Written by James McCann
It's not like it is in the movies. I don't feel the need to search for any words, or gulp hard when I swallow. I'm not coughing up any blood. It is raining though, and I guess that's as close as this thing is going to get to a Hollywood ending.
The bullet kind of pushed its way in, it didn't tear with a pointed tip, most bullets are round-nosed anyways. It took, I don't know, maybe seven seconds before the realisation set in. I mean, obviously I knew right away what had happened, I knew when I saw the puff of smoke that I'd been shot.
But the first thing I knew was the burning. The type of burning sensation that you just want to scratch at. You know scratching will only make it worse, but you want to scratch anyway, and scratch until you bleed. Besides, there is a bullet lodged in my chest; how much worse is scratching at it going to make it?
Ask me how it all happened, go on, I dare you. It won't make any difference because I haven't got a clue. We just turned a corner of the street, bumped into some guy with a beard coming out of the liquor store and BOOM! Next thing I know I'm falling down with my chest on fire.
The "we" in question is myself - quite obviously - and Thaila. She's my fiancé and the woman on her knees cradling my head and crying hysterically. It's only about 9 PM, but it's already dark and, my God, doesn't she look gorgeous in the street light with her hair all wet and pushed back from her face. I wish I could stop her crying.
The man in the liquor store just stepped outside. Now Thaila's yelling something at him, I'm not quite sure what though. I think someone's just said the word "ambulance" but I wouldn't like to put any money on it. Shootings really aren't that common around here, so everybody's in a bit of a panic. And I wish Thaila would stop crying.
I can hear the most beautiful choir singing now. Don't ask me where it's coming from, because I frankly have no idea. I can only see flickering images of thousands, maybe even millions, of choir singers, all wearing long, brilliant white robes with a line of red on the front, running down. Is it a cross, like a crucifix? I can't really make it out. I can’t see anyone's face, all I see is head after head of curly blond hair. And I wish Thaila would stop crying.
It's already too late. As the little man from the liquor store rushes back inside to pick up the phone in the hopes of summoning an ambulance for me, I know it's already too late.
Thaila smiles down at me now, through tears. She has no idea why I'm smiling. And I really wish she'd stop crying.
Someone's taken my left hand. It's not Thaila, and it's not a paramedic because there's no ambulance. The hand is large and strong, like a man's, but it's warm and gentle, like... home. I turn my head and I see a man. He is smiling at me with his eyes. His face is stoic, unflinching. But his eyes are telling me a million things at once and I understand them all with clarity. God, I wish Thaila would stop crying.
‘She will, eventually.’ The man just told me, though he never parted his lips. He has a square jaw, short, dark brown hair, combed back and wet, with what has to be a broken nose sitting on a very pale face. He is wearing a long black wool coat. It's raining quite heavily now, but the man is not getting wet.
He is giving me a message to give to Thaila. I look at her, hoping to keep the memory of her image forever. I open my mouth, and with no thought at all going into the words, I tell her, ‘He says we're always going to be with you. Don’t ever worry. We'll never leave you.'
‘Who? Who says?’ Thaila asks me, but he's not giving me an answer for her.
‘We'll always be with you.’ and, of my own accord, I add a simple, but heavy, ‘I will always love you.’
The man with the story-telling eyes lifts me up so I'm stood on my feet. The burning has stopped in my chest. I can feel heavy chains drop off me and slink to the ground with a defiant clunk. But Thaila is still crying; still looking down.
The man looks at me and nods, answering my question I hadn't even asked; I know that I am now dead. And the man is leading me to some place nice, some place good. And the choir of angels is getting louder. And the man is the embodiment of love. And Thaila has stopped crying, he tells me, and replaced sorrow with anger. And I know now who the man is.
And in time, once Thaila has replaced sorrow with anger, anger with hate, hate with love, she will know who the man is too.
And in time, Thaila will make him the man he is. But for now, I am going to where these faceless angels sing in their choir.