Take me back

Revenge Tragedy01-2021, 2000 words


“You killed him.”

Clod stood in front of him, hands shaking as he raised his gun. He wore that red mask of his, the mask of a hero, but right now, he was anything but heroic. His face was twisted, eyes clouded with despair—but there was resolve too, and determination.

There was no surprise on Evil’s face. He sat at his desk, perfectly composed as he stared into the barrel of the gun. As he folded his hands, his fingers were steady. He was calm and for good reason. For ten years, ten long years, he had waited for this moment. Ever since that day, he lived looking over his shoulder, always waiting for judgment to come. And now, when it finally did, he welcomed it. His nephew had come to seek revenge and the only thing he felt was relief.

Ten years ago, Evil stood in front of his brother’s body and watched it go cold.

He still remembered that day. It had been raining in the streets. The worst kind of weather because he always hated the rain. It made the sky dark and the air cold and nothing good ever happened then.

There had been a gun and a bullet and then, a dead brother. It had happened quickly, so quickly that Evil couldn't have stopped it. The hitman was already gone, his tracks expertly covered. Now there was blood on the ground and another body for the gravedigger to bury.

As the rain fell, Evil couldn’t bring himself to cry. He didn’t have the right to, not when it was his fault. So what if he hadn’t been the one to pull the trigger? He might as well have been. It was only because of him that his brother became a target. There was no other reason anyone would want him dead, save for his ties with Evil.

When Evil first joined the underworld, he promised himself never to get family involved. His brother had been a good man, picture-perfect with a beautiful wife and a darling son. He worked hard and reaped the fruits of his efforts—a modest home, a respectable car and of course, a white picket fence surrounding it all.

Evil lived in the shadow of that white picket fence. All this time, he never regretted it but now, as he looked down at his brother, he wished he had. Maybe then, he could’ve kept his promise.

In his obituary, they would call him a pillar of the community, a man beloved by all. Death took him too early, they said but that would be all. No one called it murder because everyone knew there were things you stayed away from. Sometimes cities were built from blood, from dirty money and crooks who ran rackets at night. It was a small price to pay for living well and people paid by keeping their mouths shut.

Evil stood there and felt emptiness overtake him. There was a sob from behind, and he turned to see a child. He remembered that his brother had a son.

Their eyes met and Evil could see terror in them, like he thought Evil was the killer. Standing over the body, Evil supposed he looked the part. He opened his mouth to speak, to reassure the child that he meant no harm.

Before he could, the child’s face morphed into hatred so strong that Evil dared not move. He knew then that his nephew would never forgive him, that he would always be the one who killed his father. No matter what Evil said, he would never believe him, not with the scene before his eyes. There was nothing Evil could do but accept the guilt.

The eyes of the dead were one thing, but the eyes of those left behind were another.

Before him, Clod was shaking. His breaths came in sharp, choking gasps and he struggled to stay standing. But even as he wavered, the gun remained fixed. Pointed firmly at Evil’s head, there was no way for him to run, even if he wanted to. No, Clod would not afford him any mercy.

At that moment, Evil wondered how he felt. Had Clod ever held a gun before? Did he know what it meant to do so?

Evil did. A gun was heavy and awkward. There was a brutal weight to it that made it hard to hold. He understood this to be the weight of death, of killing another man. Once you pulled the trigger, there was no going back. You were never the same afterwards.

But sometimes that was worth it.

Evil knew why Clod was doing this, why he had to. There was a reason why men sought revenge, why so many blood feuds continued for centuries. It was impossible to bring back the dead but at least the living could feel better about it.

It was all too familiar. Evil had done the same thing to avenge the same man. Like Clod, he had found a man to pay for his brother’s death. In front of him, Evil had even said the same words.

“You killed him.”

In the past, Evil stood in Clod’s place, his own gun raised against his boss. He was younger then, hair still dark and face still smooth. But from his brother’s death, he had aged. Revenge had hardened him, made his eyes cold and his back straight. Someone had to pay and it was going to be this man.

The boss was the man who made him. The one who brought him into the underworld and made Evil into every bit his namesake. There was no one Evil respected more, no one he loved and feared more. Evil owed him everything and from the day he became a made man, had dedicated his life to repaying that debt.

If Evil was Clod’s nemesis, his devil, then the boss had been Evil’s hero, his god.

But the man had betrayed him. The moment he ordered the death of his brother, he had raised his hand against Evil. Evil didn’t understand why. He was the perfect subordinate so why had he been punished like this?

