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This is love. Love hurts.

I can recall myself thinking – Firing a gun is a binary choice. You either pull the trigger or you don’t. As surely as the bullet rips through the victim’s flesh, organ and bone, it shatters the image of the man who presses the trigger. Einstein was right. Time is relative to the observer. When you’re looking down the barrel of a gun, time slows down, your whole life flashes by, heartbreak and scars. Stay with it, and you can live a lifetime in that split second.

I trusted her like a blind man. Everyone that denied that trust became an enemy within my wreck of a mind. "It’s up ahead, see you there." I pointed to the panic room door. Alfred Woden was behind that door. Revenge had made my senses numb. The blood I had spilled along the way had made my hands rusty. Woden was the only cure to the disease I had cultivated. Seeing Woden die was my only desire.

"Dead end. Damn it!" I tried the door out of the main hall.

I had met Mona Sax in a gothic nightclub, Ragnarock. She was a hired killer. We were after the same man, her sister’s sadistic husband. I was drawn to her for all the wrong reasons. "Here, let me." She briskly moved around the room and revealed a secret passage. She crawled inside and to disappear in the mist of elegance she had left behind. Mona knew a secret way to open the door. She knew. I heard her faint voice, "This way".

Mona knew the manor. She was working for Woden. Vlad had told me the truth. I had not believed him when I should have. "Mona, wait. Stop!" I cried out in her direction and followed her inside the secret passageway she had opened. It was dark. It was misty. It smelled of deceit. This is love, I thought to myself.

Whack! Something heavy landed on my head from behind. It felt like a hundred explosions inside my head. It was only moments before I felt a cold trickle down the back of my head. It was my blood. I knelt and touched my head. It was cold and dark. The only light was from the passageway I had just come in through. "Aghh!". She had tried to break open the butt of her gun with my head.

This is Love. When someone drags you from the wreckage when you have given in, ready to just lie there and die. I turned back and looked through my barely open eyes. "I told you not to come here. It’s my job to clear up this mess and you’re a part of it. Throw away your guns." Mona was standing behind me, pointing her gun at me. Waiting to make the binary choice. Talking. Looking beautiful. I dropped my guns.

This is love. Amidst the fading light I noticed that a security camera was watching us. When someone, no matter what the cost, shows you there is hope, a choice, that you can put down your gun. I felt her arm twitch. I felt her eyes move. She was about to shoot me. End it.

"See? I can’t do it. You’re a bastard, Max." She dropped her gun. She came over and stood by me. The pain in my head had now made a statement. It was making itself felt. I thought to myself, This is love. Love hurts.

I heard a loud bang. Blam! It was a pistol shot. "Ah!". It was a familiar voice. The voice that had guided me here. The voice I had learned to love. The voice of Mona Sax. I saw her chiseled frame drooping. She instantly fell down. I broke her fall. I looked to the doorway. I saw Vlad. Vladimir Lem. There was a look of disappointment in his face. His voice was heavy, "I was so looking forward to you two killing each other. You can’t have everything." The blood from her bullet wound had spread around me on the floor. I was sitting in the middle of that puddle, holding her throbbing act in my lap. Holding her tight. This is Love. I had been here before, ground zero.

Vlad heaved a sigh and said, "Max, you are making me look incompetent by refusing to die." Right then a wheelchair appeared from the darkness. It was Woden. "Stop! I am sorry. Enough!", he said. A bomb went off in my head, the bullet lodged in my brain moved a fatal microscopic distance. I clenched my fists, no one knew what was about to happen. Only one thing was sure. As sure as the sunset. Vlad will have to pay for this.