The Suicide Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


a man goes to save suicidal people on a bridge until one day, he encounters something strange.


THE SUICIDE MAN

He could hear the waves crashing on the rocks below. Each wave smashing against the rocks creating a symphony that was both peaceful yet melancholic to hear. The trees that surrounded the chasm on which the bridge was built look maleficent in the dark and no less menacing in the day. Anyone who passes this place would tell you that there is only one sound you would hear; the crashing of waves. No birds chirped nearby, leaves dropping silently and no insects making any mating calls. The area surrounding the bridge often seemed subdued. You might find the lone visitor heading into the town rushing onto the bridge but he does not stop. Nor would you find anyone driving or visiting the bridge at dusk. It was here that one would tell you the lore behind the bridge. Most believed that it is haunted. Haunted by its victims. The mayor who erected the bridge as a means to enter his town had called it by a different name, one that many have trouble remembering. For a new name had surfaced and stuck. This was the bridge of lost souls crossing, the Suicide Bridge.

It got its name from the highly unusual number of suicides that have been committed here. Other than entering and leaving town, most people came to the bridge with the sole purpose to die. Other than the Golden Gate Bridge and forest beneath Mount Fuji, this was one of the destinations for people who no longer wished to live on this Earth. They would come usually at dawn, climb over the bridge’s railings and jump down into the river below. The waves provide a quick death; some believe the river to be the River Styx, the path to the Underworld. It was not just humans that commit suicide. Dogs and cats have been known to be drawn by the bridge’s unseen supernatural force and taken the dive themselves.

Yet every sad story has its silver lining. This comes in the form of Mr. Chen, a now 69 year old farmer, who owned a cornfield on the outskirts of town. Each morning, Timothy Chen would ride his rusted red bicycle with a squeaky plastic horn down towards the bridge. There he would wait, lighting his Marlboro cigarette and taking a swig of his coffee from the thermos his missus had set aside for him. Each day, a new individual would arrive either from his town or from someplace else and climb the railing. Tim would approach them quietly so as not to startle them before trying to talk them down. He wasn’t always successful and the losses would continuously haunt him at night. His cautious and determine approach would often lead to the potential victim to think twice about the choice they were making before climbing back to safety. Some would sob into his arms, some would join him for a smoke and some would whisper a word of thanks before disappearing off into the mist. Timothy had been doing this almost his entire life and in doing so, has saved a total of 374 people. For animals, Timothy would often try to persuade them to turn back by mimicking sounds he had heard his grandpa make whenever he wanted an animal to come close. An unsung hero, Timothy never seeked gratitude and would continue this ritual each day, rain or shine.

It was a Thursday evening like any other. Normally, Timothy wouldn’t go during the evening and yet he felt the strongest need to. It was strange. Timothy tried to recall if he did go during the morning. Yet his memory over the years had been playing tricks on him and recalling each moment required an eidetic memory of which he was not blessed. Nevertheless, Timothy decided to ride towards the Suicide Bridge. It was then that he saw him. A man in his late forties, wearing a long sleeved white shirt with a red spotted tie and black pants. His formal visitor seemed to be clutching his chest while looking at his watch. His flaxen coloured hair covered most of his eyes and in his right hand, Timothy saw him fiddling with a cigarette. It was not uncommon to see someone wearing such garments as Tim recalled saving countless businessmen who had pondered ending their lives over a bad investment. Yet something told Tim that this man was different. Tim sounded his horn gently to let the man know of his presence. The man looked up and a wide smile broken upon his face.

“Whatever you’re thinking of doing, know that it’s not too late to turn back son.”

“I’ve been waiting for you, Tim. What took you so long?” said the man in a calm and soothing tone.

Tim was taken back. Normally, he would have gotten a tone filled with trepidation and fear. Sometimes, they would scream vulgarities. Other times, they would keep silent. Yet never had Tim encountered a man who seemed so still and calm in the face of certain death. More importantly, he had no idea who this man was. Maybe a local who visited the convenience store. Perhaps, he rationalized, the man had heard of his exploits from the town’s grapevine and had come seeking comfort in a stranger. He decided to press on.

