I awoke after what seemed like a bad dream, only to see that I was surrounded by complete darkness. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, and couldn’t move. I felt like my body was trapped in something and I couldn’t make out what it was. I was panicking at this moment. I was breathing heavily through my mouth but it hurt every time I inhaled. I was suffocating and I couldn’t move my body to a position where I could breathe. I did all that I could to move one inch and in the process, something didn’t feel right. I felt like my arms and legs weren’t in the right position, almost as if they have been switched. Something’s wrong with my body, I was in complete agony and I just wanted to get out of here.

I couldn’t tell whether I was still dreaming or not. This feeling inside of me felt so… horrible I can’t describe it. I laid there for hours praying, keeping faith that I was still alive in this horrible place, burning inside this shell. I laid there for hours, calling for help but no one would come. I yelled as hard as I could. I could feel my jaw moving but I couldn’t hear myself. Suddenly, I started seeing a light in the distance. It quickly got brighter and soon I came face to face with what I assumed to be doctors in surgical clothes staring down at me, observing with their eyes squinted. I realized at this moment that I was in a hospital tied to a medical bed and machines that made me breathe, pumping life into me every second. My vision was poor but I could see the doctors moving around the room. They were like blurs moving up and about and all I could move were my pupils following their every move.

However, something stood out. While the blurs were moving around I saw another blur standing in the corner of the room. It was dark; it was just standing there looking back at me. Suddenly I saw a nurse stick something in my throat. I was being fed through a tube that stuck straight in since I was too weak to chew and swallow. I felt the liquid of hot soup as it poured down my throat and into my stomach; I still felt the heat of the soup, more and more came as I saw it sliding down the tube and into my throat. After a while, I start to pass out still seeing the dark figure in the corner. As my vision slowly faded away I found myself in the bedroom of the house I used to live in before I moved away for college. Toys were lying on the floor; the beds were a mess with sheets and wrinkled clothes that look like they haven’t been washed in weeks. There were picture frames of me and my brother Luke as little kids. Back when everything seemed fine between us.

I looked outside the window and saw that it was completely foggy. I couldn’t see the house across the street and I could barely see the big oak tree in our front yard. I walked downstairs and saw that the house was completely empty and completely in silence. Not even the sound of the clock in our living room ticking with every second could be heard. I wasn’t scared but more concerned as to what was going on. I was completely alone, the fog made it hard see, and the lights wouldn’t work so it was pretty dark in the house. I sat on one of the chairs of the kitchen table where we used to have our family dinners, just thinking about what had happened to me. I sat there for hours wondering how I got here and if I was dead. 

I was still breathing and felt calm, and suddenly, I start feeling pain on my chest. It gets worse as I drop to the floor having trouble breathing. It didn’t feel like a heart attack, more like something was cutting into my skin. I see blood gushing out and I quickly open my eyes and wake up back in the hospital. The doctors were performing surgery on me. They had cut me open, poking my insides with sharp medical tools. I didn’t feel any pain though. They must have injected me some sort of serum, the kind that makes you numb or the one that puts you to sleep. It couldn’t have been that though, I was half awake and aware of what was happening to me. I couldn’t see exactly what they were doing and I don’t think I wanted to. They would clean the blood off the tools and change their gloves and throw the bloody ones away.

Just like before, the dark figure was still standing in the corner of the room, just staring at me. I wondered why the doctors wouldn’t take notice of it, and then I realized they can’t see it. I’m only one who is seeing this thing. I start to panic and the doctors quickly injected me with more serum, which saved me a lot of pain. I hear the doctors talking as their voices slowly faded back into my mind. I fall asleep and start dreaming again. I found my 13 year old self at the park where my brother Luke and I used to go to play ball. What scared me was that the whole scene was in reverse. I was running backwards with the football slowly lifting itself out of my hands and flying backwards in the air straight back to Luke’s hands when he threw it. It was one of the best times I spent with Luke. Probably the last time we had a good time together since as we got older we went in opposite directions.

I had more friends than him. I was much more sociable than Luke; I always went to parties and was never that much at home. Luke had a job so he worked for a living and only had one best friend. It’s when I started high school that Luke and I would not talk to each other anymore. I would always prefer to be with my friends and treat them like my real brothers while I treated Luke like some stranger living under the same roof as me. He eventually moved away to live on his own and the house was all mine to keep. My parents didn’t like the thought of me and Luke not getting along and even worse the fact of how excited I got when he was no longer around. I never heard from him again. I don't know where he is or what he's doing but, I now regret ignoring him.

