Serenity Acevedo wrote this story in response to a Creative Writing II activity called “The Character Drop.”
I had no idea where I was heading. I barely had anything on me, and I was surely a couple of hundred miles away from home by now. Within the last couple of days, I’d been on two boats, three trains, more busses than I could count, and a least a dozen taxis and Ubers. I was getting a fresh start; a new me was coming. My destiny was winning, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be like that anymore. My last job almost killed me, and I haven’t even had my first kiss yet. I mean, I am only 18, but come on.
This was the last bus trip I could afford. I mean, I did have like a hundred dollars, but I needed food, and you know, stuff like that. The bus started to slow. I saw the bus stop out of the window. The bus I was on was by far the best bus so far. It was just me and the bus driver, an old man who didn’t even speak to me. It was clean and didn’t smell like a boiled rat. I wanted to stay on and sleep. I was afraid of where I would sleep as I saw the sun going down. The bus stopped, and the old man looked at me in his mirror. I got up, grabbed my bag, thanked him, and left.
I had no idea where I was. There were no signs indicating that either. There was a diner right across from me. It wasn’t dirty or clean. It looked well-loved. There were a couple of cars out front, and I saw people inside. It was called “Ol’ Smokey.” I thought about heading there for a bite, but I stopped myself to survey more.
To my left, I saw a motel. The relief I felt at that moment was astounding. I just hoped it didn’t cost much. It looked nice, and there were a few cars in the parking lot as well. I started to walk over to it but then stopped myself again. I looked to my right, back at the diner, then again to the right, and saw a park. There wasn’t much to it. A few swings and a slide. It had a basketball court. I decided to walk over to the park.
I sat down on a swing. The sun was almost gone. Two overhead street lights flashed on. I pulled out my phone, ignoring the million missed calls and texts from my parents. I put on a song called “Build it Better.” It was a calming song and sent me into bliss. I suddenly heard a noise outside my speakers. It sounded like my name, but I shook it off as a wild noise. I got up and headed to the diner to get a bite to eat when I heard something behind me. I jumped at the sight of a man walking behind me. He was scruffy looking and appeared to be homeless.
“Excuse me, do you have some money to spare?” he asked me.
I dug out a dollar from my pocket and handed it to him. He coughed twice and reached out for it. In a swift motion, he grabbed my hand and dragged me away from the diner. I let out a loud scream. His grip tightened.
“You didn’t think it would be that easy, Cara? Right? You knew I would come for you,” he said in a now clear voice. I knew right away who he was: my last target. To give a little background, I was born into a family of hired killers. When I turned 14, my family explained this to me, and with how I was raised, this was the best news I could think of. I was pulled out of school to start training. I was among the best at 16 and did my first job a few weeks after my 16th birthday. By the time I turned 18, I had quite a few enemies.
I was hired to kill a very important man. He was a twenty-year-old arms dealer. I almost had him, but then I saw a little boy come out and hug him. At that moment, so much hit me at once. My childhood, the people I killed… I mean, they were bad people, but they had families. As I got up to leave, he saw me, and I ran for my life. I was almost gone, but he caught me. We fought for a while before I kneed him in the groin and made my escape.
“You may be good, but I’m better,” he said. He led me to the motel. I gave up my fight, knowing I was too weak to fight. He walked right past the desk man, who was sleeping in the first room. He entered the first room we came across. He threw me to the ground; I stayed lying there.
“Get up,” he ordered.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have thrown me to the ground,” I replied, staring into the carpet. It was a nice carpet but had a small red stain. I heard him let out a chuckle. I slowly got up and sat on the edge of the bed, turning my head towards him. I never really saw him like this before. I saw pictures, but he was always clean and wore a mask over his nose and mouth. This man was definitely attractive. He was well-built and had the face of Avan Jogia.
“I think you know why I am here,” he said, turning his back on me.
“Then just do it.” I knew he came to end me.
“You answer me one question first. Why didn’t you do it?” I knew exactly what he was referring to, me not killing him. I didn’t know if I could bring myself to tell him I was weak.
“You weren’t worth my bullet.” He looked me in the eye, knowing I was lying.
“I couldn’t do it. I was weak. Is that what you wanted to hear?” My eyes started to tear up. I looked down. There was a long silence. I could take it no more. “I saw the little boy run over to you and throw his arms around you, that huge smile. I couldn’t kill you. I couldn’t kill no more.” I was full-on crying. He sat down next to me.
“I see,” is all he said.
“I’ve killed fifty-seven men. Those fifty-seven people were sons, brothers, dads, uncles, and grandpas. I am worse than them.”
“I know most of those people. Trust me. You are not worse than them. You saved so many mothers, sisters, and daughters just by taking them out.”
“And what about you? Are you saying you deserve to die? You supply guns to people to kill other people.”
“For protection. I give guns to people to defend themselves. And it’s not just guns I supply. It’s food and water, the necessary materials people need to live. People only see the guns.”
“Then why were you labeled a high target?” I asked him. I was confused and stopped crying now. He was labeled a high threat. That’s why they sent me. They knew I could do the job. Except I couldn’t.
“Who hired you?” he asked.
“Damien,” I told him with no hesitation. Damien was a super sketchy man. He was the one who picked people for the jobs people presented him with. So, he was indeed my boss, but he was also my dad. My dad wasn’t a good person, but I had to respect him. He started to hit my mom when I was thirteen, and many people tried to kill him, but he had built a huge empire that made it impossible.
“Of course, it’s that *bleep*,” he said. I giggled at the profanity he used. He looked at me and smiled.
“You can stay here. It’s paid for tonight.” He grabbed a black bag that had been sitting on a chair. He started for the door.
“Wait.” My own voice surprised me. “Take me with you.” My eyes pleaded with him. He stared at me. A simple head nod told me all I needed to know, and I got up and went with him.