Terminal Reflections

Written as an exercise for a creative writing course. I quite like it, although every time I look at it I want to tweak/edit it. The topic was “to write a descriptive excerpt”.

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Terminal Reflections

“It’s over”, I utter with sadness. The pistol in my hand pays testament to the finality of the statement. A weapon with a bloody history, this act would be its swan song.

I look at the face before me; trace the features I know so well. A bead of sweat forms high on his brow, as though I hold a hot iron rather than cold steel against his head. With fits and starts, the bead runs slowly down the side of his face, the lines of a hard life causing it to zig-zag haphazardly over his leathery skin. I watch as the bead disappears into the blonde beard he’d grown to hide behind – a foolish conceit. He’d worked with those people long enough to have known they would find him in the end. For some reason he thought he would be different, could beat the odds; no-one beats the house.

Mr Average he’d been called, a name perfectly suited to his physical form and behind which his career had flourished. My gaze wanders over him – neither tall nor short, skinny nor fat, attractive nor ugly. It was a body and a face which people wouldn’t remember, wouldn’t even pay attention to, a form so conforming to the average that the mind failed to register it other than as a vague recollection. No blemishes or identifying characteristics had been obvious on his person when they found him, clad in a cheap suit, tying up the loose ends of a former life, but I knew… I knew of the scars under the polyester shirt: bullet holes patched up in haste, shrapnel damage, knife wounds, the assorted trophies of a life spent in violence.

Not so now the ordinary face. A spider web of broken blood vessels marks a cheek. Oozing burns freckle him. His blonde hair, normally set in a neutral business-like manner, now hangs lankly, darkened blood matting it where they’d subdued him with a cosh. No longer the neutral smell of a generic scent, the air now is rank from the stale sweat of his fear, the bathroom they’d led him to is saturated with the bouquet of bodily functions. They’d not gone easy on him, as they explained what had to happen.

Betrayed by his trembling body, his eyes show a curious calm within. Not the dilated pupils of fear for this one. Instead a focus, steel blue looking back at me, measuring and calculating, trying to read into my soul whether I’m capable of the act. The eyes relax almost imperceptibly, soften with acceptance of necessity, and then look beyond me.

It was a look I’ve seen a thousand times. In the last moments of life the mind seeks refuge in itself, memories of loved ones float in front of you: the smell of your wife, the day of your child’s birth, all the good and happy memories that relieve the burden of a hard life. A tear rises unbidden.

He closes his eyes and whispers a last goodbye to people far away, “You’re safe now. I love you”. It is time. I squeeze the trigger, and as the hammer falls, setting off the chain reaction which will send the slug hurtling through my head, I reflect on the mistakes which had led me to this ending.

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