The hammering brought him back. Loud, insistent pounding on the door. And raised voices outside. And the door handle jiggling. Then more pounding.
He opened his eyes in darkness and rolled his head over the rug where he was sprawled. The smell was unpleasant: damp, sour, musty.
From where he lay, limbs outstretched, his eyes focused on the stumpy and scuffed legs of the bed, the tangle of clothes on the floor, the peeling caramel feet and brown cracked leather of the arm chair, turned on its side. The thick wall of the dresser.
The effort exhausted him. He closed his eyes. He was so tired. Why couldn’t he just sink back into that void where he floated before the pounding on the door roused him?
The banging stopped. The voices receded.
He listened. Silence in the room, too.
Was he alone?
He lifted his head. Intense pain shot through his neck and temple. As through every other part of his body, he now realized.
He didn’t hurt before—he didn’t feel much of anything—but now he was conscious of sharp aches in his head, ribs, face . . .
He licked his lips and tasted the thick, sweet tang of blood.
He raised his right arm and saw the sleeve of his white shirt rolled up to the elbow. The golden red hair that had furred his forearm ever since he turned fourteen. Around his wrist, the sleek black Fitbit, and, on the third finger of his hand, the ring his ex-wife had given him when he graduated Michigan State—the head of a Spartan warrior carved in intaglio carnelian in a gold setting, like a temple.
And flopping lazily from the crook of his elbow, a syringe still stuck into a vein, pulling at the skin.
Oozing a dribble of blood down to the threadbare, colorless weave of the carpet.
How did that get there?
He couldn’t remember how.
He wanted to make sense of his situation, but thinking was too hard. His mind was too foggy.
He lowered his arm. In the silence of the room, blackness began to close back in on him, slowly, like a cloth fluttering down over his face.
He was relieved when his thoughts, too, began to close down. No more thinking. Not about what he was doing here, or anything else.
He closed his eyes. Gradually his pain eased, and he welcomed the release. There was only silence.
And finally there was nothing.
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