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Getting to the Point

slipstream by Dale Ivan Smith

I lie in bed in our motel room and can’t remember how I ended up here.

Who are you? All I see is a cocky man leaning against the wall opposite me and grinning. Why do you promise me I will know no fear if I do this bank job?

Why do you smile at my confusion and tell me I’ll know fearlessness when it comes?

Why do you say me and everyone else living in this time are already dead?

How does the steering wheel feel against your hands as you drive us to the bank? Do you tremble inside like me?

Why can’t I remember how I met you?

Is the gun cool in your palm, or slick with sweat? How does the air smell to you as we leave the car? I hold my shotgun, the mask tight against my face, my shaved head itching beneath the wig and try to ignore the twisting in my gut.

Are you as calm as you look? Is your confident stride just a sham, or have you done this before? My hands tremble as I follow. Passerby stare slack-jawed at the two of us striding toward the door.

Do you believe what you told me about this being a piece of cake? Do your words thrill you as much as they scare me? I want to be stone-cold like you but the shotgun keeps slipping in my hands. Beneath the plastic mask my breath is thunder.

When you yell down and everyone hits the tiled floor, is it because of the sound of your voice? The 9mm pistol you brandish? The look in your eyes? I shudder at the darkness there.

How can your voice be so calm as you give orders and cool threats to the bank manager? I face the room with my back to you, scanning for security and fighting to keep my shotgun level. A guard appears from a side door, his gun still holstered and his eyes widening.

Do you hesitate for even a fraction of a second before you shoot him? Do you ever miss? Blood blossoms across his uniform as customers scream and drop to the floor.

Do you see me shudder at this? I swallow my bile and hear you sounding like a man who fears nothing.

How do you manage to convince the bank manager to open the vault? I wonder how soon the police will arrive. The seconds tick by. Do you fear anything?

I hand you my shotgun and shovel money into duffel bags. The bank manager keeps patting at his hair and looking at his shoes. I think I hear sirens. Do you hear anything? How can you smile so confidently?

I finish stuffing the second bag. How can you so casually tell me to zip it tight when a man lays on the floor a few feet away in a pool of his own blood. I sling the duffel bags over my shoulders.

“We’re trapped,” I say.

Why do you shake your head?

I take my shotgun. “What will we do?” I ask.

Why do you ignore me?

I see you open your jacket and reveal mesh covering your body.

Why do you smile?

How can you be so agile, kick me in the groin, sending me tumbling back? Your pistol fires three rounds and the fleeing bank manager stumbles to the tiles.

I am not fast enough to stop you from slamming the vault door and trapping us inside.

Why did you do this?

“You are my study,” you say to me.

I shake my head. You finally answer me but I do not understand.

“It only matters that I know,” you say.

“We’re still trapped,” I say.

“You are.”

I point my shotgun at you and pull the trigger. The gun kicks my shoulder.

Why do you laugh at me?

I fire again but your body remains untouched. Blanks.

Why do you not shoot me?

“Shoot me!” I scream.

Why do you slide your gun across the vault floor to me?

I snatch your pistol from the floor.

Why do you point at my skull and say the experiment is not over?

How do you vanish into thin air?

How can I still hear your voice in my head? You speak to me even as the police break down the vault door.

The authorities convict me of murder and armed robbery and sentence me to death. I tell them you made me do it but you are not there. They only find my fingerprints on the gun. Witnesses who should have remembered you going with me into the bank don’t. You whisper in my mind that you’ll come for me, but you don’t show up.

Today a guard comes to my cell with my last meal. I don’t taste the food.

They lead me down death row to the execution chamber. You say nothing.

They strap me into the chair yet my heart does not race. You still say nothing.

When the needle presses into my flesh, I feel nothing.

Finally I reach the point of no fear.

copyright July 2010 by Dale Ivan Smith

Dale Ivan Smith lives in Oregon. He is a member of the Willamette Writers and his debut story, Dead Wife Waiting, appeared in the January 2010 issue of 10Flash.

[Return to the Issue 5: July 2010 stories]

2 Responses

  1. […] [Read the story] […]

  2. Dale, I found the mystery compelling and it kept drawing me along. I like that lots of details were given but the answer is left to the readers imagination with a satisfying conclusive sentence. Good read!

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