When I watched Terrence throw up in the middle of the dancefloor at our end of term party, I never imagined he would shoot me in the head. It probably never crossed his mind either. And yet here we are, me standing in a shallow grave I dug out for myself and him standing over me in his military uniform, his rifle aimed squarely at my forehead. When I look into his eyes, I see a little bit of doubt, a little bit of sadness, but I can think he's going to do it. I don't blame him. This moment is bigger than him, it's bigger than us, too many things outside of our control. His commanding officer is a sick fuck though, ordering him to carry out the execution after learning about how were friends in university.
Alcohol can be the basis of a great if short-lived friendship. It's the type of friendship that lasts as long as the conditions in which it was created remain. Once circumstances change, the friendship dies because once you can't drink anymore, what the hell else are you going to talk about?
So mine and Terrence's friendship died a natural death when we both moved away after graduation. We'd met up once a few years later when were both working guys and it was a bit of joyless experience. We mainly talked about our jobs. It was pretty interesting to learn about his job as a narcotics officer and I imagine he found some interest in description of my job as an editor for a satirical news website. But once we were done catching up and we had to, you know, hang out, things got a bit forced and I think we lasted about 25 minutes before one of us said something about having to get up early tomorrow.
As he stands there, pointing the barrel of that gun between my eyes I wonder what's more awkward – this or those 25 minutes we spent together in that bar. I can't help but laugh a bit at that which understandably throws Terrence off.
“What's so funny?”
Is there any point in explaining it to him?
“You had to be there.” He grips his rifle more firmly.
“I don't want to do this, you know?” I don't answer. I know what he wants me to say. He wants me to say, “I know.” He wants me to reassure him that this isn't his fault. That if he didn't do it, someone else would. That he's a part of a system and there's nothing he can do. Well I won't do it. And there's two reasons why:
1. It increases the odds of my survival by about 0.01%. If I don't give him the opportunity to place responsibility for this on someone else, he might feel too guilty to go through with it.
It is interesting though, what the mind will do to avoid guilt. I mean, can someone please explain to me the urge to seek approval for murder from the guy that you're about to murder?
“You just shouldn't have gone against the Premier like that, you know?”
“And how exactly did I do that?”
He clams up.
Motherfucker, he doesn't even know what I've been charged with. For the record, it was for the distribution of pamphlets and literature counter to the political aims of the Premier, mainly pro-immigration and pro-choice stuff.
It's been a while now. Things are definitely more awkward than those 25 minutes from years back.
He starts to tear up. Oh, my, God, he's always been a wimp.
I'd always been his big defender at uni. I'd become an expert in navigating the conversational minefield that was Terrence. As soon as conversations turned political or to any kind of social issues when Terrence was around, I'd immediately steer it away. Because you don't want to be in the same room as Terrence when he starts talking politics with a bunch of liberal university students, even less so when everyone is drunk. His finer points on the destructive effects of multiculturalism and feminism tended to get lost amongst everyone calling him a fascist cunt at the top of their voices. When people asked me why I was friends with him, my weak response would be “Well he's funny when he's not talking about that stuff.”
And now I'm here, dying for the cause. I've grown so much.
I guess I felt sorry for him at the time. I imagined living in a world where whenever you earnestly bring up your beliefs on how the world should be, people start calling you a cunt. It didn't seem like a very fun world to live in and if everyone around me called me a cunt my whole life, I'd probably want to make them dig their own grave and shoot them in the head as well.
Although looking at Terrence in the face now, I'm having a hard time finding that sympathy again.
He readjusts his aim and posture, psyching himself up.
Alright, then, here we go.
He lowers his gun.
OK, I guess not then.
He looks at me a while longer and abruptly turns around and I can hear his footsteps fading away. I quickly decide that now is not the time to analyse his thought process and start climbing out of my grave in the opposite direction.
I climb out and take about two steps before I hear the gunshot.
In the half second of life I have left, I think to myself: “Of course he waits until my back's turned.”