“Forgive me sir. You know who I am but I do not know of you. My memory hasn’t been all that great lately.”

“It’s okay. I know of you, Tim. That is enough. Do you have a light? I brought this darn cigarette to smoke and realized I came all this way without a means to light it.”

Tim fished out his old brass cigarette lighter from his pocket. The stranger took it, nodded in gratitude and proceeded to light his cigarette.

“Thank you Tim. It’s interesting isn’t it? All my life I predicted my death at the end of a stick like this. Turns out all those worries are for nothing. Cancer is the least of my problems now.”

“Forgive me again, but could you at least tell me your name?” but the man waved him off.

“Names, HAH. So trivial in the face of death don’t you think. Nothing but verbal and written constructions of identity that we place on ourselves as a means of recognition to our reputations. Just like this cigarette, it seems so meaningless now.”

“People still remember names. They live on for years. People still attribute the invention of the telephone to Alexander Graham Bell.” countered Tim.

“You fail to see the point, I’m making. Indeed, people remember the name but only because they attribute it to the legacy the person leaves behind. Hitler will always be remembered for his role as a Nazi leader and the atrocities he caused but he could have been remembered as an amazing artist whose art changed the world. Yet this is all beside the point. We remember the stories, the history and the choices people make in their lives and yet looking at just the name which was given to us, it is but a ghost of a title that had bestowed while we are still alive.”

“You seem adamant about ending your life tonight.”

The man gave him a somber look. “I am already dead. This is just the final step I have to make. Like Dante said, I have abandoned all hope.”

“Maybe you just haven’t been looking hard enough.”

The man stared at Tim with a sympathetic look in his eyes. It was here that Tim felt a sense of familiarity. He had seen the man before. That red-spotted tie. It all just seems so familiar. Like a sense of dejavu.

“Indulge me in a conversation Tim. Maybe you could make a difference here.”

“Absolutely. What do you want to talk about?”

“Tell me, what is the number one reason why people come here to die.”

Tim knew the answer to that. Over the years, he had seen people commit suicide over money and hardships. He had seen old war veterans succumb to their PTSD. He had seen octogenarians who jumped as a form of self-euthanasia. Yet, the most common reason is ironic given that it is often the reason why people choose not to kill themselves and take themselves off the ledge. From the depressed school girl to the scorned lover and to the broken hearted couple who could not be together for worldly reasons, only one reason came to mind.

“Love.”

“Ahh, I should have known. How ironic.”

“Yes it is. Which is why you should come off that ledge. Your life is not your own. Your death would have serious repercussions on not only those you love but those who love you.”

“What if I have no one who loves and no one to love?”

“Then perhaps you haven’t been thinking hard enough.”

“Perhaps I have. I have no parents, both whom are long dead. I have no friends of whom I speak to. I have no distant relatives and nor even any enemies who might miss me as a sign of respect.”

“Why do you want to die?”

“Why do you think?”

“Is it love?”

The man gave him a grim smile. He could see no beads of sweat forming, no labored breaths. This man seemed resigned to his fate.

“I did love once you know. A girl at the place I lived. To say she was beautiful would be an understatement. She was so full of life. Each day whenever I catch a glance at her, I could feel it radiating through my body. This thing you call love. Something so intangible and yet it is the single most powerful force in the universe.”

“Where is she now?”

“She doesn’t exist no more.”

“I’m sure you still love her don’t you? What do you think she would feel if you decided to end it all today?”

“She would feel nothing. Because she doesn’t exist anymore. My love for her ended the day she ended.”

