Human Voices Wake Us
has descended on the neighborhood when the gun falls out of the man’s pocket.
He is standing in front of the two-story house when it happens, pulling his
phone out of one hoodie pocket, the weapon falling out of the other as he
withdraws his free hand to operate the phone.
is a large man, stomach bulging from the baggy hoodie. A streetlight throws a
pool of halogen light onto him, defining a pale, moon-shaped face with a
bulging bottom lip. A face sparked with panic as the gun clatters to the
bends over and snatches it up, stuffing it back in his pocket, looking around.
The neighborhood is silent. The house looks the same as the ones surrounding
it, all of them exuding upper-middle-class, manicured lawns and flanks of grand
oaks lining either side of the street passing through.
studies the cell phone, looking at its screen then back to the house, then
steps down the sidewalk splitting the front lawn, up the stairs to the front
moves quietly to one of the windows, through which a man stands in the kitchen,
chopping red onions on a plastic cutting board. He is in his mid-twenties, with
tattoos coursing down both arms and a sweep of brown hair framing elfish
man outside watches him prepare dinner. The neighborhood waits, no sound but
the humming of the streetlights.
the man walks back to the door. He knocks and steps back, shifting his weight
and glancing at the street behind him as footsteps thud inside.
door opens, and the man opening the door beams.
man, how’s it going?”
man on the doorstep shifts his weight, clears his throat. “Hi.”
look turns confused. “Can I help you with something?”
large man purses his lips. He looks like he’s about to throw up. A blur of
movement, and the gun is out in a shaking hand, pointed at the other man’s
man holds up his hands. “Whoa whoa whoa.”
large man’s finger rests on the trigger, trembling.
inside,” he says finally.
man complies, stepping backwards, and the larger man follows, stepping into a
house with hardwood floors and stylish furniture: a grey sectional sofa, walnut
entertainment center, white armchair. The unmistakably pungent smell of a
cinnamon apple candle pervades the house.
shuts the door behind him and leads the other man into a living room.
man sits in the white chair. The large man sits on the couch beside him, gun
still trained on the other man’s chest.
please, whatever you do, I gotta-”
man pauses before understanding dawns across his face.
please, I don’t know what-”
the large man says. “Remember me?”
stares at him blankly.
forgotten? It was only yesterday. But I was just another person for you to fuck
with, wasn’t I? Just another person to troll. Well, you killed me on a video
game. I’m going to do it in real life.”
need to listen to me-”
need to shut the fuck up!”
Theon1996’s scream rips through the house, his calm face exploding into rage.
is quiet. Theon1996 raises the gun an inch higher, re-aims it. The moment hangs
poised like a curtain about to drop, and then it continues, stretching into
can’t do it, can you?” ImSomebodyNow says.
no easy thing to do. Taking another man’s life.”
carry it with you for the rest of your life.”
You know a lot about killing people?”
do. I’m ex-military. Marines. Did some intelligence work in Afghanistan, then
got out of it. Not my thing.”
swallows, his grip tightening on the gun. “You’re lying.”
don’t lie,” ImSomebodyNow says. “Especially when someone is pointing a gun at
bout of silence.
did you find me?”
scoffs. “You were easy prey. Pretty quick to give someone your address if they
send you a picture of tits and tell you they wanna fuck you, huh?”
eyes dart across the living room. “Nice place you got here. Must be nice,
having a lifestyle like this.”
to be married. Haven’t moved out of it yet. Too big for me, now.”
shuts his eyes, shoulders rising and falling with his breath.
you know,” he says. “How much I hate you right now?”
is sitting on the edge of the recliner. He holds his hands out to begin
gesticulating as he speaks, but instead clasps them together, rests them in his
don’t realize how much you want to say to someone until a gun’s pointed at
you,” ImSomebodyNow says, his voice quiet. “But I just want you to know that
I’m sorry. I really am.”
you’re sorry because you’re afraid I’m going to kill you.”
fear brings out the truth.”
idea of a good time is to get online and just-just fuck with other people. Just
piss them off beyond belief. That
fucking makes you happy, doesn’t it?”
