It is what you do that defines you. I think Batman said that, and it is therefore beyond question. This is my way of agreeing with my black caped idol. I have to admit though, writing it made me wonder about people a lot. Remember the last person you met, who smiled and treated you nice and gave you compliments. I wonder what they were really thinking, under that cheerful mask? How many people you meet are sociopaths who just have yet to make their first kill? Or just have yet to be caught? Makes ya think… enjoy!


By Ben Pienaar


When I was a boy, I set my neighbour’s house on fire. Over the course of several months I killed half the pets in the surrounding areas of my neighbourhood. Fortunately, I was a very intelligent young boy, and no one ever found out it was me. No one knew it was me who disembowelled Hamish Donner either, because they never found his body.


If you see him on the street, he smiles. He’s always cheerful; tells jokes and laughs and makes delightfully intelligent conversation. In day to day life, he has the charisma of the most charming of politicians, but the real charm, people will tell you, is that he has no idea about it.

People who know him well say he’s a good person. They love him, and they think he loves them too. His tongue begins to wag and everyone leans in to listen, to see what funny or interesting or just plain nice thing he has to say.

He’s a talented diplomat, and rose high in the government. May be president one day, they say. He’s rich, but he gives his money away at every turn and his living standard is modest at best. Entire charities live off his income. No poor man can enter his line of sight and then leave it still poor. He attends church every Sunday, and has friends there too, and they talk about doing good and helping people.

And he despises it.

Every day, he wakes up and begins his perfect, disciplined and virtuous routine. It consists of healthy meals, quality time with his wife and kids, a day of good work, and a night of even more work, perhaps some socialising, and finally relaxing. He does nothing in excess, never speaks badly or behaves immorally in the slightest, and he has only one enemy in all the world: himself.


No one knew, and while then I was only a smart boy, I was growing into a genius killer. I had plans drawn up in a secret language in several notebooks, and they were going to deliver me great power, and I was going to do great things. Terrible things, most would say, but for me they would have been great. Death, blood, murder, and absolute power. Like a God.

I was so close, so close to beginning my Grand Plan For Everything when I turned twenty and became possessed. Some hideous thing, a creature of burning light and sickening warmth crawled, slimed its way through my ear and into my brain while I was asleep, and when I woke I was no longer in control of my body.

Some things, I was able to do myself, like get out of bed and shower and eat breakfast. The first thing happened when I was on the school bus and one of the others dared to make fun of me. It had happened twice before, and the first time I’d cornered the one who did it when he was alone and used my knife to scare him very, very badly. The second time was Hamish Donner.

I turned to flip him the bird and maybe yell something dirty at him, a part of me almost hoping to provoke him, so I’d have no choice but to get rid of him in that brilliant, exhilarating way of mine. My hand came up and… waved. I smiled pleasantly, and turned back around.

None of these motions were of my own doing. Mentally, I was screaming obscenities, rushing down the aisle to beat him to a pulp, anything. I sat there for a while, outwardly calm but searching my thoughts for this odd presence I felt. Now it had used its power I could really feel it, an actual weight on my brain, pressing against my skull, pulling wires and reconnecting them in disturbing ways.

What the fuck are you? I asked it.

Your happy saviour, it said, full of merriment, and I was filled with hatred.


He has an odd clumsiness about him, some say, though if anything it only serves to make him more endearing. Still, there have been a few near misses, and had it not been for his habit of surrounding himself with friends and loved ones most of his life, he might even have died.

One Gavin Smith recalls him almost falling from a fifth floor balcony, despite the sturdy railing, and only escaped death when Gavin reached out and grabbed his shirt as he went over. Another time his hands slipped on his steering wheel and he almost hit a wall if he hadn’t recovered his reflexes just in time.


I try to kill myself almost every day, but after the first few times the Angel was ready for it and now it’s nearly impossible. It has to be distracted somehow, or at least very tired, before I can even begin. Every now and again I get past him, though, and one day I hope I might get through, maybe. All it takes is a break in his concentration and I’ll be… Where? Hell? Shit, I’m already there; it can’t be worse than this.


Despite his success, there have been occasional rumours, and strange moments during the course of his career that have sometimes cast only the slightest of shadows on his impeccable reputation. In one bizarre interview, he responded to a question with an expression of what can only be described as utter hatred. A moment later his face went blank, and then he smiled and answered the question normally, later dismissing the expression by saying he had a bad taste in his mouth.

