Every single organism that has ever existed has had its natural enemy. The antelope has the lion. The ant, appropriately enough, has the anteater. Of course, antelopes and ants are one thing, but even the planet’s true monsters have predators of their own. In past millennia, the whale had the megalodon. In more recent epochs, it has the Japanese. It is a law of nature: every living thing has something.
Katie Fermin has a rope. It is an inch and a half wide and four feet long. Compared to a Japanese whaling ship or a giant shark, or even compared to a damned antelope, it is not particularly imposing. For most of its existence, in fact, the rope has not been anyone’s or anything’s something.
At this precise instant, however, the rope is affixed at one end to Katie’s neck and at the other to the beam three feet above her head. This detail elevates the rope’s status from “unimposing” to “menacing.” The fact that the chair beneath Katie’s feet has been kicked away and is currently lying impotently on its side further elevates it from “menacing” to “something.” Katie’s own personal something.
Katie is thinking of old western movies. If this seems odd, understand that like everybody who has watched Hang ‘em High or old Gary Cooper westerns, Katie has thought about what exactly she would do to get away when that little door drops from under her feet. Everyone thinks about this kind of thing, but for very few does the mental exercise ever become a practical exam.
Katie’s first thought during those movies had always that she’d jump up and throw her feet to the side just as the trapdoor released, balancing with maybe a quarter of an inch of dusty leather boot on either side of the opening. This thought did not help Katie much in her current situation, for two reasons. First, there was no posse of good guys hidden among a crowd of onlookers, taking aim with their rifles at the rope above her head, waiting to make the golden shot that would set her free. Second, and more importantly, there was no trapdoor for her to stand on.
The next move that had always flashed through her mind was grabbing the rope eight inches or so from her head and doing a sort of pull up to get the strain off of her throat. She had always discarded this option when watching the oldies, because the condemned in those flicks almost always had their hands tied behind their backs. But that was no obstacle now. No one had trussed her up, put her on the chair, and pushed her off of it. She had decided to play suicide all by herself.
Katie had genuinely tried to kill herself once in her life. When she was thirteen, she had fallen asleep with a pillow pressed over her face, hoping to not wake up. She had been too naïve to know that as soon as she passed out from the suffocation, her hands would release their grip on her pillow and her lungs would find their way to oxygen of their own accord. Since that night, she had enacted the same ritual around twenty times when she had bottomed out emotionally. She knew, of course, that she would live to see the morning, but there had always been something cathartic in allowing herself to imagine that she would not be around for another day.
Her bedtime snuffing sessions had, over the intervening ten years, evolved into occasional forays to the top of her desk chair with the one and a half-inch by four-foot rope around her neck. When, three minutes ago, she had climbed atop the chair and tied the free end of the rope around the beam that ran below the ceiling of her room, she imagined that she actually intended to kill herself. However, in the instant when she lost her balance and watched the chair slide away from the bottoms of her feet, it had become abundantly clear to her that she’d rather be anywhere than attached to the business end of a noose.
Katie’s legs jerked under her as she reached upward with everything she had, determined to put her western-inspired plan into action. She wrapped her fingers around the rope and pulled as hard as she could. One time in P.E. class in high school, she had managed to finish a pull up during the Big-Deal-Whatever-Once-A-Year-
As her vision started to fade to black, Katie made a gun out of her pointer finger and thumb, pointed it at the rope, and pulled her imaginary posse’s trigger. Her excruciatingly swollen lips twinged. It might have been a final smile.
©2014 Jack Merrywell
Jack Merrywell is a writer and comedian based in Kansas City. His writing has appeared in several magazines, and he himself has appeared at comedy clubs, colleges, theaters, and dive bars across the country.