Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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2016 June

  • Posted on r/WritingPrompts: [PI] Two Monsters – Flashback - 1,885

    “If you’re going to kill me, then kill me,” the old man said to her without a hint of fear or desperation. “If not, then stand aside.”

    “Are you kidding?!?” The young woman in front of him was tall and stocky, her outstretched arm holding the outgun steady not five feet in front of the old man. At this range, she would not miss. “You don’t know how long I’ve been searching for you Scorpion! You don’t deserve a quick death!”

    She heard the crowd milling around them start to whisper and murmur. A young man stepped forward, arms raised. “Miss, please. There must be some sort of mistake. This kindly old man is our town doctor.”

    She shook her head. “There is no mistake. For years, your little village has hidden a monster!” She addressed the old man again. “Tell them Scorpion!”

    All eyes went to the old man and he shut his eyes for a moment. It’s been years now, and that name still haunted him. The memories came back to him easily. The smell of the blood and violence and the poetry in motion. And of course the pride. Always the pride. The Scorpion was the best, which was why he was the most well-known.

    Finally, the old man spoke. “I haven’t heard that name in many years… May I ask who sent you?”

    “Who sent me?” The young lady sneered. “No one sent me, old man. You probably don’t recognize me. After all, it has been more than twenty years since that night in Albany.”

    “Albany… that house on the cliff, wasn’t it?” The old man wasn’t surprised that he could still remember it. The memories don’t really go away. He had scouted the perimeter three times before making his entrance. A sniper bullet took out the man on the balcony, then a quick climb over the fence. Two guards near the back door fell in quick succession seconds after he had drawn his knives. A maidservant was unlucky enough to be in the kitchen. She was a noncombatant, so he made sure she did not suffer. Three more guards in the upper hallway. He had loved it back then, wading into melee with multiple opponents. It was like a dance. A bloody dance as crimson spilled from their necks.

    And finally, the bedroom. He had begged for mercy. They’re always so smug while their security was around, but they always beg for mercy in the end. He had pinned the man to the wall and carved his symbol on the man’s chest in blood. The man screamed for all of two minutes before he finally cut his throat. And then a slight noise, a movement nearby, behind him. He spun towards the armoire. He stepped forward and opened the doors wide.

    The old man came back to the present. “I see. You were the little girl then.”

    “Now you remember!” the woman’s calm exterior started to crumble, the rage building in her voice. “I had to listen to his screams! He was begging for mercy and you made him suffer!” This was it, this was what she had waited for all these years.

    Her mind went back as well. All the suffering she had endured. The training she had to go through. The Scorpion was the best, they had told her. Every time she tracked down one of his contacts, it was the same warning. You’ll never get him. She had killed those contacts, but her rage never quelled. Her thirst for vengeance kept her moving forward. If the Scorpion was the best, I would have to be better. She had told herself that time and time again. She had immersed herself in his world. He had vanished off the face of the earth, she was told. But she would find him, and she would make him pay. Following the trail of contacts and clients and assassinations. She took her own contracts, built her own reputation. To earn their respect. The men who knew how to find the Scorpion.

    She came back to the present. “They didn’t give you up easily you know. Your old clients. Your contacts. That’s why they all died, slowly. I had to piece together your movements slowly. And finally, where do I find you? Some small backwater village, playing doctor?!?” She sneered again. “I was looking for The Scorpion, the best assassin there ever was! I was ready to show you how I had surpassed you, to make you pay for your sins! And I find you here, this decrepit old man?” She shook her head. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you suffer!”

    The young man from the crowd turned to the old man. “Doc… is it true, what she’s saying? Are you this… Scorpion?”

    “It was a long time ago. I was a different person then…” the old man said.

    The woman moved quickly, stepping forward and whipping the old man across the face with the pistol before anyone could react. “A different person? Don’t make me laugh!” she said as the old man staggered back and leaned against the wall. She addressed the crowd. “Murderers don’t change people! He’s a wolf, and he’s been hiding among you sheep for so long, waiting for another chance to bare his fangs!”