He often demonstrated his love of the people by having private talks to random citizens. One of these, Harry Cane, told his family of a strange and completely uncharacteristic occurrence. All was normal and pleasant, he said, until near the end of the encounter when he said goodbye and extended his hand. The vice president took it, but instead of shaking, he squeezed it so hard that Harry cried out in agony.

‘When I looked up I saw a face on him. Or not a face a – an expression. He was just as happy as a clam, not like anything was wrong but like he was really enjoying it. His eyes were wide open and his mouth was open in this big wide smile like he just won the lottery and couldn’t believe it. He raised his left hand up in a fist and then just shook his head and let go and apologised. Weirdest thing I ever saw.’

These instances, while incredibly rare and hard to find credible information about (as he is of course so well loved) nevertheless seem to be happening more and more as the vice president ages.


I try to kill people all the time. Oh, yes, not a day goes by when I don’t try to slice or dice something. Even with my bare hands, if I can cause some good pain in a day, I consider it a big win. If I’m not trying to kill myself, of course. Nowadays, I don’t do that as much as I used to.

The old bastard is starting to get weak. Funny thing about having no real control over my own body: I get to spend every last ounce of energy I have on the fight. Sometimes, I just let myself rest and doze while he’s occupying himself with the day, and then, right when he lies down to get some shuteye… bam! I’m there, fighting him for the chance to grab that letter opener and ram it in my eye.

It’s taken thirty years or so, but I’m getting into my groove now. Conserve energy, strike when he’s weak. Any normal person would have given in after a week, but this guy no, this… thing is supernatural, obviously. I think it’s some kind of Angel. I mean, if Demons possess all the good guys, what else would it be? Supernatural or not, though… He’s getting weak. Every now and again, I catch him off guard, and every time it takes him a little longer to get back control.

Well, fuck him. There’s got to be a balance, doesn’t there? He’s had me, used me for his goddamn good. He took the best years of my life, too. Fine, the next thirty are mine then – if I even live that long. And I’m going to start my Grand Plan. Oh, I bet he won’t be laughing then. I bet he’ll get a spanking when the big guy upstairs realises that he spent thirty years putting me in a position of supreme power on earth only to weaken just in time for me to abuse it.

I bet he won’t be laughing then, hell no. But I will.



  1. Gero said:

    Again: Your concepts are excellent. Cool idea for sure. My eyes tripped at “He often demonstrated his love of the people”, should be “for the people”, I suppose.

    I haven’t read anything by Joe Abercrombie yet by the way, though he is well known on this side of the pond, too. But at this point I’m catching up on some classics (Hemingway etc. etc.), that is: when I find time to actually read ;-).
    Angel: Not sure about Hamish Donner. It’s either a weird twist or you contradict yourself. First he claims to have disemboweled the guy, then he just waves pleasantly.

    You switch perspective in this one, I like that. But the narrator talking about the protagonist, has a newsreader’s tone of voice. That kills the suspense somewhat, I find. Not sure how I’d change it, maybe make it a personal friend (not one of the church yuppies) or a teacher, talking to a class in a dystopian future (His Dystopia in this one then :D).

    The true personality of the protagonist and his thoughts are well written, wouldn’t change much around there. But I have a proposition for another twist. I don’t think, I have to elaborate more than this:
    No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one is true. (Hawthorne)

    Maybe kill the dialogue with the “angel” then or make unclear, who is who. But then again only a suggestion once more 😉


  2. Ah Hemingway. I wasn’t a big fan of most of his stories, to be honest. The only one I really enjoyed was ‘The old man and the sea’ and some of his short stories, but knowing me I probably missed the point. With the Hamish Donner thing, I can see how it’s a bit vague. In that part, he talks about two kids who, in the past, he attacked: first scaring with a knife and then disembowelling the second. The person he actually waves at, though, is only referred to as ‘one of the others’. So I should probably clarify that. Killing the dialogue with the angel is a very interesting idea… I’m worried it might confuse the reader, but maybe I’m not giving the reader enough credit… I will think about this. Also, what’s this novel of yours you mentioned? Is there some way I could read it or is it still in the editing phase? Thanks for the help! always good to have a critical eye.
    – Ben

  3. said:

    De nada man, de nada. My novel is indeed still in the editing phase, which is a bit frustrating by now. But every time I fix some thing, another pops up. So that one is gonna keep me busy for quite a while yet. Also it’s in German and a translated version is not definite yet. If it picks up here, I’ll do it, but since it’s a dystopia chances are probably rather slim. Anyways I have a couple short stories too, one of which I’ll translate in the next couple weeks. Gonna send it to you via e-mail once it’s done.

    • I know exactly how you feel. So much. That’s cool though, look forward to it!
      – Ben

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