By Kevin McKenzie

She was just lying there, so still. Her curves murmured to him. Murmured sweet lies and sweeter truths. Gentle curves, ridged in cloth and chains, nothing could silence them, nothing could ever drown them out. Golden chains had always seemed to adorn her, like some old pagan temple, a shimmering sacrifice to glorious and greedy deity. That was wrong- She did not live for herself, not greedy at all. She... She seemed above that, above what personal quibbles and quoes to which others were geared to adhere. The gold, sheerly his idea, saw her looking at it in the store, couldn't resist. Ringing in his head, indeed in his wringing fingers too, how pretty the gold was, how well it matches your eyes.

Caught red handed, his subconscious retreated, revealing a full scene, already played out, actors gone and props ruffled. There she was, those gentle curves, all up and down her face, sloping, loping in search of some unknown factor, that thing he could never quite finger, that thing that made her smile. Her smile... Mouth agape ever so slightly, just enough to have a thin film still connecting the lower lip to the upper, left her smile ever so slightly visible, but out of reach. No coy remark would bring it back.

Blonde hairs tickled her face, but didn't elicit the familiar sneeze or swat. They didn't elicit much of anything at all from him either, except an urge to brush them back. It was almost covering her eyes, the awkward way she was laid out.

A tear glided gently down the curves of her face, like a dark little canal in a pale field. Mascara tinged the stream, a light purplish hue, that one that offset her eyes so well... Her eyes. After staring a lifetime into them, he couldn't tell their color. It changed with her moods. Once he remembered it had changed with her contacts, but only once. She saw the way he looked at her, not at all angry, but just as a stranger, staring into an unfamiliar set of eyes, not the lovable ambiguity of hazel or green or brown, but rather cold, steel blue.

Suddenly, numb pain wrenched through his head, wracking his body. Just to see her laid out like she was, it didn't seem real. Lighting, really, that was it. Arcing between two clean shades, freshly wiped no more than an hour ago, light danced about on the walls, the carpet, her face. All ghastly white, too new and clean to have ever played host to life. Not so much as a single mote of dust speckled the air, none provided some infinitesimally small shield to protect him, the way he had protected her, keep that horrible, sterile coat from lavishing his pale skin.

His subconscious kickstarted, horrified into fantasia. In front of him rewound his life: the day, the week, the year. It was all pleasant, yes. Never. She had never asked to so much as lie down, she just did. Right there on the carpet, unceremoniously draped half over a clear glass coffee table lined with old news papers and guitar picks. Never, she never did. Just keeled over, not so much as a hand out in front to break the fall. Never said a thing. Rewinding and slowing, playing, rewinding, pausing. He couldn't find what it was. The last thing she had said. All he could remember was his rushing over, his analytical mind diagnosing, all alit with possible prognosises, one by one whittled away until only an impossible truth remained.

Just as painless as it had anesthetically slipped away, reality was back again. Gnawing on the frayed corners of his sanity, the white room expelled him. No thoughts accompanied his troubled pace as matter conquered mind and his body took full control of itself. Feet dragged him one step closer, and closer still to a destination his mind had not fully realized.

Out the door, over the welcome mat, and stumbling down rough concrete stairs he had little preoccupation in the way of direction. No clear cut map in his mind was drawn per usual, but instead a sort of auto pilot had taken hold. Crossing the lawn, he padded past his two cars. He lacked the mental coordination to find the keys, all thought devoted to destination rather than journey. At a loping angle he walked over grass and concrete and grass again, winding his way through entirely motionless sidestreets. Every now and again, there was a car just stopped in midstreet, occupants all playing a marvelous game of possum. Not even stopping to recognize the faces of his neighbors, he picked up the pace, his light padding feet making a more deafening thud in the silence.

