Living in a chaotic world with no light insight proved unsustainable for Daniel. The .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum he held in his hand felt more alive than himself. The idea of suicide attracted him. Daniel stood looking past the city he’d lived in since birth. At night the city resembled a grand palace; a gala from a past life perhaps.
He looked below from the roof of the Hyatt hotel and peered at the blend of pedestrians on the sidewalk. They ranged from peaceful to disturbed. Wealthy to destitute. Daniel wondered if he should jump or put the gun in his mouth and end it.
The most that may happen, he figured, a story might be published online, and a cover page in the only local paper, MySA Express News. It’s not farfetched to think a cause named after him would be erected in his honor. Daniel pictured it in the headlines: “Young, Successful, and Depressed.” A week tops, he figured, of media coverage. Soon after, he would fade into the past as another memory and statistic.
“Why do we even have these metrics? Age, race, gender- like we can crack a code and put everyone in a box,” Daniel argued. He continued in his news anchor impression, “As reported by this chart, Asians are smart and according to this chart African-Americans are poor. This test says your kid will need more attention than other kids and this test will tell you if the love of your life is a keeper.”
He looked at a world where, instead of searching for a reason to help everyone find their own happiness, those in power scanned to find a reason for going into space, war, power, and using up natural resources.
“It’s in the name of science. Quality of life. Bullshit! As far back as we can research on human progression, we veered from torches and lanterns lighting up our homes to paying for electricity with light bulbs that harm us. The price for an acre of land is ridiculous. If you own your property and live off the grid, you could get hit with so many ‘violations’ that you have to sell your house to pay for legal fees. We pushed on from horse-drawn carriages to cars that can drive themselves, mimicking the complex human body, which runs on fuel we must buy. In addition, yearly inspections, registration, maintenance, and car insurance to keep it moving. We can’t even keep up with our own bodies and you want us to keep up with everything on a car?” Daniel stated.
He continued to ramble to himself on how he lived in an instant gratification society – people could have whatever they want, and yet, were less happy. In Daniel’s opinion, the world had become so advanced in the year 2025, that it grew dangerous to itself. New discoveries made at breakneck speed and experts were still behind in technical advances compared to that of ancient ancestors.
“I mean how in the hell did they make the pyramids?!” Daniel questioned before taking a break from wrapping his mind around the concept of pyramids. He took a drag from his cigarette. Daniel stood on the roof of the hotel alone and fragile. He didn’t fathom what he hoped to carry out by going up to the hotel roof and being dramatic, but he figured a realization may surface to stop his suicide.
Daniel started his business as an act of love for the right everyone should have – the right to privacy. While in college, he created a software called Bubble. His program allowed computer users the ability to browse the internet and gaze at pictures, with the peace of mind that no one could view or hack into their computer – not even the National Security Agency (NSA). That was a big middle finger to them. Daniel had to brush up on laws, amendments, and rights, but after two and a half years of legal battles, he’d won. Bubble was a go and in a flash, his start-up of four people in a three-bedroom house turned into seventy-five solid employees. In less than three years, Bubble had its own building on the outskirts of downtown.
That win came with consequences. Difficulty arose in the beginning, multiple relocations, few workers only able to work part-time, and a severe storm that flooded the office.
“Will I be happy if I disappear from this place? I have enough money saved,” he said in a low voice.
Daniel’s company, still considered new in the business world, at its constant decline, may have to lay off people. Good people, who because they trusted him by accepting their position, potentially faced the soul-sucking words, ‘I have to let you go’. He felt he failed them and they had to suffer by being unemployed. Everyone in his company shared a connection to him for their survival. Daniel, like a parent who could not offer food for the night for their family, visualized being crushed by glares of shame and helplessness.
Daniel stood on top of the hotel with a gun. He weighed in on jumping, or shooting himself, or jumping and shooting himself while falling off the roof of the hotel. The latter of the three he imagined being legendary. Folk’s suspicion on how he could shoot himself off of a roof-top screamed out conspiracy. He played with the idea of getting set up by a power-hungry employee who wanted to own the company.
