The realisation stabs through you like a knife. You don't want to die.

You don't want to die because you have a test next week that you've been studying really hard for, because you're staying over at Tina's this weekend, because you didn't tell your parents you loved them this morning.

You don't want to die because you've never been out of state, because Regionals is coming up, because you were going to move to New York. You were going to go to school, be a musician, get married, be happy, be sad, be lonely, be lost, be alive.

But now that's all just nevers and maybes and might-have-beens, could-have-beens, should-have-beens, and all that your life has been is going to end here, curled up in a corner of the room you call your home, stifling your own ragged breaths, suffocating yourself because your breathing, your heartbeat, the sound of your thinking is too loud too loud shut up shut up you don't want to die.

You can feel your fingernails digging into the palm of your hand, little half-moons that won't even draw blood. What's it going to feel like when there's a bullet ripping through you? Metal tearing through flesh and bone and blood regardless, through hopes and dreams and should-have-beens regardless. What if it's not you? What if it's someone else's flesh and dreams and blood? What if it's Sam's, Tina's, Artie's, Mr Schue's? What if you have to live with the ghosts of their should-have-beens haunting your every step?

You flinch as a whimper crawls up your throat, fights its way through your clenched teeth, your clamped lips, finds cracks and crannies in the hand clamped over your mouth to escape through. You consider being ashamed, but the taste of your tears mixing with the bile in your mouth, the smell of your sweat soon banishes any possibility of that. This is what fear is. Fear is not staring down the barrel of the gun, fear is not like pain or grief or loss – fear is selfish. Fear turns men to beasts and sends beasts cowering into corners, stifling their own ragged breaths, suffocating themselves because their breathing, their heartbeat, the sound of their thinking it too loud too loud shut up shut up you don't want to die.

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