Arnold stared at the mess which was his apartment. He wasn't much better off than his place of residence. His hair was almost always messy, but now it was also greasy and unkempt. He hadn't changed his shirt in almost a week, and it had been even longer than that since he had showered. His boss, Ray Vitello (who had taken over his mother's flower shop after she retired) was aware of his situation and had given Arnold a few weeks off to get his head back on straight. Arnold wished he hadn't done that.
He sighed and stared at her picture, much as he had done for the majority of the week. She smiled back as the wind froze her hair in artistic streams. He finally let his eyes wander from her photo and decided that it was time to clean his apartment. In a blur, he made his bed, did his laundry, vacuumed the floor, dusted the blinds, cleared his browser history, took a shower, and put on some clean clothes. His life had really turned to shit since his grandparents had died. He hadn't been able to stay on top of the bills and the work to be done at Sunset Arms and had ended up losing the boarding house his family had owned for generations. He was unable to pay off his loans for college and his degree had done little for getting him a job. The only good thing she had in his life was her, and she had left him.
Arnold took a shaky breath as he stared at his reflection in his mirror. He was known for being optimistic. He was the one who told everyone to look on the bright side, but he hadn't seen the bright side in so long that he doubted that there even was one anymore.
His knees gave way and he fell on the cheap linoleum floor. The streams of crimson that had been pouring into the sink from his open veins started to pool under him. He blinked lazily as he stared at his freshly cleaned apartment. At least he wouldn't be found in a mess. It didn't matter. He had hit rock bottom. Nothing could be worse than this.
He was wrong.
Arnold sighed at his reflection before reverting his attention back to the sink where he was washing his hands. Whenever he looked at his hands he had to look at the long white scars, reminding him why he was where he was. Before returning to his work at the Burger Hut he tried to force a smile at his reflection. It was futile. He couldn't smile anymore. No one in this place could.
No one really knew what this place was. All they knew was that the way you ended up there was by killing yourself. Everyone had their reasons for winding up in this hell. It wasn't that different from where they had all come from. The only difference was that everything was a bit more gray here. It all just sucked a little more than living did.
Arnold had found a shitty place to live, which he could barely afford with his shitty job. He hated everything about this place, but what was he to do? The last time he hated everything about his life and had done something about it he had ended up in this hellhole. If he were to try and commit suicide again it would probably just make his life even worse, if that was possible.
Arnold had just about given up on making friends when he was at a bar, trying to drink his worries away when a girl approached him. She was very pretty, with long raven black hair and in a skimpy red dress. "Hey." She said, a come-hither tone in her voice.
"Hello." Arnold replied, unable to conceal how uncomfortable her approach had made him. Plus, his thoughts were still contorted around his living ex girlfriend.
"I'm Rhonda, and I hope you won't think me rude, but my friend Nadine and I were just playing a game." Nadine, a pretty girl with dark skin and a mass of curly blonde hair, lazily waved from their table.
"What's the game?" Arnold asked cautiously.
Rhonda leaned over the table, balancing on her elbows before asking, in a low voice, "How did you off yourself?"
Arnold blinked a few times, unable to wrap his mind around what she was asking. Finally, he slowly pulled up his sleeves and revealed his wrists. Rhonda smirked before turning to Nadine and saying, "One more point for me."
"You're seriously making that into a game?" Arnold asked. She nodded and Arnold said, "That's really insensitive."
Rhonda shrugged, "Alright, that's fair. How do you think I offed?"
Arnold had guessed that Rhonda had overdosed on something. In reality, she had parked in the garage under her condo in her brand new BMW with a hose in her tailpipe, leaking CO2 into the interior of her car. She'd never been short on money like Arnold, but that didn't mean anything. She was being wrangled into her career by her father and she hated it. She hated her career, she hated the pressure, and she hated that she had no freedom. She had wanted to go to designer school, but her father had insisted that a career in law was the only acceptable career for a Lloyd. Nadine's story wasn't much better. She had found out that her ex boyfriend, Sid, had not only been stealing money from her, but he had been stealing from her to buy drugs and shit for his boyfriend, Stinky. She had ended up lacing the vodka she knew Sid and Stinky would be drinking from and after she was sure they were dead she finished herself off. Once the girls shared their stories, Arnold was surprised that he found himself playing the game right along with them.
They were guessing how a large, beefy man in a pair of levis and a leather vest had offed when they realized they had been caught. "I can't help but notice that you haven't guessed for me yet." A smooth and deep voice noted as a tall black man slid into the seat next to Nadine. He took a drag of his cigarette before tapping the ashes into the crystal tray in the center of the table before he said, "I bet you a drink you won't be able to guess it."
