Summary: Two life-long friends trapped in an underground cellar. With one bullet between both of them, they decide to leave their fates up to luck and a simple game of chance.
Game of Fate
Only one bullet remained, one Goddamn bullet.
The handgun sat still on the grimy, dust-covered box between the two of them. Mark looked up at Chris' soiled, bloodstained face; Chris returned the woeful gaze. Studying his friend's appearance, Mark noticed that the plain white dress shirt Chris wore had been torn into ragged strips, barely managing to cling to his sweat-drenched skin. Usually stark and clean in appearance, the cloth had been fouled by blood and gore, shading his shirt a dark, wine red crimson. The dark, fatigued circles under his eyes were the embodiment of his weariness and desperation.
Don't be so quick to judge, Mark thought with dark humor. It's not like you look much better.
That, in fact, was a truth he found impossible to deny. Then again, the more he thought about it, the more he wondered: who could look good after fighting the living dead and other horrid abominations for nearly twenty-four hours? Mark wouldn't want to meet the guy that came out of that smelling like a rose.
"So– " Chris began, breaking the unearthly silence that hung around them like a noose.
"– Who gets the final bullet?" Mark finished with a dry, humorless smile.
Chris smiled back too, despite their current situation. Suddenly, Chris uttered a small chuckle that turned into a uproarious laugh with both men joining in. When the spontaneous hilarity drew to a close, Mark uttered one last chuckle before facing his life-long friend with a serious look.
"This matter is– "
"– Serious?" Chris interrupted again, looking up at his friend with raised eyebrows.
"I was going to say, 'crucial,' but serious works just fine."
"Yeah," Chris sighed deeply. Mark didn't like that sigh. He found it far too pitiful and desperate as if it wasn't just a sigh, but the man's final breath. In a lot of ways, that was true, and that was the fact that got under Mark's skin like a sharp needle. "I guess you're right. I mean, listen to that."
Chris turned his head, looking back at a solid wooden door. At times, the entrance (and exit too) would be still. Others, it shook violently, banging and rattling like a man trapped in chains. The door would be pushed out then slam! back shut when it met the iron bar Chris had set across it not a moment after they had shut themselves in the dank cellar that had become their new prison.
Tomb is more like it, Mark thought glumly.
Chris sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Just wished there were two bullets so we wouldn't have to fight over it."
"Yeah," Mark sighed, looking down at the ground made of cold, hard cement "I'm not fond of the idea either, but we owe it to ourselves to let someone go peacefully."
"Yeah," Chris agreed, nodding his head solemnly.
"So that takes us back to the original question, who's it gonna be?" Chris' eyes locked fiercely with Mark's, and all he could only stare back in return.
"We could leave it to luck," Mark suggested slowly.
Chris raised his eyebrows curiously. "What do you mean?"
"Up for a little Russian Roulette?" Mark said sardonically, reaching out slowly to grab the gun from the table. Has it always been this heavy? Mark wondered. Holding it in his hand, it had indeed seemed to gain more weight. Almost like the situation itself had increased the gravity. Taking a deep breath, he spun the chambers. "Do you want to go first, or should I?"
Chris stared at the gun, not saying a word. His eyes didn't move; he didn't even blink. Finally, he spoke in a low whisper, barely audible over the thumps and bumps coming from the blocked door. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Am I sure? That's a good question.
"No, not really," he answered. "But I don't see any other way to do this. We just have to trust luck to make the decision for us."
"Alright. Let me go first though."
Mark handed over the gun without objection. Even with the heavy gun transferred to Chris' hands, he still felt a great weight in his hands. Without even thinking about it, he shook his hand and rubbed it anxiously on his pants to rid himself of that sensation.
Chris pulled the hammer back, prepping the first chamber. Whether the bullet was in there or not was about to be determined. The gun shook in Chris' hands slightly as he rested the barrel on his temple.
Mark's vision zoomed in on his friend's face. The noise made from the zombies attempting to get in faded like a volume knob turned down slowly until it had been completely muted. Only one thing mattered to him, the odds of the round being in that chamber.
One out of six, Mark thought. Sixteen percent chance.
"Try not to puke if I make a mess," Chris said dryly with his lips pressed into a fraught smile and his finger resting on the iron trigger. There was no humor on Mark's lips; he didn't laugh, only nodded. With that done, Chris pulled the trigger.
A sound so small, so reserved normally, suddenly echoed loudly through the small cramped cellar. Mark could have sworn his ears were ringing from it. Chris looked down to the gun and passed it hesitantly to Mark who looked down at it. He thought about spinning it again but changed his mind. They could be here longer than needed if they kept spinning it every time it didn't fire. After all, that would always make it a sixteen percent chance of going off. If they didn't spin it, they would eventually that mythical, wonderful, one-hundred-percent-mark.
One out of five. Twenty percent.
He felt the icy touch of the metal against his forehead. It felt exactly like he imagined death to feel like, cold and final. Still, he had always imagined it to feel horrific, but that was not the case. Quite the contrary. He felt relieved, almost as if the gun promised everything would be alright. It gave him a way out, a way to escape the horrible reality he now lived.
