A shot echoes through the air as the sun goes down.
Ten years earlier, a great impact does the same. Crystalline shards scatter into the sky. An arterial spray, like the blood from a bullet hole.
A girl hums to herself, blissfully unaware that her door will soon be wide open, whatever plans she had for the night shattering into pieces. Just like the rock. Where will the pieces go? No one knows yet.
The air has been rent by the sound. The security cameras see the culprit crouch down, trying to shake the body awake. They don’t see her dizziness, the way the light doesn’t return to her eyes until several minutes after the shot.
A dead man scribbles on a piece of paper. He doesn’t know why, but a sudden urge rests itself on his chest. He is already dead, so it makes little sense, but then again, that’s the perfect reason to do it. Just one more face. One more face before he becomes incapable of recognizing them.
He grabs a canvas.
And that face is all the way across town, hidden behind black plastic, and the culprit doesn’t notice that he stopped bleeding the second he started, and that the hole has closed itself up. She doesn’t notice the hole that hasn’t closed itself, either, the scattered pieces of a leather bag across the ground.
A lamp switches itself on. It stares with its unblinking eye, at the darkening sky, the discarded pieces of trash, the high metal platforms with no railing. This place has stolen everything away from it. It will fix that.
And its self is somewhere else, too, curled up on a carpeted floor, the freshly cut fir tree and the bowl of donuts providing a treat for his sensitive nose. He knows none of what his alter ego does. He knows little beyond his food and the pets from his mistresses and the noises of the black box. He will know more in a very short time.
The woman has fully regained her senses now. She doesn’t know why there’s a dead body in front of her, but her heroic instincts overwhelm her. She needs to figure out who killed him, as soon as she can.
Maybe if she does, it’ll be the push she needs to prove her worth. Save the life that saved hers.
The chief of police sits in his office, surrounded by detectives. It’s almost time for the stakeout to begin. It’ll start slow, but they should have Point X surrounded in no time. Their undercover agent is already at the scene, changing into the rather garish uniform, and she’s relieved that she knows decently well how to roller-skate.
The bartender’s pretty cute, too. Maybe this operation will be fun.
A young man prints up another batch of flyers, completely oblivious to the weird looks from the other people in the library. He knows that something will happen tonight. What, exactly, that something is, he cannot tell, but that is irrelevant. The rock of the gods is something he cannot understand, either, and yet it has used its powers to permanently alter lives. He would do well to remember that.
Click. The printer churns out another page.
Click. The culprit turns to see a man with a shotgun. She backs up against the chain-link fence, giving a start when she touches it, as if the man she shot hadn’t been up against it mere minutes before.
Then again, she doesn’t remember any of that.
Another round of papers pass through the justice minister’s desk. More orders. More letters. More everything. But he is focused on something else, something much more pressing. It’s tonight. It’s tonight that he finally admits defeat. He was conquered. He knows that he was conquered, beaten, forced into submission, but he does not know why.
His family lie a telephone away, his wife utterly convinced that he has made a mistake. He wishes he could tell her. He wishes he could explain. But he can’t even explain it to himself. They’re going on just fine without him, he thinks. His wife is typing up her sordid tale of romance and corruption, his daughter tucked snugly into bed like a caterpillar in a cocoon, and his presence is not felt whatsoever. He gets two out of the three points correct.
The woman stares down the barrel of the gun. She raises her hands, feeling her arms shake underneath them, as if that would protect her from the inevitable. Questions still make their way to her mouth, although all the answers do is create more.
Business. That’s all it is. The hitman is so nonchalant, sounding as though the only thing he’s doing is talking about the weather, even as he is about to take a life. He does what he’s told, and that’s all there is to it.
She screws her eyes shut, turning her head. It’s cowardly, but if she’s going to die, what difference does seeing it make? She pleads, silently, that some miracle will happen. Some miracle that will save her, let her mission continue, so she can save someone else. It’s the opposite of a selfish intent; to live so that others may be helped.
The word “execution” rings throughout the night air. Through the moonlit courtyard. The piles of garbage. The lavish offices and run-down basements. The girl’s homes, both past and present.
The meteorite drives itself into the earth.
The world splits in two.
Everything is dark. Fuzzy. Distant. This is what death feels like.
I know. I know what it feels like, too. I’ve known for too long.
But it’s time to get up.
Awaken now, ghost, so that you may reverse what is destined. Your power is derived from that, after all; the flipping of kismet.
Awaken now, so that lives might be restored. Let the pleas of the innocent reach your flame. Let it be fervent with compassion.
Awaken now, so that you realize who you are.
Awaken, so that the world might be saved.
This is not fate. You are fate.
The soul ignites.
And everything is red.