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Fearless
PART 1
Chapter 1
It was cold. Freezing. The first day of the winter chill had started here in Washington. There was a semi-secluded high school deep in the woods, holding some two thousand high school students.
Professor Thompson, a younger teacher, was yelling again, "If I see another one of you punks rolling in here halfway through class, I swear I'm going to fail each and every one of you!" Alexei grinned, his eyes closed, mouthing out the exact same phrase in unison with the teacher. His "pack" snickered behind him, nine boys and girls all dressed in dark clothes with varying levels of oddity. They were a small part of the senior class at Liberty High, and had the reputation as dangerous, rebellious punks. They embraced the title, knowing how true it was. They were Lycans. Shape shifters. Werewolves. They all meant the same thing. When they were young, around fifteen, they would have had their first shift. They would turn into Dire Wolves, about twice as large as your normal gray wolf.  During their first transformation, they would be guided to an alpha who would help them transition to the new life, teaching them how to shift at will and how to survive. In this case, Alexei was the alpha and this was his territory.
Alexei stood at exactly six feet tall, was light skinned and was built like an animal, lean and muscular. His straight hair was jet black and ended in a flurry of blood red tips that lay hidden under a heavy black jacket and a hood lined with white fur. Alexei generally kept his eyes closed unless he was angry or upset, using his enhanced hearing and smell to navigate. "Hunter, eyes forward!" Alexei turned his head slightly to the left, where Hunter sat, or rather slept. Alexei heard his pack mate wake up in a daze and groan, "What? I'm still in class? Man this *****." His green hair bounced in front of his eyes, tickling his nose and making him sneeze.
Alexei grinned, flashing his long canines and the rest of the Pack laughed quietly amongst themselves. "Alexei... would you mind keeping your cronies under control, please?" He opened his eyes slightly, their golden glow piercing the darkness of the hood like slivers of fire. The pack immediately went silent.
"Why of course, professor. We wouldn't want to disturb the lecture now would we?" His powerful voice dripped acidic sarcasm, laced with a deadly seriousness. "Right guys?" The question hung dead I'm the air for a few heartbeats.
When no response came, he turned his head sharply, his piercing eyes fully open. "Right?!" His voice boomed throughout the room like thunder and a collection of nervous, 'yes sir, yes alpha' rang out quietly. He closed his eyes again and said, "All yours, professor."
Just bear with it guys, its the last class of the day.
He heard another person's voice flutter into his thoughts. but, alpha, it was Leiks, one of the betas. its snowing... we want to go out.
He growled slightly, And you think I don't? You know how this works, Leiks.
He heard her whimper slightly in submission, backing out of his thoughts. She fidgeted in her seat in the back row, looking out the window at the puffy white flakes cascading down around the school. Her blonde hair ended in purple curls that bounced around her chest. She was shorter, around five foot four inches tall, and was one of the three betas in Alexei's pack. The other two were the twins, Ruby and Sapphire, whose hair was black and ended in red and blue respectively. They rarely spoke to others out loud, keeping their thoughts to themselves. The other four were all deltas or omegas.
Alexei caught a hint of something in the air, it smelled like a sweet musk mixed with crisp apples. The smell sent a tingle up and down his spine for a few moments before settling. He growled softly in his throat, grinning.
Smell something, alpha?, it was Leiks.
Yeah... maybe...
He grinned and felt warm all over, however more impatient to get outside.
Professor Thompson continued with his lecture on mythology, talking about the classic horror creatures like vampires and werewolves. He focused awfully ******* the latter, going on and on about lycanthropy and the horrible nature of werewolves.
Alexei bared his fangs in a silent growl, gripping the edge of his desk hard enough to make it creak in dismay. What does he know.... he hasn't been through it.... he hasn't seen his friends die in front of him… An image flashed before his eyes of a bloodied white wolf lying before him, whimpering helplessly as its crimson blood steamed against the snow. His anger lasted only a second before a hand tenderly gripped his shoulder. His eyes flashed open and he gasped slightly. He snapped his gaze over his shoulder at the pack, their eyes wide and locked on him, emanating dread. The hand belonged to Flora, the youngest member of the pack at 17. Her eyes were full of innocent fear as she looked at her enraged alpha. He nodded and she let go of his shoulder. Alexei turned and shut his eyes again, his good mood soured for now. He took a deep breath and sighed, wishing for that scent again. Five more minutes...
Those five minutes drug on like a glacier, the professor's words trailing off into the distance as he switched topics. Can he go any slower?
Don't jinx us, alpha, sir. came Flora's response.
You don't have to call me sir, Flora. We're a family.
The wolves stayed silent for the rest of the class, listening halfheartedly to the professor. "As you all know, this is the last day of school until January. I hope you all have some plans, some family to go see."
He paused for a moment and then: "Never. Ever. Forget. There is a grain of truth in every myth." The professor was looking directly at Alexei, who cringed slightly. He could feel the teacher's eyes boring into his soul. The bell finally rang, and Alexei was the first one out, quickly followed by the scrambling pack. They wound through hallways and double doors until they felt the tingle of cold touch their skin. They trailed along behind their leader and burst out the doors, welcoming the frigid air and the soft snowfall they had waited all year for. They hooted and howled giddily, their faces covered in goofy grins and awestruck eyes as they pushed past Alexei and dove into the snow with the other students. Alexei stood there, looking for what he had smelled earlier, for him it was more important than the snow. He scanned the horizon, eyes open wide and searching relentlessly. After a moment, he saw his target, leaning against a tree on the far end of the schoolyard, her fiery hair waving gracefully in the wind. "Jenna."
She winked at him and gestured to her right, where an open forest lay uninhabited. He nodded slightly and made his way down the steps, his heart pounding harder and harder in his chest.
I'll be back soon... Leiks you're in charge.
You okay, alpha, sir? Flora always worried for her alpha.
Yeah, I just need a walk is all.
But... Leiks put a hand on Flora's shoulder and shook her head.
Alexei walked to the edge of the schoolyard and saw that Jenna was already in the woods. Glancing back at the pack, he grinned like a Cheshire cat and chased after her.
They wound through the trees, picking up speed and tossing their heavy jackets away.
Come catch me, big boy. she taunted.
I intend to.
He watched her every graceful move, following relentlessly until he had her. He wrapped his arms around her in a tackle and they rolled, laughing all the while until they came to a halt. Alexei was on top of Jenna, straddling her legs and breathing heavily with her. She closed her eyes and grinned wide, her chest heaving. The air was freezing cold but they couldn't feel it as he leaned in and kissed her deeply, entwining his fingers into her hair. She kissed back, biting his lip in the way she knew would make him weak. She felt his muscles quiver and she took the opportunity to push him onto his back and claim dominance over him by straddling him. She smelled amazing, the musk of her animal side mixed with her perfume drove Alexei crazy.
He slid his hand under her shirt and felt the curves of her slender body press against him as she gasped. She pulled away from the kiss, a grin on her face, "Not yet, ***. There's time for that later."
"I've missed you, kitten."
She growled softly, "you best stop that while you're ahead, sweetheart." She grinned wider and kneaded her claws into his chest. Alexei called her 'kitten' because of her fondness towards cats, specifically kittens.
"Are the others here too?" He pushed her up off of him and stood up himself, closing his eyes in the process. The others were Jenna's friends who had left with her a year ago.
"Mmmhmm. They got here shortly before I did. They're already at the hideout."
Alexei nodded, "We'll be there shortly. Do you want to come with us for the time being?" They began walking back to the schoolyard, grabbing their jackets on the way.
She giggled, "I suppose I should, so they can get used to having two alphas around." Her eyes twinkled as she said it.
Alexei grinned, "I thought it wasn't for another year! Congratulations!"
"They pushed it up since I've been moving up so fast." Jenna had gone to a Lycan Academy farther north, in Canada. There, wolves would be trained to become better leaders or soldiers, depending on their rank. Jenna had shown great promise immediately and was put into higher groups and classes.
The schoolyard soon came into view, and Alexei's pack was still playing in the snow, throwing snowballs and just rolling around in the stuff among the other high schoolers. He whistled a little tune and each of the pack members looked directly at him, going wide eyed when they saw Jenna. They rushed over as fast as they could and tackled her with hugs. "You're back!"
Jenna struggled to get up as a dog pile ensued. Alexei's wild laugh mixed with the cacophony of greetings as Jenna squirmed out. Flora stood behind Alexei, this new person's presence terrifying to her. As the pack got untangled from each other, Jenna walked up to Alexei and Flora, who hid behind him like a cowering pup. Jenna looked at her, "Hey. I'm Jenna, me and Alexei are old friends."
Flora whimpered quietly but peeked out enough so she could get a good look at Jenna. Alexei turned to the pack, saying, "We're going back to the hideout. There's some old friends waiting there for us."

Chapter 2
The pack carried on as usual, sauntering on down the sidewalk leading further into the woods with Jenna, Alexei and Flora following close behind.
"How old is she?" Asked Jenna.
"I'm seventeen. This is my first year as-..." she trailed off, still unsure of herself.
"As a Lycan?" Flora nodded softly.
"You know about us?" Asked Flora, bewildered.
Jenna giggled a little, letting flora get a good look at her canines, which extended down to her lower teeth. "I'm one of you."
Flora looked at her, confused. "But you don't smell like them. You smell different."
Jenna glanced at Alexei, who was still strolling alongside them with his eyes closed as usual. "You can tell her, Kitten."
Jenna punched him in the shoulder with a loud thud that would have left any normal person cringing, but Alexei just shrugged it off. He's definitely a lot stronger than I remember.
She turned to Flora, "I'm an alpha. Like Alexei. Each alpha has a different scent."
Flora gazed at her with newfound wonder and fear. Jenna saw this and said, "Don't worry, Flora. I only bite my prey. You're not prey, are you?"
Flora grinned a little, "Of course not."
They had reached a little clearing with ten trees aligned in a perfect circle around a massive evergreen that towered roughly sixty feet tall, casting a massive shadow underneath it. The pack had named it the Forever Tree, with its many years to come. At the base of the ten trees were empty backpacks covered in snow, each one a different style and color. The pack gathered under the Forever Tree and looked at Alexei with a certain desire clear on their faces.
Alexei grinned and said, "Go wild, guys."
"Finally!" The pack began to transform, fur popping out of their skin in a wave of softness, their faces elongating into muzzles and their fangs revealing themselves in their entirety. Their majestic tails struggled to get free from the jackets and pants that surrounded the wolves. They shook the clothes from their bodies, piling them up in individual piles before taking them to the backpacks under the trees. Each one expertly placed their clothes into the bag and then sat patiently next to their trees as the two alphas and Flora watched. Once each wolf was finished, Alexei whistled sharply and they grabbed their bags by the carry handle and formed a line in front of him. Alexei had modified each bag to fit as a harness around the wolves, making the transport that much easier. He helped each one of his pack mates with their bag and they in turn took shelter under the Forever tree. Once everyone was there, Alexei waved them off and they took off into the woods.
"Flora, grab your bag so it doesn't get lost out here."
"Yes, alpha, sir." She ran to grab her bag from the last tree. Alexei and Jenna casually followed, "You don't have to call me sir, Flora. Remember? We're a family."
They followed the paw prints in the snow up a winding path which led to an old cabin, seemingly forgotten out here. The smell of wolf musk was heavy in the air as they approached. The cabin rested on the top of a tall hill, with a winding staircase leading up to the wraparound porch and the two story cabin itself. All the wolves were waiting, already mingled in with each other on the porch. Jenna's pack was roughly five wolves, mostly female. As all wolves find out eventually, whatever modifications they do to their human body, such as tattoos or hair dyes, crosses over to their wolf body. Some used this trick as a way to make themselves unique, or to show a pack allegiance. Alexei's pack were unique in their markings, each one having their hair dyed and having a wolf paw surrounded by a crescent moon. Jenna's pack was similar, though theirs was a long fang piercing a heart.
As they got closer, Jenna's wolves began to bark happily, welcoming their alphas. Jenna's betas were waiting at the base of the stairs, three grey females named Ginger, Lexi, and Anna.
Alex! We're so happy to see you! called Anna, one of Alexei's oldest friends.
"I've missed you guys too, you didn't have to wait down here for us, you know. Go on and say hi to the others." He scratched each of them behind the ears and they ran up the stairs happily. "Flora, you can wolf out now, I'll take care of your stuff."
She looked gratefully at her alpha and shifted into her wolf form, a sleek white, unmarked unlike the others. She ran up the stairs as Alexei gathered her clothes into the bag. Jenna took his hand once he'd finished and they walked up the stairs together, joining the wolves on the porch.
Alexei unlocked the front door and let the wolves into the spacious interior, with a mix of dog beds and couches in the main living area surrounding a large television. The kitchen had been recently stocked by Alexei, the freezer full of uncooked meats of all kinds. Alexei's wolves all gripped the release clip on their harnesses with their teeth and let their bags fall to their side, lining them against the wall near the door. Jenna watched this unfold as her own pack dragged in their own heavy bags from outside, bulky and awkward to carry in wolf form.
"I see you've been busy, Alex."
"I have extras in the storage room upstairs, if you guys are interested."
Her wolves whimpered pleadingly in response, the last one pulling the door closed behind her with a leather strap hanging from the handle.
Alexei turned to Leiks, who was halfway up the stairs already. "You know where they are right?" The black wolf nodded, her necklaces clinking slightly as she padded up the stairs. Everyone began settling down onto the couches and beds and Leiks came back down with five bags for Jenna's wolves.
The snow had begun to fall harder and there was a fresh blanket covering the tracks leading to the cabin. They were watching Balto, one of their favorite movies, when Alexei snapped his head towards the door, eyes open and glowing. He paused the movie and the wolves' attention was now on him as he looked out the window. He swore under his breath and cl
will edit more in soon
There's a certain peace that settles inside you when you hear the wind whip through the forest, the sound soothes you until your muscles quiver with joy and you begin grinning with delight as the cool air runs soft fingers down your spine and sends shivers back through you. That was the feeling going through Fayowin as he stalked his prey, a nimble buck that mindlessly grazed in the snowy glade. Fayowin was a wolf, tall and regal, his fur ran a silver-white with intricate blue lines spiraling and writhing around his muscled body. His eyes glowed pure white in the night and shimmered in the daylight. The fangs lining his jaw were longer than the other wolves'... then again he was also larger than his alpha as well. Fayowin saw everything clearer and faster than the most skilled hunters in his pack, and he was also the swiftest. He should have felt proud of his uniqueness, but he felt outcast instead. The other hunters shunned him and disliked hunting alongside him, leaving Fayowin to hunt alone.

