“I’m –


“I’m Done,” he said and set the glass down on the painfully white bar in the more painfully white and other wise featureless room. “I’m finally well and truly done.” He turned the glass around completely twice.

He couldn’t recall having put on a white suit yet he wore one now. In fact, he’d never owned a white suite in all his one hundred and seventeen years.. No tie, though. Disappointment welled up in him at that. He should have a tie. No one wore ties any more, they’d all forgotten what it meant to be businesslike. Now they all wore business casual.

Something blue, maybe. He liked blue ties.

Are you?

Surprised, he answered without thinking. “Am I what?” He moved away from the bar and tried to take in the entire room.

Are you capital-d Done?

“Oh.” The question was aggressive in a way he hadn’t expected. The voice was unfamiliar, too. He considered the question. “Yes.

“Yeah, I’m Done. I drank the whisky. I’m finished with all that.”

And the people you’ve hurt in the process? What about them? Don’t they get to say goodbye?

“They’re being well-compensated.” He frowned. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

This is the Waiting Room. Everyone here is waiting for something.

It made a kind of sense. The lack of color, the bar. Had there been a bartender? But there wasn’t anywhere to sit. “Everyone? I only see me. I only hear you.” Maybe he should –

What are you waiting for?

He had no idea. But his question hadn’t been answered.

“You didn’t say who you are.”

It’s not important. I’m not important. Just accept the disembodied voice and listen.

“To what?”

Get on with it.

Something tapped him on the forehead and the room went topsy-turvy. No one said that any more, either. Anyway.

He tumbled over and over, all coherent thought went out the metaphorical window. His clothes fell away and underneath the white suit he wore a black suit – still no tie – and that became loose. He was glad he didn’t have to pee because the way he twisted and turned over and over brought his stomach to the base of his throat.

Throwing up was not an option. All he had in his stomach was the whisky, anyway. Plus, he hadn’t vomited since he’d been in his -what?- thirties?





Yeah, that was him. That was his name. He knew the voice, too.

“Goddamn you, Erik, don’t you die like this.” A woman’s voice, sweet, contralto. Usually very sexy – especially when she answered the phones – though full of worry and anger. What was her name?

“The ambulance is on its way,” she said over his face. He could feel her breath on his face. Pressure on his stomach kept forcing something up toward his throat. The floor was cool under his cheek. What was her name?

Carrie? Carla? Karen?

Intense pressure on his stomach now. He was going to throw up. She forced him on his side.

“That’s right,” she said, “come on you old bastard. Today’s not your day.”

Carly. The sweetest girl he’d ever hired as a personal assistant. Carly Gage. The poison whisky rocketed out of his mouth.

She gave a sigh and a laugh of relief. He vomited again, more this time. It burned his throat and his nostrils. Coughing made it worse and he groaned. Carly was behind him, her hand on his shoulder. She whispered in his ear. “Medics are on their way. I’ve got a rehab on your forehead. All you have to do is keep breathing until they get here.”

He sputtered, coughed some more. Poison whisky dribbled from his mouth. He moved his mouth but no sound came out.

“Be still,” Carly said. “Just lay still and breathe.”

He swallowed. It hurt. “Tastes awful,” he rasped.

“That’s a good sign, then. Means you’re going to live. And damn you for making me worry like that.” She pinched his shoulder.


Heavy footsteps came quickly in to the room behind him. He passed out.




“This had better be the right hospital,” he said without opening his eyes.

A soft hand, female, covered his. He sniffed. “Carly?” He opened his eyes.

Erik thought that when a pretty girl smiles at you like that you’ve either done something awful and you’re going to pay for it or you’ve survived something. He supposed it was both and that made him happy and fearful of Carly’s wrath at the same time.

“The nurse’s on her way,” she said sweetly. “Glenn’s here, too.”


“You know you’re a colossal dumbass,” Glenn said. He stood at the foot of the bed. Erik turned to see him. “Good thing Carly was just around the corner. Also good that I know you like to take your time to do things.” Glenn was tall and always looked serious. He slouched a little, even now in his seventies, but he looked relieved, too.

“I hate you both.”

Carly squeezed his hand. “Your poison’s all gone. As well as everything else you could have used to off yourself. Glenn helped me go through the office and your house and the car, too. Your sekrit stashes have all been found and destroyed. Understand?”

“I hate you both more than ever.”

Honor be damned, he’d never admit to them that he was grateful they’d intervened. He was who he was but that had been a silly way to off himself. Too Roman.

Honor be damned. “Thank you both.”

Glenn nodded. Carly leaned over and kissed him, making sure he got a good look down her blouse. Generous, the girl was. “We love you, stupid. Don’t you ever doubt it.”

“I’ll try,” Erik said.

She stood up but didn’t let go of his hand. “You’ll have me to help you remember. I’ve got all your passwords, now, too. I’ll know if you change them.”

Erik chuckled. “I give. You win.”

“That’s the right attitude.”

“What’s the situation?”

Glenn snorted a laugh. “Told you.”

Carly glared at Glenn. “Sh.” She turned to Erik. “Everything’s as you left it. You still have everything.”

Well, now they both knew where they stood with him. And starting over wouldn’t be as complex as it had been in the past. Still, it was a kind of clean slate. Letting go of a hundred seventeen years of misadventure, bad decisions and questionable behavior hadn’t been as easy as drinking the poison. He felt tears roll down both cheeks.

“You’re the best friends and old bastard like me could have. Thank you both. I don’t deserve you.”

Glenn shook his head and gave as much a smile as he was capable of. Carly kissed him again.

“Now when do I get out of here?”

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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