Never Again – A. Sullivan

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A child lay in the street, abandoned. The young girl sobbed into her dress as townsfolk passed without a second glance; memories rushed to the surface at the sight of her. Vi fought back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. When this assignment was over, The Order would finally accept her as a member. No one would hurt her again.

Vi chewed her lip as she tapped her fingers together in succession, thumb to index, then middle, ring, and finally pinky before repeating the motion several times. I’m not ready for this. I’m going to fail; they’ll kill me if I fail. She scanned the street trying to disentangle her mind.

Waves of customers crowded the vendors as they attempted to keep up with each patron haggling for the best deal. The smells of bread and sweetmeats fused with merchants touting their wares, composing the symphony that was the market. Finding her mark in this mob would be complicated, and The Order would accept nothing less than perfection.

Vi double-checked her disguise. Her vibrant red wig flowed down in waves to rest upon her shoulders. She wore an apple cap pulled tight to hide the wig’s shoddy craftsmanship. Accompanied with the motley assortment of ragged clothes, she was indistinguishable between the other beggars who plagued the streets.

Satisfied, Vi twisted the ring on her finger; at the twist, a small needle protruded from a hidden groove underneath the ring. Carefully, she reversed the spin of the ring to conceal the weapon. She scanned the street for her target, ready to do what she needed.

A young man across the street caught her attention; he wore the red scarf embroidered with silver daggers to represent her target, just as The Order described. Vi’s heart rate doubled as he stopped at the bread vendor directly in front of her. She took in a deep breath and tapped her fingers methodically one last time to steady herself.

This is it, Vi, if you do this, there is no going back. She thought about her life before The Order took her in. She barely survived the streets, begging and stealing what she could just to prolong her wretched life. There was no way she would go back to that now. Convinced, she scanned the exits, families, merchants, beggars, and guards that flooded the streets,  creating a maze of sorts.

Content, she slid down the steps and weaved through the masses towards the young man, like a snake slithering towards its victim. Her hands shook as she approached him. Doubt crept up with each step. He was barely old enough to grow hair on his face. Did this man deserve to die?

The memories of that night washed over her like a wave. Her father lay on the ground, a knife protruding from his chest, the shine erased by the dark blood that surrounded it. A man with jagged teeth knelt over her mother, and he gradually turned to look at Vi.

He smiled at her with a crooked grin that would haunt her dreams for the rest of her life. “Don’t worry child. I haven’t forgotten about you.” He chortled a rough, cracking laugh that turned into a cough.

She snapped back to reality. Tears welled in her eyes as all reservations she had shattered. She would go through with this no matter what the cost. She twisted the ring as she advanced, her eye’s blank from emotion.

Vi feigned a trip and stumbled into the man, stabbing him with the needle. “I’m sorry sir. I haven’t eaten in a week, and I just got a bit dizzy,” she lied as the needle dug into the man’s arm.

He regained his balance and paused before he handed a piece of copper to the bread merchant. The man picked up a loaf and ripped a piece off for Vi. He smiled, “Here you go. No one should have to go so long without eating.”

Her face wilted. What have I done? She spun without a word, refusing to take the piece of bread. Her eyes filled with tears as she walked away.

The sound of a thud reverberated as the young man’s body hit the hard dirt. It was too much for Vi. Tears flowed down her face uncontrollably as she ran. She didn’t look back. She would never look back.

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