You are a world class superhero, the ability to manipulate luck. You’ve defeated monsters, armies, and even your own team when they turned evil. What everyone doesn’t know is that everything that has happened has been a massive coincidence and you have no idea what your doing.
“This is why I did it.”
My hands shook with the gun.
It smelled like blood.
The thick stuff after a slaughter, the stuff that congealed and you had to call in clean up crews to deal with.
It smelled like blood, and it had a face where the skin had long since left, and the muscle was mostly gone. Skeletal, lazily so. The mouth clicked open as I looked around the still dark room, where the monitor in the corner beat out the slowest heartbeat I had ever seen. Slower than when mother had died, and we’d counted the beats desperately hoping some miracle would save her.
I couldn’t do it.
The gun fell to the ground and I stared at the face of god. “Who the hell are you, Patient Zero?” I asked.
“I am the alpha of this world,” The skeletal figure said, slowly attempting to sit up from the aging hospital bed. The muscles didn’t quite work, and hesitantly I crept to the creature’s side and helped it up. “Thank you.”
“You really are the start?”
“Of heroes, certainly,” Zero said, and miraculously (though it had never been a miracle with me, not really) my hands weren’t covered in the sticky blood dripping from his body.
This close, I could see they were perforation wounds. Some resembled gunshots, but far more of them resembles needle pricks, long rotted instead of healing.
I listened for someone else in the facility to come running. But the guards hadn’t noticed as I walked in, and I’d past the front desk. Traffic had been low, and they hadn’t thought to look here, though I knew the search teams, no matter how unlucky, would only have a matter of time before they tracked me down.
“You really don’t have a lot of time left,” Zero said, his fingers raw and beaten. “So I’ll make this short. You’ve had a blessed life.”
Sweat rolled down the back of my neck. Blessed was a word. Beaten to a pulp was another one. Parents dead while I’d been gone was another one. Countries destroyed was another one.
But I wasn’t dead, and I’d clawed back a victory each time. Could remember the look on her face when they’d turned on me. Could remember the attacks, the brilliant gleam of the stars.
Could remember the temptation to leave it all behind.
But now I could hear the sirens instead, roaring in the distance.
“Blessed?” I laughed. “I just… I just wanted to do the right thing.”
“How many times did you think of quitting?” Zero asked, playfully. “Twenty seven times. Did you ever quit?”
My hands shook and I sat down in the tattered doctor’s stool and looked at him. “…I couldn’t. There was always something else.” Something was catching in my throat.
“Did you ever commit a crime that wasn’t justified with your abilities?”
I remembered new orleans and the glowing expanse of faces, reveling in the joy of the new world, listening to the words of the prophet, written in nuclear isotopes, and my nails clenched. I remembered minds deleted like snowflakes melting in the dawn’s glow, and families tearing into each other like pigs.
I remembered what I did then, and something inside of my twisted a little further. Justified.
Zero thought I was justified.
My throat clenched around nothing in particular, and I choked back tears. “You don’t get to make that decision.”
“I do get to make that decision,” Zero offered. “Because I granted you your gifts based on the supposition that you, like nearly every human on this planet, would use them for your own gain.”
His eyes, barely working, smoothed with cataracts and rot, led into mine. “Did you ever go to the lottery with your luck?”
“Of course not, I didn’t need the money,” I said. “And that’d be stealing, wouldn’t it?”
“A simplified moral schema, I would argue that lotteries are a poor method to extort funds for public works, of course, but I was around during Eisenhower’s reign.” Zero clicked what remained of his tongue. “But it did what I wanted you to do.”
“Just… be heroic?” I asked, cluelessly.
“I am the alpha of this world. From my fluids all heroes were created, and when I die, all heroes shall be destroyed,” Zero admitted. “And there are not many heroes that have made a net positive upon this world, and my existence leads many more to seek me out.”
He spread his arms slowly, though the IV swayed tremulously through the air, and gestured at the needle marks.
I took a step back.
“So I want you to do the greatest good the world will never know,” Zero said, slowly gesturing down at the gun. “And please, kill me so that nobody else ever hurts me again.”
I fumbled for the gun and it slid from numb fingers.
“It’s not a crime to kill a god. You know that now,” Zero said.
“It had never been me killing them,” I said, staring down at the weapon.
“You didn’t know that,” Zero chastised me. “You knew exactly what would happen when you joined fights, and you went in with that knowledge. You just as well killed a god, for I would not have focused what little attention I had on the issue if you had not been there. Kill me.”
The sirens drew closer and closer, and I hesitated, staring at Zero. “Will this make it all better?”
“No, child,” Zero said, as my hands shook and the gun rose higher. “Nothing gets to make it all better. No matter what.”
“But it will make you happy?” I asked.
“The happiest the world has ever been. Imagine a place where no one fears for the monsters in the night. Where madmen worship weapons instead of genetic abominations, and the moon is safe instead of a refuge of madness. I have seen the torrent of fire that burns through the atmosphere, and I heard it all, from the prayers aboard the ISS to the pitter patter of oil off the shores of Venezuala. I no longer want to hear those things. I no longer want to remember the screams.”
Zero paused, staring at me once more. “Shoot me.”
The gun was familiar in my hands, though I fumbled with the trigger a few times. Could hear foot steps in the distance. No way out of this.
For the first time in my life, I felt spectacularly unlucky.
The gun went off.