A Gun, Again

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic romance.... view prompt

4 comments

Drama Romance Science Fiction

Months of famine turned the world into an arena. What started as a cattle shortage soon became a global crisis with all countries refusing to cooperate with each other. Hunger and poverty were diseases that attacked one continent after the next. Paper money, once valuable, is an artifact of the past. Oil is now the only currency bartered with. Yet another commodity added to the long list of endangered resources. With all the world’s leading scientists and environmentalists predicting mass flooding and wildfires to break out, the most needed materials face extinction. Prime ministers and presidents from all over have turned a blind eye on their citizens, who responded with their own declaration of war. A new era has begun, the final chapter of humanity.

* * *

Isaac paced through the movie theatre rows, clenching his jaw repeatedly while waiting for the phone. People worse off had to live in abandoned homes or stores, he and his love were lucky enough to have a whole deserted movie theater to themselves. The paint was once vibrant, but now only mold and rust provide color. Cardboard and popcorn seeds from nearly fifty years ago gave the place a rotten smell. Still, it was the perfect hideout for their lifestyle of looting drugstores (preferably the ones not already hit yet). Some shops had solid security, and others were more the grab-and-go type. It was always worth it either way for whatever gold mine of medication they offered. It was his girl’s turn to score some, and Isaac’s been waiting all morning for an update. He sat in the front row and tried counting the bullet holes in the screen. From the other room, he heard his phone ring. As he walked towards it, the ring and his footsteps got more deafening. Isaac let it go off a couple more times before answering, hoping to appear busy in the process.

“Yo.”

“Isaac, there’s a problem. There’s a lock on it! I can’t get it open.”

Echo’s voice always kicked his eardrums in. Leaning back against the wall with a smirk, he replied, “Use the gun, dear, that’s why you brought it. Don’t worry.”

“There’s only one bullet left, we might need it later!”

He picked at his bitten nail. That hysterical tone often got on Isaac’s nerves, but he persisted anyway. “I have news for you when you get back that might change your mind. Don’t get too excited.”

“I have to focus on not getting too dead, right now, thanks. Give me an hour.”

With a static click, their conversation ended. Echo cuts off like that a lot, Isaac thought to himself. He hung the phone up and went down the long hall to all the past movie posters to distract his impatience. So many dystopian survival films being advertised, he had to laugh to himself. Buildings on fire and people screaming with guns. Tyrannical governments. Roided out models with pretend struggle on botox faces. If only those ignorant ancestors took things a little more seriously, Isaac’s lifestyle wouldn’t have to reflect their fantasy storylines. The nerve.

Echo’s favorite pocket knife was resting against a rolled-up poster. He picked it up and pocketed it while mentally comparing her combat skills with his. He glanced back at the phone. It hadn’t made a sound since the call, but Isaac wished it would ring just once to interrupt his boredom. It was either loneliness or pressure, never any other emotion with Isaac. It got to him sometimes, but he didn’t have many people to take it out on. He could get aggressive at times. He didn’t mean half the things he said to Echo, but she still stays he thought. It’s not like they had perfect chemistry. Or history. Echo and Isaac met after the final wave of deportations. They didn’t have anyone but each other, which was still more than many other survivors. Isaac and Echo’s desolation was a routine that seemed eternal. No solutions walking through the door or prayers being answered. It was truly only him and Echo. He never realized how suitable the word “abandoned” was. It sounded abandoned when he said it. He began to repeat the three syllables to himself as he drifted off to sleep.

* * *

The entrance door swung open and shut again, the dusk sun teasing the room with a quick flicker. Isaac heard the familiar footsteps and sat up to find Echo, drenched in dirt and sweat, shuffling towards him.

“What’s the news? I risked my life for this,” Echo exclaimed as she dropped the bag of medication. Her stance demanded an answer; hands on hips was another pet peeve of Isaac’s.

“Calm down, let’s see what we got.” Isaac rubbed the crust out of his eye as he moved forward to examine the loot.

“We? Hilarious. I got some really great stuff. But first, tell me the news.”

