I spent nine days and nine nights on that floor. Orderlies came in and checked on me, cleaned me, fed me. Doctors, too, came in. They asked me questions, wrote on clipboards. I shut them all out.

Eventually, they had to let me go. They said it was because there was nothing they could do for me. I knew it was because my money had run out, and my family couldn't afford to keep me there. On the bright side, they said, I was now more in touch with reality.

The black dog never left my side.

She told me her name while we laid on the floor. Mara. For the Hebrews, bitterness. For the Buddhists, a demon, a tempter who makes the negative seem positive, who embodies death in the eternal cycle of existence. For me, a companion. More than a companion. A friend.

I'm sitting in my kitchen now, drinking a cup of tea. I don't take the pills they give me. I don't leave the house. And I'm out of money now, but it doesn't matter. I can still see the abyss whenever I close my eyes.

Mara nuzzles my feet. I look down, and suddenly it occurs to me. Death. In some twisted way, death is the only thing that holds even a shred of hope for me now. The inalienable human spark.

The afterlife is the only possibility. The only way that I could ever hope to recover it. And if there is no afterlife? I couldn't be any worse off. Nonexistence or some sort of endless sleep would be far better than continuing like this. The after life is the only possibility.

For the first time in months, I am motivated. The black dog follows me as I trip down the stairs to my garage. I know just how I'll do it, too.

I pull out of my driveway, Mara still beside me, her head out the window. We continue down the flat, straight road to the overpass. My seatbelt unbuckled, I reach fifty miles an hour. Seventy miles an hour.

The overpass approaches me at speed. It is a two bridge overpass, one bridge for each lane of traffic. A river flows in the gulf between the sides. Nearing eighty miles an hour, I aim for the small gap between the two bridges.

With a lurch, we are airborne. The car shoots down and out into the abyss.

We hit the water, hard. In the impact, Mara, who had her head out the window, is decapitated. I am not so lucky. Pain blossoms in my forehead, where the steering wheel has left its mark. My head snaps back against the headrest with a cracking noise.

Water floods in through the windows, enveloping me like a blanket. The black dog, now headless, floats to the ceiling. Her blood clouds the water, gives it a metallic taste. It creeps up my face, over my mouth, over my nose, a stifling savior.

My lungs burn from lack of oxygen. Darkness eats away at the edge of my vision like a consuming fire, like a parasite. It pounds in my head with my heartbeat, a war drum of pain. Everything turns to blackness.


Suddenly, I woke up. Again, I was lying on the ground, but I felt weightless. Mara's headless body was beside me, and we were surrounded by whiteness.

Sitting up, I looked around. I didn't see an end to the pure whiteness around me. It blinded me, scalded my eyes. Looking back down at the black dog, I noticed that she was breathing. Her feet stirred. Suddenly, she was standing, as though she'd only woken up from a nap. I frowned. That was mildly weird. Turning away, I looked around again, my eyes adjusted to the brightness.

The bare outline of a door appeared.

The End

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