Today was no different. It was his turn to hunt and he had to hunt alone. If he failed, the pack would force him out into the cold. "If the pack starves, the hunter freezes," was the motto of his alpha, Alexei. Fayowin narrowed his white eyes and drew in the scent of the deer. As he did, he caught the hint of a she-wolf nearby, not of his pack. Distracted for an instant, he snapped back and sprinted for the deer, lunging for it and tearing into its throat and ripping out the windpipe and blood vessels all in one bite. As the smell of blood coated his senses, he began to feel uneasy and whirled around to see a silver wolf snarling at him. It was the she-wolf he had sensed earlier. She stood just a little shorter than him and had strange markings of her own: she bore black marks under her eyes and one on her forehead that resembled a paw. What struck him the most was the band around her upper foreleg. His eyes wandered as he observed her and she growled, bringing his attention back to her glaring green eyes.
"That... was my ****!" she growled. "I don't know how you managed to get it before me, and I don't know how you managed to escape my notice. Who are you?!"
Fayowin sneered and raised an eyebrow, "This, my dear, is MY ****. I've had my eyes on it for a while now. And frankly, this is my territory as well, and unless you want to become part of my territory, I'd suggest you treat me with respect."
She edged closer to him, surprised and infuriated at this male's straightforwardness. But there was something about that and his scent that appealed to her though. "I'm not leaving without this deer."
Fayowin chuckled, "It looks like you will be leaving without it, whoever you are."
"My name... is Feiria!" she licked her lips hungrily, "and that is MY deer!"
Fayowin narrowed his eyes thoughtfully as he studied her. Even through her winter coat, he could see the outline of her ribcage and could smell the desperation on her scent. He saw Feiria's muscles contract as she prepared to lunge at him. He sidestepped and she landed face-first in the snow, a mere inch from the warm deer meat. She looked at him hungrily, almost pleading. Fayowin sighed and nodded his head once, after which Feiria voraciously tore into the carcass.

He slowly meandered towards the center of the clearing and flopped down into the snow. He could hear the she-wolf eating ravenously behind him as he thought of his next move. If he returned to the pack, he'd be ridiculed and forced to live in the snow. If he stayed out here he faced the same problem.

Fayowin flattened his ears back and started to doze off, still listening to Feiria eat his ****. He began dreaming of gaping mountain passes, tall forests, and warm valleys. He felt oddly warm, not freezing cold as he had expected. He didn't care though, warmth was a gift in the winter. He slept peacefully until nightfall overtook the forest and the moonlight shone down and illuminated his fur, the lines becoming like blue fire. His eyes would have glowed if they were open, but they remained oblivious to the change in scenery until a cold wind blew through his fur and he shivered awake. He nearly jumped when he realized why he was so warm: the she-wolf lay curled up, pressed against him, sound asleep. He tilted his head slightly as he watched her sleep, probably the most peaceful she'd been in a long time. Fayowin would've hated to ruin his gift to her, albeit an unwilling one.
Feiria woke up soon after midnight, and gazed fearfully into Fayowin's glowing white eyes, taking in his
Cynical stare and his glowing body. She whispered, "I've heard of your kind..."
he looked curiously at her, "my kind?"
"the star wolves.."
he averted his gaze, "Never heard of them.. I'm just a normal wolf.."
Feiria glared at him, "You're glowing, *******.. Not normal. Unless.... Unless your whole pack is made of star wolves!" her face seemed to light up as she said it.
Fayowin whipped his head around, "No! I'm the only one like this..." he looked solemnly down at his feet as he finished.
She blinked, dumbfounded. Clearing her throat, she said, "I really should get back to my pack. They'll be worried about me if I stay out for much longer." she glanced at the massive deer behind them and sighed quietly.
"Your whole pack is starving...aren't they?" said Fayowin quietly.
Feiria nodded and he stood up and walked through the snow silently towards the deer. "you'll need to lead me to your pack if they're to get this meat."
Feiria blinked again, then nodded, getting up and starting off  
Towards the north. Fayowin gripped the deer's neck and drug the carcass behind him as he walked. After a half hour of walking, Feiria howled long and low, signaling her pack that she was near. Fayowin sighed as he heard their howls respond. He thought, there will be no howls for me tonight...
As they neared her pack's clearing, a group of young wolves sprinted towards them, rushing past Feiria and surrounding Fayowin. "Who is this outsider, Feiria? Why did you bring him here?"
there were five of them and they all went into attack mode, growling and circling him.
Feiria attempted to stop them before they got into a fight, but one of them pounced, and in a flash Fayowin had him pinned to the ground with his fangs around the wolf's neck. Fayowin watched the wolves around him react, stepping back and glancing at each other. Feiria shouted at them to stop but they didn't seem to hear her immediately, backing down only as Fayowin's growl tore through the trees, echoing throughout the forest
. They finally heard her, "he's a star wolf!" by now a crowd had gathered around them, Feiria's packmates watching Fayowin closely. He let go of the young wolf beneath his paws, who quickly scampered away, and Fayowin sat up straight and tall, his markings and eyes glowing for all to see. The wolves ooh'd and ahh'd amongst themselves before the alpha stepped forward and looked him up and down. "You killed this deer, yes?"
"I did."
"Why bring it here? We are strangers to you."
Fayowin glanced at Feiria, who shifted, uncomfortable with the silence. "I brought it here because i could tell that this pack needed the meat more than my own." Fayowin looked directly at Feiria and continued, "besides... She saw it first."
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(End of day one of writing, really enjoyed it, look forward to writing again)
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Fayowin perched high upon an rock outcropping, overlooking the clearing below and the wolves within. The alpha had allowed him to stay, grateful for the meat. Feiria was pressed against him again, but this time Fayowin didn't mind. He enjoyed the warmth that she provided and felt at ease around her. She nuzzled his cheek affectionately, a move that surprised him enough that he turned to face her, brushing her nose in the process. He gazed fondly into her eyes for a moment before standing. "I have to return to my pack."
Feiria looked shocked, "No, stay here with us. We could use a hunter like you. Plus you're a star wolf, and it doesn't seem like your pack appreciates that."
He let the words sink in before replying, "I have to go. I'll return in the morning." Seeing the desperate and doubtful look on her face, he added, "I promise. I will come back."
Fayowin walked to the edge of the forest, the glow of his body soon disappearing from Feiria's view.
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...
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F­ayowin sprinted relentlessly back to his territory, smelling the familiar and not so pleasant scents of his packmates. The smell of blood ran thick in the air as he neared the clearing. The moonlight cast eerie shadows around him and he could feel the eyes of the wolves watching him as he reached the gore pile. The mound of bones and rotting flesh dripped blood into the white snow.
"You're late. And emptypawed. You know what that means, filth." the voice was that of his alpha, Marroy, who stood three feet tall at the shoulder, a whole foot and a half shorter than Fayowin. His fur was a mottled black with a grey underbelly.
Fayowin bared his fangs, the longest being three inches long, and he growled, "My name.. is Fayowin."
Marroy cackled in the darkness, "So straightforward. That's unlike you. No matter, you failed to bring us fresh meat. As punishment, you'll be reminded why we protect you in the first place."
Fayowin heard growls emanating from the trees. The pack of around 25 wolves was massive compared to other packs, and there were enough hunters to go around. Fayowin took a step back and let his eyes adjust so he could see them in the trees.
"You don't protect me, Marroy! You fear me!"
Marroy laughed again, "Not from where I'm standing, Mutt. You look pretty frightened." Fayowin took another step back. "Run! Run! Give us some entertainment!"
The wolves started bounding out of the trees and began chasing Fayowin out of the clearing. They seemed to be pouring from every shadow. He ran faster than ever before, the trees blurring past him as he tried to get away. He ran for what seemed like an eternity before seeing the snowy valley at the edge of the forest. He added a burst of speed and instantly regretted it. A rock beneath the snow tripped him and pain shot up his left foreleg. He tumbled end over end in a heap of blue and white, coming to a stop twenty feet away. Fayowin heard the pack coming for him and he tried to crawl away, but to no avail; the pain was too much. He whimpered as he was surrounded, and shut his eyes tight as he felt them bite and claw at him, retreating only after there was a ****** pool around the star wolf. Marroy walked slowly up to him after they had gone and said, "I hope you die out here. If you aren't, we'll make sure that changes." Then the alpha left him there, cold, ******, broken and alone.
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* (End of Day two/Start of day three of writing and i'm really hooked on this, I believe this may be one of my better stories...)*
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Feiria lay silently on the rock outcropping above the pack and she thought of the star wolf. Something about the breeze brought thoughts to her mind.  
Feiria lifted her nose into the air as the smell of blood became present. She sniffed intently and heard her packmates do the same. She looked in the direction that Fayowin had left in and saw a dark form slowly shambling through the shadowy flora towards her. As it neared her she could see that it was dripping a dark liquid, trailing it through the snow in a scarlet path. "Its Fayowin.." she thought to herself. "Why are his eyes so dark? Why isn't he glowing?"
she rushed to his side and the smell of his blood was almost overwhelming. There were numerous bites and cuts all over him and his left foreleg seemed broken.
Feiria called for the healer, an older female named Sheya, and supported Fayowin as they walked to the glade and waited for the healer. Fayowin collapsed in the center of the clearing, the moonlight hitting him directly, making the blood seem black against his white fur.
Feiria whimpered helplessly, waiting for Fayowin to answer, but his eyes seemed so lifeless that
She felt it was almost a false hope. When Sheya finally arrived, the blood had stopped flowing and his breathing had slowed until he was asleep. When the healer examined him, she looked puzzled.
"what's the matter, Elder?"
Sheya pondered a moment before saying, "His wounds have healed. I'd say its a miracle, seeing as he lost so much blood."
Feiria examined the sleeping wolf herself and found the elders words to be true; there wasn't a scratch left on him. "Leave him here, the sunlight will warm him once daylight comes and his fur is thicker than ours so the cold will not affect him as much." the gathered wolves sat in silence as Feiria washed the blood from his fur with snow and lay down next to him, pressing her body against his. The blue lines on Fayowin dimmed and brightened in tune with his heartbeat, and Feiria listened as her own beat matched it.
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...End of day 3....
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Fayowin felt like he was in another world, this one so much quieter, but at the same time he could sense every noise, every movement, every vibration. His fur was no longer the bright white it once was, but rather a deep black with crimson lines flowing round him. He was lying down, surrounded by a wolf pack, Feiria pressed against him for warmth. He saw, or rather sensed her spirit energy, a type of green fire that outlined her entire body as she slept. Fayowin stood up, thinking to wake her and let her know he was alright, but she hadn't moved. And neither had he; his white furred body remained as it was a moment ago, but he was looking at it as if in another body. He took a step back as he realized he was roaming about in his spirit form. He looked around at the pack and none of the gathered wolves seemed to notice him. He exited the circle of onlookers and gazed up at the falling moon, watching it descend into the horizon, chased away by the rays of the sun coming over the mountaintops to the east. As the sun peeked over the ridge, Fayowin caught something out of the corner of his eye, a dark mass that didn't fit right with the rest of the environment. He looked and saw two sets of glowing purple eyes in the shade. He called out to them, hoping they might hear. "Hey! Can you see me?"
The eyes looked at each other and then back at him, staring for a moment before turning and running.
"Hey, wait!!" Fayowin called after them and began to chase them deeper and deeper into the mysterious forest.The beings moved faster than Fayowin had anticipated, disappearing soon after the chase had begun. Fayowin stood there in the middle of the woods, panting and searching for the elusive forms. After a moment he saw them at the very edge of his vision, their eyes glowing brighter, almost as if they were taunting him forward. Snarling, Fayowin bolted towards them and they led him on a winding path marked by a barely discernable scent trail. The smell was that of burnt wood and crushed pine needles and was oddly alluring to Fayowin as he ran. It seeemed as if he were running for ages, the sun and moon rotating numerous times around him as he traveled over mountains and rivers, through forests and valleys. On the thirteenth solar rotation, the figures finally stopped, joined by eleven other figures surrounding a circular rock with vines and overgrowth covering its base.
As he neared the figures, he saw that they all looked like him, long furred and covered in glowing lines. "Star wolves... Like me..."
The wolves all surrounded the dais and watched him with razor sharp eyes, watching his every move. As he gazed back, Fayowin noticed that each of them had some form of a trident mark right below their left eye, the color matching the lines tracing their bodies. He felt the urge to move forward, as if an instinct were telling him to stand in the center of the circle. Fayowin stood, all eyes on him as he waited for whatever was about to come.
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....I have nothing to say to you HP... I dislike you at the moment....
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Nightfall was coming swiftly, the moon and the stars swirling into place above them, reaching their peak and then halting completely. All of time and
Helpless
Fearless
PART 1
Chapter 1
It was cold. Freezing. The first day of the winter chill had started here in Washington. There was a semi-secluded high school deep in the woods, holding some two thousand high schoolers. Professor Thompson, a younger teacher, was yelling again, "If I see another one of you punks rolling in here halfway through class, I swear I'm going to fail each and every one of you!"
Alexei grinned, his eyes closed, mouthing out the exact same phrase in unison with the teacher. His "pack" snickered behind him, nine boys and girls all dressed in dark clothes with varying levels of oddity. They were a small part of the senior class at Liberty High, and had the reputation as dangerous, rebellious punks. They embraced the title, knowing how true it was. They were Lycans. Shape shifters. Werewolves. They all meant the same thing. When they were young, around fifteen, they would have had their first shift. They would turn into Dire Wolves, about twice as large as your normal gray wolf.  During their first transformation, they would be guided to an alpha who would help them transition to the new life, teaching them how to shift at will and how to survive. In this case, Alexei was the alpha and this was his territory.
Alexei stood at exactly six feet tall, was light skinned and was built like an animal, lean and muscular. His straight hair was jet black and ended in a flurry of blood red tips that lay hidden under a heavy black jacket and a hood lined with white fur. Alexei generally kept his eyes closed unless he was angry or upset, using his enhanced hearing and smell to navigate. "Hunter, eyes forward!" Alexei turned his head slightly to the left, where Hunter sat, or rather slept. Alexei heard his pack mate wake up in a daze and groan.
"What? I'm still in class? Man this *****." His green hair bounced in front of his eyes, tickling his nose and making him sneeze.
Alexei grinned, flashing his long canines and the rest of the Pack laughed quietly amongst themselves. "Alexei... would you mind keeping your cronies under control, please?" He opened his eyes slightly, their golden glow piercing the darkness of the hood like slivers of fire. The pack immediately went silent.
"Why of course, professor. We wouldn't want to disturb the lecture now would we?" His powerful voice dripped acidic sarcasm, laced with a deadly seriousness. "Right guys?" The question hung dead I'm the air for a few heartbeats. When no response came, he turned his head sharply, his piercing eyes fully open. "Right?!" His voice boomed throughout the room and a collection of nervous, 'yes sir, yes alpha' rang out quietly. He closed his eyes again and said, "All yours, professor."
Just bear with it guys, it’s the last class of the day. He heard another person's voice flutter into his thoughts.
But, alpha, it was Leiks, one of the betas. It’s snowing... we want to go out.
He growled slightly, And you think I don't? You know how this works, Leiks. He heard her whimper slightly in submission, backing out of his thoughts. She fidgeted in her seat in the back row, looking out the window at the puffy white flakes cascading down around the school. Her blonde hair ended in purple curls that bounced around her chest. She was shorter, around five foot four inches tall, and was one of the three betas in Alexei's pack. The other two were the twins, Ruby and Sapphire, whose hair was black and ended in red and blue respectively. They rarely spoke to others out loud, keeping their thoughts to themselves. The other four were all deltas or omegas.
Alexei caught a hint of something in the air, it smelled like a sweet musk mixed with crisp apples. The smell sent a tingle up and down his spine for a few moments before settling. He growled softly in his throat, grinning.
Smell something, alpha?, whispered Leiks.
Yeah... maybe. He grinned and felt warm all over, however more impatient to get outside.
Professor Thompson continued with his lecture on mythology, talking about the classic horror creatures like vampires and werewolves. He focused awfully ******* the latter, going on and on about lycanthropy and the horrible nature of werewolves.
Alexei bared his fangs in a silent growl, gripping the edge of his desk hard enough to make it creak in dismay. What does he know.... he hasn't been through it.... he hasn't seen his friends die in front of him.  An image flashed before his eyes of a bloodied white wolf lying before him, whimpering helplessly as its crimson blood steamed against the snow. His anger lasted only a second before a hand tenderly gripped his shoulder. His eyes flashed open and he gasped slightly. He snapped his gaze over his shoulder at the pack, their eyes wide and locked on him, emanating dread. The hand belonged to Flora, the youngest member of the pack at 17. Her bright blue eyes were full of innocent fear as she looked at her enraged alpha. He nodded and she let go of his shoulder. Her hoodie shadowed her snow white hair as she hid back in her seat. Alexei turned and shut his eyes again, his good mood soured for now. He took a deep breath and sighed, wishing for that scent again. Five more minutes...
Those five minutes drug on like a glacier, the professor's words trailing off into the distance as he switched topics. Can he go any slower?
Don't jinx us, alpha, sir. came Flora's response.
You don't have to call me sir, Flora. We're a family. The wolves stayed silent for the rest of the class, listening halfheartedly to the professor.
"As you all know, this is the last day of school until January. I hope you all have some plans, some family to go see." He paused for a moment and then: "Never. Ever. Forget. There is a grain of truth in every myth." The professor was looking directly at Alexei, who cringed slightly. The bell finally rang, and Alexei was the first one out, quickly followed by the scrambling pack. They wound through hallways and double doors until they felt the tingle of cold touch their skin. They trailed along behind their leader and burst out the doors, welcoming the frigid air and the soft snowfall they had waited all year for. They hooted and howled giddily, their faces covered in goofy grins and awestruck eyes as they pushed past Alexei and dove into the snow with the other students. Alexei stood there, looking for what he had smelled earlier, for him it was more important than the snow. He scanned the horizon, eyes open wide and searching relentlessly. After a moment, he saw his target, leaning against a tree on the far end of the schoolyard, her fiery hair waving gracefully in the wind. "Eve."
She winked at him and gestured to her right, where an open forest lay uninhabited. He nodded slightly and made his way down the steps, his heart pounding harder and harder in his chest.
I'll be back soon... Leiks you're in charge.
You okay, alpha, sir? Flora always worried for her alpha.
Yeah, I just need a walk is all.
But... Leiks put a hand on Flora's shoulder and shook her head. Alexei walked to the edge of the schoolyard and saw that Eve was already in the woods. Glancing back at the pack, he grinned like a Cheshire cat and chased after her.
They wound through the trees, picking up speed and tossing their heavy jackets away. Come catch me, big boy. she taunted.
I intend to. He watched her every graceful move, following relentlessly until he had her. He wrapped his arms around her in a tackle and they rolled, laughing all the while until they came to a halt. Alexei was on top of Eve, straddling her legs and breathing heavily with her. She closed her eyes and grinned wide, her chest heaving. The air was freezing cold but they couldn't feel it as he leaned in and kissed her deeply, entwining his fingers into her hair. She kissed back, biting his lip in the way she knew would make him weak. She felt his muscles quiver and she took the opportunity to push him onto his back and claim dominance over him by straddling him. She smelled amazing, the musk of her animal side mixed with her perfume drove Alexei crazy.
He slid his hand under her shirt and felt the curves of her slender body press against him as she gasped. She pulled away from the kiss, a grin on her face, "Not yet, ***. There's time for that later."
"I've missed you, kitten."
She growled softly, "you best stop that while you're ahead, sweetheart." She grinned wider and kneaded her claws into his chest. Alexei called her 'kitten' because of her fondness towards cats, specifically kittens. Many of her mannerisms also had a feline quality about them.
"Are the others here too?" He pushed her up off of him and stood up himself, closing his eyes in the process. The others were Eve's friends who had left with her a year ago.
"Mmmhmm. They got here shortly before I did. They're already at the hideout."
Alexei nodded, "We'll be there shortly. Do you want to come with us for the time being?" They began walking back to the schoolyard, grabbing their jackets on the way.
She giggled, "I suppose I should, so they can get used to having two alphas around." Her eyes twinkled as she said it.
Alexei grinned, "I thought graduation wasn't for another year! Congratulations!"
"They pushed it up since I've been moving up so fast." Eve had gone to a Lycan Academy farther north, in Canada. There, wolves would be trained to become better leaders or soldiers, depending on their rank. Eve had shown great promise immediately and was put into higher groups and classes.
The schoolyard soon came into view, and Alexei's pack was still playing in the snow, throwing snowballs and just rolling around in the stuff among the other high schoolers. He whistled a little tune and each of the pack members looked directly at him, going wide eyed when they saw Eve. They rushed over as fast as they could and tackled her with hugs. "You're back!"
Eve struggled to get up as a dog pile ensued. Alexei's wild laugh mixed with the cacophony of greetings as Eve squirmed out. Flora stood behind Alexei, this new person's presence terrifying to her. As the pack got untangled from each other, Eve walked up to Alexei and Flora, who hid behind him like a cowering pup. Eve looked at her, "Hey. I'm Eve, me and Alexei are old friends."
Flora whimpered quietly but peeked out enough so she could get a good look at Eve. Alexei turned to the pack, saying, "We're going back to the hideout. There's some old friends waiting there for us."

