Ten seconds.

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt

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Suspense

1 second.

“Don’t do it, Ezra,” I whispered. I could feel a tear sliding silently down my left cheek, I watched out of the corner of my eye as it fell and shattered against the dust-coated floor. 

“I have to,” Ezra spoke in a chilling tone, it was unbalanced, yet balanced, insane, yet sane. I knew he wasn’t any of those things, he was floating somewhere in between. Even with his back to me, I could see that.

“No, you don’t,” He really didn’t. He needed to understand, I needed to make him understand. 

2 seconds.

“They can’t have our land,” Ezra exhaled, his back to me, “If I can’t have it, they can’t,” 

‘Our land’ I thought bitterly. He couldn’t even bear to say the name. I couldn’t say that out loud, of course.

“Y-your not thinking straight,” I said the next thing I could think of. I stuttered purposely, acting weak, making him think he was in control. This was the game, stalling. The longer I stalled the longer I lived, “Your crazy,”

I winced. I shouldn’t have said that. 

“No, no,” His voice raised in volume, “They’re not thinking straight if they think I will just let them take my land...they’re crazy...they’re…FOOLS”

Your land? He was regressing...

I used his yell to disguise my step forward. 

3 seconds. 

“Do they really think I will just let them have it...I WON'T!” He was going mad, I could see it. The seed of madness that was planted when he was exiled has finally sprouted. 

The question was...did he really do all that he could to stop it? 

4 seconds. 

He was rambling, the last few thoughts of an mad man oozing out in the form of alphabet soup, “They really think….they’re IDIOTS, they’re MORONS…”

I let him ramble, it wasted time, and I needed to think. My brain was fast for human standards, I wouldn’t waste many seconds doing this, but that was a good thing in this situation. I didn’t need him doing something horrible while I was lost in thought. 

There were precisely seven steps between me and Ezra, and three steps between Ezra and the button, our certain death. The button was hooked up to our nation..

I felt a pang in my chest as I thought of it. 

Ezra was going to blow it up. 

“...They’re DEAD! I’m going to KILL THEM…”

What?

I had been hearing his rambling halfway, listening for any keywords, this was one of them.

I watched in horror as he took a step towards the button, a step towards our death. 

5 seconds. 

I choked on my panic. I forced my hysteria down, I couldn’t let my fear interfere with my words. 

“Ezra...look at me,” I said calmly. I hoped he didn’t notice how forced my tone sounded. He turned slowly, and I was quite literally taken aback by his face. I was now eight steps behind him, but he was back to three steps away from the button.

His eyes looked black like coal, his hair was long past his ears, the mahogany curls wound in knots. Grime coated his face along with a thin layer of sweat. It wasn’t the fact that he looked homeless, it was the fact that I could see the madness etched in the lines of his face, the dead look in his eyes, the way he rocked back and forward, the way his eyes could never seem to focus...

6 seconds. 

I cleared my throat, it still felt thick, “You know what I don’t expect you to do?” I asked. I led him in with a question, using his curiosity and the extra time it required to my advantage.

His head cocked sideways, curious yet cautious. 

“To blow it up, to blow our people up,” this could go one of two ways. 

“Our?” 

“Your,” Right. 

“Mine,” 

That was not one of the two ways. 

7 seconds. 

We stared at each other. I forced myself to keep my eyes locked with his.

“They are not my people anymore, they exiled me,” 

If they didn’t regret it before, they are going to now. 

I knew he wasn’t trying to convince me, he never came to me for big decisions, he was trying to convince himself, “That doesn't change anything...you still have a duty to protect them,” I could use this to my advantage. 

“What? As their president? I didn’t think they wanted me as that!” He laughed for a second, then froze gasping for air, shaking violently. He sounded like he was choking. 

8 seconds. 

Ezra’s shoulders shook with hushed sobs, “You understand I have to, right?” 

My eyes flashed to his feet, he was on his toes, ready to move. 

I didn’t want to have to do this. My hand slipped into my pocket, finding the knife I had hidden in there.  

“What are you doing?” How had he seen….it didn’t matter. 

“I can’t let you do this,” I croaked. 

“You don’t have to!” He roared. I watched in horror as he staggered forward, his hand outstretched…

“No!” I screeched, lurching after him, I dropped my knife in shock, I heard it clatter to the floor. It didn’t matter, he was so far from me, so close to the button...I pushed myself forward, flinging myself through the air, I slammed side-long into him. 

My arms locked around his ankles, he let out a startled gasp and we tumbled to the floor. I grabbed his shoulders and pushed myself upward to get a grip on his neck. 

I lost count of the seconds. 

I only had one moment before Ezra’s instincts kicked in, but if I could grab...

I knew it was wishful thinking. 

He rolled over, and pinned me to the ground in one fluid motion. I didn’t have time for technique anymore. I kicked and thrashed and screamed. This fight wasn’t just about my life or death, it was about the life or death of my whole nation, and yet I couldn’t seem to do anything other than flail. 

I didn’t dare stop and look at Ezra’s face, I knew what I would see. Instead I pulled my knees up to my chest, and nailed him in the stomach. 

It worked, he was momentarily distracted. I wormed my way out of his grasp and tore my way across the floor, gasping and tripping. 

Tree steps. 

Two steps. 

One step. 

I was right in front of the button. I stared at the large, murderous red thing, everything about it was tempting…

And now I was between it and it’s biggest enemy, Ezra. 

My relief was immeasurable. I laughed hysterically, as the floodgates that kept my emotion at bay opened, I could feel many things, including a sharp pain in my leg…

I fell to the ground. 

The knife. 

“A-ah,” I whimpered, curling around my injured leg. I could see the hilt of a knife sticking out of my leg, crimson spewed from the wound. 

No. 

No. 

No.

I wasn’t worried about the pain, adrenaline poured into my bloodstream, redirecting the flow of blood to my muscles, helping to numb the pain. 

But even if it didn’t, the pain would still be far from my greatest concern. 

“Y-you’ll kill yourself, if you press that,” I was onto my last line of defence, the sliver of self-preservation he might still contain. My stutter wasn’t forced this time, I could hardly choke out the words, my eyes were swimming with tears, they felt like acid against my cheeks. The pain I felt in my leg was nothing compared to the way I was about to feel. My body had short circuited, the amount of emotion that was being pumped through it, broke me, I couldn’t function.

This was the end. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, it was simply...calm. 

My eyes slipped closed with defeat as I heard the soft patter of feet moving away from me. 

There was a soft click, a ticking, and then a voice. 

“It better,” 

10 seconds. 

Boom. 

January 02, 2021 04:29

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1 comment

San T.
12:53 Jan 09, 2021

Thrilling and captivating. And the boom sounded so like the end of everything. I am not a fan of tragedies, but I guess it is part of life too.

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