(A short story)
Mark never used to sleep at night, he’d just lie, staring at the inside of his eyelids. He'd maybe doze a little but never found a decent nights sleep unless induced by alcohol or sleeping tablets, and he would then always have his nightmare. It was the same nightmare he'd been having since he was a boy, hanging upside down above a massive pit of fire which filled his line of vision, and with one hand he’d be holding onto his mother, keeping her from falling, and with the other, he’d be holding his younger brother. All he was aware of was his terrified family looking up at him, the fire beneath them, and the choice he had to make - he could save either his mother or his brother, not both. He doesn't remember ever choosing.
That night Mark had quite a good sleep, comparatively, but as always he'd woken up before his alarm at the end of what could hardly be called a nightmare after twenty-something years. He got up, went through to the kitchen, flicked on the kettle, went to the toilet and drifted straight into his normal morning back-of-the-mind wonderings of how to kill himself without shocking his family too much. A list of ticked boxes ran through his head, potential user-friendly suicides that were written off as undoable.
Overdosing was no good as in a lot of cases the person survived, woke up in a hospital bed surrounded by loved ones, would then repent only to be told by doctors that there was nothing they could do, and that his or her organs would shut down one by one causing perhaps the most agonising pain for the remainder of that person's life, while his or her family sat watching.
He looked himself in the mirror as he washed his hands, and he could practically see his still unfocused mind struggling to work, hear the cogs grinding, attempting to find a gear. The monotony of his pre-work mind-set was at least governed by autopilot and at a distance.
Cutting his wrists was out of the question, too. Not because of the mess it would make as such, but the mental scar that mess would leave on whoever was unfortunate enough to find him.
He opened his bedroom curtains up to a beautiful, if somewhat daunting view, and stood looking out over the streets. Everything was a bright, matt of grey/blue from the way the light filled the sky before the sun had quite reached the horizon. Not a single person anywhere, not a cloud, everything stood still. It all looked much deeper than usual, the entire scheme, every building, even the high rises in the distance seemed to be without a single shadow yet entirely in shade, and as he stood looking out, he was struck by a sudden feeling that something was very different about that morning.
He glanced around his room then out the window, as if trying to find what it was that had changed, but nothing was out of the ordinary. Something felt different but nothing was, nothing he could put his finger on, not yet anyway. He just stood there for a moment, almost stunned by the sensation but with no idea where it had come from, then as quickly as it had hit him he shook it off and reverted back to his dulled, fuzzy state, further considering the possibility of a untroublesome death.
Making it look accidental was another option, though, again, very messy. He'd thought about throwing himself in front of the subway, until discovering that a lot of railway deaths weren't instant and that a person would often become tangled at the hip, the lower half having twisted one way while the uper body went the other, and it wasn't until a person was physically untangled that he or she finally reached the end of what would definitely be a horrific death.
His phone began vibrating on his bedside table, and as he wondered who it could be at such an hour, he thought about how fitting an end it would be for him to be found hanging, having heard that when a man hangs, he cums. He wasn't sure if it were true, but wasn't about to risk being found dead with a hard-on and a sack full of semen running down his leg. He smiled to himself, just one final insult, he thought as he picked up his phone to see the word HOME flashing on the screen.
"Hello?" His face sank, hearing his mothers voice, alien as it sounded through her screams.
"Mark, Mark come quick, it’s your brother, Mark, it's Rory… he’s dead! He’s dead! Come quick, Mark, Rory’s dead!”
Mark can remember the floor hitting his knees as the room began to spin. He can remember not noticing the bedroom wall against his face, not until his mother’s voice cut its way back into the forefront of his mind and pulled him to his feet. He can remember getting dressed, the door slamming behind him, and how different everything seemed outside, how three dimensional, how both light and dark it all looked. He can remember every detail, every stone, every broken slab of pavement blurring past as one foot kept unsteadily appearing in front of the other. He can remember the faint sound of his mother’s screams, drowned out by his own heartbeat as he ran toward the door. He can remember how the cracked paint on the door frame chipped off as his key fought its way through the lock. He can remember the sound of his mother’s pleas burst through, filling everything as the door swung open. He can remember tripping up the stairs, seeing his mother holding his little brother’s almost naked, blue body, soaking wet on the bathroom floor with an empty packet of Zopiclone sleeping tablets and a telephone lying beside them. He can remember being on the floor, slapping his brothers face, screaming at him. He can remember being surprised at how cold, how firm his brother felt. He can remember feeling that none of this was real, just as he can remember feeling utterly useless as he watched his mother fall apart before his eyes.
Mark can remember the first conscious thought he had after seeing his brother Rory’s dead body, after the ambulance had left, after he had emptied out the bath. 'Beat me to it', he thought. He can remember that, but he doesn't remember ever choosing. Mark never had his nightmare again.
Copyright Roddy Smith 2015.