Sitting along the mattress of the bed, the man was hunched over as yellow light poured out from the old lamp on the nightstand next to him. Across the way, his gaze would shift regularly from the cracking wallpaper of his bedroom down to his hands. His rough hands, hands with enough experience that if indeed they could talk they'd instead be scripting stage plays of each finger's affairs and playing them out like a broadway show. His 'life,' for lack of a better word, was complicated. Every avenue of a successful life was strained – socially, personally, his career. There were definite bits and pieces that, from a distance and viewed through the worn lenses of old eyeglasses, could make out what appeared normalcy. But there wasn't. There was no normalcy, just a man left with something broken so terribly and so deep down in his soul that it didn't just have a voice, it had the cadence of the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard. And he hated it. He loathed it, because he knew why. He knew why it chose the one thing that made him stop in his tracks when he was walking to work in the morning. He knew why when he was mid bite during lunch, his hands ceased when he heard it, fork inches away from his face, food threatening to slide off. He knew why when he'd be lighting a cigarette before bed and all it had to say was one or two words and fresh tears would well up in the corners of his eyes. He knew, because it had the voice of the only woman he had ever loved – a woman that was now long gone, a woman that simultaneously meant the world to him and meant his very own destruction. He loved her deeply, and then one day found out it was a lie. She never reciprocated, not truly, and not fully. They'd had arguments, even came close to laying hands on one another, but it never came to that.

She was his oldest friend, she was someone he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. They had differences, sure, any couple would. But he believed that they'd made it through literal hell itself and came out okay. But they didn't, and a bed that once harbored two supposedly loving people now only catered to one. He didn't have the nerve to throw it out, to get a new one. He could see her curves in it, even if no one else did. He could smell her hair in it. The bed, like most everything else in the house, represented a time that no longer existed. But he didn't have the heart to get rid of it, of any of it. She may be gone, but her shadow lingered in the worn places of the domicile. It lingered everywhere. In fact, it lingered in him.

"Oh, sweetie" it cooed, "still wondering whether or not to end it all, hmm?"

His lips pursed. He'd only been on the edge of the bed for a few minutes, but it felt more like a few hours. He returned his gaze to his hands, and to the steel that rested in them. It was standard issue, there was nothing terribly noteworthy about it, save for the initials of his love that she'd one day etched into the grip, near the bottom. If his superior knew, he'd probably make him get a new one. He'd only fired it a few times, and most of that was spent at the range making sure his aim stayed consistent. He'd only ever taken someone else's life once, and that was when he was new to the force. Since then, he'd abstained as much as he could from firing the trigger in a public setting. Murder made him sick, but it was an inevitability, being a dick and all. It was one of those realities that he had to live with, much like the very real voice he heard inside his head.

"But honey, you know if you pull the trigger I'll be gone." its tone dropped to something seductive "And we both know you don't want that." It giggled, something anyone else would have thought was an innocent, well meaning laugh but he wasn't anyone. And he knew it knew him. He didn't have a name for it. He refused to call it by her name, or any name. He'd worked in homicide and with enough mentally unstable killers that the first step to psychosis was giving such voices an identity. And he adamantly refused.

His face softened into something desperate, a tired visage that so dearly wanted some peace from this living hell. A sigh escaped his body, and through half-lidded eyes that stared into the empty space of the floor he found himself begging.

"Go away"

"Go away?" it mocked him before letting out a laugh, loud, raucous, and demented. In its shrill he swore that somewhere far off he heard the low, rumbling tones of his own laughter mixed with it. Her face flashed in his mind to match its ferocity. Her mouth just a little too wide, her teeth just a little too pointed. He closed his eyes and scrunched his face in despair.

"Please..."

The incessant uproar thinned to something haughty and humored, threatening and soft all at once.

"How amusing! The great big, strong cop cowering and simpering like a kicked dog. You are pathetic. You are a cop, aren't you? Aren't you supposed to be a big, strong man? Worthless, entirely worthless."

Its words echoed and bounced around in his head as it continued to belittle him. This wasn't new to him, though. It burned a little more knowing he'd heard similar sentiments come from his lover. He felt like he was in a fever dream, some grotesque nightmare that looked all too much like the real world. Except he wasn't, and he couldn't stop it. It completely dominated his inner space, playing with his existence the way a cat does a ball of string. It stretched him out, over an ocean's worth of guilt and dependency.

He cradled the firearm in his hands, and his fingers found themselves wrapping around the grip of the gun. He raised his hand. The voice in his head matching in volume as it cheered.

"Oh! Will this be it? Will you finally be a man and do what you should have done years ago?"

His hand began to tremble. The mocking tone of its voice dropped to near silence, its fingers caressing his cheek as it lovingly whispered.

"Do it for me, baby. If not for yourself, for me." Her words were as if cinnamon being dragged across asphalt. The inherent care in such a statement being viciously undermined by the poison that saturated and distorted the delicate sound of someone he'd give anything to be with again. He wished so much it was hers…

The silence was disrupted when he hastily ejected the cartridge from his weapon and threw the gun across the room, a loud noise book-ending and putting a definitive exclamation point on tonight's tableau of misery as something, yet again, fell over or broke. He cupped his head in his hands as a sobbing sound left his mouth and the tips of his fingers wet with the warmth of his tears. He was tired, so very tired.

"Maybe tomorrow night." The disappointment was evident in its voice.

He stood up and started his daily ritual of preparing for sleep. Somewhere in the motions he felt bits and pieces of him were being devoured by whatever was inside him, but he didn't care. He was tired of caring. Why should he? Maybe he'd get lucky and while on duty some creep would put a bullet in him, would crush the back of his head with a metal bat, would stab him right in his very heart. Maybe tomorrow it would all be over. Much of him scoffed at it, but a small part of him didn't and it was the part of him that wore her voice. He pulled the sheets back on the bed and reached over to turn off the light.

It was in the darkness it told him it loved him. It was in the darkness he could hear the sound of it chewing.