Logan rests in his bed, wondering how long it will take for him to die. He had finished the whole container of pills and now he waits. When death comes, will he step into the light like many reported near-death experiences?
Or, will he go into nothingness, a total void? Whatever happens, he feels confident he will be in the same state as before his birth, a non-being state — free from hopelessness, loneliness and despair.
Logan is pleased he decided to push the exit button instead of just contemplating it. His eyes begin to close and his mind clouds with the effects of the drug. He won’t have to wait much longer…
Suddenly, a nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach creates terrible pain he’s never felt before, an acidic, burning sensation. He rushes for the bathroom and with his head in the sink; he throws up the contents in his stomach.
To his disappointment, the pain doesn’t end – it just gets worse as the burning sensation is now no longer isolated to his stomach but moves up his chest like acid reflux.
Logan didn’t plan his death to be painful but the pills had unforeseen consequences. Now he just wants the pain to be over. He dials emergency and after some time the paramedics are at his door. He feels ashamed of his suicide attempt and even more embarrassed he failed to kill himself.
Logan is rushed to the hospital because the pills are still in his system. One of the paramedics notes: “You know, you’re lucky that you vomited when you did but you’re still not out of danger. What you’ve taken is serious stuff and we’ve got to get it out of you right away.”
The next moment, Logan starts feeling faint. Everything becomes a daze. Then complete darkness.
The ambulance attendants wheel him to Emergency on a stretcher with nurses and doctors ready to go into action. They pump his stomach of all its fatal contents by inserting a tube through his mouth. Then the stomach is washed out with some salt water.
Once Logan regains consciousness, the nurses ask him to take an awful-tasting gritty charcoal liquid. He suffers great agony from the terrible salt water still in his intestines and from this charcoal now going down his throat.
At the moment, he avows to either change his heavy consciousness through some sort of transformation, or to make sure that his next attempt is more effective in doing the job, with something more violent.
He doesn’t like a painful option but he can’t fail again because he doesn’t want to again go through the ordeal of having his stomach pumped, swallowing the nauseating salt water and tasting the gritting charcoal. It’s much better to die, he reasons, than to undergo all that. His whole experience makes him nauseous and light-headed. Soon his mind grows weary with one final thought: “What’s wrong with me?” Then, he drifts to sleep…
Logan has what many people would envy: While only in his mid twenties he has achieved stability, living in a quiet cottage near scenic Cypress woods in Northern California with a successful career as a journalist. Yet, despite all that, he feels lonely and disconnected.
Logan ‘s depression worries him because he is unable to move on with life. The next morning, he doubts that he could survive another crash. He despairs: I don’t have any hope of getting better. Even the anti-depressants I’m on haven’t helped. His thoughts are broken as he hears footsteps approaching his room.
Dr. Elizabeth Knight, a psychologist, enters the room carefully looking at his chart. At length, she speaks: “Well, Mr. Andrews we kept you overnight for observation. I see you have been on anti-depressants. Who prescribed them?”
“It was Dr. Morgan, a psychiatrist,” Logan replies.
“Oh, he’s really quite good, though I’ve decided to book you for an appointment to see Dr. Amanda Smith, who is a respected psychiatrist in San Francisco . She’s a specialist who has worked extensively with patients who have depression and mood disorders. So, I’m confident she can help you with long-term management of your condition.”
“Well, thank you,” Logan replies trying to appear encouraged.
“I have sent your file to her. Now I’m sure you are waiting for some good news: I’ll discharge you. Before I do though, I have to ask you a few questions. Is that okay?”
“Thank you. Is it okay if I take notes and record our conversation?”
“I’ve no problem with that.”
“Thank you,” she replies, pushing the record button. “So, my first question: have you attempted suicide prior to this attempt?”
“Have you contemplated suicide before this attempt?”
“Only a few times when I was really down but I had no serious intentions to do anything.”
“What precipitated this attempt?”
“I’ve just been feeling down… way down.”
