Eater of Lives

Eater of Lives

A Story by ShadowCandy

 

The oldest was only seventeen.

            I still see their faces, the gleam in their frightened eyes, the tremble of their lips, the frantic beating of the pulse in their necks.

The memory catches me sometimes, unprepared. In the meat department at the grocery store, or on line at the bank; the memory washes over me in slow motion and I am torn away from myself, left to drift on the tide of time. When I come back to myself, if there are people around, they eye me. Walk away with quick steps, looking over their shoulders with apprehension on their faces. I wonder sometimes what look is on my face that terrifies them so, but then it’s probably better not to know.

I don’t carry a gun anymore.

I still have it; locked away in the closet, buried behind last year’s sweaters. Some part of me still needs it, like a child with a security blanket; I just can’t let go. It’s been cleaned, and oiled. It doesn’t smell of gunpowder anymore, but the scent still reminds me of that day.

The psychiatrist told me I should talk about it. And I’ve tried, but the words feel wrong when I say them, so I stopped saying them. I took early retirement from the force when the psychiatrist wouldn’t clear me for duty. It came down to retirement or a desk, and I didn’t want to spend my last years on the force at a desk. Fifteen years, and I walked away with a gold watch and a handshake.

I drive a bus now, in the suburbs. Where green yards stretch all the way to the street; whitewashed picket fences cradle backyards with swing sets, like protective arms. It’s quiet, but it grows on you. At first it felt artificial, plastic peace of mind; but it seeps into the back of the brain and puts you at ease. The pay’s good, enough to pay the bills and keep food on the table, put some away for a rainy day. On my days off I sit at home, staring at the TV, or out the window.

I moved here after that day, thinking the change would be good. I live in a two bedroom house with a backyard that demands the presence of a swimming pool, but sadly lacks one. The neighbors don’t know me, and they don’t seem to mind that. Sometimes that thought makes me lonely.

I started a journal, just because I can’t bring myself to speak of that day doesn’t mean I don’t need an outlet. I filled three of those wire bound notebooks with memories I’d rather not remember. I slept better for awhile after I started the journals. But eventually the memories found my dreams again, so I stopped writing. I keep the notebooks in the lock box with the gun, it seems fitting.

I feel threadbare, like a favorite bathrobe that has seen far too many years. Maybe it’s just lack of sleep, or too many frozen dinners.

When I’m feeling particularly threadbare, I remember their mothers’ faces. Lined up in a row with tear streaked faces, black dresses that absorbed the light and gave nothing back. They watched me with accusing eyes. As I laid my flowers on the coffins and said my prayer, I could feel their eyes pulling at my soul. I had wanted to talk to them, but my sergeant had pulled me away before I got too close.

In my dreams I see it on a playback loop, that day over and over, never ending. They were children, fifteen and seventeen. Their futures lay ahead of them, gilded paths that shone in the light of the sun. They had found a gun in the bottom of a drawer. Took it to a convenience store, fired a round over the clerks head and made it out the door with all the cash from the register.

I was called to the scene by a bystander outside the store. I pulled up in my cruiser as they were coming out the door, whooping and cheering like they had won the lottery and waving the gun in the air like a flag. Before I even knew what was going on I was out of the squad car with my gun drawn, aimed for the shoulder of the younger boy who carried the gun. I hear myself shouting, the usual line about dropping the weapon and putting hands in the air. My heart is racing.

The older boy, taller by inches, raises his hands without hesitation; shouts at his friend to do the same. The younger boy, black hair tousled, shouting, raised the gun. I remember the sun glinting off the nickel plated barrel as it was leveled in my direction. It felt like my heart stopped as my years of training took over. My arms steadied, my finger tightened on the trigger and I was deafened by the blast.

The older boy had stepped in front of the younger. My bullet tore through his chest. He fell, like a puppet with cut strings.

The younger boy stared, open mouthed as his friend fell. He screamed, stepped over his fallen friend and raised the gun again. There were two shots this time, and the other boy fell as had the first; his finger spasming on the trigger as he fell. They lay on the ground by the store front and died. My radio was squawking, I answered it with a wooden voice. Asked for back up, and an ambulance, there were suspects on the ground.

The dream always ended with the arrival of the second squad car and the ambulance.

Most of the time, I feel like the lives of those two young boys weren’t the only ones to end. I may still be alive but I stopped living the second my bullets tore through them. I walk through my days numb, unable to comprehend how I had ever felt anything.

The younger boy’s mother somehow found where I live now. She sends me letters on her son’s birthday, with pictures. She writes about what her son would be doing now if he were still alive. I wrote her back and told her she didn’t have to tell me what her son might be doing now; I had already imagined every possible path he could have taken from that day to this. If I ever send it, I can’t imagine that she would ever read it.

When I visit my brother on Christmas and Thanksgiving, he tells me I look like a ghost. He tells me I should stop haunting myself and get out into the world and live. When he says this, I can only watch him with hollow eyes. What can I say?

In the morning sometimes, when I take a shirt off the hanger to pull on, I catch myself staring at the lockbox that holds the gun. Sometimes I feel it staring back. Like an unblinking eye, it waits. Perfectly, patiently still. Waiting.

I think I would like to be buried in the plot next to my parents, under the gnarled old oak that stands guard over them. I don’t want anything fancy, a simple service; no fuss. To my brother, I bequeath all my possessions; everything except my gun, that is. He has no need of it, especially with children in the house.

My gun should be destroyed. It’s a greedy thing. By the time this is done, it will have eaten three lives, taken them without pause. Melt it down, make of it something useful, a hammer, or a shovel. That would be good.

I’m tired now, more weary than I have every felt myself to be. Sometimes I feel myself falling, only to jerk myself awake again. But the time to rest is drawing near, and that’s good. I look forward to the day when I won’t have to bear this burden any longer. To be free of this soul eating regret.

I think I will rest easy, and it will be good.

© 2008 ShadowCandy


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Added on February 16, 2008
Last Updated on May 2, 2008

Author

ShadowCandy
ShadowCandy

MN



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I am the happy victim of an overactive imagination. I get the feeling that if I hadn't started writing the voices in my head would have eventually succeded in driving me insane... or my head would hav.. more..

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