This Isn’t You
By J. David Thayer
Or is it?
This isn’t you.
You wouldn’t do this.
What is this? You’re shooting at people!
kind of gun where your left hand should be. What even is that?! That can’t be
real. Some sort of laser? What?! No. Can’t be. Wake up! People are dying.
They feel familiar. Mute screaming. Theirs and yours.
Body at your feet. Did you know him? Nike hoodie.
Baseball bat. All he had was a bat. More like him scattered around. Pockets of
rebels. A last stand. Brave but hopeless. You are sweeping the streets for
them. You and others like you. Stop! This isn’t you. Stop firing! Why are you
You know this street. Played stickball here.
Fourth grade. Joey Something was pitching. Red rubber ball. Broom handle. It
was in the fall. Here comes the pitch. Slow motion.
It’s gone now.
[Rapid fire. Red beams]
[Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.]
[March. Fire. Kill. March.]
You are the enemy. These are your neighbors.
Hate and panic. Desperation and rage. They use whatever they can scrounge.
Whatever was in their garages and attics and basements and sheds and under
their beds. Pointless. Swords against tanks. Stop! Why can’t you stop?
Some of that is still your arm. Tattoo of a
tuna. But metal also. What is this? How do you even know what to do? You’ve
never shot a gun in your life! But you never miss. You don’t waste a single
bolt. Every blast is another kill. See all without seeing. 360 degrees. One
tenth of one second.
[Fire. Kill. Fire. Kill. Fire. Kill.]
You want to scream, but you can’t. They
but you can’t hear them. Why can’t you? Dreaming. Comatose. Hallucination.
Psychosis. No. This is something else.
Rubble and crumbling concrete. Craters. Chunks
of buildings. Collapsed roofs. Bricks and rebar. Splintered glass. Overturned
cars on fire. People hiding. You shoot without aiming. Without thinking. Your
weapons track them perfectly, shelter or no shelter. Infrared. Heat signatures.
Smart bombs. They fight with their eyes and their guts. They have no chance.
This isn’t you. Who is this? Who are you?
are you right now? You were someone else once.
Rock hits you. You fire and kill him who threw
it. You didn’t want to, but you had no say.
Watching a movie. You must be watching a movie.
You used to love movies. Heroes won; villains lost. All in two hours. Only
details differed. In movies heroes were easy to spot. So were villains. The worse
the odds, the better the film. This film must be fantastic. Good guys are
losing so far. Badly. You root for them, yet you shoot them. The turn must be
coming. Big climax. Find our weakness and bring us down! Where is our hero? We
need a hero! Which we are you?
Molotov cocktail hits you. Flesh burns. Should
hurt but does not. You wish it would hurt.
Others march with you. Thousands. They fan out
and search house to house. Are they watching this same movie? Do they remember
this street? Can they not scream? Can they not stop? Am I alone, or are we
Floating in darkness. Real but not real. Not a
movie; a video game. You must be playing a video game.
[Fire. Kill. Fire. Kill.]
Enough. You will stop. But you can’t. Yes,
can! Yes. Here is your chance. They made a mistake sending you down this
street. Too familiar. Regained your bearings.
A gutted storefront. Was a pizzeria here...right
here? You ate here after baseball games. Mom, Dad, and teammates. Hoisted
participation trophies like champions. Played Q*Bert. A girl laughed. Extra-large,
all cheese. Right here. It all happened here. Here. Take your stand here. Here
and no further. Let them snap you if they can.
Stop! Fight! But not these people. These are
your people. Return to your people. Help them! Be their hero. Lead! Fight
against them that took you! Your people from outside; you from inside.
Remember. Concentrate. Fight! Before the next signal comes. Reach for it! Base
[Raises gun. Fires into the sky.]
Fight! Your soul bubbling near the surface. The
hive mind has lost track of you. They’ll be back. Your right hand is not a gun.
Metal from elbow to wrist, but those are your fingers. You twitch them. You
reach for the implant without being told. The implant! You remember the
You remember when they hoisted you like a
trophy. Impaled you with that foreign body. Left it there. Base of skull.
Switch flipped and you were gone. Then came the saws and your new parts. Quick
work and very skilled. Pressure but no pain. Did the same to thousands of
people. Piles of discarded limbs and trunks. All sizes. Indiscriminate. You
were in a stadium. A baseball stadium. Instant army. Made you ready. Set you
loose. You are the first wave. They wait in safety until they have their
beachhead. What follows will be worse.
Base of skull.
Now is your window! Now! Thoughts are clear.
Pull it! Pull it before they find you! May kill you. So be it! Death is better.
They can’t have you! Pull it! PULL IT! You are not a traitor! This is you! Pull
This is me.
I can’t reach it.
This isn't you.
You wouldn’t do this.
What is this?
J. David Thayer, firstname.lastname@example.org, who wrote BP #88’s tale, “This Isn’t You,” is an
educator living in
Texas. His works have appeared in The
First Line, The Last Line, Dizzy Emu
Publishing, Fantasy/Sci-Fi Film Festival, Flash
Fiction Magazine, Bewildering Stories, 101
Word Stories, and Pilcrow & Dagger.