by Holly Christy
(Athens, Ohio, USA)

It was a wretched, irrevocable darkness, a place that I wished to escape with every piece of my soul. The complete, solid horror of it led me to wander further into nothingness, to claw at nonexistent walls, to thrash like a captured beast in hope of finding any way back to the world of the living, though I knew that my efforts were in vain. I could feel the pain of the world I was leaving behind: the cold, sharpened metal plunging into my body; the loathing of my masked, unidentified enemy; the heat of the flames devouring me, stealing away all life, all hope... I screamed, hoping that somehow the agony would lessen. It did not subside.

I felt as if I would fall from the strain of everything - yet I was no longer a part of any world or body, but only a formless fragment of what had once been a man. This place that had imprisoned me - if, in fact, it were a place and not merely a state of mind - had neither ground nor sky, boundaries nor signs of endless bounds. It was a world separated from all other worlds, a prison of unreality and confusion, a dimension that had no knowledge of time, life, death or humanity. I felt as if it had become a part of me, some peculiar illusion produced by my pain as I died, though I knew it to be only death itself.

Why had a man taken my life with such violence, such loathing, without so much as showing his face? Had I been so wicked that I had provoked a man to end my life in an act of desperation? I let myself slip away from the past and future until I remained in a land of nothing, letting life and death and whatever else lingered in the transition-world take effect. My memories never faded even as time passed, meaningless. Death was not an end to all things; rather, it was a transition to an infinite, haunting echo of life, a new form of existence that was hardly worth the pain of pressing on. I could never escape, never forget, never learn the answers to the questions that so tormented me. What sort of man had murdered me? Why had I forgotten nothing, rather than resting in the peace that came with knowing nothing?

The darkness faded and turned to light, and with it came a new era, the beginning of my afterlife. Alecial Santiago Hale was dead. A piece was what continued to suffer, a piece of my soul that could not find rest even in death. Death lived on and prevailed within me, and I was caught in the middle of a vicious cycle.

There had always been memories - memories of laughter, memories of screams, echoes of the things that would never leave me after even my own life had. I felt trapped in the memories, the thought of some better life, more than I had ever felt confined to the darkness. A pain overwhelmed me, making my body surge with unbearable heat until the darkness finally faded to nothingness.

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