Killing was intended to be swift, Abui felt. It was to be swift to leave the killer indifferent, for contemplation often resulted in hesitation. And hesitation in turn, bred foolish empathy and wasted precious working hours. Only experienced ones like Abui had this fact carved into their psyche.
Today would mark his hundredth killing. He had only begun to count after half a dozen or so untidy attempts. After those amateur days, he picked up the rare skill of breaking necks before cutting off the head in one stroke. His count then began after his first successful slaughter.
Once you have killed like Abui has, you learn to ignore many signs. You barely hear muffled whimpers as you wrap pitiless fingers around warm oesophaguses. You overlook blinking, sorrowful eyes as you break necks. And when the blood drains, all you calculate is how long it will take to clean the mess.
Abui clutched the neck, mechanically twisted it and ended the sounds of a life clinging to its last breath. But when he held the sharp edges of his knife to the throat, a few novel thoughts invaded his apathy.
Was this method really painless? Was there really no pain once the neck was broken and the vain struggles ceased? What did it mean for death to be painless?… In fact, what is pain?
He had no time to mull over these questions as new ones bombarded him simultaneously.
Was there something really special about this killing? It was of course his hundredth. That meant something, he thought. Maybe I should cut the throat very slowly in reverence. Perhaps I should lick a bit of the blood. No, that seemed too sinister and gross. For all the power the act of killing gave, he was a gentle man in his line of work. He never picked up the grisly part of the act.
His thoughts began to stray to strange mental territories and he ventured into speculations on souls, life after death and immortality. He thought of himself and wondered how he’d die. Would he face a similar fate or would he die an old man in some comfortable bed surrounded by people who respected him in spite of his chosen occupation.
He shook his head ferociously to drive away the thoughts that were above his level of reasoning. He lifted the knife and brought it down with deliberate force. The tiny head split from the neck and exposed veins spouted red blood in every direction. Abui smiled at his hundredth. Then, he picked up the dead bird and plucked its feathers with delight.