The Dark Side

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

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A drug dealer out for revenge for his murdered wife confronts his old partner, holding a trial at gunpoint.

The Dark Side

  Shhhhh. Be quiet.

I’m over here in the corner; I know that you can’t see me. Get away from the window; I’m watching the street.

He’ll be home soon. He comes home every night around this time. He’s getting careless. He doesn’t think I know where he lives but I do. I’ve known for years. I’m smarter than he thinks.

Ah! Here he comes! See the black Mercedes? He’s parking now. He’s coming out – Wait – Who is that? That woman? A mistress. Probably. I bet he bought her that coat. Is that mink? How much does a mink coat cost?

Damn. I hope he doesn’t bring her inside. Then I would have to kill her too.

Look – Look at the way he mutters in her ear. I bet it’s something vulgar. Look at him, how he’s pressed up against her leg like a dog. She’s smiling, but I can tell she’s faking it. She thinks he’s disgusting. His hand is all the way up her dress. But she wants to keep that coat.

  He’s going to bring her inside. He’s going to pop a couple Viagra and bend her over that desk over there.

  But I’ll catch them in the doorway, 12-guage buckshot. I might be able to get them both with one shot depending on how they’re standing.

  No. Hold on – What is she doing?

  She’s leaving. I guess that little red car is hers. Did he buy that too? Business must be booming.

  He’s walking up the driveway. I guess all that was just a bluff. He was humping her leg with something limp. He’s getting on in years. You can tell from the way he huffs and puffs as he struggles up the slope of his own driveway.

  The snow’s built up in the last few days. The bottom layer’s melted and refrozen into ice as smooth as glass and the top layer’s turned into gray slush like oatmeal. I guess he’s too cheap to pay some neighborhood boy to shovel it. Serves him right.

Hear the key grinding in the lock? The door closing with a shove? The cold makes the door stick.

He’s fiddling with the buttons on the alarm now. He doesn’t know that I’ve already cut the alarm.

That was his boots hitting the floor. He’ll stop for a second to rub the numbness out of his feet. Now he’s slapping snowdrifts off his coat. He’ll hang it in the allotted space between his wife’s Versace and his daughter’s chain-dangling trench coat that looked like some medieval torture device. Now he’s coming into his office to check his messages. I know he is. In our business, you better not miss a message. They’ll kill you and replace you. And that’s where I’ll get him.

Here he comes. The floorboards creak. It’s an old house.

There. See the shadow under the door? I’ll wait for him to open the door and try to turn on the lights. I’ve already unscrewed the light bulbs. He’ll stand there for a second scratching his head and flip the switch off and on again and that's when I’ll shoot him. Right in the chest. And if he’s still alive, then I’ll take one of the cushions off the couch and smother him. I won’t shoot him twice. The neighbors will hear one loud noise and think nothing of it.

Wait! – Where did he go? Where’s the shadow? Shit! There’s no way he could know. Unless he could tell somehow that the alarm had been cut. Or did

I leave footprints in the snow?

No. No. I was careful. I was careful.

I’ve done this in my head fifty times. A hundred times. I’ve thought of everything. I’ve dreamt about this.

And even if he knew, what could he do? He couldn’t call the police, of course. But I’m sure he has a gun hidden in the house somewhere.

I have clear lines of fire on the front yard and the back yard from where I’m sitting. He wouldn’t even be able to get out – he installed bars on his own windows. So I guess he would have to come look for me. I’m okay with that. I like my chances. And besides, he’s already taken everything from me. I’m already dead.

Pots and pans. Kitchen noises. A faucet runs, and then stops. I breathe a little in relief. Not that I was afraid of dying. I don’t feel fear anymore. I don’t feel anything anymore. I just want to take him with me.

A microwave hums for a minute, then beeps and pops. A spoon stirs a ceramic cup. Slippers dragging. Pedaling. Coming closer.

The shadow again. Two distinct shadows under the crack of the door. I level the shotgun. I’m nested comfortably in his big, soft armchair.

