Humor Meets Horror – The Sniper’s Vigil, or A Close One


Empty hallway in Harlem apartment building.

She opened the door and screeched. The beast of a man lunged at her as she pulled back into her apartment. He pursued her, leaving a trail of wreckage in his wake. The woman threw anything in arm’s reach, a lamp, some pens, in an effort to slow him down, but nothing worked. She was cornered, as the man hung over her like some ravenous giant. She cowered. Then…

A snipe of a silenced gun. The beastly man, with a fresh hole in his forehead, fell down with a thud. From behind emerged a young man with a friendly smile. “That was a close one.”

Backtrack fifteen minutes. The sniper was waiting in a stairwell, ticking away the minutes before the woman came home. He pulled out the file. MS. KO- There’s a smudge. Must’ve been his boss. He sniffed the paper. “Ugh. Who puts ketchup on a salad?” His boss, that’s who.

He looked at the picture. She had big eyes, like some cartoon character. But look at that schnozz. It was a bit big and came to a point. Ina few decades, it might make her look like a witch. But right now, it was kind of cute. Keep a hold of yourself. He shouldn’t be thinking about girls like that, now that he might have one of his own. He recalled the evening before.

“I guess you can call me Spark,” for that was the code name they gave him and he wanted to give it a whirl.

“Oh my god, like the singer.”

It’s Sparks, but close enough. She didn’t look like the kind of person who would be into the alternative glam rock stylings of Maels Ron and Russell.

“I love her. She’s just great.”

She? Maybe she wasn’t talking about the band, but it didn’t matter. He got her number and any differences can be worked out during their courtship.

The man codenamed Spark pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket, with a number written on it. He then pulled out his phone and tried calling it. “The time for your current location is 9:47 PM.” Click.

“Damn…” This was the third time he’d gotten that clock. Three different girls and they all gave the same number. The sniper felt he should’ve recognized it by now, but maybe this time it was mistake. After his mission, he would have to troubleshoot, maybe even go back to that bar.

But the mission was more important now. “Make it look like we’re the good guys and bring her back to HQ,”his boss’s words echoed.That’s all he was told. It sounded weird. He knew the guys in the lab were cooking up some strange experiments, but he didn’t think they could be bad, or at least bad enough that they would need some good PR to balance it out.

He was just the new guy,a young sniper hired while he was still in school. Spark, the name he goes by now, joined because of how sci-fi they felt. Maybe they have a space station or moon colony, he thought after receiving their business card on that fateful day. A few years later, he’s still on planet Earth, waiting for some girl with a Cleopatra nose (a cute one, though, he rationed).

Yet, he didn’t regret his career. He felt like a bit like a spy, like James Bond without the Bond girls. On his first mission, the sniper was hired as backup for some military bigwig. For a short while, they stayed in a lavish hotel somewhere in the Alps. There he tried a martini, shaken not stirred, and spent the entire night in the bathroom. It was later discovered to be poisoned. It was a miracle he survived. Needless to say, this turned him off martinis and alcohol in general. A glass of water can be an easy substitute for vodka or gin, when the need arose.

He checked the time. 9:50 PM. She should be here any minute now.

He checked her profile again. Her nose wasn’t that big, he concluded after looking at the picture a second time.

Maybe I mis-dialed. He dialed the number from the paper again. “The time for-”, click.

The sniper looked out around the corner towards the hallway. No one was there. It was a bit eerie, he thought. Did people actually live here? He hadn’t seen anyone since he got there. What if, he pondered, there isn’t anyone here? What if they all got raptured and he was the only soul left on the planet? He tried to think what would be the first thing he’d do in that situation. Rob a bank, easy. He would like to go overseas, but he couldn’t pilot a plane nor drive a boat. That would be tricky. Would the electricity still work? It might break eventually. He’d probably have to learn how to garden, not to mention raise livestock. But would livestock still be around in this scenario?

A fly swarmed by him. I could always eat bugs. He toyed with the idea before. They couldn’t have tasted that bad, not if they’re deep-fried or covered in chocolate. He had been told they taste like chicken, but apparently everything that could be considered strange-yet-edible tastes like chicken.