“Has anything changed in your life?”
“Any particular event or events make you feel down? Anything bothering or annoying you?”
“No,” Logan replies, but it’s a lie. He is especially annoyed with the stupid hospital gown they made him wear, which is even now coming undone but he is too tired to fix it this time. Then he adds because he really wants to get out of the hospital: “Doctor, seriously, I felt down before but I feel better now. With everything that’s transpired, I no longer want to die.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Now, do you have repeated thoughts about committing suicide?”
“No, just occasional thoughts when I feel down.”
“Well, Mr. Andrews — can I call you Logan?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Okay, Logan , how does life seem to you at present?”
Logan knows this is a trick question, so he considers how best to answer it. He doesn’t want to reveal how he really feels. Then, he responds: “Well, life is a bowl of cherries. You never know what you’re going to get.”
“Hmm, I see, interesting, sarcasm.” Dr. Knight scribbles and then she proceeds, “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and just not wake up?”
“Well, I felt like that yesterday when I took the pills but I feel better now,” adding with a smile, “thanks to the care that I’ve received at this hospital,”
Dr. Knight smiles and raises an eyebrow. “Thank you for the compliment, Logan . Now, I must ask you: Do you own a gun?”
“Do you feel anger at other people to the point where you would want to hurt them?”
Logan finds that’s a strange question, so he replies with surprise: “No, never!”
“Do you think of harming yourself?”
“No, not now,” Logan replies his voice showing some agitation with all the repeated questions. He wonders when the questioning will end.
“One final question, then we’re done. Is that okay?”
“Have you made any specific plans to harm or kill yourself later on, some time from now? If so, what does your plan or plans involve?”
“I don’t have any plan,” Logan utters while silently considering different ways he would increase his odds of succeeding the next time.
“Thank you for answering my questions. Well, I lied. I do have one final question.”
Oh, great, Logan thinks. What does she want to ask now?
“Do you have a ride?” Dr. Knight asks with a smile.
“No, I’ll need to take a taxi.”
“In that case, I will have one ready for you in 30 minutes outside our main entrance. The nurse will bring back your clothes and any personal belongings.” She adds with a warm smile: “I wish you good luck.”
Logan smiles appreciatively: “Thank you, doctor.”
After Dr. Knight leaves the room and the nurse brings his clothes, Logan quickly dresses, glad to be out of the flimsy gown.
During the cab ride home, Logan looks out the window at birds playing across branches, and he reflects that precisely one year ago his life was destroyed and he’d never recovered. His life had become progressively worse and now it is the anniversary of his losses.
As night approaches, nothing seems right to Logan . The escape of work seems a distant mirage. He feels trapped. He was certain that even his co-workers noticed the low quality of his articles. Finally, Logan ‘s mind reaches saturation and he is ready for sleep. He feels tired and exhausted, so he quickly falls asleep after switching off the lamp.
He goes rapidly from light sleep to deeper states. His eyes flicker and he enters into the secret world of dreams…
Holding hands – dancing in a circle as a grey bearded man in a navy blue turban and sky blue robe stands magnificently looking at the group. His sparkling grey-green eyes focus on Logan with an insightful and omniscient stare. A light surrounds his whole body like an orb filled with brilliant hues of a multi-coloured rainbow of red, white, yellow and blue. The colours glisten and flow into each other with an uncanny translucence that reminds Logan of some psychedelic vision. Yet, he hadn’t taken any intoxicant to cause it, not even wine. What is it all about, he wonders? Concurrently with this thought, the man speaks with a deep, soothing voice. He greets Logan with the following words:
“Welcome! Welcome! This retreat has been created for you and others like you. This is where you will learn to connect to the Nexus. Trust your intuition – do not doubt the call that draws you here – and then you will be led spontaneously to our circle. Come! We are waiting.” The voice trails off and the man disappears. There one moment, gone the next.
