”Bang; Bang… Bang”
‘It was not necessary to use so many. Just one was enough’
Once I accepted the outcome that awaited me, without putting up resistance and kneeling in front of the four of them, making a last effort after the sound of multiple gunshots deafened me, I used both hands that held the upper half of my body to get up halfway before sitting on the floor flooded with water that wet my buttocks, then, not waiting for the pain to come, I extended my arms to my sides and my legs to the front letting me fall on my back.
This was not as I imagined, as when I saw them stop laughing, I closed my vision thinking that a single shot in the temple would be enough to stop me from moving again, but instead, I can still do it. So, I decided to make a last effort to be able to go away looking at the sky.
As I opened my eyes with my sight pointing upward, clouds as dark as night greeted me even though it was only a few hours before noon. An unusual scenario, for although today, like every day, I watched the news on TV while getting ready for work, the anchors did not give a single announcement warning of an approaching storm, which is why this caught us so off guard.
Still, not that this bothers me, for it is thanks to the cold drops of water falling on my body that I can think clearly despite my condition.
” & R %! t & &a¡ W ‘$-…”
Pain? None. In fact, if it weren’t for the pouring rain, I wouldn’t even be sure I was still alive. It’s good, and it’s also sad. I don’t feel my wounds, but sonorous allusions have begun to echo in my ears. I was wrong. It seems there is still something I regret. The voice, the tone of my uncle’s speaking, I heard it. I don’t know what he said because the beeping of the gunshots still disturbs my brain. Maybe he is trying to fire me.
With a soft murmur, I addressed that illusory ghost.
Apparently, my regret for not seeing him throughout this, my last day, torments me because after speaking to him, such a sign of madness ceased to be only auditory and presented itself before me as a blurred vision due to the water falling into my pupils. I could see the silhouette, occasionally illuminated by the lightning in the sky, of the man, who was just a neighbor, but in time became part of my family.
‘It’s good, very good. Even if this is fake, it’s still good to be able to say goodbye to him in person’
”… uncle… bye”
”W%$t &%e %/l$ a$u $&y$!g $%d?”
Not even the cold wind that embraces the city can overwhelm this warm sensation that I feel sliding down my cheeks. Yet it is not out of sadness but out of happiness.
As I close my eyes again and plunge into the darkness, I have nothing left to hold me here, for all those besides him are waiting for me there.
‘… this is taking too lon-…’
”$hat &!e $ell are !ou $%ing ly%ng t!e$e, R/an? Ge& up n$w, or y!$’ll ge% sic? if %ou keep g$!ting w&t”
With a jerk of my arm, not strong enough to get up but sufficient to drag me a little on the muddy ground, the figure of my uncle, whom I regarded as a hallucination, pulled me out of my unconsciousness, and with words which I could only half understand, urged me to get up.
How? That was not what I thought, for with this abrupt development, my brain short-circuited, preventing me from understanding what was happening. Without even intending it, I stood up with the strength and agility I thought I had lost.
Having placed both feet on concrete, with the cold water entering my shoes, I stared in a daze at the man in front of me, one who was almost two heads shorter than me but who, despite his small size, was intimidating at first glance due to the firearms he held in each hand, one of which was covered in blood.
”Hey, are you okay?”
I did not answer him. Not because I didn’t hear him, since the ringing in my ears that originated from the gunshots had stopped, nor because of the ceaseless noise of the rain that washed over us both. No, I didn’t because of how unreal everything around me felt.
I had thought, no, I was sure I would die. It never crossed my mind to have survived that. But, now it seems that I have. So, with no clear thoughts, my mind blank, I looked at him, at his wrinkled face.
”Hey, kid, what’s wrong with you? Don’t tell me that the bullet ricochet hit your head… no, that’s impossible. So, did those guys beat you so bad that you were dumb?… answer me, man”
Concerned by my lack of reaction, he tried to rush over to where I was, reaching out his arm to feel my body for injuries, but before he could do so, I stopped him.
”No… I’m fine. It’s just… What happened?”
After indicating with one hand to stop and holding my forehead with the other due to the gradually worsening headache, I asked him what had happened. Although I didn’t really need any answer, for seeing his appearance and turning to look at the scene to my right, the unfolding of events was drawn lucidly in my mind, yet those were the only words I could think of to say to him.