“Hopefully I don’t have any employees like that. Hmm… No need to kill me. Without hesitation, I would give the key to paradise to whoever wanted to step up. After a year, I guarantee they will be incomplete because this was my dream and idea. I’m not in it for the money or power. I am a regular guy with a healthy fortune and a business,” Daniel assured himself as he finished his cigarette and lit another.
Daniel didn’t want to kill himself but he failed to see why it mattered if he lived or died. “If I walk away from this, decide not to kill myself, I still might get hit by a car. At least, in this case I control how I go,” he explained. Daniel had been up on the hotel roof for two hours and was running out of cigarettes.
His parents’ had been very supportive of Daniel’s decision to start Bubble, but his mom kept asking when he wanted to settle down.
“I want more grandkids!” she made crystal clear every time they spoke. His brother Nathan had a four-year-old daughter, and another on the way.
Daniel’s mother wanted him to have a bundle of joy of his own. She didn’t understand that the business and employees were Daniel’s little bundle of joy.
“I want to leave this world. Why bring a child in it? On the other hand, a child may help me…” he said taking another drag. “…or it might make me more depressed,” Daniel supposed.
His responses to get her off the subject usually involved compliments on how his parents met and how happy they were, even after decades together.
“I’m trying to find a love similar to you and Dad’s,” he would tell his mom.
She countered with, “Oh baby, if it gets me grandkids out of you, I’ll settle for a fraction of our love!”
Daniel’s mom always assumed he was kidding, but his statements were genuine. The way his parents met and their marriage was straight out of a best-selling romance novel that turned into a box office hit.
His mother, a California born, well-known singer back in the late 80s, had ripped a vocal cord. She had the number one song ‘You Know’, in the summer of 1988 and had toured constantly. On the last leg of her tour in New York that same year, while on stage, her vocal cord ripped and she had a few surgeries as a result. Unfortunately, she never sounded the same. Doctors told her to take it easy for a few months. During that time, she met Daniel’s father.
His father was a native of the city and a radio DJ in San Antonio, Texas. He knew when he saw her, he found the woman God had made for him. She walked past his radio office on the way to see Daniel’s future grandmother, who stayed in the nursing home next to his dad’s radio station.
Daniel’s father ran outside and told his mother, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while…you could miss it,” quoting his favorite movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was, by chance, her favorite movie too. It made Daniel’s stomach turn with how cute that was. They stayed in San Antonio and married a year later. Three years after marriage, his brother Nathan was born and four years after Nathan, Daniel was brought into this world.
Daniel took a drag of his cigarette. He considered to himself, “Who would be at my funeral?”
He assumed his parents, by default. Daniel imagined his mother being crushed by his suicide and blaming herself because she wanted the best for him. He had never seen his father cry, but Daniel figured his dad would wait to break down and cry to himself. He would never let his wife of over thirty years see him hurting.
His Dad, one-of-a-kind, still held tight to ‘manly man’ traditions. Crying remained a no-no in his book. The sight alone of his father mourning could stop Daniel from committing suicide. His stomach became uneasy picturing his father in that type of pain. He thought, ‘If someone as strong and level-headed as my father cries, he might never recover.’
Daniel feared what was capable of making God cry. ‘Imagine the sight of God crying with knowledge of every atrocity committed. The weight of the world sustained on God’s shoulders forever.’
He theorized, ‘Who knows? Are God’s tears the rain?’ At that moment, he remembered a lyric from Lyfe Jennings: ‘Crying is like taking your soul to the laundromat.’ Daniel never believed crying made you less of a man. When done correctly, it’s a release.
Now, with Nathan, it could be a hit or a miss. He may not come to the funeral. It’s been years since they’ve spoken. The last thing Daniel told him was, ‘Fuck you!’ He figured, “I guess if I decide not to kill myself I should make things right between us.”
