Projectile Guidance

“Double or nothing!” Travis shouted, angrily, then dropped several $20 bills on the bar in front of Keith. “You can’t hit it again. No one’s that good.” Keith shook his head.

“I’m done fellas,” he shrugged and grinned at Travis, the biggest, dumbest thug in the rundown biker bar. “I ain’t tryin’ to take all your money, just enough to get me through the week.” Travis stepped closer to the shorter, leaner Keith and looked down into his light brown eyes.

“Double or nothing,” he repeated, then shoved three darts in Keith’s hand. Keith sighed.

“Guys, c’mon.” He grabbed the darts tighter and nodded. “Let me show you something.” He lifted a bright red dart up to Travis’ eye level and looked into the man’s eye past the dart. “No bet,” He said while looking Keith in the eyes. He threw the dart forward without breaking eye contact, then held his breath as soon as the projectile left his hand.

The bar immediately fell silent when time stopped. Keith casually walked to the board, plucking the dart out of the air along the way, then jammed it into the bullseye. After that, he walked back to his spot in front of Travis, looked into the man’s eyes, then released his breath. The flow of time started again with a round of applause. Someone noticed the dart stuck perfectly in the center and cheered for Keith. Travis’ eyes went wide as he turned to check the dartboard for himself.

“I can’t miss,” Keith shrugged. “Keep your money.”

“What about my money?” An unfamiliar voice spoke up from behind Keith. He turned to find a well-dressed gentleman pulling bills out of his wallet. He placed a small stack of $100 bills on top Travis’ $20s. “1000 dollars says you can’t do it again.”

“Whoa…” Keith stared at the growing pile of money, then at the stranger in a suit. “Sorry, I can’t cover that. No bet.” The stranger smiled at Keith.

“No bet. Consider it a fee for entertaining me. If you can do it again you get all that money, mine and that gentleman’s,” he pointed at Travis.

“Hey, wait a sec,” Travis tried to step forward, but the stranger held up a hand.

“If you can’t do it again, then he gets the pile of money and you owe me nothing.” Travis placed a heavy hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“Do it,” he said with more than a hint of menace in his voice.

“Fine,” Keith said. “If you want to give your money away I can’t stop you.” He shifted on his feet to be able to stare into the stranger’s eyes while facing the dartboard. “Thanks for the cash,” Keith said and threw the dart. Again he held his breath after it left his hand.

The bar went silent when everyone froze in time. Keith walked the dart to the bullseye then walked back. He took his position in front of the stranger and looked into his eyes again. A split second before Keith exhaled to restart time, the stranger winked at him with his right eye.

“What!?” Keith said, exhaling. Time roared back into motion, then Keith blinked. When he opened his eyes the bar was going wild laughing at him. He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and turned to find Travis grinning at him holding the stack of $100s and $20s.

“What the hell?” Keith faced the dartboard. The single dart he pushed into the center was now in the wall, completely off the target.

“Better luck next time,” the gentleman said. He nodded courteously then turned to walk away.

“Hey!” Keith stopped him before he got too far. “How’d you do that?” The stranger smiled.

“Same way you did,” he nodded at something behind Keith. He turned around and the rest of the bar was frozen in time. The bartender was filling a bowl of peanuts, but they were stuck in the air.

“Hey!” He turned back around. “You’re not holding your breath?”

“Get a tattoo with your favorite number on it,” the man smiled. Keith watched him make a gesture in the air, then Keith blinked. When he opened his eyes again the man was gone.

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