And you thought that you knew it all
Think again; in the end we all fall
When the truth becomes one big lie
So low you never know when you're high

— Black Label Society - Fear


Fear


I used to fear death.

Ever since I was a child, maybe five or six, death was the thing that frightened me the most. It was the unknown, I think, that really got to me. The fact that nobody could tell me with any kind of fucking certainty exactly what would happen to me, where I'd end up. With no real answer available, I was left open to envision my own scenario, to paint my own terrifying picture of what awaited me. And I was a fucking imaginative child.

The fear never left me. Throughout my life, I kept coming back to it. Night was the worst. I'd lie in bed, just on the cusp of sleep, and my mind would start wondering. I'd have to get up and walk around, try to distract myself with television or a fucking book or whatever, just to try to get to sleep. It was fucking terrible; there were a lot of nights where I didn't get nearly enough sleep, so I'd be tired as fuck at school or work the next day.

All things considered, I'd say it played a huge part in my life. It certainly shaped parts of it, especially how I acted and reacted to different situations.

Cautious?

You're fucking right, I was cautious. I avoided danger like it was the plague; never drove more than five miles over the speed limit, didn't smoke or do drugs, and was careful to stay away from the seedy parts of town. Just in case. Fuck, I even tried to avoid going out after dark as much as possible. Just in case.

I'm not saying I was a complete headcase, of course. Even with all my little quirks and the fucked up shit that went on in my head, I still managed to live a pretty normal life. I grew up, went to college, got a job, met a pretty girl, and fell in love. You know, all that normal shit.

And I was happy with it. I really was. The fear was still there, but I had shit to concentrate on, to distract myself with. It got pushed to the back of my mind, only came out when I was alone, in the dark. Manageable, I guess you could say; it got down to a manageable level.

But, like all good things, it had to come to an end.

One evening, a Tuesday, just after six, I came home from work. It was a normal day; I got off work maybe half an hour earlier than usual. I was an accountant then, for a pretty big marketing firm. The job was boring as shit, but I made good money and I wasn't really looking for excitement.

I'd just bought the house six months before that. It was always apartments and shit like that after college; I'd never needed anything bigger. But with a steady, long-term girlfriend in the picture, and the possibility of kids in the future, we decided an upgrade was in order. We picked a nice one, in a great neighbourhood, surrounded by fine, upstanding members of society. The perfect place, really.

Anyways, I parked my car in the driveway, like any other day, and made my way inside. We kept our keys in a little green ceramic bowl by the door. I dropped mine in it on the way past, and hung my coat in the hallway closet.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as I made my way into the kitchen. Usually, my girlfriend was home when I got home, but sometimes she visited the neighbours. I thought nothing of her absence as I dug through the fridge. Then, I heard something.

At first, I didn't know what I was hearing. I stood there, the fridge door open, straining my ears. It didn't take me long to place it; a voice, a man's voice.

For the briefest moment, my thoughts ran wild. Was my girlfriend cheating on me? Did she have another man upstairs, in our bed? Was she fucking him?

But then I heard something else; a muffled scream. And it wasn't one of pleasure. Someone was hurting her.

Instinct took over at that point, I think. It felt like my whole fucking body was on autopilot or something. I looked around, to the left, to the right, searching for anything I could use as a weapon. The second I spotted the knife block, sitting on the counter, I bee-lined right for it. The biggest one was sticking out halfway, calling to me. If I believed in God, I would have said it was a sign from above or some shit like that.

The trip upstairs was a nerve-wracking one, to say the least. Ever tried to move fast but still remain completely silent? While on stairs? It's hard as fuck. I'm pretty sure I managed to draw a creak from every step, and almost tripped twice. It was a disaster. But somehow, nobody heard me coming.

Once I reached the second floor, the sounds I'd heard before were much louder, much clearer. Muffled cries of pain and fear, and someone grunting with effort. And the sobs, of course. Can't forget those.

It didn't take a genius to figure out what was happening. Which was good, because I am not and never was particularly intelligent.

The bedroom door was wide open, and when I reached it, my suspicions were confirmed. It only took a brief peek around the corner of the doorframe to take in the whole scene. There were two men, big guys, bigger than me, in there. And they were raping my girlfriend.

I froze up then. I just sort of stood there, right beside the door, and stared at the wall. I was probably in shock; I can't think of any better excuse, anyways. I didn't need to take another look; what I'd seen was burned into my mind.

One of the men, the bigger of the two, was kneeling at the head of the bed. He had her outstretched arms pinned beneath him, was holding her still. One meaty hand was over her mouth, keeping her from screaming too loudly. The other man was between her legs. From the position of the door, I'd only seen him from behind. I saw him moving, heard him grunting, but that was it.

As I stood there, knife in my hand, staring at nothing, my mind went into overdrive.

I detested fighting, hated confrontation. There was too much that could go wrong, too many potential injuries. Too many ways for me too end up hurt or dead. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in a fight, either of the two rapists would physically destroy me. They were bigger, looked tougher. Not to mention they probably carried weapons themselves.

