Content warnings: Direct discussions of death and suicide, including an in-depth description of a suicide attempt. Potential self-harm triggers. References to car accidents, gun violence, and marijuana. Reader discretion is advised. If you feel upset at any point in reading this, please stop reading this story. If you feel suicidal or are in crisis, there are people out there who want to help. Please click here for a list of suicide hotlines around the world.
Class is boring.
You sit in the back of the classroom, idly twirling your pencil between your fingers as your teacher drones on and on about “symbolism” and “imagery” and whatever else English teachers care about. Behind her is a projector screen, displaying a slideshow presentation with bullet points slightly too small to be intelligible. The girl to your right is hunched over her notebook, writing with a black gel pen with a serious expression on her face. You look at her notebook. She’s actually taking notes. To your left is the window, and you look away from your classmate to peer outside. It’s a beautiful day. The sky is blue, and there isn’t a single cloud in the sky. You’re on the third floor, so you can clearly see the school courtyard. It’s mostly empty, save for a group of four students sitting on a bench together. You squint at their faces. They look like they’re laughing, and for a second, you wish you were out there, sitting in the fresh air, feeling the gentle spring breeze against your face, instead of here in this miserable—
“—are you here with us?”
You snap your head forward. Your teacher is standing in front of your desk, staring down at you. You stare back blankly at her.
“You were absent for two weeks from class, and this is how you’re behaving? How are you going to catch up with the lesson material if you’re not paying attention?” She taps her finger on your empty desk. “You don’t even have a notebook out!”
The entire class is staring at you. You can see, out of the corner of your eye, two boys on the other side of the classroom whispering to each other. You continue staring at your teacher, who sighs loudly.
“I understand that you were sick, and that your parents met with the school to excuse your absences, but you still need to put in the extra effort to catch up,” she says. “Try to ask one of your classmates if they can give you the notes for the past two weeks.” She turns around, and walks back to the front of the classroom, her shoes clacking against the linoleum floor. “Anyways, back to my point before I was interrupted…”
The girl next to you leans over to you. “I can lend you my notes later if you want,” she whispers.
As much as it feels like this girl is offering because she’s a teacher’s pet, or because she’s looking down upon your lack of academic prowess, you’ve seen her at lunchtime, and she’s as courteous in the cafeteria as she is in the back of this classroom. Still, you take a couple of deep breaths before turning to her with the most genuine smile you can muster. “Sure, thanks. I appreciate it.”
She smiles at you, before turning to face the teacher again. You breathe a sigh of relief. She didn’t notice how badly you wanted to snap at her. You reach down into your backpack and rummage around for a second before pulling out a blue notebook with “math” written on it in black permanent marker. You open it. The first page has a few equations scribbled on it. You turn to the next page. It has the date “December 3rd” written in the top right corner in pencil, and nothing else. You flip your pencil and do your best to erase the date, but it smudges until the small writing has turned into a large, ugly gray blob. You give up and write today’s date on the top left corner, before looking toward the front of the class to see if you can at least follow what your teacher is saying.
“...the ticking clock, and the raven flying outside of the window are all good examples of the author’s use of symbolism to foreshadow his death. I know it may be hard to imagine a world without our timers, but the use of symbolism indicates to the reader that he is about to die, without a single timer reaching zero.” She taps her cashmere wrist cuff for emphasis. “The belief that timers are a countdown to one’s death is unproven, although many believe in its significance. In addition, timers are still an extremely overdone cliché. I’m sure you all have seen it in at least one movie.”
You try not to wince as the rest of the class nods. The last thing you want to do is to discuss timers in class. You’re tempted to leave. But you know that everyone—your parents, your teachers, your therapist—is doing their best to make sure that you graduate high school. You should at least try not to fail your senior year English class.
“For the last ten minutes of class, I want us to connect today’s lesson to yourself. In pairs, I want you to discuss death in your own lives.”
Your teacher taps the spacebar of her keyboard and the slide changes. Unlike the previous slide, which was unreadable from the back of the classroom, this slide has one question typed out in large bolded letters.
