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Retirement Day (AKA The Last Paycheck)
The rays of sunlight flow into my room sluggishly as they struggle to sneak past my blinds. It is a fresh start to another repetitive day, and as always, His voice is the first I hear every single time I awake,
“Good morning, Jack.”
His voice sounds a bit sketchy, it somewhat reminds me of the sound of someone speaking through an intercom at a fast food joint. It is slightly obscure to my ears, yet I can still tell that it is Him. It has to be, because He is the only one that ever bothers to communicate with me anymore.
My breathing is faint, but I am very much alive. My eye lids are as heavy as stone, and it quickly becomes a chore to open them. I try and I try again, but I can only manage to briefly open up my eyes, which I consider a good thing. The things I have seen in my days were terrible and wicked, and to open my eyes would be to open the very shutters to my mind, allowing any bystander to have a quick glimpse into what horrors haunt me.
“Come on, Jack,” He said, “It’s time to get up and go to work.”
These cluster headaches feel like someone driving an ice-pick into my skull at forty shanks a minute and a migraine would actually amount to a Godsend right about now. Achingly, I reach for the bottle of Vicidon and madly snatch at it, but all I come up with is air. The pulsing in my head is growing progressively worse, and all I want is that bottle. My head is going to explode and cover the walls in hotchpotch of brain matter and blood, and all I ask for is that God-forsaken bottle.
“They are getting worse, aren’t they Jack?” He continued, “You need to thin your blood if you want to feel better, but I think these headaches are the least of your concerns…”
“Will you shut up already?!” I roared at Him. It is bad enough having my head equal a ticking time bomb, but His constant nagging is driving me insane. To remind me of the things I had done, to scratch at the door of my soul like a stray dog begging for shelter, it is His nature. My misery gives him peace, my mistakes feed His hunger.
Finally, I manage to obtain the bottle and I grip it tightly in my hand, forming a fist so intense that you could easily see the whites of my knuckles. I pop off the bottle top and pour out its contents. The pills fall into my waiting hand, cleansing my skin with a Pharmaceutical waterfall of relief. Five snow-white pills rest in my hand. Coincidentally, the pain in my head is snowballing into a giant nebula of torture. I raise my hand to my mouth and down four of the five pills. Eyeballing the remaining pill, I contemplate whether or not I should take it as well. The average dose of these pills is two a day and I just devoured double that. The consequences of me taking this last pill range from overdosing, or just having bad indigestion. If this is the hardest choice I ever need to make in my life I would rejoice.
The nail of my index finger begins to frantically scratch at the pill, creating dust and tension. After a minute, the natural indentation of the logo on the pill is gone, but I keep clawing at the pill. Sooner or later, it is going to break in half. I wonder which is going to snap first, this pill or my own mind. I am so disgustingly sick with all of this, and without another moment of hesitation I throw the pill into my mouth and lick up the dust I created.
“You yourself are hungry for forgiveness, Jack,” He said, but this time he spoke with a low, almost demonic sounding attribute to his voice, “yet you just keep feeding your demons.”
I find it best to ignore Him, so I will not even bother replying to anything he is saying right now. He is the kind of person that likes to hear himself talk, so he will keep rambling on and on about whatever topic crosses my mind. In the beginning the medicine helped block Him out, but recently it lacks any success, so I just need to focus more and more on other things and preoccupy myself with whatever He knows nothing about. The only part that is hard, not only to do but to accept, is that He knows everything about me. No matter, I still try to move on with my life.
My eyes shoot wide open, the newly found adrenaline appears to flow through my veins, replacing my precious life’s blood with an entirely new fuel for my body. Jumping from my bed, I stagger out of my room and make my way towards the bathroom. After all these years working this job, I have become a very brittle man. My bones resemble glass, and my skin, though rough and beaten raw, is as thin as paper. Looking into the mirror, I can only wish I was looking at my former self, but all I can see is what I used to resemble, before I became a monster.
I can still hear Him talking to me, but His voice is nothing but inaudible fuzz now that I have taken the pills. They can make me forget my pain, and make me forget my mistakes, but only for a little bit. I turn on the shower, and while the water starts to warm up and cascades over the tub, I slump back to my room and go to the closet. In it I can see coats and other assorted clothes hanging up, but behind them I can see all the skeletons that pile up inside.
