Cupid 062 looked through the scope of his sniper rifle and waited. Through the window below he could see them all, every single single attending the Singles singles party on the one night a year where no single ever wants to be single.
Heart-shaped decorations lined the walls and Cupid 062 could see men and women alike looking around at the potential mating pool, disappointment washing over them as they realized the obvious reasons why most of these people were alone. Singles wasn’t always like this. Most days, the club was swarming with vibrant, attractive people who didn’t take life too seriously because they’d never needed to; things always turned out well for them because money and affection and friendship and sex and success all gravitated toward them like ants on a sugar cube. Today, though, people like that had better things to do: relationships to have or pretend to have until daylight because being single on Valentine’s Day just wasn’t something anyone really wanted to admit to. Those who remained, Cupid 062 noted, were the leftovers.
Cupid 062 manually loaded a fresh thirty rounds into his rifle; this was the bolt action model, meaning that although he wouldn’t have to reload for a while, he’d need to cycle the action every six shots to keep his ammo fresh. Trouble with the Heartridges though, was that they were packaged in an alternating lineup, meaning that initial rounds and the reception rounds came one right after another. Initial rounds contained a serum designed to give the primary target the confidence to approach a given secondary target, who had to be shot with the reception round within ten seconds of successful hit of the primary target; otherwise, the primary would have no one to approach and the connection would be forever lost.
Also, there was the messy business of keeping track of which rounds were spent before cycling the bolt action mechanism. Easy enough during simple missions, one-on-ones or only a small group, but on a mission like the Singles singles party, losing track of which type of round was next could spell disaster for the targets. Sometimes Cupids would load the Heartridges in upside down by mistake, meaning that the last round in one set and the first round in the following set were both initial rounds. Both the primary and secondary targets, therefore, would gain the confidence to initiate an encounter meant for each other and the Cupid would be forced to use the following reception round on a third party, waste the next initial round, and fire another reception round into yet another nearby person and hope that the matches made weren’t total disasters. Complex stuff, Cupiding.
Tonight was a night on which Cupid 062 needed to be focused. This wasn’t a one-on-one or a small group, but rather an eclectic melee of losers longing for companionship. Losers who felt they deserved far more than they really did, losers who felt they deserved nothing at all. Losers who had never loved before, had never been loved themselves, not really. Cupid 062’s job was to pair them up. Every single taken by the end of the night, those were his orders. No loser left behind. The upper angels had been very strict about this. In the case of complete incompatibility, approximate. In the case of gender imbalance or odd numbers, make threesomes.
Forty-eight people currently in the room. Cupid 062 set to work by isolating his first potential target through his rifle scope, then activating the special computerized identification software to generate a short digital profile next to his body on the lens. A clear facial photo materialized; this guy wasn’t bad looking, but nothing special either. 5’10, 176 pounds. Thirty-six years old and heterosexual. Three previous relationships with three average looking women, each ending at around that seemingly cursed two-and-a-half year mark. He was seeking someone reasonably attractive; he wasn’t picky in the looks department. Wasn’t picky anywhere else either, matter of fact. Nice was really the only thing he cared about. Nice and affectionate. Cupid 062 decided to save him for later; it was always best to get the selective ones out of the way first.
The next profile brought a smirk to Cupid 062’s lips. It was that of a seventy-seven-year-old widower who had been married to his middle school sweetheart for his entire life until her death a year ago and was searching for “someone to show me what I’ve been missing out on all these years.” He turned the profiler onto its “advanced” settings to find out the man’s monetary status. Dude wasn’t even rich. He owned a small bungalow in St. Louis and had the pension of a retired schoolteacher. Cupid 062 groaned. This one was impossible.
No loser left behind, came a voice in his head. Not one.
He kept looking. The closest he came to a match was a forty-something woman whose most admirable and most lamentable trait were one in the same: the need to put others before herself. Could have been paired with anyone, a wild card forced into use on the opening hand. No matter; it was a card well-played.
