Firing Range

📅 Published on August 14, 2021

“Firing Range”

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.00/10. From 3 votes.
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I found the place one night after an especially heated argument with my ex.

Now, I’ve never actually been the type for guns, but something about the venue interested me when I passed it by.

I think it was the privacy.  Open 24 hours, the bright glimmering sign said.  The one employee, a half-asleep seventy-something codger, let me on the range for free that first night.

There was something very exhilarating about holding a weapon in my hands.

I started coming back once every week, just to let off a little steam.  The old man never asked questions, and getting some peace and quiet really helped me to unwind.

I think it was my fifth or sixth trip when I met her.

I was standing in one of the booths getting ready to put on the protective earmuffs when I saw this black-haired girl enter the gallery wearing what looked like pajama pants and a flannel top.

My first impression was she was way too young to even be here.  She had to be maybe fourteen?  Definitely not the legal age.

When she saw me looking, she gave me a sneer, and I have to admit I was actually disturbed by her.  She looked like she had been through hell and back.  Maybe she had.

“Something on my face, old man?”  she asked me, checking to see if her weapon was loaded.

“You know how to use that thing?”  I countered, gesturing to the gun in her hand.

“Want to see?”  she snapped back, waving the weapon in my face.

“Whoa, sorry!  I wasn’t trying to be rude.”

“Next time, learn to mind your own business,”  she huffed as she finished putting the protective equipment on and went to her own booth.

Nervously I tried to redirect my attention to the target.  I didn’t want to be nosy.  But it bothered me.  Surely she shouldn’t be allowed into a place like this?

After I was done, I decided to talk to the owner and see if maybe he knew anything about her situation.

“A girl?  Here?  Son, you must be crazy.  I wouldn’t let any kid out here on the premises!”  he huffed at me.

“Well, check your cameras.  I know she was here for at least a couple of hours.”

This time he laughed.

“Does this look like the Taj Mahal?  I ain’t got any cameras.  Never needed ‘em,”  he cackled.

I rolled my eyes at him and snapped, “Well, maybe if you put some in, you wouldn’t need to worry about delinquents running around on your grounds firing guns?”

“Don’t get an attitude with me, boy,”  he growled.

I paid my fee and left, frustrated that he didn’t seem the least bit concerned about this young girl that was using his firing range for her own personal training.

What good could come from her learning to shoot?  It made me worry.  But at the same time, I knew there wasn’t much I could do about it unless I saw her again.

It didn’t take long for that to happen.  The next time I went, she was already there, firing at the targets like no tomorrow.  When I entered, she immediately stopped and turned toward me, narrowing her eyes as I got my own equipment.

“You again?  Are you stalking me?” she asked angrily.

“You should be glad I’m not calling the cops on your ass,”  I told her.

Maybe if I scared her, she would leave.

“Yeah?  So why don’t you?”  she said, spitting on the ground.

“You think I won’t?”  I asked, taking out my phone and getting ready to dial.

I hesitated for a moment, waiting to see what her reaction was.  Surprisingly she smiled.

“You ain’t gonna call,”  she said.

“What makes you say that?”

“If you were gonna do it, you woulda done it already.”

“Maybe I don’t want you to get in trouble?” I countered.

She walked closer to me, sizing me up quickly.

“Nah.  I bet you don’t want anyone to know you’re here either.  Am I right?”  she whispered.

I looked down at the phone, feeling a little uneased by her nonchalant behavior.  Did nothing scare this kid?

“I’m just here to destress,” I told her.

“Right.  Then me being here shouldn’t bother you.”

Then she got back to her target practice, fully confident I wasn’t going to call.

I put my phone away, a bit perplexed by her behavior.

She could slip away before the cops even got here, I told myself; no reason to get myself mixed up in it.

I tried to convince myself of that, but watching her in the firing range only concerned me more.  She was like a demon being unleashed.  Her aim was precise, her speed uncanny.  She was using this firing range as a way to let go of her rage.  I realized.

What was she so hateful toward?

After I ended my own session, I saw her putting the gear down and commented, “What’s your name, girl?”

“Oh, are you trying to be the good cop now?”  she hissed.

“Just trying to be friendly.  I have a daughter a little younger than you.”

“Good for you,”  she said, preparing to walk toward the fire exit.

“You don’t have to be so hostile,”  I argued, following after her.  What was I doing?  Why did I care what this young girl was up to?

Was I frightened by her demeanor?  Worried about her welfare?  I told myself that was the reason why.

But another part of me knew that curiosity about her was the overwhelming factor.

“Yeah?  And why not?”  she asked, turning to face me.  All I saw was anger and hate in her eyes.  It was fearsome to look at.

“What?”  I asked, surprised by her attitude so much that I forgot what I was even saying.

“Why can’t I hate everyone and everything?  What good is caring gonna do for me?”  she snarled.

