Steel manacles bit deeply into wrists that were already rubbed raw and slick with blood. I could feel the slippery rivulets trickling through my fingers and imagined the vivid crimson that undoubtedly stained my hands and a good portion of the cell's floor. The room was bathed in darkness, leaving most of my prison hauntingly and frustratingly unknown. I was slumped against one of what I assumed were four stone walls, idly passing between the realms of lucidity and unconsciousness as my body attempted to cope with exhaustion and blood loss. What made the experience so unbearable was the overwhelming sense of dread that seemed to seize my chest and slowly constrict until I was left breathless and broken.

Trying to escape the chains had been in vain but my body had struggled to the point of collapse anyway, driven by the urge to survive. It was a desperate attempt borne from the instinct to stay alive. That instinct was waning now, dwindling and gradually dying as I became weaker.

Hours seemed to trickle by as time lost all meaning. I could've been locked in that cell for days or even weeks, I could no longer remember. I knew I was waiting for something, though. I was certain I was waiting for someone...

As my body started shutting down I finally remembered who I'd been waiting for. I was enveloped by a darkness that was much more than merely the absence of light. It crawled over my skin and slipped past my lips to drown me in an intoxicating blackness. I'd been waiting for-

"Death again? Can't you write about anything else, Kas?"

I was startled out of my thoughts as Jordy made his presence known. My brother is probably the most annoying creature on the face of the earth. He's a year older than me but acts like a toddler most of the time. He must have been reading over my shoulder, invading my privacy once again. I glared him and tried to swat his hand away as he grabbed for the notebook that lay in front of me.

"No, I cannot. Now go away," I tried to shove him away with a foot only to be pulled to the floor when he grabbed onto my ankle.

"How do you die this time, Kas? Come on, let me seeeee!" Jordy whined as he reached around for the notebook again. I clung desperately to the book while trying to untangle my limbs from his and make an escape.

"I don't die," I stressed, exasperated that Jordy still didn't understand that I never actually finished writing death scenes. Writing is my passion, I've filled out dozens of notebooks with poems and stories of death, none of which I could actually finish. I get to the part where the lights go out and the heart stopped beating... But every scene is always left hanging. I don't know what comes after the darkness. I was sure there was darkness—but then what? Death couldn't be finished with its victim so easily.

I finally managed to wriggle free of Jordy's grasp, my notebook unscathed. "Get out!" I demanded, pointing at him and then towards the door with my middle finger.

"Or what?" Jordy laughed from his sprawled position on the floor. "You'll torture me by playing The Cure? Maybe try to paint my finger nails black?" he laughed again before getting to his feet.

"Just leave me alone," I begged, tired of the constant goth remarks. I'm not actually gothic. At least, I don't think I am. So maybe I do like The Cure and dye my hair black. Maybe I am antisocial and freakishly pale. And maybe my wardrobe doesn't contain any other colours besides jet black, classic black, and the unfortunate faded black. It's all stereotypical, sure, but I can dress that way and still not be gothic. I like the stereotypical look. It's what I'm going for, after all.

"My poor creepy brother," Jordy sighed melodramatically before patting me on the head then trudging out of my room.

"Siblings should die," I seethed, closing and locking the door the second he'd left.

#

The hangman's noose isn't just a loop of rope tied off from above. It's craftsmanship, it's physics, and it's poetry. One has to account for the weight of the body being hanged otherwise death comes in the form of strangulation instead of the preferred broken neck. Factoring gravity into the equation produces the perfect length of rope from which to hang yourself. Not many people realize this fact. I know better.

The rope was securely tied off and I'd changed into one of my favourite black suede jackets with a ruffled shirt beneath. One always has to look presentable in death. The rope was coarse as I slipped the noose over my head, and I shivered as it scratched roughly against the tender skin of my neck. I was ready for this, I needed this.

"Kasey what are you doing?" I snapped my notebook shut as Mrs. Lashire stopped beside my desk.

"Notes. Writing," I eyed my math teacher's frown and tried for more coherency. "Writing notes?" It didn't look like the woman believed me. I sighed as Mrs. Lashire picked up my notebook and flipped through a few of the pages.

"I don't see any numbers in here, Kasey. You're in math class. Math means numbers."

"Yeah, whatever," I grumbled and moodily watched from under strands of faux raven hair as Mrs. Lashire confiscated my precious notebook. How could she do such a thing when I was so close to experiencing being hanged? I glared daggers at the woman for the remainder of the class, mentally willing her organs to explode. Unfortunately my Jedi powers seemed to be malfunctioning.

When the bell finally rang I stormed up to the front of the room, determined to get my book back. It's not like I was a disruptive student, and I usually did most of my homework. The teacher should have picked on someone else. I decided that the book would be mine again even if I had to rip it from Mrs. Lashire's hands.

"Can I have my notebook back?" I spat out, watching with growing apprehension as Mrs. Lashire began idly flipping through the pages.

"Kasey I think you should speak with one of the counsellors. A few of the things in here have me quite worried about you," she waved the notebook in front of my face for emphasis, almost as if to taunt me. I ground my teeth until my jaw hurt, my hands clenching at my sides as I restrained myself from strangling her.