Nadine and Rhonda glanced at each other before looking at Arnold, "We just...need to go to the ladies room. We'll be right back." Rhonda said as she and Nadine left the table the rushed for the restrooms.
"They're never coming back, you know." the newcomer muttered after taking another puff.
Arnold nodded, "I know."
"I'm Gerald." the black man introduced himself, extending his table across the table.
"Arnold." Arnold countered as he accepted and shook Gerald's hand.
"So you're a wristcutter?" Arnold nodded and held up one of his arms. "You never did guess how I offed myself. You'll never get it right."
Going along with the game, Arnold proceeded to guess how Gerald had killed himself. Drowning? No. Jumping from a building? No. Hunger strike? No. When Gerald answered, Arnold couldn't contain his shock. Gerald was right. He wouldn't have guessed it right. "You killed yourself while you were closing off a radio show?"
Gerald nodded, "They cut my show and it was my last night so I hooked up my belt to the electric system and poured my pitcher of bud out on the panel, but not before I told all my listeners to fuck it all."
Arnold was surprised that this had been the way he had met his best friend. He didn't see why Gerald would have wanted to spend time with Arnold though. Gerald had asked Arnold where he was living and Arnold explained his situation with his shitty apartment that he could still barely afford with his shitty job. Gerald, though...Gerald was living with his family. His ENTIRE family. Gerald then went on to explain how his family had offed themselves. His father, according to Gerald, was unable to go on living after a traumatic experience in the police force (though Gerald had his suspicions that his older brother coming out of the closet had something to do with it). His mother just didn't have it in her to go on without her husband. Jamie O had offed after he lost a full ride in college. His kid sister, Timberly, was the newest to this Hell or Limbo or whatever it was called. She had offed because she couldn't stand being without any of her family still living and breathing. It really was an extraordinary situation. Arnold had never heard of an entire family having killed themselves. It somehow made him feel a little bit less fucked up. Still, at least they still had each other. He didn't have anything.
About three months later, Arnold found himself lazily roaming from aisle to aisle, looking for food that he could afford, but that also didn't make him want to vomit. He was minding his own business when a familiar, yet horrible voice, rang out from the other aisle. "Arnold!" When Arnold looked up, his worst fears were realised. Hell became worse. This was all he needed. The bastard who had stolen the love of his life from him was here, waving at him merrily from the end of the cereal aisle. Arnold waved lazily, hoping that would be the end of their encounter, but it wasn't. He rushed down to the end of the aisle and stopped, wheezing as he stopped. Arnold couldn't help but grimace. If she had to leave him, couldn't she have at least left him for someone more more attractive than him instead of this asthmatic asshole? "Hey Arnold! Good to see you."
"Yeah, you too, Brainy." Arnold answered dryly as he threw a box of bargain brand cheerios into his basket.
"I was hoping I'd run into you here." Brainy continued, oblivious to how much Arnold wanted him to jump up a rope.
"Really, why's that?" Arnold asked, moving around his roadblock to get to the other end of the aisle.
Brainy followed after Arnold, a bounce in his step. If it was possible for anyone to smile where they were he was sure that Brainy would have that creepy grin on his face that Arnold had grown to hate. "I just wanted to make sure everything's alright with you. I mean, we didn't exactly leave things on good terms."
"I'm fine, Brainy." Arnold answered quickly.
"Well that's good." Brainy nodded. "Also I was wondering if you've seen Lila by any chance?"
Arnold stopped dead in his tracks before turning to face Brainy, "Lila's here?"
Brainy nodded, "Yeah, she offed herself a few months after you did. I just wanted to make sure that everything was...alright between us still."
Hope suddenly filled Arnold, "No, Brainy, I haven't seen her. It was nice seeing you thought." Without another word, Arnold dropped his basket and rushed from the store. He needed a car.
"How many girls have you fucked since you offered?" Gerald asked as he lit yet another cigarette. He'd never smoked when he was alive, but he was already dead. What's the worst that could have happened?
"What does that have to do with anything?" Arnold countered.
"It has a lot to do with everything, just answer the question." Gerald insisted.
"None." Arnold answered reluctantly, "But it doesn't matter."
"It matters a lot." Gerald argued.
"Listen, Gerald, you don't have to come, I just need to borrow your car."
Gerald's hands shot up defensively, "Listen, man, just because I say it's a really stupid fucking idea doesn't mean I won't go. I mean, it's not like I have anything better to do, I"m just recommending that you take some time to think about what you're doing and how unlikely it is that you'll actually find this bitch."
"I'll find her." Arnold declared.
Gerald shrugged, "Alright, man. Get all your shit ready and we'll leave the day after tomorrow."