Lucy looked at her watch for the third time in under a minute. It wasn’t midnight yet. She took another gulp from her glass of steaming liquid and paced toward the window. She peered out, her eyes catching the fullness of the moon. Her street was as still as a lake on a windless day. She could hear her own heartbeat in the silence. She glanced back down at her watch and sucked in sharply seeing the two hands pointing toward the top. It was time.
She straightened her lilac dress dotted with white buds that she had bought for this occasion and ran her fingers through the soft auburn curls on her head. She had felt a little silly dressing up for tonight, but it wasn’t every day that she got to meet the man she had been enamored with for the better part of a year.
A shadow moved and her eyes dashed toward it, as her heartbeat quickened.
“Hello Lucy,” a soft voice emerged from the smoky darkness. He was here.
“Donovan, how..how did you get in?” she stammered and then immediately regretted her question. She should know by now not to ask. Locks and doors were no match for him.
“I told you I would find my way to you, Lucy,” the voice whispered back, “and look at you, you are a sight to be seen.”
Lucy felt her pulse quicken to a level where she felt her head throbbing. She couldn’t believe the moment was finally here. She was meeting the man who would release her from the cage of her life. She peered into the dark corner, trying to find shape in the blackness. She had been writing to him for so long and had seen images of him in her mind for so long that she was hungry for a glimpse of him.
“Donovan,” she pleaded, “I want to see you.”
Lucy first saw the boots, black and heavy, inching out of the shadows. Then he appeared, his face hidden by a hood that extended from his long black jacket. Once his body was in full view, Lucy searched every inch of him hungrily. He was here, in her home, in her presence. She walked toward him, placing one foot in front of the other like she was taking a sobriety test. Once she was close enough to feel his body’s warmth, she looked up into this face. Eyes the color of slate met her. He looked at her with a calmness she couldn’t ever remember feeling. She too would feel it soon.
“Lucy, have you started what we talked about?”
Lucy turned back to point at the wisps of steam emerging from a goblet.
“Good, good,” Donovan almost smiled; his lips nestled between a white beard pulled taut before resting again. He places his hands, cloaked in gloves on Lucy’s shoulders. The extra weight on her shoulders had the effect of calming her, making her feel safe. She sunk into it. “Lucy, are you ready?”
Lucy looked up into his eyes again, searching for answers she knew weren’t there. No, she wasn’t ready but it had to be done. Her life had lost its meaning a long time ago. She floated aimlessly between her home and her car and the grocery store, drawing shapes with her movements, shapes that were vast, laughing at her with their emptiness. She had to be released from their nothingness.
Suddenly, Donovan’s eyes sparkled with the glint of platinum. Lucy took a step back in surprise. And maybe for the first time since she had found out about him, from a Facebook community where others knew about his work, she realized what a dangerous man he was. He was with people in their last moments, extinguishing the last of their presence on this planet. At last count, he had done this with 350 people. That was almost one for every day of the year. But that also reminded her how many lost souls there were like hers that had hope for a better life elsewhere.
The week leading up to this day, she had gone back to her painting again, something she hadn’t done since long before Trevor left, with their daughter in tow, for a woman half her age. He had deemed her an unfit mother in the court of law and she had grieved that night with a full bottle of vodka. She didn’t remember much else other than waking up the next morning in a pool of her own vomit dried on the carpet. She had been so disgusted she retched again, her insides feeling as empty as a drum. That evening, a glass of wine in hand, she was doomscrolling through Facebook, trying to see where Trevor and their little Inna might be, but had instead come upon an ad that seemed to speak her truth.
This life has lost its meaning, but there is another place in this universe where you matter. Yes, you feel you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out of there, but we can help you. The truth is: this world and its people are not looking out for you. But out in this galaxy, is a place humans don’t want to believe exists, but it holds a space for us, for you to live the life you never could here. To never be alone. To always be loved.
Donovan released Lucy’s shoulders and looked around the room as if absorbing it for the first time. The light from a street lamp shone through the front window, competing with the full moon. “Can you close those drapes?” Donovan curtly demanded. As Lucy carried out his command, he ran through the checklist he had given her in advance to prep for the night.
