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A Puzzle of Squares

A Story by Zachary Elmblad.

An intentionally arranged series of words for publication by The New Scum Productions.
A serialized story for long-term release and publication by THENEWSCUM.ORG
Do not reproduce this document without the expressed permission of The New Scum Productions.
Copyright 2009 The New Scum Productions.

Square One: Life.

He was a man. His name isn't really that important, hell he could have been anybody. Not even
who he was is either interesting, nor important. He was just another of many that got randomly
selected to be a guinea pig in some sort of bizarre experiment called life that he could have never
dreamed up, or properly explained afterwards. But it did happen to him. He would be certain of that
soon enough.
He stepped out the door onto the front porch. He nearly slipped on the accumulated ice,
reacting quickly to regain his footing. He gently bit his lip as he gazed off somewhere toward the
horizon. He wasn't looking at anything in particular, just looking.
In his mind, he played through images of grabbing the maintenance man's head, a hand on each
side, and forcefully thrusting his knee into the lazy bastard's face. That'd remind him to put the salt
down, wouldn't it? He could feel knee give way to nose, which in turn give way to bone. He didn't just
see it, he felt it. Like it was actually happening. He could even feel the warmth of blood soaking
through his jeans as he bashed away, loving every second. He could feel a new tooth loosen and give
way with every thrust of his kneecap. He made no sound as he dropped the man's head, which
smacked loudly against the wooden deck rails. He watched as a pool of blood formed around the man's
head, slowly passing the blue collar of his stupid work shirt, forming eddies as it flowed past his matted
and greasy mop of hair.
He shook his head and coughed, realizing he was now standing in the front yard of the halfway
house. He thought, again, but more lucidly and self-aware than he had the time before. It was two
different extremes of self-awareness. The first, merely temporal and imaginary, the second existential
and mental. Full mental awareness of his own body and actions- in reality, not in a daydream..

“How long have I stood here? Just looking off into space, man? Fuck!”

He said it aloud, even though no one was within earshot with the exception of the birds in the
leafless trees. The bird's whistled the tune of the day as his boots made time crunching through the
fresh snow on the sidewalks. It was a two-block walk to the bus stop, a fifteen minute ride across town
to the burger place he worked at. It was in this small amount of time every day that he truly lived.
Sure he might have been alive the whole time, but as far as he was concerned, this was the only bit of
real freedom he had anymore. His freedom had always been his life, and having his freedom limited
had made his life seem smaller and more insignificant than his pride had let him feel before “the
That's what he called it. When he talked to all the therapists, it was understood that he would
simply refer to the last three years of his life as a cumulative “incident.” He had stopped talking to his
parent's long before any of it happened. This incident had left him without a home, a dollar, or a friend
to his name. Sure there still might have been people who called him friend to his face, but they
couldn't accept him into their homes after what he'd done. Friends and loves lost, drywall fist holes and
boots through doors. It wasn't even a memory to him. He honestly couldn't remember most of it, just
an alcohol and drug induced blur of three years. And that one memory he couldn't lose. The worst one.
The feeling of knowing everything that happened, but not knowing how, when, or why. It had all come
to him at once as a big ocean of memory snapshots as he curled closer to the fire he had apparently
made just minutes before. He was bleeding from the neck.
He tried to help the therapists. He told them stories, but all of them were just made up from
pieces that he recollected. He told them about the people he lived and worked with, the people he
drank with, the names and faces, and the endless parties. He remembered things as brief whisps of
memory, like he was grabbing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in his mind, but there were no connections. No
pieces cut with a curve to fit together. The pieces were just squares, he had no idea how they fit
together. He would imagine things, looking down and to the right, with the furthest of far-away stares
as he remembered “things” ten to twelve at a time. Flashes of memory, some as mundane as the sound
of his foot smashing a door; some much more vivid and sensual, lasting from seconds to minutes in
He knew he had done some pretty bad things, and as he remembered them he wept. It was a
double punishment to his conscience. Not only did he have to re-live the painful memories of his past,
he had to be punished for them without fully knowing what it was he was being punished for. His
charges were malicious destruction of property, aggravated assault, attempted suicide, and breaking an
entering. There were court-room appearances, pleas made and bargained, institutionalization and more
drugs. Different drugs than he used to take, but drugs none-the-less. Drugs that did the same damn
thing the last ones had done to him. It made it seem like nothing he did was real. Like he had broken
the gap between reality and imagination. Anything could happen, and he could never remember if it
had actually happened, or if he was just imagining it. Such strange things, memories. So real, yet so
not real.

