A Long Time Coming

July 13, 2017
I pace down the hall, my high tapering heels clicking against the marble floor, creating an unvarying resonance that bounces off the walls and echoes through the corridor. I rub my hands together in a fruitless attempt to stave off the binding chill. I am unquestionably alone, but inches away, I swear I hear someone whisper, “Murderer.”

I turn sharply toward the voice, jarred. But the corridor is empty. I keep walking, drawing a breath, pressing a cool hand to my feverish forehead. There are flashing lights up ahead -- EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY -- and when I push through the doors I trigger an ear-piercing, wailing alarm. I try not to pay it any mind. No one is coming, of that much I'm sure.

So why do I feel so paranoid?

I step over the threshold, breathing deeply, inhaling the smell of salt and ash and dust and wet wood. Below me, the ocean roars. Above me, the dark clouds gather. Purgatory, something whispers inside me. Retribution for your sins. I push aside the voice of penitence, of callous reprimand.

I assess the scene before me. The pier that I would run down as a child, on days when the sun shone and enormous bubbles floated through the air, lies in pieces, entire sections of it collapsing and submerged in the torrential waters -- poetic justice for a landscape molded and ruined by the hands of man. Where once there was laughter and hope, now there is nothing. Nothing.

Heinous, inexcusable, sickening, murderer--

I pivot, gazing back at the city. It is in ruins; the few buildings left standing are engulfed in flames and quickly burning down, working with urgent haste to beat the imminent downpour. The sight is confirmation enough for what I saw on my monitors: static and dust and debris and dead bodies.

Impassively, I note that I am responsible. That I did this. I can see myself again, sitting down in my marble bunker and manually triggering the end of the world. Of humanity.

I did it.

I won.

The villain won.

The alarm blares on behind me, threatening sensory overload. Lightning cracks across my vision and biblical rain rushes from the sky. As the water washes over me in sheets, I gaze out on the fruit of my labor -- the desolation, the slaughter -- and I wait for the long envisioned surge of satisfaction and victory.

But it never comes.

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