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Vani Jul 2018
One thing I love about people is that they have stories to tell you. Stories that tickle you and make you laugh really hard stories that bring tears to your eyes,
stories which quieten you and make you introspect
stories that awe you, stories which move your ground
stories which change your perception about life
stories that make you question the existence of god and stories which make you believe in him
stories that shake you to the core
stories which make you fall in love with someone and stories which break your heart
stories which make you feel complete and stories which help you realize your flaws
stories which fill you with agony and stories which make you feel blessed
stories which helps you understand the complexity of relationships
stories that make you value the tiny moments of happiness spent with loved ones
stories which kick you in the gut, stories which rip you apart, stories which make you feel naked
stories which scare the hell out of you, stories which bring out the warrior in you
stories that hurt you, stories which heal you
stories which help you find the purpose of your life and stories that stay in your heart forever.
So a person isn’t just a man/woman,
he/she is an untold story, an unsung song, an unread novel and an unraveled mystery waiting to be heard, sung , read and discovered.
All you need is the patience to listen, the warmth to care and the empathy to understand.
The magical world of stories is waiting for you
feel free to tell your stories.
Ahmad Cox Apr 2012
Stories influence our lives
They influence who we are
We are all told stories
When we are really young
The stories that are parents tell us
The stories we hear on the news
The stories we read
Even the stories we are taught in school
Hold importance in shaping
Just who we are to become
We are all told certain things
Certain things we have become accustomed to accepting
We are told these stories so many times
That we start to believe that these stories are true
Stories about our families
The stories we hear on the news
The stories that people write about us
They all play a role
Sometimes it can be hard to know
Exactly which stories we should
Really be paying attention to
Not all of the things we are taught are always the truth
We have to be able to discern for ourselves
Which stories we should pay attention to
Which stories we should take to heart
Words and stories have power
They have the power to move people
But they also have the power to hurt people
To move people to act out of hate
Justifying people's actions
And giving us the wrong ideas
That can be dangerous
And can cause us to act out of ignorance
Causing us to move
To act off of these stories that we are told
That we are made to believe are true
But there are stories
And words that can uplift people
That can move people to great feats of kindness
That can make you think about something
That you might not have thought of otherwise
That offers those words of encouragement
When you really need it
That allows you to see things
From someone else's view
That even show you things about yourself
That you might not have thought of before
I think it's up to us
To decide what is the truth
And the lessons that we should take along with us
More often than not we repeat the same stories
And the same mistakes
That we are taught when we are younger
Ashish Gaur Jul 2018
Everybody's searching for them,
Everybody's consumed by them,
Everybody's trapped in a circle to complete,
Everybody's here for a story to tell,

a story that's lost in time,
a story that makes us feel more alive,

a dream that makes us who we are,
a moment that changes us forever,
a feeling we're chasing for eternity,
a wish we're hiding in vanity,

So many we are,
So few we can be,

All these stories we're running after,
All these stories we're running away from,
All these stories we can be,
All these stories which were meant to be,
All these stories we're afraid of,
All these stories our hatred is made of,
All these stories we love,
All these stories we yearn,

So many stories to tell
So little, is Infinite itself

And at the end we'll know
we're not the stories we chose
Because one day every story ends
leaving us only with the good ones.
Nigel Finn Mar 2016
Our words have power. Our story is important. I think it's important to remember that, and I know people forget it sometimes (I certainly did), and some people don't believe it at all, but I believe that even if nobody is listening, even if there's no-one to tell your story to; it is still important.

Sometimes it's all we're left with and we have to cling to it with all our might. We're lucky enough to be main characters in a lot of other peoples stories and that's a hell of an achievement. We get the chance to influence other peoples stories,and they in turn influence even more peoples stories. Without us, everyone elses stories get shortened and there ends up being less variation in the story-telling world. If we don't add to the storytelling process then the whole world slows down.
Every single relationship we establish with someone gives them more of a story to tell. Even if you don't make a story of your own you're still a vessel for other peoples stories to travel through, and that's amazing in itself.

The tiniest detail can change everything - the memory of holding a hand, a snippet of information, recommending a favourite ice-cream, falling over in a hilarious manner - it travels through other peoples stories, and without you that story doesn't get told, or gets told at a later time by someone else, by which time the person you could've shared your story with has missed out on the chance to pass that story on to a whole host of other people. That changes the whole storytelling world. Every future chain of events in which you could have, but didn't, tell your story becomes different - there's less of a story, it's not as full as it could have been, and everyone, albeit unknowingly, suffers a little more for it.

Most of us aren't wise enough or powerful enough to be the true "wise man" that our speices name **** sapians implies, changing the world in a dramatic way in one fell swoop with a single action or in the course of our lifetime, but we're certainly capable of being pans narrans (story-telling apes) and injecting a bit more variety in the lives of others. I can't think of a better reason to exist other than mattering so much that the whole future of the world becomes less varied, and slightly less impressive, if we simply cease to be.

Every moment of joy, every moment of anger, rage, suffering, jealousy, euphoria and even numbness contributes to the stories we end up telling other people, even if we're not talking about those moments specifically. We learn from them, we change because of them, and the stories we tell evolve with each new experience.

You don't even need to write yourself, sooner or later, somewhere down the line, someone will write something that never would have been written if you had not existed, and their work will be all the more glorious for the stories you helped to pass on. You are literally part of a bunch of great works yet to be written. You are a poem. You are a play. You are the beginning, middle and end of several bestselling novels. You are the first sentence in a book that grabs a publishers attention and the last in one that spawns a whole franchise. You are important and without you the whole literary world loses a masterpiece that would make a whole bunch of people feel like they weren't alone in the universe. You are their comfort as they lie awake at night with nothing but a book, and the inspiration that causes a child to believe in themselves. I can't think of anything more important than your words, your thoughts and the story you have to tell, but I know that, without them, the world never becomes as glorious as it could have been.

I love you, I know that others love you as well, and I'm certain that a part of the love that people feel for you will travel throughout the stories they tell, eventually end up in a famous book, song, or an artists brushstrokes and cause someone else to love that piece of a story you helped create.

And then they'll pass it on...
A note I wrote to a friend.
Desire Dec 2018
We all got stories.
Stories are life's language;
language impacts perception - our
own, others, and nations.
"Stories dispossess, stories malign,
stories empower, stories humanize,
stories rob and break dignity,
stories repair whats broken..."
Single stories are scanty.
All stories, stitched together,
complete the composition of you.
Many stories matter - yours.
If your life were a book,
what would people read about?
We all got stories.
Share them. All of them.
[they MATTER]
XIII. Making History
-
Inspired by Chimamanda Adichie's speech, "The Danger of a Single Story."
-
Originally written/posted: 20181202
Little Bear Jul 2016
I awoke this morning
love laid me down by a river.
Drifting I turned on upstream
Bound for my forgiver.
In the giving of my eyes to see your face.
Sound did silence me
leaving no trace.
I beg to leave, to hear your wondrous stories.
Beg to hear your wondrous stories.

He spoke of lands not far
or lands they were in his mind.
Of fusion captured high
where reason captured his time.
In no time at all he took me to the gate.
In haste I quickly checked the time.
if I was late I had to leave to hear your wondrous stories.
Had to hear your wondrous stories.

Hearing
Hearing
Hearing your wondrous stories.
Hearing your wondrous stories.

It is no lie I can see deeply into the future.
Imagine everything
You're close
and were you there to stand
so cautiously at first and then so high.
As he spoke my spirit climbed into the sky.
I bid it to return
to hear your wondrous stories.
Return to hear your wondrous stories.

Hearing,
Hearing,
Hearing,
Hearing,
Hearing,
­
(twirl around the living room until you are dizzy)


Lyrics from wondrous stories - by Yes (going for the one album)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPdONfPts-4
I have a song in my mind for almost everyone i meet.
But this one, this is my song.. :o)
Kristian Bonjet Sep 2018
I can tell you stories that’ll make you cry
I can tell you stories that’ll make you laugh
In the stories you will hear
the stories of my past

I can tell you stories ‘bout my mom
I can tell you stories ‘bout my dad
Eventhough the one is gone
It doesn’t change the stories we have had

I can tell you stories that’ll make you smile
I can tell you stories that’ll make you sad
Everything I am today
Is written in the stories of my past
In memory of my father that passed away due to cancer early 2017 at the age of 58
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.
Andre Baez Aug 2013
Everyone Has a Story… Here’s Five.


Part I: Cousin

I remember
That daze I felt those days
Those days that were fixtures
In my life at the time
But like all good stories
They come to an end
Sometimes abruptly

I was on the island,
At the very top,
Looking down from our mountain,
It was night time,
And the lights shined clearly,
Little holes from the bottom of heaven were penetrating the world,
As they did so I peered on,
Never truly understand what heaven was,
This was my element,
The curiosity which was placed in me,
Since the birth of my being,
Has never been one for being quenched,
Even if my parents tried to beat it out of me,
After a time they kind of hit a fork in the road and decided to go right,
But at the last second I side stepped and ran my behind to the left,
Because the right side isn't always the right way to go,
I felt that their minds died some time ago,
But I was a kid, in the hoods of Puerto Rico,
Only visiting, never witnessing,
The day to day realities,
That came from living so rapidly.

I met my cousin for the second time the days before that night,
He took me under his wing almost immediately and I was happy to follow,
He was a tall man, tattooed from head to toe,
I thought the second I laid eyes on him, that this was my role model
As a lover of Hip-Hop I thought this was how everyone should look,
He would cuss, and spit, and drink, and have several women on deck,
While rolling a couple of joints,
This was the MAN!

However, this view didn't last for very long,
Because on that night,
I witnessed the devil for the first time,
I crawled from beneath my covers,
That my mother had so carefully put into place,
As a safeguard against the realities of the world,
That would come true in my childish fantasies of the boogie man,
The only bad I knew was what was told to me by the news,
People falling left and right cause of wars and other endless fights,
But in my mind they could be brought back to life by the Dragon *****,
Unfortunately Goku wasn't here this night,
I snuck through the house silently,
As the noise would be drowned out by the singing of coquis,
My bare feet hit the humid pavement following the rush down the stairs,
I only wanted to see my view,
The view of heavens holes peering through the vast and dark sky,
It was located at the edge of a cliff that looked over a ravine and then the wilderness,
At the precise moment I stopped to realize my will,
My dream was disrupted by a voice,
Followed by a sound that sliced through my mind and deflated my childish intuition,
A sound that penetrates my adult mind and echoes in the silence to this day,
Muffled screams echoed out after I heard the gunshots ring,
Beneath the sounds of the forests singing,
My heart was pounding slowly,
I was strangely calm rather than panicky and fearful,
Not that I was a brave child, but I remained curious,
Until I saw the blood…
It was then that I saw the dimly lit lamp beneath the moon light,
Resulting in the two bodies casting elongated shadows against the dank Earth,
Followed by a larger body standing over them,
One body was completely still,
While the other one was rocking back and forth,
The terror that took me was shear and raw,
The only other time that I had witnessed such a fear,
Was through the appearance in a pig’s eye,
As my grandfather drove a machete through its heart,
I heard the second shot ring out,
In the same amount of time that it took me to blink,
The other man had been murdered just the same,
And before I knew it the gun was pointed at me,
I stared back and started shaking,
This had to be pure fiction,
But no, this was reality,
I turned to run, but stopped when I realized who it was,
Looking up at me as he exited the thicket and the shadows,
Was my cousin, my role model,
He cocked his head up and looked at me with concern,
But said nothing,
As I ran home breathlessly,
Under the holes into heaven,
That had been put there by bullets,
My childhood was finished…

And I'd never see him again.


