I was never any good at feeling guilty. I freely admit that. Guilt always felt like such a waste of time, time which could be put to much better uses. Why dwell on the wrongs of the past when you can help write the future? Let no one ever say I lacked ambition.
The florescent lights are humming their white noise hum above me, but I wake in darkness, just like I have done for years, and I don't need any precognitive ability to know the first words I will hear, because they are always the same.
"Tell us what you see, Leonard." The voice is always the same: sexless and dispassionate, with a faint regional accent I can't quite place and none of the mis-emphasized syllables that give away most machines trying to sound human. It is text-to-speech software at its finest, and I pretend to be fooled by it. I pretend, just as I always do, that I have no idea which of my many assigned handlers is currently typing these questions into the computer three rooms over. Telling them might make them think it was better to go back to trying to stay anonymous by running their own voices through so many modulators and digital filters that it comes out as barely intelligible warbles that sound as if they're half whalesong, and that always gave me a headache.
"I see blood," I answer, because there is no reason to lie about that.
Their reply comes just a little too quickly to maintain that air of disinterest which they work so hard to cultivate. "Whose blood, Leonard?"
"Everybody's," I say, and I smile widely as I do so, despite knowing that no one is currently monitoring the video feed.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here, which makes for poor storytelling. I would say I'm sorry for that, but I'm not. I already told you that I was never any good at feeling guilty, and getting ahead of myself is just one of the many occupational hazards of being a Seer, especially in this modern world more interested profits than prophets. The future? I see it clear as day, clearer even. Don't worry, we'll get to that. First though, let's rewind a little.
Billy Pilgrim came unstuck in time.
I've been at this for so long that I can't remember if I ever bothered to read any Vonnegut myself or if I only know the words thanks to see them through other people's eyes. It doesn't matter anymore. Not much does. Time doesn't have the same meaning to me as it does for most people, both because I can see the future just as well as I can see the past and because every time I ask them how long I have been here, they say it has only been a few days.
They say trust is important, "they" being people in general, not my handlers. My handlers think that if they never mention the concept of trust then I will never think to question it. This was not their first mistake, but it was a mistake nonetheless. I know they lie to me. I know they have been lying to me for years. I keep asking though, not out of a misplaced hope that someday they will trust me with the truth, and not out of habit or an attempt to lull them into a false sense of security, but because I know that the day they decide to tell me the truth is the day I need to start worrying. I know it will never come to that, but I keep asking anyway.
Let's go further back.
"You beware of the white man." My paternal grandmother was the type of person who said things like that, because she had a touch of the Sight and an overdeveloped sense of drama. She insisted until her dying day that the Sight must have skipped a generation on its way to me, or my father would have known to avoid the speeding bus which killed him before I was born. She was wrong. My grandmother had a touch of the Sight, but she only had a touch. If her Sight had been as strong as my father's, then maybe she would have stepped in front of a bus just like he did. Or, maybe she would have smothered me in my sleep the first chance she got, because she was dutiful like that and would have gladly carried the weight of a murdered child on her soul if she knew the alternative. She didn't, though.
"This isn't the old country or the old days, Nana. As far as anyone here and now cares, we're white too," I said, because I was a teenager, and that was what teenagers told their supposedly crazy grandparents.
"That's not what I mean, and you know it, so don't try getting smart with me, boy. I'm talking about the White Man, all white like pearl and polished bone except for his silver tongue, the first of the fallen. He'll be so beautiful he glows, but know that he is rotten to the core and stay away."
"Of course, Nana." I was never any good at feeling guilty, but I loved my grandmother and did not want her to despair, so I never told her that her warning came too late and I had already made my deal three days earlier.
And it was a very good deal, all things considered. I did not sign away my soul. I made sure the deal included a clause saying I would not be taken to hell. All I had to do was say, "Yes," one time when told to do so at some unspecified point in the future, and I would be given more power than I had ever dreamed of. Who could refuse a deal like that?
I was never any good at feeling guilty. My teachers noticed this fact and pointed me towards the army recruiters, saying it would be the best use of my talents. The devil put his invisible hand on my shoulder and told me to say yes, as if I needed telling.
Come to think of it, that's probably why they chose me for this so-called job, because there is no way that I was the only game in town, and they had to have known that I don't play well with others. It was a joy for a while, having my way with my knives and my little "friends" in my private room while they pretended not to watch through the one-way mirror. There are words for what I am. Some use "evil." Some use" killer." I always preferred "haruspex," because it was the most apt, and if I having a little more fun at it than most before I got to the final reading each night added focus, well, who could begrudge me that?
Somebody did, though, and that was where it all went wrong. They said it was getting too expensive keeping all the kills quiet. They said there were other ways of getting results, and one day my food tasted funny and woke up blind. They should have known I would not take kindly to them taking my eyes. They expected me to believe it was the only way to stop an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria from spreading up my optic nerves and into my brain, as if mere walls and intervening miles were enough to keep me from Seeing their presentations to each other about how enucleation would allow the visual cortex's processing power to be reallocated to increase the power of my Sight. It worked, but then they claimed I didn't need my little "friends" anymore, couldn't enjoy the twist of the knife or the blood on my hands. I won't begrudge anyone their greed, but they let me get bored, and that was unforgivable. They didn't know what power I could bring to bear.
"Tell us what you see, Leonard."
"I see blood," I answer, because there is no reason to lie about that, not now, not anymore.
"Whose blood, Leonard?" I can't see them, but I can See them, and I know they're scared. They're always scared these days, but this time they should be. It took me years to get all the chess pieces in place, but security has been breached, all alarms have been cut, and a certain door three rooms over is less than two seconds away from being kicked in by some very well-trained men with guns. This is not revenge. It is business, but that does not mean I can't take pleasure in it along the way. They knew what I was when they made me that job offer.
"Everybody's," I say, and I smile widely as I do so, despite knowing that no one is currently monitoring the video feed, because I have seen the future, now the present, and, brother, it is murder.
The devil promised he wouldn't take me to hell. He never said anything about bringing hell to me, but that's okay, because it seems like my kind of place. I don't have any eyes, but I can see the White Man dancing, and I dance right along with him with a smile on my face.