Ad Mortem

By Sommer Nectarhoff

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     He slipped the bullet into the chamber and gave it a spin with a flick of the wrist. The chamber rolled for a few moments before slowing to a halt, and then he cocked the piston and set the revolver down on the table.

     We picked up our glasses.

     “To the death,” I said.

     “To the death,” he said.

     I threw back the shot and felt the heat of the poison as it spilled down my throat. The room swam in a shimmering haze as I set down the glass. 

     Maxim drew a silver coin from his pocket. He held it between two fingers up next to his face. “Heads,” he said.

     The coin was scratched and inscribed with odd characters. Pictured was a rudimentary carving of a goddess holding a scale in one hand and a bow in the other. Her scratched face was still beautiful.

     “Tails,” he said, as he turned the coin around.

     More symbols. More scratches. No picture.

     I looked him in the eyes; they were bright. His jaw was set.

     “Heads,” I said.

     He nodded and brought his hand down to the table. He flipped the coin into the air.

     As it spun the two faces blurred together in a dance of light and shadow to form a glittering sphere of fate embodied.

     The coin clattered to the table and bounced a few times before landing between us.

     It was heads.

     Maxim picked up the revolver, put the barrel in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

     The piston shot down.

     The chamber was empty.

     Maxim took the gun from his mouth, spun the chamber, cocked the piston, and placed the gun on the table.

     I stood and lifted the bottle and poured a shot into my glass.

     I poured a shot into his glass.

     As I poured the sound of the trickling liquid filled the small cabin.

     We raised our glasses.

     “To the death,” I said.

     “To the death,” he said.

     I took my shot.

     He took his.

     Maxim retrieved the coin.

     “Heads,” I said.

     He flipped the coin. It rose and spun and landed on the table.


     Maxim blinked and clenched his teeth. He took the gun, bit the barrel, and pulled the trigger.

     The piston clicked. Empty.

     He reset the gun.

     I poured the shots.

     “To the death,” we said.

     We drank.

     “Heads,” I said.

     Maxim flipped the coin. It rose into the air and landed with a thud on the table. It did not bounce.

     It was tails.

     I grimaced and reached for the gun. It was the first time I’d touched it. The metal felt cold and smooth in my hand as I picked it up and looked down into the dark barrel.

     I put the barrel in my mouth.

     I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger.

     There was a bang loud enough to burst my ear drums and a resounding crash as glass shattered behind me. I spit the barrel from my mouth and dropped the revolver to the table.

     Maxim was staring at me, his eyes wide open.

     I turned around.

     The only window in the cabin had been right behind me.

     It wasn’t there anymore.

     I reached my hand to the back of my head.

     Everything was still there.

     I turned back to Maxim. He had the gun in his hand. He pulled open the chamber and rolled it.

     It was empty.

     He sat back down and put the gun in the center of the table next to a second bullet.

     “To the death,” he said.

     I picked up the bottle.

–  Sommer Nectarhoff