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Lonely Hearts

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She looked at the file of the new transfer. She had ceased to be shocked by the activities of her adopted family long ago, but that someone could do this to his own son. Well, maybe that wasn’t so shocking either.

She looked down at him working, his shirt collar pulled up high, the prosthetic facial features, the dark glasses. Gloves poised over the computer keyboard.

He did his job, and did it proficiently, but he kept to himself. The other operatives seemed relieved that he did.

One day she called him up to her ivory tower and introduced herself. She knew he wasn’t fooled into thinking she was being kind. She was curious.

“You were marked for cancellation. But here you are.”

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am. I guess he had some use for me after all.”

“I can’t imagine how painful it was. I’d like to see.”

“No, you wouldn’t.” He started to leave.

“Then I order you to show me.”

He sighed with resignation. Removed the wig, the false nose, the accouterments of humanity. There wasn’t much left of his face. “This is me, in all my glory.”

It took everything she had not to gasp. She’d seen burn victims before, but never one burned from within. Keeping her voice even, she said, “You’re a good worker. Don’t be afraid. I have no intention of letting anything more happen to you.”

She thought he smiled. It was hard to tell. “It won’t matter soon. The end of the world is coming, and we both know it.”

A tear carved in her lover's cheek, as blood dribbled down. Eyes filled with betrayal. “What makes you think it hasn’t already ended?”

The black tunnel of his father’s gun barrel. A flash, darkness, then searing pain. “Maybe it has.”