[WP] You see numbers above people, telling how many people they will kill given they keep on the same track. Last month you met a seemingly ordinary person with the number 7,431,323,210, or the total population of the Earth.
Edit: Well this blew up.
First of all, I'd like to thank all the talented writers for taking the time to share their gift with us.
Secondly, the prompt is definitely inspired by my favorite story I've read here.
"I hate this job." I grumble, my eyes wandering behind the binoculars as I stare aimlessly through the window of the abandoned apartment building I sit it.
"Keep it together, Officer Jackson." My partner retorts, tossing her straight black hair over her shoulder. She surveys me haughtily. "That gift you have is unique. Anyone else on the force would kill to have it."
I sigh, adjusting the bright gold badge on my uniform. What a load of shit. My gift- if you could call it that- was all in the numbers. I can see numbers floating over the heads of everyone I view, telling me how many people they will kill if they continue on their given course. That's why I chose to work as a cop. I'm basically made for it.
I let my eyes wander over the pier outside. Endless crowds of people swarm by, and with them come the inevitable crowds of zeroes. I see thousands of zeroes every day, floating innocuously over the heads of law abiding citizens. They clog my vision, making it hard for me to see.
I yawn, and in that instant, I almost miss it. I think for a second that I've blinked, or have gotten something in my eye. Craning my head out the window again, I search the crowd, and see it. A mother in a blue dress with her husband on her arm, rolling a stroller. The baby in the stroller has iron grey eyes and is sucking on a pacifier. She's not more than 7 months old.
I blink hard, my stomach dropping as I count the digits over the child's head. I look up from my binoculars.
"Hey, Maddie?" I call in a hoarse voice, turning from the window.
"Max?" She responds immediately, sounding concerned.
"Call the chief, I've got a 10 digit."
"Bullshit." She says flatly.
"I'm serious!" I shout, spinning around to look out the window again.
"Max, that's over a billion!" She cries. "There's absolutely no way in hell someone could kill over a billion people."
"It's more than that."
"What?" She whispers.
"Seven billion," I murmur, my voice shaking, "Four hundred and thirty one million, three hundred and twenty three thousand, two hundred and ten."
"That's the population of the entire planet." Maddie says blankly. There's a pause. "I'm calling in backup." She says sharply.
"NO!" I shout.
"Because it's a kid!" I say angrily. "They probably aren't even a year old!"
"Oh god, Max." She leans against a wall. "Are you kidding me?"
"Nope. Wish I was."
There's another pause, this one longer.
"We have to get that kid." I speak slowly.
For all of Maddie's other qualities, to her credit, she acts fast.
"Lets go." She spins on her heel without another word, and walks from the room, leaving me in her wake.
EDIT: Turning this into a short story (AKA don't know how long I'll continue it) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q8qVsUI3t-CNQK-d53--6doA-wq4ZQKq3GdC0PrTR6U/edit?usp=sharing
0… 0… 4.. “Hmm, should I?”. He was about to open the door to a minivan, it was early afternoon and I assumed he was about to go pick up his kids from school. I began walking towards him, sometimes just delaying them by a few minutes would reduce the number to 0.
“Excuse me!” Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, blinked once, shook my head, blinked again and my eyes widened when I realised I wasn’t seeing things.
7,431,323,210 Holy shit. That must be the entire population. “Hi, you dropped this,” she said, handing me my credit card. She looked fairly normal despite the number hovering above her head. Mousey brown hair, brown eyes, slight build, nothing that would suggest that she was going to kill everyone in the world at some point in her life. “Oh, thanks so much, I really need to start using my wallet instead of my pockets.” She laughed, then coughed softly.
“No worries, glad I caught you”. she turned to walk away. The number remained unchanged. “Hey! Where are you headed? Let me buy you a coffee to say thanks.” I said suddenly. She turned back, looked at me with slight concern, shook her head and continued to walk away. I felt as though there was a pit of snakes in my stomach. I had to do something, but had no idea what. Follow her? For how long? Days? Years? She turned a corner, out of sight and I contemplated my options quickly. Telling the police was out of the question, telling her though… it was worth a shot, she may be spiritual in some sense and could believe my usual “I’m psychic and have a bad feeling” trope.
I walked quickly, hoping she hadn’t jumped in a car and driven off before I could reach her. Fortunately, I caught sight of her seated on a low wall staring straight ahead. As I continued, she began to cough, soft at first then slowly developing into a racking cough that shook her whole body. I ran up to her “Are you okay, do you need some water?” She looked up at me with blood shot eyes still coughing and spluttering. “No. I need..”
Suddenly she passed out. I caught her in my arms, and laid her to the floor, fumbling through my pockets for my phone. Dialling triple 000, I wondered if it was ethical for me to call for help. If I saved her, would her path alter, as currently the number remained unchanged. But she definitely wasn’t breathing. I relayed the information to the operator, who asked me to feel for a pulse in her wrist. There was none, so she asked me to try in her neck. There was nothing. The operator instructed me to place one hand in the middle of her chest, clasp my other hand on top and do 30 compressions, followed by 2 breaths, the ambulance was on its way.
Pumping, Pumping, counting in my head up to thirty. god this was exhausting. 28..29.. 30.. I turned to give 2 breaths when I noticed her bloodshot eyes were wide open, seeming to stare at me, though she said nothing. I shook her, and shouted which didn’t elicit a verbal response and so I tried to feel for a pulse again.
She grabbed my hand before I could reach her neck. I tried to pull away but she was unusually strong.
Then, she bit me.
Finish this. This is new york times best seller movie quality YOU-WILL-NEVER-HAVE-TO-WORK-AGAIN intro. This shit hooked me harder than phonics. Please, I am begging you, I know reddit will help,especially for something this amazing.
I dont know how to start a gofund me, but I will donate to get this published
Holy fucking fuck
Edit- just read it again.
F U C K
This sub needs to have the dictionary definition of "overreaction" stickied on the top at all times.
Woah! I was thinking she was maybe a carrier of a super infectious disease. Like patient zero. Did not see that coming. Brilliant!
This was absolutely awesome. I felt I was in that room with them, listening to two tired cops conversing.
Thank you! :)
58 years of living and now I'm on my deathbed.
I don't understand why the doctors need to hide their secret from me: I'm dying and I know it. I've had several heart attacks over the years and it seems reasonable that I'm about to get a heart failure soon. My limbs feel like cotton candy, my heart races as if I'm on a marathon, and my chest spits phlegm as if there's an unlimited supply of it. I feel sicker everyday, but it doesn't matter. I've lived a fulfilling life. I've saved hundreds or even thousands of people. One time when I just got in a cab, I saw a number of 827 above a seemingly ordinary salesman who was rushing for whatever reason, but by effortlessly offering him my ride, the numbers reduced to 0 rapidly. There were also other times when bumping a shoulder or getting a quick chat would reduce the numbers drastically, and often I felt happy.
Saving people made me happy.
Here I am, though, about to die in a short while, yet I know I am content with the life I've lived.
Soon enough, it happens. My heart feels like stone, my lungs like water, and my eyes like holes. I can't relax, so I panic and call for help with the voice I have left. Nobody hears me. Fortunately, I remember that they have set up a panic button on the side of my bed, so my fingers storm on it and soon enough my fist. Luckily, just as my vision is about to disappear, I see a doctor approaching. He's not my usual, though. Still, it's a relief to have my eyes closed knowing someone will bring me back.
Just before my eyes were about to close, I open them just a little while to check once more. No way. Above the doctor is the number 7,431,323,210, or basically the entire human population.
I squirm as hard as I can, and when he tells me to calm down, I flick him off with my hands, but he doesn't back off. I panic and try to change the number with whatever I can do: I push him, I roll to the side of the bed, or I say "no, no, no!" None of what I do works, and my body is about to give up on me. When it almost does, the doctor hushes me, and tells me it's going to be alright.
After what feels like an eternity, I wake up. It's funny how I don't feel like the same anymore, though surviving another heart attack seems nearly impossible from all I have been through. Still, I feel light and upbeat, until I remember what had happened: the doctor! With a jerk, I push my upper body forward and look for the man with the 10-digit number, but it doesn't take me a while to find him sitting on the edge of the bed, still with the number above him.
He's not wearing a white outfit anymore. In fact, he's not even dressed as a doctor anymore. Instead, he's wearing a black suit with a coat and tie that look peculiarly old.
"I'm sorry for the precipitancy. Must be a shocker. Figuratively and literally, I mean," he jokes.
"Who are you?" I ask, confused. "The number—"
"Well, of course," he says, seriously this time. "I'm known as Death for a reason. Now tell me, how was your life?"
I pause in horror. It makes sense. My well-being. The white light I'm surrounded with. A man in a black suit with an impassive face.
A thought strikes.
"I... I don't understand," I reply. "The number of people you will take away, indicated above you..."
Death hesitates, then, "What is it you mean by that?"
