I have pictured my own death many, many times. Death has always been such a real thing, hanging over my head every second of every day since as long as I can remember. Yet somehow, I'm still alive. My name is Kat. Kat Tana. I'm one of the luckiest people in the world. But the luck I possess is so sick and twisted; it can hardly be called luck at all.

I've always known that I would die, and it wouldn't be pretty. I just wasn't ever exactly sure how or when. I knew that it would be before I turned three hundred and five years old. I always pictured myself blowing up after hitting the big red button, my plane being shot down in the war or maybe I would be forced to wear the concrete boots and I would die at the bottom of the ocean like so many people who had been involved with the mob like I am.

But I never pictured it like this. Not like this. Not ever.

I watched with horror and despair as I saw Akio crumple, the blood pooling underneath him. My mind started to malfunction. Everything stopped containing meaning and just became a pretty picture for me to watch.

A gun.

The colour red.

The sound of a heartbeat.

A hand raised in front of me, my own hand, raising a gun at the killer of my friend.

A bang.

Another crumpled body.

I snapped out of it about then, thank god, when I heard Akio shifting a little on the ground. I dropped down next to him, foolishly discarding my gun in favour of holding his head in my hand while pressing my fingers against the wound in his side.

"Akio!" I said sharply, more sharply than I had intended. "Akio, stay with me. Keep your eyes open, c'mon!"

"Kat," he murmured softly in a tone that broke my heart. His voice sounded so weak. "It's kind of cold in here. . ."

I shook my head. "It's not, Akio. It's not. Open your eyes!"

He let out a little sigh. "Your hands are really warm. Why are you pushing so hard on my side?"

"I'm sorry, I know it hurts, but I have to keep the pressure on." I pressed my fingers against his injury even harder, trying in vain to stifle the flow of the thick blood. I grimaced, poking at the damage to see how bad it was. There was no exit wound for the bullet, which meant that it was still inside him. I couldn't get it out, though, because rooting around inside him would hurt him far too much to contemplate.

"Kat. . ." he said softly. "Look at me."

"I need to inspect your wound, Akio," I said harshly. "Just hold on."

"Kat. . ." he said. "Please. . ."

His quiet tone made me swivel my gaze over to his. As I watched, his eyes glazed over and his chest stopped rising and falling.

"Akio?" I asked.

No response.

"Akio! AKIO!" I pressed my head to his chest, trying to hear a heartbeat, but I couldn't find one. I compressed his chest, putting enough pressure on to crack his ribs, but to no avail. He was gone.

For the first time in what felt like decades—and that was probably close to the truth—the tears streamed freely down my cheeks. I wiped them away furiously, and clenched my hands. I looked over at the second corpse in the room. I dimly realized that I had finally shot Marcus, the man who had given me hell for the last ten years. I couldn't believe it. It didn't feel real. None of it felt real.

I heard footsteps coming up from behind me and someone grabbed my shoulder. I whipped around and smacked them in the face, not caring who it was. The guard went down, clutching the side of their head.

I looked down at Akio. I couldn't leave him like this, not there. I would at least bury him properly. I had never felt obligated to do this for someone before, but it felt like the most important thing in the world at the time.

I can't even remember how I managed to get Akio's body out of there. All I know was that I put him in the back of my van, stole a coffin from a morgue, then took him out to the edge of town. It took about three hours for me to dig out a grave big enough, and that was without taking any breaks. My hands were so badly calloused by the end, my palm were bleeding. But I hardly felt the pain. To me, some of my inner hurt was seeping out through the cuts in my hands.

I was able to clean him up fairly nicely. Well, as nicely as a corpse could be, anyway. He looked like he was sleeping, his hands clasped over his stomach. The weight of it was finally beginning to feel real to me. I would never get to talk to him again, I would never get to hold him. . . Not that I had ever held him in the first place. It's kind of sad that the only time I ever held him so intimately was when he was dying.

I gripped my hair with both hands. "Stupid, stupid, STUPID!" I yelled. "Why didn't I ever tell him how I felt?"

I cried again, partly from grief, partly from anger. I wasn't angry with Akio; I was angry at myself.

I'm not sure how long I cried for, but it felt like an hour. After that, I managed to reduce my sobs to shaky breathing, and I kept my silent vigil until the first crack of dawn. That was when I could finally muster to will to walk over and look at him one last time. I looked down at him, willing myself to breathe normally, and I lowered a tentative kiss onto his forehead, lingering for a few extra moments, knowing that it would be the last time I would ever see him.

I closed up his coffin and pushed it into the hole. It wasn't as graceful as I could have been, but I tried.

I picked up my shovel and started dropping the dirt back on the coffin.

I had always thought about how I would die. It had never occurred to me that he might die. And something even worse that I hadn't considered. . . I hadn't ever thought that when he died, I'd die too, but in a different way. . .