Word Count: 884
“Name your poison,” says the bartender.
“Arc and coke.” The man wears a rumpled business suit, hangdog expression, and he reeks of the End. He slides over the consent form, initialed neatly in all the right spots, with dirty jagged fingernails.
The bartender spot checks it and asks for ID. Satisfied that the smiling man on the ID card resembles the dour, defeated man sitting at his counter, he prepares the drink.
There are four other patrons in the bar, all sitting in specialized, white noise controlled, private booths with heavy curtains all drawn for isolation. One fiddles with a radio, the others in their respective booths stare into space. The bartender sees this on monitors beneath the bar. A patron in the fourth booth, aptly named Monitor #4, sits back in his chair and presses a green button on the arm. In less than a minute, he slumps over. One minute after that, the staccato fluttering of his measured heart rate abruptly ceases and the monitor displays a flat line across the bottom of the screen.
On the second monitor, the patron has put a shotgun into his mouth. The bartender hates these and turns his attention to the currently breathing patron, catching only the jerk of the doomed man’s head and the splatter of gore on the back wall in the corners of his peripheral vision. Shotguns, pistols, rifles – once a Civil War Era cannon – are messy and tie up the booth until the bots can clean the curtains and pick brains from the seats. When the cooling steam from the cleaning units backs into the main ventilation shafts, there are a few moments when the bar smells like boiled cabbage.
The bartender holds the drink in his hand, as if to make a toast. He hates this part. He feels less like a bartender and more like an executioner, but there are worse ways to make a living. “I am legally bound by the Suicide Act of 2017, Section 4(e) to inform you that this is a Suicide Bar. You have signed documentation stating that you wish to end your life. Once you take this glass from me, this form will be broadcast to all hospitals and urgent care centers. You have signed and initialed a DNR Order – that means ‘Do Not Resuscitate’. There is no place you can go that will reverse this order. Do you understand?” Basically, no backies.
The man grunts. The bartender swallows an irritated noise. It does not do to give the appearance that their death is somehow keeping you from something more important. There is no repeat business at a Suicide Bar but the least a bartender can do is not be a dick.
“Sir, I need a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
The man sighs. “Yes.”
The bartender takes the signed paper and in exchange slides over the man’s drink, carefully measured for individual weight taken from the barstool. It would not do to inadequately poison a patron. People come to Suicide Bars to die, not be mildly nauseated.
Beneath the bar, a monitor shows Patron #3 stepping into a tub full of water, sitting down, and dropping in the radio. The lights flicker minutely, and the water bubbles and churns for a full minute before the electricity automatically shuts off. Keeping the current at 220V may be a little like overkill, but better too much than not enough. Meanwhile Patron #1 has done nothing, but that is not unusual.
Sitting with folded hands and a disquieting serenity, it is perfectly acceptable to call for a hitman ahead of time to meet you at a legally sanctioned SB. The various Mafioso’s like it that way, and paperwork is kept at a minimum. It is quiet in the bar, no unsettling noises, nothing to startle skittish patrons. The bartender has thought about piping in classic rock or maybe soft adult contemporary, but has come to the conclusion that no one wants to suck on a carbon monoxide pipe listening to Barry Manilow or jigging the Lightening Shuffle to Charlie Daniels.
The bartender looks up and something is wrong. There is a full Gibson glass of arsenic and cola sitting on the counter and no patron. A perfectly good drink wasted. The man has chosen to take another way out, perhaps changing his mind again and wanting to start fresh. The bells tinkle as the doors slide shut. The bartender has heard of patrons unwittingly taking this way out, blubbering to the persons with the knife, gun, or bat, that they didn’t know that this was the failsafe, that there was no walking away once the papers were signed. It happens. The bartender has thought about adding that to his standard speech, but suicide is a right, and should never be taken for granted. Besides, people should read what they sign.
The bartender pushes a button beneath the counter. Within moments, a black car with large studded tires screams past the Suicide Bars doors. Although the bartender cannot hear the accident, cannot see the black car jump the curb, cannot empathically feel the bones being crushed beneath the studded tires, he can be assured that the job is complete, the contract officially realized.
The bartender wipes down the counter, and waits for the next patron.
Murky Depths #3, Murky Depths, 2008, Print
© 2005 MontiLee Stormer
All Rights Reserved