Have you ever wondered what it would be like when you would die? Would it be painless, or would you feel everything in what would best be described in THX sound? I don't know about everyone else out there, but I can tell you this much: Dying hurts. Think about it, no matter how you die, muscles are going to suddenly constrict and in that last moment, you will feel all the pain in the world, all at once. And that is in the "painless deaths". Then you have the slow drawn out deaths, like dying of cancer or some other disease where you are given an approximate time limit and told to go out and have fun. Then you have the ones that fall somewhere in between the two extremes. That is the one that hurts the most. Trust me, I know.

I didn't remember everything at first. Hell I didn't even remember who I was, let alone why I suddenly found myself screaming into the rain while standing in my own grave. All I do remember was this damn big black bird, just watching me with eyes of onyx. And it followed me. It followed me everywhere like it was some poor lost little puppy, or was it actually guiding me? I am beginning to believe the latter to be the case as I more often than not found myself watching the bird and, even with the damn thing behind me, I felt the need to go in certain directions. To take certain streets and alleyways until I found my way to a burned down wreck of a building, which only took a moment to realize I had just got home.

The door and windows had been boarded shut, though some of the boards had been removed for people to gain access to the building itself, probably some kids. A sign labeled it as a condemned property. I stand in the rain for what seems an eternity just looking at the ruin that was once my home, or rather, my parents' home. My head instinctively craned upward to look the face of the charred building over. In flashes of memories, I could see the way it once stood: White, two story. A large patio deck was in the back. My father and I had built it one summer as a surprise for my mother. The front porch had a swing, I remember sitting with Joanna there before graduation night. And then as suddenly as I walked into my fantasy, I was snapped back into reality by that damn bird's caws.

It was now perched in a window, watching me expectedly as I stood in the rain, caked with mud. A part of me wanted to run away. Then there was the other part, which I listened to as I moved closer, that told me that I had to go inside. That said there were things inside that I needed to see. That somehow everything would make sense once I got inside. I reached out my hand to grab the railing on the steps and that was when the memories began flooding back.

My parents had left to go out for the night. My father was a lawyer and had a dinner meeting with one of his clients at some high dollar restaurant. I chose to not go, those dinner meetings usually meant loads of dull conversation and as much as I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps, I was not wanting to at the age of 16. I had graduated earlier in the week from High school, and I wanted to finish getting a jump on my packing for college. I was going to go for a double Major in Psychology and Criminal Justice. I was packing one of my bags when I heard a window break and voices in the house. I returned to reality as I crawled into my home through one of the openings made in between the boards. As dark as the inside of my home was, I remembered everything the way it had been before. The charred remains of a sofa and chair marked the living room. What remained of the table and china cabinet was the dining room. Upstairs was my room.

I looked around for something to use as a weapon. My hockey stick was handy, so I grabbed it, turned out the light in my room, and slowly opened my door. I knew that all I had to do was get to the hall table and grab the phone. Then I could run back to my room with it and dial 911. I could hear their voices in the house. They were going from room to room searching for something; I could not quite make out what. I knew my father kept a safe in his den where he kept all of his important papers, but they would not want that. I could see down the stairs and saw them. They were whispering and pointed upstairs when they saw me. They had something, a gun? Yes, a gun. I froze with terror as they raced up the stairs to get to me.

I shook my head as the memories subsided again, my eyes scanning down the hallway. I proceed down that way rather than to my room, I don't know why. What I do know is that something was drawing me to the room at the end of the hall, my father's den.

One of the men hit me in the jaw with his gun while the other grabbed my hockey stick away from me. It all happened so quick that I barely had time to register the assault before I was brought downstairs, pulled into my fathers den, and tied to his chair. They kept asking me "Where is it!?" When I told them I didn't know, they decided to turn up the heat on the interrogation. I was drenched in some liquid. It stunk. "That's gasoline kid. Start talkin'." They wanted the safe, so I told them where it was. They blindfolded and gagged me, I could taste the gasoline in the air as I shivered in fear for what seemed an eternity. I heard them get the safe open and take what they needed.

"What about the kid?" One asked.

"No witnesses." Was all the other said. I heard some noise before I felt heat spread over my body. The pain was excruciating as I writhed in my bonds. They set me on fire! I gave them what they wanted and they set me on fire! I tried to scream, but the gag muffled my pleas for someone, for anyone to help me. I could feel my flesh blister and pop with the fire as the stench of burning hair and skin combined with the smoke, burning my lungs as I sit there. Defenseless.

When I awoke from the memories, I was kneeling beside where I had died. The crow had landed beside me as another form appeared. It was dressed in a long black coat and had on a wide brimmed hat, and I say it because the only face this being had was a skull.

"Come on kid. You got work to do."