His family threw a going-away party for Daniel starting college out-of-state in Arizona. That was the day Nathan decided to announce that he and Daniel’s girlfriend Jasmine were sleeping together.
Jasmine had accompanied Daniel to his party. After a while, he noticed that Nathan and Jasmine had been missing. Before he went looking for them, Daniel used the restroom. He walked past his bedroom when he saw both of them coming out of it, giggling, and Jasmine fixing her blouse.
Daniel stood baffled and his voice shook as he uttered, “What is this?” Both Nathan & Jasmine’s face looked at him in horror.
“Daniel, I’ve wanted to tell you for a while and-”
Before Nathan could finish, Daniel punched him in the face. After a few cups of his parent’s wine earlier, Daniel’s bravery rose a few notches. In his mind, he played the fight over in slow motion. There was yelling, one thing led to another, and he shoved Nathan. Nathan shoved back. When Daniel got in his face, Nathan punched him.
Daniel looked him in the eye before leaving, and yelled, “Fuck you!”
If it wasn’t for that moment, though, Daniel might not have had his business, because after that fight he possessed a certitude to succeed. In part, to get Jasmine back, but the anger fueled him to find motivation within. Daniel gave up on getting back with Jasmine and focused on Bubble.
“So, I guess I can at least thank them,” Daniel said, observing the citizens below and taking another drag. To make matters worse, his brother and his ex were now married with their second child on the way. Daniel realized his brother wasn’t heartless, and they were both young and stupid, but sometimes, Nathan was a dick.
Daniel reverted his thoughts back to his funeral. “Maybe he will understand how much of a dick he was and regret ever treating me like shit! Nathan and Jasmine might cry together over my open casket,” he continued his rant.
Daniel knew his best friend Eddie would be there. ‘He may even give an embarrassing eulogy,’ he grinned. Eddie was the first person Daniel wanted as a business partner when his company launched. The two had been friends since the third grade. Daniel knew friendships and business didn’t mix, so Eddie ran his own business – as CEO and mobile application developer under its parent company Bubble. Eddie managed his own operation and acknowledged Daniel as a financial, and ethical advisor. They had been through hell and back together. Eddie even offered to egg Jasmine’s house and beat up his brother after his going away party. Daniel told him to let it go.
Before coming to the hotel, Daniel visited Eddie. Daniel had him sign paperwork to give Eddie temporary ownership of Bubble while Daniel tried to get the NSA off his back.
Ever since they lost that court case to Daniel, the NSA tried every six months to bribe or trick him into giving up control of Bubble. Their last try a few months ago, included trying to get Daniel drunk enough to sign over the company. Fortunately, Daniel got a call from Eddie to meet up with him, and never drank the spiked drink.
Any new attempts would be futile. Daniel took another drag of his cigarette, which burned closer to the filter during his time of ponder.
A woman Daniel was seeing named Lin, surfaced in his mind. They were not what some may refer to as official, but had ‘talked’ for half a year. “To anticipate someone I’ve been seeing for six months to come to my funeral isn’t selfish, right?” he’d asked himself. Daniel witnessed her cry once when her cat died, and it plucked at his heartstrings. If Daniel committed suicide, and she cared for him, he would radiate ambient qualities of an asshole from wherever his spirit traveled.
“With my luck, karma will bring me back as a flower in an elementary school park. That way, I get trampled every day by kids during recess as a reminder of the hearts I trampled by committing suicide. Even if it’s only a few,” he remarked.
Daniel walked towards the ledge, flicking his cigarette to the sky. He watched it fall in one of many bushes below, near the hotel entrance.
He shouted off the ledge, “Why is life hard?!” A few people looked. At the height he stood, no one could see him. Daniel opened the cylinder of the gun, removed the single bullet from the chamber, and took off his biker gloves.
“I resemble a bootleg hit man,” he mumbled under his breath as he shook his head. He wrapped the gun and gloves in a towel he brought, and put them in a shoe-box.
