To Know Avail
By John Nichols
The sound of the hammer being drawn back caused David to open his eyes and stare at the steel death in his hands. A teardrop slipped down his cheek and splashed harshly against the cold metal, dissipating into dozens of tiny droplets, like a life shattered irreconcilably.
With his elbows on his knees and the revolver between his cold sweaty palms, David shuddered and clenched his eyes shut, blocking out the world around him, the world that had ignored him, tuned him out like the cries of the dead and dying.
David shook his head to clear his mind, but to no avail.
Disjointed memories came rushing back to him, shattered like the teardrop on the gun, like the mess that used to be a life.
That time, when he was fifteen, that first kiss, sloppy and awkward. That very next day when she was with someone else, for some reason known only to her. It just wonÆt work. I've got to be thinking about my future now.
A future, set in stone, at fifteen.
When he put that pencil grip on a girl's desk in the third grade, the girl that he "liked", since love had not yet entered his vocabulary. That girl that left the school in fifth grade, the girl he had tried to get together with, the girl that would not deign to speak with him now. Just....not my type....
A type, typical.
David jumped up from the couch and put his hands to his head, feeling the barrel of the gun tap against his head as if reminding him why he was where he was today. He paced back and forth across the floor, the fabric of his jeans quietly swishing when he moved, the soles of his shoes squeaking every time he took a step. He stopped in front of the bay window and stared out. There was the world, the place that had beat his head into the dust, condescending to him like the lowlife he was.
Again memories came back to him, like the teardrop, like the life.
Sixteen, buying his first car, worried about the money he did not have. That car that would bring him a moment of happiness, that car that became the laughingstock of the school. The girl that left because it would not start quick enough. Sorry, but I can't be with someone who can't buy me things.
Money, the only important thing, why not marry it?
Eighteen, at the awards assembly when he received eight, almost nine, different awards, more than anyone else combined. Eight because, well, you could not win them all could you? The hardest working, most accomplished guy in the class, and no one seemed to notice. Except they did, and he knew that they noticed. How did he get all those awards? My grades were higher.
Pieces of paper, "honorable mention", worthless trash.
The day he turned nineteen, the girl he had been courting for six months, the moment she said yes to his rose and crummy poem. A dream come true, a dream no one else seemed to notice. The day she tried to leave. "You have to let me go. David, please....you have to let me go."
David whirled around pointing the gun at the woman tied to the chair in front of him. Her pleading echoed through his head, the begging from her heart: David, I don't want to be here. I want to leave. I don't want to be with you anymore.
"You know I can't do that, love." David stated flatly. "I have to keep you here until you understand." She would understand; he hoped dearly that she would.
David sat back down on the sofa, forcing his gaze to the floor so as not to meet the desperate gaze of his love, his love that no longer loved him. He turned the gun over in his hands, studying it as if for the first time, as if contemplating its purpose. To kill or defend? To preserve or to maim?
Ten years old, first day at a new school, afraid of the unknown. The howling jeers, the disgusted looks on disgusted faces. The beatings, the girl who helped him, the girl who ran away from home, the girl who was found murdered, amongst other things. Dead, because of him.
Compassion kills, does it not?
David glanced up from the gun and stared at the woman before him. A pretty little thing, she was. The spitting image of what that world said was beauty. Olive skin, golden locks, blue-green eyes. Lips full of life, ruby red gems of seduction. Voice strained with fear, yet still persuasive in its own way.
"Please David, you must let me go. You aren't helping yourself by keeping me here."
His first kiss in what he had thought would be his last relationship. What he had thought would be his last first kiss. Soft, tender, full of life and love. Her lips, sensuous, pleasurable to the touch.
He lifted the gun up to eye level, pointed it at the woman and said softly, his words as cold and lifeless as the steel in his hand, "You will stay here, tied to that chair, and locked in this apartment until you understand that you do love me. I'll make sure that you do."
Again he stood. Again he paced to the window, looking out at the world before him: the street below, the apartment building across that street, the people passing by, oblivious, that police car slowly coming to a stop and parking.
The officer within opening the door and exiting the vehicle.
That officer making her way toward the front door of his complex.
Panic struck David in that instant, but he shook his head trying to forget the world and what he had seen. No! I'm imagining things. I'm paranoid. I just want to feel loved...
He whirled around, pacing feverishly toward the door of his fourth-story unit, glanced out the eyehole, saw nothing. Darting back to the window and glancing out, the officer walking past the door and out of sight of the window.
"David, you cannot be loved if you keep me here."
And I cannot let your heart be seduced by another. The memory flashed before him. The day he had followed her, to see what had caused her to turn away.
"David, why are you keeping me locked up inside this room?"
Paranoia is not paranoia if it is true is it?
"I can't let your heart be seduced, love. He was going to steal it, and I couldn't let that happen, love." For if the heart falls, the mind and body are not far behind.
David wiped his hand across his forehead, clearing the sweat gathering on his face. That was his purpose, right? To protect his love here so that her heart could not be seduced by another jealous, evil suitor, one who would destroy her heart and her very soul.
That day, when he was twelve, abandoned...
