He shows up late to her funeral.

The buttons of his shirt are unaligned, taking residence in holes meant for each other. Mustard stains his tie.

So glad he hasn't lost his appetite.

Stomach now concave, she finds she isn't hungry. This is death, huh?

She pinches herself.

No pain.

"Enjoying yourself?" The words echo through the room, yet she can't find the source.

"Excuse me?" Her hand runs over her head.

The hair is gone.

There's a gash, and her finger falls in. She pulls back, expecting blood.

It comes out clean.

She can feel a presence behind her, forcing her to watch the funeral. The touch is too light to belong to a man.

Are those nails, digging into her back?

And if they are, why are they making her watch a drunken man bury his daughter?

"You do know you're supposed to use headlights in the rain, right?" the voice asks. It's not the ones in her head. They fled from the crash.

It's oddly lonely without them. Like a best friend, one that's been there so long you forget what life is without them, dying and leaving you stranded.

Except she's the dead one here.

The hollow feeling is still there.

"Who are you?" She wants to turn around, but the hand propels her forward, pressing her nose to the glass.

Is that a tear rolling down her father's cheek?

No, that's just the rain.

The storm blocks her view in the window, and she finally gets to turn around.

Worst decision ever.

"I am your consequence."

She is so lost. What on earth is this lady talking about?

Alternatively, what on (whatever this place this is, because there is no way she's still on earth) is going on?

"My consequence?" She averts her eyes, because it's too much. The gashes, the bones, marring her body.

Wiping the fog off the window, she points to a second casket. There's an elderly man at the grave.

"That's my father." His shirt is tucked in, his suit coat wet. It's not from the rain. That's what the umbrella is for.

Those are what tears look like.

Something she hasn't seen fall down her father's face since her mother's funeral. Back when things were normal.

All this time she thought that she was meant to be watching her own tragedy unfold. Never had it occurred to her to move her eyes a plot to the left.

Her eyes dare to drift back.

He's already gone.

"I'm sorry," she apologizes. Two lives, taken. One against her will.

No response. Nothing aloud, solely the nails scratching her wrist as her hand hooks around it.

They don't leave a mark.

She drops her in front of a door. "No worries. I have family here."

Proceeding to the other side of the room, she raps her knuckles on another door. Through the crack she can see the clouds. A woman answers the door.

There's something familiar about her.

A wave, greeting her hello and goodbye in the same motion.

"Mom?" she asks.

With that, they are gone.

She crosses the room, but the door melts into the wall. This sort of thing doesn't happen back home.

Then again, did she not say home was with the demons?

She checks the second door.

Tap, tap, tap.

"Welcome home," they greet her.

The coals burn the base of her feet.

This time, the scars remain.

She focuses her mind on the woman she saw at that door. Why would her mother greet a total stranger? What gives her the right to flaunt that she's thriving, without saying a single word?

Not an I love you.

Not any recognition of what has happened since she left.

Not an apology, something that tells her she regrets leaving her with that man, breaking her down until she was nothing but the rubble beneath him.

Is there cemetery mud ingrained in his sneakers?

Or had he left at the first sign of rainfall, too concerned with his own agenda to mourn the loss of his own?

She spits, hoping the cool with sooth her feet.

It fizzles.

"Your bunk," they explain, tossing a sac on the bed. Inside, a ragged cloth.

She uses it to dry the sweat from her brow.

No matter how hard she scrubs, the sweat pours down, like the rain of that night. Like the rain the night her mother passed.

Only her death had been an accident.

This was her choice, screwing with destiny.

Though who's to say she wasn't going to end up here anyway?

It collapses under her weight.

"This is home," she tells herself as they tie her down.

Home, sour, home.

There's nothing sweet here.

A hollow death for a hollow life. What's been gained?


Sweet chained freedom.