Excerpt: Giving Up

His eyes blinked open and pain flared through his skull. All he could make out were silhouettes against the darkness. Sitting up, he felt something sting the back of his hand. Without paying it much thought, he pulled it out, causing even more intense pain, but he didn’t let it bother him—he had felt far worse. A steady beep coming from his right slowly drove him crazy the longer it went on. It seemed to fill his brain and suffocate all opportunities for other thoughts to form. Its insistent, endless repetitions overruled all other noise. He wanted to stop it, but was unable to make out the source.

He stared into the blackness, turning his head from side to side to find any hints as to where he was. The longer he kept his eyes open, the better he could see as his vision adapted to the lack of light. After a while, he could make out the white sheets that felt rough under his touch. Which meant he was in some kind of very uncomfortable bed.

He sat up and gave himself a minute to take note of all the different pains and aches that seemed to cover every inch of his body. A prominent feeling of sickness and dizziness usually reserved for a bad cold or the flu didn’t really help his case either. It was funny how the first thought that came to him then was that he might be in hell. His second thought was that it would make sense—from time to time, the thought had always appeared in his head. He supposed he just hadn’t imagined it to be like this.

As he focused on his other senses, he immediately recognized the biting smell of disinfectant in the air. Probably from wiping up all the blood.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and nearly fainted from the dizziness and nausea the simple motion caused. When the room stopped spinning, he finally realized there were things stuck on his torso and something hard squeezing one of his fingertips. He detached the object from his finger and peeled off the others on his chest. The beeping immediately flatlined and got even louder.

He hurriedly moved away from the sound.

Realizing where he was, his thoughts went haywire. The veil covering his thoughts and protecting him from reality was forcefully pulled away and left him struggling to breathe.

“No,” he whispered. I shouldn’t be here. Why am I alive?

The door flew open and too-bright light flooded the room, startling him so much he automatically moved the opposite way. It caused him to trip over the other empty bed beside his and fall to the ground with a painful thump. Footsteps came closer and he instinctively scooted backward, until he bumped into the cold metal of a furnace. He knew what thrown open doors meant and quickly shielded his head with his forearms, expecting punches and kicks to fly.

“Let me talk to him! Please! Just give me five minutes!” a voice called out.

There was mumbling and about a minute later, the beeping stopped and one set of footsteps retreated while somebody else stopped in front of him. A hand touched his arm and made him flinch for a second before he composed himself.

“Dylan? That’s your name, right?” the stranger said.

Silence. Confusion. Why am I alive? This isn’t right. I shouldn’t be here.

“My name is Daniel,” the voice continued. “But you can call me Dan if you’d like—everyone does. I’m the one who found you. Will you look up for me? I made them switch off the lights, and there’s only a small lamp on now, so it won’t hurt your eyes.”

Dylan slowly raised his head, ignoring the too-long hair falling into his eyes as he lifted his gaze enough to stare at his own knees. “What happened?” he questioned, voice scratchy and painful to get out from lack of use.

“You… you tried to kill yourself,” the stranger, Dan, said. “I found you, called 911. You almost didn’t make it, but being O-positive saved your life. You did one thorough job though—it was touch and go for hours.”

“I—I shouldn’t be here. This is all wrong,” Dylan muttered. He felt numb. Killing himself ought to have been a permanent decision. It should all be over now, and instead the universe was a sick bastard that loved to play with him. He’d been convincing himself for so long that leaving this place was the best thing he could do in his situation, but now he was still here, still breathing. It was too big a thing for him to comprehend in his current state, so he buried reality under several layers of thoughts and focused on something else.

What would happen to him now? From what he had read during his research—yes, he’d worried about failing and done some reading on what that would mean for him—he was on suicide watch right now and most likely fired from his job. He didn’t have a home anymore. If he really thought about it… everything was even worse now. In his attempt to get rid of all his problems, he had only created more. Why am I alive?

“Don’t say that,” Dan said quietly, interrupting Dylan’s racing thoughts. He’d been thinking so rapidly, he wasn’t even sure what they were talking about.

“You have one more minute!” a high voice announced. Something in Dylan’s head registered she sounded nice. He looked up, spotting the nurse near the door watching them intently. She was young, no older than thirty-three—If not in her late twenties–with red hair and kind features. He looked away from her.

For the first time, Dylan saw the guy crouching in front of him. He was a young man, about his own age, somewhere in his early twenties. His hair was black, his eyes brown and triangular shaped. The shade of his skin was darker than Dylan’s own.

Dan seemed worried and tired. There were dark circles under his eyes, and his messy hair was sticking up every which way. He looked like the epitome of a person who hadn’t slept in days.

“I—I don’t know what to do,” Dylan said in a low voice, not wanting the nurse to hear. “I don’t know what to think.”

Dan’s features were sympathetic. “It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Dylan didn’t say anything. He lowered his eyes and stared at the blue and black striped hoodie covering Dan’s torso as he waited for the nurse to come over and kick Dan out so Dylan could sort out his thoughts in silence.

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