Limbocide

A World of Grey

I want to die.

The words echo through my head, even as I pull the trigger. The gunshot; metal bar hitting detonator, the soft 'click' of the gun powder igniting, and then the explosion that follows. My ears ring. Something that feels like a mach truck carrying a load of titanium hits my temple. It strikes bone.

It's impossible to describe the sound of a bullet burrowing into your brain, suffice to say that it resembles a gumboot in mud. A sort of... squelching, sucking sound, littered with the tiniest clinks of bones fragments following in its wake. I'm falling towards the floor, pushed over from the force of the blow. Falling.

But this does not affect the path of the bullet. It exits my skull on the other side, a little higher then the temple, and disappears into the opposing wall. A spray of blood, brain and bone follows it, decorating the wallpaper I swore I'd redo many times during the past year.

I'm still falling, but things are darker now. Getting hard to think, vision getting hazy. The floor finally rushes to meet me, and I greet it like a lover long lost. Though the impact makes a considerable portion of matter spray from the wound, I don't seem to mind. In fact, nothing matters anymore. It's done. I'm free. I'm going to a better place... one without... problems... where I... can be... ...

------

I'm lying on the floor. I don't feel any pain. For awhile, I just want to stay here; peaceful, almost serene. But realisation soon begins to dawn. What's going on? Am I alive? Didn't I just shoot myself at point blank range? There's no way I could have survived that... dear god, could they possibly have found me lying in a pool of my own blood and been heartless enough to bring me back? What is going on?

I open my eyes. I'm staring at a white ceiling. And I'm not talking beige white, or cream white, or three-day-old-mayo white. This is super white, Jesus-rising-to-the-heavens-shining white. In the bright florescent-like lighting, I almost need to shield my eyes. But I don't.

To my left and right, I can see that the walls are the same as the ceiling. White. So very white. The whole room looks so clean and sterile I wonder if perhaps they've put me in a special section of a medical ward. But raising my hand to my head reveals no gaping wounds. In fact, my whole body feels... fine. No hint that I had an injury of any kind. It's as if it never happened.

Sitting up, I notice that I'm dressed only in some plain white underwear. I think I should feel cold in them, but in truth the air is quite temperate. Comfortable even. I get up and begin to move around the room. It's completely bare. A big, white, sterile box. I'm all alone. Trapped.

What is going on? How do I get out? There's no door... no door anywhere!! There's only...

... a window. I'm almost positive that it wasn't there a second ago. It's a small window, cut into the wall about eye level, and just big enough for me to peer through. There're bars blocking it, but I can still see outside pretty clearly. Beyond the window is a corridor, spanning so far either side I can't see the ends. The roof is the same height as my cell.

My cell... that's what it is, I've decided. Definitely a cell, and I am the prisoner. But maybe I'm not the only one?

The corridor is lined with windows similar to mine. Same height. Same bars. Maybe there are people in all of them? People who know what's going on. I have no choice but to give it a shot.

"Hello?" I call. "Is anybody there?"

There's no answer.

"Hellllloooo? Somebody?" I yell. "Is anybody out there? Please?"

Though I'm yelling loudly, there's no echo. My words seem to be consumed by the silence the moment they're free of my mouth. There's a lump forming in the back of my throat, and my tongue is beginning to feel dry.

"Anyone...?" I croak. "Please..."

Finally I hear a scuffle, and something that sounds like a snort.

"Yeah, I'm here," a deep, gruff voice says. "Don't know where the bloody hell 'here' is, but I'm here?"

"Where?" I call. "I can't see you."

"It's hard to hear in this place, but I think I'm in the room beside you."

The cell beside me. Someone else is alive. Is his cell the same? Is there anyone else?

"Hello? Somebody there?"

That's not my voice. It's a new one; higher, more melodic. A woman!

"Yes," I call. "We're here. Which cell are you in?"

A second later my question is answered when a pretty face appears in the window across from me. The girl looks around eighteen or nineteen with a cute nose and freckles on her cheeks. Her skin is quite tanned and her blonde hair scruffy; a surfy chick, I have no doubt.

"Hello?" she says. There's uneasiness in her voice. "Where are we? Who are you?"

"Richard," the gruff voice of my neighbour answers. "I'm Richard."

The girl isn't looking at me anymore, but to my left where my cell mate must be.

"Um. Hi. I'm Carla." She looks back at me expectantly. "And you?"

