She had only heard gunshots at a distance. They were the loud cracks that stopped time. Everyone’s attention whipped towards the sound until the moment would pass and people returned to their lives, but for that second everything paused.
The more Tei thought about it, she wasn’t sure they were always gunshots. After all, cars backfired, unwatched children set off fireworks, and their apartment nestled itself between towering factories that made all sorts of noises. But the effect was the same. Her mother’s spine straitened, shoulders moving back with readiness. Her father’s hand would twitch towards the nearest family member while her brother winced. And then, after the hum of their apartment or street rushed back to fill the void the lurid pop left, life returned and people breathed again.
This time, Tei felt the shot reverberate through her hands up into her ears. He collapsed, legs folding under him. The second stretched on. Time didn’t start again. The shot stayed in her ears, he stayed on the ground. She lowered the gun, no one breathed.