t//w: swearing, death.
I woke up in my dim, bleak apartment again and the sense of dread returned. How am I going to manage to live after I pay my rent? It’s amazing how expensive it is just to exist. Credit card debt is suffocating, Student loans are demoralizing, and on top of all that there's rent and groceries just to stay alive.
I have a hard time finding reasons to keep going, but my family helps me out a lot. My mom is my best friend, and I visit my parents as much as I can. My dad thinks its a codependency between my mom and I but the truth is I just love them to death.
My only highlight of my day besides visiting my family is working at the local Starbucks. I turn around onto my side and grab my apron that’s covering my alarm clock. It’s been droning over and over and over, giving me a headache. I pull the apron down, revealing the clock display, and knocking down a few of my prescription bottles. I hold the apron up to the light and check to see if it’s fit to be used. My name is embroidered on the top left side: “Ryan”. I look back at the LED clock display.
It’s 6:45 AM and my shift starts at 7:15. I practically apparate out of my bed and over to my bathroom mirror. I’m looking pretty rough, I was out too late last night. I didnt even change out of my day clothes before I crashed into bed. All I had on was a pair of skinny blue jeans, a mint colored t-shirt and a black bomber jacket. My hair was pasted to the left side of my face (which looked pasty as ever), I sleep and bags under my eyes, and I had stubble creeping out of my cheeks and chin. That’s cute.
All I could afford to do was give my hair a 2 minute rinse and restyle and I wiped the sleep from under my eyes. I popped four pills from my bedside table, threw on my beat up Nikes and bolted out of the apartment, leaving it a mess.
My commute was a 20 minute walk but at this point, I was already late. I live in a congested city so if I run without any regard for human life or courtesy, I can cut my commute to 15 minutes.
So I started to run. I ducked in and around scaffolding, which is sketchy in and of itself because there’s always construction here for some reason. Always trying to improve, this place can never be content with a functioning city where the only thing that seeks and needs to change is the people.
I had to cut to the side to squeeze by multiple people, and just as I was thinking that I was surprised at how mellow people were on that day (compared to normal, of course), just as I was trying to get through a small crowd, I was hopping sideways past this figure in black jeans and a worn out navy blue hoodie and I accidentally clipped his shoulder on the way by.
“Watch where you’re going, asshole.” a gravelly voice muttered, annoyed.
“Sorry dude.” I panted, out of breath.
I kept moving but I heard him whisper something under his breath that caught my attention. He knew my name.
I turned back at first, curious to know how he knew my name, but I had more important things to take care of. I turned back around and everything went black.
I woke up and I was in a bank, but it was dark. I was sitting up, slumped against the wall in front of an ATM that I could only see because it was illuminated by the LED display. I sat up and then immediately fell back to the ground. I pressed my palm to my forehead. I felt it was splitting clear down the middle. It was clear that I had been hit. Hard.
I groaned in response to the pain, and brought my other palm up to my forehead.
“Yeah, sorry about that.” A low, hushed voice said from in front of me. It was very clearly a man, and he walked up as if to reveal himself to me, but I could only see his silhouette. He looked like he was wearing a suit, one of those slim, form fitting suits a car salesman would wear at the dealerships. I heard his shoes clicking against the floor. He brought himself down to my level.
“My guys are usually a bit more gentle than that.” I heard a tinge of actual regret, and the inflection in his voice came up. He sounded like a salesman. He flicked on the lights.
My head started throbbing again from the pain of adjusting to the light in the room. I forgot about the man in the suit for a second while I adjusted. “Fuck.” I cursed.
When I saw him he was still crouched down to my level, a bit too close to my face for my liking. His brow was furrowed as if to feign concern. His suit was black with a black tie and shoes. They looked expensive. His complexion was pale and he had stringy, somewhat messy blonde hair and pale green eyes.
“Who are you?” I asked him.
“That’s an excellent question," he replied, “But it’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that you arent doing well, Ryan.”
“Yeah, well-” I was about to agree with him. Then I caught myself and started to understand how confusing and weird this situation was. “Wait a damn second. I’ve never met you in my life. I don’t even know your NAME, one of your ‘guys’ just knocked me out and brought me to this god-forsaken place for who knows why, and I’m just supposed to be cool with that and my head is FUCKING killing me!” I cursed again as my head started to throb in the middle of my rant.
The man in the suit stood up. His empathetic expression was gone, and had been replaced with a stern, serious look. Silently, he pulled a pill bottle out of his pocket, and offered it to me. I simply looked up at him and flipped him off. I stood up and met his gaze. “Where am I, asshole?”
The man in the suit hadn't said a word since telling me I wasn't doing well, and it was pissing me off. I stepped closer to him, trying to intimidate him, but he wasn't budging. “Where. Am. I.”
The man didn't move at all and said quietly: “You can step back, or I can knock you out permanently.”
I felt my heart move up into my throat. I was trying to be a presence in the room, but when he said those words, he was the ONLY presence. I took one step back.
The sales-y expression returned to the man’s face and voice. “When you bumped into me on the street, I could tell you didn't come from a stable situation. I can help you. All you need to do is come up to this ATM here and enter your desired balance and it’ll go into your bank account.”
There was no way he was telling the truth. “How do you know my problem is money?”
“Everyone needs money.” The man said, as if I was six years old.
He had a point.
“Where is this money coming from? Money doesn't appear out of nowhere.” I replied. I had no idea why I was trusting this guy, but he was right, I wasn't stable.
“Everything has a cost, but if it’s worth living and living comfortably, I would take this offer. I won't offer again." He said, smiling still.
I was drowning in debt. I had rent to pay. A car payment due in a week. I didn't have the funds to pay any of these. Plus, I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck. I walked up to the ATM and put in my debit card. At first I put in a modest amount of money to pay off all my debts completely.
“That’s it?” the man’s voice was right next to my face. I nearly jumped out of my shoes.
“Fuck, dude, you scared the shit out of me.” I protested.
“Apologies. But like I said, this is your only chance to get any amount of money you want, so just think… Anything in particular that you’ve dreamed of? Maybe a cabin? A nice car? A house? Retirement?”
I liked the sound of that.
I’ve always wanted a house by a lake and a waterskiing boat. And a Tesla. And a really nice slalom ski. I've always wanted to retire and live by the lake… that would be the life. My heart started racing.
I entered this number: $50,000,000.00
I took a deep breath. “This better work.” I pressed the green button with the circle in it and as soon as I saw the display say “TRANSFER COMPLETE”, everything went dark. Son of a bitch knocked me out. Again.
I woke up in my bed disoriented, and in more pain than I was before.
“What the fuck, man?” I yelled to no one. I looked next to me and my phone was laying on the bedside table where I usually left it, but my pill bottles were still knocked over from yesterday. It was real, it actually happened.
My heart started to race again. I grabbed my phone off the table and I struggled to enter my password. I opened my banking app and looked at my balance:
I nearly dropped my phone when I got a text from an unknown number: “was it worth it?”
I was only able to look at the text for a split second until I got a phone call from my father.
“Hey dad, what’s up?”
“Ryan. Thank God you answered.” My dad was clearly in distress.
“Whoa whoa dad what’s going on?” I asked, slightly concerned, but uncomfortable. I despise uncertainty. My phone buzzed again, and it was a photo attachment from the same unknown number. I spoke to my dad first.
“It’s your mom… I woke up this morning next to her b-” he swallowed to gather himself. “She didn't wake up. Her heart had just... stopped. I thought you should be the first to know.” he hung up abruptly.
I opened the photo from the unknown number.
Everything went black a third time.