A Bernice Summerfield ShortTrip
Ever since I took control of my own life; ever since my parents left me to my own devices, I've known that something needed to be done. We all need an aim in life, don't we? Something to focus our minds on. If you don't have something to occupy you, if you don't have a Purpose, you end up being the sort of person who works in a run-down café, only earning barely enough to pay the rent and survive. And you don't really see any reason to survive anyway, and usually end up offing yourself at the first opportunity.
I found my Purpose a long time ago. Let me tell you about it.
Everyone's heard of Professor Bernice Summerfield, the famous archaeologist. She's smart, witty, clever, and everyone loves her. Why wouldn't they? She has the type of life you can only dream about. Glamorous and punchy. Like an adventure novel. I've seen children in the playgrounds, playing in Bernice's world. Pretending that they're being chased by aliens and monsters and digging up 'priceless artefacts' that really are broken bottle caps. They want to be her when they grow up. Archaeology has replaced stardom as the career of choice. It's all down to her.
She saved our world once, you see. I don't remember the details- I was only three- but I do know, like everyone else here, that she did it in a very clever and death-defying way. You can find Benny Summerfield merchandise in all of our dollar stores. Books, action figures, posters, pencils, and some other… less savoury things. And they're eagerly snapped up by the consumers. It'd be a rare thing to find a single home on our world that doesn't have something with 'Summerfield' printed across it in that swirly trademark writing.
She's a hero.
And I hate her with every ounce of my being.
I've trawled through all the records available to the public, and even some that aren't. I pulled in favours from old friends to get into the government files, and connected to databases from other worlds. I've compiled a vast archive of every single fact I've been able to find about her. In my room, there's a giant pin board with threads spiralling out from it. Connecting the facts. I found pictures of her- publicity photos taken and created, art done, blurry photos from CCTV footage. Anything I can get my hands on.
I've made calculations. I was quite the mathematician at school, and now I can finally put it to some good use. By my workings, if Bernice Summerfield had never existed, thousands- maybe even millions- of people wouldn't be dead. She's inadvertently caused genocides by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I read interviews conducted by the police. People have testified that she's ruined their lives. I've added those to my wall chart as well.
And after all of the things I've found- after everything that I've tracked down and found about the Professor- I've realized one thing. It's a burning conclusion that sits in my mind every moment of the day and I know that it won't ever leave me alone.
It's really quite simple.
Bernice Summerfield must die.
And I must be the one to kill her.
Oh yes. I know that I must sound insane, saying this. One of those maniacs that tries to kill pop stars because they believe that 'no one else can have them'. Driven insane by lust. Well, that's not my motivation. Yes, I hate Summerfield completely and utterly, but it's not because of that why I need to end her life. I'm doing this for the common good. By my calculations, if I kill her now, then seventy five percent of the people she's going to kill in the future will survive. And I need to do that, because half of the people she'll murder in the future will be children. That's right, she's going to kill children.
Bernice Summerfield is a sick, sick person.
Now do you see why she needs to die?
No one else will have the guts to kill her. She's a witch, twisting your words against you. If anyone else tried it, she'd manage to convince them not to. But I know all of her tricks.
She doesn't deserve to live. And she won't, either, not while I have anything to say about it.
I planned it out carefully. There's no room for error when Summerfield is involved- she has a nasty habit of worming her way out of the most difficult situations. And it doesn't help that her home is on one of the most heavily secured areas in the known galaxy. The Braxiatel Collection is rather famous in that aspect. Allegedly, when the Daleks attempted to take them over, not a single metal killing machine was left alive.
So I attended an archaeology school for a year. It was difficult to get into; the list of students filled up with Summerfield wannabes. But I had something that they didn't. I had a reliable method of cheating. They snapped me up, of course. I scored the highest on the entrance exams that anyone had in centuries. They were going to be all public about it, but of course I didn't want the media making a big deal about it. It would blow my cover, and I wanted to be subtle.
I worked hard- or pretended to, at least. I couldn't spend all my time on homework when there was an important killing to plan. I scored high enough to be considered an excellent student without attracting too much attention. Eventually I filed a request to access the archives at the Braxiatel Collection so I could study some famous artefact. It was a primitive sort of battery that was originally found in Baghdad. Some sort of mystery surrounded it, but I didn't really care. It was just a way to get onto KS-159, not something to work on.
