Grass was coming in hazy neon green spurts, due to atmospheric interference. Emerald oscillations, rotating intermittently between primary colors and half tones, it was beautiful. Only the endowed could see it with their fiber optic implants. Father Gara sat in the park with them, blind to the carnival that swirled between the nano fragments of passing time.
He opened a brown paper bag that sat in his lap. Inside was a Saturday night special. Vintage was all he could get on his pension anymore. It wasn't like the good old days, back when he had blasters, C1 clearance, the "Cleaners." Sodder hounded him with death threats, which hardly threatened him. The annoying packages, demeaning posts, only annoyed him. Truth be told, he was worried about Deftus.
Couples, pushing their designer babies in corporate sponsored strollers, passed him by, vain and oblivious. Father Gara held his peace. He wasn't a "kid person," he told himself. That was why he joined The Commission. No children, no hangups, just work. The little products, bouncing along, doted on by their affluent parents, lived in ignorance. They didn't know about the dying world, and the masses they oppressed, simply by being alive. Father Gara smiled, as he realized that Santa Monica was timeless. Fashionable transience, somehow, had escaped the tinsel gilded materialism.
Waves braking on a cerulean beach, hot with static.
A man took a seat next to him. He wasn't a hitman. Too old, just out to feed the birds. Father Gara heard him clear his throat, coughing hard.
"Norman," then man said. He paused, trying to find his next words, while Father Gara began to hyperventilate. No one knew his real name..."
"Why so down on your luck, eh?" The old man said quietly. Reaching into his own bag he scattered bird seed along the gritty charcoal stained pavement. "You were so charming when you were younger."
"Norman is dead," Father Gara replied in monotone. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"What is bothering you, Norman?" the Old man insisted. "When you were my own page, there was always a way out. What happened to you?"
Father Gara looked over, and recognized the man: MacLauren, retired high council. When he was a boy, he was Father MacLauren.
"You? What are you doing here?" Father Gara said calmly, maintaining his distance. "I thought you were dead?"
The old man laughed.
"Dead? Not yet..." He said in a charming voice. "When I saw you, I knew you were on the run. Still... Doesn't mean I can't keep you company."
"Things are bad, MacLauren," Father Gara said slowly, hiding his mouth from view. "I've got a blood feud on my hands, just for doing my job. The Commission has left me out to dry, and I got nothing left."
"Sounds like the usual," the old man said. He scattered another handful of birdseed across the pavement. "When I was first promoted, some young punk with a gun tried to take me out." Father Gara broke his cover, looking over in surprise. He had not expected that one.
"Yes, sirree," Confirmed MacLuaren. "But, you know what I did? I bounced back, found him in an alleyway and finished him off quickly. You see, anyone can die in a car bombing, or a certified assassination. That, there, that's a quick death. Nothing wrong with a quick death, either. But then, there's the slow going ones, the demise that takes years to conclude. Between the two, it's worth taking the chance, and you, Norman, you need to decide which one you are going to have."
The man trailed off into silence. After a moment he glanced into his bag and then crumpled it up.
"Well," he said nonchalantly, "what do you know? I've run out again."
Getting up the old man, stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, hiding the birdseed.
"Take care of yourself, Norman," he said, then turned away.
And Norman Gara, for a moment, felt different. It was then that he knew what he had to do.