"Answer me! Who's out there?"

The silence was both ominous and confusing because he knew someone had entered the house. Grabbing his hat and coat from the sofa, he called out again, his voice more shrill than before. Still, there was no reply. He stood stock still, his body frozen in place, and stared into the hallway for what seemed an eternity before walking across the room. When he reached the darkened hallway, he saw a vague figure standing in the shadows near the basement door to his left. As he stepped across the threshold to get a better look, two rapidly executed gunshots exploded into his chest. For a second he was suspended between the reality of his situation and the eternity that awaited him refusing to believe he had been shot as his mind raced against death in a futile effort to know why. Why would anyone want to kill him?

He wasn't ready for death, but it came anyway. It came without warning, without asking his opinion or begging his pardon. It hadn't come softly, little by little, as he expected it to...as he hoped it would. Instead, death came loud and undignified, like a thundering explosion which blasted into his chest and ripped the life out of his body. He smelled the acrid stench as the bullets slammed into his heart and wrenched his body into a spasm of excruciating pain. He tried to scream, but the effort died somewhere between his lungs and throat as warm blood filled his mouth instead. He made a useless gurgling noise as his body hung in air desperately clinging to the last seconds of life that remained. Then he died a standing death of exquisite agony that he wouldn't have wished on his worst enemy. The force of the bullets which exploded into his chest threw his body back into the family room where he performed a macabre pirouette, left arm suspended in mid air, right hand clutching the bloody wounds in his chest. When his body fell to the floor like the dead weight it was, his raincoat landed over his face and upper body, and his hat came to rest under the table where the telephone sat.

© 2005 by Silver Maple Publications

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