Nine Lives Later – Christie Rampersad (Joint 3rd place)
3rd place was won by both Christie and Lance, but today we’ll share Christie’s entry (ladies first!).
The judges differed with this one, but we thought both stories were worthy of 3rd place.
Nine Lives Later
by Christie Rampersad
“Death is peaceful,” I say – my second lie today. I remember the eight times I’ve died. ‘Peaceful’ doesn’t exactly come to mind. “It won’t hurt.” Another lie.
The civilian twitches in my arms again, and a bone-white hand grabs my shoulder. “Please,” she begs. Her wide, brown eyes stare at me, the whites milky and bloodshot. I think they ask me to save them. But I can’t. I’m just a cop.
This is the part of the job I hate most: failing. And there’s nothing I can do. I remain here, comforting the gunshot victim. Meanwhile my partner chases the attacker and soon-to-be killer. That’s the thing about dying eight times…I only have one life left. I have to guard it well. And that means my days of giving chase are done. ‘It’s for the best’, I’m told.
There is a deep, gurgling sound in the victim’s throat. Her back arches. Eyes glaze over. And her hand falls from my shoulder.
Upstairs, a child screams.
I freeze. My eyes trace the thud of heavy footsteps above me. The victim’s eyes, unnaturally deep for mahogany eyes, weren’t asking me to save her.
There is another scream – another child.
All thoughts of self-preservation evaporate. I leave the victim on the floor of her living room, skidding into a hallway that might’ve been cozy if not for the blood splatter.
My legs take me up the stairs two at a time. I stumble at the top. My hands flail out and clutch at the bannister. On even ground, and with my weapon drawn, I enter the upstairs corridor. All the activity comes from a room at the far end.
I inch closer, the floorboards moaning beneath me. The door is ajar so a triangle of light spills outside, and that is where I hover. Through the gap I see a black-clothed man disappear up a ladder.
Not for the first time tonight, I throw caution to the wind. I wrench the door open and sprint inside. My frantic chase takes me up the ladder, and into the attic.
A bullet slices my right ear, leaving a trickle of hot, sticky blood. I wrinkle my nose at the smell: metallic, coppery. Another scream…mine.
I spot the children, a quivering huddle of blue and white striped pyjamas against the far corner. The attacker isn’t far from them. But at least I’ve drawn his focus away. The center of that attention, a bullet finds my chest.
The force knocks the wind from me, pain reddens my vision, and I stagger back. It will kill me…but slowly.
I fire my first bullet, the first since my last death. It buries itself in flesh. I watch him fall over, stiffen, and then breathe life again. I pump eight more rounds.
Nine bullets, nine lives, and three children saved – a fair trade.
Darkness steals my vision. And I remember today’s first lie: that I wouldn’t die today. I’ve always been a bad liar.