knew I couldn't leave you there to die
Hopeless though it seemed at the time I had to try,
I took a emergency class a few weeks ago you see,
And the first thing I was taught was never to flee.

The spell of silence was suddenly shattered,
When Julie noticed a girl pale and battered,
Who suddenly collapsed in a heap
As if she'd fallen fast asleep,
Julie went at once to her side,
Sweat thick on her brow she spied.

They knew something had to be done,
Already the setting of the sun had begun,
Julie drove as fast as she could,
And into view a little town stood,
Spotting a doctor's office the girls go,
Hoping the illness the doctor will know.

Slowly the girl began to groan,
Opening her eyes confusion shown,
Seeing her awake Chloe asked her name,
Instead of an answer a blank look came,
The doctor took the girl into another room
Returning a few moments later with a look of gloom.

"Please, she said gesturing to some seats,
With a critical look she asked,"How'd you meet?"
We were driving along when we saw her in the road,
The girls said as their concern clearly showed,
The girl sat in quiet destress as the doctor stressed
This poor child's memory is quite a mess.

"What could you possibly mean?" Julie asked at last,
The doctor answered as a pitiful glance she cast,
She doesn't know who she is or where she's from,
Linda asked," Then for her.....what is to come?"
She will have to go into foster care I'm afraid,
Yet as she said that the girl had swayed.  

Julie was at her side rather quickly,
As the girl appeared even more sickly,
Against Julie the girl then went,
As if to show her energy was clearly spent,
Julie and Linda laid her in a bed,
Knowing she heard all that was said.

The next day when the first ray of sun appeared,
The girl's condition seemed to have cleared,
She said to the doctor as if to get her to see,
I think those girls are my only family,
Julie heard what she said wondering where this would lead
For it appeared as if she planted a seed.

The doctor went to the girls asking if this was true,
"Yes, was the answer that Julie threw,
As the doctor could not prove them wrong,
The girl was allowed to come along,
Leaving the little town behind,
All appeared to have recent events on mind.

Finally Julie asked the girl as she wished to understand,
What was it that made it so she lied to change the plan,
The girl said at last, I felt a bit safer with you,
And I'm not saying that the doctor wouldn't know what to do,
But you helped me , even though you didn't know me at all,
I didn't want to be alone, she said appearing small .

They looked at the girl in a kind way,
At first not knowing what to say,
Finally, Linda asked if she remembered her name,
The girl responded with much disdain,
I'm afraid no name comes to mind,
And I want to leave my past behind.

It's time I start again she proclaimed,
As things can never be the same,
I think we should start with who I am,
So you can call me and all can understand,
How do you like Lucy as a name?
I think that will do nicely as it is simple and plain.

And Lucy was what the girl was to be known,
As if to show how she felt, relief was what had shown,
Lucy then listened to their adventure,
Ending with when they'd met her,
Lucy looked at Julie in a new light,
Saying, "now I know my decision was right."

When the day had come to an end ,
A night under the stars the girls did spend,
Do you ever think about that day ? Asked Clotild
Her voice was sadness filled,
Julie and Linda glanced at her and with pity said,
Clotild we've got to move ahead.

Clotild said nothing and proceeded to bed,
As if to shut out her sister's presence instead,
The next day away from her sisters Clotild did stay,
And not one word did she say,
They came at last to a city to see,
And angry mob corner a girl while she looked back defiantly.

The girls went at once to the scene,
So the situation they could glean,
Linda asked what they were doing,
The mob answered saying, a thief is who we're pursuing,
Linda got in front of the girl asking, "what has she stolen?"
A shop owner pointed saying, it's in the bag she's pullin.

Linda took the bag and looked inside,
In which many foods did reside,
The group glanced at the girl asking the cost,
Paying for the items they had lost,
As the mob slowly trickled away –
the girls asked why she didn't pay .

The girl hung her head Shamed,
you can't blame me she claimed,
at first they had not caught on,
it was then that a girl came along ,
she doesn't have any Home,
she's with me and we're on our own.

My name is Nancy and this is Carol she said,
saying this as if on thin Ice they did tread,
Julie stepped forward and said then,
We won't hurt you, we are friends,
Linda went to them with the bag
knowing that it was all they had.

Once the bag was in their possession,
Nancy said as her weariness began to lessen,
"Thank you for all that you did,"
and with that the farewell they bid
later that night where the girls stayed,
an unexpected visit Nancy and Carol paid.

Hey , Chloe said is everything okay?
Carol answered saying we decided not to stay,
the girls looked at each other asking where they go,
as all of them now wish to know ,
Nancy looked at the girls with hopeful pleasure,
Hoping to find a life that was better.

We were wondering if we could join you guys
and find out where our future lies,
Come and join us, Lucy said to them,
for now they only saw friends,
it was then their story they began to tell,
and at once silence fell.

We are sisters you see,
For so long we'd no where to be,
Believe it or not we had a home,
Better than any have ever known,
For a minute not a word was said,
Carol continued with a look of dread.

"We were well off because of our parents occupations,
The girls listened with much anticipation,
My mom was a doctor and dad was a lawyer you see,
That's why we were such a wealthy family,
One day, said Nancy picking up the story, that changed
Dad came and with mom words were exchanged.

Apparently, dad was being sued,
For as far as his client viewed,
Dad hadn't done all that he could,
Therefore to his client he was no good,
I don't know how much they took,
But the nerves of our parents it clearly shook.

Soon word spread throughout our town,
And eventually people stopped coming to him all around,
Soon mom had to pay for all of bills on her own,
And the stress of it had clearly shown,
One day our parents argued whether or not to send us away,
Carol and I didn't bother to stay.

The girls looked at them with dismay,
Wishing there was something they could say,
Nancy continued saying, the next day we packed our bags,
As she said this  her shoulders sagged,
We knew then that we'd never see our home again,
I thought Carol and I eventually mend.

We ran away from every place we were sent,
Even though no unkindness any family meant,
Since that time we've been alone with nowhere to go,
Sighing, Nancy said, now our story you know,
Julie put her hand reassuringly on Nancy's shoulder,
Thanks for letting us know, she had told her.

What about you? The two sisters wish to be told ,
So to the sisters the story did unfold,
Nancy and Carol stared at Julie with the look of awe,
As if realizing only now who it was that they saw,
Is this really true? They asked as if yet to believe,
It's true, they said as if to show they didn't deceive.

"We've heard of you! Carol said suddenly,
As if the memories of those events surfaced finally,
You were on the news a few days ago,
She looked at Nancy as if she'd know,
Yes, Nancy slowly said as if the story began to return,
Julie was surprised at what the news people had learned.

I just helped those who I thought I could,
Just like I think anyone should,
Carol and Nancy smiled at Julie as if happy to know,
To a new home with Julie they would go,
Several weeks had passed since their journey began,
And out of Europe they were as they planned.

Six days later in New York they came,
And though tired they were happy to be on land all the same,
Through the vast city the girls drove,
Right down New York's main roads,
Throughout the day many had noticed the girls go,
As recognition slowly began to grow.

Comments circled about them regularly,
"Can't we be left alone!", Clotild said sullenly,
Linda and Julie glanced at Clotild momentarily,
She was worse then they thought, they noticed worryingly,
They went to a park and set up camp for the night,
Somewhere that was out of sight.

The glow of the moon lit up their camp in soft light,
Julie and Linda had a feeling that Clotild wasn't alright,
She hardly paid them any heed,
And when they approached she'd recede,
They wished they could make her feel better,
But she was just too bitter.

The next day the girls went through  to Nebraska's state,
Clotild what's wrong? Chloe asked seeing a look of hate,
"I'm fine!" Clotild said violently,
The girls stared at her silently,
It was then that Linda and Chloe swapped,
As the others continued to look at Clotild shocked.

A village came out of the blue,
Those in the village had looked at them as if the girls they knew,
As they set up camp villagers watched in awe
Not believing who it was that they saw,
A girl said, " mommy it's the girl from tv,
The mother glanced in their direction saying-it is indeed.

Looking in their direction Julie sees,
Sheltered in the shade of the shops a girl looked on miserably,
Julie went at once to her to see what was wrong,
All at once had withdrawn,
As the girl noticed and began to retreat, Julie shouted wait!
Catching up Julie noticed that she was pale and under weight.

Are you okay? Lucy asked then,
As a cut Julie did tend,
Linda went and got her food and drink,
And looking at the girl Julie began to think,
Looking at the girl seeing the bleeding,
Julie asked her what was wrong and she said," I was fleeing."

Julie glanced at the others with concern,
Trouble at once they began to discern,
Julie took the girl into her tent,
The other girls to guard the tent they went,
An hour later Julie came out at last,
How bad is it? They asked noticing the look she cast.

Her name is Rose and she's frightened and has good reason,
Julie said this her voice began to lessen,
Last night her parents were robbed and killed,
She witnessed it Julie said her voice with concern filled,
After a minute she continued, apparently the robber knew,
She ran because she didn't know what to do.

She's still in shock unfortunately,
Since no one's caught him he's still at large you see,
She no longer has a home,
She's afraid and she's on her own,
We can't leave her alone with that man on the run,
Okay we'll leave tomorrow at the rising of the sun.

The next day at first light the girls left the village behind,
Each one with the thought of home on their mind,
The sky was crystal clear the air crisp and sweet,
For a minute a pair of eyes Julie did meet,
It was a figure of a boy her age she saw then,
She did not see him again.

For the rest of the day Julie's attention seemed to stray,
To that boy that didn't stay,
Who was it who she had seen?
Was it an illusion or a dream?
As she watched the smoke from their fire burn into the night,
Something went across Julie's sight in flight.