Chapter 2
The pack carried on as usual, sauntering on down the sidewalk leading further into the woods with Eve, Alexei and Flora following close behind. Flora shadowed her alpha constantly, being the only Lycan she fully trusted.
"How old is she?" Asked Eve.
"I'm seventeen. This is my first year as-..." she trailed off, still unsure of herself.
"As a Lycan?" Flora nodded softly.
"You know about us?" Asked Flora, bewildered.
Eve giggled a little, letting  get a good look at her canines, which extended down to her lower teeth. "I'm one of you."
Flora looked at her, confused. "But you don't smell like them. You smell different."
Eve glanced at Alexei, who was still strolling alongside them with his eyes closed as usual. "You can tell her, Kitten." In retaliation, Eve punched him in the shoulder with a loud thud that would have left any normal person writhing in pain, but Alexei just shrugged it off. He's definitely a lot stronger than I remember.
She turned to Flora, "I'm an alpha. Like Alexei. Each alpha has a different scent."
Flora gazed at her with newfound wonder and fear. Eve saw this and said, "Don't worry, Flora. I only bite my prey. You're not prey, are you?"
Flora grinned a little, "Of course not.” They had reached a little clearing with ten trees aligned in a perfect circle around a massive evergreen that towered roughly sixty feet tall, casting a massive shadow underneath it. The pack had named it the Forever Tree, with its many years to come. At the base of the ten trees were empty backpacks covered in snow, each one a different style and color. The pack gathered under the Forever Tree and looked at Alexei with a certain desire clear on their faces.
Alexei grinned and said, "Go wild, guys."
"Finally!" The pack began to transform, fur popping out of their skin in a wave of softness, their faces elongating into muzzles and their fangs revealing themselves in their entirety. Their majestic tails struggled to get free from the jackets and pants that surrounded the wolves. They shook the clothes from their bodies, piling them up in individual piles before taking them to the backpacks under the trees. Each one expertly placed their clothes into the bag and then sat patiently next to their trees as the two alphas and Flora watched. Once each wolf was finished, Alexei whistled sharply and they grabbed their bags by the carry handle and formed a line in front of him. Alexei had modified each bag to fit as a harness around the wolves, making the transport that much easier. He helped each one of his pack mates with their bag and they in turn took shelter under the Forever tree. Once everyone was there, Alexei waved them off and they took off into the woods.
"Flora, grab your bag so it doesn't get lost out here."
"Yes, alpha, sir." She ran to grab her bag from the last tree. Alexei and Eve casually followed, "You don't have to call me sir, Flora. Remember? We're a family."
They followed the paw prints in the snow up a winding path which led to an old cabin, seemingly forgotten out here. The smell of wolf musk was heavy in the air as they approached. The cabin rested on the top of a tall hill, with a winding staircase leading up to the wraparound porch and the two story cabin itself. All the wolves were waiting, already mingled in with each other on the porch. Eve's pack was roughly five wolves, mostly female. As all wolves find out eventually, whatever modifications they do to their human body, such as tattoos or hair dyes, crosses over to their wolf body. Some used this trick as a way to make themselves unique, or to show a pack allegiance. Alexei's pack was unique in their markings, each one having their hair dyed and having a wolf paw surrounded by a crescent moon. Eve's pack was similar, though theirs was a long fang piercing a heart.
As they got closer, Eve's wolves began to bark happily, welcoming their alphas. Eve's betas were waiting at the base of the stairs, three grey females named Ginger, Lexi, and Anna.
Alex! We're so happy to see you! called Anna, one of Alexei's oldest friends.
"I've missed you guys too, you didn't have to wait down here for us, you know. Go on and say hi to the others." He scratched each of them behind the ears and they ran up the stairs happily. "Flora, you can wolf out now, I'll take care of your stuff."
She looked gratefully at her alpha and shifted into her wolf form, a sleek white, unmarked unlike the others. She ran up the stairs as Alexei gathered her clothes into the bag. Eve took his hand once he'd finished and they walked up the stairs together, joining the wolves on the porch.
Alexei unlocked the front door and let the wolves into the spacious interior, with a mix of dog beds and couches in the main living area surrounding a large television. The kitchen had been recently stocked by Alexei, the freezer full of uncooked meats of all kinds. Alexei's wolves all gripped the release clip on their harnesses with their teeth and let their bags fall to their side, lining them against the wall near the door. Eve watched this unfold as her own pack dragged in their own heavy bags from outside, bulky and awkward to carry in wolf form.
"I see you've been busy, Alex."
"I have extras in the storage room upstairs, if you guys are interested." Her wolves whimpered pleadingly in response, the last one pulling the door closed behind her with a leather strap hanging from the handle. Alexei shrugged off his heavy fur cloak and hung it next to the door.
Alexei turned to Leiks, who was halfway up the stairs already. "You know where they are right?" The white wolf nodded, her necklaces clinking slightly as she padded up the stairs. Everyone began settling down onto the couches and beds and Leiks came back down with five bags for Eve's wolves. She set them near the doorway, in case they needed to le
Chapter 1
It was cold. Freezing. The first day of the winter chill had started in northern Washington. The sun now hid behind the thick ceiling of clouds as they began their annual snowdrop and the mountains began to howl as the winter winds bared their fangs. Near the mountains was a town with a population of one hundred thousand. The town was officially established in 1840, though a now extinct native tribe settled there long before. Life here was normal for most.
A jog and a stone's throw away was a semi-secluded high school that lay deep in the woods, holding some fifteen hundred students. The gray bricks were reminiscent of a prison, juxtaposed against the walls of towering trees all around it. As snow began to blanket the ground, a single pair of footprints led to the school.

Professor Thompson, a younger teacher, was yelling again, "If I see another one of you punks rolling in here halfway through class, I swear I'm going to make sure you end up living in detention!" Alexei grinned, whispering the exact same phrase in unison with the teacher. The younger members of his "pack" snickered behind him. His group of eight was split between boys and girls appearing between seventeen and twenty. They were a small part of the senior class and had the reputation of being stubborn, loyal, and dangerous at times.

They embraced the reputaion, knowing how true it was. They were Lycans. Shapeshifters. Werewolves. They all meant the same thing. They were descendants of the "extinct" tribe that once lived in the area, though their numbers now were far greater and much more widespread.
When each Lycan turned fifteen, they would have their first shift. They would turn into Dire Wolves, about twice as large as a normal gray wolf.  During their first transformation, instinct would guide them to an alpha who would help them transition to the new life, teaching them how to shift at will and how to survive. Each pack was structured by rank, Alpha, Beta, and Delta.
There were only two Alpha's per pack, one male, one female. They made decisions and guided the newly transformed Lycans. Once a Lycan proved themaelves, they were given the rank of Delta. Their duty was to learn and follow any order to the best of their ability. A Delta could be chosen to become a Beta, either by trial or by challenge.

