Title: DYING IS THE EASY PART
Category/genre: YA Thriller
Author: Tim Collins
Editor: Kyra Nelson
Original version here.
Following a near-fatal incident, fifteen-year-old Marc learns that with every near-death experience, the men in his family are rewarded with increasingly superhuman strength accompanied by an irresistible pleasure high, but a cursed darkness grows on their souls.
Marc continually finds himself in dangerous situations causing his friends to distance themselves, but his father’s best friend, Milt, takes an interest in the newfound abilities. After his father’s suicide, a cryptic family journal and Milt are Marc’s only help in deciphering his dad's last words: "It doesn't have to be a curse."
Following Milt’s direction, Marc’s search only succeeds in creating a body count. Alienated, on the run from authorities, and slipping deeper into the darkness, Marc will spend the rest of his life as Milt’s pawn or an inmate in the local penitentiary if he can’t learn to manage the curse long enough to prove his father right.
UNBREAKABLE meets ASYLUM.
We lived in a flawed design, a failure of the greatest magnitude.
The human body.
It provided little protection from the elements, beasts of nature, or sharp objects.
I concluded it’s cursed, not flawed. At least mine is. Mind and body.
Not everyone believed in curses. Most called it bad luck, but the town labeled us crazy. The word immortal accompanied crazy when I was younger, but then Mom died.
She’s dead. Not coming back.
The knife’s cold, uncaring serrated edge yearned to challenge the paradox of immortality in a flawed design. It pressed against the smooth underside of my wrist.
Probably not be the best way of disproving crazy though.
I hesitated, but my wrist beat back logic with pressure on my skin. Painful pressure.
The pulsating blood peaked in the same spot horizontally on my wrist creating a bumped line.
I glanced at the instructions on the generic box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
“Cut along the dotted line.”
As if dropping an apple from a great height and expecting gravity to ignore it, I slid the blade of the black handle Henckels paring knife across the imaginary dotted line on my wrist.
A searing pain radiated the length of my forearm. The fingers on my injured arm twitched uncontrollably. The knife clattered a bloody Christening on the white tile. I stared down at the knife.
My eyes turned to the red trouble flowing from my wrist.
Flawed design? Check.
Blood spurted from my wrist, free flowing across my palms and down the length of my fingers.
Logic returned, but I didn’t have an answer. I regretted my decision.
“Dad!” I screamed.
I twirled, leaving behind a red circle with the artistry level of a second grader. My uninjured hand grabbed for anything I could use to cover my wrist. The barren kitchen offered nothing more than a dirty dish towel. If the cut didn’t kill me, the bacteria surely would.
The red puddle turned my head inside out. A sludge of bile attacked the back of my throat.
My legs crumpled as I reached for the phone, landing me a seat in a pool of blood. The knife sat next to me, taunting me.
Not a butcher’s knife. Not even a steak knife. Nothing manly.
A farging paring knife.
I hate you.
“Dad!” I screamed between rapid breaths until my throat hurt. Clyde, my furball dog, danced around me, licking my face as I found myself firmly planted on the floor.
“Dammit, Dad, I need help.” My yell faded to a whimper. “Clyde, go get Dad.”
Clyde’s tail dropped with my sobbing words, but he refused to leave my side.
Loyalty. Clyde’s gravity.
I pulled at the long hanging curly chord on the phone. It stretched and strained, but the stupid hook wouldn’t release its grip on the receiver. It joined the knife taunting me.
“The most important thing is to remain calm,” Dad said from the other side of the island. “Better to handle this on your own. First time fighting the curse is the toughest, but I’ll give you a couple pointers. Slow your breathing. Don’t waste energy. Be rational with decision making.”
“Rational? I’m dying!” Panic overwhelmed relief. “I think I’m going to pass out.” My body lurched left.
Curse? Did he say curse or hear me curse?
“No! No! Stay with it. Pick yourself up. Dial nine-one-one. Tie the dish towel tighter. What else you can do?” Dad encouraged me but made no effort to help.
I didn’t understand.
“Raise my hand over my head?”
“Is that a question?” he asked.
I lifted both arms while pressuring my wrist. Logic fought rationality.
“Good. What else?”
I glanced at the sink, Mom’s sink. Deep breaths temporarily quelled my panic. “I could fill the sink with cold water and slow the blood flow.”
I tried standing, positioning my arms above my head.
“Maybe not the greatest idea, but you’re thinking,” Dad said.
He moved around the island closer to me. “But aren’t you forgetting what to do first?”
