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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2256299
Everyone has a breaking point, some just reach it a little faster...
Each morning, I grimly stared at the man in the mirror as he slowly deteriorated. Bloodshot eyes grew more shadowed and sunken, stress lines deepening, skin fading to an unhealthy pallor as sleepless nights took their toll.

Every day, I pretended not to see ragged strangers pleading for scraps. Nobody helped them, only pointing out the homeless as a cautionary tale against making a misstep and slipping down the pit of inescapable poverty. A cheap incentive for the middle class.

At work, I grit my teeth and said nothing as cheerful executives awarded themselves bonuses for our efforts seconds before announcing another wave of layoffs. But at least they handed out some free t-shirts and gift cards. I refused these insulting offerings, observing as my colleagues snatched up the scraps with grateful smiles. The only thing I took was Pepto for my churning stomach.

On my lunch, I scrolled through headline after headline of unthinkable news. Each horrific revelation fed the growing lump of dread that filled my gut, leaving me unable to finish the meager meal I packed. Switching to a new app, I blocked out the hellish information. But social media didn’t make me feel any better about my situation, witnessing celebrities throwing extravagant parties and lounging on beaches.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. My boss informed me that I was mandated to work six days this week. Yet again. “At least you’re making good money,” He shrugged. I glanced back at sandy beaches and mansions, a window into a life I could never have. My fist clenched, knuckles whitening.

On the way home, I passed broken cars abandoned on the edge of a crumbling highway, white plastic bags silently waving from passenger windows like ghostly apparitions. Still, I acted as if they didn’t exist. All signs of pain and suffering were just background noise, filtered out by the endless distractions we sedate ourselves with.

I was tired, ever so tired of all the hate and misery, injustice and corruption, lies and broken promises, all the dreams that would never happen. So one night I went home and put a gun in my mouth.

The cold steel tingled against my tongue, that metallic flavor a precursor to my final meal. But something wormed into my skull, an idea twisting and burrowing until the gun dropped away. Haunted eyes of children starving on street corners stuck with me, among countless other things. The world was going to shit.

I decided to do something about it.

Making the list was the easy part. Despite all the bullshit misinformation and digital garbage floating around the internet, it was still an incredibly helpful tool for dredging up useful knowledge. I submerged myself in a sea of web pages and fished for things I could use.

But I wasn’t an idiot about it. My IP address was always masked, bouncing around the globe with a VPN I paid for with cryptocurrency. I’d even used a fake email and gift cards to buy the digital funds with. No loose ends, no trace, nothing that could come back to me. After all, what good is making a plan if you botched the whole thing setting it up?

They were going to catch me eventually. It was fact, an absolute certainty. That’s why I wanted to make these numbered days count. Whenever my blood rose, I tempered it with cool logic. The most dangerous man is a patient one, I told myself, because he waits for opportunities instead of forcing one.

Preparations took the better part of a year. My vision was a bit too grand, too large in scope. The list of names kept growing you see, each day revealing a new target the earth would be better off without. I researched exhaustively, pulling records and addresses, known associates, and next of kin. Many of these were added to my growing compendium of human scum, uncovering new crimes and despicable activity.

In the early days, I toyed with forming a massive report and forwarding it to the authorities… Until I learned how many of them were on the payroll. It was sickening, to say the least. Still, knowing I could only trust myself gave me more reason to launch this crusade. At least someone would make a difference in this dying world.

My first sacrificial lamb was the CEO of Exxon, a company that knew exactly how much environmental damage it did. Oil leaks? Fracking? No problem! Conscience was far too expensive to get in the way of profits. It was much cheaper to pay off certain politicians, wasn’t it? I decided to pay it forward for everyone who loved clean water and fresh air.

He had a habit of working late. I guess his secretary liked to clock in overtime too because she also spent long hours in his private office. Did his trophy wife know? Did she even care?