I pause. My name. What is my name? There's an unusual blankness in my mind that I haven't felt before. Perhaps it's the part the bullet blew out... if that really happened. The girl is still looking at me, waiting, her light blue eyes watering slightly. I can't think of my name. I'll have to lie.

"My name is Martin," I say. Wait, that's my father's name. Well, it'll have to do.

"Hello Martin," Carla says. There's a hint of a smile, but I can tell she's still anxious and confused. "You... you wouldn't happen to know where we are, would you?"

I shake my head.

"I'm sorry. I just woke up here. I mean, a second ago I was in my flat and..."

I stop. Is this a good time to say that I just committed suicide? Waking up in an empty, doorless box is crazy enough; I don't need to tell my new friends about my life ending antics.

"And what?" Richard's low voice barks at me.

"Nothing," I say quietly.

"Bullshit."

It's a different voice. A more menacing voice. The window to the left of Carla suddenly darkens, and a face appears between the bars. It's a man; a negro. He must be tall, because it seems he's bending down to look through.

"Bullshit, man. I'd give twenty to one odds that I can guess what you were doing."

"You been there the whole time?" Richard growls.

"I woke up in time to hear most of your blabbin'. Richard, Martin, and I'm guessing that sweet sounding thing next door to me is Carla."

Carla can't see the new man, but she recoils from the window slightly after being addressed in such a way. Richard makes another snorting noise. He obviously doesn't like the guy.

"And what do we call you? Punk ass gang banger?"

"Don't you be stereotyping me with that racist suburban attitude. Shit, man. My name is Clancy. Lance for short."

"Doesn't sound shorter to me," Richard mumbles.

"Guys, please!" Carla cries. There's a tinge of panic in her voice that stops my cell mates bickering in their tracks. "Please. This isn't helping. We have to work out where we are. And... if we can escape."

"Buggered if I know," Richard says. "Like my friend next door says; up until a second ago, I was in my office. Now I'm here."

"Then you're a damn liar, just like he is," Lance replies. "Admit it. Tell them what you were really doin'."

"What are you talking about?" Carla says, her voice high pitched.

"He's just talking crap," Richard flouts.

"No, you're not takin' responsibility for you're actions. Be a man, why don't you? Admit it!"

"Admit what??" Richard bellows.

"That you just committed suicide, that's what!"

There's a short gasp from Richard's cell, and Carla puts her hands to her face.

"No... how... how do you know that?" she sobs.

"I'll give you one guess," Lance says bitterly.

The other two don't respond, so I guess I have to step up to the plate.

"Because you just did as well?" I sigh. There's a sick, queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach; a feeling of dread that churns so violently I feel the taste of vomit rise in my throat and sink back down again. "You killed yourself. Just like we did"

"You're damn right I just killed myself," Lance says. "And I know I couldn't have been saved and taken to some hospital, because the last time I looked I was spread across two city blocks. They'll be scraping me off the side walk all day."

I don't know if Carla was fighting the same stomach problem as I was, or whether Lance's words had just been too graphic. But suddenly she's gone from the window and the sound of dry retching fills our ears.

"Oh god..." she sobs between convulsions. "Oh god, why, oh god."

"Err... Miss. Are you alright?" Richard calls softly. His gruff voice has taken on a smoother, calmer tone. "Take it easy."

"No!" she screams. "No! Why am I here? Why?" There's a loud bang, followed by another one. She must be throwing herself against the walls.

"Hey! Sweet Thing! Chill out," Lance calls. He too has taken on a calmer tone, though his use of language hasn't improved. "Look, if it was the sidewalk thing, I'm sorry. But beating yourself up like that ain't going to help anything."

"What does it matter?" she yells back. "I'm dead. We're all dead."

"I don't know about that," I say. There's a brief silence, then some scuffles as she comes back to the window.

"What do you mean?" she asks. Her eyes are puffy, and face bright red. "You just killed yourself too, right?"

"Yeah. I did. And it felt realer then anything else in my whole life. But now... I don't know."

I put my arms through the bars and out into the corridor, then put one hand on my wrist.

"I can feel it. My heart: beating. I'm breathing as well. And if I pinch myself," I do so to illustrate the point, "I can feel that too."

There's another pause as the others test out my statements. I can see Lance putting a hand on his chest, and Carla is blowing onto her hand.

"Ticking over here," Richard says.

"Me too," agrees Lance.

"So? What do you make of it?" I ask. "Are we alive?"

"Maybe," Richard says. "But how?"

I hear heavy footsteps, the sound fading, then coming back again. Richard must be pacing.

