by Jim Lawrence
It was a dead face in a dead mirror. He looked down at the elegant little revolver in his hand, admired once again the scooped indentations on the cylinder and the cold lustre of the stainless-steel four-inch barrel. Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, L-frame, double action: his beautiful deliverer.
So this was it, at last this moment had come. He gave no credence to the notion of fate, yet this final act had been inevitable. His shapeless, aimless life had been guided, nanosecond by nanosecond, decade by decade, to this ineluctable point. The irony would kill him. He laughed inwardly as he looked back in the mirror. His bitter mirth did not disturb the silence.
There would be no note attempting to explain the inexplicable, no final poem to mock the world with poignantly modulated recriminations, no accusation of any god, no angrily scrawled terminal howl at the universe. Just silence. His mute corpse would offer condign testament to a voiceless existence, would serve as dumb witness to innumerable reasons and none at all. Let the world interpret his death as it may, it would change nothing.
That's not writing, he remembered, that's plumbing. His blood was running like lava. In the space where the soul is said to reside he was nothing but a broken alarm clock. Spirals of thought. Soon come, soon come.
He looked up again at the face he hid behind, remembered the dark night rivers into whose lamp-lit waters he had stared, remembered the women and the lonely barroom sessions, the spinning madnessess in the untethered cosmos of his jagged, wounded mind. He thought about how he cried at the vision of evolution's eternal drama glimpsed and lost in a flicker of knowing; about his spirit-self rising from his weightless body as a great eagle's talons pulled him upwards from his shoulders; of a beautiful girl misunderstood on a sunset-blessed hilltop. He had worn a brightly coloured blanket on his shoulders like an ancient lord. He remembered everything and nothing. He relived the abyss of nothingness. Nightly dreams of wandering through old schoolrooms and vast department stores, in search of some undefined, unknowable revelation. How many years waiting at bus stops, apprehensive in clinical waiting-rooms, bored during office hours? Birth, school, work. Now it was time for death.
The face he stared into looked back impassively, empty of content, communicating nothing. His spinal column was an icy stalagmite, a frozen kundalini stalled in its ascent. He was a dead serpent. He swung out the revolver's cylinder and loaded a single 38 Special +P from the box of cartridges. The +P was a powerful slug; there would be no doubt.
It was always Russian roulette back then, after he had first acquired the gun: chance would decide if he lived or died. Live, then he would go on, until he decided it was time to repeat the ritual: open the hidden drawer, take out the gun and the cartridges, sit in the chair opposite the mirror. He would look at himself, into himself, beyond himself, numbly enervated and electrically alive all at once. Eventually, feeling the heft of the pistol in his right hand, he would release the cylinder, slot the bullet into a chamber, spin the cylinder with eyes closed, cock the hammer, put the barrel to his temple and pull the trigger. Die, then he would be free.
That moment between the first click, when the chamber indexed with the breech, and the second click, when the trigger released the hammer and returned, was the moment of his one-in-six wager with eternity. But this time chance would have nothing to say about his continued existence. This time he would not hear the second click.