“I guess I’m not killing myself today!” Daniel exclaimed. He let out a long sigh, and he proceeded back into the hotel.
Daniel walked towards the elevator leading back to his room on the 4th floor. He hadn’t considered what he would do if he didn’t kill himself, so Daniel decided to sleep until the morning.
After getting out of the elevator, he walked towards his room and noticed two women. One Caucasian in a short black dress and one that looked Hindu Indian with a yellow Sari draped over her shoulder. One recognized Daniel and whispered to the other, “Is that Daniel King?”
“I think so,” the other said.
“He is so fine,” the first woman whispered.
They giggled and looked back to him as they approached the corner of the hall. Daniel got to his door and unlocked it. Before he entered his room, he looked at them and smiled.
When he entered his room and shut the door, Daniel ruminated to himself, ‘One of them struck me as being out-of-place. The way she looked at me. As if destiny played matchmaker.’ Daniel’s back pressed against the door as he looked up at the ceiling fan spinning and thought about Hindu goddesses.
“I’m buzzing from those damn cigarettes,” he chuckled to himself after a few moments before putting the shoebox on the nightstand next to the bed. Daniel figured he would take a shower and call it a night.
He started the shower, came back to the bed, and laid on his back. ‘What is your plan?’ the rhetorical question he directed at God. He kept himself up at night with similar thoughts. Daniel wondered if he could pray to God if he didn’t identify with any specific religion.
His parents raised Nathan and Daniel as Christians, but never treated him different for learning other religions. He believed in a God, not a male God, but a God that is both feminine and masculine. He agreed religions had done more separating than bringing together. If Daniel worshiped Jesus, some prayed to Allah, and another person practiced the way of Buddha, who’s right? Who’s the correct God? Daniel’s answer was everybody and nobody, ‘They’re the same translated variously, and it’s bigger than any one religion.’
Daniel turned on his side, faced the bathroom, and continued his stream of consciousness, ‘We’re God as much as God is us. Some people realize the God within themselves and use it for evil. It disgusts me, but who am I to point a finger?’ He contemplated, ‘I am a sinner, I am a saint, to someone I am a God and to someone else I am the devil. In the eyes of the blind, what is good and evil? It is perception.’
Daniel remembered an article he read online a year ago about being the best you. He was aware he didn’t have to care for other people, but he chose to because that’s how he would become the best Daniel.
He got up, put his wallet and phone on the nightstand next to the shoe-box, took off his shirt, put it on the bed, and went to the bathroom to shower.
‘This warm water is perfect’, he thought to himself. Water rushed over his head while he reflected on many confounding questions in life.
‘What is my life purpose?’ he proposed to himself in silence. Daniel had a few friends that seemed happy working for someone else and retiring with benefits. He asked many individuals what they wanted to do with their life, ‘What is your happiness or grand goal?’
Daniel had an uncle named Bryant that worked on cars and was a few months away from fifty years old. Bryant never became a certified mechanic, but Daniel believed his uncle was the best one in town. He always told Daniel he wanted an auto shop on his own land. He never asked his uncle how he planned on accomplishing that dream. The way his uncle Bryant got fired up and stayed passionate, Daniel figured the dream alone is what kept his uncle going. Maybe Bryant knew he might never have it, and to Daniel, that was a tragedy. That notion blurred the lines of love and madness. Foolish and brave to give so much energy to something one couldn’t have.
People seemed comfortable only dreaming, with no action put in motion to reach the dream. They were star struck at the idea of their own greatness. Petrified in mid smile at the start of their heartbeat.
He forgot he was still in the shower. The hot water relaxed his whole body to the point the warmth turned him on, reminding him of a deep embrace of a woman. He reminisced on earlier encounters with Lin. Daniel wanted her with him in the shower. The water falling between them, wrapped inside of the steam, and getting lost in that moment.