"I mean, honestly. How the hell could we be? People don't just... come back. It doesn't even fit that Krishna-reincarnation crap. It could just be a dream? I'm sure I breathe in my dreams."

I don't really know how to answer him. Maybe it is a dream? Just a very realistic one. Maybe it's like one of those weird sci-fi films, where our lives were the dream, and this is reality. Alternate dimensions, mental projections... as stupid as all those cheesy Hollywood storylines seemed at the time, how else can we explain our situation?

My thoughts are interrupted when I realise Carla is saying something. No, singing. She's singing a soft little song; sad and lonely. I'm positive I've heard it on the radio at some point, or maybe in a movie.

"...and I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad. The dreams in which I'm dieing are the best I've ever had..." She stops and lets out a short laugh. "Hah. I used to love that song. Now I'm not so sure..."

I can't remember the song, but the words strike a cord with me. It's an eerie, uncomfortable feeling.

"How could this happen?" Carla sighs. "What is this place?"

"Well... It's only a guess," Lance replies. "But I got a fair idea,"

"Oh yeah?" growls Richard.

"Yeah. And it ain't nothing that involves you or your pampered cracker ass. So just shut up and listen."

There's a loud bang and the ring of something metallic. Richard must have lunged at the bars.

"Pampered?" he snarls. "What the hell would you know? I worked my knuckles down to the bone to support my lifestyle; the fucking bone! What's the most work you ever done? Walking down to the government office for your lazy ass welfare cheque?"

Lance isn't saying anything, but I can tell he's fuming. He's either trying to stop from cracking, or just building up to it.

"How'd you do it anyway?" Richard continues. "How'd you end it all? Gang shoot out? Crack over dose? You take on some cops and lose?"

"Hey, screw you, man!" Lance finally snaps at my provoking neighbour. "I was a devout Christian: you got no right to say shit like that. If I needed to hear the opinion of a balding, dumpy, middle aged white man, I'd take a walk on the street."

Richard snorts, but doesn't say anything further.

"Now, if we've heard enough from the racist peanut gallery, maybe you have time to hear me out." Lance shoots a deathly glare at the cell next to me.

"Fine. Whatever," comes the response.

"Good. Now see, as a Christian. We're told certain things -"

"My parents were Catholic," Carla whispers.

"That's nice, sweet thing, but unless you followed in their footsteps you probably haven't got the slightest clue." Lance replies. "As a Christian, we're told that if we're good, we go to Heaven. We'll sit with God and Jesus in a place where all our dreams can come true."

"Yeah, with fifty virgins at our beck and call," Richard mumbles.

"Wrong religion, asshole. Christian Heaven is a reward for a lifetime of self sacrifice, or a place where the wretched in life can catch a break in death. But, if your life is full of sin, Hell will be your eternal home."

"But this doesn't seem like Hell," I say. "Where's the fire, the brimstone? No big guy with a pitchfork?"

"Yeah, funny, little man," Lance scowls. "But I don't think this is Hell either. I never really read the bible, but my father was your typical doom bringing anti-sinner. I mean damn, living with six brothers and sisters... the only way our parents could control us was to put the fear of the Devil into us! They made sure good old Lucifer and his fiery pits were the source of all our childhood nightmares. But there's something else I remember vaguely. Something my old man told me, and it has to do with our situation."

"What?" asks Richard. There's still a sneer in his voice, but Lance chooses to ignore it. This time.

"Well, there was this kid. At school. Tried to kill himself by turning on all the gas taps in the science labs and closing all the doors and windows. The school tried to keep it quiet and all, but nobody likes gossip more then school mums."

I smile secretly to myself when I hear this. Mum. I haven't thought about her in a long time. I can barely remember what she looks like. Long brown hair and a soft voice is all that remains. But I remember she loved to talk. She used to make me bring friends over, just so she could trap their parents and catch up on the latest rumours. Hah. Mum.

"My parents got wind of the incident, and pounced on us like the good intervening Christians they were. 'Don't you go doing irresponsible behaviour like that!' my Dad hollered. 'Suicide is a sin against God. People who take their own lives aren't wanted by Heaven or Hell. There's a world of grey waiting for those people; you'll be lost forever and no one will give a damn.'"

Carla turns a shade paler and moves back from the window.

"I... I remember something like that too. What was it called?"

"Purgatory," Richard says. "I'm not a religious man, but even I know that."

There's a silence as all four of us think about it. Purgatory. Limbo. A world of infinite nothingness. It makes sense.