In the distance, Logan sees a mysterious, old stone house, which melts right into the landscape with huge maples and pines engulfing it, yet a magnetic force draws him toward it. Beside it is a tranquil stream with swans delicately gliding upon the surface.
Two days had passed since Logan was released from the hospital, the alarm clock rings for the third time after he hits the snooze button. He finally gets up with a start while staring blankly at the clock. Oh God, it’s 7:00 AM !
He must leave in fifteen minutes with his article printed out. The shower, the toast with eggs and juice, and newspaper with the day’s headlines are luxuries he cannot afford this Monday morning. He hurriedly dresses, and brushes his teeth and combs his hair. After printing out the overdue article, he rushes out the door.
Logan takes his briefcase out of the car’s trunk but then he sees a rope there. He imagines: hanging by a beam—his body dangling, inert and lifeless. The thought of suicide frightens him but also strangely attracts him.
He shakes his head in disbelief as if to exorcise an inner demon. Last time, he didn’t succeed because he hated pain but a rope though more violent would be more effective.
Finally he pulls the briefcase out and conceals the rope under some bags. He takes a deep breath when he’s safely seated in his car. A turn of the ignition key and his two-year-old Honda Civic is ready to move. Logan heads out of the driveway and halts at the stop sign before heading for the interchange for the freeway.
Suddenly, Logan swerves his car, as he tries to miss a crossing cat. The cat is struck hard, and is tossed to the side of the road, where it lies motionless. As Logan anxiously gets out of the car, he hopes that the feline is still alive.
The cat’s eyes are closed and the body is rigid; her back legs are crushed. The site revolts Logan , so he turns his eyes in the other direction. He walks away feeling dejected about his decision to move closer to nature because the harmony he sought is so elusive. Whatever he may want as a lifestyle, the drum of modernity beats on and simplicity becomes a muted voice able to merely whisper about a more uncomplicated life.
Logan wonders, why all this mad rush when beauty surrounds him? Still progress marches on, as it encroaches upon nature and her creatures, leaving no place for reflection and harmony. Even this road cuts through majestic trees, hills and valleys, interfering with nature’s design. As a breeze moves trees, he feels his presence is unwelcome in this lovely landscape. Is it progress, Logan questions, when the earth, sky and water are polluted, and trees are cut down to make way for cars and cities?
He resolves he will not leave the cat’s mangled corpse to be run over again. Instead, he will take it far away from the road. As he touches her side, he realises that she is pregnant. He had killed not only the cat but also the litter inside her. He takes a deep breath, feeling sick to his stomach.
After burying the cat under debris and earth, Logan takes out his water bottle. He washes away the blood and dirt from his hands. Suddenly he remembers his article and heads back on the road. He resolves this will be his last commute to work. One way or another, he determines to put an end to it.
Once he is on the highway, the rest of the journey to San Francisco is uneventful; however he continues to be troubled by his strange thoughts. He feels that his heart is hollow and numb, without feelings.
Logan pulls into the newspaper’s parking lot still feeling bewildered. To his delight, he has no trouble finding a spot because most employees haven’t yet arrived. He surveys the three-story building that has been his work place for the past two years. Behind the glass windows, he knows there lies a monotonous sea of desks.
Logan trudges up to the bland building. He smiles and nods to Charlie, the fix-it man for the building, who is intently painting the wall and barely notices Logan as he enters the elevator.
Mary sits behind the receptionist desk on the third floor, greeting Logan with a warm smile. She adds cheerfully as he walks past her: “Good morning, Mr. Andrews!”
He smiles back and hurries into the newsroom. After opening the big glass doors with some effort, he notices the slow pace of the early morning and how much more comforting it feels instead of the noise of the workday. At one time, he found the racket exhilarating. Now, it just grates his ears.
The newsroom at first glance looks cluttered and disorganised. On further probing, you would realise the clutter has a purpose, particularly the desks whose surface cannot be seen under a mountain of paper, files and notes. The large number of desks, stretching throughout the space, conceals the fact that the newsroom is divided into special beats covered by different reporters.
