Lying on the rough concrete of the rooftop, I feel my chest rising and sinking rapidly. The raw December air seems to take my breath away, slowly but steadily. I’ve done this job for years on end, and I’ve come to the bitter conclusion that I’m trapped in the system. There’s no way out for me, not this time.
Black on grey, now lock it.
My numb fingers trace the cold metal, as I screw piece by piece together. From afar, the city can be heard grumbling, car horns blaring and sirens wailing, deafening my movement.
Silencer, night scope, all set.
‘I’m just a shot away from you’, I whisper, but I know I won’t be heard.
I stretch my chin up to settle on the mount, which by the years shaped itself into a perfect-fitting mould. Ignoring the tears, I force myself to squeeze my left eye shut and squint through the scope. After adjusting to the dim light, I let my crosshair wander across the imposing residential building on the other side of the wide street, scanning story by story and landing on the only window lit in the western tract.
There she is.
The first time I met her, I was still in training to be a regular policeman. Regular, that’s what I strived to be, I never wanted to join the union, never wanted to be just another puppet in an army of tin soldiers. We were no older than twenty-five, cotton candy dreams and so full of love. ‘Take me out’ she whispered playfully, one sunny day when we met after training in the academy, ‘I know a sweet little spot high up on the rooftop where they serve the most magnificent margaritas’. Her tender smile always formed tiny dimples on her rosy cheeks. The thought of her is agonizing, let alone the dawning of what is to come next. Why her? They should take me instead, take me out and let her be, let her live the peaceful life she deserves, in whatever form is still possible in this merciless system.
I need to focus.
Through the crosshair, I fixate on the woman standing by the window, the back of her head illuminated by the dim glow of her living room light. With soft movements she takes silken blouses out of the hamper and places them on the drying rack. As I trace her motion, I can almost feel her tender touch on my skin. Absently, I brush my finger against the worn-off golden ring on my hand. ‘I know I won’t be leaving here with you’, I wanted to shout, but the words did not leave my mouth. My brain would never be able to process what is expected of me. There is only one outcome, crystal-clear, yet I’m lying here, just a shot away from you, shattered in blank denial. I gasp for the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.
Once more I let my trembling fingers adjust the silencer. The rooftop is spinning beneath me, blurring my vision.
If I wane, we could die.
Heart pounding out of my chest, I trace my finger across the trigger.
If I move, we could die.
I force myself to control my erratic breathing, my soldier brain telling me I need to shoot between the gasps of air.
I let the cold air flood my lungs, sharp and painful, driving tears into my eyes and letting them drizzle down my cheek, one by one leaving its mark on the grey concrete.
I blink to clear up my sight, when I see her move her head. I’m frozen, as hair becomes cheeks, cheeks become lips, lips that don’t belong to the woman I’ve loved. It’s not her. My breathing falters, little huffs of air crystalizing in the cold air as my lips form a smile. It’s not her, she’s safe! I force myself to look through the scope again, straining my eyes to find the woman in the crosshair. She smiles, too. She grins, brightly and sardonically into my face, her dark eyes fixed on mine, and I can feel my heart plunging right through the twenty-story building as I realise what this means for me. I know I won’t be leaving here. I let my head slip off the mount that is drenched in sweat by now. Ever so slowly, I raise my torso, manifesting my fate inch by inch. ‘Thank you’, I whisper, as I hear a metallic click behind me.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Inspired by Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’, this short story contains snippets of lyrics of the song and was part of a text transformation project.