Part II: Brother

I remember
That daze I felt those days
Those days that were fixtures
In my life at the time
But like all good stories
They come to an end
Sometimes abruptly

As a child,
I thoroughly enjoyed,
Playing around outside,
I enjoyed getting into play fights,
I loved feeling like I could overwhelm any opponent, but I couldn't.
My brother was way stronger than me,
He had the height advantage,
And best believe he had the weight advantage,
But still, I thought I could manage,
It never really crossed my mind that my brother was a bit off,
To me he was a big kid,
A quiet companion,
My best friend,
My heart.

That was more than enough,
Until one day I went too far,
See my brother had one toy that he loved,
It was string; he'd tear up clothes to make string,
He'd cry up storms at department stores if he didn't get his string,
He'd hit my mother and punch my father if he didn't get string,
I just always thought the exception was me,
I was his play mate, he smiled at me,
Something quite rare for my big brother to do as a result of his condition,
And the medication he was taking,
You see when a child has autism they kind of want to do their own thing,
They want to be on their own,
Enjoying whatever it is they enjoy doing on their time,
But I had a child's mind and a child's ego,
His toys were mine too,
Share with me,
Play with me,
Look at me,
ME, ME, ME!
So he punched me right across the face,
I went flying into a sliding paneled glass door and began crying,
When my mother entered the room,
She asked what was going on and tried to calm me down,
I wouldn't listen so she told me shut up before the neighbors called police,
And we were both taken away,
Being that my mother was a single parent, I believed her,
With that being the case, I closed my eyes and didn't look at my arm,
Nor the blood slowly dripping down it onto my fingertips,
Down to the floor below,
I didn't play much anymore after that,
I was too childish to blame myself,
So the fault was his.

The fault would end up being mine,
As this action being a culmination of things done by my brother,
Led my father and my mother to do what I thought was unthinkable,
They chose to let him go,
Giving him to a group home,
My young mind couldn't even begin to comprehend the pain they felt,
But to me all I could see was two adults giving up on their son,
I saw love and hope dissipate right in front of my eyes,
He was playing with his string in the back seat of the car,
While I sat beside him just watching him,
Saving every movement of his,
And his joy into my memory banks,
To be left to gather dust; because the pain was too much to harness,
But with respect I chose to re-open the chest,
And hold my brother in my arms once again,
Before he was ripped away from me,
And given away to the monstrous people,
That wouldn't let him hug his mother nor me,
I didn't care if this is what was needed to be,
I was losing my brother!
My blood!
My playmate!
My best friend!
My only friend!
My HEART!
It didn't matter that he hit me,
It don't matter if he hit my mother or father,
Because the beating my heart was taking was too much,
For my slim frame and still developing body to handle,
As such my growth was stunted and I gained heart problems,
On top of the asthma,
Autism meant nothing to me,
He was everything!

But it ended with me sleeping alone,
At home he was gone.


Part III: Father

I remember
That daze I felt those days
Those days that were fixtures
In my life at the time
But like all good stories
They come to an end
Sometimes abruptly

I never felt much towards you,
I was taught to love my mother solely,
As she was the one always there to heal my bumps and bruises,
The only memories I have of you from my childhood,
Are of you feeding me God awful food and teaching me to ride a bike,
But I forgot how to ride a bike,
And I could cook what you cooked on my own,
Burnt hotdogs, and pasta, and cereal never really fazed me,
Every other memory is a blur,
Your love was like a line or two painted upon a Mona Lisa of love,
That I had gathered from the various sources of inspiration in my life,
I could always gain appreciation for them,
But not for you.


As I entered my adult years,
You tried to make up for it,
I knew you had pent up guilt inside from not seeing me,
Yet you bought presents and rose up the seeds of another tree,
Seeds that I don't blame,
I only wanted to smell the same flowers that you gave them,
So you were trying to give them to me while I could still smell them,
But that sense was long gone along with my sense of sight,
Literally my vision was fading, but my mind was expanding,
As I was witnessing the world around me quite clearly, and the soul within me,
Just wouldn't release me, from the overwhelming feeling of needing you,
A father figure I could depend on,
A monument for what a man should be, and truly believe in,
As it comes to issues of morality, love, and loyalty,
Up until this point you had only taught me resentment,
Resentment leading to hate,
But I wanted to honor you in place,
So I hide the parts of me that you don't care to see,
I hide my relationships,
I hide my true feelings,
I hide my poetry,
Because if you found those things,
I would no longer be free,
And I refuse to submerge my soul into slavery,
Just for you to feel like you rose up the brightest son,
When truly the darkness is where I was brought up and where I belong,
Moonlight is the only thing I can touch with my pen,
As I compose the paintings residing in my head,
Of wordsmiths and demons battling,
Because words are my angels,
And they have always been there in every instance,
Whenever I've needed a piece of wisdom,
Or a calming presence that would come from the essence,
And recollections of stories of glory,
Stories that helped me forget you,
I love you, and hope our relationship can bloom,
But I no longer wish to speak on you.


Part IV: Mother

I remember
That daze I felt those days
Those days that were fixtures
In my life at the time
But like all good stories
They come to an end
Sometimes abruptly

I was taught to feel love towards you,
And it still remains as strong as ever,
From when I was a child,
Your sacrifice made my life exactly what it is,
Exactly what I needed it to be in order to grow and explore my soul,
To reach for my dreams,
You have always given to me,
Even on your last two cents,
Both would be for me,
You were my mother goose,
Even if I seemed like a young rooster,
Because we were always so different,
You always wanted to mold me into your vision of me,
While you instilled in me many things which cling tightly to me,
You've made someone completely different from what you expected,
I hold different views and truths that are separate from you,
Which is fine, but for a time it would keep me from being who I desired to be,
Because you could never cut the umbilical cord.

In fact, it was wrapped around my neck,
The death of me was coming slowly,
Due to the inhibitions of my creativity,
You loved that I would write, but you hated what I was writing,
Hip-Hop, home to me, was looked at as purgatory,
You couldn't see why I would want to listen to these stories,
Stories of struggling and hustling and juggling jobs, drugs, women, and friendships,
These ships were all sailing gallantly through my mind; the wordplay was so sublime,
And the fact that the words blended with their worlds were so unkind,
Appealed to me, but you were blind,
This changed my perspective,
However what really taught me to be a man,
Was when you began pushing opposing women out of my life,
I would be deep in love, buy-a-ring love,
But one thing would be enough to trigger a string of insults,
And a manikin-like regard for the person of whom I adored,
This was too much for me, you were systematically ending my dreams,
I thank you for your love and for everything that you continue to do for me,
But the cataclysm that was forming in this poets mind,
Was becoming too much to bridge,
If this feeling was to be ongoing,
So as a desperate act of love and care,
I left you behind,
But the love is forever there,
I'm a man because of you,
Your heart will forever reside with me on my journey,
You’ve no need to be frightened,
I’ve got you, I’ve got us,
My senses have been heightened.


Part V: Lover

I remember
That daze I felt those days
Those days that were fixtures
In my life at the time
But like all good stories
They come to an end
Sometimes abruptly

We met after a string of accidents,
Accidents that nearly cost me my life,
These were love losses, blood losses,
Things I’d never thought I could recover from,
The experiences had me going numb,
Until you found me… or did I find you?
It's hard to tell it just seemed like we were two lost souls,
Looking to quell our young hunger for the opposite ***,
Each and every day was spent together,
First on the stoop in front of your sister’s house,
The place where I first kissed your mouth,
Second on the park benches,
This is where hours flourished from minutes,
Third was along the streets of the world,
You were my diamonds and my pearls,
Indestructible and irreplaceable,
Once you met the paper you were there forever,
With that ink blood that flows through your veins,
A fellow poet whose love would stain my mental,
Instrumental in gifting my simple world with a new understanding,
It wasn’t how I imagined, but God laughs at notions of planning,
I finally found out what it meant to be in love,
I never had two people show me what it was,
Honestly the many descriptions of hate,
Is what would be seen at the gate of my consciousness,
As such, I believed this same fate would await me,
It was once the singular feeling with which I could relate,
But the euphoric hands you laid on me,
Made me lose an awake thought process,
As I was in a lake filled with your waters,
That would flow to rivers,
Followed by seas of your loving,
Seas consummating your body,
As I laid on the beach,
Believing it to be a dream.

But it wasn't, and it shouldn’t have ended,
In reality, love has ways of being reprimanded,
I was so lucid, and the picture was candid,
It was the simplest of pleasures that I'd ever been handed,
I learned right away the right things to do,
To flow from my heart and work my way into you,
To take care of my lips,
A rough kiss can't ******,
Nor find proper pleasure,
Along a woman's surface,
You’d allow me to peruse your mind,
Sending shivers up your spine,
As I embarked on my conquest,
Explorations of lustful aspirations,
Symbolizing and synthesizing,
Each and every stroke,
Representing a new letter,
In the alphabet of love,
Allowing our tale to unwind,
To combine the breathlessness of our exploits,
With our hearts desire for choice,
Which declined to lend voice,
To the greater work to be done,
The acquisition of newer positions,
Are symptoms of the journey,
Keep going, never surrender,
Be tender and conquer,
Mental foreplay is stronger,
Than any physical touch.

Love of a poet both bold and stoic,
Is a simplistic view of unfolded vibes and rhythms from the inside,
This could never subside to anything less than genuine spirit of heart and signs,
Among the winds, trees, stars, because you are the art,
You are Moses parting the red sea of my subconscious,
You are the dark sphere which encircles me,
You are the light that penetrates me,
You are harmonic melodies and sweet remedies,
You are rude symmetries and cool symphonies,
You are a lesson learned and an angel untouched,
With exception of me,
Hushed whispers or high pitched screams,
Mean nothing, without the mind following the body to finality,
The fluidity of our ****** motion,
Is a reflection of our mental state,
I seek not to pass through you,
I seek to become one with you.

That's how I feel about poetry,
That's also how I feel about ***,
That's how I feel about you,
You showed me the way,
You are my soul mate,
One with the words I write,
And the memories that I seek the convey,
You are the sun pouring through with the rain,
You are my miracle, one year my junior,
Fifty years older under the skin,
Deep within, your soul, my solar,
Not an eclipse, but a shimmering glow,
Always for my love and never for show.

I fall in love with people's honesty.
Their smile.
Funny jokes.
Tears.
Scars.
Passions.
Eyes.
Dreams.
Their spirit.

Word to Marley Soul.

