Funny, you know, the things that go away, that slip your mind once you make those special choices.
The gunmetal tastes like fresh oil in my mouth. It’s a Smith & Wesson .38. I bought it along with a box of shells at E-Z Pawn for $85.00 on 32nd and State Street, two miles north of where I live at the Woodwinds Complex in apartment 9. I took the bus. I used my most recent paycheck to pay for the gun. With the shells, it came to $116.43.
Money is no object when your life is at stake.
The proprietor at E-Z Pawn was exactly how I envisioned him, destiny perhaps. He was a short, solid man with black hair and a deep, bronzed tan. He had dark, almost black eyes. He wore a bright, gold Rolex on a hairy left wrist. He was helpful, didn’t ask me a bunch of unnecessary questions such as, “What the hell do you plan on using the gun for?” His name was Ralph.
I took the gun out yesterday and fired six rounds into the fields behind the complex to make sure it was glitch-free. I didn’t want any sudden, unwanted catches preventing it from doing the job. One of my neighbors, Mr. Farley, a retired, pot-bellied man in his fifties, asked me what the hell I was doing.
“Shootin’ firecrackers,” I said.
“Keep it up,” he said, “and I’ll call the goddamn cops.”
I chuckled and walked back inside. Mr. Farley slammed the screen door behind him.
The .38 shot smooth, the reassurance I needed. I felt confident now. The gun was enough, not too fancy or flamboyant to make me skeptical of its power. The .38 was a sure thing.
I savored the idea of the gun in my mouth. The gun in my mouth was a sure thing. If I aimed it slightly upward at a .45 degree angle, the bullet would fire through the roof of my mouth, directly into my brain, blowing the back of my head off.
Quick. Lights out. Efficient and thorough. Thorough is often messy, but I wasn’t concerned with messy. The idea of messy actually amused me. Messy in such a way I’d traumatize the poor sonofabitch who found me. Messy and bloody, the way I thought about doing it for a long time now.
You hear about suicides. All the time. Funny how many of them fail. Not suicides, I think. Attention getters. Fuck those pussies. Make the commitment and do it. Take it seriously or don’t take it at all. Don’t disappoint us by screwing up. If you’re gonna do it, do it right. Do it right the first time. We’ll just be waiting for you to do it again, to see if you succeeded, until you do get it right.
I didn’t feel sorry for them. They’re not getting any points here.
Failure has to do with pills and alcohol, things of that nature, remedies that take too much time. Someone finds you, calls the paramedics, and the next thing you know you’re alive in a hospital bed when you didn’t want to be. Someone’s talking to you in that sappy, condescending tone of voice, asking you what you were thinking. Don’t you love us anymore, as if it’s all about them. Someone’s trying to give you hope.
Bastards, you think.
Use the gun. The gun is messy, but the gun is sure. It’s okay to be messy. Why the hell should you care about messy anyway? You’re killing yourself. It’s not as if you have to clean it up. No one’s gonna stop you.
Messy was right up my alley. Messy was kind of romantic.
Some say it takes guts to live and not commit suicide. Some say it takes guts to pull the trigger. It doesn’t have anything to do with guts or balls or lack of hope or being tired. It’s curiosity, folks. I don’t know, don’t much care one way or the other. I suppose, it comes down to belief. When you’ve run out, where do you go? For God’s sake, why is it important anyway?
I wasn’t about to take the chance I’d fuck it up by taking pills or slashing my wrists. Maybe I wouldn’t bleed enough, wouldn’t cut deep enough with the razor. Once you pull the trigger, however, there’s no going back. Quicker than slamming a door.
To me, it didn’t matter.
No such thing. Simple when you come down to it.
Life after death?
Give me a fucking break, will ya, we’re talking simple living here!
Call me an atheist. Agnostic. What you will. We’re nothing but organisms growing, sprouting, and waiting to die again into what?—a black, lifeless nothingness.
Love and the soul?
Inventions. The imagined product of men too afraid to accept their own deaths. Never believed much in either. Never cared for relationships, having fun, or charity. It’s all hypocritical, egotistical theories. People need meaning in their lives.
Thus, to the black, lifeless nothingness I go…It all began in nothingness. Kind of curious about the nothingness. Curious. The only thing that’s made me smile lately.
I know Suicide is true. Amen. Don’t ask me how. It’s a warm feeling inside. Seek it for yourself. Black, lifeless nothingness will pave the way.
Here. I’ll prove it to you…
I take the gun out of my mouth, and I set it on the coffee table. I dim the lights and turn on the radio to 92.1, classical. I’m rewarded with Vivaldi concertos. What a blessing. I want the mood just right.
