Chapter 25

TYLER'S STANDING THERE, perfectly handsome and an angel in his everything-blond way. My will to live amazes me.
Me, I'm a bloody tissue sample dried on a bare mattress in my room at the Paper Street Soap Company.
Everything in my room is gone.
My mirror with a picture of my foot from when I had cancer for ten minutes. Worse than cancer. The mirror is gone. The closet door is open and my six white shirts, black pants, underwear, socks, and shoes are gone. Tyler says, "Get up."
Under and behind and inside everything I took for granted, something horrible has been growing.
Everything has fallen apart.
The space monkeys are cleared out. Everything is relocated, the liposuction fat, the bunk beds, the money, especially the money. Only the garden is left behind, and the rented house.
Tyler says, "The last thing we have to do is your martyrdom thing. Your big death thing."
Not like death as a sad, downer thing, this was going to be death as a cheery, empowering thing.
Oh, Tyler, I hurt. Just kill me here.
"Get up."
Kill me, already. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.
"It has to be big," Tyler says. "Picture this: you on top of the world's tallest building, the whole building taken over by Project Mayhem. Smoke rolling out the windows. Desks falling into the crowds on the street. A real opera of a death, that's what you're going to get."
I say, no. You've used me enough.
"If you don't cooperate, we'll go after Marla."
I say, lead the way.
"Now get the fuck out of bed," Tyler said, "and get your ass into the fucking car."
So Tyler and I are up on top of the Parker-Morris Building with the gun stuck in my mouth.
We're down to our last ten minutes.
The Parker-Morris Building won't be here in ten minutes. I know this because Tyler knows this.
The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my throat, Tyler says, "We won't really die."
I tongue the gun barrel into my surviving cheek and say, Tyler, you're thinking of vampires.
We're down to our last eight minutes.
The gun is just in case the police helicopters get here sooner.
To God, this looks like one man alone, holding a gun in his own mouth, but it's Tyler holding the gun, and it's my life.
You take a 98-percent concentration of fuming nitric acid and add the acid to three times that amount of sulfuric acid.
You have nitroglycerin.
Seven minutes.
Mix the vitro with sawdust, and you have a nice plastic explosive. A lot of the space monkeys mix their vitro with cotton and add Epsom salts as a sulfate. This works, too. Some monkeys, they use paraffin mixed with vitro. Paraffin has never, ever worked for me.
Four minutes.
Tyler and me at the edge of the roof, the gun in my mouth, I'm wondering how clean this gun is.
Three minutes.
Then somebody yells.
"Wait," and it's Marla coming toward us across the roof.
Marla's coming toward me, just me because Tyler's gone. Poor. Tyler's my hallucination, not hers. Fast as a magic trick, Tyler's disappeared. And now I'm just one man holding a gun in my mouth.
"We followed you," Marla yells. "All the people from the support group. You don't have to do this. Put the gun down."
Behind Marla, all the bowel cancers, the brain parasites, the melanoma people, the tuberculosis people are walking, limping, wheelchairing toward me.
They're saying, "Wait."
Their voices come to me on the cold wind, saying, "Stop."
And, "We can help you."
"Let us help you."
Across the sky comes the whop, whop, whop of police helicopters.
I yell, go. Get out of here. This building is going to explode.
Marla yells, "We know."
This is like a total epiphany moment for me.
I'm not killing myself, I yell. I'm killing Tyler.
I am Joe's Hard Drive.
I remember everything.
"It's not love or anything," Marla shouts, "but I think I like you, too."
One minute.
Marla likes Tyler.
"No, I like you," Marla shouts. "I know the difference."
And nothing.
Nothing explodes.
The barrel of the gun tucked in my surviving cheek, I say, Tyler, you mixed the vitro with paraffin, didn't you.
Paraffin never works.
I have to do this.
The police helicopters.
And I pull the trigger.

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