The Recluse

God erased the last of my known enemies today. I stood at the edge of the dark slash cut by a mindless digging machine to a depth of six feet, and rolled a handful of the clay like soil on my palm. Waiting for the rote preacher to signal with his mumbled words the act of finality that even he seemed to question the validity of, temptation made me want to cast the dirt prematurely, turn away, and leave.

Slowly, I lifted my head and looked at him. He reacted as if the slight movement might’ve been an awaited sign. His pale, age-thinned eyelids lowered briefly over his, equally lifeless blue eyes. Curtly, he nodded, hurriedly spoke the final sentence, and waved his hand over the corpse, fingers poised on eternity’s promise of resurrection.

Halle-fucking-lujah and be done with it, I thought grimly. Resurrection my ass. If it exists, neither of us deserves the reward after the life we’ve lived.

A feeling of relief washed through me as the wet cloying black earth I tossed thumped the polished steel casket with resounding note of completion. After vigorously brushing dirt off my palm with the edge of the plastic card that held prayers I knew I would never recite, I strolled to the preacher.

We stood alone, he an old friend from my days in the military, had come to the secluded location each time I had buried one of them, my enemies that is. I stopped counting the numbers years ago since it seemed two new ones appeared for each one that I executed.

“Thank you, Charles,” I said with as much enthusiasm as possible, which proved to be very little. The air was cold and wet. A normal state for the world I owned, a weather condition I relished in my role as a recluse.

His thin lips parted into a lackluster smile. “I do hope this is the last of them. The voyage has become rather taxing at my age.” He did not speak my name.

Neither of us knew who if anyone, watched, if the Joint Worlds Confederacy’s agents had been able to follow us or find the location of my cemetery and therefore my home.

Some might call it a planetoid. It orbits a moon, which in turn orbits a gas giant that circles a star twice the size of Earth’s sun. The entire circus orbited within the biosphere habitable but desperately isolated.

I wanted to reassure Charles, but knew better than to try. My profession created enemies. Although none of the poor souls really knew me, or why I performed the acts I so enjoyed. For me it was societal cleansing, to the Joint Worlds Confederacy’s lower government, it was illegal. Yet, they often looked the other way when one of their enemies disappeared.

In the end, honestly prevailed and I answered truthfully. “For now, Charles. I think they are beginning to understand my message, however I will not relent until they all comply.”

“You are the only person who does this work now.” He released my hand, turned and began walking away. His robe swished the uncut yellow prickly lawn, sparkling dew as it scattered behind his passage. But he stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “Do be careful. I may not agree with your tactics or reasoning, but I do not want to lose a dear friend. You might be the last one of us alive.”

My nod was all the response he would receive. Once given, I studied his gait as he left me in the valley of the dead. Even after sixty-eight years, Charles moved like a man thirty years younger. The enhancement I had convinced him to accept gave him the same gifts it had me.

His personal flyer rose into the cloudy sky as I watched. Looking into the valley, the unspoiled view was like a feast. Nothing created by humanity marred its surface. Not even a single headstone. The men and women buried there were lost to history. No one knew how or why they disappeared. Despite weeks or even months of searching, none had been found, nor would they be.

Not even Charles knew their names for he did not see their faces, or hear me speak their titles. Although he would recognize each individual as would anyone living these day in the realms of the Joint Worlds Confederacy.

Once I coerced them to join me they and their history were erased.

That was my story, not a record of accomplishments, not an attempt to make amends for what I did, not an apology to anyone for anything. I used the name Henry le Noir, but it was fictitious. For if you heard my birth name, you would know of me too. As you would know of those who occupied my unmarked Potter’s Field.

Copyright 2018 Gabriel F W Koch All Rights Reserved

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