Russian Roulette

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Photo CC by Keary O.

The reflection of his smug grin is reflected in the brushed steel as he slides what I don’t want – don’t even want to look at – across the cedar table. My heart is beating louder than thunder, my blood rushing faster than Niagara can fall. I worry that he can hear my panic, I wonder if he can smell my fear.

I try to remember how many rounds we’ve been through. Three? No, four. Four. This will be my second attempt. I scream inside of my head, terror coursing through me. The odds that I cease to exist in a matter of minutes are unreal. How can an object just slightly larger than my hand wield so much power? How can something resting innocently on the table be capable of so much evil?

He clears his throat. It’s obvious that I’m stalling. I nod, and this action surprises me; I’ve felt paralyzed since the empty sound of the empty click from the empty barrel. Empty. Maybe when my trembling hands find the strength to set this revolver – this wicked, wicked weapon – against my skull the small, empty click will be a sound of joy, not of despair.

It’s a lethal game of chance we play, but his calm exterior makes me wonder if there’s more to it than luck. Perhaps, behind his cool blue eyes and his handsome grin, lies the secret to the game. Look at his snakelike stare. It’s as if he has all the aces up his sleeves. But we’re not playing cards. We’re playing with death.

“It’s your turn, Slugger.” His lips barely move when he speaks. They flick up and down, like the serpent he truly is.

“How did we get to this?” I ask, though I am well aware of the answer. It stems back to his infidelity. If he were just a stranger, just another horny bastard in a sea of testosterone perhaps I wouldn’t care. I wasn’t a vigilante, striving to rid the world of cheaters. I wasn’t a saint, striking down sinners. But he wasn’t a stranger. He was my brother, and she was my wife.

When he suggested we solve our problems in this way I was confident, perhaps even cocky. Surely such a thing as Karma existed. Certainly he would be dealt the hand he deserved. But now – now that our scheme, concocted out of malice, has become a reality, now that it’s not just my marriage on the line or merely my brotherhood at stake, now that it’s life on the line, either his or mine – now my confidence has completely dissolved. Almost like a sprinkle of sugar in lemonade, my assurance has disappeared, and with it some of my sanity.

I long for better days. Just last week, before I saw what I will never unsee, we were out having drinks, shooting pool, whistling at college girls too young to give us the time off of an analog watch. We were buddies. The best of friends. And now?

Now I take the gun. The metal, untouched for several minutes, is cold in my clutch. The hot fire coursing through my veins warms it quickly, though. And I feel a new surge of rage. Rage for the cheating whore I’ll forever love but never trust again. Rage for the loss of not only my best friend, but my brother. And rage, rage for the decision I have just made.

I pull out the cylinder, twirl it in position, and lock it into place before he can finish the sentence “That’s cheat-!” When the trigger is pulled this time the sound is not that of an empty click. It is a loud, deafening ‘bang!’ followed by a sickening gargling of blood and whimpers of pain. The smell of iron pushes its way through my nostrils and down to my tongue. The snake eyes grow cold, they remain open, staring up towards me in disbelief. I stare back, unblinkingly, as I reach for the case of bullets, fill the chamber once again, and breathe a sigh of relief. A final sigh of relief.

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