I was dying and I wasn’t sure if I was all that upset about it. The pain of living would be over and I would finally be at peace. Could Mara torment me even in the Afterlife? I wasn’t sure but I knew being alive with the guilt of her suicide weighing on me was almost too much to bear anymore. I didn’t struggle and as my vision began to blur, I wondered how the police might classify my death. Choked on my own vomit perhaps? How do you explain a strangulation by a killer who cannot be seen or heard or leaves no tracks?
Somewhere between my eyes closing and opening again, I heard a familiar voice. Sam was here? Was he seeing this? I felt him slap me across the face with that big meat paw of his and it roused me from my drunken and oxygen deprived state only momentarily. He was shouting something at me but I couldn’t make the words out. He was standing right next to Mara and he couldn’t see her. I even pointed and gasped out her name, but he simply didn’t see her. The world spun uncomfortably then and I was left in a darkness I had hoped would be my final one. I just wanted it all to end and I wanted to be free from this torment, this lurching ship of existence that I no longer wanted any part in.
* * *
“You’re some kind of asshole, do you know that?”
I woke to the sound of Sam’s voice, though with the light of sunrise shining in my face and my awful hangover, I was having a hell of a time focusing. I squinted at him as I sat up, unsure where I should begin. Maybe I should tell him nothing at all and just play the ‘Drunk and Depressed’ card rather than trying to explain that the ghost of Mara visited me last night and tried to kill me.
“I thought you were taken by the cops.”
“Didn’t have enough evidence to hold me, but Elle’s convinced I did it.”
“Yeah she came by here. Listen, we have to talk.”
I proceeded to tell him that I had Veronica’s phone and pointed over to my dresser where I had kept it. The other, more questionably insane things about Mara trying to strangle me could wait. Right now, nothing was more important than getting that phone into his hands so he could clear his name. Of course, I was operating on the belief that he was innocent. With luck, the phone would show that he and Veronica only had a professional relationship and there was nothing to build a case against him with.
“You’ve had this since the other night?”
“Yeah. Found it yesterday afternoon.”
“Anybody else know you have this?”
The look Sam gave me was one of relief, but it didn’t seem like it was for the reasons I would normally expect. I looked down at the pink and silver piece of plastic and technology in his hand and wondered if I had made the right choice. The doubt was written plain as day on my features and it drew a mild frown to his face. The lingering silence was awkward and mildly disturbing; it was as though he was debating on whether he needed to kill me to ensure my silence and if it came down to overpowering him to get that phone back or to save my own life, I’d be out of luck there too.
“Look, I’ll take this right to the police station right now. You can come with me if you want.”
Did I want to go? I could stay here and possibly be choked to death by what I was very sure was a ghost or take the chance that Sam was really driving me somewhere that he could end me with minimal fuss. After looking around my bedroom and the wreck I made of my living room just beyond I gave him a single nod. If for no other reason, I needed to get out of this place because I could feel Mara everywhere and it was beginning to make me nauseous with an unspoken fear.
“I’ll go. It’s not that I don’t trust you Sam, but things are getting weird.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Let’s get that phone to the police and be done with it.”
That was the first time I’ve ever lied to Sam. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t even trust my own senses anymore, let alone the one person I could always rely on. What if Elanor had been right all along? I couldn’t even imagine a universe where that was possible until ten minutes ago. I put it out of my mind for now and locked the front door. There was nothing to be done now but to see how events played out.
Though, when I looked up to see Mara standing by the picture window with her fingers dragging blood down the glass, I knew that no matter what happened, my sanity would be the next victim in all of this chaos.