“..and have you written the note, Lucy? I need to see it.” Lucy walked to her mantle where a photo of Trevor and Inna on a trip to Maui stood like a hologram. She had opted to take the photo instead of being in it, somehow predicting her erasure from their lives. The truth was she had been self-conscious in her bathing suit after finding her stomach and thighs no longer preserved the svelteness of her twenties.
She kissed the photo and picked up the letter under it and handed it to Donovan.
Donovan opened the envelope and proceeded to read the letter that was to be found after she left the planet: her suicide note. As his eyes scanned the words, she scanned the room around her, remnants of the life that was, and stark reminders of the life that had become. Empty wine bottles studded the room like ornaments. The oversize couch, where they had watched so many movies as a family, stood cold and faded in the absence of warm bodies. The last canvas she painted stood propped on it now.
“Is this what it’s like out there?,” Lucy asked, nudging Donovan to look toward her painting. Wisps of paint swirled like kaleidoscopes on the canvas; she was floating above them, with winds made of ethereal lace. Her hair billowed like a mane, full of freedom. Her palms were outstretched and in it was a bud, the bud of hope.
Donovan looked at the painting at then back at her, “You will find out soon enough, Lucy; it’s time.”
Lucy feel her pulse quicken, and she looked at Donovan to find her calm in him. He looked back at her, his eyes now a molten metal. They seemed more alive now as if the adrenaline was all pumping into his eyes. He pulled out a vial from his heavy black coat as he walked toward her.
“OK, Lucy. You need to drink this now. It will react with the liquid in the tea you’ve been drinking, and, well, do its job.”
Lucy looked at the vial as he deposited it into her palm. An innocuous liquid filled it, not unlike the vodka she had drunk on so many nights in the last year. She looked back at the photo on the mantel and felt a tear escape her right eye. A shiver ran down her spine and she suddenly realized how cold she had been since Donovan appeared.
“It won’t hurt, will it?” she whispered as if scared to hear her own question.
“No Lucy, it won’t. Remember those reviews you read on our site? The people who had been with their loved ones as they watched them leave this planet in peace. Remember how they all said how comforted to watch their fathers and sisters and children leave this planet with tranquility?”
Lucy nodded. She had seen those reviews. She had even spoken to a woman who was there to watch her twelve-year-old son who had been battling leukemia leave the planet, crying with relief that he would no longer suffer here. She was sure he was playing soccer and climbing trees wherever he was, she had said to Lucy. Another world, where the unnegotiable circumstances of today seemed undone. It was a miracle. Lucy wanted that miracle.
She opened the vial and deposited the liquid in her throat in one motion. She blinked twice as if to remind herself she was still physically there. Almost immediately, Lucy felt a strange calm come over her as she felt the edges of the living room soften. Donovan took her arm and led her to the couch. She sank down on it and stared up at the ceiling. A chandelier that Trevor and she had picked out after looking at at least 50 of them, stared down at her. She hadn’t even looked at it in so long. There was so much she hadn’t done in so long. She hadn’t seen her sister, revisited her favorite town in Italy, or finished her painting of her and Inna. So much she hadn’t even done yet, the words swam around in her head like overripe leaves in a pond.
“Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.” Donovan took her hand again and placed his palm over hers. “How silly we humans are to take so much of our life for granted. To willingly give up all the choices we have and put our lives in the hands of a stranger. You had everything in you to fashion the life you wanted, Lucy. But you chose not to. Life is wasted on you.”
Lucy tried to piece his words together as her head sank further into the abyss. What was happening? What was Donovan saying? She tried to grab her hand that was under his palm but he grabbed her by the wrist with a force that momentarily awakened her. She gasped as she saw his eyes, now as orange as the heart of a fire. At that moment, she understood it all. She had been tricked. This man had just murdered her and she had asked for it. She laughed, at the mess of it all, at the desperation of it all. She craned her neck for one last look at Inna, her dear Inna, who would grow up without her.
Lucy closed her eyes in resignation; life was wasted on her. She wanted to sleep.