“What factors do you think will play into your own death? If you believe that your timer predicts when you will die, what do you think will cause your death? If not, when do you think you will die?” your teacher reads out loud.
You lied. Almost everyone is doing their best to make sure you graduate. Your English teacher, on the other hand, is doing her best to make her class as unbearable as possible. You itch to rub your black elastic wrist cuff, but you restrain yourself. You don’t want the cuff to accidentally fall off.
You hear your name being called in a soft voice. You turn right and face the girl next to you. The rest of the class is filled with quiet chatter, presumably discussing your teacher’s question. As she starts sharing her thoughts on your teacher’s question, you try your best to remember her name. Your memory is only drawing up blanks, however, and it’s hard to think clearly over the buzz of the classroom.
“—so I probably still have a long life ahead of me. What do you think?” she says. You internally jolt as you realize that you did not process a single word from her mouth. You open your mouth, hoping that you can come up with something intelligible to say, but no words come out. She must find you ridiculous, your mouth gaping slightly open like a fish and your eyes staring blankly into hers.
“I don’t know.” You have to carefully control your face to avoid grimacing over your blunt response. It’s too close to your true thoughts on the question for your comfort. You hold your breath and hope she doesn’t notice the way your right hand tightly grips your wrist cuff.
She puts on a polite smile, the corners of her mouth turning upwards without revealing even the slightest hint of her teeth. “That’s understandable. Thinking about our deaths is a bit… personal, isn’t it?”
‘Personal’ is the understatement of the century. “It’s super intrusive, and also really fucking morbid. Why the hell are we discussing this in a high school English class?”
“Well,” she pauses, putting her right pointer finger against her chin, which shows off the colorful knitted wrist cuff she’s wearing. “I don’t know. It’s an interesting question to think about, even if it is a bit much to talk about for a five-minute discussion."
“Well, no shit, Sherlock. It’s such a sensitive topic—” You’re getting too close to the truth. You need to get in control of yourself. Your therapist always tells you to take a deep breath whenever you feel overwhelmed, so you pause your sentence and let fresh oxygen fill your lungs before trying the sentence again. “It’s such a sensitive topic, and there’s so much nuance that it’d be impossible to discuss in such a short amount of time. Not to mention that it’s barely related to the book itself. Why is she fixating so much on the death motifs, when the entire story is about the importance of treasuring the time you have left in your life?”
Your classmate’s eyes widen. “You actually read the book?”
You snort. “Of course I did, this is one of my favorite novels.” Then you remember your behavior in class and the impression she must have of you. You let out a small laugh, forcing your lungs to exhale in short bursts. “Just because I don’t like English class doesn’t mean that I don’t like reading.”
She laughs in response, her eyes crinkling into a genuine smile. “That makes sense. Between you and me, I don’t think our teacher is doing a great job with teaching this book either. She completely misinterpreted the symbolism in the story, such as the bird imagery in the death scene. The raven is accompanied by a white dove, which she skipped over entirely, and since the dove is supposed to be a symbol of new beginnings, it’s supposed to represent how his death was peaceful and a fitting end for a life well-lived. Not to mention—”
“Okay, everyone quiet down,” your teacher says loudly, and your classmate immediately turns forwards, pen once again in her hand. You feel like snapping again, but this time at your teacher for interrupting your classmate. Although you doubt that she understands the themes of the novel any better than your teacher does, she was a lot more accurate with her analysis than your teacher was. Would she have listened to you? You imagine yourself explaining your thoughts on the book. You then remember her polite smile and her pointer finger against her chin, the way she casually showed off her colorful wrist cuff that she probably knitted herself. She would not have understood. What regular high schooler would? In fact, what regular person would? Who could ever understand you? For a split second, you try to dig your fingers into your wrist. Instead of sharp pain, you feel the muted pressure of your fingertips digging into the fabric of the elastic wrist cuff. The cuff absolutely cannot break now. You release your wrist and dig your nails into your palm instead, not hard enough to draw blood, but enough to distract you from the ache in your chest.
