Andy Weier was sick of it all. Sitting by his piano in his small apartment, he loathed everything about himself. Through the window the sun was sliced thinly through the blinds, illuminating the dust in the air; like smoke pillars from a village where they burned their dead all at once. Andy Weier had been trying to write a song about it. Andy Weier sucked at writing songs.
With all ten ﬁngers splayed out on the keys of his Roland FP-30X, he invisioned someone with the gravitas and weight of Leonard Cohen singing this upcoming epic; nothing short of a serious, deep and ominous voice would be able to carry this tune. But sadly, Cohen was no longer among the living. Just like Andy Weiers talents for writing music.
Almost an hour had passed since his last phone call. His mother dutifully listened while he listed all of his failures, again. Andy Weier; a sullen 45-year old in a dead-end job, a broken dream of becoming a pianist, and a failed relationship that lasted only slightly longer than the string of failed relationships in its wake. And now it was over, he had told her; No one would want a bloated old man, with thinning hair and no career.
”You don’t know that”, his mother responded, sounding like a punctured tyre. ”If you keep telling yourself that you are only making it harder than it has to be. Keep an open mind and things might turn around.”
He had ﬁnally broken her; Andy Weier had turned a hopeful WILL into the illfated MIGHT, and without her knowledge, caused his mother to tell the truth. Finally.
Life just wasn’t fair. On social media people boasted and ﬂaunted their wealth and happiness, even the arrogant and the hypocrites got to live and laugh. Andy Weier was a better person than all of them he thought. He deserved more. But Andy Weier was a failure. And it was too late to change that now.
After cleaning the apartment; he folded all his clothes into neat stacks in the closet, did the dishes and wiped the kitchen counter, even straightened a few pictures that hung crooked on his wall. In the bathroom he scrubbed the ﬂoor and cleaned the mirror until the smell of spring flooded his nostrils with a pleasant scent. It was always surprising how much better the ﬂat looked after a thorough cleaning. Had he not been a failure he might have done it more often. This time, however, it was not for him.
From the bathroom cabinet he took out his Derby shaving kit and a razor blade wrapped in paper. Out of habit he carefully removed the paper and snickered at how ridiculous this precaution seemed.
The bathroom didn’t have a bathtub. That was a shame. There was something romantic about dying in a bathtub he thought; morbid perhaps, but movies and books had given it a ﬂair almost comparable to what poison became in the time of Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet. He turned on the shower and sat down on the ﬂoor, leaning against the wall.
Many questions swept through his mind.
”What led to this?”
”Would it hurt?”
”Who would miss him when he was gone?”
They would regret not caring more about him when it was too late, he thought. They would blame themselves. They would hurt.
He wished he could be there to see that.
With his right hand, Andy Weier gripped the razor blade and placed it against his wrist. To the sound of rushing water and a with veil of steam lowering upon his face, he cut the arteries of his left hand. The pain was not as sharp as the sting of destiny. Due to the bleeding and nerves being severed, the right wrist proved harder to cut. He couldn’t hold the razor ﬁrmly. The cut wasn’t deep, but it was effective.
As his life poured from him and his strenght left, Andy Weier felt himself slowly sliding down the wall. His cheek hit the ﬂoor and he smelled roses and soap and blood; while a shroud of scarlet pulled in over his eyes, like ink in water, dimming the room from all sides. As he lay there, waiting for release, the bathroom door opened. The sounds of water was now everywhere, and with his heartbeats echoing inside, he didn’t hear anyone come in. But he saw the shoes. Black and shiny.
Andy Weier was a failure.
He couldn’t even kill himself.
The ﬁrst thing he heard before opening his eyes was the patter of rain on the window. It sounded like a carbonated drink being opened close to his ears, not unlike the last sound he heard before someone ruined his death. It had not been raining on the day of his ﬁnal failure so maybe a couple of days had past since. He wasn’t sure. He hadn’t been dreaming he didn’t think, but for some reason if felt like he’d been away for some time since fading out on the ﬂoor of his bathroom.
Upon opening his eyes, his lids feeling like pieces of ﬂint, he realised he was in a hospital room. This didn’t surprise him; what did surprise him however, was the sudden feeling of gratitude he felt for being alive. Not towards the unknown man in the mirror shoes who, for some twist of fate, had been there to save him; but for the fact that now people would take him seriously. Now people would listen. And they would understand.
The room was almost empty apart from a chair by his bed, a small sink and a mirror on the wall. There were two doors, a bathroom and the exit into what he ﬁgured was a typical hospital corridor. No sounds could be heard through the door but he knew they were there. Every day through his fathers illness, he had been annoyed by the people running back and forth outside those doors, making noise that disturbed his fathers rest. When he tried to tell the nurses and doctors, they just shrugged like nothing could be done about this — like life wasn’t fair and he should just accept it.
Cancer isn’t fair. Wasn’t that enough?
He looked at his wrists. They were bandaged. His ﬁngers felt stiff and tingly when he moved them. Surprisingly there was no IV hooked up to him; nothing to administer ﬂuids of any kind. He must have lost a lot of it he thought, but took this to mean he must have been here for a long time then, perhaps even in a coma while they worked on him. He quickly ran through a series of deep memories in order to assess possible brain damage, but found instead his head hurt from digging and his heart aching at the sight of them.
”You’re awake”, the voice seemed to produce the person rather than the other way around. ”That is good. You have been asleep for some time.”
He looked over and saw a man in a white coat standing at the foot of the bed.
”How long have I been here doctor?” he asked, trying to sound weaker than he actually was.
”You came here on a Wednesday”, the man said. ”Your wounds have been treated and you have gotten a lot of rest. We see no reason to keep you here and will be discharging you. As soon as you’re ready you are free to leave.”
The man sounded like he was reading off a grocery list.
”Discharging me? But I’ve just tried to kill myself. Surely there must be other things to consider? Perhaps having a psychologist in here before I go? I’m clearly not well!”
The doctor moved to stand next to him, looking at the bandages with a stern face.
”People like you, always come back here”, he said. ”You don’t change. Why should we care for you, when you yourself do not?”
The doctor turned to leave. The soles of his shoes made a sound like the Ripper would make in a London alley. Pitch black like the night, shiny like the tears of victims. Andy knew he’d seen those shoes before.
”Doctor! You don’t know everything. Everything I’ve been through. I am ready to talk now. Ready to heal!”
The man in white stopped by the door.
”You are discharged” , he said. ”We need this bed. You can leave when ready.”
He opened the door and all the hustle and bustle came into the room; and, like a cloak of sound, left with him.
Walking out from the hospital he stops under the roof of the entry. The sky is a deep grey and the rain is falling like needles from the swollen clouds. Looking through his phone he realises that no one has called during his stay here. No coworker, not his boss —not even his mother called to check on him. He has no new messages on his answering machine, no texts, nothing. Filled with anger and a sorrow that slithers in his throat like a snake, he dials his mother up. She doesn’t answer. He tries again. Still nothing. Looking at the screen his phone reads :
Out of area.
Where the hell is he? He looks up at the entryway of the hospital. It’s two large doors opening to a big grey concrete structure. It doesn’t look fancy or clean. Or like any hospital in his area. Why would they transport him so far from his house? Did they conclude that he was a poor man who couldn’t pay for it? His apartment had been in perfect order when they found him. It was not like he was laid out in the street. Fuelled by emotions he turned around at walked back in.
Many people are waiting in the hospital lobby. He doesn't recognise a soul. They all looks the same, glum and dull. It doesn’t seem to be a reception area and nowhere to take a number either. This has to be the worst place ever he thinks as he sees a nurse (or whatever they’re hiring in this dump). He walks up to her.
”I was just discharged from this hospital and would like to talk to the treating physician!”
She looks up and smiles at him. Her voice reminds him of a ﬂute or when wind is blown through a thicket of trees.
”Of course, and what room where you in dear?”
He can’t remember. He never saw any room number as he left.
She understands, clearly used to patients being confused.
”What was the doctors name?”
This too escapes him. The doctor barely spoke to him before he left.
The nurse tilts her head and looks at him, like a mother looking at a drawing made by a ﬁve year old.
”Could you describe him for me?”
He thinks back. Although the doctor had been standing close to him, the features of his face, the color of his eyes, even his voice, is something he can’t recall. Only a white coat and black shoes.
”Had he given me more time I could have taken a closer look”, he expelles. ”But I was rushed out of here like I was contagious. I demand to see him right away!”
As he says this he spots a man in a white coat walking down the corridor heading for the elevators further in.
”That’s him!” he says and pushes past the nurse. He hurries by several people as he tries to reach the man in white, but they don’t seem to notice his frantic sprint. The doctor reaches a door marked exit next to the silvery elevators, and walks inside.