“Look, we got off on the wrong foot.  I didn’t mean any harm,”  I admitted.

“No one ever does.  But they always cause more harm.  So selfish.  Why are you even following me?  Do you even care why I’m here?”  she asked.

I felt a cold sweat run down my neck as I had to admit that I wasn’t sure.  “I just know that you look like you need help.”

She huffed and crossed her arms.

“Help?  From you?  And you think you’re the one who can answer all my problems?”

“I didn’t say that.  Just thinking that a girl your age shouldn’t have to be alone,”  I argued.

“Thanks, but no thanks,”  she replied bitterly as she left through the exit.

I tried to follow, but she was too quick, disappearing into the dark woods beyond.

As I drove home, I thought to myself that she must have a horrible home life.  Maybe that was why she came there, to learn self-defense?

That led to darker thoughts.  Was she being hurt at home?  Abused by family?  What if she really did need help to escape?

What if she did something stupid and I was too late to stop it?

Stop it, I told myself.  I didn’t need to be involved.  No one helped me when things got tough, I thought.  No one ever does.

I tossed those worrying thoughts away and resolved to forget about her again.  But that wasn’t so easy; every time I went to the firing range, she was there now.

She would always have this intense look in her eyes when she held the gun.  Her aim was precise.  She knew what she was doing.  It bothered me to see her unload clip after clip into lifelike targets.

Was she…planning to hurt someone?

Usually, I did my best to keep to myself.  I had my own reasons for being there, and I wasn’t about to judge a kid that I hardly knew.  Heck, I didn’t even know her name.  But every time I went, it felt like she went out of her way to bother me.

So much for wanting to be left alone.

One particular evening the conversation went a little further than I expected.  She asked the real questions, and I wasn’t ready.

“You’ve been coming here for a few months now.  Don’t you think you’ve figured out what you are gonna do yet?”  she asked me as she put up her equipment.

“I suppose I could ask you the same thing,”  I pointed out.

“I know exactly what I’m going to do.  I’m going to make people pay for hurting me.”

The way she said it so casually made my stomach twist into knots.

“It’s that bad, is it?” I said, trying my best to hide my own surprise and shock.

“You wouldn’t understand,” she snarled, turning away.

Instinctively I placed my hand on her shoulder.  “Wait.  Just try me…what did these people do to deserve this?”

There was a fire in her eyes that I couldn’t ignore.  It told me a lot about what I had already suspected.  Her pain was real.  This wasn’t simply acting out.  Someone had broken this poor girl.  It was no wonder she didn’t trust anyone anymore.

Did she even have anyone left to trust?

“They called me names.  Other times they beat me.  Left me for dead.  Sometimes they would do much worse.  Make we wish…that I was dead,”  she said as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Boys and girls both.  Treating me like trash.  Just because I was different.  Because I chose to not be what they wanted me to be.”

“And you think that this is the answer?” I asked, looking at the gun she had just put down.

“They won’t stop.  I’ve tried being the good guy.  I’ve tried earning their friendship.  I’m tired of pretending that I am fine.  Of hiding my anger and rage.  This will make them listen.”

She looked at me, and for a long silent moment, we connected.  She knew my secret too.

“You understand.  I can tell.  You’ve been disrespected.  Hurt and tossed aside.  Like you’re worthless.  You are tired of that feeling.  Tired of being pushed down and forgotten.”

“This isn’t about me,” I insisted.

“You sure?  Because you think I haven’t watched you the same way you watch me?  I see that spark of revenge in your eyes.  You’re trying to give yourself an excuse to do what you don’t have the courage to.  To take revenge on the people that have wronged you.”

I was speechless.  She was saying everything that I had felt, and it made me want to die.  I was trying to tell myself that I could be a monster.

“So, what are you waiting for?  What’s holding you back?”  she whispered.

I looked down at my own weapon, my hands clammy and pale.

I didn’t have an answer for her.

She pulled away, a look of contempt on her face.

“You’re scared of the consequences?  Fuck the consequences.  Make them pay!  Make them suffer for everything they have ever done.  Make them remember you!”  she insisted.

I decided to change the conversation, unnerved by the direction it was going.

“Strong words for someone that I don’t even know,”  I told her.

“I don’t have to answer to you,”  she responded without even batting an eye.  “Why don’t you tell me exactly what it is you are planning to do.”

“I don’t have to answer you either,”  I said, taking a step back.

She huffed.  “And here I thought we were getting somewhere.”

She shrugged and left the firing range, this time leaving a void in me of nagging doubts and fears.

How did she know of the dark thoughts that had consumed me these past few months?  And how was I supposed to help someone if I couldn’t even help myself?

I felt even more lost and bitter than I had before, my guilt and anger mixing to make me think maybe I should just turn the weapon on myself.  It would make the world a better place, one less nasty heart to deal with.

But I couldn’t do that.  Not until I stopped her from doing something insane.  Not until I found a way to save her.  It became my sole purpose to keep going.

