I walk in slow and steady. I never meant to come here, but it's funny how life works.
The room is small, not even the size of a bedroom. It's dingy, walls a strange coppery-gray with rust stains at certain places. It smells musty, like wet laundry, and the air is thick and warm. In the middle, taking up most of the space, is a large table. Made of wood or metal, I can't tell which. There are two chairs on each side, and the middle is an old revolver. It's so dirty I wouldn't have even seen it there if it wasn't for the pale hand on top of it.
My eyes go from the hand to the arm to him. He sits in the chair facing me, violet eyes looking at me with bright curiosity and amusement. A small smile grace his chapped lips and he pays no mind to the sweat rolling off his brow. His jacket is slung over the back of his chair, a once white undershirt the only thing covering his scarred body. He's leaning back, casual and confident, filling the rest of the room with himself.
He motions to the empty chair and I sit. We look at each other for a while, brown and purple melding into each other. I try and look as cool as he is, but I'm not sure I'm doing it right. My breath sounds so shallow and short.
He notices too."Take a breath, take it deep. Calm yourself." He says to me. He smiles reassuringly, and I try to take it to heart. It takes me a moment, but I compose myself and look back at him.
He sits up, hands folding onto the table. He explains, "If you play, you play for keeps." He picks up the metal and gunpowder and turns the carton. It makes a fast clicking noise.He plays it around in his fingers, then raises his head."Take the gun," He slides it to me. "And count to three."
It takes me a moment to figure out what he means. I blink, eyes darting to the gun he's offering. He wants ME to go first.
I'm sweating now. My hand's shaky and moving slow as I reach to grasp it loosely. No time to think, I clear my mind and raise it to my head. My turn to go...
I feel my finger squeeze and hear a click. My body twitches, then I relax and the gun falls to the table. And you can see my heart beating. I put my other hand above it. You can see it through my chest. It makes me realize that I am terrified... I look at the revolver in my trembling hand and then up at him.
He's smiling at me like you would a young child, learning something new; slow and clumsy. My jaw tightens. I can tell in his expression, he expects me to chicken out and go the way I came. But I'm not leaving, andI tell him so.
He raises a brow, smile flashing a little bit of white. "And why not?"
I gulp quietly, and look away. "I know that I must past this test..." My face hardens and I push the gun to him. "So just pull the trigger."
His eyebrow raises higher and he giggles, a soft, sweet sound, unexpected from this large man. He finally quiets down and takes the gun. He holds it to his temple and shoots the empty shot. He doesn't even flinch and puts the gun next to me, that smile still on his face.
I pick it up, looking at it with a certain heaviness. Say a prayer to yourself, I think. I do this to every religion, every god I can think of, and pick it up.
Leaning forward a little, he says, "Close your eyes. Sometimes it helps." He makes it sound like he's being helpful, but really he's just trying to unnerve me.
I nod just a little, and take his advice. And then I get a scary thought. My eyes snap open and look at him. That he's here means he's never lost.
He smiles wider. He knows from my eyes that I realize what they all did, before he won. Now I know you can see my heart beating. It's pounding so hard that it was impossible not to, you can see it through my chest. He knows that I'm terrified, but he also knows I'm not leaving. I have to tell myself that though, that I MUST pass this test. So I breathe and just pull the trigger...
This continues for what seems like eternity, every turn a heart-attack for me, every time a joke to him. Soon, there's only so many until one of us finds the bullet. It's either this shot or the next one. And it's my turn.
As my life flashes before my eyes, my hand moves on it's own. It rests on my skull and I'm wondering "will I ever see another sunrise?" I think of my brothers and sister, Yao and Kiku and Mei... So many that won't get the chance to say goodbye... "But," I think, "It's too late to think of the value of my life." And yes, you can see my heart beating, you can see it through my chest. And yes, I'm terrified, but I'm NOT leaving. I know that I must pass this last test. For seem reason, I'm comforted by this knowledge, enough to just pull the trigger.
And when nothing happens, I breathe again. I smile at the gun, thanking it in my strange. But then I remember that this shot was empty, so the next turn... I look at him.
His smile is smaller, but it's still there. He knows it too. His hand reaches out to me, steady as mine is shaky. I slowly place it in his hand.
He pulls it close, looking it over like he did when we started. He sighs quietly, like he's tired of this game. His eyes raise to mine and he chuckles. "You know, if you look close enough, you can see my heart beating." He pats above it. "you can see it through my chest."
I freeze, and I feel a confused expression hit my face. I look, and it's true. It's there, just enough not to notice unless you're looking for it.
"I've played for so long, but every time I'm terrified, like it's my first." He continues, fingers tracing the rusted steel. He suddenly straightens, and holds it up. "But I'm not leaving. I never do."
I stare wide-eyed at him. I don't understand. "But... why?" I finally choke out.
He just gives me his warm smile, but this time, it seems genuine. "Because... I know that I must pass this test." He gives a giggle.
I blink at my own words spoken back to me. My heart skips a beat, and I get him. I'm not sure how, but I do. My mouth gives him a twitchy, broken smile.
And that seems to be enough for him. He relaxes and positions the gun better. "So..." he says. He waits a moment, the room is quiet. We stare right at each other and our hearts beat together. I swear they did. I take a breath for him, and his smile fades a little. He never breaks eye contact with me and before the spray of blood or the loud bang, he mutters happily:
"Just pull the trigger."