"You're turning into a fucking roach, man."
"You're turning into a fucking roach."
"Uh, yeah. You mean metaphorically or literally?"
"I think I'd have to say both."
"And this is ridiculous, man. Look at this fucking place. I hate coming over here."
"Well, I didn't ask you to come over."
"Um. Yeah, you did."
"Well, nothing said you had to."
"Yeah, okay. We didn't sign a fucking contract or anything, but we're friends, Jak. As much as it pains me to come over to this shithole, we're fucking friends. Will you please tell me what the hell is going on?"
Jak leaned over the cracked leather trunk he was using as a coffee table, picked up a rolled up five dollar bill and snorted one of the large lines of pink powder laid out on top of his Super Mario World game box. He pinched his nose and his eyes watered as he looked up at Asad.
"I want you to kill me."
Asad smiled, looked at Jak for a second and laughed.
Jak pulled a revolver out of his waistband and placed it on the trunk. Asad's mouth twisted into a kind of smirk. He narrowed his eyes and looked at Jak without blinking. Without a word, he picked up the gun, aimed it at Jak's face and pulled the trigger. The muzzle flashed and Jak's head whipped back. Jak bounced off the back of the couch cushion and fell forward onto the trunk, flipping the beer that was sitting on it into the air and flinging the remnants of the pink powder onto the floor. Asad lowered the gun and looked at Jak, unbelieving, while the blood seeped into the carpet. He hadn't realized the gun was actually loaded. One of Jak's teeth was sitting beside his open palm like he'd just dropped it.
"Holy shit, Jak! What the fuck did you just make me do? You fucking asshole!"
Asad started to shake as he placed the gun on the end table beside the couch. He kicked Jak in the side a couple of times and after a few seconds, Jak shifted on the floor and tried to raise his head as blood poured from his face. Asad had shot him in the mouth. Jak's eyes half-opened and he tried to feebly lift himself up on his elbows. Everything was splattered with blood.
"Jak," whispered Asad as he bent down. "Are you there?"
Jak slowly nodded his head.
"Do you want me to try to sit you back on the couch?"
The couch had a small hole from where the bullet entered and a few drops of blood on it, but otherwise looked unscathed. Most of the blood was on the wall, the floor and on Jak.
"Do you wanna sit down, buddy?"
Asad grabbed him under the arms and lifted him back on the couch. Jak's head lolled forward like a broken baby doll. Blood dripped on the couch and on Asad and on almost everything else. Jak's jaw was hanging loose—far wider than looked proper—and part of his tongue was hanging out of the hole where his cheek should've been. His eyes began to fade. He put his hand to his good ear and motioned to Asad, pointing to the phone. Asad ran to the kitchen and dialed 911, smudging blood on everything he touched.
Jak stayed in the hospital for four months. He signed an affidavit stating it was all an accident and releasing Asad from any liability. Asad kept his mouth shut to everyone except his mother and close family, who were the only ones he trusted. He had to lie to them.
Jak underwent extensive reconstructive surgery and lost the hearing in his left ear. They were going to keep him longer, but his insurance ran out. Four days before his scheduled release, Jak called Asad and asked him to bring a bag of meth to the hospital.
"Enough to O.D." he said.
"Bring me enough to O.D. on. I'm tired of living like this."
"Are you kidding me? I'm not bringing you drugs so you can O.D., Jak. You need to stay off that shit. That's what had your head messed up to begin with."
"I can't, man. I can't do this anymore. You've seen me. I'll never get a girl again."
"I don't understand, dude. Last week you were all ready to go out and grab the world by the balls."
"I can't take it."
"Jesus, man. You're ridiculous. I'm hanging up. I'll see you when you get out."
"No, wait! Asad. Just do this one favor for me. Just bring me a line or two. It might make me feel better."
"Jak. I don't know where to get fucking meth."
"In my top drawer, near the back."
"Jesus Christ. All right, I'm only bringing you a few lines. This is the last favor I do for you in your entire life. I hope you know that."
"I don't understand why you won't help me end it though. You did before."
"No. I was just trying to freak you out. I didn't think it was loaded. I thought it might make you think twice."
"I have thought twice! I've thought more than twice. I wanna die!"
"Shut the fuck up. I'll be over there in a couple of hours."
When Asad arrived at the hospital he was sweating so hard he thought they'd grab him immediately and strap him to a gurney. He was clutching the baggie in his pocket so tightly his hand hurt. When he got to the room, he rushed over to the bed and stuck his hand under the cover, trying to find Jak's hand to get rid of the stuff as quickly as possible.
"Here, you fuck. Take it. I can't believe I'm doing this. I should've just brought the gun over and shot you after all."
He felt a bony thigh and when the face of an old lady turned to look at him in horror, he realized he was in the wrong room. He ran out. Then he ran back in, shoving his hand back under the cover to retrieve the baggie.
"Jesus fucking Christ, Jak. This is the last favor I ever fucking do for you."
