It was a world full of attractive, intelligent people and Doug Lowland was neither of
those things. That thought swirled around in his head again and again like the small
threads of pulp in his cocktail. The sun was bright and it pulled the skin across Doug’s
chest tight, soothing him as he listened to Joni Mitchell singing about a bar in Paris.
Doug’s shirt was a menagerie of freefalling pineapples and palm trees. It was flung
open, falling down around his belly like a set of threadbare curtains. Doug’s eyes were
shut, his hand wrapped loosely round an ice-cold glass. Small beads of water fell down
upon his knuckles, burrowing between the cracks of each finger.
It was hard to believe he’d be dead in less than an hour.
But that was why the pill provided such a welcome alternative.
It worked in three stages.
The first stage was sedation, where all anxiety and fear were removed, allowing the
user to sink back, free of tension, and embrace the tranquility of eternal sleep.
Doug was entering the second stage, where memories danced in and out of the ether
like feathers, allowing him to touch and feel them in a way he never had before. He was
floating now, watching himself as a child on Christmas morning, drifting down
elementary school hallways, passing posters on the wall from his childhood bedroom. He
stopped for a moment on a path in the woods, feeling the warmth of a thousand sunsets as
he leaned over to kiss Jenny Lee Spencer for the first time. Jenny Lee faded away, but her
warmth remained, building with each passing scene like a humming red light inside him.
The memories continued to surface; memories so wonderful and sublime Doug
Lowland wasn’t even aware they existed.
Heaven was the only word Doug knew to describe how he felt as he entered stage
three. The movies he’d seen always described the heavens as place of grand significance,
filled with golden beams, clouds, choirs of angels, and the like. But it was more the
absence of these things that made Doug’s last remaining moments on Earth so serene.
Layers peeled away one at a time, like weightless robes falling from his shoulders.
Insecurity was the first thing to go, followed by regret and hardship. Unrequited love and
frustration were next, drifting like embers into the ether.
Joni Mitchell was fading away now, as was the westward breeze, and the sound of
sprinklers in the distance. Christmas was fading, and so were the elementary school
hallways and Jenny Lee Spencer. Doug Lowland didn’t reach out and try to grab any of
He never knew how still and placid the world could feel once he let all of those
It was a bottomless void of time and space, and it swallowed Doug Lowland whole.