This isn’t a letter of apology, it’s a letter of resignation. I’m not sorry about what I did in the slightest and I regret nothing. What this is—it’s a letter to explain exactly how I felt and why I chose to take my own life rather than waste away in the petty existence that I was tired of.
From the time I was born until I shot myself, I was always the target of labeling, of abuse, of misfortune. Sure, you can be dealt some really bad cards in life, and I suppose I was dealt some rough ones, but the worse things in life aren’t just from how you are, it’s how others are. When I come home and my dad and mom and my brother pretend I’m invisible, that hurts more than thinking I’m overweight or I’m stupid or I’ll never amount to anything. It’s the others in life who give you the biggest trouble.
“Why did he do it?” they’ll ask, to which my family will reply, “We’ll never know.” Well, hopefully they’ll find this so they’ll truly know. I was tired of life. Of living. Sixteen years was enough of all the over-bearing pressure and I had enough. It was an escape; a jewel in the endless desert of life. To kill yourself and cease to be. It was much better than apathetic family members and a society that lashes out at you for talking about you feel or acting how you want to act.. It’s the awful truth that people are the real monsters in the world, and I’m the bigger man now for taking this choice of life into my own hands.
I regret nothing and no one will miss me and I’ll miss no one. Goodbye.
James Arthur McDowell
Dakota held the letter in his hands, still in a numb state of nothing from both the death of his brother and the effect of finding his suicide note. It was for certain his parents had not found this yet, or else they would lose it completely. There was solace in ignorance for sure and his parents were somber but dealing with it. This wasn’t okay. This would break them. This would end it all and he needed them now more than ever.
Dakota pocketed his brother’s note and headed down back into the reception area of his house where the guests and “friends” of James were here to pay their respects. He looked at all of them and couldn’t feel that they truly knew his brother and were here because it’s the “right thing to do” when someone dies, especially by their own hand. He felt the note burning a hole in his jacket pocket.
“Find anything of James’ that you thought we could share with the reception?” his mom asked, still donned in black like all of the other guests.
“No. Didn’t find much of anything.”
Apparently I inspired people with my newest short story. Even though it’s barely worked on, people said it’s (as the kids of today would put it) the fucking shit. It’s crazy, for some people who don’t really read, to want to read, to be enthralled in reading, and I WROTE IT.
Fucking blows my mind.
There was a nip in the air—the cold fall breeze was abnormally chilly for the month, cold enough to give some particularly resilient townsfolk of Celestica the shivers. Naturally, everyone around town was either around the fire at home, or baking in the warm air of taverns and other festive locales. In particular was The Wild Boar, a sleazy joint in South-Central Celestica near The Cage. This establishment was the sort of place where you could find every sort of vice: Easy women, easy drugs and easy booze. None of it good that was for sure, but nonetheless easy. It was the sort of place where you could walk in with a weeks pay and leave without any of it, having blown it away on watered down liquor and beer wrank enough to rot your liver instantly. In the back you could find cheap women, illegally, and near the front you could find cheap women, legally. The common pick up line was a simple, “Let me buy you a drink,” and that’s all that was needed. The more expensive women would actually require literal coin, along with the occasional drink here and there. Prostitution was not a terrible problem in Celestica, but more so a delicacy to be enjoyed every so often by some of the more affluent or lonely partakers. The real problem within the city was definitely the constant drug problem and the Guild War that was now fully in effect. Ember was the drug of choice for nearly twenty percent of the population, with three-fifths of that fifth being deemed as “heavy users.” It was a drug of rage and stimulation, that made you feel invulnerable and irrational. It was an escape for many of the city and definitely considered the best drug on the market, made so by it’s escapist and mood-altering actions. It was a serious problem for Celestica as it hurt the economy. It was coming from somewhere outside and inside the city, but the source could not be found precisely, leaving a large amount of police resources spent on trying to narrow down the biggest provider and exactly where this is coming from.
