Shots echoed in the valley of buildings around the office building. Strider didn’t care; he had seen it all before. Swat lets out a few warning shots to scare you, and that’s it. Just basic procedure.
His half smoked cigarette fell slowly through the air, hitting the floor with the sparks from the still lit end flying and staining the white tile. It was laid to rest next to about five or six others just like it. Strider had always chain smoked when he got excited or nervous. This time was no different. He paced back and forth, holding the worn AK-47 in his hand. So many battles had taken a toll on his trusty friend as seen by the various cracks and bruises along the butt of the rifle. This definitely wasn’t the first time him and his crew had worked this kind of job, but it was definitely felt different then any other “errand” he had run before. His band had done bombings, assassinations, and many other hostage takings before, but this time was peculiar .He did not feel as confident. His killer instinct had faded over the years. Murdering and maiming hostages begins to lose its orgasmic thrill after doing it thousands of times. But he couldn’t worry about that now.
He tightened his black, fuzzy ski mask, making sure it was in place and that the hostages couldn’t see the features of his face and skin. He could almost see his reflection in the air. The scars, the stress lines, the vacant eyes, , his ever graying hair, all were visible to him. Obtaining such features were matter-of-course for someone in his line of “work.”
He had immunized himself from all feeling. Having any could be deadly when all of his emotional reserves had to be on the task at hand. All that was left was a cold, heartless man. No memory, no feeling. Only the manipulative rage of a cold-blooded killer was present.
One of Strider’s comrades came running over.
“Sir, they need you down the hall. The Heat seem to be employing a new tactic. We need you to help figure out how we are going to counter.”
“I’ll go immediately. Watch the hostages until I come back.”
Strider walked down the long hallway of the building. The walls on the right were covered in thick white paint, with wood trimming near the bottom. So many hallways looked the same that they all started to blur together. Offices were always made like that to keep a mellow environment. The left side of the hallway was all glass. The spotless windows peered out into the Square of buildings. It was dark and snowing on this day, which was a rare occurrence.
Strider stopped in the middle of the hall to admire the powder floating to the ground. He looked up to the bright light tube hanging over his head and dazed off for a moment. Before a thought could fill his head, a vibration resonated through his body. A rush of cold shot through his extremities, and his legs became of jelly. Strider slowly went down, eventually lying with his back flat on the green, frizzy carpet. He looked up at that same light he had seen before. It was suddenly flickering, and dim. He heard a faint voice in the background.
Strider, Strider, get up…
Wake up dad!
He was suddenly back with his family. His children, his beautiful brunette wife, all present. He got up from his bed and looked around. The walls were of a dark green. White Venetian blinds blocked the glaring rays of the sun from the sunny spring day outside. Pictures of his ancestors hung peacefully on the wall, looking over him as if to keep him in check. His bed sat there, the sheets scrunched up and un-done from his awakening moments ago. Next to the bed was a small desk, made of oak, with a smooth dark finish. On top was his family portrait. Their emulated the joy of the time to whoever looked at it. He looked at the innocent faces of his children, filling him with warmth he had not felt in decades. He was back home, and he enjoyed it more than he had remembered.
He went to the bathroom and went through his daily routine of brushing his teeth, washing his face, and combing his hair. He looked in the mirror for a second, and something astonished him. His face was different. No longer were the scars, stress marks, and other anomalies present. He was back to normal. His hair was a jet black, smoothly combed to the back of his neck.
The day went on. He was back to his old desk job at Miller Inc., once again working for the pig smelling, foul mouthed man he called a boss. Strider was once again eating lunch with his co-workers, who hadn’t changed at all. Steve still smelled like tuna, but no one wanted to tell him. George still told those dirty jokes that had gotten him suspended so many times. Strider laughed, shared stories, and ate with his colleagues. He remembered how much he missed his friends, and moments like these, which were absent in his other line of work.
He drove home to have dinner with his family. His wife had cooked up a succulent steak, slightly red and juicy, just as he liked it. It was good to sit down and have a real meal. Those REM packs that he had as a mercenary with stale crackers and month old meat could not satisfy any man’s hunger. But this was his kind of meal. The warm, juiciness of the steak filled his mouth, and it reminded him how good it was to be at home. His family discussed how their day went. His daughter told about how she had aced her math test, while his son went on about his baseball game that day in which he had 2 Home Runs. Strider felt proud to be a parent to kids that he almost didn’t remember.
The day finished and he got ready for bed. He felt the soft bed contort around his body. The quilt his mother had given him wrapped around his body, radiating her warmth to him, even though she was not present. He looked up and saw the light over his bed. He stared into for a second, his eyelids closing to try and shade the brightness. He saw the green ceiling began to lighten, and suddenly turned to white again. Strider was back in present time.
The memory of that day continued to play over and over in his head while he just lay there, still staring at the light. This day was the only memory that stuck out in his mind. Not because it was unique. Not because something special happened, but because it was so ordinary. In that one day he felt love, humor, friendship, happiness, and simplicity. Something his current life had been lacking. He had forgotten his real name, or how he even got into this business, but he did not forget the love of his family, or his past life in which he longed to be part of now. In his last few breaths, he was once again laying in his bed at home, with family, with friends, with love, with happiness. He was still staring at the light above him, as it began to get dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer, and in an instant, the light went out.