Daniel considered himself traditional when it came to dating, so when he met Lin and she wanted to ‘talk,’ it confused him. She wasn’t trying to get to know him so she could decide if he’s worth a shot. No. Lin wanted a relationship with him, but the title scared her. Lin got confused with relationships and used not wanting to call the two of them a couple as a scapegoat for her fears and insecurities.
He grabbed the bar soap and started to apply it to his skin as he thought, ‘You like me and I like you, so let’s be together.’ Daniel believed that Lin was a sweet woman, might be the woman of his dreams, but she always displayed a lack of interest being in a serious relationship. Daniel thought it was bullshit, but he dug her so he played it Lin’s way. He figured if she asked Daniel if he saw other women, he had a comeback.
‘Why shouldn’t I? You don’t want a relationship. You don’t want to commit,’ Daniel pictured expressing to Lin. No other woman had his heart. ‘A little childish? Yes, but wanting someone waiting around until you are ready for a relationship, is selfish,’ at least in the eyes of Daniel.
‘The world doesn’t spin to the beat of one person. Everyone is in sync with the vibrations of life. People don’t see that though. We see the selfish desires of man.’ Daniel’s choices were either to trick himself into what’s acceptable in the dating world or go crazy. Things like seeing someone for months and not being labeled a couple remained a foreign concept to Daniel.
“At least I am trying,” Daniel reassured. “Minus the little moment on the roof. Death seems like the only guarantee in life,” he concluded.
Daniel turned off the water, dried off, and threw on an undershirt and shorts. He heard a knock on the door.
“Who the hell would knock at this time of night?” he wondered.
The first thing that came to his mind was hotel security,
‘Maybe they saw me on the roof.’
“Who is it?” Daniel shouted through the door. He looked at the time on the T.V. and it displayed 11:11 p.m. Someone covered the peep-hole on the other side.
“My name is Regina,” a woman’s voice answered. “Is this Daniel King?” the woman asked.
He cracked the door enough to see the woman from earlier in the Sari that seemed out-of-place. She stood in a coat that hung slightly above her knees, open, exposing the lack of clothes and flawless skin underneath it. Her eyes dark brown, deep, and surrounded by mystery. She wore a thin black eye liner that amplified the intensity she radiated as she reminded him of the Hindu Goddess Kali. Daniel let her enter the room. He thought of Lin. Daniel and Lin never had sex and everything he did to Regina, he wanted to do with Lin desperately. Pinning her against the wall, pulling her hair, kissing her neck, grabbing her waist, sucking her breasts.
Daniel didn’t go around trying to sleep with every girl he encountered. Similar to Regina, the few he had sex with in the past, have appeared at his door, metaphorically and literally. Lin never asked if they’re exclusive, but he still felt guilty. Daniel had been with, including Regina, seven women in his life. For a single guy that looked similar to a young Idris Elba, definition of ‘tall, dark, and handsome’, seven was nothing crazy. Daniel heard the same thing since high school, ‘Mini Elba’. That’s what the cool kids called him. The ladies called him ‘King’. A little success didn’t mean he wanted every woman. He had standards.
Daniel didn’t sling his ‘johnson’ around to every girl knocking. Seven was a humble tally considering he lost his virginity to Jasmine. Camille, the rebound after Jasmine. Iliana, a recent woman he met at a company outing. A long walk that turned into a whenever-you-want-it-you-can-have-it relationship. The others were one-night stands he failed to remember their names. The only reason he slept with Regina was due to the vibe from the hallway.
“Women nowadays don’t want a damn relationship,” he often told Eddie. These women were fine seeing him for sex or money. Luxuries he preferred to trade for a relationship with Lin.
Daniel flipped Regina on her stomach and she raised her ass in the air. He slowly slid inside her as she clenched the sheets and screamed, “YES, KING!” His thrust made her body shake and the deeper he inched, the wetter she became.
Daniel grabbed both of Regina’s wrists and brought them behind her as his thrust became harder and faster.
