Self Help

Content Warning: Sensitive Topics

Nathaniel is lying down in his bathtub. His face is the only thing the water isn’t covering, like an island surrounded by a dirty sea. Nathaniel hears the muffled down fan in his bathroom. The water slowly clogging his ears decides what he hears. I thought I did everything right, Nathaniel thinks to himself. There is a toaster next to his bathtub. He is not making toast. Nathaniel is angry and does not have the will to go through with it. He is more nervous about the paramedics finding his body in the dirty bathtub with a toaster swimming with him. The scariest thing to him is the toaster not electrocuting him because then he would just be a grown man naked in a bathtub with a toaster, not even eating toast. Nathaniel grabs the toaster. His hands are slightly shaking. He raises the toaster over his body. The toaster is staring down at him, this is where he gets to make a big decision. Nathaniel closes his eyes and throws the toaster at the floor, making a loud thud. He is a nightclub owner. He thought his life would be more exciting than this. Nathaniel gets out of the bath and tries not to trip over the toaster. He stares at his reflection as water drips down to the floor. The mirror showcases his insecurities, or the mirror is reading his mind.

Nathaniel goes to his closet full of suits. He could not decide what to wear. He’s planning to go to the nightclub he owns; it’s one of the only things he looks forward to and it’s an excuse to dress nice. Dressing nice is one of the things that make him happy. Nathaniel has it all, he has a great job, college education and house he can fill with all the suits his heart desires. Nathaniel, however, does not know what his heart desires. He feels he is missing something. This curiosity infuriates him, he has followed the formula. People would love to have his life. Nathaniel pondered going into crime as he thought his life should be a movie. Nathaniel doesn’t know whom his audience is or if there even is an audience. He suddenly remembers a pistol he has in his desk at the nightclub he owns just incase he needed to defend himself but has never needed to use it. Tonight might be the night I actually use it, Nathaniel thinks to himself. He decides that he would rather go out shooting himself in the head on top on the roof of his nightclub, the only place he’s had control over.

Nathaniel analyzes the wardrobe in his closet. He decides to put on black dress pants, a white button up dress shirt, a grey suit jacket, along with black dress shoes. He would like to look nice when he dies than just be naked. Nathaniel looks at his closet full of clothes one last time and leaves his house.

Routines bore Nathaniel. He constantly tries to find new ways and routes to go not only to the nightclub but anywhere he feels he goes too often. Nathaniel decides to take the long way. He arrives at his nightclub and passes by the huge line. Saturday nights are always the busiest nights. The bouncer lifts the velvet rope while there are some faces in shock. Nathaniel is fairly young but he has a face that doesn’t express high status nor popularity. Some people knew who he was and nodded in disapproval of his privilege. Nathaniel notices but he shrugs it off as usual. People think he’s privileged and has a great life but he bets that that person’s bare dick wasn’t a couple inches away from a toaster today. The lights flash. Nathaniel makes eye contact with the bartender. He likes the bartender; he is a young college student that works hard and Nathaniel sees some of himself in him. He just hopes he doesn’t end up entirely like him.

“Hey Nathaniel”, the bartender says.

“For the love of God, please just call me Nathan”, Nathan says.

“Sorry”, says the bartender. “I wanted to sound formal and I know how you feel about people calling you Mr. ‘last name’.”

“I just never seen myself as that guy to be called by “Mr”. So, how’s the night going for you?”

“It’s going good man, making so much in tips tonight.”

“Glad to hear and your schedule is working out fine for you? We’re not overwhelming you or anything?”

“Not at all Nathaniel, I mean Nathan, sorry. I’m not used to calling my boss just by his first name.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

The bartender pours a drink and hands it to Nathan.

“Nah”, Nathan says, “I shouldn’t.”

“Come on, you’re not working tonight.”

Nathan grabs the drink. The smooth whiskey slightly burns his throat.

“Thanks for the drink”, Nathan says, “Now get back to work.”

Nathan smiles.

“You got it boss.”

Nathan sneaks to his office as he realizes that this will be the last time that bartender, one of his favorite employees, will ever see him again. He also realizes that that small shot glass filled with cool whiskey was going to be his last drink. He opens the bottom drawer of his brown, wooden desk. The gun gleams under the dim light in his office. Nathan grabs the gun and tucks it in his dress pants with his suit jacket hiding the butt-end. This made him feel like a secret agent. Nathan’s heart starts pounding in his chest. He goes to the bathroom to wash his face and calm himself down. In the bathroom, he notices white powder on the sink. Nathan sees this all the time but does nothing about it. He finds it strange that he now feels invisible pressure to snort it. How do I even snort cocaine? Nathan asks himself. As Nathan wonders how the powder would feel in his nostrils, a guy and a girl come out of the stall with their noses covered in powder. They don’t know he owns the nightclub. Nathan gives them an awkward wave and they walk out. Nathan goes in the stall and sits down. The music echoes through the walls. Nathan has never done drugs. He has been curious in doing drugs but he’s been too scared to try them. He feels the vibrations of the music and takes a deep breath. Nathan leaves the bathroom and sneaks out the back door. The cold air comforts him.

