Disclaimer: Not mine, no copyright intended
A/N: If the concept of suicide offends or upsets, then don't read.
It was the ARC's best kept 'secret'. They all had one; they all knew what it was for, but it was never spoken of after the initial briefing from Captain Becker on its use. No-one could even begin to contemplate a scenario where they would have to consider using it. As long as they all looked out for each other, it would never get that bad.
But, after 14 months stranded alone and millions of years from home, Danny Quinn was now actually looking at the capsule that had been buried in the deep recesses of his backpack. The clear plastic container held a single pill – a cyanide pill.
At first, Danny thought Becker had been winding him up – a sort of "let's see how far we can push the new guy." thing, but when he realised he was deadly serious, Danny wondered what the hell he was getting into. He'd heard stories of a so-called 'suicide pill' but had dismissed it as an urban myth. Supposedly, the astronauts on the Apollo missions had one should they become stranded in space. As a teenager,he'd been fascinated by space travel and read everything he could find. The notion of things getting so desperate that the astronauts would be forced to end their own lives by taking a deadly pill seemed like something straight out of a Science fiction film. Danny had dismissed it straight away – surely if an astronaut was going to end his life, he'd just open the air lock or something? He'd also heard suggestions that the army had issued these pills during the second world war; if you got caught behind enemy lines it would be better to end your life rather than be tortured into giving up your country's secrets. He believed that to be absolute rubbish too.
But here Captain Becker was, informing him that the pill was a 'standard component of the survival pack' and had been since Professor Cutter and Stephen Hart had been trapped the wrong side of an anomaly. Although they had only been stranded for a matter of hours, it made them all wake up to the possibility that someone from the team could end up trapped for a long period – maybe even forever – in a place so hostile that it could be considered 'a fate worse than death'. Danny had thought it ironic that Becker had called it a part of the survival kit, given that it would end your life within 9 seconds of being swallowed.
The rest of the kit had been fairly useful out here; in varying degrees. Becker's army training had served him well in preparing the backpacks with the things they needed. Danny had been grateful for the foil blanket, the hip flask and the penknife – whilst he had warmth, the means to get water and a tool to fashion weapons and other things with he could get by. The cans of food had been welcome, but lasted only a few days; even with strict rationing. The first aid kit had made Danny smile though – a few sticking plasters, anti-bacterial wipes and a pack of paracetamol were not much use in this situation, but the bandage was useful for wrapping around the handle of the wooden club he'd carved.
Until now, this pill had probably been the only item Danny had considered a complete waste of time. He'd been staring at it for some time now – was it really an option? Was he ready to die? He lifted his eyes to survey his surroundings. He'd been looking at the same scenery for months now, and it never improved. This was the source of his unease – angry creatures he could handle; a chase and fight actually broke up the monotony of his existence and he almost regretted moving on from his first base camp. At least there he had things to do and watch. He'd stayed close to the anomaly site to begin with, but when he'd given up on it re-opening he had to consider his options. The nearby Hominids were growing increasingly agitated at his presence and he believed it would only be a matter of time before the alpha male challenged him.
He had found a suitable cave that provided him with the shelter he needed. It was on high ground and enabled him an almost 360 degree view of the terrain. If something was coming towards him, he would see it long before it saw him and if an anomaly opened, he'd see that too. But nothing ever came, and the only anomalies he saw were the ones that taunted him in his dreams.
The opportunity to rest was a welcome relief at first. He hadn't been able to sleep for more than an hour or so at a time for months; fearing the Hominids or other creatures would attack him if he let down his guard. But once he had caught up on his sleep and recovered from his injuries, the loneliness began to set in. His days consisted of trips down to the stream to get fresh water, gathering food and sitting; watching and waiting for something he knew wouldn't happen. He tried to occupy his mind with various thoughts – What had become of Abby and Connor? He'd been reluctant to leave Abby with an injured Connor, it would make them an easy target for predators. Had Connor recovered or had he died and left Abby alone? Maybe they'd somehow got that device working and had made it home? - Was Becker trying to find a way to rescue him? What story had Lester made up to tell his family about his disappearance? Had everyone just given up on him completely like he'd given up on himself?
When his head wasn't filled with his old friends and the life he'd left behind, it was taken up by nightmares from his past. He had blamed himself for Patrick's disappearance – he was supposed to be keeping an eye on him during the school holidays but instead he'd actually paid Patrick to stay out of his way so he could spend time with the cute blonde that had moved in next door. His parents blamed him too, and the family was torn apart. Danny thought he'd pushed all this aside and dealt with his demons, but with so much time on his hands they were there again as if it had all only happened yesterday.
The final straw came when he caught himself calling his stick 'Molly'. He had no idea how long he'd been doing that for, or where the name had come from. Molly had been the name of his rather sassy ginger tabby cat he'd had when he first left home. She had adopted him the second day in his new flat and didn't leave for three years. He often joked it was two gingers sticking together against the world. Quite what the connection was to a stick he used as a weapon, he hadn't a clue. Perhaps it was the fact that Molly the cat had been his only faithful companion during those first lonely years as a police cadet. That was when he realised he was losing it.
Danny had had enough.
The anomaly was not going to reopen. There would be no rescue. He was destined to be stuck here for the rest of his days; alone. He was not living, he was just existing – and what was the point in that? There was nothing to aim for; no-one to care about and no-one to share anything with. A lonely existence was the fate worse than death that Becker had talked about. This was the appropriate use for the pill. It would end this nightmare quickly and painlessly. Death would be better than this.
Now that his mind was made up, Danny wasted no time. There was no-one to say goodbye to, and no-one to offer an explanation to. That would make this easier. Closing his eyes, he placed the pill on his tongue and took a mouthful of water; taking pleasure in that final gasp of life-giving air and water. Nine seconds and then …
The silence echoed around the cliffs and hills.