“I still love my wife.” replied Tim. Changing the subject and digressing may cause this stranger to be less determined to end his life. “I met her when we were still young, merely into our twenties. She came from a rich family and it took a lot of persuasion and action on my part to convince her old man to give me her hand in matrimony. She’s all I have left in the world. She always there when I come home. Always making me my meals, taking care of the house. We never had kids but we didn’t need to. I think it was because we felt too selfish to share our love with anyone else.”

“She sounds lovely. I wish I could have had that as well. Unfortunately, my path doesn’t allow me such luxuries.”

“Love is forever, sir. Love is timeless”

“Or so you claim it to be. Not me. Forever is a farce that I can no longer indulge.”

The man sat on the railings, his feet still hovering over the ledge. Tim edged closer and placed his arms on top of the steel railings and peered below. The river was no longer as menacing as he thought. Perhaps it was the vertigo that was calling but the waves below seemed almost inviting.

“Can I share with you a story?”

“Sure. What is it about?”

“A boy from my town. Very young. About fourteen years of age. He did something bad you see, something horrific and the police took him to the station. After questioning, he went home where his mother raged on him. His friends had stopped coming over to visit and his school had expelled him. Nowhere else to turn to, he took a knife from kitchen drawer and slit his wrists. He bled out the entire night till his mother found him in his bedroom.”

“That is so tragic. He was so young.”

“Indeed. But that isn’t my point of the story. I visited the boy during his funeral and this is what I saw. I saw candles being lit by his family members of whom many had probably shunned the boy. His friends came and laid down presents and gifts at the foot of his coffin with some even crafting eulogies as to how wonderful he was when he was alive. His mother was tearing up and even wailed when the priest began to say his prayers. His school principal was there all cloaked in black and grieving silently. The police had formed a barrier around the wake so as to ensure the smooth sailing of traffic from the many visitors who came to pay respect to the boy.”

“Such a tragic loss can bring people together.”

“Wasn’t so tragic when he was alive.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s easy to see why the boy chose death. It’s easy to understand why all of them do. Don’t you find it strange that the love and care the boy was so craving for was given only after his death? Isn’t it ironic? You people claim that love is what pushes a person to live and yet only in death, is that love given.”

“You’re forgetting the pain it causes to those around them. The hurt, the anguish.”

“Which eventually will be forgotten only to be reciprocated by the love shown for years to come. Sure, there would be the occasional pain and hatred but sooner or later, people forget. They show compassion in remembrance of the dead.”

“Which can be tenfold if the person was alive. Like you said, people forget. They forget the misdeeds and eventually move on. That is when the love will be shown.”

“I suppose. Do you think anyone might miss you though? If you were dead.”

“My wife. There are others too.”

“Like who? Do these people, the ones you save so often, will they miss you? Do they even thank you?”

“Is that how you heard of me?”

“Your reputation precedes you. I know of you like I said. How many have you saved? 370 odd was it?”

“374.”

“So you do keep count.”

“Yes, I suppose. Every life counts.”

“Does yours? Do they remember you?”

Interesting question, thought Tim. In all the years he saved people, not one had come forth to thank him or look him up. He never thought of it much. Committing suicide and then changing one’s mind is itself a difficult and emotional decision. Most people would be ashamed even considering it. They would have wanted nothing to do with it anymore. In doing so, they would want to wipe every single trace of such an event, leaving guys like Tim to being mere ghosts at the back of their mind. It was okay, thought Tim as he looked at his hands. Years of working at the cornfield had led to many bruises and scratches. There were even light splatters of blood on it, probably due to cuts working the machinery around him.

“I don’t do this for the gratitude. I do it to help people.”

The man stared at him for a long while before offering a slight smile.

“You’re a good man, Tim. It’s finally time for me. Time to let go.”

“DON’T!” yelled Tim as he took a step forward to the man. Strangely, the man stepped down from the railing and faced him. His expression was one of pity.

“I didn’t say it was time for me. I could never let go. My job prevents it.”

“What are you saying?”

“Don’t you recognize me? I suppose not. You have taken so much from me already. 374 souls wasn’t it?”

“What?”