Back within the bar, in the basement you could find Ember and gambling places. “Cards and crystals,” the locals would say. In the center of the main room was a vast playing table for cards. Gamblers and partakers would drop-in and out of playing the game, throwing more money into the hole of the illegal non-taxed revenue. At the side of the room, tucked against the wall, there was yet another bar. This was the secondary bar, scooted away from the “normal” folk of the upstairs. The booze here was loaded, packed with a punch and a little bit more pricey. It was certainly the place to go if you liked the drinks stiff, as long as you don’t mind worse company than the friendly drunks and singing of the upstairs. Downstairs, the air was stale and smokey, with Ember fumes and cigarettes burning constantly. No one talked directly to each other, they shouted at one another. No real contact, just the distanced conversation that one would use with someone they planned to talk to for a short time, but also contemplated having to murder them at any given moment. It was definitely a non-family establishment.
At the bar sat a man. He was about late-twenties in age, but he looked vastly older. His skin was cracked with scars and a beard covered most of his face. His disheveled hair was not to his shoulders but was still long relative to most hair-styles of Celestica. He wore a thick cloak with a muddy button-up underneath. His pants were a beige hue with small rips riddling them. The man had his hands folded on the bar top, sitting in silence whilst smoking a cigarette.
“Another one o’these, Keeper,” he said to the Barman. He rattled his ice-cubes in his glass. The Barman gave a nod and took his glass from him, pouring one parts of a thick brown liquid with one parts of a mixer, topping it with a cherry.
“Here you go,” he said with a rap of the glass on the counter-top. The Man slid the Barkeep four bronze coins to him. He sipped on the drink with a very glazed over look, taking the liquor deeply to his soul and trying wash away the grime from his life with alcohol. Of course it didn’t work, but it certainly helped his mood. The Patron quickly downed the other drink. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked over the rest of the room.
In the middle of the room was the immense card table surrounded by gamblers fully willing to metaphorically throw their money off of a bridge into the torrent below. The torrent in this case being the honey-pot of a card game; it was almost certainly rigged, that was a given, yet they still came back and new players had hooks put into them on a daily basis. They crowd was bumbling with fumes of hopes to win big on the card game, with shouts of “gimme threes” or “lets see thirteen.” The Patron never partook in the silly game but it was nonetheless interesting to watch the cattle lined up for the killing. He had better ways of pouring his money into an empty whole with his drinking.
“One more,” the Patron said to the Barman. The Barman scooted over and to him and made another drink. With one part dark liquor and one part Lion’s Head Official Drink Mix, the drink was officially known as The Mane. It was quite potent as it was almost entirely hooch and alcoholic mixer. The cherry was also a nice touch.
“And,” he let the word draw out of his mouth, “another.”
The Patron slid four bronze coins across the table to the Barman who nodded after scrapping them his way.
“Ya’ know, if all’s you aimed to do’s drink up, then I habn’t a clue why’s you come here. ‘Specially with all the gamblin’ and Ember that flows on in through heres,” the Barman gave a laugh.
“Who’s to say I don’t use Ember?” the Patron said after taking a sip from his drink. The Barman shrugged.
“Jus’ don’t look the type’s all I’m saying.”
The patron nodded at this poignant statement, taking a sip of his drink.
“Plen’y o’ other places’n’bars that’re far b’er than here’s all I’m sayin’,” the Barman added while polishing a glass. The Patron lit a cigarette with an understanding nod.
“Well, you’re the one workin’ here, so I’m surprised you’re telling me that.”
The Barman let out a loud cackle at this joke, revealing splotched teeth from Ember use. The Barman walked down the rest of the bar, serving the occasional walk-ups, leaving the Patron in peace. If only for a moment.
“You Thad?” a voice came from behind. The Patron slowly turned over to face the calling voice amidst the roar of a celebratory cheer from temporarily beating the system at the card table.
“Who’s asking?” the Patron replies with drink and cigarette in hand. The man had very sharp features: Moon colored eyes and a chin that appeared to have been chiseled out of marble.
“Lucas,” he extended a hand, “Well, my real name is Lucian, but my friends call me ‘Lucus’ or ‘Luke.’ You can call me which ever.”
The Patron let the hand sit in the air without shaking it.
“Well I amn’t your friend Lucian, so I suppose that’ll fit me fine enough. Why’s you trying to chat up another man in an establishment like this?” Thad replied sarcastically. Lucian shrugged with a playful smile on his face.
