My feet hammered the pavement, clacking loudly as I fled down the alleyway---giving me away to everyone.
Once The Perfect Has QuickenedM. Stanley Bubien
Everyone? No. Just myself---and, yet, another.
Darting around a corner, I skidded before a brick wall. I jumped up, trying to get a hand-hold, but it was too slippery. Brow furled, breath heavy, I turned and forced myself to a run---cursing my weakness all the while---but at that instant, he rounded the corner.
I halted, trapped.
He trained the pistol upon me and sauntered forward.
"I knew this moment would come," I heard my voice say steadily---as though the chase exerted no effort.
"Yes," I gasped, hands on knees, sweat rolling from my cheeks. "You had to catch me."
His brow furled. "Of course."
Involuntarily, I grinned---it was so much like looking in a mirror.
"Why did you flee?" he asked.
I choked out a laugh between breaths. "Oh, come now. You insult me."
Reflecting my grin, he said, "You're right. I know you never give up." He held up his free hand, inspecting it, nodding toward my own which still propped me up. "But you could never beat me. I'm everything you should've been---everything you wanted to be."
"No," I said, pushing myself upright and wiping my brow. "Not everything."
He laughed. "Now I'm the one who's insulted." He waved at himself. "I was grown from your cells---but they raised me better. Genetic defects spliced away. And every painful moment of youth eliminated." His grin grew. "You always wanted to be perfect, and now there's me. I am who you wanted to be. I am perfect."
"No. You're not."
He raised the pistol. "You insist on insulting me."
I waved my arms at him. "How can you be perfect if you're so willing to kill?"
He shook his head. "The law justifies me. Once the perfect has quickened, the imperfect is done away."
"But murder is wrong."
"No, the law---"
"The law? Ha! I'm not talking laws."
"What you're doing is immoral," I continued. "You see that I'm right---just as you are me, you see."
He glanced back, over his shoulder, as if to search for a pursuer.
"Yes," I responded. "What will they do when they realize? They'll have to destroy you too---it's the law. The imperfect---"
"Shut up!" he cried. "I am perfect!"
"No," I said, "Don't lie to us."
Teeth gritted, annunciating the words, he said, "I---am---perfect!"
He gripped the gun, lowered it, lifted it again.
With a nod, I replied, "I understand. And I can help you accept.your imperfection---unlike them." I turned my palms outward, inviting.
He tried to insist, "No. I'm p...p...per..." but the word trailed off.
"Shh. Stop fighting." I waved to him, arms open.
He eyed me suspiciously, but took one step, another, and though reluctant, he approached cautiously and entered my embrace. Yet, as I clasped my arms about him, I felt the cold metal of the barrel press against my temple, followed by a sudden, hot flash.
Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
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