My eyes start to water and I wipe the tears off my face. When I open my eyes I was back in my dark empty house. Exactly where I was when I saw the blood coming out of my chest. I checked and there was no blood this time, however if felt cold in the kitchen. I start to rub my chest to keep warm and I can clearly see my breath as I exhale. I start to shiver and wonder where it’s coming from. I go check the air conditioner and see that it’s not working, nothing is working. I go upstairs and check to see if there were any blankets. As I walk up the steps it gets even colder to the point where I can’t feel my arms and legs, I can still move though, shaking as I slowly walk up the stairs. Suddenly, I see a dark figure standing on the top of the steps.  I stare at it for a moment and it stares back. My heart is pounding and I am still freezing. The figure had a long dark hooded robe and I couldn't see its face. 

It was floating in midair and when I finally had the courage to say something, it starts floating down towards me. “Who are you? Can you help me?” I ask. It says nothing and as it gets closer I start to black out. It approaches me and as soon as I close my eyes, I see black.  Eventually, I wake up in a cemetery, the same cemetery in the town I lived in. I was lying on the ground and felt dizzy not knowing what just happened. I look around and see four kids standing near a grave next to the gates. One of them is knelt down crying over a grave. The other three were… laughing, laughing hysterically almost as if this was something fine to laugh at. I think to myself, how could anyone laugh at this? It’s completely heartless. Then I realize… I remember this scenario. My eyes widen, one of those three kids… is me. I was laughing at that poor boy that lost his mother. I was making fun of him and calling him names.

My eyes start to water again. The poor kid was weeping over his mother’s grave. I put my hands over my face and yelled in frustration. I couldn't stand the sight of this. I looked at my younger self in anger and felt like killing him. Then the dark figure appears next to me. “Get me out of here! I don’t want to see this anymore!” I yelled at it. Staring back at me with its black hole face, it lifted its right arm right to my face and I awoke back in the hospital. I was completely alone now. The doctors had finished the operation. I laid there thinking about what I was dreaming. I considered it to be just another bad dream but somehow, I felt guilty of it. I tried moving whatever was left of me but the doctors had tied me down real good. I thought that by now someone would have heard what had happened to me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here but, I just wish I could see them one more time. I was in a life or death situation. If I live to see how I look like when all this is over, I don’t think I want to keep living. If it’s as bad as I think it is, I just couldn’t live with myself.

I wouldn’t be able to look at myself; I wouldn’t hear what others had to say, it would be a life of hell. Suddenly, I see blurs walking over to me again. This time they gather around the bed and just stare down on me.  I couldn’t tell what they were doing but I think they were talking about me. The way they moved their arms when someone talks and their body movements made it clear. I was hoping it would be my parents… and Luke.

I try moving my mouth, trying to say anything to make sure it was them. They look down and back away from the bed. The doctors quickly rush into the room and had more serum for me. This time I felt it. The long syringe needle penetrating the surface of my skin and I could feel the juice sliding in. I hated needles, I never got used to them, and they were one of my many phobias. I stopped moving and hated the fact that I was going back to sleep, back to this world of nightmares from my past.

Speaking of my past, I was the average kid growing up. I did what I had to do to get by. I would wake up every morning for school, sometimes I would fake being sick so I wouldn’t go and ended up arguing the whole day with my mom. I got a minimum wage job when I was 17 and the girl of my dreams lived too far away from me. I tried staying in contact with her via e-mail but she would never respond for some reason. Day after day I would send her messages but she never responded. That was it I guess. We knew each other mostly by just vision. I always thought we had a lot in common but I was too nervous to tell her how I felt, and when I finally have the courage to do so… it’s too late. I found out she was already seeing someone and that just broke me to pieces. It took a while to get over it; it was the hardest thing I had to do so far in my life. I’m only 21 and still have my whole life ahead of me. There are so many things I want to do, but I guess fate will decide that.

I silently cry myself back to sleep and find myself looking out the big window in our living room. The fog was still thick white. I decided to go outside and get some air, as soon as I did something smelled funny. A horrible stench of morning air, the kind of air you smell when you go outside at the crack of dawn, only here it’s much worse. I keep walking, scared to go beyond the fog. I wasn’t the bravest guy around but I kicked myself to do it. I covered my mouth and nose with my shirt and walked slowly into the fog, my house slowly disappearing behind me as I walked forward. I walk down the street of my neighborhood seeing bits and pieces of houses and cars and other household items that were covered by fog. I quickly start feeling dizzy, my vision was blurring, I start to cough constantly, and the smell is getting worse. My body starts to shake and I drop to my hands and knees. Coughing loudly, I couldn’t control it, I start feeling sick. Eventually I start coughing up bits of blood. My stomach was aching, my insides were burning, and my body was soaked in sweat. I could see drops hitting the ground as they dropped off my forehead.

