The Old Man Who Did Not Die, But Lost Life’s Breath

It’s strange how you wake up one day feeling like you are dead. Not like cancer dead, struck-by-a-falling-ice-cream-truck dead, got-syphilis-and-didn’t-get-tested-till-it-traveled-too-far-up-your-balls-dead, but the kind of dead that makes you wish all these things would happen. You open your eyes, cursing the angel who watched over you in your sleep, protecting you from death for which you long to stroke. It sneaks up on you like a perched sniper, never realizing your true fate until the bullet of reality slides past your brain and nestles close to your hippocampus. When did I become so terminal? I count the speckles of asbestos on the ceiling as I lazily jerk my dick around like a pool noodle. 58…59…60…68…75. Damn. Got distracted by my erectile dysfunction.

Silence. Deafening my ears like an out of tune tuba, my ear canal pounds as my morning alarm drums Caribbean bongo music, reminding me that today was another day I woke up, and had to breathe this disease-ridden air, drink this diarrhea-laced water, walk down the same street composted of burned plastic. At least I don’t have erectile dysfu…fuck. Swatting my phone from its wooden throne causes a crash of La Croix Passionfruit cans to cascade onto my John Dunne books of poetry like an ungodly tsunami, ripping apart the pages like innocent villages, and staining the gilded spin with perfect inconsistency. I hope to lose my breath when I exhale, but I quickly regain the strength to smother my toes into the shaggy, bloody carpet. The red silk sheets that encase me like a pool of rubies disguise the red silk robe that cloaks my shoulders like melting flames. My bones creak and crack as my wrist, my elbow, my bicep, and my shoulder slither down the silky sleeve, and through the other side. I stare at the stranger looking back at me in the mirror. His once coal-colored hair was now bleached white. His once porcelain skin was now shriveled like a date left to dry and wrinkle in the summer sun. His teeth whiter than a deflowered bride’s wedding dress, now hung black and decayed, like a carcass hidden within a cave. He smiles back at me, with his emerald eyes turning yellow. I blink. I didn’t recognize this man, but I think I was never him.

Beezle and Buble, my pet snakes, snarl against their glass wall, frothing at the thought of looming food. Sometimes, they keep me company. Other times, I wish they would just eat each other. I sneak through the kitchen, trying not to wake the demons hidden underneath the floor boards. The baseboard had iced over in the night, despite the scorching fires that kept the house feeling alive; it must have finally snowed. I grab the Coco Puffs perched on top of the fridge. I pour the milk as the white dribbles down the side of the lip onto the tablecloth. I clink spoon to the bowl, drowning it in metallic milk.

I had a pretty shitty life, filled with failed online dating, overpriced mortgage, and democrat social justice sluts wanting “equal pay”, with a pretty below average apartment perched next to a bunch of loud Mexicans that played their maraschino music too late on a Tuesday night, and a job, where my only solace (used to be) jerking off in the bathroom on my lunch break. Like most, I was living the American Dream. At my job, I was a slut to the insurance agency, penetrating people with the astronomical prices for car insurance, and getting wrecked by my boss with underpaid labor and non-paid overtime. Until they fired me. I guess hacking into the system and stealing people’s identities was worse than our company stealing our customer’s money. Why should they think they are better than me? They sit in their cozy cubicles, barricaded in by expired calendars with pictures of places they will never dream of seeing, and photos of a family straight from the Old navy catalog, and they contort their faces in a convex shape, mocking me. They wave their perfect lives in my face, knowing I am nothing, that I possess nothing but resentment in this world. Once in a while, I may wave back, joke about how the Yankees’ gloves must be saturated in butter since the ball keeps slipping off their fingers, or how the boss is making them work two days before Christmas because he has to drive up to Albany in the WWIII Christmas Eve traffic to see the in-laws, and I tilt my head back and chuckle, wondering why I don’t just drop dead of a heart attack. How could these people be so god damn ignorant, treating everything they have like commercials, or telemarketers, or going to the DMV to renew your driver’s license: inconvenient. My boss, especially, sits in his leather recliner, like a pink tumor growing on the back of the brain of an oncologist, twirling pens and rubber band balls with the same sausage fingers. Today is my last day to live. I will not let Mother Nature take me out. I will piss on the earth he has created and mock the heavenly dystopia he tried to protect. I will smit the people who stood against me and laugh at them when I smile down upon them. I will send all them to Judgement Day. I will seek my revenge.