In this case, Alexei was the alpha and this was his territory.
Alexei stood at exactly six feet tall, was light skinned and was built like an animal, lean and muscular. His straight hair was jet black and ended in a flurry of blood red tips that lay hidden under a heavy black jacket and a hood lined with white fur. His yellow eyes glowed faintly under his hood.

Alexei turned his head slightly to the left, where Hunter sat, or rather slept. Alexei heard his pack mate wake up in a daze and groan, "What? I'm still in class? Man this *****."
Alexei grinned, flashing his long canines and the rest of the Pack laughed quietly amongst themselves. "Alexei... would you mind keeping your cronies under control, please?" His eyes locked onto the professor, their golden glow piercing the darkness of the hood like slivers of fire. The pack immediately went silent.
"Why of course, professor. We wouldn't want to disturb the lecture now would we?" His powerful voice dripped with acidic sarcasm, laced with a deadly seriousness. "Right guys?" The question hung dead in the air for a few heartbeats.
When no response came, he turned his head sharply, his gaze cutting into each of his bretheren. A collection of nervous, 'yes sir, yes alpha' rang out quietly. He closed his eyes and said, "All yours, professor."
Alexei drew a breath and let his consciousness flow towards the group. He felt each of their minds twitch in surprise as he spoke directly to them.
Just bear with it guys, its the last class of the day.
He heard another person's voice flutter into the pool of thoughts. but, alpha, it was Leiks, one of the betas.its snowing... we want to go out.
He growled slightly, just low enough for the Lycans to hear  And you think I don't? You know how this works, Leiks. We have to abide by the Sapiens rules.
Alexei heard her whimper slightly in submission, backing out of his thoughts. Leiks fidgeted in her seat on the back row, looking out the freezing window at the puffy white flakes cascading down around the school. Her blonde hair ended in vibrant purple curls that bounced around her chest. She was the youngest Beta at eighteen years old. Leiks was one of the three betas in Alexei's pack. The longest serving Beta was a male named Chance. He was Alexei's right hand, commanding all of the strength and loyalty as his Alpha. He had the figure of a sprinter, and was the fastest Lycan other than Alexei. His eyes were a very rare violet, further accenting his undercut blonde hair.
The other Beta was a red haired female named Krista. She was one of the oldest of the pack, at nineteen years old. She acted as the peacekeeper of the pack, settling the disputes when Alexei was away on business.

The other four were all deltas, each of them still looking to prove themselves.
Alexei caught a hint of something in the air; it smelled like a sweet musk mixed with crisp apples. The smell sent an icy tingle up and down his spine for an eternity before settling at the base of his neck, making his hair stand on end. He growled softly in his throat, grinning.
Smell something, alpha?, it was Leiks.
Yeah... maybe...
He grinned and felt warm all over. He felt the urge to go wild, to wolf out. Alexei bit his tongue in an effort to calm his instincts. He cleared his mind and closed his eyes, taking one long breath after another before the waves of longing subsided.
Professor Thompson continued with his lecture on mythology, talking about the classic horror creatures like vampires and werewolves. He focused awfully ******* the latter, going on and on about lycanthropy. The professor then began to compare the natures of both species, concluding with a comment on their painful existence.

Alexei bared his fangs in a silent growl, gripping the edge of his desk hard enough to make it creak in dismay. 
He thought to himself, we shouldn't be giving the Sapiens our whole history, even if they don't pay attention, much less believe in us.
Alexei's mind wandered as he pored over the history of his people. He stared down at his hands and he began to think about all of the Lycans that had been part of his pack.
An image flashed before his eyes of a bloodied white wolf lying before him, whimpering helplessly as its crimson blood steamed against the snow. The cries of pain echoed as clear as crystal in his mind. Alexei's own blood boiled as the memory took over his thoughts. He could see blood on his hands, staining the desk. He could see the life leaving the white wolf's blue eyes. He heard the all to familiar laugh echo in the forest. Alexei's heart beat filled his ears, deafening him. He felt nothing but rage as he searched for the killer's face.

His anger lasted only a second before a hand tenderly gripped his shoulder. His eyes flashed open and he bared his fangs slightly. He snapped his gaze over his shoulder at the pack, their eyes wide and locked on him, emanating dread. The hand belonged to Flora, the youngest member of the pack at sixteen. Her eyes were full of innocent fear as she looked at her enraged Alpha. Alexei realized he had partially transformed, his teeth had all turned to sharp incisors, ready to rend flesh from bone. He forced his body to revert back, feeling the fangs retreat. Alexei nodded and Flora let go of his shoulder. Alexei turned and shut his eyes again, his good mood soured for now. He took a deep breath and sighed, wishing for that scent again. Five more minutes...
Those five minutes drug on like a glacier, the professor's words trailing off into the distance as he switched topics. Can he go any slower?
Don't jinx us, alpha, sir. came Flora's response.
You don't have to call me sir, Flora. We're a family.
The wolves stayed silent for the rest of the class, listening halfheartedly to the professor. "As you all know, this is the last day of school until January. I hope you all have some plans, some family to go see." 
He paused for a moment as if to say something else. The professor was looking directly at Alexei, who could feel the teacher's eyes boring into his soul. The bell finally rang, and Alexei was the first one out of his seat, ready to bolt for the door, but a stern voice called his name.
"One moment, Alex. I need to have a word with you." The professor looked directly at Alexei with an iron stare. They stood there for a moment as the others left the room, chattering amongst themselves. All but one. Flora remained defiantly beside Alexei, looking up at him. He looked down at her, his eyes opening with a soft yellow glow.
"Go on, I'll be fine." Flora looked at him quizzically but obeyed.
Alexei waited for the door to close, looking at the professor only after the latch had clicked into place. Alexei smirked and said, "What's up, doc?"
Professor Thompson raked his hand through his hair and removed his glasses. Laying them gently on the table. "I really wish you'd stop doing that. It's unbecoming of a wolf of your stature."
Alexei looked at him and shrugged. "You have to keep up with the times, Tom."
The professor laughed, "What times? The forties?" He walked around the desk and leaned against its front. He sighed and his tone changed, "We may have a problem on our hands, Alex. It's a vampire attack."
Alexei scowled. "I thought you had tabs on all the vampires in the area. As the resident Vampire Lord, it's your job to control them." The professor looked impatiently at the Lycan, waiting for him to finish. "Besides I thought you had them all drinking blood from the hospital?"
Thompson clenched a fist against the table and said through gritted teeth, "My people... Didn't attack anyone. They were attacked. By a Lycan."
Alexei sat on the edge of one of the desks and was silent for a moment. Then, "Please tell me it was just an unhappy accident?"
Thompson sighed and shook his head, "Lycan blood was found at the scene. A trail led to the outskirts of town where we found the unidentifiable body of a half transformed Lycan. Female. We cleaned it up as best we could but you have to understand, my people are going to find out one way or another." He looked intently at Alex, "I'm not accusing you or your pack of anything. But we're going to have a serious situation on our hands soon once the High Courts hear of it."
Alexei sighed and pondered the facts. He tapped a finger against the table repeatedly as he thought. "We had reports of a lone wolf wandering around the countryside. Nothing unusual, other than nobody had seem this particular wolf in nearly ten years. Then all of a sudden she vanished. We tacked it up to misinformation." Alexei tilted his head back. "Last we knew she was outside of my territory, closer to Steelhead's." He paused, "This makes the first death since the interspecies pacts."
The professor nodded, "And that's why we both have to be on our best behavior. All of the Underworld will be watching us now."
Alexei nodded and stood up. "Thanks for letting me know. I'll be in touch." He touched ******* to his lips in farewell and the professor did the same.


As Alexei opened the door, he saw the pack waiting in the hallway just out of earshot. He approached them and they swarmed around him, each of them with a question on their lips. Alexei silenced them with a short gesture and they continued on their way outside. The pack wound through hallways and double doors until they felt the tingle of cold touch their skin. They trailed along behind their leader and burst out the doors, welcoming the frigid air and the soft snowfall they had waited all year for. They hooted and howled giddily, their faces covered in goofy grins and awestruck eyes as they pushed past Alexei and dove into the snow with the other students. Alexei stood there, looking for what he had smelled earlier, for him it was more important than the snow. He scanned the horizon, eyes open wide and searching relentlessly. After a moment, he saw his target, leaning against a tree on the far end of the schoolyard, her fiery hair waving gracefully in the wind. "Jenna."
She winked at him and gestured to her right, where an open forest lay uninhabited. He nodded slightly and made his way down the steps, his heart pounding harder and harder in his chest.
I'll be back soon... Leiks you're in charge.
You okay, alpha, sir? Flora always worried for her alpha.
Yeah, I just need a walk is all.
But... Leiks put a hand on Flora's shoulder and shook her head.
Alexei walked to the edge of the schoolyard and saw that Jenna was already in the woods. Glancing back at the pack, he grinned like a Cheshire cat and chased after her.
They wound through the trees, picking up speed and tossing their heavy jackets away.
Come catch me, big boy. she taunted.

He watched her every graceful move, following relentlessly until he had her. He wrapped his arms around her in a tackle and they rolled, laughing all the while until they came to a halt. Alexei was on top of Jenna, straddling her legs and breathing heavily with her. She closed her eyes and grinned wide, her chest heaving. The air was freezing cold but they couldn't feel it as he leaned in and kissed her, entwining his fingers into her hair. She kissed back and pulled away, biting his neck in the way she knew would make him go weak. Alexei stifled a moan and Jenna felt his muscles quiver. She took the opportunity to push him onto his back and claim dominance over him by straddling him. The heat from Alexei's body made the snow melt and steam below them. He buried his face in her neck, kissing just below her ear. She smelled amazing, the musk of her animal side mixed with her perfume drove Alexei crazy.
He slid his hand under her shirt and felt the curves of her slender body press against him and she growled. Jenna pulled away from the kiss, a grin on her face, "Not yet, darling. There's time for that later."
"I've missed you, kitten."
She growled softly, "you best stop that while you're ahead." She grinned wider and kneaded her claws into his chest. Alexei called her 'kitten' because of her fondness towards cats, specifically kittens.
"Are the others here too?" He pushed her up off of him and stood up himself, closing his eyes in the process. He was referring to Jenna's friends who had left with her a year ago.
"They got here shortly before I did. They're already at the hideout."
Alexei nodded, "We'll be there shortly. Do you want to come with us for the time being?" They began walking back to the schoolyard, grabbing their jackets on the way.
She giggled, "I suppose I should, so they can get used to having two alphas around." Her eyes twinkled as she said it.
Alexei grinned, "I thought it wasn't for another year! Congratulations!"
There was a glimmer of pride in her eyes. "I couldn't have done it without you, darling. They made an exception for me since you had already trained me so well." Jenna had gone to a Lycan Academy farther north, in Canada. There, wolves would be trained to become better leaders or soldiers, depending on their rank. Jenna had shown great promise immediately and was put into higher groups and classes.
The schoolyard soon came into view, and Alexei's pack was still playing in the snow, throwing snowballs and just rolling around in the stuff like children. He whistled a little tune and each of the pack members looked directly at him, going wide eyed when they saw Jenna. They rushed over as fast as they could and tackled her with hugs. "You're back!"
Jenna struggled to get up as a dog pile ensued. Alexei's wild laugh mixed with the cacophony of greetings as Jenna squirmed out. Flora stood behind Alexei, this new person's presence terrifying to her. As the pack got untangled from each other, Jenna walked up to Alexei and Flora, who hid behind him like a cowering pup. Jenna looked at her, "Hey. I'm Jenna, me and Alexei are old friends."
Flora whimpered quietly but peeked out enough so she could get a good look at Jenna. Alexei turned to the pack, saying, "We're going back to the hideout. There's some old friends waiting there for us."

Chapter 2
The pack carried on as usual, sa
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.
Moon shining brightly
high in the midnight sky
A howl from a lone wolf
breaks the quiet night


The strength of the wolf is the pack
without the pack the wolf will cry
the strength of the pack is the wolf
without the wolf the pack die

The forest cries out
hearing the lone wolfs howl
He is without his pack
the forest wants to comfort some how

The strength of the wolf is the pack
without the pack the wolf will cry
the strength of the pack is the wolf
without the wolf the pack die
Rob Sandman Mar 2016
The Ballad Of Jack Hammer (Concept by Jay Byrne)
=========================
Jack Hammer-Jay Byrne Black Fang Rob Sandman aka Schizophrenic.

Listen up I got a tale to tell.
About a black jack rabbit known for raisin' hell.
Jack Hammer's his name. Retribution the game.
Out on the plain with his kinfolk he did dwell.
Til that fateful day. No forgettin it.
Loss so painful. Jack was but a leveret.
While playin' out back.
Along the track came Black Fang and the Red River Pack.
And they were lookin, for blood.
Notorious outlaws up to no good.
In the low sun and The Pack started gunnin'.
So Jack started runnin'. The damage was done and it was over.
No time for goodbye. He just stood there.
Lookin' the Devil in the eye.
While his Momma bled.
The wolf walked up and this is what he said.

Are you sore that the Fang took away your Paw?
and the River Run's red with the blood o' your Maw?,
well hop away little blackjack eyes red raw,
-tell the rest o' the prairie what you done saw,
Red River is the Pack,I'm the one with the crown,
I'm the big bad wolf who blew your whole life down!
so cower and quiver little wabbit,have a cry...
you little ******* you took my **** eye!


From out me back pocket, pulled out me slingshot..
..I'm a real crack-shot when it comes to bringin' pain across lots.
Ya never saw it quicker.
Lickety-split I skedaddle into the thicket.
Then he was gone...

