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That’s what makes him me

His long finger curled the trigger nearly wrapping the other side of the pistol. I hadn’t noticed before how sinewy his hands were, thin and tightly dark on the outside, nearly pink on the inside. You can look at something for years and miss the details. I had.

I noticed how the shirt from my closet hung on his shoulders, draped like a sail cloth for the wind to catch. It flapped here on the dock the bright blue of midday turning to grey San Francisco night. Microclimates mean carrying unreasonable layers in the heat. Nobody bats an eye at the stuffed bag, the undeserved sweat on your brow, the bulk of an extra sleeve.

But his eyes showed no discomfort with the weather. The thin muscles flexing in his fingers couldn’t feel the chill of rolling fog that would soon to block the sun. His eyes, nearly as black as mine, never broke contact. Not when the ball of phlegm rolled up my lungs and onto the concrete during a coughing fit.

He was perfect in every way manufacturable. From the composite, high strength skeleton to the 100+ year ticker that didn’t so much as beat beneath his chest but registered a lub-dub if you listened closely. Though he had no pores, photo cells returned a faux glisten of reflection in noonday sun. Every detail was exquisitely tailored by the creator for the buyer and for the last three years he and I played our high-stakes game of two cats chasing a world full of mice.

Here, though, overlooking the skyline he had me at a physical disadvantage. His tall frame, mine. His precision behind the hammer millimeters from the primer, mine. His unwavering interest in finishing me to collect the prize, mine. He was a good study. Thorough in every twitch, smirk and snide remark. He was me.

I knew this eventuality. And deep in his cycles he, because he knew me, was me for all intents, knew it, too. There, with my shoulder against the cold pavement, he could only process what he knew and I had many things well hidden. He’d know about the snub nose at my ankle and the knife at my belt. Anyone with a clear eye for detail would. But he didn’t, couldn’t, know about the remote behind my left ear. The infinitesimal finger scanner hidden at the apex of cartilage and bone installed at his incept, hidden from everyone. Brushing my hair back from my temple I could reach it, immediately severing his time from this earth. Doing so was an irreversible and finite end. A failsafe. There would no longer be us, just me.

He saw as I propped myself up watching my hands stay clear of the alternate weapons. I spat again, letting my hair fall to cover my face but he made no move other than flexing his palm on the grip as the snake of his finger coiled tighter. What would I have done in his, my, shoes? Would I be so quiet, so motionless? Yes. Watching your opponent takes stillness. It takes a mastery of emotion to the point of body fatigue as the cortisol rises and the blood gushes to every extremity.

I coughed, moving my hand to my forehead. My fingers didn’t tremble as I began to push the hair back, the tip of my index finger making its way to the top of my ear. I could see his long shadow on the ground in front of me and imagined it becoming slack. Would his body become a rag doll as the communication center to his body powered off in a microsecond? With the finest of movements, imperceptible to my foe, my finger found the scanner. I made sure the hair was clear of the spot as I rested there for only a second.

When the sun goes down in San Francisco moisture in the air mixes with long shadows creating impossible, storybook streams of light. These last for only a few seconds rendering the city in a halo. Buildings of white and glass turn dark grey and blue, outlined in a gold not found anywhere else in nature. He was surrounded by that light but I couldn’t see his face. Molten pain seared the side of my head and into my shoulder. Lying on my side I saw blood begin to pool past my face. His shoes stepped closer. My shoes.


J. Curtis is writer and product developer living in the East Bay. He’s always hatching another story idea and balancing a dozen interesting projects at work and home.

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