My whole life was destroyed in the span of eight hours.

I guess if you want to get technical, it was over the moment the tractor trailer plowed into Deck's car and turned my skin into swiss cheese. If you want to get metaphysical, my life was over the moment the goddamn truck driver decided, "Well, one more beer won't kill me." For the fatalistic, it was over before it even began. Whatever. None of this matters now.

As Ray Filardi drives me over to his house, though, I can't help but think that if I woke up from my coma a little earlier, this mess wouldn't be happening.

Actually, no. I could end this right now with one phone call. If I just called Dad and told him that I was okay, I'd be in his arms right now, and in a week, we'd be taking each other for granted again, just like old times.

Why can't I make that phone call?

Is this really a dream, and the water I splashed on myself didn't count?

Was the explanation something that didn't fit in with current rational science?

Theory number six. Whatever this is, rational science has nothing to do with it.

Ray, it turns out, lives with his parents. He's explained the situation to them, and although they're extremely confused, and although Ray tends to be a bit of a freeloader, they're samaritans at heart and they've agreed to let me stay in the basement while I pull myself back together again and find a place to live.

The moment Ray shows me the basement, I begin to consider myself a little lucky, in comparison to the day's previous events. There's not much in the way of privacy because the personal computer, the video games, and the home theater are down here, along with a massive DVD library. On the upshot of things, the personal computer, the video games, and the home theater are down here, along with a massive DVD library. I'm sure I can keep myself entertained.

"Hey," said Ray, "Some friends of mine are coming by tonight, since you're living in the basement now, would you mind too much if I bring them down here?"

"Are they loud and obnoxious?"

Ray seems to be caught off guard here. He stalls, and then says "They're pretty cool people."

I nod my head. "I'm not asking that because I mind, you know?"

"Well...yeah, they can be loud. Not obnoxious, but loud."

"Drinking going on?"

"No driving."

"OK...can I join you guys?"

Ray smiles. "I was hoping you would."

Great fucking idea that was.

I'm now lying face down on the couch, head turned to the side, a wastebasket under me. It's daytime. Ray's nudging me in my gut. "Yo, Mara. You all right?"

I turn face down as I ask "What the fuck happened?"

I remember Jake, a wiry sort of guy who happened to have a black belt in karate. I remember Sofie, his girlfriend who was apparently a genius or an anime geek of some sort (probably both). And I remember Poland, this mountain of a man, all fat, no shame.

Ray filled me in on the rest. The five of us were playing a game of Asshole, and everybody was having fun. At one point, I guess I was pretty toasted, and I happened to mention what had happened to me, who I am.

"Great," I said when Ray told me this, "I can tell three drunken strangers my identity, but I can't tell my dad. Makes a girl feel real special."

"You mentioned that, too. By the way, they do remember, and I was going to swear them into secrecy, but they were already a few steps ahead of me."

Anyway, apparently Poland declared me a superhero of some sort and he dared me to fly off the roof of the house. I wasn't drunk enough to do that, though, so I politely declined. Actually, the exact words were "Fuck you, no!"

We started trading theories during our game, and at one point, they got so interesting, Sofie pulled out a voice recorder she always carries and started recording them. I listened, but nothing seemed to stick. The inevitable "Superhero" thing came up, but...nah. I'm not much of a fighter.

Jake, being spiritual and all, wondered if my mother had something to do with this. I was drunk enough to say, "Don't you think she'd make me look more like Scarlett Johannson and less like Eartha fucking Kitt?" This got big laughs, and I think that's what I was going for.

A little later, Poland theroized that I was put back on this Earth for the sole purpose of jumping off the roof of this house and flying. And since he was President and I was Asshole on that particular round, who was I to argue?

As it turns out, no, I can't fly. And I go to the fridge to get myself something to drink just in time for Ray to tell me that I must've shattered my leg on the fall down, at the very least.

I should be thinking about why my leg healed up.

I should be thinking about how to start my career as a superhero since that must be why I'm back.

Actually, I shouldn't be thinking about that because my only power so far is healing and advanced instincts. Formative, but not exactly spandex-worthy.

But I definitely should be thinking about getting my old life back together, reuniting with my father, making sure that Deck's all right.

All I can think about, though, is cooking the Filardi's a nice meal. It's the least I can do for them after they let me crash here

It's a nothing dish, but I loved it back when I was still alive. I just took some chicken cutlets, battered them with bread crumbs and a pinch of Lawry's Seasoned Salt, fried them up, and made a meal. I even baked some curly fries for them. Leave it to me to cook a nice fattening meal.

Graduation's going to be in a month or so. A big memorial for me is about as certain as Romeo and Juliet killing themselves. Wonder what song they'll play?

I was always a big fan of "Baker Street" myself. Not exactly a mourning song, but it worked for Bleeding Gums Murphy, why not me? Double cool points if they play the Foo Fighters cover

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is about a train crash if I remember correctly, but it's still just wrong.

If they play "One Sweet Day", I'm going to strip naked and run through the ceremony. And while I'm at it, I'll scream "I'LL SWALLOW YOUR SOULS! I'LL SWALLOW YOUR SOULS!" just so I can scar those jerkoffs for life.

I stop frying up cutlets and slump down to the floor.

What the hell am I doing?

By making the choice to keep the most important people in my life out of contact, I'm essentially faking my death. I think that's against the law. It'll definitely mean jail time.

I could tell them that the voices in my head told me to keep everyone in the dark. Get myself into a nice, comfortable asylum. All the benefits of prison, plus medication and minus late-night Cinemax material.

I go to the phone.

No voices.

I pick up the phone.

No voices.

I dial my dad's cell phone number.

Still no voices.

The phone rings on the other end...twice...three times...

"Hi, you've reached Detective Price, I am not available right now but if you leave me a message I will call you back." BEEP.

Every word I should say rushes through my mind at a million miles per hour. "Dad, I'm fine, I'm safe, I'm coming home soon, I love you, please don't cry, everything is going to be like it was again, I promise, and I'll never leave you, ever, ever, ever!"

Not one of those words leave my lips. I hang up, ashamed of myself.

And now I start to cry.

I can certainly fry up a mean chicken cutlet, and the Filardis have discovered this as they eat my culinary perfection in front of the TV. Mrs. Filardi's complimenting me on my dish as Mr. Filardi turns on the news.

"--turn in this story. The body of Jorge Avila was found in his holding cell, shot several times."

A mugshot of Avila pops up on the screen. He's a bald man with a mustashe. The picutre is faded, a bit dangerous. And my stomach instantly turns.

I don't know how I know, but I know.

"Avila was a truck driver arrested for plowing into a car holding two teenagers on their way to school. He was reported to be drunk at the time of the accident. The driver of the car, Declan Morris, sustained minor injuries, but the passenger, Mara Price, was killed instantly. Mara was 18. Avila was 47."

And now they know.

The reporter has moved on to the next story. We haven't.

The Filardis feel for me, except they don't know what I'm feeling.

They think that I'm sad that I was reminded of my killer. Or that I'm happy because the man's dead. Or maybe they think I'm worried because my dad is a cop, and he has access to a gun. And the holding cells.

But I feel none of these things.

If my father was going to kill Jorge Avila, he'd torture him first. He never liked drunk drivers to begin with, and the fact that one took his daughter probably didn't sit well with him. No, this was a professional hit. And professional hits were usually the sign of something much more sinister.

Suddenly I have a direction. A reason for being here. My death was more than simple tragedy, more than the end result of booze on the brain of the driver of a tractor-trailer.

Some serious shit went down. Now I'm going clean it up.