“Just tryin’ to be social is all,” he waved at the Barman, “Ay yo’ Barkeep! Let me get one of whatever he is drinking,” pointing to Thad at the bar. Lucian sat down next to Thad at the bar.
“Well since you asked nicely, yeah, I’m Thad. How you doin’,” he said in a distinctly non-inquisitive manner—just one of trying to make small talk.
“Pretty alright. Just not throwed enough. Came here s’pecting some nice girls and nice company, well, er—,” he paused, giving a slight shrug, “it ain’t all it cracked up to be. Lame girls up-top who don’t nothin’ to do with me, and the drinks are watery as your piss after downing two pitchers o’ beer.”
He gave a laugh. Thad didn’t laugh.
“Hey man, c’mon, cheer up. S’matter man?” Lucian asked Thad. The Barman came over and placed the drink next to Lucian.
“Mane,” he said as he set it down on a coaster. Lucian thanked him and slid him one silver; far past the average price. The Barman smiled and nodded a thankful smile. Lucian looked down into his drink giving a puzzled look.
“What, uh, exactly’s in this?” he asked Thad.
“One part Amber, one part Lion Mix and a cherry on top.” Thad replied absently. Lucian sipped it an gave a raised set of eye-brows in response.
“It’s pretty stiff,” Thad added after the fact, giving a slight smile at his “buddy’s” face. Lucian coughed quite a bit before regaining his smile.
“You could’a told me that ‘fore I took a rip out of it,” Lucian chuckled.
Thad looked Lucian over further. He was in an orange blazer, wearing slacks and very nice city-boots. Definitely not the sort that on average comes into this sort of establishment. He had an urban feel to him but was obviously affluent; his care-free money-throwing at the Barman was the dead give away. Lucian was the kind of upper-class snob that liked to partake in the debauchery of the lower class as an escapist dream, trying to emulate how it was to have fun as one who couldn’t go to dinner parties and wine-mixers. His attire, his attitude and his money were all of the clues as to his income. Why he was here was a good question indeed.
“You never answered my question,” Lucian said, breaking Thad’s concentration. Thad lit another cigarette, offering one as well to his newly met drinking-buddy.
“Suppose I’m bored with all of this,” Thad replied with smoke pouring from his mouth.
“S’pose? What’s to suppose about it?” Lucian replied. Thad toyed with his glass at the counter, spinning it on the coaster with both hands.
“Just isn’t the same, ya know? Really played out scene I suppose. No more excitement to drinking really. Jus’ drinkin’ to drink,” he hoisted his drink to the air slightly and took a sip.
“Well surely there’s always more, Thad. Isn’ that why you’re here anyway? For something more?” Lucian leaned in a bit closer to Thad, giving him a raised eye-brow. Thad put his drink down and blew smoke with an piqued look to Lucian. He turned in his swivel-chair to Lucian.
“Well now I suppose it isn’t as boring now. Didn’t know you were the guy I was looking for,” he said enigmatically. Lucian chuckled to himself.
“Yes, it doesn’t have to be as boring. Follow me,” he said with a start, getting up from his chair and walking off into the lounge area.
Thad left four more bronze coins for his other unpaid drink and took the glass with him, sipping on it as he slinked through the crowd. The noise in the room reached a crescendo as Thad was in the crowd, with loud roars and cheers of winners and losers alike. The thrill of the game and the hunt of money was the driving life inside of this seedy club. Near the back of the down-stairs club were a series of private rooms, which was where Lucian was leading his new guest. The more sketchy and shady activities took place in the back rooms and not on the club floor, where you could occasionally find City-Watch on active duty, along with club bouncers who would bounce out any unruly patrons, regardless of coin value. It was simply too risky for the club’s status and means to have Ember dealing and slinging within the main floor. The back rooms were more of a gray-area though, as they were private rooms that were owned by the building, but all of the rights and obligations to maintain the club rules were upheld only at the renters discretion. It was plausible deniability for The Wild Boar this way. The source of all Ember smoke and dealing was from these back rooms, where you would find no bouncers and certainly no City-Watch.