“—what did you discuss?” Your teacher is staring straight at you. The rest of the class is looking at you. The girl next to you is looking at you, and unlike the rest of the class, her eyes are filled with something almost similar to sympathy. It occurs to you that you’re vibrating. Your hands are firmly hidden under your desk, but your blood runs cold and the room swims around you. They’re all waiting for an answer you don’t have.
You open your mouth to say something, anything, and the ear-splitting sound of a bell rings at that exact moment. The rest of your classmates scramble for their bags. “Saved by the bell,” says your teacher. “I’ll make sure to call on you first, next class.” You fail to shove your notebook into your backpack for a few seconds before the pages crumple in a loud crunch and it stays inside. You pick up your bag and sling it over your shoulder in one fluid motion. “Remember that you have a paragraph due tomorrow,” she says, as you rush to the classroom's back door, ignoring your classmate turning towards you to say who-knows-what. You swing open the door and stumble out of the classroom, bumping into another student in the already crowded hallway.
You know you have another class afterward, but you still find yourself in the school bathroom. In the haze of smoke and the overwhelming smell of weed, you can see a group of teenagers huddled in the back of the bathroom, but you ignore them as you stumble into the first stall and lock the door. You’re shaking violently now, and in the privacy of the bathroom, you don’t bother trying to hide it.
In, out. In, out. You gently trace the outline of your fingers, ignoring the angry red marks covering your palm. Your breathing slows. You are in the bathroom stall. There’s wet toilet paper stuck to the ground, droplets of piss on the toilet seat, a broken toilet paper holder, a graphite dick doodled on the stall door, and bright ceiling lights above you. You can feel the pressure of your fingers gently brushing your hand, the rough texture of your jeans rubbing against your legs, and the soft elastic fabric resting against your wrist. You briefly stop tracing your fingers to pinch your elbow, and count the dull pain as a fourth thing that you feel. Outside, you can hear the group of teenagers loudly complaining about some party they went to over the weekend, the buzz of the ceiling lights, and the quieter sound of toilet water gurgling. The scent of weed is overpowering, but you can still faintly detect the piss smell all school bathrooms seem to have despite it. You need to leave before you accidentally get high from the secondhand smoke.
But before you leave, you need to check. You stick out your leg and use your foot to push and pull at the door. It stays locked. You still hesitate, though, before pulling up your wrist cuff slightly—not enough to take it off, but enough to see the numbers printed on your wrist.
00:00:07:43:36. Seven hours, forty-three minutes, and thirty-six seconds. Seven hours, forty-three minutes, and thirty-six seconds left of your life. Seven hours, forty-three minutes, and thirty-six seconds until you die.
You pull down your wrist cuff, concealing the timer that knows you better than you know yourself, spin around, and kick the large button against the bathroom wall. The toilet loudly flushes behind you as you open the door, wash your hands, and leave the bathroom.
You’re still thinking about your teacher’s question on your walk home from school.
Earlier that day, you had left your earbuds at home in your rush to get to school on time, so you have no music to accompany your thoughts as you briskly walk down the sidewalk. Around you are the sounds of students talking and laughing. Even three blocks away from your school, the people out and about are mostly high schoolers, although every now and then you pass by an adult walking in the opposite direction from the waves of students on their way home. It’s a nice day outside—the right temperature to take a nice stroll outside, sunny, with a gentle breeze preventing it from being too hot—but the dull ache in your chest makes it hard to even breathe.
When do you think you will die? Even though the link between death and the timers is unproven, you know what the timers count down to. You know for sure that you are going to die tonight, in roughly five hours from now, just as surely as you can see the blue sky, hear the sounds of passing cars, and smell the faint scent of cigarette smoke that permeates the city.
