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The gun stares into my eyes. I think I can see a smirk on the cold metal silencer, but I’m not sure. Not in this place, this cold, dark place. I take two steps back and try to take more but my back is up against a wall. I become aware of people beside me, people with hearts that flit like birds, frantically trying to escape their wire cages of rib bones. I can feel their terror and concern. It radiates off them like the fragrance from a rose. But this smell is not so sweet.
Surprisingly, there is also anger in this stale air that I breathe. Some comes from the gun, but most comes from those beside me, the ones with birds for hearts. It occurs to me that they may be angry at me, or angry on my behalf. So different in meaning, but they feel entirely the same for me.
These people may be my friends. Do I have friends? I don’t know.
Someone makes a noise, and for what may be the first time, I notice the person who is holding the gun. I can’t see who; there is too much shadow here. Somehow, the fact that I may know the person who is white-knuckling the metal killing machine that is pointed at me scares me more than the machine itself. I could have said hello in passing. I could have told all my secrets to this person. Or I may not know them at all.
Which is worse: being killed by someone that you know and trust or someone who you’ve never met before?
The gun holder speaks again, and the voice is so deep that it has to be a man’s. It takes me a while to understand what he said. After I sort the sounds into words, it says “Give it to me.”
Give what? I realize that I am holding something in my hand. I bring it to my face to see what it is, but again it is too dark. I do not like the feelings that I am getting. Dark means bad. Dark means blindness.
It is sharp, because I can feel something biting into my flesh and warmth trickling down my hand. Blood or sweat. Blood and sweat?
The voice again. “Give it to me.”
By now I don’t know a lot; much has faded; but I do know that I’m not supposed to give this up, whatever it is. It’s important in some way. Important to me and important to the bird heart people.
So I shake my head. Holding it tighter, I ignore the pain as it cuts into my hand. I wish I knew what it was. I know, yet I don’t. I have the answer somewhere. I know that.
Almost as soon as I refuse, the gun thunders, and something thuds into the wall behind me. Loose bits of dirt fall on me and go down the back of my neck. I wonder if he even saw me shake my head or if he was going to shoot no matter what.
“That was the warning. Now hand it over. Next bullet goes straight through your brain.” He is serious, I know. He will, with a twitch of his finger, send a bullet flying into my head.
I will die, if I do not do what he wants.
I open my palm and hold it out. It is whisked away. A chuckle comes from the man. The silencer is definitely smirking now. I feel a breath released from the bird hearts. Is that relief or still anger? I don’t know.
“Now, you will die.” The man again.
He lied. He said he wouldn’t kill me if I gave what he wanted to him. But I will die, whatever I do now. The sob from a bird heart barely registers.
I am not afraid. Death will not be bad. I will not feel it, only be left suspended in senselessness for all time. It will not be painful. It may not even be the end. What do I know about dying?
But I do want to know why. What has made me come here? What has pushed me to death? What have I done? I have the answers somewhere. I just need to find them. I push deep into my brain, ignoring the pain, searching for what I need to know before I die.
As the gun centres back on my face and the smirk turns into a full-out grin, I believe I’ve found it.
Oh, yes. Yes, I have.
I have my answers. All of them.
Is that not just what I’ve wanted, all this time?