On the third floor of a condemned building in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan you put a needle in your arm. Inside the needle’s bulb is black liquid, melted tar, heroin, a cheap high, five bucks a gram. You flash the bulb with a drop or two of your blood, it make no difference to the color just the time it takes for the drug to enter your system.
You depress the plunger.
The ashy elixir disappears into your body. Your perfectly evolved vessel. The one true thing you own.
At first you feel hot liquid then it spreads and you feel hot all over. Your heartbeat slows. Time stops. Your eyes droop closed. Life doesn’t matter anymore. You float on warm empty clouds and all is nothing. You could ride this forever.
And you die.
In the condemned apartment building the house-mother says, “fuck that shit.”
So your friends dump you on the street.
A couple riding the wave of gentrification are the first people to not step over your corpse.
They call 911.
A ambulance arrives. The EMTs aren’t allowed to declare you dead so they drive you to the hospital.
You are saved by a young doctor from India. He isn’t just doing his job. He has a special connection to the soul. He was meant to be a Jain monk. Without knowing what he is doing he accidentally locks your soul in life.
You cannot die.
He has never done this before. He will never do it again. He never knew he did do it until after his own soul left his body sixty years later. He didn’t care then though, it was too late to care, death tends to take cares away.
He does visit you often and checks your chart and wonders, “how are you alive, but also dead.” He studies you. He writes papers about you that no one believes.
He violates your privacy for decades.
You don’t care though.
You exist in an unknown blackness. A persistent void.
You are moved to the coma ward. Time passes. Your records are lost and recreated over and over again. You age. You are an old man. You become the old man that is just there. You are a withered vessel. You are pitied. There are no questions with answers. Your chest rises and falls. Your heart beats, but you are not dead, but there is nothing that can be done. Switches are pulled, cords are unplugged but you persist.
You survive centuries.
You survive millenniums.
You survive stars in distant parts of the galaxy going supernova. You survive the ort cloud being disrupted by unique gravitational events involving the rotation of the Milky Way which sends streams of icy rocks screaming towards the sun.
As those deep space chunks journey your way you continue by surviving hurricanes and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. You are moved inland when the polar ice plug fails and the oceans rise.
Eventually you survive the calamity of the inevitable comet storm and the dust and ash clouds that gather in the atmosphere to eventually rain down.
You survive being buried by tons of earth.
You survive being forgotten.
You survive the wind eating the ground and eventually exposing your useless body.
You survive the sun swelling and pushing the planet off its axis causing it to float away from its Goldilock zone. The planet cools just enough to wipe out all life.
It is when the last protozoa dies you hear, “Johnny wake up.”
The request is from a singsongy voice, it’s the voice of your mother, of God, of potentially everything. You have no choice but to listen to it, so you do, you wake up to the black of your closed eyes.
You open your eyes and they part like long healed wounds.
Like they weren’t ever meant to open. The sound of snapping crusts and scabs is audible. Through cracked and broken eye lids you see the world, not with physical eyes, but with your soul. You part your mouth to scream, but it has also sealed. You tear at the leathery flesh with your knife lengths of brittle nail tipped fingers and peel your lips away, tearing the scab that is your mouth off, exposing the browned and rotten teeth hanging in thick papery gums. Once you free your jaw your mouth flops open useless because your tongue is a flat dried husk. Your throat is just hardened cartilage and sinew. In fact all of your muscles are atrophied jerky over fossilized bones.
You know you are because you can think and in thinking, are.
But you are the last.
You are the last in a brown dead world.
You are the last in a brown dead world billions of years away from being eaten by a slowly expanding red sun.
But you are not alone. You have the universe and the universe has you.