FICTION: At The End Of My Tether by Charlotte Silveston

Taking your life is a big decision, but then again it isn’t really a decision at all. Decision implies that there is a choice.

(one Seroxat every morning and you’ll be right as rain)

Tonight my wife is out and I will hang myself. Over the past few days I have spent a lot of time researching, stockpiling crucial information. Filling the gaps. Tying up loose ends.

(go home you’re free the police said but that was a lie)

Hanging is one of the most lethal suicide methods, I learnt. An inordinate amount of pain but short-lived. I would have taken pride in noticing the parallel between this and my own life, once.

(at the station words crumbling to ash clogging my throat)

The key is adequate preparation. The videos online are repulsive but I cannot afford to make a mistake.

(they never knew about the phone what did it matter anyway)

I have watched people drawing in one last, unrestricted breath. I have seen the stool being kicked away. No going back.

Wracking, guttural gasps. Flames of indigo bruises rising across the neck. Drooling. Blue-tinged face distorted and desperate. Whites of the eyes framing dilated pupils, black pits. Nets of capillaries bursting and spreading across the skin like a disease. Swollen tongue forcing its way out between bulbous lips. Fingernails clawing and raking at the ligature as, I imagine, darkness creeps in from the outer corners of the eyes, the white noise dimming to the soft sound of an empty phone line.

(the pink ball with a smiley face on it rolling away grinning with each revolution)

One final, cracking convulsion.

Then—nothing. Only the gentle sway of inert limbs, maybe the rafter creaking rhythmically under the strain. And the heartbeat, which stops minutes after the lungs have ceased. That’s when death arrives. But most people have left their bodies long before that, long before they have even fastened the knot.

(neck bent at almost perfect right angle)

I climb up onto the chair.

*

The din started as soon as I left the police station. Six months ago now. I could barely hear Jess over the churning waves of guilt that crashed against my eardrums. Dread and terror pushed me down: I thrashed and I writhed but I couldn’t surface, my lungs throbbing, my throat rasping. The relentless grinding of teeth—if I could have looked at my reflection, they would have been ground down to the roots, enamel stubs replaced by rows of grey barnacles.

(halo of blood a premature angel)

And in the middle of all this, swarms of pictures thrumming through my mind on an endless loop: a dense cloud of horseflies, the charred skeleton of an apartment block. A foetus, curled and cold.

(the woman curled round the body like a kidney grief pouring out the O of her mouth)

I am exhausted.

(a piece of crimson material stuck in the grille)

The red cord from Jess’s bathrobe feels fleecy and soft in my hand.

*

Emily. Emily was her name. Eight years old.

The newspaper picture showed long dark hair brushed neatly to the side and front teeth too large for her mouth.

On the road the black stickiness glued strands of her hair together in clumps. Face-down, but I knew that her two front teeth would have shattered like a plate on a stone floor.

It was the phone.

It was me.

Another day, another argument. Driving off, getting away. Clearing my head, so I thought. Round and round in circles, wind streaming through the window and pulling at my hair. Blowing the confusion away.

I’m sorry, Jess. I’m sorry I shouted. We’ll try again. Maybe the fifth time it will stick.

Feeling for my phone, wedged down deep in my pocket. Drop it, thud on the felt mat. Lean down to pick it up. Only for a second.

I didn’t see her until I had killed her.

The concrete was hard against my knees. There was howling. Me, a woman. The blood seeped up her cream dress like blotting paper. A whole family crushed underneath the weight of my stupidity.

A white sheet and she was gone.

*

I dig the heels of my hands into my eye sockets, trying to stem the current of hot tears. My hands are trembling so much that I can barely tighten the noose.

I can’t stand this please it needs to stop everything keeps billowing and swirling I can’t—

The front door slams and I stumble, almost fall off the chair.

She was meant to be out

‘Adam? Are you home?’ Her voice is light …

I want to call her name so badly but she can’t make everything right and this is not her problem not her fault and now I have to—

‘Adam? I have something to tell you!’

And I am left hanging.

Charlotte Silveston

CharlotteSilveston

Charlotte Silveston lives in London with her husband and black-and-white cat, Jeeves. Her fiction has been highly recommended by Writers’ Forum Magazine and is forthcoming in Carillon, Scribble and Fiction on the Web. She is currently working on a novel set on Alcatraz in the 1950s. Find her lurking on the internet on Twitter (@CSilveston) or at www.charlottesilveston.com.

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If you enjoyed At The End Of My Tether, leave a comment and let Charlotte know.

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