 I end up regurgitating chunks of raw meat and red liquid which I assumed was more blood. I was disgusted with myself. Why was I feeling this way? My body couldn’t adapt to this environment but that’s because I knew that this world I was in was not real. This is not Earth, this is not home, this is… I don’t know what this is. I wanted to say hell but it’s nothing like how I was thought it would be. I always imagined hell as a place where all the pain you felt in the real world would be an infinite amount worse. Where everything you believed in, everyone you loved, everything you knew would burn alongside you in a boiling pit of eternal suffering that was stewed by Satan. As I thought about that, I start to cry again. I haven’t cried since, well since the girl of my dreams broke my heart. I was in pain though. With the amount of vomit and blood that came out of me I figured I’d be dead by now, but somehow, I was still breathing.

Exhaling heavily through my mouth, my body was still shaking. I see a shadow hover over me and I knew what it was. I didn’t bother to look up but I asked it where I was exactly. Without saying anything, I laid on my back on the cold hard ground. I was burning up as I looked up at the pure covered white sky. The dark figure hovers over me and I start feeling pressure against my chest. It starts getting heavier and I made an effort to lift whatever it was off of me. I was still burning and the scene changes. I find myself trapped under a burning log of my apartment building. While trying to free myself, I was shocked that I was in the same place I was before waking up in the hospital.

My apartment building caught on fire. It was the middle of the night. I pushed as hard I could to free myself from the burning log. It was steaming hot but I had to get out of here. Fortunately after a painful effort, I free myself burning both my hands in the process. I try finding a way out but the smoke made it hard to see and I had trouble breathing. I come to a window at the other end of the hallway, the same window I jumped out of before passing out on the ground. It must’ve been at least three stories high. I didn’t want to go out the same way again but it was my only option. The building was about to collapse and no else could make it in and out. As I prepare to run to the window I hear screaming coming from the floor below me. A man was still there, he was screaming in pain. I had to make the decision of saving him and risking both our lives or to save myself. I was about to make the second option but I quickly realized why I’m here again. I must’ve made the wrong choice the first time, leaving that man to die. I thought about my courage and ran down to the floor below.

The man sees me and begs for help. I run over, his leg is stuck between two steaming hot logs. My hands were burnt to shreds. I hesitated but knew we were both in a life or death situation this time for real. I grabbed an old thin log lying on the floor. I pressed it against the thick log trying to free the man’s leg. He helped me push, we both wanted to get out of here. As we struggled we were losing strength. I drop to my knees touching the floor, I felt it getting hotter. My vision starts to fade again. The man cries out to me not to pass out. I was his only hope of getting out of here. Not surprised, I see the dark floating figure on the other side of the room just staring at me again. I don’t know why but somehow by looking at it I felt a sense of energy and fury. I quickly grabbed the thin wooden log and pressed hard. I saw my hands spilling drops of blood off of the piece of wood but I didn’t feel anything. I was able to manage the energy and lift the log off the man’s leg. I fall putting my back against the wall. I couldn’t stand it any longer I was about to pass out, and burn just like my vision of hell. Suddenly the man picked me up and carried me out of the room limping on the one leg he had left. I quickly gained conscious and switched it around.

The entire building was about to collapse. We both knew we weren’t going to make it out, but instead of fear, I felt happy. I made the right decision of helping this man save his life. Even at the face of death it felt great, knowing I saved a life, but the reality is… this man died. There was no going back at this point, but I knew, that when it was my time to go I would see this man again. We would meet again and he would thank me for saving his life and together spend the rest of eternity in whatever life we have after death. As I take my final breath, I see the figure in front of us and we both literally burst into flames. What’s worse is that I felt it, I felt myself burn to death, my body was in flames, I screamed in agony as I saw my life flash before me. The figure was still there, just freaking watching me die. For just a fragment of a second, I swear I saw another figure stand next to him. He looked like a normal person, very similar. My body drops dead still in flames. My body was dead but my soul was still alive.

I sat back in the kitchen of my house. My mind was breaking, I couldn’t think anymore. The darkness surrounded me and I knew that whatever was hiding in it was floating around me in circles, just observing my behavior. I was about to lose it, I was going insane. I was trapped in this horrible place, the walls were no longer made of wood, they were now wet and sticky. I went into a storm of rage unleashing every bit of wrath my soul had. I yelled in anger and hate over what was happening to me but, I think was finally starting to understand. This is not hell or heaven, this is in between. I sat with my back against the wall crying my eyes out at the fact that this is what my afterlife was meant to be. I would not have any concern for death anymore, I would welcome it. In a way it’s suicide. Looking back at the horrible things I’ve done,  this was a test of my self-worth, a look at what I had done in my life that resulted in a life sentence of dwelling in my own misery, my own darkness, the darkness that surrounded me until I was saved by the light… saved by the light. That alone gave me hope that everything was going to be OK, I was going to make it out of here redeemed of my sins.

