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Existential Terror and Breakfast: 24

Breakfast was buttered toast, a wholesome and healthy glass of grapefruit juice, and a handful of high-powered antidepressants. It was the first breakfast Malcolm had ever had that came with an instructional pamphlet. At least he had something to read.

It had been a full week since Malcolm had made it back home, and consequently back to his stagnated life. The state of his apartment had improved, now clean and organized, but Malcolm remained unemployed. The vows he had taken to turn his life around, to better himself and not let his future dim by his own hand, well, those vows had stayed on his check list. They weren’t broken, not yet, but those kind of vows could technically never be broken if you put them off for another day. Only death could break a nebulous promise about the future. Malcolm took no solace in this flaky kind of rumination, but it was hard to not feel at a stand still when he could not get a job.

All hope was not lost. Though he had not been able to get his resumé out while he was in the psych ward, he had spammed countless companies the weeks prior. This had paid off, and it looked like time just needed to pass for him to reap the benefit. A company reached out to him just the day before. He had an interview tomorrow! There was only one concern: himself.

Malcolm was not just anxious, he was certifiably anxious. Being unemployed for this long, on top of spending a week surrounded by people who assumed he was suicidal was not the perfect cocktail for a confident interview. Buttered toast and an antidepressant though, maybe that was the cocktail that the doctor had ordered… Well, actually it was precisely what the doctor ordered. Suicidal or not, it was incredibly unwise for Malcolm to argue that he wasn’t depressed. He had avoided taking them so far, but with an appointment that literally affected his life, a “happy pill” might be the best thing for him.

The plan was simple, if not a little bit rash. Malcolm Steadman, unsure of the effects that his pills would have on him, but absolutely sure that he needed them to succeed, would take a double dose today and ride them out. It seemed only right to him that he needed to test drive this new medication, and without much time to get a feel for them twice the dose would give him a crash course. What’s the worse that could happen?

Malcolm took a bite of his overly buttered toast, and what should have been a crunchy treat was now soggy in fat. He held the “instruction” pamphlet for his meds and began to read it. The fact that he could even make overdosing boring was not lost on him. He was not sure if he should be proud of this. The fact of the matter was that these pills were subscribed to him, no matter how rebellious he felt he was still supposed to take them.

Malcolm read the side effects.

The side effects looked like an unwelcoming wall of tiny font, a monolith of unpleasantness built to scare readers away. The content of it may have been a list of medical information, but the subtext of it read turn away, do not read this. The other pages of the pamphlet, filled with softly lighted pictures of puppies and picnics on the beach, were far more alluring and welcoming. The text there was bright and large, only promising the benefits of the drug. By contrast, the side effects were cluttered, almost claustrophobic, and it would be very easy for someone to miss or read over any part of it. The idea that this was by design frightened Malcolm… especially when he got to this line: May cause suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Malcolm dropped his toast.

Yes, the irony of a drug that was supposed to keep you from committing suicide causing that very action was both deserving of ridicule and outright fear. This is not what bothered Malcolm though. The idea of an antidepressant causing suicidal thoughts was not new to him. For years he had seen advertisements with contented looking cartoons glossing over this fact with a casualness that was almost predatory. A part of him even knew this information before he decided to read it. What bothered Malcolm was that he had no suicidal thoughts before being prescribed it.

Had he called a suicide hotline? Yes. Did he spend a week in involuntary holding surrounded by suicidal people? Double yes. He was never suicidal though, and the thought that his action of calling out for help could give him suicidal tendencies when he had none before? That was egregious. What even was a “suicidal tendency”, besides trying to commit suicide? What other action, but suicide could fall under that definition?

If Malcolm started taking these pills, and as a “side effect” offed himself, what was the purpose of taking the pills in the first place? A thought as black as crude oil sprung from his mind and soured his psyche. The dead feel no depression. The dead feel nothing. Suicide was not a terrible side effect, it was the pills’ promise. I’m no nihilist, thought Malcolm erroneously, but life is depression and pain. Death is a cure to life.

Yup, Malcolm was definitely depressed. Denying it after that line of thinking was an act of mental acrobatics that even he was incapable of. A pill in his mouth followed by a gulp was not a cosign to suicide, or a consent to end his life later. Malcolm, after all, was not suicidal. If he became that? Well, he knew what to dial. But did he ever want to be where he had been, ever again?

Malcolm abstained from the double dose. He abstained from the pills entirely. There was no doubt in his mind that he was unstable, and he certainly needed help. He did not abstain from them because of his super dark epiphany, no, the pamphlet said he couldn’t drink his grapefruit juice after taking them. It would speed up his metabolism and trigger too much of the drug at once.

Malcolm really liked grapefruit.





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