The doorknob turns – it’s one of those solid heavy doors, the wood stained so dark that it looks black, with a long, slender, brassy knob, like in an antique house. The door glides open.

I can see his silhouette in the doorway. A shimmer of steam rises from the coffee mug in his hand. Slowly, my finger creaks back the trigger. Slowly. Until an unbearable tension builds up. There’s a vibration in my teeth. I can almost hear the beating of his heart. There’s a terrible stillness in the air, about to be blown to Hell.

He reaches for the light switch.

Click!

Nothing happens.

Click! Click!

Nothing happens.

Don’t move.

He freezes like a snapshot with one hand glued to the lifeless switch.

Step into the room and close the door behind you.

He steps in and pushes the door shut behind him with a click without turning his back.

It’s pitch dark in the room except for a faint rectangle of moonlight that captures the coffee table in front of the couch.

Sit down on the couch.

He lowers himself on the couch, his thin bird-like body sheltered in a blue terry robe.

Do you know who I am?

My fingers tighten around the walnut stock of the gun. I’m afraid. Fuck what I said before. I’m deathly afraid. Even though I don't know what I’m afraid of. The latex glove on my right hand is plastered to my skin with sweat. The room is filled with fear. He’s afraid too; I can smell it seeping out of his pores. I’ve killed enough men. I can sense when Death is coming.

Do you know who I am?

Yes.

Then you know why I’m here.

Y-Yes.

You knew that I would come for you.

He doesn’t reply.

He sets his mug carefully on the table. A small gesture of resignation.

I can see his outline on the couch sitting stiff-backed at attention, his hands folded in his lap. It seems like his shadow is melting in and out of the darkness, like a TV going fuzzy, as if he is already fading into a ghost.

Yes, you did. You knew this was coming. Don't play fucking games with me. How else did you think this was going to end?

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. It wasn’t my fault.

Bullshit. That’s a motherfucking lie.

I swear to God, Paul. They weren’t supposed to do that. We’ve been in this business together for a long time, Paul. You know I’m not like that. I wouldn’t hurt you or Molly like that.

Did you know she was pregnant?

Paul, I promise you I’m going to take care of it. I should never have used those guys. You know the kind of people in this business. Street trash. Young hotheads. Dope fiends. I made a mistake, Paul. But I swear to you I’m going to make things right.

Answer the question.

Paul--If—If you just give me a chance–

Mike. Answer the question. Did you know that she was pregnant?

N-No.

Yeah. Six months. It was a girl. I’ve never held a baby before you know.

J-Jesus, P-Paul, I–

What? Your goon squad didn’t tell you? You know what they did to her right?

My whole body’s tweaking out now like a bad trip. It feels like somebody’s choking me.

She was still alive when I found her, Mike. You want to know what she said to me?

Paul, I swear to God that we’re going to find those--those animals and make them pay. We’ll make those bastards beg us to let them die.

Don’t worry about it, Mike. I already took care of that.

A shiver seems to be passing through the room. A cold quite different than the cold outside.

F-For God’s sake, Paul! I have a wife and two kids you know…

Yes. I had something like that once. I wonder what ever happened to them?

Paul, you didn’t give us a choice. What were we supposed to do?

All I asked was to be left alone. I didn’t want to have to do all this.

Paul,you know you can’t just walk away after you is in that deep. We needed you. You're the only one who knows how to cook that stuff without blowing yourself up. If I don't deliver, it’s my balls.

Well I’m truly sorry about your balls, Mike.

Damn it, man! Will you please stop pointing that thing at me?

I chuckle a little.

You’re a little jumpy today, Mike. What’re you afraid of?

This is crazy, Paul! I know you lost a lot but this – this isn’t going to help.

No, Mike. I didn't lose “a lot”. I lost everything. I’m a dead man now. And I can tell you from the mouth of a dead man,it isn’t as bad as you think. No cares. No worries. No bills piling up on the kitchen counter. Being dead is the life. It’s living that’s a bitch.