What factors will play into your death? You’re tempted to laugh out loud, but you know that there are too many people out and about who would give you strange looks for you to do so openly. You think about your teacher’s stern expression as she taps your finger on your desk, the cheerful way she asked you how you will die. You think about the dull ache in your chest, and the sinking feeling burning in the periphery of your mind. You remember the way your classmate smiled at you—not the real smile, but the polite one she gave when you exposed your true self for the briefest of moments. You think back even further, to the two weeks that you were absent. Vivid memories of being curled in a ball on your bed, too exhausted to even sleep, body aching and tongue as dry as the Sahara, fill your mind. You were so sick that your parents forgave your behavior and your teachers excused your prolonged absence from school. Even so, all you could do is stare at your timer for hours on end, watching as the seconds slowly trickled down. And although you’ve regained some of the energy you once had, all you can think about is your timer. Why are you even bothering with this façade of normalcy in the face of your certain mortality?
More importantly, how will you die?
You slow to a stop at a red light. It’s a busy intersection, with five lanes of traffic speeding by at speeds barely below the speed limit. As you watch the cars pass by in blurs, you’re tempted to continue walking forward, until inevitably one of them hit you and you turn into a flattened mess of blood and guts on the black concrete. You quickly dismiss the thought. You have about five hours left on your timer, and although you’ll be in pain no matter what, you’d at least like for your parents to have a pretty corpse to bury. The driver who hits you would be permanently traumatized. There would likely be a messy legal battle over whether the driver should be convicted of manslaughter, reckless driving, or if they had no responsibility for the cruel hand that the Fates had dealt you. Not to mention that the driver could always slow down before actually hitting you. And it would be an awkward conversation, having to lie through your teeth to avoid getting thrown into the psychiatric hospital for trying to die on your own terms instead of your timer’s. You want to avoid involuntary hospitalization at all costs.
The cars at the intersection slow to a stop, and your light turns to the walk signal. Still, you look both ways before crossing the street. You never know who’s not paying attention.
The thought of death doesn’t leave you, however. Your mind lazily begins to suggest different ways that you could end up dying. What if your carbon monoxide detector broke, and you died from carbon monoxide poisoning? What if you drank a glass of bleach instead of water? What if you were shot by a gun? What if you cut yourself when preparing dinner? What if you fell into the river at the nearby park and drowned? What if you electrocuted yourself with a hair dryer?
You quickly eliminate each of these causes just as quickly as you think of them. The carbon monoxide detectors in your apartment building got their yearly check last month and would go off if they were damaged since then. Your parents don’t keep bleach in the apartment because your family washes their clothes in the laundry room in your building’s basement. Gun violence is impossible to predict, but statistically speaking, your odds of dying from gun violence are less likely because your family does not own any firearms. You would have to stab yourself in a fatal place in order to die from a knife, and even then, it would take some time for you to bleed out. The nearby river at the park is shallow and you can swim. Nobody in your family uses a hair dryer, and you towel your hair and let it air dry after you shower. The only way you could electrocute yourself with a hair dryer would be if you went out of your way to buy one.
You’re approaching the base of your apartment building when it occurs to you. It’s ten stories tall and made of faded red brick—neither the tallest nor the newest building, but not the shortest nor the oldest building, either. You slow down and crane your neck to look at the top of the building. Ten stories is still pretty high up. Ten stories is still a long way to fall. And now that the thought has crossed your mind, you can’t ignore it.
What if you fell from the roof of your apartment building?
“How was school?” your mother asks.
You finish swallowing the food in your mouth before answering. “Alright.”
Your mother looks at you with a raised eyebrow but doesn’t push it. You’re grateful. She hasn’t always known when to pry, and when to let things go, but she’s become less forceful over the past few weeks.
Dinner is Chinese takeout from the restaurant two blocks away from your apartment. It’s good for the price you’re paying, meaning that it’s not very tasty. But it’s edible enough, and there’s something comforting about the greasy mushroom lo mein noodles that makes it one of your favorite foods. You’d be okay, you think, if this was the last thing that you ever ate before you died.
