Big Echo

Critical SF

Purple Heart

by Sierra July

Hitomi uncapped a marker and drew a circle on her chest, just above her heart. She then flooded her eyes with drops before stepping outside. Her eyes showed her all she needed. The stats of every civilian haloed their heads: heart rate, blood glucose levels, life span.

She scanned the crowd for the one thing she was looking for. Her heart skipped when she spotted it, a life expectancy of two hundred years, and she took off in pursuit.

As she sped up, so did her mind, her heart . . . The man’s life line flickered and she slowed her pace a bit.

Making her heart pump too fast would fizzle out the effect. She could recall when she got her curse, the cool of the operation table and the dead eyes of the operators gawking at her above blue masks.

The incision was fingernail-line that traveled above her belly button. From there a tube had been inserted, coursing through one of her veins, staining a trail till it found and licked her heart with a kind of ink. That purple venom was what would make her task possible.

In the park, she closed in on the man. Taking a syringe from her pocket, she popped the cap from the needle and plunged it into her chest where she’d drawn a circle. She felt her heart purr as she suctioned her unusual lifeblood for three seconds, time for ten units exactly, just enough. That same syringe went into the man’s neck and drained.

The man turned. A threat flashed in his eyes, but he was already changing.

The whites of his eyes painted themselves purple with his blink. Hitomi’s attention was not on the transformation though; she watched the Countdown. It was the same every time, just as standard as the eye color change, but there was something about the Countdown. Years dropped in seconds: 200 to 150, 100 . . . 85 — that’s where it stopped.

The man, looking dazed, and bitter because of it, stumbled off. He would never again recall his alien roots, Hitomi knew. Ironically the bizarre liquid that coursed through her had morphed him into a man like any other. He wouldn’t recall her being the cause either, a few follow-ups on her first encounters had confirmed that.

It was like her, after her change. The purple-out drowned all images from the eyes and separated them permanently from the part of the brain that could make sense of them. Her face would mean nothing because she had never happened, the two had never met.

This mission was done, but there were more for another day, an infinite number for all she knew. But she was making her mark, diminishing their numbers, sometimes by as many as ten a day.

She smiled, marching home, watching the variable figures above everyone’s heads fade. Who’d have thought a weapon meant to destroy humanity could adjust to saving it. Her life might be shredded and mangled with her own Countdown ticking at a faster than normal pace. Still, she had about a year. Still, she could spit in their faces with her purple poison.

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