The sun had a corona that burned the blue right from the sky. The roof of the world was washed out and faded. A sign of better times that had spent too much time in the glare of the sun. The good times it represented were as faded and faint as the sign itself after too many seasons of sun exposure.
My mind like that sky was faded, impressions gone, as two dimensional as the sky looked. Just a light splotch of colour some kid had brushed on and then forgotten about in the back of his school desk. My mind was dull and soft, needing no thought to keep the miles running under the wheels of my car. It was a time that thought was foremost, that all the wit and perspicacity of the ages dripped from the ears.
Those times were gone. God had deemed those times gone. He had no use for my mind. Or my wants, needs and certainly not my desires. Those were as useless as the dust of the desert swirling from horizon to horizon. I had about as much worth.
He told me to take this trip. This trip with seemingly no end from place to place, from person to person. Was death the only end of it? But whose? Mine wasn't aloud. A bullet in a gun misfired. A jump found a soft spot. Death was what I dealt but it was never for me.
That first kill started it, didn't it. It wasn't a question. It's what it was. So long ago it faded like the sky. Just traces of pastel that barely made a picture of a memory. My mind tried to pull it back but it evaporated like steam. Just gone and leaving a burn in my guts as its only clue. But I didn't have to think. I could just move on from place to place, do what he had to. Once I thought about this life and the consequences of it but after a time it seemed like too much work. What was the point of it? The road and God took me where I needed to go and do what needed to be done.
When everything was so plainly laid out, why think? Why go through that effort? Effort was pain and pain was mine to deal. I chose not to be the one who felt it.
A slice of time later my tire blew and my car lurched on the burning asphalt. I pulled it over to the side of the road and waited. It wouldn't be long. It never was. I lit a cigarette and waited.
A slice of time later a van came down the road. Going just the speed limit, it seemed but certainly not slowing down to see what was happening with this beat up old car by the side of the road. It was going to blow by me. I took a deeper drag as that familiar burn in my guts flared. It didn't only come to me when I thought of that first one. It also came to me when it was time for the next one.
The van, a white panel with tinted windows, was maybe fifty feet away when whatever it was I ran over took out it's front right tire. Maybe the driver panicked. Or maybe it was just God's will. Either way the van took a sharp veer and went over, rolling down the burning road, glass shattering and fluid spraying into the air. A thrown mirror bounded off my car trunk as the van came to rest in a tinkling heap.
I got out of my car. The sky was still burning. It always seemed burning and faded. With no thought behind the viewing what else could it be but a cheap poster to my eyes. My boots tocked onto the road, jeans creaking. Holstered gun tied down to my thigh, that made no sound at all.
I walked to the van, neither slow nor hurrying. I drew my gun when I got close. The van was resting on its roof, underbelly facing that fake sky. I hunkered down and looked in at my person.
It was a man like any other. I stopped being surprised or disappointed long ago when I stop thinking about it. They were all just people. Maybe worse than the norm but they didn't carry their darkness on their sleeves. They didn't yell their defiance of God or goodness. Many were no different than they ones you slept beside every night. One of my last thoughts were they were perfectly normal until that one thing came along that turned them bad. And with the trailing thought of "we are all bad" I just stopped trying to think and let it be what it was.
He was still rasping breath through his chest. Left arm broken, gash on the head. Uncharacteristically I started to think of the difference between him and me, and phased I even thought there was one. My mind ticked slowly, a ticking from the crushed engine counter-point to my thoughts.
"I was this man," I thought. "This whole thing started because I was like him. Sometimes I can't remember what it was I did but it's there."
The man finally noticed the stranger hunkered by his window and with great effort turned towards the man outside the van.
"Please help me," he whispered. Something was wrong with his throat. The Adam's apple looked misshapen. It was a miracle he could push words through it at all.
"I can't help you," was the reply. "I can only make right what you've done wrong." With that leather whispered as the gun was pulled from the holster.
The injured man might have tried to scream. It was impossible to really tell. Only a weedy whistle came out of the gaping mouth before a bullet crashed through his skull and cleaved the brain inside, ripping it apart so pieces shot out the exit wound in the back.
I straightened my legs, knees twin pops of protest. I suppose sometime over all the miles and murder and time I had gotten old. I didn't look in mirrors anymore. There was no point when every morning you saw a stranger staring back at you.
I went to the back and pulled the back doors open. They resisted at first but then there was a metallic clunk somewhere in the guts of the door and it swung open. Objects cascaded out of the back compartment. Nothing I saw surprised me.