Spent the next few years wanderin'. Ponderin' recompense.
Lived paw to mouth honing his defense..
..and offense. Hell bent on atonement.
Twin six-guns blazin', layin' judgement.
While The Pack kept killin'.
Full split, full chisel, goin' the big figure.
Black Fang said it himself.

none bigger none badder than the Pack I'm with,
spit venom that hisses,hogleg never misses,
no-one messes with the red river,do and you die,
cry wolf-get engulfed,leave your colt lie,
whole pack'll rip lead to your head if you try,
but-one thing niggles while I sup down Rye
is to **** that rabbit that took my **** eye,
heard he built some fame,got himself a name,
Jackhammer IS MINE I STAKED MY CLAIM
.


Like a freight train runnin' on collision course.
Jacks fate's been comin' like an iron horse.
Tour de force, pent up, fired up ready to blow.
On a stormy night into town he did stroll.


Jack walked into the saloon.
Black as all hell, no light from the moon.
Fang at a table playin' poker.
Soon to be Dead Mans Hand for that joker.
The pack'll pay.
I'll put the red in your river bringin' Judgement Day.
Stormbringer I'll deliver. Got an itchy trigger-finger..
..cos I'm quicker and fitter. Juiced up, not goosed up on hard liquor.
Then he catches me eye.
Takes a sip of his rye and says..

if it ain't the **** nipper that took the fang's eye,
waited all these years to come here and die,
no odds no winnin' no end to my sinnin' ,
Pack back up,fair game fangs winnin
last chance saloon,I'm too old for you,
ain't no-one ever outdrew me and old blue,
Navy Colt revolver,dead problem solver
so 'ware this wolf,you couldn't **** with silver


Black Fang, I've come to collect.
Anybody that don't wanna die better mosey outback.
But the pack can stay.
For what ya done did you're dyin' this day.

as I opened my mouth and slid my paw to old blue,
twas like the heavens opened up on my whole **** crew,
twin revolvers spitting,splittin' open my pack,
last shot ripped ripper my lieutenant in the back

cause I dragged him over me,hit the deck too,
little rabbit thinks its,over cause I  was hit too,
then I let rip,aiming straight for the head,
coulda sworn that shot left Jackhammer dead
... (but did it?)
Another unfinished track by myself and Jay Byrne... give us a few likes to hear the end(lol cliffhanger style!)
Terry O'Leary Jun 2013
A cruel Jack Frost blows icy floss
          (in front of spring a’ burstin’)
while shiftin’ sheaves of withered leaves
          near freezin’ streams a’ thirstin’.
A pack reviled runs roamin’ wild,
          the alpha wolf wakes howlin’
then scents a lean and lonesome scene
          while on the lurk a’ prowlin’.

A cloud revolts with spangled bolts,
          and starry skies start closin’
as wild geese soar beyond death’s door
          neath naked moon a’ posin’.
Electric shafts, like fractured rafts,
          sail night’s cathedral caldrons –
their cracking curse makes herds disperse
          in random splayed and sprawled runs.

A she-wolf sighs with hungry eyes;
          the ancient wolf waits, bayin’ -
with weary back, he’s lost the track,
          his bandied legs betrayin’.
The brood’s somewhere in shrouded lair
          with mama left to mind ’em -
the wolf, a’ drag with empty swag,
          is on his way to find ’em.

The pack rejoins with weary ***** -
          perhaps its days are numbered.
In evening’s night, he’s feeling tight,
          with aches and pains encumbered.
As morning nears, with shaggy ears
          (one droopin’ down, hung over)
he’ll set the course with renewed force,
          for, yes, he’s still the rover.

When snow enshrines the timberlines
          and skies are ripped asunder
though young, lupine, they’ll stifle whines,
          as gullies fill with thunder;
mid echoes in the mouth o’ death,
          they bid farewell the lair
while panting puffs o’ crystal breath
          float, hanging in the air.

Their path is black (they can’t look back
          for herds long gone a’ missin’)
as dusk profanes the snow-bound plains
          the sinkin’ sun was kissin’.
Neath northern lights, with barks and bites,
          he keeps ’em all in motion –
the speckled scars of fallin’ stars
          display the night’s devotion.

The sky’s a’ blushin’ in the east,
          and hollow wind’s are sighin’
while buzzards freeze in gallows trees,
          a’ roostin’, rapt and eyein’.
These ghouls of prey, they’re spooked away,
          like tumbleweeds a’ blowin’,
by tilted head, white fangs tipped red,
          and warnin’ wail’s a’ growin’.

With snout upturned the moon’s discerned
          as well as wafts a wendin’
and muzzled growls and shriekin’ howls
          mark wolves in quests unendin’.
With fragrant hint, the wolf’s a’ sprint,
          the pack begins t’ rally –
in swift descent they’ve seized a scent,
          that’s flowin’ down the valley.

The wolf moves on behind the dawn
          and shades the pale horizon
as she-wolfs vet his silhouette
          each time they lay their eyes on.
With trek discreet, a trail is beat
          across a river frozen –
when day’s complete, just mice to eat,
          a choice despised, but chosen.

A stillness jeers the shaggy ears
          (one droopin’ down, hung over),
while caribou, with much ado,
          drift, seekin’ blades o’ clover;
the wearied pack picks up their track
          (with stony stomachs pangin’)
through endless seas of barren trees
          with ice like daggers hangin’.

The wolf invades forgotten glades,
          the pack stays close behind ’im;
the caribou, in his purview,
          seem far too far to mind ’im.
Above, a baleful moonbeam wails,
          “oh god he’s gonna’ catch ’em”;
the scene is grim, the Reaper dim,
          the night has gone to fetch ’im.

A moanin’ mynah’s crying loud
          as birds of prey are preachin’
to cravin’ ravens prayin’ proud
          and wide-eyed owls a’ screechin’.
The wolf, unrushed, is breathin’ hushed,
          his hollow eyes a’ narrowin’
and focused hard in fixed regard
          on herds they'll soon be harrowin’.

The morning breeze is ill at ease,  
          a surge brings sudden silence –
then haggard swarms launch poundin’ storms
          and hurricanes of vi’lence;
the herd’s surprised and paralyzed
          all over hell’s half acre –
the leadin’ buck’s run out of luck,
          he’s soon to meet his maker.

The old wolf creeps, the old wolf leaps
          on prey he’s been a’ trackin’ –
a deer adorned with branchin’ horns
          is torn by beasts attackin’.
The morning quakes, a shadow shakes,
          tined antlers left a’ lyin’,
and spattered spots and scarlet clots
          repaint the point o’ dyin’.

A magpie flies with frightened eyes
          (on ebon wings a’ wavin’),
spies wolfin’ jaws and sated maws
          of wolves no longer cravin’.
The snowdrift clears, a cool wind veers,
          a dying breath, moreover –
a wraith appears, with shaggy ears,
          (one droopin’ down, hung over).

Dawn’s sunbeams crowd, ignite a cloud,
          its threaded strands a’ weavin’.
The pack awakes and twists and shakes,
          for soon it’s time for leavin’;
it’s bleak, it chills on shallow hills,
          as she-wolfs come a’ nuzzlin’,
but north winds scold, the wolf lies cold,
          the pack stands back a’ puzzlin’.

On crimson snows neath perchin’ crows,
          the pack abides a’ guardin’;
while nights are tight with Harpy kites,
          the she-wolves wait an’ harden,
until a groanin’ blizzard stones
          the barren forest stowin’
his shaggy ears beneath the weirs,
          with icy hails ’a blowin’.

The storm abates and terminates,
          the glacial wind’s subsidin’;
the past is past or passin’ fast
          and life goes on abidin’.
The herds, today, roam far away,
          not thinkin’ of the dyin’;
the pack’ll stray from day to day,
          ’a stalkin’ hard and tryin’.

As spring sneaks forth upon the north,
          they’re lean without their leader.
A she-wolf (bound with belly round)
          strains neath a budding cedar.
Upon the morn a whelp is born
           (the future forest drover)
in new frontiers, with shaggy ears
          (one droopin’ down, hung over).
pack your bikini



pack your bikini in your old kit bag

and head to the beach

you go with all of your kids and their kids too

and have a lot of fun oh yeah

there is no need to worry

it really ain’t worth while

so pack up your bikini

and head to the beach

pack your bikini in your old kit bag

and head for the beach

you see those old busy bodies light their ***

it’s not a very good sight

there is no need to worrty

the girls and guys are hot

so pack your bikini in your bag oh yeah

to see what your heart is up to now

pack your bikini in your old kit bag

and say to your spouse

you are the best lover that i ever had

i wanna ****** give you a treat

you see i like looking at your legs

they are **** as, i know

so pack your bikini in your old kit bag and smile smile smile

there is no need for a worrying

for it really ain’t my style, no

so pack your bikini in your old kit bag

and let out a very big smile

go to a party and have cocktails ala plenty

and get really drunk and head to the beach

and flash your ****

as we’ve packed our bikinis in our old kit bag

and had a very good time, ooh yeah
Dev A Mar 2014
Continuation of Life is just a Metaphor*

The wolves sing
Such a lovely song;
Howling, howling,
Calling the pack home.

The lone wolf
Hears the angelic sound,
Despairing, for he is all alone.
He follows the sound,
Remembering his own pack;
So similar, yet so different.
The sounds of playful competition,
The smell of his own kind.

Right in front of him,
Yet so distant,
The pack sees, smells, hears him.
He knows he’s unwelcome;
He feels it.
But the lone wolf
Has been alone for too long.

The wolf pushes forward,
Daring another to challenge him.
The pack doesn’t attack
But the lone wolf’s presence
-Startling and sudden-
Is not acknowledged,
Making it known
The lone wolf is just that;
A solitary, deranged, unwanted wolf.

He stays.
The lone wolf joins the pack,
Unwelcome as he is.
He’s not permitted to join
The hunt, the feast, the camaraderie.
But he knows how to survive on his own.

His lone howl
Calls to the moon,
Calls to his lost family,
Calls to those he’ll never see again.
He’s joined a new pack
But they don’t see him as a pack mate;
“Not yet” he thinks,
“Not yet, but they will.”

The lone wolf goes to sleep
Each and every night,
Waiting, just waiting
For the next day
When the pack will accept him,
Count him as one of their own.
Dev A Apr 2014
Continuation of Life is Just a Metaphor and The Lone Wolf*

The wolf howls,
A piercing sound
And yet there is a note,
A note of happiness;
The wolf is rejoicing
For he is no longer in despair.
After moons upon moons,
The lone wolf
Found a pack mate.
Another wolf
Just as lost and alone,
Another searching,
Searching for a pack,
For acceptance.

Finding another
To join the foreign pack,
Helped to ease the tension
Built up in the pack,
The pack the lone wolf
Intruded, forced himself into.
The unwilling acceptance,
From the pack,
Of the lone wolf,
Gradually becomes
A shakey understanding,
Developing into trust.

With the help of his new friend,
The not-so-lone-wolf
Is finally allowed
To be part of the pack.
Every day he thinks of his old pack.
Remembering those gone,
But rejoicing at his new family.
No longer alone,
The wolf howls
His angelic sound
Along with his pack
As a hunt begins.
Francie Lynch Sep 2015
Across the road
A J-K girl,
Skipped and laughed
On her way to school.
She was strapped
To a big back-pack,
Looking like
A pink pack mule.
Behind her strove
Her drover,
Directing her to quarry
All the stones of learning.

By three o'clock
My minature mule,
A little slower
Trudged from school.
The pack was filled
With rules and tools.
She had panned
The ores of knowledge;
She'll assay them
In days to follow.

Each day my mule
Will turn the grindstone,
Crunching numbers,
Sifting fine poems.
She's mining all the hidden gems
To fill her back-pack
Once again.
Education is the best gift we can ever give our kids.
Dallas Allen Oct 2013
we are the wolf pack
we are a group, a team
we are on the attack
but not how it would seem

we are attacking the grade scales
being top of the county
we are a wolf pack, we will not fail
we will receive the bounty

we are mostly rejects,
outcasts by nature
they think we are defects
and our structure

will fail, but we are the wolf pack without fail
we will win, 300 strong
so the pack will prevail
the pack will not go wrong
i dedicate this to my school. fellow classmates what you think?
From Marlboros, and thinkin horribles,
Each time I think of you is another cigarette gone from my pack.

I start my pack full, I test the weight, loving the feel of a full pack in my hand,
But with every thought, they start to slip through my fingers like sand, and find their way home on my lips, where my tears just fall off and drip.

I started with 20, doing so far so good.
Wait whats that? you called?? there goes my mood.