Five steps in my growth,
Five indispensable cogs of my sou
I remember my old Grampa
And the way he used to look
He had so many stories
He was much better than a book

I remember on our visits
While the folks would head outside
Gramps would get us grandkids
And take us for a story ride

He'd hitch up the hay wagon
We'd get up and off we'd go
Then gramps would start to talking
And so began the show

He'd tell us all the stories
Of our folks when they were young
Some he had to censor,
And sometimes bite his tongue

Now, Grandpa told the stories
Whether we were in or out
And we'd all sit and listen
To what they were all about

When we'd gather by the fire
He'd pull up his rocking chair
He'd have his pipe and all us grandkids
And his dog, Whiskey, always there

We'd all sit in front of Grandpa
We'd want to take in every word
And he would speak up louder
To make sure that we heard

He'd tell us tales of Cowboys
Of bank robbers and the trail
Of how the west became the west
And how his horse once lost his tail

The folks would gather round too
When it was almost time to go
But, Grandpa, being Grandpa
Wasn't set to end the show

See, he'd told the tales forever
To our folks and all their friends
You could tell that some were truthful
And in some the truth....well....bends

The older ones among us
Knew deep down that most were fake
But, to see old Grandpa work the room
Man, that man just took the cake

We'd get together monthly
All us kids stayed close to home
We weren't like lots of others
Who had that built in urge to roam

The stories, we'd learn later
Were mostly from TV
He'd be talking of those cowboys
And of how things used to be

A few years back we lost him
His dog had up and died
Gramps old heart was broken
He couldn't take it, though he tried

My brother tells the stories,
Not as good as Gramps at rhyme
But, the kids all hunker round him
I'm sure that he'll be good in time

We still go on the hayrides
Tell ghost stories now instead
To all us grown up grandkids
We still hear grandpa in our head

Each month we get together
There's near a hundred now in all
The kids go with my brother
And he tells tales ten feet tall

The stories are consistent
Of old cowboys and the west
I can close my eyes and listen
And still like Grandpa's versions best
Joseph Valle Feb 2013
Daylight to look out a window
and midnight to see into one.
Say some name three times
at a candlelit face, a flashback
to fear at such a young age.
These were stories that were told
to us by older brothers and sisters
during our weekend sleepovers.
We're mirror images of them
no matter how old we grow.
Children playing in the snow
in the coldest of northern winters,
making a snowman, giving a name,
topping him with a black-ribboned hat
and an added lit cigarette to allow
easy passing of a lampless evening
faced an overbearing, light-speckled sky.

The image passes away in the day,
everything melted to bring spring
anew to the streets and city pools.
Clean them out, remove their stories
from the past year for the new ones
to come. Crop your face to bring light
back in and to tabula rasa our crevices.
Spiderwebs and crows feet.
Let your frame pass into the attic
to lean on your dusty, keylocked journals
and that 19th century armoire
that has no place in your place anymore.
Tell me those stories, tell me your stories.
Tell me your stories, and I'll tell you mine.
Graff1980 Jan 2017
In stories we are bound
language connecting
lives intersecting
repeating their meaning
hearing, feeling,
smelling, and seeing
as clearly as the words
can be understood.

In stories we lose strangers.
All things foreign
become familial.
Blood spilt,
arms in chains,
cotton picked,
rocks are broken
on the chain gang,
grown men hanged
on strong trees
opposite of Calvary
because there is no
salvation to see.
White sheets
are worn by
posturing fools
who hide their identity
to terrorize
with violence and lies;
These stories unite
empower some to rise
up against those who victimize.

In stories we should hear
the cries of refugees,
parents and children
running from the bombing
of their homeland,
cities and towns
broken down
to rubble, chaos, and fear,
hard working people
struggling to survive,
trying to get by
to feed those they love,
to get enough,
for a home,
for a chance.
Good people
gentle, funny, friendly,
they are you and me
just existing in different skins.

In stories we see
human factories
dark towers spewing
white clouds
once human.
Hateful hands salute
fascist authority.
David’s star beats
over human hearts,
while Jews walk with
Gypsies, Gays,
Intellectuals
and other Dissidents,
people being called rodents.
Yet, a child’s diary
offers tears and hope
cause despite her pain
she still believes
something that
frequently eludes me

In stories we should see
how history repeats,
learning our lessons well
we should steady ourselves
and be prepared
for the hatred,
for the rhetoric,
for the lies repeated
woven in the tapestry
of violence,
spun in the artistry
of reshaping history
to suit their greed,
to pluck the seed
of humanity
before it ever touches ground
seeing them rip the
forbears of goodwill
from the ground.

In stories we should be reborn,
rebuilding bridges
while tearing down
the walls and borders.
So, we don’t have to jump over.
We can just offer helping hands.
No soldier left behind
because no soldier is sent to war.
No child left to starve
because we know what
science is for,
to grow and explore
not to gain more
materiel things
but to expand our minds
and find new and greater dreams.

In stories we realize
we are human
egotistical yes
but it is the best place to start
to unbury damaged heart,
to open closed eyes
and see the sky,
to help all people fly
soaring together
not forever,
but until the universe
unwinds, ending time
and we become
untold stories
in the void.
Mikaila Jun 2014
We are all stories. That is why sometimes I stare at strangers when they don't realize. We carry stories on our skin, in our eyes. We tell them no matter how desperately we try not to. They emerge, no matter how we disguise them, and throw off light, and god, people are beautiful. Look at them someday. In the park or the cafe or on the subway. Look at someone's eyes. There's a soul in there. There are fears and desires and shames and obsessions in there. There's art in there. And you get to live in a sea of souls. Ever think of that? You have the dubious privilege to spend your whole life next to some of the most exquisite beings ever created. You get to look at them, to touch them, sometimes, to love them, even, and speak to them. You could change them. Like adding a brush stroke to the Sistene Chapel, you could be a tiny part of the vast, perfect, incredible work of art behind someone's eyes. You get to decide whether you deface these souls you live near, or add to them. You get to write a part of the story they carry.
Me, I want to tell stories. I want to tell stories for people who don't have the words, don't have the courage, don't have the means. I want to tell beautiful, complicated, messy, elaborate stories. I see these people and they're just... They're art. They deserve to BE art. They deserve to be set upon a stage and shown to the world so that their rawness can carve pathways, can start fires, can change souls by the thousands. I have no desire to be myself- I want to tell stories. Stories I see in strangers' eyes. They crave to be told. And I crave to tell them. It's true- myself, I am not vast. I am not loud. But I don't need to be. I need to tell stories. And whoever will listen to me will listen. And that's enough for me.
Peter Cullen Jun 2014
Sharing books, sharing stories,
getting the read, each on each other.
Everybody has their tales
that we share, share with each other
Epic yarns, so close to you,
may seem dull to another.
But tales are made,
made to be told.
They bring us close together.

What about those stories lost,
blown past with last years weather,
There's stories in the skies above.
There's stories in the heather.

We search in life, to find a way
a way to make it better.
We search and find a way to share
that brings us all together.
A way to shine amongst the grime
with all our words and letters.
Words that carry all we know
are lighter than a feather.

What about those stories lost,
blown past with last years weather.
There's stories in the skies above.
There's stories in the heather.
Jake O Apr 2015
The wind blows through your hair
At much higher speeds
Twenty stories up

The world scales down
Like a model
Twenty stories up

Two hundred feet drops off
In a surreal fashion
Twenty stories up

You think you can survive the fall
Landing on a soft pillow of cement
Twenty stories up

I told her not to leave
She never came down the stairs she used to go
Twenty stories up

It feels great to let go
Of both the world and your self
Twenty stories up

My life wouldn't feel as empty
If they wouldn't let you go
Twenty stories up
This poem was inspired by My Soul, Your Beats by Lia
Alvin Moses Mar 2012
Some love stories end with despair,
Some end with happiness,
Some end with loneliness,
Some end with fireworks.

Some love stories are epic as the next motion picture,
Some are short stories made into a TV movie.

Some love stories are nothing but drama,
Some love stories carry emotion.

Some love stories carry meaning,
Some love stories are physical.

Some stories are mixed up,
Some are laid out like sticks.

Some stories breathe new life,
Some stories live up to old life.

But our love story is different.

Ours began as a seed planted freshly in the soil,
Then we watered it daily with kisses,
We fertilized it every other weekend,
We moved in out into the sunlight,
And we cared for it.

Eventually,
It blossomed.

It blossomed into a lily.
No, a rose.
And on that rose,
We penned down the details,
The details of our love story.

We penned down the day we met,
How we felt,
Where we went,
And what we ate.

I penned down the night I lay in your arms,
Feeling you with me.

And as the sun set and the day drew to a close,
And every petal had been written on,
I placed the rose with our love story back in its vase,
And placed it on our windowsill.

There it will be forever,
There it will live forever,
As a memory of our love story,
And as a lesson for all.

So what was our love story?

It was a short meaningful story,
It was an epic romance,
It was a walk down the beach under the sunset,
It was physical passion.

It was yours,
It was mine,
It was our love story.
Linda SK Smith Dec 2011
Old tears tell long stories...
Stories of memories
Stories of pain
Stories of days gone
One can never regain

Stories of children
born and grown
stories of lovers
come and gone

Stories of dreams
that never came near
Stories of fights
forgotten over the years

Stories of hopes
yet to fulfill
Stories of time
gone over the hill

Old tears fall from dimmer eyes
Old tears fall from hearts grown wise
Old tears fall with knowing glances
Falling now and still she dances.
Lyda M Sourne Feb 2018
Sometime in the future, people might ask me, "Why don't you ever write love stories like you did before?"

I can write about love. I can write stories. But to write love stories...I guess I left that with you.

I don't write love stories because maybe I've broken hearts before I've had my heart broken.

I don't write love stories because maybe I've seen the magical illusion of a happy marriage shatter before it could cast its spell on me.

I don't write love stories because maybe I've seen the falling out of love before the falling in love.

I don't write love stories because maybe all it would be is a sadly ever after.

I don't write love stories because maybe all I'd write about is you.
Excerpt from my red journal entry 15/9/17
Marshal Gebbie May 2011
A line of trees in massive form
Encroach along a ridge of stone,
Gnarled, bent and weather worn
Their clinging roots call granite home.
This ancient wood has weathered time
Felt the freezing gales of snow,
Has witnessed birth and death by day
Through life's kaleidoscopic show.

Oh the stories they can tell
When sunshine in the heavens ,warm,
When rivers run in merry tune
And safflower honey bees do swarm.
Oh the stories they can tell
When fillies kicked their heels in grass,
When whippoorwills did sing their song
And rampant stallions vied for class.

Oh the stories they can tell
When ancient armies trod this way
When clashing steel rang loud and clear
And good blood flowed in battle fray.
Oh the stories they can tell
When faceless horsemen galloped by,
The stench of putrid fear's lament
When populations bled to die.

Oh the stories they can tell
Of mountain peaks succumbed to fire,
Where ash removed the very sun
And panicked people fled the dire.
Oh the stories they can tell
Of black and white and good and bad
....But immaterial, perhaps, to trees
Who root in rock and seem so sad.


Marshalg
Taranaki dreamin'
26 May 2011
Sanchari Ghosh May 2019
All those times I wrote for you..
Poems that didn't even rhyme
Poems that said what I couldn't have said..
Poems that bled everytime..
Poems that told stories of love..
Stories of moments long gone..
Stories of hearts that bled to death..
Stories of strings that were torn..
Stories of hands that were held...
Just to let go one day..
Stories of lovers who had loved a lot..
But still couldn't stay..
Stories of souls dancing on blades..
Till their feet could draw stars..
On silver snow and greener grass
That caressed the deep red scars..
All those stories have come to an end..
The last pages have been read..
We have to leave the novel we wrote..
And announce the lovers dead...
And one last time I am writing for you...
Poem that doesn't even rhyme..
The end is here...I hope you save your heart...
Mine...will heal with time..
This one goes to the one who broke my heart.
Ceyhun Mahi Sep 2016
Honest and silent cries
Who're both from truth and lies
Reveal without disguise
The stories of the eyes.

