Wednesday, December 4, 2013

He Needed To Die

He tried to open his eyes, but they were glued shut - sand and sweat and blood. He rose to one knee and the pain between his temples took his breath. Sudden. Shocking. It was a color he did not recognize, bright and vibrant in the darkness. He rotated his neck slowly; it sounded like broken glass. He could feel the sun, deadly hot. What the fuck? Then, everything slowed down. He remembered. He was supposed to be dead. He was close to it, now. Not close enough. He pictured the man's face and wished he'd chosen the bullet. His optimism had been folly. The desert does not empathize. The desert takes what it wants.

He tried to spit into his hand, but there was no moisture. He rubbed his eyes, but it ground the grit deeper. Sandpaper madness. Fuck. Where was the man with the bullet? Why had he been so stupid? Hubris. That's what they called it, right? He flashed to a college classroom: girl in the front, always dressed nice, pretty, perfect posture. He'd never spoken to her. Something about heroes. He couldn't remember.

The gun had freaked him the fuck out. That's what it was. The man smirking. I can shoot you or leave you here. He could hear himself begging: Don't shoot me. Just don't shoot me. The big man had looked almost shocked at his choice...which made sense, bullets are fast. But the gun. He'd looked at the end of the gun and just lost it. And there had been some hope in the decision, hadn't there? Stay alive ... it seemed ridiculous now.

He didn't understand. That was the injustice. Why him? What had he done? He tried to remember, but he was so thirsty. His head was so big. So fucking loud. Oh, Jesus. He was going to die, blind, in the desert. He wanted to rise and walk. He wanted to be the man who comes out of the desert. Louis L'Amour revenge fantasies blossomed. But this wasn't a book.

He had done bad things, sure. There was no denying that. But bad enough to die for? He searched through the slideshow in his mind. Some of the slides were blurry. Maybe he had done something during one of the black nights. Maybe it was mistaken identity. It didn't matter.

It was over. He knew it, but he couldn't accept it. Couldn't make it right in his mind. If only the man had explained. He'd asked and he could still hear the laughter. Does it fucking matter? No, it didn't matter. That was clear.

He let his head fall back and he could see the sun, just a redness through his eyelids. He could feel his skin burning. He tried to yell, but his throat was shredded. The sound that came out was something close to a howl. Pain. Fear. He smelled sweat and dry-heaved, gasping as he remembered the broken ribs.

The calm came slowly. Like an opiate ascent. Warmth. Not heat. Not the burning of the sun. A warmth from inside. Some kind of benevolent tranquility. He felt his muscles relax. He was relieved. Confused. Scared. He could feel death coming. He wanted it more than anything. He also wanted to live.

Pieces of the conversation came back to him. He remembered his pleading tone. The disgust on the man's face. Hell, he was disgusted with himself. He didn't know why. It was irrelevant. He did not know where he was. The man would not have left him an out. The desert promised death. And he couldn't even accelerate it. In his mind, he was on his knees, begging. Please. Please come back and bring the bullet. Bring the gun. I won't say a word. I promise. Jesus Christ! I promise!

The smells were strange. He had been lost in the labyrinth of his smells. Now, with the calm, other smells emerged. Some plant baking in the dust and sun. Sage? It was a sweet smell. It turned his stomach and made him shudder. Quick flashes. Christmas morning. His grandmother's peppermints. Acolyte candles. Altoid kisses behind the bleachers. There was also a smell of decay. He wondered if there were vultures circling.

His body was wet. A special slickness composed of sweat and blood. He had soiled himself. He could feel that, too. Smell it. He could smell his body becoming a part of the desert. Hot sand. The smell of wreaths and old wax. Resignation.

His brain was sluggish, still stuttering over the question. Why? In some velvet crease of the brain, he knew. Just as the man had said. It didn't matter. It was what it was. Everyone has a job to do. He fell on the hot sand and watched stars and cartoon faces explode behind his matted eyelids. The man had done his job. Now, to hold up his end of the bargain, he need only do the simplest thing in the world, let go. He needed to finish it.

He needed to die. 


  1. Totally shows the inevitable defeat he feels. Very good.

    1. Thanks much. I appreciate you stopping by. ;)

  2. Yeah, letting go is hard. Good study, this.

  3. Sign of great writing - I had to peak at the end, quickly taking looks, skimming the last paragraph. Does he die? I couldn't wait! Great piece.


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