The smooth, clawlike trigger presses against the pad of my forefinger. I tighten that digit slowly, then squeeze. The hammer falls with a snick as the firing pin strikes the primer. A ring of sparks, like those churned out when a lighter’s wheel grinds against the flint, spreads outward from the gap between the frame and the cylinder, then the revolver’s muzzle blows a puff of cigarette-adjacent smoke that scatters in the air.
My heart throbs violently as I stare dumbfounded at the sleek frame of my weapon, that gleams alabaster white under the fluorescent fixtures. Shit, why didn’t the revolver spit out a bullet? Is it jammed? Did the firing pin come damaged? Should I have oiled some mechanism? Maybe I should have carried the revolver to the woods, high up on Mount Jaizkibel, and tried it out against a tree trunk. As far as I know, revolvers should just work; I’m not holding a particle accelerator.
I pull the trigger, which causes the hammer to spring back. Once the cylinder rotates to align its next chamber with the barrel, the hammer snaps forward and clunks as if the bullet primer had been struck by a mallet, yet the revolver remains dead like rusted machinery.
I must overcome the revolting monstrosity that dares to pollute my space with its filth. I have to make this fucking gun shoot!
I clutch the revolver in a white-knuckled grip, then I squeeze and squeeze and squeeze the trigger. The cylinder clacks as it rotates and rotates chambering bullet after bullet. Although the hammer falls with dull snaps as the firing pin punches into live rounds of ammunition, it may as well be striking ghost bullets.
Are my hands shaking? No, the revolver is trembling like a tuning fork, a vibration that gets transmitted through my palms and up my arms, then races along my spine. The weapon starts emitting an ominous, high-pitched whirring sound; I picture an electrical panel bursting with frayed wires that would zap like a moth even the gloved electrician tasked to repair the mess.
I flip the revolver around and peer down its bore, a black hole encircled by the metallic ring of the muzzle. It offers me a top-down view of a turbulent, undulating pool of brass-colored liquid metal, whose waves spread in alternating crests and troughs as they slam against the walls of the chamber. The bullet must have cohered to a quantum state.
Should I wrap my lips around the barrel and blow? No, whenever the bullet snaps out of its state and becomes a solid projectile, I better be aiming my revolver at the wobbling mass of tarry putrefaction instead of my own face. I turn the quivering gun toward the audience of glistening sclerae, sewage-colored irises and deep black pupils.
I shake the revolver. With my left hand I smack the barrel as if it were a disobedient mutt. A drop of sweat dangles from my nose.
“Damn you, bullet! Quit your insolent game of quantum tag and collapse to an eigenstate already!”
While the revolver vibrates madly, its electric whirring worsens to a keening squeal. A tingling sensation like a static shock shoots up my right arm, then from the trigger a snakey white bolt of electricity, outlined in lilac, crackles as it arcs to lick my forefinger.
A deafening bang rocks the office, shaking the air around me and vibrating my eardrums, which makes my ears ring. From the barrel’s mouth erupts a puff of smoke, followed by a glowing, ember-colored blast that trails a stream of flickering sparks like red dwarf stars.
The revolver kicks against the palm of my right hand like a rearing horse trying to tear itself free from the reins. Its force shoots through my wrist with a sharp sting, then my forearm complains as if a white-hot shard of pain had ripped across the slow-twitch fibers.
The bullet hurtles down the barrel and flies out of the muzzle. It streaks across the office until it plows into the blob’s bloated blubber with a hollow thwack, piercing that oozing mound of black mucus like a hypodermic syringe stabbing a vein, to explode deep within the amorphous heap of putrescence. The flabby mass heaves and wobbles from the impact. Its jiggly flesh is rippling as if slapped by a giant, while the white reflections of light that mount the oily, concentric waves waver and distort. Those bulging eyeballs bob and roll about in the gunk, jostling each other. The blob lets out, as if from a mouth entombed in a quagmire, an unearthly bellow of anguish, deep and guttural. A hole bursts open in that deformed belly, a hole with a slimy rim that splays out like a black and gooey flower, and that reveals the blob’s gelatinous innards: a slithery mass of vermicular guts that squish and wriggle. A belch of foul gas rushes out and swirls around me; it stinks of rotten meat, vomit, farts, and sushi. The abomination erupts in a frothing gush of gloop, spewing mucous intestines in all directions, that as they break apart into globules of tapioca-like goop, they splatter over the carpet, the desk, the monitors, my clothes, and my face, in a caustic snowfall.
A gunshot blast rips apart the air around me, and its concussive wave beats upon my eardrums like a wrecking ball smashing into a brick wall. My ears pop, my brain quakes. A billowing cloud of powder smoke wafts from the muzzle, followed by a blossom of yellow-orange flame.
My right hand explodes with stabbing aches as the revolver’s kickback snaps apart my phalanges and metacarpals. The shooting pain surges up my forearm, reverberating to my elbow, while the shockwave ripples tendons and muscles along my arm until the force slams into my shoulder, where the joint dislocates with a crunch.
A bullet cleaves its way through the air. The blob is twisting and thrashing, its blubbery skin frothing and flailing like the sea in a stormy gale, and the hole in its mass is spurting slime-laced foam, when the bullet plunges like a meteorite into the sclera of an eyeball. The outer layers of the globe, white as a boiled egg, tear off, giving way under pressure, and out squirts a tongue of pulpy, pinky-gray jelly.
An ear-splitting gunshot punches my eardrums, sounding as loud as if the revolver’s barrel had been ripped open by dynamite. The muzzle flares a vivid yellow-orange, then a vortex of gunpowder-laden smoke rolls out along with a jet of fire, in an eruption of shrapnel-like debris.
My right arm has gone numb except for a stinging, tearing pain. Bone fragments poke out of my hand like spikes, and the fingers, seized rigid, are curled in a claw around the revolver’s grip. Blood spills from the wounds, dripping in long strings. The recoil of this gunshot jerks my wrist with a grinding wrench and makes it crack like a twig. That force also knocks me off my feet, launching me backward.
A bullet cuts through the air while leaving a trail of silver smoke in its wake, until it slams like a train into a wall a couple of meters away from my boss’ office door. The brick behind the lily-white paint bursts into a pinwheel of shimmering dust, into a shower of chips, splinters and shards.
An explosion rocks the office as if a howitzer had fired an artillery round in front of me. The rippling roar shakes my bones and makes the windows rattle, penetrates my eardrums in a spike of pain and tears them apart. A red flower of flame spurts from the muzzle of my revolver as if from a flamethrower.
The fingers of my right hand are curled and rigid, like the legs of a dead tarantula, around the grip of my weapon, and my wrist is drooping at the joint, when the revolver’s kickback tears my hand off. Still clutching the handgun, my severed hand flies toward the ceiling. Blood jets out from the stump of my wrist in a crimson stream.
A corona of red flame is spiralling around the bullet as it hurtles toward the ceiling, slicing through a cloud of gunpowder smoke. The bullet smashes against a ceiling fixture, that shatters in a puff of white haze and a cascade of sparks and glass shards. A cracked flourescent tube tumbles down like an icicle.
My ears are ringing when a shockwave emanates from the runaway revolver in a rush of superheated air. The reverberating force pounds my skull, slams into my chest, ripples through my limbs, and scatters papers, pens and paperclips around the office. A horizontal mushroom cloud expands from the gun’s muzzle and ignites into a licking white flame.
Flung backward through the air, I’m sick with whirling vertigo as my mind spins like a top in a cyclone. Jagged bones, along with pinkish-tan tendons and ligaments pulled to shreds, protrude from the degloved and bloody flesh at the end of my right forearm.
A scarlet tail corkscrews after a bullet that is whizzing across the office like a fiery comet. It wallops a hung picture frame, perforating a hole in a photograph of Bunnyman and I at a birthday party. Cracks have spread out from the impact point and crisscrossed over each other in a spiderweb of glittery fractures.
An immense power is released in a single pulse. Its shockwaves resound through my cranium with an infrasonic warble that bends my bones like rubber bands. My teeth rattle, my eyeballs throb, a fountain of blood spurts from my nose. A nova-like flash lights up my field of vision, then from the muzzle of the revolver bursts a star-speckled spiderweb.
A bullet breaks the air around it apart into a glowing rainbow, while the projectile’s path deforms into outward-undulating ripples of lilac-colored distortion like those cast by a mirage, turning the contour of a ceiling fixture sinusoidal. The bullet busts through a windowpane, catches an upward gust, ascends like an accelerating rocket, drills a hole in the night sky, and shatters a solar panel of a space station orbiting high above the Earth.
I slam into the backrest of a swivel chair, knocking it over, then I crash to the floor, hitting the back of my head hard. The blow sends a jarring jolt of pain through my vertebrae; I feel my spine crack, crunch, and snap. My legs fly straight back like a ragdoll’s, and when they fall to the carpet, I lie sprawled out flat on my back in a tangle of limbs.
My brain feels swollen as if someone were pumping embalming fluid into my skull. My chest heaves, gasping for air. The smell of gunpowder smoke has mingled with the coppery scent of blood and the blob’s putrefying stench.
White light wavers in my foggy vision while in front dances a swarm of red specks. But the maelstrom of a black hole yawns at the center of my gaze, and light itself falls in a spiral down that drain, which leads to an endless night.
I’m floating in the silence of the void.
I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Ninety-seven songs so far. Check them out.
Have you had trouble picturing today’s nonsense? I paid a neural network to depict plenty of moments from this chapter. Here’s the link.
This chapter was by far the hardest to write of a sequence that by itself has been the hardest to write in recent memory. I’m tempted to pull an “Inio Asano after Oyasumi Punpun” and never do this kind of shit again.