Finally, his boss spoke. “I did." His voice was smooth like satin and the devil. Slowly, he folded his hands, showing Evil the rings on his fingers. Even without words, Evil knew their meaning. Each one had been taken from the cold body of a different man. His boss was reminding him of his loyalties—and the consequences for breaking them.

Before such a man, it was impossible not to waver. Evil had the gun but in that moment, he was powerless. Sitting there with shining rings on his hands, his boss seemed a stronger force than anything on earth. The man was magnetic.

He smiled and it was the worst thing Evil had ever seen. His teeth gleamed like jewels, too white and too perfect to be anything but fake. "He was holding you back," he said. "Family makes you weak, and you were not meant to be weak.” Like that terrible snake in Eden, his words were sweet and laced with poison. They burned, and Evil wanted so badly to believe them. “You were always meant to become great. Greater than him and anyone who dares stand in your way."

“But if you insist on revenge, then remember this.”

“Kill me and you’ll never be the same again.”

Evil would remember those words until the day he died. Even after his boss lay six feet under, after Evil took his place and got used to killing, it was those words that haunted him.

He was not kind—he told Clod so he would remember them too. He would not spare Clod the lesson he learnt that day. If Clod sought blood on his hands, then he had to live with it.

For a boy who spoke so much about justice, who donned a mask and fought in the streets, Clod was weak. Even now, he was unwilling to throw away right and wrong. He still wanted to be the good guy, the hero, the Batvenger.

It was too bad that all Evil could see was a child twisted by grief. Ironic then, that Clod was more like him than any hero.

"You killed my father," Clod said, voice barely above a whisper. It sounded almost like a question.

Evil wasn’t going to answer it. It was far too late for the truth to matter anymore. In the end, killing was killing no matter how hard Clod tried to justify it. Perhaps it would be righteous, perhaps he could claim justice - but that wasn’t for either of them to judge. But if it made the sin easier to bear, then Evil would let him be the hero.

He would be proven wrong soon enough, just like Evil had been.

When Evil pulled the trigger, he had wanted to avenge his brother. But at that moment, it wasn’t about justice anymore. It was only about a clean shot between the eyes.

It was an execution.

At point-blank range, there was no way to fail. In less than a second, his boss was dead, his body crumpling to the floor. It lay still like that, an odd, shrivelled husk of a man. It was hard to believe he had been the most powerful man in the city.

Looking down at the body, Evil couldn’t feel any joy. The world hadn’t changed, his brother was still dead, and he didn’t feel any better. If this was revenge, then it was nothing like the triumph he thought it would be. There was nothing glorious about staring at the dead body of an old man on the linoleum floor.

There was no room for regrets. Evil could have mourned and grieved. In time, he could have gotten over his brother’s death and continued on. But he had made his choice and now there was no going back. Evil had chosen to kill, to stain his hands with a red that would never wash off. He couldn’t bring his brother back, but at least there was one more person in the afterlife with him.

There was blood in his mouth from biting the inside of his cheek. As soon as he noticed, he stopped but the taste of iron remained. It was funny—revenge should’ve tasted sweet but instead, it tasted bloody.

Clod was crying.

There was no resolve in his face anymore, only hesitation and fear. With trembling hands, he raised the gun, lowered it, then raised it again. Tears fell from his face, staining the collar of his jacket. It was a pitiful sight.

Evil waited patiently. There was no rush when you were waiting for death.

Clod would pull the trigger eventually, even if he didn’t want to. They both knew he would. What other choice did he have? The man he thought was his father’s killer was right in front of him. If he walked away now, Clod would never live with himself.

Clod was not like his father. He was like Evil, weak and willing to kill. He had the same desperate look in his eye, of a hunter who couldn’t stand the sight of blood but shot anyway. He was even avenging the same man, though he never would have wanted this. It was too bad there was nothing Evil’s brother—Clod’s father—could do about it. In the end, revenge was for the living, not the dead.

Clod finally, finally gathered himself. With a choked sob, he steadied the gun.

Evil was almost proud of him. He didn’t want to live with ghosts any longer and he didn’t have to. After this, the guilt would all be Clod’s. Evil looked forward to it.

“Do it,” he said with the hint of a smile and closed his eyes.

But the bullet never came.

Evil opened his eyes. The gun was still there but Clod’s finger wasn’t on the trigger. With a dreadful feeling, Evil realized it had never been. All this time, Clod had never been ready to kill.

“I can’t.” Clod sounded broken. His knees crumpled and gave way, gun falling to the ground as he wept. He had betrayed himself and in doing so, he was saved.

“You’re a better man than I ever was,” Evil said and finally, he was defeated.