A thought of you, a image plus two and then Im done with a few.
(17)

I choke on my fears, while I clench my hair
I called you my dear, and now im done with a pair.
(15)

Anxiety is something which I so not lack,
Giving my breath to this dwindling pack.
(13)

You feed my addiction being the flame,
my heart burns black, while it bears your name.
(10)

I sit and ponder on these thoughts I wish to behave,
Two more ignites, to feed the darkness in which I crave.
(8)

My pack is now dwindling low,
As I struggle to maintain a steady air flow.
How else can you sleep, when you've been hit with such a harsh blow.
(6)

I have clipped my wings,
after i have fallen oh so low,
in search of my name in your voice, but it is another mans love in which you sing.
This cigerette is now the only thing that glows.
(3)

(Braxton) I remember from where I came and god its a shame,
I just wish the addiction never screamed your name

Empty. Like my heart, the hollow pack crumples in my hands, wishing to be filled.
But the self destructive cycle repeats again, and again. .
And I begin my pack full, yet again testing the weight..
Poem written with the help of my friend Braxton, this poem shows my struggles with my inner demons, and a bad habit.
SAILING TO BYZANTIUM
I

THAT is no country for old men.  The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
-- Those dying generations -- at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out Of nature I shall never take
My ****** form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

WHAT shall I do with this absurdity --
O heart, O troubled heart -- this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?
Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fantastical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible --
No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,
Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back
And had the livelong summer day to spend.
It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel.
I pace upon the battlements and stare
On the foundations of a house, or where
Tree, like a sooty finger, starts from the earth;
And send imagination forth
Under the day's declining beam, and call
Images and memories
From ruin or from ancient trees,
For I would ask a question of them all.
Beyond that ridge lived Mrs.  French, and once
When every silver candlestick or sconce
Lit up the dark mahogany and the wine.
A serving-man, that could divine
That most respected lady's every wish,
Ran and with the garden shears
Clipped an insolent farmer's ears
And brought them in a little covered dish.
Some few remembered still when I was young
A peasant girl commended by a Song,
Who'd lived somewhere upon that rocky place,
And praised the colour of her face,
And had the greater joy in praising her,
Remembering that, if walked she there,
Farmers jostled at the fair
So great a glory did the song confer.
And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes,
Or else by toasting her a score of times,
Rose from the table and declared it right
To test their fancy by their sight;
But they mistook the brightness of the moon
For the prosaic light of day --
Music had driven their wits astray --
And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone.
Strange, but the man who made the song was blind;
Yet, now I have considered it, I find
That nothing strange; the tragedy began
With Homer that was a blind man,
And Helen has all living hearts betrayed.
O may the moon and sunlight seem
One inextricable beam,
For if I triumph I must make men mad.
And I myself created Hanrahan
And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn
From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages.
Caught by an old man's juggleries
He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro
And had but broken knees for hire
And horrible splendour of desire;
I thought it all out twenty years ago:
Good fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn;
And when that ancient ruffian's turn was on
He so bewitched the cards under his thumb
That all but the one card became
A pack of hounds and not a pack of cards,
And that he changed into a hare.
Hanrahan rose in frenzy there
And followed up those baying creatures towards --
O towards I have forgotten what -- enough!
I must recall a man that neither love
Nor music nor an enemy's clipped ear
Could, he was so harried, cheer;
A figure that has grown so fabulous
There's not a neighbour left to say
When he finished his dog's day:
An ancient bankrupt master of this house.
Before that ruin came, for centuries,
Rough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees
Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs,
And certain men-at-arms there were
Whose images, in the Great Memory stored,
Come with loud cry and panting breast
To break upon a sleeper's rest
While their great wooden dice beat on the board.
As I would question all, come all who can;
Come old, necessitous.  half-mounted man;
And bring beauty's blind rambling celebrant;
The red man the juggler sent
Through God-forsaken meadows; Mrs.  French,
Gifted with so fine an ear;
The man drowned in a bog's mire,
When mocking Muses chose the country *****.
Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
Whether in public or in secret rage
As I do now against old age?
But I have found an answer in those eyes
That are impatient to be gone;
Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan,
For I need all his mighty memories.
Old lecher with a love on every wind,
Bring up out of that deep considering mind
All that you have discovered in the grave,
For it is certain that you have
Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing
plunge, lured by a softening eye,
Or by a touch or a sigh,
Into the labyrinth of another's being;
Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost.?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And that if memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.

III
It is time that I wrote my will;
I choose upstanding men
That climb the streams until
The fountain leap, and at dawn
Drop their cast at the side
Of dripping stone; I declare
They shall inherit my pride,
The pride of people that were
Bound neither to Cause nor to State.
Neither to slaves that were spat on,
Nor to the tyrants that spat,
The people of Burke and of Grattan
That gave, though free to refuse --
pride, like that of the morn,
When the headlong light is loose,
Or that of the fabulous horn,
Or that of the sudden shower
When all streams are dry,
Or that of the hour
When the swan must fix his eye
Upon a fading gleam,
Float out upon a long
Last reach of glittering stream
And there sing his last song.
And I declare my faith:
I mock plotinus' thought
And cry in plato's teeth,
Death and life were not
Till man made up the whole,
Made lock, stock and barrel
Out of his bitter soul,
Aye, sun and moon and star, all,
And further add to that
That, being dead, we rise,
Dream and so create
Translunar paradise.
I have prepared my peace
With learned Italian things
And the proud stones of Greece,
Poet's imaginings
And memories of love,
Memories of the words of women,
All those things whereof
Man makes a superhuman,
Mirror-resembling dream.
As at the loophole there
The daws chatter and scream,
And drop twigs layer upon layer.
When they have mounted up,
The mother bird will rest
On their hollow top,
And so warm her wild nest.
I leave both faith and pride
To young upstanding men
Climbing the mountain-side,
That under bursting dawn
They may drop a fly;
Being of that metal made
Till it was broken by
This sedentary trade.
Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it to study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Testy delirium
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come --
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath -- .
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades;
Or a bird's sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.
THE TOWER
I
HDRWHAT shall I do with this absurdity --
O heart, O troubled heart -- this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?
Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fantastical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible --
No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,
Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back
And had the livelong summer day to spend.
It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel.
I pace upon the battlements and stare
On the foundations of a house, or where
Tree, like a sooty finger, starts from the earth;
And send imagination forth
Under the day's declining beam, and call
Images and memories
From ruin or from ancient trees,
For I would ask a question of them all.
Beyond that ridge lived Mrs.  French, and once
When every silver candlestick or sconce
Lit up the dark mahogany and the wine.
A serving-man, that could divine
That most respected lady's every wish,
Ran and with the garden shears
Clipped an insolent farmer's ears
And brought them in a little covered dish.
Some few remembered still when I was young
A peasant girl commended by a Song,
Who'd lived somewhere upon that rocky place,
And praised the colour of her face,
And had the greater joy in praising her,
Remembering that, if walked she there,
Farmers jostled at the fair
So great a glory did the song confer.
And certain men, being maddened by those rhymes,
Or else by toasting her a score of times,
Rose from the table and declared it right
To test their fancy by their sight;
But they mistook the brightness of the moon
For the prosaic light of day --
Music had driven their wits astray --
And one was drowned in the great bog of Cloone.
Strange, but the man who made the song was blind;
Yet, now I have considered it, I find
That nothing strange; the tragedy began
With Homer that was a blind man,
And Helen has all living hearts betrayed.
O may the moon and sunlight seem
One inextricable beam,
For if I triumph I must make men mad.
And I myself created Hanrahan
And drove him drunk or sober through the dawn
From somewhere in the neighbouring cottages.
Caught by an old man's juggleries
He stumbled, tumbled, fumbled to and fro
And had but broken knees for hire
And horrible splendour of desire;
I thought it all out twenty years ago:
Good fellows shuffled cards in an old bawn;
And when that ancient ruffian's turn was on
He so bewitched the cards under his thumb
That all but the one card became
A pack of hounds and not a pack of cards,
And that he changed into a hare.
Hanrahan rose in frenzy there
And followed up those baying creatures towards --
O towards I have forgotten what -- enough!
I must recall a man that neither love
Nor music nor an enemy's clipped ear
Could, he was so harried, cheer;
A figure that has grown so fabulous
There's not a neighbour left to say
When he finished his dog's day:
An ancient bankrupt master of this house.
Before that ruin came, for centuries,
Rough men-at-arms, cross-gartered to the knees
Or shod in iron, climbed the narrow stairs,
And certain men-at-arms there were
Whose images, in the Great Memory stored,
Come with loud cry and panting breast
To break upon a sleeper's rest
While their great wooden dice beat on the board.
As I would question all, come all who can;
Come old, necessitous.  half-mounted man;
And bring beauty's blind rambling celebrant;
The red man the juggler sent
Through God-forsaken meadows; Mrs.  French,
Gifted with so fine an ear;
The man drowned in a bog's mire,
When mocking Muses chose the country *****.
Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
Whether in public or in secret rage
As I do now against old age?
But I have found an answer in those eyes
That are impatient to be gone;
Go therefore; but leave Hanrahan,
For I need all his mighty memories.
Old lecher with a love on every wind,
Bring up out of that deep considering mind
All that you have discovered in the grave,
For it is certain that you have
Reckoned up every unforeknown, unseeing
plunge, lured by a softening eye,
Or by a touch or a sigh,
Into the labyrinth of another's being;
Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost.?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And that if memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.
III
It is time that I wrote my will;
I choose upstanding men
That climb the streams until
The fountain leap, and at dawn
Drop their cast at the side
Of dripping stone; I declare
They shall inherit my pride,
The pride of people that were
Bound neither to Cause nor to State.
Neither to slaves that were spat on,
Nor to the tyrants that spat,
The people of Burke and of Grattan
That gave, though free to refuse --
pride, like that of the morn,
When the headlong light is loose,
Or that of the fabulous horn,
Or that of the sudden shower
When all streams are dry,
Or that of the hour
When the swan must fix his eye
Upon a fading gleam,
Float out upon a long
Last reach of glittering stream
And there sing his last song.
And I declare my faith:
I mock plotinus' thought
And cry in plato's teeth,
Death and life were not
Till man made up the whole,
Made lock, stock and barrel
Out of his bitter soul,
Aye, sun and moon and star, all,
And further add to that
That, being dead, we rise,
Dream and so create
Translunar paradise.
I have prepared my peace
With learned Italian things
And the proud stones of Greece,
Poet's imaginings
And memories of love,
Memories of the words of women,
All those things whereof
Man makes a superhuman,
Mirror-resembling dream.
As at the loophole there
The daws chatter and scream,
And drop twigs layer upon layer.
When they have mounted up,
The mother bird will rest
On their hollow top,
And so warm her wild nest.
I leave both faith and pride
To young upstanding men
Climbing the mountain-side,
That under bursting dawn
They may drop a fly;
Being of that metal made
Till it was broken by
This sedentary trade.
Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it to study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Testy delirium
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come --
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath -- .
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades;
Or a bird's sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.
Stephen E Yocum Oct 2013
The Island Moorea,
backpacking Tahiti,
In the heat, the sun,
The rhythm of my footfalls
crunching loose gravel road,
The swish of pack swaying
in conert to my measured pace.

Breeze pushing branches of Palm,
Ocean waves breaching shoreline long.
Island vehicles passing, occupant's laughing,
a man laboring under large pack, alone walking,
Who could have been freely riding,
Unthinkable to Island Folk,
in hot tropical places.

Some humble homes pasted along the way.
Greetings exchanged with smiling faces there.
Not long afterward a new sound approaching,
crunching gravel, rolling up behind me.

A lovely young girl, perhaps nineteen,
long brown naked legs bike a peddling.
Hair jet black, long to her waist, wearing
a sarong, split up the side,
Shoulders bare and brown.
Dark eyes of wonder, sparkling of youth.
A radiant smile adorning a splendid face.

We went for a time at my even pace,
looking and smiling each in our place.
"Hello there," I said, she giggled, beamed
even bigger. Perfect teeth displayed.

"Why you walk?" She asked in heavily
accented puzzlement.

"To get to where I'm going". I replied
This response producing a pleasant laugh
from the girl. In which I too joined in.

"You go One Chicken?" She asked
I stopped then and turned to her.
"Where is One Chicken?" I questioned
with a grin.

She raised her graceful arm,
one finger pointing up the road.
"One Chicken there," she informed.

It was a store/bar, sort of place,
In the very midst of nowhere.
Indeed, more than one chicken roamed,
Many chickens did and a pig or two,
mingling free and doing their thing.

We entered out of the bright daylight,
into the deepest of darks,
Like in a movie theater, when arriving late.
Eyes adjusting slowly to what lay ahead.

A few Island Beers later,
I had acquired several new friends,
The girl my invitation to the party of
already happy people a little drunk on beer.
The Music was mostly of French persuasion,
With a bit of Bob Dylan thrown in.
The Beatles also had a tune or two.
The Liverpool beat resounding down Tahiti way.

Before the light did fail, I shouldered my pack
and walked some distance from Chickens and Pigs.
Found the beach, hung my Hammock for the night.
Built a small fire and opened a can of Spam delight.

She appeared again about ten,
looking beautiful in the new moonlight.
Newly washed hair, still damp and
smelling fresh of Lilacs,
Or some such aromatic scent.
We did not speak, no words were needed,

Made love on the sand, 'till the retreat of the
tide and sand ***** did come out, in their
eerie numbers, to eat what was at hand.
I suppose even us if we let them.

We retired then both to my hammock,
A pretty neat trick if you can swing it.
And we did.

She was so childlike and yet,
very much a woman grown.
There was no pretense shown,
no false inhibitions rendered.
These were not limitations of her culture.
people that respond to their emotional impulses.
An open and free spirited people living
passionately within each minute.

It all felt more akin to a dream than real,
All around me there was beauty,
Loving and being loved without hurry,
Free of guilt or even a single expectation.
Living in that wondrous moment,
of uncomplicated human splendor.
Like some Garden of Eden surrender.
A real life Gauguin painting.

In the morning, we swam naked in the sea,
frolicked like kids having a day at the beach.
Made love in the sand, I dozed in the sun.
Upon awaking she was gone.

I waited an hour or two, packed up my camp,
shouldered my load and returned to the road.
A few minutes later, again I heard the now
familiar crunch of rubber tires,
rolling road surface and there she was,
a straw basket in her Bike's basket,  
A huge smile on her unforgettable,
beautiful face.

We sat in a grove of trees,
among birds singing, in sight of the sea,
Upon a Palm log and ate fresh bread and
fruit. Drank strong black coffee (French Roast
I presume,) nibbling some marvelous cheese.
We tried to talk, but she understood little of
what I tried to say, my French was nearly
nonexistent, only adding to confusions sake .

She leaned her head on my shoulder,
the way lovers do and tenderly held
my hand within her two,
As if not wanting to let go,
Those gestures said all there was to say,
And we savored each silent moment.

We parted there, she on blue, rusty bike
and me on "shanks mare",
Off in two different directions,
Each out into the depths of our own lives,
Gone just like that. . . And yet,
Indelible, never to be forgotten or replaced.
Some days and nights, that young maiden of
Moorea does still visit me, in dreams as real
as can be. She never grows old, nor does the
beauty we shared for that one brief moment in
time immortal.

Someplace among the Islands of Tahiti
there is a woman in her sixties, most likely
a Mother, even a Grandmother yet living.
I hope she recalls as fondly the American blond
man with the big Orange Backpack, that in 1972
she met upon the road, near "One Chicken" and
loved freely and completely for two days and a
night, as that man does so fondly remember her.
M May 2013
Pack up your things,
Pack up your dreams,
Pack up your courage,
We're ready to leave.

We are ready to leave the comfort
Of our homes and routines;
We are ready to leave behind
All that steals our time, fleeing the feinds.

We are ready to explore
And walk out on our own
Into the great world,
To places unknown.

We are ready to only leave
Our foot prints where we walked,
We are ready to only carry memories
Of those with whom we have talked.

New places, new experiences;
That's all we crave
New voices, new faces;
To leave behind the familiar ones mean you have to be brave.