Your getting ahead of yourself, a voice reminded. It's only a twenty percent chance. This may not exactly be the end.
Mark pulled the trigger, closing his eyes as he did so.
He sighed, not out of joy, but out of regret. He had been so ready to let it all go, but it was not his time. Not now at least.
One out of four. Twenty-five percent.
The odds were now starting to look a little better for Chris. Any serious gambler would tell you that a one in four shot was better than could be hoped for. Chris knew this and didn't hesitate in putting the gun to his head and pulling the trigger.
Mark absentmindedly wiped the sweat from his brow. His turn again. He picked up the gun, and it's weight seemed to increase. With every pull of the trigger the gun became heavier. It made no sense, but there was no denying it.
One out of three. Thirty-three percent.
This had to be it. The two of them had already expended half the bullets. The mere fact that it hadn't gone off yet was a miracle. Closing his eyes, he saw black. Though, he tried to envision something else, something beyond. Heaven. Hell. Limbo. Anything besides just the empty darkness.
As his finger tensed, his life flashed before him in the blink of an eye. Everything came so fast, but so clear, ripping apart the shadows of his mind. He saw everything.
He was five years old again, just moving into a new neighborhood. He saw a small child with blond hair, watching him with a basketball in his arm. They had played Horse, and Mark had won. Then, they were twelve, on their bikes, racing through the streets. Chris won that time. Many more of these competitions flashed before him: who could get a dance for homecoming first, who could eat more at the buffet, who could run a mile the fastest. He saw so much and so quick, but it was all ended when he heard:
He had been wrong. Mark couldn't believe it. Everything had felt so final there; he had seen his life pass before his eyes. He had been so sure. Feeling numb all over, he handed the gun over. Chris took it, looking him in the eyes. Mark stared back, but didn't see.
"Mark, are you alright?" Chris asked, genuine concern floating with his voice.
"I saw everything," Mark answered with a whisper. "My whole life, all of it, just like that!" He snapped his fingers for extra emphasis. "I can't really describe it. It's like coming face to face with the Grim Reaper himself, fully expecting him to shake your hand and end it all, but instead, he just gives you a casual nod and moves right on by."
Chris nodded, looking down to the gun in his hand. "Do you think it'll happen to me when I pull the trigger this time?"
Mark slowly shook his head. "I honestly don't know. I never expected it to hit me like that…right then. Feels like I was hit from behind by a truck. Never saw it coming."
Chris gulped, resting the gun against his head. "I guess here goes nothing." Mark watched with wholehearted interest, his mind unaware that there were only two bullets left (fifty percent odds). Chris closed his eyes, and leaned his head back. He took a deep breath, letting his chest expand, and breathed out as he pulled the trigger.
Mark's eyes grew wide with surprise— the bullet was in the last chamber. Chris' eyes grew wide too as he passed the gun to Mark. He picked it up, still not believing any of it. There was no longer any room for failure. The chances of the gun going off were one in one, one-hundred percent.
"I guess this means I win," Mark said, not knowing what else to say.
"Yeah," Chris said, dumbly.
Mark swallowed hard, feeling the great lump in his throat.
The trigger tensed; Chris' eyes widened. Mark stopped when he saw that. Insanity and terror filled Chris' eyes. Mark knew what his best friend planned on doing before Chris probably knew it himself.
The moldy crate Chris had been sitting on during the game flipped to the ground as Chris dove over the grimy box separating the two. Mark panicked. He tried firing the gun before his friend could reach him, earning him the victory he so justly deserved. However, Chris stopped him.
The gun did not go off.
Mark felt himself fall as Chris' weight came down on top of him. He felt both of Chris' hands wrap violently around the gun. As he connected with the hard floor and his friend's weight landed on top of him, the wind left his lungs, leaving his gasping for breath.
"Give it to me!" Chris seethed, prying desperately. "You cheated somehow! I know you did! You fucking cheating bastard!"
Mark didn't let up so easily. He held on strong, and in desperation, Chris did the one thing he could think of, he bit Mark's hand, bit it hard.
"Shit!" Mark cursed, having no choice but to release the gun. It fell with a clatter, and Chris smiled at the sound. He reached for the weapon eagerly, crawling on all fours like a dog, a desperate dog without a master.
Maybe it was his competitive nature or maybe it was some sort of animalistic instinct, but Mark decided he could not let Chris have the gun, no matter what.
With a cry, Mark reared his left hand (the one Chris hadn't bit) and rolled over, using his momentum to send a punch straight at Chris' face. He didn't know exactly where the blow landed, but he placed it somewhere around his friend's left eye. Regardless, he had enough power to knock his friend off his balance. With Chris down, Mark took the moment to grab the gun for himself.
He rose to his knees, but that was as far as he got before Chris lashed back out, putting his shoulder into Mark's stomach. Chris' weight pinned him to the ground. His attacker forgot about the gun for a moment, lashing out with his fists.
