It made all the difference, what she carried today in her purse. A tiny thing, no bigger than her fingernail, sheathed in its .38 caliber revolver that made her purse heavier to carry, but it meant release; it meant liberation; and it meant those things would arrive her way. It changed everything about today, waking up this morning into a sort of dream. All day, she had walked through the meaningless motions of living in a sort of heightened trance. The bedroom where she alone slept, the grass outside, her yellow Volkswagen, the street and the shops and the blinking stoplights, and then the door into the television station where she worked, all looked different when she knew this was the last she’d see of them.
When 11:00 p.m. neared and she settled into her chair behind the news anchor desk, a kind of peace dawned. If she hadn’t known it before, she knew it now, she would not change her mind. This was her final hour in a world where she was about to turn thirty with no husband, no track record of boyfriends–not in junior high, not in high school, not ever–and soon no more ability to even bear offspring. A sickness had cost her an ovary; her doctor had pronounced sentence.
She watched the camera. The lights were bright in her face. Those who had died and returned spoke of a tunnel of light beyond. Would she see it?
She read from the news script: “An assault and arrest took place this afternoon at Miami International airport.”
She stopped reading and waited for the accompanying film to roll. Almost time now. She forgot the studio lights and the men she knew to be beyond them but could not see, and concentrated on her final task, the delivery of the bullet that would deliver her from this world and leave it with something to remember. It seemed as if burning a hole in its revolver. But…
It did not want to be wasted.
What? Her mouth tightened at this surprise thought. Concentration wavering, not good. Why hadn’t the film started?
The thought went on, nagging: One bullet, one use, then a spent lump of lead. If it’s going to end up like that, then it should count–
It’ll count! she wanted to snap but couldn’t, so she sat calm but agitated, her brain all set for tonight but now rebelling. Her body tensed, poised on the edge of her seat.
She’d never touched a firearm before, she realized. Her father had. She’d gone with him on a hunting trip, only once at age six, and as he aimed at a woodchuck she got this same idea. Not on a woodchuck! she had shouted, grabbing at him. Shoot at a weasel! Or a buzzard, or–
He fired anyway, at close range. He missed.
And now the thought returned. The shot, the bullet, it should do something for humanity–
With all her strength she stuffed it back, then capped it with Well John Wilkes Booth, that’s probably what he said. And from beyond the lights one of the technicians spoke, a vague form of someone fussing with the camera. She caught the word “jammed.”
She shrugged. Now, then. Her eyes dropped to her own script that she had spent this morning writing and polishing, but her vision blurred and she could not read it. She reached her left hand to pick it up, her right was fumbling in her purse for her revolver, but she changed her mind about the script, she was gripping the pistol now and it was time, hell with it, just wing it.
“We now bring you the latest in blood and guts. A suicide.”
Her right hand brought up the revolver. She pointed it at the lower back of her head and squeezed the trigger.
The bang hit her ears like fists. She felt a puff of hot air, like someone blowing out a candle. Her hair flew up, obscuring her vision, as if caught by gust of wind. Gunpowder smell singed her nose. Her eyes swam.
After a moment she was aware of the gun’s warm handle still in her grip. Her breath caught and she gasped. The smoking .38 fell from her hand, hitting the floor with a clunk.
Her left hand pawed the back of her head. No wetness of blood, and no pain. She squeezed her eyes shut, opened them again. The men beyond the cameras were staring. She sucked in air, breath she was not supposed to need anymore, her whole body trembling now, conscious, aware, and very much alive.
How? Was it a blank? No, she’d seen to that. And no possibility of a miss…
Three thousand miles away in Seattle, Washington, a co-ed of twenty-two saw a police car waiting at a red light and ran toward it, waving her arms. “Hey! Hey!”
The light turned green, and two cars were lined up behind the black and white cruiser. It moved forward as she closed the distance (“Waaaaait!”) and pulled over to let traffic by.
A sergeant drove; a rookie on his first beat sat poised in the passenger seat. The rookie jerked his head out the window–he might have banged his head against the glass had it not been rolled down–as the flustered, red-faced girl ran up and stopped, bent over with hands resting on her legs, panting.
The rookie mustered up his best voice to go with the uniform. “What seems to be the problem, miss?”
It took a minute for her to catch her breath. “A man…he’s…” She gulped. “He’s down. Something’s wrong with him. Something really bad, I think he’s dead!”
“What happened?” the sergeant behind the wheel asked.
“He was on crutches, his leg was in a cast and he was having a hard time walking, he kept dropping his briefcase. I was going to help him, I was just about to call out to him, but his head, his head seemed to explode, I mean not like it actually blew up but a hole blew in the back of his head, there was blood, he fell over and his whole body was twitching!”
The sergeant opened his door and climbed out. “Let’s go have a look.”
The two policemen followed the girl, who crept cautiously to the spot near a bridge as if wary of land mines. They saw the man, sprawled flat on his face, briefcase broken open on the grass. It was empty. The neat hole showed, the back of his head was messy with blood and he lay with the stillness anyone would instantly recognize as death.
The rookie’s stomach convulsed. Outwardly he kept a steel face, but he’d never before seen an actual corpse, not even at funerals.
The sergeant swore under his breath. “The deaths we’ve already been getting have been bad enough.”
The rookie, willing his stomach to settle, knew of what the sergeant spoke. Those were women, college-aged, usually with dark hair parted in the middle, much like this young lady here, come think of it. Seized and dragged away by some clever psychopath who, according to the scant information the police currently had, introduced himself as ‘Ted.’
BIO: Douglas Kolacki began writing while stationed with the Navy in Naples, Italy. Since then he has placed fiction in such publications as Weird Tales, Dreams & Visions, The Fifth Dimension and Aurora Wolf. He now haunts Providence, Rhode Island.