"Go talk to Mr. Crawfield and if he says it's okay I'll give you your notebook back. Deal?"

I wanted to kill her. Mr. Crawfield is the school's counsellor and he has tried to recruit me for one of his counselling sessions on numerous occasions. Something about saving the troubled youth from Doc Martens and studded dog collars really got the man off. One session of bullshit in exchange for the notebook didn't seem too terrible, though. I was good at lying and it meant I'd get to miss my chemistry lab.

"Fine," I agreed, turning on my heel and heading for the door after Mrs. Lashire had written me a note to give to Mr. Crawfield. I didn't bother reading it. I knew it simply explained that Mrs. Lashire thought I was a suicidal freak or some other such nonsense. That woman deserved to die.

#

My hand trembled as I grasped the gun. It was a matte black semi-automatic pistol, and it struck me then just how beautiful such a lethal weapon could be. It was a modern death, an easy death. I was curled in my bathtub, shivering from water that had cooled to room temperature hours ago. My skin looked grey beneath the slightly rippled surface and I imagined for a moment that I was already dead, already a corpse. The thought made me smile.

The candles I had lit were flickering angrily, the flames desperately trying to find more fuel as the precious wax was nearly consumed. I was ready. I brought the gun to rest lightly against my temple then curled my index finger lovingly around the trigger. I would welcome death when the bullet tore into my skull and through my troubled mind.

My finger tensed and I steadied my breathing, hardly believing that these were my last few breaths. Eyes closed, I squeezed-

"Kas, Mr. Crawfield phoned!" I tightened the grip on my pen as my mother entered my room. Earlier I'd put on my best act for that incompetent counsellor and had managed to get my notebook back. I hadn't expected him to pursue me any further, let alone call my mother.

"Did he?" I feigned innocence, carefully resting my pen on the desk.

My mother pressed her lips together as she stood awkwardly by the door and surveyed me. I knew she was taking in the gothic attire. She hated it. What parent wouldn't? I smirked and let her look. "He said you've been trying to figure out how to kill yourself by writing stories in which you die."

I snorted at that and gave my mother what I hoped looked like an insufferable glance. "I already know how I'd kill myself. I don't need to write a story to figure it out." It was true. I'd been planning my death since I was twelve. I wanted it to be a bloody demise, one in which I was slowly and painfully dragged into death's embrace. Slitting my wrists was unquestionably the way to go. It was cliché, but very visually appealing.

"Kasey, you are going to stop this now."

"Am I?" I raised an eyebrow and leaned back in my chair, fully expecting my mother to retreat from my room. She didn't like it when I became disrespectful.

"Yes," she demanded, and took a quick step forward to swipe the notebook from my desk. The legs of my chair thudded back to the floor as I stared open mouthed at my mother's hasty departure.

"Mom!" I yelled, angry that my notebook had been stolen not once but twice from me today alone. From my doorway I heard the mechanical whirr of the paper shredder from down the hall and realized with a sigh that my notebook had met its demise.

#

I was in my room this time, not a dark prison cell, and there were no candles, just the dim light from my bedside lamp. It was two in the morning and the rest of the house was completely and eerily silent. My heart was thudding heavily behind my ribs, and I had to admit to myself that I was feeling a twinge of nervousness alongside my excitement. The kitchen knife I had selected was incredibly sharp; it would make the process easier.

I sat on the floor in the middle of my room and rested the blade against my wrist, eyes glued to the sight of my veins. They twisted in a brilliant blue spider web that was visible through the nearly translucent skin of my arm. I pressed down and the knife bit me, tasted me. I drew back and watched as a single bead of scarlet rose to the surface of the small cut I'd created. It was the veins I wanted, deeper.

I repositioned the knife. I knew I should be cutting lengthwise along my arm, but I planned to do enough damage that the conundrum of parallel versus perpendicular wouldn't really be an issue. After savouring the finality of that pre-death moment for longer than I should have, I finally and violently pulled the knife across my wrist.

I bit my lip hard. The pain was agonizing, but it was nothing in comparison to the overwhelming feeling of the inevitability of death. There was no more uncertainty about when I'd die; the blood spurting from my arm convinced me that it'd be within minutes.

It was amazing how easy it was to let life drain away. Had I even been living? The rug beneath me grew wet and turned dark, almost black, and I felt myself grow weaker as I sat in the pool of my own blood. I had cut very deep indeed.

I felt absolute fragility throughout my body and an icy chill that was creeping down into my very depths. This was comforting. This was death.

I kept my eyes open until death closed them for me. I was blind but still alive, waiting for the answer that had plagued me all my life. My senses slowly faded and at last my heart stopped thumping so loudly in my ears.

It was over.

Death was nothingness. It was the absence of anything and everything; a darkness that can't be called darkness because that would imply the existence of light. Nothing existed, not even the nothingness. There was no meaning, no feelings, and no thoughts. It was a return to nonexistence, an abstraction that is incomprehensible to the human mind. And all this I never knew because I too had ceased to exist.