The skies burned in balls of fire. Flames incinerated the atmosphere with the appetite of small suns, feeding on Earth’s gases. The air agonized in silence, disappearing in heat waves. Trees on the ground stood still, wooden sculptures frozen in time, their leaves drying up and falling dead. Although it was winter, the day blew warmth on people's faces, a taste of summer in the wrong season. People looked for shelter, they escaped the hellish breezes, cursing at the world for the broken promise of eternity.
Colin put on his jeans, rolled a deodorant under his armpits, and slipped on his grey t-shirt. He washed his face to remove the sticky perspiration that accumulated all over his skin, no matter how often he washed it off. To him, the slime on his body strangled his dignity, threw his soul in the mud, the worst effect of those fiery days.
A ghost haunted every room, the phantom of heat, ignoring opened windows and plentiful ventilation, turning breathing creatures into living carcasses. The office had an air-conditioner, plenty of work to do, a place to stay where he didn't meltdown just by going to the kitchen. Better than staying home.
“Dad, I decided to go. I have nothing to do here, and it's too hot.” He picked up his backpack from the living room coffee table.
“I see.” Francis peeked out through the window. “Will anybody give you a lift? I heard only a few buses are running today.”
“I don't know about that. Mr. Alden called me a while back and said everybody's at the office. I'm on my own, though. If I can't get there by bus, I'll walk.”
“You'll melt in this heat, son. Stay here, why don't you? Everybody is staying home because of those flames. If your boss fires you, so what? We'll help you out.” Francis sat on the couch, the bags under his eyes darkened by the endless nights of bad sleep.
“I know, I know. Thanks. The thing is, I also want to be there for the company, you know?” Colin placed his left hand on the door handle.
“It's Angeline, right? Yeah, don't hide, your eyes can't lie. Invite her over to have a good time with us. Don't go to work. It could be our last day on Earth, come on!” Francis opened a big smile and spread his arms wide at his sides.
“Ah, don't start with that, ok? She's got her own life to bother with, she's not into hanging out with guys like me ...”
“Hey, 'guys like me’? What's that supposed to mean? Who said that to my sweet little boy, huh?” Colin's mother, Sarah entered the room with a bag of potato chips over her belly. “I don't like it already, I want an apology!”
“Nobody said that, it's just me being realistic ...” Colin said, turning his eyes up with the new interference.
“Nah, nah, nah, that's not what I heard. Are you in love with this girl or not? Or is it with your dear Mr. Alden?” Sarah threw more chips in her mouth then put a hand on her waist.
“Sarah!” Francis said to reprimand her, although he was smiling at what she said to Colin.
“Hey, hey, wait, I just want to go to work, OK? I want to do my part in keeping the world going. I'm sure it's everybody's wish that we all survive these days, right? Then we've got to work, otherwise where's the food and everything coming from? Is that wrong? Huh? Is that wrong?”
“To hell with the world! It's the apocalypse, my dear, it's time to be free!” Sarah threw a few scraps of her chips in the air.
“And your plan for the apocalypse is to eat crap?” Colin said.
“Eat and drink, yeah, haha! And I have other plans as well.” She looked at Francis with one raised eyebrow and a lascivious grin.
“Then suit yourself. I'll get to work instead, because that's what I like to do. You’ll be fine, I’ll be fine. Agreed? If the four riders come down from the sky, I’ll be sure to get back to you guys before they reach the ground, OK?”
“Alright, if you’re so in love with your Mr. Alden, go on …” Sarah said.
“Sarah!” Francis gave her a tiny slap on her shoulder.
Colin crossed to the front door and closed it behind him to the sound of his father snatching some chips from his mother’s bag. Sarah said something inaudible that made Francis laugh with her. Thinking of the scene while he walked, Colin smiled. They were wonderful people. How could the world end all of a sudden if it was such a great place? They were just scared.
The bus stop shone with fresh violet paint, dripping wet on the concrete. An old lady stuck tinged toilet paper around the sign pole, making a conical tree that looked frail and disjointed. Her flabby breasts swung at each of her hopping steps, she was half-naked and unashamed, wearing a ballerina skirt that let her wrinkled skin glitter with sweat and the burning sky’s yellow glow.
“Walk, my dear, walk away if you’re going somewhere. No buses today,” she said when Colin got near.
“Not even the 71?”
“Only cars. This place here is now a forest, can’t you see? We can only plant trees now.”
“OK, I’ll walk then.”
“Yes, walk away.”
