Gunshots have a way of being capital B bangs. They might even be in all capitals, but that never looks right.
Two gunshots, and the silence that followed was so absolute, pin-dropping would have constituted a racket. It was the kind of silence where you could hear the reverb rattling around in people’s heads as their brain scrambled to shift gears, the right gear for this new situation thrust upon them unasked for.
Scientists chase an elementary quantam particle called, ridiculously enough, the Higgs Boson, whose existence is so short the mayfly considers it rushed. If watches measured time so minutely, you can bet solicitors would bill by the boson-second. Scientists don’t ever actually see a Higgs Boson, they just sort of assume it’s there because that’s how you explain what’s left behind afterwards. Even light considers a boson to be snappy about its business.
The silence which followed the gunshots lasted about three quarters of a boson-second. And yet it stretched out in every human mind, ballooned to such proportions as thoughts queued up to Be Thought, orders issued for the body. A lot of which involved screaming for no reason in particular, mostly because that was the Done Thing.
Colin was no woman, so it would be somewhat undignified to join in the screaming. It wasn’t the Done Thing for a man. A man… was supposed to step in, protect the women and the weak, fight, not flight.
On the other hand, Colin was no hero. You can’t be a hero with a name like Colin. It doesn’t even work as a secret identity name. Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Clark Kent – those were hero names. Even if Clark Kent always sounded a bit like a shoe brand, and Peter Parker like a special type of expensive pen.
Not to mention how daft naming your kid Bruce would be. Imagine calling your 4 year old Bruce. “Bruce, don’t you dare stuff that crayon up your nose!” See? You’d just think of an old man going senile.
Colin dropped to the ground, expecting something like the movies, and saw people following him to the ground. Some tried to keep screaming, all the while going to ground, but got confused and froze in a half crouch with their hands in the air.
Colin thought about it for a bit. There had been no demands, no tell-tale sign the gunman was ready to go again, which is why Colin dropped to the floor in the first place. It would have been stupid to do it for, say, a backfire.
Evidently, though, the gun wielder remained standing while everyone else moved to the floor. It wasn’t so much a wielder as as wielderess, and the gun was trembling like a leaf in autumn. This is not the usual situation for a gun, and so impressed on Colin the value of staying out of its way as much as possible.
Trembling guns have a way of sending bullets into innocent bystanders, and Colin was doing his best imitation of an innocent bystan- by-lie-downer as possible.
Destiny, always ready to throw a curve ball through the windows of those who don’t really want it (not to mention quite ready to run away should the window be closed at he time), wasn’t going to let Colin keep his day quiet. Colin listened to destiny because it was just about the only sensible-sounding voice out here, and destiny told him to look up once everything quietened.
Destiny may sound reasonable, but so do used car salesmen. Doesn’t mean you should listen them.
“Colin?!” said the gun wielderess.
“Yes?” Colin said as reluctantly as possible. A thousand eyes swiveled to fix on Colin, who suddenly knew exactly what it was like to have the spotlight turned on you as you tried a midnight escape from Alcatraz.
“It’s me, Maria!”
“Oh… didn’t recognise you with the ski mask on.” Perhaps a random black hole would open up.
Now you will be wondering, quite unlike Colin, exactly who Maria is. It could be his cousin’s friend that he met at a party late one night. She could very well be a neighbour who Colin didn’t see very often. One might even imagine, given the circumstances, it would be a jilted ex-lover, exactly the type of person you wouldn’t want to be nervously holding a gun which has just gone off.
Naturally, you’d be right on the third count. More or less, anyway.
Ed: gah! I have no way to end this quickly. Seems to suggest a much longer story! I’m going to revisit this at future date.