a man relives his life inside a cannonball
He could clearly hear the many carnival sounds from inside the cannon, the shrilling screams from the rides, the constant piped music, the laughter, and above all, the announcer's voice echoing from the crackling speakers. He lay perfectly still and upright, resolute, for what was about to happen.
Back there on the floor of the caravan was an image of her, blood congealing in a pool around her head like a halo, her eyes staring up at the ceiling, silent, unmoving.
Their relationship had always been a stormy one littered with a litany of separations, but no matter what the worst of life could throw at them their relationship continued. She would always return to him, always, and then they'd make up in a tearful reunion, promising never to hurt one another again. Those reunions were the best times, their most intense times. It was as if both created these interludes so that the emotional rush of coming together again could be experienced; and it was, lasting for weeks, months even, and then slowly, like a run down clock it would fade away, until eventually she would pack her bags and leave him once again.
But today, today was different from all the other times. Only last week she told him she was pregnant. It was the best news he'd ever heard, for it meant that at last she might well stay with him for the duration of the pregnancy, and maybe, just maybe, longer--forever. They went on a shopping spree, buying baby products, and hours pouring over names, male and female for the anticipated arrival next year. And then out of the blue came the let-down, the grounding, when she told him bluntly she was leaving him again. How could she he thought, when only last night after finally reducing the baby list down to ten, they had agreed on a name, then celebrated by making love into the small hours. So how could she think of leaving when both were still on a joyride of happiness?
He had his back to her when she broke the news that she was leaving. It tore at his heart like never before. His head slumped in defeat as if he'd just taken a beating, until anger suddenly took hold of him. In a flash he wheeled round, lashing out with his arm, wanting only to frighten her, to show her how he felt. Shocked she back stepped away. She seemed to slip, lose her balance. It was the look of panic in her eyes that haunted him, her lips parted, and not a sound from her, not one, just that startled horror look. She fell heavily, her neck making contact with the up-right dumbbell he'd placed on the floor, so that it wouldn't roll away. It penetrated through to her thorax, her head tossed back against the dumbbell in frozen animation, mouth opened, and not a sound, not even a tremor as she lay still on the floor. And then, like an aftermath, the dark red liquid made its appearance, silently spreading out to form a pool around her. He stared back, transfixed, unable to comprehend. A sharp rap on the door jolted him to his senses. "Three minutes," said the voice, and left.
In the cool quiet darkness of the long barrel he felt her presence, pressed up against him. He smiled. Inside his jacket were the weights and the two heavier ones insides his boots, enough to restrict his height to less than a hundred feet, enough to miss the safety net by a long way. He closed his eyes and waited. The announcer's voice had reached a crescendo. He shot forth out of the cannon and high into the stark brightness, arms outstretched to welcome the new beyond.
END Michael Downes