The burning behind my eyes stopped when the doctor, between his morning coffee and his afternoon golf, showed me the black and white shadows of my soul on Eastman Kodak film. I concentrated on the scent of burnt tobacco that wafted off his starched white coat while he spoke of surgery and radiation and chemotherapy. A pure perfect serene fist had gripped me tight, and only the bits of my senses that squeezed between the fingers could take in what was left. The office smelled of antiseptic, liquid death for tiny microbes. Only Macro-life in here, bitches. Antiseptic and Nicotine. Poisons that cure. Micro or macro, we have the means to kill you.

I pledged the remainder of my life to defying science.

"I'm sorry. There is nothing we can do." became "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last."

I shook the doctor's hand and smiled. He sensed something, arching his dispassionate eyebrow, affecting a dog look of curiosity.

I winked. There was work to be done.

No man, no matter how many years he spent rotting in the halls of academia, can tell the future. They say the doctor gives you 6 months to live. He doesn't give you anything. He takes the balance of your life away. Its a remainder, an exercise in precognition by an asshole with a degree and a god complex. But my doctor, he gave me something. He gave me a goal. A conclusion. A climax. He gave me a target.

The only people on Earth that can predict the future are artists. They can see pictures that don't exist, stories that haven't been told, technology that could never exist. Medical science, which had seen me through all the years of my life, had finally fallen short. It was similar to the day when I realized my parents were people, with limitations and flaws. It changes things. I decided to change with them.

I stopped sleeping. Why bother? Deadlines, deadlines, painted in the snow. I would be dead at that line, the marathon with no medals.

My story needed a villain. The disease was a plot device, but hard to personify. Really, it is just your own body betraying itself. The evil twin cliché, as hackneyed as a Hollywood blockbuster. No, I needed a mythological foe to justify the journey into Hell. I keep dreaming about some one I couldn't see, steering my life along a set path, past each milestone I never choose, rushing toward death. I named this faceless force "The Engineer". I want to give him the whole "Casey Jones" pastiche, but the social driver of my life screamed out for a suit and tie. The Engineer lives and dies by a schedule, the pocket watch ever at the ready. I choose to become like my enemy. I will die on time, come Hell or high water.

The excess is trimmed away. I clear out my studio apartment, making neat piles on the curbside. It is all gone by morning. I keep a couch and an end table which I set in the middle of the floor, surrounded by every clock and calendar I could set my hands on, scoured from the pile like the wheat from the chaff. I'm going to die exactly 6 months from the second the doctor sang the last note. I have it circled on all the calendars. The alarm is set on all the clocks.

Bills are ignored. The Engineer sends them. He wants to press me back onto the rail, into society to die in a bed. He speaks in commandments:


Wrong. I'm off the grid, under the radar and running hot. The tethers slip away with amazing grace. The clock spins fanatically while I sit in a fevered trance, deliberately scripting the exact moments of the day. The Day. THE DAY. Day becomes End. THE END. The paper cascades down the sides of the couch and onto the floor in a halo. The order doesn't matter, because I'm never going to review it. No time. I just need to sound it out, gauge the nail head with the hammer before the swing, no, cock the hammer before pulling the trigger. I don't leave the apartment any more. It is my shell. Soon, I will hatch.

I notice that my nose bleeds every day at the same time. The Time. I press the pencil to my face and write a special note with it every day. Red ink that has had a trip around the brain is so easy to write with. It knows what to say. It stops on Endmas Eve. The day before The Day. I smile when the present arrives at the door. The courier is taken aback by my sunken skeletal features. He asks if I want an ambulance. I choose to press a wad of money into his hand instead of the .45 to his temple, if only because his death is not written down. He fades away with practiced ease after the long wooden crate is dropped onto the paper-layered floor. I open the curtains for the first time since incubation.

Nobody suspects the butterfly.

I sleep, I shower, I dress in the perfect gray sweatsuit which lay folded like a masterpiece on the closet floor, snort more coke than I've dared before, tie the perfect tan boots and I set to work. All four of the watches on my arm beep in concert. Time to apply the poison. The Last Page begins.

The strap is made from a leather coat that cost more than my first car. I bought the sweatsuit two sizes too small and it is still baggy. I tried shaving, but the ashen skin of my cheeks started to bleed even before the razor touched it, just like I had written. The beard was hastily doctored by nail scissors, and the long gray hair was pulled back into a ponytail. The Engineer hates longhairs.

The eight blocks to the rail yard happen exactly as I planned. The taxi hits the Red Audi at the third light, the cops come out of the coffee shop a second after I step behind into the alley, the pigeon shits on the awning when the garbage truck rattles past. I move like a ghost, treading the thin line between. The metal is rubbing the knobs of my spine bloody, and my thin legs are screaming to stop, but I rage on, just like the story said I would. The corners of my mouth are tucked up under my gaunt cheekbones, black ringed sunken red eyes in the hoodie completing the Grim Reaper ensemble. The old lady at the fruit stand gasps and screeches "El Diablo" as I scamper past. I put my fingers up to my ears for horns and waggle my tongue at her. I keep doing that while the burning grips my chest, pressing me into a vise of pain. The cocaine rages in my veins, and my heart is going to burst. Just like paragraph 3, 4th line, on the last page...

The watches all beep again, 1 minute to go.

The track is just up ahead.

The tube is cold and perfect as it perches atop my shoulder.

The ground starts to rumble.

I kneel on the ties between the tracks.

The light is getting closer.

The horn sounds.

The Beast is panicked.

My nose starts to bleed.

I smell the diesel.

I grip the trigger.

I apply the poison.

The tube leaps.

The exhaust gas burns my face.

The two lights join together and all is thunder.

I smile.


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