Killing me won’t bring her back. I can’t give you your life back. It would be pointless.

It would let my ghost rest in peace.

The Dark Side

 

You can start over. I know right now you don’t think you can but you can. There’s a hundred thousand dollars in a safe in that wall.

Are you afraid to die?

Paul-

How many people have you killed? How many people do you have sorted and stacked in your wall there?

I haven't done anything you haven’t done. I’ve just been doing this a little while longer is all.

Yes, and you’ve been getting old too. Surely you’ve thought about death. Your death. But maybe you were still counting on having ten or twenty years left. Or maybe it’s not death you’re worried about but Hell. You’re afraid to stand before your Creator and be judged for all the things you’ve done.

And what about you? You’re ready to stand before God and let Him judge you?

I already know where I’m going.

And you’re not afraid of Hell?

I’ve already been through it.

He seems to think for a second. He reaches out his pale fingers and takes his cup into the darkness. I hear a sip. Then a sharp hiss of breath. A

blowing sound. Another sip.

No, you haven’t, he says.

What’s that?

You don’t know anything about Hell. Or God.

Oh, that’s right. You're a Catholic. I forgot. You go to Mass every Sunday?

I try to.

You call out to God and thumb the beads and eat the crackers and cleanse yourself by drinking Jesus’s blood?

Yes, I do.

And you crawl into that little box and confess all your dirty little sins? Your priest must be a busy man.

I’m not perfect. Nobody’s perfect–

Except Je-sus? Did you tell Him that you murdered my wife and daughter?

No, I didn't.

So you’re not much of a Catholic, are you?

No, I guess not.

So aren’t you afraid to die?

Yeah. I guess so.

Then say it.

What?

Call out to God and tell Him you don’t want to die.

You’re just a crazy sadistic bastard now, aren’t you?

It doesn't matter what I am. If you believe in God and you’re afraid to die, wouldn’t it make sense to ask Him to save you?

What do you want from me, Paul? Do you want me to get on my knees and say I’m sorry? Do you want me to beg for my life?

No. I don’t care what you do. But if you want to live, just say it. Say: “Lord, I don’t want to die.”

The Dark Side

 

Lord, I don't want to die.

 There. That shouldn't be so hard. How do you feel?

Are you going to let me go now?

No.

Then what the fuck was that for?

I just wanted to teach you how to pray. And I wanted to show you that God isn’t coming to save you. It’s inevitable.

Paul… Paul, just listen to me for a minute…

Yes, Mike?

Before you do something crazy, I already told you I got a hundred G’s right there in the wall. Take it. Take my car too. Plus, I’ll send you another hundred thousand in a few days.

Mmmm… Two. Hundred. Thousand…

And my car. You could be in Mexico by tomorrow. Be lounging on a beach in Tahiti by Monday. Set for life. The exchange rate will make you a millionaire. What’d you say, buddy?

Hmm. That’s a pretty reasonable offer Mike. Very reasonable.

So you want me to get the money?

Mmmm… Yeah… Yeah, fuck it. Get the money.

Sure thing, Paul. Here here it is.

He springs up and skips over to a panel in the wall and slides it open to reveal a black box safe. He starts dialing numbers on a keypad.

Stop.

What-?

Go back and sit down.

What’s wrong, Paul?.I move to the wall with the shotgun pointing as his heart.  It’s a pistol grip and a sawed-off barrel with a cushion duct-taped to the end.

Give me the numbers. I’ll open it.

C’mon, Paul…

C’mon, Mike.

Okay. 1-1-2-5-7-5.

I dial in the code and pull the handle.

Mike, the safe didn’t open,

I had already put in the first two numbers. You put in too many numbers.

Why didn’t you tell me that before I made an ass out of myself?

You didn’t give me a chance, you ass.

I’ll blow your goddamn head apart.

You’ll probably miss even at that distance. Remember when we went after those Columbians?

Columbians?

