My eyes shot open and the sobering reality of what I was doing hit me in the chest like a shotgun blast. I looked down to see the knife tearing my forearm all the way to the elbow. Black blood spurted and gushed from the wound. I had actually gone through with it.

“Oh my god!”

I scrambled to my feet before the dizziness set in. The pain was excruciating. It was like my arm had been dipped into a vat of molten steel.

I looked over the railing to the dark grass below. My legs buckled beneath me. There was no time. Using my one good arm, I hurled myself over the railing. 

A lifetime passed in seconds, then I hit the ground headfirst. My neck and spine shattered but I didn’t feel anything after the initial impact. Reality flickered in and out for a few moments then everything went black.

I had died on a humid night in August.

My eyes shot open. The blade tore through my arm. Blood poured from the giant gash and rained down between the open slats of the steel walkway to the silent ground below. 

“What’s happening?”

I got to my feet and looked out at the nearby woods. Tree branch shadows danced beneath the moon’s brilliant radiance. Behind the woods, my quiet neighborhood glowed under the soft orange streetlights. At that moment, I would’ve given anything to go back home and fall asleep in my hot bedroom.

I fought through muscle spasms in my back and legs, positioning myself on the ladder while I still could. With only one working arm, It was slow going. But I managed to climb down halfway. Then it happened.

Blood had covered most of the rungs causing my foot to slip. I tried holding on but my grip failed. My forehead cracked the rusted ladder and I fell backward. 

My left leg planted on the ground at an awkward angle and snapped underneath me like a toothpick. I crumpled in a heap of blood and broken bones. I couldn’t move and I was all alone. My only company was the pain that refused to leave.

Hours passed while my body grew colder. I kept falling in and out of consciousness. Every time I thought death was going to take me away a new jolt of pain would send me reeling back to life. I didn’t think the misery would ever end, but right as the first rays of sunshine peeked over the morning horizon, I died. 

I died on a humid night in August.

I opened my eyes. Thousands of flaming needles pierced my body and seared all of the nerve endings. Black lava bubbled from the gaping cut in my arm. I was going to die again.

“Help,” I screamed. But my voice cracked from the pain and acidic bile stung the back of my throat until I leaned over and vomited. 

It was a kind of deja vu that was more intense than I had ever felt before. I knew every blast of pain that was coming before it happened. I correctly anticipated every sound of blood droplets breaking against the steel walkway. I was ready for each coming round of dizziness and vertigo. 

The only thing worse than the pain was knowing the exact moment it was coming. I was stuck in a time loop. Only, the loop began right as I had finished cutting my arm open. So no matter what I did, I was going to die. Over and over and over again. It wasn’t just a time loop. It was a death loop.

I died on a humid night in August, thousands of times.

I had tried everything to break the loop but nothing worked. At least twenty different times I had used my shirt or pants as a tourniquet to slow the blood loss. This worked well enough that I was able to make it back to my house and on a few occasions, I even made it to the hospital. But each time I died before morning. Each time I was cursed to suffer through that terrible burning pain.

It didn’t take long before I gave up on the idea of surviving and only wanted to end the pain once and for all. Desperation took hold and I did horrifying things to myself to break the loop. I had cut out my eyes, slit my throat, cut off my genitals, jumped off the tower from every angle you could imagine. I did it all. But after every single death, I opened my eyes to that awful pain.

Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity of suffering, I gave up. Since I was doomed to relive my death forever, I figured I would embrace the pain and come to terms with the mistakes I had made. 

You can blame everyone for the problems in your life, but I learned in the end, the only one you can hold accountable for the way things turned out is you. It wasn’t my mother’s drinking or my father’s smoking that made me cut my wrist. I was the one who did that. I chose to do that.

Yes, I was suffering from depression. Life was overwhelming and it felt like I had to end things. But I still had a choice. I could have chosen to live. At least for one more day. We can always try for one more day.

After I had come to this realization, I let go of all those feelings of guilt and regret. I accepted my fate. If I was to die over and over so be it.

I closed my eyes that final time and let the pain wash over me. Even though it was worse than anything I could’ve imagined, the pain was at least real. It let me know I was alive. And when it started to dull, and the starlight faded from my eyes, all went dark, and I felt a ounce of joy. I had been alive once. That’s all any of us can ask for.

I died on a humid night in August.

I opened my eyes. The water tower loomed in the distance beneath the pale moon. I was standing at the edge of the woods. The weight of the Swiss army knife pressed against my thigh from inside of my pocket.  I held my left arm out and stared at my wrist. The skin was smooth and unblemished. I had been given a second chance. The death loop was broken.

I lived on a humid night in August. 

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