"A world of grey..." I breathe. "Well, you're father was close. It's not grey, but I understand the meaning behind it. If only he could see how white it really is."

"My old man died three years," Lance says quietly. "I sure hope he's not in this place somewhere as well."

"If he didn't off himself, I doubt he would be," Richard replies. "I think this world is definitely reserved for people like us. It's too coincidental that we all did the same thing, and all ended up here."

I don't know if Richard is subtly trying to make up for his racist outburst earlier, or whether he's just thinking aloud. From what I've heard so far, I'm leaning towards the latter.

"Lance," Carla says suddenly, addressing him by name for the first time. "If you knew about this, how come you still... wanted to die?"

Lance has moved back in his cell, so I'm unable to see his face. But I can clearly hear the hurt and frustration in his voice.

"Let's just say there is - or was - some beef between me and God recently. He had some explaining to do and I... well, I decided to find out exactly how merciful our Lord is. I guess I should have remembered the part about 'not putting Gods love to the test.' Contradictory bullshit-"

"Do you hear that?" Richard says suddenly.

Carla looks towards his cell, her eyes widening slightly.

"What? Hear what?"

"Shh," he says. "Listen."

We all go dead silent and strain our ears, trying to hear even the slightest noise. It's not long before the sound reaches me too.

"What the hell is that?" I whisper.

"Sounds like footsteps," Lance replies.

"And... and whistling?" Carla says, a confused look on her face. "Is there someone else in a cell close by?"

"Whoa! Who the hell is that?"

Lance's long black arm comes out through the bars and points down the corridor to my right. I follow his finger, and see for myself. Someone is walking up the hallway. Someone... something. It looks human in shape but it's... more like a shadow. That's the only way to describe it. A black, shadowy mist in the shape of a fat man is coming our way.

"Jesus Christ..." breathes Richard.

The Shadow Man is waddling along in that strange, tottering walk that overweight people have. In his right hand he has a long, black stick. He's swinging it around as he walks towards us. And the whole time he's whistling a tune; a happy, lively little jingle one might hear from a day dreaming park stroller.

"Is that what I think it is?" Lance asks.

"Yeah," I answer. "He looks like one of those English police. You know; a copper."

-----

I don't know what's going through the heads of my cell mates, but I know what's going through mine. What the hell is a policeman made of shadows doing in a place like this?

An interesting question, but as the Shadow Cop draws near I find my jaws are suddenly clenched tighter then a rusty vice. Am I afraid? Is that it? But why should I be? Heck, I've already died once today, what's the worse that could happen?

The whistling shadow is only a few feet away now, and Lance is staring at him with eyes almost bulging out of their sockets. Is he afraid too? Or maybe he's mad. A sudden stab of fear makes my heart jump; he wouldn't try to grab the cop as he went past, would he? What would happen then??

I'm about to find out, as the man-shadow has reached Carla and I, and is casually walking past. He's still whistling happily, completely oblivious. Now I can see him up close, I notice the details that are visible on his body. There are very faint lines outlining his clothing and features; actually, it reminds me of a chalk board. The basic sketches of his sleeves, buttons... even his nose, are vaguely present in thin white marks that seem to shimmer in the light.

The cop walks past us, either not noticing or choosing to ignore the prisoners staring at him. Now he's going past Lance. I hold my breath, but the tall black man doesn't make any sign that he's going to reach out. In fact, it looks like he's holding his breath too.

With the Shadow Man past our cells, any fear I had disappears. What the hell was that? Couldn't he see us? Why were we ignored? In a sense, I feel a bit insulted. But despite that, I still can't bring myself to call out. So if Carla hadn't, the cop probably would have continued on his merry way, uninterrupted.

"Excuse me?" she says softly.

The Shadow Man stops mid step, his whistle cut short also. Even the swinging stick hangs frozen in the air. Then he spins on his heel and turns back our way, hands set firmly on his hips.

"Hmmm?"

I see him look at Lance's window, then Carla's, then mine. A shadowy hand comes up to scratch his head as he gazes toward where I assume Richard is.

"Allo, allo. Well, I'll be blowed! I didn't even see ya's there!" His voice has a heavy English accent; I think it's called 'cockney'. I find that I have some trouble just picking out where one word ends and the other starts. "Four o' ya's? 'Ere now, this is a rare treat."

"E-excuse me?" Carla repeats. "Who... who are you?"

The Shadow Cop waddles over to stand in front of her cell. His broad shoulders and chest completely block her window from view, so I can only hear her gasp slightly as he leans in to look at her.