Julie got up and said,"whose out there?"
As this reaction seemed quite fair,
It was then a boy had appeared as a silhouette in the night,
Julie went up to him before he went out of sight,
Why are you following us? she asked her voice tight,
Looking at him Julie can tell something's not right.

Hello Julie, I've come to warn you,
So when the time comes you'll know what to do,
There is one among you you call your friend,
That person you'll lose in the end,
Julie glaring said, " What do you mean then?"
The boy said," the one you call a friend will betray you in the end

Beware he said on and on,
Then as suddenly as he appeared he was gone,
Julie looked at the place where the girls laid,
Suddenly feeling very afraid,
She didn't know why for she thought it couldn't be true,
So to bed she went and thoughts of that night flew.

The next day into Colorado they appeared,
For all the girls weariness at last had cleared,
As each knew their journey was about to end,
And soon all of them would have a home again,
Keeping that in mind, the girls look until a clearing they find
Where a cabin lay with trees behind.

The group went to work setting up camp,
As the air turned cool and damp,
The girls sat to eat dinner at 6:00 that night,
Finishing they feel tired and Julie knows something isn't right,
Because try as they did to stay awake,
Julie knew a drug was placed in something they ate or drank.

As Julie was the last to go down,
The closing of a door was her last sound,
When she woke at last around a room a glance was thrown,
As this room she had not known,
Wondering where you are? Asked Clotild in a mocking tone,
Julie looked at her as confusion shown.

Clotild what.....Julie stopped as understanding grew,
Julie felt as if she'd been hit in the face as she said,"It's you!"
"Why? Julie asked, what have any of us done to deserve this?"
Looking at the others who she originally missed,
Clotild glared as she said, " you don't care or know
To hear Julie this and Julie that wherever you go.

Yet even with that- before any of this began,
Instead of taking command,
You left mom in that fire to die,
And you didn't even bother to try!
So yes Julie, it was me
Because I had every right to be.

"Clotild, how could I have known this would of occurred?"
Yet even as she said this, she knew she wasn't heard,
Goodbye Julie, said Clotild as she stood,
"Clotild, Julie said realizing it'd do no good,
Julie tried to stand only to find her hands and feet tied,
Clotild ran out the door as the binds she tried.

When Julie freed herself to the door she went,
Without luck opening the door her energy she spent,
The others finally woke with a groan,
All went to Julie as she sat alone,
Linda came to her asking, Where are we?
And where is Clotild? For it was her they didn't see.

As they looked at Julie they knew something was wrong,
For she had an expression that didn't belong,
Julie told what happened and the girls began to dispute,
"It's true, said Julie at last , an answer they couldn't refute,
"What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?
The answer of which nobody knew.

The door was locked from the outside,
And yet no matter how hard they tried,
The door had stayed in it's place,
It seemed like too much for the girls to face,
When all seemed lost and hopeless then,
The door opened revealing only a friend.

The boy Julie had met came at once to her side,
As a look of depression on her face he spied,
"Who are you? asked Rose suspicion clear in her voice,
I'm a friend and I'm here to help, he said by choice,
"How did you find us?" asked Julie her annoyance plain,
"I followed your sister as she took you away", he claimed.

We might as well leave as there is no reason to stay,
"Be wary, your sister intends to make you pay,
What on earth could you mean? asked Linda upset,
Wondering how much worse things could possibly get,
But again as suddenly as he had come to their aid,
He vanished as if to show they were too much delayed.

Their journey home they still went,
To each other their strength they lent,
Not one word had anyone said,
For due to recent events their hearts were filled with lead,
Finally a town came into sight,
As they came they noticed a girl in flight.

From trouble the girl ran,
Behind her as she went she scanned,
Glancing to where her eyes lead,
The group at once to guard the girl they sped,
For a few thieves at once took chase,
Stop! Julie said intent on putting them in their place.

They stopped asking, And why would we listen to you?
At once a fist Julie threw and away they flew,
At last the girl the group had found,
Julie went to her saying, "they're gone, no one's around."
The girl glanced shyly about,
Sure it was now safe she then came out.

"Why bother to help me when you didn't know me at all?"
With them after me, I don't see why on you responsibility'd fall,
They had no right to take from you,
And I knew there was something I could do,
The girl said, I don't even have a home,
I was going to try and  find a life of my own.

Would you like to come with us? asked Rose,
Really...yes please the girl said as the door on her past closed,
What is your name? asked Rose facing their new friend,
Sky, said the girl as a note of confidence she did send,
Where you heading? asked Sky as they left the town behind
Linda said, we're hoping our dad we'll find.

Sky asked confused, what could you mean?
So the girls explained how their journey came into being,
Sky was so amazed that for a minute she could only say,
Julie there's no way
They looked at her and Lucy said, it's true,
And her admiration of Julie quickly grew.

Sky then said, I am sorry that your sister lost her way,
For the wound was still fresh and twas a heavy price to pay,
Thank you, Julie said to break the ice,
For silence had latched on as a vice,
At long last to their father's house they came,
Realizing to each girl life wouldn't be the same.

Knocking on the door as anticipation did build,
Throughout Julie's being fear had filled,
For Clotild's eyes Julie had met,
A look Clotild sent as if to say Julie's actions she'd regret,
At once Clotild took flight-
Quickly vanishing from Julie's sight.

"We need to get inside now, Julie said urgently,
The girls glanced at Julie not seeing what the trouble could be,
Julie? Asked Linda with growing concern,
Seeing what she could learn,
She's here, was all Julie had said,
The girls heard and looked around with dread.

The door opened to show a man with a serious look,
Asking angrily," where is the money that you took?
Your money was stolen? Was it by a girl with blond hair?
The man looked annoyed saying yes as if he'd despaired,
We'll get it back, Julie said taking off with speed,
To the place where Clotild had fleed.

Clotild was hiding in a group of trees in view of all,
"Clotild, Julie's voice did call,
Don't make this harder than it needs to be,
Julie ran into the area as the threat she didn't see,
Running at Julie blind with rage a knife she drew,
Yet as the knife was ****** in Julie it didn't go to.

For right as it came it was Rose who took the blow,
And slowly to the ground she did go,
Dropping the knife Clotild ran,
As she noticed the failure of her plan,
"Rose, Julie said as she sank into her arms weakly,
Her breath came rather futility.

Rose weakly noticed all the girls had gathered around,
They watched shocked and no one made a sound,
Julie asked her voice sad "Why did you jump in front of me?"
Rose smiling said, Julie you taught us all what we should be,
Wincing she said, I didn't want my friend to die,
So futile though it appeared at the time, I knew I had to try.

Rose had tears in her eyes,You gave more than I ever dream of,
Julie cried as Rose went to be with the ones she loved,
After everything Rose had been through,
Julie felt peace for she knew
At last her wish came true,
At once Clotild Julie went to pursue.  

But Julie didn't have to go long,
Seeing Clotild's hands tied Julie's eyes were drawn,
For next her a boy stood tall,
Seeing Julie a serious look did fall,
The money taken to their dad they returned,
Julie then to her dad she turned.

Do I know you? Her dad asked looking at her hard,
Suddenly appearing on guard,
"Dad, It's me Julie, she said as her voice cracked,
"Julie, is it really you? Her dad said as to react,
Why are you here? And why are these girls with you?
So introducing the girls, Julie explained what they'd been through.

For a while, Joe hung his head in shame,
Your mother's dead? As if he was to blame,
"It's not your fault!"Julie said with conviction,
"Yes it is, he said looking stricken,
I was a cop and I promised our plan wouldn't change,
For a time it worked until...as he said this he aged.

What? Julie said wanting to understand,
Joe didn't meet her eyes, my job kinda took command,
I missed our anniversary and your birthday,
After a time your mother said she couldn't stay,
That was the last I'd heard from her unfortunately,
For years you girls were all I wanted to see.

"Dad,  we can be a family again,
Linda said jumping in hoping strength she'd lend,
Joe looked up with a sad look in his eyes,
But why would Clotild blame us for your mother's demise?
Julie said, She's broken and just looking for someone to blame,
I'm sad to say, she is not at all happy we came.

Joe looked at his girls and said, you truly wish to live with me?
Wondering where the reasoning could be,
Yes, said Julie I promised these girls a chance to restart,
I told them with us they'd always be a part,
Then yes, you can come and live with me here,
Hearing the girls did cheer.

Turning to the boy Julie smiled back,
You like me, she said as if it were fact,
What makes you think that? the boy asked in a mocking tone,
Looking up Julie noticed a smile had shown,
So why then did you come to our aid?
Because to the those girls survival a huge part you played.

So who are you? Julie asked then,
A tone of curiosity she did send,
My name is john if you really wish to know,
And as of now I don't intend to ever go,
Leading John into her home
A happy ending the girls at last had known.

Until we meet again  -
I have 2 words and they're The End
This is the first epic poem I've ever written. It's based on a story I wrote as a kid.
Madisen Kuhn Jan 2015
i want to dissolve into the sky
without a sound
without anyone noticing my empty space
in the most gentle and subtle way possible
i want to go away from here
i want to walk backwards and save myself
from what inevitability is ahead
i want to leave
i want you
to wish i’d stay
Emmanuella Nov 2018
"I can’t figure it out.” She said.
“I like cigars,
and pretty dresses and crossing my legs.”
She paused,
then continued,
“And I like smoking cigars in pretty dresses while crossing my legs.”
She uncrossed them,
then crossed them again.
One smooth limb over the other.
Just like that.

