The Great Butcher

It was a day of celebrations – only the tenth Founding Day in the country’s history – so security was loose. Half the guards were drunk or away partying, and the other half were so caught up in the mood of goodwill that they might as well have been drunk.

The Assassin carried a dart in his hand, coated in poison, in case he was spotted. He was sure that he could kill before any alarm could be sounded. But he was not spotted; he made it to the General’s room uninterrupted.

The General. The Great Butcher. The man who could have been President, if he’d wanted. The Great Butcher.

‘If you raise the alarm I will kill you.’

He was on the old side of middle-aged, the General, and sitting at his desk with a glass of murky alcohol. The General raise an eyebrow.

‘Do you mean to say you will spare me if I don’t?’

‘No. However – if you cry out you will die straight away. If you do not, you can bide your time, and perhaps I will make some mistake that you can take advantage of.’

The General snorted, then took a sip of his drink.

‘All right. I’ll play.’

‘You have been found guilty, in your absence, of crimes against humanity.’

‘Oh? By what court?’

The Assassin stood up straight and pushed out his chest.

‘The Court of the World,’ he said. ‘We have—’

‘Ha! Ha ha! The Court of— oh, sweet God, “The Court of the World”, you pompous ass.

‘Shut up.’

The General grinned, baring his teeth. That is the face of the Great Butcher, thought the assassin.

‘Why should I?’

‘I’ll kill you,’ said the Assassin. The General waved a hand dismissively.

‘And why haven’t you? What do you want from me?’

‘As I said. You have been found guilty of crimes against humanity. I wish for you to confess to these crimes, before your death.’

The General drank the last trickle from his glass. He stood up.

‘Confession implies guilt. I will not confess. However: I have killed close to one hundred people with my own hands, and a thousand times that number have died by my order. I have tortured. I have used hunger as a weapon. I have cut the hands from an infant and sent them to its mother. I have waded through muddy fields stained red with the blood of my enemies. And I regret none of this, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I have led my people to freedom, to prosperity we have never known before.’

The General buttoned up the top of his jacket.

‘And I am not afraid of death. Make your move, you idiot anarchist shit.

And then, outside, the fireworks began.

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