Earlier in the day, alone in his hotel room, he had taken very careful note of the date, even going so far as to write it at the top of a sheet of blank paper. 5th October 2003. Then he laid down the pen and paused for a while, staring at the wall in front of him, ideas and possibilities flicking through his mind like the bullets in the spun cylinder of a revolver. After a minute or two, he had picked up the pen and written, above today’s date, his date of birth, and between them, a dash; and above all of this he had written his name in full. Then he had stared at this for five minutes more, considering composing his own obituary, before he decided it detrimental, screwed the paper into a ball and threw it out of the window.
Now, he was trying not to remember that. Now, he was trying to talk fast enough and for long enough that his own voice was all he might hear (instead of, for instance, the report of a gun and the spatter of blood and grey matter against the floor). As if from far off, Derren noted James wipe sweaty palms on his trousers, and take two seconds longer than normal to check below the table for hidden cameras (this was because he needed those extra seconds to calm himself down in order to actually look, Derren knew).
Another thing Derren remembered: trying to explain to the camera why he would choose those he did. ‘In the end, I just see them and I feel them and I know.’ He hadn’t lied. He reached out mental fingers and felt his way into them and became them, saw what they saw and rummaged their history and understood perfectly.
But now – this crucial moment with the live cameras rolling – now, his heart was hammering against his ribcage and the sweat running down his spine was cold, and he had to section off a part of his brain to consciously control the rate of his breathing (he hadn’t known to do so until he’d turned and almost fallen, dizziness squeezing his brain like a vice). All this crowded in on his mind, poking spikes of worry into the soft centre he was trying to mould into the shape of James’ thoughts.
Why hadn’t he known it would be like this?
The scene was simple. Empty room. Wooden table. Silent cameras on stalks. And the sinister locus of it all, pulling reality down to its cold inevitablility like a stone on a stretched sheet, the gun. A heavy silver Smith & Wesson with numbered chambers, bigger than it looked in films.
‘I will not pull the trigger unless I am one hundred percent confident.’
Derren pulled the gun towards him. It felt heavier than anything he had ever picked up in his life. There was an immense gulf of difference between confidence and putting a loaded gun to his head and pulling the trigger.
‘If this fucks up, it is not your fault.’
The gunmetal shone malevolently in the set lights. He counted his exhales; and imagined himself James, with James’ wobbly baby deer soul – and presented himself with the problem of the gun. Which chamber would he choose?
He stared at the gun in front of him. ‘I’m going to set the chamber to a number I feel is safe.’ He reached out, picked it up in two hands, holding it only with the tips of his fingers. ‘That number is number th-‘ he stammered and began again without a pause ‘that’s number three. Number three, I feel, is safe.’ He laid the gun down. His palms were sweaty. His voice ran on without him, and he didn’t think about it. He stared across the room. The stones in the wall opposite were old and notched and the mortar between them crumbling. What if he never saw the sky again? ‘Number three, I feel, is safe.’ He took a breath, let it out. Glanced at the gun, fixed its position in his mind, and looked away from it again. In a smaller voice: ’Number three, I feel, is safe.’
I feel them and I know.
Number three, I feel, is safe.
– so afraid so afraid so afraid so afraid so afraid so afraid –
Derren snatched up the gun, put the barrel against his temple, and pulled the trigger.