This was it.
This was Albert’s last day of his life.
It wasn’t a long life, or a fortunate one. In fact, since his divorce four years ago, Albert had gone from a healthy junior lawyer to a cancer-ridden slob who lived off old investments.
Maybe it’ll be better once I’m gone? He thought from his spot on his favorite recliner. Dressed in boxer shorts and an old tank top three sizes too large for him, the emaciated man picked up his vodka tonic and saluted his reflection in the television.
“At least I’ll get to go out on my terms,” he rasped, voice worn from hours spent vomiting after Chemotherapy treatments. Looking at the side table were the bottle of Grey Goose and three plastic orange medicine bottles full of Morphine. “Leave the way I came in…”
Kicking his sock clad feet up, her reached over to the dinner tray and settled it over his lap. Takeout Chinese from the upscale joint that’d been brand new the day they had fired him, lemon chicken with extra egg rolls.
Just the way he liked it.
Picking up the remote for his Roku, he flipped over to a saved television drama he always wanted to watch, back when he was employed.
“A good note to play me off, I think…” he muttered as he fished out one of the takeout containers. “Where is the hot mustard?”
The opening of the show began, depicting the medical team of a narcissistic genius. The catchy tune carried Albert into a hum-a-long, punctuating his elaborate soy sauce drizzling. Breaking apart the pair of chopsticks, he began shoveling in the salty food.
His doctors had begged him to keep trying the therapies, to keep getting the treatments. Even though the tests kept coming back worse and worse, they insisted that he stood a chance, so long as he kept fighting for himself.
No, he thought to himself as he wolfed down the first breaded bit of chicken. I’ve been fighting for too long. I think I’ve earned my rest, after the past few years I deserve it.
Looking around his living room to the mantle above the fireplace, Albert smiled. He had his diplomas, framed hanging in a squat pyramid over pictures of his ex-wife. Even after he’d found out she’d been cheating on him, he still missed the good times. He looked to the flat screen, the colorful lights bringing a healthy glow to the otherwise dirty room.
He was twenty minutes in when he scooped up the last of the hot mustard on his third egg roll. Patting his distended stomach, he grinned to himself.
“I missed eating,” he mused, wiping his mouth on the thin napkin that’d come with his meal. “Damn Chemo kept making me too sick to enjoy a decent meal.”
Pausing his program, Albert refreshed his drink and took a small sip. Smacking his lips at the taste, he plucked one bottle of Morphine and shook out eight heavy tablets.
Considering, for a moment, his last words, he shrugged carelessly.
“As if anyone is listening,” he said, tossing the pills to the back of his throat. The bitter taste was washed away by the tangy liquor a few seconds later.
He repeated the ritual until he’d taken a month’s supply of painkillers with two drinks. Picking up his cell phone, he noted the time was six thirty-two in the evening. Dropping it carelessly next to the Vodka bottle, Albert nestled himself deeper into his recliner and turned his program back on.
“Now, we play the waiting game!” He enthused, coughing once from the exertion. He studied his bony hands, rubbing softly at the too-thin skin wrapped over his knuckles. “Man, I am leaving one ugly body… ah well, not my problem anymore.”
Sipping his drink to the last drop, Albert adjusted his glasses as he poured the next one. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and squinted.
Thud… Thud… Thud…
“What in the holy hell is that?” Albert asked, looking up over the back of his chair. The distant, deep thudding echoed through the walls of his home, the cheap maroon paint worn from years of neglect. Frowning, Albert reached for the remote and turned up the volume to drown out the thumping.
Settling in once more, he swirled his drink as he watched the main character argue about the medical diagnosis for the episodes case. Albert lost himself in the show. It took him another moment of refilling his glass to realize why he was drinking so much.
“Why am I so hot?” He rasped, wiping his forehead. It was damp. Warm and slick. He smeared the sweat into the dirty napkin. “I got to turn on the AC, this is nuts!”
Before he could lower his legs from their elevated position, a drop of hot fluid dripped from the ceiling down onto Albert’s arm. It sizzled, eliciting a scream from the man as he fervently tried to clear his arm of the scalding goo.
Looking up, Albert’s screams intensified. The ceiling, once the ruddy color of old bricks, was now undulating with waves of waxy slime oozing out in rhythmic undulations. Drizzle began dribbling from the ceiling, searing droplets burning into Albert’s skin with every speck that landed.
“What the… Christ, what in the hell is this?” Albert screamed, bringing his feet to the carpet floor. He tried to stand but found that his legs were not long strong enough to support him.