The words come out quick and snowball on each other, mounting his anger.
“Doesn’t matter how they feel, as long as you can just piss them off. Because
it’s just the Internet, right?”
scoots to edge of his seat. He holds out a hand. “Listen—”
gun snaps up. “Do. Not. Fucking. Move. Do not give me a reason.”
freezes. “Listen to me. There’s one of two options. You can pull that trigger,
and you can go to prison for a long, long time. Or you can turn around, walk
out that door, and this never happened.”
are streaming down Theon1996’s cheeks. He purses his lips.
he says in a choked voice. “Why did you do it? Why did you say those things?
Why do you want to inflict pain on other people?”
was a mistake. I-I work a stressful job, seventy hours a week. It’s just a way
to relieve stress.”
is sobbing now, his mouth contorted into a series of lines.
eases a hand out, palm up.
we’ll make this easy. Take the bullets out of the gun, and hand it over to me.
And this is all over. I promise. I won’t call the cops.”
mumbles through the sobs.
don’t know how,” he says. “I don’t know how to take the bullets out.” He slaps
himself in the face. “Stupid Anthony, Stupid!”
your name is Anthony,” ImSomebodyNow says. “Mine is Taylor.”
Anthony isn’t listening. He is staring at Taylor’s shoes.
would Dad say?” he says. Anger flashes across his face. “He’d say you’re a fucking moron. That’s what he’d say.
Going and buying a gun and having some guy outside the store load the bullets
for you. And now you’re too much of a pussy to finish the job.” He slaps
himself again. “You’re a fucking idiot,
stands in a slow, fluid motion. “Anthony, I’m going to take a step toward you
doesn’t move, his head still dropped. Taylor takes it as a sign of acceptance
and takes one step on the muffled carpet, then another, until he is close
enough to reach out to him.
why don’t you hand me the gun now, okay?”
keeps his eyes on the carpet.
was your father like?”
is taken aback by the question. “He was a good dad. Still is. I’m lucky to have
is nodding. “You’re right about that. You are lucky.”
peers at him. “You think my life has been easy? I was poor as shit growing up.
But I made a decision to better myself. I joined the Marines so they would pay
for my college so I could find a better life.” He gestured around him. “This
isn’t a coincidence, man. I earned
doesn’t reply. The air conditioner kicks on, its hum filling the quiet.
never knew my Mom. She died when I was young. All I have from her is one
memory. I had fallen off my bike and scraped my knees on the concrete pretty
bad. I was so upset. Crying nonstop. I don’t even know how she got there so
quickly, but she was there, in front of our apartment. Already had hydrogen
peroxide and bandaids. And she bandaged my cuts and held me until I stopped
looks up at him. The tears are gone, but his face is still wrought with grief.
“Do you know what I just found out two days ago? My dad died.”
not. Do you know what I am sorry about, though? That I wasn’t able to be there
when his fat fucking body finally
stroked out on him.” He snarls as he spits out the curse. “I wanted to stand
over him and watch him die and do nothing. And tell him what a piece of shit he
was, as he took his last breath.” A shuddered breath escapes him.
took the belt to me,” Anthony whispers. “Every day. I just-” His face contorts.
“I just want to know why. Why there’s so much hatred and anger. In all of us.”
pauses, waits to see if he is going to continue. “Give me the gun, Anthony.”
gun dangles from Anthony’s index finger. Another long moment hangs before
Taylor’s hand snaps out to grab at the gun just as Anthony tightens his hand
back around the grip. Taylor grabs the weapon and throws himself at Anthony on
the couch. Their bodies intertwine as they struggle, and the gun dangles within
the lethal game of tug-of-war.
is stronger, manipulating the gun in his hand, but a sound comes from behind
them, snagging Taylor’s attention.
face is red from rage and exertion. He wrenches the gun away and pulls the
gunshot rocks the stillness of the house, followed by another. Taylor drops
back onto the couch, blood spreading across his chest, two holes pierced
through his shirt.
