David sat down cross-legged in the middle of the blue plastic tarp. He had considered dressing in a suit, but had decided at the last minute to simply wear his favorite jeans, tee shirt and a zip up hoodie. Adjusting the corner of the plastic, he realized he wasn’t even entirely sure if it mattered; but then again at this late in the stage, few things did.
Leaning forward just slightly, David switched his angle and put the gun in his mouth. He idly thought about the foul taste of the metal before he pulled the trigger. It was quite surprising to him that he actually heard the blast before the back of his head blew out.
Blink - Blink
Lying there, David realized he was staring up at the ceiling. His ceiling. He turned his head to the right and saw his desk with his computer and all of his research notes, then to the left and the patio door with the curtains drawn close. There was no pain, which should have been present had he of failed in the attempt to end his life. No, he must have succeeded in…
Rising to his feet, he looked back at his physical body sprawled out on the tarp at he clicked his tongue in regret. He hadn’t got the angle quite right and some of the splatter had shot above the plastic tarp he had taped behind him, coating the wall. David had wanted to leave as actual little mess as possible. He had considered pills or hanging, but they had seemed less reliable. Reaching to the back of his head, almost suspiciously, he found no gaping hole there. Good. Now he would just have to keep Ryan out of this room.
David moved to the closed door of his office and tested it with his hand. Solid. Okay, he hadn’t expected that. For a moment, he began to panic, then he tried the doorknob and it opened just like normal. David shook his head at the mystery, but smiled. Even with all his research into the afterlife, if wasn’t like there was anyone who really wasan expert.
“Ryan?” David called out down the hallway.
David slowly walked down the hall, glancing at pictures that he had strolled past everyday for years now. The pictures hadn’t changed in three years, not since Emily had left. There were still photos of her up, ones depicting happier times, and more importantly, ones with all three of them. His father had remarked that he should take them down, ‘Let Old Ghosts Rest,’ he had said. His father. Dad had been strong for them through Ryan, strong for David through Emily, but when David had got sick... David didn’t want his own father to go through what he had endured.
“Ryan?” called David out again, a little louder this time.
As he made his way into the living room, he wondered what Emily would think when she heard. Would she understand his actions? Would she just blame him more? David had never told her he was sick as well, and most of their mutual friends had dried up. She would probably find it all fitting, thought David. As Ryan had wasted away physically, his wife had emotionally. At the time, it had enraged him to see her growing so distant. Eventually, he realized that she had done it so not to be completely devoured by grief. Still, it had seemed a cruel fate that he had to lose his wife through losing his son.
But the possibility remained...
“Ryan!” David yelled out even louder. “C’mon buddy, it’s daddy!”
In life, David had been a research analyst working for a marketing firm. He spent the day tracking down data and correlating it with figures. He had been good at his job and those talents had come in useful when he had begun looking into information about the afterlife. He knew how to scan over paperwork, find crucial information and make statistics add up. Granted, this had been an assignment like no other, not only personal but the ultimate measure of fact gathering. He had to know that what he was doing would have some success rate, some quantified level of achievability. His only other option was, well...
... death. Lung Cancer. Since David had worked primarily from his home office, he had been able to indulge in his two pack a day habit for over fifteen years. His smoking had only increased since Emily had left. One evening he realized he was having trouble breathing by the end of the day, and shortly after that, he coughed up blood during the night. One trip to the doctor’s was enough. The cancer was aggressive and untreatable.
Almost fitting, since his son had died of leukemia. David hadn’t really cared much about his diagnosis, but it all began shortly thereafter; the unexplainable phenomena. As certain death crept up on David in the same manner it had his son, things started to... happen. It began with a blue rubber ball sitting innocently in the center of the kitchen floor one morning. David couldn’t remember seeing it around the house before and all of Ryan’s toys had been long ago packed away. He placed it in a kitchen drawer and forgot about it for a few days until it showed up again wedged in a couch cushion. After that, it was myriad things; Ryan’s infectious laughter from other parts of the house, the sound of his running little feet, the door to his old room wide open, half drank cups of orange juice left out... so many things. David thought he was losing his mind until the drawing. The image of a man scribbled in crayon that hung on the refrigerator one morning that had angry black marks in its chest. Dady had been scrawled above it in blue with a heart before the word.
David had broke down and wept.
