This past year, I wrote a fictional story for a class. I won’t spoil it and tell you what it’s about but I do want to put a disclaimer here: This story involves sensitive topics such as suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and dark humor. Thank you for reading.
“Goodbye, cruel world,” Clay Lamber said as he stood at the edge of the stool on his feeble tippy toes with the sheets around his neck. “Jesus, that’s too cliché,” he thought, but he didn’t prepare an extravagant last soliloquy for his non-existent audience on why he felt the world wronged him. The chipped wooden stool was uneven since one of the legs was shorter than the other three, making it wobble whenever he shifted his weight. Clay sighed in annoyance at his famous – no, pathetic last words – and became unsteady. He tried to grab onto the navy-blue bed sheets hanging from the ceiling post while feeling the sheets around his neck tighten.
The stool’s shortest leg clapped down on the concrete floor and Clay’s body began to lean backward. At that moment, he lost all his balance and desperately groped the air for something to hang onto. The stool slipped from under his feet completely and slammed on the ground, leaving Clay’s body to wildly dangle from the ceiling. He let out a yelp that turned into a sharp, dry gargle as his makeshift noose violently pinched around his pale neck. He dangled for a moment, feeling his breath cut off. Clay heard a tearing sound but couldn’t tell if it was the sheets or his neck crunching from the pressure. Suddenly, Clay’s body collapsed on the ground as if he were a ragdoll and some child forcefully threw him on the floor. A short tail of sheets fell on top of him. He looked up at the sheets that were still tied to the ceiling post with disappointment. “What a shame,” he said to himself sarcastically.
Clay took a moment to examine his knees, pulling up his baggy pant leg and exposing a nice heart-shaped bruise on his tender skin. He felt that this was God’s way of saying don’t kill yourself there’s so much to live for I love you.
“Oh, the irony,” he thought. Clay stood up, grabbed the knot of sheets around his neck, and began to loosen it like a tie. He yanked the cloth necklace off his head and rubbed his neck, searching for any bruising or cuts. He had a feeling that attempting something like this in the room above where he worked was an idiotic idea.
Clay had been a psychiatrist for nearly three years, but he came to believe that he was just as diseased as his patients, if not worse. He knew it wasn’t just the seasonal depression of the Seattle area, he’d been sick for as long as he could remember, but it didn’t use to be so serious. It seems contradicting for a mental person to be a therapist, but Clay was curious about his condition and thought, if he knew how to handle it, he could help others like him to control it too. Every morning, he took his pills and the regular symptoms would subside, at least until he went home. It didn’t affect his concentration or daily life much and he felt that those pills were his last remedy for feeling “normal” again.
Recently though, he’d stopped taking his medication because, even though it made his symptoms less distracting, it also made him feel extremely drowsy. It resembled the kind of drowsy you get after drinking too much alcohol in one night. During one of his appointments, it was so severe that his patient (who was a serious alcoholic) thought he came into work drunk. No one could think with a groggy mind let alone any sort of migraine feeling. He knew of the consequences that would come from avoiding his medication, but he felt life would be a little more bearable that way – apparently not.
After his regular ten to seven shift in the office, he walked to the floor above him which resembled an unfinished warehouse. Only dusty old chairs and office supplies lay unused in the concrete room. The bed sheets, however, were brought up prior to the early morning shift – he was too lazy to buy rope. At this time, it was almost ten o’clock at night because Clay had a painfully long brainstorming session on how he would tie the sheets to the ceiling in which he decided to use the rusty ladder that rested against the wall. Occasionally, he wondered if it was even worth it to go through that much trouble when he had a nice apartment with lower ceilings. Then again, if he were to walk home at the regular time, some annoyingly kind neighbor might invite him to dinner. Or worse, someone will ask how he’s doing, and he’ll have to answer with “good.”
“I could have chosen a more effective method like overdosing or throwing the toaster in the bathtub or jumping off the roof. There are definitely easier ways to do this. Clay’s train of thought continued to roll on the tracks of overthinking as he stood like a marvel statue, unblinking eyes, and stared at the sheets on the ceiling. “It’s a Monday. No one gets shit done on a Monday.”
“Have a nice trip, see you next fall,” a voice abruptly said. Clay looked around the room and rolled his eyes in irritation.
“I didn’t trip, dumb-ass. It was that damn stool,” Clay yelled.
“Whatever you say, schizo,” the snarky voice replied.
Clay paused and raised his eyebrows for a moment in response to the voice’s overuse of that nickname. He dragged himself over to the window that revealed the sable Seattle sky and gleaming city lights down below. The dim ceiling lights behind Clay allowed him to see his reflection in the window which also revealed a man standing in the center of the room behind him. He was somewhat short and unusually skinny in an anorexic way. Even though he wore long sleeves, his pitch-black shirt draped like baggy curtains on his bony arms. He had fine blond hair, just like gold, and his smile stretched so wide that it almost touched his earlobes. Aside from all his exquisite features, his eyes were the element that threw off his appearance. They were unproportionally small as if he sewed someone else’s eyes onto his face. It was the feature that made Clay feel the most uneasy among his overall gut-twisting appearance.
