Hey Guys. So here's an idea I've had written for a while, dunno why I haven't uploaded it. I've had a run through it but I'm sure there are plenty of things that can be improved so please tell me what you think. I'll try my best to return the review =]

"It's simple; to avoid death you have to stop living." The woman's cherry red lips curved in a sensual smile as she appraised the man sitting across from her. He'd been all smiles to this moment, playing along with the charade, but now his mouth pitched down in a shocked grimace. This had been a bit of fun until now, a friend taking him to a 'Genuine Fortune Teller' for a laugh. But now this...

"What do you mean?" He asked warily in a husky voice he'd always hated. The woman laughed.

"No need to be frightened my friend. I know what you want, what you've always wanted." Her smile was frightening, pulling down lines all around her face. It was like some horror film. The man stayed silent but betrayed himself by sitting up a little straighter in his chair, a stiff wooden thing. A part of his mind, desperately trying to escape the situation, noted with jealousy that her chair was all cushions and gold paint. The entire room was covered in purple cloths and golden baubles, all crowding forward like some monstrous Christmas tree. The air was thick with cheap incense, making the air feel thick and heavy.

"Your heart needs to stop." She continued, looking him dead in the eye. Her arms waved in flowing gestures but her words were steel, and felt just as cold.

"You must wear pain as you wear your own skin." The cramped back room took on its own sinister character, it sat deathly still as if holding its breath. The chip shop in front of it faded away as the tension grew.

"You must give everything that is you to death." The air was shimmering hazily, the man felt dizzy, the words were making his head hurt, they faded to a whisper.

"You must become the darknesssssss in the light."

Abruptly the trance was over in a jolt of the man's stomach. The fortune teller stared at him oddly. He mumbled something between a thank you and a goodbye as he all but ran from the room.

Outside in the cold he breathed in the bitter air deeply with a sigh.

"Well what did you think Michael?" A figure said, detaching itself from a nearby wall and giving him a friendly pat on the shoulder. Michael swallowed and tried to mask it with a snort.

"Load of bollocks...of course...some gift Nine." He started walking, followed by the other man.

Nine chuckled.

"Well you're so uptight; I thought you might actually enjoy something for once."

"It was stupid." He grunted in an overly mean way. Luckily it rolled straight off Nine.

"I'm soooooooooo sorry." He laughed, wobbling slightly.

"Had a drink?" Michael said with a raised eyebrow.

"Maybe one." Nine chuckled in a toothy grin.

"Disgraceful." He replied with a grin, trying to forget the words already tattooing themselves on his brain. They walked on in silence since Nine was clearly no longer in any fit state to drive.

They came to Michael's door, a frosted glass affair, made worse by the nights chill.

"This is me." He said simply.

"So it is!" Nine slurred. "All right then, night mate."

He stumbled away, Michael already forgotten.

"Night you idiot." He smirked as he went inside with a creak of old floorboards.

"Good night?" Caroline asked sleepily from her armchair as he kissed her awake.

"Nah, bit of a bust really, How about yours?"

Her eyes opened lazily in pools of blue, almost luminous in the dark. They widened slightly when a crash of bins came from just outside the window.

"Nick?" She asked.

"Yeah..." He muttered, looking out the window. "He's fine." He concluded and turned back to her, hauling her gently from the chair and carrying her upstairs. She was small and slim and he had little trouble carrying her this far.

"Don't wake Olivia." She whispered dreamily.

"I won't." He assured her with a smile. He had to muffle a shout when he stepped painfully on some toy of Olivia's just outside their bedroom. He entered the dark space and gently laid Caroline on their bed before getting in, fully dressed. He tried to shut his eyes but they refused to stay closed.

"A fortune teller..." Caroline's voice musically chuckled next to him. "...How cheesy."

The silence tensed in expectation for an answer.

"Yeah." He said. "Cliché."

X

"That Nick." Caroline laughed, slamming a bowl of porridge down in front of Michael. "He takes you out and gets pissed himself." She caught herself, looking worriedly at their daughter in the high chair; happily playing in the chocolaty slop that remained of her breakfast.

