TW: attempted suicide
Christine woke up with the mother of all hangovers and instantly wished she was dead. Which felt familiar, for some reason she was scrambling to make sense of.
There were no memories. Not yet. Her brain was rising out of the soup of booze and drugs she had apparently put it in the night before.
I haven’t partied like this since college. What the fuck was I thinking?
These thoughts were translated by her mouth as, “Gahh. Guhhh. Huh. Huhhhh? Ggggll.” She hadn’t really meant to be making any noises at all, but she lived alone so whatever.
Someone’s birthday? Holiday? What month is it? What year is it?
The last year. It’s the last one.
Christine pushed herself up off the bed with arms made of unset pudding and squinted into the morning light. What the fuck was that? “The last year?” It had come to her unbidden, nothing more than synapses firing off when triggered. Habit. But she couldn’t remember why.
The last year?
Her eyes had slowly been getting used to the bright, stabbing sun, and she was able to open her eyes a little. Through the fence of eyelashes she could see her bedside table, mere inches away. She was in her bed, but crooked. Almost sideways. She wiggled her feet and discovered they were hanging off the bed on the other side. No socks. Her toes were ice.
The table in front of her was a mess. A clock in the back told her it was almost noon. A cell phone was charging. There was a bottle of red wine, empty, and a glass of water, still full. No lipstick smudges. Odd. If she had been out last night on a bender she would have dolled herself up.
Before she could figure out that little clue, another one. Trash, sitting next to the glass. Not just trash. An empty bottle. Not just an empty bottle.
An empty pill bottle.
She reached an arm around and yelped. Her muscles were stiff. Cold. She slept in this position. All night. Never even rolled over. The simple act of lifting her arm where it lay on the bed next to her and reaching above her head and caused muscle pulls in three…no, four separate places.
What the fuck did I take?
The label was facing away from her, and when she felt ready to try again she gently lifted her arm and slowly raised it above her shoulder. With cold, trembling fingers she pinched the bottle and rotated it in little, shuffling movements.
Alprazolam. Otherwise known as Xanax.
A foggy memory of a faceless pharmacists at a generic pharmacy from some amount of years ago.
“Start with half and see what that does to you. If you can tolerate it, you can take a full tablet. Find a quiet place to take it, it’ll take about half an hour to kick in. And I know a lot of medications say don’t take with alcohol, but this is a very serious recommendation with Xanax. Not only can it result in over-sedation, where your heart could stop or you could stop breathing, but, to be perfectly frank, it can do some shit to your brain you won’t be ready for. Do not mix Xanax with alcohol, period.”
Christine’s eyes darted from the empty bottle of pills to the empty bottle of wine.
“Maybe there was only one left?” she mumbled into her comforter.
As soon as she said it, she knew it wasn’t true. She had, in the past, mixed alcohol and Xanax, by mistake. Mostly by mistake. And while, yes, she had woken up after and heard some wild stories about herself, she hadn’t woken up feeling like she shouldn’t.
I should be dead.
A violent shiver rolled across Christine’s body, shaking her hard enough to make her stomach want to empty out.
A glance to the floor below her told her she already had. Several times. There were layers. Some were dry. Some…weren’t…
Her stomach did empty, big, groaning, scraping retches that brought up nothing more than burning bile and that old stomach acid taste. She was empty. Had been empty for some time. And still her guts and brain worked against themselves and Christine burped up nothing and nothing and nothing until finally she was able to lie back down, exhausted and shaking.
I should be dead.
It had shown up in her mind the same way the last year had. Out of nowhere, but with enough conviction to make her eyes water. I should be dead wasn’t an assumption, or an opinion, or a thought based on the evidence that she had finished her bottle of prescription depressants and swallowed them with an entire bottle of depressants.
I should be dead was a fact.
Was I suicidal?
With fluttering relief she realized she could reject the thought outright. It didn’t feel right in her mind. It was a hat that didn’t fit, too small, too large, didn’t matter, the brim wasn’t working. Christine had had her issues, but she had never wanted to simply end it.
But she should be dead. That was still a fact. That wasn’t changing.
Her phone on the table vibrated itself a half inch to the left and Christine screamed.
In her mind she screamed, anyway. In real life it was nothing more than a gasp.