Those optics who are red,
Silver tears they have shed
And have carefully bled
The stories of the eyes.

As smoke fondles the lips,
Inhaled with gentle sips,
It gets exhaled and slips
The stories of the eyes.

Red mist covers the view
Of those jewels who're blue
Who show pitch-black nights through
The stories of the eyes.

Bubbles in the eyes hatch
And eyelashes can't catch
Streams, who (from her) detach
The stories of the eyes.

Tears roll down her rose-cheek,
Gushing forth like a creek.
And they can't stop. They leak,
The stories of the eyes.

As the streams of tears stop,
Night's veil and Dawn's breath swap,
They push, like a teardrop,
*The stories of the eyes.
Telling stories, sitting around a table
Orange chairs, fake wood
I thought a library was supposed to be quiet
Space book, Notebook
Writing as we go
Stories about each other
Maiden and Prince dancing together
Broken lightbulbs around our heads
Angry about broken Aeroplanes

Telling stories, standing in the courts
Brick walls, broken windows
The game gets louder and louder
Green book, Broken pen
Writing as we go
Stories about our lives
Did you watch the news?
Have you seen my flag?
Happy for you, congratulations!

Telling stories, waiting for the train
Long day, cushy seats
People glare, teenagers they mutter
Sketchbook, Notebook
Writing as we go
Stories about our days
What did you do last?
Did you get the notice?
Tired, can we go home yet?

We tell stories
We live stories
But where does each one
End?
Gideon Aug 2015
There are stories in the mirror
I read them everyday
Each day a new story
Different from yesterday's

Each day I read something new
But some stories turn out blue
Each mirror tells a story
To a stranger or friend
The stories they tell
Are different but never end

Each mirror tells a story
When it's in the light
But grows quiet and cold
If the moon is in sight

There are stories in the mirror
I hear them all the time
Just look in the closet
They are waiting to be told
there is always a something new about us each day and you'll find out if you look in the mirror everyday
I forgot the things that I know, the stories surrounding what’s been told, my lover’s heart is frosted cold cause I can’t live without you baby.

The water-wheel of that old mill,
the wildflowers growing on that hill,
the small town life, it moved so slow,
gave us time to get to know,
each other's hearts and let love grow...

…so fruitful all the time we had,
through thick and thin, good and bad,
but eventually you had to go-oh.

I forgot the things that I know, the stories surrounding what’s been told, my lover’s heart is frosted cold but I can’t live without you baby.

I cast your ashes in the stream,
beneath the water-wheel that made you beam,
that smile I will not forget and all the happiness that came with it,
and here I sit alone and sad, reflecting on the times we had,
coastal waves to pink sunset, on that first day that we met,
some later rainy but not to wet, -still I couldn’t live without you baby.

And I forgot the things that I know, the stories surrounding what’s been told, my lover’s heart now frosted cold, forced to live without you baby,

I forgot the things that I know, the stories surrounding what’s been told, my lover’s heart is frosted cold cause I can’t live without you baby.

I can’t live without you baby,
I can’t live without you baby,
Here I am without you baby,
I can’t live without you baby…

Forget the things that come and go, those stories surrounding times of old, your lover’s heart will not grow cold when you can think about your baby,

I can’t live without you baby,
I can’t live without you baby,
Here I am without you baby,
I can’t live without you baby…

...here I am without you baby...
This is for my Father who lost my Mother on 3/14/2014.
A de Carvalho May 2012
love stories that are not love stories
stories we hold on to for lack of a better grip
essential breakthrough feelings for inner
growth and outer subsistence; a need within
a need within a need resembling a desire a
profundity an intensity a strength

i who am now awake(having passed away and
been reborn) i see love for what it is: a wonderful
magical inbuilt switch of humanness, a covering
over-illuminating light blinding the sight of my sight
fifty percent ecstasy fifty percent grief regret
nature s absolute recipe for impermanence for
perpetuity of life beating breathing seeing touching
tasting its way forward

love that i feel that i presume i feel
that anchors that is certain that is infinite
love which creates hope which creates yes
which creates soul which creates Spirit which
creates everything which dissipates which disappears
which devastates

love, tell me, who is your master?
Emisen Dec 2014
We are made up of stories.

We are stories in somebody's tongue
In somebody's heart
In somebody's head,

We are stories your grandmothers told you about.
We are your grandmothers telling you stories.
We breathe the stories that breathe us in.

For when the waves run out of shores
And the heavens roll back into emptiness
We will still Be, Stories.
louis rams Dec 2014
All the Christmas stories the children are learning
As the Christmas candle is burning.
The stories are being told by grandparents and parents alike
Sitting by the candle light.
Oh so many stories that must be told
Stories that never gets old.
Stories of different places and unfamiliar faces
Like stories of Uncle Scrooge and how the people s kindness he abused
And how he changed his ways, and the story lives on till this day.
Also the stories of Rudolph and frosty the snowman and Santa
And what he went through- to deliver presents to me and you.
Then you have the island of misfit toys and how
Each one yearned to be hugged by a little girl or boy
And Santa knew just what to do and they’ve been repaired like new.
The elves have worked all year long making toys for every girl and boy
This is Santa’s special day where he gives the toys they made away.
Then we see the children who can’t stay awake no matter how hard they try
Because the Sandman’s dust is in their eyes.
His sleigh will be in flight and the stars will be his guiding light
And Rudolph will brighten the way, so from his course he will not stray.
So many stories that the adults will tell as the children sit all around
Just looking up, not making a sound.
We need these story tellers who know how to weave a web
Till they close their eyes and are put in bed.
©L.RAMS 120914
Tyler Zempel Dec 2018
Bon Fire Stories for Around My Tombstone

The bells toll to signal the end of a life characterized by failure.
A failure to reach ascendancy and win over his hero’s favor.
A failure to shake the darkness plaguing his broken soul.
A failure to break the suicidal habit that lead so many others to burn in the coal.
A failure to maintain a healthy relationship long enough to find a wife and produce an heir.
A failure who was never able to pull himself out of the pit of despair.
A failure who never achieved a decent career.
A failure who never figured out God’s plan for his life that the good lord laid out right in front of him o so clear.
A failure to rediscover himself and build himself into a proper person.
A failure who pushed everyone away and allowed and disease in him to only worsen.
He failed his entire life, from birth to burial.
A failure who drove his parents hysterical.
A miserable failure, isn’t he just terrible?
This will be a small, quiet memorial.

Only family members and a few close friends gather around this *******’ casket.
They shed a few tears, say some kind words but deep down, don’t feel bad for the rascal.
He was the black sheep of the family and not really loved by anyone anyhow.
There is an overall sense of relief that he’s gone now.

Everyone ignored his please as he cried out for help through is art.
Everyone ignored him as he walked around slowly dying of a broken heart.
Everyone ignored him even after multiple books were published describing his pain and inner turmoil.
Ignored he no longer will be as his body rots away underneath the norths cold soil.
As the bells toll to signify his end, a few close friends gather around his tombstone to say their final respects.
They understand the fallen man to have been complex.
They don’t judge him for never practicing safe ***,
or for losing his invisible war and getting ****** into a vortex.

The men and woman begin a bon fire and set up chairs.
These a sense of peace tonight in the chilly spring air.
They crack open a cooler and pass around the beer.
This is how the fallen would have wanted it, just to be clear.
They begin sharing stories of the man he used to be,
Hoping that now, from his inner pain he is free.
They share stories surrounding his dark times dating Autumn,
amazed that from his downfall there, he was able to climb back up from the bottom,
but was unable to do the same here today.
Everyone has an expiration date and his just happened to come out and play.

They share embarrassing moments he thought they had long forgotten,
and share time’s where his greatness really blossomed.
They rip on him for never using a ******
and say be belonged living in *****,
but *** wasn’t meant to be contained,
it was meant to be raw and natural, like he always explained.
The group shakes their heads at his crazy theories.
He had so many unnatural ideas he could have written a book series.
They shake their heads and laugh at the discussion of his strangeness,
always shaving his body when no man was meant to do so.
His feminine traits when he claimed to be a real man.
He lived a strange existence during his short life span.

One friend, his best one of all, takes out his books of art and begins reading them aloud to the group.
They all share their thoughts and opinions openly on what they think.
Twisted, tormented, genius, freak, he was all of them.
An outcast to many, but a hero to some.
His words are laced with venom and strike hard.
In person, you could never tell, he always had up his guard.
His friends don’t care; they are here to celebrate his life and do him one last solid.
After all, it’s the least they can do, it was a group promise.

As the group laughs, drinks and celebrates, a man watches on from a distance.
Even in death, he is still facing resistance.
His soul is charred, beaten and worn down,
but he’s not sad, his face isn’t even supporting a frown.

With the angels above him in the sky calling out to him,
and the demon’s below him reaching out for him,
he’s just happy to see his friends celebrating who he was while he was alive.
He wishes he could go give them all a high five.
Sharing campfire stories around his tombstone is how he wants to be remembered.
Drinking beer, sharing laughs all for him, it warms his soul.
Reading his art out loud, it how he wants to be remembered.
At least his death wasn’t all in vain.
Kelly Bitangcol Sep 2016
I have always been fascinated by mythology. I remember seeing my older sisters with a greek mythology book, and wishing I could be in high school so I can know it already. I was interested in the mythical creatures, in the gods and goddesses, in the battles, and just like everyone, I was interested in the love stories. I wanted to learn it with passion for I heard it was the inspiration of almost all the modern literature that I love. I could still remember feeling excited to be in class and discuss it. And now that I have reached high school, and I also reached my dream of studying greek mythology and not only that, because I reached it with you. We learned about the titans, the gods and goddesses, the olympians, the monsters, the stories. We were both engrossed and captivated by it, that mythology was the only thing we ever talked about. We even related it to real life, we related people to the characters. Whenever we see a person we know, we would think of the character that best resembles them, and we will start calling them their characters that we decided them to be. We called our friend Athena, we called your cousin Apollo, we even called someone the Minotaur. And that’s what our teacher told us, that not because it’s fantasy that immediately means it cannot happen in real life. The stories there, are reality, the only difference is, they added magic into them. We loved greek mythology so much that we related it to everything. However I realised something, we related it to everything except to ourselves. So I asked you, “Who are we?”. You told me, “Baby, we’re no one there, for we will make our own mythology. We will make the greatest one, so beautiful that it would surpass the best literature of all time.” Your favourite one was Plato’s quote, you would never shut up telling me the story that “humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” And you would always tell me, that you wished to tell Zeus you found yours already. I expected myself to love the romance most, for myself to have the love stories as my favourite. But instead, I loved the opposite,  I loved the tragedies.


I don’t know why, but I found myself loving the tragic stories. I found myself loving the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The ultimate tragic love story, in which Orpheus would have brought Eurydice back to life if only he had done what Hades said. Orpheus went to the underworld to ask Hades to bring back Eurydice, but Hades had one condition, he should not look back while his wife was still in the dark, for that would undo everything he hoped for. He should wait for Eurydice to get into the light before he looked at her. But then, Orpheus couldn’t control himself, he looked at Eurydice and hugged her, then suddenly Eurydice was drawn back to the underworld.


