He didn’t recall hearing a shot, nor actually feeling the bullet enter his chest, but he knew now. It had hit somewhere around his heart; obviously not his heart considering he was still alive, but it burned slightly and that made him uneasy. He got up and walked a few paces, testing his strength and the stength of the pain, trying to determine whether or not he could actually continue living. It appeared that he could, so his first inclination was to try and ignore the wound and go about his day normally. But he couldn’t really ignore the bullet hole. It was there, somewhere beside that most important organ, shifting around restlessly with his every movement, like an uncouth thought, a deprived desire that one tries to suppress in the back of their mind. It would kill him, this round, he was certain of it. At least if he did not seek help. But he nonethless delayed in reaching out to someone and alerting them to his peril. If someone had asked him why, afterwards, he wouldn’t have been able to explain. It was just something he did, perhaps born of his stubborness and his hope that maybe, if he ignored it, everything would be OK. But it wasn’t going to be OK. The wound became more and more apparent to him, leeching his life from him in minute steps. It was inexorable and he could feel its progression, its gradual movement from life to half-life and then to quarter-life. And then he knew it was time. Not for his family’s sake but for his own, because his imminent death began to frighten him. He was too young, only twenty-five, and he did not want to cease living. He wanted to move. It did not matter if he wasn’t moving in any particular direction, he just wanted to be able to move, to be free to feel the non-kinetic trials of life. He wanted to one day feel powerful and like a man, not a dead corpse that had tragically succumbed to its own obstinateness and stupidity. So he finally called his parents, warned them: “Parents, I die. Please save me.” They began to take the necessary steps to save him. They traveled to distant locations, full of hope, and reassured him that they would bring that hope to him. They made phone calls and spoke urgently. But their actions were slow. He called them again, and again, and again, but they ceased to answer. They were busy saving him, too busy to listen to his pleas. And for the first time the young man felt terror. It was a terror unlike he had ever felt before, one that caressed his face with a macabre sweetness and filled him with emotion. He tried phoning again, but no answer. He could feel the wound consuming him, swallowing him whole and threatening to leave nothing of him. He slouched back against the wall of the mansion, crying to himself: “I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die.” Only the wound spoke back: “Tough shit stupid boy. You had your chance.” And it continued to swallow him, happily spreading its fear and its animal nature into the young man’s brain, fluttering his heart so greatly that he thought it might catch the bullet and end it sooner. He was on the verge of panic: “I don’t want to die.” He called again but his parents were still to distant, still too preoccupied. He thought of his sister, and of his mother and father, of how they loved him and he them. Of how he was dying alone in this luxurious setting, a strong young body brought to naught. He coudn’t move now, his body limp and useless. Only the wound pulsated, continued to swallow. And as it finally sucked the last few breaths of his terrified life, he slumped forward and disappeared.
Everything was grey. The waves, the sky, the sand. Even the boardwalk with its distinctively brown texture played games on the eyes, grimacing with the same grey hue that enveloped the rest of the world. It was a modern day freeze frame as the three of them walked aimlessly beneath the wooden planks, feeling the light drizzle fall on their faces. Little was exchanged between them aside from quiet glances. They themselves were grey although they did not have the same gloomy sheen that the world exuded. As they moved about he would stop occasionally and poke his foot into the sand and watch it form crescent mounds, observing all the little grains coallesce along with the white miniature conches that dotted the beach. Everything was quiet and desolate.
“Let’s go.” It was half a command and half a suggestion but he obeyed. There was nothing else on the beach for them to experience, although there was nowhere in particular for them to go. He glanced once more out unto the ocean and observed how it seemed to meld with the sky above it, the waves that bounced lightly over its surface mirrored by the clouds’ slow movement above it. It was time to go.
Piling into the small vehicle they pulled out into the street. Few cars impeded their way and they made good time in reaching the low profiles of the inland storefronts, all of their colors muted by the gloomy day. The avenues were fairly wide here, blanketed with the same drizzle that fell on the beach, the street signs swaying rhythmically to the unseen current above them. They traveled without exchanging words, each staring out their personal windows as increasing numbers of cars began to engulf them. They were once again in the world of the living.
He looked at his friend at the wheel and observed his stolid look. It was familiar to him, an unchanging aspect of his life. Never a grimace, never a smile. An unsaid agreement that neither would affect the other unduly. This did not bother him and the agreement seemed particularly suited to the day with its low hanging and expansive rain clouds.
They merged gracefully into a turn lane and pulled to a stop, the left turn signal blinking and ticking pleasantly through the dashboard. Its meager light illuminated the console and he shifted his gaze slightly to capture it. It seemed hesitant, stretching its rays timidly across the gauges and the hard plastic of the car. He imagined it as being a shy life-form beckoning amidst a massive world of jutting and cavernous architecture, announcing to anyone who paid it attention that it was there. Finally he felt forward motion.
