Robbie knew that he was stuck after he said yes.
By the time he was escorted into a room with three other varsity players and forced to lie prone on a cement basement floor with his pants and underwear at his knees, it was far too late to go back. After one wearing rubber gloves like Robbie’s dad used to clean dishes shoved a needle into Robbie’s right butt cheek and then poured whiskey over the puncture, choosing to do football cleanly was almost a triviality. If he stuck with the plan, nothing would be more humiliating than this--they only used his butt for the shot for the first time to make Robbie prove that he was committed.
No more hours and months at the school gym for gains that couldn’t be measured. More time to keep up grades and more time to have friends if you’re not always needing to lift just to stay competitive--arguments like these were icing, though, because Robbie craved power and the appearance of innate talent. Robbie wanted to be a “natural” and knew that he could only achieve it by doing something unnatural.
I asked the specter which one of the seven magic bullets would send my spirit to hell, and he laughed and said, “The seventh one!”
If I’d listened to my soul then, I would have known that it was always incremental. Now that I hold the seventh in my hand, I know that I could fire my gun anywhere in the world, and the bullet would carve the air and break clouds just to pass through a keyhole and puncture my lover’s heart. It doesn’t even need to be the magic bullet anymore--anything fired from my gun will do it.
It was simple enough the first time. There was a dragon and a hand in marriage for the one that slew it. I already loved Agna from afar, but maybe I didn’t love her enough to show my brave face once I met the dragon on a mountain top outside of town. I had a magic bullet in my gun, and the beast still pinned me against a stone with its clawed hand and cackled as its talons closed in on my shoulders and torso. I don’t remember pulling the trigger on the gun that was pressed across my chest, but the beast took a shot to the side of its face and tumbled to a ledge beneath me. The deafness and the smoke rising from my barrel informed me that I had been the one to shoot even though the trajectory of the bullet was impossible.
No one else was around to claim the kill.
I soon realized that I was damned from the beginning. I’m no murderer, but after her father reneged on the deal and told me that I could not have what was mine because I was low-born, I thought of him while shooting a hart for the weekly hunt. I killed the hart and found no trace of the bullet because it had left the forest entirely. Funeral processions were already begun for the old man by the time I returned home, finding Agna weeping over his body as it entered the pyre.
I hope someone can learn from this letter. I went on to kill four more people: her mother, my own father, a man who also loved her and dared to keep looking at her even after we were betrothed, and a judge that started to question the order of these events. My own habits and beliefs damned me before I ever accepted that deal with the spirit for these bullets. I think I deserve everything, and that’s why I’ll be left with nothing. I act on impulse, and that’s why my gun will fire a seventh time no matter what I do to circumvent that fate.
The only thing I can do to provide any relief from this fate whatsoever is to push the barrel of the gun against my own head now and coerce it into claiming me too. Maybe it will decide then that my life is enough. Maybe this was really the purpose of the seventh bullet since the start.
Past college days and athleticism itself, Robbie tried to drop it. He had managed, through great effort, to reduce his usage. He felt frail and sickly whenever he tried to reduce, losing track of days spent lying on the floor of his bathroom just to have easy access to a toilet.
Robbie always looked at the injections as a solitary curse, started in secret and finished in secret. He often realized that he was still trying to prove a kind of strength by not speaking to a physician about any of his problems. Even the man who gave him the injections knew that he was losing a client and encouraged him to see a doctor.
Regardless, Robbie would stand over his trash can with the last injection in his supply clutched in his hand and unable to let go. Or some nights he would toss it in and take it all the way to the dumpster before ripping open the bag again and pulling it out, hands trembling and breath faltering with the weight of his dependency.