And who would ever forget Pyramus and Thisbe? The star crossed lovers who had families who hated each other and whispered sweet nothings through a crack in the wall that separates their houses. And they decided to run away, but when Thisbe showed up under the mulberry tree, a ****** jawed lioness was there. So Thisbe ran, and just when Pyramus arrived, he saw the lioness ripping apart Thisbe’s shawl. Thinking that Thisbe died, Pyramus stabbed himself. And when Thisbe returned and figured out what happened, she stabbed herself too. To this day, the formerly white berries of the mulberry tree are stained red with the blood of these tragic lovers.


Here comes my favourite story of all, the myth of Icarus. Icarus and his father attempted to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Daedalus cautioned him that flying too near the sun would cause the wax to melt. And because of hubris, Icarus ignored his father’s instructions and flew too close to the sun. Then the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.


When I was reading the stories, epiphany suddenly hit me. Perhaps the reason why I loved tragedies so much because we’re turning into one. I finally got the answer to my question when I asked you who we are. Maybe we are Orpheus and Eurydice, we loved each other too much that we would do everything just to be together. But we ignored all the warnings, we thought love was the only thing that really mattered. We never got to control our feelings and we forgot everything, because of that, we were separated from each other. Or we could also be Pyramus and Thisbe, we are the perfect definition of lovers who almost made it, who almost achieved happiness, who almost became the greatest lovers of all time but then we never became one, we became tragic ones. And darling, perhaps Icarus resembles us the most. We are both Icarus, our wings, are ourselves,  and love, is the sun. Everybody told us not to get too near the sun, for the wax in our wings will melt, we will lose our wings because we are too close to the thing that could save and destroy us both. And just like Icarus, we disobeyed the rules.  We flew too close to the sun, look at us now.

As we were walking out of each other’s lives, I realised something. We were not meant to create the greatest story of all time that it would top the best literature. We were never making our own mythology, because we were just bound to become another tragedy. Another tragedy that people will love, and I still don’t know why, but people tend to see something beautiful in it. And maybe, just maybe, people will also see something beautiful in our tragic story. But just like Orpheus and Eurydice, Pyramus and Thisbe, Icarus; one thing is for sure, my love. We will achieve a thing we both wanted,  **we will never be forgotten.
Kalesh Kurup Jan 2016
Are we not brought up, in stories?
Stories of hero worship, dark fearful nights
Soft tender tears, hot red lips
Fairy Mothers, frightful demons
Realms where magic and realism
Locked us up for a perpetual inter-play

Growing up and ‘living’ a story
Is all about the Story teller
Fearful ‘Dracula’ who entered my teeny nights
Was made up this unpredictable predator
By the cousin Story teller, than
Bram Stoker, as I learned later

Much after ‘Leslie and Richard’
Went their own ways
I stayed with the Soul mate;
“Bridge across Forever”
It was the story that I lived in,
Faith blinded, in the Story teller!

Teller can make you up and pull you down
A hero today is villain tomorrow
Abandoned fury; Bereft emotions
Erratic desires; Impromptu positions
Mix and shake them well
Teller can rapt a discerning listener

Teller can also cast a spell with the story
With made-up faces and un-made-up minds
Hewing a profile with vicarious feelings
With deceitful facts and illusory events
Teller webs a story, you ‘live in’
‘Make believe’; but beautiful!

Then one day, listener grows out of the story
Magic fades and sanity sets in
Tears turn phony, Lies lay bare
“The Gift was kept by my parents”
Said the Kid, “not by Santa Clause”.
Let that ‘wake up’ not hurt forever

Stories are told by Story teller
Characters seldom given to testify
A beginning and end carefully crafted
A long route that can have ‘twists in the tale’
I am learning to listen to stories as ‘Stories’
Not life in essence, every time.
With due  regards to listed and unlisted great stories and met and un-met story tellers; I have grown up with...
When all the world's a stage,
theres hardly any glory left
for those with no tales to tell-
but for stories with warp and weft,
that, woven like fabric,
secretly entrance
as it circles us up
in its loquacious dance.
We delight in these stories,
these words that settle like sand,
changing our idea
of what it is to be human.
These ones with vision,
those that stand apart-
these ones that drive the tears from our eyes,
and take pieces of our hearts;
Those ones with simple sadness,
these ones that help us cope;
Those stories that inspire,
and give us new hope.
We are fueled by these fires;
Our own ideas and reckless wonder
of adventures, and epics,
and lands torn asunder;
by wizards and goblins,
and fantasy;
by presidents and poor men,
and history.
By teachers and wise men,
and the people who died
to make this world better;
to keep these stories alive.
We indulge in these things,
these marvelous, twisting verbs,
because, sometimes stories are more than just words-
they are the wind under our wings,
the pain of pride,
they are the secrets we keep
locked deep inside;
they are the catch in our throats
when we say goodbye;
they are the moments we fail,
and wonder why.
They are our companions,
a constant pounding in our chest;
aching to burst out
to join all the rest
of time and emotion-
breaking through-
because,
in the end-
we are all stories,
a fable-
born from truth.
I am loud,
Demanding attention.
I know when I am being charming
Because I try.
I put on my impressing face
And do my impressing hair
And speak my impressing words.
I tell you my embarrassing drinking stories
And everything else about me
That you probably shouldn’t know.

I am not good at being quiet
Because that’s not who I am.
I am not the sweet girl
Who will leave you with a smile
And a touch
And a glance
Or a single word.
There is nothing of this fashion of romance
About me.

I am the girl who will point out your flaws,
And take you outside to see the stars,
And remind you how human you are,
And what a wonderful thing that is.

I am the girl who will talk about science,
And music and theology and history,
And point out constellations, laughing,
When you don’t know the big dipper’s name.

I am the girl who will make witty references,
To classic literature and science fiction,
And will tell you stories of how I once,
Made a gingerbread replica of a lighthouse.

I am the girl who will stand on a table,
And sing at the top of my lungs on the highway,
And act like a chicken or quail or velociraptor,
Or nuzzle your face like a lion to make a point.

I am the girl who takes too many shots
And then coaxes you to bed on a Russian liver,
And knows all the right places to bite, and tease,
And follows with exceptionally coherent pillow-talk.

I am not a thin silk scarf on the wind.
I am not a thing hard to capture.
You would not spend a perilous journey
Through a wild, perfumed jungle,
Searching for my slender garments
Hung beside a pool
As I wail to the breeze.

Rather, I am the bird who flies overhead
Making too much noise
Distracting from the trail ahead.
A bird whose plumage proves
What an interesting life it must be…
What a colorful life for me…
Perpetually strange
The lone comic relief.

I am many things.
But I am not quiet.
Of this I am sure.
09/07/12




A personal statement.
Martyn Thompson Aug 2011
i - Introduction:
ii - Lismore Park
iii - The Road to Maidenhead
iv - Town Square
v - Contradiction, contraband
vi - Saturday Afternoon
vii - The Circus Comes to Town (Sunday)
viii - The Show
ix - The ringmaster
x - The Fracas
xi - An incident at Upton Park
xii - No ball games
xiii - New found…
xiv - Nearly done
xv - Another time…

i - Introduction:

Come friendly bombs you’ve still to hit
The place whose name means quagmire
The town, the place that’s left bereft
Of soul, of spiritual fire.
But hurry, hurry, please be fast
For the crack dealer plies his trade
With slight of hand and cunning
A ghetto he’ll have made

The peroxide perms have now all grown
And muster outside shops
To wait for the be-suited sales rep
With his rocks and his alco-pops
They’ve all spawned offspring of their own
Fifteen-year-old cradle pushers
Who sold their souls in return for hope
To thirty year old cradle snatchers

Come friendly bombs it’s plain to see
The vacant, empty faces
The lifeless eyes, the pallid skin
The love that leaves no traces
The love that lasts a knee trembling minute
Outside Harry’s and Sluffs
A love that smells of emptiness
O they cannot get enough

Come with me, look over there
To the sculpture in the mall
The stainless tree with it’s stainless birds
And stainless birdsong call
A bird sings and the town all stops
To see from where this sound will show
A bitter disappointment when learned
It was played on the radio

Community service on the airwaves
To draw the crowd together
A song played, a one hit wonder
Reminds us nothing is forever
The sterile radio station plays on
Opiates to which we should yield
And bare our souls and be grateful for
The song of Bedingfield

ii - Lismore Park

The sight of a child playing in the street
Is one of day’s gone bye
But Lismore Park sees them out in droves
Stealing cars and getting high
The twelve year old sent out to play
Whilst mother takes a knap
But really she’s having it away
For a fiver and a brown wrap

The party at the house next door
That never seems to stop
The men all come and go and paw
Girls in this knocking shop
But halt weary traveller, stop!
Come sit and rest your back
The bench awaits you on the green
And the deluded maniac

The man who knows what’s wrong with you
And how to make it better
As long as he keeps his soul filled up
With cheap White Lightening cider
Six large cans for a five-pound note
From the corner shop near the school
An offer really not to be missed
And to make the drunkards drool

A songbird sits on the climbing frame
And sings his cheerful tales
A tune too much for our dear lush
The maniac exhales
The songbird sings and fills the air
With a loving string of notes
That reminds the sitters on the bench
There may still be a hope

A radio plays ‘that’ song again
Should you dare to forget the rhythm
The bird has flown away now
Fed up with this hypnotism
The airwaves are now filled with dross
Thanks to the flat opposite the green
The weary traveller moves on
“Better days has this place seen”

iii - The Road to Maidenhead

O friendly bombs do try to miss
The sweet blossom, the fragrant smell
The flowers, the green grass of the parks
The havens in this hell
Be careful around the Jubilee River
With it’s wildlife and sculpted hills
For a walk in this very man-made place
Will surely heal your ills

But spare no mercy for the superstores
That pollute and destroy our thoughts
“If it’s not on the shelf, we haven’t got it…”
The familiar assistants’ retort
Take no prisoners with the office blocks
That lay empty year after year
For they clutter up the atmosphere
And have no value here

O friendly bombs, o friendly bombs
The cabbages are all grown
They read the Sun and sing along
To the radio’s dreaded drone
Whilst in their vans they speed on by
Jumping all the lights
To price a job – a small brick wall
Based on a thousand nights

The car showrooms… the car dealers
Stack ‘em high and sell them cheap
Chop-chop salesman, soften ‘em up
The rewards are there to reap
Finance, part exchange or cash
Anyhow you like
“No sir, not me sir…
…I’d prefer to use my bike”

The bustle of the weekend crowds
The steamy traffic queues
Stare too hard at that red car
And suffer the abuse
Overtake the blue one now
And make him toot his horn
See him raise his voice in anger
To satisfy his scorn

iv - Town Square

Saturday morning, seven o’clock
The town begins to wake
A pair of sleeping winos
Dream about their fate
They plan their morning sermon
But who will really care
For what they say means nothing
Less than their icy stare

The busker and the balloon man
Wait to take their turns
To entertain and irritate
And suffer being spurned
By a thousand shady shoppers
Who’ve heard it all before
And probably given hard earned cash
To make them play some more

The trickster and the barra’ boys
Set up all their stalls
Selling mobile phone covers
And fake branded hold-alls
Adorn your phone with logos
Hankies for a pound
“Yes sir, we’re here on Sundays…
…(Providing there’s no police around)”

Grab a baked potato and sit
And watch the folk go by
Some will have you in hysterics
Some will make you cry
The man on his double-glazing stand
In his suit and in his tie
The perspiration on his head
Watch him wilt and fry