    The old man spat out some blood and stood up straight again. “You’re a different person too you know,” he said, looking her in the eye. “There was fear in your eyes back then to be sure. But innocence too. And I took it away. I apologize. I may have spared you, but I also condemned you to this life. Your father was not the only life I took in that bedroom that night.”

    “Enough!” The woman cocked her gun and aimed it at the old man’s leg. “I don’t need to be told what I’ve lost old man! I’ll blow off your legs, then your arms, then let you bleed out for hours, how does that sound?”

    “Please, wait,” the young man said. “He may have been the monster you say, but as our doctor, he’s helped us greatly. He’s a different person now, he’s kind and gentle and--” “--he doesn’t even ask for ourmoney,” one of the old women in the crowd spoke up. “We just pay him in vegetables or invite him over for dinner…”

    “’ he took care o’ my ma when she couldn’t work,” a little boy, perhaps no more than twelve was speaking up, “he helped us bring her goods to the merchants, so we could eat…”

    Another spoke up, speaking of the old man’s kindness. Then two more, then another. Finally, the woman raised her gun in the air and fired a shot. The bang silenced the crowd and many of them stepped back.

    “Shut up, all of you!” the woman said with a quivering voice, “You don’t know this man! He’s killed dozens, maybe hundreds over the years! A few acts of kindness won’t excuse that!”

    “B-but,” the young man spoke again, “if he has killed so many people, why did he spare you?”

    The woman was silent for a moment. Then she pointed the gun at the old man’s head again. “I don’t know old man, why did you spare me? You’re the Scorpion, you were a merciless killer. Why the moment of weakness?”

    “Weakness was it?” The old man spoke again, calmly and softly. “It’s true, I had taken many lives before that night. But I had never killed a child.” He looked her in the eye again. “I told you, I saw the innocence in your eyes. It changed me. And I fled. If you spoke to my clients, you know I never took the payment for that night. And I have never killed again.”

    “Never killed again?!? What bullshit is this old man? You expect me to believe that?” She was practically shouting at his face. “Everyone I spoke to, they told me about The Scorpion’s bloodlust, his need to kill. And you expect me to believe you just walked away from that?!?”

    He looked at her, this time with pity. “You can’t imagine it, can you? Because you have it now. That bloodlust, that rage. You can’t imagine your heart changing so much that it takes it all away. You’ve lived with this rage for so long, you can’t imagine life without it. I am truly sorry.”

    She spun her arm around to pistol-whip him again, but this time the old man caught her arm in mid-air. Her rage momentarily gave way to surprise, then almost immediately to alertness. She quickly wrested her arm and stepped back. “I knew it. Your old instincts, all still there eh?”

    He did not answer her but instead pointed towards the far end of the town plaza. “Those two men you shot. They are still alive. Let me tend to their wounds, stabilize them. Afterwards, you can do with me as you wish.”

    Her eyebrow went up. “Hah! You’re just going to let me kill you?”

    “You said I deserved it, didn’t you? I won’t disagree.” He picked up the small bag he had dropped earlier. “My medical instruments, don’t worry.” He started walking slowly towards the injured men. “As you can see, I could not run from you even if I wanted.”

    She looked skeptical, but she let him pass and followed just behind him. The small crowd followed them. The old man knelt beside one of the victims, who had been shot in the shoulder. He began tending the wounds. She watched him silently.

    “Perhaps it is fitting that you should be the one to kill me,” the old man spoke finally as he moved on to the second victim. “After all, you were the one who changed me.” She didn’t respond so he kept going. “I tried to kill myself you know. I could never do it. The famous killer, afraid to take his own life. Finally I decided, I could not take back the sins of my past, but perhaps I can balance the scales, even a little bit. I’ve been a doctor here for almost eight years now, but I fear I’m no longer as strong as I used to be. I would not have been of use to them much longer. And so I can at least give you your vengeance. One final act of atonement.” He finished dressing the wound.

    He stood up and looked at her. “I can only hope that you too find someone to change you, once you have taken your vengeance. Perhaps you can move on, and this cycle of death can end.”