“So. How was your day, Clayyy,” the man said mockingly. Clay refused to turn around or even look at the man in the reflection of the plexiglass window. This voice was all too familiar that, if it was possible, Clay’s ears would bleed from all the scornfully sarcastic slurs.
“Don’t try to be my imaginary friend, Dixon,” Clay responded, staring at the ground. The truth was that Clay didn’t actually know the man’s name. He named him Dixon just so that he could occasionally call him Dick. Clay looked up into the reflection to find Dixon standing right behind him, stone-faced with his small eyes wide open. Clay’s breath hiccupped out of surprise, slightly startled by how quickly Dixon teleported to the window. Dixon didn’t usually act like this most nights, but tonight was a failed attempt so Dixon was more ludic than usual.
“You think I’m imaginary?” Dixon questioned, slightly turning his head in playful confusion. Clay’s eyes squinted in vexation, staring directly at Dixon as the skeletal man began to weep in an over-exaggerated way. Suddenly, Clay’s neck jolted behind him to see the environment of the room. He slowly turned his whole body to face the center of the room, seeing that he was the only one present and no one else was with him. Clay took one deep breath and turned back around to the reflection of the window.
“You’re not real,” Clay said sharply, closing his eyes only to open them to see Dixon standing by the fallen stool in the reflection. Clay sarcastically plugged his pointer fingers in his ears, pretending not to hear Dixon – the only thing missing was if Clay yelled “la la la” to show how he really didn’t want to listen. But it didn’t matter how hard Clay tried to plug his ears, he could still hear Dixon’s devious voice.
“So, what should we prescribe for you, Clayyy?” Dixon dragged out. “Did ibuprofen make you feel better?” Dixon began to list off other medications in a humming tone. “Or what about duloxetine. Perphenazine. Haloperidol.” The list continued as Dixon blabbered about different kinds of pill diets to cure schizophrenia. The whole time, Clay watched him bounce on his toes like a king’s jester after he named a new prescription – all he needed was the jingle bell hat.
“Pills are a joke. And so are you,” Clay stated. Suddenly, Dixon stopped moving and looked at Clay, the smile on his face slowly getting bigger and wider.
“Jokes are amusing. I am a joke. Therefore, I am amusing. Listen to this – knock knock.” Clay decided he had heard enough, but Dixon continued to talk, his voice getting louder after every pause. “Knock knock. Knock knock! KNOCK KNOCK!” Dixon almost sounded like a broken cuckoo clock that wouldn’t shut up. Clay turned around to the empty room and walked toward the door with a shadow of determination. Blue bed sheets still hung from the ceiling and all Clay could hear was Dixon’s laugh sinking into the floor as if he was drowning. He exited the room and took the fire escape stairwell to leave.
For once, his mind was silent and all he could hear was his work shoes clicking on the floor with every step. It sounded like a walking metronome, gently echoing down the hallway. Clay’s mind was blank as his body went on autopilot to walk home. Luckily his apartment was a couple blocks down the road, so he never had to drive. The twinkling world around him was hushed as a soft breeze caressed his face and the leaves danced around the grass to greet the feet of the other insomniacs walking around. Clay made it home to his small, rundown apartment. He opened the door, which he never bothered to lock anymore, and slipped his shoes off. Clay looked into the mirror he had by the front door. His appearance reciprocated the rough events of the day showing by his dark baggy eyes, slightly red neck, and wrinkled clothes. In the reflection, he could see the kitchen table, and at the table, a woman sat looking at Clay. He called her Lisa.
“How was your day, darling?” Lisa said with curiosity. She had her hands elegantly folded on the polished wooden table. Clay turned to allow her to see his exhausted and messy appearance. “Another rough day, huh?” Lisa turned her head slightly; her hair fell to the side of her shoulder on her favorite yellow satin dress. Without saying a word, Clay walked over to the table and stood in front of her, his legs barely holding him up anymore.
“I wish you could be here,” Clay whispered, examining her pristine hands resting on the surface of the smooth table. Lisa’s face began to droop as if someone was slowly pulling all her facial muscles to the ground. She began to reach for Clay’s hands, but Clay took a step back from her. He didn’t want to acknowledge that she was just as real as Dixon. “Life isn’t worth living without you.” Suddenly, the pitter patter of tiny feet came down the hallway, sounding like raindrops, and into the kitchen on the cold tiled floor. Clay turned around to see a little boy standing in the doorway. He was holding a cloth brown teddy bear with black button eyes and one ear.
“Hi, Daddy,” said the little boy jubilantly. Clay let out as much as a huff for a laugh as he watched the sleepy six-year-old rub his eye with his other free hand.
“Benji, isn’t it bedtime?” Clay asked quietly.
“I waited for you to come home!” Benji responded, opening his arms to receive a hug from Clay. Before Clay could move, Lisa walked over to Benji, kneeled down, and put her hands around Benji’s little waist.
“Daddy’s had a long day, so we should all go to sleep now. I’ll tuck you in.” Lisa picked Benji up into her arms and disappeared into the hall. They entered a room the was subtly illuminated by a nightlight. Clay stood in the kitchen staring at the door, knowing that he wouldn’t hear another sound for the rest of the night, knowing the door would never close.