The first order of business on my joyous day of death will be to start with the same well-rounded breakfast that I have every morning: 1 bowl of Coco Puffs, half a passionfruit, two extra crispy Chips Ahoy cookies, a PBR, and a glass of orange juice to wash it all down. Next, I will probably drown my snakes, watching their lifeless bodies float to the top of the bath tub like pool noodles, and dumping them outside with last night’s leftover crusty lasagna and boxed wine. Next, with my best black satin suit on, mink coat, and red tie noosed around my neck, I will go the coffee shop two blocks away from my office building, as my feet snap under the newly laid snow.  “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” booms over the radio loud enough for the fat guy in the North Pole to hear. I will stroll in and proceed to cut in front of everyone in line, and order the most complicated coffee I can dream up: a non-fat, non-GMO, low-carb, organic, free trade, non-cruelty, cage-free, vegan, Peruvian- Brazilian blend with a hint of sugar cookie mocha coffee blend with 7 ice cubes, 1 shot of sugar free vanilla syrup, 2.5 squirts of chocolate milk, 4 shots of espresso, light almond milk, and a rose petal resting on a tree trunk design carved out of cream and sugar.

After ruining everyone’s day in the coffee shop, I’ll stroll into my office, and throw my over-priced coffee in the trash. The office feels suffocated by red and green streamers splattered on the wall, as a Christmas tree with our company propaganda clothes its branches. I will greet it hello. Once I wave good morning to everyone in the office, I shall knock on my boss’s office door. He will seem surprised to see me, since I had just been fired. I’ll tell him I wanted to pick up my final check before the holidays.mHe will joke about the snow storm, how hard it is to find the “correct” present for the ladies in our lives. I shall expel a chuckle. As I do so, I will pull out my Walther PPQ 9ml handgun, and proceed to shoot him in the face, until there is nothing left but a shadow of his smile, as the Frosty the Snowman on his tie turns burgundy and expands like a sponge. I will walk out and shut the door quietly, as I pace around the cubicles of coworkers I have known for 20 years ,coworkers who I helped baptize their daughters, and finger banged their wives, and I will gaze at the pictures of their happy fake family Christmas cards, and I will shoot these men in the heart, because they don’t deserve to feel happiness, watching their organs pump their final beat onto the starry carpet, and I will gaze as the people race up ,and down up ,and down up ,and down the hallway ,trying to get free, but the doors are locked ,and they have no way to escape, and I will inch closer to three women trapped in a conference room, and as they beg for their lives and pray to a god who has walked out on them, just like their husbands, and I will shoot them in the back of the head like the prisoner I feel like every day when I walked into this building, and I will turn the corner and enter the stairwell, finding those who thought they could escape my wrath saying their last words in secret, and I will blow every last fucking person away because it’s my day, it’s my death day and I will do whatever I want with it, and I will burn fear into every last man and women as my eyes turn into daggers, and stab everyone to death before I have the chance to shoot my prized shot, and as I stand erect and strong for the first time in 9 years, I will see the man with the yellow eyes staring back at me in the reflection of my glass cabinet, and with my last bullet, I will place my gun to the sweet spot under my chin, and I will smear my brain, and tongue, and muscle, and tonsils across the cubicle that kept me hidden for 20 years and 45 days.

My cereal lays soggy and dismembered in the sea of milk. I snap into an insidious, devilish smile, a pain I haven’t felt in my face in at least 15 years. I finally feel that happiness baptize me and the feeling of dying makes me feel alive again. I chomp another bite of cereal, excited for my day ahead.