“Drugs,” he thought out loud, again.

“Drugs will be the death of me.”

He looked at his hands as he walked, as he tended to do. The crunch of his boots served a
natural rhythm to the chirping birds and the sound of the bus as it rolled up and those loud brakes
overtook everything like a screaming electric guitar. He hacked again as he took his last swallow of
free, but cold, winter air before entering the atmosphere of bus air. He scraped the gob of cigarette tar
and mucus from his teeth with his tongue, and spat into his hand, wiping it on the front of his jeans. It
was Friday. He was allowed a home visitation for good behavior, and he had chosen this Sunday.
He hated his mom, but it was the only way he could get out of his halfway house other than
work. They wouldn't let him leave except to go to work, and he had one of those things on his ankle so
they knew where he was all the time. He didn't know who “they” were, because it was always a
different one. Some guy, in a suit, a lab-coat, a uniform, or even just normal clothes- some guy, telling
him what to do. If he didn't do it, he was berated and, sometimes, even abused. He did what they said
now, anyone who told him what to do. “They” told him what to do.
He got one day a month, if “they” judged his behavior to be satisfactory. One day where it was
OK for him to leave the house without getting tracked down by dogs and men with guns and badges.
That was his freedom. The twenty minutes of travel time from home to work and work to home, and
his one “home visitation” a month. He called it home, but it wasn't really his home. Neither the
halfway house, or his parent's. He hadn't really had a home for years. It was just sleeping on couches
for nearly a decade. His “home visit” was to his parent's house, a house he hadn't lived in since he was
sixteen. What he did know, though, was where the drugs were in that home.
His mom was a pill-popper. One of those old, angry, fat ladies who just keep eating pills. More
every day, from psychological misdiagnoses, and from psychosomatic “pains.” It was pill, burger, pill,
burger, pill, vodka for that lady. He hated everything about her. Her voice, the subtle choices of bitch
language, the fat rolls leaking from her shirt, the sweat stains, but worst of all the smell. It was a
pungent, musty smell. One that he could never forget, like a gym sock soaked in vinegar and thrown
into an open latrine. That smell permeated the house, and he had smelled it since childhood. He spent
his time outside, back then, far away from the smell and that horrible woman.

“Fuck.” He swallowed, and clenched a fist as he looked out the bus window, just off to the right.
“I fucking hate her.”

He didn't remember himself being so violent, so prone to anger in his imagination. Maybe this
was the new drugs. They let his violent side out. That's probably what the therapists would say, but
they didn't really know him. He didn't really even know himself anymore. Just that ocean of square
memories without connection. Memories as real to him as the seat he sat on in the bus, as real to him
as the burgers he had flipped for eight hours a day, five days a week. The fast food places were the
only people that would hire him anymore, the only people that didn't check references. All it would
have taken was one phone call to any of his previous employers to guarantee he wouldn't get the job.
He rode the bus home, and walked past his boot tracks from earlier. He imagined seeing
himself as he walked back, giving himself a high-five as he passed. He walked up the stairs, and
looked down at the ice, still unsalted. He didn't break into violent reverie this time, he just instinctively
grabbed for the bucket of salt near the door. He scooped a cupful, and scattered it in front of the door.
It looked like tiny marbles thrown on a sheet of smoky glass. He watched as they rolled and came to a
stop. He watched longer as they melted tiny holes into the glass, slowly shrinking in size. For the brief
moment in time between when the hole was made and the marble of salt completely disappeared, that
quick instant, he thought, that was when the marble had finally made a home for itself, only to be
dissolved away. A springtime smudge, scrubbed away with a deck-brush on the first sunny afternoon
of May. It was the first time he had thought cohesively about what he was going to do.

“I'll break into that medicine cabinet when she's eating.” he whispered at the salt disappearing into it's
newfound home.
“I'll find the best sounding stuff I can, I'll eat it all, and I'll die” He said it, and as he said it, he thought
about what that meant.

