THE WAY IT WENT DOWN: THE STARS LOOKED BACK

When the new agent dies, there isn’t much to it. He curls in the backseat with his legs almost up to his chest and stops moving. We keep driving. There’s nothing else to do. Everything smells of blood, and then, after, everything smells like shit. 

The smell reminds me of my son’s birth, and why I have to do these things.

O’Hara weeps, though she didn’t know him. No one did, really. Twenty hours before the agent had been pecking away at a keyboard in a safe job as a Cyberterror Security advisor at some forgettable think-tank in Maryland. Then he was on our op. 

Now, he is the mission. 

We stop at the culvert off to Long Lake and I step from the car. I look around. The rest area is off season. Snowflakes filter down in a purple light, beneath the sodium arc lamps. The gravel is covered in ice and the lake is a black line at the edge of the trees. 

I sat with my wife here in 1989 and roasted hot dogs and listened to the radio and we slept here and looked at the stars back before I knew the world was bullshit. Back when I was happy.  Back before I knew the stars looked back. 

Tonight, I saw something like a dog made of swirling mirrors leap through the agent from a point in space that seemed somehow further than the edges of the room we were in. The agent staggered out with us when the freon fire-suppression system engaged, and we made it clear of the building before he sagged into my arms, covering me in blood from a thousand different holes. 

I can’t remember his name. It seems important now, at Long Lake, that I know his name. What his name was. But it won’t come. This is not like me, and it disturbs me almost more than the body in the back seat. It’s not my first body.

I step to the trunk. Inside are two body bags, garbage bags, chains, a hacksaw, an icepick and four cinderblocks. I get to work.

My son is nine years old now, and I dreaded every day leading up to his arrival. I could say nothing to my wife. What could I say? How could I tell her? And then he arrived. Pure biological imperative in seven pounds, four ounces. 

Adam. My unreasoning hope. 

I open the back of the rental car, and pull the agent out by an arm. The body slides out like a snake, and flops to the ground with a thud. In the cold air, a wave of blood and shit fills my nostrils. 

I think of Adam, and get on with it. Until it's someone else's turn.