What. What the is happening? The air seems to have escaped me. I try to retch but the foreign tumor will not slide two inches down my throat. It wants to stay there to live there. Blue face. Blue balls. I knew. He feels real, and this is god seeking his vengeance upon thee.

.

At 4:43 pm, a young woman runs into Mount Sinai Regional Hospital. Her hair appears matted like a fur ball, as if she had just run out of the shower 5 minutes earlier. She was plain, yet strikingly beautiful, as if she had been painted onto creamy silk. Her pupils popped with adrenaline, engulfing her green eyes into black holes. She scrambled till she found the head doctor on call: an older man with glasses thicker than coke bottles, an aging scar on his left cheek, and a nose like a parrot (it’s New York, so he is definitely Jewish).

She shouted, “Is he okay, doctor?”

He stammered, “Who are you looking for ma’am?”

“Dante Charon, I am his daughter.”

“Oh, I am sorry, Ms…?”

“Beatrice…Beatrice Charon.”

“Yes, I don’t know where to begin really…how much do you know?”

“Nothing, I got a call from the police department telling me come here. Apparently, he choked,   and the neighbor above him heard some commotion. I was told that they couldn’t tell me

the rest over the phone…”

“Well, Beatrice. Your father did indeed choke on at approximately 8:55 this morning. EMT and the local fire department were called to the scene when the upstairs neighbor called 911,  after there was a supposed crash, and your father didn’t respond to the neighbor knocking. The fire department broke down the door, and found your father, lying in a pool of vomit. His fall caused him to get a mild concussion, but no bleeding of the brain  was detected in the CT scan.”

“That’s fortunate. When will he be able to go home?”

“Well that’s what we have to talk about. One of your father’s snakes escaped the cage and            spooked some of the guys. They chased it back into your father’s room, where it led them to discover something very disturbing about your father. Firstly, he had been hoarding hundreds of snake skins in his closet, hanging them like wet leaves. When EMT further looked into the closet, they found a couple handguns, which didn’t seem abnormal, but also 1000 rounds of ammo, a silencer, 4 extended magazines, and dozens of counterfeit social security cards. They alerted the police so they could further the investigation.”

“And?”

“And it was chilling. They found a journal, documenting a plan to go into his work place, and      commit a mass shooting. He had been planning this for quite some time. It included details on how he was going to kill them, what he was going to do with the bodies, what he would do to himself afterward. He started writing  in third person, as if he was having some internal battle against himself. All the mirrors  were scratched away at about eye level. It…it’s haunting. Your father is very ill. He will stand in front of the two way mirror we have in the room and smile so big that it hurts your face watching; you can see his eyes glimmer with something deep within,             something dark. Based off the information we have gathered from just observing him and             the police profile, it is unlikely that he will be released from the psychiatric hospital…at least alive.”

“Can I see him?”

“Are you sure? I can’t tell you what you will see or what will happen. He…he is unstable right    now.”

“I need to see him.”

The doctor unlocks the bolt on the door and creaks it open, enough to see the white walls glimmer brightly under the florescent bulb. It was probably the brightest room she had ever been in, to the point where you would need sunglasses if you stayed in there for more than 30 minutes. The perfectly tucked white sheets were nestled into the light grey metal bed frame snugged close to the corner. There was no other furniture. Her father, his back turned against the door, was staring into the two-way mirror. “Dad,” Beatrice whispers. Dante doesn’t turn around but starts to laugh. He laughs uncontrollably as if his reflection seemed comical. His high pitch laugh was coming from somewhere abnormal, as if he was singing to someone else’s voice. He stopped abruptly and began to turn his head. He had a black eye the size of a lump of coal, and 3 stiches above his eye brow. His eyes glowed, though, a brighter green, as if a light was switched on deep within his head that had illuminated his face. “Angel,” he said, as his smile was beginning to crack his face. “I’d like you to meet Dante.”

PHOTOGRAPH BY RACHEL KISER

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