Howdy, everyone. I didn’t have time to write a chapter this week so, instead, the following is a fictional short story I wrote for a competition. I hope you enjoy it!

It’s odd what one focuses on when staring down the barrel of a gun. My palms grew sweaty, my eyes twitching uncontrollably, but all I could think about were the smudges on the otherwise shiny weapon.
“I could polish that up,” I said, my voice shaking.
The man with the gun snarled, cocking the hammer. His hair was disheveled, his eyes wild and locked on my own. A police badge hung on his chest.
“Can’t clean it if I’m dead,” I said, trying and failing to lighten the mood.
“Stop,” he growled, shaking his head. “Just for once in your life, stop talking.”
“That’s not what you want,” I said, afraid to break eye-contact. “You can’t have what you want.”
My heart raced as the man tightened his grip on the gun, trying to steady his shaking hands. “Where is she?”
“I don’t know,” I said, my voice cracking. “I would do something if I knew. I’d save her. I’d save us both. But I just don’t know.”
The man fought to control himself, tears falling down his cheek. “Think,” he pleaded. “You know. You have to know. If you want to live, tell me where she is right now.”
“We’re out of time,” I said, breaking eye-contact with the man for the first time. “We lost. You might as well get it over with.”
I took one last look at the room as I accepted my fate. This was her room. My daughter’s.
Her bed was made with her favorite pink comforter and princess pillows. I’d made it for her after she’d been taken, preparing the room for her return. I’d been a fool.
The man observed the room with me, meeting my watery eyes after sharing a brief moment of grief.
“It’s over.”
“They could have been lying,” he said, his gun still leveled at my face.
“We couldn’t take that chance,” I whispered.
“So what am I supposed to do?” He yelled. “Should I pull this trigger, then? End it?”
“We could have stopped this,” I said, defeated. “We just had to find her.”
“We should have gone to the station,” he said his gun shaking. “They might have found her.”
“We couldn’t risk that either,” I said. “It had to be us.”
“But why us?” He asked. “Why take her? Why not just kill us in the first place?”
“I don’t have an answer. Twenty-four hours and still nothing.”
“It had to be about revenge,” the man said, his breath quickening.
“More than revenge,” I said. “Humiliation.”
“And you can’t think of a single lead!” He yelled. “Who hates us that much?”
“It could be anyone. We’ve put away hundreds of felons.”
“But who’s on the outside? Who’s been released? Anyone recently?”
“They’re all on parol,” I said. “They have bracelets. GPS Trackers. It’s none of them.”
“What about their families?” He asked, grasping at straws.
“It could be anyone,” I said again. “We have no leads. Just pull the trigger. End this.”
Just then, my cell phone rang, vibrating against the petrified wood of my daughter’s nightstand.
I took one last look at the man in the mirror before picking up the phone.
“Hello?” I said, laying my gun down on the bed.
…“I’m about to do it.”
…“No! Don’t touch her. I’m doing it,” I said, throwing the phone on the bed. I knew I wouldn’t get another chance before they started hurting my little girl.
Shaking even more than before, I picked up the gun, staring at the mirror. There was a camera behind it. They had watched my every move from the very beginning.
If I left the room, if I contacted anyone, they’d kill her. The only way to end this was by killing myself, and they would know the moment it was done.
A note lay in front of the mirror, a blank space still awaiting my signature. Cold, almost unthinking, I signed it, my mind thick with fear.
The note explained that I was a dirty cop. That I’d taken bribes and arrested innocent people under orders from a local gang. Nothing specific. Nothing I could tie to any specific case. But it would be enough to force a re-trial for every case to which I’d been assigned.
I couldn’t hold back tears any longer as I removed my badge, placing it next to the note.
My body shook as I raised the gun to my head, and again my mind was fixated on the smudges along the barrel of the gun.
Allowing myself one last moment, I pulled a cloth from my pocket and cleaned the smudge from my gun.
