An exchange of greetings, pleasant and light. Scrolls of parchment are placed on the counter amidst idle conversation. Expressions of thanks, a wave of goodbye, and the mild bustle of the lazy streets fills the air. Sweet aromas waft from here and there, talking and laughter lighten his load. His gait is lazy, meandering almost, as he approaches his home and hangs his bag on the rack by the entryway.
The aromas here are not sweet, but he can no longer smell them. They are almost choking in their bitterness-expected as poisons were never meant to be sweet. Painstakingly created maps adorn the walls, the yellowing parchment frayed on the edges, curling inward, wriggling the tacks that hold them in place loose. Every day another tack must be replaced if only so they don't fall down. It is only too easy for him to avoid them.
He sits at his workstation, a small plate with a bright cupcake atop it by his side, its cheery pink icing matching the bright purples and greens that sit in vials before him. He begins to mix the liquids, as he always had each time an assignment was completed; he vowed to never find himself dry in the field when he needed them most.
Three drops of green. Two drops of purple. One bite of the pink cake.
The crumbs fall onto the table-he brushes them off and pours the mixture into a single dart. It is placed on a waiting tray. He repeats the process. The cake is gone after only six darts. His mouth is slowly drying, the residues of the confection greedily siphoning away his saliva. He sips from a canteen and continues his work. His mouth runs dry again and a small leap of fear rises in his heart. He sets the dart down and examines his fingers. There is no drop of red, no prick that was felt and so the fear subsides and he takes another swig from the canteen. The baker used more sugar this time.
The tray is full, and hours have passed. He rubs his eyes and yawns. Company would be knocking at his door soon, he would not nap. He could not.
He hears screams and cries amidst the silence of a forest. He sees a muddy gaggle of men, huddled together, not daring to inch another step, their ranks swelling with confusion and fear. Crumpled bodies pepper the brush around them, former comrades.
He sees himself scampering about the trees, stopping to hunch over and pat new poison into the earth. Every last seed he has sown blinks in his mind's eye. The brush about him crackles and he freezes. Young, perhaps no more than 20. Sweat beads on its brows-its uniform is hot, its weapon heavy and its fear palpable. It calls for its unit; it is lost.
Slowly, he sees himself raise the blowpipe. The dart is loaded. A hollow puff and the dart finds it's mark. Artery; less efficient to hit its vein-poison is a potent neurotoxin. Shortness of breath, loss of motor control, seizures, heart failure, death.
It follows the symptoms to the letter. Gasps, coughing, strangled choking and gurgling. It spasms violently, salivating wildly and sees him. Futilely it reaches out a hand, but to plea, curse or ward off, he does not know. The spasms shorten. The hand falls. It calls for mother.
He maps the sector.
More rustling and again he hides himself. Another one comes by and sees it's comrade upon the ground. It is careless and rushes up to help it. An explosion of gas fills the clearing; he knows not to breathe and backs away from the toxic mist. It is not so lucky, coughing and wheezing violently. It falls to it's knees hacking every more violently and at last vomits. Food first. Bile next. Blood last. Hysteric cries, pleas for salvation that go unanswered-it tries to crawl away, blood seeping from eyes, ears, mouth and nose. It does not go farther than two feet before it crumples to the ground and moves no more.
He remove a single seed from the map in his mind.
There is a loud knock on the door. He sets his work aside and answers. Familiar blue skin. Cheery grin. He returns it. She has a surprise for him, but he cannot peek while she produces it. He promises.