You wish your father was here, to enjoy this meal with you and your mother, but he’s working late tonight and won’t be back until after eight. Given how volatile traffic can be, your timer will run out first. You’re not sure how you feel about that, but when you think about it too hard, the ache in your chest grows bigger, so you try focusing on something else instead.
“How’s…” Your mother struggles to find the correct words before she gives up in favor of tapping her elastic wrist cuff.
You shrug. “Alright.”
Your mother smiles with watery eyes before she walks over and hugs you tightly. “Oh, honey… I’m so glad that it miraculously changed at the last second. Our prayers have been answered. The Fates have been merciful. We should thank the Gods.”
You sink into her embrace, the knowledge inside you burning into your chest like the numbers branded into your wrist. She could never understand the truth. She could never accept the truth. The merciful Fates she always spoke of, the Gods she wanted to thank… you wondered if they were sitting there, in their high thrones above the moral realm, watching and laughing. If the Gods and Fates were real, they hadn’t done a single thing to your timer. And anyhow, they probably had better, more important things to do than play around with a single human life.
She lets go of you and inspects your plate. “Good. You’re eating more than you were a week ago. You need to get your strength back. I know your timer says you’ll be alive, but I also want you in good health too, alright?”
You don’t trust your voice not to betray you, so you just nod. Luckily, your mother seems too absorbed with hiding her own tears to notice.
“I’m going to go buy some fresh fruit to eat,” she says. “Peaches are starting to go in season, so I’ll buy some of those. I’ll be back in an hour, okay? Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay,” you say, turning back to your plate. Your mother walks out of the apartment, leaving you behind.
You peek under the wrist cuff. 00:00:02:49:52. Two hours, forty-nine minutes, and fifty-two seconds left. There’s not much time left. There’s too much time left.
You let the elastic snap back into place and twirl another long noodle between your chopsticks.
In a last-ditch attempt at normalcy, you decide to do your homework.
You look at your list of incomplete homework assignments and have to resist the urge to bash your head into your desk. You know you missed two weeks of school, but this is at least a month’s worth of worksheets, problem sets, and paragraphs you need to complete, not to mention all of the make-up quizzes and tests you need to study for. On top of that, you have a make-up project that you need to do because you missed out on the group project you were supposed to do.
You don’t need to worry about homework when you’re dead.
But no, you’re supposed to graduate your senior year of high school. Which is only two months away. Once you’re out of high school, you can go find an easy job in retail or something similar, and never have to worry about schoolwork ever again.
And then you can work eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, at a deadbeat minimum wage job, until you keel over from overwork and die.
You lift your wrist cuff to check your timer. 00:00:01:54:57. You watch your timer for a few seconds, as the seconds tick down. It’s like watching honey drip to the bottom of a bottle, the way that time seems to slow down as you wait for it to pass.
You should start your homework.
Your English teacher has assigned a paragraph for tomorrow’s class, and while you dislike your teacher, it should be an easy assignment. Not only have you already read the book, but you actually remember the book because you enjoyed it so much. Your teacher’s interpretations of the book are horrific, and you know you’ll probably get docked points because of your poor writing skills or differing interpretation, but partial credit is better than no credit at all. You won’t even get any late points docked for it, since the paragraph is due tomorrow at the beginning of class.
Resolved, you open your laptop, before remembering that your teacher refuses to let anyone in her class type their homework assignments because she enjoys watching her students suffer. There’s no difference between typing and handwriting a homework assignment in this day and age, except that your teacher is one of those people who believe that technology is the root of all evil. She probably also wants an excuse to dock points from students for having poor handwriting. You can’t have both legibility and handwritten work, but somehow she thinks that your messy paragraphs are because of lack of trying, not because you have poor fine motor control. To be fair to her, it’s not as if you’re trying particularly hard. What’s the point of attempting such a useless exercise in futility?
Then again, the fact that you’re even attempting this paragraph, with less than two hours left in your timer, shows how far you’re willing to go in the face of the futile.
So you fish out a piece of fresh looseleaf from a drawer, pick up the one mechanical pencil that you own, and write down your name and the date.
