Song: “The Truth” by Audiomachine
I open my eyes and blink several times to adjust to the darkness. This is getting old. There’s a mildly bright light hanging over me and I’m laying on a table. That light is the only thing shining in this room. That and whatever screen has suddenly been rolled within inches of my face.
I turn my head and see a man dressed in all white standing over me. Apparently that glow is coming from his clothes, like he’s washed them in photoluminescent detergent. His shampoo must be luminescent too because his beard is as white as the light. But his skin is as dark as chocolate and it’s the first time that I wonder what a human being’s face might taste like. He has wrinkles and they crease as he smiles and he’s got those warm grandfatherly eyes that make you wanna snuggle into his lap and listen to a bedtime story.
I blink again and squint to get a better look at him. “Morgan Freeman?”
He grins. “Close. But not this time.”
I sigh and stare back up into the light. “Well, that’s a bummer. Where am I?”
“The better question is, how are you?”
I smirk at him. “Peachy cream, my friend. But if you’re trying to therapize me, get in line. Five’s got you beat.”
“I’m not a therapist,” he chuckles. “I’m a gunsmith.”
“What a relief,” I breathe.
“My specialty is building and modifying guns. I created your gun and gave it to you when you were born.”
“Thanks…I guess.” I notice that my shirt is missing and suddenly I’m no longer in the mood for Bedtime Stories with Morgan Freeman.
“But I’m also skilled at removing feelings,” the Gunsmith goes on.
“So an engineer and a surgeon? You must love school.” I wince from an ambiguous discomfort somewhere on my body. I’m so tired I don’t want to move. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this exhausted. “Listen, man, I had the craziest dream…” I move to sit up, but my body doesn’t budge. “Uh…that’s weird…” I try again, but nothing. My neck moves, but every other inch of my body is frozen on the table. I look up at the Gunsmith and he’s frowning at me. “What’d you do to me?”
“Nothing,” he replies.
“Well, do me a favor and help me get up,” I tell him. Maybe my foot’s asleep. Except that this time it’s my whole body. Whatever it is, I need it to get fixed ASAP. But Not Morgan Freeman hasn’t moved and is still looking at me with that grandfatherly sadness like he’s watching his grandson’s puppy get put down. “Gimme a hand here, will ya?”
“You can! C’mon! I need to go. I’m begging you. Please, I promise not to call you Morgan Freeman again. I need to–AHHH!!!” A lightning bolt of pain shoots through my body, radiating from different points along my arms, legs, stomach, and chest. My back arches like I’m being blasted with defibrillators from Hell then I slam back on the table, shaking in agony.
“What’s happening to me?” I breathe. “Why can’t I move? Why can’t I move?!”
The Gunsmith holds my hand and squeezes it as he looks down at me with that same grandfatherly frown.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he tells me.
“What? What are you talking about? No, it’s not! I have to move! Lemme go! I have to move!”
And I feel it. The throbbing, pulsing, brain-racking pain all over my body. The lightning bolt was just the light to flash onto all the wounds embedded inside of me. And now that the lights are on, every fiber of my being is breathing in the pain I’ve been running from this whole time. And I can’t move.
I hear a metal clank as the Gunsmith looks for something on a table I can’t see.
“This is gonna hurt,” he tells me.
“This is gonna hurt,” I threaten. “If you don’t let me go.” But I can barely get the words out. My body is trembling.
Then he inserts something into the side of my head and I feel flesh being torn like a cat is clawing into my brain and I screech so loud my ears go numb. He pulls out a silver rejection, dripping with my blood, then holds it over a bowl near my head.
“This is from Zero,” he explains then drops it with a clatter.
“Please stop,” I wheeze. “Please.” The tears are flowing as I beg him.
He grabs my hand again and I’m stunned to see rivers trickling down his face too.
“I can’t,” he tells me. “I love you too much to leave you like this.”
I cough and the contraction seems to squeeze every rejection lodged inside my abdomen and my body shrieks in protest. I realize in horror two things I can’t avoid. One, this is worse than I’d imagined. Two, the Gunsmith is right–I can’t live like this.
“Fine,” I breathe. “You win.”
The Gunsmith proceeds to remove each rejection one by one, triggering unearthly anguish and blood-curdling screams.
“This is from Five…This is from One…This is from…”
On and on he goes, removing every rejection I’ve ever been shot with my entire life. And I’d love to say it gets easier with each one, but it doesn’t. It gets worse, until I’m sure I’m about to die on the table. And when, hours later, all of the rejections are finally out, enough to fill three bowls, he starts sewing me back up. I beg myself to fall asleep, but I’m awake for every second of it. I plead with him for anesthesia or an epidural or a gallon of vodka–anything to knock me out. But he just goes on stitching me up.
Finally, dozens of stitches later, he’s done.
I look up at him and he grabs my hand.
“You’re gonna be fine now,” he tells me.
“I would’ve been fine if you had let me go,” I respond.
He shakes his head. “You can’t run forever. Just because you don’t feel, doesn’t mean that you’re healed.”
He pulls my arm and brings me to a sitting position. And to my surprise, I’m able to lift my other arm and wiggle my legs. I can move again.
I look at him as he folds his arms across his chest, like he’s waiting for me to speak.
“This is usually the part where you say something,” he says.
“Oh right,” I reply. “Do you take cash? Or should I Venmo you?”
He rolls his eyes then I chuckle and look down at the table.
“Thanks,” I say. “I didn’t realize how bad it was.”
“You’ll never see how bad things are until you’re still,” he goes on. “But you’ll also never see how good things are either. That’s the gift of being present.”
“That’ll tweet,” I chuckle. Then I stop and sigh again. “I, uh…I needed that.”
He nods. “And you need this.” He holds a magazine up to me with one word engraved on the side: SATISFACTION.
I read it and let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t know if I can take anymore, buddy.”
“I didn’t think I’d ever hear you say that,” he says as he loads the magazine into my gun. Then he aims at my heart and grins.
“Go ahead,” I grin back. “Make my day.”