NEMESIS

My name is Nemesis but you needn't let that disturb you unduly. I should tell you, however, that I am invisible, indeed intangible, in this life as I must be in death, for in this life, I am Death. I am the stalker of human iniquity and the plague that strikes it down. Yes…well... forgive me please for that little piece of melodrama but I am keen to capture your attention. So, now that I have it, there's more.

To introduce myself, it is fair to say that I have no appreciable limits bar my conscience which has such a tiny voice. I am no wraith, no spectre, yet I glide unsuspected through this world, listening to its lies reverberate, observing the growing corruption that is Mankind. I comprehend nothing of its subtlety, appreciate little of their dubious charm but am influenced by it all the same. A reluctant affection for them curses me. My rage at this particular indignity is, I assure you, frightening. Nevertheless, I have put it to one side for the time being as it clouds my thinking.

And so, to humans. Without question, they are beings of rare and useless arrogance. Delusional, but dedicated to their own self-aggrandizement. Now and then I laugh at their despair for it is such a glaring mortal weakness, but never have I insulted anyone with my version of pity. Inevitably, due to reasons of stealth and style, interaction is unlikely although sometimes I think I should like it very much if a man who had lived his life like a beast at last saw a truly merciless face as he drew his final breath. Perhaps though, a nuance for another time.

Ultimately, it is my mission that defines me. My raison d'être. Focus, force and finesse are my watchwords. No second chances, my maxim. Be assured that I am no vengeful emissary of some nameless god, but a creature of instinct and purpose. I work diligently towards a natural end although an elegant conclusion may yet be denied me as it is entirely possible that my prey is finite while I am not. A worrying prognosis to which I shall return presently. Being an unstoppable dispenser of sudden death is not always as straight forward as it sounds, I'm sad to say.

To continue. I have an abundance of strange twists which allow me to function. A gorgon stare that is so wasted on the petrified, but occasionally effective on the over sensitive. Molten fingers that burn like a son-of-a-gun when making a point and I will stop your heart with a cool breath if you are the one that I want. Naturally, I am immune to harm, mischief or even irony. It is, however, an exaggeration to say that I am all-powerful as the rigors of my task often leave me jaded and weary. Human cynicism is an abrasive that erodes even my composure.

Plaintive protests and feeble recriminations burn up in my atmosphere although I am occasionally amused by the concept of guilt. Moral and ethical considerations are for other species entirely. Accountable only to my silent sensibilities, I query nothing save my relevance. And that, of course, is a question for all sentient creatures to confront. It is significant however, that results are so thoroughly of consequence that there is no need for meaningful conclusions. I simply get the job done. That is profound enough. There's no getting away from it, I'm a serious guy.

Anyway, in addition to my more lethal abilities, I have one or two other useful inclinations that serve to guide me. To begin with, the presence of genuine evil draws me infallibly and indefatigably towards its location where I contemptuously acknowledge its aura whilst loathing the decay of its thoughts. Such a primal reek never loses its potency. Only one such as I could bear to be in the same room with it. Still, it is barely a conscious notion to extinguish it.

One other thing you should know. I am never wrong. How could I be? I am Judge, Jury and Executioner, (the second of these is, of course, redundant) and subject only to my own laws. My sentencing is perfect and as long as I avoid the obvious flaws of compassion or mercy, I cannot be cruel. I am the punisher of hubris, not a supernatural sociopath. To be candid, the only real difficulty with all this is proportion which is really just a question of sooner or later.

I am aware of no Paradise nor Purgatory. Sorry, people. No products of fevered, pious nightmares are my brethren for I am alone and unique. Hell, of course, is what you make it. I perceive only in primary colours(no wishy-washy pastel distractions for me), yet experience a semblance of emotion which allows me to form opinions and act upon them. Between something and nothing, I am the line. The edge. Elemental and mercurial in nature would describe me if there were another being in existence capable of appreciating the delicacy.

But to address my simmering dilemma. Proportion and the relativity of sin, for want of a better phrase. It is true to say that cold or coldness is not a valid concept on its own but simply the result of a reduction or absence of heat. Just as dark is simply missing light. In the same way, good or goodness only forms as an idea in the comparative lack of evil. Pessimistic maybe, but fundamentally honest. That is the story of the purity of Man. I am drawn to the black spots of humanity but believe me, there are no white ones. I'm no good with grey so there's just dark and darker.

