'The gun rises, as if in slow motion. Only his eyes are visible, the eyes of a fearful, uncaring coward. My heart thuds. I watch in horror as it is slowly pointed towards her. I'm frozen to the spot, petrified. I open my mouth, screaming silently, trying to tell myself to move, go and save her. But I am stuck. The terror in her eyes pleads with him, and failing to meet the innocent prayer, he looks away. The trigger is pulled as she blinks for the last time.'

And I wake up.

In a cold sweat, I go into the bathroom. I can barely bring myself to look at the reflection. The sight is unbearable. All I see is a depth of grief, hatred, fear, and regret; two orbs of endless emotion. I see the contours of my face, jaw set, and brow furrowed. 'I will not cry.' I look away, unable to hold the gaze any longer. Cursing myself, I let the tears flow in rivers, as I choke on the salty brine. I cradle myself and weep.

Morning comes. 'Please let it be a bad dream.' I find myself still curled on the ground, fresh, year-old tears lingering on my pillow. I don't want to get up. With a deep, shuddering sigh, I rise and yet again wish I had not woken.

'Stop doing this to yourself.'

'...But it was my fault.'

I walk past the mirror, pointedly avoiding the menacing, accusing glare that I know will greet me. I get ready for another day of useless work. I just don't understand the point of it. Life can be given, but so much more easily taken away. He never gave dealing out death a second thought, I bet. Why waste your time, when anyone can just take it? Enjoy life while you still have time on this God-forsaken earth.

'Stop it. Look what you're doing to yourself.'

'I deserve it.'

I continue my routine at my normal, sullen pace. It is not until I see the picture on my nightstand that I realize exactly what day it is. I stop. Collapsing onto a hard, uninviting floor, I no longer breathe. It has been a year. A whole year. And yet the pain has not lessened as they said it would. I still cry myself to sleep, that is, when I am granted it. I still wake up to the nightmares as I did in the beginning. I still blame myself. One year and nothing has changed.

'You should probably breathe.'

'I don't want to.'

I bring myself out of my trance, out of my river of memories, and continue, with a limply hanging head and shuffling feet. I'm late, but I don't really care. I purposely take a detour around the house. As long as I'm late I might as well make a grand entrance. I stop to look in on my little sister, still sleeping. Nothing but peace shows on her features.

'You could be like that.'

'Whatever.'

I close the door silently, wishing her sweet dreams. I leave, not yet ready to face the day. Another dreary morning. The fog is so thick I feel as if I'm drowning. It is dark, thick gray clouds blotting out any ray of sunlight. Faintly, the sounds of a busy road can be heard. Breathing deeply, I go to my car and drive to school, mustering up any ounce of optimism I might feel.

'Make it a good day; you know you can.'

'If you say so.'

The day passes, without fault or perk. I elude all the eyes more than usual, not that anyone notices. My teachers continue their lessons, noticing no difference. I imagine to them I'm just a blank stare, a face with nothing behind it. Not that I would change that image. I would rather stay off in my own world than drag them into it. Not that they would come.

'Can't you ever look at one thing brightly?'

'Ha, I thought you knew me.'

I come home, thinking nothing of the silent house. I go into my bedroom, change into more comfortable clothes, and lie down. So warm, so inviting...so undeserved. I roll off, sickened at how I could try and relax, enjoy myself, when so many things had happened on this day. And knowing I was the cause of them all. He was only after me. 'Thoughtless, ungrateful me.' I greet the bitter tang of hostility towards myself with an all too familiar sob.

'She wouldn't want you to be like this.'

'How would you know? She's not here to say, now is she?'

I stare into the dark crevices of my room, as shadows procreate in the impending dusk. Taunting, beckoning. It is not until I realize the mass of silence that I break my gaze. I wonder where my sister could be. She's normally home by the time I arrive.

'It's probably nothing, just late or something.'

'Yeah, or something.'

I frantically search the house, looking for any sign of her. Nothing. Running out the front door, there is no one, just fog and the sound of my ragged breathing. A horribly familiar thud grows in my chest. It can't be happening. Not again. 'Not today.'

'Don't panic. Just because it's happened before--'

'I don't want to deal with it again. I can't. I have to find her. NOW.'

I race around the city, distraught, tormented by the constant quarrels within myself.

'She's fine.'

'How do you know?'

'There's no need to look for her just this minute.'

'How can you say that?'

'Don't panic.'

'How can I NOT?'

I finally give in to the relentless voice of hope and reason. I go home, beaten. I turn down our street, and am greeted by the sight of a police car. I creep quickly down the desolate road, towards the entrancing blue and red flashing beacon. I fear to move, and yet I run up the steps. Once more I am torn.

'It'll be okay.'

'There are police here, how can it be okay?!'

I walk in the door, apprehensively calling out, "Is anyone home?" My father walks into the family room, with an unreadable expression on his face.

A voice, thick with tears and anger, a voice unknown to me, says, "Your sister...your..." Trailing off into a shuddering sob, he covers his face. "He took your sister."

'Oh my.'

'No...it's...not possible.'

I say nothing, do nothing, and feel nothing. One word courses through my veins, like venom through a snake-bitten rat.

'No.'

For once I finally found something with which all parts of me agreed. No quarrels, no inner animosity. Unity is unity, whether it is found in hatred, anger, or fear. For once I have found a form of that within myself. Now all I have to do is find her. Before he has the opportunity to make my life a living Hell once again.

'I know where they are.'

I run from the house, feigning anguish, but instead feeling hope-something I haven't felt recently. I finally know what must be done. He will be there. He must. I will get her back. I won't let him take my sister too. I won't give him the satisfaction. I won't see another person I love die before my eyes.

I park my car out of harm's way, a block or so from where they should be. Walking down the dark alleys, I remember in graphic detail everything that happened. He knows that making me come back to this spot tortures me. 'The terror in her eyes'-No. 'The trigger is pulled'-Stop. I shake it off. It will only weaken me. That is in the past; I must live for the future, for now, nothing else.

The concrete still has a damp muskiness about it, a residue left from the translucent mist. In the dim red light, I make out two figures. One, staring into the expanse of water before him, and one, lying on the ground, limply. I fight all urges to run and grab her, but instead plan my moves carefully. I won't make the same mistake as last time. I walk furtively toward the nauseating scene. Sirens sound in the distance. They know we're here. But I have to do this myself. I slowly shed my veil of darkness and step into the light. Vulnerability. He sees me. The same cold, cowardly eyes.

"You can't have her."

"Says who?" he questions, voice laced with a specious calm.

"Me."

I run to her and cradle her in my arms. She begins to weep, more passionately than anyone I had ever seen. I begin to cry with her, losing myself within her hair. Only the sound of a gun cocking brings me back. I look up just in time to meet the same eyes that my friend must have seen before her death. I hold the stare, defiantly, proudly, as I see the red and blue flickering coming down the street. I shield my sister without fear or doubt, knowing what is coming. He is the first to break the gaze. He looks away.

Silence.