Pack up your bags,
Leave behind your doubts.
Embrace the unknown with open arms,
Walk with confidence and curiosity down your new route.

Pack up your life.
Store it under your bed, leave it behind,
Because once you get out in the world,
You'll realize there is so much more to find.
I see too many pictures of beautiful places and rather than looking at them, I want to take those photos. I want to be thrown out of my element and learn about the world, see what I haven't seen, and explore. It seems like the most fabulous thing to do, pack up and explore the world on my own.
Brent Kincaid Mar 2017
You packed for a picnic
Or a day in the sun
Now it’s time to pack it back
Whenever you are done.
Nobody cares what kind
Of drinks or junk you buy.
They care about the beauty
Of land and sea and sky.

You packed it in
So you pack it back.
Bring along with you
An extra ******* sack.
Care for our environment
As if it were your own.
We all live on this planet
You are not here alone.

Look around at where we live
What you can do to conserve
The wonders in nature.
Don’t throw us all a curve.
Pack back out what you bring in;
The right thing to do.
We are responsible adults
Not here to clean for you.

You packed it in
So you pack it back.
Bring along with you
An extra ******* sack.
Leave like you want to see it,
Think of more than just you.
Care for our environment
It’s the right thing to do.
Juliesen Night Apr 2014
He stands beside me,
In awe of the sight before thee.
His hand has mine.

We both look at each other.
Nothing can be told from his eyes.
The eyes of Ashure haze.

"Do not be afraid..
We are home."

The sound of rushing water,
Crashing into its ever blue.
The beauty of the growth around it.
I call it home.

This was the place,
Where the wolves shall be born.
Creation of a pack.
Has just begun.

Werewolves alive.
Waterfalls of Beauty.
A family.
For eternity.
Jonesy Jun 2016
She's beautiful,
In her silky, midnight fur
Sitting howling at the moon.

No, you would never believe she's independent,
A huntress of the night.
The monsters fear her,
But other wolves adore her bravery.

She was not egotistic,
For she knew her strength as a lone Wolf will never overcome the strength of a wolf pack.
As independent and as brave as you are,
You will never be as strong as you would be with the pack.

Its better and more fun to be with a pack of wolves that care about you even as a lone Wolf.

The full moon glows,
Night is at its peak
And she howls as her pack sleeps.

The lone wolf observes the ocean's waters in tranquility,
All she needs is the love of her pack.

                                                                                                   Jonesy  ©
Gnawing, that’s what you do
All of you
Dogs teeth on a bone
Mauling
Tearing
Shredding
Razorsharp
Gleam in the eye of the night
Blood stained fangs
Sink into your heart
Rip it apart
Smile
Woman
I am man’s best friend.
Everywhere.
Can’t escape
These Hounds
Fur caked with the blood of
The wounded and dead
***** Depraved Heartless Creature
You live in the shadows
Licking your teeth waiting for prey
Because it is only meat you crave
And the smell of it makes you raw with power
You are not noble, not high, not to be trusted
How many  innocents have been betrayed
With your hollow words
The sudden flash of your knife
Your cold vicious stabbing
That says
I will love you over and over
With my dagger buried to its hilt while you cling
To my whisper
Until you trust nothing, believe nothing are nothing
You will be a rag doll of emptiness when I have taken
All from you.
And then my pack will come
pack after pack after pack
each like me
And you will be swallowed in the fury
Of my heartlessness
I am man’s best friend
And you are only
Woman
Larry B Mar 2011
My wife, she likes those six pack abs
But me, I've got a keg
She can see that thing anytime she likes
And I won't even make her beg

I see myself as a muscle man
I workout everyday
Watching Tv with my plate on my belly
And putting that food away

My workout plan is a strenuous task
All I gotta do is eat
I know it works 'cause my belly keeps growing
Until I can't even see my feet

I go to the gym at least five times a day
Gym is the name of my fridge
There's so many ropes holding up my pants
'Til it looks like the brooklyn bridge

Yep, she really loves those six pack abs
And she says I'm shaped like an egg
It takes a very long time to look like this
So she better get used to the keg
Throw me to the wolves

See if I don't come back
Leading the pack

Don't you know me
Better than that?

Resilience

Never forget
I'm the girl who loves you

I'm strong and true
I'll come out growling

Barring my teeth for the world to see

I dare you
Just try and hurt me

You won't succeed
I'm swinging and biting

Just try and push me down
I'll stare at the ground

Mesmerized by the sound
Of me clawing your eyes out

I got some fight left in me
Resilience

You'll see....
Tread carefully
My claws are at the ready

I got my whole pack behind me
Literally
Ready to snap necks and chew flesh

The Girl Who Loved You is here to stay
Standing strong
Despite what you say

Resilience
Everyday

Leading this pack of wolves
Never astray
Ann M Johnson Jan 2014
A lone wolf finds his pack then makes tracks in the snow by the light of the moon
The pack moves with urgency they need to hunt
An unknown source has been hunting with such force, leaving a ****** trail in it's wake
They must not make a mistake their food supply has been threatened.

The pack presses on deeper into the forest, further than they have been before
They used to have more than enough food, but lately everything has seemed to change
In fact even patterns in nature seemed to have been altered, for one thing there have been
more full moons than normal.

The youngest wolf was thinking to himself, could there be a connection between the full moon
and the dwindling food supply, an unknown creature like those humans talk about around a
campfire, an abominable Snowman or werewolf or something else.

The young wolf shakes off those thoughts, they are just story's after all, right
I better not let my imagination run wild, I  am no longer a cub
He rounds a bend in the woods, he looks back he sees that once again got separated from his pack, He was about to turn around and go back to where he last saw his pack, when he heard a strange sound like a half howl, half cry, half scream he felt compelled by curiosity, ignoring his hunger.

He glanced quickly at the moon, it is a full moon, He continued to go toward the sound.
He heard a ear splitting scream, he saw an old cabin in the distance. it looks like it had been
long abandoned could that be where the sound is coming from , The pack had always expressed that he is kind of reckless, but he just could not ignore the sound or the urge to investigate

He quickly approached the cabin, the sound grew louder there was no doubt the sound came from here. He saw an open door, against  his better judgement  he went inside, he slowly approached than suddenly stopped and stared at the sight before his eyes.
The moonlight shone through a window and the man standing before the window was morphing before his eyes, The man/creature had eyes like a wolf, scales unlike anything he had seen before, it was changing before his eyes, it's skin part man part beast was opalescent and shimmered under the moonlight it's colors kept changing like a chameleon effect, yet uniquely different.

He kept watching until the transformation was complete know transformed into something form the tales of man, something resembling a mythological beast. He felt awe and fear at the same time. He would not have believed it if he had not seem it with his own eyes, The transformation of man to beast under the light of the full moon.
I dedicate this short story to those of you, who commented on  The Light Of The Moon and wanted to read more, I hope you enjoy this.
Nameless May 2014
I believe the lone wolf
Is slowly finding its pack
Even though it may be small
The strength as a whole will not lack

Because she has found someone
To tell her hopes and dreams to
Because she has found someone
Who she'd never lie to

