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The Faceless One
1,000 words (and that's EXACT)
The Faceless One
One-shot. This is all you get.
This is my entry!
As the heading reads, this is my entry into oneshot competition. It's been a blast to write, and if you're reading this, you should join the fun! The contest ends on July 28th.'s
Now, let's get to...
One of little faith seldom asks himself where he'll end up after death claims him. Those who choose to follow the path of science don't tend question where they'll go, because most of them already know their answer. Usually, this is, simply, "nowhere."
Where did old man Hung go? Nowhere.
What about that cute waterbender from the coffee shop? Nowhere.
Where would the Lieutenant go? Nowhere.
And more importantly, where was he going now? The beaten man hustled out of the store room, weaving through a grove of tarp-covered storage crates. In the semidarkness, they could've been metal trees. Or maybe Mecha Tanks.
Behind him was belief. Passion. Meaning. The future? Hell, no matter what it was, if it had been important to him, the Lieutenant was dashing away from it.
Ahead of him lay... You guessed it. Nothing. Nowhere.
Doors flew open. He pushed past them into the corridor beyond. Fluorescent tubes wept weak light on him as he powered forward. Each step was a lunge. Each heartbeat a dynamo's whir.
Who the hell was he? That was an old question. He'd left that one in Dragon Flats along with who the hell is Amon? And where'd my bending go?
"The Lieutenant" hadn't been his birth name. Obviously, it would've taken some pretty sadistic parents to come up with that.
Amon had chosen it for him.
He'd only been valuable as a scare tactic. Another face to put on the revolution. You feared Amon, but if you tried hunting him down, or spying on him, you ended up fearing "the Lieutenant" a lot more.
He burst through another door, and descended a staircase. His path corkscrewed downward, until he screeched to a halt at the bottom floor.
He considered opening this door slowly. The rally-goers had seen Amon the waterbender tumble out of the window. They would ask questions.
He clenched the handle like a kali stick in combat. He even thought he felt that familiar charge tickle his hand through the steel. But that was only for a moment. He wrenched the door open before it could creep any farther into his veins.
Some people turned to stare. Others threw things. The Lieutenant only kept walking.
His name was Zheng Wong. And he had been an earthbender.
He had liked it once: shooting the pebbles at birds, making hovels for himself when his dad would throw him out in the street. It had always been kind of fun.
Then, he grew up. He watched his sister be brutalized by an earthbender from the triple-threats. Right on his front porch.
He watched the same earthbender kill her seconds later. And then, he'd gone out and killed that earthbender. Right on what was left of his front porch.
At that moment, standing in that wreath of mud and blood, Zheng had realized what it was that made this world so hard to bear.
No longer would he pity the nonbenders, because now he understood what made them so special. They were the ones who had it all figured out. A nonbender argument couldn't burn down a house or tear a street apart.
Zheng brooded over this as he stalked through the crowds. The rebellion was falling apart around him, and he found refuge in the blur of shouts and cries. Plus, most people didn't recognize him with his mask off. He was still wearing his battery pack, but by the time people put two-and two together, he'd be lost in the masses.
Amon had promised him everything: power, protection, but most of all, an end to the injuries: the frostbite cases and the burn victims.
And after all those hollow promises, Amon had been a bender himself. It had never been an Equalist revolution. It had been a power grab by a maniac.
Maybe, in time, a new order would be achieved. But not through the way of the benders. By trying to force it, they had only lowered themselves to their level.
Zheng was running again. His feet pattered along the grungy pier, crunching through the occasional frozen puddle. Snow dappled the ground before him.
He tore his gloves off as he finally stumbled onto the mainland. It was freezing out, but he didn't care. He hurled them into the ocean without a second thought.
His name was Zheng Wong.
The sticks soon followed. He ripped them off his back, and—after snapping them in half on his knee—threw the weapons into the waves.
Again, he thought he felt the static. But before he knew for sure, they were gone. Lost in the roiling sea.
He tore off the rest of his battle gear, and heaved it into a nearby dumpster.
Then, he clambered on top of that dumpster, and sat down on a crumpled couch. Dust ballooned outward, and he answered with a coughing fit, but it felt good. As he raked the dust from his lungs, it almost felt like he was raking something else too. Something thick like mucus but vital like blood. It felt like he was finally dredging out his soul.
And then he felt the cable's sting. The metal cord whipped his shoulder hard from behind, and he fell face-first off the couch and into the garbage.
He spat out a wet packet of cigarettes as footfalls crunched towards him.
"You bet it is."
The police were back.
They had him out of the dumpster in ten seconds, and had him rising up to a passing airship in thirty.
Zheng Wong watched his sofa shrink with each passing second. He could've fought.
He didn't want to.
The Lieutenant stared back at him; from the dumpster, from his cracked goggles in the storage room, and from somewhere beneath the waves.
When he'd finished ascending, the metalbenders grabbed him, and hoisted Zheng into the holding bay.
There would be no trial; he was going to prison.
Despite everything, Zheng smiled.
At least he was going somewhere.
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