It only then occurs to you that you don’t remember what you’re supposed to be writing about. You know that these paragraphs are supposed to be reflective of the work you’re doing in class, as well as the book you’re reading, but you were barely paying attention today. Sure, you were listening to the last ten minutes of class, but there were a whole forty minutes of book discussion that you tuned out before that. You hope she’s at least had the decency to upload the prompt online.
You open your laptop again and type in the name of her webpage. Luckily, the assignment is listed as “Preclass Reflection #102.” The fact that she assigns a paragraph before every class is still absolutely mindblowing to you. The fact that you’ve missed over a third of them is even more astounding. You click on the assignment link and scroll down to the assignment description.
“What factors do you think will play into your own death? If you believe that your timer predicts when you will die, what do you think will cause your death? If not, when do you think you will die?”
Literally, what is this teacher’s deal? What is her problem with you? Why the hell does she care?
You pick up your pencil, and angrily scribble onto your looseleaf paper:
One of the factors that will play into my death is how stupid your class is and how annoying you are as a teacher. You constantly get on my ass about my missing homework even though you KNOW for a fact that I was out the past two weeks. You don’t even know why. I could’ve gotten hit by a car or some shit, and been out for a month, did you think about that? Do you think about anything outside of yourself? Not to mention how awful you are to me all the time. I wasn’t paying attention in class today, but that’s because it’s very hard to focus after everything that’s happened over the past month. And that’s without all the bullshit late work you’ve assigned me over the two weeks I missed. I was participating and doing work for the first month when I was still trying to graduate senior year, but no, you don’t give a fuck because I actually had opinions about the books that we were reading instead of just blindly listening to whatever you said.
But what will cause my death will be your ridiculous writing prompt. What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you making high school students think about this sort of thing? Have you considered why it’s taboo to talk about death and the timers? Hey, wouldn’t it be crazy if one of your students has a timer that’s gonna run out soon? It’s not your place to assume that everyone’s timers are gonna last for a long time. Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we can’t die young. Sure, there’s a handful of people who die before their timers run out, but there’s never been a single person who has lived to see their timer hit zero. With that in mind, can you, in good conscience, force a bunch of high schoolers to think about if their timers mean that they’re going to die? Can you force a bunch of high schoolers to think about how they’re going to die?
So I’m sure you’re wondering, then, when my timer is going to run out. Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve just checked, and it reads 00:00:01:19:31. So I have one hour, nineteen minutes, and thirty-one seconds before I’m out of time. You probably wondered why I wasn’t in school, right? That nosy busybody attitude of yours must have been so furious when my parents refused to elaborate for you. Well, now you know. I’m supposed to die an hour from now, and after two weeks curled up in bed, crying my eyes out over it, I decided to try school again, one last time. Not as if you give a fuck about anyone that isn’t guaranteed to go to a four-year college and graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
But here’s the kicker, since this isn’t enough for you. I lied about my cause of death. Sure, your writing prompt is the trigger, and you’re definitely one of the factors. But you don’t get to be special like that. Did you think you were really that important to my life, to be the sole reason why I finally gained the balls to kill myself for good?
That’s right. This is just one of the many small pieces of shit in my small, insignificant, shitty life, that is making me want to fucking end it all. I was lying in bed for two weeks straight, crying my eyes out, not because I was freaking out over my timer running out, but because my depressed and suicidal ass couldn’t gain the courage to actually do anything permanent to myself before my timer ran out. Your stupid questions get to be the cherry on top, sure, but this was a long time coming. The Gods themselves preordained this before I was even born.
On that note, I have better things to do with the last hour of my life than writing this stupid paragraph that I’m never gonna submit anyways, so I’m just gonna go fuck off and kill myself lol
You crumple the looseleaf paper into a paper ball and throw it against a wall. You expect it to be cathartic, but all you feel is hollow.
Killing yourself is a lot of work, but that’s what preparation is for.
