He sat in the armchair.
So what happens next? He thought to himself. Of course he knew exactly what would happen next. It was just that he had no idea of exactly when it would happen or how it would happen.
He glanced at his watch. His family wouldn't be home for hours yet. Suddenly intense guilt flooded over him: No. Not just over him, but through him. His entire being felt it flooding through his body, drowning any resolve he had and for a brief moment he regretted what he'd done.
Perhaps it's not too late, he thought, perhaps I can still do something about it. But then he stopped panicking and relaxed a little. There was no going back. He'd thought about taking this action for months, weighed up all the consequences, wondered how his wife and family would take it, and whichever way he looked at it he'd decided without a doubt that what he had in mind would solve absolutely nothing. But he also knew beyond question that it would end his part in it and that, he'd convinced himself, was what he really wanted.
He picked up the empty pill bottle that had been half full only an hour before. He'd been very careful selecting what he was going to take. He'd done research at the library and on the internet about the nature and effects of different drugs, to ensure that he selected something he was easily able to get hold of, and would do the job properly as he intended it to. But also he'd made sure that he chose something where the effects would be painless.
He chuckled to himself. He was such a coward when it came to pain. The idea of cutting his wrists had occurred to him, but just the thought of that first slice of the blade had frightened him away from that idea. He'd thought of throwing himself under a train or jumping in front of a passing juggernaut on the busy trunk road near his home. Death that way would be pretty instantaneous he'd thought, but then he started wondering about what would happen if he timed it badly; what if he just bounced off, not dead but suffering serious injury and still living this awful life? He couldn't cope with the added agony of constant physical pain to match the emotional pain he already endured.
It was always the thought of the pain that had made him turn away from actually taking this step so many times before. He wasn't afraid of dying. Well, that wasn't quite true: He wasn't afraid of being dead, though the process of dying and the pain that may well come with it really terrified him. That was just the way he was. He was a coward.
Yes. A coward, the thought occurred to him. Only a coward would see this as a way out. That part of his mind that wanted to turn back was getting to him again. But he wasn't going to give in to thoughts like that. He wouldn't be tricked into changing his mind. His resolve was stronger than that and he only had to hold out for a few more moments because soon it would definitely be too late to turn back. A glance at his watch again. It was probably too late already.
So what would dying be like? He'd read accounts of people who'd attempted suicide, but of course none of them had actually succeeded. Mostly he was convinced that his experiences would be similar to theirs: surroundings gradually fading away, as senses become less and less acute, until eventually everything just stops.
However a small part of him wondered about fate and whether things were predetermined. If there was such a thing as fate, then would an attempted suicide definitely feel the same as a real suicide or could the feeling have more to do with the final outcome? He half smiled to himself and half grimaced: So if he felt anything he didn't expect, that could well confirm to him that his attempt was destined to be successful.
The radio was on. He couldn't help but listen, but the music was all wrong. Every so often a happy song would be played and it would annoy him. How the hell could anyone anywhere be happy? Life wasn't like that. Then he'd hear a sadder song, but it was never sad enough for him, or relevant to the way he was feeling so that maddened him too. It was too loud. He was sure he'd turned it down earlier; how come he could still hear it clearly?
He picked up the remote to lower the volume some more. That was strange: he'd taken his glasses off, and usually his eyesight without them was terrible, but all the numbers and the functions on the remote were clearly in focus; he could even read the remote control's brand logo clearly. He turned it over. The small print describing how to open the battery compartment was clearly visible.
He smiled to himself. Perhaps he'd found something else in these tablets, perhaps they'd cured his terrible eyesight. A breakthrough, he thought to himself, a bit bloody late though!
Suddenly he wondered where he'd left his note. It had been difficult to write a goodbye letter, attempting to explain why he'd done what he did, apologising for it to all the people who loved him, while still trying to justify the decision he'd made. He glanced over to the coffee table by the sofa. His letter was there. He thought about some of the details he'd included in it. Strange, he found he could read exactly what was written on the paper, even at this distance, at this angle and despite his own awful handwriting.
He looked around the room. Everything he saw seemed somehow more solid, but he couldn't explain why, and then it struck him: he was focusing on everything at the same time. Wherever his eyes fell, the things he looked at were in focus, but so were the objects in front of and behind them. Even things just in his peripheral vision were distinct and clear.
The radio still seemed loud despite him turning it down again, but then he realised: it wasn't loud, only clearer to his hearing. It must have been relatively quiet, because he could also hear the two neighbours up the road discussing football as they washed their cars. He recognised their voices. He knew they lived four or five houses away, but he could still hear every word of their conversation clearly. He heard the birds singing in the garden, but he could distinguish between those in the trees at the front of the house, and those in the back garden; not only that but each individual birdsong was distinguishable from the rest.
He rested his eyes for a moment. The sounds continued, and then he became a little frightened: even though he couldn't see his surroundings with his eyes closed, he was aware of every object in his sitting room. He could almost see in his mind's eye, everything on the desk adjacent to where he was sitting; he could even read the spines of every book on his shelf without actually seeing them, even down to the publishers badges on their spines.
He opened his eyes again. Things had changed: Now the colours of everything had increased in intensity. No. Not actually more intense, but each colour was more saturated, everything more colourful but without being brighter. The darkness of the mahogany woodwork was more positive in its darkness; the brightness of the paper on his desk was purer, whiter and more definite in its brightness. Everything he looked at was somehow more solid, more intense and more real, as though it somehow appeared to him in more than three dimensions.
The sounds he heard now were clearer, with more definition, as though everything he'd ever heard before had been muffled and muted. Now, not only could he hear the sounds from his own radio, but he could hear clearly what the people next door were listening to, as though the wall separating them wasn't there at all. He heard every conversation that people were involved in for yards around, and every single one of these sounds that he heard was registering in his mind as though he had been concentrating and listening intently to that sound and that sound alone.
So this was what happened when you died was it? He sat forward and listened; the sounds within his own house were nothing compared to those in the world outside. He looked toward the nearest wall and found that he could even sense objects outside through the brickwork, just as he'd sensed things through his closed eyelids moments earlier. So much was happening and he was experiencing much more of it now than he ever had before. The rest of the world had somehow become part of his own life in this small way; he realised that so much more went on than just the events that were important to him. Some of them had been trivial to him but so, in a way had his own problems been.
He looked around the room again. The walls that surrounded him weren't real anymore. They may as well not have been there. He was still within this room, but his consciousness was outside of it too. Every object in the room with him became more real to him, became a part of him, but then none of it was more important than anything outside was. He could now even see the air around him. Even the air was relevant to him now as was every single thing he was aware of, and he was now aware of so much more.
He was conscious of everything now: he was at peace with the world, with the whole universe, but also finally at peace with his place in it, his small part in it. He knew at that moment that his problems weren't worth killing himself for, because there was always something else that was as important or more important. If he'd known all this earlier, he'd have coped with his problems, realising that there was so much more out there in the universe around him to balance the questionable relevance of his minor problems: a universe that he was just a small part of, but that he was a part of it nevertheless, or at least he had been.
He closed his eyes. He wept. He'd cried a lot recently, but his tears then had all been selfish tears. It was himself that he wept for even now, but not in a selfish way. He wept because he realised that he'd finally come to terms with the meaning of existence, with the beauty of the world, with the relevance of the universe. He wept partly with joy, partly with relief, but mostly because he knew what he'd discovered, and that he'd discovered it too late. He was a part of the universe, only a small part, but just as important as any other, and soon the universe would continue on without him in it.
He sat back, he closed his eyes and he died.
The universe continued on without him. But it was without him.