Droplets of blood fell and speckled the words in my lap.
The rain came next.
Rain fell hard, but I didn’t move. I only watched the note soak and fall apart. Shreds of yellow slipping through my fingers and washing away, finding their end in a ravenous storm drain.
I remained there until the rain let up, stewing in my own resentment. I was stationary for so long my joints creaked like unoiled gears.
Not far from me, the rear entrance to the nightclub was lit by an ancient string of blinking Christmas lights. Beyond that, a silhouetted figure stood, watching me, and smoking.
I removed my soaked pack, then a damp cigarette, and lit it, somehow. The figure and I stared at one another for awhile before, finally, I stood.
“You okay?” The man asked.
Despite his distance, he spoke at a normal level and I heard him just fine.
He nodded, took a look around, then prodded further. “Going to do somethin’ about it?”
I shrugged. “I think so.”
I turned to see a sprawling corridor behind me, rife with garbage and miscellaneous obstacles. The buildings on either side of me rose impossibly high, cutting out most of what was already thin sunlight, bleakly diffused through heavy storm clouds. A barely visible exit lied at the end, miles and miles away.
I spun back to see the man still there, hands in his pockets.
“I’m so angry,” I stated, plainly.
I looked at the road home, again, tears welling, then drew the gun from my pocket.
“That man should pay for his crimes,” I added.
I gripped the revolver handle tighter.
“I can’t do this anymore.” I blinked out a tear from my one good eye.
The silhouette nodded and kicked at something on the ground, “I know.”
I let out a cry that echoed almost eternally. The gentle sound of raindrops falling from clogged gutters were briefly drown out, then returned, unfazed at my furious display of emotion. The world was unmoved, as it always was. The clouds rolled, the wind blew, the clock ticked on, with or without my say-so.
A tear, or blood, dropped from my face to the pavement below.
“How?!” I demanded. My rage was made to mask the sadness. “How do I do it?! How do I go on?”
There was a pause, however brief, before his reply. “That, I don’t know.”
I released a tearful breath of exasperation and screamed again. Another mighty roar. A shout to let more hatred and anger into the world because my heart had an abundance. Regardless my attempts to vacate it, there was always more in its place.
I found that I was screaming to no one. The man had gone in my fit of rage. I fought sobs for a time, eventually flicking my weapon open to find all six bullets in place, and closing it with an unsteady hand.
I shut my eyes and put the gun to my head.
“Mike?” A quiet voice came from behind me.
I spun around instantly and put the gun down, embarrassed of my desire to end it all.
“What are you doing out here?” Mara stood by the door to the void, wrapping a thin, hooded sweatshirt, more tightly around herself.
I shrugged and wiped at tears. “What’s it matter?”
She shook her head and looked around the alley with mild annoyance.
“You’re lucky he didn’t kill you.”
“Yeah,” I coughed out a laugh, “lucky.”
“You’re so full of shit, Mike.”
I squeezed my revolver tight again, then stuffed it in my pocket.
“If that’s true then why are you out here talking to me?”
The short, meek looking, woman shrugged and pulled a cigarette from her pocket.
“I guess I’m supposed to be,” she sparked up, exhaled, and went on, “after all, I’m here aren’t I?”
“What the Hell is that supposed to mean, Mara? One minute you’re having me dragged out back to be put down and the next you’re one with the universe. Why can’t you just be straight with me for once in your miserable life?”
“My miserable life?” The earnest in her voice threw me off.
“This is just who I am, Mike. All this time and you still don’t see that.”
“No, I do see that. That’s why I ignore you. That’s why I stay away from you. All of this,” I paused and gestured to the world around me, “is your fault.”
She smiled and took a pull from her cigarette. “And that sentiment is going well, is it?”
I gritted my teeth, sending pain shooting through my skull.
“No. It isn’t, but it’s better than the alternative.”
Mara flicked her smoke into a nearby puddle and shook her head. “Go home, Mike.”
“Oh very funny,” I retorted, “you’re in on the joke, too?” I turned and made for the nightclub door. “How enlightening.”
“It’s more enlightening than you might think.”
The club door shut behind me.
I’d entered the poker room, somehow, Mara in front of me.
“Did you think it was going to be that easy, Mike? You were just going to walk into the club, slide unnoticed through the noise and confusion, and what? Shoot Duscias? What was that going to accomplish, exactly?” She paused, took a few steps back, and leaned almost seductively against a doorframe across the room. “You know what I’m beginning to think? I think you deserve this, but it’s more than that. You want this. You thrive in this place and you wouldn’t leave even if you knew how… You love it here.”
“That’s a lie.”
“Is it?” She looked around the room as if it’s very existence proved her point. I gripped the pistol in my coat pocket. “Now what are you going to do? Shoot me?”
I removed the gun from my pocket and fired. One, two, three, four, five, and six. I emptied everything I had into her chest. Gun smoke slowly dissipated before me. Her brief silence offered a false bliss.
“Did you get that out of your system?” She asked. “Or do you want to reload?”
I looked at my weapon, and her, astounded. There wasn’t so much as a speck of blood or a hole in her shirt.
“How are you- how can you be,” I stopped and took a step back.
Mara walked out of the doorway, and toward the poker table, revealing six dime size holes in the wall of the room behind her.
“Who did you think you were in here with, Mike? I’m curious now. Where do you think you are?”
I turned for the door at my back to find nothing but exposed brick.
“Oh no, there’s no running from this one, Detective.”
A hand grabbed the back of my head and ran my face into the wall. I dropped.
“You act like that hurts you. You seem to be in pain, but I know better.” She paused to watch me writhe on the floor, then went on, “you’re enjoying this.”
I looked at her standing above me. She had my gun in her hand and it was pointed at me.
“I’ve given you every chance, Mike. Even now, I offer you a chance, but will you take it? No, of course not, because that would mean giving up your status.”
I rolled to my side and answered, “what chance is that, Mara? To be tortured some more? You break my teeth and call it love. You break my heart and claim it caring.”
She grew agitated.
“I don’t claim it to be anything. I just do what I do and you label it. You claim it torture. You claim it evil, because it’s easier that way. It’s easier to believe it evil than to call it what it is.”
I stood, shakily, and leaned against the wall. “And what is it really?”
“Hm,” I nodded and spit blood to the ground, “interesting. Thanks for the lesson, Mara. I don’t know why I don’t spend more time with you.”
“Oh, but you do. All the time. There’s no escaping me, Detective.”
“You can take that gun out of my face anytime now. It’s empty.”
She put the barrel against my shoulder and pulled the trigger. It fired. I felt what seemed like a swarm of bees stinging me from the inside out. A bullet exited my back.
“You’re running out of time,” she stated, as I slid back to the floor. “I don’t know if there’s help for you anymore.”
I gripped my shoulder, as the blood spilled out.
“There never was, Mara.”
She shot me again; this time in the abdomen, a few inches above my hip. She began to cry. I gasped as my body went into shock.
“What are you,” I struggled to inhale, “What are you crying for?”
“It didn’t have to be this way,” she replied.
“Yes it did.”
She fired a third time. It was difficult to pinpoint by then, but it landed somewhere near the second.
The hair fell over her face and all at once I began to see who she was. What she was, to me. She raised the weapon toward my face.
“Wait!” I cried, holding a bloodied hand between the pistol and myself, “wait.”
Mara held off a floodgate of tears to reply, “What is it? Why should this wait?”
I fought through irregular breaths, trying feebly to sit comfortably against the wall. She watched as my face grew colder, as my arms and legs spasmed, as I lost the life I’d all but thrown away. She waited, and I looked to her expectant face.
“Let me go home.”