"The number is the current entire human population. If you're Death, then the number must be inconsistently larger, since you'll have more to take in the future..."
Death doesn't reply. The numbers are inconsistent, increasing and decreasing, but it doesn't go beyond the 7-billion mark. He sighs and takes me on the shoulder.
"Consider yourself lucky," Death finally says. "You are among the many untimely people I have taken who shall not live longer to suffer. Soon, there will be war, pestilence, famine, and of course, me."
"Are you saying—"
"Yes, The Apocalypse."
I shudder. Too soon? The new year just started.
"Before, I was just an instance, an occasion," Death speaks. "A state. Something many people feared; occasionally something few people look forward to. Now, I am not just an event. I am not just a demise," he stops. Then, with a curve on his lip, continues, "now, I am one of the Four Horsemen."
EDIT: Some redditors were confused with the too-specific number above Death's head. A continuation of the story is written for this purpose.
Kick that baby in the face in the name of justice
Serena Lane sat in silence. It wasn't uncommon for her to sit in this contemplative state at 3:23pm every day. She waited for the doorknob for her office to turn at exactly 3:24pm - no sooner, no later.
"And how are you today, Cliff?" Serena smiled politely at her next patient. Something was wrong. It had been a month, and his number still hadn't changed.
He nodded and made his way to his regular spot on the couch, always all the way to the left but never touching the armrest. The number followed him.
Again, the boy kept quiet and sat still in his spot, save a nod toward the light switch.
"Ah, right." said Serena, following his silent order. She flicked the switch off and on, off and on, off and on.... seven times. Just the way Cliff needed it. The timid twelve year old gazed up at her from his spot on the couch, signaling the okay to start their session.
She remembered when she first saw him, how those same eyes seemed so innocent and clear. How their early therapy sessions had introduced her to an honest, intelligent young man who was simply misunderstood, all because of a compulsive disorder too difficult for his parents to deal with. A few sessions, she thought, and he would learn how to cope with it.
Until the number began to form.
After just two weeks of continuous therapy, Serena saw a number hovering above young Clifford Hines' head, a process all too familiar to her sharp eyes. Her talent was specific to her and the reason she became a psychologist. She wanted to reduce the number of lives each person would eventually take, bringing each number she saw down to zero. But this particular patient was different. She had never seen a number so large, and never so clearly.
"How are you today, Cliff?" Serena repeated her question. The silence stiffened, then gave way to a small voice.
"I'm always the same."
"Tell me what you mean by that, dear." Serena was more eager than usual, motivated by the floating digits above.
"Nobody understands," he whispered. As he spoke, his clasped hands grew tighter. "There's a certain way things need to be done. They don't ever listen. They always mess things up."
"Who are you talking about, Cliff?"
Serena thought carefully, wanting to approach this subject with caution. There had been plenty of instances when she had seen a number drop to zero. She could do this. She had to do this.
"You know, Cliff, you're right. The world does work in a certain way, but that doesn't mean it always has to go your way. You can't just get rid of everyone else, you have to coexist. Part of why you and I talk every day is so you can understand that and learn to be at peace with it. What do you think might help us achieve that goal?"
"It's alright if you don't want to speak, but if you don't I might not be able to help you. But you can talk to me, Cliff. That's why I'm-"
Out of 30 sessions, he had never interrupted her.
"Yes?" She asked, completely dumbfounded.
"I think it would help if they all went." Clifford loosened up. His face was less serious, his grip on himself less tight.
"They as in...?"
"I'm not sure what you mean." Serena's confusion gave way to worry. This was what she feared. His number still hadn't changed.
"There are too many people in my way," said Clifford, pleasantly thoughtful in his tone, 10 digits still desperately glowing above his head.
"Cliff I'm not sure you-"
"Thank you, Ms. Lane." Clifford's mouth turned up into a full, proud smile. "I don't think I'll need to see you anymore, though." Serena felt a chill run through her as she watched Clifford nod toward the light switch once more, but she couldn't move to follow his order. She couldn't move at all. The boy sighed. "See what I mean? They never listen."
She watched as her patient walked over to the light switch, then off and on, off and on, off and on... seven times. Just the way he needed it. The door opened and Clifford Hines walked out of the office, his number bouncing with him all the way down the hallway. It was unchanging and clearer than ever.
Serena Lane sat in silence.
"Z-zero. Nine. Four. Zero. Four." I stammered out, as the agent continuously showed me photos of people. We did this often. Very often. For eleven years I have been held prisoner by a top secret United States organization, after they somehow found out about my power, and after months of torture, they have figured out how it works. You see, I can tell how many Humans a single person is going to kill in their life time, given their path is not changed. They have given me one job.
Say the numbers. Say the numbers. Say the numbers.
Ones. Twos. Tens. Twenties. They say these are inconsequential. They take any person with more than one hundred future kills, and leave the rest alone. That is their job. Today, they told me I was looking for a big number. A BIG number.
"Fifteen. Ten. Three. Sev-" I almost choked. Seven billion... I couldn't breathe.
"Sev?" The agent asked. "Why did you stop? Keep going."
I sat there, recalling everything. My childhood. My job. My family. And how all of it had been torn away from me. The countless hours and days of excruciating pain these people had put me through. I regained composure, and continued.
"Seven... Three. Zero..."
50 shades of grey was a bestseller...I dont trust my judgement of what may be popular anymore.
"Just give him a chance, you'll like him, I promise," my wife said as she put on her best dress.
Shrugging, I replied, "I don't know, I just can't see why he's even doing this. It just seems like a game to him."
My wife came up and kissed me on the lips, saying "but it's not a game to me, and I want you there."
I nodded, sucked it up, and got dressed.
Parking took forever to find, it was always busy in this part of town but never this busy. Everywhere we saw people cheering, clapping, singing songs, maybe this would be better than I expected.
"Tickets please?" the man at the gate said as I looked to my wife, unaware that such a thing was even required. She was ready, always more prepared than I, and quickly read my mind "like I said, it's a big event."
We took our seats as the lights began to dim. My wife smiled and grabbed my hand as the announcer introduced the special guest of the evening. The crowd rumbled in applause and cheer as this grandiose specter appeared before us, blinded by the limelight, but I could not ignore the number above his head as he spoke:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are here tonight to make America great again."
It was dark out. Nobody should be out this late. The bars had emptied. The drunks had all stumbled home. The nightlife had even quieted.
It was this time of night Atticus relished. A time when everything was still. No noise but the buzzing of the streetlights, casting their ruddy orange pools onto the sidewalks. It was a time when one could walk about undisturbed to contemplate the darkness.
A time which left no witnesses.
Atticus gazed from a rooftop overlooking the alley behind a sleazy dive. A neon sign proclaimed the places as "Tom's Finest Burger Joint" with the added touch of a few flashing lights on the outline. It would have looked grand if half the letters hadn't been smashed out. From beneath the sign a portal opened. Bob presumably. He flicked off the neon sign, locked the door, gave a irritated kick at a bundle lying beside it, and walked off down the alley and into the night.
It was the bundle that Atticus was here for and for one reason alone. The small number floating above its head. "7". It wasn't a large number, but it was enough for him. 7 men this bastard would kill. This incoherent drug-addled mess would kill 7 other beings in his lifetime before presumably dying of an overdose. For that his sentence was death, before he could harm anyone else.
He leapt from the roof and rolled, absorbing the momentum of the 8 foot fall. He strode over to the bundle and pulled out a gun from his backpack. He aimed at the man's head. "For the greater good" Atticus mumbled, then took a deep breath, held it, and pulled the trigger. Release. Perfect. One more down. 7 lives for 1. It was a fair trade.
He checked corners before strolling casually out of the alley. He went to his usual place, a 24 hour coffee shop by the name of Jo-Jo's. The night was a friend there. A welcome guest for a quiet corner. He smiled, seeing a newspaper already laid out for him. Tom knew him well. He was just getting settled when he heard the chime of the door, looked up, and nearly choked.
An ordinary girl. College age. Ear buds in. Probably just here for a quick coffee for a late night study session. What wasn't normal was her number. Atticus expected a 0. Instead she had 10 figures above her head. Over 7 billion. The population of earth. She immediately held his full attention.
That wasn't possible. There was no way she could. Did she have an illness? Would she become the president? Would she hold the launch codes? Who was she that she could kill that many people? Tom brought her her coffee in his usual efficient way. As he passed it over to her, her hand brushed his. Just an accidental touch. Nothing significant. Except Tom, whose number had been a peaceful 0 for years, suddenly jumped to 254. She thanked Tom for the coffee, turned and winked at Atticus before casually strolling out of the shop.
Tom blinked as she left, then shook his head and returned to wiping the counter. The number remained unchanged and insanely high. Atticus left his usual tip and the table and took off in pursuit of the girl.
It seemed there was someone else like him after all. And it also seemed he had to kill her.
Exactly what I thought! Didn't see the zombie twist coming at all.
Yeah. The comment was a bit much... I mean, sure, the writing prompt is original, but I can't see this really being a bestseller. But then again, you never know.
I was kind of hoping for:
She bit me, and then all of a sudden the numbers above her head disappeared. As I looked to the sky in pain, I could see a bright light above my head. I ran to the nearest bathroom and looked in the mirror.... 7,431,323,209.
I really enjoyed the banter between your characters. I love the idea that it's a baby- so many ideas come to mind with this! Government testing? Psychological conditioning? It's fucking great and could very easily be written from the perspective of the child as well.
Unfortunately that was the first place my mind went. Patient Zero.
Seriously, I can't believe how people enjoy this shit so much. It's been done to death, that specific 'twist' especially.
Loved it, so well written. Sucked me right in.
I thought you were going to go with the numbers thing for the finish. Like instead of Jackson saying "we have to get that kid" Maddie just says something along the lines of "we both know what has to be done" and then as she walks away from him the zero above her head turns into a 1.
Been like this long as I can remember - seeing numbers everywhere. Was a while before I figured it out - they follow the people, the number of people each person will kill in their lives. Wish I was better at talking to people, maybe then I could really change things, change those numbers. But the numbers have always made more sense than the people, and they look at me askance. The people, not the numbers.
My number has always been one. Don't know why, but it's always been there. I'm used to it. I watch the people and their numbers go by outside my apartment, like an insane game of duck, duck, goose. Zero, zero, zero, zero, three. A pregnant woman with her zero husband. Hmm. Not that I care - not my responsibility. Besides, maybe it's fate, though maybe I just say that because it's easy. Easier than running around trying to save faceless numbers.
I go into work - accounting. Much easier to face at numbers without the weight of human lives. I get up from my cubicle to get water, gazing at the floor to avoid that too-intimate knowledge of my coworkers. But that means someone runs into me on my way back to my desk - water goes all over me. I look up, I have to, he spoke to me. Just another benign oval hovers above his head. I make some bland response to his smiling apology and head for the bathroom to mop up the damp on me. Glancing into the mirror, mainly because it's there, something catches my eye. The number over my head has changed... 7,431,323,10.
How long I stand there, staring at this number that holds so much weight, and none at all. Numbers, abstract numbers do not exist outside the mind of humanity, you know. They're just useful symbols. So long... the time or the number? Until I reach a conclusion. In that moment, I witness the number change again. Decreasing, decreasing, all the way back to one. I smile grimly at my reflection. Now I understand my fate.
But what if... what if taking the kid actually sets in motion the events that cause the 7 billion deaths?
Nice. I love me some zombie plots. One thing though: you don't need to give breaths anymore for CPR. If you're doing compressions right, you are also giving adequate ventilation.
Holy shit, this might be better than the top comment. My god this is enthralling.
"Please tell me you're an author! And please tell me you're gonna make this story! Pleaseee!" I said as he looks at me in the eye.
"I am, but...I-I can't... I'm sorry." Jack looks up trying to stop the tears in his eyes.
As he turns around to leave, I said, "Is that all that you can say?! That you're sorry?" I wipe the tears that are continuously falling on my cheeks.
"I won't let this happen again." I said as I shake my head in disappointment. "Hundreds or even thousand stories that have gone to waste. I WON'T LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN!"
I grabbed his collar, my face inches near his ear and cheek, i whispered dead serious " you will make this whether you like it or not."
The end •^
7 billion people. Gracie stared at the gentleman sitting across from her on the train. He had a nice clean suit, polished shoes, and a straight posture that made her neck ache just thinking of it.
7 billion people? How is that even possible? She pondered to herself. It has to be some sort of real life glitch right? Maybe I'm seeing things.
The man glances in her direction and a cold shiver runs down her spine, standing her hairs on end. Unable to even look him him the eye she looks to the speeding view behind her. She tries to push the thoughts of the man out of her mind, but she can feel his gaze on her still.
Okay so, not a glitch. Does he consider bugs people? But then he wouldn't have the intent to kill them all. There's no other explanation, but what could I even do?
A faint white mark appears into vision, almost unnoticed. The zero that had followed her without fail all her life suddenly was no longer there. 1 had taken its place.
Turning forward once more, she slowly reaches into her bag and tightly gripping the pen from her journal. There is something she can do...
((I haven't done any creative writing like this in a while, let alone on reddit on a phone. cheers for the provoking WP))
That was a great read. One small error: elicit, not illicit.
I think that's why op specified "if they are allowed to continue on their course of action"
I think CPR is important enough to be a buzzkill about.
I used to see 0's everywhere there was a crowd. On the occasion I did see a number other than 0 I could intervene and drop it quickly.
To understand what I'm talking about, I can see the number of people a person will kill in their lifetime. I've been able to do so as long as I can remember, 113 years. No one knows about this as one can imagine the feedback I would receive.
As I was saying before, I used to see 0's all the time. When I was born the industrial revolution was at full speed and inter continental travel was becoming much easier. As technology improved and our use of resources compounded I started to notice a strange trend, less and less 0's. People were getting gaining numbers all the time.
I came to realize that it was literally due to people's carbon footprint and ability to transmit disease. Even I had a number 4 above me.
From smog to the common cold everyone was contributing to someone's demise.
I got used to it and realized there wasn't much o could do to help anymore. It got to the point where there was no way to tell if someone was a murderer, going to cause an accident, or if it was just them leaving too many lights on.
Then the US election happened. I went to sleep that night knowing our country wouldn't make terrible decision. I mean look who the candidates were.
I woke up and didn't even think about checking the results before going into town. As I was walking around, cane in hand, I noticed everyone's number was at 0! I thought, "What has happened?! The election did this? We're all saved!" I felt peace for the first time in half a century.
Curious now as to how the election turned out I went into a local sports bar and looked at a television. The headline read "Trump wins election!" He was on the tv as well only he had a different number above him. 7,845,542,885.
Now I know why everyone's number dropped.
Stephen looked in the mirror and saw his own number. 1. 1 person he was going to kill if he didn't change something.
"Well," he thought, "how many will that one save?"
He'd first realized what the numbers meant when he passed a drunken man one day in his teens with a 4 over his head. Later he'd seen the same man's face on the television. A mugshot, with a ticker below it saying he'd killed a family of four in a drunk driving accident. It didn't take but a couple more incidents like that and he'd decided to do something about it.
So he stood, staring at his own number in the mirror, wondering if today would be the day to stop number 7. He tucked the 9mm into his waistband holster as he prepared to walk out the door. Legally carried with a license, ironically. He hadn't been caught and had it removed yet. With one last look he walked out the door.
It was on his way to the usual coffee shop when Stephen spotted the man, and his number. 7,431,323,210. The biggest he'd ever seen. Possibly the whole world. He stopped, stunned, and decided he had to figure this man out.
The man ended up going to Stephen's usual haunt, so he didn't need to alter his routine too much. Stephen watched as the man sat down and removed his jacket. Flight attendant, by the looks of the uniform. His mind was racing.
Sure, a flight attendant might hijack a plane, it had been done before and killed thousands. But billions? Maybe if he flew the plane into a nuclear power plant? Military base overseas? Could that start a nuclear war? Whatever it was, he had to stop it
The man checked his watch, donned his jacket, and walked out, still holding his coffee cup. Stephen followed close behind him out the door. The man hailed a cab, and Stephen made his decision. As the cab stopped and the man got in, he jumped in right behind and spoke to the cabbie before the man could.
The flight attendant started to protest, but stopped short when he saw the handgun held low, pointed at him. His mouth dropped open and he blinked several times. Stephen had seen it before. Sometimes this was enough to change the number, but no. Not this time. The man looked back up and saw the ice in Stephen's eyes, and he turned to face the front, eyes moving back and forth rapidly as he tried to think his way out of the situation.
The cab pulled up to the docks on the river, too early for any dock workers to be at it yet in this area. Good. He nodded in the direction of the docks as the man looked at him. He got the idea and exited the car. Stephen passed the cabbie two twenties and put on a cheery voice, but not so cheery as to be memorable.
Stephen exited and told the flight attendant to walk, punctuating the command with a jab in the back. The man started breathing wheezily, struggling to get breath. This one was going to beg. This one would wrack him with guilt, Stephen knew. The last one who begged had him questioning himself for weeks. But the numbers didn't lie. He'd followed enough people with what had seemed like high numbers at the time, unable to bring himself to kill them, and seen the results. He redirected the man until they found themselves in a remote part of a scrap yard he'd used before.
"I'm not your buddy, no talking."
"I just don't know why you're doing this." He coughed then, and it sounded wet. He turned around and Stephen saw the eyes well for the first time. Pink. He'd been quietly crying, then.
Stephen raised the gun to the man's chest, and the eyes went wide.
"Please, I have a-"
"DON'T. I said no talking."
He started putting pressure on the trigger, aiming for center mass like he'd always been trained, then started thinking again. 7 billion. He was reading the number right, it still hung there in the air like a spectre. Who was this man?