“Fuck! Daniel, you’re going to make me cum!” she repeated as her insides clenched Daniel.
Forty-five minutes later, Daniel lay staring at the ceiling. Regina was knocked out, snoring like a baby kitten. He could have kicked her out, but Daniel appreciated the company. Plus, she was not an eyesore. The top of the blanket rested right below her dark brown nipples that complemented her black hair and smooth bronze skin tone. While laying down, her breast appeared relaxed and cozy with her chest. He noticed a tattoo going down her arm in a foreign language and wondered what it meant. Now so quiet, a few minutes ago she had been a different story.
Daniel’s dreams of late have been nothing but tease and worry. One minute he stayed with Lin, happy, changing the world with Bubble, living off the grid and teaching his family to do the same. The next minute, he would be at someone’s funeral; and in each dream, the total number of people who showed up got smaller. He saw employees he had to let go, who threatened his life or sailed off the deep end with drugs.
His entire wealth included savings from the case he won against the NSA and personal belongings. To postpone layoffs, he had taken a pay cut so low, he got paid less than the janitor. Now sales had dropped and the hype around the product faded. Bubble wasn’t reaching enough people. They were doing well for a word-of-mouth business, but many commercial news stations, and the press refused to push media that benefitted the people. Daniel was blacklisted from ad space through television networks or billboards because major media worked with the government. He only used online marketing.
The internet turned into an ungoverned world where anything goes, and at first, that was why he had customers. Hackings escalated to an all-time high a few years ago. Privacy & cyber security were the ‘it’ product, and everyone sold them. No matter the program, the government always had access to it. Daniel’s software, however, the NSA hadn’t been able to gain access to.
Daniel was one of the few to win a big case against the National Security Agency. All the stars aligned that day. The NSA didn’t know he had the ability to trace and record their attempts to hack his system. When Daniel showed the judge that the software followed the IP address of anyone trying to hack his database, he tracked one of the hackers for the NSA sitting in that very courtroom disguised as a soldier. No denying that truth. The judged ordered Daniel $11.5 million for invasion of privacy. The judge ruled Daniel’s program legal and declared it unlawful for the federal government to access his program without his written authorization. His thoughts remained sporadic until he fell asleep. When he woke up, Daniel regretted his choice to let Regina stay the night.
Daniel’s sleep that night was envied by the Gods. When he awoke, Daniel reached towards the nightstand and noticed important belongings missing. His phone, the shoe-box with the gun, bullet, and wallet all had disappeared.
“You gotta be kidding me! It’s certainly not a letter sealed with a kiss and fake number,” Daniel said as he stormed around the room, “Or a kinky game of hide and seek?” Daniel pissed off, took no chances. He reached for the room phone to call his bank to cancel his cards and report his cellphone stolen.
Daniel gazed out the hotel window while on hold with customer service. “So we will start the day like this?” Daniel groaned. He sat surprised to see it was approaching noon. Daniel seldom slept past 10 a.m. The bright Texas sun shone brightly through his room window. While on hold with the cellphone company, he detected Regina crossing the street. He threw the hotel phone on the bed and ran out the room as if he spotted an unattended baby crossing a busy intersection. He sprinted to the elevator only with his boxers, socks, and a white undershirt on.
“Made it!” Daniel said out of breath. A little, dark skin Asian woman maybe 5 foot even, stared at Daniel like he was crazy.
“First floor please,” he asked her with a smile. She pressed the ‘1’ button and down they went. The little woman looked similar to Lin. He wondered if Lin would look like that when she got older. He sighed and drifted back to regretting that woman staying the night.
The elevator door opened, and he ran straight out the hotel entrance. As he ran, Daniel glimpsed at what could’ve been one of his cigarette butts from the night before in the bushes and imagined them engulfed in flames when the cigarette landed on it.
He focused back to Regina and shouted out to her,
“Roch– urm, Rachel! Regina!”