A week after my application, it was granted. Well, why shouldn't it have been? I have no criminal record. There was no reason for them not to.
For some reason, though, I was relieved.
The Braxiatel Collection is beautiful in its own way. Some might say that it's a mess of architecture and mixed styles of building that made it just plain confusing to look at. But if you can get past the Escher-like constructions and your brain stops boggling, then you start to see a grand design behind it. A pattern, of sorts.
But I wasn't there to examine the interior and exterior design. I was there for something far more important. I was here to save lives.
It was child's play to mingle into the medium-sized group that formed 'Professor Summerfield's' archaeology lecture class. As a matter of fact, one of the interesting things I had found about her was that her title had been faked. So not just a killer then; a cheat and a fraud. Just one more thing to hate her for.
I suppose that the lecture could have been considered interesting. Summerfield was certainly a good speaker. She didn't drone on and on like some Professors I've had. She quite happily took questions from her students and involved them in the lecture. I paid only the minimum of attention, and drew her face in profile in the margins of my notes. The hour flew by, and soon she was assigning a chapter for her class to read.
I stuck around after everyone had filed out, and attempted to look enthusiastic. "Professor Summerfield!" I called brightly. She looked up from her notes, and smiled at me.
"Hey there. I haven't seen you in my class before. Nice to have a new face."
I smiled back in what I hoped was a slightly bashful way. "Thanks. You're a good teacher."
She sighed and massaged her temples, and I realized how very tired she looked. Well, she deserved it. If she was being kept up late by the ghosts of those she'd killed, I could hardly complain. "You have no idea how good it is to hear that," she told me frankly. "Usually at this point you'd be badgering me with questions on how you could improve your essay or something rubbish like that."
I very carefully avoided her eyes. "Sorry to disappoint you, then. I was wondering if you could-"
She laughed then, and it was the laugh of someone that had nothing at all wrong in their life right then. Carefree. I instantly despised it. "No, it's fine. It's not as if I'd expect a student to come up to me just to deliver a complement."
I made a pretence of digging in my bag for a non-existent paper. "Should I-"
She tossed all of her things into a satchel and smoothly shrugged it over her shoulder, brushing short-cropped hair out of her face. "Let's go discuss it over a few drinks. Goddess knows I could do with some. You are of age, aren't you?"
I nodded, and we left the room together at a brisk pace. Summerfield chatted to me cheerfully the whole time, about meaningless things that disappeared from my mind as quickly as they emerged from her mouth. I only offered up some vague comments about myself in return, but she didn't seem to notice. Or care. Self-centred, then.
As we approached the nearest pub, she finally asked me about my paper. I frowned, nearly having forgotten about it by then.
"It's really not that important," I told her. "You didn't need to go to all of this trouble."
"Nonsense," she said. "I always have time for my students. Unless there's some universe-threatening issue in my itinerary, which there currently isn't."
"It's just a… problem," I said. "Something about what I researched doesn't quite add up. Things are out of place, and the historical figure I was looking at doesn't seem to be so much of a hero after all."
"My class is Archaeology," said Summerfield. "Not History. Why did you come to me?"
I smiled brightly at her. Things were coming to a head, and I was enjoying it. "You're the only one that can help me."
I was pleased to see that the first hints of fright were appearing on her face. The way her mouth curled down slightly and how her forehead crinkled up. "I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're talking about."
I placed my hand on her shoulder in a friendly manner. "How many people have you killed?"
Her expression dropped, and her face closed off entirely. "What."
"Famous Professor Summerfield," I hissed at her, removing my hand, being careful not to let the paralysing venom coating my glove touch my skin. "Brilliant Professor Summerfield, loved by everyone, saviour of hundreds of worlds, and you didn't even consider that I might not be the only person on this godforsaken asteroid that didn't hero-worship your every movement?"
"I-" She tried to jerk away from me, but found that she couldn't move. Her legs tangled beneath her, and she tumbled to the ground. I took a step towards her, and stood over her. The street was empty, and no one was going to save her.
