Created to reap a single life.
And that was all it had taken.
Hundreds of thousands starving. Breakdown of civil order. New gangs forming up and breaking down every week. Those without weapons became as cattle; as property to those who did. Open-air slave markets. Old hatreds were given new life, and new vendettas were lit in the wake of every such act...
Initially he had been ecstatic.
How could he not, given how easy it had been. Easy. It wasn't a word he had ever thought he would associate with the act of killing a human being. Yet he had done it, and it had been easy.
Until the infighting had begun.
Nocked and strung on a bow.
Five hundred meters. At noon as the Northern winds died down, before they turned around and began to blow again as atmospheric pressure built up. Nearly every day it was the same route, down that long winding dirt road down to the plantations.
See the wares and ensure the quality.
At that distance down the predictable path the road presented, even a fast-moving target was nothing.
It had all seemed to simple. That foolish realization he thought he had come to, which would make it all so simple. Kill one, to save ten. Kill ten to save a hundred. Hundred to a thousand. It was all just numbers. One life was as to another life, surely.
Except that wasn't true, was it?
Some lives were worth more in the entirety of things. Fattened, licentious men. Greedy, violent and knowing nothing but excess. Lacking all virtue, knowing no suffering beyond those born of their own iniquities. The type to rise in power as soon as they sensed the shift in balance, climbing up a mountain of corpses to the shining castle on the far hills they had never otherwise been able to reach.
He had judged their positions to be happenstance. Flukes. Chance and little more.
That some would be seated in the grandest chairs, when there was no place for all to go around, could only be the result of that he had reasoned. How else would the world be just, if those who were cruel and small could get so far? If parasites who produced nothing but suffering, could receive the greatest amount of happiness in life?
Drawn back, as far as he physically could.
The shot had been one filled with certainty. Every noon the wind would still and the car would come rolling down that winding road. The man would have the window rolled down, smelling the sea as he smoked his cigar. Eyes roving the picturesque hillsides, silently pondering who knew what.
He had been certain he hadn't cared.
Loosing that arrow had been so easy. So perfect that it might well have been his life's best shot. Death had been instantaneous. For him, anyhow.
The country had gasped and clung to life another few days. Until the generals and lieutenants failed to reach a compromise and began to strike at one another.
Within a week the plantations had been taken and re-taken by one party or another a dozen times. When production halted and the money stopped flowing, so too did the economy which was based on that single high-demand "product". And with it all the amenities and luxuries the soldiers and officers had long grown used to.
Within a half a month, food imports ceased when the money finally ran out. At first there was merely the calm. But then as those with weapons turned on those without, the crying and wailing grew to become a nightly and national occurrence.
The old baker who had loved his pipe, stoned to death before his shop.
The butcher who had first taken to animals and who had finally been put to his block himself, after being accused of eating children.
The wives who had grown vegetables in the backyard; raped and cut from groin to jaw and left to rot in her own patch.
How is the value of a single life determined?
Was it by how much one produced during their lifetime? Was it by how much one's fellows appreciated and relied on them? By the amount of happiness they received? Or perhaps there lay a measure beyond that of rational minds, which only those beyond could determine truly.
Regardless, it seemed as if a life grew worthless in those desperate days that followed. Many were shot. More were beaten down in the streets. Examples, it was said. Sport, it was whispered.
Neighbor turned on neighbor. Families were dragged out and put up for display. Wives and children, strung out and left to dry. "This is what happens to those who resist. This is what happens to our enemies."
The stench he could recall even now.
He had vowed to make things right. Just as he had made an oath to make things right before. But where before one arrow had seemed sufficient to end the tyrannical rule, now there seemed to lay no recourse before him. No means of salvation, or making the sacrifices of those already dead mean something.
Loosed and sent flying.
Even as he struggled, nothing was to be done. He could not create food out of nothing, nor could he heal the sick without medicine. He could build shelters and protect them from those outside of it.
But not against those inside of it.
They thanked him with one breath and curse him with another. Then turned on one another for the smallest scraps of bread. For a canteen of pure water, children's heads were dashed against rocks and mothers were trampled underfoot.
Reaping the life of a lone dictator.
Surely if a man could live on the suffering of ten thousand others, then he could die for the salvation of a hundred thousand more. Those who lived by the sword died by the sword; surely one such man could not criticize him for striking them down?
An unerring shot as always. Yet without a doubt, he had missed his mark.