Mark's head rocked back and forth as the fists connected with his cheeks. The metallic taste of blood, Mark could taste it. He put brought up his arms to protect himself, absorbing the blows. Suddenly he felt a rage boil inside him.
Chris actually attacked me, all for the gun— the gun which I won fair and square.
Rage gave him determination, determination gave him strength, the strength to grab his friend's arms by the wrists. Chris seemed surprise, and he pulled back, trying to free himself. Mark grinned with dirty satisfaction when he saw the look of shock on Chris' face. He pulled down with both of his arms, pulling Chris close as he swung his head at his adversary's face. Both of their heads met with a loud thump! Mark felt something cut his forehead and he knew what it was: one of Chris' teeth.
The blow left Chris wide open for another attack. With the best leverage he could muster from his pinned position, Mark swung his left hand. Chris' nose seemed to explode under contact, blood flew into the air. Chris rolled over in pain, allowing Mark to stand on his feet.
"Is this what you wanted?" Mark yelled at his friend's crouched form. "Is this the kind of game you had in mind? A boxing match? Why couldn't you just let me enjoy what I won? It was fair and square! If you would have won, do you think I would have tackled you? Well, I got something to tell you! If this is how you want to win the gun, good luck, cause there's no way in hell you're beating me!"
Chris snarled, climbing to his feet. Using the sleeve of his tattered white shirt, he wiped the blood from his mouth and nose. It didn't help much; a steady flow of blood rolled down his face like a waterfall. "That's what you think, Mark. I've always been able to kick your ass, and you know it."
"Could have fooled me now," Mark taunted, gesturing to the blood flowing down Chris' chin.
Chris said nothing, just brought his fists up in front of his face. Mark entered his own stance, making sure to stay light on his feet. They moved in on each other, sizing each other up.
No bell rang to signal the start of the fight, yet they both knew exactly when to start. Mark made the first move, swinging with his weak right hand. He didn't expect it to do any damage. On the contrary, he expected it to draw Chris' defenses. It succeeded. Chris brought up his arms as a shield to absorb the blow, leaving his stomach open. Mark used the advantage, sending a brutal uppercut with his left fist into Chris' soft stomach.
Chris fired back quickly, lashing out with his right fist. Mark felt pain erupt in his left eye, but he didn't falter. He swung back with the right, connecting with one of Chris' ribs. He followed with another punch to the jaw with his left. The ol' one, two combo.
Chris staggered back, rubbing his jaw with one hand. "You son of!" He didn't finish his sentence, just charged and jumped into the air. Mark realized what was coming just a second too late. Chris planted his foot on Mark's chest, knocking him to the ground and stealing the wind in his breath.
Mark lay on the ground, wheezing deeply in an attempt to regain his breath. Chris didn't give him any time to recover.
In the fetal position, Mark did his best to defend himself as Chris kicked him in the ribs, punted him in the side, and stomped on his form. As he did so, he added insult to injury, sending down curses like fire and brimstone.
Mark decided enough was enough and grabbed Chris' foot as it came down. Chris grunted and swung his foot to free himself, but Mark refused to let go. He yanked hard; Chris fell back down to the floor, resulting in an even footing. Mark slammed him in the gut with his elbow quickly before crawling away, towards the gun, towards victory.
"No…" Chris muttered behind him quietly. He crawled after Mark, refusing to lay down and lose.
The gun grew closer, and Mark licked his lips in anticipation. His hand wrapped around the worn, wooden handle. This was it; he had the gun; he had won; and Chris had lost.
He pointed it towards his temple, smiling victoriously.
Take that Chris, Mark thought triumphantly. I win one last time.
He pulled the trigger.
The sound echoed throughout the small chamber. Mark's ears erupted, filling the air with a high-pitched shriek. He kept his eyes closed, thinking to himself, is this what death is like? I feel no different. I felt no pain. I felt nothing. Then slowly it dawned on him. Why did I hear the gun go off and feel nothing?
He opened his eyes, to see Chris staring at him, his face a mixture of triumph and horror. Mark looked down to the gun still in his hand, trying to replay the events in his head.
"What happened? Why am I still here?"
"I knocked the gun away right as you fired," Chris said solemnly. "Didn't you feel it?"
Mark shook his head, tears swelling in his eyes. "No, not at all. I was too focused."
The moans at the door, the thumps at the door, never sounded any louder than they did right now. They were like the ticks and clicks of the hands of a clock, counting down the last seconds.
Mark leaned against the wall, looking at the ceiling, staring at the bullet hole. Chris slid next to him.
"No bullets left, huh?"
"Sorry about that, Mark. You won. You deserved that as much as anyone."
"Too late for that now. We're both in the same boat."
"Yeah, I guess we are."
The wood of the door began to split, and Mark realized it wouldn't take that long.
"I'm kind of glad it ended like this."
"Yeah, we've gone this far together, and I think it's only fit we end it together."
"You know? I think you might be right."
Mark put his arm around Chris' shoulders and the two of them sat there together, waiting for the door to break down, waiting for the end.