Death. He had thought about it a lot. Before the incident, he had been in an out of Philosophy
classrooms where the concept of death was dealt with like one was writing a fact sheet on a tourist
attraction. Finality, the end of life. That's what he knew it as. He didn't want to reset, he didn't want to
shut down. He wanted to jam a chemical screwdriver into his motherboard and end it. He didn't want
it to be messy, like with a gun. He had already tried cutting his throat, that was one of his memory
squares, but that obviously hadn't worked. He woke up again. That was the first time he woke up after
the incident. When the sea of memory squares had come into his mind to float there and torment him.
He didn't want anything to do with it anymore. He found himself, at times, wishing that his crimes
against humanity had rendered him terrifying enough to a death sentence. He was a petty criminal.
One deemed safe to slowly release back into a “society” which wanted no part of his presence.
He shook himself out of it again, and walked in the door and up the stairs, boots clunking up the
stairs marking the time to a different rhythm than that of the birds and the crunch of the snow, but a sad,
solitary thud of a boot on a stair. He unlocked the door to his “private residence.”

“More like private hell,” he chortled to himself.

“That's what this is. My own private hell.”
He didn't believe in god, nothing of the sort. The Philosophy had beaten that out of him.
“They” wanted him to believe in god. They even tried rationalizing with his philosophies. Even if it
isn't real, and it's just a metaphor, it's a good metaphor, isn't it? A good way to live, through the
teachings of Jesus and all that. He thought this Jesus guy was kind of a pussy, turning his cheek and
crying in gardens and stuff like that. A big “boo-hoo” story full of needless torture, guilt, and
inhumanity. His mom had never brought him to church, he didn't even know what religion was until
his friends at school had talked about going to church on the playground.
Hell, to him, was a symbol. A symbol of what someone feared, hated, and loathed- a symbol of
oppression, servility, and malcontent. A symbol which rendered itself nicely into his reality. This
horrible place they called a halfway house. It was prison, let there be no mistake. He was allowed out
only for work and his one day, dependent on behavior. His behavior wasn't good, generally, as he had
never quite gotten used to his freedom being taken away from him. They kept telling him he'd get it
back, that they'd “restore his civil rights,” but he knew it was a bunch of bureaucratic garbage. He'd
always be on some list, somewhere, at the Airport, the DMV, the car rental place, from something his
potential employers called a “background check.” He knew it was over, he wasn't free anymore. And
that's why he wanted to end it.

“I just want it to end.”

That's what he said when he went to sleep Friday night.

He woke up, Eight in the morning on a Saturday, for his “day off.” Which, at the halfway
house, meant his day of chores. His list that week was daunting: Morning inspection of his private
residence, coffee in the dining room, calisthenics, breakfast in the dining room, three hours of laundry
duty, lunch, four hours of “cleaning” which meant anything from urinal scrubbing to dusting the
cobwebs from the storage room, dinner in the dining room, and two hours of “social time” which was
the worst of all for him. He loathed his fellow criminals. They were a savage lot of petty thieves, con
artists, and shifty-eyed borderline sociopaths. It wasn't that he couldn't associate with those type of
people, he was all of those things. But they were stupid, and he smart. Something he couldn't help.
He had always said that the only good thing his mother did was keep books around. Despite her large
list of irritating idiosyncrasies, she had been an avid reader of the type that like to own their books, and
she had developed quite a large library by the time he had reached early adolescence, and he would
walk to the park and read for hours to escape the smell. By consequence, he was verbose and literate,
which marginalized him from his mongoloid compatriots.
He fought through his Saturday like a soldier gaining kleos through vanquishing his enemies.
He slept soundly, but before he fell asleep, he broke his day's silence with the same words he had ended
the day before, and the last hundred days or so before it.

“I just want it to end.”

