Author : Holly Jennings
They came for me when I was fifteen.
“The kid can hit a target 250 yards out,” they'd said. “Doesn’t even have training.”
I figured they wanted me for the army, some kind of special ops maybe.
I was wrong.
The girl was school-aged. Barely. Five years old, maybe six. Black hair, almond-shaped eyes. A white fur coat. She stood with her parents in front of a parliament building. Red carpet beneath their feet, velvet ropes to hold back the masses. Cameras flashed in the crowd. A miniature movie star, if I hadn’t known better.
The only daughter of a powerful political family. In twenty years, she would become a vital leader in the Far East. Why had the Oracle told me the girl's fate?
I focused down the scope on target. Less than 100 feet. An easy shot. She wouldn't even feel it.
Adjust for wind.
Overhead, the country's flag fluttered in the heavy breeze. The sound rippled through the air like an erratic heartbeat. Or was that mine?
The girl stepped sideways and the crosshairs centered over her heart.
My mouth went dry.
Why couldn't it wait until she was an adult? Hell, even a teenager? At least until she loved and lost a little, laughed and cried over something more than Barbie dolls.
I watched her parents wave goodbye to the crowd of cameras. They led the girl up the concrete stairs of the building.
Take the shot.
She smiled. Dimples filled her cheeks.
Just another target.
I took a breath and held it.
My finger trembled on the trigger.
You're stronger than this, old man.
She jumped to the top step, laughing, hand-in-hand with her mother.
Teddy bear barrettes. Pink fingernails.
A female leader. Didn't that mean something?
They disappeared inside.
I stared down the scope long after they were gone. The Oracle who'd sent me would be pissed, if she even had any emotion left.
The trigger locked, I'd tell her. Someone stepped into my line of sight. Could she see through lies the way she saw through time?
Back at the agency, I took a knee before her, but the words wouldn't form in my mouth.
“I couldn’t…” I looked down at the ground and crushed my knuckles against it, unable to face her.
The Oracle sat limp on her throne, strung up like a marionette, cords draping from her arms, neck and temples. Each led to a different computer screen portraying the varying timelines of futures that still existed. One featured the girl, alive and well, dimples nestled in her cheeks.
The Oracle stood and walked down the steps to me, cords stretching behind her like tentacles. She took my head in her hands and tilted it up until I met her eyes.
“It's ok, Richard,” she said, soothing tone, angel voice. “I couldn't have done it either.”
Her words went straight through my heart. “You knew this would happen?”
“I wouldn't be much of a psychic if I didn't.”
“Then why send me? What benefit to humanity did it serve?”
She smiled. “To prove that some of it still exists within you.”
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