The flight attendant stepped forward and Stephen yelled, "Stop!"
He pointed the gun at the man's head for emphasis, then back down. No, he thought. Whatever this one was, he had to make sure. The gun went back up to the man's head and Stephen pressed the trigger.
The bang echoed around the docks, but no one would come to investigate. Damn, head wounds were messy. He'd be late to work today; he'd have to change his shirt. Maybe he'd just call in sick. It was Friday, maybe a three day weekend would give him time to think through this one. Yeah, that would be the ticket.
Monday morning came and Stephen woke up with a start in a cold sweat. He'd had another nightmare about the man. Another sick day. His boss would be okay with it. Stephen so rarely called in. He made the call, took a drink from the half-empty whiskey bottle on his nightstand and fell back into bed.
He woke up again and checked his phone. 3:30. Wait, AM? He'd slept that long? Well, no dreams this time. Not that he remembered anyway. He got up feeling achy. Well, that was what you got for sleeping so long. He grabbed his glasses and noticed a spot of blood he'd missed when cleaning up. Couldn't let someone spot that and ask questions he'd have to make up answers to. He was a good liar, but not having to lie in the first place was best.
He put the glasses on after cleaning them and looked in the mirror. Then he saw it. His number had changed. He took the glasses off and looked them over, Wiping them down again before putting them back on.
He blinked hard, but it was still there. His eyes shot wide with sudden clarity, and he looked in the trash bin at the shirt with blood spatter on it. A virus. A flight attendant who could spread it to travellers and other flight personnel who could spread it to more travelers. He'd always thought the numbers meant the deaths would be the fault of the number's bearer, not accidents. But why had his numbers changed?
The head shot. He always went for the chest. The head shot was a spur-of-the-moment decision. The blood splattered on him and now... Now he was infected with whatever it was.
The entire world. He'd thought to save them and now he was to be the agent of the world's destruction. Unless... But could he do it? A sigh.
He felt well enough that he didn't think he was spreading anything just yet. Viruses incubated for a while, right? Yeah, that sounded right. He took a cab to the same scrap yard where he'd hidden the last body. And others. Walking through he remembered the ones he'd brought there. Over there was the gangbanger. Under that car was the doomed flight attendant.
He walked on to a likely place and stopped to survey the sunrise over the scrap yard. He turned around and found himself facing a dirty glass window. He rubbed it clean with his sleeve and tried to get a last look at himself.
The number 1 floated over his head. A wan smile.
The dock workers heard the shot, but they just shook their heads and went back to work.
Can we make this a full book please. Holy.
Having the genocidal maniac as a defenseless baby is like the only way to humanise a moral quandary about killing millions upon millions- it's a spin on "time traveling to kill Hitler as a baby"
Its not even an original prompt though, theres dozens of "you can see the number of people the person will kill/how dangerous they are."
Please continue this. Please please please.
"Well, I made a lot of people came to you less violently"
KICK THE GODDAMN BABY!
I love the idea. Would have loved for it to be more drawn out, though.
Have an upvote either way.
If fifty shades of grey was a best seller then I'm sure this one can be too. But how has this twist been "done to death"?
I sat there in my room with my hands in my face. The lights were dimmed as to not strain my bloodshot eyes more. I haven't been been getting the best sleep. I tried. I definitely tried, but each time I closed them, I saw it.
It was just another day in my life. I had gone to work in the morning, taking the public bus across town to my office and it had gone normally. I saw the same usual faces with their death counters above their heads. Most everyone had a faint yellow '0' floating above them. There were a few other numbers, but I didn't pay them any mind. I had come to terms with my strange ability. People killed people, either by murder or accident, it happens and I was just perfectly happy that whenever I looked in the mirror, I saw a 0 floating above my head.
I said hello to Maddie, a cute girl with deep dimples whenever she smiled, which was always. She was in the cubicle next to me and it was customary for us to start the day with a friendly chat, especially on Friday.
She had plans on going to the concert hall where several local bands were getting together for an event. It sounded fun and normally I would have gone with her, however, that wasn't going to happen this time.
I looked up instinctively when I heard a door opening to my right. My first thought was that it was Mr. Johnson, the manager, coming out to tell us to get work since Maddie and often got carried away with our little conversations. It wasn't Mr. Johnson. It was someone I had never seen before. I didn't get a good look at his face because all I saw was the number above this head.
Like a car wreck I couldn't tear my eyes away from it. I blinked and rubbed my eyes to make sure it was real, but sure enough it read, 7,431,323,210.
