In an instant, Dana was nowhere.

A moment before, she'd been on the floor of her kitchen, screaming and crying in abject horror as Randall, enraged beyond sense, plunged one of the carving knives they'd been given at their wedding so many years ago deep into her chest.

The sting of pain was over in an instant, along with everything else.

Now, Dana sat curled on the floor of the black nothing-space she'd found herself (though she couldn't really say the place she was had a floor). She still felt the throbbing of fear and terror inside her, but they'd been left behind along with her body the moment she died. What was left were shadows of emotion, after-images imprinted on her soul in her last moments of life. With that same distance, Dana could still feel her body, feel it growing cold and stiff as blood dribbled out of her chest. When she opened her eyes, beyond the darkness of nothing, she could see through her dead eyes as Randall stood over her, but he moved so slowly, like time itself was stalling for her.

Her fear was so distant, but her rage, her hate and fury for the man who'd ended her life just because he could, burned powerfully inside her, a single light in that dark nothingness between death and whatever lay beyond it.

Time's effect in that place was weak, the seconds longer and the hours shorter, leaving Dana to stew in her thoughts for what simultaneously might have been minutes or years. In fact, all that remained of her were thoughts. What she pictured as her body in that darkness was just her idea of it, the shape she'd imagined for herself after 32 years of life, the hollow form that had cut its way through time. The only thing keeping her from drifting away like mist was the connection to her physical body, even as it grew cold on the kitchen floor.

After a long and silent reflection, Dana realized she wasn't alone in that nothingness.

She first felt a kind of mental pull, like the sensation of being watched, from all around her, before understand that the place she was in wasn't really a location, but an enveloping presence so close it seemed poised to coil around her like a snake. Dana withdrew from her body and looked out into the darkness to see a shape standing near her, realizing that it had always been there and just waiting for her to acknowledge it.

She could feel the figure better than she could see it. Neither male nor female, tall nor short, fat nor thin, human nor animal, the figure watched her with the endless patience of stone, almost politely waiting for her to acknowledge it. She tried to focus and get a better look at the shape with her, but the closer she tried, the more it began to change. It was at once a skeleton, a pale man in a cloak, a shroud with nothing underneath, a formless black mist, a huge dog, an enormous alligator, a pale horse, the broken statue of an angel, and endless other forms and shapes. Dana felt dizzy and looked away, but she understood well enough.

"It's not fair," she said, though she didn't quite know whether she was speaking or thinking.

"It rarely is," the figure said. Despite its strange and ever-changing shape, its voice was calm, pure, something solid in that formless place and surprisingly reassuring.

"I gave him so much," Dana said, looking through the pin-hole vision of Randall standing above her body. "I gave him everything and he just…took and took and took. I don't know why I ever thought he would give me anything back. I was so stupid. I am stupid."

The figure didn't answer, but Dana knew it was listening. She took a shuddering breath with lungs that weren't there and wiped away imaginary tears. She didn't need to do any of those things anymore, but the habit was too strong to break.

"Do I have to go now?" Dana asked. "Can you just…give me a second?"

"You have as much time as you need," the figure said. "But you will have to go eventually."

The figure held something, just as shapeless and changing as itself, but with the single impression of being something very, very sharp. Dana could feel her connection to her body as millions and millions of tiny threads, like wispy spider silk that, together, bound her so tightly that it seemed nothing could sever them.

"I know," she said, quietly. After a moment, Dana smirked. "At least the scythe thing makes sense now."

The figure remained silent, but seemed in no hurry.

"I didn't like my life," Dana said. "I know I should have, but…if I looked back and tried to put it all in an imaginary bowl or something, tried to sieve it all out, there was a lot more bad than good. I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't something I really thought I'd ask for again when it was over."

Dana clenched her imaginary fists as she glared through the hole in the darkness at the face of her husband, clenched into a beet-red, ugly scowl, spittle falling from his mouth and his hands stained with her blood.

"But god damn it, that doesn't make it fair," Dana growled. "That doesn't mean he gets to take it from me. Like he took everything else." She rocked to her feet and stood on the nothing below her, the flames of rage so strong she almost felt alive again.

"Put me back," she said to the figure. "Let me go back. This isn't right."

"You know it can't be done."

