A dark shadow sits alone. An arm reaches out to grab the wall, and as the shadow stands, a human forms. The human walks and looks in the mirror. He is a young man, not tall, but his body is bulky. His eyes are bloodshot. It has been three days since he last had to complete his job. A job he hates but does anyway.
He is a murderer.
He works for the Phaedrus, their executioner. The man that takes the lives of those who have done nothing wrong. He knows this. He has known this. Yet he does nothing.
He sits on his bed and rubs his temples. The door opens and an older man walks in.
“Attention soldier! It’s 0700. Time to get out of your room!” the man says. The young man looks up and does nothing.
“Soldier, I gave you simple orders, are you defying me?”
“No, Sir,” the young man stands up. He walks past the man and goes through the door. The hallway is long and narrow, barely wide enough to fit two people across. The young man’s shirt is ripped, not by a weapon, but by the hands of his own anger.
He walks down the hall, tired, sad, and tortured. He knows what he’s done. He knows what he should do. He still does nothing.
He walks into the headquarters; all the men have guns at their waist. A commander walks towards the young man.
“We have another victim for you,” the commander says. The young man just looks at him. Behind the young man’s eyes, there is fear. Fear of the man. Fear of his job. Fear of himself.
Hours pass and the young man's job approaches. His mind races, tugging at him to change his decision. He walks back to his room. He knows that this job took away everything. His family, his friends, his dignity. “What else is there to lose?”
Another soldier walks into his room. One look and the young man knows what he’s supposed to do. He grabs his mask hanging from the wall and slips it on. This mask hides his pain. This pain is hidden so that no one knows the truth behind his mask. He walks outside his room. The soldier follows. They soon emerge into the courtyard. The Phaedrus leader Emperor Kelt is there waiting. A woman with a sack pulled over her head sits handcuffed in front. The soldier hands the young man a gun. Emperor Kelt says what the kneeling woman is accused of as they pull off the sack.
“You are found guilty of rebellion against your superior race, the Phaedrus. Your punishment is death.” The soldier that followed the young man out leaves. The young man refuses to talk.
“Lieutenant do your duty.”
He looks at the woman. There are tears in her eyes.
“Please, no, please no, I swear I won’t defy you again. Just please.”
“No, I am the Emperor, your fate is sealed.”
“Please, I have a family, my husband, my kids, p-p-please.”
“Lieutenant, I said do your duty, do not listen to this waste of a breath.”
“Please, please, d-d-don’t do it, please, I-I,” the young man looks and raises the gun. “No, please, no, no, PLEASE!”
He closes his eyes and pulls the trigger.
The young man doesn’t sleep that night. He doesn’t get up in the morning. He barely eats anything. All he sees is the woman’s face from the day before. It is torture. The other soldiers were told to check on him throughout the day. One came in every two hours, but he never moved. After lunch, two stood by his door. He never noticed the change. The young man didn’t want to hear them. All he could think or dream about was that woman.
The next day the young man gets up. The soldiers are surprised but say nothing. He walks out his door and into the hallway, his hair a mess, and his eyes underlined by dark spots. He’s angry and sad. A commander comes to him and whispers that he has another job, scheduled for tomorrow. The young man nods, but as soon as the commander leaves he runs back to his room, he locks the door, and sobs.
The next day comes, and the young man hasn’t slept. He was up all night knowing what he should do. He wants to do it, but he would be killed if he did. Hours pass and a soldier walks into his room. Just like last time he reaches for the mask on the wall and pulls it on. He follows the soldier just like before, except this time, he feels more guilty. They walk into the courtyard He takes the gun from the soldier. He walks to the next victim. The emperor says the same speech as before. The young man sees the face of his victim. What he sees is not what he expects. Instead of seeing a stranger he sees his brother.
“Brad,” the young man says.
“How do you know my name?”
The young man rips off of his mask.
“Leon, I-I, w-w, n-, why?”
The young man is speechless.
“Leon, don’t do this, it’s me, just don’t do this, please.”
The emperor looks at the young man. “Lieutenant, do your duty.”
“Leon, please, no, don’t, please, you’ve already abandoned our family, and now I learned that you’ve killed who knows how many people. Don’t do this.”
“Lieutenant, do you hear me, kill this man, now!”
The young man raises his gun on his brother.
“NO, NO, LEON YOU CAN’T PLEASE HAVEN'T YOU DONE ENOUGH, THINK OF MOM, THINK OF WHAT SHE USED TO BE, THINK OF WHAT SHE’D WANT YOU TO DO!”
The young man looks into his brother's eyes. He takes a breath. He lifts his rifle and aims it at the emperor.
The emperor’s guards aim at him. He pulls the trigger as they fire.