The Ultimate Solution
fantasy by Brian J. Hunt
The gun in my pocket dragged down my coat almost as much as the thought of what was about to happen weighed upon my mind.
The path leading to the falls was steep and my hip pained me more with each step. I stopped briefly at a lookout to watch my train finally depart the station below, and inwardly laughed at the folly of my having purchased a return ticket.
From my familiarity with this trail I knew the overlook at the top was near. It seemed right for this to end here, one of the few places we had shared our brief happiness. I was resolved to see this through. Having allowed him to ruin my life was penance for my sins, but now he had turned his attentions on an old army colleague of mine. Sullying the lives of others for what I had done was something I could not allow, not even for him.
I remember looking forward to having him in my class when I saw his name on the student roster. His brother had been in my class previously and I hoped he would prove as interesting as his sibling. Finding a student of real talent makes the drudgery of teaching the rest of the dullards bearable. I never anticipated how attractive his enthusiasm could be, or how weak I was. The vices of my youth were too strong. I was the teacher, he the eager student.
After he left university I did not see him for several years.
Then letters were sent to my superiors that threatened public exposure of my improprieties. Inquiries were made and my refusal to defend myself was taken as acknowledgment of my guilt. Because of this, another received my promotion and privately I was asked to find a position elsewhere. It would spare both the college and myself the scandal a dismissal would engender.
Casting seeds of enquiry on the winds of academia, I found the ground had already been strewn with salt and none found fertile soil. I was met with polite, but firm denials. We met briefly at my urging, but I found he had fallen into melancholia and drug addiction. For him, what we had once shared was transformed into hateful obsession and insanity. After that I tried to keep a watch on him from afar. I felt I owed him that much for permanently skewing the course of his life, but the gutter sweepings I could afford to employ after my dismissal provided irregular help at best.
As he spiraled further into an expensive drug habit, he found it necessary to take in a lodger. I saw how close they were and hoped he had found someone to help him back from the abyss, but it was not to be. When his partner married and took up a new residence, my former student saw it as yet another betrayal and fell further into the grip of his addictions. In his delusional world I was responsible for any setback in his life, any oddity of his surroundings.
Visits from the police became a regular occurrence. I was found blameless of course, but this only added to his paranoia. So I made a tale to draw him here, embellishing it with pieces of his more lurid drug induced fantasies. A phantasmagoria of crime and intrigue straight from the pages of a penny dreadful. A missive I knew he could not ignore.
Having reached the overlook at last, I settled on one of the benches provided. My hip was spasming and I despaired at the all too likely chance that it would render me helpless. However I far preferred being unable to stand again to falling at an inopportune time. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths to slow the racing of my heart. A much younger man mounted this trail when last I was here, his body not yet ravaged by time and care.
I let the roar of the falls be a balm to my weariness. Opening my eyes upon hearing his approach, I was appalled to behold the scarecrow he had become. The once stylish clothes were now ragged and indifferently cleaned. His hair was long and unkempt, desperately in want of cutting. His cheeks were gaunt and covered in stubble. He spied me at last, his eyes wide and crazed. I could see he was in the thrall of the drug even now. I lurched to my feet as he reached into a pocket and produced a letter.
“John knows where I am!” Setting the letter aside, he secured it with an object from his pocket.
“It’s over,” I exclaimed. “It must end here. I let you blame me, to destroy me for what I did. I had hoped it would help you to find some kind of peace, but now you threaten my friends. I cannot allow you to do that.”
I drew the revolver from my pocket and saw the fear dawn in his eyes.
“This isn’t for you..” my heart broke at that look. “How could you think that?”
The muzzle felt cold against my temple. “Perhaps my death will finally be enough for you.”
“What plan is this?” he screamed. “What grand machinations do you employ? How does this serve your evil schemes?”
I looked at him with pity. The ruin of what he might have been if only I had let him be. I steeled myself before I could change my mind and pulled the trigger. At the last moment, I flinched. The shot was not as clean as I had hoped but the pain in my head was still unbearable. I caught his cry of anguish, loud enough to be heard over the ringing in my ears, and I saw him rush towards me. I threw myself backwards towards where I knew the drop over the falls to be. I felt my foot on open air and then I was falling.
Forgive me Sherlock. I love you.
Copyright April 2012 by Brian J. Hunt.
Brian J. Hunt lives near Portland, OR. He is the editor of several books on vintage art including, The Outlandish Art of Mahlon Blaine and the series of GB Graphics Tijuana Bible Archives. He recently celebrated his first fiction sale at Everyday Fiction.