Looking up he managed to catch a glimpse of an accident in the making. As they turned left through the busy intersection a large sedan pulled out of line, veering into the turning traffic with a slow but deliberate movement. Its windows were heavily tinted. Its body hung low to the ground. He watched as his friend met the challenger’s infraction, steadily moving forward as was his right. But the sedan refused to correct itself, pulling further and further out of line and attempting to force its way through into the opposite direction. Neither would concede their forward movement and so they slowly met with a thud, the sedan hitting their vehicle’s left rear.
They both rolled to a stop, the sedan a bit further than necessary. He sat looking forward and felt a swell of indignation run through his body. How could they. They were in the wrong. They had no right. He grimaced. He felt powerful. He reached for the door and opened it slightly but heard his friend murmur a simple, “Close the door, now.” Immediately gathering the urgency of the command he attempted to bring the door back towards himself, but something would not give. Perhaps the latch would not hook, or the door simply no longer fit. But it would not close entirely, so he desperately flipped the lock switch and waited for his friend to commence moving again.
But there was no movement. Instead his door flung open and in the empty space between himself and the world stood a woman, a woman of moderate stature with a large head of curly hair arrayed around her face. Her features were plain with a vaguely expectant look. She stood casually with a pistol in her hand, elevated towards him. He looked at her, their eyes engaging and playing together, exchanging the vast expanses of their lives in a disjointed symphony, swirling and swirling, uniting two worlds in an instance of poetic discord, worlds of pain and of pleasure, of boredom and of excitement, of experiences so far apart yet intimately connected. Their facial features melded into their eyes, their world melted away into the grey haze of the day, as did their personal stories. The swirling movements now cascading upwards then downwards, splashing each other and touching each others’ hearts and minds. The world contracted into the great vortex that was their momentary connection, two galaxies rebounding around each other, fighting to overcome the other’s magnetic force, pulling small instances of truth away from each other in a perpetual exchange of stories. But their ultimate fate was one of coalescence. They could no longer escape the laws of life.
Then she shot. He let out a muffled moan, oddly high pitched. He could not tell if he felt pain, only the pressure that seemed to suck his flesh further and further into his chest. Behind him he felt his friend lean forward to inspect him. To his left he saw his friend shift gears and give impetus to the stationary vehicle. As they pulled off at a gradual and lazy pace he felt his head slump forward and the world grow distant. A sound emanated from one of his friends, but it was indistinguishable. It no longer seemed to matter, and the world remained grey.
I don’t remember who was getting married, or why, when, or where, but I do vaguely remember the chimp. No one had told me what the purpose of the chimp was but they had wanted it so there it was, in the church, a member of the congregation. The chimp was unsettling to me, being more human-like than normal. Her big black eyes bore holes through my skull every time she looked at me. But what was I going to do? It was their wedding and I would just have to put up with it.
To be honest I am not even sure why they invited me to their wedding. The bride’s parents were not particularly fond of me although they maintained a polite demeanor. As I slipped in, late of course, and sought a seat on the empty left side of the church the bride’s father turned to me sharply and motioned for me to sit on the right side.
“That side is for the guests”, he explained. What guests? I thought to myself. Were we not guests? I got the notion from him that the true guests would be the random visitors passing through for the spectacle. Inevitably the left side remained empty for most of the wedding and aside from drawing some attention to myself for making noise the wedding was nondescript.
It was after the wedding, when my friends and I were making our way down the streets, that I suddenly realized I no longer had my phone. I had a phone on me but when I had pulled it out of my pocket I saw that it how somehow been swapped. My first thought was that the two boys we had sprinted from, specifically out of fear that they were going to try and steal our phones, had somehow managed to sneak a hand in my pocket and switched it. I felt a wave of anxiety begin to work its way over me as I considered all I had lost along with that phone. I wanted it back, I needed it back, and my friends did not seem to care.
Of course, those two boys might not have stolen my phone. Perhaps I had dropped it on leaving the church, or I could have accidentally picked up the wrong phone. I began retracing my steps in the hopes of finding it lying on the sidewalk and while I did manage to find two others that looked similar to mine, I had no luck.
When I finally arrived at the church again the doors had been shut and the lights turned out. The wedding was now over and the church, once relatively lively, seemed barren and sad. I peered in through the small door window and looked at the pitch black of the church’s interior. I guess I was not going to get my phone. As I began to leave I heard a soft murmur emanate from the back of the church. I peered in through the small window again and saw a small figure slowly appear from the blackness behind it. It was the chimp, her massive black eyes looking up at me beggingly. I felt that great unease again, and as she got closer to the door her short stature disappeared underneath the sill of the little window. I had had enough and turning around I left without another thought.