Maggie realized that when you see your life in a series of flash photographs, it’s all been pretty shit really. That bit they always told you about death was right, and it was crap.  She wished she could swap the bright light and tunnel bit for the life flashing before her eyes bit.  She didn’t want to be reminded of all the decisions she could have made differently, all the times she had hurt herself, all the things she had ever done wrong.  Surely, she mused, death should be like falling into a bottomless well, or flying in a dream.  Instead, it felt like she was being hit by lightening, every image burned into her heart and seeping through her veins and arteries, spreading like the branches of a tree, searing on to every fibre of her being.

She saw two little girls, one with white, blond hair and the other with messy, dark, curly hair, wrapped in each other under a table while a war was being fought in front of them.  Even though Maggie couldn’t hear it, she knew that it would end with a woman crashing to the floor, her face a mess of blood and bruises.  The woman would stare into the girl’s tear stained faces and apologise, but she would never take them away from it.

Another blinding flash and intense pain.

She saw her teenage self, all skin, bones, spots and long messy hair, sitting on a sofa, kissing a man who looked fifteen years older than her.  She watched his hands creep over her pale virgin skin, and felt the bass of the music in her chest mirroring her beating heart.  Maggie felt a piercing urge to scream at herself to run away as fast as she could.  She knew that the man would take her upstairs and rape her when she was too drunk to protest.  Maggie knew that it would take her years to think of it as rape, and a little part of her would always blame herself.

Another blinding flash and intense pain.

She felt like her eyes were going to explode and her brain was about to melt.  She wanted to move her arms and claw her skull open.  She wanted to make it stop.

She was at a gig and singing along with the music.  Even though she couldn’t hear it, she knew she knew every word to every song the band played.  She was at the front, her chest resting against the metal barrier, the weight of the people behind her slowly squeezing the breath out of her lungs. A security guard asked her if she wanted to come over the barrier to get a drink.  She wondered what she looked like for him to say that to her.  She also wondered how long the imprint of the wire of her bra would stay on her skin.  She watched as two arms snaked around her and rested on the barrier. She watched herself looking at them and knew she was thinking about all the horror stories of what happened to girls in pits.  The arms tensed.  The pressure disappeared.  Maggie inhaled a lung full of air that smelled like relief and sweat.  Before she could thank the man behind her, she ducked to avoid a stage diver’s boot and the arms disappeared into a throbbing mass of people.  She knew she would always regret that moment passing through her fingers.  She knew there would be a million others exactly like it that she would also regret losing.

Another blinding flash and intense pain.

Every muscle in her body was in cramp.  She screamed that if she were dying, and she presumed she was, all she wanted was to slip away peacefully and not feel like she was in the middle of a huge tug of war, knowing she would lose, whichever way she was pulled.

She was sat on a chair in a hospital room, doubled over in pain, knowing they had just taken her dead baby away after it had been aborted.  She cried big tears that fell off the end of her chin and made a wet patch on her jeans.  She realized that whatever she did with the rest of her life, she was a murderer.  A baby killer.  She knew that she never told anyone about it.

Then a million paparazzi flashbulbs.  They were painful, but between them Maggie could make out images of people and places that she wanted to reach out and grab and hold tightly in her fists.  She wanted to remember every word, every person, good or bad, she didn’t care.

She was sat behind the wheel of a car.  There were a million diamonds glinting on the bonnet in the early evening twilight.  She realised there was no glass in the windscreen and she couldn’t see properly.  She lifted up her hand, wiped the blood out of her eyes and focused slowly on what was in front of her.

A scream started to rise in her chest but got stuck before it reached her throat.  A blonde haired woman lay on the bonnet, dead blue eyes staring back at her.  Her limbs were twisted at odd angles and pieces of glass were stuck in her body, as if they had been glued there by a Hollywood make up department.  She looked beautiful, yet horrifying, like a tableau in an art gallery.  Maggie exhaled again and heard an official sounding voice behind her state matter of factly,

“We’ve got an output, she’s back with us.”

Maggie felt disappointed and let the darkness envelope her again.  She hoped that if she were dead, she wouldn’t be judged too harshly for trying to destroy herself.  She couldn’t blame anyone else, but it didn’t entirely feel like her fault either.


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