Everything was mixed and scattered of course but it was hard to miss the woman half wrapped in a tarp. Her head was thrown back, mouth gaping open and staring at me. Like she was silently screaming one more time to be helped but it was much too late. It was always too late. it wasn't my place to save people, just avenge them when other people woke up one morning with a different agenda that day.
There was a shovel, lime, and other things that might come in handy when burying a body in the desert.
It stirred nothing in me as nothing did anymore. Long ago the long years and killing had numbed me to everything. Nothing touched me. I had tried to feel, women, drink and drugs. Even taking a knife to my flesh held nothing but a cleanup. Besides I had seen much worse.
I didn't check the back to see if this might be the one time I was wrong. If this time it was just an innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time meeting the wrong man. Long ago I felt sure that must happen one of these times, that the burn in my gut would be wrong and some person who did nothing wrong would end up dead at my feet. But I was never wrong. Sometimes I almost wished I was. My that would let this end. The day I could put my gun to my temple, pull the trigger and it wouldn't be just a dry click I would hear. Finally pay for my own sins instead of making people pay for theirs. But I was never wrong.
No, what I looked for had tumbled out as soon as I opened the door. A spare tire. And I bet it would perfectly fit the car I was using.
I changed my tire and continued killing the miles beneath the tires of the car. It was getting to twilight now and I felt it. The burn rose up inside me. It suffused my belly and raced into my chest glowing like a burning sun. It hurt so much but I barely gave a twitch. It had happened thousands of times before. Maybe millions. At twilight, that time when the day dies to the night I can feel them all. All those ones who I may find and the multitude I will never see. All the Black Sins that walk the earth. The one's who opened their eyes one day and thought "today is the day."
But tonight was different, usually it was an all-encompassing feeling but tonight it had a direction. It pulled me west, far west. The feeling was gone as the sun finally melted below the horizon but I knew it was where I was supposed to do. I had never been pulled this way and I part of me spark alight after lying cold and inert. At last, something new.
I turned my wheels west.
It was a long trip. And along the way I killed no one. After so many years of slaying the wicked I felt like I could smell them out there, infested in every town I past. Saw aura's around those that usually god's divine accidents would see me murder. But I passed them all without a pause. Every twilight I reoriented myself as that pull flared hot and searing. After some days I arrived where I needed to be.
It was sunset and the rising feeling drew me into the cemetery. I didn't think, only walked in and was lead. Something sparked in my brain, that ember from that first twilight pull was being fanned alight. My boots tromped over the grass, leading me to a distinct part of the cemetery. There was a woman there. She stood tall and straight at a tombstone. She didn't hear me arrive. None of them did.
By reflex my hand dipped to my gun but the moment I did that burn in my chest went out like a candle stopped me in my tracks like my plug had been pulled. That feeling was the only guide I had been given for many years, hundreds maybe but now it was gone. Panic, cloying and completely alien raked my soul, leaving it bleeding and gibbering. When had I felt this deeply? My sleeping brain was sprung to life, memories flooding back, slashing pieces from me as I remembered everything. and I also remembered this woman.
She had finally noticed me and turned around. How? How could she still look so young? She was in her mid-fifties but surely decades, eon's must have passed since last I saw her. How long was I swimming in that fog of endless wandering and killing? By her face not very long. I quailed.
She of course recognized me. Who wouldn't recognize their daughter's murderer.
I fell to my knees, remembering the things I didn't want to. Being married. The drinking. The fighting. The beating. And then one day when that black rage took me, the kind that is a bottomless pit and you gratefully fall into, and I killed her. She wasn't recognizable after.
The police never found me but God sure did. Sending me all over the land seeking those of Black Sin. Those I saw now were just like me. The mother looked down at me. I had fallen to my knees at some point. She wasn't afraid. I only saw the wrath. That pure black hate that festered at the center of all Black Sins. I had turned her into one of them. One of me. So maybe...
No words were spoken. I simply looked at her and her at me. I drew my gun. It was made of black steel. It all light and never shone. But now, as night had fallen, it shone blackly. I held it in the palm of my hand and offered it to her.
Slowly like in a dream she took it. That black gun was nothing that should ever be, just like Black Sin should never be. So maybe only those who knew that feeling in their hearts could use it. No one had ever taken it from me so I didn't know. But it felt right.
She took that gun and pointed it at me. The barrel resting against my forehead. I felt only comfort. A rightness. Finally, it was time!
She pulled the trigger. I didn't have to kill anymore.