I lay in my bed staring straight into darkness. I feel the heaviness of sleep pounding on me. I close my eyes and let sleep defeat me.

My eyes open again in a different realm. Ahead of me is death. The dried, thorn coated, stems of roses seem to have a life of their own. They twist and weave amongst each another. I walk towards the thorns and they separate for me.

In the distance I see color; red. As I walk nearer I see pale flesh. Finally the image registers. In front of me lies a girl wrapped in thorns, holding a red rose; as red as the blood dripping from her several wounds.

Her eyes open as I step within touching distance. I gasp as her full beauty hits me. Her eyes are drowning pools of grey, so dead and longing. Her hair is jet black and tangled in the thorns. Her lips are a pale pink, but are given color from her pale surrounding skin.

She lifts her arm that is holding the rose toward me. I see a thorn puncture her skin and more blood drips. I reach for the rose, but before I can touch it, it shrivels up and disappears in a cloud of dust.

"That is all I have to give." The girl says in a quiet voice.

"Who are you?" I ask.

"I have given my gift. What is your gift?" Her voice and face are both stoic.

"What can I give you?"

"A rose is the gift of trust, love, and respect. You must give me an equal gift." The thorns move on their own and puncture her skin again.

"But I have nothing."

"Then you have killed me."

The thorns begin to move again. They tighten around her body. Blood gushes from the several new wounds. Her face is untouched and stares at me with her longing grey eyes. I begin to hear the crushing of bone and still she stares at me.

The sound of a pumping heart echoes. It becomes louder and louder as the thorns squeeze tighter and tighter. The girl's eyes glaze over. Suddenly the heart beats five times rapidly and stops.

A tear slides down from the eye lid of the dead girl. The tear hardens and becomes a stone. As it slides off her cheek to hit the dirt ground is transforms into blood. From the blood splatter, a rose grows and blooms rapidly.

My eyes shoot open and I'm staring into darkness again. My breath is fast and hard. I reach for my bedside lamp and touch something sharp that pricks me. I find my lamp and turn it on. Beside my lamp is a black rose with my blood on a thorn.