While he was… preoccupied, I slashed the tires of his sports car. Then I lurked about in the parking garage, waiting for the corpulent bastard to appear. Giggles echoed through the concrete structure. Peeking around a truck, I witnessed the CEO and his platinum blonde mistress step out of the elevator. She squealed as he smacked her bottom, a goodbye of sorts it seemed.

Getting into a pink Volkswagen Beetle, the bubbly assistant wished her boss a goodnight and peeled out of the garage. He tried to follow, but frowned as the air pressure gauges popped up on the dashboard. I grinned. Everything was falling right into place.

When he knelt down to check the wheels, I slipped out of hiding. The knife I used to puncture tires with had a much easier time slicing his soft jowls open.

I didn’t waste any time explaining myself or my intentions. The look on his face was all the satisfaction I needed. He gurgled, choking for breath. I helped him out, stuffing a fistful of pennies down his throat. “Consider this your severance package,” I whispered.

It wasn’t long before his twitching corpse grew still. Do you know what it feels like to take a life? For a moment I thought as if I sucked the life out of him, harnessing his energy as it hummed within me. The rush swelled throughout my being, the sensation of vigor, of force, of power… Such a marvelous taste begged to be savored.

I had to tear myself away from that dreamlike scene. When I dazedly returned to the grungy motel, it possessed my waking thoughts. That fearful expression framed by a pool of blood was the most exquisite thing I’d ever witnessed.

My handiwork was all over the news the next day.

Suddenly, the dead executive was a beloved man. A pillar of the community, irreplaceable, kindhearted and generous. I snorted, familiar with every detail concerning his sordid life.

News anchors puzzled over the grisly details, questioning the significance of ninety-nine cents found in the victim’s stomach. I chuckled at their bewilderment. It was a spur of the moment thing, originally I was going to fill him with crude petroleum but scrapped the idea last minute.

After I watched my fill, I gathered up my belongings and checked out of the room. There was work to be done and I had an itch that needed scratching.

The next name on my list was a media mogul, one of those responsible for the rapid erosion of the Fairness Doctrine. I figured he was good for one last story. Would they report the truth or the usual faux news?

It was a bit difficult sneaking into and navigating the massive estate he owned but I was lucky enough to find the old sleazeball taking a nap beside a picturesque lake. I admired the scenery before taking a hefty crowbar to his crotchety skull.

“Breaking news!” I quipped. “Media tycoon gets beat over the head with unpleasant truths!”

Did you know how sticky brains can be? They seem to get everywhere. I had to bury my crimson clothes before returning back into the public eye. Just for future reference, cold showers really help to get rid of the blood.

“Pace yourself,” I warned. “Things are going to be trickier from here on out.” But my boundless excitement threatened to take hold of better judgment. I decided to lay low for a few days and come up with a different strategy.

In the meantime, I surfed the internet in search of my latest exploit. The world was abuzz with the latest murder, wondering who was behind this brutal slaying. Several forums even cheered on the mysterious killer, wondering why he or she took so long in the first place. I was taken aback. Disgust, fear, condemnations were all things I anticipated but support…? Hell, I was acquiring new fans by the hour. They all shared articles and videos with morbid fascination, trying to uncover more information.

But there was something missing from the reports.

In the gory grass, I left behind a combination of coins that added up to ninety-nine cents. My new calling card. But the major networks never reported this. They didn’t want to let the public know these murders were related.

If word got out that someone was out there killing billionaires… Let’s just say they didn’t want other sharks to smell the blood in the water. I was practically beside myself with glee. The world was a massive powder keg and I was a modern Guy Fawkes.

Connected or not, someone was going to see a pattern once the upper crust started to crumble away. I had to cool my jets and start getting crafty.

Politicians were extremely risky ventures, so I vowed to leave them until last. Perhaps they’d even get the message when the body count rose, giving me less work to do. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. I caught wind of a certain senator who refused to sign off on a bill for public aid. Constituents were dropping like flies from the new virus variant and still, she chose to spout some Q-Anon bullshit instead of being a public fucking servant.

