★ ‘Pale God’ by Walker Storz

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Jamey was dead tired.  He was talking to his mother when something inside him snapped.  It might as well have been a bone.

He had been sick for a couple years, and nothing much was getting better.  If exceptions proved the rule, he was pretty sure his moments of clarity and energy were exceptions.  Feeling ‘normal,’ or not sick, was rare, and was much like being high–he learned not to trust his judgement on those days.  Promises would be made that, like curses in the daytime, wouldn’t hold when he came back down.

Life had become temporally distorted.  His therapist was right when he said that being sick was much like being high, but he didn’t know how much Jamey hated being high.  At least with pot.  Every high was a dissociative nightmare.  The narcosis always revealed the screaming dissolution of the universe.  Those famed synchronicities of psychedelic trips would sometimes appear, only as if to mock Jamey, as if moments of order were famous, rare creatures dying of pollution by entropy.  Being sick had taken him from being a healthy, if angsty, 20 year old to inhabiting a strange fever-dream in which he had the energy and mind of an elderly man, but a still-childish body.

When he looked at his mother’s face in a sudden new light, he had the realization that there was no reason for things to get better, and so they probably wouldn’t.  He was tired of being a parasite, even if he had been made one against his will.  Everyone was growing tired of him, he was sure of it.  Every time that he fantasized about suicide, the protestations in his mind grew fainter.  The fantasies grew more vivid, real, heavy.  They were far more frequent than his sexual fantasies.  It was as if he was gradually leaving the world of the living behind.  He was less and less attached to his flesh.

 

Later that night Jamey went outside, feeling like he was leaving the world of the corporeal for the last time.  He was fairly sure of being unnoticed.  He had the keys to his sister’s car, an old station wagon.  He had sent an email to her with a service that allowed the sending to be delayed, so that she couldn’t stop him.

Dear Liz,

I’m sorry.  There’s not much I can say.  I’m mostly sorry that i’m going to smash up your car.  In that light I’ve left you my debit card and taken the other one that has a little bit on it, for gas etc.  The one I left you has that money I got from that gofundme for medical expenses.  It’s only 800$, I spent some of it.  That’s half of the cost of this car, I hope you get some insurance money or something.

I just got tired of this shit.  Please, please, please don’t hate me for this.  You can’t even imagine.   It’s not fun.  I wish I could be with you and mom and dad.  I want to be with the living.  I’m taking up everybody’s time and money and I’m just not fun anymore.   I don’t think I deserve this, but I realized that nobody’s gonna come along and make things better for me. 

Please don’t try and figure out my password and go on my computer or my phone.  There’s nothing horrible or illegal on there but if you go through all of my searches and chats I would just feel very embarrassed, and some of them would probably show me to be a mean and petty person, or just very strange.  I know it doesn’t make any sense but I can’t rest knowing you might do that.  Everyone deserves a little privacy. 

I really love you.  I can’t say much more or I might turn around and decide not to do it, but things aren’t gonna get better and I can’t turn around. 

–Jamey

The car–he had come to this out of a quick meditation.  He didn’t have a gun, or even enough pills of any seriousness to guarantee anything beyond maiming himself inside.  Every time he thought about suicide he had the sudden desire to do something that would allow him to die “happy”.  Not so much a bucket list as a bucket shortlist.  His illness had rendered him always-tired, near catatonic, and worst of all, boring.  Jamey was determined to die after having felt like he had stuck his finger in a light-socket.  If there was divinity he wanted a taste of it.

With a car you could experience this.  After all, it was America.  He would drive to the horizon and beyond.  This was his fantasy.  In reality, he had made up his mind to get to some canyons out west, or a mountain road, and just drive off the edge.  He was sure that he had at least 24 hours before his parents decided to call the police, and he would take back roads after that point.  He would have a car chase before he died.  Either he would get away, and die shot into the bottom of a majestic pit, or he would commit suicide by cop.  He felt guilty about the people who could be collateral damage, but he had been driven to this.  Nobody deserved to have to choose their own death, and he was determined to at least make it memorable.  He would not die as a loser, he would not live as a ghost. 

