The machined circumference of the crafted killer bore into my skin of skull, like an icy drink that pounds your brain into frigid agony when consumed too quickly. Then there was the timid ape that could barely exercise his right to bear arms as his bumbling fingers slipped against the trigger. But I could feel his fear of the unknown struggling to swim above the surface of reality and I licked my lips as he stumbled to coerce the money from my leather-bound wallet. It would have been all too easy to step aside while grabbing his wrist and drop him to his knees as his own weapon turns to greet him, but I had more clever things up the sleeves of my fine dress blue threads.
I asked him, “Are you really going to push the barrel with smoking lead, my friend?" Then he swallowed his own mucus and begged, yet again, for my hard earned presidents. I smiled a twisted thing and told him I had something much better than the old men he had forgotten anyhow. His eyes crossed and I gave him my Superman Ultimatum. I explained to the frightened chap that I would strip myself of my true blues and my bloodshed stripes and my costly medals, give him the powers I possess…my warrior strength, my years of training and my memories of the battlefield. “You can have them all!” I spat, “Except for my honor and my courage and my commitment. Those are mine.” He weighed my offer with an apish coy and agreed with little hesitation.
He was a child at Christmas while I stood there naked in the beggars’ alley and watched him transform. The trousers hated the length of his legs and he buckled under the golden belt which bit at his waist; then he squeezed into the dark blue coat and, as he fumbled with the last button, I could see his retinas straining under the weight of the medals. Somehow, he managed the clasps on the brace of the neck and that’s when his eyes jettisoned from their sockets and rolled to the edge of my toes. His body dropped to its knees and he screamed as the burning visions flooded his thoughts with the synaptic bursts that beg for mercy with every blow. I knew he was nearing the memory of my fallen comrades accepting the bullets in the streets of Baghdad and I could hear the bones in his spine snapping with a thousand tiny firecrackers as he flopped like a jellyfish blob on the pavement, miles from open seas.
His whimpers clung at the lobes of my ears, “Please kill me!” he cried. But I asked him why I should give him the pleasure of ending his life, and his tears became the answer that bled into the gutter, “It’s—too—much…God, it’s too much!” I let the uncultured beast wallow in the pain for a few more strikes of the clock, until I knew he was done. Then, I finally relieved him of the years. As my powers filled my lungs and coursed through my veins, I could see the man’s bones collecting themselves and solidifying as they were. My hand extended for his and he found his feet once again. I dusted what shrapnel and gun powder was left in his eyes and buffed them to their former sheen. Then I returned what sight he had already lost.
His lower lip trembled at my stature and he could hardly gain the breath to ask me how I cope. I smiled gently in response and my tongue bled from the corners of a weathered flag, “My Honor gives me the power to understand the cost of freedom, so I have the Courage to accept my fears in the face of certain death, while my Commitment to my country binds the two in perfect harmony, forever and ever, amen. Without these three, my friend, I am you.”
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