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It’s strange how death can feel so familiar.  

The thought, so cool, so rational, fills her mind. Like an old friend, death shows up at her door and she invites it in. Again and again.  

To Annabel, death is many things. A split lip. A black eye. A couple of broken ribs that seem to poke out at odd angles through her corset. Death is always a struggle, a fight she can never seem to win.  It’s the taste of blood in her mouth, the high pitched ringing in her ears. Death is the pair of cold hands that grip her throat, slowly squeezing the brightness from her, wringing her out like a wet rag, and replacing it with black.

“You said you loved me!”  The man on top of her screams.

Annabel tries to say something, anything, but all she can do is gurgle.  She looks up at him, Samuel, her love.  His black hair, usually pulled back and tied with a ribbon, has become loose. It hangs over half of his face and the glow from the fire pit makes it appear crimson. The color of blood.  She can see one of his eyes.

Those aren’t his eyes. And indeed they are not.  Samuel’s eyes were baby blue.  They were big and beautiful and seemed to sparkle whenever he spoke.  The eye Annabel was staring at was that of a monster’s.  It was dark and black.  There was no sparkle.  The whites are full of veins. Big fat veins that snake through the orb and bulge as if they are trying to tear away.  They are the eyes of rage.

Annabel claws at the hands around her throat and kicks her legs.  But no matter how hard she tries, she knows death is coming.  In her struggles she knocks over one of the kerosene lamps.  It falls to the floor, shattering on impact, and the room around her bursts into flames.  Samuel doesn’t let go.  He screams again and squeezes harder.  The blackness consumes Annabel and she is no longer there.  She is disconnected.  She is distant.  And slowly slipping further and further away.

The last things Annabel perceives, as she dissolves into the night, is the smell of smoke, the roar of a fire, and the hoof beats of a horse fading in the distance.  

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