She didn’t turn around, so he sprinted across the street. His feet burned. The street resembled a sidewalk that transformed into a boiling cup of hot lava in a sauna. When the green guy on the cross walk came up, Daniel darted across the street.
He sensed the world in slow motion as the cross walk counted the seconds down and Regina walked further away.
“Watch out!” someone shouted a few feet in front of him. Daniel wondered who was yelling. He still had one second. That’s when it hit him.
They say that near-death experiences can change your life forever. When it hit him, his body elevated in the air, similar to a plane ascending into the clouds. In reality, he was unresponsive on the hood of a maroon Ford Taurus wagon. Daniel peered down at himself laying on the hood of the car.
‘If I die from being hit by a damn Taurus, I will have a few choice words for God,’ Daniel feared any repercussions from directing bold words toward God.
‘Well, I would risk expressing distaste in the choice of car, except I fear that would guarantee me a one-way ticket to hell with gasoline-doused boxers,’ he corrected himself.
At the time Daniel didn’t realize a car had hit him. He thought it was a scattered dream. To him, he crossed the street one moment.
On the ground with medics, pedestrians, news cameras.
The hotel roof.
While being transported by the EMS he blacked out. When he arrived at the hospital, Daniel regained consciousness momentarily while nurses pushed him on a stretcher down the hall. They got into one of the emergency rooms and cut open Daniel’s dirty undershirt. His legs were bleeding and seriously injured. They put a plastic cup around his face and gas gradually filled it up as he drifted away. When he woke up, Daniel felt weightless as he looked down at himself in a casket.
‘Holy shit, am I at my own funeral!?’ He let the perceived reality sink in before continuing his thought, ‘I get to be with everyone. One last time…’ He had many foul words to conjure up for that Ford Taurus. Daniel floated next to himself, his dead face looked unsatisfied.
Daniel overheard his mom asking the mortician, “Can you make him smile?”
“Sorry ma’am,” he said. “No matter what I tried, his jaw muscles won’t budge.” His mom teared up.
Daniel watched as the church filled with family, friends, and co-workers. Everyone he imagined came. As he observed his parents usher everyone into the church for his funeral, he stood amazed with the large turnout. Eddie gave the eulogy. “Ha, this guy,” Daniel said overjoyed to see his best friend again. His dad held his mother, as he tried to keep it together himself. Even Nathan looked distraught. When Nathan came up to his brother’s casket to pay his respects, Daniel levitated behind his body to catch what Nathan would say. He never witnessed his brother’s face in so much pain.
“I’m sorry Daniel,” Nathan said, as a single tear slid below his right cheek. “I love you, Brother,” he concluded and walked out of the church. Jasmine waddled as she followed him out.
Daniel didn’t spot Lin, and he somewhat expected that. In the back of his mind, he assumed she didn’t care or was too hurt to come. Daniel wasn’t always that negative or skeptical. He tried to practice positivity, but he grew jaded by the world. He understood why his dead face looked unsatisfied.
Daniel always wanted to help the world, to make the scales between good and evil balanced. He had confidence in a world where everything wasn’t so bottled up and sold to the masses. Since earth provided everything people needed to survive, he wanted to make those who held the majority of the wealth, the top one percent of society, pay for leading the world into consumerism. He failed and his service to life was incomplete. His lifeless face displayed failure. As Daniel listed countless things he wanted to do to help the world, his ghost body got hot.
He questioned, “I still have the fire of passion in my heart? I still have senses dead?”
The funeral ended and people left. Only Daniel’s spirit and his body in the casket remained. “You look ugly dead,” he told himself, sticking his tongue out. A door opened and he figured a funeral guest forgot something. Still making fun of himself, someone came up beside his casket. He casually looked to the right and there stood Lin. She came.
They should have brought Lin to the emergency room to resuscitate Daniel because his heart jumped seeing her. Lin sat there for a couple of minutes before speaking.
