Fiction: The Boy Who Shot Bullets with a Slingshot

By Ecem Yucel

Six days before you die, on your 24th birthday, you tell me about a dream your girlfriend had the other night. On your 25th birthday, really wanting to say happy birthday, I hijack the same dream. Being your girlfriend once, I have access to the collective memory of the women who dated, tasted, and loved you in many ways. In her sleep, I reach out to the mind of this woman whom I’ve never seen in my life and look for the dream in the archives of her mind with black, rubber-gloved fingers that dance among her life’s recordings the way one would play the harp. I find the dream, steal it, and crawl out of her mind with my climbing equipment. In my secret lair, I lay the stolen dream on a gurney. After a good scrub, I begin to surgically remove her existence from every scene. The operation takes three hours; my back is killing me when I finally finish. I take a shower, wear a set of newly-laundered pajamas, and put on an Oasis record. I project your girlfriend’s dream on my white wall and sink in. There we are! Holding hands and running, running, running under the rainstorm of bullets, rained by the many armed, bad men. “You’re not the one who’s supposed to be here,” you say, after one glance toward my way inside that chaos, and I feel my heart breaking. “Just wanted to say happy birthday,” I say. “Couldn’t you find a better place for it?” you ask. “This dream was the last thing we ever talked about,” I reply, “so, I wanted it to be mine.” A bullet grazes my thigh. Another grazes your arm. “This won’t do,” you say, taking a slingshot out of your pocket, just like I remember you telling me. I collect the bullets that missed us from the ground –they are everywhere– and you shoot them back with your slingshot. You make some damage, allowing us to put some distance between us and the bad men. A sheen of wild excitement brightening our faces, we run, hand in hand, like school kids. You ask me how old you are now. I tell you. You are impressed that I haven’t missed out on even one birthday. I shrug, deciding against telling you that you missed mine last year when you overdosed. You scowl, and for a moment I fear that you read my thoughts, but you point with your slingshot at a bright, blinding whiteness ahead, descended at the end of our road. “We’re approaching the end of the dream,” you say. I panic. A bullet grazes your cheek, leaving behind a burn mark that traces your almost transparent skin, resembling the tail of a comet. Above it, on your left temple, underneath the skin, the sight of the familiar pattern of the tiny, blue blood vessels look so kissable. I love you. I don’t think I told you, not even once. My feet stop, arrested by the weight of the unsaid, and hot, white pain tears me in two. You grab me before I fall. “This isn’t how the dream is supposed to end,” you say, worried. “You shouldn’t have come. I don’t get any older.” So many things I want to say to you, I try to say as you run toward the end of the dream, carrying me along, but the bullet in my spine left me voiceless like a witless mermaid. You lit me up. The buzz of the bullets flying past us fills my ears. You set me ablaze. Listen. Listen. In your hands, I transform into a conch shell. Your burden lightened, you nearly fall. You look so surprised, but you know to bring me to your ear, and listen.

Ecem Yucel (she/her) is an Ottawa-based Turkish writer and poet. She holds an MA in World Literatures and Cultures from the University of Ottawa. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Evergreen Review, Salamander Magazine, Overheard, Stanchion, Idle Ink, Kissing Dynamite, Autofocus, The Daily Drunk, Celestite Poetry, Selcouth Station, and more.