The pills he took from his mother's well-stocked medicine cabinet were a mixed handful,
mostly painkillers of varying strengths and lists of side-effects. He read every bottle, matching it up
with his repository of drug knowledge gained throughout the years. He recognized one in particular,
Oxycontin, because he had an allergic reaction to it when he tried it for “recreational purposes” a few
years back. One of his memory squares was a snapshot of an apartment bathroom where he had
convulsed, naked, in the bathtub for the better part of an hour. He had nearly died. If he took enough,
he figured, this would surely do him in- especially with the help of the rest of it and a few swallows of
the Jack Daniel's he had poured into his empty thermos while his mom was taking a shit. They never
checked his thermos, he noticed, because every day it was filled with coffee. They had no reason to
suspect otherwise. He knew better than to bring a bottle in, they'd check his backpack for sure, but
they always knew he only drank coffee from that thermos. That's how he got the pills in, too, wrapped
up in what seemed like a thousand layers of plastic wrap he had taken from the deli sandwiches his
mom had bought them for dinner. They never checked the thermos.
It wasn't a hard decision to come to, death. As far as he was concerned, it was just going to end.
It's what he had imagined, what he was certain was going to happen. He'd die in his sleep, they'd find
him in the morning when he didn't come down for coffee, and he'd rot in the ground, somewhere,
wherever they put him. Life ends, and you're dead. No more drama, no more bullshit. Game over. It
was easy, he figured. He'd fall into a somniferous daze and never snap out of it. It'd all just end- no
pain, no sadness, no burdens, no regrets. No memories. It seemed so funny that he had fought so long
to stay alive, doing what it takes- working, making money, spending money, doing drugs, just getting
through the days. He never really wanted to do anything with his life, he almost seemed angry that he
was alive to begin with- he had no purpose, no agenda, no reason. Nothing drove him, not love or
anguish , not profit or loss, not good or ill. He just ate his food, did his drugs, read his books, and lived
like it was a chore to be alive.
It was the tiny, insignificant, capsules in his hand that made him laugh. A loud, hearty laugh
that reverberated through his private residence. It seemed so funny that these tiny things were his ticket
out of here. He was so big, and they so small. Surely it was funny to him, if not morbidly funny, that
after all the endless toil and sacrifice of life, with all the memories, it would all be over a few short
hours after he swallowed these innocent looking pills.
He thought about the marbles of salt on the porch, how the pills would make little homes for
themselves in his gut, sinking into acid-soaked piles of chewed up burgers and fries. Making a little
home for themselves inside him, for that brief moment in time while a pill was busy being a pill and
not a silent dissolved assassin. He shook himself out of the daydream, and arranged the pills in a row,
left to right, from smallest to largest. He looked at them for a while, and he mused to himself about
which pills would find homes in which piece of his stomach's real estate. He imagined them buying
and selling plots of land to each other, maybe inventing new ways to shield themselves from the
inevitable digestion, like little people living in a world they didn't know was toxic to their very being.
He thought they might become altruistic and sacrifice themselves to re-patch the thinning
coatings of their loved ones with their own coatings. He decided to wait, just another day. He hid the
pills in the spine of the only book he was allowed to have in his private residence, a brown vinyl-bound
Gideon bible.

“Nice guys, the Gideons, giving out books and what not,” he had always thought.

