Stages of Grief This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I saw her when she was alone, just like I am now-- wallowing in misery and emptiness. The light of the dingy streets became beautiful in her bottomless ebony eyes, and her waves of sable hair shone despite the murky air of the city. Regardless of the plain covering of mussed, torn jeans, and simple frayed cherry-colored jacket, her pristine skin shone; she was a jewel in the midst of silt and stone.

With poor, erring mortal vision, she could not have seen the inky figure slipping about in the shadows of the alleyways. With the pounding of music in her skull, she could not have heard his dreadfully silent approach. With not a single soul's presence, she could be attacked and left to die, and no one would know.

So that was when-- and who-- the boy decided to strike. He clutched at his side a single, serrated blade, with merciless hands, gnarled from begging on the streets. And his eyes, vacant of humanity, were rather filled with pain, suffering, and famine. He asked for her money, speech lulling in complete exhaustion-- he was hungry.

It was as if the devil had possessed him as he flitted behind the girl, and held the weapon against her throat. He asked her once again, despite her silence. Choked by the boy's grip, and rather at a loss for words, she did not reply again-- she merely struggled and flailed about in the stone cage of his arms. When he let out a terrifying cry of frustration in her ear, she released every ounce of strength and fear for an escape against the prison bars that held her captive.

But then she fell to the ground, pain spiking in her abdomen, and crimson gore splattering the squalid pavement. She heard, beyond the pounding of adrenaline in her heart, the horrid, ragged gasp of the boy-- followed by the quick slaps of his feet on the road, growing farther and farther away. She winced at each little sound.

A single, unblemished hand was placed upon the wound, and it came away drenched in a dreadful shade of red. She heard a single, piercing scream before the world slipped away, and her body was pitched in a blackness beyond the dire night.

X.X.X.

I watched the scene repeatedly, feeling each and every time, completely and utterly forsaken. I begged the blackness for any way out- how could I just go back, and get the light back in those eyes? How could I stand that girl back up again, and send her back on her way home? It wasn't too soon-- I couldn't possibly be dead.

Things like this didn't happen to people like me, so sudden and unrefined. How could I be left with nothing beyond a night-stained, solitary street, and hands drenched in innocent blood? I sobbed, screaming into the dreadful ebony to go back. I would do anything to cease this agony and isolation.

"Anything?" spoke an echo, ricocheting about in my head. "Surely you would not risk anything for that world, child?"

Tears streaming down my face, and with a quavering voice, I replied " I want to get it back. I want a life again. I need a life again-- this is too soon for me. You made a mistake!"

The voice chuckled. "I did not make any sort of mistake, my child. That boy did. He caused you this pain-- it is in no way a fault of mine. Perhaps, you could get him to repay it for you... It isn't such a horrible idea." It paused, as if a parent contemplating whether a child should visit a friend's house or not. "Well, it all depends on whether you would even wish to confront this boy, and demand he give you back what he took. Well, child?"

"Yes." There was not a second of hesitation. That boy owed me my life. And I wanted it back.

Fire began to spurn in my gut, taking the place of the previous hollowness. In that mere moment of conversation, pure malice cried out from my heart, demanding my revenge. I had to inquire about this boy, and why he had acted so savagely...why he had led to my demise, so cruelly.

X.X.X

When I stepped out of the ebony, only a few days had passed since my killing. The body had been cleaned up, like a mere spill of juice on the kitchen floor, but people were still wary while prowling the city. I grinned, and once again practiced what the voice had taught me, making body solid and present in the eyes of a human. When I felt the cracked road under my tattered sneakers, and heard a shocked gasp from a random lady on the other side of the road, I knew it had worked. It was time for my revenge.

Letting myself vanish back into the shadows, completely nonexistent, I sauntered off to greet my murderer.

Hours later, I first caught a glimpse of him through his grimy, so-called "apartment", window, pawing through stolen trash cans for food. I saw the knife glint in the dim light, taunting the boy from the room's corner. He was alone.

I could feel the grin sliding over my face, and the loathing burn in the back of my eyes. Tears scorched down my face as I approached him, and fists clenched at my bloody sides. Now was the time for my revenge.

As if the boy could feel me looming behind him, he ceased in rummaging through the trash, and looked around his foul dwelling with flat, deadened eyes. Such eyes haunted me beyond belief-- and I wanted them closed forever. My grin spread from ear to ear... It was truly as easy as this.

In an instant, I materialized before him, and let out a piercing, bloodcurdling scream-- a replica of the last sound that I had ever heard. I stared into his face now, eyes glistening with fear and remorse, as he stumbled away and stammered words of regret. With each tortured plea of his, I was reminded of every drop of my life that flooded the wretched street.

"You can never pay me back with words," came my torn, throaty growl. Your life is hardly enough.

X.X.X.

I sat quietly weeping in the dark, completely devoured by grief. The emptiness within me had been filled with festering hatred, which had then rotted away to leave nothing but sorrowful despair. Rather than seeing my death over and over... I now saw his.

With enraged hands, I had shoved him into one of the walls in his apartment, my howls ricocheting about the room. I clawed at him, and bludgeoned him with my fists-- strengthened by the pits of animosity roiling in my heart. All the while, he never prayed for help, never lifted a finger to protect himself, never even met my gaze. He had known why I was there, and had known that he had been devastatingly wrong in what he did; the dole of losing me had overwhelmed him. He had never meant to kill me. My death was an accident, of sorts, and yet, his was complete murder.

When he was beaten and practically torn apart, he remained silent and determined to face his doom, which I had gladly given in the most gruesome way possible. I allowed my hand to disappear, and plunged it into his chest, gripping his heart, and felt the racing beat. Quickly, I materialized my hand again, and began to clench the sick, unfeeling thing tighter and tighter in my grasp. I had relished in the new cry of pain, and the break in the boy's stolid expression.

I look upon that moment with the sheerest of horror at both myself and my actions. It astonished me that such cruelty could exist within a single person, let alone myself. I could not comprehend what I had done, nor the strange light in my eyes when I crushed, killed, and scorned the body of the dead boy. It had to be a dream, but I knew that something so sick could never be a product of even my own ridiculous imagination.

Each time I witnessed the scene, rivers of tears would cascade from my eyes and drench my clothing, but my hands would remain limp at my sides, and my legs too weak to stand up and run as far away as I could...

I wailed out to the velvety stygian, releasing the pain and lamentation of my attempted vengeance.

"Why are you consumed in such sadness? You killed the boy, did you not?" replied the voice. After my mangled response, the Devil spoke again, "Did you not get what you wished for?"

I convulsed with sobs, and bowed my head with repentance. I felt the flare of hostility once again at the Devil for cheating me, and through my tears, I whispered back "Yes... yes..."





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