 

A few days earlier, he had broken down and done some oxy with an acquaintance.  It was too much effort to call him a friend.  Jamey had avoided all drugs for awhile, largely because he had a naive dream that he would attain vigorous good health simply by avoidance of immoral and degenerate behaviors.  But he couldn’t hold out forever, feeling how he had.  They had laid out a few generous lines of “roxy 30s,” little blue pills that crushed easy, like soft chalk.  When the oxy really hit Paul, he rocked back and forth in insensate pleasure, exclaiming “Money in the bank… feels like money in the bank, ahhh”.  As Jamey tasted the bitter drip and awaited the high washing over him, he grinned, feeling like crying insanely and joyously.  Paul was an idiot, but he was right.  This did feel like “money in the bank”.  Like plenty to the point of overflowing.  He had been so poor for feeling recently, and this was like winning the fucking lottery.  He looked up at the light.  It, too, was like money.  Everything was like money-energy, flowing through everything.  You just needed to be at the right place at the right time, ready to siphon it into your account.

 

Things changed quickly, and he could barely even remember feeling that good.  It was 4 am and he had made it to somewhere in Pennsylvania, as the black screen of the night began to become translucent, letting a small quantity of light through.  He had been speeding only moderately, not wanting a reason to get pulled over or noticed by a policeman.  There was nothing illegal in his car, but he knew he seemed unhinged and would not stand up to any kind of questioning or delay without breaking down.  This was the kind of grand gesture that had to be done in one continuous motion, or it would fall apart totally.  The gas station he pulled in at was fairly small, only two pumps, and lit by a ghostly green-tinged glow coming from inside.  Walking inside, Jamey stuffed a container of pills into his pocket out of habit.  Normally he couldn’t handle stimulants without making his body pay for it later–his illness magnified the crash intensely, but this wasn’t a normal time.  There would be no crash.  He would ride into the sun on a white-hot wave of energy and light.  There was no point in worrying about a body that he was jettisoning in his race to the end of the earth.  A smile had started to play on his lips as he entered the store, jingling a bell and seemingly startling the man behind the counter out of a light sleep.

“Can I help you?” the man asked nervously.  His short brown hair was ruffled, and he appeared to be about Jamey’s own age, maybe a little older.  Jamey looked at him, scrutinizing him sharper than he meant to, suddenly feeling energy and possibility flowing through him.  “30 dollars on pump 1,” Jamey said, handing the attendant his card.  When he got the card back from the clerk, he went into the bathroom.  It was dingy and smelled like antiseptic cleaner and feces.  Jamey was too excited to care.  He took a 10 mg adderall out of his pocket and crushed it on the back of his phone, snorting it while he took a shit.  He took out one of the leftover oxys and did the same.  He had snorted heroin while on a toilet one other time, before going to an art opening at his college.  It had had a strange sort of thrill, as if covering up a profane act with a somehow even more profane act, or entering an eerie, chthonic world via the bathroom.

He wiped his ass, flushed, and pulled his pants up.  Washing his hands, he made use of the mirror, making sure he cleaned any visible powder out of his nostrils.  His eyes were almost on fire.  They looked fully steeled.  He could already feel this shit hitting.  He was riding something and it was too late to turn back, but he really didn’t care.

Walking out of the bathroom and back into the store was like walking back into a party from the bathroom.  This party was pretty empty, but he felt like he could fill it in pretty well.  A sudden sense of warmth and hilarity was overtaking him.  He grabbed a couple drinks for the road, some bad food, some gum, and asked the attendant for a pack of cigarettes.  As he handed over his ID, he could barely hold himself back from telling him everything.  I am going to die, he thought, staring again too intently into this kid’s green eyes.  You can’t even imagine!  The clerk looked unnerved.  You are looking at a man who’s going to die.  All of these words wanted to burst from his mouth, but most of all he wanted to say that this kid reminded him of his ex.  They both had pale, slender faces with angular, almost angry cheekbones.  He suddenly wanted to call her up–Sylvie–and tell her everything, wanted to be able to join her, wherever she was at that moment.  He was sure she’d welcome him, for some reason.  All of the people who he loved in his life seemed to be drawing closer to him as he drew closer to death.  He felt a sense of a warm circle closing in.  Everyone important was going to be with him in these moments.