"That's…I…" Dana snarled and stared at the figure. "Look. People can die on the operating table and come back, right? People can survive anything. I don't want to live forever, I don't even care if I die the next day." She pointed out to the infinitely small point of light staring back out through the world. "But not like this. Not by him."

The figure seemed to speak more with silence than with words. Dana glared at it, but knew it wasn't the shape she was angry with.

"I'll wait," Dana said. "I'll stay here. Forever. And I'll make you stay with me until you put me back and I can…I can do something."

"It can't be done," it said. "You are already gone."

"Not yet," Dana spat, feeling the tug of the millions of threads connecting her to her body. "That's why you're here, right? That's what you're here to do, to take me past all this. But until you do that, I'm still here." She jabbed a finger at it. "You can't make me go if I don't want to."

Somehow, as she said it, Dana knew it was true. The shape could only take her away when she wanted to go, it couldn't make her do anything. If need be, she was prepared to sit on the floor of that nowhere place for the rest of eternity and wait for the figure to change its mind. She was already dead, after all. She had nothing but time.

As she realized this, the figure moved for the first time, cocking its head to the side curiously. Dana glared at it warily before the glint of light caught her eye. Looking up (for whatever counted as 'up' in that place), she watched stars begin to flicker into existence, swirling around one another like a tunnel stretching infinitely into the distance. As she stared at them, the stars grew brighter, more defined, and began to swirl around one another as more and more blinked to life between them. As they grew brighter, Dana realized they weren't stars, but an infinite number of pin-pricks in the darkness like the one she could see Randall through. Tiny holes in the fabric of that place that gave her glimpses back into the living world she'd been taken from.

"Death is, in essence, acceptance," the figure said as Dana lost herself in the ever-expanding field of stars. "It is inevitable, but even in that inevitability, there is choice. It is peace, stillness, a rest that all living things long for. Death is a release, but life…life can be fought for. Clung to. And for those that refuse to rest, refuse to accept the inevitable, there is one last battle they may fight."

The field of starry pin-holes continued to spread, blinking open across the 'sky' until it began to spread 'down,' leaving Dana to imagine she was standing somewhere in the blackness of space. If she focused, she could pick a single opening to stare through out at the world, with each tiny dot offering a new and different view of the living world.

"Every moment of every day in your life had a choice," the figure said, lost somewhere beyond the stars were Dana couldn't see. "And each and every choice was a point where your life split, leading you down one path while another you followed another. The universe is a fractal, an infinite and endless mandala of choices and consequences that lattice together into a fabric larger than imagination. You lived one life, Dana, but there are infinite other Danas that lived lives similar, but not quite the same, as you did."

Just as the field of ever-expanding points of light was becoming overwhelming, they stopped turning and froze in place before many of them simply blinked into darkness.

"In trillions of these infinite universes, Dana Lowry met Randall Carver. In billions of these trillions, Dana Lowry married Randall Carver." More of the pin-holes blinked away, but still left an impossible number of them stretching out into infinity. "And in millions of those billions, Randall Carver murdered Dana Lowry." Even more vanished, leaving the star field a little more evenly spread, but with little difference in size or distance.

"You cannot be put back in your body, Dana. You can't go back to continue the life you knew. But there is a way for you to change it."

"How?" Dana asked the darkness.

"In millions of time-lines, Randall Carver murdered his wife, Dana Lowry. Your death cannot be reversed, but it can be written over. You can't be taken if you never died."

"If I never died…" Dana repeated, focusing on different points of light into the world, realizing she was looking out of her own eyes and into countless deaths she'd suffered at the hands of her husband. "So I need to survive in every time-line he killed me in?"

"Not just survive," the figure said. "Replace a life with a life. If Randall lives, he may kill you at a later date. Remove the potential. His death is your only way to be sure."

"Jesus Christ," Dana breathed, trying to count in her minds eye the number of stars laid out before her. "How many times do I have to do it?"


"He…killed me that many times?"

"The number could be infinite."

"I guess he was just that kind of guy…" Dana said to herself cynically.

"The struggle will be endless. You will face death more times than you can imagine and even if you succeed, it will come with a cost. Only when you erase each and every one of your deaths by Randall's hand may you be free, but fail even once and you will return here."

The figure was beside her, standing in silhouette against the stars.

"This is the price. Either this impossible task lay before you, or you accept what has happened to you and go to your rest."