My hands were tied. What was a vigilante supposed to do?

Security was extremely tight, not giving me a single opening to do my dirty work. Cameras scanned the areas around her home, guard dogs prowled the perimeter and even she was packing some serious heat. Clearly, this woman had lots of enemies.

But she never had one like me.

The moon was rising over the trees as I crept towards the property line. I felt fairly confident about this undertaking. There is one thing that dogs love and it’s bacon grease. I mixed in a strong sedative before luring the hungry mutts with lard-coated frying pans and just like that two of my problems took a snooze.

As for the cameras, I wore dark clothing and stuck to the shadows as best I could. If they were thermal, I was done for. I crawled on all fours, hoping to look as dog-like as possible. My heart hammered in my chest as weeds tickled my arms and face, expecting the house lights to turn on and burly servicemen to pour out in search of the intruder.

Perhaps she felt secure, insulated from whatever was going on. If that was the case, I planned to teach her that nobody was immune from my form of justice.

Every morning, she went out for a jog. I placed a claymore in the usual running path, planting a tripwire near a curve in the road. You wouldn’t believe the things that army surplus stores will sell. It felt a little underwhelming to place a trap after getting up close and personal with the last two assholes, but I was content to sit back and hear about the fuss from a few counties away.

Apparently, it was unbelievably messy. I kicked myself for not setting up a trail cam, but that was pushing my luck. “Consider yourself vetoed,” I sighed and raised my beer can in hollow victory.

After that stunt, I was a hero.

A rabid fan base began to take hold, betting on the next victim and voting on potential targets. They began to call me Raguel, after the biblical angel of vengeance. Others preferred edgier nicknames like the Billion Butcher, the Executioner or Pennies from Hell.

Numerous anonymous users proclaimed their devotion to my cause. Now they were willing to help? I was feeling rather uncertain about this new development. On one hand, more people meant more variables, more chances for things to go south. On the other, extra help would make things far easier.

I should have followed my gut on this one.

They were all too willing to assist me in my ventures, supplying weapons, safe houses, getaway drivers, the whole nine yards. I was a celebrity in their eyes, a go-getter who wasn’t afraid to put his life on the line for his ideals. It wasn’t long before I had my own shadow network up and running.

My list grew shorter as my associates grew bolder, taking it upon themselves to do hits while I was ducking police surveillance. At first, I was all too happy to share the load. But they began to take matters into their own hands, attacking any who they perceived to be guilty. Minor offenses got the death penalty, certain groups were targeted and old grudges were settled once and for all. I was rapidly losing control of the very thing I created.

When I saw society devolving into an anarchist’s dream, I used all my power to put a stop to the madness. In response, they added my name to the list.

I’m writing this now since I have a few hours left, if that. They hunt me in the thousands, rational thought lost to mob mentality. There is no hope of talking things out. All they want is blood.

My vision of utopia was doomed to fail. I see that now. A society built on the bones of predecessors is destined to repeat itself. History is like poetry, it rhymes. I just wanted to make the world a better place for everyone. I didn’t account for the copycats and the opportunists. My hubris blinded me.

Perhaps when this puppet government burns to the ground, a new one will rise. A stronger one, created with fairness and empathy for the common man. My mother always said I was a visionary. My father said I was an idiot. Which one was right, I wonder?

They are beating on the doors now. It won’t be long before they cut me to pieces, scattering my body over the ground and taking whatever trophies they wish. Will they put my skull to good use? Will my teeth become someone’s necklace?

I do not regret the things I’ve done. I only wish that I could have continued my work in secret, unobstructed by the wishes of impulsive strangers. If this message reaches you, know that there are some of us who are willing to do what’s necessary and there always will be.

The question is, are you?
© Copyright 2021 Ray Scrivener (rig0rm0rtis at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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