"Aawww... Miss, is it? Tch," he makes a clicking sound with his tongue while shaking his head, obviously unimpressed. "You're far to pretty to be in a place like this, Miss. Tch, tch. Whatta waste."

"What? What do you mean?" she cries. "I don't want to be here."

"But you are. And that means you gone and done the deed. There's no undoing it now. Tch. Such a shame."

"I believe she asked who you were," Richard growls. He seems to take a disliking to every new male that comes along. Must just be his nature.

The Shadow Cop turns around and looks in his direction.

"Me? I'm the guard."

"Guard?" Lance questions. "Guard of what?"

"This place. I can't really say more then that; to tell the truth I dunno all that much about it meself."

"Could you tell us what you do know then?" I ask. I'm hoping he'll cooperate. Information is something I could really do with at the moment.

The Shadow Guard scratches his head again, which appears to be bald. It's hard to tell with the wispy black mist all around him.

"Well... I can tell ya a little, I spose."

"Please!" Carla cries, suddenly grabbing the bars. There's tears in her eyes again, and that slight hint of panic in her voice. "Please! Tell us! Help us."

"I can't help you," the cop says, shrugging. "Against the rules. Ya gonna have to figure this out yaselves."

"Figure what out?" Lance asks.

The cop lets out a sigh and moves to stand between all of our cells.

"Well, this 'ere place is for those who choose to end their lives prematurely. I dunno the official name... I've heard it called 'the waiting room' and 'the asylum' by some -"

"Purgatory?" Richard interrupts.

"Aye, that's a common one. 'Limbo' as well. There're many, many cells along this corridor; I've been walking down it for as long as I can remember, and it ain't never seems to twist or circle back. And 'cause it's so big, I usually only ever meet one person atta time."

"One person, alone in a random cell?" A shiver goes down my spine at the thought of waking up in this place completely alone. Having people nearby helped ease the shock of it, I admit. I don't know how I would have coped otherwise.

"Aye. Just one person. They committed the sin, and popped up in 'ere. I tell 'em what I can and then move on. But this 'ere... this is a special case, it seems."

"Us? Why?" Carla asks. "Because we're all so close together?"

"Aye," the cop says; a puzzled tone in his voice. "I ain't actually met more then two this close before, to be 'onest."

"Yeah? So what?" Lance spits. "What's that supposed to mean to us?"

"It means," the cop says, turning to face the tall black man glaring at him from behind the bars, "that ya fates were all some'ow connected."

"Bullshit. I never met any of these deadbeats in my life!"

"Well, if that's the case," the guard puts a misty hand to his chin and begins to pace a few steps back and forth, "then it probably means that ya actions in some way affected each others lives."

"Something I did killed these guys??" Carla gasps, a look of horror on her face.

"No, no! I didn' mean that. But what you did might've been part of a chain... a buncha events that led to ya's all seeking the same way out."

I take a hard look at the faces of both Carla and Lance, looking for features that might jog my memory. But nothing rings a bell. I'm positive I've never seen them before.

"If we find out the connection..." I say slowly, "... what will that mean?"

The guard turns my way, and although I can't make out any expression on his face, I swear he's smiling.

"The entry lists for Heaven and Hell are long ones. Think of 'em as the night clubs of all night clubs. If ya try to sneak in before it's yer turn in line, ya gonna get bounced."

"What the hell does that mean?" Lance bellows. "Just tell us straight and cut the metaphorical shit already. I'm pissed off and confused enough as it is without trying to understand crap like that."

The guard ignores him.

"The people who end up 'ere get another chance... one day. They gotta wait for the higher ups to check out the facts, ya see? After all, a person does a lot of things in their lives, and it can take a long time to sort through the good and the bad. But you four 'ere..."

The cop does a slow turn, pointing at each of us in turn with his misty black stick.

"You four 'ave an advantage. You can talk it through. Find out the reasons ya 'ere, and whether ya good deeds outweigh ya sins. I can't say for sure... but working out yer connections might be the key to ya's gettin' out o' 'ere."

None of us want to speak. I don't think we know what to say. After awhile, the Shadow Man seems to take our silence as an acknowledgement of his words, and nods his head my way.

"Right then, I'll be off. Good luck to ya's and all."

I want to say something. I want to cry out for him to stop and tell us more, tell us how to escape. But nothing comes into my head. I can only stand and watch as he waddles down the corridor, whistling happily, and eventually out of view.