It felt good to do something productive. A feeble fruitless last act, but an act all the same. And so I cleaned the whole gun, attempting to take control over the last tiny portion of my life.
And then it happened. The gun went off in my hands.
Fear and sorrow brought me to my knees, my body convulsing with sobs as I realized I was still alive.
It was only after I settled myself down enough to stand, that I noticed the bullet had destroyed the bottom half of the mirror and the camera behind it.
“No,” I said, stricken with fear. “No, no, no, no, no!”
Crawling up to the mirror, I shoved my face against the glass. “It was an accident. You have to believe me. Don’t hurt her! If you can hear me, please don’t. I’m about to do it. I’m doing it right now,” I said, picking up the gun.
What if they can’t hear me? I thought, the cold tip of the gun brushing against my temple.
Panicked, I reached for the phone only to stare at the blank screen. But what if they think I’m already dead? Calling them would give it away.
Heart thumping, I looked back at the mirror. “Can you hear me?”
I waited, body shaking with anxiety. Then I spoke again, louder this time. “Please call me.”
Nothing. They can’t hear me. “Don’t hurt her,” I whispered. “Please don’t.”
Dropping the phone, I began to pace around the room, the gun shaking in my hand. They wouldn’t assume I’d killed myself, would they?
“No,” I said, beginning to hit myself with the butt of the gun. “They’d send someone to make sure.”
I continued to pace around my daughter’s bed, crippling sobs threatening to overtake me. “What do I do?” I whispered.
“End it,” someone said from across the room.
Startled, I snapped my gun up. I didn’t recognize the man.
“Where’s my daughter?”
“Far from here,” the man said. “If you want her back, you know what you have to do.”
“Why?” I asked. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“I don’t know any more than you,” he said. “Only that you must end this. Now.”
Slowly, I turned the gun on myself, but I couldn’t keep my hand still.
“You do it,” I told the man, lowering my gun.
He shook his head. “Be a man. Surely you want to see her again?”
“I can’t,” I said, defeated. “Why did you have to take her?”
“I didn’t take her,” the man said, his voice somber.
“Why did she have to go?” I whimpered, rolling into a ball on the floor.
“Because of you,” the man answered. “It’s your fault she was taken.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” I said, tears pooling on the wooden floor against my cheek.
“No man is innocent.”
“I’m a good man,” I whispered.
“Are you?”
I didn’t respond, afraid of the truth. Eventually, I lifted myself to my knees, prepared to beg for forgiveness.
“I cheated on my wife,” I said, head bowed.
“And she left you for it,” he said.
I nodded, cradling the gun in my hands. “I still loved her.”
“She was right to leave,” the man said.
I nodded. “She was too good for me. She trusted me.”
“And then you lost her baby.”
“I didn’t lose her!” I said, rising to my feet. “She was taken from me.”
“And you allowed her to be taken,” the man said.
I shook as I looked into the man’s dead eyes, setting with rage. Suddenly, I screamed as loud as I could and pulled the trigger, shooting the stranger until I ran out of bullets.
The rest of the mirror shattered, falling to pieces on my daughter’s floor. Still shaking, I lowered myself to her bed, dropping the gun on top of her pink comforter.
Dead inside, I took the picture from her nightstand and held it in my lap. The three of us looked back at me, smiles lighting our faces.
Our daughter had been missing one of her front teeth at the time, but her smile was all the more beautiful for it.
My wife had been happy too. There was no resentment in her eyes. Nothing held back. I had ruined things for all of us.
In a moment of lucidity, I realized I was losing it. Hanging on to reality by the barest thread of string.
And then I realized I was wasting time. Someone was coming, and I needed to be dead when they arrived.
I carried the picture over to the broken mirror, placing it next to the letter and badge. Ignoring the glass, I knelt on the ground, staring down at the picture as I raised the gun to my head.
I could hear movement outside the room. The sound of yelling and shuffling feet. I was running out of time.