One evening past, I was pulled in the direction of an incident down a poorly-lit alleyway at the filthy end of a grubby city. A large man full of burning violence and pulsing lust stood before a cowering young woman with a bright knife pressed to her throat. Already I didn't care for him much. What probably started as a mugging had deteriorated towards assault as the lunging man's snarling desire drove him on. A bright red speck of new blood appeared on the woman's flesh as he clumsily pressed his crude attack. Her tears were a bright reflection of the fear in her eyes.

Without a second thought, I rested my index finger lightly on the side of his neck. The flow of blood throughout his body stuttered and stalled then finally stopped. Only a few gleaming droplets trickled from his nose which I confess provided me with a small frisson of satisfaction. The vibrant red evidence of imminent demise is just that tiny indicator of a job well done.

Complete collapse followed in moments without a sigh or a whimper. No writhing dramas for this boy. The body was of no interest to me. The woman was another matter. I witnessed her shock transform into disbelief, then doubt and eventually relief. She did not scream. She did not run. She simply stared. Then, with the black spot I had come for expunged, another dark point erupted right in front of me.

After a few panicky glances up and down the alley, she kicked the corpse twice experimentally to confirm its lack of menace but did not check for a pulse or breathing. Did not care that a life had withered before her for no apparent reason. Equally, she ignored his heavy rings and chains, possibly too tricky to remove, as she sank to her haunches in order to rummage through coat pockets from which finally she removed a selection of plastic sachets containing white powder and an assortment of multi-coloured pills.

Elsewhere she discovered several soiled banknotes and a handful of loose change. I could see her sharp little teeth gleaming within her greedy grin as she stuffed her plunder into a light shoulder bag. Then, with a few harsh words, she reached into the darkness of a nearby doorway to pluck from its depths a small child whom she pushed roughly along in front of her before quickly disappearing into the night. No cringing victim this one, and it made me wonder which of the two offenders I had been attracted to as her crime seemed potentially more enduring. More indiscriminate.

I did not pursue her. There was no need. Everything is relative apparently, so her time would surely come. I do not work to a deadline as such. Millennia to me are like the pages of a book. They flick by, one much the same as the last, the story an ongoing repetition of wicked deeds and fitting retribution. I feel no need to accelerate my program despite the reckless inflation of a bloated population (a crime in itself, but mass suicide is not an offence that stimulates me). It's a big job, I know, but hey, with humans being as self-destructive as they are, I get a lot of help.

It should perhaps be made clear at this stage that I am not exclusively the exterminator of urban transgressors or the architects of domestic ruins. My sophistication may not be immediately apparent, but I am cosmopolitan in my reckoning. As I have already mentioned, the black-hearted proliferate among the bucolic harmonies of remote communities just as vigorously as within the cramped malignancies of the city. It is my instincts that direct me and I am not distracted by the view. As I ponder this, an example of my objectivity springs to mind. It was like this.

The sun set red, I remember. Not a smudged crimson orb full of oily ghosts or dusty vapours but clean, like the bright blood that seeps gently from a miscreant upon receiving my liberating touch. The night dropped quickly after that, but I was not inconvenienced by it. The darkness that attracts me lurks inside the flesh, often disguised beneath sanctimonious illusion, but no masquerade deters my penetrating trajectory. Such evil gleams like a black pearl, glowing a silvery jet as its opalescent shell opens to reveal its dark heart.

Oh dear, apologies again. If I do have a single fault, it is the tendency to romanticise. Not entirely surprising when you consider the drab mires of malevolence through which I am obliged to wade. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. Far from the gnashing crowds, all about their nefarious business and into open country where the undiluted starlight exposes many a misdemeanor. Not that my night vision is anything less than immaculate, but the long stretching shadows that bound like fugitives over hard empty ground can sometimes play tricks upon the engaged hunter.