“Let me introduce myself. I suppose you people call me by many names. Grim reaper, Black Angel. But you can call me Death. I’m here to take you away, Tim. Or rather give you a choice.”

Tim was confused. What in the world? Was this some sort of joke? Was this man really a supernatural being?

“I suppose you need some remembering. Your memory has been hazy, no? Why do you think you’re here at night? No one comes here at night. Here, let me help you.”

The man placed a finger on Tim’s forehead. Suddenly his world started to dissolve.

……

 

He was at his farm, walking towards his house. Ordinarily, he would still be working and yet he realized he had forgotten to take his coffee. As he approached his house, he saw a white sedan parked a few miles from his place. He entered his house and went into the kitchen. As he fumbled for a mug, he heard a sound coming from upstairs. His wife’s laughter and… a man’s voice. Tim walked up the stairs, each step trying to make sense of what he was hearing. He saw a red spotted tie hanging from his doorknob and from the crack in the door; he could see two bodies shifting in his bed. Quietly, he pushed the door open and then he saw them. Black pants strewn across the floor. A man in his mid-forties, naked and hugging his wife. Her hair covering both their faces as they indulged in erotic passion, their nude bodies intertwined within each other. He took a step back and closed the door gently, focusing on keeping it ajar to where he had found it. He quietly crept down the stairs to his shed. He started shifting through the pitchforks, spades and other metal tools he had stored till he finally found it. His father’s old bolt action shotgun…

“Two shots. That's all it took. One here.”said Death as he pointed to his chest. “The other through your wife’s head.”

Tim collapsed on the floor. He remembered everything now. The cuts on his hands from where he had entered the room and broke a fist across the man’s face. His wife screaming for him to stop and giving her a chance to explain. The gun he raised as he shot the man who was on his knees pleading for his life. The hesitation he felt when he saw his wife begging for forgiveness before the anger of her betrayal forced him to pull the trigger. The guilt and fear that spread through him after the deed was done. Taking both bodies to the cornfield to bury them in and wiping the blood off his hands and in his room, unable to completely wash them off. Taking his red bicycle to the bridge to...

“Die. You came here to die.”

“Why are you doing this? Why do you look so much like him?”

“This body? I can only be seen wearing the bodies of the dead. I was hoping that wearing your victim’s body might trigger your memory quicker. Of course, I could have come as your wife but I fear that would have pushed you off the edge literally and we would never get a chance to speak.”

Tim was sobbing hard now. He deserved to die. He had murdered his wife. Even if he had returned, the police would charge him for manslaughter. He might get the rope or worse, spent his remaining days in a cold, hard cell. Death placed a hand on his shoulder. He felt the coldness of his touch spreading through him and yet the show of comfort brought mild warmth to his otherwise broken heart.

“Don’t be sad, Tim. Think of all the good you’ve done.”

“I killed two people, Death! One of them was my wife! I deserve to be in hell.”

“That’s for God to decide, not me or you. I only reap souls. Besides, I think God would go easy on you. You’ve done a lot of good in your life, Tim. Your killing was justified to me. She betrayed you with another man. Anyone would have done what you did.”

“Saving others just not justify what I did. My morality. It’s all over now.”

“Morality, HAH! Save me the dramatics, Tim. Look at me.”

Tim stood up slowly. His face still buried in tears within his hands.

“I said, look at me, Tim.”

He heard Death’s tone. It was cold and hard. But Tim no longer cared much. Perhaps a defiant stare could offer some solace. Tim looked into Death’s eyes. There was nothing but a blank expression staring back at him.

“Tim, I weep for no one. I do not cry for murderer nor for the victims he takes. I do not cry for the dying soldier, the sick and the old, the young child taken so cruelly from this world. I do not cry for kings or queens or for those stricken with poverty. I do not cry for presidents and generals who yell for war or for the innocent civilians who get caught in the crossfire. I am devoid of feelings. A life is a gift that gets taken away from us.  What you do from the moment your mother sees you open your eyes to the day I closed them is redundant and meaningless to me. And yet despite all that, despite how many of you curse me for doing my job, I cannot help but feel a sense of sympathy for you.”