The Dark Side

 

The ones who tried to rip us off in El Paso.

Hondurans. They were Hondurans, Mike.

He starts cracking up.

And your-your gun snagged in your shirt and you shot – you shot yourself in the foot!

We both laugh.

But we got them in the end, I say.

Yes, we did. Mike’s eyes settle on something far away. He’s the only one I know that can change like that. Like a switch.

The safe, Mike. Now how do I clear this motherfucking thing?

Hit the big red button that says “Clear”.

I can’t see in this fucking dark.

You want me to turn on the light?

No. Hell no.

I’m looking out over his backyard. A blanket of glittering white snow with yellow weeds poking up out of it like two-day-old stubble. Evergreens in the distance, their boughs sagging with loads of snow, the ground around them layered brown with dead needles. A lonely dog bays somewhere. No answer.

What was that number again?

112575.

Your anniversary.

Yeah, that’s right. It helps me remember.

Of course. You wouldn’t forget the combination to your safe.

Uh-huh… I’m surprised you know it.

You two invited me over for dinner, remember? I have a good memory for dates.

Yeah.

Most people just go around not knowing what time or what day it is, not knowing where they are or where they’re going. But I do. I always know.

The safe swings open. I pull out the pistol that’s on top of the money and tuck it into my belt.

Uh-huh.

C’mon, Paul. You know I’m not that stupid.

Neither am I.

The money’s bank-taped and stacked on top of two brown paper packages. Half a plastic baggie of white powder leans against the wall. I thumb through a wad of bills with my ungloved hand. All hundreds. I sniff it. Money has one of those peculiar intoxicating smells. Like new leather. Or gasoline.

It’s good? He asks.

It’s good.

Here – A jingle of metal in the moonlight. – Here take my keys.

That's alright, Mike. I don’t need them.

No, really, it’s okay. I’ve got insurance. You can go to either side of the border and sell it for ten, twenty grand easy.

 

The Dark Side

 

Okay, Mike. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. I’ll take your money and your car and drive away. And you’ll sit here and think about what a good friend Paul is and how you’ve been a rat bastard your entire life and how sorry you are for murdering his wife and daughter- okay?

He doesn’t answer. The room is heating up, as if a furnace has turned on somewhere.

Okay? Can you do that, Mike?

Okay…

And then, what you’re going to do is turn on that little OnStar shit you’ve got in your car and see that your ol’ buddy Paul has stopped at a motel and then you’re going to send your wetbacks to shoot me in the head while I’m sleeping. Does that work out for you, Mike?

I’m sweating. I don’t know why. It’s hard to breathe.

Mike-? I asked you: Does that work out for you?

There’s something deflated about him now. Like a jellyfish. Like an old man in a nursing home. Just sitting there.

Are you going to kill yourself too? He asks.

Huh? Why would I do that?

What have you got left? What reason for living? What are you going to be tomorrow?

Dunno. Thought about going to Vegas. Never been. Go shoot craps at the Flamingo.

You can’t. They tore it down years ago.

What? –Oh shit. –Well, I’ll find somewhere to gamble.

What are you going to do after?

I’ll figure something out.

I go slump back down in the armchair, keeping the shotgun on him. I leave the safe hanging open.

You don’t have any idea what you’re doing, do you?

What’d you mean?

You don’t know how to go on living. But you don't know how to die either. You’re stuck in between. You’re in Purgatory.

I chuckle. I don't know why. He chuckles too. I don’t know why.

Maybe you’ve got a point, Mike. But Purgatory’s still better than Hell.

There you go trying to judge me again like you’re some kind of God. I’ve seen the other side, Paul, I’m not afraid to go.

You’ve been to the other side?

I’ve seen it. Just for a second.

He reaches for the mug again and takes a sip. Then a gulp.

Ahhhhh…

You’re not drinking coffee this late are you?

No, tea. Herbal tea. Supposed to be good for me.

How are you– you know?

He leans forward, until his pale face is wolfish in the slant of the moonlight. He’s smiling.

