Click on the LINK to read the story online
This is not my first short story by Rich Larson, but so far it is the best, most engrossing and poignant I have come across, one I will not so easily forget.
Mars is a soldier, or rather a special operative for difficult missions, the kind that involve great danger and high chances of grievous wounds or death – but all that does not matter to Mars, because he was born without the ability to feel pain, and later he was experimented on and made invulnerable.
Try and imagine what it would mean to be changed so profoundly that everyone stops seeing you as human, and then being sent out into the world to kill, sometimes taking out bad people, sometimes… well, not. After a while, even a detached personality like Mars’, who seems unable to feel anything at all – love, hate, friendship, camaraderie – must succumb to the need to seek oblivion. And that’s the point in his journey when we meet him at the start of the story, when he places himself in front of a truck that will smash him to pieces…
A few flashbacks show how he came to that point, what he was before and what was done to him: the remoteness of the delivery does nothing to keep the reader from feeling profound horror and compassion, to feel for this character in the way he’s unable to feel for himself. Yet there is a glimmer of hope in the end, and it makes all the shock and pain we are forced to endure worthwhile.