By Judas X. Machina.
Karl woke up in a hospital room with an IV in his arm and a feeling of regret. Whatever had happened, it had failed. He couldn't even get suicide right. He was laying there, completely wallowing in a mix of self pity and what could possibly be morphine when a voice “ahemed” near him. He kept his eyes closed hoping that whoever it was would either give up or get the hint that he didn't want to talk.
“I am very good at understanding a few things. Motivation is one of those. You may as well stop pretending to sleep. I've never fallen for that one.” The voice said. It was a baritone voice, and it was very soothing. Finally Karl opened up his left eye and peaked at the speaker. It was a robust older man with a ginger beard and slightly balding head wearing a white lab coat. Great, a doctor instead of a nurse or a cop.
“If you are wondering where you are, then you may have suffered brain damage. You are in a hospital, clearly. Specifically, you are in St. Nicholas. Believe me, the irony of that is not lost on me, since you tried to kill yourself on Christmas Eve. Well, you are probably upset because you feel as though you have failed in your mission at self termination. Rest assured Mr. Rossman, you have not failed. You took so many benzodiazepine and alcohol that you overdosed. We were able to treat that with some charcoal and hemodialysis. So far you've had several seizures due to complications, and you've also developed a few blood clots that have given you greater and greater seizures. My question is; if you failed to die at your intended suicide but then died due to complications, did you succeed? That is a question for the philosophers, I suppose.” The doctor said all of this gently, yet there seemed to be some kind of undercurrent to it all.
Karl opened his eyes fully. “You never said who you are.”
“Oh, how rude. Of course. I am Dr. Laws, resident surgeon. It's up to me to decide if I should perform any kind of surgery on you to remove the blood clots from your brain.” He said this in a nonchalant way, as though he had already decided that he wasn't going to do any such thing. Karl would have told him “no” regardless of any argument.
“So are you going to start asking me why I did it?”
“Honestly, Mr. Rossman, I don't care why you did it. I'm sure you had very legitimate reasons for wanting to die. Some noble idea, such as you discovered you have some terminal disease, or you killed a child in a middle Eastern conflict and you just can't live with yourself anymore. It couldn't possibly be because your girlfriend dumped you for your cousin, and you lost your job because you had a melt down about it at work.” Karl twitched as though he had been slapped. Those were the reasons, not the first ones, but his job and girlfriend, yes. Said in that context it did sound stupid. It didn't feel that way at the time. At the time it felt like the earth was dissolving under his feet and that someone had put a plastic bag over his head.
“I'm not saying that people who try to commit suicide do it for stupid reasons. Although, your reasons do seem to be rather selfish. But what I am really disappointed in is the fact that your organ donor card is absent.” Dr. Laws said.
“Slow down. How did you know about me losing my job? Or my girlfriend?” Karl asked, a bitter anger starting low in his belly. “What business is it of yours what I do with my life? You're a doctor, but your not my doctor. I didn't ask to see you. It's my life, I should be able to do whatever I want with it. Don't force your morality about life on me. There's no life after death, just an infinite waste of nothing. What's one more death under the wheel of the universe?” Karl wished he had the strength to spit, but he was feeling very light headed.
“You have no argument from me. It is your life, you can live it any way you want, even if I disagree with it. Free will, isn't it wonderful?” Laws pulled out a clipboard from the end of Karl's bed. He made a few notes then put it back. “The seizures should get worse until you finally pass away. Even if you wanted the surgery, there's nothing I can do for you.” Laws walked to the side of Karl's bed and began to push the nurses button. A few minutes of awkward silence later a young nurse came in, and Dr. Laws asked for a form. Karl just stared at the ceiling for a while Laws stood at the foot of his bed, staring. When the nurse returned, Dr. Laws thanked her. She said, “No problem, Chuck.” and practically fled the room.
Laws was flipping through some papers on the clipboard when he pulled out a DVD. Karl hadn't noticed that the t.v. mounted in the corner of the room had a DVD player. Laws put in the DVD and waited. He walked back to Karls bed and sat down again.
“What, is this the serious talk to make me turn my life around?”
“No. I'm not going to interfere with your life at all, beyond this point. What do you want from life?”
“Apparently, nothing, in case you didn't know.”
“In order to give up in life there had to be goals you did not achieve. I'm not talking about everyone, I'm talking about you. There had to be unrealistic goals that you failed to achieve, and now you view your life as worthless.” Laws said.
“Save the pop psychology. You aren't going to change my mind about killing myself.” Karl turned his head away.
“I'm not asking you to rethink your life. What I want you to do is rethink your death. Life is worth living, especially for people who want to live. I noticed that you didn't have your organ donor card on you when you attempted suicide. You may not want to live, but other people do. You are going to die now, whether you want to or not. Even if you decided to live, there is very little chance, outside a miracle, that you will. It may be a few days or a month, but you will die. All I'm asking for right now, is for you to sign a piece of paper that won't even matter to you after you die.”