At the entrance of the newsroom is the library, which contains archives and photos. Next to it is the beat desk that covers the local news. This is where Logan has been assigned for the past two years.
Just as he puts his briefcase on his desk, he hears a friendly voice from a few desks up.
“Hey Logan ! You got the lead?” Peter asks with concern.
“Yeah, I sure do!”
“Well, you’ve taken your time with it. You know, we weren’t able to put the paper to bed until 11:30 because you couldn’t be bothered to hand it in! I had to submit my article on fiscal mismanagement in your place, and we know how exciting that topic is for our readers. Your interview with the new Police Chief and his policy of zero tolerance would’ve been the perfect lead.”
“I’m really sorry but as I explained…”
“Explained, what? You know, this isn’t like you. What’s with you, anyway? Are you feeling all right?”
“Yeah, never better,” Logan replies, with a forced smile on his face. He wants to tell Peter how he has felt but decides against it because he doesn’t know how to explain it. His own emotions are a mystery to him. Besides, he doesn’t want to trouble his friend and let the word get around the newsroom. Peter is a great friend but he can’t be relied on to keep a secret.
“Johnson isn’t going to be happy,” Peter remarks in a subdued tone. “He’s been asking me questions about you lately: whether there’s something wrong, or if you’re feeling sick. I’ve covered for you but you have to start pulling your weight. You just can’t allow deadlines to be missed!”
“You’re right, Peter, but…” The sentence goes unfinished: Victor Johnson, senior editor, has just arrived.
“ Logan , would you come into my office, I want to talk to you,” Johnson interrupts in a curt voice.
Logan feels his heart beating faster and his shoulders and neck tense in anticipation of the battle to follow. He hates conflict and isn’t looking forward to stepping into Johnson’s office. He can already see Johnson peering out of the glass partition, waiting for him like a predator ready to pounce on its victim. After a deep breath, he timidly enters with the door closing firmly behind him.
Moments later, Logan emerges from Johnson’s office, breathing a sigh of relief. The meeting went better than he had imagined. In fact, Johnson suggested a vacation, so that Logan could get himself together. The pressure might be too much for him, the editor said, and a vacation may allow him to find some rest for frayed nerves. Peter had already left for lunch and Logan decides to join him at the cafeteria.
“So, how did it go?” Peter asked, looking up from a bagel and coffee.
“Better than I thought. He suggested a vacation.”
“A vacation!” Peter yells incredulously. “Maybe I should miss deadlines if you get time off for it,” he then retorts with a smile as he dunks his bagel into his coffee.
“Well, it’s not extra time off,” Logan explains. “He’s just asking me to take an early vacation.”
“Hmm, that sounds reasonable,” replies Peter taking a second dunk. He clears his throat, and tightens his lips with a serious look. “If you have any problem, buddy, I want you to know that I’m here to help.” Then, he adds with a smile: “At the very least, I can listen and you know how good I am at giving advice.”
They both share a laugh. Logan insists on picking up the tab and as he takes out a twenty-dollar bill, Peter sees a picture in Logan ‘s wallet.
“You’re still carrying a flame for her?” he asks pointing to the attractive blonde in the picture.
Logan remains silent as memories flood his mind about Sarah. He feels remorse over losing her because she should have been with him. At length, he answers with a subdued voice: “I’ve always loved her.”
“I know you have,” Peter says soothingly. “Is that what’s troubling you? You haven’t had some action? A married guy like me is too tired to have energy with work and the kids. But you must want a woman to keep you warm at night.”
“It’s not like that, Peter. But, I admit that I get lonely. At least, you have a wife and kids to share your life with. I go home to an empty house where I can talk to the walls…”
“Look, buddy,” Peter interrupts impatiently, “you can’t stay stuck in the past — in what could have been. You’ve got to move on and I know a gal who’s crazy about you in this very office.”
Logan raises an eyebrow. “Who?”