Lucian peeled open a private room door and walzed in. He pulled out several silver coins and threw them into the room, shouting “Have some coin, now get out!” with the chuck of each coin. The party of seven quickly gathered the coins and left the room in a hustle. Lucian then strode over to the table and poofy leather seats, plopping himself down on the huge warp-around couch that surrounded the table. He gestured for Thad to close the door behind him. With a clunk the two were now isolated from the rest of the action within the club.
“Now then,” Lucian reached into his pants pocket, revealing a clear-bag of several burnt-orange/clear crystals, “it’s the Ember I s’pose you are after?”
He tossed the baggy onto the table top, letting his customer eye them over. The Ember crystals were indeed high purity, as they avoided being red-hot impure and not overly flaky. They were solid crystals with a solid orange center that had a gradient into clear around the edges of each rock. Thad gestured to grab them out of the bag and Lucian waved him the go ahead with a sincere smile and nod. The rocks were very solid, no flakes—meaning no dilutions or impurities—and they were very lustrous in the warm light of the club. This was highly sought after stuff, and Thad’s hookup definitely came through with the good, pure stuff.
“This is quite impressive,” Thad said with awe, sweat beading at his forehead from the anxiety of using. Lucian folded his hands behind his head, satisfied with the initial feedback of viewing the Ember.
“How much you’ll take for each rock?” Thad asked, reaching to his coin purse. Lucian lit a cigarette, letting the smoke fill his lungs for a moment of suspense. He exhaled hard after a moment.
“Twenty silver for the whole lot. Averagin’ you about half a silver per rock. Not bad,” he reminded his customer with an earnest look. Thad nodded. Not bad at all.
“Not bad at all,” he echoed his thoughts out loud to Lucian. Lucian smoked his cigarette and waited for the haggling to begin from Thad.
“I’ll take it all.”
“All of it,” Lucian leaned forward, expecting more out of his customer, “you want all of it?” He laughed at the prospect.
“Yeah, you’s heard what I said, I’ll take all of it. You think I won’t?” Thad replied. Lucian put his hands up, befuddled.
“Just didn’t think you had ‘nough coin s’all,” he said before putting out his cigarette.
“Man, Thad, you know what, I’ll smoke one with you if you buy the whole lot. And I’ll not charge you for that rock too. It’ll be on me,” Lucian chuckled as he said this. Thad threw a sack onto the table.
“Should be in there. Gimme change once you count out your take,” Thad said. Lucian poured the coins onto the table, revealing a load of bronzes and silvers, with one or two golds sprinkled in. Lucian was even slightly impressed at the amount of cash Thad was throwing around.
“Impressive. Didn’t think you had this ‘mount of coin, Thad.”
“Looks can be deceiving,” Thad shrugged, taking a sip from his drink as well. Lucian laughed at his quip. After a few minutes of counting and making change, Lucian scraped across the table his take and pushed the rest of the coinage to Thad.
“Should be all there. Count it up if you wish.”
Thad grabbed his change back from the dealer Lucian and counted it up. His mental math was quite sharp so he did it quickly. He was short three bronze. Oh well.
“Looks about right.”
“Good! Lets hit this shit,” Lucian said with a pull from his jacket pocket, revealing a stone pipe—the earthy material ideal for burning Ember. The outside was rough for grip, but glazed as slick as glass on the inside. Lucian loaded one rock and heated his pipe, burning the crystal with his extremely hot mechanical lighter. His lighter was something else, a mesh of tiny gears and fuel; definitely expensive. The best lighter Thad had seen before this were military and government issue, but this was hand-crafted without a doubt. The flame licked out of the top and into the pipe, burning the crystal inside. After a few seconds of heating, Lucian puffed on the pipe, dragging hard into his lungs. He held the smokey Ember in his lungs for as long as he could before exhaling, giving a slight cough afterwords.
“Strong as an ox, but clean. No blackened teeth, no scabs ‘round your mouth—just clean Ember. Science made this possible Thad, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s great stuff,” he said with growing intensity, the Ember already taking effect. He crooned his neck to the sound of music within the club floor and wrung his hands, letting the rush come over him.
“Whyn’t you hit it yet, bro?” Lucian pointed to Thad after spacing out towards the sound of the music. Thad shrugged and pulled out his blade to the surprise of Lucian.
“Woah! What’re you, what the—what in the what are you whating with that?” he said in word-salad.