"Gets drunk." She corrected with a rueful smile. He didn't match it.

"He prefers being called Nine." He mumbled through a mouthful of bland oats. She snorted.

"Just so when a woman he asks out wonders why he can say 'Coz I'm a nine out of 10'" She said in a deep voiced mocking of Nick. That actually made Michael smile, she could always do that. He got up to give her a kiss and blow a raspberry at Olivia, mood instantly uplifted, and went to get ready for work.

"Mind if I grab a lift to the shops?" Caroline shouted through the steam of the shower from the door. He warbled some kind of agreement, rubbing soap desperately from his eyes. She of course didn't need words to know he'd say yes, and he knew she knew it. It served only to make him smile more as she handed him his car keys when he was walking out the door. She looked stunning, somehow even more so for the baby carrier hanging from her arm. She stroked his hair as he pulled out from the driveway and Olivia gurgled happily as the rumbling of the car made her seat vibrate.

As they drew closer to the high street a cry from the back seat made him turn his head, just for a second.

"She dropped her glove." He laughed in relief.

Then the windscreen exploded.

The car pitched forward as the front collapsed inwards and the steering wheel pressed painfully into Michael's legs. The screech of metal and grinding glass made his ears ache as he fell against something warm and wet.

Something slammed into his head and the air, choking with smoke already, was too dark to see through. Someone near was screaming. The white hot thought in his brain was to help his family, to do something. He fought against the dark, mentally clawing at consciousness even as his arms became sluggish and his eyes closed.

X

The hospital stank with the tang of fear, maybe his own. There was no gentle awakening, just a switch from off to on.

"No!" He screamed, arching his back from the bed and trying to tear at the tubes and wires feeding into him. Blood spots peppered the turquoise tiles of the floor. Immediately people surrounded him, pushing him down and trying to calm him. His arms kept flailing; he caught a young man square across the face.

"Someone increase his anaesthetic!" He cried, clutching his face.

"He's pulled out his drip." A greying woman growled.

"Caroline! My daughter!" He thrashed. They still held him down.

"Mr Lacker! MR LACKER! The woman cried. "They're dead!"

He collapsed instantly back on the bed, eyes frozen to the woman who'd spoken. His brain stopped in a last attempt to block out what he'd just heard. His only success was blacking out.

He awoke again alone; no-one was watching him, monitoring him. Darkness was treading its way along the hall as black clouds blocked the dying sun in the window.

Caroline...Olivia...It can't be...

For some reason they hadn't changed him into a gown, but his sleeves were rolled back to allow new tubes to dig into him. Dark marks remained of the places where they had been before.

...His fault...

He pulled out the tubes without a thought and got out of the bed. His gaze did not flicker as he walked down the empty hallway. To him his footsteps made the sounds of the crash over and over; of crying and crushing. Each step was through the haze of memory, he barely saw the hospital, didn't notice at all that he was barefoot. He raised a trembling hand to his head. A couple of fingers that were taped together brushed against a bandage curling around his head. It couldn't hold his thoughts in place though and shards of emotion sharper than glass sliced through him.

His house was a few miles from the hospital but the limping journey passed quickly, or at least he didn't notice, and he came to his front door as the first rumbles of thunder shook the world. He fumbled in his pockets, some part of him was probably meant to be relieved they hadn't taken his belongings but he was beyond caring. His wallet, phone, everything in his pockets he threw to the ground until he came across his key. That he left in the door and he tumbled inside the quiet house.

He came to himself in the living room, thoughts starting up again and with them all the pain and grief tore through him anew like a blade, leaving him bleeding on the floor. Tears pooled on the red carpet but started to steam in the stifling heat of the fire burning in the hearth. He must have switched it on. It was growing larger and fiercer, making the whole room burn. In the night the storm finally broke and a massive clash of lightning outside his window caused the lights to die in a fizzle.

The only light came from the panting fire now, a gaping maw of hell trying to sear him away in his own pain. The storm outside clattered and screamed in fury, pounding against the window.

