I know you.

I mean I really know you.

All your achievements and all the failures. All the peccadillos, all the bravado in front of your accomplices—and the fear and trepidation you feel when nobody else is around and you’re home alone late at night.

You live your life of desperation, striving for success in the eyes of your peers, hoping all the while that you can avoid the inevitable confrontation with me. But our meeting is unavoidable, and whether it’s by gun, sword, bomb or any of the myriad other means available to me, I will win and you will lose. And I will win because you fear me—you always have and you always will.

I am the one enemy with whom you will never be able to reason because I know how you think and I choose to be unreasoning and unreasonable. If ever the day comes that you become cocky and overconfident and think that you can defeat me, you had better join the Witless Protection Program, because I will not be beaten. I am invincible, and all you can do is fight to stave off the inevitable.

Since some powers that be saw fit to publish this in a weapons and tactics-oriented magazine, allow me to explain yourself to you in terms related to those two subjects.

You have an interest in weapons and/or tactics for a variety of reasons: You find the subject matter intrinsically interesting, or you have a puerile wish to put a “notch” on your gun, or you wish to further your knowledge in both fields to gain the Edge in battle, or you want to find out what the latest goings-on are so you can pass them on to trainees who have been placed under your tutelage. Or about a dozen other reasons, but these are the primary ones.

If you merely have a base interest in the subject matter, that’s fine, but it’s probably just that—a base interest—the same level of curiosity which is appeased by your subscriptions to various other periodicals relating to computer graphics, the construction of log homes, or gourmet cooking.

If you wish to carve notches on your pistol butt, rest assured you’ll never run into me, because someone else will kill you long before you have the displeasure of my acquaintance. I’ll be there in spirit when you jump off the twig, but you’ll have saved me the energy of having to kill you myself.

The person who is studying to gain information and improve his current levels of knowledge and physical ability is the interesting kettle of fish. He is often experienced in the ways and means of physical conflict, and when and where he dies is dependent on the whims of my mood at any given time. Sometimes I’ll snuff out his life in his first contact, and sometimes he’ll have a long and checkered fighting career, along with all the attendant medals and parades. But sooner or later I’ll become tired of his game, and his Expiration Date will become overdue.

I will choose when, where and how he dies. And I will choose whether he dies as a hero in his peers’ eyes, or branded as a coward forever. Because while you insist on categorizing people as heroes or cowards, I know better. Sometimes there are behavioral patterns in battle, and sometimes there aren’t, but the fine line between hero and coward is just that—an ultra fine line. One tiny facet or incident can turn a lionheart into a perceived chicken in the blink of an eye—and the man who ran from me once may be released to stare unblinkingly at his fate a dozen times in the future, but he will always be known as a coward.

The Fourth Reader, the illustrious firearms instructor, is the one I find emotionally the easiest to put to death. Since there are only two types of trainers—those who have honor and integrity, and those who don’t—the choice is easy; the choosing of a time and a place is not.

Unless either one braces me face-to-face, I’ll usually give both what is commonly regarded as a long lifespan for two different reasons. The long serving Old School have invariably earned their stripes the hard way and, like hunted game, deserve a quick and accurate bullet. They often spent much time in battle and then passed on their hard-earned knowledge to others who were their junior in both years and experience.

Many members of the new breed, however, are of the ilk who have false resumes, have coasted to notoriety on others’ shirt tails and have no mitigating redeeming qualities except that sometimes their third-hand information actually does help a blinkered trainee.

So why let him live when he’s so easy to kill? Sometimes causing somebody’s end brings savage satisfaction—even in my job. And there’s nothing much more satisfying than causing the sins of the father to be visited on the sons. To see the clan of someone living for years after his killing known as the Descendants of The Liar is justice indeed.

Distasteful? Maybe. Ugly? Maybe. Hated by all who read this? Yes. But then I don’t care one whit what you think of me, because I know you—and I own you.

By the way, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Death, and we’ll be meeting soon enough.

Have a nice life.

[This column first appeared in the April 2007 issue of S.W.A.T.]

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