“What the hell is wrong with you?”
I wince at my mother’s voice as it blared on the other end. “Do you even know what everyone is saying? Did you join some sort of a cult? What is all of this Katherine?” I let her get it out, staying silent on the other end until I could figure out what to say. I had avoided her text messages and calls for most of today but after the tenth ring I finally answered. “Don’t you dare sit there quietly or I swear I will drive down to Texas myself and beat some sense into you.” My eyebrows raise at her words. She had never made such a threat before. I tried my hardest to sound strong but my words faltered and I only got half a sentence out, “it’s all─” I swallowed thickly, preparing myself again. “It’s all what? Some ploy to get attention? Jesus girl, think about your family before you do something this drastic. It’s gone viral for god’s sake, our phones won’t stop ringing.” I frown at her words. I wasn’t expecting such backlash from my family. From the public, yes, but not my own mother. She took a deep breath and sighed into the phone. “Look, just go back online and tell people it was a prank.”
“No,” I spat. I covered my mouth, shocked that there was so much venom in my words. “Excuse me? Yes you will. And I’ll tell you what else, you will do this or you can count on never being a part of this family again.” I inhaled sharply, taken back by her words. “You can’t mean that,” I whisper. “Oh yes I can young lady. Your poor father is livid, do you know how close both of us are to retirement?” “They can’t fire you for that, it’s illegal” I yell back. “They won’t need to, they can make both of our lives miserable until we quit.” I snap, “Well excuse me for trying to save a few hundred million lives.” “Katherine. Stop this right now,” she says through gritted teeth, “You aren’t special, no end of the world is coming, and frankly I am disappointed in your juvenile attempt at fifteen minutes of fame.” My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mother’s mouth. This was a woman that raised me, that told me she would be with me through thick and thin. Where was that person now?
My tone came out even, controlled, “I’m sorry that you feel that way mother. But I’m not making this up. If that means you choose to not be in my life, that’s on you.” I hung up and turned my phone to silent. That’s all I could bring myself to bear in one day. I stared at the building and then glanced around to see if anyone had overheard our conversation. It seems life had spared me at least one embarrassment and I exhaled. I pocketed my phone and walked back inside the building to finish out my shift. What was it that she had said? Viral. My video has gone viral. Which meant they had probably already destroyed me online. Who knows what was waiting for me if I ever decided to check it. I didn’t want to, and I probably never would. It would be forgotten in less than a day anyway. Most online things did.
I turned just about the same shade of lipstick I had put on that morning when I caught the stares of my co-workers as I walked over to my desk. Apparently they had seen it too. There were whispers as I sat myself down. I logged in and read through my emails trying to tune out the office chatter. There wasn’t much there so I opened photoshop instead. I just started on my weapon shading when the message popped up on my screen. I felt a lump in my throat, it was Devon. If everyone else had seen it, chances were he had too. My hands shook as I clicked on the tab at the bottom.
Please come to my office at your earliest convenience. Thank you.
I rose to my feet and drug myself toward Devon’s office in the back. I caught a few laughs and more whispers as I walked across the room. My head swam with possibilities. After the conversation with my mother, it made me realize just how fragile relationships were. If my own flesh and blood was willing to go this far what would be waiting for me in his office? Just in case I grabbed my key card and office key. I sagged, trudging down the long corridor, it didn’t matter. Rent, job, family─ none of it mattered and it was probably better this way. At least I controlled some aspects of my life. I had already gotten the mask, pure nitrogen, strong mastic tape, and tubing. There was no way I was going to rip it off in my sleep. My grim thoughts switched to absolute panic as I approached his frosted glass door. I could see him sitting at his desk and stood outside, unsure of what to do with myself. His head was nodding on the other side and it took me a moment to realize that he was on the phone. His voice was so low I couldn’t make out what was being said. I waited until he put his phone back in its place and then lightly tapped on the door. I was really hoping that he wanted to go over the project or tell me who was taking over for Zedd.
Devon’s lips pressed into a line as I walked in the door. He waved me inside and then extended his hand toward the chairs in front of his desk. His face flushed slightly and he looked away as I met his eyes. Whatever he was about to say to me wasn’t good. I was pretty sure I knew exactly where this was going. I folded my hands in my lap, waiting to hear the inevitable. Then suddenly I changed my mind and decided I would cut him to the chase.
“I just want you to know that I understand. Anyone else would have done it long ago. You don’t need to say it, I can gather my things and head out.” He stayed silent and kept his head turned. He was staring outside, focusing on anything other than my face. My stomach felt heavy and a chill ran down my body. It really wasn’t a shock, why would it have been? Still, it hurt. I gingerly set both my keycard and key on the desk and slid back my chair. The room tilted as I stood up and I quickly gained my composure, not wanting this moment to be any more awkward than it had to be. I hesitated at his door, wanting to hear some sort of comforting words or for him to call out to me and that I had the wrong idea. The room stayed silent.
I’d managed to keep dry eyes as I gathered my things. There wasn’t much there to begin with. Thankfully there weren’t many people around when I exited to the stairs. I made it just in time to catch the next available train. The ride home was pleasant, quiet. It was nearly lunchtime and there weren’t many people. I walked onto the platform and in a brief moment of spontaneity decided to walk the rest of the way home to clear my head. It really was for the best. All of it. It wasn’t until I crossed the threshold that I allowed myself the luxury of tears. They flowed down my cheeks, spilling onto my shirt. It didn’t last long, but the relief that it brought me in those following moments felt amazing. I swiped at my face, slipped off my shoes and took a long, hot shower. I slid into my comfiest sleep pants and t-shirt and sat on the couch, hugging my pillow.
After watching several hours of shows and eating some cheap Chinese food, I peeled myself off of the couch and ordered even more food. It wasn’t as though I was going to gain weight from one day of horrible eating. Besides, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be around long enough to care. I got myself cheesecake, chips, soda, brownies, candy─ pretty much the worst of the worst processed food you could think of. If tomorrow was the day I might as well make the most of my short time left.
Since all of this started a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It’s sort of freeing when you know exactly when death would come knocking. Granted it wasn’t ideal─ what person would want to die in their early twenties? I’d just graduated, I was well on my way to a great career in the industry of my dreams. All of this was so unfair. I could have the option to go way outside of the city, possibly somewhere in the boonies out in the middle of America. I didn’t have much money, but I could live a new life, start over and hope for the best. I knew it just wouldn’t work. I circled back to my thoughts earlier this past week─ there really was no getting around it. Even if I got away from the major cities I’d die slowly from starvation, or radiation poisoning. The bomb may kill me in an instant, or it would drag out like it did in my visions. I sure as hell didn’t want to be around to find out. The way I was going would at least be clean, and hopefully painless.
The shopper arrived at my apartment in less than two hours. I made sure to tip them well, telling them they should do something nice for themselves tomorrow. They looked at me strange, but smiled and nodded, thanking me for the generous amount. The bags felt heavy in my arms, even the short distance between my front door and the kitchen was somehow difficult. I set the bags on the counter emptied them, and placed the snacks all in neat little rows categorized by salty and sweet. I chose a few candy bars, chips, and soda then laid them all on the coffee table. I relished the sweet delights and powdered cheese and salt together. It was basically my last few meals and I planned on destroying the entire counter’s contents. I flipped through a few shows and began more binge-watching. This felt like a perfect last night.