I ignore the corpses and push around on the rack until I find the only suit I own that I consider not untidy. Carefully, I lay the blazer and dress paints across my bed. Secondly, I take out a dress shirt and vest and place them gently on-top of the blazer. Everything remains black, and they have always been black. Black is the color worn by people like me to let people know that we are not a group to mess with. We care not about names, or places or anything else besides the job that we had to do and our associates.
“You know, I am surprised that none of your suits have any blood stains on them.”
The medicine begins to wear off already. With each dose it seems to take shorter and shorter for it to stop working. He must be adapting to it somehow, like a virus fighting off an antibiotic. Believe me, he is a virus, a virus I have managed to create ever since I took up this job. With all my might I try to ignore him, fishing my fingers into my ears and humming a song in my head, anything to block Him out just a bit longer. The final thing I take from my closet; a metallic, black box. The glossy surface of the box causes the sunrays to reflect off of it and give me a quick dose of light to my eyes, waking me up more than any of the pills did. With both hands, I set the box down on the bed alongside my clothes.
“Aren’t you going to open it, Jack?” He said, “Aren’t you going to at least stare your fate dead on?”
At that moment I slam my fist against the wall, causing a crack to form. I pulled it back, and I notice that there is now a small river of blood running from a cut on my hand. I look at it and smile and I cannot help but start laughing at it. Laughing at all the pain and misery that is being given to me not even an hour into my day. I hope He can hear me laughing, because I am not going to let Him have the last laugh, no way in hell am I going to let Him laugh at me anymore. The cure to everything is in that box, and after I took a minute to freshen myself up, I will be able to take care of all my problems. Clutching my more-than-likely broken hand with the other, I go back into the bathroom, undress, and as I am about to get into the shower, I open up the window, letting in a fresh, cold wave of air.
I stand there, in the shower, for what seems like hours. I let the boiling water singe my skin and paint me a new shade of rawhide red, allowing me to have a slight change in my man-in-black persona. My eyes are closed softly, and I am left alone with one of the most horrifying things any man could be left alone with, his thoughts. In my head, I go back far into my memory and remember all of the conversations I had with Him, back before I turned into this monster. Believe it or not, I used to be such a nice guy, long before I was exposed to this sickening world of hate and despair. When I finally manage to open my eyes, I notice that my skin is now spongy and raw. Just the way I want it. I step out of the shower and dry myself off one last time.
As I put on my suit, I feel like a knight in shining armor, preparing to go slaughter the menacing dragon that has been plaguing the countryside. At this point though, I have no idea which one of those I am, but I assure myself that I am the good guy. No matter what He says, I am the good guy, but I am also the bad guy. I am unsure as to which of us will survive; but nonetheless, this is going to be my last day on the job. I am sick of playing sides, I just want to get this last score over with and call it a retirement. I pick up the box and carry it downstairs, where I set it on the counter and have a quick bowl of oatmeal. As I sit on this stool, for the last time, half of me feels like Jesus at the Last Supper, while my other half feels like Judas.
“Jack, oh Jack, oh Jack,” He says in a soothingly calm voice, “I have a feeling that you are going to regret your future decisions right away.”
I bet if he knew that those were going to be his last words, he might have said something a little more meaningful, perhaps at least remind me of whom I am one last time, or heckle me for my mistakes before the big ending happens. No matter, I can care less about what he says, all I know is that this is the day I have been waiting for; retirement. I click the latch that is on the box, and looking inside, I cannot help but to start laughing again. Laughing at how foolish He and I had been as partners for this job, laughing at how I had broken my hand this morning, laughing at how these headaches just keep getting worse and worse and nothing can help me anymore except for what I have in this box and my last assignment. I cannot stop laughing at this, but it is putting me in a good mood, so I could care less. I want the last expression on my face to be a smile. Time to go meet the target.
I look into the mirror in the downstairs bathroom and set the box on the sink. I open the box again, and with the same stupid grin on my face, I ask myself,
“Who is laughing now, big guy?” and I pull out the gun.