It’s in remission, he says.

Damn. Aren’t that a bitch?

The Dark Side

 

Now I’m smiling too.

They took six inches of my colon, but it’s in remission. I guess God smiled on me.

We both start laughing. I laugh hard enough to jiggle the shotgun. The floppy purple cushion bobs at the end.

I’m glad to hear that.

Really? Are you really?

…Yes…Yes, I am. I don’t wish cancer on anyone… Did you go through chemo? Radiation? The works?

Mm—hm. The works!

I hear chemo’s the worst.

Uggghhh… Don't remind me …

But you knew you were still going to die anyway—

Mmmmm…

He’s got his whole body huddled around his little cup of herbal tea, as if such a small cup could possibly keep him warm. His head’s crooked over it, breathing in the steam. I can see the liver spots on his scalp.

Mike? You knew you were still going to die anyway, sooner or later—

Mm-hm.

Was it still worth it?

Uh-huh.

It was? Even now?

Got a few more months, he mumbles into his cup. A few more months with my kids. And my wife.

It’s good to hear that, Mike. How is Elena anyway?

G-Good.

You’re not cheating on her, are you?

N-No.

Who was that woman you came home with? You two seem pretty close.

N-No.

No?

Ain’t cheating if she knows.

Oh… If you say so, Mike.

Elena understands. She’s a good woman

What does she think about your career?

Oh, she disapproves. You know how it is.

Mm. Molly couldn’t stand it either. Said I always smelled like chemicals. Made me quit.

That’s why?

I had no choice. She was holding out on me.

We both chuckle.

The Dark Side

 

I feel like there’s been some sort of unspoken agreement – of me giving him a certain allotted time to live, but how long I don’t know. Five minutes? An hour? ‘Til sunrise? I start counting in my head, trying to find a meaningful number to shoot him on. One?...No. Two?... No. Three?...

Paul? I hate to ask you this… but what are you going to do about the money?

I don’t know, I’ll spend it on something.

Paul, the reason that – the reason that I mention this – the money was for Elena, you know?

Really? What would you have done if I had taken it?

Well, if you didn’t kill me I guess I could have kept selling a little longer.

So then you don’t need me. You never needed me.

It wouldn't be as good.

What about the other hundred thousand?

Heh. Heh.

You lying old bastard.

Heh. You had a shotgun on me.

Still do.

Don’t matter now though – But seriously, you know I have a stack of hospital bills – right? You don’t except Elena to go back to work at her age, do you?

Do you really care about them that much?

I’ve always provided for them.

Mm-mm.

My boy John goes to college next year. You met him once.

The football player.

Varsity. Wide receiver. Got accepted to Brandeis.

Congratulations.

Tuition…

If I leave the money, the feds are just going to get it.

I know, Paul, I know.

I pay enough taxes…

The rectangle of moonlight has shrunken now into a narrow blue column. Mike stirs his white cup with a spoon and takes a drink. It must be cold by now. I decide to shoot him when he finishes his tea – it's only polite – or when the moonlight cuts to zero. Whatever comes first.

I’m sorry Mike I really am.

I know Paul I understand.

I came here to end things. I can’t – I can’t let that go. If Elena ends up with the money, the same thing that happened to Molly –

Yeah yeah I get it. You’re right.

He drains another draft from his cup.

You got any tea left, Mike?

The Dark Side

 

Huh? Yeah there’s still some in the pot. You want some?

No, no, that’s okay.

He sets his cup down on a little green coaster. I suppress a laugh. He doesn’t want to leave a ring.

You might as well go ahead and do it then, he says. Elena’s on her way home from Tulsa now. I don’t want her to find me.

Don’t worry. She won’t. We have a little more time. The snow should slow her down.

She’s always been a safe driver.

The moon is hiding now behind a chimney or something on a neighbor’s roof, slicing the boundary of light thinner and thinner, closing in on Mike. We just sit quietly for a minute until the moon is finger-thin. The air is dry with cold. My body is numb and restless from the stillness.