Colin laughed at the lady, amused at her eccentricity. She used to wait for the bus with him every day, always complaining about the time.
“Excuse me, lady, is everything alright? Do you need any help?” He was worried about her mental health.
“All well and good, I’m watching the woods.” She sent him on his way with a nod.
He walked along the sidewalk, obeying her instruction. Out of curiosity, after a few strides he looked back. The old lady had crawled inside her toilet paper tree, crouched with the eyes of a scared beast. A car drove along the street, zigzagging across the two lanes, and the driver honked at her. She waved at him, putting her arm out of her precarious shelter.
The avenue leading to the office’s neighborhood had a Sunday feel to it. People still worked, to Colin’s relief, although only a handful of them. The Sallar bakery left its glass doors open, the city cleaners swept the sidewalks, a few customers entered the buildings and carried bags full of produce. He gave a thumbs up to a worker cleaning the tables of a restaurant, glad to see that lots of people fought as he did against the end of the world
At the office, the only empty chair waited for Colin's buttocks, alone in the midst of a dozen occupied computers. He smiled in bliss with his first step through the door. His soaked t-shirt stuck to his skin, sweat turning light gray into dark. Salty water bathed his face, flowing down his chin to mingle with the vertical pool on his wet chest. He put his backpack on the floor by the side of his computer and sat down, exhausted. Finally, a cool place.
“Now the office makes sense again.” Angeline giggled at the sight of her tired and happy colleague.
“Yeah, I had a tough journey. It’s hell out there, did you get to feel it? I’m glad to be back to paradise now,” Colin said, venting his t-shirt by pulling the fabric on his chest. “The buses are off, I didn’t believe that. How did you get here?”
“Mr. Alden brought us in his car. He had to make two trips to pick us all.”
“Aw, he could’ve taken me too, couldn’t he? Is he mad at me or something?”
“Nah, he’s just very worried, it seems. He trusted you could make it yourself. You shouldn't mind, though, because we’re all thinking about dropping off, and you’re invited to join us. People are going to the beach, you know, for the apocalypse celebration. It’s the sensible thing to do. You agree?” she whispered in amusement.
“Wait, I think it’s better to leave these things to Saturday. The situation is pretty rough in here, you know that …”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Work to do, crazy deadline, we're going bust, we're ruined. Totally unlike out there, right?” Angeline said, rolling her eyes, getting back to her computer screen.
“Don't fall into the lunatics' talk, please. The world is not going to end.”
Angeline’s white shoulders glimmered. The sky fires reached the office through the glass panes, coloring people and computers with explosions of yellowish tones. Colin waited for any reaction to his remark, but she remained silent. To escape the weight of his intent stare, she tied back her hair, black and wavy, Mediterranean in descent, and pretended to work hard, turning her brown eyes to all corners of the screen. She dragged the vectors of the illustration on which she worked, moving aimlessly to disguise her anxiety. A child playing with ribbons, unsure of what to do with it. She pressed her lips, reddened by vivid lipstick, and looked again at Colin.
“Do you like what you’re seeing?” The words were filled with charm.
“Sorry, I just ... I’m just at a loss with people today.”
“We’re scared, brave man. All this fire makes us wonder whether it’s worth living like we’ve always done.”
“Many are saying the same, and yet, why would we regret anything? We’ve never had it better in human history.”
Angeline laughed. “There you go with your story. Listen, we can’t be sure of that. Life could be much more. Think about it, this might be our last day on Earth. Is this how you want to spend it? At work?”
“They said the same thing about yesterday and the days before. It’s not our last day! You’re all exaggerating. Let’s live today and make sure that everything stays in place. There are people taking care of the skies, we should let them have a go at it and do our part. You want to cry for things that will never happen. It’s not worth it, is it?” Colin smiled at Angeline, hoping to bring her back to reality.
She bit her lips, hearing the condescending tone of his voice, blushing with hearing the truth and for being reprimanded.
“Maybe Earth won't end now, yeah. At such short notice, how's that possible? But who wants to work in times like this?” she said, looking down at her keyboard.
Jason, the colleague by her side, shook his head. He murmured something only Angeline heard, to which she nodded in agreement. Colin couldn’t hear them, the excluded peer, and felt his heart pierce. To let go of the tension accumulated since early morning, he turned on his computer, ready to work.
Mr. Alden called Colin to his room. He greeted him with a warm handshake and a chocolate bar.
“We must finish the Zaran pieces today. Do you think you can pull it off with our team?” he asked, twitching his forehead to disguise his greed.