He wished it was something a bit more to his liking, like the Iliad, or maybe some Vonnegut, but
at least he was allowed to have a book – even if it was the Bible. He only read Revelation, but he read
it over and over again, every day. He thought that was the best part, and it reminded him of one of his
memory squares, which was the peak of a mushroom trip he had during the incident. From being
opened and closed so many times, the vinyl on spine had escaped the cheap adhesive, providing a nice
little pill-sized space when the book was opened and left on the desk. It was like a little tent for the
pills to camp out in before they made their final move into their burger town to live and die as what had
now become anthropomorphic pill-people in his daydream.
He wasn't having second thoughts, it was just good to know that he was finally in control of his
mortality. He felt free again, and he wanted to feel that feeling of freedom that he hadn't felt for so
long. He called in to work sick for the next morning. He knew it wouldn't matter anyway. What
would they do? Fire him? He'd be dead the next morning, sure as the spring thaw. He called his ex-
girlfriend, the one that gave him herpes, and made a date.
He ran away from the halfway house that night. He didn't go far, just far enough to make his
date at the coffee shop down the street. He told her he was going to do it. It was an expression of his
freedom. She told him she thought it was a stupid idea to run away again, but she promised to meet
him anyway. She was the only one he could talk to lucidly, because she wasn't a “they.” She had a
name, Becky, and he knew that name. He used to say it to himself sometimes just because it was the
only name he could remember other than his mother's. She had a face, too, a face that could have
belonged to a thousand girls. An oval face, with perfectly proportioned eyes, nose, and mouth. Her
ears were a little small, but no one ever saw it because she kept her brown hair brushed straight down
the sides of her face, framing the perfection and concealing the imperfection. He never looked her in
the eyes, it was one of those weird qualities that fit him into the “shifty-eyed criminal” archetype. She
had been weird about it at first, but eventually accepted it for the simple quirk it was. That's the thing
he liked best about her. She didn't care about stupid shit. He was already resigned to his death long
before he met her, she was the lady that worked the check-in desk at the halfway house.
At least, before he “mysteriously” contracted the same sexually transmitted disease she had,
which confirmed “their” suspicion of fraternizing aroused by the fact that the two had been spending a
great deal of time together around the house. She was the only one that could ever rouse a conversation
out of him. They had only had sex once, the first time he ran away from the halfway house. She had
been a promiscuous one, which he had always figured was why she had herpes. She wasn't a spiteful
person, she was a good person, and she wouldn't have sex with anyone who didn't have herpes.
She loved him, at least what she knew of him, and that was enough. He didn't care about
herpes, just another scar on his already scarred body. He was going to die soon, he wanted it, he just
hadn't quite figured out how he was going to do it yet, and he couldn't mention it to the therapists,
they'd put him on lock-down for sure. It had happened once already. He had to completely convince
them he wasn't suicidal anymore and he very much wanted to live, and twenty days passed before they
would let him sleep in a private residence again. On lock-down, you had to sleep in a well-lit room full
of bunk beds and built of windows. It was on the third floor where the security guards, physician, and
therapists were. “Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year- to take care of
you, to watch you, and to help you regain your civil rights.” That's what they used to say to him. He
thought it was funny. They didn't like it when he laughed, they said it was recalcitrant. He knew what
that word meant, but he pretended he didn't, and he laughed at it like all the mongoloids would laugh at
him for using a big word. It amused and entertained him to invent himself for the therapists. They had
huge files on him and everything- all lies, intricate and perfect.
The first time he ran away from the halfway house was to fuck her. He had saved up for a hotel
room, and that's where they found him- she was long gone by the time the cops came to drag him back.
One time was enough, and it was less than a month before his first outbreak, and the house physician
recognized it immediately. She was the only known carrier in the house, and it was easy to put the
pieces of that puzzle together. She lost her job, he lost his only friend in the world with a face and a
name- his only friend in reality, although he had swathe of friends in his memories.
There were many familiar faces in his memory squares, and many familiar names, he just
couldn't quite match them up to his own satisfaction- or “their's.” He knew they'd find him, they
always did. It was that stupid thing on his ankle- he could never remember what it was called. Some
stupid, euphemistic name, like “GPSBuddy. 2” He didn't like to look at it, so he didn't. He knew he
only had a short time to say what he needed to say before he would be apprehended and dragged back

“Did you bring me what I asked you for?”

“Yeah,” she said, as she slid a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a set of earbud headphones across the
table, towards his cup of coffee.
“I'm doing it.” he said, staring into the coffee, stirring the drink slowly. Clockwise, first, then counter-
clockwise, to watch the waves ripple and crack.

“Doing What?”


“Oh. It. The big it. The end.”

“Yeah. It.”

She started to watch the same ripples he watched, as if she could possibly see what he saw in those
ripples. They had intellectualized suicide to a moot point. She knew there was no convincing him not
to, she had tried, and it was impossible. She knew what he'd say next.

“The only thing that makes me feel alive is the certainty that I have the ultimate power over my own
life,” he said, sullenly, as if on cue. She could have said the words right along with him, and she almost

She feigned contemplation, neither of them breaking their locked gaze on the coffee ripples, but both of
them instinctively soaking up the world of their peripheral vision.
“You know my stance on that, and you know I understand yours,” she said, following a prolonged and
heavy, but barely-audible sigh.

“That's why I asked you to come here.”

“I had a feeling, it'd been a few weeks since you last called me”

“I had to convince them I was improving”


“I love you.”

“No you don't. You love what you wish we could be.”

“I know, but for me, that's all Love is.” He gave her the rare glimpse into the eyes he seldom gave to

“You and your Philosophy.” She smiled.

