I was given a bullet with my name on it by the man who killed my father, a year to the day he was executed.
There was no powder in it, of course, because the commander was not the sort of man to give away a tool that could be used to kill him. My name, in loopy letters, and a loop of brass over where the primer would be on a live round. The bullet was the same caliber that he used to execute my father.
His second-in-command gave me a chain. Together, those grim, killing men gave me the necklace that hangs around my neck.
“I did it for you,” he told me as he did the clasp behind my neck. “Well, not just for you, that’d be disingenuous. But for all the people he hurt. For you, your mother… for my friends that are dead because of him. For the subjects in his lab. For every single person the monsters he made will kill.”
“It feels like you’re blaming me,” I said.
He laughed, and his second-in-command looked away. He was a man who still felt shame. I miss him even now.
“You’re only a kid,” the commander said. “Nobody could blame you.”
“Then why this? It’s kind of a morbid present.” I couldn’t meet his face any longer. I kept expecting to see the expression he had when he put the gun to my father’s head. “I could have gone for shoes or something…”
Another big peal of laughter, like thunder in a storm, before he sent me off. The bullet was cold against my chest.
Who did he even get to engrave a bullet? To this day, I wonder. What went through their heads as he pressed it into their hands? What was going through his?
I can’t decide, even in adulthood, what would have been worse: if he was giving me a threatening present on purpose, or if he was really so broken a human being that he didn’t see the darker implications. After all I’ve experienced, after the years I spent in his shadow, at his heels, things seem to indicate the second.
After all, the day he killed my father, he turned the pistol on me. I was thirteen years old and stared down the barrel that still smoked. The gore of execution hadn’t even turned cold and sticky on me yet; I hadn’t yet realized that I could taste the inside of my father’s skull.
I looked into the eyes of the man who had turned my father into so much cooling meat and saw the inferno that burned in him, that lit those eyes up like spotlights and pinned me in place.
I watched him blink, as though to bank that fire, and jam the pistol back into its holster. He got to his knees and reached out for me.
“It’s okay,” he said, his voice awkwardly gentle. “It’s okay. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
Even having violently parted ways, I kept the bullet. I’ve run my fingers over the engraved letters so many times they’ve begun to wear away, the brass tarnishing through misuse.
I never want to forget the man who gave it to me. I never want to forget that under the gore, the killing, the evil, was a man so estranged from a normal human existence that he would spare my life. That he would gift a bullet to me and call it kindness. That he will wonder until the day he dies why I ran from him.
I never want to forget that he has been broken, and that he, not me, is the pathetic, pitiful one. No matter what he says.
I am the one who will rise above him and what he did. He is the one who gave me a bullet with my name on it.
Setting and background development for an in-development project. Like, so deeply in development all I have is images and some vague ideas. None of the embryonic characters even have names…