How did it ever come to this, Gem thought as she clicked the hammer back, palm slick around the handle, and rested the gun against Ell’s temple. His eyes, a blue so dark it verged on black, stared hungrily back at her.
“You know it’s wrong,” she admonished, and searched his face for some reaction, some semblance of understanding.
“You know I don’t believe you,” he sighed back, his hunger fading into a passive mask.
Gem grimaced, displeased with his answer, and thought back to the first time she’d seen Ell kill. The woman had been 74, called Monica, a retired CEO. Ironic that she’d chosen a pristine and remote area of the Oregon woods for her golden years, having been the 27 year leader of a company that existed only to destroy by way of commercially logging the Amazon rainforest. How many people had gone homeless at her word? What number of species driven extinct under her reign? No way to know for sure, but she deserved to die.
And Ell had done it masterfully. He’d used the exact model chainsaw the loggers employed; the noise of it was astonishing, and it was all for Monica’s benefit. He wielded it as a conductor wields the baton: deftly, with premeditated movement. When it was eventually over, the silence seemed foreign, and Ell stood amidst the pieces, a red god surveying a sanguine kingdom, and Gem knew she’d never seen anything so beautifully primal.
“Why can’t you just stop? For me?” Gem knew the answer before she asked the question, but it flowed past her lips anyway, like exhaling smoke.
“You haven’t the right to ask me to stop when it was you who asked me to start. Why can’t you love me anyway?”
Ell looked at Gem as pain flickered across his face. She felt only regret. “Elliot,” she began, “I loved you because you were everything I wanted the world to be. Innocent. Good. And I ruined it. I made you a monster, just like the people we’ve killed. You have no place in the world I’m building.”
Gem flexed her hand around the gun, slid her finger over the waiting trigger as Ell replied, “Well then, neither do you.”
The bullet smashed his skull as his words fractured her mind. He’s right. I don’t, and I miss him already. Gem flicked the hammer back a second time, shoved the burning barrel against her own sweaty temple and thought, We made the world a better place.
The shot rang out, but no one heard.