Dying is not peaceful. Not when you can feel two tons of metal squeezing your suddenly fragile body into the unyielding earth, not when you have adrenaline coursing through your veins like a freight train barreling down tracks.
First, there is the chaos as events leading to death suddenly spiral out of human control; the car whirling through the air, the sudden stop, the screeching of metal, a fiery flash of pain, the fluids that flood your mouth as your skull cracks –
– and I do not so much wake up on the table as I become aware that I am lying on it. A single, soft-lit light bulb swings overhead. When the bulb reaches the end of one swing, an accompanying tap resounds in the space I am in, like a nail on metal.
I cannot hear my heartbeat.
“My child,” says a deeply masculine voice in the softest of whispers that flutters against my eardrums like silk against the precious flesh of a newborn.
My back arches as a throat-searing scream rips from my mouth. I taste blood.
Screams give way to whimpers. My throat burns.
“What?” I whisper hoarsely.
I feel its silken voice within me this time. Don’t be afraid, soothes the silk. Where had I heard that before? I want to give you your life back. To help me save the world. I need only one thing from you.
I don’t think. “No.”
The silk coils. Throat hurt?
The question catches me off guard. “Yes, it does.”
A warm, thick peppermint flavor floods my mouth, filling my sinuses with its refreshing aroma. My mouth instantly waters and I swallow.
It begins to burn. I try to gasp but my mouth and esophagus are on fire. Flames lick at my innards. My eyeballs burst into bright coronas of flame and when I open my mouth to shriek in perfect agony, fire plumes from my throat. There is no journey through a dark graveyard, no reliving the worst moments of my life. Just fire. Past, present, and future are only words. I see myself burn for an eternity for the instant the flame touches me.
Somewhere near the end/beginning of this torment, I am flung back onto the table. Naked, leaking everywhere.
I will return you to your existence, the silk breathes, as though the interim between its last words had been only a minor annoyance. You will go back to your friends, your family, your immoralities that plague the human existence. A single tap punctuates these words. There is a condition. In return for your continued existence, you will give me exactly one day, twenty-four hours, of your life. Gooseflesh rises along my arm as I feel the silk smile. Or you can stay with me down here.
“What does that mean?” I whisper.
The silk sighs beneath my skin. For one day of your life, you will be mine. Anything I wish of you. You cannot say no. I want you to blow up a building, you do it. I want you to donate to the Salvation Army, you will do it. No question.
I cannot stay here. “Yes.” My voice breaks.
A kiss, then. The silk ripples. To seal the deal.
An invisible force throws me to my feet. I blink rapidly but all I see is darkness before me. When I am embraced, I feel breasts press against my chest. My mind banishes the kiss from memory. All I recall is a slow song reaching a crescendo.
The light bulb bursts and I am blown backward into existence.