She smiled, because this is what their conversations were always like. That's what she liked
most about him, but she never mentioned it to him. He had a way with words which made her feel as if
she were in close personal contact with a character in a brilliant artist's masterpiece. She could look
past his scars and see him as he was, before the incident, as a potentiality that took a wrong turn in a
decisive divergence along the road more traveled. Not a road of contemplative stoic virtue, but a road
of earthly pleasure, and violent reverie. It was his world. She knew it, and she accepted it. She knew
that was what he wanted from her, an intellectual love. He would have found it disconcerting and
emotionally fruitless for her to be physically in love with him.
“Philosophy doesn't matter when you're six feet under ground”

“That's an epitaph for you.”

“Give me a pine box with no marker”

“I,” she paused dramatically, not because she was melodramatic, but because she wanted to give him
what she knew he wanted, some sort of closure fantasy to his fantasy of a life written down on the
countless legal pads in his file. She had seen that file, and knew the words for the lies they were.

“I love you, too”

For a second, she thought he'd cry. She fancied he would. She wanted to, deep down, be the
one who finally talked him out of this stupid suicidal sacrificing himself to himself like a god thing, but
she knew it only played further into his intellectual martyrdom. He didn't cry, he got up suddenly and
moved to an adjacent table.

“They're coming, you'd better go.”

She went to the bathroom and cried silently to herself, and she was proud she had the strength to
have lasted that long. She listened to the sounds of him, the polymorphic artist's ideal, being carried off
by very real, very reality-entrenched men with guns and badges. It was muffled by the door, but she
could imagine him submitting, but still being dragged off like a recalcitrant miscreant. He had no
rights, he was working to restore them.

“His act of defiance in running away was a demonstration. We feel that this time it was an act of an
acceptance. He didn't go far, he knew we would come for him. It was an act of boundary testing. A
result of partially restored civil rights on his home visitation.” That's what the therapists said. He had
kept a straight face for the whole thing, except for that moment they said “home.”

“I have no home,” he wanted to say.

“I want it to end,” he wanted to say.
“I don't know what you're all talking about, I just went to get a cup of coffee,” is what he said.
In reality.

He acted dumb, and he laughed when they said “demonstration,” because he always laughed at
the “big words.” That's what he called any word they said with more than three syllables. They didn't
even know he knew what the word “syllable” meant. He knew it, and he had planned it that way. He
didn't even graduate from college, and these men had spent half their lives in college to toil on his
behalf. He figured he would invent a challenging case for them, one with twists and turns, half based
on reality, and half based on fiction. What they didn't know is that he couldn't really tell the two apart
anymore. They asked him questions, and he timely responded with prudent lies as they scribbled on
legal pads. He was allowed to return to his private residence.
As he unlocked the door, his eyes went immediately to the open bible on his desk, which lay
undisturbed right as he had left it. His thermos was still placed on the nightstand, right where he left it,
between the lamp and the alarm clock. Right as he left them. He sat on the bed and took one last look
at the room around him. His “private residence.” He hated the euphemisms.
“I just want it to be over.”

He let the words roll out of his mouth like a puff of smoke, to no one, as always. He had
become accustomed to intelligent debate with himself.

“Soon, it'll all be over.”

He took the pills out, one by one, the little pill-people. He re-arranged them on the desk, in
front and parallel to the bible, opened to the first chapter of the book of revelation. Left to right,
smallest to largest. He glanced over to the thermos, but decided not to pick it up quite yet. He had one
last thing to do.

“Who's a man that doesn't have any last words?”

He jammed his hand into one of the drawers of the desk and produced his journal and pen. He
was encouraged by “them” to keep a journal which, of course, they read daily. He ripped a page out of
it, and set it back into the drawer. He looked down at it, and he spat on it. Underneath the spit, the ink
in the letters of his name started to bleed together, an image he relished as a symbolic erasure of his
existence. He liked symbols.

“Soon, it'll all be over”

He wrote his last words on the piece of paper torn from his journal. He thought of his conversation
with Becky earlier that day, and he started to write:

“Philosophy doesn't matter when you're six feet under ground. I have lived a life. It was my life. It
wasn't a good life, or a bad one, just a life. It wasn't a life they would have approved of, and it isn't a
life they know about. It was my life, but I can't remember a fucking thing about it.”