-----

"Dammit!" yells Lance, banging his hands against the bars. "He told us squat. I wish I had made a go at him now; shaken some goddam sense out of him."

"I doubt that would have done anything," I say. "He didn't exactly look... touchable."

"I thought he was nice." Carla has disappeared from the window; I think she's sitting underneath it. Her voice sounds... faint. Far away. I hope she's not losing it.

"So what now?" Richard asks. "He said we should talk. Figure out what we have in common, or how we know each other from when we were... alive."

"I told you's before, I ain't never seen either of your cracker asses," Lance scowls. "I can't see Sweet Thing there, but I know I don't recognise her voice."

"No one sounds familiar to me either," I agree. "Is it possible we forgot things when we passed over?"

"Who's going first?" Carla's voice asks suddenly.

Lance and I look at each other. Going first? I get a bad feeling her mind's heading down the same track it was on before she arrived here. Is it even possible to commit suicide in a place for people who commit suicide? Where would you go after that? Next door to me, I hear Richard clear his throat.

"Er... first for what, Miss?"

She doesn't answer for a long time. I can just picture her; sitting under the window, knees under her chin. Rocking, perhaps. This isn't a place to lose ones mind, but there's nothing to stop it happening either.

"Carla? Don't leave us," I call. "The Shadow Cop said we have to work together."

"Exactly," she answers. "So who's going first?"

I look at Lance again. He shrugs. Yeah, big help you are, Mr. Good Christian.

"We don't know what you mean," Richard says, slightly agitated. "Talk to us. Tell us how your feeling."

I hear her sigh, then sniff loudly.

"It's pretty obvious. He wants us to talk about our last few days alive. The reason why we chose to die, and everything leading up to it."

"To Hell with that!" Lance yells. "That ain't none of your business. Frankly, I see my last moments as being between myself and that bitch, God. I don't need to explain myself to no one."

"She might be right," Richard says thoughtfully. "I don't think you have much choice. If we're going to work out our connection, we're going to have to talk about it."

I leave the window for a second, feeling that sick twist in my stomach again. Do I really want to relive those last few days? Do I really want to share them with anyone? I have to do a slow lap around my cell to keep the nausea away. Damn. I can't do this.

"Yo, Martin? What the hell you doing, man?" Lance calls. "Get your ass back here; now's not the time to pussy out."

I want to go back to the window, but I'm afraid they'll talk me into it. I can't go first. I won't.

"Answer me, little man. Don't make me kick your scrawny white ass."

"Yeah, and just how do you plan on doing that?" Richard doesn't miss any chance when it comes to bagging his black neighbour. I doubt he'd be so cocky if they were in closer proximity though. "You've got a big mouth on you for a man trapped in a box."

"Man, listen to your own yuppie ass! I'm just trying to keep things going here. We don't need anyone else flipping out; why do you have to get so damn personal?"

I listen to them bicker as I circle my cell again, my thoughts churning. No way. Not happening. I'd rather stay here and rot. I won't do it.

"Martin, do as he says and answer us," Richard calls sternly. The commanding tone of his voice snaps me out of it slightly.

"I... I can't go first," I say at last. "Someone else has to. Maybe once I've had time to think... just not yet."

"Alright, man, whatever. That's cool. Just stay with us." Hearing Lance calmer makes me relax as well. A slowly head back to the window.

"So... who is going to go?"

"Well, since the Miss suggested it, I vote she does." Richard isn't trying to sound cruel, but the seriousness in his words let us know he's not joking.

"I hate to do it, but I agree with the Mr. Man-boob Sporting Business Prick there," Lance nods. "What you think, Sweet Thing? You suggested it; you strong enough to lead the way?"

There's no answer. I pray she's not in the process of biting her tongue or gouging flesh out of her wrists with her nails. Killing myself was hard enough; I don't want to sit here and listen to someone else slowly dieing.

"Alright."

"What?" all three of us say simultaneously.

"Alright," Carla repeats. Finally, I hear shuffling, and her face appears in the window. Although she looks very pale and tired, I want to breathe a sigh of relief. At least she's seems with it again.

"You're going to start?" I ask, studying her face. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," she nods. "After all, it was my idea. I'll be ok."

"Good for you, Sweet Thing." Lance's voice is full of admiration. "You just take it slow now; we're here with you."

We wait patiently as she rests her face against the bars, her eyes closed. I can imagine the internal struggle she's battling at the moment... I almost succumbed to it only moments before. She takes a deep breath, then opens her eyes.

"My boyfriend is too nice," she says.