“But I never seem to have a lighter on hand.
Could you— sir,
please light my cigar?”
“You see, I have no pockets to hold such things and my purse…
Well,
You’ve confiscated that, haven’t you?”

“Thanks.” She breathed,
and inhaled,
and exhaled;
Sluggish wisps of smoke dissipating into the air.
Just. like .that.

“I didn’t know L'homme was into women who smoke cigars in pretty dresses while crossing their legs", She said.
“I mean, how was I to know?
I only noticed him noticing me.
It was probably the way my hair was tousled like so,
Or how my lipstick shone a deep, dangerous rogue,
Or the way I sipped at my champagne…
That made him walk over.”

“But I never asked him to light my cigar
Or comment on my dress…
Or stroke my legs.
So when I whacked him up top over the head with my glass,
I bet he never expected it to shatter and split his skull like so.
He dropped so sudden, sir. I…”
Another ringlet of smoke, a sigh, an uncrossing and crossing of legs again.
“I had no clue,
what else to do,
But to sit still in my pretty dress, with my legs crossed, smoking my cigar trying to figure out...
Just how I'd committed ******.”
"She's a dangerous woman...
Who can ****,
Just with her *** appeal".
Cranberry Juice Feb 2015
You stand there noticing people other than me,
While I stand there facing my dull eyes toward you
I pass by noticing your warm scent
While I circumvent , you scented nothing
I listen to your deep, appeasing voice trying to capture it
While you stay there , and avoid it
Am I this invisible ?
Too invisible to be noticed by someone who I really tried to be noticed from?
I wonder, wonder about you , wondering if you're thinking about me too...
Realizing there is no chance.. because I really am invisible
Written in 2015
Sandra Dec 2014
I watch their footsteps
I listen to their laughs
Sometimes I wonder why
They keep joking about love.

I walk into the classroom
The boys are being rude
The girls are gossiping
Sometimes I wonder if
I fit in here.

I sit on the desk, preparing myself
The teacher comes in
He looks very tired, like I'm
Sometimes I wonder if
He wants to die--like I'd.

I start the exam, numbers are running inside my head
I look around to see if everyone's noticing
I look down at the paper and
Pull out a pencil from
the pencil case and
Stab my throat.

While the blood are rushing on my shirt
and down to my legs
I wonder why
They keep joking about love.
I get very tired after the final exam, and i wonder why they're still joking about love.
Katrina Wendt Oct 2011
I had built a wall
Layer by layer
Mortar and stone

Until it was so high
And so strong
I thought no one could break it.

But I overlooked something
Because when I was done
There you were.

You just slipped right past my wall
Without even noticing its presence.
I was too surprised to push you out.

And then a funny thing happened
I was happy
And at peace with the world

And reconsidering my wall
Reconsidering
What I was protecting myself from.

I didn't have much of myself
To give away
But I gave you some of what was left

But not so much
That it would destroy me
To have to take it back.

Because I'd been though that before
I gave away so much
And still most of it is gone.

I've been hurt into being
More cautious with my feelings
Than I used to be.

And it turned out to be
A good thing
A blessing inside a curse

Because when you gave that piece back
It hurt
But I knew it could have been worse.

Because you can't break something
That's already been broken
By another.

There wasn't any part of me I gave you
That you could destroy
I didn't give you that.

I keep my heart close to me
Because it belongs to another
You were only borrowing what I had left.

So I will be fine
Because I've been through worse
And you are not my Kryptonite.
2011
But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
******* up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them--
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
The the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.
Neroxes Zephyrus Nov 2018
I am a shadow,
a shadow of myself,
a shadow stalking the dark.  
Pulled into the void,
from the things I saw,
And the things I heard.

I am a shadow trapped within my mind,
a shadow trapped within itself.
A prisoned soul,
a broken mind,
an empty shell.
A wish to be whole,
but shattering into pieces.

People around me,
walk past without noticing me,
without noticing the burden I bear that tore myself apart.
No one sees the mask I wore,
no one notices the shadow trapped within,
no one cares,
no one really knows who I am.

Words,
pierces through me,
trying to hurt me.
Too much experience,
I am numb.
The rope, the rope
Is it my salvation,
The way to freedom?
To free myself from expectation,
Take away my burden,
Shatter the mask I cannot take off?
It won't hurt anymore, right?
After all,
No one will notice if I disappeared.
They don't care.

Things are so much clearer,
So much brighter,
So vibrant,
I’m soaring through the sky,
I’m free.
Laura Robin Nov 2012
this door exists,
stately and staunchly it stands,
disheartening and terrifying it remains.
the door is unlocked, yet cannot be opened,
for in it, a path in time...
one decision that can affect everything
[such as my choice to wear the necklace you adore,
which lead to you noticing me for the very first time,
or my idea to play you the song that you fell in love with,
which i can no longer listen to]
...for in this door, one path
is intimidatingly located.

every bone in my body,
every last muscle, tendon, ligament
each artery, each vein, each capillary
every single nerve,
even each microscopic cell,
implores me not to open this tempting door...

[it is almost as if my hand refuses to grasp the handle,
to unleash the unknown upon me,
the colossal chain of events that would ensue]

the immensity of the unfamiliar,
the unexplored,
tends to perturb me.
change is unnerving
and is almost as chilling
as an abandoned graveyard at midnight.

but i bring my mind back to the door,
yes! this preposterous door that i have contrived for myself.
why is the **** so easily turned?
why does it not put up somewhat of a fight,
at least jolt me suddenly,
as to frighten my curious heart?
it is a constant battle between my body
my mind
and my heart
as to which doors to open
and which ones to leave ever so steadfastly closed.
but never once has there been such a struggle
for them to reach an understanding.

somehow my heart,
[even though a fraction of me,
a fist, dripping in blood]
is prevailing for the moment.
my heart reaches for the handle,
attempts to unclose the door...
yet, with the best of its ability,
withstanding my strong-willed
and obstinate heart,
my powerful body and commanding mind
overcome this hostile takeover,
and the door remains shut.

it is my body,
my skillful mouth,
my soft, rose lips,
my elegant tongue,
and my vocal chords...
all of these pieces must
contrive the words,
conceive the change,
which will unveil the path that will forever alter us...

slowly, opening the door.

being as in love with you as i am,
i will not let you slip away from my arms right now.
but when we are not together
[i wish you’d have been there,
i needed you there
]
i stare at this humbling door.

