Dante pulled the trigger like it was the most natural thing in the world. The projectile flashed out the chamber, twirled within the ribbed barrel, and exited the front end with a force and speed comparable to the speed of sound.
The air ‘round it blazed as it sped across a hundred-and-fifty-meter space mirrored only by wet pavement. It had rained hours before, cooling the air for roughly a hundred miles.
The scorched yet invisible trail offered the projectile a horizontal trajectory through which it picked up speed, ripping across traces of the thinning breaths of school children that crossed the street just minutes ago. The bullet pierced what was left of words dangling in mid-air, a father’s final reprimand for a wayward son.
With fierce resolve, the brass coating resisted the temptation to thaw despite the intense heat.
Gravity had begun to pull the metal slug down, lower than its intended target. But the initial shove and thrust from the explosion of propellant kept it from plummeting. It moved past a cloud of dirt and sand, bits of asphalt and puffs of car exhaust with blinding velocity, finding its way even through the labyrinthine blur of human shadows crossing its path, just centimeters from its hollowed tip.
Dante had planned this kill for the last three months, shortly after his two sons were gunned down by police operatives in a drug bust. Mistaken as peddlers, police operatives in plainclothes seized the two men while in the middle of buying a quarter of a sack of rice at the market.
At a safe house roughly fifteen kilometres from their homes, the two were tortured and executed, only to be proven innocent of the crime during a late investigation. Their mother died a month later due to heartbreak.
Five feet from where Dante fired his pistol, a lone white butterfly, crossed the line of the bullet’s trajectory. It didn’t see it coming. The blazing hot constellation of red-hot gunpowder spinning at the heels of the projectile burnt through its left white wing, forcing it to crash headlong onto the pavement where fire ants, starved by the monsoon rains, awaited with anticipation their next meal.
From across the crowded street, another man—a fisherman—bearing on his shoulders the catch for the day, hummed for a tricycle. Beside him stood a spent single mother of four, barely able to lug her groceries for the day. Three steps to the east, a lone school girl, with a pink backpack swung on her shoulders, sat nonchalantly near a light post, visibly anxious to reach her class on time. Some ten steps to her right, an ice cream vendor wrapped cheap table napkins ‘round his clutch of sweet cones. They hardly noticed the gunshot.
The bullet had kept its eye on its target for the last .02 milliseconds: an old man who was seated on a waiting bench just outside the school gates. Decades back, sometime in his fifties, he had borne the gratuitous distinction of being the most notorious drug lord ever to be in charge of a Caloocan drug ring. He had paid his dues to society after being caught in a drug bust that included his wife of twenty-two years.
Now, nearing his seventies, the old man had taken the liberty this day to fetch his grandchild, Benito, from school. His wife Aurora had fallen ill—diabetes—and had been confined to a state hospital for five days. Benito’s father had been incarcerated at the Muntinlupa for a year due to peddling shabu.
Before the first tremor of a gunfire reached his ears, the old man reminded himself to buy a box of eggs from the wet market.
The old man raised his head to see where the blast came from. From where he sat, his wrinkles started to feel the incoming rattle of metal, his hairs sensing its rage. The jaws of the afterlife peering from the bullet’s hollowed tip began to slowly open as the heat reached fever pitch.
The old man saw his life flash before him. By then he knew the shot was meant for him.
A young woman of thin reddish blonde hair and fair skin was the first to fall. She was a teenage mother of two elementary school children. She rushed from her home early that day out to fetch lunch for her kids. The bullet grazed the left side of her head, piercing the thin pelt of skin covering her temples, and moving past the middle layer that separated skull from scalp, it exited just inches from her right ear. She fell on the pavement face down, almost as rapidly as the slug left her head in a pool of her own blood.
For some miracle of the Fates, she was alive.
The bullet slowed down, its route panning a few millimetres off course. Thrusting into the young woman’s blood and skin cooled down the slug’s temperature, stopping the gaping mouth of its hollowed tip from fully opening. It began to tumble wildly, the way an errant car tumbles after skidding off a cliff. This time, it struggled ten times against gravity’s pull as it cartwheeled off course, nosediving into the old man’s neck.
The first spill of the old man’s blood sent him whirling to the ground as though he was drowning. The bullet broke inside his neck into four smaller shrapnel. Two lodged themselves in his larynx, while the other one dove sideways, cutting vein and artery before wedging itself an inch from his heart. The larger fourth shrapnel exited the back of his neck and plunged headlong onto the face of a school girl standing in a queue at the gate. It finally stopped after piercing her nostril, cutting the central vein and artery behind her left eye. She died prior to hitting the ground.
Convulsing, the old man tried to speak, probably to take that one chance to apologize to Dante, whom he recognized immediately. Dante calmly walked past the people trying to flee from the scene. He pumped two more slugs into the old man’s head. “That’s for my two boys—Rene and Ramon. You even stood as godfather to my two boys! They were shot by cops because of you.”
The old man’s eyes, flushed red with tears, took the appearance of dead stars. He breathed his last while staring into the bedlam of space.
With great care, Dante held on to his pistol and cocked it one last time. As he sat on the bench, empty now of parents waiting for their children, he poked the cold barrel of his .45 caliber on his right temple.
Dante closed his eyes, whispered a prayer, and pulled the trigger. His head fell inches away of the scarred wings of a dead butterfly.