"Has anyone ever done it before?" Dana asked. "Come back to life like this?"

The figure didn't answer.

"Is it really impossible?"

"Life belongs to those who fight for it," it answered. "What do you choose?"

Dana closed her eyes and felt the nowhere around her ripple like a wet cloak. Despite everything, the flame continued to smolder inside her. After a moment, she turned and pointed to the pin-prick dot of awareness closest to her, the sight of Randall standing above her after burying the knife into her chest.

"This one first."

Color and sight bled back into Dana's eyes, like the world around her was an oil painting melting in reverse. The colors began to slowly take shape, solidifying around her into four walls, a ceiling, a floor beneath her feet. They began to pick up speed as time ramped back up to its normal flow and objects around her finally took form. When her vision at last sharpened, Dana found herself standing in her kitchen.

"Dana!" roared a male voice from across the house. "Where the fuck are you?"

Her breath caught in her throat, her heart fluttering like a trapped bird inside her chest. She was alive again, but not for long. Dana knew that, in a few minutes, Randall would come barging into the kitchen in a blind rage and murder her. She trembled as sweat beaded on her forehead and made her hands slick. In that nowhere place after death, her fear was just a memory, an afterimage; now that she was alive again, so much to lose, she felt that same terror that had paralyzed her long enough for her husband to kill her the first time.

"Dana!" Randall barked again, closer that time, making her jump and whimper quietly.

You know what he'll do to you, she told herself. You already know what's going to happen.

But the knowledge wasn't enough to dispel her fear. Maybe she didn't have the will to overpower Randall like she wanted to.

Dana jumped back as a shape skidded into the kitchen. Randall panted and glared at her with a mindless, drunken fury in his eyes. In a strange moment of deja vu, he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, drank the last of his bottle of bourbon, then tossed it aside in the same way he had the first time.

He'll kill you if you don't stop him, she thought. He'll kill you again, but you know what he's going to do. You can stop it. You can change it. Dana felt the odd impression that there were somehow another Dana inside her, as if she was being 'ridden' by an unseen version of herself speaking directly into her thoughts.

"Dana…I don't know why you just won't fuckin' listen to me," Randall said, slurring his words exactly the way he had the first time. "I tell you one goddamn thing after another but you're just to goddamn stupid to listen, aren't you?"

The first time, Dana had pleaded with him. 'I'm sorry, I won't do it again, I'll listen to you next time. I promise.' The urge to bargain with him was strong, but she knew it wouldn't work. Instead, she said nothing and lunged for the nearby cutlery drawer and drew out the same carving knife her husband and killed her with.

"What the fuh…What are you doing?" Randall asked with a cynical chuckle in the back of his throat, something he hadn't done the first time. "Put the goddamn knife down."

"Ruh-Ruh-Randall," she stammered, finding it nearly impossible to make herself speak.

"Duh-Duh-Duh-Dana?" he mocked her with a cruel chuckle as he stumbled drunkenly and leaned against the refrigerator.

"Stop," she commanded, pointing the knife toward him. The blade shook with her arm, but Dana gripped it so hard her knuckles turned white to keep from dropping it. "P-Please."

"Stop what?" Randall threw his arms up. "I'm just trying to…to fuckin' talk to you and you pull out a goddamn knife on me." He stumbled again and caught himself on the counter, moving closer little-by-little.

"Randall…just go," Dana pleaded with him. "Just…go. Leave. Or…or I'll…"

"Leave?" Randall barked at her again, a new wave of anger crossing his red face. He tapped a finger to his chest. "Leave? Me? Who the fuck do you think this house belongs to, Dana? I should-I should be makin' you leave!"

Don't stall him, said the voice in the back of her mind. You know what he'll do. You have the advantage. Kill him.

"Stay back, Randall!" Dana screamed, backing up against the kitchen table and jabbing at the air with the knife. "Get the hell away from me!"

"You are my wife, in my house, using my knife!" Randall roared at her while marching closer. "You don't get to tell me what to do, goddamn it!"

His rage made her shake again, put a conditioned fear into her, but she planted her feet on the kitchen floor and held the knife with both hands, pointing it directly at his chest as if trying to ward him away with a spear.

You aren't alive yet, the other Dana said to her. If he doesn't die, you'll go back. You won't be anywhere. You won't be anything.