if i wait too long, i’ll forever lose you;
for it is you who will make this choice for me,
opening your own door, fearless and dauntless.
jonchius Sep 2015
resuming textual trip
testing experimental procedures
visualizing model tsunami
augmenting facetious environment
catching abstract architecture
noticing rhythmic exchange
projecting subtextual database
airhorning reggae royalty
adding atypical party
resolving twitter question
noticing emotional mission
awaiting emotional dialect
installing metaphorical experiment
intensifying animated trip
displaying dynamic victory
programming abstract development
releasing emotional exchange
deriving fata morgana
glorifying referential sequence
intensifying facetious map
noticing harmonic trip
observing radical ratio
compiling nomadic message
predating google rebranding
reticulating facetious panda
using hyperreal feedback
exploring virtual panda
speculating graphic gallery
throwing mundane exception
targeting graphic experiment
replenishing emotional trap
localizing asemic animal
dropping rhythmic trip
propagating immortal experiment
displaying lowercase database
invading orange bubbles
crashing animated trip
running conceptual topography
remembering collapsed buildings
crashing hyperreal coverage
propagating hyperreal stipulation
finishing western library
envisioning neon tessellation
reciprocating network likes
processing animated device
releasing haptic quality
examining building seven
awaiting rhapsodical ratio
sampling death sauce
sensing lowercase clone
examining symbolic tour
processing potential development
encapsulating spatial lottery
displaying digital paragraph
reticulating theoretical source
perpetuating western paragraph
transmitting monochromatic structure
anticipating ambient quality
transmitting asemic environment
intensifying atomic quality
remastering history poem
keeping future light
hypothesizing eternal game
using future library
rearranging masonic language
transmitting masonic development
continuing ceremonial ritual
questioning party's legitimacy
deferring western coverage
finishing asemic hypertext
mollifying ostentatious presence
synthesizing allegorical icon
forming categorical unions
sketching app wireframe
programming immortal repository
second week of September 2015
Asphyxiophilia Jul 2013
It's 3 am and you're restless again. Your thoughts wander briskly through the fields of memories of him and you find yourself picking each one and holding it delicately in your palm. The lights from the streetlamps outside your window peek through the blinds and illuminate synthetic stars onto your ceiling which you count like each kiss he ever placed on your cheek. Your legs are wrapped up in your sheets like the way they used to tangle around his ankles every evening. You roll onto your side and attempt to close your eyes once more, calling out to a peaceful slumber that has been evading you for weeks when suddenly, you hear a whistle in the distance. You open your eyes again to see the stars growing into spotlights that threaten to swallow you like black holes, but without the mystery. You immediately grab your wrists out of fear that you unconsciously took a blade to them but you are greeted by scars that have been forming for approximately three years (and eleven months). Your heart threatens to pound its fist through your chest as you slowly turn to see what the source of the light is. Just as your shoulders align with your mattress, a man steps from what appears to be a train engine and greets you with a nod of his head.
"Good evening, sleeping beauty," he begins sweetly, "I have come to extend an invitation to the night train."
You bring your hands to your eyes and attempt to wipe the hallucination away from your vision but when you open them again, you see the man gazing intently.
"It is my understanding that this is your first meeting with the night train," he states as he waits for you to supply an answer.
You nod your head.
"Well, my dear, the night train is here to offer a sweet elixir to cure this sleepless evening. You see, the night train's purpose is to supply the recipient ("that's you," he says behind his hand) exactly twenty minutes of time spent anywhere of their choosing. And then, once the time is up, the recipient must board the train once more, and will be met with approximately eight hours of uninterrupted slumber." He pauses as an assurance that you are following along, so you nod your head slightly. "However, the catch, you see, is that if the recipient does not board the train at the end of the twenty minutes, they will find themselves trapped in a restless oblivion with the promise of never again finding the comfort of sleep." A slight smile tugs at his lips as he tilts his head out of sympathy. "This may not seem to be much of a threat considering you are currently wrapped up tightly in your bed, but I assure you it will be tempting to remain within the place of your choosing, despite the whistle of the night train."
Unsure of what else to do, you nod your head once more.
"Alas, now we must be on our way, because the countdown begins in exactly three minutes! So I urge you to think quickly of where you would like to be taken!"
As though the train has suddenly run into your chest, the meaning of the opportunity that has been placed in front of you knocks the wind out of you. Before the conductor even finished his sentence, you knew exactly where you wanted to go, so you swing your legs to the side of the bed and push yourself upright.
"I would like to be taken to July 13th at precisely 2:32 in the morning," you say quickly as you flatten your restless hair to your head and straighten the t-shirt you are wearing.
"Very well, very well. Now board the train, my dear. And we'll be off to the morning of July 13th, but I urge you not to forget your time limit of twenty minutes!" He places his hand on your back and ushers you into the train, guiding you to a red velvet seat lined with golden stitching. Once you are comfortable, he disappears into the cabin and blows the whistle before pulling out of the station that is your bedroom.
With no warning at all, you feel a tightening in the pit of your stomach and before you even have time to clench, you are sitting on a rooftop overlooking a vibrant city.
"I just don't know anymore. It's like- It's like everything I once knew has been flipped upside-down and I'm just expected to be okay with it. But I'm not."
You blink a few times in an effort to adjust to the sudden deja-vu that causes your head to swim in the memory of an evening you have constantly waded in.
He is sitting with one leg tucked beneath him and the other dangling over the edge, as though even his limbs can't decide whether they want to take the fatal plunge or not. His hair was always absent of color, the kind of black that made you question the material of the universe because even the night sky couldn't compare to the degree of darkness; but it seemed to be doing just that as it laid haphazardly across his pale forehead. His bony fingers are clutching a nearly empty bottle of gin which he brings to his lips between sentences. He continues speaking as though you didn't just appear out of thin air beside him.
"My mum doesn't even pretend to understand anymore. I've heard her mention boarding school at least three times this week, despite my constant refusal to even speak of it. She knows the walls in the apartment are paper thin, so I know she brings it up because she knows I can hear it. But I don't want to hear it."
You notice the vacant look in his eyes as he stares into the horizon, like a hotel room that has been emptied of every belonging, including the light bulbs. He uses his free hand to adjust the collar of his leather jacket before taking another swig of the gin.
"I just can't stay there anymore, and she knows that. Deep down, she knows I can't stay there now that he's gone. I just can't."
His voice is as hollow as his chest as he uses his tongue to wet his lips before turning his head slightly to look at you.
"I wish you could come with me, I really do. It would be quite the adventure, the kind that we used to dream of having. But I can only afford one ticket out of town."
He places the bottle on the ledge, dangerously close to the edge, before resting his sweaty palm on your exposed thigh. His eyes travel from your legs to your forehead, and he leans forward to place a kiss on it, but he misses and falls into your lips. Just like before, your hands land on either side of his face, catching him before he falls completely, and you suddenly find yourself exploring the warm cavern of his vulnerability. His tongue swirls around your own and you taste the bite of the alcohol on his breath but this is the moment you have always craved so you soak up every bit of it. He pulls away just as your heart starts to tremble, and he wipes his mouth with his sleeve before picking the bottle up again and stealing a drink.
"I wish you could come with me," he says again, his eyes now focused on the street below. "But I fear I can only afford one ticket out of town."
Just then, you hear a whistle, but the timing isn't right. This is the moment you would have died to change, and now you've been given a second opportunity, but you can feel it slipping away.
You lean towards him, softly placing your hand on his arm.
"Come with me. We can go anywhere in the world that you please, and I promise it'll be better than here or there if we're together. Because I can't go where you're going, because I can't pay that price, but I want to go away with you, I do."
You search his empty expression, hoping to grab some string of familiarity that you can use to pull him back to reality, but his eyes are locked on the parallel lines beneath.
The whistle grows louder, this time stinging your eardrums, and you know that your time is running short, but you can't let him go.
"You don't have to go back to your apartment, you don't have to go back to your mum. We can runaway tonight, together. You and me, just the way it was always meant to be."
Your voice is shaking and desperate, getting louder with each word that you speak as the whistle blows from behind you, threatening to leave.
Just then, a hand falls upon your shoulder, and for a second you allow yourself to glance over, and it is in that second that the body before you tips over the rooftop's edge. Your heart falls like a weight in your stomach, just like on the evening this event first occurred, anchoring you to the cement and preventing you from going after him. The conductor who now stands behind you grabs your torso and pulls you backwards as you scream his name into the night sky. You kick against his hold as he drags you back onto the train and into the velvet seat again.
This time, you were unable to hear his body land on the pavement.
This time, you weren't able to look down and see his hands lying ten feet away from the rest of his body.
This time, you didn't get to perch on the edge and contemplate for hours joining him.
This time, you couldn't blame yourself for being speechless, for letting him be the star of his shining moment, because you attempted to be his Juliet.
You didn't realize you were still screaming until the conductor grabbed your shoulders with his hands and shook you quickly.
"Quiet my dear, I fear it is time to go. And I was unwilling to allow you to remain any longer, but I fear you will only be receiving six hours of peaceful slumber."
You look at him sternly, unsure how he can continue to speak of this ****** night train and its guidelines after you just watched the love of your life commit suicide for the second time.
You take a deep breath before speaking, "I don't understand the point of this, why bring me here if I couldn't change anything? Why allow me to relive this if it didn't make a difference?"
He smiles sympathetically before beginning, "oh but it did. You see, for three and a half years you have been tossing and turning, wondering what you would have done differently and if you would have been able to change it. But you see, the past isn't something that can be changed. It can only be relived again and again within the minds of those who continue to contain it, and the pain of the past and the memories that come along with it will feel just as real as the day they happened if you continue to dwell on them. Eventually you will see that tonight made a significant difference, because you were finally able to recreate the scenario that you always dreamed."
Your mind is running at a faster speed than the train as it makes its way back to your bedroom, and you can't seem to comprehend what the conductor is saying.
"So you're telling me that the whole reason behind this was to show me that he was going to die whether or not I tried to convince him otherwise?"
He places a gentle hand on your shaking shoulder and replies, "the reason behind this was to allow you to finally put the past behind you and grant yourself the pleasure of peaceful slumber. Because you see, my dear, there is no such thing as the night train. It is merely a figment of your imagination. Deep inside you, you realize that nothing you said could have changed that night, but you needed to dream another possibility in order to believe it. Now believe it."
"But I-" you begin to speak but in the blink of an eye, you're suddenly sitting on the side of your bed, your shoulders no longer shaking. You blink again, trying to make sense of everything. You bring your hands to your face and feel your cheeks, reassuring yourself that you still exist. You look around once more, noticing the stars upon your ceiling twinkling as though they are winking at you like the conductor of a mysterious night train. But you realize that you are in your bedroom, in your t-shirt, as though you never moved beyond that point. And you find that you're unsure whether it was all a dream, or whether you really did go for a ride on a night train, but you decide to lie back down and attempt to sleep anyways.
And six hours later, you find yourself awaking from a very peaceful slumber.
Love Apr 2017
Anxiety is rocking back and forth at 1am like a small frightened child.
It's slowly pulling every single hair out of your arms.
It's biting your nails, and picking at your skin.
It's those tiny snaps that make no noise.

Anxiety is taking a curve at 110 mph.

Anxiety is my red hair.
Its the first thing that people see about me, and the first thing they assume is fake.

Anxiety is puking. Having no control over your body and becoming physically ill.

Its replying to a text message .2 seconds after it was received and then turning off your phone because you don't want to see the other persons response to your swift reply.

Anxiety is noticing. Its noticing the minute changes in tone, posture, manurisims and ticks, music choices when you are around, and how often they use descriptive words that could subconsciously be describing you.

Anxiety is failed medications, after failure, after failure, after failure, after failure, after failure. You become the failure.

Anxiety is a broken record.
Knowing that everything is fine, still panicking at the drop of a pin.
Its replaying conversations you've had with others over the mental dispute of one tiny word, even years after the conversation occurred.
Its overthinking.
It's constantly wondering if your hands are in the right position, if your resting ***** face is showing, or if you have a hair on the wrong side of your part.
It's locking the door, both locks, checking the locks, leaving, turning around and checking the locks again, leaving, and then turning around to make sure the iron is off.

Anxiety is not ordering food because you don't want to talk to the wait staff, nor eat infront of others because you know you will make a mess of yourself.

Anxiety is constantly being a clumsy fool. It's things you can't control and it's faceplants on concrete.
It's making plans in advance, way in advance. It's asking your friends what their plans for New Year's Eve are, even though it's only March.
It's wanting to ask a girl out on a date, even though you have been on multiple with her, and trying to schedule it two and a half months in advance.

Anxiety is lists.
It's remembering what time you brushed your teeth this morning, but forgetting the childhood story your friend told you 5 minutes ago.
It's repeating yourself because you forget your own words from 5 minutes ago.
It's looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger.
It's waking up while driving down the road, having no clue what's went on in the past 24 hours.

