Welcome To Cloud Nine by Mario PIERRE
The door slammed, echoing down the long hall. Clara froze. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, she thought. The ad said ‘blissful experience’! She walked cautiously down the dimly lit hallway when suddenly it went pitch black. Clara let out a muffled scream. “Now what?” she shrieked in undisguised fear. She was about to turn around and run blindly for the door when the light came back on, bright and flashing in multi-coloured hues. And as if by magic, Clara’s most beloved song rose up from nowhere: Taylor Swift’s ‘the story of us’. She stood motionless, listening in awe to the lyrics she had sung a thousand times - ‘I'd tell you I miss you but I don't know how. I've never heard silence quite this loud.' A delicate fragrance filled her nostrils, stirring a strange sense of peace through her body, a peace she had never felt before. A soft female voice came to her ears. “Welcome to Cloud Nine, my dear Clara. My name is Cheryl, and on behalf of our team, I want to congratulate you for your bold decision in taking the final leap. Now, please walk leisurely along the hallway until you reach a green door.”
Clara slowly strolled along and stopped short after a few seconds. Images and videos suddenly populated the wall beside her. Pictures of her when she was five, held high up by her dad, a beaming smile on her face, then a slide show of her main achievements – high school graduation photos, family pictures, video clips of her tenth and sixteenth birthdays. There was a photo of her little sister Annie kissing her, and another one of her mom hugging her. As emotion overwhelmed her, tears trickled down her cheeks. She cried softly when she saw a picture of her dad wrestling with her on their lawn. That was two months ago! Finally, she reached the green door. She was about to turn the knob when the voice said: "Clara, once you enter this door, there will be no turning back. This is the last chance for you to think about your decision. You just saw a snapshot of your life till this day. Do you want to leave all that behind? The green door will open shortly. Your decision will then be irreversible, Clara."
Curiously, she felt no sadness, only a pinch in her heart. She closed her eyes and after a moment, she opened them and saw the door slowly opening. The room was lit in soft green and there was a bed in the centre. Nothing else. Clara stepped in and found a note on the bed which read: ‘Please lie down and make yourself comfortable, Clara.’ The fragrance was more distinct here, and she felt slightly tipsy as she lay down. A beautiful woman, dressed in white, her head adorned with a colourful straw hat came in and bent over her. “I’m Cheryl. How are you feeling, Clara?”
“Happy. Very happy.”
"Great! So, no regrets?”
“May I ask you… why? You seem to have a good life, a wonderful family who loves you. You are a brilliant university student with lots of friends. So, why, Clara?”
Clara turned her face away from the woman and sighed. “That’s not my life,” she said. "Or, to be more precise, that’s the part of my life people see. My life is not out there. It’s buried deep inside me like a volcano threatening to explode any time. It’s —.”
“So, you’re still depressed?”
“You know very well I’ve tried three times to end it all. That’s why I’m here, isn’t it?”
“What I meant was: are the medication and counselling not working?”
“They are useless! 70 young people like me take their lives each day in this country. We claim to have the most advanced healthcare system in the world, and yet, people are still sinking deep into depression. Do you know what it feels like to wake up and find yourself battling your own mind? Do you realise how scary it is when it dawns on you that you can't feel anything at all? No sadness, no anger? Just apathy and numbness? I can’t live with this anymore. I can’t bear to watch the grief on my mom’s face when I sob for no reason, or when I stare blankly at her while she smiles at me. Sometimes I think we are a different breed. Like children of a vengeful god.”
“I see, dear. OK, I promise it will be peaceful. It won’t take more than two minutes and I will be here with you all along, holding your hand. Alright?”
"I’m ready,” Clara whispered.
Cheryl opened a drawer under the bed, pulled out a green cup and brought it to Clara’s lips. The potion was sweet, fruity, and slightly sparkling. Clara laid her head down again after she drank, then closed her eyes. She had a vision of her mom smiling and she thought about Annie and her dad. She saw her brother tickling her and she wanted to giggle. Then she had a soft gasp. Warm tears flowed down her cheek. She looked at Cheryl still smiling at her. Suddenly Clara wanted to ask her to stop everything. To please let her go back to her life. Tell her that she had miscalculated. That after all, she could manage, and yes, the people who loved her meant the world to her. But she was unable to speak. Her eyelids drooped and her breathing halted.
The last thing that flashed into her head was the business card she had found pinned under her car’s wiper two weeks ago. The card which read:
'Are you desperate? At the end of the rope? Have you tried everything and all have failed?
WHY RUIN YOUR SUICIDE BY CLUMSY AND PAINFUL ATTEMPTS?
LEAVE IT TO PROFESSIONALS. Here at CLOUD NINE, we guarantee a painless, blissful experience. Call for a free consultation to see if you qualify.
Then everything went dark.
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