Not that details were hard to decipher in this case. A barn that masked a clandestine church. A man who preached a violent course. A congregation who believed because more than anything, they wanted to inflict harm upon those who made them feel small. Over the centuries, I had found this situation commonplace, indeed almost unanimous amongst the diversity of largely insignificant divisions. The black spots inside them, like tumours, grew as their hatred swelled. And here I was, the surgeon with an unblemished record of fatalities when operating. Under a scarlet tinged moon, I went to work.

For a while, I just listened to the speaker rant. I noticed some red flecks in the foam about his lips and suspected that his rage was as much about his own weakness as the injustices he perceived in the world around him. In this cauldron of loathing, he might have been the only one to welcome my ministrations. Beyond him, the multitude brayed and swore vengeance on almost everybody and it was at this moment that caprice plucked at me and I decided to break with millennia of practiced method to indulge in a little experiment.

First of all, I selected a large man standing at the front with his arms raised, quivering full of dark passion. Beside him stood a sharp-featured woman who clawed at her obese companion as the tide of frenzied emotion forced her into ever more savage displays of lust and hostility. As she raked at the big man's flesh, I joined her and lightly touched the shuddering artery in his neck with my usual devastating effect. In an instant, the folds of flab ceased flapping. His eyes flew open and he gazed straight at me. Who would have guessed? A sensitive one.

I considered him wryly as he managed to point a weak finger in my direction before crumpling to the floor in an untidy heap. To those oblivious to my presence (which was all of them, including the foaming preacher), his gesticulation seemed to accuse the shrewish woman still salivating at his side, of being responsible for his collapse. When a vivid jet of thick blood burst from between his lips, not one of those in attendance doubted that death had claimed him. There followed a short but shocked silence. I often find these pauses rather poignant so refrained temporarily from any further interference.

Those that had been screaming vile curses before and boldly threatening bloody mayhem on defenseless and distant strangers were now appalled that tragedy had struck so intimately amongst them. But as I had suspected, their distress was fleeting and if anything, only amplified their madness. There had been strong stimulants in the ceremonial wine, I was sure. Seconds later, the scrawny woman was once more identified as the culprit and with a breathtaking lack of restraint, was set about as if she were the prey of hungry wolves. These, of course, were animals of a different sort satisfying less vital appetites.

And, as I had hoped, the violence did not stop there. Old animosities resurfaced. Long standing feuds reignited as neighbour turned upon neighbour with such ferocity that I thought my intervention might no longer be necessary. Not that I could resist, of course. A deadly brush here, a fatal touch there. All graceful and final strokes, to be sure, but in amongst such primal lunging, no tranquil demise was even noticed. I had sensed something feral skulking here, out in the wastelands, in a place with no corners. They had not disappointed me.

Through the carnage, a single furtive figure fended off bloodthirsty swipes as he struggled towards the door. The white-frocked preacher now drenched in red, bleated his alarm as blows reigned in. No longer the venomous sermonizer of intolerance and fanaticism, his arrogant invective a withered thing cowering behind the black spot at his core. He wailed. He pleaded. His misery was pathetic, as was he. I had not laughed for several centuries, but did so now as I locked the door on his screams and departed.

Do you see now? How these spiteful beings rise to the most pitiful bait? How ready they are to cast aside all decency to vent their fury, to lament their dissatisfaction in cruel and unusual ways? I am sometimes appalled that such a refined and potent being as I should be forced so low as to be the destruction of these creatures. Still, there it is.

So. Proportion. Some crimes more serious than others? Minor events having greater long-term effect? Perhaps, but the penalty will be the same eventually only the stay of execution may vary. There is no greater or lesser evil that draws me. I am punishment not prevention and I am patient. I have a quirky affection for the notion of an entire civilisation on Death Row, but no time at all for straining the quality of mercy. I rely on instinct but act out of a type of obsessive conviction. Maybe there is no choice. For a being like me, destruction is a cold satisfaction, a powerful incentive that needs recognise no reason nor realise any restraint.

So far, I have not felt the urge to remove many of the worst offenders as the struggle between a hundred subsequent others to prove they can be a thousand times more brutal not only offends my natural sense of order, but also affects my schedule. Rapacity is rife so sometimes less is more. Inevitably I reap my harvest, but also work in mysterious ways. Don't you just love that phrase? If there is one thing that Man enjoys more than wasting his own life, it is wasting others. Whoever relieved these creatures of their sins had no idea of the sequence of events that was being set in motion. Sometimes, a clean slate is actually a blank cheque.