Her husband took advantage of that moment of distraction to grab for the knife in Dana's hands. She stumbled back, but nearly fell against the kitchen table and couldn't move fast enough to keep Randall from grabbing her by the wrist. Dana held onto the carving knife and thrashed powerlessly, unable to break his grip, but managed to lunge forward and jab the point into his chest.

"Fuck!" Randall screamed before he threw Dana to the floor with a powerful swipe and stumbled back with a hand just above his heart. Pulling it away, Dana watched a small patch of blood ooze out from beneath his white shirt and begin staining the rest of his chest red. It wasn't enough to hurt him, but it was enough to make him angry.

"Bitch!" he roared as he stomped toward Dana, his hands clenched into fists. Before, she thought she might be able to talk him down, keep him calm so neither of them had to die, but that moment had passed.

Don't let him do it again, said the voice in her head.

Randall stood over Dana and grabbed a fistful of her hair, jerking her off the ground with a painful yank that made her cry out in unexpected pain. As Randall tried to drag her to her feet, he was either too drunk or too distracted to notice Dana still gripped the carving knife with both hands. Before he could move out of the way, she lunged forward and sunk the knife into his left side, cutting a deep gash just below his ribs before the blade slipped free and Dana stumbled past him.

Randall bellowed like an animal, dropping to the floor and gripping an arm to his side. Blood welled out from underneath and pooled on the tile floor beneath him, rippling out in a thick puddle that gleamed in the light of the overhead lamp.

"Dana…" he panted in as much disbelief as pain. Randall turned over his shoulder and stared at her, the whites of his eyes brighter than the rest of his face. With another choke, he stumbled to his feet and tried to limp closer. "C-Call 911…call an ambulance…Dana…"

Would he do the same for you? asked the other Dana. You only get to live if he dies.

She trembled like a wet dog, the knife slick in her hand as Randall's blood ran down the blade and soaked between her fingers. Without the drunken rage on his face, he still looked like the young man she fell in love with and his fear broke her heart. Was she right to trade his life for her own? Was it worth it?

"Dana...Dana you…fucking bitch!" Randall spat as more blood trickled out of him onto the floor. "Call a goddamn ambulance!"

Remember what he did to you, said the voice in the back of her head.

"Did you call 911?" she asked, quietly. "Did you call anyone after you killed me?"

"After…what?" Randall blinked at her, obviously getting woozy from losing so much blood. "I didn't…Dana please…just call somebody…"

"Did you try to do anything to help me?" Dana asked, the hesitation gone from her voice as she gripped the kitchen knife in her fist. "Or did you just let me die on the kitchen floor?"

"I don't…I don't know what…"

"I do. I remember." Dana remembered the sight of Randall's beet-red face staring down at her past the handle of the knife buried in her chest. "I know what you would've done…what you were going to do. You got so used to me not fighting back that you thought you could get away with anything."

"Dana…I don't know what you're talking about," Randall said, his words slurring even more than before. He tried to stand, but slipped in his own blood and fell back to his knees. "I think I'm…gonna pass out."

"Not yet," Dana said, wiping the knife handle clean against her blouse and leaving a red-brown stain across her stomach. She strode across the kitchen floor, the click of her shoes against the tile turning into a wet squeak as she stepped in Randall's blood. She held out her hand for her wounded husband and he reached up to take in desperation. As Dana lifted him from his heap on the floor, she turned the kitchen knife to the side and buried it in the soft muscle of his armpit with a quiet schluk, like carving steak.

Randall screamed only for a second before his mouth filled with a wet gurgling and he collapsed onto his side, smearing blood across the tile as he kicked his feet helplessly. He stopped writhing and tensed in pain as Dana gripped the knife handle and pulled it out of his side, leaving a long, dark gash beneath his shirt. A faint hiss followed by pink bubbles foaming out of the wound told her the knife had sunk deep enough to puncture his lung.

"I know where you're going after this," Dana said to Randall. "You going to hate it."

She knelt above Randall, his warm blood soaking into her pants, gripped the carving knife in both hands, and savagely finished what she'd started.

Once Dana had tired herself out, she let go of the knife and left it stabbed into Randall's chest, exactly where he'd left it in hers the first time. There wouldn't be a second.

