A score of fireflies dance in the air above a glistening plaza, their tails aflame with incarnadine light; tiny specks of vibrant red amidst the washed out greys of humanity. Some circle and hover, weaving slightly. Some hang still and motionless in the air.
A young woman dressed in a yellow coat stands wreathed in fireflies, her face streaked with rain; a silver ring sits upon her finger. She stands motionless, an island of calm in a stormy sea of activity. In her ringed hand she holds peace and reconciliation, in the other she holds war and justice. She sits astride a fulcrum of possibility.
A far off man peers through his third eye. Through it he sees the truths both far and near. It is a window into the hearts and minds of all men. It is judgement and wrath. It is an extension of will and action; the might that makes right.
There are no fireflies in the plaza, only the red dots of laser sights.
There is no rain on her face, only tears.
She has a grenade in her hand, the silver ring on her finger is its pin.
The far off man is a sniper, his third eye a scope; bullets are his only route into the hearts and minds of men.
The sniper’s name is Jenkins.
He does not know the woman’s name.
Voices whisper in Jenkins’ ear, a flurry of orders, a cacophony of indecision and panic. Jenkins barely hears any of it. All he can hear is the imagined sobs of the woman he is looking at. She looks so sad. What made her sad? Was it the sadness that brought her here to the plaza? There must be a reason behind it all. She must have friends, a home, people who love her, people who would miss her when she is gone. She must have a name. Jenkins didn’t feel that he could kill someone with a name.
The scope had a way of divorcing a man from reality, separating him from consequence or feeling, leaving you with just that roving tunnel of judgment; a narrow view into eternity, at the expense of everything else. It brought things so far away into such shocking clarity, things you could never hope to see with the naked eye. Sometimes Jenkins thought the things he saw through the scope weren’t real, that they were a mirage or an illusion, a window into a different time or a different place, the barren country that exists in the moment before death. He often found himself looking over the top of the scope just to make sure whatever he was looking at was really there. The stress of the job does funny things to a man.
Someone in his unit, Hobbes, kissed his bullets before he put them into the magazine. He said it was so that there’d be at least a little love before they died, blood spurting from a ragged hole in their head, or the wet sucking of an open chest wound, just over the heart. “Everyone’s heart gets broken sooner or later” he’d say “at least I have the decency to do it with a kiss”.
Since the war Jenkins had never seen a raw manifestation of beauty like the woman in the plaza, it was as if each successive year had withered a little bit more in the ruined world that remained; it was death by inches. The only emotion you really saw these days was fear, be it written all over a face or lurking behind the veiled curtains of the eyes. That this woman was sad astounded Jenkins, no one admitted something like that any more. The fear of what would happen was too great. Perhaps something inside of her had finally just snapped. Jenkins could only see her through the scope, perhaps she wasn’t real at all, just an illusion of a tired and diseased mind. Perhaps she was the only real thing in this dark, benighted world. A single, lone manifestation of something grander than the truth, a lone flower at the heart of the desert. Jenkins liked flowers.
What right did he really have to snuff out her life? What had she done to him? Who was he to hand out the final judgement, he was nought but a man, and not a wise man at that, a wise man would not be found lying on a roof top in a storm like this.
Rain streaks the face of the far off man.
The whisper in his ear tells him to take the shot. In that moment Jenkins realise he cannot kill her, no more than he could crush the lone flower beneath his heel. His scope creeps upwards, the red dot of his laser sight dancing away. It skirts across the woman’s cheek; a tiny, ethereal hand offering her what scant comfort it can. The scope alights upon a figure perched on another roof top; all glad in black, slick with rain, skin glistening. The figure looks cold, ugly, heartless, a thing of evil without mercy, a spectre, a circling vulture waiting for something to die. Jenkins sees into their heart and their mind, he sees nothing good, nothing of value. He is become judgement and wrath. He is the might that makes right. He is so very tired and so very sad. His finger twitches.
A crack of thunder fills the air.
Practiced hands slide the rifle’s bolt along its oiled path again and again. Cylinders of machine lathed brass pirouette through the air, falling with a hiss on the wet roof top.
One by one, the frenzied storm of fireflies wink out.
That was how the revolution came. Because a grown man couldn’t bear to see a woman cry.
They never did find out her name.