The shattered glass stretched out across the asphalt like a freshly fractured arm. It glittered wherever the blood wasn't—which was almost a feat, I thought, since the blood was everywhere on the road. Still, the glass managed to catch the light of the sun and flashing sirens. I pretended that this macabre scene was somehow captivating, a vain attempt to use the images to distract myself from the throng of people filling the space between the accident and me. From the cars that slowed down, their nosy drivers peering innocently from windows.

I know when they saw me, they judged. They thought, Young, isn't she? Probably drinking and caused the wreck. That's what I bet. Not that I could read anyone's thoughts, but it was something that had bubbled into my mind every time I saw an accident, especially when there was some young driver at the root of it. But I hadn't even been driving. He had. And he was dead now, while I stood on two unscathed legs. I had seen his body crumpled on the other side of the guardrail, his hair wet with blood and his mouth slack. The skin on the front of his body had been flayed from the rail, and blood oozed from his chest. The foul odor of his bowels, something I had never expected and would never forget, greeted me as I had moved to sit by his mangled body, searching for emergency training I learned in high school in the depths of my memory. I should've known he was dead when his bowels released, but I still checked his pulse. I checked his breathing. I tried to resuscitate him anyway, laying him flat on the peak of the ground's contour and breathing into his dead mouth.

Will, I thought, my eyes burning with tears. I couldn't look at his stretcher. I didn't want to accept what had just happened. I kept trying to distract myself by creating poetic descriptions of the scene in my head like there was some sort of grace to a car wreck. Like there was any grace to death at all. My mind instantly reverted back to the initial moments after the wreck; it had reminded me that fecal matter and such an awful, inappropriate erection accompanied death. Being dead was shameful, not beautiful. This wreck itself was evil, malevolent.

And there were other problems here, too, that were starting to find their way to the surface of my thoughts. My mind was sinking into my stomach and I started feeling feint.

"Miss," a police officer interrupted. "You alright?"

I nodded absently in answer. The tall uniformed man started talking to me about going to a hospital. I refused. I refused because I was pregnant, and only Will had known about it. I couldn't go to the hospital. A gash in my arm most likely required stitches, but I didn't want to risk any sort of official confirmation that there was a life growing inside my stomach. And now that it was fatherless, I was at a bigger loss of what to do. I didn't know if my thoughts were selfish or inappropriate or both, and my shame broke whatever barrier had kept me from outright sobbing. My boyfriend, my high school sweetheart who followed me all the way to Providence, Rhode Island for college, was dead. His child was coming to the end of its first trimester, and I had no idea what to do.

The officers had already tried to get me to explain why he had hit the guardrail.

"I was sleeping when we hit it," I had to repeat incessantly. "No, he wasn't drunk," I also reiterated too often. "And I hadn't been drinking either." I was trying to tell them that I really didn't understand what happened. Will always wore his seatbelt, and it didn't make sense that he connected with the windshield to the point of—well, they knew. They made me take a Breathalyzer test. Just in case, they said, and I started crying again before I agreed. I was sober, but it felt like such an inappropriate thing to do to me. I was suffering.

A police officer offered to take me home after I answered everyone's questions and officially refused to go to the hospital. One of the EMTs cleaned the gash on my arm and told me it was too deep for stitches anyway, and although unhappy with my decision, said I'd probably be fine. Will was dead, but I was fine.

The officer introduced himself as Alan.

He wasn't much older than my twenty, I thought, assessing his short brown hair and the stubble that lined his soft cheeks. I shook his hand and decided not to introduce myself—he probably already knew my name. I smiled softly and thanked him as he guided me to his car. For some reason I couldn't look him in the eyes, somehow embarrassed over… everything.

"I know a counselor if you're interested, hun," Alan said gently as I got into the back of his cruiser. "We have him on retainer. So if you want to set up an appointment, I can leave you a number."

I stared at the back of his seat blankly, not sure what to say. I think I was still in shock and my brain was being slow on comprehending anything anyone was actually saying. "If it helps," he continued, "it's free. The counselor's new, but he's a really good guy. He'll listen to you, you know. It isn't easy to deal with death, but he can at least offer a little help."

"Sure." I finally decided that was the easiest reply. A number meant I wasn't obligated to go, but could if I wanted to. So before he dropped me off at my apartment, Alan scribbled the number on the back of a business card, including the man's name. Doctor Renege. I slipped the card into my pocket.

I didn't stay at the apartment. I couldn't. It was filled with pictures of Will and me, smiling, happy. He was alive in them, of course, beautiful in his awkward way. In every picture he was beaming with his slightly crooked smile, one slender arm always wrapped around my waist. The blue eyes in the picture frames seemed to follow me around. They followed me out the door, too, as I carried a black duffel bag filled with a condescended version of my life. I decided I'd stay with a friend. I just couldn't bear being here, where Will and I had lived so contently for the past year. Amy—my friend—well, she became worried when she heard me crying most nights. Not to mention I was often nauseous and throwing up some mornings, though she naively thought the cause was my traumatic experience with death. After the funeral, I hadn't improved at all, so Amy decided it was time to talk to me. She said she wished she could help. She coaxed me into talking to someone who possibly could.

From that I decided to make a call. I decided I'd meet with Doctor Renege. What I wanted more than comfort was for someone to advise me about my child. My thoughts were focused on school, not on a family devoid of a father, and I couldn't imagine carrying it to term. It would've been the plan with Will, but that could've worked. I could have taken some time out of school and work to have the child. Will wanted to hire someone to take care of the baby during the day (something he could afford, like everything else he desired). He had been excited to be a father. I wasn't ready, but being around him made me feel like I could do it. Now, though, I was lost.

"Autumn Courtland?" Doctor Renege asked, gazing across from me with large brown eyes.

I nodded nervously and sat on a comfortable chair when he motioned for me to sit down. He was an attractive man, and I silently scolded myself for thinking it. Renege was thin like Will had been, but leaner and taller. He'd have a runner's physique if I ever saw one, not that I really understood what qualified someone for that categorization. The only thing that looked awkward about him was that his torso was not proportionate to the rest of his body in that it seemed too long, but his dark hair and honey colored skin made up for it. Most noticeably, he was young. The doctor had soft features that looked untouched by age. I absently thought about how he probably got carded when he bought alcohol—that was, if he even drank.

"I'm Alistair Renege, as you must know," he began, "but I believe in formal introductions." His words were clipped by a beautiful smile, reminiscent of Will. He moved to another plush chair across from mine. Everything was reminiscent of Will to me, I noted bleakly. His office was nice, filled with a lot of dark brown wood and bookcases. There were various certificates hanging about his office. They were all encased in similar metal frames.

"I've dealt with a lot of people in your situation, people that have lost loved ones to murder, suicide, accidents… and I can help you, Autumn, if you let me."

I wasn't really moved by his little speech, and I only nodded to prove that I was listening to him.

"How have you been feeling lately, Autumn? I think that's a good place to begin."

I didn't feel prepared to talk, but I began to think about his question. Clearly not well. "I don't know," I started. "I feel awful. Obviously. William was my high school sweetheart. We—well, we wanted to get married. We wanted to get engaged. Soon, too, after college. And then all this happened—and it's so hard to say this, you know?—but he's dead."

Renege nodded at me. He wanted me to continue, I guess, so I decided that I needed to let someone know about my child. It made me feel sick to think this, but my biggest problem at the moment was that. Will was dead. I still hadn't come to terms with it, but the fact that I had lost him wasn't as immediate as having a baby forming in the stomach of a clueless, single future mother.

So I continued, redirecting the conversation. "I'm not sure if I even want to talk about this. It's like I'm accepting he's dead, and it's too soon for it. He was twenty-one. I'm only twenty. It was too early for him to die, and I don't know if this will sound selfish, but it was too early for me to lose him. And the baby—no one knows, but I'm pregnant—but what will I do with that? It's fatherless now. Me, the mother, I'm not even sure what to do. What can I do, you know? We were going to have it, and we were going to take care of it, and I can't even grieve properly for William when I have to worry about what the hell I'm going to do about having a kid."

Alistair didn't look shocked. Instead he seemed intrigued, gazing at me with the same heavy brown eyes. I frowned.

"Have you ever considered an abortion?" he finally answered.

I shook my head. "William—well, Will was Will. He was pro-life and he wanted to have the baby. I don't really know where I stand; I never thought I'd need an abortion. I thought I was smarter than that." He nodded thoughtfully at my answer.

"What's stopping you from having the baby now, besides Will's absence, of course?"

The question seemed inappropriate to me, but I answered anyway. "Finances, school," and I couldn't think of anything else to say so I punctuated my response with a shrug.

"There's always adoption."

I thought about it, and shook my head. "The thing is, I—I know this is so selfish, but carrying it to term—I mean, being pregnant while I'm going to classes? Having people look at me grow? I don't know how I can handle it. I was originally planning not going back to school at all until I had the child"—

"Oh, Autumn," he said affectionately, cutting me off. "Don't worry. There's no shame in that at all. I can help you get rid of the fetus. I have an appointment with another client in a few minutes, but I'd like to do a follow-up if you want to pursue this alternative."

I nodded. "I'd like to know the options that are available to me."

Alistair smiled at me. Too warmly, I thought. He took a business card from his desk and wrote another number on the back. "Don't think this is too strange, Autumn, but I'm giving you a private number of mine. Just in case you can't get through to my office, you can use this. Time is essential when it comes to terminating a pregnancy, so I want to be available.

"Anyway, from what I can tell, you're coping well for someone that has so much on her plate right now. We'll continue our discussion next time we meet—soon, I hope." Again, he smiled, and then moved towards me with a fluidity I hadn't noticed before. He shook my hand and handed me the business card. I left, confused. I never really heard of a psychologist offering abortion services, though I was positive he didn't mean anything along the lines of being able to do it himself. I wondered what Will was thinking now. That is, if there was even a heaven where he could watch me from. He would be ashamed. The idea of what I was considering started to bring tears to my eyes. But it's the easiest option and I'm alone anyway, I tried reminding myself over and over. I could suffer a shame I deserved and carry my child while in college, giving it up for adoption after its birth. Or I could erase it all. Alistair Renege, a professional, was obviously pushing towards an abortion. Maybe it was the smart choice.

I just couldn't know.

The phone call to set up my next meeting should have alerted me that something wasn't right about Alistair. He said he wasn't officially working for the next few days, but that having a private meeting with him at his home office would be advisable. I crushed my inner voice's urge to decline by reassuring myself that he worked for cops. Cops protected you. To employ Renege, they must've checked out his record. There was the interview. He was a psychologist, someone who took the job—who spent so much on schooling, who studied the ins and outs of the human mind—to spend a life helping people. Right? So I said sure, jotting down the directions to his house on a loose piece of paper.

His home was fairly close to my own, just outside of Providence and in a notoriously wealthy neighborhood. I drove my old beat-up car there, and—as he said on the phone—it was a hard place to miss. Renege's home was large, clearly upper-middleclass, with two stories of pewter colored exterior as well as a beautiful wraparound porch that stretched across the left side. The funny thing was, during my two years living in Providence, I had never actually recalled seeing the house before. Maybe I didn't get out enough. Being a biochemistry major, it was a pretty valid excuse. The only time I ever did get to see Rhode Island was during my summer break, where I usually opted to take a class or two and stay at the apartment Will and I shared. It was a quaint but beautiful state, as was the case with most of New England, I guess, but it was small.

The psychologist was standing on the sidewalk. Shadows cast by a beautiful oak tree in his yard loomed over him and the rest of the street, casting his bright eyes and stupid, always cheerful smile in darkness. He had been waiting for me. I parked behind his car (which looked new and very shiny; it was a Lincoln or a Lexus, but I wasn't quite sure) in the massive driveway. Alistair Renege opened the door for me. It was somewhat unsettling, but I muttered a thank-you.

"Autumn, it's wonderful to see you. I'm absolutely positive you're making the right ch"—

"I'm not making a choice yet," I reminded him. "I just want you to help me know what my options are."

He nodded curtly at me. "Right. I'm getting a little carried away, aren't I? Well, if you would, follow me inside. We can chat in my office. Would you like anything to drink? Soda? Wine?"

"How about water?" I was thirsty, but offering me wine, of all things, seemed strange.

Again he nodded, and gestured for me to follow him inside.

The interior of his house looked professionally decorated. Call me sexist, but I had doubts that a straight male could've pulled off the beautiful neutral tones and artwork that graced most of the rooms. Renege's office was significantly toned down in comparison, but the furniture in the room screamed expensive. It was the kind of stuff that I'd be able to buy years down the road, making all the hard work that accompanied my major in a monetary sort of way. It was the kind of stuff that Will and I could've decorated our future—

"How are you doing?" Renege suddenly asked, coming into the room silently, my glass of water in hand.

"As well as anyone else would be doing," I said meekly. He handed me the glass of water, and I took an ungraceful swallow. It tasted chalky, and I decided it was probably from the tap. He could buy an expensive house, afford an interior decorator, but didn't have bottled water? "I'm thinking about what Will would want, sometimes, I guess. I don't think he'd mind adoption, but abortion—it's not something he would've wanted, you see—it's so gruesome to me." I shrugged, taking another sip of the water.

Alistair nodded, smiling at me. He never frowned, I thought. "Abortion is perfectly fine. Not to mention, if it were truly unsafe, I think it'd be illegal. Many young women get it, you know, so it's not exactly uncommon. Depending on how you think about it, it's not even really immoral."

I raised my eyebrows at that. Will made an effort to drill his Baptist upbringing into my head. I mostly ignored it, that being his only real flaw, but the fact that the child was ours kept my mind going through what he would've said about the situation.

"William isn't here anymore, Autumn, and you need to do what's right for you."

"I don't know what's right for me, I guess. I could do adoption. It'd be what Will and I would've compromised if he were here."

"Have you been listening? He's not here anymore, Autumn."

Alistair was making me uncomfortable. I was taken aback by his emphasis on William's death, but I didn't say anything. I just shrugged and cast my eyes to the ground. My mind began to replay the various things my old psychology teacher had said. Some of the stuff that came out of her mouth seemed crazy to me—I was a person of numbers and logic, you know—but she was never that aggressive about things. She believed in this humanistic approach that called for unconditional love or something, and she let that influence how she treated her class. It was annoying to me. When I thought about unconditional love, the only thing that really came to mind was Greek orgies, strangely enough, because that was only a lot of s—

"Not that it matters, anyway," Alistair finally said.

I frowned after dismissing the stupidly inappropriate things I was thinking. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it doesn't matter. I got you this far, and I'm not going to let you run off now because you're God-given morals are getting in the way of this." Though his voice was suddenly harsh, he was still smiling.

Anxiety was starting to form into a knot in the pit of my stomach, and I shook my head a few times before turning around to leave. I needed to get out of here. He wasn't right. The psychologist was being so hostile; this wasn't what I had been expecting, of all things, and I was afraid of things erupting into violence.

Confirming my fear, he grabbed my shoulder as I was trying to escape his office. He spun me around with pure force, grabbed my other shoulder, and held me securely in front of him. His brown eyes flickered with an animal interest. It struck me that he was going to rape or murder me, something heinous like that, and suddenly began weeping. This is too much, I said. Fucking pregnant, by boyfriend of four years dead, and now I was going to get killed or sexually assaulted by some fake psychologist?

I screamed, more out of frustration than fear and tried to kick him away. He slapped my face in response. The pain immediately brought stars to my eyes, making me dizzy and cry out in pain. Alistair ultimately got his desired effect; I shut up and stopped moving. I continued to weep, but that didn't seem to bother him.

"Sweetheart, don't struggle," he said gently, one of his hands moving towards my stomach. He stroked it through my shirt. "It's so hard to find a woman that's been with child for over their first trimester, let alone their second trimester. There are plenty of pregnant women, sure, but everyone knows about it these days. You people and your technology."

Fucking kook. He was laughing softly to himself, like he had just told me some sort of intimate joke. If I had more courage, I would've asked him what the hell was he talking about, but I was afraid. The fact that he was not only ready to use violence but also crazy wasn't really comforting. It made the knot of anxiety and fear in my stomach tighten. I didn't know how to get out of this. At all. Even if I were stronger, I would still be a 5'4" woman. I couldn't overpower a man that was over six feet tall.

Alistair closed his eyes. His face looked at peace, and he was still smiling blissfully. "You're pushing into your second trimester. You're a dream, Autumn. Not perfect, but this will do. The car wreck was easier to create than I thought it'd be, but I did it. I did it all, so perfectly." His voice was quiet, trailing off as he continued to stroke my stomach.

I didn't know what to think. He created the car wreck? How could anyone do that? And what was this shit about my baby? It was hard to get out between sobs, but I managed to ask him what he meant. I was confused as fuck, and my mind was still telling me he meant to rape me, murder me, that he was crazy and the stuff he was saying was nonsense.

"If I had a conscience," he finally answered, after contemplating what he was going to say, "I'd feel bad about your William situation. You think I'm just some sort of lunatic, but I'm not. I'm—well, you won't believe me until it happens, but here it goes—what I am is something very, very sinister. Something your fictional God warned you about, in a way. I'm what others like me call a child of Lilith, a—'demon', you would, that devours the unborn. Not often, of course, but it's necessary and I enjoy it. And when I take away your little problem, it'll be a mixed blessing.

"No one will believe you, of course, if you tell them a demon ate your unborn child. It hasn't been documented anywhere. They'll say it's because you've experienced something very traumatic, with your William and all—and I would be sorry about that if I could, but again, it was necessary. You and your family are estranged, as far as I'm aware, and eliminating William not only gave me a way to lure you in quickly, but it also means your life is spared. You can't go around telling anyone you're close to, people that might listen to you, about this. They wouldn't believe you, either, I suppose, but it's one of those unavoidable things that means I sometimes have to kill the mother.

"You humans call us evil, but every mortal creature needs a predator—and I'm quite tame compared to the rest of them."

As he spoke my mind was becoming a tumultuous mess of what the fucks and monsters aren't real, demons especially aren't real, all he is is some deranged person who thinks this is fun, I'm probably going to get raped and killed, why is this even happening to me, haven't I been through enough, Oh, God

"Autumn," he said, pushing me down into a chair. "You're going to sleep. I don't want to physically damage you more than I already have." He waved his hand in front of my face gracefully, muttering—or was it chanting?—something under his breath.

At that, my world suddenly became dark. I was dreaming. I was peaceful.