“If I gave the impression I didn’t want to be with you Daniel, it was wrong. I’m horrible with love. I was afraid that if I gave my heart to you, my grades would suffer. It may sound like a cop-out,” she admitted with tears rolling down her face. It did, but Daniel continued to listen, “It’s too late to tell you, but I love you, Daniel.”
Daniel jumped up shocked. A bittersweet moment. The possible love of his life confessing her love to him over his dead body. She touched his hand and instantaneously the life return to his dead face in the casket.
“I love you Daniel. I can’t live without…” Lin declared as she reached in her purse and pulled out a gun.
“Wait, Lin! No!” Daniel tried to reach for the gun, but she put it to the side of her head.
The sound of a single gunshot echoed in the church. Daniel turned away. He heard gunshots outside.
“Mom? Dad? Nathan? Eddie!?” Daniel shouted. As he ran out of the church, he scanned the scene. Bodies lay dead in the street. Everyone committed suicide.
‘Is this Hell?’ Daniel questioned as everything descended into darkness. Daniel collapsed to his knees for what seemed like an eternity. At a corner in the distance, a light shot out and the night sky surrounded him. Before Daniel could grasp reality, he emerged on top of the same hotel roof he stood the night before, surrounded by five hooded figures with no faces and no feet. They appeared to hover above the ground.
Standing smack in the center of them he demanded, “Who are you? What do you want?”
They repeated what he said back to him, “Who are you? What do you want?” As if the choice was Daniel’s.
‘Is it my choice?’ Daniel got up and tried to walk forward, but his hands and feet melted into the ground with every movement.
Daniel closed his eyes and one of the hooded figures whispered, “Those who release control, have it.”
“What do you mean? What are you talking about?” Daniel sought. The sound of his questions echoed around him.
Daniel’s weightless consciousness tried to decide if he was dreaming, or perhaps he really was dead and his ghostly post-body consciousness floated in nothingness. He always wondered what it would be like after death. Daniel wasn’t convinced people ceased to exist or have thoughts. He didn’t distinguish if consciousness remained the same minus a physical body. ‘Are we different versions of the same being? What if we are all an idea?’ Daniel wondered.
“What now?” An echo of himself danced around his ears.
‘Who were those hooded people?’ repeated in his head.
He remained in a state of nothingness. Daniel was in no rush. Where would he even go? ‘Those who release control, have it? Why tell me that? I do not control anyone. The only thing I tried to do is control my life, and look how that turned out!’ Flashbacks of the church resurfaced on his mind, ‘Why would they do that? Over me?’ He wanted to cry, scream, and move his arms. Something, but he felt nothing. Daniel existed through his memories, darkness, and questions.
‘Am I asking the right questions?’ he speculated. At that moment, he noticed a breeze across his right cheek. A rush of sensation burst through him for an instant. Something pulled him into the breeze, ‘Do I even want to go back?’ The breeze blew stronger and at that time a faint beam of light appeared. Only that faint light was visible. Daniel tried to move towards it to shine light on himself, but the light moved through him as if he did not exist. He continued being pulled by the force of the sporadic breeze towards a never-ending trail of light for hours. Another rush of sensations accumulated in his body again. This time it was physical. His fist now clenched and his arms visibly stretched out.
‘Where am I? Can I go back? Have I left?’ he thought. The breeze became still, and the light disappeared.
“Is anybody there?” Daniel hollered. The unknown force pulled until Daniel realized he was falling. He screamed, “Help! Help!” Daniel remained afraid, anxious, and gasped for air. “Why won’t you stop?!” Daniel yelled. He came to a sudden halt.
Daniel opened his eyes. Blinded by the morning sun warming his face, he stretched his arms like he had the best nap of his life. No dirty shirt or bloody legs. He laid in a hospital gown with an IV in his left arm. Daniel looked around to find himself in a hospital room. He tried to get a grasp of what happened. The moment he tried to recollect any earlier thoughts on what he experienced, they drifted away. He didn’t get up or move. He looked around the room a few times and stared at the ceiling.
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