The songbird settles on the wall
And sings to our delight
A merry sonnet that will inspire
Dreams we’ll have that night
The wino shouts his sermon now
The bird has paused his song
This post-war sprawling Hooverville
Muddles slowly along

v - Contradiction, contraband

On the steps of the library he screams aloud
Through a mist of smuggled gin
“You’re all fools, the lot of you is ****
I’ve not committed sin…”
“It’s not my fault I’m a lush… a drunk
I don’t choose to live this life”
“You’re all wrong in carrying on
It’s you what’s caused my strife”

In his wretched form he abuses the world
Pooh-poohing this and that
A skunk telling the world it stinks
The polemic polecat
“Society has robbed me of everything
And left me less than whole”
“The only day that’s good is Thursday
When the postman brings me dole”

On Friday he meets his dealer
To fuel his pickled mind
The man with the van on Saturday
With the spirit and the wine
By Monday, he’s all skint and broke
The weekend has passed him by
He takes his place on the library steps
We shake our heads and sigh…

Every week the same routine
The same routine again
Like clockwork his life ticks on by
The suffering and the pain
But he tells us it’s all our fault
We’re the ones not right
But it’s very easy for him to say
The man who’s so contrite

The children watch him puzzled
It’s more than they can bear
“It’s very rude…” their mothers say
“To stand like that and stare”
But what, do they expect their young
To ignore this fool a mumbling?
For they will see it for what it is
A stormy weather warning

vi - Saturday Afternoon

I sit on a wall in Slough with friends
Sharing the Dutch export
Watching and laughing at the world
And it’s variety of sorts
A happy bond that we all share
The joy of simple things
Come friendly bombs and gather round
Watch us while we sing

The friendly bombs you call upon
Are they straight off the shelf?
It’s my belief, my firm belief
The bomb is in yourself
Ticking slowly by and by
Just waiting for the code
To trigger you and trip the switch
To make the bomb explode

We watch the people from where we sit
The hellholes they’ve all made
They don’t live they just exist on
The edge of a razor blade
Stop! Step back and take a look
It’s not too late to change
And become what you really want to be
An icon of your age

Over now to Langley Park
To sit and bathe in the sun
O friendly bombs please wait a while
Until this day is done
But what will tomorrow bring my friends?
And will it come too late?
Something that may save us all
The bombs may have to wait

A sedate sleepy Saturday
Away from all the crowds
Share a joke, a ****, a smoke
And laugh together loud
The sun warms our sombre souls
As on our backs we lie
Staring as the clouds roll by
United under the sky

vii - The Circus Comes to Town (Sunday)

Halt now, wait awhile please
Stop the counting down
Today the air is charged with joy
The circus comes to town
Must have arrived last night we think
Under cover of dark
And settled down and pitched it’s tents
In the grounds of Upton Park

The queue to purchase tickets
Trails far along the road
No. 53 offers cups of tea
From outside her abode
The crowds are mum, they say not a word
As they wait their turns to go
Inside the circus big-top tent
And sit and watch the show

We settle down and take our seats
With an ice-cream and a coke
But wait, where are the circus clowns?
Is this some kind of joke?
A wall of mirrors fades into view
And puts us in a spin
Reflecting all the bright lights
The colours and the din

The ringmaster enters, cracks his whip
And hands out little slips
“Everyone’s a winner” was
On every body’s lips
The clowns they all appear now
With a modicum of fuss
Hold on just a minute now!
The clowns we see are us

A spotlight points up to the gods
At the top of the trapeze
A giant money spider glides
Down with greatest ease
He touches each and everyone
All paralysed with fear
And hands out ten pound notes to all
Then promptly disappears

viii – The show

A strongman strolls out slowly with
A length of iron bar
A leopard spotted leotard and
Moustache sealed with tar
He looks around the big top with
A menace and a sneer
Surveying all the audience
He seeks a volunteer

The white van man he raised his hand
The tattoo on his arm
Said this man must not be crossed
To do so would mean harm
The strongman bent the iron bar
Across the van man’s back
Then invited him to strike him down
An unprovoked attack

The van man clenched his hand and hit
And hurt his mighty fist
A statue of the strong man shattered
Turning into mist
The van man stood and stared in fear
The mist it gathered round
And carried out our hero driver
He hardly made a sound

No-one clapped we all just stared
Our faces ghostly white
The strongman re-appeared and looked for
A second stooge that night
No-one raised a hand in fact
No-one said a thing
The strongman shrugged and vanished…
Empty was the ring

A knife thrower was the next to appear
And seek the help of one
With nerves of solid steel and courage
Secondly to none
Down came a fallen woman
Who said she had no fear
A knife was thrown and pierced her skin
Her right large ear-ringed ear

ix – The ringmaster

A second knife it struck her chest
She didn’t seem to weep
She didn’t seem to be in pain
Although the knife was deep
A third knife struck her arm and then
A fourth it struck her head
The knives that should be missing her
Were hitting her instead

Horrified the crowd looked on
Without a fuss or row
The woman now all full of blades
Politely took her bow
She then went back and took her seat
And never said a word
Not another word she said
And not a word she heard

A magician was the next to charm
And thrill us with his tricks
He pulled a rabbit from his hat
Then sat it on some bricks
He then threw watches at this beast
That grew to a great size
The rabbit caught them all and juggled
Them to our surprise

But here’s the rub when we all looked
At places on our wrists
No watches were there to be seen
A cunning little twist
The magician cracked a whip and put
The rabbit in a stew
Which vanished there before our eyes
Vanished out of view

The magician he announced that he
Alone did have this plan
To mystify and amaze us all
With his clever hand
Indeed he was the ringmaster
That owned this circus troupe
That terrified and petrified
Our frightened little group

x – The Fracas

A swarm of bees engulf us now
And cover us with honey
The ringmaster cracks his whip again
The bees all turn to money
Then suddenly the fight begins
As we grab this flying stash
Filling up our purses now
With the hard-grabbed cash

The ringmaster, a clever man
Calms us with his sigh
“There’s plenty here for everyone
…And more than meets the eye”
Suddenly a flock of doves fly
Sweetly through the air
They then attack the baying crowds
Pulling at their hair

Then with a deafening bang, a crack
A flash of burning light
We all cascade towards the floor
The circus out of sight
Confused we all stare around
Thinking it absurd
This bizarre spectacle should vanish
Gone without a word

I look from face to face to face
Whatever could this mean?
We all are laughing nervously
How stupid have we been?
We talk about the day’s events
We talk and talk some more
A voice booms from out the sky
“I’ve opened up the door”

“I’ve brought you all together now
To pander to your greed
To watch you take from fellow man
Deny him what he needs”
I reach in to my pocket
For the money I did place
It reads “Admission: 1 adult
To The Human Race”

xi – An incident at Upton Park

That week the local paper ran
An exclusive full-page ad
“Faland’s Travelling Circus Troupe”
“The most fun ever had”
But no review was there to read
To tell of our event
The strange encounter with this circus
To which we all went

The following Sunday we meet up
In groups of three or four
Since that incident in Upton Park
The spectacle we can’t ignore
No-one knows quite what it means
I don’t think that we’ll ever
Understand all that happened here
That brought us all together

Perhaps there is a deeper message
Given on that day
Faland may be telling us
That we have lost our way
He simply used us all as tools
To illustrate our folly
That had now become too serious
A risk to things so jolly

Every week now we all gather on
This hallowed piece of land
And this is very odd because
Nobody makes the plan
The idea comes to all of us
A self-ignited spark
And draws each of us in turn
To meet in Upton Park

We picnicked then we all played games
Then talked about the rain
We toasted our new friendships
And vowed to meet again
The bombs, the bombs they’ve all slowed down
Compassion saved the day
This newfound love we now all have
Must surely pave the way

xii - No ball games

The joy did not take long to spread
Across our grimy frowns
And bring a little sunshine
To lighten up this town
Happiness is upon us now
The whole of Slough-kind
Depending on how you look at it
And on your state of mind

The lush upon the library steps
The wino on the bench
The Publican and Landlord
The ***** serving *****
They all wear smiles and laugh a lot
And speak of wondrous things
A songbird perches on the fence
And merrily she sings

The children, o the children
How they sing and dance
Always being friendly
In any circumstance
They have no care for politics
You’ll see it in their face
They want to play with everyone
Who’s in the human race

Meanwhile back in Upton Park
The townsfolk meet again
But there’s no talk of horror
Or suffering and pain
Instead though how a monument
Should be erected in our names
And pulling down the signs
That read ‘No Ball Games’

The bombs have all stopped ticking now
And line up by the wall
And every now and then they clang
Just to remind us all
If we get too complacent
And don’t respect our friends
We’re marking down the seconds
To our bitter end

xiii – New found…

We shared our food and shared our tales
Life stories we all told
They made us laugh they made us cry
Left us warm and cold
The suffering we did speak of
Helped us understand
How fellowman and woman kind
Dwelt in other lands

We laughed at tales of folly
And stories of the past
Stories that we are in awe of
Stories that will last
For another thousand years or more
And travel on the wind
A gentle breeze that talks to us
Thrilling to the end

Gathering momentum
Our stories travel far
Picked up and told by new folk
Under glowing stars
They bring warmth and humanity
Softened by the rain
They travel back to each of us
To be re-told again

Who’d have thought this loving joy
This beacon in the dark
Would begin upon the grass
Of hallowed Upton Park
The greed has gone or mostly so
Now happiness is here
We’ve seen the light and now must spread
Our messages of cheer

Looking back it hardly seems
We could have been that way
Not caring if each other lived
To see another day
This new found near Utopia
Must spread across the land
And we must stand to offer all
Our warm and guiding hand

xiv – Nearly done

The story is now almost told
Of how a strange event
Saved us from our selfish selves
A message heaven sent
With cunning tricks and sleight of hand
The error of our ways
Was written up in greasepaint
Shining through the haze

A strange di
I wrote this in about 2004 - loads of literary influences in this poem. It speaks for itself really. Having read through it, I think I ought to revise / review and re-write some of it, but this is the original.... yay!!
jake aller Mar 2019
World According to Cosmos Updates March 3, 2019

Note: I am taking a two week trip to Vietnam and will update my blog when I return with my reflections on my trip, updated publications etc.

Cosmic Dreams and Nightmares

I don't dream dreams.  I dream movies complete with action, music, food, smells everything.  In this one I had a vision of  a possible future. it was so vivid, almost as if I were watching the hearing take place.

Three stories

Dream Girl (true story)
General Zod (flash fiction
Sam Adams Vs. the Social Cleansing Board
Six Poems
Morphing Images from Hellish Nightmare
Endless Movie
Worlds within Worlds Lost in Hell
Rafting to Hell
Satanic Torture
Micro Stories

Don’t Go Jogging in the Middle of the Night
Don’t touch this button!
Don’t open the door
Don’t go to the theater tonight stay home with me
Don’t go to Dallas I have a bad feeling about the trip


Dream Girl
Cheating Death 100 Times
Guardian Angel
Medical Mystery
SLA Hit List

Dream Girl – A true Story – reprinted from Dreams and the Unexplainable
You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

Author Unknown

The dreams started when I was a senior at Berkeley High School in 1974. About a month before I graduated, I fell asleep in a physics class after lunch and had the first dream:

A beautiful Asian woman was standing next to me, talking in a strange language. She was stunning—the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She was in her early twenties, with long black hair, and piercing black eyes. She had the look of royalty. She looked at me and then disappeared, beamed out of my dream like in Star Trek. I fell out of my chair screaming, “Who are you?” She did not answer.

