The drone operator watches as a too-small body cools to invisibility on infrared.

Other corpses lie besides the child—including the target. Lives saved, the operator whispers. Lives will be saved.

He longs for family, food, Christmas. He sleeps alone.

He dreams: of a poor infant in the mediterranean region, body doomed, crushed as propitiation for the sins of the world. For the operator’s sins, for America’s.

He showers, ablating skin in a desperate attempt at penance. The water burns with cold when he finally shaves.

In the mirror, he sees a face not his own.

[Originally posted on 12/20/2013 for Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts series.]