Anxiety is like drinking on a hangover.
It's mental, it's physical, it's psychotic.
It's seizures, it's palpitations, it's hospital trips with whispers of a straight jacket.

Anxiety is more than being afraid of a stage, anxiety is the downfall of me.
Mimi Jan 2012
I wonder how I got here, secluded in a grimy apartment filled with smoke. We drink gin and tonics with mint like it’s the ‘20s; we sit and talk pop culture because we know. Taj has somehow become the effective authority on all of these things, paid to social network and connected to Hollywood; he’s very skilled at playing to people’s wants. My Cadillac sits intent next to me markering in a recent drawing for his newest class. He’s already famous for his graffiti, one day I’ll bet you this extra credit project will be worth money. He drew me a fox for Christmas. Valentines day is coming up. He never tells me he loves me. Jack is watching me watch him out of the corner of his eye while putting on a new remix of an old song. He leans over and asks if I like it and I nod. I feel bubbled up with *** smoke, frozen in time and vaguely uncomfortable. I’d guess this is what it’s like to be “too high.” I want Caddy to notice, but it’s Jack that’s pushing my hair back and telling me to drink more water. It’s sweet. Despite his need to be seen as a womanizer, Jack respects Caddy too much to even try with me, he looks but he doesn’t put on any faces for me. Everyone thinks so hard about how they’re seen.
Jack says his New Year’s resolution is to do less *******, even though no one asked. Everyone hears but no one reacts. I try to keep moving my toes and stop shivering. Across from me Ky and Nate are reading the encyclopedia in open-mouthed awe. In a room full of intellectual up and comers I feel like Hemmingway did when he was my age, how all the minds gravitate to each other and sit in a ***** room by the beach and let the creativity go. Like Mary Shelly and the whole gang writing Frankenstein and Dracula in the same trip.  After a while I think Taj is going to make it, Jack will be a politician and Caddy will be lost and with another woman. Ky and Nate will still be smoking and reading the encyclopedia, all the way down to ‘z’. I am like my mother: attracting the company of smart successful men who pay her selective attention.
The door burst open and the cold air stayed in my pores after it was closed. Rodger invited himself over. It would have been all right but when Rodger is wasted he forgets his manners. In his animated state he managed to kick over Caddy’s favorite smoking piece, insult Jack and look at me a little too hard. His girlfriend had immediately passed out on the couch, but she never smiled or spoke to me anyway. Her head was cradled in the lap of a girl I hadn’t noticed. Her hair was perfect and her eyes shadowed, the liner and mascara smudging its way slowly onto her high cheekbones. She stared at me but didn’t speak. I tried to smile, but didn’t want to give away the champagne sensation covering my skin, still too up to speak. She had already formed her opinion of me, some young ******* the arm of an older boy. She was once in my position, I’m sure of it, we are the same kind of beautiful and empty eyed. That doesn’t stop her from judging, in the total of 15 seconds she looked at me. Her self is tamed and mine is wild still. Unintroduced and unnoticed by the men in the room, we have an understanding and a mutual dislike of each other, only to defend ourselves.
The room takes time to settle, a bowl has been packed for an entitled Rodger, and now that everyone is calm, Cad sits back down and puts his arm around me again. I lean into him, protected and anchored, whereas I had been floating or about to puke a minute ago. I don’t know what I said but Caddy seemed annoyed when he said “Just let it happen, embrace the feeling,” and so I kept quiet for ten minutes or so. The high was infected with guilt. Next time he looked at me-- it could have been an hour—I whispered, “I can’t” and finally he heard me, and stood up.
Cad came back into my vision with a glass of water and turned on Drive, prompting Rodger, Mrs. Rodger and my pretty enemy to leave. Ky and Nate had gone long before I could focus on noticing. Taj left for trivia night down at the bar and no doubt some girl; wrapped up in a cashmere scarf and cardigan he kissed my cheek before he went. Jack also took his graceful leave with the Rodger group to woo some girl who knew exactly what she was doing to herself. He did have a straight nosed charm, Jack. I could not blame this girl, one of many (I am embarrassed for her; I have been like this ******* many occasions).  
Taj had been sent the advanced copy of Drive in blu-ray, so we snuck it from his room and watched it that way (the only way Taj would see movies now, it is the future (for now)). Kavinsky came through Cad’s new speakers the boys had spent half an hour trying to wire earlier in the night. “They’re taking about you boy/but you’re still the same” crooned Lovefoxxx as Ryan Gosling cruised down a street, ****** intense in driving gloves. Gears shifting and motors growling are very ****, I tell Cadillac so into his ear, as he pulls me into his arms and covers me up with a blanket.
The movie was perfect, maybe because it made me feel less dizzy and sickguilty (Cad knew it would) and maybe because Ryan Gosling can wear a white satin jacket. I loved it, hardly noticing when the absent roommate Travis strolled in with Taj and tacos somewhere around 2am.  Colder as Caddy got up for a burrito, left me alone on the couch for the kitchen table. Registering Taj taking his place, playing with my curls and talking Hollywood to me. I’m staring over at Cad in his chair, he makes eye contact once or twice and I blow him a kiss before Taj repositions my head toward the television and my ear back where he can speak into it.
Eventually Cadillac taps Taj on the shoulder and motions for him to get up. With Cad back I can relax and I fall into sleep just as the movie ends. Taj and Trav have gone to their own beds and Cad leans over me, picks me up and takes me to bed knocking my elbow on the doorframe along the way. He apologizes and kisses my head but I am too tired to care. He lays me down on the bed with crimson sheets and takes off my boots but then sternly says, “Mimi, you are not a child.” and so I must get up and undress myself. He wraps me in a duvet missing its cover and his arms. I trust him long enough to fall asleep.

-

Standing in front of the stove it was hot, but I am easily overheated. He came up behind me and said in my ear, “you’re lovely” watching me put the last piece of French toast on the large stack, getting ready to scramble eggs. He kissed my cheek. Then my neck and then my lips, taking me away from my cooking to be pulled against him, for a sweet short minute and went back to the living room with his friends. Jack had mysteriously reappeared in the night; he said he locked himself out of his apartment after leaving to see one of his girls. Taj just sat and blasted Radiohead over the new speakers, shouting something relevant at me. I scramble the eggs and make up plates, two pieces of toast each and a nice healthy pile of eggs. It is gone very quickly and no one says thank you, except for a smile from Caddy and a kiss on the forehead. It’s usually enough for me, knowing he likes to show me off to his friends. I sit down with my cup of coffee and plate, within a few minutes Cad suggests he takes me home. I resentfully take time to finish my coffee. But we are both busy and he is right, so I say goodbye to the boys and gather my things. We drive with the “best MC on the game these days” (so I am told) over the weak speakers of the car. Cad drives with his arm around me always. Cruising into my building’s parking lot I lean over for a kiss on my forehead, nose, lips. He says go, but his hand still sits on my shoulder so I stay for a little longer. “You’ll probably have to let go of me if it’s time for me to go Cad,” I say quietly, with a tentative smile on my face. He grins back and lifts his arm. I slide out of the suicide seat and smile at him, but he’s looking at the radio dials. Then my face. His eyes give him away, softened around the edges with affection. Maybe love, but he’d never say it and I refuse to say it until he does. I try not to think about it much as he drives away to smoke up again with his friends. I wonder if this is how it will always be, but then I realize our kind of “always” is only the next few months. I turned unsteadily and walked up the stairs to my empty room—dark and overheated smelling heavily of sugar and spice candles-- with the geese outside my window for company. I haven’t slept here for days.
Madisen Kuhn Sep 2014
i want to dye
my hair and tattoo my skin
so that the changes
you’ve been noticing in me
look like they’re
on purpose.
Kennedy Taylor Dec 2014
When did I get so cynical?
Was it when promises were broken?
Did it happen once you left?
When you left my wounds open?
Was it when you left me bereft?

Was it when I saw what people did?
Did it happen after noticing your vie?
When you made that dishonest bid?
Was it when all you did was belie?

Was it when plans were changed?
Did it happen when I was manipulated?
When you made me feel so estranged?
Was it when I was left debilitated?

When did I get so cynical?
Was it when I left promises broken?
Did it happen once I left?
When I saw your wounds open?
Was it when my wake left you bereft?

Was it when I saw what I did?
Did it happen after noticing my vie?
When I made those dishonest bids?
Was it when all I did was belie?

Was it when I made plans change?
Did it happen once I manipulated?
When I made people feel estranged?
Was it when I made you debilitated?
When did I get so cynical?
Michael Hoffman Dec 2011
From noticing comes attraction
from attraction comes desire
from desire comes touching and tasting
from touching and tasting comes craving
from craving comes attachment
from attachment comes expectation
from expectation comes disappointment
from disappointment comes resentment
from resentment comes pain
from pain comes anger
from anger comes frustration
from frustration comes unhappiness
from unhappiness comes isolation
from isolation comes loneliness
from loneliness comes despair
from despair comes boredom
from boredom comes  silence
from silence comes acceptance
from acceptance comes healing
from healing comes a new life
and then from that new life comes noticing
and from noticing comes attraction
and from attraction comes desire
and if you are lucky
you recognize the game.
jeffrey conyers Aug 2014
You don't know much about me.
So, let me introduce myself.

I'm that man you notice.
But never took the time to meet.

I'm that man you've seen.
But always afraid to speak.
So, let me introduce myself.

If you have a minute.
Or even the time to give.

It has been said that closed mouth don't get fed.
Which I will spin into a quiet mouth won't get heard.

You notice me noticing you.
So , now I making my pledge for your hand.
So, let me get to know you.

Before long.
I will be your man.
Frank Brown Aug 2012
Seven or eight people lounged about in a small back room. I had no expectations before arriving so I’m neither surprised nor disappointed by what I discover.  I find myself sat in one of those reclining gaming chairs and think “This must be the best chair in the room”.

Just playing it cool. I don’t know anyone here. There’re a few guys playing the Xbox. I eye them over, none of them look to challenge my presence, either too engrossed in the screen, or intimidated in some way. To my left sit the women in the place. I have their attention. Relief that the journey here wasn’t in vein, I give them all a nod and a smile. I casually introduce myself, and then find myself playing on the Xbox. I know I can’t play, but that’s the act. I ask what buttons to press, and laugh at my own hopelessness, eventually relinquishing the controller. It soon finds its way back into my hands. By this time, some bird is sat up on the arm next to me. She’s watching my actions, how I take command of the situation. Why don’t I take command of her? Sitting and waiting has never been a good tactic. I pass the controller over to her and say a few words in an attempt to get the conversation rolling. The drink clouds my thoughts and I forget that I’m talking to her. In the distance I hear them remark, “He’s a cool guy.”

I sit, reclined, legs outstretched, coat open revealing buttoned collar, slicked back hair, that look of pure relaxation in ones surroundings. She’s diggin’ it. I know she’s digging it. Her leg starts to press into my arm, and then her hands are down by my side. Commotion in the room. Some fat ***** needs to make her presence known. Everyone chilled. She obviously wants the attention. Not my type. She leaves for an upstairs room, and moments later, a spliff finds its way into my hands, courtesy of the girls to my left. I take a few drags, telling myself not to get too high; too late for that. I pass it on and fall back into the chair. Forgot I hadn’t smoked in a month.

Still a laid back guy, although not sure if it’s a choice anymore. I know it’s taking me over now. Slowly, I find myself entering that zone where weeds been taking me lately. Thoughts of everything; no filter; the need to verbalize things. Suddenly I’m Mr Charismatic, and you are all my audience, whether you like it or not. I stopped caring or stop noticing people’s reactions and forget about myself. I let my ego out to play, unregulated by the discipline of consciousness.

There are people in the room. Pretty sure they weren’t here earlier. One of them says something to me. “Is he been aggressive?” I think to myself. Judging from the tone of my reply, I obviously felt the need to establish my position. Taking no **** from these guys it seems; I’m still the Don in the room. Remember myself, remember the girl. Mr Cool again.

Filling up water in the kitchen, find myself chatting to random guys. Banter flying around the place. She’s watching me. Some powder is under my nose. “Kind of you to offer, but that better not be ket.” Turns out it was Mandy. Can’t say no to a bump. Pretty sure I’m the most ****** in the room right now, but I’m riding it well. Door frame seems like a necessity to keep me upright. Don’t want to brave the assault course back to the recliner, plus, I’m talking to the guys in the kitchen, don’t want to walk away.

We’re meeting J’s bird in thirty minutes. Twenty minutes. Five minutes ago. “We’ll go in five minutes.” She’s there again. Her presence known to me. She's up against me, but time is also against me. Too ****** up to keep playing this game. We’re leaving now. Out the door, I attempt to say a few words as we leave. My eloquence abandons me and leaves me in the ****. Flag a taxi; turns out we’ve booked one. Send him on his way. Tip the driver more than I can afford.
DJ Thomas Dec 2010

Bride of the desert
the indomitable town
Solomon’s Kingdom

            
Lost in history, I wander through a city that was fortified by King Solomon, raided by Mark Antony and ruled by Queen Zenobia who made it the capital of an empire, only to be captured herself and paraded through Rome in gold chains.

Civilisation upon civilisation are entombed within Tadmur; in a huge plain of carved stone blocks, massive columns arched in rows or standing alone, a Romanesque theatre, senate and baths, dominated by a great temple whose origin dates back four thousand years.

Due to a clever mistranslation from Arabic by the euro-centric traveller who ‘discovered’ Palmyra, the city also has a modern name.

Here for millennia, a tribe of Bedu have camped within the folds of these desert steppes and blackened Tadmur’s ruins with their camp fires, to trade camels or herd goats and sheep. Walking the divide between city, desert and the more fertile steppes, I search for their surviving descendants and find a black woven goat’s hair tent with its edges raised to capture a cooling breeze.

Hamed and his sons, huge and wary of foreigners, welcome me to sit within on  carpets and then graciously serve dates with innumerable small glasses of tea. I indicate ‘enough’ in the traditional manner by rolling my right hand and the empty glass. Hamed continues to voice his concerns about the lack of feed for their sheep and the prices achieved at market. I readily succumb to several small cups of greenish Arabic coffee, before being allowed to take my leave.

For millennia the wealth of this city was based on tariffs levied on goods flowing out of the desert aboard swaying camel caravans. Today, these once proudly fierce tribal Bedu no longer breed, train or ride camels.

The Bedu greatly prize their reputation and the respect of their peers. Their traditions are the foundation of these small tribal communities and may predate Islam;  a life now undermined by borders, nationalism, government settlement plans, conscription, war, television and tourism.
                                         *+     +     +      +      +

Black torn empty shells
swept by Mount Lebanon’s shade
Cannabis Valley

As I recall a haiku of ‘images’ of  my very first journey to Damascus, from war-torn Beirut through the lushness of the Bekaa;

in the here and now
a dark suit and Mercedes
cross the Euphrates

Defence Minister, Rifaat al-Assad is in town with his fifty thousand strong Defence Companies, complete with tanks, planes and helicopters.  A coup d’état is in progress to assure Rifaat’s succession to the Presidency of his older brother Hafiz al-Assad, now recovering from a heart attack.

Last year, Rifaat massacred some forty thousand Syrian citizens when he ordered the shelling of the city of Hama. Nobody in Damascus will be underestimating him.

All political and military power is in the hands of the al-Assads and key generals, who command the military and police. The majority of whom are of the Alawite minority Muslim faith from the rural districts near Latakia in the North. Before their revolution, governments came and went in weeks.

My friend Elias is allied to Rifaat’s cause, by simply doing business with the son. Now he and his family share the risks and dangers of this coup failing and stand to lose a fortune. Monies paid locally in Syrian pounds for goods delivered to government agencies.

Elias’s connection with Rifaat and Latakia, as well as his confident presence, humour and love of life, still allows us easy access to the Generals’ Club. Sadly, there is to be no table and floorshow, but a closed meeting with two senior Generals, where we learn that Hafiz has recovered enough to take charge and is now locked in discussions with his younger brother.

The decision is therefore made for us. We say our goodbyes and drive to Latakia.

On Sunday Elias meets his brothers, then with his family, we visit his parents small holding and enjoy a meal together. A wonderful fresh mezza that includes my favourite, courgettes stuffed with ground lamb and rice, in a yogurt sauce. Syrian food is amazingly healthy and my cuisine of choice.

It is a cloudless Monday morning, as I, Elias, his wife and children drive into the docks to board an old 46 foot motor cruiser. Huge cases are stowed as I make my inspection, then start the twin diesels and switch on the over-the-horizon radar. Our early departure is critical. We cast off and the Mate steers for the harbour entrance below the cliffs that guard it. As the Mediterranean lifts our bow in greeting, the disembodied voice of the Harbour Master tells us to return as we do not have permission to sail.

Ignoring the order, I increase our speed through the short choppy surf. We are sailing under the Greek Cypriot flag and in an hour I hope to be out of territorial waters.  At 14 knots we are a slow target.

Fifteen nautical miles from the coast of Syria, I leave the mate to follow a bearing for Larnaca. Elias has opened a bottle of Black Label. I quaff a glassful.

Later noticing a noisy vibration and diagnosing a bent prop shaft, I shut down the starboard engine. Our speed is now a steady 8 knots, so I decide on a new heading to discern more quickly the shadow of the Cypriot coastline on the radar screen.

Midway, the mate and Elias begin babbling about a small vessel ahead and four separate armoured boxes encircling it. Ugly Israeli high speed gun boats or worse, Lebanese pirates. Should they board us and find stowed riches, we will be killed.

Leaving the Mate to maintain our course, I go on deck to play the ‘European Owner’.  The vessel they have trapped is long and lean with three tall outboard motors but no crew are in sight.  Leaving them astern, our choice of vessel now fully exonerated, I and Elias throw another whisky ‘down the hatch’.

With us holding the correct bearing, I ask Elias to wake me as soon as we near Cyprus. Feeling utterly exhausted I collapse into a bunk.  

I wake unbidden, to find the Mate steering for the harbour entrance. Shouldering him aside, I spin the wheel to bring the vessel about. Shaking, I ask them why there are minarets on the ‘church’ and did they not notice our being observed from the top of the harbour's hillock, below which a fast patrol boat is anchored?  The Mate sprints to the Greek Cypriot flag and is hugging it to his chest; Elias wisely prays.

