Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Flash Fiction: The Last Thing He Hears

The Last Thing He Hears

(Al Dimalanta)

The man sits sweaty and half-naked on the floor of his room amid strips of copper wire, rolls of electric tape, pungent slabs of clay, empty mineral water bottles, crumpled yet unopened letters from his wife and kids, and dead cockroaches. In spite of his efforts to keep his nerves at bay, he trembles violently. And it’s 32 degrees centigrade outside.

He looks at his watch.

In exactly one minute it will come to pass, he says to himself half consolingly, half accusingly.

Still shaking, he reaches to his side for the radio but stops and pulls his hand back.

Don’t. You wouldn’t really want to know.

But he will. Inevitably.

The man whimpers uncontrollably, even ridiculously, as he counts down the seconds, wishing he could have had the will and the fortitude to just say no and walk away. But he was weak. He was a pushover.

I hope I fail.

But no, he is too much of a professional to fail in such a simple task.

He slowly closes his eyes as his thoughts turn to his wife and kids who he has not seen in several months. But as soon as their happy faces flash vividly in his mind, he opens his eyes in an effort to distract himself.

It’s done.

How many could it have been?

He reaches again for the radio and flicks on the power switch. The news. A bomb exploded in the Congress building.

The man closes his eyes again, says a silent prayer then finally gets up and walks casually to his bed. He reaches under the creaky mattress for an old 9mm pistol. No longer quivering, he disengages the lock and points the barrel to his temple. The last thing he hears is the crack of the gunshot.

The sound is deafening, but nobody else hears.

The radio blares on.

Nobody died. Nobody was injured.