“Personal choice from doing too much crummy Ember. Piss-weak Firestarters givin’ awful product conditioned,” he said while crushing a rock with the hilt of his dagger, “me to resort to doing this all the time instead o’ using a, uh, piece to smoke it with.”
Thad placed his nose to the table-top and snorted the glazed crystals that were much finer than in rock form. The burn and rush of the Ember hit Thad instantly as he felt it course into his blood. All thoughts and concerns left him instantly. The music called to him. He felt the beat and the waves from the instruments being played at the live show in the room over just calling to him. He hadn’t noticed that Lucian was wide-eyed at what he did.
“What’re you starin’ at Luke?” Thad asked. Lucian shook his head at first, then chuckled.
“Nothin’ man. Just, damn—,” he lit a cigarette before answering to Thad, “never seen anyone do that with that pure of rocks. That’s some thuggin’ stuff right there. For real. Gotta’ give you respect for pullin’ that off. Don’t that hurt a lot and what not?” Lucian asked while instinctively rubbing his nose after thinking about the powdered crystals shooting up his nostrils. Thad shrugged.
“I mean, you feel it for ‘bout a second before you don’t feel nothing anymore. Just the pain-killing effect kickin’ in. Goes harder and faster this way than smoking it anyway. S’why I like it so much.”
Lucian nodded, noting to Thad that his pain-killing effect hadn’t kicked in yet.
“Just try it through your nose sometime soon. S’fun and what not. Just make sure not to let the rocks hit the back’o your throat. Tastes horrible,” Thad said while standing up and gathering the rest of his coin and rocks. He put the bag in side of his pants and belted his secondary purse back onto his belt.
“Woah, hey man. You leaving already? Thought we were gonna’ chill and what not?” Lucian asked with a slight hint of hurt—the Ember channeling his emotions more strongly now. He was no longer the cool business man that he seemed to be. Thad looked over to him after taking a gulp of his drink.
“Sorry man, gotta’ split. Lotta’ people round my part of town want this bad,” he patted to his pants where the Ember was located. Lucian nodded an understanding nod.
“Ah, I get’cha. Got people to see, money to make. I get’cha. I get’cha,” he repeated to himself, taking a seat back down on the couch. Thad waved and headed out the door with the goods on his person. As he began to walk, his legs gave off an ecstatic feeling, with shooting feelings of joy and pleasure with each step. Thad felt completely at ease within the crowd of gamblers that he didn’t know, mostly because he didn’t care anymore. And he had no problem with not caring at all around all of these people now. He laughed when others laughed around him and felt an intense buzzing in his skull as he pounded up the stairs back to the main floor. The more tame upstairs floor was filled with drinking and singing of songs, which Thad also enjoyed at this time. He nearly had a skip in his step and felt nothing but ecstasy in every limb of his body, the intense beat of his heart echoing in his head, driving him forward.
He shoved through the door to outside of The Wild Boar and into the cold. Snow was beginning to come down. The faint crystals of the snow reminded him of the Ember that made him feel so great right now. He laughed happily out loud to the cold night, seeing his breath in the brisk air.
“Geoff,” a voice called. Thad’s focused snapped instantly. He moved his head, which felt so heavy suddenly, towards a group of four big looking thugs crowded near a barrel fire outside of The Wild Boar. One was looking right at him.
“Geoff, come here,” he waved closer to them. Thad walked over to the barrel fire near the four big men and huddled around with them.
“So who is the mark exactly Geoff?” one man asked.
“Yeah Jeffie, which guy we snatching?” chimed in another.
“It’s fuckin’ cold out here Jeff, just tell us which one is the dealer and we’ll go get ‘em.”
“Downstairs, back room, orange-blazer. Slick looking motherfucker,” Geoff chattered around the fire, “Go in and get em. Bet he still has something on him too, because he sold me this.” Geoff revealed the bag of Ember that he had in his pocket. All of the other men whistled and “wow’d” at the amount of rocks and their purity.
“You on that shit?” one man asked. All was silence.
Following The Cost of Truth, Special Operations Division Agent Geoff “Jeff” McMillen is tasked with spying on his own people to prove Longcoat Director Alan Sharp guilty of conspiracy and bribery in an intense psychological thriller.