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He looked down at his shoes: black loafers. They were perfectly cleaned and polished. The early morning light reflected off the unscathed leather. The pair looked just as they did the day he bought them for his first interview. It was for his dream job, that he had wanted ever since he was young. Now he wore them most days of the week. They had become just another pair of shoes in his collection.
The toes of the loafers were now dangling off the edge of a building. Cars and people below were walking by oblivious to what was happening above. The man stared down, laughing at them. They were unable to observe their surroundings. Rather they chose to disregard them and continue moving forward. No concerns other than their own. He was glad he was above their simple minded ways.
He took a step closer, his heels were all that was keeping him stable. He thought of all of things keeping him there: his wife, his son, and his work. But all of these things meant nothing to him. He only married his wife because he thought it was the right thing to do. He only had a child because he thought it was the right thing to do. He only got a job because he thought it was the right thing to do. He managed every last one, yet all of it was so trivial now. None of these things made him happy. Instead he was miserable because of them.
Just one more step and everything would be resolved.
In dazed confusion, he stared out. Everything was familiar, yet foreign. The memories of this place lingered in the back of his mind; somewhere too far to reach. The feeling was evanescent, yet comforting. He looked up from the floor to see a vacant room. It contained no furniture and no windows. The only things in the room were a fading light bulb and cream wallpaper, peeling off to reveal the drywall behind it. The abandoned building was slowly corroding. What was once clean and uniform was now left to disintegrate back into the earth. A damp smell wafted throughout the stuffy room. His skin became dewy with sweat. His palms were clammy and moist. The space was filled to the rim with shadows.
He raised his body from the floor. An impression of the linoleum tile was left on the side of his face. His body was limp and exhausted. Unaware of his surroundings, he raised his arms to touch out into dark, groping around, looking for something he recognized. He coaxed his hand across the walls until he discovered the knob protruding from the otherwise flat, monotone room. As he stood up, the floor began to shift beneath him, pushing him forward and directing him toward the door; one foot in front of the other. The dead silence consumed every corner of the building, the slight tap of his polished loafers disrupting the still air. His stiff, grey suit chafed against his skin.
“Can anyone hear me? Hello?” No reply.
“Where am I?” No reply.
“How did this happen?” No reply.
He was completely alone in this strange place with no idea as to how he arrived. The man caught site of an elevator and headed towards it. The heavy metal doors were slightly warped and jammed when he opened them. They had lost their stainless steel shine, and instead gave off a dull finish. Inside each key was a small, illuminated, orange circle in the otherwise dim elevator. He leaned forward to press floor number eleven. The doors shut and he slowly began to rise. He became disoriented, as if his equilibrium had been thrown off. He felt queasy and unstable. Just as he started to feel overcome by sickness the elevator dinged and the two doors opened.
He stepped out into a room with fluorescent light bulbs giving off sickly light. Everything appeared drab and tired, sagging from age. He stepped out of the elevator out into the halls, inspecting each buckling floor board as his feet shuffled across them. He looked up to see that the room had grown hazy. It was as if he was in a dream. He looked to his left and saw a man. He was wearing white sneakers and baby blue scrubs. The man assumed that he was a nurse employed in the building. He was young, and full of energy as he ran into a room across the hall. The man followed the nurse, calling out to him.
“Sir! Can you please tell me where I am? Excuse me, can you hear me?”
The nurse stopped, and turned around. He looked at the man with confusion and said, “Sir, why aren’t you in the room, your son is being born?”
The man’s stomach dropped.
“What son? What are you talking about?” he said.
“This is no time for jokes,” the nurse scolded, “now get into the room.”
The man followed obediently, scared of what he would discover. He burst through the door to see his wife holding a baby. He had seen this exact image before, 12 years ago. Now he remembered where he was. He closed his eyes and breathed in, coming to terms with the idea that something wasn’t right. He opened his eyes to see that the room was once again faded and empty. Clarity had returned to his surroundings. The visions were gone.
He slowly left the room and shut the door behind him. He looked down at his hands, they had gone completely numb. His whole body began to shake. He started sweating. He leaned up against the wall, looking for something to support him. He collapsed on the ground and began to cry. His body was draped across the floor with his face pressed against it. The regret of having a son filled his thoughts. At that moment he realised that he had created a life for himself that turned out to be the complete opposite of what he really wanted. They had become the reason for his misery. To him, his wife and son were appendages sucking the life out of him: leaching off of his income. His head started pounding and all he could hear was a high pitch ring in his ears. He tried yelling over the noise to cancel it out but nothing he did could make the sound stop. He rose from the wall and headed back to the elevator. He clicked a button and headed up to the roof.
A sense of urgency came over him. The queasy feeling returned to him and he keeled over, supporting himself with one hand on the wall, the other one grasping his stomach. He started dry heaving in the corner, waiting for something to come up. The doors opened and he stumbled out coughing. He hobbled over to the edge of the roof. To his left was an escape ladder that descended down the side of the building.
He started to walk over to the fire escape when he caught site of a family sitting on a park bench down below. There was a beautiful woman, probably in her mid thirties, sitting with her husband. In her arms was a young child, no older than a year. The couple was laughing and smiling. The two maintained a gaze that seemed so pure. They appeared to be perfect. The man thought about his family back home. His wife was cold and was always wrapped up in work. The two barely talked unless it related to finances or the well being of their son. He was always getting into trouble and was struggling to pass despite their efforts to tutor him. His family was nothing like the one sitting on the park bench. Everyone in his house lived separately and independently. They only needed him for his money. They weren’t a family, they were a group of people that had nowhere else to go.
He backed away from the fire escape and instead stood on the ledge. For once he felt relief. Being faced with a choice made him feel more secure and in control. He was the only one who had a say in his life. He stayed there for a few minutes, slowly slipping off his shoes. He placed them side by side on the concrete ledge. He took one more step forward. He watched others’ lives go on, while they watched him, waiting for his life to end as his body passed one floor after another.