Once again, there he stood in front of me. His arms outstretched like a messiah, his smile like that of a father. Through all the pain that had begun to reside within me, all I could do was stand in a passive trance. When pain leads to apathy, it’s hard to tell which is worse.
His words may as well have been spoken to the wind. I thought about what it was that I wanted, and in a moment of clarity I understood that I didn’t know. After being conditioned as such for so long, it is impossible to accept feeling content. I’m tired of wasting away. Maybe I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, but I knew what I didn’t want. Or what I didn’t want to be.
I always liked riding the train. The faint glow of lonely compartments always made me feel at peace. What a joke to consider peace inside my broken battlefield. The delicate quiet of the night is no match for the thunderous power of machinery. But there I sat in the confines of an empty railcar, the soft rattle of the train keeping me company. Outside I see the fading remains of hundreds of years of existence pass by. “We will be arriving in fifteen minutes.”
Yet, something about the certainty of the destination always makes me uneasy. It isn’t the destination, but rather that once you’ve started you can’t escape the destination. The driver knows my name- He knows all our names.
Atlas had promised this would be the last. But I knew it wouldn’t be. I didn’t know if he was lying to himself, or just to me- but I knew it wouldn’t be the last. As I approached the lonely street corner I staggered with the intoxication of my own disparity. I’d learned that if I didn’t think about what I was doing then it would be that much easier. God was crying again, and the streets were as lonely as I felt. I was crying again, and the shells would soon be as empty as I felt.
Even in the darkness of the night I could see her beautiful silhouette. She was clinging to her child as if she believed the devil himself might rise to pry him from her hands. She made no attempt to run as I drew nearer. It was hard to believe that the infant in her arms would grow up to become one of the most evil men to ever live. Well, would have grown up to be. They were always evil, at least so said Atlas.
Resolutely, I drew my pistol and pointed. This she expected, but what she didn’t was where I pointed. As I aimed so solemnly at her beloved child, I stared straight into mother’s eyes. “Say Goodbye.”
She closed her eyes as if she herself would be drawing her final breath. And mixed with the heavy rain water were tears that only a mother could cry. And I closed my eyes. “Say Goodbye.” I was doing the right thing, Atlas had assured me. Yet he knew these people I was killing were also killing me. “Say Goodbye.”
With a hole between his eyes, I said goodbye.
As I faded back into the awareness of my current presence, my mind showed me what a significant change had overrun me. I was a killer. I am a killer. But was I once a man? Is the capacity to be ruthless what it means to be human? Surely the world tells me so. Or is to reject the evil so inherent to man’s very nature what it means to truly become human?
It was only ever about choice…those brief moments when I might stare fate in the eyes. And defy him. I was never cursed with the ability to feel remorse. My only desire was to prove that I alone was able to dictate the course of my future. I was a hero to some, a villain to most. It’s a disease. I once felt such a strong contempt for those who wasted away trading sweet affection with the lips of a replenishing glass. Only later did I realize that killing was my glass, and it was never full. It’s a disease. How miserable to realize your are the mere insignificance you so readily scorn. It’s a…
But those beautiful moments of fulfillment. The euphoria, if only for a second, of watching the manifestation of my own will. And what greater will than to rule over death himself. But the truth is that I can’t even rule my own death. It isn’t chains that hold me. No, they at the very least allow the preservation of dignity. It’s not chains that hold me. It’s strings.
Death is a puppeteer.
I never sought to be a protector of peace- I just never cared enough to discriminate between evil men and good men. Or women. Or children. When there are so many more evil men in the world it’s bound to work out that way. Good and evil mattered to me about as much how the rope happens to break to a man on the gallows.
In a moment of reflection my memory played for me a scene of magnificent destruction. The voices of the unlucky ones screamed a melody of transcendence- the kind melody that seems to answer the most difficult questions of men. As their bodies grew rapidly weaker, their songs became accordingly more profound until the last breath brought the moment to a deafening resolution. I stood intently, the weight of the beauty shared by me and the revolver which held my hand so softly. And as we stared at each other in that moment of attachment I brought her closer until her lips met mine. Still in my arms I squeezed with anticipation on the brink of eternity. But…
…Nothing. The shell was empty. My heart was empty.
My mind went blank.
If fate is the nemesis, then who shall be the hero? How foolish to think I could best this evil. Yet now not only do I lack regret, but I feel strongly as ever in my ways. Even in death, my convictions have not left me. But the pain does not lie in death itself, but rather in the knowledge that comes with it. I have but one true enemy left; all others are dead. I have seen to that myself. But that enemy carries no bullets, holster, or pistol. So I shall wander this earth for all eternity if I must, until I know whose bullet resides within me. And I cannot rest until I return that bullet to its rightful owner.
Nem was the most feared gunslinger of his time.
Even after his passing, his name was held in awed reverence by the sons of the living for far longer than his body held against the savage teeth of the earth. So much so, in fact, that many eventually began to question whether his passing was merely death, or if it were the work of some divine plan beyond their present. Perhaps they knew no man stood even the slightest chance of killing him, or maybe they simply chose to deny that the closest thing to a deity they’d ever known could in fact expire. Nobody even remembered the burial. Skeptics said they had chosen to forget out of some perverted sense of denial, while others insisted his body must have rotted before any could move it. As time passed, their suspicions of his divine abduction turned to myths, which turned to legends. Their suspicions, strangely enough, would ultimately prove to be not far from the truth.
While Nem was not necessarily an evil man, he could hardly be called good. True, he did purge the world of some of the most evil killers of his time, but many feared what they believed to be a man nourished by his own hate. The truth is, the only thing he ever really hated was the idea of fate. It was his cold apathy towards the living that made him such a prime candidate for hire so many millennia later.
Thus follows the Writings of Nem: