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Angel of Mercy

by Aaron Rowley

Mort woke with a start. He thought he’d heard footsteps. They were coming for him. He held his breath and listened. He didn’t hear anything. He waited. If they were coming, he didn’t want to be caught lying down.

After a few minutes, a thin tomcat sauntered up and nuzzled against him. Mort figured that was a good sign. They would have scared the cat away.

Mort rolled over and scratched the cat behind the ear. The cat purred loudly. Soon enough the cat collapsed, its head lying limply in Mort’s hand. The cat and a couple of dozen parasites living in it died peacefully.

Mort stood up and dusted himself off.

The room had, at one time, been a nice subtle shade of yellow. It was now a brackish shade of brown. Several beams which should have been holding up the second floor were now scattered around the room. They had turned gray from the rain which now poured in through a hole in the roof. The paint was bubbling up and away from the walls where the water had seeped through.

The room felt small, in spite of the large hole in the ceiling. It felt like it had once been taller, fuller. It felt like, when the building had died, it had sighed and collapsed in on itself a little.

Mort glanced around the room. A few huddled figures lay close to the walls here and there. They had come in to find shelter for the night. Mort had found them here, buried in their blankets. He’d gone around the room and touched them one by one and released them. When they died they let out a sigh and, it seemed to Mort, they shrank a little. Somehow it looked like there was less of them now.

Mort smiled grimly at his work. He was proud of what he did. He brought peace to troubled lives. He freed those whose lives held only suffering. Everyone had to die sometime, Mort would say. Why not let them die happily, easily, peacefully, rather than fighting and suffering until they die at the bitter end?

That had been Mort’s job once. Back then they’d told him whom to release and when. They told Mort to be detached, do the job, no more, no less. He should never interfere.

It seemed wrong to Mort to watch people suffer, all the while knowing that he could free them. It seemed cruel to him to force them to go on like that.

Until, finally, Mort walked away. He was no longer an angel of death. He called himself an angel of mercy now.

Of course, it wasn’t the sort of job you can just walk away from. They were looking for him now. Mort was sure that some day they would find him, and he too would die. But not today, he hoped. Not today. Mort was going to keep going, keep fighting as long as he could.

Copyright © 2009 by Aaron Rowley

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