“Forget it. I'm against organ donation. If I can't have a wonderful life, why should anyone else? I had dreams and they didn't come true. My life is miserable, so everyone elses life can be miserable. At least then it will be fair.” Karl started to pull at his IV but Laws stopped him with a forceful hand that belied his gentle demeanor.
“You never tried to accomplish your dreams, and in an act of selfishness, you've ended your life. There are many other people out there who have dreams and won't even have the chance to try to achieve them. Like Ellie Corngold here.” Laws pulled a remote from his pocket and pushed play.
A short clip played, a series of moments and events, starting from baby videos to clips of an active teenage girl playing softball, stills of prom. Thick brown hair, athletic, healthy. Then the photo's changed and she began to look haunted and pale. Then came a series of hospital photos, montages of hospital gowns and various staff members, and through it all she remained dignified and happy.
“Multi organ failure. Specifically a splanchnic hypoperfusion and the subsequent mucosal ischaemia that caused structural changes and alterations in cellular function. Her liver, kidneys, and major organs are affected from what I believe started from an internal injury she obtained while running. She tripped while running and landed on an exposed root. Punctured her abdomen, got a bit of blood poisoning. What matters is that Ellie here wants to live, and is running out of options. You are going to die, without any options.” Laws narrated over the images. Finally it ended, and he turned off the television.
“Just check off the 'heartless' section of my donor card, okay. Tough luck for her and all. She won't get what she wants out of life, and neither did I. I was always told that I would grow up to be an amazing actor. Failed every audition I had, worked a crap job I hated, and could barely get a date.”
“My, my, you are a whiner, aren't you? You went to two auditions. You had a simple desk job that you barely worked at because you thought it was beneath you to put in all your effort. You could have done quiet well by most standards, but you were too busy thinking about all the things you thought you deserved but didn't want to work for. As for the women, that was all your own self loathing that drove them away. You hated how you never tried and thought no one could love you because you didn't have the superficial things that proved you were better.” Laws clucked his tongue.
“You sure know an aweful lot about me. Kind of convenient.” Karl muttered. He was tired of this whole conversation. He laid there, trying not to think, his eyes closed and trying to appear asleep. After a time Laws left. He turned out the lights as he did so.
In the twilight darkness of the hospital room Karl was left with a pallete of gray and his memories. He was a coward, through and through. Any time he had gotten any kind of opportunity he ran from it. Terrified of failure, but so full of his own worth that he had to rationalize and trump up every excuse. A friend set him up for an audition with a stage director and what did he do? He pretended like it was all about the art, and how the other people were just so arrogant that he didn't want to be a part of that. He aggrandized himself so that he was always better than his failure. Everything he had been was an outright lie, mostly to himself. And when his lies were found out or couldn't be backed, he tried to escape, through suicide.
The nagging thought of Ellie's life pestered him. Coerced him. He knew what was happening. What little guilt he had was mixing with his inflated ego and making a story. In his mind the story was about how noble he had been in death, first at how he had found how pointless life was and bravely tried to spit in Death's face. Then, how he still had the humanity to try to help others. How very god-like was his whole demeanor.
Such garbage. He had screwed up his whole life, and now even his death was taken from him.
Maybe life didn't suck. But his did.
Ellie woke up dizzy. Dr. Laws stood above her, smiling beneficently.
“Merry Christmas, Ellie. I have a wonderful gift for you.” He said. Leaning over he placed a small box on her stomach. She looked down at it, puzzled.
“This had better be good.” She said as she opened the box. Inside was a large, lumpy black thing that had little textured reflections on it. “What is it?”
“Earlier I had to give a man a solution of charcoal in order to counteract his suicide attempt. I've been told that this coal is slightly more tasty.” We winked, a twinkle in his eye. Ellie gave him a look that said get out of here! He just nodded at her.
The lump was cool to the touch. With total trust Ellie put the coal to her mouth and made a tentative lick.
“It's vanilla sugar!” She cried out.
“It sure is. I told you if the transplant ever came in and the surgery was a success I would give you something to be grateful for. Merry Christmas.”
Here ends my abbreviated 12 Nights of Christmas Short Story gift. The majority of these stories were written the same day I posted, and I hope to produce an expanded version of each of them.
I worried about writing all of these stories. Short stories are not something I am used to, and there is a certain finesse to the short story. It's the ability to create a character, a world they live in, and an adventure all in a small format that a bloated novel doesn't allow.
The only thing I ask in return for this stories is comments, criticisms, and suggestions (even a few derisive remarks will be fine). It was my goal to entertain and inspire a yuletide feeling. Only you know if that was successful.
Merry Christmas, everyone!