“Mary, the receptionist, has been eyeing you. You can tell when you look at her that she’s interested. If you weren’t so self-involved, you would notice that she is too shy to approach you, but she has tried to give you many opportunities to initiate something with her. Just go up to her and ask her out.”
“Really?” Logan asks. “Mary’s interested? Charlie also told me she’s interested in me…”
“Yeah, Charlie, the fix-it guy.”
“Oh, okay,” Peter replied with a puzzled look on his face. “I’m not sure who you mean but he sounds wise, a lot like me.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t met him since he’s always busy fixing something in the building; you probably just haven’t run into him.”
“That makes sense, I guess” Peter says with a yawn. “Now, getting back to Mary. Will you stop analysing it to death and just ask her out?”
“Well, okay,” Logan hesitantly replies but he is preoccupied with the past – until he realises the conversation has to end because they need to return to work.
Back at the newsroom, Johnson has a new assignment about which he wants Peter to make calls in order to investigate if a good story line could be framed around it. A spiritual teacher, a guru of some sort, has been invited to speak at Berkeley on the connection between Quantum Physics and Mysticism. He is a retired university professor, who often speaks on spirituality even in his retirement. The information came over the wire, and Peter wants to establish a local connection between the man and his visit to the Bay area. He will make calls to create a profile before he tries to interview him.
Peter intently looks at the accompanying photo. The man’s serenity and glowing face impress him. He takes the photo over to Logan, who is busy packing up items from his desk in preparation for his four-week sojourn.
“You lucky dog,” Peter interjects with mock indignation. “Are you also packing the sun-tan lotion and Speedos?”
“Hey, Peter,” Logan objects, “I haven’t even decided where I’m going. I might just decide to take it easy and rest. It might be just what I need.”
“Well, whatever you do, make sure you forget about this place. You deserve a break and when you come back… you can be your old self again.”
“Yeah,” Logan shrugs, “that’s what I’m hoping.”
“Oh, by the way, I’ve been given a new assignment about a visiting lecturer. I was struck by his peacefulness,” Peter remarks while holding up the photo.
Logan stares at it intently. His face goes white as if horrified by an apparition. He is left speechless, looking fervently at the picture. After regaining his composure, he asks: “Who is he?”
Peter replies, “I had the same reaction. Doesn’t he have an amazing serenity?”
“Yeah, but I’ve seen this man before in a dream. It’s the same face, beard and turban.”
Peter looks alarmed. “Hey, Logan ! Take a hold of yourself. Have you been watching too many shows about the paranormal? Are you really even sure this man was in a dream you had?”
“Yes, I’m sure it’s him. He was asking me to join him in some sort of retreat or something.”
“Wow, that’s amazing! It says here, he’s leading a retreat in Ontario , Canada . Near a town called Elora. What a nice name for a town: EH-LOH-RAH. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you go there, for your vacation? Visit Canada — see the beavers, the moose and find out if people really live in igloos…”
“They don’t,” Logan interrupts curtly. “I was born in Nova Scotia , Canada , lived there until I was fourteen and my parents moved us to the States. Canada ‘s a great country – big cities and small towns, an outdoorsman’s paradise…”
“Whoa, lighten up a bit. I was just kidding about the igloos crack – I know half of Hollywood is from Canada, and I’m sure Pam Anderson, Keanu Reeves, Rachel McAdams, Jim Carrey, William Shatner, Dan Akroyd, John Candy, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox, Eugene Levy, Tom Green and… the rest of them didn’t come here wearing parkas. But it sounds like you really miss the place – an outdoorsman’s paradise is it? Sounds like an ideal place for a vacation.”
“Maybe so,” Logan ponders.
“And, while you’re there,” Peter adds as he points to the picture, “try to figure out why you would dream about this guy? It could be fun.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Logan says hesitantly. “I’ll have to think about it but give me the information on the retreat.”
“Sure, take this print-out of my assignment memo and this details sheet. I’ll print another copy when I’m back at my desk.”
