James stared at the belt he’d looped over the banister to create a makeshift noose. He made plans to kill himself tonight. Or at least that’s what he’d told himself; fear was starting to get the better of him.

It wasn’t the thought of dying that scared him. No, dying was something he thought about often and with a kind of glee. Pain wasn’t a concern, either. He was in pain most days anymore. If not physical pain, at least a suffering of unending mental anguish.

He always felt death would be a permanent reprieve from the pain in this world. But with being in pain on an almost constant basis, he wasn’t sure it was something he could ever escape from. The thought of possibly ending up in an afterlife worse than this one frightened him more than anything. But that’s not what made him hesitate.

The black leather belt gleamed in the dull light of the house. James was transfixed on the belt’s perfect smoothness. He could practically feel the sturdy leather tightening around his neck—digging into the soft flesh while cutting off the flow of oxygen to his brain. It would hurt, but the pain would be a final reminder that he was ever alive in the first place.

James gathered as much courage as he could and climbed over the railing next to the stairs. He inched his way near the belt wrapped around the middle. He moved slowly and at a nervous pace. “Funny,” he thought. Here I am, about to kill myself, and I’m scared of falling 15 feet to the floor.”

He squatted down next to the belt while holding onto the railing with his left hand. As he reached for the loop of the belt, a glint of light caught his eye. James craned his neck at a downward angle and saw a small music box on a desk below. The way the light hit the reflective surface of the box created a unique pattern on the floor; it was in the shape of a heart.

Then it hit him in the chest like a great wave. His one true fear—the only thing that had kept him from ending it all—was the owner of that box. A little girl of five who was staying with her grandparents. Precious. Beautiful beyond words. Her mother was killed exactly one year ago by a drunk driver.

“Elle,” James whispered.

All he wanted to do was end his pain. Succumb to the cruelty of the world and fade away—to join his wife in whatever world awaited him. But how could he? Laid up in the hospital, did he not promise his daughter he would always be there for her? Did he not promise himself he would live no matter what? All so his perfect daughter would never again suffer at such a young age?

The pain was so great, and he knew he could end it in mere minutes. If only he was the one who felt the crushing blow of death that night. If only he could escape this world of constant pain. If only it were up to someone else to be strong for his daughter.

James grabbed the belt with a gentle touch. He rubbed the smooth leather between his fingers, slowly squeezing it with more and more pressure. Its smoothness almost sparkled in the light. He couldn’t help thinking there was something beautiful in the plainness of the leather. It held a tremendous power; the power to end one’s life. But the belt couldn’t act on its own, nor could it fix the world. But maybe the world doesn’t need fixing. Maybe it just needs stronger people…

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Like the story? Share your thoughts below. Then check out some of these other flash fiction pieces.

Deadly Impressions

The Best Of Us

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