Shit, death is painless. Here among nothing pointed to the cliche of an afterlife, a bright light. He smells nothing. He feels nothing. But he knows he is and that is enough to give him confidence as images from his life begin to bombard him.

Birth, bloody mess that was, mother- white with exhaustion and bloodloss, “just one moment more, please! Let me look at him,” but when he gets there, there’s nothing for him to see but a lifeless husk.

Had that affected the next 33 years?

Was that the inciting incident?

The idea haunts him as he begins his childhood.

An evil, evil little mate who liked sharpened pencils and playground fights. He remembers the fun, how he longed to torture, but now looking at it, he wishes he could stop the memories. Memories he can’t deny are his own actions. Memories that aren’t as fun as they were.

Puberty was when things really took off for him. His first hit at thirteen, twenty buck by a street guy looking to move up the easy way.

Losing his virginity to a crying Shelia, he wasn’t the first that night and he wouldn’t be the last.

Crime after crime committed to feel the zing of handing it to society. The thrill of every maligned act, that now he sees he picked like an option on a menu.

Sin please, straight up.

And he is in and out of Jail.

Time goes slower, so agonizing, the memories of going before a judge, of waiting for freedom, of losing it again, over and over, all stupid moments in his wrong-headed pursuit of nothing.

So he gets angry and kills a snoring celly.

“Life,” says the judge.

And he replies, “you can have it, been worthless anyway” and spits a snot-soaked loogie onto the judge’s desk as he passes by in shackles on his way home, back into the system. A memory he has prized, but now hurts worse than violence as he is lead away to begin three years in solitude, in nothing, a nothing he feels now again in agonizing detail.

As he nears the light and what he has come to recognize as some kind of end, he knows the moment of his actual death is coming. Too young, thirty-three, but just lingering on life support living in an iron box. He can’t remember how though. Ultimately it was the system, but he is curious and dreading the details. He now knows he deserves it to be painful. But he wants it to be over and wonders if there is a way to allow the memory to slide past without him having to register it, but before the moment can be shown to him a figure appears, blocking it.

He cannot see the figure directly, it is just a shadow whithering like black smoke when he tries. Then with a voice like charred meat it says, “not yet.” and he finds himself again at his birth.

This time though he wants nothing more than to hold the baby boy she just birthed, “just one moment more, please! Let me look at him,” he begs but is denied as the same nothing starts again, his life over and over again in excruciating detail for eternity.

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