Talin lay on the carpet, the fumes from the battle still making him nauseous if he tried to move. Which he did, because the cleaner was still in the house. The strike had come in, but all were not dead. Talin for instance. And from the scraping and groans emanating from the floor above, the cleaner.

Talin gripped his battle scythe. He had spent a long time shopping for it, even taken pictures to hang in his living room. It required constant cleaning, and oiling of the shaft and handle, to protect his hands; now he rubbed the blood that he couldn’t quite stop as if it were polishing oil. He doubted if he would ever have dinner with his parents again.

The illumination cycle restarted, gently fading through the four billion hues before pulsing in and out with emergency red. Talin needed to focus. He had built new rituals in the previous weeks for this eventuality, but never thought he would need them. Now he breathed deep, went through the mental routine, built the passion from the ground up. He stood. Leaned on the scythe like a crutch. He took a step. Moved towards the stairs, and the cleaner.

The cleaner had made quick work of Talin’s team. Only the strike had saved him, and that had been an accident, called in by the cleaner’s side. All the free spaces had been swept, and the building nearly declared for sale. But then Talin had stepped in for an impromptu dinner party, working his scythe through all the courses of vengeance, but not quite able to finish the meal when the strike hit. The scythe ached in its hands. It hadn’t finished eating and was craving dessert. Like an angry child, Talin huffed up the stairs, hoping the stomping would elicit the fear of the scythe. The cleaner would be receiving no notice of changes.

Talin evaluated the main floor. Blown out windows, twisted steel and broken appliances. Scraping coming from down the hall. The scythe hummed and pulled Talin towards the cleaner.

Talin found him in a doorway that had only half collapsed. The cleaner’s suit was ripped, and blood had pooled in his mask, sloshing and covering the view finder with every turn of his head. The suit resisted every direction the cleaner gave it.

The scythe begged to be raised, and Talin did not object, letting the final sweep slide slightly through his fingers, gripping tight when contact was made, and releasing his grip completely when the cleaner’s head hit the floor.

Normally Talin would wipe the new splatter spots from the battle scythe, but now he simply stood, wheezing and leaning on the weapon. Exhaustion from stress. From injury. From the mental loop still running that had allowed him to seize the moment quickly.  From the shitty recommendation to take this job in the first place.

The scythe acknowledged his weariness and asked to be set down. Talin collapsed beside it and punched in the official contract signatures. The house had sold. He needed to heal – to ready himself for his next sale in the week ahead.