Paul Luikart’s work has appeared in Barrelhouse, Hobart, New World Writing, and Yalobusha Review, among others. His MFA is from Seattle Pacific University. He and his family live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Turtle looked up and watched the last few minutes of daylight slide down the sky. He wondered if, on the other side of the world, there was sunlight falling in drips, a kind of anti-rain. Gentle, glowing showers of luminosity? Pounding storms of hailstones carved from the core of the sun? Blackness followed, his eyes adjusted, starlight flickered to life. A billion, a trillion stars. When would the universe reach whatever it’s called—stasis?—where light and heat are perfectly distributed over every square inch in existence? He almost started to cry.
He touched his face with his free hand, where there should have been excruciating pain, but there still was none. The exit wound, just below his eye, felt like damp, splintered plywood. He thought he should be hearing crickets chirping, Cessnas or little jets overhead, engines whining on the highway. But all out there was silent. In his brain there was fog and the fog was beeping. Every half-minute or so, he’d spit out blood.
The gun was still in his other hand with maybe one or two bullets left. He’d test fired first, a few shots into the air and a few into the hay bale, which received the bullets with a swish and a thunk. If he could lift that arm—he was afraid to try—he swore to himself that he wouldn’t shoot again. Now, suddenly, there was something to live for. Evidently everything. At least a billion, trillion things.
I’m smothered in reasons, he thought, I can’t breathe for the reasons.