You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can Suicide be Painless?

Former correctional officer Matthew Kershaw knew something about suicide. Twenty eight years in jail can give a person some insight into such things. The question came up with every intake. There were constant classes in the subject dealing with indicators, inmate management, and dealing with the aftermath. Matt had participated in suicide preventions, interventions and debriefings.

He had seen numerous attempts by various techniques. Slashing, diving onto hard surfaces, hoarding medications and subsequent overdoses, and most often attempted hangings. Few were successful. He was of the opinion that most were messy and inconvenient calls for help. The correctional and medical staffs did their best to provide that help, but most of the time the clients were definitively screwed up human beings. The point at which help might have tipped the balance was long past in most of those messed-up lives.

Matt knew of messed up lives. Following his retirement he had lost his only daughter in a car accident. A drunk driver, like one of the many he had clothed, fed and accounted for in the county jail. It had hit him hard, but his wife harder. Her drinking got out of hand, and the only way Matt could save himself was through divorce. The end of their marriage left him with a profound sense of failure, which spiraled into a deep clinical depression.

He sought help, and it worked for quite a while. Then came news of his wife's death. She had not been drinking hard long enough to suffer from the alcohol related debilitations Matt had observed in chronic alcoholics who washed through the jail on a daily basis. No, she simply got very drunk one night, vomited and drowned in her own puke.

Though he had left her in order to save himself, he still loved her deeply. The vague hope of some kind of turn around, a miraculous reconciliation, died in a pool of vomit. He stopped taking his meds, and stopped going to see his counselors. He began spending a lot of time down on the wharf, looking out to sea. He took a lot of his meals at the restaurants there, and became pretty well known to the wait staff in several emporiums of  the Crab Louie and clam chowder.

He had thought about this a lot, when dealing with botched suicides in the jail. They lived next to the biggest suicide machine Matt could think of. The Pacific Ocean. Huge. Cold. Unforgiving. Just step into the water, begin swimming for Japan, and let exhaustion and hypothermia do the work.

Matt felt pretty good walking down the wharf that foggy morning. He had determined that foggy was the way to go. That way, if the swimmer changed his mind, nobody could find whoever it was that was calling for help until it was too late. If the goal was successful suicide, help had to be kept at bay.

He turned down the stairs that led to the platform at the water level. There were no sea lions on the platform this morning, which was good. The sound of a gun being fired would probably drive them off, but it would attract attention. No intervention was the goal, so the less attention the better.

Matt stood on the platform and looked into the water. Relatively calm. A ladder into the water allowed for an easy entry without the noise of splashing. He stripped off his clothing quickly, and laid his glasses on the pile. He wouldn't need them. The icy water hurt his foot as he stepped onto the ladder. He climbed down quickly and struck out toward the West.

He began shivering almost immediately as he swam toward the end of the wharf and the end of his days. The shivering passed surprisingly quickly, followed by a numbness and then a sense of warmth. He could still feel the cold just beyond the phantom warmth, but feelings were feelings. A mild euphoria came upon him as he moved past the end of the wharf and headed out to sea.

He rolled onto his back and swam slowly toward the Orient. Gentle rollers occasionally broke across his face, causing an occasional sputtering return to awareness, but for the most part he was able to lose himself in the fog that permeated his brain. It was like the fog sitting on the sea was seeping into him.

The first time he faded from consciousness and went under, his instincts brought him struggling back to the surface. He calmed himself, picked a direction he thought of as West, and struck out again. The next time he was less aware, and could not recall just what it was he was doing. Only for a moment did he think of turning back, but he couldn't recall where back might be. Back to what?

He swam. He swam forever. Angels swam with him, barking angel barks. The fog and the sea melded into one gray mass, an ocean sky filled with barking angels. A suicide sky. A theme song from a long past television show played somewhere in the gray.

This time when Matt came to himself he was deep under the water. The sense of invasion caused by inhaling that first draft of the sea caused a momentary panic. The panic caused a brief struggle for life, but Matt had insured his failure in that struggle. No gestures. No botched suicide. Matt relaxed into the darkness as the sea claimed him.

There was only darkness. Only darkness.


Little Bobby Trenton was playing near the water's edge. He could hear his mother calling him, and he intended to respond. However, something was laying on the wet sand with the waves lapping around it. The object had peaked his curiosity. It was covered with kelp, whatever it was.

Bobby padded across the wet sand, reveling in the feel of it and in the warmth of the sun on his shoulders. He wanted to see what was there on the beach. Soon, he did see, and in seeing planted the seed for an endless crop of nightmares and his own pending suicide in the year 2028.

Bobby responded to his mother's call, but it was too late.

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