He remembered that he didn’t have dinner, and was starving. Ideally he would like chicken. Maybe this girl wouldn’t mind stopping for a bite to eat on the way to HQ. Though he recalled that they’d like her back A.S.A.P. so stopping was probably out of the question. Maybe drive-thru.

The sniper wondered why they wanted her, though. The thought just dawned on him. She seemed normal enough. The info didn’t indicate anything special about her. No “E.S.P.” or “prone to psychic outbursts, express caution”. Maybe she was the daughter of a rival corporation. Would that make this a stealth kidnapping plot? Kill the perpetrator and bring the girl, making it look like the girl killed him and fled. He wondered.

He looked down the hall. Nothing. His stomach growled. He tried to judge how long it would take him to grab a bite to eat and come back. He didn’t remember seeing any fast food joints, but maybe there was a cart or truck that he missed. He checked the paper with the phone number again. On the opposite side was the name and number of the pub he was the night before. He dialed.

“Hello? I was wondering if you remember this girl from yesterday. She had… her hair was dyed…” He couldn’t quite make it out in his memory. It was either dyed lilac or platinum blonde. It could’ve been the lighting. Regardless, the person on the other end didn’t work the day before. “Oh, okay… do you think you can put someone on that was?… Thanks.”

He waited for the line to shift. He peered out the stairwell, down the hall. Still nothing. He headed back. “Hi. I was wondering. Do you remember this light-haired girl from last night?” He struggled to remember more about her. He wanted to say that she had a nose piercing, but it could’ve been this one girl he knew in high school. They looked a lot alike. Wait, did I go to high school with her?

The other man on the other end said he couldn’t remember. “Right. Thanks anyway.” The sniper hung up, defeated. Though maybe he can pull out an old yearbook and see if the two girls were the same.

The sniper lay down on the floor, head against the wall, equipment at his feet. There was a sliver of a window in the stairwell. It reminded him of the arrowslits that one would find along the walls of a castle. A slight red glow permeated into the area. Getting up to inspect it, he was elated to find that it was coming from a small restaurant across the way. He glanced back to check to see if anyone was coming. He then glanced back outside. Then to the hall. Then back outside. It’ll just be five minutes.

It was quite dark and derelict when he walked out of the apartment. The restaurant glowed like some beacon in the night, ushering ships into the bay. It was Indian. The sniper would’ve preferred something else, but beggars can’t be choosers, as the saying goes.

He tried to pull on the door. It didn’t open. He jiggled it a few more times, just in case. The lights were still on, but no one was inside. He started banging on the glass. “Hello! Is anybody there? Hungry customer!” He felt a bit weird calling out.

An old, surly looking man teetered in from some backroom. He didn’t look Indian, so much as he looked Eastern European. He opened the door and in a thick Ukrainian accent, he said “Sorry. Closed.”

“But the sign says open.”

Sure enough, some of the red glow came from a neon “open” sign. The surly foreigner quickly turned it off.

“But it’s only 10.”

“Sorry. Not open. Come back tomorrow.”

“I’ll take whatever’s easiest. Anything that’s not in the garbage already. Heck, I’ll take whatever’s in the garbage if it’s still on top.” None of this getting through to the old codger, the sniper noticed. “I have money see?” The sniper pulled out some random bills he had in his pocket.

The surly foreigner did. But he shook his head, muttered something in his native tongue and closed the door, turning off the lights during the process. The snipe hung his head on the door in defeat. Then his stomach grumbled. Crushed, he headed back to the apartment.

When he returned inside, there was no one in the lobby, just as he last saw it. He fished around for his phone until…

A woman screeched. Immediately he bolted off.

Now in the stairwell, he collapsed in front of his equipment. Pulling out various parts of a rifle, he assembled, with the methodical precision of someone who could do it blindfolded. In a hurry, he grabbed an ammo cartridge and burst into the hall.

Crap. Crap. Crap. He checked the time. 10:00 on the dot. Our metaphorical white rabbit was running late. He struggled to put in the ammo as he shuffled to the girl’s apartment. You had one job.Without a second spared to aim, he fired. Whew. The target fell. In the nick of time.

“That was a close one.”

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