Short Fiction — The Man in Chains3 min read

“I didn’t want someone else to be able to do it,” Seth calmly told them, shifting with his chains clanking across the table.

The men didn’t know what to think. This pitiful creature in front of them had orchestrated the greatest act of violence perpetrated by a single person.

Seth continued, “I… I am not sure. Do you think someone else can do it? Why would someone try unless they could do better?”

“What do you mean?” inquired the interviewer.

“I mean… I thought about it for a long time. I had to save everyone’s life. It doesn’t matter. The people don’t matter. The result matters. And now no one will be able to do it.”

The room was uneasy. All that could be heard for a moment was the sound of chains jangling as Seth moved.

“Are you… I can’t imagine why other than that. Are you sure you can’t see? I am sure. I am sure you can’t see. Maybe you aren’t the type. I guess I am. I wish I weren’t. I am. I am, though. The type.”

Seth put his head down even further, as far as that was possible. He seemed to want to vanish into nothing. The chains were either holding him to this reality or weighting him down. No one could tell which was true.

Seth couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes.

“I’m going to be remembered, aren’t I? It was the only thing that could make me be remembered.”

He looked very sad.

“I can’t have kids. I mean, I guess I could. If I had money. And a wife. And wasn’t me. And wasn’t here. And wasn’t this. I could do that. But I did it instead.”

There was no reason to interrupt Seth. With this information, you can make a profile of who might think similarly. Who might be capable of the same thing. That was the only value to be derived from this whole thing.

“After it happened, I knew it was done. It was right. I knew it was good. I knew it… No one else will think like me again. I am the best. The best… Hey… Can you take off these chains on my legs? I can’t imagine you are afraid of me. I wouldn’t be. I am afraid of you.”

They knew he would keep talking. He would start trailing off again, but now wasn’t the time to prompt him.

“Can you imagine it? How dumb someone would be? I can see it now. You want to be remembered. Only one will be remembered. And that one will be me. You need something new. You can’t do it.”

The chains went taut suddenly as Seth shot upright.

“Fuck it. Are you? Can you? Why would you. It’s useless. You are not doing anything. You can’t make it worse or better You are nothing. I am the center. The end. It doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t matter to… It matters to me.”

Seth had almost a look of ecstasy.

“Are you judging me? I reject that. I write my own story. It is my story.”

He looked like he was near tears, suddenly. The happy expression gone. He wore an expression that was not sadness. It was like he had won a competition he had spent his life working towards.

“I saved all your lives. I understand that I need to be the bad guy. No one else could do it. You are nothing. No one. I can’t relate to you. You can’t relate to me. I will die as something. You will die as nothing.”

The man in chains slumped back down. There was a clatter as the manacles and their attachments went slack again.

“Only one person can be it. I am it. It cost me. You paid no cost. I paid the cost for it. You are nothing to me. Go away.”

The interviewer knew he would be best served by leaving. Everyone behind the glass knew the show was over.

“Fuck it.”

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