Mike? Do you believe in God, Mike?

What? I told you I’m a Catholic.

That doesn't mean anything.

Okay fine, Paul, I believe in God. So what?

Do you want to pray?

What?

You don't have much time left. Do you want to say a prayer?

Teh. I’ll be judged for what I’ve done. No last minute Hail Mary is going to change anything.

Just asking. Anything you wanted to get out.

I guess I’ll just ask God to watch over Elena and my kids.

That’s good.

The moonlight is a silver spiderweb across the room. I can’t see Mike at all anymore. Just a black haze.

I hear him draining his teacup. I can’t move. Everything’s numb. The whole world’s black and numb. I feel like I’ve been stuffed inside a hot, itchy, oven mitt.

Mike? Close your eyes, Mike.

Why?

He’s so afraid. So am I.

I once watched a man die with his eyes open. He just laid there turning them at Heaven with nothing behind them.

What would it matter? You can’t see me.

It’s for you. Dignity.

Okay, Paul.

Something about his voice tells me that his eyes are closed.

You know I’m sorry, Paul. I didn’t mean for this to happen to Molly…

It was meant to be me.

It was meant to be you…

I’m crying now. I don’t know why. The strength is draining from my hand.

You know I’m not like that, Paul – you know…

The Dark Side

 

Yes. I know.

I’m sorry…

I’m sorry too, Mike.

I shoot him. Blam! Fire and thunder. Recoil in the armchair. Fluff everywhere from the cushion. Smell of smoke. Ears ringing. Eeeeeeeee.

Damn. That was loud. Did the neighbors hear?

Mike? Mike? Are you still there?

Eeeeeeeee.

I walk over to the couch and pat around until I grope him in the dark. His robe? His chest? His hand – warm and sweaty. I recoil.

Mike? Can you hear me, Mike?

I reach for where I think his head is. Something wet and raw. I pull away and open the door with my gloved hand and slide down the dark hallway into the kitchen.

I flip on a light – damn that’s bright – and flip it back off. I flip on another one, dim and yellow, the color of urine.

I go through the cabinets. I find Bran Flakes and Lucky Charms, but not what I’m looking for. I hope he hasn’t gone sober.

I open the pantry. Ah! Vodka. Tequila. Bourbon. I hug an armful of bottles and hurry back to the room. Not much time left if neighbors called the cops.

In the hallway I pass the black spackled holes from the buckshot through the white drywall.

Inside the room, I set the bottles down. I go to the safe and scoop the money and the drugs on the floor. I grab a bottle and try to uncork it. Damn. I find one with a screw cap and douse the money and the couch Mike is on. By the secondhand light from the kitchen, I can make out a pair of legs attached to a slumped shape. I pick up a pack of money and light it. It whooshes and flares blue. I drop it, snatch the car keys from the table, and run. On my way out, I see a single streak of blood on the wall by firelight.

Outside, the air bites my lungs. I wade through wet snow. Pop! Pop! Pop! The bottles going off behind me. I jog towards Mike’s car at the end of the long driveway. My car’s too hot. Took it from one of the goons. No sirens yet. I have the shotgun close to my body so it won’t be silhouetted by the tangerine streetlight.

Ugh! I slip on the ice and fall. Pain reverberates up my knee. The ice is cold on my cheek.  Gritty. Lip bleeding. Wheezing back the wind I lost. The shotgun’s laying in the middle of the street.

Fuck. Fuck.

I snatch up the gun and hobble to the Mercedes and thumb out the key. As I drive away, I peek in the mirror and see a flickering light inside the house the other houses are dark and quiet.

I get on the highway and drive for three hours, checking or cops every couple of seconds. I head south, crossing the Red River in the night. It churns vast and black below me. I pitch the shotgun and pistol over the rail. Finally, I stop in a trashy little town with crooked streets and pecan trees a few miles north of Dallas.

