Taylor Jensen is always trying to figure out why nothing really feels right, y’know? Nothing feels, y’know, real, man. On that day when he was just walking down the street minding his own fucking business, before that guy got his head run over, before he found Lucky, he was off in his own world, trying to make sense of the constellations. He could see them, in the daytime, when everyone else could only see blue skies, he thought. He was sure, y’know? The stars didn’t just go away, did they? They were still there, you just had to look real hard, and in the right light, which was none, then you could really see those stars, y’know? Orion, and The Big Dipper, they were there. He didn’t take into account that you could only see certain constellations at certain times of the year from certain parts of the world. In his mind, during the day time, he could see them all. Andromeda, Cetus, Ophiuchus, even Cassiopeia. He could see the bright lights popping on the inside of his eyelids, any time of day or night.
Now, Taylor Jensen is just a man, with a plan, no canal, no Panama, no palindromes. He just needs to get to the bottom of it, y’know? Really needs to understand why he always feels jittery, as if something is about to go catastrophically wrong. Not just kind of wrong. Not just ‘man gets head exploded by oncoming semi-trailer’ wrong. Tsunami wrong. Nuclear war wrong. Colliding meteorite wrong. It fills him with a constant sense of existential anguish, knowing as he does, that something is about to go terribly awry. Every day he gets through, he marks off on a calendar next to his bed, next to his pipe and chop bowl. Every week gets a smiley face. Every month gets a little ribbon. He files those calendars – first of January every year – along with every other calendar he’s marked off to completion, in a filing cabinet he picked up for eight dollars at a garage sale.
Taylor is walking, as he does, down that same street. That very same street, if you’ll believe it. It’s 11:52, and he’s just finished his shift at the 7/11, eager to get home to his girl, to his bed, and to her generous bosom and welcoming thighs. He is walking, head in the clouds, mind in the stars as per usual, the weight of impending doom crushing him with every step. Thud, his girlfriend will be dead, just like everyone else when the warheads go off. Thud, his mum, his beautiful mum will be swallowed up whole when the seas rise to reclaim the land. Thud, those poor kids, man. Those poor fucking kids. Dead. All of them. And him too. And the worst part, is that nothing feels fixed, y’know? Nothing seems concrete to him. Every day feels like it has the ability to float away into the stars behind his eyelids, without even a moment’s notice. Some days, he wonders whether gravity is even a real force because his feet seem to want to fly away from under him, and he has to shut his eyes and realign the stars to stop his feet from carrying him all the way to Crates, or Cepheus, or Ursa Minor. Sometimes, he can’t pinpoint Alpha Centauri, and just as he’s feeling his legs start to lift, he’ll find it, finally, and settle back to Earth. And he’ll still feel that weight, pushing the air out of his lungs, even as the smoke from his pipe fills them.
As Taylor walks past the shopfront of Welkin’s Greens, he starts to experience light-headedness, just like he always does. His mother has told him thousands of times to get it checked. Go to a doctor, that isn’t normal, she always says, every time he gets a headspin from standing up. When he is too lethargic to even get out of bed until 3 pm, she just figures it’s the pot. Everyone figures it’s the pot. Taylor won’t go to the doctor because of the pot, either. He doesn’t want to be told to give it up, and he’s just certain that’s what they’ll say. Through everything, through the depression, through his tightly closed eyes, through the universe of stars behind his eyelids, his pipe has never let him down. He doesn’t trust the docs, either, he’s convinced they’ll distract him and hit some sort of silent pothead alarm, and the cops will be there in less than three minutes to arrest the dangerous drug addict. It’s fucking bullshit, he always says. Imagine arresting people for smoking something that grows in the fuckin’ ground, man. And so, he never did go get those headspins checked out. He figured the depression was its own problem, totally unrelated. He never told anyone about the stars, kept them all to himself.
He probably should have gone to the doctors.
He definitely should have gone to the doctors, although, in the end, there wasn’t much they could have done.
Taylor Jensen, soon to be deceased, is walking down that street, past Welkin’s, when he gets light-headed. He slows to a lurch, and closes his eyes. He’s busy trying to map out Ursa Minor, to try and centre himself, when it hits. Terrific pain, in the traditional sense of the word, courses through his head, and he thinks maybe, just maybe, this might be that world-ending event he has always feared. He’s panicking now – he can’t even find Polaris, the north star, where has it gone! – and the pressure in his head is so intense, he can’t even see the stars anymore. The left side of his face goes slack, then his left leg gives way, then he collapses to the ground. Just like that. He collapses to the ground, his body crumpling, like a puppet with its strings severed. His skull cracks, as it bounces heavily against the concrete. This causes a bleed on his brain, which would have been really, catastrophically bad, had his brain not already been bleeding from an aneurysm, which, having gone undetected for his entire life, finally ticked its timer over to zero.
A month and a half after the gory death of Charles Maybury, Taylor Jensen lies dead on the footpath, not even fifty metres from where Maybury met his end. It takes only five minutes for someone to discover him, but it may as well have been five months, for all the good it did. Jenna Forst, a young medical student, fresh out of university, is the one who finds him, calls 000, checks his pulse, and attempts CPR. She already knows he is dead, but in that situation, don’t you do all you can? Wouldn’t you like someone to do all they could do, to leave no metaphorical stone unturned, just to try and keep you alive? She keeps her mouth on his, pumping breaths into his cold, clammy lips, compressing his chest at regular intervals, even as she watches blood leak steadily out of his ears. The ambulance arrives, and she leaves with them.
Taylor Jensen doesn’t get to mark off his calendar, and it remains unfiled to this day.