“That’s Keith’s,” gasped Gary. He took the gun from Victor’s palm and looked at him in astonishment. “This is Keith’s water pistol.” A huge smile stretched across his face. “Ha! Keith left his water pistol here! Ha-ha! I bet he was looking for it.”
“He was my friend,” said Gary, removing the tiny cap from the rear of the pistol. “He used this gun when we played war.” He held the gun in the basin, beneath the spout, and turned the tap on; the water level in the clear yellow plastic rose and soon overflowed. He turned off the tap and replaced the cap. “Keith loved this gun.” He pointed it and squeezed the trigger; a thin jet a water shot across the room, splashed against the wall and began dribbling down. He laughed. With an excited grin he ran from the room, making loud gunfire noises with his voice.
“Gary, wait!” called Victor. “Gary?” Footsteps faded down the hall. Victor sighed. “It was good to know you, Gary.”
Victor stood once more facing the mirror. He patted above the left inner pocket of his jacket. “Still there.” He straightened up, lifted his chin, and nodded to his reflection, “Come on.” After using the toilet, he left the bathroom.
He walked down the hall, entered the bedroom and took a long look around: bare bed frame, upturned mattress, broken bookshelf on the floor, books strewn about, desk, stool, notepads, pencils, collapsed floorboards in the corner, an indestructible glass window and a single burning candle. The room still stank. He stepped through the mess and picked up his scimitar, then left the room.
Down the hall he went and opened the door to the fireplace room. He took a deep breath before crossing the room and climbing the stairs to the upper hall. Another deep breath. He made his way along the hall to the first door, where he stopped and waited, staring at the oval doorknob, his forefinger tapping the sword handle in his grasp. He took a step toward the door and then froze. He dropped to his knees and bowed his head. With his eyes closed and lips moving rapidly, he made a long, silent prayer, at the conclusion of which he opened his eyes, waited a moment, then nodded. “All right,” he said, standing up. “No point hanging around.”
Stepping up to the door, he leaned the scimitar against the wall next to it, and reached his hand to the doorknob. As his fingertips brushed the cold brass his hand trembled and fell to his side. He stumbled back and whispered, “I can’t do it.” He leaned forward, almost doubled over, and took a few slow, deep breaths before standing up again. He stared at the door and slapped his cheek. He slapped it harder. “Come on,” he growled through clenched teeth.
Five minutes later he was still there staring at the door. He rubbed his hand across his eyes. “This is crazy.” He began pacing up and down the hall. “You’re going to die sooner or later. And you’ve had a good run—not everyone sees twenty-nine years… It’s no good staying here to rot. Get in there and do something with yourself—think of Gary… Just go in there and do it… Damn it… Come on, it’s not a bad way to go. Better than bleeding out on some God-forsaken battleground, or wasting away in a hospital bed. Yeah. Come on… Everyone has to go sometime. Time to die. What’s that from? Robocop? No. It’s from something. Stop stalling…”
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED