“Babe, we’re home!” Julia called out, as she struggled to open the door, both of her arms full of groceries.
With a foothold, she let her two sons wearing grass-stained baseball uniforms run past and bee-lined for the showers before letting the door close behind her. “Take your shoes off!” She calls out after them.
Tucking her arms beneath her bags and using her chin to keep them balanced, Julia slowly writhed her way to the kitchen. “Babe? Do you mind helping me with these? There’s more in the car.”
Finally reaching the counter, she plopped them down with a sigh of relief before turning around towards the sink. “Ba—” Julia gasped at the sight and put her hand over her mouth while her eyes widened in disbelief.
“Oh my God!” she cried out rushing forward, she knelt beside her husband, “John, What have you done?! Jason!” she hollered at her nine-year-old, “Call 911!” Then, she focused her attention back on John.
Taking no notice of the pool of vomit beside her, she cradled his limp head in her arms and checked his weakened pulse. The movement freed the bottle from John’s hand, letting the near-empty bottle of painkillers roll to the floor away from his unresponsive body.
“What have you done?” she softly cried, as she held his head against her chest and rocked him back and forth.
* * *
John held his arm up to shield his eyes from the blinding ray of light shining in the distance. When his eyes had adjusted he could make out the shape of a hill whose top reached the clouds with a path leading towards him and which he found, to his surprise, he was on. John began to walk towards the source of the light, until he saw a figure walking towards him. He fought the impulse to run. After all, where would he go? Behind him the path branched into various trails and where they led, he couldn’t tell.
He turned back around and almost fell. The “figure” was already standing beside him. He couldn’t quite make out a face or even shape, as pure light seemed to emanate from him.
“John,” the Man said, “There is one more thing you must see before you journey up the mountain.”
“Where am I?” John said.
“You will see,” and the Man led the way down towards one of the trails. Meekly, John followed the Man into what seemed like a beaten path, which suddenly turned into a street with townhouses on each side. It was a clear night. The Man turned into one of the apartments and John peered through the windows. Through the light of the moon John could see a bedroom with bunk beds. He squinted to see more clearly then opened his eyes wide in recognition.
“Those are my boys! But what are they doing here?” John inquired.
“This is what will happen if you die from taking your life into your own hands. Your life insurance will not cover your expenses, so Julia will be forced to give up the house and take on a second job. She will only see your sons when they wake up to go to school, pick them up and a baby sitter will watch them throughout the night until she comes home at midnight.”
“What about the children’s baseball?”
“She will no longer be able to take them.”
“But they love their sport!”
The Man shrugged. “Another thing, your sons will have difficulty coping. Jason will begin to get into fights at school, resulting in suspensions. Jared has not spoken since they saw you being picked up by the medics in the kitchen and heard their mother explain what happened. And your wife, there isn’t a night that she doesn’t cry herself to sleep not only at your loss, but with all that entailed.” Waiting for his words to sink in, he added, “These are the consequences of your action.”
John sank to the ground in a wretched state. Finally, he asked, “What now?”
The Man looks back towards the source of the light as though listening for instructions. After a few moments he turns back towards John.
“I cannot change what you have done. But you can change the outlook.”
* * *
John blinked his eyes. He looked down and saw Julia’s head on his hospital bed and felt her hand holding his. Gently and with all the strength he could muster, he squeezed it.
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