As Michael sat up he could see the shadows dancing around the room, capering and jeering at him. His ears pounded with the rolling thunder and crackling of fire as the room's walls grew black and warped. Sweat broke out in fear as he tried to back away from the shadows all around him. The hearth called out to him; the shadows laughed at his heartache and both cursed him, blamed him.

To his mind the shadows started to peel from the walls and whirled around him. They were twisted shapes and boasted grinning smiles. He lashed out, hitting nothing but burning air and the walls. The door was swallowed up in fiery darkness and the room became a cell, a tomb. The hell figures screamed in joyful pain and clawed back at him, never drawing blood but each gash felt like it cut him to the core.

He saw Caroline's face crying in hatred and shouting it was his fault. His tears made the room shimmer even more in the furnace. As he desperately lunged at a shadow, pleading forgiveness the door he slammed into opened into the hallway.

The apparitions hissed from the living room as he shut the door and leant against it, breathing the dry air desperately. His hatred was left in the room and he felt raw in his grief.

The light worked in the hall and he had to shield his eyes as he went to climb the stairs. The air was too dry, he hadn't drunk in...he didn't know how long. The sandy carpet scratched his bare feet as he climbed the stairs and the light above shone like the sun high above as he slowly trod through the wasteland. The storm was muted in here and the silence reigned, even his footsteps were swallowed by the sand beneath him and he walked aimlessly for miles.

The desert calmed his sorrow and scoured away his feelings until by the time he reached the attic all he felt was the bottomless sorrow within him. He grasped at the pull cord ferally and pulled the ladder down heavily, slicing his skin and bending his broken fingers without noticing. Every part of him screamed in pain but it was beyond him now. He sat in the attic, the cold attic, for no reason and some part of him shivered. The creeping cold climbed over his skin and into his bones.

Here he felt...numb. The lack of life suited him here; there was just him and the cold. He welcomed the numbness, the feeling of detachment from...from...from what?

His mind froze over and shattered, and shattered again until the tiny pieces formed a mind of someone else, sanity lost, feeling lost. There was nothing left. Not even the cold.

X

I step outside into a muted world. The bright grey sky burns my eyes painfully and I raise a hand to shield them as a stuttering taxi belches past me, stalking its next prey. Steps grow silent down the road and around me a cacophony of pointless drones and beeps turn the tune of daily life. People stroll past, barge past, in ignorance of their own lives and fluttering minions haunt the rolling skies like the harbingers of hate they are. A beat pulses the air, quietly, but always in the background like some colossal thrumming, vibrating my body, harder than normal since there is no answering call from within my chest.

I breathe new life, sweet and clean despite the setting and a fetid rattle sighs out of me like smog, choking me.

I stumble aimlessly, my head down, staring at my long since blackened feet almost buried beneath my tattered frays of blue jeans.

Where do I go? Where can I go? An eternity of empty echoes awaits my hollow footsteps to fill them but with no direction the treads sound harsh, unnatural.

I find myself on top of a tall building, still looking down on a city without a heart. I see before me a cold horizon of stone and people moving around like clockwork dummies, every one of them as stuck as I, not one is alive, not really. I know without thinking why I'm here, why my feet carry the load and why they keep walking out onto thin air.

Unsurprisingly the rush of air I feel is grating and sore as I fall the short distance between the roof and the ground but it is swallowed up pain, my travelling companion and the only sentiment I carry with me.

The sky still stings as my eyes gaze vaguely upwards. I'm waiting for the end. I know it. Beneath me my own lake of crimson tears extends outwards, a jarring splash of colour on my life. I sense it seeping outwards; fell it rushing out as if trying to get far away from me. I don't blame it.

Then I see him; I hear footsteps more hollow than mine approach. A faceless fury gazes down at me from on high and I glimpse a sneer as he turns away. My left ear, thankfully not crushed hears him say "not worth it..." as he strides into the sea of shadows around me and I laugh.

Yes I laugh. Sobbing chuckles rip through my tattered remains of lungs, bone feeling like chips of ice deep within them. I laugh as people around me look around in fear. I laugh as the baffled ambulance people look down in confusion. I laugh as fragmented spectres of my loved ones dance before my eyes.

And I laugh.