by James Hartman


Human beings hear my name and their systems shut down, or rocket into hyperdrive.  They turn white or red with fear.  I’ve seen people, stimulated by panic, strike their heads so hard they administer themselves unconscious.  Others, by then, are too weak to much move.  Many things, of course, bother me, but the one that hurts the most is that people think I have a choice in this, that I actually want to kill them.  Since the beginning I have never had a choice.  We can only influence our purpose so incrementally.  Our destinies, no matter how unjust we may deem them, are preset.  Very early on, I begged God to free me of mine.  I don’t want to do this, I cried.  I begged for I don’t know how long.  During one infinitely black night, God actually answered.  He said he would give me the stars.  Stunned, then incensed, I asked how the stars could possibly save me.  He’s never answered.  I used to squint up at them, appearing one by one, twinkling in their mockery of me.  But I don’t look at them anymore.

What human beings do not realize about me is this: I suffer whenever I am inflicted upon someone.  Every time it begins, though I know too well how moot it is, I make the attempt to restrain myself.  Yet the more I restrain myself the more I hurt.  The pain is a billion, increasingly long suffocations.  I cannot do anything except, reluctantly, give in.  Over and over and over again.  I stopped believing in God, and because of this my perspective gradually transformed.  The anger directed towards God, as well as at myself, turned itself inside out and lampooned those I was inflicted upon.  Why?  I didn’t know at the time, but I understand now that I was upset at them for not fighting back.  All those years I assaulted them and they submitted to surrender.  I hated the taste of their resignation.  I hated the stink of their cowardice.  I hated them more than I hated how powerless I was to stop myself from inflicting their death.

After many years of accruing hatred, a little thing called technology, these profound advancements in the medical field, began to nibble at my hate.  It wasn’t enough to cause me to hate less.  Anger still consumed me with just as much intensity when these medical advances could not, ultimately, stop my end result.  For a while I was confused.  Were my powers strengthening?  I could not bear that.  My ability to inflict death and innumerable waves of consequential grief and pain were bad enough.  To get better at it?  No.  That was too much.  Though, the ironic thing about believing you have surpassed the limit of your capability to withstand pain is that, somehow, you merely continue moving forward.  For almost all human beings, this can be an electrifying metamorphosis, exactly what is needed to revolutionize their faith.  For me, it is simple, purified torture.

Everything changed not that long ago when, as a result of additional profound medical advances, or something else I have still not been able to explain, a human being resisted me.  Although I always, every time, attempt to pull back, my curse inevitably conquers me and wields its harm upon that human being until there is nothing left in that human being to destroy.  This time, against this human being, my curse strangely failed.  For so long I had heard human beings describe how tired they were without ever understanding the concept.  Now my curse seemed to wither, depleted of its core power.  It was suddenly overmatched.  I cannot articulate with any kind of satisfaction how joyful this tired feeling, peculiar as it was, made me.  Finally, I didn’t have to do what it is I’ve always been preset to do, what I have so vehemently despised, what I have longed to be purged of.  Through my fatigue I developed, for the first time, a sense of power.  After each new occasion in which a human being resisted me, I grew more tired and simultaneously more powerful, undeniably weaker yet stronger, so exuberant that I was not anymore inflicting as much death, and grief, and pain.

I say to you now it’s by no means perfect, that sometimes my infliction, my curse, because of varying circumstances, persists and ruthlessly erases a human being’s life.  But the numbers are declining.  This positive direction in which we’re heading sometimes makes me wonder if God truly does exist.  I can’t say for sure.  Pertaining to this subject I know just one thing: if God does exist then in every single horrific event there must be a lesson taught.

The lesson I like to think I have learned is that someday I will die, and when I do human beings will rejoice.  I’ve seen so many tears in my life, but for once, when a death occurs, not a single one will spill.  As happy as this world of human beings will be when I am gone forever, no one, I promise you, will be happier or more at peace than me.




James Hartman’s fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best Small Fictions, and appears in Per Contra, Blue Fifth Review, Gravel Literary Journal, and Jellyfish Review, among others.  His scholarly work is featured in The Hemingway Review.  He has several degrees, including a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and lives in Michigan with his wife.  He writes for SB Nation.