Evidence, Omerta

 

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The Bullet

Time stretched out and contracted in dizzying waves as my breathing became shallow and laboured. The air was thin, dark, hollow. I counted, one minute and twenty-eight seconds, one twenty-nine, one thirty and I gasped for breath, an involuntary impulse, a sudden desperate hitch of the diaphragm.

The blood was warm through my fingers, over my hands, soaking my clothes. All my own blood for a change. How much had I lost already? How much could I lose and survive?

I was almost prepared for this. Almost. We had talked about this, planned for this. We had planned for everything. I could picture you counting along with me, even after you had turned your back and left me in the hands of fate.

My pulse weakened. I whispered to you across the distance between us as it became greater and colder by the second, “Remember.”

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The Memory

Fading in.

“Can you hear me?”

Yes.

“Can you open your eyes?”

No.

Fading out.

Something like a dream or a memory, a dream of a memory, a memory of a dream. I was playing guitar on the couch, mesmerised by the sensation of the ever-present cuts on my knuckles threatening to split open, singing under my breath. Calming my soul. Easing the unwelcome aches that spread through my body and my every waking thought. You came in, dropped your keys on the table and announced, “He’s gone.”

“What? Gone-gone?”

“Yes. Gone-gone.”

“Did you actually see it happen?”

“No, but it definitely did. It all went according to plan. You know what that means?”

“We’re done.”

“We’re done.” You looked around, as if even after all this time you still weren’t one hundred percent sure there was no-one listening. “We can go now. They can get us out. It’s over. And I swear to god, the first thing I’m doing is buying that fucking boat then we’re getting the hell away from all of this, all of them, everything. Together.”

I rested my hands on top of the guitar and my chin on top of my hands. “I don’t know.”

“What? How? What do you mean you don’t know?”

“I mean I don’t know. It’s too soon, too early. There’s too much still to do. I don’t know.”

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The Beginning

Drifting through needles and antiseptic smell and bright light glowing red through my eyelids. Drifting through footsteps and the rhythmic hum and beep and hiss of machinery. The awareness that at least I wasn’t dead. Yet. I tried to reach out to you, to gather a sense of where you were, if you were. I could hear voices. None of them were yours.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes.” My throat felt like paper, like dead leaves.

“Can you open your eyes?”

“Yes. Am I . . . how did . . . when . . ?”. The world looked bleak, liquid and gas and a cold sterile glow.

“He’s awake.”

A sudden rush of activity, an overwhelming tide of motion around me and I was still in the eye of the storm.

However long later, after however many months and however many surgeries, I found myself looking into the mirror at a face that was not my own. They said the swelling would go down and the bruising would fade. They said it would be difficult at first, not being able to recognise myself. They said they could help with that, they did this all the time. They said it was important to start using my new name so that it would become a natural reflex for me to respond to it. They said I would be fine. They said nothing about you.

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A note from the author

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~

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