I get up and pour a glass of water. It tastes cold and crisp. I walk into the living room and look at the .38 sitting on the coffee table. It makes me smile, looking at it, a familial emotion. It might, I realize, even be love. I decide to name it, call it something, something sweet, a girl’s name. Carmilla, Angie, Rebecca, Beth, or Regina, maybe. I settle for something simple; it makes all the sense in the world. Perfect.
I call it Angel. I nod and smile. Yes, Angel is perfect.
I go outside and smoke a cigarette because the name is perfect.
While I smoke, I think about the smell of the world, and how it’ll be gone soon, the slime-ridden streets, the hot, filthy stink in the city air: garbage in the dirty alleys, exhaust fumes, body odor, and sloppy, poor sex. No wonder the world suffers the pollution that it does.
Dusk is settling. The cloudless sky is a dusty, orange hue to the west, reminding me of New Mexico or Arizona for some reason, because the sunset looks southwestern to me, even though I’m a bit north.
The rest of the sky is a familiar blue, but it’s darkening, and I smile at the dark. The first star in the sky is visible. I can never remember if it’s a planet or a star. Mars or Jupiter? I always remember things wrong. The cars rushing by on State Street two blocks west make humming, swooshing noises. Someone’s window is open. The clatter of dishes and running water is loud and obnoxious. A bi-plane makes a weak, fluttering noise high in the air as if the engine is about to die. Its outline against the sky is a black cross with a single, blinking red light, slightly larger and brighter than the first star in the sky.
I take another drag of the cigarette, inhaling the tobacco deep into my lungs. God, it tastes good! I will miss cigarettes. I blow it out, enjoying the taste. I flick the cigarette toward the street. There is no wind. The cigarette arcs up as if I’ve kicked it. If it were a field goal attempt, it would be good. I would score three points. It drops into the middle of the road with a scattering shower of orange sparks. A tendril of smoke drifts lazily to the right, then to the left.
I think about the things I’ll miss. Nothing. Except tobacco, but that’s not enough to keep me around. I have no debts. My family will not hear about me for several weeks because the rent has been paid until the end of the month. The tenants will only get the smell. Depends on how quickly I decompose. In August’s heat, it might be as early as tomorrow.
Behind me, the shadows shift. A hulking shape climbs and moves—the motion of a whale surfacing—into and quickly out of sight over the bushes.
I go inside to savor my last home-cooked meal.
“Static static. No reception. Life. Clear.”
This goes on for a while. I think it’s normal. It is for me, anyway.
“He doesn’t listen to us anymore.”
“He doesn’t pay attention.”
“So, what is it? Is it my fault? Is it? Is it? IS IT!”
“Did you ever notice that sticky little thing on the side of the refrigerator? What is it? Is it gum?”
“The other day, I was making some toast, gonna make a sandwich. I buttered it with Crisco. Didn’t even notice. Best sandwich I ever had. Crisco sandwich. Damn, it was good. I figured, what difference does it make?”
“See, the thing is, you have to take it high. Take it high. Swing hard. It’s the only way. Make contact below the brow. Swing high.”
“Above and behind the ear is good.”
“Did you make it? I can’t get this…damn thing to work…”
“Quiet now. Shh. I think he’s listening. I saw him cock his head and frown.”
“He’s asleep, stupid.”
“Talk about the future! I mean, really!”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Quiet! Here he comes!”
Maniacal whispers are all in a jumble. No two sound the same. Only a few seem to be talking to the others. None of it makes sense, of course. It never does. It never has. It goes on and on.
The voices aren’t the reason I do what I’m about to do. It has nothing to do with that. I wonder if there’s silence in the afterlife, and if it has anything new to say.
“Hide! Hide! Run into the cabinets! Don’t go into the dishwasher! That’s my hiding place! Quick! Everybody!”
“He can’t see us, you moron!”
“Shh! Shh! Shh!”
“Just a push. Just one. We’ll see where all this takes us.”
I make a steak, of course, on the grill; it’s been marinating in onion, garlic, red wine, and Worcestershire. I make a spinach salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, two plump baked potatoes, heavy on the butter, sour cream, bacon bits, chives, and pepper. I make hot rolls. Store bought, these. I’m not going to all that trouble. I’m not a baker, and I figure, Suicide’s not that big of a deal.
During dinner, I set Angel on the dining table next to the salt and pepper shakers and the salad bowl. I will look at Angel while I eat.
“Dear Lord,” I say. “Thank you for what we are about to…yeah….receive. I mean…wait…I don’t believe in God.”
I change the radio station to jazz. Dinner and jazz go well together. I light candles, and the ambience is perfect. Candles, dinner, and jazz are a better combination than chocolate and peanut butter. It’s romantic, even if I’m by myself.
