Ace – Wednesday – 1:04am

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Equanimity

There is a church, and inside it, a confessional.

There are half a dozen people in the church: a handful standing outside the confessional and two inside of it.

Ace is standing amongst those who are located outside the confessional. Somehow, however, he can see inside of it, where a priest is sitting to one side, and a sinner asking for forgiveness to the other. Ace does not recognize the priest, but he does recognize the sinner as the scar-covered bald man who stood looking at him from the streets the other night.

The bald man has a gun. It’s hidden on his person so that the priest cannot see it, but Ace knows its there, he is certain of it.

Ace wants to shout to the priest. He wants to warn him of the bald man’s gun, but he is frozen, unable to move. Instead, all he can do is listen as the priest prays for the bald man with a few quiet words.

The bald man quietly pulls the gun from his side. He holds it against his lap, pointing he muzzle directly at the priest, but keeping it out of eyesight of the priest.

Ace eyes grow into large round circles. He tries once more to shout, to screams, even to jump up and down, but his body does not respond to him, and the priest does not notice him, or any of the others standing outside the confessional.

Ace tries to move his head and finds that he can look around. He begins scanning for something he might be able to throw at the confessional in order to get the priest’s attention. As he searches he notices three other people – an elderly couple and a young, blonde woman – staring back at him. He stares at them for a moment before realizing they are not looking at him but rather at something he is holding in his hands. He looks down and, to his surprise, finds he is holding a handgun.

Suddenly, as though unlocking something in his body, Ace is able to move. Without thinking he quickly points the gun in the direction of the confessional, to the side in which the bald man is sitting.

He has to kill the bald man. He has to kill the bald man before he kills the priest.

Ace is scared. A sinister whisper in the back of his mind hints that if he kills the bald man he forfeits his own life. He turns his head towards those that surround him and finds all three looking back at him with a mix of understanding, compassion, and fear. They do not speak, but they do not have to; Ace can see in their eyes that they are all thinking the same thing: the bald man must die.

Everything slows down as the bald man begins to squeeze the trigger. Ace no longer has a choice, and quickly pulls his own trigger before the bald man, who is hesitating, can follow through and shoot the priest. The bullet from Ace’s gun flies through the air, then through the confessional’s wooden front pannel, and finally into the bald man’s temple, splatting out the other side along with bits of blood, brain and skull. The priest shrieks as the bald man drops and dies, an eerie smile appearing on his lips.

Ace doesn’t see the smile. In fact, he cannot see or hear anything anymore. He tastes blood fill his throat and mouth and realizes that someone shot him. He drops his gun, and falls to the floor as a cold numbness covers his entire body. A void of emptiness swallows him whole, and then, nothing.

***

Ace suddenly awoke, throwing his body backwards against the old wooden chair on which he had fallen asleep. The chair buckled but held together, and the retired soldier remained sitting on it for a moment as his consciousness fully returned to him.

The clock against his bed read 1:04am, which meant that he had dozed off for about 15 minutes, the longest he had been able to sleep for since first waking up from the terrifying dream almost two days earlier.

He groggily looked around the apartment, only to find nothing had moved. His door was still bolted shut, the windows were still closed tight, and, except for the lamp by his bed, all the lights were off.

Most importantly, the firearms he’d gathered over the past couple of days were still lying on his bed, just where he had left them. He grabbed one of them and began cleaning it, all the while humming to himself.

There were five more days to go, and he would be ready by then.

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