So this is how it ends, I thought, staring down the barrel of a revolver. Months of preparation and years of a gut wrenched with uncertainty had driven me here. My goal now sat a mere trigger pull away, one simple click. Bang. The dull thud of a vacant body on polished office floors would be my final barrier from freedom, from breaking out of a life spent blind. This thought would be my anchor as my mind spirals in protest; I’m no murderer, but I’d kill a man I never knew for a chance at freedom. I’d kill one of them to save myself.
The city was a place of comfort once. The world had gone sour, ignited with war and chaotic unrest. The government said it still burned, that its towering walls and regulations were great hands to shelter us through the flames. I knew better. I knew they cited ancient history as current conflict, that there was a world outside this glass bubble city they simply did not want us to experience. They wanted total control. We lived not as men, but as cattle, tagged and tracked from birth to death, forever stuck inside the bubble, forever breathing the same air, and always the eyes of the government in every camera, every faceless policeman and suited desk worker; their presence was haunting. These weren’t men—these were husks, puppets—and I’d gladly kill one to save myself.
I strode down empty corridors, past tapioca walls and doors all guarding the same thing inside. Cowering behind locked door under close surveillance sat carefully documented lives, records kept on every event and every mortal breath drawn within the city walls. The place was odorless and spotlessly cleaned. I paced past every identity within the bubble, all kept in this hushed box of a building guarded with locks and empty watchmen. But I had a key. I had a gun. I knew which room held me, the anchor point of my tie to this city. This is how it ends. This is how I disappear and slip out of the bubble. Tonight I see the real world for the first time, spilled blood my ticket out.
My feet came to a halt, lungs testing the integrity of my ribcage as I stared at the polished plastic door encased in a sickly wood-patterned veneer, handle and keyhole its sole feature. My hands trembled as I reached for my key, fumbling about before finding the proper pocket, leaving a hint of sweat glistening on my pant leg. Tumblers fell into place, deadbolt receded, door handle turned. Three steps, then a slammed door, deadbolt sliding back into place with mechanical ease. Three pulls of a metallic trigger, biting cold on sweaty palms. A dull thud. Hushed whimpers. This is how it ends, I thought.
I approached the computer and tore open its siding. I worked quickly, coldly; the hard part was done. I found the computer’s hard drive and slammed it with the handle of my revolver, silicon shards and fragmented metal casing dusting the floor beneath me, mingling with flecks of blood still warm on the cool tiled floor. I bashed the remainder of the computer’s innards, pulling fistfuls of electronic guts to spill out on the ground, scraping the synthetic brain of all matter containing me. I left it hollow.
There came a groaning from behind me, a muffled release of strangled cries and scuffling of polished government shoes dragging on polished government floors. The husk was not yet dead. I stood and turned on my heel, releasing two more shots with calculated efficiency. His lips trembled, feebly mouthing words through the relentless churn of blood from his mouth.
“Au…Auria,” he managed. His eyes glazed, staring out of focus towards a handful of photographs propped on his desk. His body became still as a sanguine tide silently warmed the floor. I snuffed out the light.
My eyes scanned over the desk. Stacks of paper and files covered the synthetic wooden surface, all except one corner. There stood one minute oasis of pictures. A young man and woman stood beaming from beneath freshly-speckled bits of blood and flesh plastered vainly onto the picture frames moments ago. I saw a small child appear, a house, a life. It all unfolded within the stacks of papers, teeming life dotting the desk as the story of a man presented itself before me, its final chapter staring at me with empty expression, hunched on the office floor, oozing blood from five pinpoints on a crisply ironed suit. This was no husk. This was a human being. This was life within the city, far from the bubble of my isolated existence.
Heavy footfalls approaching the door signified that I had lost too much time. Men, not puppets, would storm the office to find a face with no name behind it; I had assured that in gutting the computer. There was no way to fight through, all of my bullets had been spent—all but one. I knew its home was within these walls. I’d be left hollow.
So this is how it ends, I thought, staring down at the barrel of a revolver.