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Days Of Darkness
by Paul Murgatroyd


Shortly after 9 PM Christopher Headlam wipes the tears from the white stubble on his cheeks, eases on the light on his bedside table and sneaks out of its drawer the bottle of pills that he intends to use to kill himself. He uncaps it and shakes out six white pills into his trembling right hand. He fumbles them into his mouth, then washes them down with weak orange squash.

As he consumes the rest of the pills, he looks over his suicide note, which took all afternoon to write. He sighs several times as he reads:


It’s terrible this – losing your mind and making up excuses for it, trying to kid yourself. I have to act now before I lose it totally and can’t even manage to kill myself. Things are going wrong for me more and more. I’ve thought about this long and I’m sure it’s the right thing to do. While I still can.

I just don’t see any point to going on. I’m so lonely since my Jeanie passed on. And bored stupid in this shit-hole care home. Life isn’t worth living. The happy time is over, now it’s the days of darkness. I never thought I’d end up like this. But you can’t tell how things will turn out. Life is a cruel joke. The Stoic philosophers had it right when they said if life is unbearable and you really can’t do anything to improve it, end it. Though I wouldn’t have been a stoic, Id have been an epicurean.

I’ve got no friends here. Didn’t even get a Xmas card from the dogs. Nobody smiles, there’s no intellectual stimulation, we just get parked in front of the gogglebox to watch brain rot. And I can’t concentrate to read a book anymore. I read half a page and find I’ve only taken in the first sentence. My mind used to be sharp, but now it’s nearly a gulf.

It used to be better here but my beauty girl, before she was made redundant, told me the place had been taken over by a new company which  was cutting wages and staff and costs. I really miss her. Her soft voice and gentle hands. She was lovely, had May in her eyes. None of the new carers care. Not like she did. A smile from her lit up the whole day. They talk to you as if you’re a mental defective. In a primary school teacher voice with the intonation going up at the end of the sentence. Impatient scowl faces not respecting you as a person. All I want is a grain of respect. I was a professor of English at Durham for god’s sake, wrote six books of literary criticism and some poetry. But now I’m just a nuisance. They shout me and tell me I’m a pain in the arse. They say I always mess things up and laugh at me. That is NOT true. Just because I couldn’t find my boiled egg at breakfast that time when it was in my hand all along. Just one senior moment. And maybe a few more.

Now the homes run by whatsername – Nurse Ratchett I call her. Makes us wear name tags on our clothes like a star of David. Puts labels on the draws for socks and underwear and that. Some slaps too. Its demeaning and humiliating. And she grew taller this week. At least 2 inches taller. Sinister. And there aren’t enough carers. I rang and rang and rang for help the other day but nobody came. I shat myself and was left like that for hours, Never want to go through that again. I disgust myself I’m embarrassed for people to see me like this. Not that anyone gets to see me anymore, My old mate Ken used to visit once a month, I think and he got really angry at the degeneration – tasteless food, scuffed paintwork, stink of cabbage, inmates medicated so they’re no trouble, filthy toilets and all that. But when he complained in no uncertain terms they banned him. He can’t come any more. If I could just see him again I’d get well again, Id be fine, I no that. That was the last straw. This is no way to live.

May the new owners rot in hell!!! This is to tell them my death is their fault. All the shit in my life is down to them. Yesterday I sent that badtempered philipino carer off on a wild goose chase and got into the pharmacy and grabbed a bottle of aspirins. I’d rather kill myself with dignity like this rather than disfigure myself cutting my throat or something. And it’s a quick and easy death. If there is life after death I’m going to join my lovely Jeanie. In any case at least I will get out of this hellhole.

                        Yours faithfully,   Christopher Headlam.


As he finishes reading this, the old professor purses his lips and nods his approval. He drops the bottle, gulps down the last of the pills and settles back in bed, closing his eyes with a contented smile, welcoming the release of the sleep of death.

The bottle lies on the carpet with its label uppermost. The red letters on a white background identify the pills as laxative caplets.




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