Realizing that his own dead son was haunting him, David had made quick arrangements. His death was coming along anyhow and he saw no reason not to speed it up. There was nothing left in life for him, his wife of twelve years gone and as emotionally buried as he soon would be. Even with Ryan passed on, David worried about the boy. Was he safe? Was he scared? Did he understand what had happened? He obviously knew somethings, he had drawn the picture showing David’s lung cancer hadn’t he?
The cancer that had claimed his son had not taken him, David had seen to that. David knew his father would be distraught, but he hoped the old man would soldier on just as valiantly as he always did. It was better that he went this way than have his father see him slowly waste away, anyhow. His father had already seen a Grandchild do that. David had told no one of the haunting, knowing they would fret and worry about his mental state. As it stood, he already left his suicide note quite vague and cryptic concerning his reasons and the need to see Ryan.
“Ryan?” David called out the boy’s name again, this time more in desperation than anything else.
He made his way through out the entire house, checking every room. He looked behind and under all the furniture. He listened for any sound, any type of movement. David went back to his office, glanced in, and returned to search more. He made another full sweep of his home, calling out his son’s name the whole time, growing increasingly frantic. David began to throw furniture out of the way, running through rooms, demanding his son come out, screaming the boy’s name.
Nothing. The house was empty.
David shuffled back to his office, the place he had spent so many hours in life and the place he had taken his own. He collapsed next to his cooling dead body and sobbed. Ryan wasn’t here. He hadn’t been reunited with his son. After everything that had happened, unable to save the boy in life, losing his wife to her cold grief, being stricken with the same thing that ate away his son... he had made one final attempt to grasp some meaning in it and failed.
He shouldn’t have been so surprised, he thought. He had considered this possibility. Even with the cancer destroying him, he had still been a suicide. Ryan had died naturally and David had taken his own life, now probably in his own personal corner of hell. Still, after all he had been put through, hadn’t he already seen enough hell for one man?
Rolling onto his side, David looked towards the patio door. Time had passed and night had fallen. It had been in the afternoon when he placed the gun in his mouth, and he had spent hours searching the house for any sign of Ryan’s presence. He wondered what would come next, if he just lied there, would someone eventually find his body next to him and would he watch as they carted his remains away? He had torn up the house, in a real physical sense, looking for his son, so David doubted it. He would probably never see anyone ever again.
After about an hour of lying there in misery, David got up. Through the pain that had turned into a numbness, he had noticed something; the patio light wasn’t on. It was always on. Any momentary curiosity to take his mind off the situation at hand, he walked to the door and pulled back the curtain. He could see his large, sprawling backyard out there, but none of the neighborhood lights. It was like there was a power outage that had affected all the surrounding area but his home.
At this point he felt he had nothing left to lose, so David tried the door. It opened easily and he stepped out onto his patio. Standing on the cement, he glanced around. It appeared to be a standard spring night, a gentle breeze coming in and the stars bright in the sky. There just weren’t any lights. And, of course, no sounds of anyone else.
David wandered out into his backyard, a large field of grass with a few small trees before it took a dip down a hill into a small woods. The further he got from the solitary lights of his house, the more he realized how the stars shimmered out here in the darkness. Without the neighborhood illumination to distract, the dark heavens were lit with a brilliance. The uncountable distant suns all flared billions of miles away, painting the night and shining down on David as he sat down in the grass.
He stared at the celestial sky, tears running freely down his face. “I’m so sorry Ryan, I love you. Please... I’m so sorry.”
And the eternal starshine glimmered, its light raining down from an infinite number of sources. They twinkled and flashed, pulsing in their homes among darkness. They all sent out a message of light and of warmth, they all sent out a message of life. Distant and cold they seemed, but still beautiful to behold, they had a strength, both individually and together.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or when you did live; the stars carry on. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, your hopes or your fears; the stars shine on regardless. It doesn’t matter that you don’t matter; the stars don’t matter, either. And in the end, that is all that matters.
The lights of the neighborhood came back on, the sounds of it crashing back. A dozen yards away, a house sat with a cold, stiff body in an office, its head a mess in a pool of congealed blood. It was empty, empty of all life… here or of after. As vacant as the yard out back, although it seemed a little brighter thanks to that night sky. A night sky that twinkles with light much like the laughter between a father and a son, a night sky with a vastness that embraces you much like a parent would hug his child. It is a night sky filled with stars and secrets, and one would like to think, filled with love.