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Lonesome Town

John Eric Gritland is an Estonian born skeleton trapped in a flesh prison that forces him to write. To make the task bearable, he mostly writes speculative fiction and short poetry. This is his first published story. More of his work can be found at thedancemacabre.com and on Twitter @JohnGritland .

You break the glass of the gun display.
A tinny siren rings out in the broken-down gun store, no one is there to hear it other than you. Gently brushing away the glass you pick up two guns: a revolver that looks like it would be at home on John Wayne's belt and a more modern looking handgun you're pretty sure the cops around town used to use. You check to see if they have their safeties on and then put them in your backpack along with a box of bullets. They clink gently against the bottles of liquor already inside. The siren gives a final screech and dies. You put your earphones in and leave.
The sounds of people talking and laughing fill your head, as you make your slow way back towards the house. You never used to be much for podcasts, but since the only functioning iPod you found had nothing else on it you've come to appreciate them. The utter mundanity comforts you. They feel like a window into a lost world, where people still cared about stupid human things like old movies, American politics, and the Kanye West discography. You talk along with them and try to laugh to fill the silence of the empty city. You feel guilty for enjoying this reprieve as much as you do but thinking about Sam sitting alone at home, waiting for you to get back, only slows your steps even more.
After an hour walk you can't put it off any longer, so you go into the house that you've been circling for twenty minutes. It's one of those suburban palaces that millionaires would retire into. The ones that are so big that it boggles the mind how actual people lived in it. You and Sam thought it would be funny to take it over, the last two people in the world living in a house that could comfortably fit dozens. You slept together in a different room every night and dressed in clothes that in the old world would have cost more than your first car. You hosted Gatsbyesque parties inviting every shop front mannequin you could carry over from the city. Then sitting together, you and he would give each of the dolls a name and invent a story about who they were and who they were sleeping with.
A whole mythology was formed, and generational histories thought up. Until eventually, two became three, and you no longer had time for those sorts of parties. After that, the room just became the place you had to walk through to get to the rest of the house. Yet the dolls remained: it was too much effort to move them. So there they still stood waiting for you and Sam, abandoned in their beautiful old clothes, frozen as if waiting for the next big party to start.
"When did you get back?"
You jump: you were caught up in the memory, not having heard him come down the stairs over the people talking in your head. "Just now. Sorry I took so long. I couldn't find any gun stores nearby, had to walk to the city."
He nods, coming closer into the light. He looks thin, the dirty silk robe hanging off him too loosely. His eyes are red from crying, and you keep glancing away to stop yourself from staring into them.
"Did you get everything then?"
He takes a few tired steps forward and comes right up close, almost touching. His hands come up slowly brushing lightly against your cheeks, extracting the earphones from your ears. Up close, you can smell the earthy mix of dirt and grass under the sweat stench that pervades his body. There's still dirt under his fingernails. He must have just finished. You stare down looking at his bare feet to avoid his searching gaze.
"Please... I want you to be here with me. Did you get everything?"
"Yeah. Two guns, that old scotch you like and some rum for me."
"You still want to go through with it?" He asks with a casual air, but you can tell he's afraid. He needs you to be with him on this.
He pulls you into a hug, and you can feel the relief in him. "Good, I couldn't go through with it alone."
You hug him back, and for a moment you are frozen like the mannequins around you. You let it wash over you trying to capture everything about this moment. You don't know how many you have left. His tears seeping into your sweater. The feeling of your hands clasped around his thin frame. Your face buried in his chest, the bones of his ribcage pressing into you. His heart beating a fast staccato rhythm as if trying to escape. The podcast still playing from the headphones which now lie in between your embrace. Too quiet to make out the words but the indistinct murmurs echo around, and for a moment you imagine it's the mannequins whispering behind your backs.
You break the hug first and take his hand, giving it a squeeze. "Where do you want to do it?"
"The roof. I want to sit up there like we used to with her. Look at one final sunset, drink good liquor with the person I love and then..." he holds an imaginary gun up to his own head. "bang."
You nod, the words somehow making what you're about to do seem more real. "You should go and shower. I'll finish the rest of the preparations."
He brings your hand to his mouth and gives it one final kiss. "See you soon."
The roof is colder than you expect. You force Sam to wear a coat. He laughs a hollow laugh at your insistence but doesn't argue. You bring up blankets, and together you sit looking out over the suburbs and the distant setting sun. The guns sit impassively behind you, and you try not to think about them.
Sam opens his bottle of whiskey and takes a long sip from it. You follow his lead, though not with quite as much stoicism.
"My god, you're cute," he says, laughing at the small little shuddery dance you do every time you've finished a sip of the stuff.
"Go to hell." You say punching his arm playfully and taking another draw from your bottle. Up here drinking with him, you feel like a teenager again. Sneaking off with your mothers' wine to meet boyfriends in secluded places. Getting drunk on each other more than the store-bought wine.
You rest your head against his shoulder and close your eyes. He puts his arm around you and plays with your hair all the while still drinking from the bottle. You can smell the whiskey on his breath mixing with the cold evening air. You sit like that for a few minutes, not talking just sharing in the simple pleasure of each other's company.
"It's almost sunset...." You turn your head to look at him.
"Kiss me." You whisper.
He was never a very good kisser. Too impatient for the other thing to pay the act the attention it deserved. Here at the end, you can sense him giving himself over to the moment. Kissing you like he's never done before. With passion but also with a gentleness. In no rush to be anywhere. You close your eyes and edge closer to him. You reach your hands inside his coat and run them over his chest, feeling the warmth of his body still so alive despite its thinness and hunger. He responds in kind, cold hands running up under your shirt exploring with feverish excitement.
He breaks the kiss and begins pulling off your sweater. You lift your arms to help him shimmy yourself out of the garment. Slightly slurred whispers reach your ears. "Don't ever think I don't love you. I wish we could have met some other place, some other time. I just can't, without her...."
You silence him with another kiss, you've heard it all before. No point in rehashing it now. There was no life here for just two people. Even if they loved each other. The cool air makes you shiver, both fear and cold running through your body like electricity.
You feel the last rays of the sun frame your faces. You hear him reach for a gun, fumbling. You do the same.
You feel the barrel press against your head. The cold metal uncomfortable against your skin. Part of you wonders if this will be the last sensation you'll ever experience.
You press your own revolver to his heart. You surface from the kiss to look him in the eyes for one last time.
Behind him in the far distance, you see two pinpricks of light getting closer.
A car...
Your finger freezes on the trigger.
"Sam wai--"
His does not.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 19th, 2020
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