The Meaning of Death

A man about to commit suicide gets a strange phone call...

It was a perfect night to die. 

Nearing midnight, the wind was howling, the sky starless and inky black, spitting some large, cold drops onto Robert's head and clothes. A raindrop rolled down his neck, but he refused to shiver. Shivering was his body's way of keeping warm. But it  didn't matter what his body wanted. It would be dead soon. 

He pulled out the handgun he had stashed unceremoniously in the front pocket of his jeans. His hands were freezing, but the black metal was colder, and almost invisible in the shadows. He had thought a lot about how this night would look. It was kind of fun, choosing the exact time and means of one's own death. Maintained that sense of control. Made the idea of death less frightening, because it wouldn't be a surprise. 

He had been watching for a cold rainy night like this one, so there wouldn't be any other people strolling down the bridge to witness or stop him. And it created a very dramatic effect, of course. He had decided to use a gun so that it would be quick, clean, and effective. No coming back from the dead - he wanted this plan to succeed, unlike the rest of the plans he had made regarding his life. And he had decided to fall into the river, partly so nobody he knew would have to find his guts all over his apartment . Instead his body would be washed clean in the current, and he would end up somewhere downstream, to be found by a local canoer or something. And it also seemed dramatic. Hey, it was his death. He could plan it however he chose. 

And he had brought his cell phone, not to give his wife an ultimatum, or  to put his affairs in order, or because he secretly wanted to be found using the GPS, but because he wanted the last sound he heard to be his daughter's voice. He imagined how that conversation would go. His ex-wife would answer. "Robert, it's almost midnight, she's in bed, fast asleep... I don't want to wake her, it will take her hours to fall asleep again, can't you call her tomorrow?" But in his mind, Heidi would hear something in his voice and grudgingly agree to wake her up. He would talk to his daughter one last time, maybe hear about a dream she had been having, then he would say goodbye. Then he would stand on the rail of this bridge, put the barrel of the gun in his mouth, jump, and pull the trigger before he hit the water. 

He had put his affairs in order. He had been fired a couple days ago, so he didn't need to worry about people missing him at work. He had written his will, leaving money to his daughter and some charities. The lease on the apartment would end in a couple weeks, and he'd left enough money to cover the rent, and a little extra. He left a note on the counter, telling his ex-wife and daughter that he loved them, that it wasn't their fault (even though it pretty much was), and that they should go on living happy lives. He specified that they didn't need to plan a big funeral, just have him cremated or something. He had emptied the fridge and turned off the stove, paid his credit card bill. What else was there? That was the sad part. He didn't even have a cat that needed a new home.

This was it. Though he had never made a big mark on the face of the earth, he was ready to disappear from it completely. He would go missing, his body would be found. Some people might miss him for a while. His daughter, at five years old, might not understand that he was really gone, but she would be happy enough with her new dad. Heidi would feel terrible for a while, but she would carry on for her children. Robert's brother would miss having someone to mooch off of, and his mother would miss getting to nag him about his failures, but she could still do that even if he wasn't around to hear it.

His icy fingers fumbled in his coat pocket for the cellphone. He tried to use his body to protect it from the rain, which had grown steady now, as he punched in the numbers.

He had only dialed 4 digits when the phone rang in his hand. He was so startled, and his fingers were so cold, that he dropped the phone. Who was calling him? Nobody ever called his phone. Only a handful of people knew the number, and none of those would call him at midnight. 

Must be a wrong number, he thought. The phone had rung twice on the ground before he picked it up again. He was tempted to hang it up so he could make his final call, but he decided that the last phone call he answered shouldn't just be hung up. He had time to tell some stranger they had the wrong number. It wasn't like he had anything else to do.

He flipped open the phone. For a moment, he wondered if the caller would be able to hear the sound of resolved despair in his voice, then put it next to his ear.

"Hello?"

The End

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