Paul (Short, Fiction)

Paul

Written by Carcassbomb in 2018

I hadn’t known Paul for very long, but it felt like enough to know what to expect of him. As turns out, he was completely unpredictable. One minute you’re hanging with a guy who you’ve met a handful of times and always seemed friendly and normal, then the next minute you’re being told a man’s deepest chaos. His eyes as wet and cracked as the pavement, words spitting through dehydrated lips that spoke a girl’s name in reverence – as if she were the pyramids of Egypt or the Taj Mahal.

The blood won’t stop.

That’s going to be a problem. It’s not like I can leave him here.

If he does cark it then surely, I’m accountable.

No Charlie… you can’t leave. You’ll never sleep again.

You dumb asshole. Me, and him.

He hadn’t spoken since he dropped. Perhaps he was expecting to fade away sooner and was just waiting somewhere between here and the abyss. With the knife beside his body it really looked bad. The wound was a straight vertical cut. He did it perfectly. A fish mouth opening and closing with each heartbeat vomiting blood that pooled to his hands – the self-inflicted stomach wounds looked like bullet holes in his pale blue collared shirt. He took on the appearance of a victim rather than a maniac.

If anyone comes across us, then they’ll surely accuse me.

They might not think I’m trying to help, they might confuse my despair for guilt.

A child trying to hide his pissed-stained bedding in the washing machine he doesn’t know how to use.

No one could have seen it coming. It was so sudden and yet occurred so naturally. After he handed me a folded-up paper, I put in my pocket without even looking at it and then he walked out into the rain. He raised his arms in anticipation of some embrace from above. As if the storm clouds gave him energy, as if he loved them deeply. The look on his face seemed happy but now I know it was something else, a variation on happiness reserved for the damned. He was mesmerising in that moment.

I used my shirt to try and put pressure on the wound, but the rain kept falling with such power that his blood and the rainwater diluted into something twice as runny. It couldn’t wait to leave his body.

Runny.

Run.

Run away.

No.

Common sense.

Common decency.

Common kindness.

Fuck.

It’s all I can do and it’s as good as nothing, he is a sinking ship and I am the only one with a bucket. Either he dies here in front of me and I see him in every dream or I risk killing him by dragging him more than half a kilometre.

I grabbed at his legs and began to drag him.

I don’t want to go anywhere near that slit wrist and make it worse. Not that it matters what I do, every second is worse than the one preceding it. A body is so much heavier than in the movies. Every meter is an effort and the constant rain is only making both of us heavier and slipperier. I can barely keep a hold of his ankles and every sudden bump or drop spilled a little extra red onto the white lines of the road. Surely a car will come soon.

I only knew two things about Paul. He liked reading on trains and he always wore a Misfits belt even though it didn’t suit his smart-casual wear. I don’t know anything I loved about him. But that was enough – he was enough of a person to me that I could continue dragging him. As we slowly made our way towards the nearby shopping plaza over the tedious bitumen, I was seized by hopelessness at random intervals.

I wonder if he’s even still alive.

The pulse is shallow.

So shallow that the whole ordeal feels pointless.

Would I be aware the moment he dies?

Is there some noise or bodily function?

I punched away at the continuous thoughts of leaving.

I better keep moving.

I never went out to the cinemas much, so when he asked if I’d come see the new Villeneuve flick, I was more than keen. I often wonder if it was something to do with the movie that triggered it all, but with the note it seemed pre-planned. Like Paul knew we would walk along the road that cuts through all the farms near the shops – the long way to the station. Where it would only be us. But why me? Was there not one person he was close to? He was awkward and abrupt but so were most of us at that age. We were all ‘different’ – he was different from even that.

I wonder if he’s even still alive.

The pulse is shallow.

So shallow that the whole ordeal feels pointless.

Is he suffering in pain?

Is this the roadside animal for which a big rock is the only relief?

I kept forcing myself to reject the thoughts as they came in waves.

I better keep moving.

Every place has its appropriate sound. The sound of denim dragging on cement. The sound of pouring rain pattering on my skull. The distant traffic getting closer and closer. What I couldn’t comprehend was the sound of a bicycle bell out in the middle of this mess.

‘bring ‘bring, ‘bring ‘bring’.

He came riding a thick red bike with a little trailer attached to the back with a thin rope, inside were stacks of newspapers wrapped in plastic. He looked like some kind of spectre or bad omen with how he looked, wearing an oversized black rain coat with a hood that almost covered his face. The thin tyres stopped beside me, and I saw the figure had the face of a teen. I was no longer alone.

He got off his bike and immediately tended to Paul.

“Oh my god. All this blood, what happened to him?” he asks. His voice sounding accusatory or suspicious, affirming every fear in my mind.

“I don’t know! Some kind of accident. I don’t know!” I lie.

Lie.

Lying.

Lying dead.

No.

Lie.

Life.

Living.

“We have to get him to those buildings!” I took the position of confidence, the position of action. It seemed to work as he immediately took to action as well, forgetting the conversation.

It’s insane how priorities shift in the face of an emergency. The guy on the bike panicked and we started unloading all his tightly sealed newspapers into the ditch beside the road. He had been trusted to deliver those papers to the newsagency. Now they were discarded without thought. Once the little trailer was emptied we put as much of Paul as we could onto it – he was mostly sitting in it with his arms and legs sprawled about. There wasn’t time for dignity.

First the boy tried riding the bike to get there faster but the body was far too heavy and uneven.

Detach the trailer!” I yelled.

This was much better than dragging Paul along the ground. We had wheels now. I pulled the trailer behind me as quickly as I could towards the horizon, but it was still difficult in the rain. My feet occasionally slipped out from beneath me and I found myself collapsing in the puddles. I was exhausted. The boy kept stopping to prop me back up but he knew we didn’t have the time. He took control and dragged the trailer the rest of the way while I kept closely behind, making sure it didn’t tip.

We finally get there, and a lot of people started crowding around Paul, trying to help him. I saw some of them take supplies from their trolley to help stop the bleeding. A man even took his shirt off and ripped it up for bandaging. They laid him flat on the dry floor beneath the entrance.

I’ve been so close to him this whole time and now I can’t get near him

Look at these people, everyone knows their part.

No one even looks at me.

I am no longer needed.

This isn’t my commotion anymore.

It’s just ‘a’ commotion.

I didn’t stick around to find out if the ambo’s made it in time – I just walked away and blended. After I reached somewhere dry, I sat with my knees against my forehead. I was shaken. I remembered the folded paper he passed me earlier – still mostly dry in my shirt pocket beneath my layers. On one side it read “Lisa”. I knew her, well, I knew of her. But Paul thought I knew her well and asked me to give it to her. When I opened the paper, it had a bunch of messy writing I couldn’t quite make out and something grabbed my attention at the bottom. It had blood on it, but not blood from the commotion. It was long dried.

I didn’t give it to her. I threw it away. She never even knew Paul existed until she heard about what he did around campus. As far as I know they don’t report confirmed suicide cases on the news, particularly not the methods. Apparently, some statistics say that the news of it and idea alone is dangerous, capable of encouraging those lingering on the divide between worlds.

Whenever I hear the name Paul, I think of him. And that’s damn near every day. I think of that hopeless moment of his, the one that wrapped itself around me, leaving me as the only living host of its memory.

A nightmarish gift.

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