Andy grabs the closing door, opens it and
— sits by his piano again.
He looks down. His hands are on the piano and he pulls them back as if the keys were made of dry ice. Has he been dreaming? He looks around. It is his apartment alright, the same as before, not overly clean and neat, just as shoddy and unkept as always. It was a dream. He smiles to himself. Loneliness has made him mad he thinks. Perhaps there is a song there.
Andy places his ﬁngers on the piano again and realises that something is wrong; they do not move properly, his palms feel weird and his wrists doesn’t bend like they should. When he moves his hands across the piano, trying to play, they follow only just; not when he wills them to, but like an echo without a cause.
The song will have to wait.
Somewhere in the apartment his phone rings. He goes to pick it up. A mechanical voice reads:
<You have one new message>
At ﬁrst nothing is heard; then static, then sobs. His mother speaks.
”My son…I miss you so much….”
”Mom?” His voice cracks. He has never heard his mother like this. Why won't she answer him?
”I wish you would have called me”, she cries. ”I would have come. I would have listened.”
”Mom, I'm here, do you hear me!?”
”I'm so alone. So alone. My heart is broken.”
His mothers voice trails off; only quiet sobs and whispers can be heard before the message is cut off by another automated voice.
<Message received: Wednesday, november 8, 16.15 p.m>
November 8? He proceeds to look at his watch but ﬁnds none. Instead a bandage is protruding from under the sleeves of his shirt. Sleeves that are wet with blood.
Spinning around he stumbles against the stand of his piano, knocking it over; the piano hits the ground with a musical clang. Andy sees smudgy handprints along the side of it, smeared across it, dripping red between black and white keys, like heads rolling down the steps of an Aztec temple.
When he hits the ground no music can be heard; just a hollow sound as his body makes contact with the ﬂoor boards and a cloud of dust rises in the air around him. He doesn’t faint. He isn't even hurt. The pain in his wrists, the anxiety that charges into him like a raging bull, the stinging of sadness in his eyes, his mothers grief; he feels this all too well. But he doesn't crack his skull open, and he doesn't pass out. Instead he crawls on the ﬂoor like a bug, not sure if he even wants to stand, if he should; or if he is better off right here — until this nightmare stops.
Then a voice speaks to him; not dark, not high or bright; but somehow all those things at once.
”You're awake. Good.”
Andy recognises it immediately. He turns to look but as before, the appearance of the man escapes him. Looking at him directly now, with all of his senses dialled up, sharpened like a blade by fear; Andy still can't discern if the mans nose is large or small, his eyes blue or black, his smile crooked or perfectly aligned. All he sees, that sticks with him, and what he fears will be forever lodged in him, like a bullet in the spine of a veteran — is the shoes.
Those black, impossibly shiny, leathery shoes.
”What are you doing here? What is happening? Where am I?” Andys voice is less than a whimper.
The strangers voice; calm yet demanding; comforting yet somehow mocking; warm but chilling to the bone; speaks close to his ear:
”People like you always come back here.”
Andy struggles to understand. Terror clouds his thoughts, making them thick as sap in his brain.
”But I can't stand it! What must I do? Tell me!”
The stranger laughs. It chips away at Andy like the forceful beak of a ravenous bird.
”I said; when you’re ready.”
”How do I do that then!? How do I become ready!?”
All the air is sucked from the room and through the stranger as he bends down and ﬁxes his stare on Andy; eyes neither black or beautiful.
”Life is about getting ready. But you cut it short. You are unﬁnished. Can’t leave until you’re ready. And you have wasted your time”
Andy explodes in a ﬁery rage. He pounds his hands on the ﬂoor and kicks his feet.
”IT’S NOT FAIR!!”
He can feel the blood from his wounds stick to the ﬂoor and tear away in spurts as he pounds and pounds again, shutting his eyes hard and grinding his teeth until all he can hear is a symphony of wet agonising sounds — conducted by a sinister laugh of doom.
Andy Weier sits by his piano. Looking at it now he can’t remember what chords he just used or what the melody was. Andy Weier sucks at writing music. He looks at his watch. It's Wednesday. Another wasted day he thinks. Andy Weier loathes himself.
He calls his mother. Same story. She never listens. Doesn’t understand. Ever since dad died it has been all about her. But what about Andy Weier ? When is it his turn?
He should just end it all.