But in that moment, in that situation, it didn't matter. I had to do something, couldn't just stand there and let them continue. That was my girlfriend they were assaulting, the love of my life. And I had a knife, a big one.

So I charged forward. I'm not quite sure exactly what I was thinking, what my plan was. Maybe I thought my heroic stand would carry me through or something. Maybe the guy holding her hands down would see me coming, a ferocious expression on my face, and run away, screaming. That's how it usually works in the movies, right? How often do heroes actually have to fight?

At first, it played out almost like a fucking movie script.

The guy at the head of the bed, the one holding her down, saw me coming, He was surprised for a second, I think, but quickly reached into his coat for something, probably a weapon. To do that, he had to let go of my girlfriend's hand. By some stroke of luck, she managed to hit him in the side with her free hand. It was enough to knock him off-balance and send him off the far side of the bed. The way he wiggled to try to regain his balance before he fell would have been comical, under almost any other circumstance.

The second guy, the one with his cock in my girlfriend, realized what was happening and tried to turn toward me. But I got to him before he could, and then it was too late for him.

I'd never stabbed anybody before. Fuck, I'd never really stabbed anything. I'd cut open boxes before, and sliced open the plastic packaging my television remote had come in. And I'd carved a turkey once. But shoving a knife into a living, breathing person was a whole different thing altogether. I was committed, however.

The man's back was wide, so I had a huge target to aim for. My first strike was just to the left of his spine. It went in easily, like a… well, like a sharp knife into the back of a fucked up rapist.

Sorry, I've never been great with all that metaphor-simile bullshit.

I pushed forward until my blade hit bone and jerked to a stop. The rapist screamed, and tried to turn again. I yanked it free and struck again before he could.

I lost track of my actions at that point. It just became a cyclical effort, like I was on repeat or something; stab, withdraw, stab, withdraw, and on and on again. Since that day, I've tried to replay the whole sequence over again, but I still haven't been able to pin down exactly what I accomplished, place every stab.

As far as I can tell, I connected at least eleven times. I'm fairly certain I severed his spine, from the way he sort of slumped forward at one point, like his strings had been cut. More bones had to have been hit, as well; I remember looking down at my knife briefly and seeing the blade had been chipped and bent.

I only stopped my attack when the rapist suddenly fell forward. I kept stabbing at air for a moment or two, but eventually realized my target was no longer in reach. By that time, my girlfriend had scrambled out from under him and was huddled against the headboard, trembling violently and sobbing.

I'm not entirely sure how long my attack lasted, but at that moment, the second rapist reappeared. In all the excitement, lost in the bloodlust, I'd forgotten about him. Big fucking mistake on my part; fatal mistake, as it turned out.

"Fuck you!" he screamed, as he rose up from the floor beside the bed.

I don't know why it had taken him so long to get up. Maybe he'd hit his head on the floor during his fall. Or maybe he just hadn't like the other rapist and had been content to let me gut him. I didn't know, still don't know; probably never will. All I did know was he was back on his feet, and the gun in his hand was pointed right at me.

Now, every cop show I'd ever watched told me with as close as the man was, my knife was just as deadly as his gun. I figured I'd be able to get to him and stab him, or at least slash him hard enough on his hand that he'd drop the gun, before he could kill me. I was positive I'd be able to kill him, like I'd already killed his partner. In fact, I wanted it. I wanted him to die, bloody and screaming.

Even with that, I knew there was a good chance I'd be dead before the night was out. And I didn't care. Making this man, this animal pay for what he'd done, helped do, was more important.

So, for the first time in my life, gazing down the barrel of his gun, I looked Death in the face. I greeted him directly and unafraid. And I said, "Fuck you, old man! I don't give a fuck about you! I'm doing this!" And I lunged forward.

I didn't get him, of course. He shot me before I managed to take a full step. Got me right in the fucking chest, three times. I didn't even feel the bullets enter my body; the adrenaline was flowing too strongly. Blood was pounding in my ears, obscuring every other sound. But the impact drove me back a couple steps, and then I fell to my knees. My mind was playing catch-up for a bit, and I kept trying to get back to me feet. I just couldn't stand. Then I coughed up a mouthful of blood.

The rapist, my killer, didn't wait around to see if he'd finished me off or not. He booked it for the door, rushed right past me. I felt the breeze caused by his passing touch my cheek, even as I fell backwards, unable to even stay upright on my knees anymore.

The sound came rushing back then. I heard his heavy footsteps on the stairs, heard the horrified screams of my girlfriend.

My mind finally caught on to what was happening then. I remember wondering what she was screaming at for a second, then realizing it was probably me. There must have been a river of blood under me at that point; enough to freak the fuck out of anybody.

I'd heard stories about gunshot victims going into shock and having no idea what was going on. But even though my wounds still didn't hurt, I knew what had happened. I was aware of my injuries, could feel the three gaping holes in my chest, and I knew they meant certain death for me. I could feel myself getting weaker, could feel the life quickly bleeding out of me.

Was I scared?