It buzzed again. And again. Not a phone call. A relentless series of text messages. Merely the thought of trying to focus her eyes to read tiny text was enough for a migraine to put pressure on the inside of her forehead. Let the texts come. She would read them as soon as she figured out what the fuck was happening.
The buzzing stopped.
The buzzing started again. This time faster. A call.
Oh. I think I can take one of those.
She pawed at the phone, almost knocking it off the table and directly into the pile of sick. Her fingers were still shaking slightly but she managed to get the phone to the bed in front of her just as it stopped vibrating.
Ten seconds later it went off again.
MARIE it said, over the picture of a smiling woman. A woman she knew. Sister? Friend?
Oh, God, she had known Marie for years, literal decades, and it had taken close to fifteen seconds for Christine to remember her.
She poked at the screen with a nearly-numb finger until she stumbled across the green button.
“hhhhhhhhh,” she breathed.
“Oh, my God, you’re alive!” And then Marie was sobbing heavily into the other end of the line.
“Baghhhh….barrrgggghhhh…barely,” she managed to spit out.
“I’m already walking over,” Marie said through hiccups. “The roads are a mess. Everything is a mess. I’ll be there in half an hour. Do you need anything?”
“I…I…I think I might have…I think I…damaged my brain…”
“I’ve got all the hangover stuff,” Marie said. “Hopefully we can fix what we can fix without a doctor because I think they’re going to be in high demand for a while.”
Talking was good. Hearing another voice was better. The fog was lifting faster. Not ‘fast’ by any means, but at least making thoughts didn’t hurt anymore.
“Marie, what happened? Why did I…the pills…the wine…why?”
“Ah, jeez, you don’t remember? No, I guess, maybe you wouldn’t. Did you take the whole bottle? And the whole bottle of wine? You said you would. You said you’d chug it.”
“Don’t remember. Thinking…memories…hard.”
“The asteroid, Christine. Do you remember the asteroid?”
She remembered what an asteroid was. Sort of. Space rock. Flying through space. Just sort of wandering, doing it’s own thing, skipping through time, until…
“Wait,” Christine said. She forced herself into a sitting position, ignoring the way every single muscle in her body screamed at the same time. “Wait…wait…wait…”
“I’m waiting,” Marie said. And then, “Get off me! I don’t give a shit, I don’t want to kiss you! Fuckers. Everyone down here thinks they can do whatever they want now. I’d hate to mace a fucker,” and here she was screaming at someone close to her, “the day we didn’t die.”
Like the violent explosion that apparently didn’t happen, Christine’s memories all unfolded in front of her at once. The asteroid. It was supposed to hit last night. They had known for months. Seen it coming. Too big. Too fast. Tried to blow it up. Everything missed. It was coming. They could see it in the sky. It was coming. Last night was supposed to be the end. Christine couldn’t face it. No one had blamed her. She had taken the pills, taken the booze, figuring drifting off to sleep was better than whatever sort of death an asteroid hit would bring.
3:28 am. That was when it was supposed to hit. 3:28 am, and it was now 12:02 pm.
“It missed! They calculated wrong or something! Oh, it was so fucking close. You could see it coming all day yesterday, and then it was like it…stalled out. It didn’t, it just looked like that. Because it was going past it. It was closer than the moon Christine. I think it fucked with the tides? I don’t know, cities on the coast are sort of fucked. But only sort of! Christine! It missed us!”
And then Marie was howling, and through the phone Christine could hear the others around her joining in. Humans. Modern humans. Howling at the sky.
“It’s still up there, but it’s leaving! Look, I’m about ten minutes away, okay? We’ll make sure you didn’t do any permanent damage and then we’ll celebrate with, I don’t know, oyster crackers and water. Is your door unlocked?”
“Go find out. I’m almost there.”
The last year.
I should be dead.
A little more awake now, she could the sounds from the street a couple stories below. Cheering. Singing. Music, so much music.
Not only had a giant fuck-off asteroid come a hair’s width away from destroying the planet, Christine had taken a lethal dose of pills and swill and come out the other side. No telling what the damage was, but damaged was better than dead. If she thought about it, really thought about it, it made her feel like there was a purpose. Like she had a purpose.
Whatever it was, she could figure it out later when her head wasn’t pounding and her stomach wasn’t trying to boot out her intestines.
One thought on “You Can Turn the Lights Back on”
This is an upbeat story in a weird suicidal kind of way. I like it. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like this.