“You better not be lying about this. But, I found someone staying by the statue pile who said he would trade with me. He wants meds.”

“Trade for what, Isaac?”

“A gun, again. A better one. Something to really put food on the table, you know? Let’s see what you brought. Now, give it.”

“Okay, well it’s not as much as last time, I don’t know if it’s enough for a weapon.”

She hesitated, then handed him the sack and tightened her lips. Isaac inspected the goods with a blank face while Echo slouched down. Isaac nodded once then turned to his partner.

“These won’t do, darling. I’ll be lucky if I get a quarter of a barrel for this shit. You always do this, you know. It’s pathetic.”

“Don’t talk to me like that when it’s me who did the work.” Echo’s voice was cracking.

“That's what you get for lying.”

Isaac smacked his lips and waited for a response, but wasn’t met with one. Echo looked from him to the ceiling then put her head down and focused on deep breathing.

He observed her exhaustion with pity. It worked, he thought. She bought every word! Her last minutes of freedom should be happier, he thought. What a shame. Of course, he felt bad for what he was about to do to Echo, but what did she expect? Always fumbling heists and attracting danger, he thought. Echo should be surprised he hadn’t done it already. Echo heard the clanging of metal as Isaac circled the counter. Before she could look up, her man had clamped down her left wrist in a handcuff and spoke gravely.

“You know how much they pay for fugitives. Rewards are rewards. You understand.”

Echo whipped around in response to his announcement, preventing him from getting to her other hand. She quickly hopped on the counter and kicked both feet through Isaac’s chest, sending him flying. Collapsed on the floor, he clutched his breast and started coughing. He managed to get out the faintest “wait” as he reached into his pocket for the knife. Echo searched through the loot to find the firearm. Pills flying all over, she grabbed the pistol and Isaac crawled a couple of yards closer to the front doors. His movements were slow but his gasping was fast. He tried to choke out a couple more words, but they couldn’t leave his wide-open mouth. Echo made sure the gun was loaded and stepped on his ankle, preventing his squirming. His last look of life was the tip of the pistol in front of an emotionless Echo. She extended the gun towards her lover and turned her head away.

The concession stand lit up as the last bullet left the chamber to pierce Isaac’s skull. His spilled brains and bone fragments struck the carpet and splashed onto the walls. Echo lowered her stained arm and relaxed her muscles. Her mouth was shivering and her eyes darted around everywhere except the corpse. She dropped the firearm and tried not to vomit over the polka dot pill pattern on the rug. Echo gathered what was left of the score and looked back at what was left of the blood-wet body. She thanked God that she brought her second-favorite knife with her on the heist that morning. Her walk out the back of the theatre was brisk as she tried to regain her focus. She began thinking of her next move as the final cracking sound of the trigger echoed in her head. She thought about his last words and agreed. That’s what I get for lying.

September 26, 2020 03:35

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4 comments

Ruth Midgley
01:59 Oct 02, 2020

I really liked your choice of a movie theatre as a setting. Definitely not what you would think of first in an apocalypse and to imagine one all empty and never to have movies played it in again created a great atmosphere. I think launching into your story without the contextual preamble would heighten the mystery and suspense that you do a good job of creating. The reader would have more questions: why is he in a movie theatre? what happened 50 years ago? And want to find out the answers which you could reveal for the reader throughout the ...

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Daniel K
21:43 Oct 02, 2020

Thanks so much for commenting! I think I struggle with tone and atmosphere sometimes, so thank you for mentioning that. I was debating putting the introduction in, and I see your point. Thanks again for reading!

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Dalyane Deblois
16:43 Oct 04, 2020

This is a dark story, but very good! Great twist to the prompt and I liked how you exploit the survival theme. How someone would do anything to survive or to keep her freedom, including murdering her lover. Echo sacrifices a lot working for Isaac and he does not seen to be grateful for her efforts at all. We can understand how Echo might have so much mixed feelings toward Isaac!

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Daniel K
18:19 Oct 04, 2020

Thank you for the comment! I wanted to make the twist work and build up to it. Plus Echo's feelings towards Isaac. I'm glad you liked it!

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