Chapter One [Maybe? This may or may not continue, as NaNoWriMo approaches once again.]
Nicholas Spear was a bonafied expert in living paycheck-to-paycheck. It was a delicate balancing act for him- always knowing what was excess and what was necessary. Was the bus pass to the outlet with its monthly sale going to balance out excellent the price of groceries? Were the socks he was wearing going to wear out, or the shoes first? The floss or the toothpaste? Was the ceiling light going to drive up the electricity bill more than the cost of fresh batteries for his flashlight? He had to read at night either way somehow.
However, it was one day that fate, or rather his being there for an entire two years, that his place of employment offering him a raise. His precise calculations changed that day, by a variation of twenty-five cents per hour, or two dollars per day, or ten dollars per week, or forty dollars per month. All minus the seven point five percent income tax. Alas, at the end of that month, he had exactly enough to do what he had always dreamed of, but was never able to afford: to kill himself.
It had always been a thought in the back of his mind, but the budget never had quite enough in order to fulfill the deed. You see, there was just as much planning in dying by one’s own hands as there was in living. There were multiple things to consider- timing, method, and location.
The time was just at the beginning of the month, obviously, right as all the bills were payed for. That way, any necessary service would not have to carry over any longer. Leaving rent unpaid for his landlord, or a power power running up a bill would be inconvenient for others somewhere down the line. The checks that would be his final were payed on time, just as they always were, chipping away the biggest part of the still meager paycheck.
The method had to be simple enough for the simple man. Alas, he had long since known how to go about it. He had long since calculated the price to buy a rope both long and strong enough to do the deed. The most basic length fitting all the criteria would do that for the price of 11.99. The detour to the opposite side of town on the bus to the hardware store took then five of those dollars.
Most of the remainder of the carefully sanctioned money went to a taxi to the location he had deemed fit. It was to the forest- up the highway, and the first left turn up the haphazardly paved road into the trees. The well warn backpack carrying the very few, indeed, supplies for the deed, as well as the final amount of money from his account in the form as a tip, was enough to convince the driver to not ask any questions about the journey that Nicholas would be not returning from.
The thin, blistered soles of the shoes on Nicholas’ feet were ill fit for climbing around the rocks and up the hills and through the underbrush of the forest. Being out of the way for his deed was yet a necessity, and onward he went. His last moments would hopefully include one of the final free things that one could enjoy in that day in age- a view.
A wide, mature tree with low enough limbs finally revealed itself to Nicholas, the perfect tool for his demise. The rope in his pack was already tied neatly in the winding, circular knot that he had found out how to fashion on one of the computers at the library. A boulder shunted from nearby would then be enough to hoist himself up just enough to affix the other end of the rope to the closest, strongest limb he could manage. Everything was in place.
Nicholas balanced on his tiptoes and placed his head through the awaiting loop. He felt it come to rest up below his windpipe. The rope strained ever so slightly. He kicked the rock away, and his weight came to be supported by the contraption. Unfortunately, in all his calculations, he had forgone one thing: a lighter to burnish the end of the rope to stop it from fraying. In fact, in all the transit and waiting for the day, the ends of noose had frayed enough to fail. The loose, individual strings resting around his neck slipped free from the bundle of knot and eventually failed, tossing him down to the ground. The rock on which he had balanced tumbled away and down the nearby embankment. His rear then hit the ground, knocking the wind out of him, the fall accompanied with a loud cry.
As he caught his breath, Nicholas looked back up to the half secured strand of rope, now useless. All of a sudden, the crunch of pine needles proceeded the approach of someone from behind.
“I thought I saw someone climbing up here.” Came the voice of a woman.
Nicholas stood up and felt at his neck, still very intact, despite a rope burn.
“You trying to climb the tree?”
Nicholas shook his head and picked up the backpack from beside the tree, preparing himself for what was likely a very long walk back to his house in the city.
“Where are you going?” The woman called out again. “Why are you out here? How did you find this place?”
Nicholas stopped and shrugged.
“Your hands are bleeding.” The woman warned, still looking him down. “And I’m guessing you don’t have any first aid stuff in that crappy sack of yours.”
Nicholas looked down to his hands that were, in fact, scuffed and embedded with dirt and pebbles from when he had fallen onto the dirt. He turned back around to the woman, who was waiting patiently, her hands at her sides. “Come on.” She repeated.
Nicholas relented and began to follow after her as she turned around. The woman was weathered and nature-like, dressed in dirty clothes and sporting a tan and sun-bleached light blond hair. She lead Nicholas even deeper into the forest, seemingly to the middle of nowhere. Eventually, though, came a clearing, awash with the bright midday sun. The woman turned back to him finally.
“We’re here.” She announced. “Stay here for a sec.”
Nicholas glanced about. Most notable in the clearing was a wide building, made up of metal arches draped with white, slightly opaque plastic coverings. Inside of the buildings were bushy green plants with star-shaped leaves. The woman returned, carrying with her a white box plastered with a sticker of a red cross. “Use what you need, then you should go. The main path is about two miles that way.”
Nicholas found himself a spray bottle of antiseptic and a handful of bandages. “What do you… do out here?”
The woman squinted at him, preparing an answer. “We live off the grid. We just want… a simple life, you know.”
“Off the grid.” Nicholas pondered aloud. “Like… for free?”
“More or less.”
“Let me stay here.”