Another attendee’s mind projected onto the rifle scope’s lens a desire to pair with a man at least a foot taller than her 5’6 frame, which made things easy for Cupid 062, who set her up with the lone Brobdingnagian in the building. He then paired up the two partygoers with the lowest standards before cycling the bolt action. Two Batman nerds, a couple of couch potatoes who had both happened to watch the same Netflix original movie last night, and twelve people who cared mostly about looks and had oddly specific tastes that required some keen detective work on Cupid 062’s part later, the sharpshooting cherub reloaded his weapon and set his sights on the final eighteen singles.
His attention was now drawn to the 5’10 thirty-six-year-old heterosexual looking for a nice girl. Looking through the scope, Cupid 062 took aim at a lonely looking young woman uncomfortably leaning against the wall about ten feet away from the bar his target was sitting at. 5’4, twenty-nine, hetero. About as attractive as the second hottest of the three girlfriends the target had dated. Maybe a little less if you don’t like redheads. One long-term relationship her whole life followed by one very regrettable one-night stand that had sworn her to eternal monogamy. Greeter at a department store. They didn’t come much nicer than her. Target locked.
Then, just as finger grazed trigger, the door opened. In walked a twenty-three-year-old dropdead beauty. Raven hair, short dress. 5’9 in heels. Lustier and bustier than the redhead with the rifle trained on her. Cupid 062 didn’t even bother checking what she was looking for, didn’t bother with her relationship history, nothing. He certainly didn’t bother attempting to assess how nice she was. He simply changed the trajectory of his Heartridge from the department store greeter to the raven beauty and, without giving himself enough time to second-guess the snap decision, fired.
Later, when he reflected on this moment, Cupid 062 would realize that this last-minute lapse in judgment went against everything the Cupid Code had ever taught him about matchmaking. He would realize that his motives were not altruistic or even logical, that his verdict had been brought about by the simple fact that he felt the nice guy deserved to screw a ridiculously hot woman at least once in his mundane, oft-uneventful life.
The rest of them went down easy, save for the somewhat tricky business of deciding who to threesome in light of the dropdead raven’s sudden odd-numbered appearance. Cupid 062 figured it out though, did what he had come there to do, packed up his rifle back into its bright pink case, and returned back to headquarters to fill out twenty-four highly detailed incident reports, leaving in his wake not one loser left behind.
Cupid 062 had a hell of a time explaining to his boss why he had passed over such a perfect partner for his nice-guy-seeking-nice-girl target, and even as the explanation left his mouth, the Cupid found himself utterly without remorse; he would do the same thing again in a heartbeat, would hope another Cupid would do the same for him if the roles were reversed. Love, he tried to argue, was all about taking chances, about putting your heart out there, not about playing it safe. It was about stepping out of your comfort zone, about shooting for what you want instead of settling for what you think you should have. This didn’t go over tremendously well with the boss, but it turned a potential referral into a formal warning and, in light of the flawless nature of his other twenty-three reports, didn’t even make it onto his official company record.
Beat, Cupid 062 made his way from the office, sat down in the lobby to collect his thoughts as hundreds of his coworkers shuffled by; some leaving their shifts like he was and others just beginning. One of these coworkers, a short, curly-haired female he recognized as Cupid 327, walked by and stopped to talk despite his efforts at avoiding eye contact. She had glasses and freckles, as well as one of those noses that seem fine on cartoon characters but look weird in real life. Always greeted him real friendly-like, no matter how many apathetic responses he gave. Probably about as attractive as the least attractive girl Cupid 062 had ever gone on a date with.
Cupid 327 smiled ebulliently at Cupid 062, her eyes full of the same hope that drives misguided thirteen-year-olds who have just read their first YA romance novel and expect every relationship in their lives to play out exactly like in the books. “Happy Valentine’s Day, buddy!” Her glasses slipped down her quirky nose as she said this; she pushed them back up in an awkward motion that Cupid 062 would not have found endearing even if he had bothered to look at her.
“Yeah,” said Cupid 062 absently, his eyes fixated on a lustier, bustier Cupid shuffling anonymously through the throng of pink and red angel wings. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”