Two Worlds

With just the faintest flicker of movement, I have him in my sights. I know what's going to happen next; know with the perfect prescience of adrenalized thought. I'm going to pull the trigger. He's going to twitch out of the way. The bullet will scream past his cheek and impact on the wall behind him. Then he's going to steady his mind and kill me.

I'll feel the rounds entering my chest. One, two in the heart, third lodged between the ribs, fourth high, just under the clavicle, fifth and sixth missing completely as my will to support myself washes away. I'll fold to the concrete floor in slow motion collapse. The shocks to my knees, my hips, my skull won't even cross the synapses to my brain. I'll wonder if he shot me. And then I'll wonder nothing at all.

My killer will be elated. He will feel like a god. He won't bother to look at my body, to familiarize himself with the man he turned into nothing more than cooling cells. He'll make his escape while he still has the time.

His contacts will get him across the border, away from the other men who want his death, and away from a family that will cry the next time the post arrives. He won't think about my daughter, who will spend an entire day in the washroom at school, crying amidst the stalls. He won't think about my wife, about the divorce papers she will scream at and shred and hate, in their little tattered pile on the desk. He'll be free.

My killer will cross to another continent, where he used to speak the language. Learning it again will be hard but rewarding. He will smile at the first, fumbling transaction for a piece of sticky candy in a market stall; and smile again after he has cussed out the man who tries to rob him. Slowly, he will come to appreciate these people. He will abandon his hat, leaving the weathered bowler on one of the machines in an old laundromat.

My killer will not have to worry about a daughter who nearly fails out of school, or the mother who pulls herself together, piece by piece, learning to unknit the guilt that she had never deserved. He will learn to cook for himself, experimenting with local ingredients to make marvelously spicy fried meats and fruits. A part of him will never stop missing honey and grits.

When a local boy—starving, gaunt, waving an angry pistol with no clip—breaks into his house, my killer will talk him down. Fix him a meal. Send him home with two baskets of corn instead of money, so that his mother's johns will not beat him and take it away. My killer will wonder why he did not shoot the boy. He will feel tired.

Word of my killer's generosity will grow, expanding into a kind of local legend. Other children will seek him out, and then entire families. Worried about his finances, he will begin to ask that for every meal of his they eat, the families help each other with some small matter. Fields get plowed this way. Calves are born. My killer becomes a saint.

The local governor will not like challenges to his power, but he won't be a particularly violent man, either. He will ask my killer for his endorsement. My killer will accept, and become first a friend, then a casual adviser, then an aide. When the governor dies of something small and complicated in his heart, my killer will return to his community and begin to work with the people there again.

The revolution that comes will be vicious but brief. It will barely blip the lives of my wife and daughter, who are scraping together to save for college. My daughter won't want to live in a house that feels so empty, and my wife won't be able to bear leaving it. When my killer looks after a wounded soldier, listening to his stories for the two days it takes him to die, they won't hear anything about that, either.

My killer will be transformed by the experience, though, and he will find that he's starting to think about the handful of lives that he's taken. Rivals, bystanders, a DEA agent on the wrong side of a sting. He will not have had nightmares since the first, but he'll wonder if they might come back to haunt him. He will not be very old, but on hot summer nights he will feel the mortality lying dormant in his bones.

He will begin sleeping with a local woman, a mother of three, on one of these nights. This will be one of the handful of affairs he has had since my death, mostly out of concerns for viral infection. On his pillow, she will tell him that she thinks he could save the whole world. He will laugh, but quietly decide to give it a chance.

The movement that he starts will not accept donations. Its trade will be only in favors. Tentatively, it will grow from community to community, stretching until it covers miles of country. It will butt heads with the drug trade, and my killer will be attacked twice by unmarked cars that speed swiftly away. The first time he will remember by the feeling of dust on his face as he covers desperately in a ditch. The second: by the feel of shrapnel in his leg. He will become more careful after this.

The next year, when there is a popular vote, he will be surprised to find himself on the ballot. Not as president, but as a minister of agriculture. He will know next to nothing about agriculture, but the farmers will be overjoyed. He will lose, but it will be a surprisingly close affair.

My daughter will drop out of college after her sophomore year, dissatisfied with it. She will become a hairdresser. My wife will begin dating her second boyfriend after my death. They will wait four years before they marry. My killer will become a governor.

On a hot August night, twenty years from now, my killer's house will catch fire. It will be uncertain whether this is arson. He will die, coughing and smoke-stained, carrying his child to safety, and his movement will outlive him.

It will take time, decades, for it to spread. First it will wander around the country, and then by quantum leaps it will find itself in other parts of the world. Wars will quiet down. The narcotics trade will die. My daughter will hang herself at the age of forty three.

It won't be perfect, but there will be peace.

In the brief span of a moment, I can see this all laid out before me; memories, histories yet to unfold. I can see the road to paradise stretching away from my corpse. And I can also see which way my killer is going to dodge.

I correct my aim to the left and pull the trigger.