It's way past midnight. I stand on the terrace and look about. The normally busy road is subdued. The field opposite contains a few men, I judge them to be college students, sitting on the benches and gossiping. I see them every night. It's nothing new.
There's a slight chill in the air. T-shirt and shorts is not really ideal attire when it's winter. I grope around in my pockets for that packet of cigarettes. I take one out, the momentary smell of tobacco, enticing me to light one up. I take one out and put it to my lips. The flame from the match flickers in the breeze. I shield it, and the light illuminates my hands. I wait for the sulfur to burn away. I apply it to the cigarette and take a couple of quick puffs so that it burns evenly. Assured that it is burning properly, I take a long drag. I can feel the nicotine coursing through my blood, feel the slight dizziness as the nicotine hits my brain. I love that feeling, I revel in it. It makes me feel invincible. I don't care about the tar accumulating in my alveoli, the carcinogens that slowly cause cells in my body to turn on me. I breathe out a steady, thin stream of fine smoke. The breeze catches it and blows it away.
I lean over the parapet and watch people hurry by. The cigarette warms me. The wind does not discommode me anymore. A taxi passes by, one of the many in the city. It's probably carrying people to one of the pubs or discos in the city. A boy passes by, his girlfriend on his arm. That sight does discommode me. The nicotine rush does not make me feel good. It makes me feel terrible. It makes me dream of things that can never be. I take another puff.
Her face swims before me. I hear her beautiful laugh, like the laugh of an angel. I see her quite frequently. I talk to her quite frequently. Yet, she doesn't know how I really feel about her. I think of her soft,smiling face and think how warm it would be. I think of her hair and dream about its silky softness. I wonder what she really thinks about me. It's nothing new. It's been happening ever since I first saw her. Before we were even friends, when we were just two people in the same class.
I force my thoughts away from her. Maybe some time in the near future, I'll make a fool of myself by telling her how I feel. I do not want to lose her friendship, At least if we can't be anything more than friends, let's at least be that.
The cigarette's exhausted. I throw the butt away. I feel in the packet. There are nine bullets left. Enough for tonight and tomorrow morning. I take out another one. I look at the label. "W.D. & H.O. Wills" Two people who made a living out of weak-willed people. Two people who have caused more deaths than anybody else.
The match flares, the cigarette tip smolders. Another long drag, another puff. The wind has died down by this time. The smoke stays. I suddenly feel as if the smoke has taken the shape of a skull. A skull that is leering at me, a skull that is mocking me, telling me off for spending my money to kill myself painfully. I blow the smoke away, the skull dies.
Exhilarated by my victory over my conscience, I take a longer drag, hold it in longer, feel the high, and blow out steadily. The smoke seems to carry a little of my breath out with it. Tonight's smoke is not going to be the relaxed affair I would want it to be.
I feel the tar settle in my lungs, feel my heart have to beat a little harder. The feeling does not thrill me. It scares me. And yet, strangely, it seems to be a harbinger of relief. I must be going insane. I seem to hear it say, "The tobacco is your friend. It is deadening you to pain...The pain of not knowing what will be, the pain of wondering if things will ever work out for you". I look around startled. I could have sworn someone was whispering in my ear.
Another drag, another puff, a step closer to death. The road on which I've begun to walk seems to stretch out endlessly. I can see it lined with cigarette ends and wreathed in smoke.
Another long drag and another puff. This time the smoke seems to be another link in the chain which I am forging with my own hands. A chain that grows longer and longer and longer with each puff. A chain that the reaper will use at the end to drag me off to hell.
One cigarette ends, Another begins. I refuse to give in to my imagination. I refuse to listen to my conscience. A spirit of recklessness grabs me. I put the Filter-tipped one back in the pack, and borrow an unfiltered one from my room-mate.
The smoke when it first hits my lungs almost keels me over. But then a calm spreads over me. Everything is blotted out, Only the cigarette glows, like some lighthouse guiding weary ships to port. The puffs are now short quick many. Each wave crashes into my brain before the previous one has receded. The cold does not matter anymore. My brain has become cold, impervious to all feeling. All that matters is the cigarette.
As I take a last elusive drag, a sense of triumph overwhelms me. I have beaten sense, I have helped the devil bring me one step closer to the end. As I return to my room, I get the strange feeling that there is someone else with me, a someone who is laughing at me, a someone who looks strangely like Apocalypse. She seems to be congratulating me for joining the ranks of her mindless minions I smile at her and go off to sleep.