Even the dysfunctional and the demented burn with a bitterness and resentment that in potential terms is an inferno of hostility, something that registers quite strongly with me. The malevolence in the minds of children often makes me think that a global cull would be justified, but short-cuts are not the way of an artist. Despite having little respect for the human race, I have no particular prejudices or sympathies that might interfere with the extermination of evil except for the overwhelming knowledge that it's ultimately an extinction event.

Well, there's the banner headline from the end of the world! But really, I am deadly serious. I might think that people are a no-hope, no-use kind of group, but if there is no prospect of redemption, where does that leave me? At best, redundant, at worst, suicidal. You see if my theory holds up and all the depravity in existence is being slowly eroded down to a point by me, then with everyone perished, that point is me. So being the consummate professional and somewhat of a perfectionist, my course is set. My self-termination inevitable.

That was, of course, until you arrived.

You, who came holding out hope in your empty hands. You, with the hole for a heart and nerveless limbs. How much I wanted you to be real, but if you were, then everything would change. I can detect even the faintest spark of evil in any living intelligence; a malicious act, a vicious thought. They are indelible stains. But you? You are unblemished. Not a trace of a taint.

In fact, I can barely believe that you are actually there. It is as if your existence is measurable only in your influence on others. Like a Black Hole that cannot be observed except by the behaviour of material around it. I abhor a vacuum as much as the next force of nature, but if you are true, then you might just be the salvation of creation.

But wait, that's not it at all. What a deadly mistake. You cannot be the future. You are an evolutionary dead end. Everything about you is unnatural, so much so that I am actually repelled. You are pure, but you are wrong. So wrong. Mankind needs its imperfection like an oyster needs its grit to form a pearl. Even if it means its ultimate annihilation. There may be evil in every heart, but its presence is what provides the balance. It is the feeding mechanism. From there comes the drive, the love, the mischief, the power. A virtuous creature loses its curiosity. Without greed, it ceases to explore. No pride then no ambition, no envy means no desire. Deprived of your darkness you are an invisible band on the human spectrum.

So, an impressive conundrum. My purpose is to eradicate evil yet you have none. Despite being an abomination, I am uncertain if I can destroy you. If I really cared for the future of humanity, I would try. Suddenly I am considering ridiculous concepts like duty and responsibility. Am I more tied to humans than I thought? Are we co-dependant?

Questions, questions. Suddenly I am beset by them. I am acquainted with the unknown but not the uncertain. When the children of man were born corrupt then they could not survive each other let alone me. Am I to stand aside now and watch them die of innocence?

I touch my hand to the side of your face and await the rush of fleeing vitality. Sometimes I experience a subtle thrill in purging a vessel of its iniquity and subsequently its energy. Certain legends suggest that this sensation is shared by the creature upon expiration and this can only be the relief of the human spirit freed from the tyranny of evil. A cleanser of souls, the devout might say. I wonder, if they knew me, would they be grateful?

There is a slight tremble in your flesh like the faintest ripples on water. I look into your eyes for tranquility and serenity, but find a disquieting comprehension. What men might call a knowing look. At first I think the process has been reversed and it is my own vitality that threatens to siphon away. The air between us crackles as if a storm were upon us and suddenly I realise what is happening.

The natural order of the universe has been offended. A line has been crossed. You are uncontaminated by anything real, a vile perfection and absolutes cannot be tolerated. Your purity is the ultimate evil that I, the ultimate destroyer, will calmly sacrifice myself to remove. Our particles mingle and one by one, blink out of existence. Essences evaporating like mist under a morning sun. That conceited expression of yours is the first to go.

And so. We were two, now we are one, soon to be none. By default, I save Mankind from its worst folly. A suicide of vanity and ignorance. The entity that would eliminate all the evil from the world and with it all its identity, its freedom and its future was not me after all. What masquerades as salvation is just extermination with a smug smile and I regret nothing.

We haven't been introduced. I am Nemesis and you are…you are Messiah.

I sigh.

We were separate.

We are together.

We are gone.

THE END