If only they could be there in flesh!  This was still something though, he felt like he could almost touch them, they were growing so vivid in his mind.

Buoyed by an elation both chemical and saintly, he handed the clerk a few pills with the change that he gave back.  “What’s your name, kid?” (He didn’t know what had come over him, calling someone no younger than him “kid”).  But the clerk didn’t act angry or surprised.  “Evan”.  “Well, have fun with these, Evan.”  The “kid” laughed, but turned quickly serious.  “Hey, are you sure you’re alright?”  “I feel like money in the bank, kid.” Jamey tossed those words over his shoulder jauntily while he left the store.

 

He couldn’t quite see the sun, and had a superstitious desire to be on the interstate before it peeked over the horizon, so he floored it out of the gas station, being already more reckless than he had planned to be.  If I keep at it like this I’ll never make it to Colorado.  No cops apprehended him this time, but as he drove up the on-ramp, he resolved not to speed that much until he got most of the way there.

The greenish tint on that kid’s face was still haunting him a little for some reason, so he put on a CD to push that out of his mind.  The sun was coming up, flooding the sky with orange and purple, as the high, melodic bass and drums started spasming neatly.  He turned to the passenger’s seat, where he had put a few gatorades.  Looking at them in the light, he suddenly felt weightless and repulsed to the point of nauseousness.  These objects got to continue to be in the world… These bottles were more full of form and weight than he was.  He was a rancid ghost at this point, driving what was left of his form into oblivion.  All of the sudden he was full of a burning, sickly resentment toward the living, toward the healthy, toward all of the creatures that the sun seemed to be shining on and blessing even now.  It was the first time that he questioned whether he was doing the right thing.

The lack of sleep and his sickness and the pills were quite a heady combo, on top of driving an automatic on the highway, and Jamey started to drift off.  He had pleasant, vast blue dreams like seas that he would inhabit for what seemed like years, and then he would snap awake, and it had only been seconds.  Somehow he didn’t lose control of the car through all this.  Normally he would’ve been scared, but this felt incredibly strange and pleasant now that he wasn’t attached to living or dying.  The highway and surrounding grass seemed to him like a sea that he was navigating, the divider a bank.  Sinking into these dreams felt like swimming in little tide pools, not quite connected to the wilder ocean.  Finally he just decided to let go.

 

Jamey was in a parking lot somewhere, lying back, looking up at the sky.  The first thing he noticed when he came to is that he felt fine.  None of the pain he would expect from a crash, no hangover, just a sense of weightlessness that felt wonderful.  It didn’t even really feel like he had flesh, since flesh is defined by its knots and its weight and its pain.  He sat up and looked around.  There didn’t seem to be any cars or people in the lot, which was strange, because as far as he could tell, it was a big strip mall in a suburb of some kind.  It didn’t look like an abandoned mall–the buildings looked nice, new, just empty.

He felt confused and apprehensive.  He had been ready for anything, death from drugs or crashing, but what was this?  As his mind was churning rapidly, his iPhone vibrated.  Sylvie was calling him.  He accepted the call.

“Jamey, I just had a dream about you, I need to know you’re alright.  I know it seems silly…” Her voice was tremulous.  “Please just let me know you’re okay…”  His heart was pounding wildly in his chest.  “Sylvie…” escaped his mouth, almost whispered.  “Jamey, are you there?”  She didn’t seem to have heard him.  “Jamey, I can’t hear you!” she said hysterically.  “Jamey, stop FUCKING WITH ME!” She was screaming and sobbing.  He said her name over and over again, but she couldn’t hear him at all, as far as he could tell.  There was a sinking feeling in his stomach as he held the phone up to his ear, listening to her sob, and whirled around, looking for anyone that could help him.

She hung up, and he looked at the phone’s screen.  He started to stare into the glow intently, as if it was a lake with something under the surface.  There was something about it drawing him in.  He leaned more and more, and things started to dirty and pixellate and dissolve into a glitchy mess.  He kept his eyes on the light of the phone screen and the hum it had.  That hum was like money, whirring through the world ceaselessly, making it move.  He kept his eyes on it even as he felt himself dissolve and sink into the concrete that just a minute ago was solid, as if fixing his gaze on it could save him, as if it was the sun that he had aimed at all those hours ago.

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