Nathan observes the night as the music from inside the club still bounces off his eardrums. He starts to climb up the built-in ladder to the roof. Before he can make a full step, he notices a faint red-orange glow in the corner of his eye. He turns around to find a woman in a fur coat with dark red lips consuming a cigarette.

Her green eyes make contact with Nathan’s. Nathan does not know what to say. She is very beautiful. He gives a silent, nervous gulp and breaks the silence.

“Hi”, Nathan says.

“Hey”, the woman says.

“What’re you doing out here?” Nathan asks.

“I’m not allowed to smoke in there, there’s a no smoking sign”, the woman gestures to the no smoking sign on the wall next to the door.

“Wow”, Nathan says chuckling, “What a dumb rule.”

There is silence again.

“What’re you doing out here?” The woman asks.

“I, uh, just needed a breather.”

Nathan notices a brief case lying against her legs.

“What’s that?” Nathan asks.

“Oh, just my products.”

“Oh, that’s cool. Are you an entrepreneur or something?” Nathan says, trying to make conversation and not make it look like he is about to blow his brains out on the roof.

“Something like that”, the woman says.

“If it’s something illegal, I don’t care. I’m not a cop or anything.” Nathan says, trying to keep conversation and not look suspicious, as he is pretty sure the woman saw him attempt to climb the ladder. This thought made his armpits start to slowly leak sweat. The gun in his dress pants starts to feel like a heavy weight.

The woman stares at Nathan, almost as if she is studying him.

“What do you do?”

“I, uh, work in business management. I own a business”.

“Oh, interesting. What business do you own?”

Nathan looks down and points his thumb to the nightclub behind him. The woman smiles.

“How about you?” Nathan asks. “Is this a side hustle or something?”

“I’m a distributor for a business”, the woman picks up her briefcase, “Well, an intergalactic business.”

The woman opens the briefcase. In it contains little bags with different colored and shaped pills. Along the top of the briefcase, there is a clipboard and a pen strapped to it.

“I’m part of a business where our kind brings our drugs manufactured from our planet to other galaxies that don’t have access to them. My job is to be the distributor and then the observer. I give a species a drug and see how they react. It helps our kind scope and broaden our perspective in the manufacturing process. Giving away drugs is also not illegal on most planets. This is a very interesting planet and for a place where drug dealing is illegal, I thought I would have trouble. Most of your kind will take anything from this briefcase, no questions asked, especially the species at the place you call “high school”. I’ve been told to not give away that I’m an alien on this planet because your kind either freaks out or your small minds can’t comprehend that there could be life outside of this planet, but you seem like a smart guy, owning a business and all”.

Nathan is stunned. There is silence. The woman senses tension and closes the briefcase.

“Are you fucking with me right now?” Nathan asks.

“You wish.” The woman takes a drag of her cigarette.

“You’re… an actual alien?”

“Yes”, the woman says, “I’m actually an alien”.

“Does your, uh, race look like us?”

“Oh no, I just took this form because it makes your kind more comfortable, and this form is considered approachable.”

“Ok. This is a joke.”

“It’s not a joke.”

“Why would you just give these things away?”

“Again, for scientific purposes. Some drugs heal people, both mentally and physically and sometimes even emotionally, and some just let people relax and have a fun time. It usually depends on the person though, which is why I act as the observer. I feel the results on you would be interesting, you are intelligent because you own a business, but your cons are you seem neurotic and paranoid.”

The woman slightly tilts her head, and her ears slightly move.

“I also detect a great feeling of emptiness in you. One of these could help you out.”

Nathan contemplates. He does not want to look like a fool, especially in front of a person or alien he’s never met. Bravery then enters Nathan, he might as well.

“Can I try one?” Nathan asks nervously.

“Sure”, the woman says, “Which one would you like?”

Nathan points to the shiny, yellow pill that stands out to him.

“Hold out your hand”, the woman commands.

Nathan holds out his shaking hand and the woman drops the pill on his palm. The pill is stumbling in his hand; it looks like Nathan is holding it during an earthquake.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” The woman asks, “Your planet is very over populated, I can find someone else-“

“No no, I want to”, Nathan interrupts. I would rather take this pill than shove powder up my nose, Nathan thinks to himself. He puts the pill in his mouth. It dissolves very quickly. Nathan feels a boost of adrenaline and starts to breathe calmly. The woman blinks. When her eyes open, her green eyes turn into dark blue eyes. Nathan doesn’t know if these are the effects of the drug he just took or if the woman was just trying to prove she really was an alien.

“Have fun!” The woman says.

Nathan waves awkwardly and goes back inside the nightclub, continuing to take calm breaths. He returns to the bathroom as he wants to have this possible experience alone. He doesn’t feel anything at the moment and he starts to panic. He puts his fingers in his mouth, trying to make himself throw up. He stops himself. He can’t bring himself to do it. Nobody likes throwing up. He can’t back out now. He’s always wanted an experience, he’s just unsure if he wants this particular experience. Nathan sits patiently in the stall trying to ignore his thoughts that are slowly labeling this choice as a regret. Nathan checks his phone. The time says 9:46 but then changes to 9:45. This scares Nathan; is time running backwards? He leaves the stall and the lights in the bathroom are like stage lights. In the mirror; he sees multiple versions of himself. They stare intently at him. One is eating popcorn and points at an altercation with two other Nathans. They are viciously fighting each other. Blood splatters on the mirror. Other Nathans appear and watch the fight. Some cheer. Some laugh. The real Nathan looks away and rubs his eyes but can feel other eyes on him. Nathan opens his eyes and sees himself as a child. The child is crying with tears of joy but oddly seems to be disgusted with that joy. Nathan wants to tell this child that it’s ok to be happy. Nathan taps on the mirror to get the child’s attention, but he doesn’t seem to notice. The child then peels off the skin on his hands, the skin, along with his fingernails slips off his hands like a glove. His fingernails dropping to the floor sound like a pen dropping in an empty room.

“Stop!” Nathan cries.

The child grabs his face with his sensitive, skinless hands. The child gets angry as he struggles to grip his face. The child finally gets a grip on his cheeks and continues to rip off his skin like blotches of makeup. As the child continues to remove his face like a mask, Nathan looks away and runs to the bathroom door. He jumps through the door and feels like he’s floating. He hesitantly opens his eyes and realizes he is not at the club anymore. He is above a bathtub and notices the body laying in it. It’s him from earlier tonight. Did he time travel? The Nathan in the bathtub looks up at him. Nathan looks down and notices a spongy umbilical cord attached to his belly button. The umbilical cord is also attached to the Nathan in the bathtub’s belly button. The Nathan in the bathtub tugs on the umbilical cord and Nathan is slowly getting pulled down. The Nathan in the bathtub gives a wide smile which horrifies Nathan. Nathan swims in the air and tries to get back to the ceiling. He feels the umbilical cord pulling on his stomach, it is getting pulled so hard that he feels a slight pain in the bottom of his ribs. The Nathan in the bathtub bites down on the umbilical cord. A gelatinous substance oozes out and bleeds into the bath water, causing it to turn a swampy green. The Nathan in the bathtub starts to eat the umbilical cord and slurps on it like a noodle. This brings Nathan down and he falls in the bathtub. As his body collides with the water, he meets a steel floor. He looks around and notices he is trapped in a giant birdcage. Nathan runs frantically to the bars; he shakes and bangs on them while screaming as he falls to his knees. He looks out the cage and sees himself talking to the woman or technically alien who let him have that pill. Nathan starts to feel drowsy, causing his eyes to slam shut.

Nathan wakes up in the dumpster behind the nightclub with his back arched on trash bags. He checks his phone as he breathes heavily. It is 10:30. He feels himself and checks his stomach. No umbilical cord. He looks up and sees the woman, her eyes are green now, looking down at him and writing something down on a clipboard.

“Hi”, the woman says smiling.

Nathan climbs out of the dumpster; his eyes are so wide it looks like they’re trying to escape his skull.

“You seemed to react differently”, the woman says, “How do you feel?”

Nathan looks at her, and then smiles as if he knows now what he must do. He dashes to the ladder and climbs up as fast as he can.

“What’re you doing?!” The woman shouts at him.

Nathan ignores her and makes it to the dingy, light tan roof. Nathan looks up at the sky filled with stars and the shining moon that reflects off his black dress shoes. Nathan starts crying tears of joy, horrifyingly like the child version of himself he saw however he is not angry at this joy. Nathan pulls the gun out of his dress pants and holds it to his head. He looks up and smiles, embracing the dark, beautiful night.

Jordan Thomas is a transfer student from St. Charles Community College and has now graduated from Lindenwood University with a major in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Jordan likes to write character driven short stories. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends and watching movies.

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