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"Killer" by Brandon Doughty



He came to in an instant, like someone flipped a breaker.

Sitting up, he looked around wondering where he was. This thought led him to question who he was and what he had been doing. He couldn’t remember anything.

Upon standing, he realized he was a part of an assembly line within a warehouse or maybe a distribution center. Thousands of square feet spread before him filled with conveyors, sorters, and storage racking. Massive ceiling fans spread the scent of gun oil and raw metal. A cacophony of constant motion filled the space and he could hear the click-clack sounds of parts being snapped together. 

The pick rack behind him held coffin boxes of rifles. To his left a baker’s rack stored pre-filled ammunition clips. This was a munitions factory. His role, apparently, entailed picking a gun, inserting a clip, and sending it down the conveyor for pack in a palletized wooden box. Further down, forklifts ran, picking up full pallets and delivering empties. His lack of productivity slowed the line but didn’t stop it thanks to others sharing the line.

Taking action, he instinctively picked a gun, swiveled, loaded a clip, and dropped it on the conveyor. It felt right. In his disorientation, anything that felt normal relieved him. He grabbed another.

Metallic tapping drew his attention above. An armed woman strolled along a catwalk.

“Hey, who am I?” No reaction. Catwalk-woman wore orange noise protectors. 

He moved to the worker next to him. “Hey, who am I?”

His line partner did not respond, just continued working without acknowledgement. 

“WHO AM I?” he screamed surprisingly loud, over the clamoring machinery. No one noticed. Everyone along the line ignored his cry.

He used the butt of his gun to tap his counterpart on the shoulder. “Seriously, I’m scared. Was it exhaustion? Did I pass out?”

Nothing. He tapped harder, interrupting the picker. “I can’t remember anything. Is there a medical station? Come on. Who am I?” 

The stranger remained silent, then resettled and went back to work. 

“Who am I?” he screamed again and swung the gun full force at the picker’s head. With a crunch the head caved in and he toppled backward pulling a rack of clips down in the process. The body remained still as clips covered it and hit the floor with a CLANG. Some released their loads and brass casings rolled across the floor. 

“I just want to know who I am.” 

On auto-pilot, he picked up a full clip and slid it home into the gun. He was about to place it on the conveyor when the click-click of catwalk footfalls distracted him. He shouted up, “Who am I?” and shook the gun at the woman above to get her attention. 

Still wearing noise protection, she hadn’t heard the call, but she saw the figure shaking a gun like an extremist, she ran toward a grey box on a pole further down the catwalk.

Seeing her run, he jerked his gun up and fired two three-round bursts. 

Two rounds found their target. One ripped through her knee tearing patella and bone fragments out the front as it exited in a ragged hole. The other round pierced her back, the impact rupturing a kidney.

She fell on her good knee, but reached the box. She reached and pressed a red button in the center of the console. Speakers began blaring “Killer! Killer! Killer!”

Sirens wailed. The alarm shrieked over the noise of the warehouse, but the workers did not look up. Each of them remained focused on their assigned task. No reaction at all. 

Seized by fear he froze for a moment until he saw four more people—guards called by the alarm—running toward him from the far side of the catwalk with weapons drawn. He looked down the aisle of picking racks and spied a door at the end.  He bolted for the door, fleeing like a rabbit. 

As he reached for the handle it burst open knocking him backward. His legs tangled and he went ass over teakettle landing on his back facing the door, where four guards crowded through at once. He could see fear on their faces mirroring his own.

“Wait!” he yelled scrabbling backward. Two guards fired their weapons. He held his arms up, holding out the gun to ward off the shots. They missed wide. He noticed they weren’t bullets—like his gun—but rather odd blue balls of energy that left black marks on the floor and a scent of ozone in the air. 

He reversed his gun and fired. The bodies were so bunched in the doorway he hit the guards by pure accident. He didn’t want to hurt anyone just wanted to scare them off to escape. In that spirit, he turned and ran down a hall to his left. He passed rows of shelves and pallets of more guns. As he reached a ladder leading up to another catwalk, he saw a far door swing open and more guards pour into the hallway. Trapped.

He climbed. Higher and higher toward the raised platform. But he saw more of them up there.

“No,” he whispered and fired up toward the opening to clear a path. Bullets whizzed off the metalwork hitting no one. The gun clicked empty. He dropped it. Watching it fall he saw guards ascending after him now. He started climbing again and saw heads poke through the opening above. Then, the heads were replaced by guns.

“Please! Don’t shoot.” He looked up and down pleading. “I just want to know who I am.”

They fired. Energy from the weapons racked his body with shocking pain. His vision dimmed and he felt himself release the ladder.

#

Roberto Gonzales—Bobby G—watched the doors slam on the maintenance van. After being an on-site guard for two years he felt like an old pro. “One of ‘em turns killer every now and again,” Bobby said.

“I don’t get it man,” Jasmine replied, brow furrowed. “Did you hear what it said? Askin’ who it was, right?” 

 “Yeah, think so.”

“Right see. It almost seemed human, talkin’ like that. I’m thinkin’ they’re makin’ these ‘bots too good.” After the repair truck left, they headed back to finish their shift.




Brandon Doughty is a writer of lists, notes and fiction. His stories have been seen in publications like Punk Noir, Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Aethlon: Journal of Sports Literature, and the new crime anthology Crimeucopia: Totally Psycho Logical. Brandon lives in Austin, TX with his wife, two children and their dog Ripley.

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