I command the wheel as we motor directly away from the port of Famagusta and Turkish held Northern Cyprus. We later change bearing and pass tourist beaches, it is night fall before we moor-up in Larnaca.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Later that same year I am called to a last urgent meeting in Cyprus with Elias. He calmly tells me that he will be arrested when he rejoins his family, who have returned to Syria. Elias asks me to take full control of his Cypriot Businesses, then returns home and ‘disappears’ with his brothers.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Since sacking the two Arab General Managers when they tried to get control of the bank accounts, it has taken more than six months to locate the prison holding all the brothers. We obtain the release of all except Elias, who has been tortured.  We then ‘purchase’ him the exclusive use of the Prison Governor's quarters and twenty four hour access for Elias’s family, nurses and doctors.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Over the last two years, I have honoured my promises and expanded trade as far as Pakistan. Elias is still imprisoned.
                                         *
+     +     +      +      +
haibun of a late twentieth century travelogue
copyright©DJThomas@inbox.com 2010
Erin Hankemeier May 2014
The roses aren't as pretty
The sun isn't quite as high
The birds don't sing as sweet of a lullaby
The stars are a little bit faded
The clouds are just a little more gray
And it feels like things won't ever be the same

Heaven got another angel the night you left this world behind
Heaven got a little better the day that it took you away from me
I'm missing you tonight
I'll see you again sometime
For now, I'll close my eyes
And dream of heaven tonight

The beaches aren't as lovely
The sky isn't quite as blue
Still, they're sweetened by the memory of you
The rain is a little bit colder
The fire is never quite as warm
Still, it seems that heaven isn't all that far

Heaven got another angel the night you left this world behind
Heaven got a little better the day that it took you away from me
I'm missing you tonight
I'll see you again sometime
For now, I'll close my eyes
And dream of heaven tonight

I'm spending a little more time now with the things that mean a little bit more
I'm noticing the wonders of this world
I love with a little more hope now
I live with a little more peace
Cause I understand how precious life can be

Heaven got another angel the night you left this world behind
Heaven got a little better the day that it took you away from me
I'm missing you tonight
I'll see you again sometime
For now, I'll close my eyes
And dream of Heaven tonight
This song I found on Youtube a while ago. I cry every time I hear this song. Gordon True's voice is mesmerizing and beautiful. This song is about a man who lost a loved one. He says that nothing will ever be the same on Earth, but Heaven got another Angel that day. He misses her, but he knows that he will see her soon. So for now, he will close his eyes and dream of heaven. Later he realizes, the world is still beautiful. He is filled with hope and peace. He now understands how precious life is.

I recited this piece a few years ago for a speech competition. Everybody in the room was in tears. Everybody has loved people who have passed on, but knowing you will see them again makes everything better. during my performance, I thought of my loved ones, and I started crying in the middle of my performance, but I finished with my head held high and mind filled with wonder. I also finished with a perfect score, but the score did not matter much to me.

Here is the link to the Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7JKOGAuPSs

Enjoy!
Amarys Dejai Jul 2018
Isn’t is strange how we notice things when it is too late?
This is probably the last time that all of us will be in the car together. There will be no more midnight drives from hillside theatres. No more 2am dinner plans at kerbey lane.
This is the first time that I have noticed that you twirl your hair when you drive. My eyes have shifted from cityscapes flying across backseat windows to watching you wrap your hair around your finger.
It’s not slow and flirtatious, but quick and desparate, as if you're trying to distract yourself from the fact that we are growing up. It’s making me anxious, but I can’t look away.
This is the first time that I noticed the change in our silence. We are driving down nearly empty highways, and we are leaving behind our time. We are no longer laughing, and this silence doesn’t feel like it usually does. For once, none of us have anything to say. Or maybe, we know that there is not enough time to say all of the things that we should and want to say.
This is when I noticed how much I love driving down empty highways at midnight. Everything is slow, there is no rush, and, for once, there are no expectations of me.
I am finally, truly noticing that there will never be enough time to tell you all that I love you,
to hear you talk about science,
to hear about your travels,
to talk to you about your struggles,
to drive, and laugh, and cry with you,
to watch you twirl you hair.
Now, we have grown up, and our distances will strain our years of friendships,
and there will never be enough time with you.
Kewayne Wadley Aug 2018
I love listening to you.
In any way possible.
Whether it's big or small.
Sometimes I get lost in not just the words you speak.
But the actions that follow.
I hate interrupting.
Adding on to previous statements.
Until I know that your completely done.
Not wanting to make you feel unappreciated.

My hands following yours in the deepest form of flattery.

Open ended questions that lead to hour after hour of communication.
My fondness for you growing deeper and deeper.
At times I can't help but interrupt.

Our pauses taking a bit longer after each statement.
It's the anticipation that I want you to know.
That I am listening and take to heart what you are saying.
Stretching myself to cover every part of you.

Completely attentive excited that you'd consider my opinion.
To sit back and reflect without jumping to conclusion.
The one thing that I can do to improve myself.
To love you better.
To accept any and every change that may occur.

A safe place where we can do and say anything without being judged.
I love listening to you.
Specifically without interrupting.
Noticing how happy you are being heard.
With the intent of hearing what you are truly saying.
I appreciate you for truly understanding that if I do interrupt
It's truly the sole purpose of how much I care
kevin morris Jan 2014
This is a fictional account of the abuse suffered by a young boy. Any resemblance to persons either living or dead is purely coincidental.
Chapter 1

Lady Macbeth remarked “Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil”. All children have their terrors. The bogeyman who lurks in dark corners patiently waiting to harm the unwary child. The ghost who haunts the attic where, even on a bright sunny day the child fears to go alone or some unspeakable terror, a horror with no name which lies just below the surface of every day life. In my case the ghoul who cast an all pervasive shadow over my childhood was Colin, a man small in stature but, to a child a monster of epic proportions.
I have, on occasions tried to comprehend why my abuser acted as he did. As a boy I had no desire to understand Colin. I hated him with an all consuming loathing. He was the devil incarnate who, if it had been in my power to do so I would have destroyed with as little compunction as a man would show when exterminating a rat. As an adult the hatred remains although now tempered with a desire to understand why Colin abused a small, defenceless child, physically and mentally over a prolonged period.
Was Colin abused by one (or both) of his parents? And, if so does this help to explain (but in no way excuse) why he took such great delight in inflicting pain on me? I met both of Colin’s parents and stayed with them on several occasions. At no time during those visits was I subjected to any kind of abuse. This does not of course prove that Colin’s mother and father where not abusers. It demonstrates that they did not abuse me, no more, no less. However, looking back at my visits to their home and, in particular the fact that neither of Colin’s parents abused me, I am inclined to believe that he was not ill treated by either of them. So what turned Colin into the monster who took delight in twisting my arm so hard behind my back that I thought it would break? The answer is, I have no idea. What turned apparently normal Germans into mass murderers in ******’s *****? The answer is the same, I don’t know. As with the concentration camp guards who committed mass ****** I can speculate that some where subjected to abuse as children and that this led to them becoming psychopathic killers. However not all of those abused in childhood go on to commit abuse, while many in the SS experienced apparently happy childhoods untroubled by abuse. Colin may have been abused by someone other than his parents but even if this is the case this does not explain or justify why he became an abuser.

Chapter 2

I was born on 7 February 1971 in the north of England. Soon after my birth it became apparent that all was not right with Donald Myers. I cried far more than any normal child ought to. In addition I banged my head against hard surfaces on a frequent basis which, obviously gave rise to concern. My mum, as any good mother would took me to the hospital only to be told that there was nothing amiss. However a mother’s instinct told her that something was terribly wrong with her son. She refused to leave the hospital and demanded a second opinion. This was provided by a Polish doctor who, having examined me diagnosed a blood clot on the brain. My distraught family was informed that I required an urgent operation and even if the blood clot was successfully removed I was likely to be severely mentaly disabled. Fortunately the blood clot was removed and I am not mentally deficient. The clot did, however leave me with very poor vision (I am registered blind and use a guide dog as a mobility aid although I possess useful vision which assists with orientation).

Chapter 3

As a young boy I spent a great deal of time with my grandfather. This was due to my sister, Janet being ill and my mum not being able to look after 2 young children simultaneously.
I have fond memories of playing in what I called “the patch”, a piece of the garden which my grandfather allowed me to do with as I chose. I recall making mud pies and coming into the house caked in mud literally from head to toe.
Being blind I relied on my grandfather to read to me. Most weekends found us in a book shop. Whenever I walk into W H Smiths the scent of books brings back happy memories of time spent with my grandfather, me sitting on his knee as he read to me.
My grandfather was a dear, kind gentle man. Had he known how Colin was abusing me he would, I am sure have gone straight to the nearest police station to report him. However he never knew and, being a small child I never confided in him.
I am amazed when I hear people ask “why didn’t so and so report the abuse?” As a small child I was terrified of Colin. Had I told anyone I was sure that he would deny everything and the abuse would intensify. I was not aware of the existence of the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Children (NSPCC) and even had I known of their existence I would, as a frightened little boy have lacked the courage to pick up the phone and call. Colin would, no doubt have accused me of lying and in the 1970’s and 1980’s children where rarely believed when making alegations of abuse.