About a month went by, and then I started having the dream repeatedly. Always the same pattern.

Early morning, she would stand next to me talking. I would ask who she was, and she would disappear. She was the most beautiful, alluring woman I had ever seen.

I was struck speechless every time I had the dream.

I had the dream every month during the eight years during which I went to college and served in the Peace Corps. In fact, when I joined the Peace Corps, I had to decide whether to go Korea or Thailand. The night before I had to submit my decision, I had the dream again and it made me sure that she was in Korea waiting for me.

After the Peace Corps, I still hadn’t met my dream woman. I got a job working for the U.S. Army as an instructor and stayed in Korea. I kept having the dream, until I had the very last one:
She was standing next to me, speaking to me in Korean, but I finally understood her. She said, “Don’t worry, we will be together soon.”

Why was that the last time I had the dream? Because the very next night, the girl in my dream got off the bus in front of me. She went on to the base with an acquaintance of mine, a fellow teacher, and they went to see a movie. I saw her and found the courage to speak with her.

We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet that weekend.

The next night, she was waiting for me as I entered the Army base to teach a class. She told me she was a college senior and she had something to tell me. I signed her on to the base and left her at the library to study while I taught, and then we went out for coffee after class. She told me she was madly in love with me, and that I was the man for her. I told her not to worry as I felt the same.

That weekend, we met Saturday and Sunday and hung out all day. On Sunday night, I proposed to her. It was only three days after we had met, but for me it felt like we had met eight years ago. I had been waiting all my life for her to walk out of my dreams and into my life, and here she was.

Her mother did not want her to marry a foreigner. One day, about a month after we met, she invited me to meet her parents. I brought a bottle of Jack Daniels for her father and drank the entire bottle with him. He approved of me, but her mother still had reservations. After a Buddhist priest told her my future wife and I were a perfect astrological combination, she agreed, and we planned our wedding.

The wedding was a media sensation in South Korea. My wife explained it to me years later. At the time, I was overwhelmed just by the fact that we were getting married and I didn’t fully understand how unusual this was. My wife was of the old royal clan, distant relatives to the former kings of Korea. In the clan’s history, only two people had ever married foreigners: my wife, and Rhee Syngman, who was the first President of South Korea. My father, who was a former Undersecretary of Labor, came out for the wedding, which fueled even more media interest. Our marriage defied the stereotypical Korean-foreign marriage where the women married some hapless GI just to escape poverty and immigrate to the U.S. We were the first foreign/Korean couple to get married at a Korean Army base. Over 1,000 people came to the wedding, and my father was interviewed on the morning news programs.

This all happened thirty-seven years ago, (45 years since the first dream) and I am still married to the girl in my dreams. Now in my dreams she watches over me when we are apart.

General Zod Conquers the World
SETI and the search for extraterrestrial life goes on overdrive when scientists report what appears to be radio and television broadcasts from a planet eight light years from earth, the same planet as the Vulcans came from in the Star Trek universe.  The programs show a world where dinosaur-like creatures are running the world and there appears to be a civil war.  Over the next six months, the world is transfixed watching the alien broadcasts which are translated in English via a supercomputer program.  In the broadcast, a nuclear war has occurred. The surviving party regains absolute control and announces the formation of the Galactic Empire.  General Zod is the First Emperor.  They have discovered Earth as well. The aliens launch a crash project to develop interstellar travel so they can come to earth and conquer the earth.

The revelations that there is an external threat to the planet causes the United Nations to get together with the help of the United States and Russia another space powers, they put together Space defense International organization and also invigorates efforts to make the UN a real Planetary government including finally conquering climate change.

But it was too late. General Zod’s son arrives to take over the earth. He makes a broadcast saying that they were liberating Earth in the name of the Galactic Empire and that resistance would be futile.

They land at the White House and when President Trump comes out to greet them,

General Zod cuts off his head, and then cuts off the heads of all the staffers as they come out White House. After an hour of unimaginable horrors, including mass rapes, blowing up the Pentagon and the CIA,  General Zod announces that he had taken over the world.

Life will continue as before as long as people behave and follow the rules they would be fine Resistance to the new empire will be met with instant death.  Life in the Empire is not a democracy. They would not tolerate Freedom of speech, and Freedom of Press, and Freedom of Assembly And the freedom to oppose the State. The state is everything.  As long as humans remember that they would be just fine. They took over the United States because it was the biggest country in the world. And that his forces will take over the rest of the world but in the next couple weeks. If people on earth accept the new order, their safety would be guaranteed. Companies would be taken over by Galactic Empire companies, and everybody would have to learn Galactic standard. Within one year older languages will be banned.

Sam Adams Vs. the Social Cleansing Board

the summons
Sam Adams was worried. He could not sleep. He got up at 4 am and wrote in his journal and tried to cope with the dread that was overwhelming him. He had received the summons yesterday that he was to report to the social cleansing board for a review on whether he would allow to continue to be on the automatic permit list or would be referred for final status determination. Sam was a retired Federal worker trying to live on dwindling savings.

Sam had Alzheimer’s and was rapidly depleting his life’s savings. Two years before he had been released from prison, one of millions of ex political prisoners. His crime? Authoring anti-government poems just before the beginning of the Christian States of America, right after the second civil war. Unfortunately for him and his millions of ex-prisoners, his side lost the war. He wanted to flee to the United Provinces and settle down in California but lacked money to move. And getting a job at his age, with Alzheimer’s and his political rating was proving difficult at best.

All of which added up to a 90 percent probability his last days were approaching.

Under the new rules imposed by the Christian republican party in the newly established Christian states, all citizens over the age of 18 were on the permitted list if they met all of the following criteria. He tried to think why he was being referred to the board. Perhaps it was because of the recent crackdown on social deviancy. Millions of homosexuals, transgenered people, atheists, drug users, alcoholics, and non-religious people had been rounded up and eliminated according to the rumors. Perhaps someone had fingered him as a possible deviant. He fit the stereotype, no children, known drug user, known alcohol user, suspect politically, atheist and now Alzheimer’s patient. And he was not racially pure having some black blood, some Asian blood and some Jewish blood. And he had married across the racial divide which was now illegal.

The story was that if you flipped and named names you would sometimes be spared for now, and if your info was correct, you could be rewarded. Of course, those whom you flipped were not too fortunate. That was probably the story or someone could have heard that he was an ex political prisoner, or simply that he had Alzheimer’s’.

He had no children. And he was a secret atheist and had been involved with the dissent movement and had spent five years as a political prisoner at the start of the Christian Revolution. He was determined to make a stand and denounce the whole rotten system before the board although that would probably seal his fate.

As an Alzheimer’s patient he could no longer work. His wife had died the year before while he was in prison after she had been deported to her native Korea. She left him some assets but he had little idea how to manage his finances and he was behind in his rent and had received an eviction notice which had probably triggered the visit by the social cleansing staff who recommend a final status determination. But it was just as likely he was on the list because someone flipped on him.

He also did not make it last time when they came for him at midnight. Always at midnight the story goes.

The soldiers came took him away from his wife and locked him up for two years. They deported his wife whom he heard had died shortly afterwards. He spend two years at hard labor in the dessert near Las Vegas and was released into Las Vegas.

Las Vegas was a different town now that the casinos had left town. All that was left were back office operations, and underground ***** and *** operations and underground casinos. It was a hot bed of political dissent and there was an underground railroad to California, which was not part of the Christian states. Sam had been preparing to leave which was a crime and perhaps that is why he was on the list.

The hearing would be at 10 am. He was meeting his lawyer at the hearing board but his lawyer was not too optimistic.
the Permit Criteria
The basic criteria for being on the permit list were:

For Males

Age 18 to age 70
White race
Married to a white woman with children
Must be either working, in school full time, serving in military duty, or working in prison if convicted of a crime.

Homelessness was not allowed. If unemployed and or homeless, would be referred to social cleansing department unless one had a relative who was willing to take care of your needs.

Since there were no pensions or social security anymore and no government provided health care, one must have sufficient assets through one’s work, or savings or through one’s relatives to provide for one ‘s needs. If not you would be sent to the social cleansing board for final status determination.

For Females

Same basic rules applied but if one were married, and had children one would be on the permitted list, if children are older, if spouse’s income is sufficient one would be on the list.
If single or divorced, and homeless one would also be subject to social cleansing unless one’s relatives would willing to sponsor you. Since there were no pensions or social security anymore and no government provided health care, one must have sufficient assets through one’s work, or savings or through one’s relatives to provide for one ‘s needs. If not you would be sent to the social cleansing board for final status determination.

For Aged People

Additional requirements for the age you were expected to take care of your basic needs through employment and savings and the help of relatives. If you were evicted for non-payment of rent, or judged to not have sufficient assets left to sustain your basic needs including medical care, you would be referred for final status determination.

For all people additional requirements applied.

****** deviancy, drug use, alcohol use, gambling, *** outside of marriage, homosexuality would result in immediate referral to the social cleansing board as all were banned conduct that could result in final termination.   Being a member of a prohibited religious class could also be grounds for referral as would a pattern of not attending Christian services. Finally, if one had been arrested for political crimes one would be marked forever.
<h2>Sam's Rating</h2>
One had a government social rating. Sam knew that his rating was a D meaning that the government would be watching him all the time, and it would be difficult to get a job. Only the A’s and B’s were guaranteed to be on the permit list.

To be a A you had be to a true believer, had to be white, had to attend church on a regular basis, and had to be employed naturally.

To be a B same thing but you could be a B if you were a minority, or had engaged in alcohol or drug use under the old rules.

C meant that there was something wrong with your background, you were an atheist, you were a minority etc.

D mean that you were a serious threat to the regime.

E meant that you would be terminated.

F met you were terminated as it met Failure to survive, and family members of F were also labeled F as they were usually terminated at the same time.

Being associated with banned political movements, including reading banned materials could also lead one to being referred to the social cleansing board as all were grounds for either termination or criminal prosecution if under the age of 70.

The board has three choices - granted temporary status extension, referral for termination, or referral to criminal prosecution.

The termination would be carried out quickly. There would be an optional funeral at your Church, then the execution through the method of your choice - firing squad, beheading, electric chair, or gas. The default was gas where you were put in a room with up to ten other people and put to sleep.

Afterwards your body would be cremated in an electricity generating plant with the ashes turned into fertilizer products. There were no burials allowed unless one was rich enough and connected enough to request a burial exception. Most people did not qualify.
the Hearing
The hearing started. The presiding Judge, Judge Miller was a stern face white man in his 70’s and a true believer. He was sent to Las Vegas to clean it up as Las Vegas was the wild west, a hot bed of dissent, illegal drug use, illegal prostitution and illegal casinos. It was also near several political prisons so many ex cons lived there.

The Judge was the chairman of the Nevada state committee that did not exist and was a senior official in the Federal committee that did not exist that brought together government, business and church leaders to coordinate government policies and that secretly ran the Christian States of America.

Probably a score of A thought Sam.