I feel safer across state lines. Takes longer for cops to talk to each other. I’ll leave the car here and make them think I’m going south for the border and take another car in the morning and go north. Or maybe west.

About two hours before dawn I walk into a no-star motel, leaving the Mercedes in the Fiesta-Mart across the street. It’ll be gone within hours.

I go to the desk. My boots peel against the sticky yellowed tile with every step.

I need a room.

The Dark Side

 

The thin man with a droopy mouth looks up.

One bed or two?

One.

How many nights?

One.

Si. That’s 36.50, he reads off his computer.

I give him two twenties.

Do you have I.D. senor?

I toss him another twenty.

He nods and slides me a key.

I walk into my room. There’s heat, but it’s a dusty smothering heat. I can see the neon Fiesta-Mart through the window. The Mercedes sits lonely in the parking lot.

My knee still hurts. I go to the bathroom and wipe it down with a towel. I poke a loose tooth with my tongue. My stomach growls, but I’ll deal with that in the morning. I go back to the main room. I don’t bother to undress. I just kick off my boots, crawl into bed and dream of Molly.

It’s okay, she says. It’s okay, Paul…

A phone rings.

I roll over.

Still dark not yet dawn. A diesel engine growls outside.

The phone rings again. I grope for it in the dark.

Hello?

Hello, Paul.

The receiver is cold in my had.

Did you think I wouldn’t find you?

M-Mike?

You’re getting careless, Paul. But don’t feel too bad. It was only a matter of time.

W-What?

The room is very cold now. The heat is gone. The darkness pulses to and fro around me like a living creature.

You knew we would come for you, Paul.

I look outside and see, to my horror, two black SUVs circling around my Mercedes across the street, shining flashlights into the windows.

It’s over, Paul it’s inevitable. Death is inevitable. You understand.

Mike’s voice sounds strained, uncomfortable.

How-? How are you-?

Hehheh- Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!

Mike? Are you okay?

Yeah… You winged me buddy, I’ll admit it. Took a good chuck out of me. But I was playing possum. This old dog’s not spent yet…

The Dark Side

 

Suddenly the SUVs swerve and then they’re bounding straight towards me, bouncing over the curb like wolves…

By the way Paul, I get why you shot me, but setting me on fire with my own drink? That was kind of rude –

But I’m not listening. I drop the phone and run for the door in my sockfeet. I wrench it open –

There’s the long crack of a rifle. Splinters from the door sting my neck.

Crack. Glass tinkles and falls. Something sharp moves through my hand.

I dive behind the bed, the only thing in the room. There’s the deep roar of a diesel engine and a blinding flood of light.

The phone is here on the floor. Mike is still talking:

But I forgive you, Paul. Please don't think this is anything personal. It’s just… something that has to be ended…

My hand’s bleeding. My foot’s bleeding too where I stepped on glass.

The floodlight switches off and the diesel fades to a purr…

I peek over the mattress. A brown-skinned man is advancing across the parking lot. He is tall and skeletal thin; his baggy clothes, his baggy skin dark and loose under his eyes. Mean, hungry face, like a street dog’s. He draws a Mac-10 automatic pistol.

It’s okay Paul, just close your eyes. I’ve seen the other side Paul. Just close your eyes and go…

The man isn’t carrying the weapon. It’s the weapon carrying the man forward. The man is just an extension of the weapon.

The moon is fat and gibbous, dangling over Fiesta-Mart like a ripe peach.

The gunman locks his eyes on mine. He sees me behind the mattress. He raises the gun…

I close my eyes. I see a pale hand reaching out from behind a veil. Where did it come from? I don't know. It floats towards me, beckoning. Long delicate fingers. I let it come.

A familiar voice calls…

I’m not cold anymore…

I only vaguely feel the bullets hitting my body. The gunshots sound very far away…

I feel light, almost weightless. Her voice fills my ears…

It’s okay, Paul. Just let go.

Finally her hand takes me and lifts me up… away…

And I am gone.


Submitted: December 04, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Edward Ji. All rights reserved.

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