Suddenly I was struck by the reek of feces. His sympathetic nervous system, in desperation, was shutting down nonessential bodily activities, including sphincter control, and diverting all available energy to his muscles.
The rally lasted only another moment. Then his arms began to shake more violently, and I felt the bar moving downward, more deeply into his chest. There was a slight hissing as his breath was driven out through his nostrils and pursed lips. I felt his eyes on my face but kept my attention on his torso and the bar. Still he made no sound.
Seconds went by, then more. His position didn't change. I waited. His skin began to blue. I waited longer.
Finally, I eased off the pressure I had been putting on the bar and released my grip.
His eyes were still on me, but they no longer perceived. I stepped back, out of their sightless ambit, and paused to observe the scene. It looked like what it almost was: a weightlifting addict, alone and late at night, tries to handle more than he can, gets caught under the bar, suffocates and dies there. A bizarre accident.
I changed back into my street clothes. Picked up my bag, moved to the door. A series of cracks rang out behind me, like the snaps of dried tinder. I turned to look one last time, realizing as I did that the sound was of his ribs giving way. No question, he was done. Only his convulsive grip on the bar remained, as though the fingers refused to believe what the body had already accepted.
I stepped into the dark hallway and waited until the street was clear. Then I eased out onto the sidewalk and into the shadows around me.
From Hard Rain: A John Rain Novel by Barry Eisler, copyright © 2003 Barry Eisler, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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