The Last Request
He brought me a rose. Such a lovely gesture really, a rose. A token of love for many – how ironic I was given one on the day of my demise.
They were my roses, you know, in the beginning. He grew them for me, to brighten up my days. That too is irony. For I was his executioner.
We have one thing in common, this masked man and I. We are harbingers of death.
Yes, I can finally admit it now. I am a killer – one who had the best intentions – but a killer nonetheless. I did not administer death through knives or bullets; I had a much more insidious weapon. Death came from the end of a syringe. The same end he has foreseen for me.
I am at peace, truly. I welcome death – the end of my nightmare. It is my time.
But there is one more thing I wish to do. Is it not traditional to get one last request?
So I make mine. I have nothing to lose.
It's a simple thing for most, really, to show their face. People do it every day without thinking. It's such a vital part of human interaction. Yet I know it is no easy feat for the man before me to remove his mask. His true self is buried behind so many layers of pain.
I ask him all the same, expecting a no for an answer. But behold…my last request is granted. He is kinder to me than I was to him. Gloved hands reach for the white façade that covers his face, carefully removing it.
There is hesitation. I expected there to be. He will not turn back, though, I know him too well for that. He's not the kind of man who changes his mind. A second passes…the longest second of my life. Then finally, his face is free.
It's not the face I remember, looking back at me from his cell. Nor is it the face I saw rising from the fire – the angry, eyeless monster coming out of the flames.
There is damage, yes. The skin is a map of scars. Some are white; some are pink, some close to red. Some rise, some fall, some lay flat on his face in rest. The skin looks melted in parts, surreal to see on a human being. The nose is deformed, the lips are undefined, connecting with equally destroyed skin. There's damage from fire, damage from debris and damage from my own experiments, too. The story of his life, written on his skin, sprawled out for me to see.
I remember how ugly I thought him to be the first time I met him. I found all prisoners ugly. The darkies, the queers, the rebels…they were monstrous to me. Years of indoctrination by Norsefire had seen to that. I did not think of them as human. They were something far baser than that.
The man in room five had been no exception. While he was my favourite lab rat – a lab rat was all he was. I never thought of him as a man. I could never have found him handsome. Looking back, I realise he was. He had been all along, but I had been too blind to see it.
I have changed through the years, no matter what others believe. I no longer see others as subhuman. If anything - I am the monster in his room. His face isn't monstrous. It's not even ugly.
His eyes…his eyes are so beautiful. They look at me with sadness and compassion. I ache for him. I cannot help but love this man who finds compassion for butcher. It's genuine, I can see it. He takes no pleasure in killing. Nor did I, but I took pleasure in my work – and that in itself was monstrous. I deserve far worse than the mercy killing he devised or me.
I wish I could kiss him. I wish I had before. Not out of some silly lustful whim, but out of love. Yes, I do love him, this man who wishes to make the world a better place. He will succeed, of that I'm certain…and creatures like me will have no place in the new world of his making.
The poison is already doing its work. It won't be long now. I should use my last moments wisely.
My hand is heavy when I reach out to him. I can see in his eyes he wants to pull away, but in his kindness he allows me one more touch before I say goodbye. And for the first time, I do not touch him to hurt him – but to heal him. My fingers land on scarred skin, touching his cheek.
His eyes meet mine. We are not so different, him and I. In another life, we might have been friends. I can no longer grant him my friendship. I can only grant him the truth. My diary is already waiting for him on the nightstand, my last and only present to him.
I look at his face one more time.
"It's beautiful", I whisper. "You're beautiful".
Perhaps he will never know that those last words were not a lie. Perhaps he'll mistake them for kindness. Perhaps he'll think I grew delusional near the end. But I will not exit this world a liar; I already have enough sins to carry with me. I helped create him. I love him. He's beautiful to me.
He smiles at me sadly, knowing the end is near. His face…his face is the last thing I'll ever see.
And I would not want it any other way.