“The deadline is for next Wednesday, sir, and we’ve got two designers already working on them full time. I don’t think we can get any faster than this.”
“I see, I know, I appreciate your calculations, but ... we must. Can’t you try? Hm? Full force on this project, forget all the rest. You can see how badly we’re faring, I’m honest with you, I always am, we can trust each other. This client is huge, and they’re nagging me, you know ...”
“Of course, Mr. Alden, I know that, I’m here to help. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks, my man, I’m sure you can do it.”
Colin left the boss’ room with a pat on his shoulder and a great injection of energy from a bite of his chocolate bar. In the work room, the sky explosions brightened empty chairs, devoid of employees save for two of them, one being Angeline, the other Jason.
“Where is everybody?” he asked Angeline.
“All gone to the beach,” she said, with a palm on her cheek.
“Oh ... That’s bad. That’s really bad.”
He turned around to go back to Mr. Alden’s private room and inform him of the situation. His heart accelerated, a cold chill pierced his spine. Chocolate, one bite of his chocolate, before returning, so that he could ease his terror.
Now they would never meet the boss' demands. Colin went to his computer, laid the papers on the table, still standing up, to make a brief analysis of the troubles ahead. The designers were all working on urgent projects, unavailable for any new demands. He looked at the check-list where all the new pieces were listed and tried to match each worker to as many new ones as possible. No, that was undoable. What one took two hours to do, one would have to do in twenty minutes. Either they kept the agreed deadline or delivered amateur, subpar work to the client. And only if the workers remained in the office, of course, which wasn’t the case.
“It’s a huge mess, right? We can’t deal with this workload.” Angeline peered at his papers.
“I know. What choice do we have, though? I’m trying to make it easier for you all, but I can’t see how it can be done,” Colin said, chewing more chocolate.
“Forget it, you can’t help us in this case. We’ll spend our time better at the beach. There, yes, you can help us by having fun,” she said, inviting him with a shy smile.
Colin took a deep breath, nodding at her.
He went back to Mr. Alden’s room. The boss slept with his head on his folded arms on the table, waking up in fright with the bang of the door. He stared at the intruder with reddened eyes, a round mark from his wristwatch on his bald forehead.
“Sir, almost all the people are gone. We can't do this.”
“I see. That’s understandable. Yes, yes, I get that,” Mr. Alden nodded to himself, eyes intent on the table, blinking fast. “The world is about to end, isn’t that what they say? Well, if nobody works anymore, it’s sure going to end, isn’t that right? I heard the president speak last night, I’m aware of all the mess.”
“You could try to reason with the client. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
“Of course they will, sure thing. I bet all their employees are out too, crazy like all these people. I don’t blame them. Should we blame them? Uh? What do you say, Colin?”
“I think they’ll feel foolish when they see that they were wrong and made us lose business and maybe their jobs.”
“They will, won’t they? Listen, why don’t we ... why don’t the rest of us, those who stayed, why don’t we finish the Zaran job, uh? What do you say? I can learn this stuff in a minute, just give me a few directions and I’m up for designing everything, I have a good eye for it.”
“Maybe we should call the day off, Mr. Alden. To tell the truth, things are starting to affect me too. It's better to just get home and wait for a solution to this chaos. I can't see myself helping with the creative, and without the others, I'm pretty useless in here.”
“Don’t be silly, my boy, everybody can create!” the boss said, standing up from behind his desk and walking quickly towards Colin.
Together, they entered the computer room. The empty chairs, illuminated by screens filled with icons and pretty pictures over messy tables, the chairs standing intact in a sinking ship. Angeline looked at them with a finger in her mouth, biting her nail, alone.
“What about Jason?” Mr. Alden asked Colin.
“He was here before I went into your room!” he said.
“Jason also went to the beach,” Angeline murmured.
The boss gave them his angry look, opening his mouth to speak and then stopping midway to swallow his breath. Through the large windows, unending fires burned Earth’s precious atmosphere. The once blue mantle that covered the planet changed into red, painted with the colors of death.
“I guess it’s just the three of us, then. Teach me everything! Angeline, my loyal friend, we have a lot to discuss. Sit by my side, show me the magic. We have one day to do what should be ready in a week!”
His boss’ will to keep the world running even at the most troubling of times amused Colin, and he smiled at Angeline in the hope of inspiring her with his optimism. In silence, she stared at him with her big eyes and looked down, still chewing the soft bits of her nail, nervous, looking for a place to focus her attention and forget about the imminent apocalypse.