There's always a way out, that's something that I always believed in. Every problem has an answer. I go upstairs to my bedroom and look at what Luke had left behind. I feel that's it's him I have to deal with. I don't know why but somethings telling me not touch any of his stuff, it would be a big mistake. I resisted touching all his items from when we were little kids. They were mementos of our past... I miss Luke. "But I don't." I heard a voice behind me and as soon as I turn around, someone knocks me out. I lay on the floor and see someone looking down at me. It wasn't the dark figure this time, it was a person. He kicks me on the head and I'm out for good.

I wake up hours later sitting in a chair inside a completely pitch black room surrounded only by a spotlight from a lamp that hung over me. I wasn't tied to the chair though, I could easily get up and walk away but I was too scared to walk out of the light. I know that whatever it was that hit me, it was looking at me through the darkness. I sat there just thinking, trying to sort everything that has happened into my head. I needed to figure out how to get out, I couldn't take this anymore, it was all happening way to fast and I'm still human. I've never felt so vulnerable and cowardly before. It was dead quiet, so quiet that I could hear a tiny ringing noise in my ear. I soon realize that the noise I was hearing, were footsteps. They got louder, it was approaching me. I quickly got in defense mode but I knew that challenging it would be a bad idea, so I stayed absolutely still. I closed my eyes shut praying and hoping that this thing would go away, or if anything it could help me get out of here.

I open my eyes and see two glowing eyes staring back at me in the darkness. I was paralyzed at the sight of this. We stared at each other for a moment and then it spoke, "I should've killed you." I immediately recognize the voice and in complete shock, I take a wild guess... Luke? I was terrified, I didn't want to believe this. In the name of all that is holy please don't let it be Luke, please no. He sits down in front of me, I lower my head in disappointment. All the pain and misery dropped out of me like a waterfall. Tears start running down my face and on to my lap, I didn't know about this. Luke starts to speak, "You had no idea, did you? You had no idea that your brother had died, and you wouldn't even care. I know you well enough to predict just what kind of guy you'll grow up to be. That is, if you make it."

I keep my head down, I manage to control my emotions. I couldn't look at him, I already felt too much guilt. "I'm sorry, Luke. I was cut away from you, I couldn't find any way to contact you and tell you, for the first time in a long time, how sorry I am." Luke stared back at me for a moment and then said, "Look at me. LOOK AT ME!" His voice raised in anger, it sounded almost menacing. I slowly raise my head and make eye contact with him. I felt like he was looking deep into my soul. Those eyes, they were dead and wide opened just starring.  "Why did you bring me here?" I asked him. He took a minute to respond. "I wanted to see you again. It's been far too long. I knew that you had forgotten about me in the last five years, and I just wanted to pick up where we left off." His voice was deep. I knew now that he was in control. There was no way he was gonna let me leave, but I know what he feels like now. I try choosing my words carefully, "Why did you want to kill me?" "Because, you're not my brother, my real brother. You always treated your scumbag friends like they were family and pushed me aside. I wanted you to look at things from my point of view you stupid shit. See how you feel right now, it doesn't even come close. But, you have a choice. You can choose to leave this place and spend the rest of your life suffering alone in your disgusting, smelly shell, all alone. Or, you can stay with me, we can have the life we never got. I know that you got a second chance to redo the bad choices you made in your life, well this is another."

I didn't know what to say. I wanted to get out of here already and I try convincing myself that all this is not real. This is all just a bad dream, that's what it was I know it is, it's just a dream! He's not real, I kept repeating it over and over in my head. Then I look up at him, "Fuck you. You're not my real brother either. All this is just an illusion. My real family is waiting for me outside these walls." He sighs and gets up, disappearing into the darkness. I soon start feeling pain all over my body. The light surrounding me starts to close in and with every move I felt worse and worse. I was screaming in agony, I could hear my bones being crushed, and soon my body was falling apart. The light got shorter and shorter until it finally went out and there was nothing but darkness.

I awake, back in the hospital. I could see the blurs talking over me. I knew at that moment that there was nothing more the doctors could do. They were thinking about unplugging me but instead they just left me alone. I wasn't afraid anymore. I welcome whatever comes next because I know that in the end I'll always prevail. It was my time and I took it for what it is, if any conciliation, everybody dies, everybody. It comes when you least expect it, it could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be in an hour.

The doctors had pulled a sheet over my body, turned off all the light and locked the doors behind them. I was alone, finally all alone. I could finally rest in peace, no more pain, no more sorrow... just peace. I slowly fade away once again. I was conscious but I was in an eternal sleep, sleep forever. I felt warm and comfortable, I felt safe knowing that there was nothing to fear anymore, nothing... NOTHING! I guess this is what death feels like. The same way before your mind could comprehend that you did not exist yet. I sleep soundly in this black hole of eternal darkness. I feel a hand rubbing my head, its fingers sliding through my hair. It felt soft and smooth. I let it be and reminded myself that there's no more having to wonder. I slept... like a baby inside its mother's womb. I was back...  where I belong.