”What happened, you say, eh… Well, as you can see, I finished off four rats that were about to devour my precious sapling”
He said while pointing one of his guns at the four bodies lying on the ground, spilling blood from the multiple bullet holes that had taken their lives. A strange sight where one of them still had a smile on his face with his tongue sticking out, two with their eyes wide open in surprise, plus the last one with his back to the sky and his head pointing to the distance in an attempt to run away from the killer.
”But… no, before that. Thank you”
”Hmm? Wow, it feels weird to see you so depressed. Kid, don’t let this get to you”
Just as expected from someone who lost his family in an accident years ago but still managed to stay upbeat about life. Quite a role model that, unfortunately, I can’t match.
Slowly, after understanding what had happened here, I lowered my head to observe the state of my body. I saw and felt it without significant injuries, apart from a few blows I received from the now-deceased. Later, placing both hands in the direction my eyes were pointing, I opened and closed my fingers countless times, trying to get used to this strange feeling of being alive, as well as to calm the nervousness in my heart. While doing all this, I continued talking.
”Uncle, please answer me this, you were the one who fired the shots in my house, right?”
”Here your uncle took care of punishing the sons of bitches that had your family trapped, so don’t worry about them since your mom Evelyn and your brother Liam are safe and sound. Even Rocky is fine, just a little hungry, from what I noticed”
”… I see”
Hearing those words relieved much of the weight on my heart.
Raising my hands to hold my face, I forced myself not to cry, as I now regret so much for having been so weak in surrendering to an avoidable death. It was foolish and cowardly to do that. I should not have laid down in my misfortune, merely weeping even though I was strong enough to stand up and fight.
Since some time ago, I thought I had lost her, but I was wrong, as fortune was always on my side, or else if my uncle had required my help in his attack, having acted like an idiot, I would have left him to die uselessly.
For that and more, I can no longer cry. I must not cry. So, taking my hands to my hair, I pulled it so hard that I wouldn’t be surprised if I had pulled it out. Then, after wringing out almost all the water it had been filled with and getting it even dirtier from the mud due to my stained hands, I lightly slapped my cheek to get rid of the daze.
My uncle, on seeing me act in such a way, said nothing, and that is something I have always been grateful to him for, something I would like to become. A good listener, who accepted my complaints to the end, and a good counselor, who supported me in the most trying moments, from the death of my father to the time when I had to leave my training to go and look for a job.
Even now, if it were not for this great man, incomparable to the other neighbors who look out of their windows to see everything that has happened without daring to leave their safe homes, not only I would have died, but those who are important to me as well.
Then, after I felt a little better, I spoke to him to entrust him with what was important to me.
”Yeah? My nephew”
I opened my mouth, thinking to say the words that came from my heart, but in the end, nothing emerged.
Doubt, guilt, and worry, so many emotions kept me from saying it because I felt that if I did, it would be like imposing another burden on this person I hold dear. I don’t want to, but I do not see there is any other option.
However, I underestimated the wisdom that comes with age, for seeing me act so nervously, he understood what I wanted even without me saying a single word, and that is why, after placing one of his weapons on one of the corpses, he approached me to put his free hand on my shoulder before saying some words that relieved me while almost making me stumble.
”Don’t worry, my son. I will take good care of them”
He’s amazing. He really is someone amazing. Without hearing it from me, he knew what I wanted, plus to relax me, he thought to say a joke that we used to use, while a mocking grimace was drawn on his face.
‘How shameless. Despite being more than ten years older than my mom, he still tries to get close to her. A true dirty old man, no doubt about it… Although, if it were him, I guess I’d be okay’
I didn’t answer him, but with a smile, I pushed his hand away with my arm before bending down to tie my shoelaces.
As I did so, I thought about many things, about where I would go, what I would do next, and what would happen to me, but the time was not long enough to come to a conclusion, so I stood up and got into position.
I was prepared to act immediately, but before I did, my uncle spoke to me.
”Hey, here, take this”
The suddenness of his act ruined the mental rather than physical preparation I had done, causing me to move abruptly to hold the red-stained pistol he threw at me.
As I accepted it, I paused to think about what I should do, but I knew it was no good to waste more time. So, I just said a few words.
”Thank you, and… goodbye”
I didn’t want to think or hesitate any longer, so after making sure that the gun safety was on, I put it in my pants, then thanked him with all my heart, and after a short farewell, I ran away without looking back.
”See you later, Ryan”
Like a whisper from a distance, those were the last words I would ever hear from my uncle’s mouth again.