Mama, take this badge off of me
I can't use it anymore
It's getting dark, too dark to see
I feel I'm knocking on Heaven's door
Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door...
Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore
That long black cloud is coming down
I feel I'm knocking on Heaven's door
Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door ...

Dying sux.

Some people just figure that you're probably so numb that you don't feel anything. Or they wax poetic over it, as if you go out, drifting gently away on a fluffy white cloud while the harps play and the angels sing. What a crock of bullshit.

Nope… dying is a nasty business. When you are bleeding out of as many holes as I am, it doesn't take long for your body to go into shock. Numbness? Hell no, the pain is inconceivably excruciating. Even my hair hurts… However, there is one cliché that does holds true… you do get cold. But it's not like any kind of cold that I've felt before… it twists around your insides in such a way that you just know you will never feel warmth again. Despite the jacket that Roger wrapped over me, I can't stop shivering.

Speaking of my partner… By this point, poor Rog is half naked; his belt tied around my upper thigh for a tourniquet, his jacket draped over me and his new dress shirt pressed against me in an effort to staunch the bleeding. As a token of gratitude, I manage to puke all over the both of us… Like I said, dying sux.

We had joked back and forth for a while, but soon enough it became way too tiring to talk anymore. Besides, every word just brings more blood up into my mouth. Tastes like shit. I had tried my best to act like it was going to be okay, tried to reassure Roger but I just didn't have any strength left… Instead I try focusing all my remaining energy on breathing, which ain't easy when it feels like a refrigerator is sitting on my chest and every breath feels like a butcher knife twisting in my lung. But hey, Roger is talking enough for the both of us – in fact he hasn't shut up since coming down here. I know that part of it is an attempt to make me feel better… but another part of it is from his own fear and frustration. I am almost happy when my vision starts graying out; it's hard looking into his eyes – looking into that grim expression that tells me what I already know.

Somewhere in the back recesses of my brain I can still hear Roger imploring over and over for me to say something – to open my eyes – to look at him – to squeeze his hand – to just do something… anything. Honestly, Rog, I would if I could. But after it's all said and done… it's okay. I am ready. The way that I've lived my life, I certainly can't be surprised that it would end like this… I always figured it would. I do feel bad that Rog has to deal with it all, but I know that he's strong – stronger than I am in a lot of ways – and he's got his family to help him along. Me – I've got a dog. Aw, shit… Sam… He's still sitting in the back of my truck. Surely Roger will take care of him once he finds out he's there. Yeah, Sam will be alright. Hell of a lot better off than he was with me as half the time I can't even remember a bag of dog food for the poor mutt.

I feel Roger grip my arm tightly. "Martin, I can hear the sirens!" His voice hitches with relief. "Just hang on a little longer." I can't hear them, but by now, I am feeling detached from the whole thing… I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't wake up every morning hoping it will be for the last time like I used to, but I'm still not afraid to die. I guess the only thing I am worried about is… is what's gonna happen afterwards. I'm not talking about hell-fire, brimstone and judgment from some superior being. Everything I've seen and been through in my life, that kind of hell doesn't scare me. Personally, I don't give a shit about religion or any kind of God – if he's up there somewhere, he sure as hell hasn't ever done me any favors. I don't owe him a damned thing; in fact, I think he owes ME an explanation.

But… the thought of seeing Vicky fills me with dread. Of course, it didn't used to be that way. Most days the idea that maybe – just maybe – I could be with her again was the only thing that kept me going. To once again hold her body against mine… to see her as a real person again… not the anguished spirit that floated into my inner vision every time I closed my eyes. Despite my rejection of any god or doctrine, I feel that, yeah, somehow you continue… I know this because most of the time I can feel the ghosts from my past circling around me. Although I do my best to ignore it, some days that fact is harder to live with than others; but when you've done the things that I've done both as a police detective and a soldier, being haunted is inevitable. Vicky was the one refuge that I had – a refuge that most likely is now gone.

Although I know others probably thought it was irrational, I always had blamed myself for her death… car accident or not. After all, I was the one that had forgotten all about our dinner date. I was the one that worked late instead of being with her. No doubt I was convinced that if I had been there, Vicky would still be alive today – or I would have died with her. And that would have been okay too. But even though that guilt ate away at the core of my soul, I still believed that deep down she would forgive me. That she would be happy to see me again. But now? Now knowing that she truly did die because of me and what I am… That she died slowly, painfully while that goddamn monster sat there and watched… How could she possibly ever forgive me? No… she must hate me and that is what fills me with panic.

And now I have Rika's blood on my hands as well. Another innocent person dead because of me.

Maybe we are judged by the ghosts in our lives – not some bearded guy hanging out on a cloud. If so, I know that I am fucked.

Not that I can blame them – at least not Vicky and Rika. It will be hard enough to face poor Rika, but to have to look into Vicky's beautiful hazel eyes and see nothing but condemnation… The pain I am experiencing right now will be nothing in comparison. I think it must be true – hell is of our own making and I have managed to create a monstrous one for myself.

The pain in my body tells me that I must still be alive but it's like all my other senses have been wrapped in thick layers of cotton. I can no longer hear anything around me... I can't tell if I am still lying on the floor of the cargo hold anymore or if Roger is here. Maybe this is how you die – in little stages; one sense slowly failing after another.

Soon enough I should know what all the fuss is about…


Still no harps…