Drama Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I killed someone today. I cannot recall ever shooting someone with intention to kill. It must have been the last war, but my memory of those days has been blurry. I am certain of having fired quite a few shots since; some bullets, such as those of my neighbor’s wedding, carried a joy that flew up into the clouds alongside a swarm of accompanying bullets, elevated evermore by the force of our dances, chants, and drummed melodies. Other bullets were pushed forward by my fear, but with the intention to instill that same fear in the enemy. Not to kill. Today, I wanted to kill someone. I did not have to. I wanted to. 

After returning from two years of being stationed in the desert, one can only imagine what it felt like to be home. On my land and the land of my ancient ancestors. Where the water flowed so seamlessly, and the greenery emerged to claim its place, and the crops appeared to thank us farmers for treating them well. Life flowed as smoothly as our blue waters. And when I returned, the land welcomed me every morning as affectionately and soothingly as my mother’s blessed hands. For she expressed her love through that of the land and its waters. The warm meals she cooked for me, the flowers she plucked to symbolize my spirit, the clementine tree she named after my sweetness; it was from our land that her motherly love came. When the water stopped flowing, so did her love.

It began a year after my return. The water slowly became shorter. First at the knees as it always had been, it made its way down to the calves. The stream’s force, once like the cannon’s, was withering to that of a common exhale. It was not long before the upright greenery that once beamed with confidence began to crouch, with each leaf and piece of grass begging to lean on the one beside it. The tree that once bore my name now bore nothing other than shriveled fruit. 

For months, the mystery of the vanishing waters remained unsolved. Some blamed witchcraft, others God’s wrath for any selection of sins. The innocents with questionable reputations were blamed, scorned, and shunned. Communal animosity grew where the blossoming flower petals once welcomed all so warmly. Soon, word traveled to us with the winds of inquisitive fury and the mystery was solved. 

It was a neighboring land that had decided to block the water’s flow. A large, nearly indestructible wall had been placed in the stream’s way. The thought was unfathomable. Locking up our waters in a cage like a criminal. Yet, there was nothing to be done as the decision to take action laid not with us, but with those in the North. Those whom our land’s waters fed. Shortly before our lands grew thirsty, we had supplied the North with more than they could need. As a consequence, the urgency only traveled to them much later. By then, our community had begun warring over the leftover crops. 

Thieves always existed. Always have and always will. Thieves in our parts cannot be blamed for thieving, as it is a circumstance that forces their hands and fingers to grow longer. Not gluttonous greed like that of the ones who have stolen our water’s freedom. Thus, the bullets targeted at our thieves, as mentioned, only served to instill the fear of loss they had planted in us with their presence. But, when our circumstances dragged us down to those of thieves, the bullets redirected. 

When my father, God rest his soul, taught me how to shoot, he said to me, “the bullet mustn’t be given a voice except for the one your finger grants it; for only a desperate man’s bullet can whisper in his ear.” 

I was indeed desperate. The whispers never left my ear as the gun never left my hand. The urge to kill grew. It was an urge I had lacked even in the war, for there, it was likewise the circumstance that drove me to kill. I had to. I did not want to. Now, as a desperate man with a desperate mother whose love has evaporated with our last drops of water, I shoot with a desire to kill and scavenge. I do as the bullet asks. 

More news came our way. The North had decided to retaliate and free the waters from their dungeon. My mother urged me to join the fight and I did so gladly. But, I, along with my neighbors, had grown weak over the past months. My body shriveled like the fruit of our late tree. 

In a matter of days I was on the frontline. I stood there with my gun aimed at my enemy. I could remember from the last war that here, on the battlefield, I was nothing more than my enemy’s enemy. To each other, that is all we should be. They had greedily taken our watery lifeline. 

The bullet’s whisper filled my ears. My enemy was in sight. His body, like mine, was frail and scrawny; his eyebrows tied to each other by the ropes of focus and anger. As I cocked the gun and narrowed my vision along with my wrath onto the opponent, I shifted the barrel to the level of his tightened eyebrows. Before the whisper could pull the trigger, my eyes could not help glancing at those of the life I was moments away from meditatively taking. But, his eyes said something louder than the bullet’s whisper. They drooled with desperation. They repeatedly announced that he stood here, before the barrel of my gun and at the disposal of his bullet’s whisper, out of circumstance. He, like our thieves, like myself, stole because he has to. Not because he wants to. If only the bullets could be aimed at the circumstance. 

The whisper regained control and pulled the trigger on my finger’s behalf. I have killed a man. Not because I wanted to. Nor because I had to. I am not sure why. The bullet told me to.

January 19, 2024 16:50

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Laura Rayne
14:33 Jan 25, 2024

I love your story Adam! I love your character voice and the way you put us in your character's head. I would love to see some action incorporated in this. Something physically happening to ground the story and give your reader some of his physical signs of distress. Like perhaps he is cleaning his gun and talking to it--telling it what happened and why it was not what he planned.


Adam El Nabli
07:14 Jan 27, 2024

Thank you for taking the time to reflect on the story and share your notes! Will keep this in mind when I revisit the story.


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