He walked out of Mr. Johnson's office and left. I was left glass eyed.
I had to excuse myself from Maddie when she became concerned, saying that I felt sick. I promised to talk to her later.
I logged onto my computer and Googled the current population of Earth. It was close enough to be within the margin of error.
That was a month ago. Each day this man would come by the office. It seemed he was a new employee. I avoided him at all costs as I watched his death counter go up higher and higher each day at the same rate as the population rose. It was maddening to just sit in my cube each day and watch this man and not do anything about it.
What kind of horrible catastrophe was he destined to do. Would it be deliberate or would it be an accident. Was he guilty? Was he innocent of intent?
Now, after much deliberation, I know what I must do. They won't understand why, but it's for the best.
I get up and walk over to my bathroom and turn on the sink. I wash my face and then look up into the mirror.
It tears me apart to see it. Above my head floats a dim, yellow number 1.
7431323210 7431323209 7431323208
"Terry? Have you changed your mind?"
"No. Why would I? We've been working on this for years?"
"Well, your number is dropping."
"It is? Oh shit! What did we change?"
Years of study and experimentation had gone into maintaining Terry's kill number. George had been kicked out of dozens of research labs and universities because of his experimentation. They didn't approve of his use of colleagues and students. Well, he didn't need them any more. Sure their numbers had been high, but none of them were the entire human race. George got a thrill every time he looked at Terry.
"Nothing. We changed nothing. All the calculations still point to there being no way to spread this thing to humans. Every person we've tried it on has shaken it off like it was the common cold. Speaking of which, do you have a tissue? I need to blow my nose."
Terry was staring at him.
"George, do you feel all right?"
"I feel fine, I just need to blow my nose."
"I think we transmitted."
"My number. How fast is it moving now?"
6312584159 6312373048 6301517892
"I didn't feel a thing Terry. How the hell did we do it?"
"Don't know George, does it matter? A whole new species of man will inhabit the Earth by the end of today. I wonder how many people will notice."
"Well, they'll probably notice the changing skin color at least."
Might not be right, but I thought it meant that the narrator decided to commit suicide after seeing the number to save everybody else in the world.
Darkness had truly set in now. Stars were above him, and shone vainly, attempting to compete with the streetlamps that lit his way as he followed this mysterious girl. His gun was already reloaded and under his coat. Answers on this girl would be great to be sure, but with a danger this great, it would be better to shoot first and ask questions later. But she intrigued him greatly, and he caught himself toying with the prospect of sparing her life just to learn more about her, and himself.
He was an anomaly as far as he knew. The man who could see numbers floating above the heads of everyone he met. Numbers that indicated how many lives they would take in their future, were time allowed to run its own course. Those numbers could change, of course, but he had only seen it happen once. A time that he would rather forget. After that, his own had likely changed, not he could ever see it. What he had never seen is for someone to so casually change someone else's number, with a mere touch. And she had looked at him specifically. Logic said that there was only one answer.
Down dingy alleys and through twilight streets they walked, never changing speed. She stayed a consistent distance from him at all times despite all he tried to catch up to her. After the first couple attempts, he abandoned stealth. It occurred to him that she could see the same numbers he could, and like could track him by those alone. After nearly a half an hour of this they arrived at a warehouse. Atticus was immediately alert. Yes she knew he was following her, but you didn't just go to abandoned parts of the city to chat. He looked around him for an ambush and yet saw nothing out of the ordinary.
The girl stepped into the open door of the warehouse, and soon she became a set a faintly glowing numbers on the far side of the warehouse, the darkness obscuring her entirely. Atticus hesitated, not wanting to follow, but he once again felt the weight of the gun in his hand and reminded himself of what he had to do. He stepped into the warehouse carefully. With a sudden bang, the door slammed shut behind him. He immediately raised his gun and tried to fire on the girl. If she had led him into a trap he would take her out. But the gun wouldn't fire. A deep voice spoke from behind him. "Put it down son. You don't need that here. It won't work anyway."
Atticus didn't obey. "Who are you?" he called into the darkness. With a small 'pop' the warehouse lights came on. He blinked to adjust his eyes to the light and when they had, then he dropped his gun. The girl was there, smirking at him, and 12 others stood with her on either side. He hadn't seen numbers before, and yet there they were, all with the same number above their heads. 7,431,323,210. From behind him the voice came again and he turned. A man in a business suit stood looking at him with the same amused look as the girl.
"Good evening, Atticus. We are the Manipulators."