I chuckle. The meal is better than I imagined. The steak is perfectly juicy and bloody, bursting in my cheeks around my molars, medium rare. One of the best steaks I’ve had. The potatoes are soft, rich, and filling. The salad is tangy with the perfect crispness. The rolls are…well, they’re rolls. They’re store bought. Why go to all the trouble?
I wash it all down with a St. Paulie Girl poured into a frosty mug. Ice particles float around in the beer because I kept it in the freezer. It tastes delicious going down.
After dinner, I clean up the kitchen, and the rest of the house. It will look good clean, the house, with blood all over the walls. I look forward to the contrast, even though I won’t see it. I put on my only suit, a dusty, black Evan Picone. I knot a deep, scarlet tie around the collar of my white shirt, and put on a pair of black shoes, St. Johns Bay. I put on a black belt. I look at myself in the mirror and nod in approval. I figure, I could fix my hair, but like the rolls…why go to all the trouble?
Later, I pick up Angel and check the chamber. Full. I take the safety off. I do not leave a note.
“Shh! Shh! Everybody quiet! Here he comes!”
Shuffling. The rustle of scampering feet. Someone giggles. Someone is slapped by a powerful hand. The sound is obvious. Someone rebukes, loudly: “Ow!” Someone says, “Shut the hell up!”
I blow the candles out. The silvery blue glow from the lights on the stereo receiver is the only illumination. It’s enough to see by. I study the way the light reflects off the gunmetal. Angel is a silvery blue shadow.
I sit on the couch.
I take a deep breath and hold Angel in my hands. The metal is cool and heavy. I love the way the solid, compact weight of the gun feels. It feels authoritative, professional. It becomes a part of me. I can’t get enough of it. I feel as if I could sit here for hours, impressed by the weight of the gun, looking at it. I’m surprised this magical destroyer is in my hands. I can do a lot with this simple, glossy black piece of stainless steel.
The safety, I check again, is off. I sit up straight on the couch. I can still taste the steak, the last cigarette, and the beer.
I pull the hammer back on Angel. It makes a satisfying clicking sound. I smile again. I position the barrel inside my mouth as I’d practiced, up slightly, angled Angel.
“Hooray! Hooray! He’s gonna do it!”
“Would you keep your voice down!”
So, they know each other. I don’t understand it. They’ve been here since I can remember.
“It’s about time. This is everything you’ve been looking for. Silence. Sleep. Blackness. Oblivion. We’ve been waiting. Just end it. Just pull the trigger. Angels? Demons? Give me a fucking break! They’re not real. Who said you couldn’t die with a clear conscience? We’re happy to have you.”
I clench my index finger against the trigger. It takes too long. For as far back as my finger goes, there is no sound. Nothing.
I focus on the angle of the barrel. Angel.
A split-second later, it happens. An explosion ricochets between my skull, a deafening roar, a ringing in my ears. A slight buzzing noise follows, then a blinding flash of intense white light. In the next second, a syrupy darkness replaces the white.
The taste of gunpowder is in my mouth, leaving a film on my tongue. Something sulfuric, the tinge of hot smoke burns my lips. Curls of smoke rise into my nostrils.
An instantaneous, very precise force—the size of a dime-head—shoots with lightening speed through the roof of my mouth and out the back of my head. It’s a laser. My brain—bits of tissue and bloody fragments of bone—splash against the wall behind me. The gore makes a thick, wet sound. The smell of fresh, raw, coppery blood is in the air. I slump against the couch, my head whipping back from the force of the blast. I pull a muscle in my neck, I think.
My bowels loosen. No dignity, just the suit.
My hand falls, holding Angel. I hear blood dripping—maybe from the shelf—maybe from the ceiling. I can’t see from where I am, motionless. Only blackness now, not even the glow from the stereo.
It’s hard to describe what happens next. It’s very dark, pitch black. It’s all I know, all I remember. I can smell my blood and the fresh, strong, pungent stench of gunpowder. I can smell my soiled clothes. I can’t see anything because its pitch black, dead silent. I can’t speak.
If I’m dead, why am I able to think, able to…remember? Why can I remember my life before I shot myself?
Why am I not…nothingness?
A garbled jumble of voices fills my head. Nothing makes sense. A shapeless, hulking shadow breathes into my face, something empowering, destiny perhaps.
Whatever it is, it’s no angel.
If you like this tale, you might enjoy the collection, Body of Immorality: Tales of Madness and the Macabre, among many other dark horror and fantasy tales found here:http://www.amazon.com/Brandon-Berntson/e/B0075FG106/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1430959552&sr=8-2-ent