No Going Back

The weight of the world in the palm of my hand. There’s a coldness to the metal that my body heat and the rubberized grip can’t negate. When I pull the trigger–because it is when, no ifs remain–there’s no going back.

No going back.

Jones is long gone. I’ll be shooting a rabid animal that happens to resemble a former colleague. A dead thing that just doesn’t know it yet.

Colleague. No, that’s not quite right. Not friend either–too intimate. Acquaintance isn’t enough. Ally, I suppose.

All the drunken games of Buck Hunter couldn’t prepare me for this moment. My aim is shitty and a plastic, laser interactive gun has nothing on the real thing.

I knew guns were heavy, but this is something else entirely. It leaves no doubt about just how serious the act you are going to commit is.

The moment his eyes start to open, I’ll pull the trigger.

I slow my breaths, square my shoulders, plant my feet.

“C’mon, Jones.” It’s practically a scream, that edge of hysteria that would leave no one in doubt that I am not made for this.

I want to drop the gun, run away. But I promised. We both promised. And yet…the waiting. I need to be sure he’s gone, really gone and changed. I will not shoot a dead man. I can shoot a raving mad creature.

It’s only been one minute since his heart stopped. The change should be taking hold any second now. Unless Jones is one of the rare ones. The first victims took hours, but mutations sped up the clock. Still, you hear stories of the ones who take days. But everyone changes in the end. Everyone.

“Dammit, Jones, I’m not waiting all fucking day.” Anger now. I prefer that to hysteria. I can function with anger. The other makes me want to curl up and cry.

“I should just shoot you now.” Would serve him right. Jones always did show up late to work. To happy hours. To life. Why should death be any different?

If this were a movie, I would have shot him the moment his heart stopped. Or before. But this isn’t a movie. And I’m no hero. I’m just me. And now I’m alone and terrified and I’ve never shot anything not made of pixels.

The gun slips. I switch hands, wipe my sweaty palm on my jeans, switch back.

Thirty more seconds and I’m pulling the trigger.

I’m just stalling. Me and soon to be forever dead Jones know it.

His chest rises, falls. Rises again.

I sigh.

The first shot makes my ears ring. I can only feel and see the shots that come after. Jones has no head.

Still I fire.

Until I run out of bullets…my hand cramping and letting the gun fall. The dull thud reverberates through my feet.

I turn and walk away, pausing only to grab my backpack before moving on.

“Goodbye, Jones,” I say.

Goodbye me.