Not closer to me. Closer to the coffee pot. Dad needed a steaming hot cup of hangover juice for his morning mug. You know what they say, you need to be bright eyed and alert when you watch your son bleed out.
I think that’s what they say.
Dad snapped his fingers. “Yahoo. Focus.”
“None of this would be necessary if you would help me!” I wildly bit at his leg.
He picked up the receiver and handed me the phone. “Since I’m here.”
Lunging for the bite may not have been the best move. My head danced in circles. “Call nine-one-one?”
“That’s right. I’ll dial this one for you.”
I grabbed the phone creating a crimson handprint on the receiver.
A long stream of blood flowed down my arm collecting on my shoulder. Memories escaped via a blood conduit. Memories of loved ones. They lived in the heart, not the head. The heart pumps blood. Irrational or not, I believed it.
Tears hit my cheeks. More memories leaving? What if the blood puddling on the floor were memories of Mom? I had none to spare.
The phone trilled. I stared into the pool of red hoping for Mom’s face, but I saw only hatred for Dad. How could he stand there?
My head bobbed.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?” a calm female voice said.
“Hello. Do you have an emergency? Can you talk?” The voice stuttered.
“Watch your wrist.” Dad pointed to my drooping arm. A small drop of coffee crested the side of the mug adding to the mess on the floor. “Damn.”
“Hello?” The female voice regained composure.
“Water.” The only word I managed.
“Is someone drowning? Are you at the creek?” A high-pitched creek pierced my ear. No one in this town mentioned the creek.
“No. Couldn’t turn the cold water on,” I said.
“Do you have an emergency?” Her voice changed tone three times.
“Come on, Kid. You can do this.” Dad kneeled close but remained outside the circle of blood.
The woman whispered. “Are you unable to talk because someone is threatening you?”
“I’m cut. My wrist. Bleeding bad. Lots of blood. Need help.” I sounded like a Geico spokesperson. A few grunts and I’d have myself an audition tape.
“Can you tell me your address?” she asked.
More information? I wanted to scream, send help, but I focused on Dad’s eyes and gathered myself. “I’m on Allison Road. Small house. Yellow with black shutters. Two. Zero. One.” I lost the last number somewhere in the puddle of blood.
“Alright, we’re sending help to two-zero-one Allison Road—”
“No.” I summoned what strength remained.
“You don’t want help?”
It’s quite probable this girl needed to be fired.
“Two-Zero-One-Five. Alright, help is on the way. Please remain with me on the line until help arrives.”
I pointed to the phone mount and flicked my index finger. Dad understood.
“No, thank you?” He asked.
I attempted to show him a single finger, but my arm weighed a million pounds. Surely it should have been lighter given all the blood I lost.
I leaned back against the island and stared at the kitchen light. “Why?”
“Why what?” Dad stepped around me and fished the phone out of the blood before placing it back on the hook. He didn’t even wipe it clean.
“Why are you going to stand there and watch me die?” If this is who I was to become, maybe dying would be the right choice.
“You think that’s what I’m doing?” He asked. “Listen, if I loaded you in the truck and drove you to the hospital, it would still take us twenty-five minutes. Maybe twenty if I ran the lights. The ambulance arrives in twelve minutes, and the best part is their focus will be on you and only you. We can’t say that about the hospital.” Dad never blinked. I swore I saw a small twinkle in his smile. “I’ll unlock the doors.”
“But.” Everything in my narrow field of vision turned cloudy.
“But nothing. I won’t always be around to help you like today. Just remember, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” He clapped. “Come here, Clyde.” My dog. The only thing in the house who tried helping me.
His silhouette may have faded with Clyde in tow, but I heard his voice. “Milt?” Apparently, Dad saw fit to call his best friend during the morning excitement. “I think it’s started. Yeah. Cut his wrist. Guess it never skips a generation, which means we gotta get started looking.”
The slamming bedroom door shook the house.
“Looking. Looking for what?” I said. “A new kid? A cleaning lady that can keep her mouth shut? An undertaker?”
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The blood clinging to the edge of my elbow ceded its grip and fell to the floor rhythmically. Dad saw fit to crack the doors open when he unlocked them. A subtle winter breeze joined my pity party.
Nothing left but to hope death didn’t ride on the wind today. If so, he better be a kick-ass, firing breathing skeleton riding atop a nightmare.
I opted to lie flat on my back and bring my arm around to my chest. I defeated the monotonous dripping sound. A small victory, but small victories were all I had left.