By JUSTINE DUNN
The loud buzzer announced my arrival as I stepped into the store. He turned to face me and before we’d even made eye contact I knew I was about to take a bullet.
It’s true that when staring death in the face everything slows down. In fact, everything slowed down to such a ridiculous speed I can’t believe I didn’t get out of the way.
I saw him pull the gun out from his jacket and I even saw the bullet leave the weapon. I had time to look at his face and think how attractive he was, dark haired and unshaven; just my type. I thought about my cat, Ted, who’d be watching out for me by now. My car, parked outside in a fifteen minute only spot. The hole in my sock that my big toe was peeking through. My boss would complain in the morning about my lateness, then hear the news and tell everyone what great friends we were.
So there I stood, rooted to the spot for what seemed like an eternal second waiting for the bullet to reach me, incapable of doing anything except think pointless thoughts. But it came, and knocked me to the floor.
The gunman’s handsome face appeared above me. There were tears in his eyes and I actually felt compassion for him. Dropping to his knees he reached out his hand to me, it hovered above my forehead not daring to make contact. Only when I’d closed my eyes I felt the soft touch of his fingers on my face. The pain was fading and I didn’t feel in the least bit afraid. He took hold of my hand and pleaded with me not to die but there was little I could do. Then I heard one more noise; the sound of another gunshot.
I opened my eyes to find myself hovering inches above the scene, looking down at myself. A pool of blood had spread across the floor from where my lifeless body lay. My dead hand was still holding my ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ keyring. Blood was silently creeping away from both our corpses, spreading further out across the already dirty floor.
The gunman was floating beside me. Sensing his gaze I looked over at him and in an instant knew everything there was to know about him. All the things in his life that had led him to this point. But most importantly I knew that he wasn’t a bad man, foolish maybe, but not bad. I also knew all of the thoughts that had flashed through his mind during his final seconds and no doubt he now knew mine, how embarrassing.
So there we were, suspended above our own corpses and I should have been angry with him, I should have been really fucking angry with him. But taking his own life told me everything I needed to know. As we continued to stare into one another, more and more information exchanged between us. Like some sort of spiritual speed date we came to realize why each of us were in the store that day. I hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Fate had been laying down stepping stones my entire life, leading me into the path of that bullet.
I was out of milk because Ted knocked it off the counter. Toni, my friend had left it out that morning, she’d crashed over last night after an impromptu get together. I met Toni when I first started my job, the job I took in favor of a position up north. Back in school I had wanted to study architecture at college, but switched to law instead. As I looked back over my life I saw the reason for everything. We like to think we make our futures, but they are already out there just waiting for us to reach them.
Today I crossed the finish line and found my soulmate. We won't have a first date, no movie or dinner and we won't meet each others families. Not quite how I would have planned it but this was my path.
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British born and currently living in Slovenia. Writes flash fiction, children's poetry and has just completed her first novel.
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