In his mind, run-down motel rooms usually matched his mood and always fit his self-esteem flawlessly.
This night was no exception.
He had been fighting the urge to off himself for well over a year now.
One year since, he had realized how much more pain existed outside the three walls of his dark hole. Outside, where you end up connecting with someone.
Two years since he discovered what it meant to love someone.
Two weeks since his last bout with the darkness.
He usually sprang out of bed in the middle of the night, anxiety stirred up into a full-blown attack.
His dog was alarmed at the sudden activity.
The solution would be to get dressed, leash up the dog frantically, and run. Run to the car. Get on the highway. Drive.
Tonight, something different happened.
He got dressed. He went to put the leash on the dog and looked into his weary eyes. It didn’t want to go this time. It was old and tiring. It had been on all the other escapes, but not this one.
So, the man sat down. He pulled the balaclava up over his face, so it was darker than the room, and started rocking on the edge of the bed.
After twenty minutes, he felt his friend curled up beside him, letting him know he was there for him.
Back and forth. The motion started to calm the man.
There had been an additional noise in the room since he woke. He was aware of it but didn’t focus on it.
It got louder.
It sounded like the crunching of clamshells on the beach—dried-out clamshells.
His friend started growling. Quietly.
Even though his black balaclava blocked most light, he still caught what he thought was a glimpse of movement in his peripheral.
In his mind, he talked to it.
“Are you Death?”
“You know what I am,” it said.
“Is this the end?”
“The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning.”
“Can this end now?”
“That’s up to you. You’ve been dead for two years.”
The man ripped off the knitted balaclava, and there were only shadows.
His dog was asleep as if nothing happened. It was his imagination at work.
The anxiety that plagued him had dissipated, so he started taking off his clothes to return to bed.
He got under the covers, and his friend curled up next to him, letting out a sigh.
Several minutes later, as he drifted between consciousness and sleep, he began thinking of the love he found and lost.
But, this time, the anxiety didn’t follow; his thoughts started drifting and mixing with other images and ideas, washing over him.
The moment before he would’ve entered sleep, he heard the sound of clamshells crunching and his dog barked.