Tim looked at Death as he motioned for him to step over the railing. Tim could see his body moving forward. He gripped his hands on the railing and hauled his body over. He felt for a foothold as he turned his body to face the river, his hands the only thing keeping him from tumbling over. He released his grip on his left arm. Only his right hand was left holding on his body on to this Earth.

“You have given me a break over these years. I have had 374 souls less to take because of you. Today, you gave me two. So that makes 372 souls left. Like I said, I see no difference in a life. To me, each and every soul is the same. So logic remains the only thing left for me. Mathematically, saving 372 souls should be enough to earn you a place in paradise. God should understand after all.”

Tim was no longer crying now. He opened his mouth to speak but no words could come from it. Death took this as a cue to continue.

“Look around you, Tim. What do you see? No one. Not a single soul came here to save you or to even mourn the loss of you. After everything you have done, is this how life pays you back? You could, of course, return home. They won’t find the bodies for years and you could take everything, pack it up and leave for another town. But the guilt would kill you inside until one day at a motel room, at the beach or even back here, I would meet you again. You could confess of course. A judge might be lenient and sentence you to only a few years. But then, your world would be shattered. You would never trust a woman again since after all the love of your life betrayed you. You would live a lonely man until again we meet. Eventually, you and I will meet again. Look around you now, Tim. What do you see?”

Tim stared around him. He could see the trees across the cliffs flapping in the breeze. He saw the moon, now shining brightly, above him. He could see the outline of the rocks below and of course, the majestic river rushing beneath him. On the bridge, he spied his red bike, now parked gently at the side as if it had taken his last ride. The road was bare. No signs of human life on the now dark bridge. Tim closed his eyes and listened. Other than the crashing of waves, there was nothing else. Dead silence. He tried to recall his past. The first day he attended school. Making meals with his mother in the kitchen. His father teaching him how to shoot. The first day he met his wife. The wedding day. The days he sat on his tractor watching the sunset fall. His wife kissing him on the cheek before he left for the bridge. The people he met on the bridge. Talking to them. Hugging them. They were all gone now. All those memories lost in some kind of fog. He could not see their faces. All that was left was the darkness that surrounded his mind. Tim opened his eyes. Death was now floating in front of him, a smile on his face with two hands outstretched.

“I have lived for millions of years, Tim. I only show up for a few. You’re one of those ones that l like. An unsung hero that will forever be unsung. You’ve done so much for people around you and yet you’re not loved. Nor did you want it for yourself. All you ever wanted was taken from you today. See what life gives to you, Tim? And they say I’m cruel? There is nobody here. Is that fair? For someone like you?

“What if all this is just happening in my head? What if you’re not even real?” Death laughed. Tim was grinning now. There was something so appealing about Death.

“Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps you’re hallucinating and this all is happening in your head. Why on earth wouldn’t that mean it was real? It’s more real than anything you have experienced in your life. How redundant was it all? It’s all a big joke if you ask me. Some cosmic humour perhaps. It is time, Tim. Time for you to decide. We all have choices to make and despite what I feel about it, I’m giving you one as well. But you’ve done enough, Tim. You have done enough. It’s time to rest that weary body of yours. So what will it be, Tim? Stay or let go?”.

Tim saw the smooth hands of Death in front of him. His left hand reached for one and Death held on to it tightly. He looked below, seeing the river that had so plagued him over the years. The river that had claimed so many lives now glittering and bathing in the light of the moon. He gazed at the sparkling waters before closing his eyes and feeling his fingers from his right hand loosening their grip.

 

THE END


Submitted: December 25, 2017

© Copyright 2020 RocketJones. All rights reserved.

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G. Quaglia

Wow, just wow, that was absolutely amazing.

Thu, October 8th, 2020 12:21pm

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