One More Time

David smiled at Suzie, gently squeezing her hand as they walked along. “I’ve always loved this town.”

Suzie smiled back. “I know you have.” She looked towards the sun slowly sinking towards Blueberry Hill. “Part of me could stay here forever, but I know we need to leave.”

“It will just be for a little while. I promise.” David waved to a passing Mustang sports car.

The driver stuck his head and arm out. “Hey, losers! Haha.” The young man roared the engine, surging forward.

David grinned. “Such friendly people we’ve lived with, here.” Suzie giggled.

“Oh, there’s the square! Let’s walk through it one last time.”

David looked at the sinking sun. “I don’t know if we’ve got the time, Suzie Q. I don’t want to miss our opportunity.”

“We’ll be fine, silly! They always start the show late, anyway.”

“I guess you’re right.” David shrugged. “Let’s be quick, though.” He steered her towards the quickly-filling town square.

The square — the largest in the tri-county area — was a churning circle of human life. David and Suzie waved almost constantly to kids they knew from the local high school. The older folks sat in creaky lawn chairs, lazily swatting at flies and watching the younger ones mill about.

Those of parenting age were swarming the concession stands and, more notably, the entrances to the bars at either side of the square. Suzie looked longingly at the popcorn stand.

“No.” David shook his head. “If I can’t have a beer, then you can’t have popcorn.”

Suzie playfully slapped at his shoulder. “You’re technically not old enough to drink, anyway.”

“Never stopped us boys, now did it?” He winked and grinned.

A balding man in a white button-up shirt with rolled-up sleeves waved to them as they reached the far end of the square. David spoke through clenched teeth. “Aw, jeez.”

Suzie squeezed his hand. “Oh, quit!” She waved to the man up ahead. “Hello, Mister Miller!”

“Hello Suzie! Hello, Mister Donaldson.” There was a knowing lilt in his voice as he greeted David. “Where are you two headed? Don’t you kids want to see the band play after the fireworks?”

“Oh, for sure, Mister Miller!” David smiled. “We just wanted to watch the display from up on Blueberry Hill.”

Ah, ha. Mister Miller tilted his head. “You two aren’t going up there to do anything else, are you?”

David shrugged, looking from Suzie to Mister Miller. “Well I don’t know what else we’d be doing up there after dark, sir.”

Mister Miller nodded. “I know it’s hard to believe, but I was a youngster once, too. I won’t mind your business, but make sure you think twice before doing something you’ll later regret!” He finished the thought looking at Suzie.

David’s smile was faltering. “Of course, Mister Miller.”

Suzie waved as David pulled him along. “Thanks for caring, Mister Miller!” The older man waved briefly before going off after a pair of boys causing mischief on the old war monument.

“That was a close one, huh?” David snorted. Suzie gently elbowed him in the ribs. “Oh, stop! It’s always fun to see you squirm in front of him.”

“He’ll be the one squirming before too long.” Suzie hit him. “Well, it’s true!” He eyed the long and twisting trail up Blueberry Hill. The golden rays of the setting sun fanned out through the trees behind the crest.

“I guess we better hurry up.”

“Just like I’ve been telling you since before the square, girly.”

Suzie stuck her tongue out and winked. “Don’t be such a grump to me.”

The two hiked up the hill in silence for a time. Mister Miller was partly right, even if he didn’t know it. The two had come up here to get a specific view in the past, but not tonight.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” David mumbled.

Suzie looked up the trail. It was Jimmy Owens. She smiled thinly. “Hi, Jimmy.” The young man had tried, and failed, to ask Suzie out a year ago.

He never really got over it, and constantly made sure Suzie and David knew it. “It’s awful late for you two to be up here by yourselves, you know.”

“Well you’re up here now aren’t you, Jimbo?” David sneered.

Jimmy stuck his nose up. “I am, and I’m headed down the trail, if you’ve failed to notice!”

“Well, don’t let me hold you up.”

Jimmy fumed. “Maybe I should mention this to an adult once I get to the bottom?”

David looked at Suzie with a grin before turning back to Jimmy. “Go fuck a pig, Jimmy.”

The young man’s mouth hung open. “Wh-What did you say to m-m-me?”

“I said go tell it to the fucking rocks, Jimmy.” David rushed forward and grabbed the young man by his windbreaker. He sent Jimmy screaming over the side of a cliff before Suzie even knew what was happening.

His scream was cut short as he crashed head-first into the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. David peered over the edge. He made a face before smiling. “That’s some serious splatter! Damn…”

Suzie punched him in the shoulder. “You jackass! What if someone saw?”

“What if someone did? Who cares? We’ll be gone in no time.” He spit over the side of the cliff. “Little turd was annoying as hell.”

Suzie grabbed his arm and tugged. “Well, let’s not wait around to find out one way or another. The fireworks will be starting soon.”

The young couple reached the top of the hill. They settled down on top of a large boulder jutting out of the earth. Suzie drew the cooling air in through her nose and blew it out. “Look how pretty the square looks tonight.”

David smirked. “Pretty full of tightwads, jerks, and wannabes.”

“Oh quit, David Donaldson! You’ve hung out with those jerks for years, now.”

“Yeah…” He waved a hand at the square. “Aw, quit! You’re gonna make me give a shit in a minute.” Suzie giggled. A single rocket lifted into the sky and popped in the darkening sky. “Oh! It’s starting!”

The two watched the fireworks quietly hand in hand. David had to admit, it was the nicest show he’d seen in the past few years. Suzie leaned her head on David’s shoulder as the last bursts faded and the gathered crowd cheered.

She sighed. “It’s time, isn’t it.”

“Yeah… Let’s get it over with, huh?” He pulled out a small pistol. He turned it over in his hand. “You know… this never gets old for me.” He pointed it high in the air and pulled the trigger.

Instead of an explosion from the gun, there was an explosion from the middle of the square. David turned to Suzie, laughing. Two more explosions took out the majority of the party-goers. The rest ran from the square, screaming.

They were quickly confronted by soldiers in dark uniforms. The military men fired indiscriminately, taking out young and old, male and female. Another explosion wracked the old courthouse as the soldiers pressed in.

David and Suzie watched with grins on their faces, the raging fires below reflecting in their gleaming eyes. Mister Miller ran up to one of the soldiers, waving his arms. David chuckled as he was gunned down.

The two stood and stretched as the mayhem started to settled down. “Well that was fun.”

Suzie nodded. “Yeah… I guess it was. I still always feel bad, you know.”

“I know.” David smiled gently. He pulled a small device from his pocket. “You ready?”

Suzy sighed, looking out at the carnage below. “Yeah, I guess.”

David pressed a button on the device. The world around them rippled like a heatwave on hot cement. Soon everything became dark.

Suzie opened her eyes and sat up with considerable effort. The elderly lady removed the VR headgear with a sigh and set it aside. She watched her husband of sixty years do the same.

David stood with a deep groan. “Wish we could just stay in there all the time.”

“I know, but you know what the doctors said about that.”

“To hell with the doctors.”

“That works in there…” Suzie pointed at the the VR headgear. “But that won’t fly out here, love.”

David sighed deeply. He looked out the window. Endless, lifeless desert stretched out as far as he could see. “It’s much more fulfilling to relive our childhood than to waste away out here.”

“I know…” Suzie lowered her head. “We can go back in after dinner, alright? Maybe we can skip the killing part this time, though.”

David smiled, nodding gently. “I suppose this one time. Pizza sound good?”