Jak's eyes were barely opened and drool was running down his misshapen mouth.
"Fuck, man. Are they still letting you dose yourself on that morphine?"
Jak made a weak, asymmetrical smile and half-nodded.
"Here, you dumbfuck! I went through a lot of shit to get you this."
Asad reached out to hand Jak the baggie and realized there was hardly any powder left. It had somehow come open in his pocket. He licked his lips and tasted something bitter, then looked at his hand and saw the powder caked to his sweaty palm.
He realized that he'd been constantly wiping the sweat off his forehead with the same hand and he'd tasted the same bitterness all the way to the hospital. He had been wondering why he was getting so nervous and his heart was beating so fast.
"Fuck! I've never done speed before, Jak! Wake the fuck up! Jak!"
Jak, in fact, had his eyes opened, but wasn't breathing.
Asad started out to get a nurse, but realized he still had the baggie in his hand. He ran to the toilet to flush it and just then the attending doctor came into Jak's room.
"Weeeell. So, how are we doing this evening?"
The commode flushed at the same time the doctor realized Jak wasn't breathing. Asad heard what sounded like a dozen doctors and nurses trying to resuscitate Jak and decided to crouch behind the toilet until they left. Then, after an untold amount of time had passed, the room got quiet, but Asad was at that point too busy biting his fingernails and picking at his cuticles to notice.
"What in God's name?" gasped the nurse.
Asad looked up from behind the bowl with blood on his lips from his fingernails.
"Ah... uh... I was just waiting to see what happened to my friend."
Sweat was still pouring down Asad's temples.
"Well, heavens, child! There's a waiting room for that."
"Do you know what happened to him?"
"I'm not sure who you're talking about. You'll have to ask at the desk."
Once Asad was able to compose himself, he found out that Jak had gone into cardiac arrest from too much morphine. If he wanted, the nurse at the desk said, he could wait around and they could inform him when they knew more, so he went to the waiting room and paced for so long threads started actually coming loose from the carpet. He had no idea how long he'd been pacing when the nurse came out and told him that he could see his friend. He almost wanted to keep pacing.
"They've got him stabilized," she said. "But he's on life support. You're friend had a really close call there. They've got him up in the ICU."
She directed him there and Asad walked nervously up to see how his friend was doing. When he got to the room he peaked in and saw that they had Jak connected to all sorts of tubes and wires, but he was awake. Jak turned to look at Asad as he entered the room. Jak had a huge, lopsided smile on his face, which Asad thought looked kind of sinister.
"Man, you really went and tried to do it, huh, Jak?"
Jak smiled wider and shook his head.
"No, man. It wasn't that." He was more alert that Asad had thought. "I was just zoning out on the morphine and I guess I just dosed myself too much. The nurse says there's some kind of mechanism that's supposed to prevent that, but I guess it malfunctioned."
Jak smiled even wider with his mouth open, which made Asad feel slightly repulsed.
"So you were just trying to get high? You asshole!"
"No, man. It was fate. It was fate that made that ha."
"I saw God, man."
"Oh, Jesus Christ."
Asad began pacing.
"No, man. I mean it. I fucking saw God."
Asad looked at Jak and thought he looked unreasonably beatific.
"No. It's real. It was fate. I saw everything. And when I get out of here I'm going to have a whole new life. I've never felt so happy to be alive."
He looked at Asad in a way that made Asad uncomfortable.
"Man, fuck you. Sounds like you still have some of that morphine floating around in your blood. You were talking like this just a week before you wanted me to bring you meth to OD."
"No, Asad. This is different."
"Get that fucking smile off your face, asshole. You're weirding me out. You just OD'd on morphine and had some kind of new age hippy trip, now you're talking like some kind of doped up superfreak. You'll be back to wanting me to kill you tomorrow."
"No, Asad. I don't think so."
Asad thought Jak sounded unnervingly condescending.
His mouth was also so deformed that Asad was beginning to think it looked like a sphincter. They stood there staring at each other until Jak slowly closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. Asad wanted to slap him awake for how blissful he looked. He wanted to tell Jak about all he'd been through. He wanted to make Jak count the times he'd come to his rescue, then ask him how many times it had been the other way around. Instead he walked over and methodically disconnected the nurse alarm, then pulled the plug on his respirator and stood there until the EEG flat-lined. He waited for a minute and when no one rushed in, he calmly left the room, closing the door softly behind him and spitting under his breath.
About the author:
Kristopher Monroe was born in Atlanta, but is now based in Brooklyn after a few years spent on the left coast in Seattle. His fiction has appeared in various small journals and online at Thieves Jargon. He writes about art and other symptoms of culture for magazines like SOMA, Beautiful/Decay, RE:UP, NY Press, RES, Swindle, Clear and Elemental and is a regular reviewer for Publishers Weekly. He's trying to write more uplifting stories, but the weird shit just keeps coming out and he's not quite sure what to think about that.
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