You’ve already set up your phone and laptop to wipe themselves an hour after your timer runs out, before anyone should think to investigate your electronic devices. Your room is a mess, with papers strewn across your desk and dirty laundry covering your floor, but you can’t find it in yourself to deal with cleaning it up. You’ve already written out a note and will, but you still need to schedule the email with it attached to send out to the people in your life.
Who deserves to see your suicide note?
The question gives you pause for a few seconds. Your middle school friend group that you’re still close with, for sure. The one acquaintance in high school you talk to regularly might be a good addition. Your therapist, so she understands that it’s not her fault that you died. Your parents? You think about it, before removing their email addresses from the list. You add your aunt instead. She’s close enough that she would understand the circumstances, without being your mother and father. Part of you wonders if you removed your parents because you want to spare them the pain of reading your suicide note. The other part of you suspects that it's out of deep-seated resentment.
You wonder, briefly, if your school can see the email draft since you’re using your school email account to send it, but dismiss the thought immediately. It doesn’t matter. You won’t be around to see the consequences of it.
You finish drafting your email, attach the will and prewritten suicide note, and schedule the draft to send the next day at noon. With that squared away, you can focus on more important things, like what to do with the last minutes of your life.
You check your wrist again. 00:00:00:36:50. The viscosity of time almost feels like it’s decreasing, in these final minutes. Time is flowing faster and faster around you.
How do you even feel about this?
You think about it for a second, then give up. There’s no point in trying to gauge your emotions when you barely feel any at all. Most people would be upset, scared, or in pain. Even the fleeting anger you felt earlier has been replaced with cold numbness. It almost feels like frostbite. You wonder if the coldness of your emotions has permanently damaged the tissue of your heart.
You’re just tired. Exhausted, even. The world around you is rushing past, time itself is rushing past, and you can barely keep up. You spend so much time in a dazed sleep. How is death any different from simply never waking up from your dreams?
You mentally check off your list of things to do and realize that there wasn’t all that much. It’s almost painfully easy to kill yourself. The logistical preparation just felt like a lot because doing even the smallest amount of work is excruciating for you. It feels like there should be a huge mental battle, where you grapple with the weight of your mortality, but you’ve already done that shit, over and over and over again. You’re just tired. You’re just done.
You’re ready to die.
So you stumble out of your apartment, in a daze, walk to the elevator, and punch the button that will take you to the roof.
It’s cold outside.
It’s April, but the nights are still chillier than you’re comfortable with. The breeze blows against your skin. You shiver and tell yourself that it’s from the cold.
Thankfully, the roof is empty, eight o’clock in the evening on a Monday night. The smog of the city covers up the stars, but you can see a few airplanes flying by. You squint closer. There’s a bright speck. It’s not twinkling, a telltale sign that you’re looking at a planet, and you wonder which one is gracing you with its presence on your final evening on the planet Earth.
The roof is far from dark. The lights of the city surround you. You can see neighboring buildings with the curtains open, and if you look down, you can see passing cars and streetlights. You can hear the sounds of traffic from below, even at this time of night.
You’ve tested this before, tossing down pennies. You’ll land on the sidewalk. The security guard at the front desk might notice, but at this time of night, nobody else will be around. The only people who you have to worry about are your mother and father possibly arriving at the apartment, and being greeted with your corpse.
There’s no point in wearing your wrist cuff anymore. You take it off and bundle it into your pocket. Your timer is now visible, reading 00:00:00:08:13. The numbers are iridescent and seem to almost glow in the dark. Timers are almost mystical in a sense, so weirdly, it makes sense that they’re visible even in poor lighting. Part of you wonders if the numbers would still be visible in a pitch-dark room.
Your parents have eight minutes to show up, before you throw yourself off the roof of your apartment building, finally ending the sham of your life once and for all. You suppose you could do it earlier, but your timer says that time for a reason. You want to respect the Gods and their infinite wisdom.
Look at you, being all religious. Your mother would be so proud.
You look down and see two tiny figures walking into your building. Speak of the devil and they shall come, you suppose. You can recognize your parents, no matter how far away they are. You wonder what they’ll think when they enter the apartment and wonder where you are. You wonder what they’ll think when you don’t come home.
Two minutes and forty-five seconds. Time really is moving faster.
You’re already leaning against the balcony of the apartment rooftop, looking down. The next step would be to climb up onto the edge. Your arms are weak, but you force yourself to push yourself off the ground and nearly topple over the edge in your attempt to sit on the top of the balcony. You end up straddling in an awkward position, one leg dangling over the roof, the other leg dangling over empty air.
It’s so high up. Logically, you should feel afraid, but the cold has sunk into your bones, and you still feel nothing. Your fear of death and injury and pain ended long ago. What could be worse than the hollow ache in your chest, after all?
You look at your wrist. 00:00:00:01:02. A minute left. You start counting down the seconds.
Fifty-nine. Fifty-eight. Fifty-seven. Fifty-six. Fifty-five. Fifty-four. Fifty-three. Fifty-two. Fifty-one. Fifty. Forty-nine. Forty-eight. Forty-seven. Forty-six. Forty-five. Forty-four. Forty-three.
You lean right, towards the apartment and away from death, and watch as your timer jumps to 00:00:23:55:37.
You lean left, towards death and away from the apartment, and watch as your timer jumps back to 00:00:00:00:42.
You balance yourself, perfectly aligned with the balcony. Your timer is frozen at forty-two seconds. The breeze gently blows into your face, making the cold tears stained against your cheeks sting just that much colder. The night sky above you is still dark and filled with smog, but you can see the moon from this angle, a bright and silvery orb that lights up the night sky. The passage of time is strange, in a way. Two weeks ago, you couldn’t see the moon at all. It’s odd how you’ve never felt as alive as you do in these quiet moments, on the precipice of death, ready to fall into its waiting arms. You look down from the sky, and at the street below, and the timer on your wrist. The lights of the city below seem to illuminate the numbers on your wrist.
It still says forty-two seconds. You could end it all in forty-two seconds. And it would be so, so easy. Nothing is stopping you from dying right now. Your timer says that if you fell now, it’d be successful.
You have no proof of your claim aside from anecdotal evidence, but you’ve seen it for yourself. The timer is not a definitive countdown like many believe. It was never a long time, your timer was set to run out when you were twenty when you first got it when you were thirteen, but as you got older, the countdown date seemed to get closer and closer. When you turned seventeen and you reached your senior year of high school, you decided you’d end it all at graduation, and you finally understood why you were going to die young. Two weeks ago, when you decided that graduation was too far, the timer dropped under 24 hours for the first time.
Two weeks ago, when faced with the same decision you face now, you added time to your timer for the first time.
Maybe the Gods and Fates were real, watching and laughing over your pitiful, nonexistent will to live. Maybe they were toying with you, setting your timer so low. But the evidence before you is clear. You are your own God. You set your own Fate. Your life is in your hands. The only person determining the amount of time you have left on your timer is you. No mystical being, no mortal human, no idealistic belief would determine your death. If you killed yourself now, it would be your own choice.
You’re still not sure why, night after night, for the past two weeks, you’ve found yourself straddling the boundary between life and death. You’re still not sure why you’ve chosen to live each time. It’s not as if you have anything to live for. It’s not as if you love life. There are millions of people out there, you’re sure, who would despise the flippant way you treat your own life, enough to condemn you to die for it. Wishing to die is the most perverted atrocity against life itself, after all.
But it doesn’t really matter, in the end. You still find yourself climbing down the balcony and safely onto the roof. You find yourself looking at your timer again, as it changes to 00:00:23:55:37. Time unfreezes as the normal countdown resumes. You fish your wrist cuff out of your pocket, and snap it into place around your timer again, the numbers disappearing from your sight. You don’t need to see them to remember how much time you have left.
Twenty-three hours, fifty-five minutes, and thirty-seven seconds. You can live for that much longer.
Just live a little bit longer.