“Dear friends and family,” begins the priest. “We are gathered here today to commemorate the life of a great man on this brisk and beauteous Sunday.”

            The sun shines down on the crowd that gathered around for the service. The wind blows, but at just the right amount. At the very least, the priest was right about that.

            I shake a cigarette loose from the pack in my hand and light it before taking a long drag and feeling my blood start to spike as the priest continued his eulogy. I put the pack and lighter back into coat pocket and puff a long drag from my smoke. Seeing all these people here for an empty casket made me sick. “I’m sorry…” I mutter.

            “Something troubling you?” asks the man leaning against the massive tree that obscured us from the view of others. The graveyard was mostly bare aside from us and the crowd gathered at the funeral.

            I take another drag and stay silent for a moment. “Oh, me?” I ask. “No, I’m just absolutely gushing with joy at having to see everyone I care about mourn and grieve. It’s just the absolute best!”

            “Oh, come now, Ken. You know it was either this or…more unsavory options,” Griff says. I puff on the cigarette and stare off as the priest finishes speaking and goes to bow his head to pray. As much as I hate to admit it, Griff’s right. If I didn’t go down this road, there’s no telling who among those in all black down there would be in danger.

            “I know, Griff,” I say to him. “I just, well, I just can’t believe it really.” And who could? One week, I’m happy and at peace, living with the love of my life, and really ready to embrace this change in my life. The next week, I’m here, watching my friends and family try to hold back tears as my brother tries to make it through his eulogy. The cigarette about halfway finished, I flick it away. “I was careful, Griff. I did what I was supposed to do, paid respects to the right people. Hell, I even moved across the country, for God’s sake!”

            “And look at where it got you,” he says. Suddenly, I’ve got my gun drawn and wedge it into his chin. I cock back the hammer and have my finger on the trigger as my steely gaze meets Griff’s eyes. His eyes glaring back at me from under his shades, he continues, “I meant, take a good look down there, Ken. You did everything you were supposed to do, and everyone you know is still mourning you like you’ve lost.”

            As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I began to withdraw my gun and tuck it back into my waistband behind me. “Sorry…I…I shouldn’t have done that,” I say.

            He rubs his chin before straightening his tie. “Don’t worry about it,” Griff says. “I understand and think I’d be doing the same if I were in your shoes, attending my own funeral.”

            I look back towards the funeral service. MY funeral service. I see my wife fall into another man’s arms for support. Seeing that, seeing my mother like this…it’s all so much. I fight back the white-hot rage that beckons me to just charge over and show everyone I’m fine and alive. Knowing The Agency, there are probably agents waiting for me to do something just like that.

            Griff comes up beside me and places his hand on my shoulder. “What do you say we—”

            All at once, a man in a suit comes from around the tree and charges Griff to the ground. “Griff!” I shout. I start going for my gun when I notice the noise started to garner the attention of the funeral guests. I lock eyes with my wife, who up until just this moment, thought I was dead and being lowered into the ground. I freeze in place instantly.

            “Ken!” Griff screams at me from the ground. He’s wrestling the agent on the ground, fighting to keep him from reaching for his gun. People from the funeral are starting to come over this way. My wife is starting to run towards me. My mind begins racing as I brandish my weapon and start pointing it at my own friends and family.

            “Back up!” I yell. “Stay away from me!!!” Everyone trying to make their way to me stops altogether, in shock and morbid awe. I lock eyes with my wife again, this time practically breaking apart altogether as I see the sheer pain and confusion written in them. I regain my senses as Griff begins to get choked by the agent.

“Ken!!!” Griff shouts through gasps.

 I take aim and fire.

            A horrid silence falls across the graveyard. Even though the wind continues to blow, and I continue to breathe, it feels as though everyone is frozen in place in this moment. It isn’t until Griff comes up to grab my shoulder that I feel time begins to march forward again. We meet each other’s eyes for a moment, and he nods his head towards my friends and family. “Might as well go tell them the truth now,” he says to me.

            I sigh a breath of relief and shut my eyes for a moment. I think for another moment then open my eyes and take a deep breath in before making my way to those that gathered for the service today.

            “Hey, everyone,” I say. I look into the eyes of all of those that came. “I know you all came here for my funeral, but I owe you all an explanation.”

Brian Alvarez Encarnacion was born on the island of Puerto Rico. Ever since he began reading and writing at a young age, he has written countless peer-reviewed stories. When away from a pen, paper, or book, you can find him lounging around with his cat, Frankie.