The more expedient the pace, the quicker horror flashed before his eyes, receiving less personal attention. At an intersection, cars lay scattered about like confetti, like some sick cosmic party favor. One hundred million times worse in magnitude, this death had no bearing on him, his stomach still having trouble digesting his own personal tragedy. Standing on the curb, he had hardly realized he stopped. A moment passed before his eyes looked across the street, seeing a blinking traffic sign, flashing red, green, and yellow, all at once. Curiously fixated in his gaze, however, was the crosswalk signal. His feet were unwilling, unable to move of their own volition, as if following orders from some invisible traffic cop. It said, by way of blinking stick figure delineation, do not walk, and his legs simply refused to disobey. Inside him flickered of a sense of humor, dark as though its light was, and promptly brought him to his knees. The concrete struck hard, but produced no outward effect. He simply lay there a moment, inaudibly sobbing, able to make no tears.

Again, all cognizant thought was silenced, all that was to be heard was the soft flopping of shoes' soles against uniformly rough sidewalk. In some off handed tangent his mind considered the scuff marks from all the boots and cleats and skateboards that passed there before, and how anticlimactic an end for a sidewalk's usefulness his shoes were. They had seen better, but this would be the last they would ever see. All his hazed thoughts made no prognosis of him returning down this path.

And as though dropping from the sky, across a dingy street lay the church. Its steeples ran high into the air, adorned at the apex with a mottled gray cross, although he did not bother straining his neck to see. All he could see was the cold gray brick, punctuated by stained glass kaleidoscope windows. Crossing the street, he could hardly suppress his instinct to look both ways. Already over a small flight of stairs, he paused at the doors. Massive and imposing, the oak doors seemed thoroughly medieval, with the exception of their metal pushing handles. How awkward they seemed, he had always envisioned the pearly gates as white and dazzling, cutting high into the sky, or at least as high as one could cut from a vantage on clouds.

His train of thought was abruptly cut short by a vicious, albeit well placed kick to the doors' handle. Bursting open with a horrendous blast that reverberated through the silence, the portal guards quivered in seeming fear of the new visitor. With a step inside, his stride calmed. Leisurely he paced past the pews, letting his eyes wander, gathering thought. From under the curtain of the confessional box, an arm grotesquely groped for something outside, something he couldn't see. His expression hardened. Death seemed no more appropriate in the House of Commons than that of God.

Leering about, he still tried hard to focus his thoughts. Elusively they dodged him, truths ever so narrowly skipping through the grip of his mind's sieve. Through the air on either side, little particles of dust idly loped about. In irregular intervals, they caught the beams, glowing in the variety of hues offered by stained glass and stained light. Directly in front of him, on the ground was a circular spot, scuffed mahogany flooring glowing brightly. Stepping into it, he was blinded almost at once by a clear glass window, high on the domed church ceiling, showing the sun in all its blind glory. The pillar of light struck a raised crucifix, on the central altar, making the motes of dust seem like swarming, petitioning souls, freed from their earthly bondage, to just now find His statue as unfeeling and cold as the stone from which His visage was carved.

And with that, his thoughts were collected.

"I tell you what, God, my life is yours if you bring her back," He thought a moment before adding, "And the rest of the world, too."

He couldn't stand the thought of her being lonely, like he was right there, in the presence of only husks and God.

"Well?" His mind didn't consider the inequality of the deal, how if a soul were a dollar, He already came out winning. This thought compounded with the lack of response, of divine intervention, of the cold, black solace of death knowing that she might live, made him clench fists and grit teeth.

"God damn it..." Anger welled up inside him like a flood being held at bey by a leaking sandbag wall. The wall was quickly being reduced to singular floating bags filled with dirt.

His mind whirred furiously, all restraint disintegrating in a deluge of hate, rearranging his words.

"Damn it, God!" His faced turned red, and without thinking, he raised an accusatory finger at the statue of Him, hung up as a dark silhouette against the light.

"Tell us to blindly obey, lest there be Hell to pay," he jabbed his finger out further for emphasis,

"Guess what, while you weren't looking, asleep at the cosmic wheel, too busy to care, Hell paid itself out in full," he spat angrily at the last word, huffing in a deep breath before continuing,

"With interest, two thousand years of interest and culmination," he suddenly got a decidedly poignant picture of her in his mind,

"Let loose in wanton arbitration on good and bad alike." By this point, stinging, red hot tears, from rage or grief or possibly both, blinded him from launching any more accusations. Thoughts and epithets faded in his mind, clouding it up like his vision.

"Why should You care, anyway-"

Kevin McKenzie