Time seems to stop. I hear footsteps. A voice. Awakened from my dreamlike state, time returns to its proper state. The pain that just a second had metamorphosed into false fulfillment returns.
"Is everything okay, Zeph?" Kiera. Worried about her boyfriend. Typical for a desperate twenty-something trying to get her life off the ground.
"Zeph? Maggie?" More questions left unanswered. She's reached the apartment by now, I can hear her. Through some surreal bond, I am able to almost feel her panic. My panic. Seconds pass. She finds me here. She looks down, a silent scream etched in her face as she sees Zeph and Maggie, dead. She glances up, sees me and the gun. And runs. A siren. Must be the neighbors who called. Worried. I hear Kiera's screams and alarmed footsteps, shouting profanities that express her disbelief.
Time seems to slow again. I move to Maggie's side and crouch by her corpse. I look down at the gun, and I see a trio of droplets spreading in different directions on the silver casing. I'm crying. I kill the love of my life and I can't feel the tears. Maggie couldn't feel my tears either. Maybe that's why she ended it. More screams outside. I take one last, long look at Maggie. I kiss her lifeless lips. Dead for no more than a few minutes, but the warmth I once loved has already faded.
I can hear the stampede of people in the apartment building trying to escape. Tears blur my vision and sirens grow louder. My panic is glazed over with the stale feeling of closure.
More footsteps. Rapidly pounding on the staircases. Shouts. I make my way across the room, and stare out the window. Police cars, and an ambulance stare back at me. A black van with "SWAT" stenciled on it pulls up and stops, heavily armed police officers exiting from it.
The off-time march of footfall grows louder outside the apartment, and I hear a shout.
"Clear!" Definitely not Kiera or a neighbor. A deafening blast pierces the panicked, stale ambience of the gutted apartment.
I hear more talking from the other room, but I stand petrified by both panic and a twisted sense of loyalty to Maggie.
"Here!" The same voice that preceded the explosion. A pair of men dressed in riot gear labeled "SWAT" glance around the door into the room. Instinctively, I begin to raise the gun. They pull back, and a second duo of officers enter, the one in front carrying a ballistic shield and the man behind him with a carbine.
“Put down the gun!” shouts one of the police officers, but the words pass through my mind like sun cuts through clouds. I bring the gun up to chest level and pull the trigger. Simultaneously, the SWAT officer with the weapon opens fire in a fatal staccato. My handgun clicks. Out of ammunition. His bullets pierce my skin. A blazing hot savior driven into my gut. I collapse, and the handgun skips away from me. Blood begins to pool and the SWAT team swarms into the room. Paramedics enter and begin to e xamine the corpses of Zeph and Maggie. I hear them chatter about extracting the dead bodies, but the words mean nothing to me. My vision fades partially as my body tries to compensate for the blood loss. Emergency medical technicians place me onto a stretcher and a SWAT officer handcuffs me, the cool stainless steel at odds with the searing bullet. They lift me and begin moving me out of the apartment, Zeph and Maggie on stretchers right behind me. As the paramedics with Maggie pass me, I glance over at her, and my eyes meet her lifeless stare. The world begins to vanish into darkness. Flatline.