A blast from the past (for me). I wrote this piece of flash fiction a few years ago. Thought it was about time I dusted it off.
The crosshair moved smoothly, from one person to another, pausing only briefly to catch any signs of threatening behaviour. Even the most non-descript act or posture, unnoticed by civilian eyes, would be an indicator to John’s eyes. The sniper was one of the most demanding roles in the military. And lonely. Find a suitable location, high up with good visual coverage. Get there unseen, and then wait. And wait.
Rest breaks were not an option. Nor food. Up to fifteen hours could be spent lying in the same position, watching. Always watching. In wartime, the sniper provided essential protection of ground troops, and there had been many wars to hone John’s. Bosnia, Irag, and Afghanistan. Each with their own horrors.
He’d been asked a few times, “How can you do it – kill someone like that?” He never answered. Probably couldn’t. But that was a long time ago, and now no one asks. Or cares.
The crosshair stopped. A potential target. A terrorist perhaps? Dressed in civilian garb, but carrying a small package and concealing something under his jacket. The people nearby didn’t notice, but John saw, despite the eighty-metre distance. The crosshair followed the man as he ambled along the busy street. No troops around, but this was the shopping district. The terrorist could be looking for civilian targets. Bombings were always a terrorist favourite.
John lay motionless, with only minute movements needed to keep the crosshair on the target’s head, never wavering from the kill shot. He watched, looking for the confirmation sign. The man stopped at the corner of the market, and carefully placed the package next to a bench.
John’s finger tightened on the trigger.
The man glanced around, cautiously it seemed, and slowly reached into his jacket.
A finger applied another pound of pressure to the trigger. Eyes ensured no bystanders were likely to move into the line of fire. Heartbeat quickened. Breathing slowed.
Still looking around, the man pulled out something small and black.
John stared at the object, crosshair still not moving from the headshot. Rapid identification was needed to prevent civilian deaths. Another pound of pressure moved the trigger to the verge of firing.
The man raised the object to the side of his head. A phone.
Pressure released from the trigger returned it to rest. John exhaled, unaware he had been holding his breath. The crosshair remained for a few moments longer, before moving to search out the next target.
In another few hours it would be dark, and his shift would be over. He would be able to return to base, unseen under the cover of darkness. It was a thankless job. Split-second life-or-death situations. This was a vocation for the gifted few. The sniper. People couldn’t possibly understand. Not even his colonel. Nor his doctors. Unstable they said. How could they understand? This was his life. They could discharge him, but they couldn’t take his life away.
The rooftops of London were not the same as Basra, but the job was the same. Keeping people safe. Kill the terrorists. His first week had been a quiet one. No targets eliminated. But it was only a matter of time…