Martin half opened his eyes. His vision was blurred but he could make out a heavy figure inches away from him. This gigantic figure was stark naked and had green skin. His back was huge in comparison to his short legs that bore no toes. He looked more like a green stone with blunt edges and grunting sounds.
“Where am I?” Martin asked, unsure if he would understand his words.
The creature turned around in amusement revealing his hideous face and bare demonic chest.
“You are on the way to your afterlife.” he replied softly.
His words contrasted sharply with his features- ruthless and evil. Martin noticed his eyes that were keen and looked distant. He had deep black round eyes with no eyebrows; the kind that looked terrifying in the first sight but over time gave a hint of an honest soul underneath. His belly protruded outwards but he noticed it lacked a naval opening.
Martin searched for himself within himself, “Am I dead?”
“Not yet, but you don’t have much time. How are you feeling?”
“Burdened. I thought you felt free, I mean you felt nothing, once you had died. I left so much undone behind. You know, I have a wife back home. I wonder what she is doing right now. She would have known by now that I have broken my vows and left her alone. She would be crying alone inside that dark closet of ours, scared that people would hear her. My heart aches thinking of her.”
“Then, why did you leave her? Why did you took those potions of death?”
“I was tired and exhausted and sad. I wanted to disappear and hoped no one would notice. I wanted to leave everything behind.”
“Even your wife?”
Martin sighed deeply unable to explain the storm that whirled within his deserted conscience. “I can’t explain and you can’t understand what it’s like not to be able to live your dreams.”
“Maybe. I don’t understand many things, people often say.” The creature turned away reluctantly. He pulled out a large wrought iron key-ring. A bunch of keys clattered against each other and he started pushing the keys from one end of the circle to the other. He continued doing it in a loop- a loop that seemed to have no ending just like the endless loop of day after night and night after day.
“What was your dream?” he asked, void of any curiosity.
“My dream? I just wanted to be happy- a nice house, a content life and… Ah! But you do not get everything you want, you see. I failed terribly at everything I wanted.”
“Is that why you took that potion?” he asked as he slid yet another key into the loop.
“It’s complicated and I don’t know how to explain.”
The creature gave a perplexed look trying to grasp Martin but somehow failing.
“I wanted to feel alive when I was alive.” Martin continued breathing in the pungently sweet air.
“But you didn’t feel that way?” his wide eyes strained to dig deeper into Martin’s green eyes. To Martin, the creature looked like a child- innocent and hard to explain to.
“No. The night before I took that decision, I had a wonderful dream. I was on a faraway island with my wife and we were making sand castles on the beach. We saw the sunset together, sat near a bonfire and talked about the stars and the moon. We made love in the open air and breathed the freshness of the night. We weren’t, for once, worried about the pending bills and loans. But when I woke up in the morning, hard realities grabbed my neck and throttled me. She had an early morning shift and I was alone in the house. I sat down on my kitchen table flipping through a bunch of pending bills and a rejection letter from the company where I had applied for a job. The dream seemed far, so distant that it felt impossible to even dream again. It was like I was falling into a quagmire. The more I struggled, the further I drowned into it. I was broken to a point where there was no healing, hence, I walked straight to my drawer and took those pills all at once. I swallowed them all in one breathe, hoping that they would in turn engulf me from within.”
The creature hid its disappointment in the veil of a smile. “Well, at least, you had a choice.”
“No, I didn’t.” He snapped.
“You could have chosen either to work for your dream or to give up on it in sheer hopelessness. You chose what was easy for you. But your wife doesn’t have a choice now. The only thing she can do is dream about you. You left her hanging on a cliff with no hopes of you pulling her out.”
Martin sobbed quietly remembering the time when his wife and he had planned about moving to countryside and living an ordinary life of farmers. She was so excited but he had other plans. He exclaimed, “What wouldn’t have I given to pull her out of her misery! What wouldn’t I do to make her dreams come true!”
“You could have just lived with her.” The creature smirked.
Aghast, Martin realized that the ugly creature was right. The pain in his chest swelled and the gravity of his conscience grew stronger. He was like an anchor of a ship who not only goes down deep into the ocean himself but also brings the entire floating ship to a stop. He realized what he had done. “I was winded up in my own despair, I failed to see what misery I was casting upon her. Help me!”
Alas, it was too late.
“You live once. And you die once. It’s time now.” The creature waved his stout hands in upward motion while the world around Martin started spinning around. He screamed out loud, “NO. NO. NO!” The voice echoed and then faded quickly.
Martin woke up screaming and trembling in his bed; drowned in sweat. He searched for his wife in the room but she wasn’t there. Then he remembered she had an early shift that day. Dazed by his own dream, that almost reflected his hopelessness and fading strength, he ran towards the mailbox. Surprisingly, he found three envelopes- exactly as he had found in his nightmare. He knew by instinct what those envelopes contained. He tried to read them without any expectations. Sitting on the kitchen table, he read his rejection letter and almost instantly, as already rehearsed in his sleep, rushed into the washroom. His dream portended his reality. The drawers opened. The bottle of poison fell into his hand effortlessly. It was time.
At 5 pm, Rose opened the door lock. As soon as she entered the house, she cried in surprise. Her mouth opened wide within her slender hands that covered it. In front of her, there was a room that had a small table in the middle. On top of it flickered a half burnt candle surrounded by petals of roses. Behind the table stood Martin in his white shirt and jeans; very much alive and happy. Rose ran across the room, jumped over the chair on her way and embraced Martin with all her warmth. He whispered, “I was searching happiness in all the wrong places. You are happiness!”