falls backward, still holding the pistol.
shit,” he whispers. “Oh shit.”
breathing is labored. “God damnit.”
turns, looking toward the staircase. Anthony follows his gaze and sees a boy,
aged maybe thirteen, peering down from the landing. He holds a gun as well,
gripped in both hands, aimed down at Anthony.
did you get that?” Taylor asks him. Even in the chaos, he takes the sharp tone
of a concerned parent. “Please don’t shoot the gun, Christopher. Don’t carry
that with you. Run outside, okay? Go to Jackie’s house. Get her to call 911.”
boy doesn’t move. The gun is still trained on Anthony.
Dad?” he says. “Why didn’t you tell him the truth?”
Christopher. I’ll be okay. I’ll-”
he doesn’t finish the sentence. He inhales sharply, and the exhale comes out
slow and measured followed by only stillness.
boy begins to cry.
didn’t you tell him the truth? Why didn’t you tell him it was me?”
doesn’t move. He is staring at the pupil of the gun in the boy’s hand, his face
slack and pale.
deafening blast, and Anthony’s shoulder jerks to the side. Another shot, and
the lamp behind Anthony explodes. Anthony raises his own gun, gripping with
both hands, and pulls the trigger over and over until he sees the boy go slack
and tumble down the staircase.
face contorts, as if trying to collapse in on itself. He puts his face in his
hands and cries, deep heaving sobs that fill the house with anguish.
lifts his head finally, sniffling, putting a hand to his shoulder and wincing,
as if suddenly reminded of the wound. He staggers to the kitchen, not looking
at the boy and the pool of blood he lay in. He rummages through the drawers
until he finds a dish towel and presses it into the wound.
forces himself to turn toward the boy’s body, his eyes digesting the scene. Gun
still in hand, he walks past him, up the stairs. There is an office to the
left, with a bookshelf of science fiction novels and posters of Battlestar Galactica,
Terminator and Blade Runner decking
the walls. Anthony purses his lips, unzips his
hoodie to reveal the Star Trek shirt
TV is mounted on an entertainment center. To the right of it is a computer desk
with a PC tower and two monitors. On one monitor, a character stands idle in a
game Anthony recognizes all too well. The other monitor is opened to a message
board discussing the game, but Anthony’s eyes gravitate to the other tabs open
on the web browser.
clicks on a tab, and Taylor’s Facebook page appears. Anthony looks at
the pictures, digesting the
details of his life as sourly as he had the image of the boy’s body.
faint sound causes him to look up. Sirens, in the distance.
blinks, stares at the wall. The sirens grow louder until they blare just
outside the house, and the lights flash frenzied blue through the shutters of
the room. The knocking on the door seconds later, the door opening followed by
steps out of the hallway to the head of the stairs. He sees the cop below him,
fingers to the neck of the boy. He notices Anthony, but before he can train the
gun on him, Anthony has already brought the gun to his own head.
sorry,” Anthony says, weeping.
pulls the trigger. The gun clicks in response, and Anthony realizes there are
no more bullets left to fire.
Post’s fiction has previously appeared in NEBO Literary Journal, and his
poetry in Poetic Hours and Scifaikuest. He was also an honorable
mention in NYCMidnight’s 2008 Short Story Challenge.
is currently a PR Director for a university in Arkansas and, having recently
decided to pursue his passion to become a published author, has begun writing
in earnest. He currently resides in Fayetteville with his wife and son. He is
former Arkansas State Checkers Champion, a hobby he pursues in his spare time
along with coffee roasting, reading and playing video games. He muses
periodically on his blog at https://johntpost.wordpress.com.
Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings
appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore
City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press,
Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape,
Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong
Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The
Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications.
His poetry was
selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the
Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry. His fiction received
an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction
Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual
A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on
show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com. A
selection of Henry Stanton’s published
fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.
Henry Stanton is the Founding
& Managing Editor of The Raw Art Review—www.therawartreview.com.