Looking over the armrest, Albert’s eyes widened. It soaked the carpet through, soupy with bubbling sludge. The slime was mostly translucent, sight impeded only by thin, sticky strands of molten red wax stretching out from the floor up towards the chair. Thousands of strands of the wax had split up from the mire to meld into the leather, changing the black armchair into a sticky crimson one.
Albert sat up, head swimming. The sounds coming from the television dimmed, growing warped, and the distant sound from before now resonated like a bass drum in the next room.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
“What is going on?” Albert shouted, flailing beneath the continued sprinkling of red-hot wax drizzling down from above. Strands, long and flimsy, coated his arms and face from the ceiling. The scalding touch burned through his skin until it meshed with his muscles. Screaming until hoarse, Albert flopped about as best he could, trying to find leverage to rise from his chair.
But his limbs had no strength, and his head was growing heavy. Eyes struggled to remain open and, as the pooling wax coated his frame, Albert spasmed to shake off the sludge.
The sound of the drum grew louder and louder, while the walls and ceiling bled forth slime and goo. The television fell over, a flow of sludge pouring down from the wall to silence the snide doctor on-screen. Albert, limp and weak, jostled as the chair sank into the floor, shifting in position as the ground gave way.
“H-Help…” Albert whispered, the loudest he could be while being smothered in the weighty mess. He watched as the walls shook and quiver, the ceiling pressing down with its intense weight. The blazing heat of the room was baking Albert, his body painfully hot. He was beyond sweating, beyond any form of rationale feeling.
He was dying, and all he could feel was pain and confusion.
A sharp cry ripped past his lips as the armchair fractured, sending him toppling into the mound of slime with a sickening splat. The ceiling gave way in sizable chunks, the room caving in to the beat of the thunderous, rhythmic drum.
And then Albert was subsumed in the goo, body in agony as he floated.
What in the hell… I must get out of here! Albert screamed in his mind, eyes open and able to see the searing slime eat his clothes away from his body. This is horrible, I can’t stay here! I can’t be here forever!
Hair boiled away, his glasses floating away from his face. The room was growing smaller and smaller; the walls being hammered in from the outside with every beat of the drum. Slowly, he curled into a ball to protect his face from the incoming interior.
And then the blinding pain faded, giving way to the boiling temperatures around him. Albert could feel it sliding in through every orifice, his ears and nose clogged, and his throat coated. The consistency of cold cough syrup despite the intense heat, it slid down into his stomach, coated the interior of lungs.
And Albert wouldn’t die.
The blaring drum beats crashed from around him, the walls finally pressing into his body.
Albert winced as pressure mounted, crushing into him with unrelenting might. Albert looked for an escape, a means to get away from the constricting coils of the universe, struggling to suck in a breath. Albert panic mounted, his fear of being trapped in this hellscape for all eternity coming to rear its ugly head.
Then… he saw it.
A tear, piercing the haze of the thick syrup. A beacon beckoning to Albert, promising release.
Promising him the death he so desperately desired.
Numb from the Morphine, Albert moved his dead hands and reached for the light. It was so far away, but as the walls contracted painfully around Albert once more, he was pushed closer to it. Realizing that this was his chance, Albert scrabbled against the walls, pushing with all the strength he could muster.
The deep cries of the drum sped up, almost urging Albert to run while he could. Blinking, he slid through the gooey morass, strands of red wax sticking to him as he passed.
After a few minutes, or possibly hours, Albert could feel the world pushing him towards the brilliant halo of light. Albert, tears being crushed out of his skull, tried to do his best to escape this horrible existence.
Please! Albert begged, fighting to force strength into his now frail limbs. Just a little closer, I can make it! Don’t leave me here!
Tearfully begging the beacon to stay lit for a little while longer, Albert’s hopes continue to grow as bright as the light. He was getting closer, approaching the blinding nirvana that waited for him.
He reached the edges of the crushing tunnel, the taunting cry of the drum hammered a last, turbulent cry, as Albert fell from the tunnel in a deluge of waxy water and mud.
… into the hands of a titan. Blinking in the blinding existence of this new reality, Albert looked around. He coughed up the slime, breathing in the sweet, chilly air of the unknown world. The hands turned him over, a thumb the size of his leg rubbing small circles over Albert’s back.
“It’s a boy!” The titan boomed, bringing Albert high into the sky.
Blinking, Albert looked around. The titan holding him was in blue scrubs, like those of a doctor. Another giant took him and swaddled him in a warm blanket, wrapping his feeble legs in the soft coils of the cloth. Blinking, Albert looked across the room and felt the air sucked from his lungs.
He stared into the eyes of an infant, a reflection staring back into Albert’s soul off a shiny metal table, covered in medical tools and instruments.
Albert let loose a wail, the first cry of a child entering the world. A fresh life coming to being the same way it left the last.