Steven was drowning in debt and he just wanted to die. Like so many he’d just given up on trying anymore and as far as he was concerned it was time to end it all. Julie was raped by a drunk frat boy in her first year of college, she’d never been able to form a close relationship with anyone since; she too had decided that there was nothing left to live for. Brad and Rick, after coming out to their opposing families were disowned, cut out of their wills and cast aside, in their mind the only thing left for them was a Romeo & Juliet death; hopefully Jesus didn’t judge and they’d be together on the other side. Serena hated the world: the corporations, the unequal spread of wealth and power, the evil condition of humankind; she just couldn’t find the meaning in any of it. And Jim, well Jim was just sad and really didn’t know what else to do.
There were three things they all had in common. The first, they all wanted to die. Second, they didn’t know how to do it, or were too scared to do it themselves. And third, they all had a brochure for Blind Bear Falls Euthanasia Resort. Steven had one stuck to his fridge door among overdue bills, photos of forgotten friends and magnetic alphabet letters left over from the previous tenants. Julie’s was folded in the middle and shoved in the glove box of her rented Toyota; her car had been in the shop for days and she was sure the German owner was finding new problems to rip her off; she had only taken it in for a busted headlight. Brad had picked up a copy for Rick, and Rick did the same for Brad, they knew they were meant for each other when they sat down and presented the same brochure over undercooked pasta and cheap wine. Serena had just grabbed one on the way home after another miserable day standing in the rain at another fruitless protest for a cause she’d forgotten anyway. And Jim’s was well thumbed and creased in the back pocket of his jeans, as he finished a pint of slightly flat beer in the dingy bar down the street from his threadbare apartment.
The brochure was a piece of art; simple and elegant. The picture on the front seemed ethereal. If there was a more beautiful place to die peacefully on your own terms, you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere more idyllic. The text was embossed and rendered in gold; all swirls and swishes. It was professional and classy; exactly the air you want to give off if you are going to kill people for a living. The title read: Blind Bear Falls Euthanasia Resort – When prevention fails we have the cure.
You could choose to be buried in a wonderful secluded grove or have your ashes released into the rushing water, or if you had no preference and just wanted to die, they would cater for that too. They were very accommodating. All you had to do to be accepted was get in touch and tell them why you wanted to end your life.
In the same week the sad group of suicidal cases decided at one point or another to make the call to Blind Bear Falls. Jim had to use a payphone because he’d dropped his mobile into a cup of tea that morning and Serena had to wait until she was released from the drunk tank to retrieve hers and make the call. They were all accepted into the resort and given instructions of where to meet and when.
They came on different days and at different times but they were all told the same thing. It was a five day trek to the resort. It came as a surprise to them all but was met with mostly apathy, they had all waited long enough, a few more days didn’t matter; a little walk in the mountainous air wouldn’t make a difference. The man gave them maps, bags and enough food for the duration. There were cabins along the route and they could take it as slow or as fast as they liked, and sleep, or rest, or replenish their supplies when they needed. They set off with mostly the same thoughts. In a few days it would all be over and they would be free.
On the first day Serena walked round a bend in the dusty road as it made its way gently upwards. She stubbed her toe on a little rock, tripped and almost fell. She noticed one of her shoelaces was untied and she bent to fix the offending strings. When she stood up, as if from nowhere, a little boy carrying a big basket appeared in front of her. It was filled to the top with Samba-Soda. How he could take all that weight was anyone’s guess. He offered her one for pennies, she declined. Samba-Soda was made by the devil, she said. It was the only way for him to make money, he said. She bought one, he carried on his way. She looked at the can and put it in her bag. She’d never tasted a sip before, let alone paid for a can; first time for everything she thought.
On the second day Steven was attacked by a monkey. Not so much as attacked but fell asleep on the grass and had all his snacks stolen. He awoke to the monkey’s happy hollering as he shared the spoils with his friends. Steven didn’t mind, he wasn’t hungry anyway. Besides he could refuel at the next rest stop. They had it all planned out in case things like this happened, he had everything he needed. He went on his way.
On the third day the weather was incredible. Jim breathed in the air and the gentle breeze rustled the pines as he walked along the forest path. He picked off a long blade of grass and put it in his mouth. The sun, a severed orange squeezed onto ink washed paper, dipped below the trees as he opened the door to the cabin.
On the fourth day Julie’s watch broke in the morning and her phone ran out of juice. She had no idea what time it was for the whole day and she found she didn’t care. She actually smiled when she caught sight of her reflection in the glassy lake she found herself paddling in. She’d never done anything spontaneous in her life; dressed only in the evening light she went for a swim.
On the fifth day, Brad and Rick pushed open the door to Blind Bear Falls Euthanasia Resort. It was heavy and made of wood but didn’t make a sound as it swung inwards. The entrance was modest. There was a desk, a green reading lamp and two doors down the hallway. Hunched behind the desk sat a small, bearded man with spectacles perched on the end of his nose.
Hello, he said. Hello, they said in reply. You must be Brad and Rick, he said. We are, they said. He told them there were two choices, two rooms. Spectacular rooms and both identical in looks but not function. The first promised the special death they were here for. The other was to be walked into, and walked out of the next day.
He gestured towards two golden plaques mounted on the wall behind his head. The one on the left was beautifully engraved with hundreds of names. The one on the right was blank. Five hundred and ninety seven people had previously stayed at the resort and every single one of them woke up the next day and had their names engraved on the left. The choice was theirs.
Brad and Rick turned to look at each other. They clasped hands and knew exactly what to do. They walked forward with purpose and closed the door behind them with a soft click.