Mr. Alden dragged the mouse over the table with the prowess of a dog, a dog putting its tongue out of the window of a racing car, congratulating himself on each assembled piece.
“It’s so easy, you guys, it’s just copying and pasting, trimming here and there, moving stuff around, I don’t know why I need eight people to do this, oh no, as soon as they get back, we’re going to have a lot of rethinking to do about this business, we sure are.”
His work lacked harmony and legibility. Totems with tiny, unreadable letters, signs with complementary colors, envelopes covered in black and thin white fonts that would disappear once the ink flooded the paper. Angeline let him do as he pleased, teaching him the core basics of the program while she herself hurried to deal with the rest of the check-list. Colin struggled to create a simple rectangle in the program, sweating coldly at his incapacity to do the simplest of things.
“Come to the beach with me. Let’s get out of this madness,” she whispered to him.
“I wish I could, I really do. We’ve got to help him, though. Look at him. So lost. And what’s so important about going to this beach, anyway?” he whispered back.
“Our friends are there. Maggie called me when you were away, and she said there’s music, good food, and it’s all free. It’s like people decided to enjoy for one day what they couldn’t do during all their lives!”
“Ouch, that sounds messy. Aren’t you scared about getting hurt or something? People are going to fight, many will try to abuse others. Stay with us, please, it’s safe in here,” Colin said.
“You’ll be with me. I’ll help you feel safe and comfortable in there, and you’ll help me back, trust me. We just have to get out of here.”
“And leave Mr. Alden alone?”
“I don’t care. Nobody is telling him to work today.” Angeline shrugged, grimacing at her boss.
“We have a job to do, you know that? We can’t let go of responsibility only because people are losing their minds over some silly speculations.”
She breathed heavily and turned her face back to her screen, shaking her head. The mouse cursor remained still, frozen by her hand. She looked at the door, admiring the way out for a few seconds.
“If I go, will you be angry at me?” She looked behind Colin, afraid to leave him in the company of their maddened boss.
“Angry, why ... No, of course not. I wish you could stay, that’s all, but you’re free to do as you please. For my part, I can’t let go of Mr. Alden, I just can’t. I was hired to help him, and if I don’t do that, what’s left for me? It’s a big responsibility, and I take it seriously, you know that.”
Angeline admired Colin’s brown face, his calm, acute eyebrows, like arrows pointed up. He kept his face turned at her, compressing his lips, half closing his eyes, not minding his dilated nostrils. Filled with expectation, he hoped for a change of heart, for a decision to stay with him. The only sacrifice Colin accepted implied work, and friendship and love required someone to rescue him. Only a rescuer would succeed in taking him out of his ineptitude. Angeline gave him a quirky smile and nodded at the computer screen.
At lunch time, Mr. Alden busied himself too much at his design tasks to care about hunger. Colin picked up the company’s phone and called the restaurant to order them some food. At first, the phone rang nonstop without any answer. He tried again, and when the person on the other side said hello, she laughed.
“Really, you want some food?”
“I do, please. We have an account with you already, it’s in Mr. Alden’s name, Steve Alden. Two executive plates and one ... wait, let me check here with my boss—”
“Calm down, son. I’m a mind reader today, no need telling me anything. I know everything! In fact, I’ll materialize your orders in your office right now, hang in there. With all this apocalypse stuff going on, I’ve got new powers. Pluft! Is it there?”
“I’m sorry, ma'am. Could you be a little more polite, please? I’m just trying to order some food. You don’t have to treat me like an idiot.”
“But the food is already there! Just wait and see!”
The person hung up the phone, to Colin’s dismay. Angeline followed his call with a hand on her mouth, as shocked as he was to watch the world going crazy under the prospect of rapture. Outside, the sky burned in colored flames, reaching pockets of new gases at every explosion. Colin stood up and went to the window. His heart chilled with the thought of an uncontrollable world, out of order in every way. He turned around to face Angeline, while she walked towards him.
“We need to stay close to our loved ones today. You see, everybody is using this chance to laugh at the world.”
“But someone has to stay and defend sanity. We can’t let madness win,” Colin said.
“It’s not just madness. People are frustrated, I think, and many don’t know what to do with it. Some are sad after spending a life without doing what they wanted, some are laughing at themselves. Will you tell me you don’t have anything you’d be frustrated about if the world was really to end now?”