The judge announced that he had reviewed Sam’s file and was shocked that Sam had escaped final termination. He said that the previous board had erred in simply sending him to prison. He should have been eradicated as a social evil, as a cancer that needs to be removed from the pure body politics. Sam and his ilk sickened him. Sam was a free thinker, an atheist, a mix race mongrel, married to a non-white and was therefore guilty of crimes against the white race which was a crime. The Judge was determined to see justice done.

He asked Sam a series of questions. Sam’s answers sealed his fate.

Sam, what is your occupation?

None for now.

You realize that under the law you must be working, in service, in school or in prison?

I can’t find a job due to my age, my Alzheimer’s; and my political record.

That’s irrelevant. You are just a lousy atheist *******. You deserve no sympathy. And have none from me.

Are you white?

No, I am mixed race, part native, part Asian, part black.

I see you were married to a non-white and had no children. Good for you we would not want to see more mongrel children. Such children should be eliminated at birth in my opinion and will be starting next month when we begin enforcing the racial purity laws.

What was your crime? Let’s see reading prohibited writings, keeping a journal, publishing an anti-government blog, authoring anti-government poems and stories. You served two years at hard labor?

Yes

Do you still write?

Yes, everyday but I no longer publish on line.

Good. No one would want to read that trash anyway.

Do you go to church?

No

Do you believe in God?

No, I do not believe in an imaginary man in the sky.

One more anti-religious statement from you will result in an immediate ruling of termination.

Do you drink?

If I can find it yes

Do you gamble

Yes, when I can

Do you support the Christian Republican Party and the Christian States of America?

No, I do not.

Okay, I have enough for a ruling. Sam Adams, you are hereby sentence to termination. Tomorrow morning at 7 am you will be turned into electricity and fertilizer. Take him away.

Next please.

At midnight there was a knock at the door. A black man appeared and said he was a friend and he was being smuggled to California. Sam rejoiced and went with his new friend and reached SF in the morning, escaping death for the 23rd time in his life.

the End

Poetic Nightmares

Morphing Images from a Hellish Nightmare
Note: From a real nightmare End Note

I am in a room
Drinking at a party
And smoking ****

Watching people all around me

Change into hideous creatures
Monsters from the deepest depths of hell

Everyone in the room
Has been transformed except me

The Chief of them all
Wears a Trumpian mask

Complete with orange hair

Half human half pig

His deputy
Wears the face of Putin
But his body
Half human, half horse: if

The other creatures wear masks
Many of them wear
Green Pepe the alt-right
Symbolic frog masks

And have T-shirts
Bearing alt right slogans
And **** symbols

And as they prance about
They chant alt. Right slogans
And neo-**** chants

Jews will not Replace us

And the rest of these creatures
Are hideous ugly beasts
With only a vestige of humanity left

And these monsters are engaged
In all sorts of foul evil deeds
****** violence death

All around
And non-stop
violent drug-fueled ******

As these creatures
Half human half monsters
Half male, half female creatures

Snort coke, *******, speed
Smoke **** and drink ***** shots
Scotch, bourbon and beer

The Trumpian Pig leads the charge
Starts engaging in ****** with Putin
Who chases after people

Cutting off their heads with his sword
They turn on to their fellow creatures
****** and killing each other
and eating their fellow creatures

All night long

Then they attack me
Screaming

Jews will not replace us
And I wake up
Screaming

As the sun comes up
Just another nightmare


The Endless Movie

Watching the TV coverage
Of the great government shut down
Of 2018-2019

I am reminded of a movie
As I fall asleep
Listening to the TV

Blather on and on
About what it all means

Mr. Natural pops up
And screams

"It don’t mean s….

“Dude, the endless movie
Is about to begin”!

A middle-aged white man
Down on his proverbial luck
Just been fired

Replaced by a foreign worker
Or a robot

Or just fired
Because he was no longer
Deemed useful
To the masters of the universe

If he was lucky
He'd  be given a watch
And an IOU worthless pension

And the man wanders into a restaurant
Pulls out a gun

Eats his breakfast
After the official breakfast hour

Puts on a Pepe the green frog mask
Drops acid, Snorts speed
Drinks a shot of *****
And coffee smokes a joint

Snorts ******* for good measure
and smokes a cigarette

And walks outside
steals a bus at gun point
Filled with passengers

He tells them
They are hostages

And he puts on his vest
With the dead man switch
Next to the bomb

He announces
Via tweet

He is going to take the bus
To the proverbial *** of gold

Hidden deep in a cave
And when he got there

He would release the hostages
And disappear into the mine
And never be found again

And as the bus careens around the mountain
At 100 miles an hour
The dude sprouts out

Conspiracy after conspiracy theory
About Obama the Muslim communist

secret gay working with George Soros
the Jewish money people
in league with the shapeshifting lizards

and Mueller is one of them
they are all after him
because he knows the deal

And the passengers are transfixed
Half hoping, he would make it
Half hoping, he would be blown away

And as the bus careens out of control
With the wheels falling off

And the cliff looming ahead
You realize we are all doomed


Worlds Within Worlds Lost in Inner Space
A man woke up one day
Lost in inner space
Went so far down
The proverbial rabbit hole

That he did not know
Where he was
Nor what time it was
Nor when it was

As he stared out
At a bewildering world
A world lost in inner space
Deep down in his dreams

Filled with nightmarishly real
Monsters, demons and ghostly apparitions
He saw them and began running
Running running running

With the hell hounds behind him
Leading him to the edge
of the pits of hell itself

abandon all hope
ye who enter here
the sign read
above the entrance to the pit

and there was a devil standing there
armed with a clipboard
and a computer spreadsheet
Satan was the ultimate bureaucrat

Name barked the devil
Date of Birth ?
Date of Death?
Don’t know? That won’t do at all
Hmm

Car accident due to drunk driving
And you killed a child
Bad on you

But here in hell
The punishment fits the crime
And the devil laughed
Joined in by the hell hounds
And other nightmare creatures

A bell ran out
In the purple crystalline sky
And slowly the worlds receded
And he found himself alive

In his room
And vowed
That today
Was the day

He would quit drinking
Quit taking drugs
And quit chasing strange woman
And having wild libertine ***

He picked up the phone
It was Satan’s aid
Be careful what you vow
We are listening

If you fulfil your vows
You might find yourself
Escaping life in Hell
It is up to you to choose

And the man got dressed
Went to work
Thinking deep thoughts

And drove off a cliff
And back down the endless
Worlds within worlds

Satanic Torture

I find myself
In a dark room
Strapped to a bed

The light turns on
The large TV comes on

A smiling image
Of Satan fills the TV
He is dressed
In a conservative business suit

Looks like he came
Out of a corporate
board meeting

surrounded by demonic aides
who constantly shove papers
at him

He looks up from his lap top
And smiles
A deadly so insincere smile

His voice booms out

Welcome to Hell
My satanic slaves

I am Satan
Your new master

Each of you
Has been sentenced
To an eternity of torture

And the punishment
Must fit the crime

So, for you
Mr. Jake Cosmos Aller
Failed aspiring poet
And novelist

Your torture
Is to be strapped
To that bed

Unable to move
As you are filled
With the need
To **** and ****

But you cannot move
And your skin
Is crawling with bugs

And itchy
as Hell so to speak
and you are so sleepy

but you cannot sleep

the TV will play
endless repeats

Of some of the worst TV
and movie shows
ever produced

Starting with my favorite
A Series of Unfortunate Events

Featuring your favor annoying little girl
Carmetta! Singing for you forever
As you are the ultimate cake sniffer

Welcome to Hell


Rafting Towards Hell
I woke up
To find myself
Rafting down a river

I looked up
At the cliffs
Towering above
the roaring torrent

and see the dark demons
of my terrible nightmares
chasing the boat
firing flaming arrows

and I see werewolves
goblins, ghosts and monsters
running along the river bed
screaming obscenities

as they chase me
to my doom

and I see the waterfall ahead
and see my pending doom

as I rush over the edge
of reason



Micro Stories
53 word stories regarding unheeded warnings
Don’t Go Jogging in the Middle of the Night
It all started with a jog in the middle of the night. Despite my wife’s warning don’t go jogging in the middle of the night.  Broke me heal in a million pieces, 14 operations ensured, mutant MDR Staff almost killed me, almost lost the leg. . should have listened to her warning.

Don’t touch this button!
Don’t touch this button the former President said.  I said, what this button? And that led to the launching of nuclear weapons, going to defon three, and world war 3 with millions of people dead end of civilization moment. Should not have touched the red button.
Don’t open the door
When you find yourself running for your life chased by demons from hell and backed into a corner in a burning house filled with flames and are about to die in a million horrible ways you remembered that they warned you not to open door number three in this crazy reality TV show.
Don’t go to the theater tonight stay home with me
Mary Todd Lincoln had a vicious headache and was not in the mood to go out.  The President though ignored her wishes and told her that he had to go to the theater that night to show the world everything was okay now the war was ending.  Should have listened to her.
Don’t go to Dallas I have a bad feeling about the trip
Jackie was known for her moods and her premonitions. Something the President found both amusing an annoying. She told him that she a vision of death waiting for him in Dallas that day.  The President dismissed her foolishness as he put it and went to Dallas to meet his fate.
true love story.
In 1974 I had the first dream. While sleeping in a boring class, I saw a beautiful Asian woman standing at me speaking a foreign language. I fell out of chair yelling who are you?   I began having the same dream month after month for eight years.  One day I realized she was in Korea so I went there in the Peace Corps to meet her. In 1982 I had the last dream.  She said don’t worry we meet soon. That night she walked off a bus, out of the dream and into my life.  We’ve been married 37 years.
Cheating Death 22 Times
Also, a true story.
I have cheated death 22 times in my life.  I was born a preemie, almost died at birth, and had all the childhood illness at once.  In 1979 I came down with Typhoid  fever in Korea in the Peace Corps.  In 1991 almost got hit by a train. In 1996-1997 had 14 operations due to a mutant drug resistant staph infection, almost died several times.  In 1997 I had an acute stomach ailment that almost killed me, due to excessive antibiotic usage, if I had waited 30 minutes more would have been dead.  And had dengue in 2010.
Guardian Angel Saves My Life
Another true story
In 1990, I was teaching ESL in Korea.  My wife and I drove to the East Coast of Korea for a weekend away. She was in the US Army then.  As we drove towards Sorak mountain, I was filled with the need to get off the road right then. I had a premonition of doom, so did my wife. We got off to drive around another park returned a few minutes later and saw a 25 car pileup. We would have been dead if we had not listened to that inner voice telling us get off now.

Medical Mystery
Another true story
Back in 1996, when I was in the hospital fighting a mutant staph infection after a disastrous jogging accident that led to 14 operations, the internal medicine doctor said that there was something else going on. He finally discovered that I had a rare parasite, a tape worm of sorts that remained inert, its only becomes active if you take steroids then it blows up like a basketball killing you instantly. Six months later I had to take steroids due to frozen shoulder syndrome, and if I had not gotten rid of it, I would have died a medical mystery.

SLA Hit List
True story

Back in 1974 my father was a local politician in Berkeley, California who was on the SLA’***** list as “an enemy of the people, a fascist insect that needed to be killed”.  His crime?  As President of the community college district, he began requiring IDS for students and staff to combat campus crime at the local community colleges.  We had 24/7 police coverage for a while. One morning I saluted my father, “good morning fascist insect”.  My father, being of Germanic stock did not like the joke as jokes are alien to the German DNA.


the End
based on dreams and nightmares

— The End —