Martin awoke slowly, fading into a dream that was cold, wet and dark. Soft red light teased his vision, a distant promise of lucidity, but his eyes were swollen shut and tightly sealed. His lungs burned, scorched by water, and his mouth tasted faintly of blood.
As his senses coalesced into consciousness he became aware of his body. He was lying prone in the bathtub, arms draped over the sides providing just enough leverage to keep his mouth above the water. He tried to pull himself up but his grip was weak and his arms failed him. As he collapsed back into the tub a terrible pain lanced his left calf and he inhaled violently, sucking in the splashing water and then retching from the bloody taste. He reached down into the tub, frantically searching. When his fingers touched the handle of the box cutter he cried out from the pressure of the blade in his calf. He tugged on the metal handle then threw the knife out of the tub and onto the floor.
He was trembling. The water was tepid but he was cold, washed over with pain and fear. As the tears welled up in his eyes he realized they were crusted shut with blood and sweat. With quivering hands he ladled water and splashed it on his eyes, then rubbed them softly. Moments later he was squinting at a candle perched above the tub, casting the bathroom in a red glow. As the room came into focus so did his memory.
This was his suicide. He rolled his hands over, palms to the ceiling, and gazed at his wrists. They were both a mess, slashed and scabbed over, dripping with water and fresh blood. His left wrist was much worse than his right, with a deep, diagonal cut that spanned the width of his arm. The cut on his right wrist was a shallow gash just underneath his palm. Both of them were pulsing, throbbing with his heartbeat.
As he gazed at his arms he began to remember his last conscious moments. He was right handed, and when he had finally summoned the courage to make the final cut he slashed his left wrist. The cut was deep and bloody and had rendered his left hand shaky and weak. The site was so gruesome and the pain was so intense that his willpower had faltered. He remembered slashing at his right wrist with a feeble, uncoordinated hand, dropping the knife and feeling feint immediately. He remembered the sting of the water on his wrists and instinctively draping his arms over the sides of the tub to bleed out. He remembered the searing pain in his forearms and the promise of relief from his anguish.
As his memory recovered he came to understand how his bid for death had been denied. The weight of his body falling back into the tub had pulled against his arms, compressing them against the edge of the tub. The pressure had slowed the bleeding just enough to keep him alive but not enough to keep him awake – until now. He was still confused, betrayed by his failed plans and his sense of time.
The cutting seemed like just minutes ago but the water was too cold and the blood on his wrists was too dark for that to be the case. The Christmas candle set out for the paramedics was itself on the verge of death, indicating that he had been in the tub for almost two days. But the dead man’s switch running on his computer was scheduled to run just 8 hours after he planned to kill himself. The paramedics should have been summoned, his wife and kids should have been notified, and the emails with the explanations should have gone out to all of his friends. He should have died hours in advance of those things, and Plagus would have had to handle the rest, to answer questions from authorities about his death while simultaneously executing his will in his absence. Someone would eventually go to the house and ask questions. But right now he was alive, alone, and impossibly worse off than he was the day he had decided to end it. With that machine running his life it would be unimaginable misery, suffering until death at his whim as the world crumbled. Suicide was the option that Plagus didn’t consider when he stole his life, but surviving it was the option Martin never considered when he tried to end it.
His mind wandered to the grief and chaos of his family, and wondered if they were even alive. Would there be retaliation? In that sorrow alone he felt such crushing sadness it only confirmed he was better off dead, and he started to sob. He was now mortally wounded and too weak to finish the job, a failure second only to the horror he had unleashed on the world. From this endless wellspring of sorrow he found the resolve to do it again right this time, he convinced himself he had the will. He was lucid enough to finish the job but he was too weak to pull himself out of the tub. The knife was somewhere on the ground, and like so much of his life, just out of his reach.