“Well, hm, who doesn’t? The difference is that I try to accept the past. Things could be different, yes, they could, but does different mean better? I did what I could, and what’s gone, is gone, there’s no getting back. If the world ends, I die a happy man,” Colin said.
“Really? There’s nothing in the world that you’d like to do before we all die?” Angeline placed her right hand on Colin’s shoulder, her gentle fingers landing softly on his t-shirt.
“I ... I’d like to finish this job ... and help Mr. Alden.” Colin turned his face away from her stare, evading her insistence, blushing with her touch, feeling a fool for wondering if she was honest with that, if she liked him as much as he liked her.
“Wouldn’t you rather go with me to the beach? Please, Colin.”
“I ... I would ... If only he ... If only Mr. Alden went with us too, if he allowed us to go ... I don’t know. Sorry ... I can’t leave him, he needs help. We can't do this to people ...”
Angeline nodded, disappointed. She furrowed her thick eyebrows and touched her black hair bun to let wavy strands fall to her neck. She picked up her purse from the table.
Looking at her boss, who paid no attention to his surroundings, clicking non-stop at the geometrical shapes in the screen, she said,
“I’m sorry, guys, I’m leaving. I’ll be back tomorrow, if things change. Bye, Mr. Alden, bye, Colin. Take care.”
As she went through the office main door, Colin took two steps in her direction, unable to deal with her departure. He kept himself mute, because if he said anything, his voice would sound too acute and desperate. He defended the world alone, resisting the burden of giants, and how he wished that Angeline had stayed there to help him.
Mr. Alden and Colin ate chocolate and commented on their designs in preschool terminology. They spent an afternoon in playtime, the office turned into kindergarten, overflowing with duty and irreverence. The list of Zaran pieces stretched for dozens of items, many of which required much more than a half hour crash course with Angeline. As they labored on their own and neither knew much about the software, they agreed to compromise quality in favor of efficiency.
“We’ll say that everything is in the one big file we’ll send them. Whatever they can’t find, we’ll pretend it was an accident and tell them we’re sending the missing ones in the next batch. We’ll do this repeatedly, until one of our designers gets back,” Mr. Alden said.
“It could work. That is a brilliant tactic.” Colin smiled by his side.
“Or maybe I should just try to hire an intern right now, what do you say? He can start this moment!”
“It’s almost the end of day, sir. I’m afraid we’ll have to wait.” Colin looked at him and giggled.
“You think so? We can walk down the street asking for a junior designer, we’ll pay in cash, just for a few hours. I’m sure we can find one. How hard can it be to get a geek who likes to play with these graphics programs? Today, everyone does it.”
“Mr. Alden, don’t despair. The world is not going to end, ok? If we don’t deliver this job today, I’m sure they’ll give us another chance.”
“They will, won’t they? They’re good people! I have a sense for good people, no wonder you’re with me.”
Thirsty, Colin left his chair to get a glass of water. He took the last drops from the water jar, then spun the faucet to get some more. A thin line of liquid flowed from its round hole, filling not even half of the glass, slow enough to trigger a chill in Colin's spine. Shortage of water, of food, people saying goodbye to the world outside, how would he keep on working in the office?
Were it not for the chocolate, he’d be too weak to keep up his good humor. His boss opened up his forbidden drawer to both of them, revealing a wealth of snacks that eased Colin's tension for the moment. Mr. Alden was a great boss, he thought, tearing the edge of a packet of nougat.
Ripping through the smoke clouds in the sky, a very intense blue light descended from space, hurting Colin's eyes. He pressed his eyelids tight, chewing the candy's peanuts. He turned around to regain control over his vision, seeking the room's comforting dimness.
To face the horizon, he put a hand in front of his face, protecting himself from the intense shine. Behind the buildings downtown, in the direction of the sea, a glowing pillar of light rose high above the lower and upper cloud layers, fading at the edge of outer space. It moved slowly to the side, against a backdrop of red, burning skies.
It could be a new weapon, either human or alien. It could be the second sign of the definite end, it could be a new kind of aurora. Whatever it was, it had a voice, and it echoed over the entire universe.
“Who did this to me? Who’s getting away with it? Why am I so alone? Don’t hide! I’ll find you!”
The voice forced a recollection of nightmares, loud like thunder, desperate like a monster. Colin looked down out of the window, staring at the street. People ran in horror at the Voice that struck their minds and brought misery to their fragile existence. Mr. Alden, sitting opposite the window, guided his mouse all over the screen to fix vertices and type texts. His fixed gaze kept him designing in peace, unaware of the apparition beyond the city.