That day, in middle school, rejected...
That day, hated, scorned, mocked, spat upon...
The tears, the anger, the hatred...
The longing, the burning passion, full of desire to be wanted.
To be loved...
But to no avail...
David's hand shook as he raised and pointed weapon at the woman tied to the chair, bound tightly with no hope of escape. A silent tear ran down his cheek, his breath heaved itself in and out of his lungs, prolonged his misery moment by moment.
"Please, love, please," he sobbed, tears freely running their course, dying as they fell from his cheek to floor, "please love me. You have to love me."
"David," the woman said, eyes rimmed in red from the tears she had shed, "let go. This is not love."
David stood in silence, gun shaking, tears burning his cheeks as they, too, abandoned his forlorn figure.
He sank down onto the chair behind him, and from there, David fell to his knees, weeping openly. His body writhed and twisted as the pain of rejection wracked his human frame.
The woman looked on, pity for David in her eyes. "David, I have never left you. Never have I forgotten you. I have always been with you, and I will always be with you. But you must let me go. You cannot keep someone locked up and expect them to love you. Let go, David."
David rolled onto his side, curling himself into a ball, his sorrow flowing from him like a drain empties a bathtub of water, leaving it cold and unfilled. Her words echoed in his head. Let go, David.
He raised his head, staring into the deep green eyes of the woman. It was like staring into the depths of an emerald forest, a whole life-filled forest, where things were...right.
He nearly stood and freed her then and there.
Thud, thud, thud.
A frantic glance at the door.
Fear and anger replacing the sorrow and surrender.
David, standing, aiming hate and death at the door.
"David, no!" the woman screamed.
Another set of pounding on the door. A voice outside calling to him, "David, let me in! I can help." A woman's voice.
"No!" David screamed, turning the gun toward the woman bound to the chair, "don't come in here, or I'll kill her."
Fresh tears from David's captive love.
"David, don't do anything you'l forever regret. Please, let me help you. I know what you're looking for; I can give you the answers you can't seem to find, but you have to let me in."
"No, I can't let you in. You'll ruin everything!"
"David, I'm begging you, listen to what I'm saying. That pain, that fear, that anger: I know how it feels; I've been there."
A pause. And in that pause, David thought he heard, in his delirium, tears coming from the other side of the door.
"David, oh David. How it must hurt."
Confusion mixed in with the fear and anger in David's head, causing the gun to waver for a brief moment.
What was this foolish cop trying to do?
"David, believe me, I've been in your shoes before. More people than you know have stood where you stand. The only difference is that they went down a road no one could ever come back from. We can save you, David. You have to let me in and take your friend with me."
"She's not my friend! I love her! She's my love."
"David, free your love, let her go. Keeping your love tied up is no way to show love to her. Please, David let me in."
The gun wavered again, but David still refused to move.
"David...my...love," the woman in the chair whispered. His eyes returned to the deep emerald oceans of right-ness, and the gun wavered yet again. All other sounds seemed to be drowned in that sea, in the thick, sweet nectar of her voice.
"David, please, let go...just, let go. If you love me, let go."
Something in that voice, something so very right about it, struck David deeply. He shuddered, sobbing uncontrollably. The gun fell to his side, and his shoulders drooped. David was ready to let go. He loosened the bonds of his love, so that she might move freely.
"Stay there," he said, "please."
David moved to the door, unlocked the latch and said, "I'm going to let you in, but wait until I say you can come in."
He received no acknowledgment from the other side, but David still took two long steps back from the door.
Suddenly, the door flew open and the officer rushed in, arms wide as if running for an embrace...or a tackle. She had a large smile on her face with tears running down her cheeks.
But David saw none of this.
Reacting without thought, he raised the weapon.
Pulled the trigger.
With a loud report, the officer fell to the floor dead.
The woman in the chair screamed, but did not move from the chair as if she was unable.
David stared blankly at the dead woman on the floor, then at the woman in the chair.
"I'm sorry," he said, as he raised the pistol to his head.
But before he could find the strength to pull the trigger, David fell to the floor, unconscious.
Through the blackness, he seemed to hear voices calling for him, echoes of memories.
David, please, let go.
David, please, let me in.
David, my love.
I want to be loved!
But to no avail.
The darkness tightened its grip about him, threatening to tear him limb from limb. Yet far off in the distance, there shone a light, a small pinprick of emerald.
Music filled the darkness as the light grew.
Music about love.
The light grew so bright, David's consciousness had to squint its eyes.
And suddenly, he awoke.
The white ceiling greeted his waking eyes. He pushed himself up on his elbows and glanced around his apartment. Everything was as it should be, everything in its place. Yet somehow, it was all wrong. Nothing was as he remembered. He glanced toward the door: no body, no bloodstain. Toward the chair: no duct tape or sweat stains.
Had it all been a dream? David glanced at his hand, the empty hand that held no gun. And then, David knew that his struggle had been a war with his own heart.
A knock sounded on the door. David jumped up and pulled the door wide. "Hello, my love," said a woman with emerald green eyes.
And in that instant, David came to know avail.
The Shadow - Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your thr...