Terrified, my finger trembled over the trigger. I tried to pull the trigger. I swore I did, but my finger wouldn’t move.
The noises were getting louder. “Pull it,” I whispered. “Do it!”
I pulled the trigger just as the door opened, the adrenaline of the moment shocking my body into action… but I was out of bullets.
“George?” Someone gasped, yanking the gun from my hand.
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t respond.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing!” She said, pulling me to my feet and spinning me around to face her. My ex-wife.
“Catalina,” I said, “what are you doing here?”
Her eyes were wide with fright as she examined my shoddy exterior. “Please don’t tell me you were about to… to kill…”
“I didn’t want to,” I said, trying to calm her down. “But I have to. They took our little girl.”
“George,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “That was weeks ago.”
“No,” I said, “there’s still time. I just have to kill myself before they hurt her.”
“George,” she insisted, holding me by the shoulders. “Ruthy…”
“Let me do this,” I begged, feeling oddly calm. “I need to do this for our girl. For you.”
“You can’t,” Catalina said, her mouth trembling. “It’s over, George. You’re alive.”
I shook my head. “You don’t understand.”
“No,” she said, looking into my eyes. “You’re confused. Let’s get out of here.”
“I can’t go,” I said, gesturing toward the shattered mirror. “They’ll know.”
“George,” she said, increasing her grip on my arms. “It’s okay. We found them.”
I blinked in confusion. “Found who?”
Tears rolled down her face. “The ones who… killed Ruthy.”
I nodded, trying to process her words, but she wasn’t making any sense. “Ruthy isn’t dead,” I said.
Catalina bit her lip, her face filled with turmoil. Then it finally clicked. Devastated, I lost the strength to stand, letting myself collapse onto the ground.
Tiny pieces of glass stuck my skin as I hugged the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Catalina knelt beside me, her hands resting on my back.
“I’m so sorry, George.”
“George?”
I tried to open my eyes, to move at all, but my entire body had become frozen. Immobile.
“Can he hear us?” Asked a familiar voice.
I tried to respond. To give any kind of sign, but my body wouldn’t comply.
“You should assume he can. Hearing is the last brain function to deteriorate in coma patients.”
Coma? I thought. Who’s in a coma?
“George, it’s me. It’s Cat.”
Cat! My lovely Catalina.
“You stupid stupid man,” she whispered.
I know. I should have saved her.
“How could you do this to yourself?”
I needed to save our little girl.
“If you had died…”
Am I not dead?
Silence.
“There’s someone who wants to see you.”
“Daddy!” Cried a little girl. My little girl.
Ruthy! I’m so glad you’re okay.
“Be careful with him, Ruthy.”
I can’t feel anything. Why can’t I feel her? See her?
“What’s wrong with daddy?”
“He’s really really tired,” Cat said. “So he’s taking a very long nap.”
“When is he gonna wake up?” Ruthy whispered, worried about waking me up.
My heart ached to reach out to her. To hold her.
“When he gets stronger,” Cat whispered back. “But this isn’t like a normal nap. This is a special nap because even though he’s sleeping, he can still hear you.”
“Really?”
“And I know he wishes he was awake because he misses you very much. Why don’t you give him a hug?”
I laid still, trying to concentrate. Trying to feel my daughter’s hug, but I felt nothing. But when she spoke, I could feel her closeness.
“I love you, daddy.”
The breath of her voice filled my ears, and for a moment I could feel the warmth of her embrace.
I love you too, baby. And one day I’m going to wake up for you. I promise.

When I sat down to write this story I had no idea what it would be about. My only thought was that it would fun to tell an entire story through a monologue. Two hours later I finished this story.

Even though I wanted to write a monologue, it was important to experience actual relationships at the end in order to give life to the main character’s emotions. I had to sacrifice my original idea for the good of the story, because character is more important than ideas, no matter how short the story.

I hope you liked it! Back to The Immortals next week.