Bad Meat (short fiction)

Just a warning.  This one’s pretty grim.

 

When you kill a man enough times, you can’t help but get to know him. I’d killed Owen (or a version of Owen) nineteen times at this point. This was number twenty, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting easier. It was almost routine at this point.

Owen was always a good guy. He might be an accountant in one version or a janitor in another. The job was always small and inconsequential. He had a round, unthreatening manner built into his genetic code, and you couldn’t help but like the guy.

And I killed him about once a month.

I tried to make it quick, painless. It wasn’t his fault that he had to die. But sometimes, I screwed up. I was only human. Well, not quite, but the expression still stands.

He lay dazed on the public bathroom floor. He clutched his shoulder where

I’d shot him. Blood pooled on the tile.

“Sorry, Owen,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

I should’ve finished him off, but maybe he deserved to know.

“It’s your genetic material,” I explained. “It’s engineered to be no good. Allowed to spread, it’ll turn the human race into a subservient slave race, ripe for the plucking.”

He gave me that look. Like I was crazy. Whenever I tried to explain, the Owens always gave me that look.

I pulled off my face to reveal the blue, reptilian flesh beneath. It shut him up. Or maybe he was going into shock.

“I’m here to keep that from happening. You’re bad meat, Owen. For the good of your world, you have to die.”

“Please,” he said, “I have a wife.”

I sighed. “That just makes it worse.”

After I killed him, I put my face back on. I left Owen number twenty behind and counted my blessings. So far, I’d caught all the Owens before they’d passed on their genetic booby trap. One day, I’d be too late.

One day, I’d have to kill more than an Owen.

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