Maybe I can’t save myself.  But this young girl doesn’t need to experience the consequences.  She doesn’t understand.  At least I know what I’m getting myself into.

This is what I told myself.  Faulty reasoning to keep me afloat.

We only met one more time after that.  It was another typical night at the range, and she did her best to ignore me.

I wanted to knock some sense into her because I saw the darkness she held inside her, and I recognized it was the same void that I had been carrying for so long.  It was unnatural how much she reminded me of myself.

I looked down at the gun I was holding, then toward the target.  I had been to this range a dozen times, all for the same reason…psyching myself up to do the unthinkable.

Just pull the trigger and make the people that have hurt you pay.  They deserve to suffer.  That’s what the girl had said.

It felt suffocating to be boxed into a life that I didn’t choose for myself.  I’ve lost so much because of others.  My family, my job.  Don’t I deserve to take it all back?

The girl fired again, smiling as her target fell apart into tiny splinters.

What was she planning to do?  Was it any less gruesome than my own vendetta?  Were we here to be each other’s advocates?  Or to play the part of the conscience that needed to be rekindled?

“You can’t do this,”  I said abruptly as our session ended and we caught each other’s eyes.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.  It’s unthinkable.  Whatever it is you are going to do or think you are capable of.  You can’t do it.  You’ll be throwing away your entire life,”  I told her.

“Yeah?”  she said as she started to chew some bubble gum.  “You sure that speech was meant for me, old man?”

I squirmed uncomfortably.  She could see the same guilt written all over my face.

“I don’t have anything left to live for,”  I told her.  “They’ve taken it all away.”

“So, what are you waiting for?  Why are you trying so hard to save my soul?”  she spat back.  “Don’t you get it?  It’s too late for me.”

“How can you say that?” I asked.

She stepped closer to me, a shadow crossing over her face, and I held my breath.

This young, vibrant girl was a fraud.  Instead, what stood in front of me was a ghoul.  Her skin peeled off immediately in the pale moonlight, her bone and tissue pushing through as her eyes dangled from her skull.  Her body was yellowed and old, decayed with age.  The very definition of a walking corpse.

Instinctively I fumbled backward into my booth.  She smiled this grisly otherworldly grin at me and kicked my weapon to my trembling hands.

“Go on then, pick it up,”  she whispered.  I was too paralyzed to move.  This only made her laugh.

“You…you’re you’re…”  I stuttered as she looked at her rotting shell.

At first, it looked so frightening to behold.  Then, as she got closer, I saw only sadness.  Bullet holes laced her body, ripping through her skin and turning it into cottage cheese.

“I told myself the same things you’ve rattled off in your head a dozen times.  That it would be quick.  That it would be easy.  That they deserved it,”  she whispered.

She picked up my gun and held it right over my head as I started to sob.

“Ironic.  That’s exactly what my classmates did when I shot them.  They begged.  They swore they would give me anything.  At that moment, I had the power.  I was their god.”

She fired a round at the target, and my whole body shuddered.

“But then it was over.  It was gone.  And do you know what I felt then?”

Another round.  This time I heard so much remorse and regret in her voice.

“Nothing.  I felt nothing.  I was numb.  The people I hated were dead.  And I didn’t even feel better.  It was for nothing.”

She looked up toward the sky, and I saw tears stream down her broken face.

“I could hear the police circling.  I was bleeding out.  I knew exactly what they would call me when this was over.  I had just destroyed my family.  Destroyed everything that I never cared for.  All it took was a couple of damn bullets.”

“And you know what I kept thinking as I died?”  she whispered.

“What?”  I asked, barely even hearing my own voice.  I was lost in her story of regret and violence.

“How much I wish that I had someone that had stopped me.  Someone that had reached out to me.  Someone that told me they cared before it was too late.”

She looked at me with hollow dead eyes.  And yet, at the same time, I had never seen anyone so full of life.  It was like I was looking at myself.  And then she confirmed why she was really here.

“I wish I had met someone like you when it mattered.”

Then she turned the handle of the gun toward me and whispered, “Don’t make my mistakes.”

I took it and watched as she crumbled away, her ghostly face and body whistling into the night air.

I sat on the cold ground for a long time, feeling the weight of that gun.  It was heavier than I had ever noticed before.

Was this really something that I could carry?

How could anyone?

I put the equipment away and paid the fee.  The manager lazily took my money and muttered, “See you next week, bud.”

My mind flashed to all the dark thoughts that I had contemplated for so long, and then back to the girl at the firing range.  The choices she had made when no one had stopped her.

Was that the path I really wanted to go down?

Could I be for myself what I had tried to be for her?

There was only one way to find out.

I tipped my hat to the owner and gave him a smile before fixing him a response.

“No…I don’t think you will.”

Rating: 9.00/10. From 3 votes.
Please wait...

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kyle Harrison

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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