A TIME TO KILL
My father always taught me one thing: there is a time for everything, especially killing. That was in my mind as I crept to the corner with a glistening machete in hand. Both my hands and breathing were steady, and my brows were furrowed in concentration. My target was right around that corner. I could hear her breathing. I could hear her swallow the lump that had formed in her throat. I could even hear her teeth chatter in a manner that reminded me of Tom and Jerry. A crooked smile spread over my face. This was going to be easier than my other victims.
I spun round the corner and grabbed the frail young woman by her coat arm. She screamed as she eyed the weapon in my grip. I rolled my eyes.
“Relax,” I told her. “I’m not going to kill you.”
The girl looked at me through confused eyes, her scream dying in her throat and replaced by a quizzical “huh?” My hand firmly secured on the nape of her neck, I shoved her down the dark, cobwebbed corridors and down a flight of old creaky stairs. We stopped before a huge door that was bolted shut. I quickly opened and swung it open. Inside were my other two captives. One was a man who was burning but didn’t seem to mind. He was short and built like a brick wall. His chest had a hole in it where laid his heart. This heart was charcoal black and almost completely turned to ashes. Next to him was a tall and spindly woman who radiated green from the inside out. Her eyes flashed red every few minutes and never failed to examine every single thing that came into their line of sight. Their hands and feet were shackled, giving them little room to move. The girl took one look at this and tried to flee, but I gave her a rough shove that sent her sprawling inside, landing painfully on her face.
“Calm down,” the ashy-hearted man said in a rough voice. “It’s not so bad here. You’ll soon come to see.”
“Be quiet!” I barked at him, trying to look tough as I shackled the young girl.
My command was only met with cackles of laughter from the two.
“You be quiet!” the green woman retorted.
“You can’t tell me what to do!” I responded like a toddler.
“Of course we can,” the woman said. “Who exactly do you think is in charge here? Certainly not you.”
“I’m not the one in chains,” I said victoriously.
“Aren’t you?” the man asked before her and the woman laughed again. As they laughed, they grew in size. They always grew in size the more they taunted me.
Irritated, I slammed the door shut behind me and stomped away. Steam shot out my ears with a vengeance. Veins popped out my temples. The ground shook with each step I took. My anger was not at my captives’ insolent remarks. It was at the truth in their words. They were right. Despite my having bound them in chains, I was their slave, and I feared I always would be. I thought that locking them up would be enough. It turned out that when I locked them in the dungeon, I locked myself in with them. They tormented me daily with their laughter, and mockery, always reminding me that they were still a huge part of my life even though I had contained them in the most secluded part of my crumbling house.
The worst part was, tried as I did, I could not keep myself away from their presence. They had a certain power over me that grew stronger the moment I decided that simply locking them up would be enough to defeat them. I regretted that decision. I knew I should have killed them as ruthlessly as my father required me to, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so. A part of me wanted to cling on to them and the lifestyle they made me lead. I had spent the past week lying to my father that I had destroyed them as we had agreed. I looked at the machete I was still gripping and wondered how he would react once he found out it was all just for show.
A heavy knock on the door alerted me that I would soon find out. I took my time getting to the door and opened it with the grace of an ox. The sight of my father made me want to flee. I loved him, but the knowledge that I had disobeyed him filled me with uncertainty. My father was a just man. He knew who to kill and who not to kill. He knew the time to do it and the time to show mercy. He knew death and the purpose it served. He was a ruthless man when he had to be, but on the most part, he was open and friendly. Even now he had a loving smile on his face.
“Dad,” I said with a nervous chuckle. “Now is not a good time.”
He arched his brow.
“Did you do it?” he asked. “Did you kill them?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Distant laughter wafted through the house and I sighed, knowing I couldn’t lie any longer.
“I’m sorry,” I confessed. “I can’t kill them. I locked them up though. They can’t get out. I have it under control.”
Dad said nothing. He strode in and took a look around, a grim expression on his face. I knew what he was thinking. If I truly had it under control, the house would not be dark and grey. It would not have cobwebs hanging in every corner, or shadows lurking behind every wall. He unsheathed his sword, turned to me and said only one thing:
“Take me to them.”
Heavy hearted, I led dad to the dungeon. His face serious and his eyes burning, he didn’t wait for me to open the door. He kicked it down and stormed in. For once, the captives cowered in fear. His reputation preceded him. They all knew that where he was, people like them could not survive long. They had almost tripled in size now, and looked like they would soon be able to burst out of their chains.
“This is anger, jealousy, and greed,” I shakily said, eyeing the sword in his hand. “See? They’re still in my house, but at least they’re locked up. They can’t hurt me.”
Dad shook his head.
“So long as you keep them in your house, they will always hurt you.”
“He’s lying!” Anger roared.
“You need us. What would you do without us?” Jealousy added.
“I don’t want to die!” Greed whimpered. “There are so many things we can get together.”
The more they pleaded, the bigger they grew and the darker the house became. The shackles looked quite close to coming off, which scared me like never before. It was obvious: the chains I put on them were not enough. They would soon break free and terrorize me again.
“You need to put them to death, daughter,” dad said. “Kill them before they kill you. You have to do this.”
Anger freed his left hand first. It was now or never. With a war cry I raised my machete and brought it down with much force. I repeated that action for Jealousy and Greed. As I watched them turn to ash and fade away, dad placed his hand on my shoulder and smiled reassuringly.
“You did the right thing.”
Gradually, the darkness began to fade and light slowly came in through the windows. The shadows fled and the cobwebs disintegrated in the sunlight. My house was all anew. When I put the anger, jealousy and greed to death, it freed me from my misery and life of darkness. It was a conscious decision I had to make, and I do not regret it one bit.
I never understood my father’s insistence on my killing certain things, but after this experience, I am proud to be his daughter, proud to be an executioner’s daughter, and to follow in his footsteps.