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The Final Bullet

I am at his bedside constantly, though he is unconcious, and doesn’t know I am here. But maybe that is a good thing, because I can’t stand to let people see when I’m beside myself with anxiety. The snake bite, so small compared to the wrist it had clamped down on, has spread like a black spiderweb throughout his forearm. I’ve had plenty of bites, but none like that, and I can’t make myself believe he will recover.
The doctor ducks beneath his leather flap of a door, his scraggly white hair disheveled, and his weathered face streaked with anxiety. He steps onto the old, wooden floor, and his footsteps creak as he shifts his weight.

“Meridian, I need to speak with you,” he summons me in a grim voice, and I know what I’m about to hear. Even so, I stand up, my limbs aching from disuse, and follow the doctor around the corner of his house. Tears are already gathering in my eyes, but the doctor appears emotionless. Maybe that’s what spending your life watching people die does to you.

“I know it, and I think you know it too, Meridian, when I say Antonio’s got no chance of living. I don’t want him to continue to suffer with the hope that he’ll make it through this mess, so you’re going to have kill him quickly. Yourself.”

Even though I expected this from the moment I dragged Antonio away from the snake that bit him, I still go numb with the shock of hearing it out loud, somehow making it all the more real. I can’t protest the facts when I hear them from somebody else, especially a doctor. My heart jumps out of my chest and is no longer functional, but my brain is, and my brain is bobbing my head up and down in somber agreement.

“What--” I gulp down a wave of tears. I haven’t let another person see me cry since I was a child, and I don’t intend to let that change. “What do you suggest?”

He eyes the shotgun strapped to my belt, loaded with the bullet that I promised I would send through a lousy outlaw’s heart. It is the bullet that shot me, and the bullet I placed my vows of revenge upon. “I suggest that you send that last bullet of yours through his head, and have it done with.” This time, not even my mind can agree.

“Do it yourself,” I mutter through a mouthful of salty tears that have trailed down my cheeks since the doctor first started talking. He shakes his head sorrowfully.

“Doctors in these parts have to swear on our honor not to use a gun.”

My blue-gray eyes narrow spitefully and I snap, “Well private eyes in these parts have to swear not to base their cases on personal grudge, and look at me! I’ve been traveling far and wide with only one recycled bullet in my rifle, searching for the man that shot me!” My golden hair is laden with dust and nips at my face as I swivel my head around to glimpse Antonio.

But the doctor remains perfectly calm. “Listen, Meridian. I know you love him; I can see it in your eyes.”

“I’m not that obvious, am I?” I huff in exasperation.

The doctor holds his hand up for silence. “But he’s a goner, and he at least needs to go painlessly. Now you’ve got darn good aim for a young woman like yourself, and a darn sharp mind, so I expect you to do what’s right.”

My breath is shaking, but the choice is no longer in my hands. My fingers grip the handle of my gun, loaded with the bullet that pierced my own skin. Maybe this is fated, for Antonio to feel the same bullet that nearly killed me, as if it connects us, even beyond this life. At any rate, it makes my duty all the more painful.

My fingers tighten on the trigger, and my dry, cracked lips touch his forehead. I feel his leathery, exhausted hand push my wrist, and the gun, towards his head. “Do it,” he whispers. “Please, Meridian. If you love me, do it.” A sigh escapes my mouth, and I feel my hand tighten over Antonio’s hand, and over the trigger. I push down on it, and a shot rings out, deafening me in the small space of the doctor’s hut.
Antonio’s hand falls slack.




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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

guardianofthestarsThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
today at 11:55 am:
I thought this was super good, Athena! I really felt for Meridian and hated that she had to do that. :'( You really captured the moment!
 
AthenaMarisaDeterminedbyFateThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
today at 7:30 pm :
Thanks! It's a sad ending, but I got tired of writing happy ones...
 
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kmeepThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 15 at 8:04 am:
I could see how this would fit in well as a novel ending.
 
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Atl.Braves03This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 27 at 11:11 pm:
Interesting story. I'm sure I'd understand better if I'd read the full novel. Just curious, what is the setting in your story? Is it future or past or another time frame entirely? 
 
AthenaMarisaDeterminedbyFateThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Feb. 28 at 12:32 pm :
It's a Wild West mystery/private eye story.
 
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BookLover128This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 27 at 4:40 pm:
I liked the set-up of the story and the girl, Meridian, was well-developed. I think you could've elaborated a bit on Antonio, but other than that, it was really good!
 
AthenaMarisaDeterminedbyFateThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Feb. 27 at 7:52 pm :
This is actually an excerpt from the ending of a novel I'm writing, so I understand where you're coming from. I read this as an ending to long story, but I know that other people read it as its own story...
 
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