He inhaled slowly and held his breath. His finger touched the trigger. But who aimed him? Who had pointed on the map and said we will drop you here. Not that lieutenant. The Captain? But who told him? He let go of the trigger and exhaled. Why did he have to shoot now? Why not wait a few more minutes. Maybe the person who had told the Captain, who had told the lieutenant, maybe that person had a change of mind? Maybe he was on the radio right now telling him to stop?
He looked again at his target. Khaki uniform, pith helmet. He didn’t look as though he knew he was about to die. The target rocked on his heels, unafraid. Who aimed him? Did he ever wonder? What if both were aimed by the same central command? What if this were a test to see if he were really an animal, someone who could kill and not care? What if the trigger weren’t attached to a rifle but to a radio, the barrel but an antenna, to tell this spirit that he had failed, failed in refusing not to kill? Then when he pulled the trigger, he would die and not the target. Wasn’t this murder? The target meant him no harm.
He eased his finger off the trigger and closed his eyes. Breathing. Just breathing. When he opened his eyes, he saw that the target had sat down. He was drinking. Laughing. Maybe not offensively, maybe just enjoying the afternoon, but the target seemed to look directly at him, laughing at him, sitting in the brush unable to pull the trigger, and then, finally he hated his target. He inhaled and exhaled three times and centered on the target’s grin. The shiny teeth.
He didn’t remember squeezing the trigger. Sometimes later, when he was back, he wondered who did. He remembered the jolt from the barrel and saw the spray of red on the wall behind the target and the target slumping down. And crawling away.