28 December 2012

"Now and Later"

The following story is fictional. No actual person or event is depicted.

By Curtis C. Chen

Now, Christian Francis Reed plays with a toy rifle, expelling the cork projectile over and over, pretending he can strike targets across the room. Pop. Targets like the tinseled tree, or the sleeping dog, or his sister. He wonders when his father will get him a real gun. He imagines shooting BBs, hitting things before they can get close enough to hit him. He aims the air rifle and imagines the face of the largest boy in class, the one who punches and kicks harder than anyone else. Pop.

Later, Christian Francis Reed walks through the shopping mall, covered in ceramic body armor, an automatic weapon in each hand. He likes the way the guns bounce as he fires them, rat-a-tat-tat, scattering bullets left and right. He doesn't care if he hits anyone; he's just shooting to clear his path. He imagines the noises not as gunshots, but as drumbeats. That's what they sound like, through the helmet: rump-a-pum-pum.

Now, Christian Francis Reed admires himself in the mirror, holding the first firearm he's purchased with his own money, a revolver which he selected after days of research. The six-shooter reminds him of Westerns, but there are also practical reasons to prefer "wheel guns" over "bottom feeders"—the latter can jam, and that's no good. Christian likes to know that he will be able to shoot his gun whenever he wants.

Later, Christian Francis Reed sees the police sniper on the upper level of the mall, and Christian drops the sniper with half a clip. The sniper falls and lands in front of Christian. She's a woman. He hesitates, confused—shouldn't she be at home with her baby?—until she draws her sidearm, and then he shoots her in the neck. But she manages to put a bullet in his leg first, and he has to hobble forward. He's annoyed that she slowed him down. Christian doesn't like it when people stop him from getting what he wants.

Now, Christian Francis Reed wrestles with the girl in the backseat, pinning her down. He's not sure if the noises she's making are even words. He releases her wrist to reach under the seat, and she slaps his face before he can grab the pistol. Christian slams the butt of the weapon into the girl's skull, and then she is silent and still, and he gets what he wants.

Later, Christian Francis Reed lies on his back in the center of the mall, wheezing as broken ribs scrape against his lungs. The police made him drop the detonator, and though he has to respect their marksmanship with the new non-lethal shock darts, he is very unhappy that he won't get what he wants. His fingers twitch toward the detonator, just inches away, but a boot kicks it out of reach. The owner of the boot kneels above Christian, and he sees that it's another woman.

"You're under arrest," she says, cuffing his wrists. "Don't die before we put you on trial, asshole."


Image: Science Museum of Minnesota bans guns, July, 2008