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He voraciously inhaled each time he brought the cigarette to his lips. With every drag he puckered his lips firmly around the cigarette, intent on feeling a more powerful burning in the base of his throat. The smoke enveloped him in a cloud of pure tar.
The night was a bitter cold that drenched the man with flecks of snow. He was completely soddened with water, because every time a snow particle came in contact with his clothing it immediately dissolved.
It began when the man flicked the burnt out cigarette into the water puddle that was the ground. After standing where he had been smoking, many moments passed. He sat down on a curb outside of the identical houses in the neighborhood. The duplicate houses were odd and scared him.
The man started to cry.
A car pulled into the drive way of the house and then switched its headlights off. The ignition turned off while someone stepped out of the car. They took steps toward the man in a timely pattern, back and forth, then back, and forth once more. Finally, the feet arrived, stopping when they met the man. The person stood a moment before extending a hand to the sitting man; this hand had the ability to induce placidity to the other person, and its power affected the sitting man immediately.
When the man upon the curb looked at the hand he took it with a familiarity acquired from many months ago. The man whispered, “I knew you’d show,” and got to his feet. They made their way to the car, and the hooded figure got in the driver’s side, while the man went in the back and lay so that his body was flat, except that his feet were sticking out of the open window. He then lit another cigarette as the driver reversed out of the driveway.
“I hope you don’t mind if I smoke in here.”
“Don’t worry about it, I don’t care that much,” the driver returned in a smooth voice. He sounded pleasant, but somewhat concerned as he said, “You needed to get away, that’s why I came and got you. You shouldn’t keep yourself in the house every day, sulking around doing whatever it is you do. It’ll be good for you to get away for a while.”
A plume of smoke escaped the man’s mouth. He didn't respond, except for shrugging his shoulders in agreeance. His jacket made a sound against the vinyl seating as it tightened with the motion. There was a silence that neither unnerving nor awkward, instead it was the kind that people wish for in the most of desperate times. The kind where a person listens, and in the car they were listening to the hum of the vehicle as it sped with the night’s burning wind, the man smoking, and more importantly, each other’s breathing. Their breath was full of a yearning to be with one another.
They loved each other.
“I love you,” a voice from the back of the car whispered. And then neither spoke for a long time.
The car sped in the absence of traffic; the hour was strange for anything to be happening. Coldness seeped into the car from the open windows, entering the chapped pores of both the driver and man. It sunk its self so deep within their skin, that they would surely feel it forever. Both their noses began to dribble, finally causing the driver to say, “Christ its cold, roll the windows up back there.”
They pulled into a gas station and aligned to the gas pump. The driver got out and went inside to pay for gas without saying anything to the man. Still in the car, he began to hum while tapping his hand on his leg in correspondence to the tune. He continued for a couple of minutes, but was startled by an abrupt knocking on the window behind his head.
The knocking was three solid whacks up against the glass. Rap rap rap. The man lying down sat up and turned his body to see why the driver had frightened him—but it was not the driver. Instead he was looking through glass at the shiny nostrils of a gun. The holder rapped it again when he saw the man looking at him in confusion. The gun spoke, “Open the car,” while staring threateningly at the man smoking a cigarette.
It repeated, “If you don’t open this car I’ll shoot your head off.” The man did as he was told. Holding the gun was a black man clothed in some drapery found in a living room. He wore mustard colored curtains, wrapped around his body and tied at the waist. Hanging below the curtains were some old sweat pants too short for his long legs. The black man stood at least a foot above the smoker, while pointing the gun down at his center forehead.
He had positioned himself prior so that his body was hidden in the darkness. On one side of the car the light from the gas station illuminated this half in a yellow tint, but on the other side the car sat in darkness. The black man had cleverly set his body so that he could not be seen if someone inside the station were to look at the gas pumps. And so the driver found it odd when he looked outside to see his companion standing faced away from the car, back turned and looking into the darkness.
Outside, the smoker was frozen. He didn’t know what to do but listen to the black man’s next words, “Don’t say a word or I’ll kill you. If you try and run, I’ll shoot you, and if you yell for someone, I’ll shoot you too. Give me your wallet and don’t make any sudden movements.”
The cashier asked the driver if he was going to pay with debit or credit. He said debit and waited for the receipt.
The black man demanded, “Hurry up or I’ll kill you now. You don’t have much longer.”
After signing the receipt, the driver took steps away from the station; he heard the ding as he left. The door announced his departure, and after this the driver stopped and questioned, “What are you doing?” to the smoker not in the car. It was when he didn’t respond that he saw him.
The black man showed himself, bathing his dark skin in an illumination that made his eyes squint. The nostrils of the gun were now pointed at the driver. “Give me your card and PIN number now,” he demanded. The driver reacted differently than from his partner, because he spoke one word that would change the situation drastically. “No,” the driver spoke without hesitation. “What did you say? Can you not see what I’m holding? I’ll shoot you,” he pointed the gun at the smoker, “and then I’ll shoot him right behind you. Do what I said you queer,” and he spat an unrecognizable liquid onto the driver.
Quietly behind the black man, the smoker was preparing to pump gas.
The black man advanced towards the refusing man with two strides and forced the gun hard into the driver’s skull, knocking him to the ground. “You’ve got five seconds to do what I said!” pulling the trigger, “and then I’m shooting you.”
But it was too early for his death, because the smoker yelled, “Hey! Don’t touch him. If you’re going to do anything shoot me first.” The gun spun around and said, “Is that what you want?” He inhaled the last drag of his cigarette that he inexplicably still held.
“Go ahead. Shoot me.”
But the smoker was too fast for the gun. He flicked his cigarette into the open mouth of the dripping gas tank.
A second passed before it blew up.
Metal flew in the sky as the fire screamed in response to the smoker’s weapon. The sky transformed into an orange and blackened spiral, intertwined with the color of gun-metal silver.