    “Move on?” She finally spoke again, slowly and in a lower voice this time, all trace of rage gone, only bitterness remained. “To what? I don’t have anything, old man.” She raised her gun again. “All I have is vengeance. All I have is the monster I’ve been hunting down all my life. And now I find the monster is gone!”

    He stepped towards her slowly. She did not waver, her arm outstretched. “Then there is but one more monster to slay,” the old man said. This time he reached his own hand out and tapped her chest lightly. “The monster you have become.”

    She wept, and fell to her knees.

  • Thank you for the kind words. I have something rolling about in my head about how Alex and Harry's relationship devolve into what it's going to be. I may write it up someday.

  • The building had a nondescript white exterior, with a single grey metal door on the facade and no other hint of what lie within. I tried the knob and a metallic rattle told me it was locked. I frowned, then remembered, then pulled out the mysterious envelope I had found under my door yesterday. I mean, 93 years from now. Well, not 93 years from now for me. Yesterday for me. God, I need to figure out how to think of time again.

    I opened the envelope, equally nondescript as the building exterior, and shook it a bit. The small key fell out of it and I almost miss catching it. Harold would have sneered derisively if he was here. "World's clumsiest time traveller!" he would have said.

    Harold. Harry. Good old Harry. The argument had been gone sour last night. Will have gone sour? "Why should we go? We have no idea what this is. No idea!" he had exclaimed, gesturing wildly as he was wont to do.

    I inserted the small key into the lock on the doorknob, and sure enough it clicked into place. I turned the knob and stepped inside.

    Harry was always the smart one. The prudent one. He had all these rules. "We can't risk collapsing the universe!" or some such theoretical physics bullshit. He'd be hopping mad if he knew I'd actually gone. Well, he doesn't need to know, it's a fucking time machine isn't it? I'll be back before he knows it.

    Behind the door was a long and dimly lit corridor. The only sound was the subtle whirring of a large ceiling fan overhead. Well, that and the creaking of the metal door as I shut it back into place.

    A desk. There was a desk. And behind it, a person. A stocky woman, her hair tied in a bun, wearing spectacles. She looked up from what looked like a sudoku puzzle as I stepped closer. Did they even have sudoku in 1923? I reached into my pocket for the envelope again.

    I needn't have bothered. "Mr. Reyes, isn't it?" She nodded towards the far end of the hallway. "Take the elevator at the end. There's only one stop."

    "Er, I was hoping to ask--"


  • A high-pitched bell rang out a couple of times as I stepped into the diner. Outside had been slightly chilly, the first hints of the coming winter lingering in the air. Inside I gratefully took off my cap and laid it on the counter as I sat down and waved over at the middle-aged lady brewing coffee on the other end.

    "Fresh pot? I'll have some if that's alright. And any bacon and eggs you have," I found myself saying, surprisingly famished. The woman turned as if seeing me for the first time. I spied a name tag against her faded yellow uniform, in gilded letters it spelled out "DOLORES". With a surprising assertiveness I followed up, "As quickly as possible please Dolores."

    Dolores' raised her eyebrows. I'm unsure whether it was because of my unusual order or because of my impertinence, but regardless she turned to the little window behind the counter and whispered something indistinct, I suppose to whoever needed to cook my bacon and eggs. She took her time waddling over with her freshly brewed pot of coffee and poured me a hot cup. She spoke with a long, drawling voice. "So, who you running away from honey?"

    This time I was the one to look surprised. My eyes quickly darted around the diner, near empty at this surely ungodly hour. The only other patron was a skinny old man at a booth on the far end, slowly going through what looked like a faded newspaper.

    Dolores smiled a knowing smile. "It's not rocket science hon," She gestured with her mouth to the parking lot outside, in the direction of the van I had been driving for the past seven hours. "You drive up here a bit past midnight in a big-name delivery van, the kind that don't do deliveries at this hour." She put the coffee pot down and waved her hand over my face, "Your eyes are tired and your clothes are rumpled and you smell like you've been in that van for what, half a day now?"

    "You're awfully perceptive aren't you," I retorted back without thinking, "For a waitress at an all-night diner?"

    "It's not tha

2014 December