Chapter 4

I used to dread leaving the safety of my grandfather’s home to spend time with Colin and my mother. My heart would sink when Colin or my mum came to collect me from my grandfather’s. On one occasion I deliberately dropped the car keys behind the kitchen worktop in the forlorn hope this would prevent my mum taking me to stay with her and Colin. Oh vain hope, the keys where discovered and I found myself in the lair of the abuser.
Colin took care never to abuse me in the presence of others. He was, however adept at tormenting me when my mum or other people where nearby but couldn’t see what he was doing. One incident is indelibly etched on my memory. I was sitting on the sofa, in the living room. The room opened straight out into the street and I was seated close to the front door. My mum called to me from outside asking whether I wanted to accompany her to the supermarket. I replied “yes” but before I could leave to join her Colin, who was sitting on the same sofa twisted my arm behind my back and whispered that I should tell my mum that I had changed my mind. I continued to attempt to leave but Colin increased the pressure saying that if I didn’t inform my mum that I had changed my mind he would break my arm. Naturally I called to my mum that I no longer wished to go with her and she left without me.
Being outside my mum did not see the abuse taking place a mere few feet from where she was standing.
On another occasion, while Colin and I where sitting in the living room, he forced a chipped mug into my lip which drew blood. Again my mum was present in the kitchen, which was located next to the living room but did not observe the abuse. On entering the living room and noticing the scar a few minutes later she enquired what had caused it. At this point in time I don’t recollect whether Colin put the lie into my mouth or whether I concocted the story in order to avoid further abuse. In any case I informed my mum that I had cut myself with a chipped mug, a version of events she accepted.  
At times I thought that I was going to die. No small boy likes washing but I used to dread bathing due to Colin’s own unique method of assisting me to wash. This consisted of holding my head under the water so that my nose and mouth filled and I felt as though I was going to die. I would emerge, terrified coughing and spluttering.
Colin obviously derived tremendous pleasure from half suffocating me. On numerous occasions he would place a cushion or pillow over my face and hold it there until I felt that I was about to die. Years later when I attended counselling with the mental health charity Mind, the counsellor asked me why I thought that Colin had not killed me? I replied that he probably derived more pleasure from having a living child to torment than he would have gained had he murdered me. Also, had he murdered me the prospect of detection and Colin spending a long period in prison would, I said have acted as a disincentive to  him taking my life. .  
Colin was a sadist. In adition to systematically abusing me he also abused my mum. I remember him hitting her on a regular basis and on at least one occasion pushing her down the stairs. He was (and is) a ******* of the first order.
Colin didn’t confine his cruelty to people. I recall him flinging the family cat at me. The poor animal stuck out it’s claws to gain purchase with the result that it scratched my face badly. Like all bullies Colin was, at bottom a coward. I never once saw him abuse the family dog. I am sure that this was not out of any affection for the animal, rather it stemmed from the fear that had he done so the dog would, quite naturally have bitten it’s tormentor in self defence. Oh how I wished that the dog had sunk his teeth into Colin.          

Chapter 5

We all have nightmares. As a young boy one of my recurring bad dreams concerned being chased by a hoover. To anyone unfamiliar with the abuse inflicted on me the relating of my dream will, no doubt result in mirth. However my nightmare was no laughing matter as to me the vacuum cleaner was a thing of terror. We owned an upright hoover which Colin would, periodically place on my head while the motor was running. I well recall the terror as the wheels of the machine ran across my head. Colin was nothing if not inventive as in addition to putting a working vacuum cleaner on my head he also made me hold the machine above my head. My arms would ache terribly but I dare not put the hoover down until ordered to do so by Colin. For many years following the ending of the abuse “the chasing hoover dream”, as I refered to it stubbornly refused to go away. While the nightmare no longer plagues my sleeping brain, whenever I use a vacuum cleaner the recollection of a terrified little child being tortured by a hoover comes back to me.
In another of my childhood nightmares I would enter the spare bedroom only to be grabbed by a clicking monster which wrapped it’s hands around my neck attempting to strangle me.
Colin choked me on numerous occasions. One incident remains vividly imprinted on my memory. It was evening and my mum, sister, Colin and I sat in the living room. All of the family accept for me where watching television. I was listening to a talking book about a footballer which contained many amusing stories. I laughed uproariously throughout much of the book. Later on that evening, following the departure of my mum and sister to bed Colin choked me telling me never to laugh like that again as I had “disturbed” people. As I recall Colin’s strangling of me the old terrors reassert themselves. At the time I felt that I had, perhaps done something wrong. However the logical part of my brain told me that I had done nothing whatever to justify Colin’s barbaric treatment of me. He ought to have gone to prison for that incident alone. He was (and remains) the personification of evil to me. To this day I can, on occasions feel self conscious about giving in to the natural desire to laugh at a great joke when in the company of friends. I can (and do) let myself go and laugh uproariously but Colin remains in the background, like Banquo’s ghost putting a dampener on the feast.

Chapter 6

Colin possessed considerable charm which is, perhaps how he came to entrap my mum into marrying him. I remember sitting around the dinner table with guests present and Colin holding forth on Charles Darwin amongst other topics. Although not university educated Colin was by no means unintelligent and could, if one was unfamiliar with his propensity to abuse, appear to be charm itself, a man whom it would be a pleasure to have over for dinner.      

Colin possessed the capacity to make people laugh which he used to devastating effect when making barbed comments at the expense of my mum. I hated him for his comments but laughed none the less which is proof of the idea that hostages frequently try to please their captors by forming some kind of relationship with them. I can not at this juncture in my life recall in detail how, precisely Colin undermined the confidence of my mum, I suspect that this inability on my part stems from the fact that I was, quite naturally concerned with my own suffering and the abuse perpetrated on my mum was of secondary concern. My own pain preoccupied me. I had little time for that of others.

Chapter 7

My counsellor and my dear friend, Barry have raised the issue as to whether my mum was aware of the abuse to which Colin was subjecting me. I have thought about this question long and hard and I still can not provide a categoric answer. I am sure that my mum never actually observed Colin in the act of abusing me. She was, as explained in the forgoing chapters, never in the same room when the abuse took place. The fact that her son showed a profound disinclination to be alone with Colin should though have caused alarm bells to start ringing. Colin was clever. The only time I can recollect when he caused me to bare a physical manifestation of abuse was the incident of the chipped cup related earlier. On all other occasions the marks where deep psychological wounds not visible to the casual observer.
I have tried discussing the abuse with my mum. Her reaction has osilated between stating that the abuse occurred a long time ago and that I ought to forgive and forget, to questioning whether it did, in fact take place. My gut feeling is that my mum does not doubt my veracity. The anger she manifested on discovering that I had informed my wife of the abuse perpetrated by Colin demonstrates that she does not doubt me.
Shortly prior to my wife and I separating we went to stay with my mum and sister. One morning my mum, my daughter and I went for a walk during the course of which my mum received a call from my sister. Janet said that my wife, Louise had told her that I had informed Louise of the abuse to which I had been subjected to by Colin. My mum rounded on me asking “why the hell I had told Louise about the abuse”. There ensued a blazing argument during which my mum hit me. On returning home the argument continued with Janet stating that I should talk to Colin about the situation. The fact that Janet did not defend Colin and state that he couldn’t, possibly have abused me indicates that she was, to some extent aware of the abuse.
I love my mum deeply and have no doubt that she loves me. Yet whenever we are together the elephant in the room (Colin) stands between us, seen by both but mentioned by neither. In my case I fear the eruption of a blazing argument. I have always shyed away from arguments which is, I suspect down to me having grown up in a family in which vilence and arguments where commonplace. As a small boy I developed strategies for minimising the likelyhood of being abused. My main strategy was to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. I became a master at sitting quietly, not speaking unless I was spoken to and doing everything in my power not to antagonise Colin. While I don’t fear being physically abused by my mum I shrink in terror at the prospect of a verbal tyraid eminating from her.
In my mum’s case she does, I believe feel guilty due to her not having protected her son from Colin. The fact that she refuses to discuss the abuse to which I was subjected shows her inability to acknowledge to me her own sense of culpability at her failure to prevent Colin’s behaviour. On at least one occasion my mum has told me that the abuse could not have taken place as, if it had she would have been aware of it. This is contradicted by her statement (refered to earlier) that it was a long time ago and I ought to “forgive and forget”. Both statements can not be correct and in her heart of hearts my mum knows that I am telling the truth, she lacks the courage to admit her own failings and apologise to me.      

Chapter 8

At this distance in time I can not pinpoint the precise point at which the physical abuse stopped. At some indeterminate point (I think during my early teens) I began to challenge Colin’s behaviour. I remember wishing to join a social club and Colin informing me that I could not do so. Full of fear and trepidation I said that I would join to
katie Jan 2016
The willow hangs,
drapes the ground,
dances to a tune
unheard in the hum
of cars and lorries,
in the commotion of
people passing in a
hurry, barely noticing
anything more than the
phones tapped with
fingers & thumbs.
But I notice,
I see it all,
the dance on display,
the symbol of sanity
I need today.
Egaeus Thompson Dec 2012
Here.
Attempting to write something
To match your eyes.

Something that will make you see things
The way I see things.

Noticing.
Every mark.
Torn by  fences climbed
To get away from those who didn't take your hand
And fly.
They left intricate laddered rips in your jeans,
Though you try to hide the fact that you know,
That I know that is the case.

We play childish games of denial
Because all romance is to be transported to a time when we were innocent.

Back to a place where ‘I love you’ is what your parents said
When all the screaming, laughter
And the innocence of loud noises stop
And is replaced by silence.

‘I love you’ made that warm feeling
Growing and radiating out
Eventually finding the tips of your fingers and ends of your toes
And bursting out,
Moving through to the next person you touch.


Contrary to popular practice,
‘I love you’ is not just three words to be said
When you are trying to break the awkward silences
Left between two people who have simply gotten used to each other.



I love red licorice.
It gives me a warm feeling of sugary goodness.
Though artificial,
In the times when the weight of the world is the weight of your sheets
That lay a top of your body
Which you tell yourself over and over and over
It is not good enough for that person
Who gives you the inner warmth
That a campfire gives your shins;
I find that artificial red licorice warmth is good enough.
And sometimes good enough is the best we can get.

Here.
In the hope that the words that must be said
Stream from ink to page.
I hope my hand moves so fast over the page
That smoke starts flowing and my words mean something...



But no words come.
No letters.
No ink scratches the page.





*I just want you to see the way I do.

— The End —