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Brian, staring at death personified in the form of his roommate, became lost in this surreal scenario. He was about to die, and he could do nothing to stop it. Alex’s gun, attached to a shaking arm, was pointed at Brian’s feet. Wiles had just given the order to shoot. Alex looked at Wiles, who placed a hand on the butt of a gun sticking out of his waistband.
“What are you waiting for? Shoot this motherfucker!”
Alex shut his eyes, and Wiles pulled out his own gun. Alex raised his arm, pointing the barrel directly at Brian.
Brian threw up his hands in front of his face. “Alex, no!” he said.
Alex pivoted his arm, opened his eyes, and squeezed the trigger. The force of the blast knocked Wiles off balance, and he stumbled backwards, and then forwards, towards Brian. Wiles lifted up his arm, pointing his gun at Brian as he staggered across the living room. Without thinking, Brian sprang to action, leaping to his feet and raising his fist above his head. He swung it down at Wiles’ hand, which knocked the gun to the floor. Alex fired another shot, which missed and instead punched a hole in Bob Marley’s face.
Wiles fell into Brian’s arms, and then warmth and wetness spread on his chest as blood rushed out of Wiles and onto Brian’s shirt. Brian pushed him back, and stumbled out of the way. Wiles hit the wall face-first, and then turned around as he slid to the floor, leaving a smear of blood on the way down.
Wiles locked on to Alex, with an expression of disbelief on his face. Blood dripped from his mouth. He tried to say something, but instead only a wheeze and a small bubble of spit and blood come out. Brian and Alex gaped at Wiles when he went limp. Dying. Alex held the gun at arm’s length as a mist of smoke rose from the barrel.
He shot him. He really shot him.
Alex dropped to his knees. “Oh, shit! He’s bleeding all over the carpet.” He ran to Wiles, grabbing him under the shoulder with one hand. Alex struggled to move the body. “Help me get him into the kitchen. Get his legs.”
Brian had become immobilized. The pain in his stomach had fled, replaced by numbness and a ringing in his ears. Brian looked down at his chest and the blood on his shirt, like a smudge of maroon paint. Alex waved the gun at Brian, with tears streaming down his face.
“Get over here and help me. I’m serious!” Alex said, in between rapid hiccups. Brian walked to Alex, just inches from the barrel of the gun. Alex raised it towards Brian’s face. Alex’s finger tightened on the trigger. He is losing his mind. “Do what I tell you,” Alex said. “Get his legs.”
Wiles’ muscles convulsed. Alex jerked backwards, dropping Wiles, who crumpled to the floor as a heap of limp flesh. “Oh, fuck me.”
This isn’t who you are; this is just what’s happening to you.
With Alex distracted, Brian reached out, resting a hand on top of Alex’s pistol-wielding hand. Brian pushed down, lowering his roommate’s hand towards the floor. Alex beheld him, dazed and jumbled and scared. He dropped the gun on the carpet.
“What have you done?” Brian said, looking at the pool of blood expanding around the body of his former friend. “Alex, what did you do?”
“I did it for you. He was wrong; it wasn’t your fault. Jimmy didn’t deserve that, and I couldn’t let him hurt you too. Help me get him into the kitchen, please.”
Brian took a step back.
His eyes widened, and everything came into focus. He involuntarily gulped in some air, as if surfacing above water. The new realities of the situation settled into his consciousness. Very soon, cops would be here, asking questions and taking them both away in handcuffs.
Wiles’ head twitched, and with a gurgling sound, some blood bubbled at his lips. He released a low, creaky moan.
Alex gasped. “Fucking shit, he’s still alive!” Alex hooked his hands under Wiles’ armpits, and with a fierce grunt, hauled him towards the kitchen. A red smear followed Wiles as he slid across the carpet. Alex strained to move Wiles’ body onto the kitchen tile, as Wiles continued to breathe and red spittle poured from his mouth. Alex collapsed, Wiles’ upper body covering Alex’s legs.
“Alex, let’s go,” Brian said.
“We can’t,” Alex said. “He’s still alive. We have to finish him. We can’t let him live.” Alex reached around Wiles’ body and retrieved the pistol. He chambered a round and put the barrel of the gun next to Wiles’ temple. Wiles, murmuring, turned his head away from the gun.
Brian had to leave. Whatever should happen next, Brian no longer wanted any part of it. The room was death and nothing here would ever be the same. “I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m sorry, Alex. I’m leaving. Please come with me.” Alex shook his head. With a final somber glance at his roommate’s despair-ridden face, Brian walked to the door.
Brian labored down the stairs, extending a trembling hand out to the rail for support. Each step came slowly, as if he had never walked before. The vice grip inside his stomach returned, and with it, a compulsion to vomit.
He stumbled out into the parking lot, drifting aimlessly until he bumped into a car. He looked at the construction site, and lurched towards it, but stopped at the fence. He slid down the fencepost. On the grass next to him, he dry-heaved, the pain twisting his stomach with such ferocity that his vision became dotted with stars. Then, the sound of a car door opening and shutting. A figure in a hoodie walking up the stairs to his apartment. The figure going inside. Brian closing his eyes. Some shouting, and then a flash of light accompanied by a deafening blast. A moment later, another.