Her feelings are growing
With ever moment they share
They're pack is as close, as it is fare...
Alyssa Underwood Aug 2018
We're forced, each man, to walk a trialed path—
resisted trek, uphill through blinding daze
that shrouds with crucible's perplexing haze
till fog-white skies yield quick to black clouds' wrath.
Affliction brims a thorny pack to bear
whilst dewy darkness drenches in the night,
but where is calming lamp to lend us sight?
And who will come to give us saving care?
Here through veil is heard a whisper certain,
then o'er the mountain creeps the dawning day
and with clear eyes we see the brume give way
as God retracts His theatre's curtain,
unsheathing velvet waves whose morning sheen
beyond grey mist splays vast and wondrous green.
~~~

"I will exalt You, LORD,
    for You lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
LORD my God, I called to You for help,
    and You healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    You spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the LORD, you His faithful people;
    praise His holy name.
For His anger lasts only a moment,
    but His favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said,
    'I will never be shaken.'
LORD, when You favored me,
    You made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when You hid Your face,
    I was dismayed.
To You, LORD, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
'What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
    Will it proclaim Your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me;
    LORD, be my help.'
You turned my wailing into dancing;
    You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent.
    LORD my God, I will praise You forever."

~ Psalm 30

https://hellopoetry.com/poem/1464179/the-beauty-behind-the-fog/
Jerrad Johnson Jan 2018
We are pack
United as one, we attack
Nothing can stand before the wolf pack

A pack united is unstoppable
But a lone wolf is trivial

End to end, we ruled the map
If you thought you were free, it was only a trap
And if were satiated, we might even cap

But there was a shift in power, and the STDs ruled from above
Death poured down from on high
And "cancer" was written in the sky

These big guns divided the pack
We became lone wolves, and trivial
We cannot stand before this attack

We remember when we were united as a wolf pack
We were pack
Frank DeRose Nov 2016
I'm going through old desk drawers.
Changing rooms, moving down to the basement.

I must finally be a twentynothing after all these years.

I'm going through old cards,
Things I never had the heart to throw away.
My mom calls me a pack rat,
Says I'm a hoarder.

Maybe she's right,
But I still can't fault myself.
I pack away memories, hoard treasures of information and sentiment.

The base layer of sediment for my being.

In one drawer I find an old model airplane,
From an erector set when I was young.
I remember building it with my dad--
The propellor still turns.

How could I throw it away?

Even now, I think I'll keep it.
And look on it, some years hence,
And remember, as I do now.

I have dozens and dozens of cards.
Birthdays, graduations, christmases, milestones, achievements.

In them I read emotion poured out,
Words too sappy for speech,
Too thick and viscous.

In cards they flow like fine wine,
Aged perfectly.

I have old poems,
Written seven years ago and more.
Hundreds and hundreds of them.

In them I see leaves of growth.

Old friends are enshrined within the ancient artifacts of these dark burial tombs;
I open them and reminisce fondly.

These things are proof that I was here,
That I existed,
More so than my bones could ever be.

They show a person, a being--
A life.

Inanimate objects are no less alive than we, dear friend.

They are endowed with our spirit,
And their memories will long outlast our corporeal selves.

Pack away your memories,
Hold them close.

They are not trash,
Despite whatever your mom might say.
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

“As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm”
Prayer is better than sleep

Rising from the torment of another restless night, Bouazizi wiped the sleep from his droopy eyes as his feet touched the cold stone floor.

Throughout the frigid night, the devilish jinn did their work, eagerly jabbing away at Bouazizi with pointed sticks, tormenting his troubled conscience with the worry of his nagging indebtedness. All night the face of the man Bouazizi owed money to haunted him. Bouazizi could see the man’s greasy lips and brown teeth jawing away, inches from his face. He imagined chubby caffeine stained fingers reaching toward him to grab some dinars from Bouazizi’s money box.

Bouazizi turned all night like he was sleeping on a board of spikes. His prayers for a restful night again went unanswered. The pall of a blue fatigue would shadow Bouazizi for most of the day.

Bouazizi’s weariness was compounded by a gnawing hunger. By force of habit, he grudgingly opened the food cupboard with the foreknowledge that it was almost bare. Bouazizi’s premonition proved correct as he surveyed a meager handful of chickpeas, some eggs and a few sparse loaves. It was just enough to feed his dependant family; younger brothers and sisters, cousins and a terminally disabled uncle. That left nothing for Bouazizi but a quick jab to his empty gut. He would start this day without breakfast.

Bouazizi made a living as a street vendor. He hustles to survive. Bouazizi’s father died in a construction accident in Libya when he was three. Since the age of 10, Bouazizi had pushed a cart through the streets of Sidi Bouzid; selling fruit at the public market just a few blocks from the home that he has lived in for almost his entire life.

At 27 years of age, Bouazizi has wrestled the beast of deprivation since his birth. To date, he has bravely fought it to a standstill; but day after day the multi-headed hydra of life has snapped at him. He has squarely met the eyes of the beast with fortitude and resolve; but the sharp fangs of a hardscrabble life has sunken deep into Bouazizi’s spleen. The unjust rules of society are powerful claws that slash away at his flesh, bleeding him dry: while the spiked tendrils of poverty wrap Bouazizi’s neck, seeking to strangle him.

Bouazizi is a workingman hero; a skilled warrior in the fight for daily bread. He is accustomed to living a life of scarcity. His daily deliverance is the grace of another day of labor and the blessed wages of subsistence.

Though Allah has blessed this man with fortitude the acuteness of terminal want and the constant struggle to survive has its limits for any man; even for strong champions like Bouazizi.

This morning as Bouazizi washed he peered into a mirror, closely examining new wrinkles on his stubble strewn face. He fingered his deep black curls dashed with growing streaks of gray. He studied them through the gaze of heavy bloodshot eyes. He looked upward as if to implore Allah to salve the bruises of daily life.

Bouazizi braced himself with the splash of a cold water slap to his face. He wiped his cheeks clean with the tail of his shirt. He dipped his toothbrush into a box of baking powder and scoured an aching back molar in need of a root canal. Bouazizi should see a dentist but it is a luxury he cannot afford so he packed an aspirin on top of the infected tooth. The dissolving aspirin invaded his mouth coating his tongue with a bitter effervescence.

Bouazizi liked the taste and was grateful for the expectation of a dulled pain. He smiled into the mirror to check his chipped front tooth while pinching a cigarette **** from an ashtray. The roach had one hit left in it. He lit it with a long hard drag that consumed a good part of the filter. Bouazizi’s first smoke of the day was more filter then tobacco but it shocked his lungs into the coughing flow of another day.

Bouazizi put on his jacket, slipped into his knockoff NB sneakers and reached for a green apple on a nearby table. He took a big bite and began to chew away the pain of his toothache.

Bouazizi stepped into the street to catch the sun rising over the rooftops. He believed that seeing the sunrise was a good omen that augured well for that day’s business. A sunbeam braking over a far distant wall bathed Bouazizi in a golden light and illumined the alley where he parked his cart holding his remaining stock of week old apples. He lifted the handles and backed his cart out into the street being extra mindful of the cracks in the cobblestone road. Bouazizi sprained his ankle a week ago and it was still tender. Bouazizi had to be careful not to aggravate it with a careless step. Having successfully navigated his cart into the road, Bouazizi made a skillful U Turn and headed up the street limping toward the market.

A winter chill gripped Bouazizi prompting him to zip his jacket up to his neck. The zipper pinched his Adam’s Apple and a few droplets of blood stained his green corduroy jacket. Though it was cold, Bouazizi sensed that spring would arrive early this year triggering a replay of a recurring daydream. Bouazizi imagined himself behind the wheel of a new van on his way to the market. Fresh air and sunshine pouring through the open windows with the cargo space overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits.

It was a lifelong ambition of Bouazizi to own a van. He dreamed of buying a six cylinder Dodge Caravan. It would be painted red and he would call it The Red Flame. The Red Flame would be fast and powerful and sport chrome spinners. The Red Flame would be filled with music from a Blaupunkt sound system with kick *** speakers. Power windows, air conditioning, leather seats, a moonroof and plenty of space in the back for his produce would complete Bouazizi’s ride.

The Red Flame would be the vehicle Bouazizi required to expand his business beyond the market square. Bouazizi would sell his produce out of the back of the van, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. No longer would he have to wait for customers to come to his stand in the market. Bouazizi would go to his customers. Bouazizi and the Red Flame would be known in all the neighborhoods throughout the district. Bouazizi shook his head and smiled thinking about all the girls who would like to take rides in the Red Flame. Bouazizi and his Red Flame would be a sight to be noticed and a force to be reckoned with.

“EEEEEYOWWW” a Mercedes horn angrily honked; jarring Bouazizi from the reverie of his daydream. A guy whipping around the corner like a silver streak stuck his head out the window blasting with music yelling, “Hey Mnayek, watch where you push that *******.”

The music faded as the Mercedes roared away. “Barra nikk okhtek” Bouazizi yelled, raising his ******* in the direction of the vanished car. “The big guys in the fancy cars think the road belongs to them”, Bouazizi mumbled to himself.

The insult ****** Bouazizi off, but he was accustomed to them and as he limped along pushing his cart he distracted himself with the amusement of the ascending sun chasing the fleeting shadows of the night, sending them scurrying down narrow alleyways.

Bouazizi imaged himself a character from his favorite movie. He was a giant Transformer, chasing the black shadows of evil away from the city into the desert. After battling evil and conquering the bad guys, he would transform himself back into the regular Bouazizi; selling his produce to the people as he patrolled the highways of Tunisia in the Red Flame, the music blasting out the windows, the chrome spinners flashing in the sunlight. Bouazizi would remain vigilant, always ready to transform the Red Flame to fight the evil doers.

The bumps and potholes in the road jostled Bouazizi’s load of apples. A few fell out of the wooden baskets and were rolling around in the open spaces of the cart. Bouazizi didn’t want to risk bruising them. Damaged merchandise can’t be sold so he was careful to secure his goods and arrange his cart to appeal to women customers. He made sure to display his prized electronic scale in the corner of the cart for all to see.

Bouazizi had a reputation as a fair and generous dealer who always gave good value to his customers. Bouazizi was also known for his kindness. He would give apples to hungry children and families who could not pay. Bouazizi knew the pain of hunger and it brought him great satisfaction to be able to alleviate it in others.

As a man who valued fairness, Bouazizi was particularly proud of his electronic scale. Bouazizi was certain the new measuring device assured all customers that Bouazizi sold just and correct portions. The electronic scale was Bouazizi’s shining lamp. He trusted it. He hung it from the corner post of his cart like it was the beacon of a lighthouse guiding shoppers through the treachery of an unscrupulous market. It would attract all customers who valued fairness to the safe harbor of Bouazizi’s cart.

The electronic scale is Bouazizi’s assurance to his customers that the weights and measures of electronic calculation layed beyond any cloud of doubt. It is a fair, impartial and objective arbiter for any dispute.

Bouazizi believed that the fairness of his scale would distinguish his stand from other produce vendors. Though its purchase put Bouazizi into deep debt, the scale was a source of pride for Bouazizi who believed that it would help his profits to increase and help him to achieve his goal of buying the Red Flame.

As Bouazizi pushed his cart toward the market, he mulled his plan over in his mind for the millionth time. He wasn't great in math but he was able to calculate his financial situation with a degree of precision. His estimations triggered worries that his growing debt to money lenders may be difficult to payoff.

Indebtedness pressed down on Bouazizi’s chest like a mounting pile of stones. It was the source of an ever present fear coercing Bouazizi to live in a constant state of anxiety. His business needed to grow for Bouazizi to get a measure of relief and ultimately prosper from all his hard work. Bouazizi was driven by urgency.

The morning roil of the street was coming alive. Bouazizi quickened his step to secure a good location for his cart at the market. Car horns, the spewing diesel from clunking trucks, the flatulent roar of accelerating buses mixed with the laughs and shrieks of children heading to school composed the rising crescendo of the city square.

As he pushed through the market, Bouazizi inhaled the aromatic eddies of roasting coffee floating on the air. It was a pleasantry Bouazizi looked forward to each morning. The delicious wafts of coffee mingling with the crisp aroma of baking bread instigated a growl from Bouazizi’s empty stomach. He needed to get something to eat. After he got money from his first sale he would by a coffee and some fried dough.

Activity in the market was vigorous, punctuated by the usual arguments of petty territorial disputes between vendors. The disagreements were always amicably resolved, burned away in rising billows of roasting meats and vegetables, the exchange of cigarettes and the plumes of tobacco smoke rising as emanations of peace.

Bouazizi skillfully maneuvered his cart through the market commotion. He slid into his usual space between Aaban and Aameen. His good friend Aaban sold candles, incense, oils and sometimes his wife would make cakes to sell. Aameen was the markets most notorious jokester. He sold hardware and just about anything else he could get his hands on.

Aaban was already burning a few sticks of jasmine incense. It helped to attract customers. The aroma defined the immediate space with the pleasant bouquet of a spring garden. Bouazizi liked the smell and appreciated the increased traffic it brought to his apple cart.

“Hey Basboosa#, do you have any cigarettes?“, Aameen asked as he pulled out a lighter. Bouazizi shook the tip of a Kent from an almost empty pack. Aameen grabbed the cigarette with his lips.

“That's three cartons of Kents you owe me, you cheap *******.” Bouazizi answered half jokingly. Aameen mumbled a laugh through a grin tightly gripping the **** as he exhaled smoke from his nose like a fire breathing dragon. Bouazizi also took out a cigarette for himself.

“Aameem, give me a light”, Bouazizi asked.

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

“Keep it Basboosa. I got others.” Aameen smiled as he showed off a newly opened box of disposable lighters to sell on his stand.

“Made in China, Basboosa. They make everything cheap and colorful. I can make some money with these.”

Bouazizi lit his next to last cigarette. He inhaled deeply. The smoke chased away the cool air in Bouazizi’s lungs with a shot of a hot nicotine rush.

“Merci Aameen” Bouazizi answered. He put the lighter into the almost empty cigarette pack and put it into his hip pocket. The lighter would protect his last cigarette from being crushed.

The laughter and shouts of the bazaar, the harangue of radio voices shouting anxious verses of Imam’s exhorting the masses to submit and the piecing ramble of nondescript AM music flinging piercing unintelligible static surrounded Bouazizi and his cart as he waited for his first customers of the day.

Bouazizi sensed a nervous commotion rise along the line of vendors. A crowd of tourists and locals milling about parted as if to avoid a slithering asp making its way through their midst. The hoots of vendors and the cackle of the crowd made its way to Bouazizi’s knowing ear. He knew what was coming. It was nothing more then another shakedown by city officials acting as bagmen for petty municipal bureaucrats. They claim to be checking vendor licences but they’re just making the rounds collecting protection money from the vendors. Pocketing bribes and payoffs is the municipal authorities idea of good government. They are skilled at using the power of their office to extort tribute from the working poor.

Bouazizi made the mistake of making eye contact with Madame Hamdi. As the municipal authority in charge of vendors and taxis Madame Hamdi held sway over the lives of the street vendors. She relished the power she had over the men who make a meager living selling goods in the square; and this morning she was moving through the market like a bloodhound hot on the trail of an escaped convict. Two burly henchmen lead the way before her. Bouazizi knew Madame Hamdi’s hounds were coming for him.

Bouazizi knew he was ******. Having just made a payment to his money lender, Bouazizi had no extra dinars to grease the palm of Madame Hamdi. He grabbed the handle bars of his cart to make an escape; but Madame Hamdi cut him off and got right into into Bouazizi’s face.

“Ah little Basboosa where are you going? she asked with the tone of playful contempt.

“I suppose you still have no license to sell, ah Basboosa?” Madame Hamdi questioned with the air of a soulless inquisitor.

“You know Madame Hamdi, cart vendors do not need a license.” Bouazizi feebly protested, not daring to look into her eyes.

“Basboosa, you know we can overlook your violations with a small fine for your laxity” a dismissive Madame Hamdi offered.

Bouazizi’s sense of guilt would not permit him to lift his eyes. His head remained bowed. Bouazizi stood convicted of being one of the impoverished.

“I have no spare dinars to offer Madame Hamdi, My pockets are empty, full of holes. My money falls into everyone’s palm but my own. I’m sorry Madame Hamdi. I’ll take my cart home”. He lifted the handlebars in an attempt to escape. One of Madame Hamdi’s henchmen stepped in front of his cart while the other pushed Bouazizi away from it.

“Either you pay me a vendor tax for a license or I will confiscate your goods Basboosa”, Madame Hamdi warned as she lifted Bouazizi’s scale off its hook.

“This will be the first to go”, she said grinning as she examined the scale. “We’ll just keep this.”
Like a mother lion protecting a defenseless cub from the snapping jaws of a pack of ravenous hyenas, Bouazizi lunged to retrieve his prized scale from the clutches of Madame Hamdi. Reaching for it, he touched the scale with his fingertips just as Madame Hamdi delivered a vicious slap to Bouazizi’s cheek. It halted him like a thunderbolt from Zeus.

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
CK Baker Feb 2017
There were dividing lines
between springfield
and mariners gate
soft, subtle lines
that spoke of origin
and code
and biting union

it was all
the reason
for being;
alive and living
dead or dying
deep in a pack
of pint size resistors
hell bent on the
marsh crow
and cannabis tower
jumping the rush
with *** shots
and anchors
and tribunals

camouflage creepers
and transient floaters
marked rebellion at the gates
(skullduggery and taunt
high on their favor list)
jack straws and flat paddles
for the evening charade
beakers and flailing hands
from the foot washing baptist
(the pleasant street conservatives with their
own something to say…“there’s gonna be hell to pay!”)

there's a
lingering effect
to this sentiment
(evident in the pump house stride)
the river winds
blow gently
into the night
as the huddling packers
and **** backs
chase the evening hours

it’s a bitter sweet
end of an era;
those traction bars
hood scoops
and nickel bags
will always
be the rage
“Wolves may show the eye of maleficence, understand what it means.”

“By all means, become an abomination, but only when unhinged by grief or wrath.”

“You love life because life is all there is.”

It’s true what they say about wolves. To me, the wolf represents freedom. A type of freedom without borders. A freedom that cannot be taken away. A pack is a pack and each of them carries one another their pack within them. “The strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack.” So to speak. If one drifts or is out of order, one look, or growl can mean something. Or everything. A very interesting point is that the Alphas mate for life, or until the other passes. Wolves represent loyalty. They are loyal to their pack mates and have maybe the strongest bonds in the animal kingdom.


They are a Pack. They are family. They are One.
MdAsadullah Dec 2014
Tiger, Tiger they all called him.
Faces marked with smiles grim.
Office buzzed with word tiger, tiger.
He was one but many they were.

Full day continued insincere flattery.
End of month 'twas, day for salary.
Then story took melodramatic turn.
Like tiger he moved, demeanor stern.

Outright he announced party that night.
Everyone attended in clothes bright.
They gossiped, danced and dined.
Happily they all boozed and wined.

He sat like a tiger circled by coterie;
And the total bill was half the salary.
I looked through magnifying glass;
And saw pack of wolves and an ***.
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to **** you.
You died before I had time ----
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My ****** friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You ----

Not God but a *******
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the *****.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two ----
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagersnever liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you *******, I'm through.
I'm just another note, in your symphony.
Grab me by my throat, have me trembling on my knees.
You're just a chain smoker,
I'm a Pack of Cigarettes.
I cross the line & lean over, nothing I regret.
.
You tighten the strings, make another sound.
Play a rhythm, and just keep smoking around.
And with every noise, your eyes they shine brighter.
Cause the only hand you need is the one with the lighter.
.
Now your buds are on the ground.
You wonder what went wrong?
Your chords were right, & so was the tone.
.
I knew karma, couldn't harm her.
But, this time it's going down.
Cause what goes around...
...must come back around.
- **Aks, Chainsmokers & Symphonies.
Please stop.
Dev A Aug 2012
The lone wolf howls through the night.
Despair, pain, hurt.
Longing for the sound of the returning cry.
Painful silence is all he hears.
Agony fills him as he listens into the hushed night.
He’s alone.
Longing for a pack of his own.
Searching for comfort and strength.

The lone wolf runs through the night.
Weak, tired, somber.
Longing for the feel of fur on fur.
Cold wind is all he feels.
Misery creeps through him as he rubs against a tree.
He’s alone.
Aching for the feel of another of his own pack.
Seeking for warmth and companionship.

The lone wolf hunts through the night.
Hungry, watchful, sleepless.
Longing for the smell of playful competition.
Dry leaves are all he smells.
Disquiet overcomes him as he pines for a new smell.
He’s alone.
Thirsting for the smell of a pack.
Scouring for love and friendship.

The lone wolf howls, runs, hunts through the night.
Despair, pain, hurt, weak, tired, somber, hungry, watchful, sleepless.
Longing for the returning cry, the feel of fur on fur, the smell of playful competition.
Painful silence, cold wind, dry leaves are all he knows.
Agony, misery, disquiet flow through him.
He’s alone.
Longing, aching, thirsting for his own pack.
Searching for comfort and strength; seeking for warmth and companionship; scouring for love and friendship.

The lone wolf is all alone.
Searching without finding.
He’s alone.
Without a pack of his own.

— The End —