He wrote the words as clearly and deliberately as he could, as if he were carving them into a
solid chunk of marble. He didn't write them so much as he etched them onto the page. It was slow and
laborious, and he took great care to space the words esthetically on the page. It was then that he began
to cry. He didn't couldn't figure out why. He, after all, had resigned himself to death long ago. He was
disgusted by people that hadn't. Death is the end of life. He knew it, and he didn't know why people
were so distressed by this simple fact, which he had no logical or existential trouble swallowing. Tears
rolled down past his nose, through the faint and crooked lines of skin that led to the corner of his
mouth. He tasted them, the salty excretions he knew to be commonly caused by emotion. He thought
about it. What death would be like. The end. How would it end?
He thought about stories he remembered as tiny squares in an ocean of puzzle-piece memories,
stories of the old gods intertwined in the ancient philosophies. The old books, the ones he liked. The
books that blended myth and history, fact and fiction. The books that failed to separate memories of
daydreams and memories of reality. Books like the book of revelation. Like the Iliad. He thought of
Charon, the the ferryman of Hades. He thought of Ahmut, the devourer of souls. He thought of
reincarnation, of heaven and hell. He thought of where he might fall in the fold of the ancient religions,
were they to be true. He thought of the mediocrity of purgatory, the harps of heaven, the fires of hell,
or the cold. He thought of the excruciating balancing of his heart to a feather, or perhaps of drinking
mead with Odin in Valhalla. He found the thought of death was now entertaining him to some degree
that he never thought it would. He brushed his religio-philisophical ponderings aside, stood up, and
grabbed for the thermos on the nightstand, opened it, but set it back down again. He laughed to
himself, finding it amusing that he kept thinking of things he wanted to do before he died.
He ventured downstairs, to the dining room, for a bottle of water. There was a constant supply
of bottled water kept in a cooler downstairs. He had never seen anybody fill it, but it was always full.
He took one, and awkwardly noticed the distinctive sound of cubes of ice falling to fill the vacancy left
by his having removed the bottle. It echoed through the empty dining room, and he remembered the
two other things he wanted to do before he died.
He walked down the hallway to the library. That's what they called it, but it was only self-help
books, spare copies of the same Gideon bible he had in his private residence, and the thing he was
looking for: the only computer in the house with internet access. It wasn't a part of the halfway house
computer network, and it was used as a supplemental fund. People in the house paid for internet time,
but there were no speakers, and blocks of time cost residents fifty bucks for half an hour. It was an
unsupervised half hour, though, because there was a lock on the only door to the library, and there had
been too many complaints of the poor young interns un-like Becky (she didn't mind when he did it) that
had to watch residents jerk off to images of women doing things they had never dreamed of having
done to them.
He had one half hour credit to cash in, and he had been able to smuggle the cigarettes and
headphones in his coat pocket during the apprehension at the coffee shop and subsequent interrogation.
He had a good last jerk to some Anime-style pictures of emaciated gothic lesbians with wide eyes and
tentacles coming out of their vaginas. The girls each had a cigarette in one hand, and a gladius
hispaniensis in the other. There were cigarette burns and tiny cuts all over their bodies, and the
tentacles coming from their vaginas caressed the breasts of the other, and of themselves. To most
people, it would have been hideous. To him, it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He wasn't
looking at the picture to jerk off, he did so wishing he had taken the time to fuck Becky one last time
instead of having to walk up the stairs with his spent ejaculate staining the front of his jeans like the tar
coughs he ground into them daily. He liked to tell the therapists about tentacle porn. It made them
squirm. Some of them touched the crucifixes around their necks like it would keep them safe from
him. The patient. The resident. The sociopath.
As his time alone in the library came to a close, he thought of what he wanted the last song he
ever heard to be. He had heard so many songs he liked, he was a big fan of music. All kinds, and it
was a very hard decision. He decided to go with “Wish You Were Here,” by Pink Floyd. He found it
quickly, just a few keystrokes away. He took the earbuds from his pocket, and inserted the tiny little
metal part into the hole in the back of the computer. He chuckled as he accidentally rubbed his arm
against the drying semen on his pant-leg.

“Heh, Gross. You're disgusting!”

