It was pain. Pain, which had ceased to be a word, and had taken an animal form as it gnawed at my intestines. My lips were throbbing and it felt the capillaries were bursting one at a time. My oesophagus burnt, dry and pepper-like. I tried to compose myself. And in the jazz and music around me, I just could hear one word ringing through my brain: Poison.

The party was good, starting from the dim metallic lights, the urbane musical score, and the cozy couches, the glitters and jazz, pretty neat. I looked around. Mostly couples busy in their one-two’s, the singles in the bar or on the floor. I had managed to take the quite armchair in one corner, trying to be as nondescript as possible…

With another sharp punch in the gut, I wondered, who could it be? I mean, I wasn’t short of people who would like to do this to me, but why this way and why now? He could have done it one the way back, shooting my skull off it axle. Or pushing me on the tracks as the train approached, or some other safer way, by which it would have attracted lesser attention. I am sure, when I am gone, there’s going to be an investigation and someone’s going to get caught.

I tried to run my mind back a few hours. This was my third drink; I hadn’t taken any food. First drink was from the bar, I saw the barman pour the bourbon into my glass. He couldn’t have possibly done me in, without doing another ten guys at least. Out of the question. I looked up at the guy, as if to counter check my line of reasoning, he was smiling and doing tricks with a bottle of tequila. I had tipped him too, I think…

I took another sip from my glass. My tongue has now swollen. It is impossible to appreciate a good drink with a swollen tongue, trust me. I gulped the liquid down. The oesophagus burnt, as I had expected it to. I waited to see how it felt as it went down to the stomach. Patience, patience, patience (I expected a great deal of pain, probably the finisher). Nothing happened. As I put down the glass, I felt a certain bluish numbness on my fingertips as if the hand that held was not my own. I smiled at myself for thinking up such melodramatic lines. Easy. Relax.

The second drink was a shared one with the host. A generous guy I must say, in the first place to invite me here, and then to share his drink. I have always liked this fellow, appreciated his style as one may say, but from a distance. I was quite frankly shocked more than surprised to be invited to his party; I had postponed a few appointments of my own to be here. And behold!

By now, the lower half was gone, the eyelids drooped, and the lips I would think were bloody or was I just drooling? Whatever. I had envisioned my death quite a few times. I had rehearsed my last words, or if it were so that I was dying alone, what I would write down as my last message to posterity. I had always believed the best death was of a soldier, and better than that was that of a fallen climber, dying as a bird, letting going of his wings. Quite romantic, isn’t it? I had even given a passing thought to euthanasia, and spoke to a few friends in phony confidence about giving me the fatal push. I had also, well, as one would have suspected by now, planned my retirement with great care and precision.

I tried to stretch myself in the easy chair a little, and then changed my mind. The pain was staple by now. The fire had spread so much inside me; I had started to feel like the fire. The needles have melted; it was as if the organs, that I knew existed inside me, have always fused into one fluid corrosive mass. I looked at the armrest, the drink, the third drink, glistened with the night and thin fragile rings appeared with each thump of music. I noticed the ochre lights traveling throw the amethyst liquid from the bottom and exploding on the surface, shining off the rim of the glass. I looked on, as a wave of euphoric indifference swept over me.

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