Max didn’t remember stumbling into his room or falling face first across his bed. He was at a party, he blinked, and suddenly it was morning. His parched tongue was like a sponge that had absorbed and retained all the vile flavors of the festivities. His brain felt like it pulsing against the inside of his skull, and he clenched his eyes shut to try and alleviate the pain.
Rays of split across the blinds covering the balcony door. The sounds of mingling voices and splashing water drifted up from the courtyard pool. Max reached for the phone on the nightstand and dialed the front desk.
A soft-spoken woman immediately answered. “Asdenecy front desk, this is Jane how can I help you?”
“Hi, this is room 520. Could you have them send up my Suboxone please?” Max mumbled.
“Absolutely, I’ll notify the pharmacy right away!” Jane said dutifully.
It was another day in paradise, but for Max, it was his last day.
In the official pamphlet, the Ascendency described itself as a “wellness resort.” The infrared saunas, geothermal jacuzzi baths, and a legion of massage therapists certainly bore that claim out, but what no one could see the beneath five-star facilities and crystal blue waters of the Olympic sized swimming pool were the cold bodies hollowed out bodies bound for the fires of the crematorium.
The Ascendancy was more than a resort. It was a first-class hospice, a place for people to die slow and comfortably. Even in this regard through the Ascendancy was unique. Most of their guests didn’t have a terminal illness. For a price, the Ascendancy was a luxury sanctuary for the dejected, the depressed, the hopeless. People who just wanted to die and wanted to have a good time doing it.
At the age of 36, it finally dawned on Max just how bleak his future really was. He was an accountant and did reasonably well for himself, but every time he ran the numbers he was lead to the same conclusion if he lived to old age he was going to die destitute.
Max only needed to look out the window of the bus to see what happened to the orphaned elderly. Daily he could see these whithered broken people shuffling from shelter to shelter stopping to pick through garbage cans or to pick up a half-smoked cigarette. The luckier ones festered in state facilities until they eventually expired in their own filth. Max was a pragmatist, he knew the rising cost of senior care meant this conclusion was inevitable unless of course, he died a bit younger.
For Max’s entire life savings, around thirty thousand dollars he was able to buy a month at the Ascendancy and what a month it had been. As it turned out profound nihilistic hopelessness could easily lead to some extreme debauchery. The Ascendancy was a place where everyone not only understood how temporal and pointlessness life is but embraced it with a kind of zealous glee. Drugs and booze being most peoples preferred method of death were available in unlimited quantities. People looking down the barrel of oblivion didn’t shy away from taking chances. After all, what do they have to lose?
Max’s mind retrieved fragments from his night. He had attended a “farewell party” for someone down the hall. A marine colonel who was there for the latter two weeks of Max’s stay. Max never bothered probing the colonel for the reasons why he wanted to die. Max figured the old soldier’s robotic limbs told most of the story.
“Oh god,” Max thought with some horror. “I wrote stay golden on his synthetic arm?” Max cringed at this embarrassing realization when the phone ringed.
“Hello,” Max answered.
“Hello, this is Jane again sorry to disturb you, but we were wondering if you would like a lethal dose today?”
An awkward silence held for a moment before Jane continued.
“Because your check out day is tomorrow,” Jane finished.
The only thing Max had to do all month was die, and he didn’t even accomplish that! Max was facing imminent and permanent expulsion from this garden of earthly delights. He knew what the deal was but four weeks ago this day seemed so far away it appeared almost hypothetical. Max had no more money left, so he decided to appeal directly to the hotel director. Surely for thirty grand, she could show a little mercy.
Max shook off the hangover, found his key card, and raced out of the room. When he opened the door, he nearly bumped into the sheet covered gurney an employee was pushing down the hall. The sheet shifted, and Max could see the Colonel’s cobalt arm with the words “stay golden!” drawn on with bright red lipstick.
The Director’s office was really more of a lounge. It was an intimate space where fashionably dressed people sat around cafe tables on bean bag chairs sipping neo green drinks from champagne flutes while they watched silent film footage shot in the deep ocean. The director herself was a caramel skinned woman of Asian descent. She wore a flowing cloak-like garment and had waist length ebony hair. She moved around the room like a sophisticated and delicate aberration.
Max was too nervous to approach her, but when she saw him, she instantly introduced herself.
“Hello I’m Xia,” she said extending her hand.
Max took her hand “Max,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, Max,” she said puckering her glossy purple lips.
“Likewise,” said max.
“Do you like the music?” Xia asked.
“It’s fine. What do you call it?”
“Low-Fi chill-hop,” Xia said matter of factly. “It’s very relaxing. I’m thinking of playing it in the saunas.”
“Worth a shot,” concurred Max.
“But you didn’t come down here to talk about low-fi chill-hop did you?” Xia said.
“No, actually my check out day is, and I was wondering if I could maybe extend my stay just a little bit,” Max said nervously.
“Of course,” Xia said warmly. “Since you already bought a month I can give you an additional week for just 3,000 Euros.”
“Well actually I’m sorta out of money,” Max said visibly embarrassed.
“Then why are we having this conversation?” Xia asked
Tears started to well up in Max’s eyes. “Please, please don’t make me leave,” he begged.
“Well you know you don’t have to leave. Just do here what you came here to do,” said Xia.
“I-I can't,” whimpered Max.
“Well, without 3,000 euros I’m afraid those are your only two options as far as the Ascendancy is concerned,” Xia said sounding slightly annoyed.
Max fell to his knees and began sobbing. “Please don’t make me leave. I can’t go back out there! I have nothing left, please don’t throw me out. I’ll die out there!”
“But isn’t that why you came here?” Xia asked coldly.
“I can’t I just can’t!” Max wailed.
Xia sighed, “Please stop crying it’s so undignified.”
“You have one more night, and you can either die in the Ascendancy in comfort, or you can die a slow degrading death outside our walls. It’s up to you. But since you couldn’t work up the nerve to end it these last four weeks, I think we both know what route you’ll end up going. Don’t worry little Maximillian it’s a cold and cruel world out there. Even if you don’t do it tonight, you’ll find inspiration somewhere down the road.”