The Story of a Heartbeat
What would you do if you knew a secret that somebody else deserves to know? Then what would you do if you can’t tell them?
The door swung open, weightless on its hinges. I should have known. Weightless. It was impossible.
Tick. Tush. Whoosh.
The sound of a gunshot is unmistakeable. Especially to the trained ears of an active duty fourteen-year-old. Firstly, there’s the ever-slow motion click as the gunpowder is struck. Then there’s a rush of air as the gunpowder ignites, burning the surrounding oxygen in a nanosecond. Then the bullet is ejected out of the barrel and straight for its target. Deadly.
My natural instinct should have kicked in. I should have let my knees buckle and fall to the floor, the bullet passing harmlessly over my head. But instead, I didn’t. Because I knew that nobody would be shooting at me. And so, my body went into overdrive when my brain processed the images I was seeing.
The gun wasn’t pointed at me. It was pointed at him.
Out of some form of desperation born deep in my mind, I dug my feet into the carpet and threw myself forwards with all my might. It was futile. Useless. The bullet was travelling at over nine hundred feet per second. I had to cover a distance of eight yards in that time. I could never outrace it.
But then a small pressure around my heart told different. I felt the metal touch and pierce my chest, the bullet still hot from its rapid progression out of the barrel. I was shot.
It travelled a short distance into my body and stopped right next to my heart. I swear I could feel it beating. Badump. Badump. Badump.
But it wasn’t over. I continued moving, my momentum taking me across the gap between the barrel of the gun and him, and then crashed into the far wall. The bullet was still lodged in my heart. Badump. Badump. Badump.
My vision flickered black for a moment, then resumed, now a bright, bleached grey. All the colour had gone, sucked out of existence. I could barely focus my eyes. Someone might have called my name, but I couldn’t make sense of what I was hearing. Just a heartbeat. Badump. Badump. Badump.
I slid down the side of the wall, my shoulder wet with some substance. Probably blood. It took all my effort to just look down, look down at my white shirt. Stained with a dark, sticky sort of grey. Blood. Pouring out by the pints. Badump. Badump. Badump.
I knew who had shot me. I didn’t expect them to come so fast, but it was them. They knew. And they were going to try and stop it. And in that instant, I knew that I was going to die. I had to die.
Badump. Badump. Badump.
It was over.
I tried to move my hand. I had to stop the bleeding. For some weird reason, it didn’t hurt, but training came in and I remembered the instructor’s words: Always force yourself to try to stench the bleeding. If you can’t, then you know it’s your time to die.
But my arms wouldn’t lift. They seemed to be made of heavy lead, just lying there, and I could summon no energy to lift it up to my chest. To press down on the wound. To keep myself alive. This was… it was all over. My vision blinked black, then returned. Darker. Again. Badump. Badump. Badump.
Then his face appeared. It spread all across my vision, blocking out everything else. But my eyes weren’t focusing. I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t force myself to look at him one last time.
“Raymond, look at me.”
His voice was soft, comforting — but wavering out of earshot. No. It wasn’t. My ears weren’t working anymore.
I tried. I really did. But my eyes just wavered and I could barely catch onto his blurred outline. Black and white. My vision was dying. Soon, I would too.
Badump. Badump. Badump.
The blood kept pouring out of my heart. I could feel the warmth spilling away. And then, suddenly, I realised how cold it was. It felt like being thrown into the freezer. I would have shivered if I had any life force left. But I didn’t.
Then warm hands pressed over my chest, right over the wound. They seemed to know what they were doing, closing the cut, stopping the bleeding. The bullet was still there, but it was the best that anyone could do for now. It was what I would have done, if I could have moved my arms.
“I’m not going to let you die, Raymond.”
The words triggered something in my fading mind. I could not think, I could not breathe — the blackness ate away at my eyes — everything was fading…
Everything went black. But I still feel his hands, pressing here, right over the wounds in my heart. And I wrenched against the universe and summoned the last draught of energy from some hidden reserve deep in my body to say my final words. The words that I had been dreading to say for years.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Raymond.”
Then his voice was covered by overwhelming static noise — and everything went quiet.
Ne… why do I hurt myself over and over again? Why do I love you?