“Eternal Pharmaceuticals rose thirteen percent yesterday,” a man said between mouthfuls of sandwich as he leaned against his truck with today’s copy of the Wall Street Journal.
“Ain’t surprise me none,” his buddy responded, rubbing his face down with a red handkerchief before replacing his yellow hardhat, “I buy enough of those goddamm drugs. Wife’s got breast cancer three years back, ever since she’s been popping five pills e’ery morning. The boy’s got ADD, I damn think all kids these days do. Takes three different meds. Company’s running me dry, all this penny-pinching is giving me hyper…hyperten…high blood pressure. Gotta buy another pill for that, then two more for all the diarrhea…”
“Dammit it, Phil, I’m tryin’ eat here!”
"All I’s saying is EPI ain’t helpin’ the little man. Every frickin’ drug has goddamm side-effects.”
“I hear ya, got the same problem. Taking a couple pills myself for prostate.” He crumpled up the newspaper and tossed it in the back of his truck. He took a swig of Coke before slipping on his tool-belt. “Don’t got any better options though. Eternal’s bought all the other drug companies.”
Phil nodded and spat. He looked up at the skyscraper dwarfing the surrounding city. The looming pyramid of tinted black windows stretched into the clouds.
“What’d ya think they do in there, Larry?”
“Spawnin’ things worse than taxes.”
“It was better when drugs was shrooms,” Phil said, “Helluvalot cheaper.”
“More fun too.”
Eternal Pharmaceuticals Incorporated TM CEO read the polished gold lettering on the sleek black of the double-door. Gold-plating covered the triangular handles on each of the doors, which formed a golden pyramid along the centerline when shut. The elevator was situated on the other side of the small foyer before the office suite, built out from the slanted ceiling. Plastic plants sat in stone pots on either side of the elevator door, in an aspirant attempt to demonstrate class. Yelling and the sound of shattering glass, which was not an unusual occurrence on the top floor of the Eternal Mountain, broke the silence and diminished any guise of class attempted by the plastic plants.
“No need to get upset, I just suggest you should find a new career,” a man’s voice echoed from behind the double-doors, “Preferably one that involves clothing. Let’s be honest, no man in his right mind would want to…”
The sound of an angered slap emerged from behind the double-doors. A second later they flew open and a woman stormed out, streaks of mascara crawling down her face as tears gushed from her eyes. Blonde hair clung to the glittering haltered top while a black purse bounced against her thigh below the lacey mini-skirt.
“You are a sick monster!” she cried, standing before the elevator while her manicured nails impatiently jabbed the button. She reached into her purse and withdrew a thick wad of bills. “No amount of money will ever make me come back here!”
She threw the wad at the man as he appeared in the doorway. Like leaves in an autumn breeze, the bills spiraled to the black floor. He smiled.
“The Best in the Big Apple,” he sighed, his eyes running from the tall heels to the large breasts, “And I can’t even have my money’s worth.”
“To think I have standards,” she seethed as the elevator door opened behind her.
“So low,” he added.
A shrill scream erupted from her as she dropped into the gaping hole in the floor. The man smiled as she disappeared into the darkness of the pit. It was times like these when he missed the prostitution business. Loki and he made good pimps. Loki was a bit too good, and was truly the lesser trickster. They had their fun, but it was frivolous. Prostitutes wrinkle and drugs could fix that. Drugs are eternal. Reaching into his pocket, the man withdrew a handful of change. Plucking up a penny, he flicked it into the hole with his thumb.
“Don’t forget your tip.”
With an impish grin, he pulled a small remote from behind his back and pressed the single red button. The hole sealed.
“Every good businessman needs a reliable pit of doom,” he mused, spinning on his heels and strolling back to his office, “Not everyone can be on top.”
The doors closed behind him. His polished white shoes clicked on the tile. The sound bounced off the large windows, which comprised the majority of three entire walls. As he stood in front of them, he breathed deeply and stared through tinted glass at the flat tops of the surrounding buildings. The top of Eternal Mountain did not end in a ceiling, but rather a pointed glass peak, from which hung a chandelier. Moonlight filled the room, reflecting off the black floor and the glass of his desk. He turned from the window and strode back across the room to the only wall. On the floor, the shattered glass sculpture of himself made him curl his lip and press the button on the intercom.
“Get someone up here immediately.”
Pinching his forehead, he collapsed on a couch and removed a pill case from his shirt pocket. Hastily, he popped a large green tablet and lied flat, staring at the moon. It was much larger up here. So much more for him to see.
He grabbed a stack of newspapers from the glass table and skimmed the headlines.
E.P.I. rises 13%, market plunges.
purse dog drugs outweigh school teacher salary.
black pyramid kills 27 pigeons, PETA outraged.
7-yr-old charged with murder, ‘we couldn’t afford side-effect meds’ pleads mom.
eternal pharm or eternal debt?