I was fucking terrified. I didn't want to die. That earlier urgency, confidence, or whatever it was that had allowed me to face down death was gone. In that moment, if somebody, anybody had appeared and offered me life, in exchange for anything, I would have given it to them, without question. I would have paid anything, done anything, sacrificed anything.

But nobody appeared and I knew it was the end. Even through the terror, I knew it was inevitable and there was only one option left for me; to accept it.

So when my girlfriend managed to slide off the bed and crawl over to me, I knew what I had to do. She picked up my head, cradled it in her lap, and I felt her tears raining down on me. I looked up at her, right into her eyes, and I said, "When you bury me, I want my eyes open." I had to pause, coughed up another mouthful of blood. "I want to see everything that happens." And then I died.

I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe for everything to fade to black, followed by the appearance of a bright light. Or maybe I'd just slip away, like I was falling into sleep or a fucking coma, and be completely unaware of the world around me.

But in the end, neither theory was correct. No, instead, my body stopped working, died, but I remained awake, conscious, aware of what was happening. My eyes were opened and I could see through them, could see my girlfriend's tears, her long, blonde hair. But I couldn't move, couldn't reach out and touch her. My body had stopped working.

For a second, I wondered if maybe I wasn't dead. Maybe I was just paralyzed or something. But I quickly realized that wasn't the case. I could feel my body and I knew things had changed; there was no beating of my heart, no more rise and fall of my chest. The blood, what was left anyways, was just sitting in my veins, no longer driven forward by anything.

I think I started to hyperventilate then. Or I would have, if I'd been able to breathe. What really happened was an extended period of me screaming, thinking, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" in my head, over and over again.

It's a big thing, to die. It's even bigger when you realize you're still there, just unable to move or speak or communicate in any way with the outside world. It's scary. And that fear quickly turns to terror when you realize what's going to happen next. Burial.

I lost track of time then. There was a lot going on in my mind, what with the freaking out and all. By the time I finally came back down to reality, a lot of time had passed. I wasn't on my bedroom floor anymore; I was alone, lying on something flat, hard, and cold. It took me a little while to understand why everything was dark; I was in a freezer at the morgue.

I had another freak out then, but it was a small one. I knew I wouldn't be in there forever, and I was able to put it out of mind, at least for a little while. I focused on other things, like what the fuck was happening and if there was any way out of it. Everything I'd ever read or heard about death did not cover my situation.

I took the opportunity to feel out my body then. It was a very weird sensation, being able to feel everything around me, but not in the same way I had been in life. I could feel the metal slab beneath me, knew it was hard, knew it was cold. But it didn't feel like hard or cold used to. Now, it was just like my brain was saying, "Yeah, I recognize what that is," but nothing that normally went along with that was present. There was no discomfort, nothing beyond a clinical sense of recognition.

As I explored more, I began to notice other things. I could feel something embedded in the flesh of my chest. It took a moment to figure out it was stitches. I figured they must have cut me open, either for an autopsy, or maybe just to get the bullets out of me.

There was a low, steady rumble in the background and it took me another few minutes to place it. The motor of the freezer was what I eventually settled on. And with that, came another realization; I could see, I could feel, I could hear. But I couldn't smell.

I didn't dwell on that for too long. I really couldn't. At that point, I didn't even know if it was a permanent thing; if I'd eventually get it back or lose the rest. And I didn't know if taste was still in play or not.

Things got a little blurry around that point. There was just too much going on in my head and I couldn't handle it. You'd think those hours, days, or whatever would be burned into my mind. The very beginning of my life after death. But I really can't remember. It was all just too much.

There are parts that are clearer than others. I vividly remember coming to and seeing my girlfriend lying across my chest, crying her eyes out. There was someone with her; I think it was her father. He never came into my line of sight, so I can't be sure, but I'm pretty sure I recognized his voice. He kept trying to convince her to leave with him. Eventually, she did, but it took awhile. Even in death, she didn't want to let me go.

By the time my funeral rolled around, I was pretty much back in control of myself. No more weird blacking out or any shit like that. I remember lying in my coffin, listening to someone go on about how loved I was and how much I'd be missed.

If I could have smiled, I would have. Not a true smile, a happy one. No, it would have been a twisted smile, more of a grimace than anything else. Maybe a sarcastic grin. Because I can see the irony.

My whole life, I dreaded death. I feared it more than anything. I feared the darkness, feared the unknown. I would have given my right nut to avoid it. And now that I'm dead, now that I see what really happens when we die, I'd give anything to be allowed to fade away. The thing I feared the most is now the thing I want more than anything.

Fucking funny, right?

So now I lie here, six feet underground, and I wait. I replay every moment of my life over and over in my head, because there's nothing else to do. I don't know what I wait for. Maybe nothing. Maybe this is just what I'll do for the rest of eternity. Just lie here, looking up into complete darkness, unable to move, speak, or escape. I can't even fucking sleep. How fucked is that?

There's not really anything I can do about it. Every day, I pray for death, real death, the death in all the stories, to come for me. I want that nothingness, that oblivion to take me, because, frankly, anything would be better than the complete fucking Hell I'm forced to endure every hour of every day of my existence.

And that's it. There's no happy ending. Just that.