Any Other Way

by Alex Sobel

“If we’re going to do it, it has to be now,” David says.

He’s nineteen, we’ve been lucky for a year.

It could happen any time.


You can tell when one of the attacks is over when the screaming ends, the clenching. It used to keep me awake at night, but like everything else, it fades, blends at the edges, becomes part of everything.

“Dad, you alright?” David asks when we go downstairs. What he means is: are you dead? Did you finally do it?

“Not yet,” Dad says. “Is it time?”

David nods. “Before you have another attack.”

David’s hand steadies, the needle into the bottle, a specific amount into the syringe.

“Who showed you how to do this?” I ask.

He’s silent as he plunges the needle into Dad’s shoulder.


I’ve tried to do the math, but it never adds up right. How old is Dad? How old was Mom when she eventually succeeded?

I don’t even know my own age.

Apparently, Dad resisted for almost a decade before it took over, when David was twelve. It’s the only way the timeline comes close to adding up. Still, someone must have helped David tie up Dad, set up his area in the basement when the time came.

Someone must have helped with the cutting.

Someone must have helped stop the bleeding.


“Say goodbye,” David says as we pack up the car. But there’s no one to say it to, we’re the last to leave, the last to hold onto something.


Dad is out most of the time. Sometimes he slips in, his eyes meeting me, but talking to someone who isn’t here.

I realize that I don’t know this man, never will.

“Dreams,” he says. “Don’t make me go. Please.” I sit in the back seat with him, needle in hand for when he wakes up enough to make another attempt.


I don’t catch his face before David bricks the brakes, too late, the impact like a vacuum in my chest. A few children run over to the body. When we get out to see, it’s obvious he’s gone, that he succeeded.

“I’m so sorry,” David says.

They shake their heads, carry the body away, their faces tortured, relieved.


I remember David telling me. Dad has it, the urge to end his life, it doesn’t affect you until you’re about eighteen. I tried counting on my fingers, could feel the tears coming. David pulled me onto his lap.

“Shh, no, it’s okay, you’re still a kid,” he said. “It’s a long way away.”


“Bye bye,” Dad says, pupils like buoys dancing on a sea of white.

“Dad,” I whisper so I don’t wake David. “What’s it like? What happens to you?”

“Huh,” he says, like he finally understands something, a realization that puts his mind at he ease.

He sleeps, I don’t.

Just in case.


David’s hands have been twitching for a few days. He shakes it off, pumps the steering wheel to hide it. I don’t mention it, don’t tell him something he already knows.


“Damn, he’s got no arms or legs?” the kid says, looking through the back window.

“Makes it harder to kill himself,” I say.

When David returns with the gas, he looks the kid over. “What do you want?”

“Just looking,” he says. “Where you going?”

“North,” I say, feeling David’s disapproval. “There’s a settlement up there, supposedly. With resources.”

“Ah, well, good luck there. I’m happy here, got enough food, my wife. All I need.”

Later, I ask David about the kid, if he was really married. “They say they are,” he says. “And there’s no one left to tell them otherwise.”


“David, are you actually my brother?” I ask him one night, the sun long gone.

The dashboard light hugging his face, I can see he wants to say something profound, something about family, about how adaptable we are, the ways people survive.

“Yes,” is all he says.

And even in the dark, I can tell he means it, that the lie contains its own kind of truth.


It happens slowly in my head, the breathless moment, clear, determined. We hit the median, driver’s side. I wake to a clicking in my jaw. I bite down, feel powder settled between my teeth.

Dad’s on top of me, face tucked into my elbow.


There’s glass in the back of his neck, blood from his head already hardened to brown.

I manage to get the door open and go around to find David in the front seat. I lift his head off the dash. Bloody nose, probably broken, murky bruises powdered around his eye.

But alive.


The needle goes right in, the skin soft, willing.

I find another car, the driver long dead, but vehicle intact. There’s blood on the passenger side window, petrified into bulky clumps.

I pull up next to David, ease him into the new car.

I want to ask him if he feels any different, if anything’s changed, if there’s any markers to let him know he isn’t the same.

I roll down the window until the blood disappears.

North, I think. Because it’s the direction we’ve picked, because I can’t stand still, because I have to go somewhere.


When I get there, they take David out of the car, check his vitals, ask me about the sedative I used. There’s clearly a procedure for this.

Later, I’m brought before a teenager, one who looks official, a leader here.

“How old are you?” she asks.

A question I don’t have an answer for. It could happen any time, the forced change, the downward slope.

She asks again, but all I know is that it’ll come for me too, eventually, and I’ll be changed, but somehow still be me. And the changed me won’t be able to see how who I used to be, won’t remember the before, won’t know there was any other way.

%d bloggers like this: