by Ahmed A. Khan
When she was twenty nine, her husband left her for another woman. He even managed to get sole custody of their only daughter.
“Death,” she thought in despair.
"Don't even think of it," her super ego warned her ego. "Suicide is sin. You will be punished."
"Death is the end of all punishments, all pains," her ego replied.
"But what if it is not?" asked her super ego.
From that day her super ego kept a watchful eye on her, but how long can one be protected from oneself? She got the opportunity and took it.
She swallowed about two dozen barbiturates.
The most painless and pleasant kind of death, she thought as sleep slowly soaked through her being.
A tall mountain. She was on top of a narrow precipice, looking down. It was steep, and the foot of the mountain was so far down. She felt dizzy. The palms of her hands became clammy. The nerve ends in her fingers seemed to twitch and ache. What was she doing at this place? And how had she got there? She was afraid of heights.
Suddenly, her worst fear realized. Her foot slipped and she began to fall off the mountain. A scream clogged in her throat. Her flailing hands touched the sharp edge of the precipice and gripped tightly. She stopped falling, but she was now dangling over the terrifying drop, hanging on to the precipice with her cramped fingers.
Waves of panic rolled through every cell in her body as, slowly, inexorably, her fingers slipped off the precipice. She fell. This time she screamed. A long, horrible scream.
At that moment, her awareness fragmented. She knew that she was lying on her bed, dying and dreaming that she was falling off a mountain. At the same time, the dream was no less real. She really was falling off a mountain.
Down, down, she fell, every cell in her body screaming with terror, every nerve end anticipating the moment of impact with the rocks below. The dread was unbearable, a thousand times more intense than the intensity of her despair that had driven her to suicide.
The moment of impact never came. As she fell, the ground seemed to recede from her. The dread stretched taut.
It's okay, a part of her awareness reassured her. This horrible dream will end when I finally die within a few moments.
She continued falling down.
Her heart stopped beating. Her lungs stopped pumping air. Her brain stopped functioning. She died.
And she continued falling. And the dread stretched into eternity.
* * *
Ahmed A. Khan is a Canadian SF writer whose works have appeared in various venues including Interzone, Ideomancer, Strange Horizons, Anotherealm, etc. He has also edited the anthologies, "SF Waxes Philosophical", "A Mosque Among the Stars" and "Cheer Up, Universe". Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ahmed.a.khan.140 Twitter: https://twitter.com/ahmedakhan
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