Logan takes the memo and details from Peter. Then, glancing intently at his watch, Logan announces: “I’d better get going before rush hour. I’ll see you in a month.”
“Sure, buddy. Send me a postcard or something, wherever you decide to go,” Peter affirms with a smile. He continues in a jovial tone: “Have fun and think about me working my butt off here!”
Logan waves good-bye to his friend with a big grin on his face yet his smile quickly fades outside the newsroom.
As he enters the elevator the mental fog returns with strong feelings of despair and trepidation.
The feeling of being stuck in work he no longer enjoys creeps up on him, making him anxious. He tries to maintain composure by mentally intoning: Don’t worry, Logan . You have a four-week break from this crazy place.
Nevertheless, he knows a month is too short and concurrent with this realization; a piercing sense of loneliness and sorrow leaves him feeling uneasy as he remembers Sarah.
Images flood Logan ‘s mind, as the elevator opens to the Lobby, of memorable but now painful times: walks by the beach, conversations shared with her about their dreams and hopes for the future, and the first time they made love on a beach with waves splashing around them.
His face contorts and his spinning mind seems like a trap. Thoughts of suicide and self-hatred come in full force. The same cycle of events that makes him feel that he is going over the edge repeats once again.
Panic fills his mind as he realises he will be alone for the next four weeks. He starts gasping for air, as his breathing becomes shallow and erratic. His heart starts palpitating uncontrollably. He knows this is it — he will die of a heart attack. Within minutes his whole body is drenched in sweat as the elevator opens to the Lobby, where he sits motionless, gripping his chest, on the bench. His tight air passages slowly start to open and his breathing starts to return to normal. He is tired and unable to think, except for one thought: when will it end?
This time it does end when he is brought out of the experience as Charlie firmly touches his shoulder and stares directly into his eyes. He asks earnestly: “Are you okay, Logan ?”
Logan nods his head, unable to speak a word. Finally, his faculties return but he feels exhausted.
“Charlie, could you help me to my car?” he feebly asks the building’s custodian.
“Sure, mate, just lean on my shoulder,” Charlie empathetically replies. Logan is glad that it was Charlie who found him in his condition. He wasn’t one to ask questions; instead he would offer help without hesitation. Logan leans on him, as they make their way through the sliding doors.
The cool air outside clears Logan ‘s head and by the time they reach his car, he feels good enough for the drive home. Charlie waves goodbye with a serious look on his face — a look that Logan does not see as the building and Charlie both become distant silhouettes in the greying twilight.
On the road home, Logan is overwhelmed by apprehension. He is alone again. The rope is still in the trunk where he left it two months ago. He always kept the rope nearby, as it gave him a grotesque satisfaction that he was the final arbitrator of his demise. His mind starts to wander, fantasizing about his death.
He wonders how people will feel once he is gone. Will they miss him?
Logan envisions his own funeral vividly: The room is dim with his casket set on a table covered with many beautiful flowers. The light in the room somehow makes his black casket shimmer with an incandescent life.
He hears a recognisable voice filling the parlour. The words are muffled but he is moved by the eulogy given by Sarah from behind the podium. She is shaken, hot tears streaming down her cheeks.
As the words echo in the silent room, his mother cries out loudly, asking: “Why, why!” She buries her head into her palms in disbelief of her son’s suicide. Finally, she is calmed with a tight embrace by Logan ‘s father. The whole room weeps and Logan feels a grim satisfaction while letting his fantasy swirl in his mind. Suddenly, the table swallows the casket, as it falls into a trap door and is immolated in a fiery blaze.
Logan is roused from his suicidal daydream by the sound of distant ambulance sirens.
His thoughts are disturbing because he realizes he is no longer in control. His precarious situation becomes even more evident to him.
Logan suddenly realizes that the time off may prove grave for him because he can’t trust what he might do. An impending sense of doom sends cold shivers down his spine…
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