Street lights flicker onto long stretches of empty pavement and the wind whips at my hair.
Then it arrives. A roar. A crash and crack. The tempest is here. It descends like a tantric tantrum, furious and flailing, full of ecstasy and rage. I decide to run. Where doesn’t exactly matter, just so long as it’s far, far away, someplace calm and warm and safe.
Then they arrive. In legion. In the thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Miniature missiles hurling toward me en mass. I look for an escape but there is no out. My only option is to embrace the inevitable. The next moment I’m chugging through beatings of horizontal rain. The lactic acid is eats away at my consciousness, the pain mounts and intensifies with every stride, but I continue. I need to get home. Never mind the persistent pelting, I tell myself to fight on, to pump those god damn my legs through the pain, through the maelstrom of glistening globules stinging my face.
But I have no idea where I’m going. Does it even matter?
I survey the surroundings for some saving refuge but I’m alone, alone with an empty landscape. I know my only out.
An anxious oven burns and bakes my insides. It’s fueled by uncertainty, by the presentiment of an impending unknown awaiting me. The stiff barrel tucked in my trousers warms itself against these flames. Beads of sweat drip down my back and accumulate in the soles of my sopping shoes. I poise: my senses pick out various voices humming in the periphery. Memories of the day flicker at the back of my conscious. Memories of a day. This day. About the decision made every day for the past three hundred and sixty five days. I tell myself, if there was one day, just one day where the thought ceased to persist, I would not be here. But I am free, and I have willfully chosen my fate and will demonstrate that choice. There is no going back.
I slide the long steel cylinder from my pants and hold it at my side, motionless. The crowd continues buzzing without notice. I tighten my grip on the handle and emotions stir and swirl beneath my consciousness. My heart flutters, then a spectacular wave of feeling explodes all over my body: painful anger turns to desperate sadness before settling into a jubilant joy that wraps around my flesh and tightens my skin. A smile forms across my lips and I lift my eyes to meet the bodies orbiting around me.
I was looking for a greeting but all I saw were dead eyes. Dead lifeless eyes. I look at the crowd, at the caroling canaries perpetuating mimicking mundane melodies, meaningless messages, and the joy melts away. I’ve felt this helpless retreat before, one too many times. It’s a familiar disappointment; a disappointment that lingers in every empty gesture, in every unreflective eye, in every unconscious utterance, and it’s pervaded every corner of this culture, every last recess of these half-human hearts. I stare into the folds of time until the sharp colors and crenelated contours between bodies bleed and blur, until everything gains a translucent hue. With mechanical precision I lift the gun to my head and press it into my temple.
A penetrating shrill bolts across the promenade and my focus regains. Faces turn to a professionally dressed woman smeared red with panic. Her blood curdling cry escapes into the air like hot steam, scraping the attention of every bystander. They watch her mouth, it’s gasping for words, gasping and grasping like rapacious tendrils reaching at empty air, but all that escapes are empty pantomimes that point and cringe. What’in the hells the matter, a man says. A woman stoops at her side and her eyes follow the finger that extends like a solemn weather vane pointing toward the storm. Our eyes meet abruptly, fixate and lock: she screams and an infectious hysteria ripples across the concerned crowd, softening the air of rigid consternation into all out horror and panic.
All the while my posture remains erect and proud. I feel the sun press its rays through the tops of giant cedar trees and spatter my face with warm light. My tongue fondles and moistens my lips and I open my mouth to speak:
“Soon are eyes tired with sunshine; soon the ears
Weary of utterance, seeing all is said;
Soon, racked by hopes and fears,
The all-pondering, all-contriving head,
Weary with all things, wearies of the years;
And our sad spirits turn toward the dead;
And the tired child, the body, longs for bed.”
A suspense stirs; silence blankets the crowd.
My palm, sweaty and moist, clenches the barrel and I apply pressure to the trigger. A black echo rings out.
The crowd watches for any sense of hesitation in the boy’s dull eyes. A friendly puff of red smoke appears and bellows out of his head; a fuchsia ribbon streams down his face and his legs buckle. The sound of the shot startles the onlookers from their stupor, but only momentarily. They shake in involuntary shock and confusion but continue looking on. The boy’s body hovers over his lifeless legs and he collapses with a fleshy thud.
All the while his face maintains the soothing serenity, a dull stare, as if he is lost in perpetual glory, in infinite thought.