No time for laughter, listening to the last song of your life. He listened carefully, and intently as
if it was the first time he had heard this song he had surely heard a thousand times. It ended, and he
checked out of the library. He didn't say a word as the disgusted lady at the desk, who was not Becky,
stared blatantly at the milky stain on his pants. He laughed, like a maniac, looking her dead in the eye,
scaring her, so that she would not follow or interrogate him. He had these people eating out of his hand
with psychological manipulation they never thought possible for human beings to exhibit on other
human beings. He walked up to his private residence, clunk-clunk clunk-clunk, listening to the sounds
of his boots echoing up the staircase.
He closed the door behind him, and realized he had foolishly left his suicidal implements in
plain view, arranged like a regimented dose. The room smelled like Jack Daniel's from his open
thermos. Foolish, but he hadn't been found out. They usually didn't bother checking in on him after
dinner, they would know if he the house. They always did. They were being predictable today, to his
eternal gratitude. He sat on the bed, and thought for the first and last time, that he might not go through
with it. He nearly slapped himself at the thought.

“My life blows, I hate it, and I want to die,” He said.

“I just want it to end.”

He slapped his knees as he stood up, grabbed the thermos and took a small mouthful of Jack
Daniel's. It seemed to bite his tongue, the alcohol, his long lost love back to see him off. He kept it in
his mouth for a while, tasting it painfully, and he swallowed it. The biggest pills were the Oxycontins,
and he set aside one, with a single finger, as he sat at the desk. He closed the bible, and put it back into
his drawer, on top of the journal, the spit-ink blur now dried to a faded mess. He centered his last
words on the desk, with the pen elegantly set just on the bottom right corner like he'd set it down after
writing it. He unceremoniously gathered his pills into a fist full of pill-people, and swallowed them
with a large gulp of water, off to sink into the pit of his stomach to make their homes and live their little
pill-lives before delivering a cumulatively fatal dose to his unconscious brain and bloodstream.
He took his house key from his pocket and smashed the pill he had set aside, and carved it out
into one long line of powder on the edge of his desk. He opened the desk drawer, opened the Gideon
bible one last time to the book of revelation, tore out the first page, folded it in half, and rolled it into a
tube. He inserted one end of the tube into his nose, took a deep breath and leaned toward the line of
powder. He hesitated long enough to remember the pack of cigarettes Becky had given him, and he
took it out of his pocket. He grabbed the cellophane tag, and with a flick of his wrist and a snap of his
fingers, the package was opened like he had done a thousand times before. He removed the foil, and
took out a cigarette. Djarum Blacks, his favorite. He ran it under his nose and inhaled deeply the smell
of cloves, setting the pack on top of the bible, and closed the drawer. He lit the cigarette, puffing quick
and short to make the glowing tip a smoldering cherry. Residents were not allowed to smoke in private
residences, but he figured no one would protest this one time, especially if he were dead.
After a few puffs, and another swig of Jack, he put the tube to his nose and insufflated the entire
line from start to finish in one single breath. He paused to recollect how he knew to do so, and
remembered another brief square of memory- snorting a tremendous pile of cocaine in the back of a
strip club with one of his friends, who's face was clear, but name was not.
He swallowed the last of the whiskey, holding the thermos upside-down and above his mouth,
savoring every last drop. He looked, one last time, at his last words. He felt content with them. He
took off his clothes, folded them neatly, set them on the floor at the foot of the bed, and threw the
cigarette butt out the window. He laid there, silently, on his back. He began to feel what he could have
only described as “numb,” if there were anyone around to hear him say it. They would just write it on
a legal pad and chatter amongst themselves about the new revelation. He stopped thinking about
“them.” He stopped thinking about himself, and he stopped thinking about everything as he spoke his
true last words, the words no one would ever hear or read”

“It's all finally going to end”.

As he closed his eyes, he felt as if he were falling in to a warm, comfortable place that seemed
to beckon him further and further on as he seemingly sank lower and lower into his mattress. Lower
and lower yet, the sinking feeling hit rock bottom as his heart ceased to beat, he breathed his last
breath- a long, wheeze, of a last breath- with a tiny puff of clove cigarette smoke that billowed out of
his lips like a rising spirit, and dissipated quickly into the darkness of his private residence. As the
smoke disappeared, all was quiet, there was no sound. Not the sound of rustling blankets, the sound of
breathing, or the faintest touch on the ears of any microbial dust mite of any heartbeat in the room, and
he was dead.
It didn't end.
He woke up, as if waking from the soundest sleep of what he could now call, in past-tense, his life.

To be continued in Square Two: Death

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