“Mr. Alden? Did you ... did you see that?” Colin pointed outside, his finger trembling in fear.
The boss kept his pace, focused on the computer. The Voice spoke again, its thundering impact rippling Colin's chest, his t-shirt, his toenails, the ground he stepped on, the windows. Mr. Alden froze in place, stretching all the fingers in his hands under the stare of his widened eyes. As Colin approached him, tense with the silence of his boss' inactive mouse, Mr. Alden lowered his head, relaxing.
“Why am I so alone?” the Voice said, and one couldn’t tell whether it came from outside or from Colin’s own mind.
Mr. Alden banged his head on the keyboard. He hit it hard a few times, breaking one key and jamming many others. Colin held him by the shoulders, trying to pull him up, moving the keyboard away. The man drove his forehead with strength against the wooden table, dragging his helpless employee along.
“Everybody is gone ... I’m worthless ... my life is hell ... what am I doing here ... so alone,” Mr. Alden mumbled, looking at some indefinite point on his computer screen.
The Zaran check-list didn't matter anymore, now that the office reached the point of complete dissolution. And yet, how could the planet be saved if not by the protection of its most respectful institutions? Colin went to his boss’ room to look at his e-mails, searching for the client’s phone number. He found it and called them. It rang and rang. In the end, the beeps turned into silence.
Through the opened door, Mr. Alden muttered new words that vibrated in the vacant space, taking possession of every single atom.
“Somebody save me, please ... My life is so miserable ...”
Colin wrote a message to Zaran, explaining to them the reasons for the office’s incapacity to fulfill their order. In brief, he said they were sorry, but the day was chaotic everywhere and he hoped they would understand. With the e-mail sent, work ended for him.
The dark room, colored red on the mid tones, blue on the highlights, saddened him. He sat at the boss’ chair, while the boss himself banged his head on the table in the designer’s room. Would Angeline be safe at the beach? Would she help him deal with the loneliness at work?
“There’s no point in living ... Why did you do this to me?” Colin thought, mirroring the Voice.
Mr. Alden shook between catatonic spasms, throwing his arms and legs around the chair, hitting the table, and toppling the monitor. He jerked his limbs on the wood, on the floor, their impacts made loud bangs and scared Colin with their violence. A man turned into a mixer, spit flying at every twist, lips babbling with demented moans, a sick man striking at the world around, everything declared enemy at once. A rag doll inside a tornado, the boss contorting his body, his bald head swinging front and back, ready to break its own bones.
“I am so alone in here ... nobody loves me ... nobody ever wanted me ...”
Colin let a tear flow over his cheek, watching his own convictions die in front of him. He should call an ambulance, he should wait for help. But the telephone solved nothing, it only brought enemies, people laughing at him, unwilling to help, all waiting for the end of things.
“I’m the worst ... everybody hates me ... that’s why I’m so alone.”
He opened the window to see if the Voice came from outside, as it spoke so clearly inside his own mind that he couldn’t believe he thought what he did. In the horizon, the glowing pillar of blue light grew wider than earlier, rising above the sky with the might of a colossal space elevator.
Wind swept fallen pieces of paper on the street below, wild gusts of thin air, violent and weak, the last blows of a dying Earth. Dark splotches of something sticky flowed under the doors, a slimy soup of flesh and bones, or was it something else, something less terrible?
“The worst ... the worst of all, the one who can’t be loved ...”
To jump from the building, he thought, could save him. At the edge of the apocalypse, what awaited him down in the abyss steamed with freedom, the welcoming dust of dissipation, his mind gone by the power of his will. The street beckoned him with a friendly picture. Colin opened the window, placing half of his torso outside.
He felt so heavy and sad that his fall would happen in a second. The voice convinced him to give up existence, to embrace his self-destruction. Suicide answered that anguish, it offered an easy way out. Behind him, however, Mr. Alden screamed, his throat burning with the screech of a slaughtered beast. Deep, frightening shouts of a person terrified by pain. Colin turned around to see what happened.
Mr. Alden’s flesh melted on itself, rivulets of tissue flowing down his skin, dripping on the chair. He agonized in unending spasms, cells turning to juice, muscles ripping his joints apart, bones crumbling in liquid dust, the remains of his internal organs dropped over the seat and the computer table. From fat to tendons, all matter melted down, ice under fire, paraffin by the flame, cohesive force making no difference, bone and hair mingling in the soup of Mr. Alden's body.
“Take me out of this hell ... give me something to do ...”