"You got anything to say before we send you back to hell, you heartless monster?"

The firing squad was armed and in position. Dark clouds floated ominously overhead, accentuating the dismal scene on display. Contradicting the weatherman's earlier forecast, liquid dread began to drizzle atop an anxious audience; each drop like a tiny, frozen spear that pierced flesh and chilled bone. Yet even the few without umbrellas were undeterred from spectating, at a safe distance of course, behind the chain-link fence of the prison yard.

A young man, looking no older than eighteen, sat strapped to a wooden post facing a squadron of riflemen ready to end his life. He had been blinded the previous week. By order of the warden, his eye sockets were surgically emptied and sewn shut. According to her, it was a necessary precaution for the ensured safety of the guards and surrounding civilians alike.

Despite this inhumane hindrance, he continued to smile fearlessly at his approaching oblivion. Raindrops leaked from the bloody bandages, giving the illusion of tears dripping down his dimples. Slowly, his lips parted to reply, but his raspy voice turned his words into unintelligible whispers.

"Who knew the world's greatest threat was so soft-spoken?" joked one of the executioners. But the condemned man simply smiled; a stale, soulless, unsettling smirk that silenced any snickering at his expense.

His face stayed frozen in this uneasy, bittersweet grin until a voice amplifier was fetched for the convict. With the device set arguably in place upon his lap, his calm façade faded into obscurity. A deeply rooted rage seemed to unhinge him as he came to life for the first time that evening.

"You insignificant insects!" The venomous voice drenched the field in fear. "You think you're clever, stringing me up to a stump like some sacrificial lamb meant to appease your angry god? I'm the closest thing to a deity this pitiful dust ball of a planet has! You think your suffering will end once you shoot me, but it won't. And once those guns are fired I'm sending every cowardly heretic here, hoping to see me perish, to a fiery grave!"

The antsy murmuring of the crowd of onlookers died instantly, shocked silent by such a weighty threat. A few even heeded the warning and deserted the field. They knew all too well what horrors a devil like Carter Montgomery, who seldom lied unless trying to swindle the naïve out of their possessions, could capably unleash.

Condemned to death for multiple accounts of manslaughter, assaults, and psychological abuse, Carter was a terror to the entire town. Not a single soul remaining on the field faltered as riflemen loaded their weapons. All present waited anxiously for the order to fire.

"It's remarkable how you manage to terrify so many people, even while bound and blind. It truly shows the impact your anarchy has left on this town. You must be so proud of your terrorism throughout the years. Sadly, I can't say it's a shame for something so awful and twisted to finally end."

The warden took one last look at the scarred face of the town's greatest villain before her hatred made it unbearable. Picking up her own rifle and feeling an urge for vengeance swell within her, she joined the ranks of the aligned executioners, hoping the miserable tears she shed were concealed by the coming storm.

"Emily?" he croaked. His head tilted toward the sound of her voice. Even with his eyes removed, she felt him looking directly at her. "You don't have to do this to prove yourself to anyone. I know deep down you don't want to pull that trigger." It turned her stomach to hear how sure of himself he sounded.

She knew his words were just an empty ploy; some sort of con to conflict her emotions and trick her into sparing his life. She was also aware, from first-hand experience, how well he bent truths and how low he would sink to get what he wanted. What was surprising, and hugely disappointing, was how accurate and heart-achingly effective his words truly were.

He was frighteningly right. Buried deep beneath her stern demeanor, festering under the betrayal felt from the countless times he abused her trust and the bitter loneliness slowly consuming her heart due to the precious lives he snatched away, a significant portion of her thought the idea of shooting him absolutely absurd. A part of her that remembered him confessing his affection with an offering of lilies and a heartfelt poem. Memories of them embracing in bed, expressing their deepest aspirations to one another, clogged the rational side of her mind.

It was these dusty, old, forgotten fragments of her past that his words had brushed off and brought back to the surface. The nostalgic moments played a sappy song on her heartstrings, and placed a pit of nausea in her gut that made her sick at the prospect of killing him. Her finger abandoned the trigger-guard, and she fought to keep her lunch down.

Her own men were glancing sideways at her now. She could feel their questioning gazes like daggers digging into her back, watching her judgement waver. With bated breath, they waited for her to call off the shooting, or even attempt to assist the criminal in escaping. The latter only meant her head would be added to the chopping block.

But it was not the consequences that made her choice simple. She had come here with full intention to slay this demon in men's skin. And nothing, not a threat nor a memory, would change that. She could weep and vomit all she needed afterward. Without having to do any soul-searching, the warden swallowed the sickness, submerged the floating memories, reinforced her brittle resolve, and positioned herself to finish the job.

"Ready!" All femininity was lost once she yelled, the murderous intent washing all lady-like mannerisms away. The crowd erupted into a frenzy, chanting in eager anticipation for his blood to be spilled. Yet Carter turned a deaf ear to the chaos, focusing on Emily. She was the last person he wished to harm, but if she refused to back down, it would either be her life or his own.

"Aim!" This command was accompanied by the sound of twenty-two metallic clicks and even louder, bloodthirsty shouting. Still, his attention stayed fully devoted to the last remaining connection to his old life. However, no matter how hard he hoped against it, he knew it was foolish to believe she did not despise him. After all the madness he had spread and pain he caused her, there would be no other way in her mind to resolve this dispute.

The gunshots were deafening from so close. The blasts drowned out the chorus of shouts and gasps. Seemingly synchronized with the order to fire, a blinding flash of lightning struck the ground in the direct path of where the bullets were launched.

The crowd yelped in a mixture of horror and awe as the riflemen hit their mark. The soaring metal bore into the man's skull, propelling his head backward with unnatural force and speed. His neck snapped instantly as a trail of blood arced through the air…