Sideways view of a gun and a single bullet

Short Story Challenge Week 11: I Don’t Know What To Do

A story all about tension, semi-inspired by something that happened to me many years ago.

Back to the short fiction writing, flexing my creative muscles in a very different way.

Yes, I am still a freelance tech writer (if you want that part of my creative brain, my contact details are here), but this is my own personal project, writing 52 pieces of fiction over the next year.

It’s week 11, which means you’ve got a neat 10 other stories to check out as well:

Short Story Challenge Week 1: Before The War

Short Story Challenge Week 2: Apples Cannot Scream

Short Story Challenge Week 3: Blankets

Short Story Challenge Week 4: Charles Leadworth

Short Story Challenge Week 5: Cloud Running

Short Story Challenge Week 6: The Bowl

Short Story Challenge Week 7: Mr Breckinridge

Short Story Challenge Week 8: Inspiration

Short Story Challenge Week 9: FreeDog

Short Story Challenge Week 10: Black Dog


And if you like those (and I hope that you do, although all constructive criticism is also welcome), I should point out that this isn’t my first attempt at an all-year-short-story-writing-challenge.

The last time I did this, I ended up with enough short stories to fill an eBook. An eBook called Fifty Two, to be precise:


Buy Fifty Two through Amazon for your Kindle e-reader here.

Buy Fifty Two through Apple for your iPad or iOS devices/Macs here.

Buy Fifty Two through Smashwords for any other e-reader format here.


And if you want something entirely different, there’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like:

Buy Sharksplosion for Amazon Kindle

Buy Sharksplosion for iBooks (iPhone, iPad, etc)

Buy Sharksplosion for all other e-readers through Smashwords


Now, onto that whole “semi-inspired” bit. I wanted to write a story that ramped up the tension this week, and I had to think about how I might go about doing that. They say that you should write what you know, so I thought about tense moments in my life.

That’s when I remembered the time I was in Las Vegas and found that the last inhabitant of my hotel room had left something behind. Not a toothbrush, pair of shoes or a bra.

No, they had left behind a clip of bullets, two weeks after a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Yeah, that made me tense. The call you have to make to hotel security in that kind of situation is quite the thing.

And now…

I don’t know what to do

Sideways view of a gun and a single bullet

I don’t know what to do.

This isn’t true.

I know what I’m expected to do.

I know what I need to do.

But… how can I?

So I sit, and I stare at it.

My focus undivided, just looking and taking it in. If it was a person, they’d complain I was staring at it. But I’m just looking. Looking at it.

Not just the gun itself, but what it means, and what I have to do with it.

It seems small, sitting there on the scratched plastic table, next to the empty beer can.

I can still smell the fumes of his cheap lager in the room, though he was careful not to hold the gun and drink at the same time.

The metal grip of the gun is dark, and the sunlight through the window glints just off the body as it lies on the table where he left it.

I know there are bullets within it, because he loaded it before he left the room, before he left me the instructions, before he left me.

Left me alone.

Alone in this room with only my thoughts and the gun and my thoughts and… the gun.

Outside, I can hear the noise of passing cars, and the chatter of the people as they go about their day.

It was a cold day when I walked in here, and I think I can hear the gentle falling of rain, even though it’s hot – almost humid – in here. There’s probably a thermostat somewhere that I could adjust if I was going to be staying here for any longer.

A sudden sneeze jolts my body, thrusting my head towards the weapon involuntarily.

Damn. I just sneezed on the gun, didn’t I? That’s so clumsy. So very clumsy. So very… me.

No choice now, because I will have to clean it up. So gently, gingerly, I pick up the gun.

It is lighter than I thought it would be.

I imagined my arm tensing just to lift it, but it seems to float up into my hand, naturally resting in my grip.

I can see how people get addicted to these things, and the power they represent, because they are very easy to hold. Almost… comfortable. That feels wrong to think, but it also seems true.

It needs wiping down, if only to remove the evidence of me I just sneezed onto it. Sneezes are traceable.

I’m sure I saw that on a cop drama one time, because they kept making jokes about it during the show.

My jumper will have to do for now.

Is that enough? Am I making it worse, spreading DNA from my hair and skin all over it from the jumper rather than wiping off my sneeze?

It is done now, I guess.

Maybe I can find a public bathroom and give it a further clean before… before… well, just before.

How do you clean a gun, though?

I don’t think I can get it wet.

Yeah, that’s a bad idea, getting it wet.

Plus what do I do if somebody walks in while I’m just casually squirting liquid soap onto a gun, anyway?

I suppose I could use a hot air dryer to clear it, maybe, if I hold it in my hands and hide it?

Or would paper towels be enough? What if I get a bathroom, but there’s no paper towels, just one of those always damp rotating hand towels?

That might be better, in a way. I would be bound to add lots of DNA from so many nearly-clean hands to it.

I’m going to have to think of something. I’m doing too much thinking, he said.

Just do it.

That’s what he said, like he was selling sneakers rather than death.

Just do it, and take the fall, and it will all be sorted for you.

David will go free, even if I don’t.

That’s the important thing. Just walk through the crowd, walk through the crowd, get the gun ready and… just do it.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it, he said? That’s because it is, and it’s not like I have a choice, do I? Not if I want to see David again.

Do I do it?

Do I not do it?

What happens if I don’t do it?

He’s left, I could leave too. Leave, and go away, go very, very far away to where they can’t find me. I could run, and I would have a gun, and I would have to run and run and run more and more and more, always running.

I could do that.

I could.

If I did. If I could. If.

But then. David. I know what they said they would do to him, and he’s done nothing but be there for me, all these years.

The movies make it all seem so easy, don’t they?

Pick a target, point in a direction, pull a trigger, a loud noise, and it would be done.

Holding it in my hand, it almost seems too easy. I can see how you go from one to one more to one more to many, if all you have to do is squeeze the trigger.

If all you have to do is squeeze.

Squeeze out the thought.

The thought.

The thought that what you’re doing is picking a target who is also another person. That the direction you choose is their direction.

That the trigger you pull will end their life once and for all.

It’s nearly time. He said that it had to be done before 5, and that I must do it, just do it, just do it, JUST DO IT.

Can I walk out that door and do it?

Can I?

I just don’t know what to do.

About the author

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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