GUN (extract)

She looked at me with contempt. As if I was something so insignificant, so tiny in the scheme of things, that I wasn't even worth considering.

Her face twitched; an indecipherable expression glanced across her features, fleetingly, then was gone.

Her mouth curled, she said: "If I had a gun, I'd kill you here and now."

I moved without thought. My hand snaked down towards my thigh and plucked my revolver, freshly oiled, from its holster. I handed it to her, butt first, and said: "- then do it."

She had the grace to look unfazed. She took the gun and said: "This time for real." I made no response. No words, no movement, no facial expression. I kept my eyes still and wide, focused intently on hers. I was standing square toward her, feet planted firmly, slightly apart. Arms by my sides, hands relaxed. A bizarre thought surfaced briefly; this was a classic 'quick draw' position.

I watched her face for a betraying shadow of inner turmoil or any emotion, but found none. I realized, without changing my fixed gaze, that her arm was raising toward me, and that the hand also raising was clutching the gun. I knew that I mustn't give any outward sign.

Her arm leveled off just upwards from the horizontal. She's a little shorter than I am. Her aim was directly between my eyes, and there was no more than an arm's length between the iridescent loop that was all I could see of the extremity of the revolver barrel and my calmly perspiring forehead.

I remained impassionate; it was a battle of wills. I thought I saw her finger bunch up as if she was squeezing on the trigger, but knew I couldn't have seen this. Time crawled.

Suddenly, there was a sharp click and I realized that she had actually done it, pulled the trigger - that the hammer had lifted up, away from the chamber, reached its limit and snapped back again producing the metallic sound now registering amongst my synapses. Perspective had prevented me from observing any of this, my view encompassing the end of the gun and her face. She hadn't allowed any of her feelings to disarrange her features.

I watched as a small puff of powder ballooned out from the area around the top of her thumb, a gunpowder flash illuminating the ledges underneath her eyebrows and a tiny reflection, a pinpoint of light, appearing in each of her pupils. I was aware of movement, the iridescent loop that was the end of the gun barrel rising slightly, and of the tunnel - the lair of the bullet - becoming less and less deep as the lead projectile made its way outwards into the world, in a distorted parody of the birthing process.

The tunnel grew shallower, like a bucket being drawn up a well, bringing life-giving water to the surface. I could imagine the effort involved in cranking the handle and actually felt the relief of the cessation of toil as the bullet leapt into the air and into a collision course with my skull. As the bullet entered my head I wondered at the nature of time, its fluidity and contrariness. The pain of the bullet opening my forehead registered for a split-second, before the trajectory of the gunshot sent the bullet racing through, and destroying, the neuro-receptors responsible for the recognition of pain.

I had just enough time left to murmur: "Thank You."


- Stan Batcow, this extract Feb 2003