The old man with the shotgun brought them into a clearing in the evening woods. He lugged the two brothers out of the back of a dim-green pickup and removed their blindfolds. He told them to fight to the death. He started laughing.

The man with the shotgun dragged them to trees on opposite sides of the clearing and untied their hands, saying that if they moved before the first shot, they would be the second. Out of the two, the first brother was weeping. The crows flew away at the sound of the round firing.

The man with the shotgun sat down on the nearby boulder. The second brother just lay there, quiet, as the first got up and limped over to a sharp rock in the reeds. Once he grasped the stone in his right hand, he advanced upon his opponent, eyes glaring as he hobbled across the field of long grass. He stood over the second brother, weapon raised, and a tear fell from his cheek and onto the other’s lap. When he looked up, their eyes met. The first’s body just hung like that for a few seconds before he collapsed into a position so that they lay beside each other. The rock tumbled out of his unclenched hand.

The man with the shotgun furrowed his brows and started counting down. He decided which one he’d get out first, and steadied the barrel with his palm. The sound of the shotgun cocking was heard as only a whisper, and the two skeletons leaned against the tree with their eyes closed and counted with him.

Mason Koa is Filipino- and Chinese-American and writes from the Bay Area, CA. His work has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Freshwater Literary, and Literally Stories. He is a graduate of the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Creative Writing Program. He is fourteen years old (2023).