"Bernice Summerfield," I smiled, drawing out the syllables in her name. "At the risk of sounding incredibly clichéd- I know how much you hate that- I think it's about time that you died."
She somehow managed to drag herself back a few centimetres on her fingertips. "Get- please leave me-"
Her voice was failing her and she seemed unable to complete her sentences. I stepped closer, and bent down to stare her directly in her face.
"I know what you've done, Bernice," I told her quietly. "I know how many people you've killed; how many lives you've ruined. If I were a better person, I'd forgive you for it. But I'm not. And if I allow you to survive right now, you'll go on to kill even more people. And I can't allow that."
I drew a knife out from my inside pocket, eyes pleading with hers for understanding. "Don't you see? You need to die. It's the only way. It's nothing personal. But you really need to die."
Her fingers jerked spasmodically in my direction, as if to take the knife from my hand. "D-don't," she managed.
"You need to die," I repeated, pressing the tip of the blade to her chest, just above her heart. "I'm really sorry about this."
And, I realized, I really was sorry. Summerfield was a real person, with real experiences, and not just a character in a series of books that had been hastily publish to meet demands. She probably had the best of intentions in mind when she killed all those children.
But this had to be done.
I had to complete my Purpose.
I plunged the knife downwards, and was surprised when it didn't draw blood. I then noticed that I was no longer crouching over Summerfield, but lying on the ground about a metre away. And the knife wasn't in my hands anymore.
A man was crouching over Summerfield, hands hovering just above her and eyes wide with concern. His mouth was moving- although I couldn't quite make out the words, the world seemed to have gone all fuzzy for some reason- and he appeared to be making sure she was all right. Sound faded in and out, and I caught snippets of what they were saying.
"-feel weird, like I can't move. What-"
"-only temporary, don't worry, we'll-"
"-one of my students, tried to-"
"-take care of it. Here, let me-"
"-like a ton of bricks landed-"
"-careful. You'll feel weak for a while."
The man helped Summerfield to her feet, and she gripped a lamppost for support, still looking a bit pale. From my position on the ground, I could see her and the man talking again, but the sound had faded from my world again. She appeared to be gesturing at me rather emphatically.
"I'll take care of it," I heard the man say again, and he smiled at her, patting her shoulder. "Do you think you can make it home?"
She nodded, and straightened up. "Yeah. Thank you. If you hadn't been here, I don't know what I'd have-"
"-then it's lucky I was," he interrupted calmly. "Go home. I'll drop by later."
Summerfield glanced down at me, and our eyes met. I'm not sure what she saw in them, but her mouth tightened, and she turned away. She made her way down the street, not looking back.
"Now," said the man, and his hand gripped my arm, wrenching me almost bodily to my feet. I lurched a bit, but he started walking. I was forced to keep pace with him. "Time, I think, to deal with you. What is your name?"
I knew that I wouldn't be able to argue my way out of this, so I told him, and he nodded as if genuinely interested. "I see. One of the new arrivals. I'm assuming that your sole reason for coming here was to kill Bernice."
We turned a corner, and arrived at an office with 'Irving Braxiatel' on the door. My heart leapt in my chest with the feeling that something had gone horribly, terribly, wrong. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Summerfield should be dead by now, and my Purpose should be complete, and she shouldn't be walking home like nothing happened. The man opened the door, and escorted me inside, shutting it firmly behind him.
"The question that truly begs to be asked," he said, stepping carefully around to the other side of his desk. "Is this. Why, exactly, did you attempt to kill Bernice?"
I hovered awkwardly halfway between the door and the desk, wondering if it was possible to make a run for it. "I had to. She's a killer. She deserves to die. If she doesn't, she'll keep on killing more people."
The man- I had worked out since who he was, but it was easier to call him 'the man', it meant that I didn't have to fully face the reality of the situation- he blinked, as if in surprise. "Benny… a killer? How do you work that out?"
So I told him.
I told him about every single fact that I had researched and found and extorted from the most unlikely of places. I told him about all of the calculations I had ever worked out and how Summerfield was a cheat, a fraud, a liar. I told him about how everyone I knew worshipped her, almost as a goddess, and how she didn't deserve it.
I described, in detail, my Purpose.
All through it, the man sat, listening to me with a slight frown on his face and a puzzled crease in his forehead. His fingers were interlaced, and he could have been mistaken for one of the many statues that decorated the Collection.
"Now do you see?" I begged him, after I had finished. "Bernice Summerfield must die. Can't you see that she needs to die?"
I wanted- I really, really wanted- him to agree with me, to say yes, you're absolutely right, Summerfield needs to die and help me. I was so convinced of my Purpose; I almost believed that he would.
"You say," he said eventually. "that your Purpose is to kill Bernice Summerfield. And it's your only goal in life."
"Everyone needs a Purpose," I told him. "It's what keeps us going. Without a Purpose, we are nothing."
"I see," he said, and he really did see. He paused for a second. "In that case, let me tell you about my Purpose. It really is quite simple, and it is this."
I leant in towards him, eagerly listening.
"Bernice Summerfield must live."
I recoiled bodily from him, staring with undisguised shock. "But-"
"Bernice Summerfield is important," he hissed, eyes dark and face tight with fury. "She is more important than you could ever possibly imagine. She must live. I need her alive and well, or else-"
He cut himself off, and reached into his desk.
I reached behind me, fumbling desperately for the door handle, already visualizing my escape. My heart stopped when I realized it was locked. My eyes fixed on his hands-
-he was holding a gun.
"Please," I breathed. "Please, no."
He raised it up to eye level, and there was a soft click as he released the safety catch. "You were willing to kill for your Purpose, and so am I."
And there was a loud bang and a red hot pain shot through my chest and I hit the ground awkwardly, shoulder-first and I think I might have screamed a bit. I felt his cold hands dragging me along the carpet of the floor to behind his desk, the soft material brushing my cheek. He turned me over and I stared up at him, trying to come up with something to say. Please sounded about right so I tried but all that came out was an ugly-sounding gurgle.
He smiled at me, and it was the Devil's smile, pure evil cloaked in a grey mist of politeness and charm and I would have shivered except I was already shivering all over. "Hush now. We have company."
He stood gracefully, and sat down just as Summerfield burst in through the door. I could see her boots, all scuffed and dirty.
"I heard a shot," she gasped, leaning against the door for breath. "Did you-"
"No," he said calmly and I could see the gun lying next to my head, and if I reached up a bit I could probably nudge it across so she could see he was lying. But my hands weren't responding.
He got up and I heard shuffling feet. "I thought I told you to go home? How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," she said in a long-suffering manner. "And I was, but I passed here on the way and I heard a noise that sounded like someone firing a gun, and I… well. It doesn't matter now."
He laughed easily and I imagined him spreading his arms out as if to prove that he was unblemished. "As you can see, I'm perfectly fine. I sent our unwanted visitor back to their home planet. They'll face justice there."
"Thank you." In my mind, she smiled in a way that made her look younger. And I realised, quite suddenly, that she was normal. Not a witch, not a killer; just someone trying to do the right thing. And I think I felt guilty, too, about trying to kill her, although that might have just been a desperate hope that she'd save me if she saw me. I managed to gain control of my left hand, and I reached desperately upwards to grip the edge of the mahogany desk. If she saw it, maybe she would help me. I repeated the thought over and over, and it became a desperate prayer.
I was shaking even more violently now, and I tried to speak. But anything I said was obscured by the man talking again.
"Do you want me to walk back with you?" he asked.
"If you want." A rustle of fabric I took to mean a shrug. She hadn't seen me. I was going to die here, on the soft carpet of a madman's office. He was mad, wasn't he? He shot me, and he smiled while doing it. Only a madman would do that.
The door creaked open, and footsteps echoed down the hall as I lay there, half-crumpled against the wall.
"Help," I breathed, and looked down at my chest, where a crimson flower of red red red was blossoming over my heart. My head dropped back down to the ground.
Bernice Summerfield must die, I thought, but it was almost regretfully and I don't think I actually meant it.
And then everything faded to grey then red red red and to the deepest black anyone had seen, like the soul of the man who had shot me.
And that was all.