A Moment of Desperation: A Short Story of Consequences - Words by Edward Gough Back

A Moment of Desperation: A Short Story of Consequences


The Prompt

This story did not have a prompt but a theme. The theme was ‘Risk’.

The Word Count

1479 words.

The Story

The bar is familiar, and this seat is a friend—holding me up as I lean against the wooden panelling. “Another, please,” I said to the bartender, the one who must look down on me as I spend the last handful of pennies from my final paycheck. This was routine. It was pointless. Everything was now. I had nowhere else to go. I couldn’t be homeless. That’s just…it’s not fair!

I chugged the first gulp of my pint as a gentleman approached. “You look like my kind of guy,” the man said, his eyes deadlocked onto mine as if he had begun burrowing into my brain. 

“What do you mean—” I began but stopped as he jumped in. 

“How would you like to make a lot of money fast?” All I could do was stare at this guy. Was he real? Of course, I want to make a lot of money!

“Don’t we all?” I ask.

“What would you say to one million?” He said, causing me to choke on my beer.

“As in pounds? One million pounds?”

“That’s right.” He smiled.

“…and you want me to do what… exactly?”

The gentleman unbuttoned his thick coat, revealing a gun holstered inside. He flicked the leather clip from around the holster and slid the pistol out. “I want you to take this.”

“Jesus Christ! Where the hell did you get that?” I said, quickly scanning the bar. None of the other patrons seemed to notice. Phew!

He smiled and extended the gun. “It’s alright, man. Take the gun. Good. Now, do you see that fella over there?” He flicked his head toward a man in navy blue jeans, slowly sipping away at his pint and playing on the fruit machine. I nodded that I’d seen him. “I want you to walk up to him, put the gun to his head…and then pull the trigger.”

My heart jolted, bouncing against my ribcage. The room and my surroundings return, crashing back into reality. I stared at the man playing on the fruit machine. He looked peaceful, happy with his lot. 

Holding the gun, a cold weight settled in my palm and chest. A million pounds. A life. My life versus his. My old warm bed, a roof, and meals flashed before me, jarring against the bleak reality of a man’s life in my hands. Could I? Should I? The questions bounced in my mind, each a bullet of doubt and fear.

“Well?” The man whispered into my ear, causing me to jump out of the barstool and slide onto my feet.

“Why him?” I asked, nodding towards the unsuspecting man, with the fruit machine signalling a win. His winning falls into the tray below.

“Why does it matter?” he said, grinning slyly. “This is about your survival, not his.” His words wormed into my thoughts, wrestling with my fading sense of right and wrong. For one whole million pounds, I could buy this damned bar, let alone get a home to keep me warm and dry at night.

Yes, it was one man, but he looked happy. Right? Being happy now has to mean something to him. It must do. I was pursuing my happiness! What makes his happiness more important than mine?

My chest compressed with the weight of the decision in my hands. I had to do this, right? I couldn’t turn down one million? One million. One life. Which was it to be?

I have to do this. What other choice do I have? I just need to walk right over to him, put the gun to the back of his head, and without thinking about it—without thinking about it? How the hell was I supposed to do that?—pull the trigger. Yeah. I could…I needed to do this. 

“I’ll do it,” I said. “But you’ll pay straight after?” I needed at least that confirmation. 

“I will. Bank transfer.” He said, holding out and tapping at his phone screen.

”Alright. Okay. I’ll do it.” I said, and immediately, his grin broke into something more sinister for only a few fleeting moments. 

The gun was still in my hand. Jesus, the gun! I had forgotten I had my hand wrapped around the pistol grip. It still made me feel good. God, were all guns like this?

I shoved past the bar stool, advancing towards the man, his fate in my hands. This is for me. I’m doing this for me. I have to. I need to get myself back. I need a damned house! I’m homeless, for Christ’s sake. Surely that counts for something?

I shoved past the bar stool, advancing towards the man, his fate in my hands. This was all for me. “I have to do this. I need a home. I can’t be homeless. I need that damned money!” 

The pistol grip ever in my mind as I reach the man playing his fruit machine games. My index finger toying with the trigger. Glimpsing towards the machine, I see he has nearly gotten the jackpot. I wait, curious about the outcome. Curious to witness the potential sadistic humour of some old God up there. 

Its lights flicker and beam out as whirling and wheezing sounds emanate from the thing. The lightbulbs playing with your eyes rapidly move around the box, mimicking the actions of a ball racing through the maze. It buzzes and powers upwards, nearly hitting the ‘Jackpot’ panel at the very top. But just falling short. 

“LOSER! LOSER!” The game shouted at him as I pulled the gun out of my hoodie pocket and pressed it against his head. 

I need to pull back the trigger, and that would be it. The end of this. Job well done. But could I really do this? 

Dammit! I had to wipe the sweat beading on my forehead, the gun shaking in my unsteady grip. I could feel my heart, a chaotic drumbeat in my ears, echoing my fear, need, and desperation. The weight of the decision crushed me more than any physical burden ever could.

I squeezed and tensed my grip as the trigger pulled back. I closed my eyes, anticipating the extreme boom that was about to break through my ear drums. The shockwave that would send my arm upwards into the air. But it doesn’t come. There is no sound, only a faint click. 

What?

Had the gun jammed? What was this? I squeezed again, this time harder, hoping to rectify my mistake. But it clicked again. Again and again. 

The man turned around, his eyes bursting wide as he spotted the gun nearly resting against his head. He batted my hand away, the gun flying across the room. “John. John! Help!” The man shouted as he wrestled me, doing everything he could to pull me towards the ground. 

I fought, but he was too strong for me. Grappling me down onto the floor, his entire body weight pressing down on me. My breathing struggled as my lungs attempted to push and hold the weight of him, forcing me onto the floor. 

“Get the police! Ring the bloody police! This fella tried to shoot me!” He screamed over towards John, the bar manager.

I pushed and pushed, wriggling and doing everything I could to worm my way out of his grip, but I couldn’t. I wanted to explain everything about the man at the bar, the one that gave me that gun and said shoot. But hearing it over in my head made me sound like a damn lunatic. 

Why did I even take that damned gun in the first place? Was I really going to shoot the guy for money?

Obviously, I was. I pulled the Goddamned trigger!

I couldn’t plead my case, and I couldn’t free myself from the man’s hold. My eyes searched the room, high and low, for the man who had given me the gun. But I couldn’t see him. Where the hell did he go?

Police sirens wailed in the distance, approaching rapidly like the cold realisation washing over me. I had gambled everything on a stranger’s words—just a damned guy at the bar, who was nowhere to be seen. Like a ghost, he had vanished as quickly as he’d appeared, leaving me to face the consequences alone. 

Lying there, pinned to the ground by my would-be victim, I could feel the gravity of my potential actions tonight. I had almost taken a life, and for what? For a fleeting chance at escaping my own screwed-up reality?

As the handcuffs clicked around my wrists, the bitter irony of my situation struck me. My reckless pursuit of a home had cost me my freedom. I hadn’t gambled with money or morality; I had gambled with humanity and lost. The reality of my new home loomed—a cell, a consequence of my risk, and a stark reminder of the cost of desperation.

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One thought on "A Moment of Desperation: A Short Story of Consequences"

  1. EdwardGough says:

    Liked this short? You can check out loads more over on my personal Wattpad account.

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