“Clean that up,” he responded, tossing the newspapers aside and rubbing his forehead, “And tell that blasted chemist to work on this Eternity Pill, I found a grey hair last night.”
“Eternity Pill?” the voice inquired.
“Supposed to stop aging, dammit,” he sat up, holding his head in his hands, “It’s not working. I have a headache.”
“All medications have side-effects.”
“This pill doesn’t have those added in.”
“I wouldn’t be at the top without the side-effect meds,” he paused, staring at the glass tabletop before turning around, “Why’re you talking to me, Baits? Clean that mess up and get…”
His words froze as he stared at the floating black cloak hovering above the shattered statue. Forged metal chains rested in a pair of white skeletal hands. Black smoke filled the faceless hood.
“Your time has come,” echoed the figure, “Your folly has escaped me for far too many years. You send more and more to me every day, but your clock has long run-short.”
The man slowly stood from behind the couch and took a cautious step back.
“And I welcome you,” said the man, “I have achieved everything I wanted in this life. I reached the peak of my mountain and have found contentment. I am ready, Death.”
Holding out his hands, he stood before the window, waiting to be taken. The shadowy figure floated slowly toward him, the clinking of the chains echoing off the glass walls. Utterly calm, the man faced Death, his eyes locking on the shackles.
“Is that what you use to take me into the eternal realm?” he inquired, pointing at the chains, “Do they hurt?”
Death did not respond. Its bony fingers wrapped around the man’s wrist. His arm immediately went ice cold.
“You can have me, Death,” the man said as Death unlocked the shackles, “But can I at least see how they work?”
He stared into the faceless cloud of smoke, his arm stiffening from the cold. Death did not respond. Slowly, it released its grip and held up the shackles.
“Although you were a wicked man, all men are given a final wish,” it breathed, “is that yours?”
The man nodded. “Yes. Show me how the shackles work.”
Death raised the chains and slowly dropped a shackle over his bony wrist. A cold breeze brushed the man’s cheek as Death shackled its other wrist. The second the lock clicked, the man snatched the large chain and dashed to his desk, jamming the bunched links beneath the leg of the table and waltzing to the center of the room, beneath the chandelier.
“You fool!” he cackled, “I, a mere mortal, have captured Death!”
He pranced across the floor in sick delight, beaming at the cloaked figure chained to his desk.
“With you gone, my customers will never die! They’ll get weaker and weaker and require more meds to ease the pain of their deteriorating health. With more side-effects than ever before, I will be selling more drugs than even I thought possible…I’ll be able to expand, build a taller empire, be on top of more industries…go overseas…become more powerful than…” he paused laughing, “God Himself!”
An ear-splitting silence engulfed the room. The chandelier shook on its chain and Death’s faceless stare pierced the man. Suddenly, the window became riddled with spider-webbed cracks and the tower itself shook violently. The man was knocked to his knees as the northernmost window shattered to pieces before his eyes, sending an almighty wind pouring into the room.
“Thou hast outlived thy life,” bellowed a voice louder than the pull of the wind, making the CEO of Eternal Pharmaceuticals crumple to the black tile in the shattered remains of his glass sculpture. “But thou shall never control the due course of Life and Death. For this…”
The chains binding Death to the desk disappeared before materializing tightly on the man’s wrists, “Thou shall suffer a fate worse than Death.”
The man felt himself being lifted into the air as the grip of Death locked around his neck. Then he was sent spiraling out the broken window of the pyramid, flying faster than the pull of gravity down the glass faces of the building. His screams were lost to the wind, and he stared in fright as he passed below the tops of the other buildings. Death’s freezing touch expanded to his whole body and he watched the ground rising up to greet him. The bellowing voice reverberated in his ears. A fate worse than Death.
He forced his eyes shut as he prepared for contact with the ground. But he never hit. He continued to fall. Death was still locked firmly, frigidly, on his neck.
“Man consumed thy poisons, hoping he could reach the peak of his struggles and be free of pain. Thou hast deceived him, so thou could reach thine own selfish peak.”
The icy clutch on his neck turned to extreme heat, and suddenly he was burning. He screamed, but the falling wind muted every cry. Opening his eyes, he stared into the burning flames and emaciated corpses floating along the black river beneath him. The bony fingers were prying into his shoulder.
“Let thou suffer what thou hast made man suffer.”
Flames engulfed his body and ate away his clothes, leaving him scorched and naked as Death dropped him. With an earthly thud, he collapsed to the burning stone floor. Shocked by the heat, he leapt up and fell against a heap of twisted metal. Pulling a shard from his shoulder, he turned around to face the scattered remains of his Eternal Mountain. The shards of black glass were scattered entirely over a stone mountain, all the way to the pointed summit, nearly out of eyesight from the lowly base. The mountain was just as tall and just as steep. A boulder, as tall and as wide as him, materialized before him.
“Pick up thy rock, Sisyphus.”