She carefully climbed to her feet, holding onto the kitchen counter for balance, and backed away from her husband's body. As she stared down at his mangled corpse, her vision began to shimmer and blur, trailing when she moved and leaving after-images of light. Just as she thought she was going to faint, Dana's body suddenly stepped out of her and she watched herself tip-toe out of the kitchen, trailing a line of blood across the tile.

The scene of the kitchen melted away around her, the ceiling and walls folding in on themselves and bending like the inside of a diamond. Up and down switched places, she shrank to the size of a pebble before stretching to the length of a highway, colors and shapes and sounds all became the same thing as they bent around her at angles she didn't know existed. When she tried to close her eyes, Dana found she didn't have eyes to close anymore.

She rode the swirling kaleidoscope of senses for what felt like an eternity before it all came to an abrupt stop. Just like before, the colors hardened into shapes, the shapes became objects, and the objects settled together into a space.

Dana was somewhere new, somewhere she didn't recognize. She was inside a small, cluttered bathroom with blue wallpaper and lime-green tiles on the floor. There were a par of toothbrushes and a half-used stick of deodorant next to the sink, as well as an army of prescription pill-bottles cluttered around them. She'd never seen the bathroom before, but it was just as familiar to her as if she'd been there every day of her life, like she'd seen it in a vivid dream just the night before.

She moved to the sink and leaned forward to stare at her reflection in the mirror above it. Her face was still her own, but younger by a few years, with new blemishes and scars she didn't recognize. What stood out the most, though, was a brand-new, hours-old bruise just below her left eye that throbbed with pain every time she blinked. Dana prodded it curiously with her pinky finger, then winced at the ache that came after it.

It was at dinner, she thought. Memories began falling into place, one after another, as her entire life began to construct itself from that moment backwards. I made him angry and he hit me again. Not just another slap, but a full fist. What did I tell him?

Dana jumped at the sound of footsteps thundering from below, telling her she was somewhere upstairs. It was Randall, another Randall, one that was still alive in the few minutes before he would murder this version of Dana. She'd slipped into a new version of herself, taken on a new life like a new outfit, and the memories of that life were writing themselves in her mind.

I told him I was going to leave him, she remembered. Because I knew he was fucking Leslie behind my back. Dana didn't even know anyone named Leslie, but this version of herself did. He got angry, embarrassed, hit me, then started drinking.

"Dana!" Randall cried from downstairs. "I just wanna talk! Just listen to me!"

He comes up to the bathroom door, Dana thought to herself as she walked through what was going to happen next. He tries to get in, gets mad when I won't open the door. He breaks in the door, hits me again, then strangles me to death in the bathtub.

Her hands shook against the sink, her heart pounding like a drum as she remembered this Dana's death as vividly as her own. Every detail came flooding back to her, from how many times it had taken Randall to kick through the door to the way the light had faded as he choked the life out of her. Dana whimpered as she remembered the pain and terror she inherited, the trauma of a whole new death paralyzing her.

Don't let it happen again, whispered the voice in the back of her head. End it before it begins.

"Dana!" screamed Randall from the other side of the house as he marched up the stairs. "Where are you?" In a few minutes, he would find the bathroom door shut and locked and begin trying to pull the doorknob off. Then, enraged, he would start trying to smash his way in like an animal.

Dana took a second to catch her breath, cast one last glance at the bruise underneath her eye, then began to devise some kind of plan. She couldn't leave the bathroom. If she did, she'd lose the advantage of knowing what Randall was going to do. But anything she did inside it, before he kicked in the door, wouldn't affect his actions.

As quietly as she could move, she dropped to her knees and began sorting through the bottles of cleaning supplies under the sink. Dana had no idea if any of them were strong enough to kill Randall on their own, but she could at least try to distract him. There wasn't much she had to work with in the tiny bathroom.

"Dana, come on!" Randall shouted from the other end of the house as he tore through the bedroom. "Stop acting like a little girl!"

Aside from some baking soda and extra toilet paper, the only thing useable underneath the sink was a half-full bottle of bleach she set aside for later. Dana leaned back and darted her eyes around the bathroom. When Randall had strangled her in the inherited memory, he'd knocked the curtain rod from the shower, where it bent under his weight at a sharp angle. Dana quickly leapt to her feet and stood on the toilet in order to reach the curtain rod. Keeping an ear open to Randall's stomping footsteps outside, she slid off the shower curtain and began working bend the end of it into a sharpened point.

She jumped and nearly dropped her makeshift weapon as the doorknob began to rattle, followed by a heavy fist pounding on the door so hard it shook.

"Dana! Dana…I'm…look, I didn't mean to hit you, okay? I'm sorry. I just…You talking about leaving me was…God, I couldn't even…"

"Leave me alone!" Dana shouted. It was that show of defiance that made the drunken Randall angry enough to try and break down the door. She had to follow the series of events closely in order to know what he was going to do next.

"Dana, goddamn it, just…" Randall jerked the door by the handle again, the cheap metal groaning against his grip. "Just open the door, okay? Open the door."

"Go away," Dana said, trying to stick to the 'script,' but her desperation was all too real. The curtain rod was too flimsy and cheap to do any real damage and she was running out of options.

"I'll go away when you just open the door," Randall said, his voice lowering to a growl as he began banging on the door again and tugging on it with his full weight. "Dana, open the fucking door!"

As he pounded with both fists, Dana noticed that the force of it was shaking the dirty mirror above the sink. The screws holding the glass in place were old and rusted, almost flimsy enough to break on their own. Dana quietly set the curtain rod to the side and ran her fingernails along the frame holding the mirror in place. With some work, she was able to take the mirror out of the frame in one piece, pinching it delicately between her fingers, as Randall's rage began to pick up steam out in the hallway.

"Dana!" he roared, slamming both fists onto the door with all his weight. Dana was beginning to hate the sound of her own name, especially when spat at her from the rage-drunk mouth of her murderous husband. While Randall pounded on the door, she slipped the mirror underneath the bathmat on the floor, then timed it alongside his next raging shout in order to hide the sound of her breaking it with her knee. The mirror shattered against the tile floor, most of it into tiny pieces, but a few jagged, pointed shards remained, one of which was nearly six inches long and pointed like a dagger.

"If you don't open this door in ten seconds, Dana," Randall growled from the hall, "I swear to God I'm gonna break it down."

He meant it, too. Dana had it timed out perfectly in her head: first, he would count to ten, becoming angrier with each second she wouldn't open the door. Second, he would try to kick the door open three times with the heel of his boot, each without success. Third, he would try to ram the door open with the full weight of his shoulder and would succeed on the second attempt.

As Dana picked up the thin shard of mirror and gripped it in her fist, but found it too sharp and brittle to hold as tight as she needed to. She tried holding it at different angles, but feared it wouldn't be strong enough by itself to use as a weapon against Randall.

"Seven…eight…nine. Nine, Dana!" Randall bellowed. After a pause, he shouted, "Ten" before a hard slam shook the door in its frame. She was running out of time.

Just after Randall kicked the door for a second time, she picked up the discarded curtain rod and, after popping off the rubber end, found the glass shard was just thin enough to fit in the end like the head of a spear. Dana worked the glass inside and pressed down on the thin metal to bend it into shape and hold the 'blade' in place.

Randall kicked the door for a third time, before stumbling back with an angry, drunken scream. Dana held the 'spear' in her hand, but worried the glass wasn't being held securely enough. From the medicine cabinet behind the mirror-less frame, she found a roll of medical tape left over from an old injury and quickly wound it around the shard. Dana jumped and nearly dropped her weapon as Randall rammed his shoulder into the door, shaking the entire wall and putting cracks in the frame. She picked up the spear and gripped it tight. For better or worse, it was time to fight for her survival.

Dana counted the seconds of silence, waiting for Randall to back up to the opposite wall and prepare to bash his way inside. While crouching, she silently turned the latch open on the door and gripped the handle, her heart pounding so hard she could almost hear it. She counted her breaths, trying to stay calm, trying to focus, trying not to remember what Randall would do to her if she failed.

Randall's heavy footsteps thundered against the floor as he ran at the door with the force of a linebacker. Instead of letting him, Dana quickly yanked the bathroom door open and let Randall stumble inside, his balance lost as momentum carried him forward. Before he could steady himself, Dana dropped to her knees and leaned into the spear, driving it hard into his soft stomach, where it snapped off inside of him.

Her husband screamed in pain as he slipped on the bathmat and fell on the rest of the broken mirror underneath it. Dana tossed her weapon to the side and backed away from him, watching from the hall as he kicked and writhed on the bathroom floor. Dark blood was pooling from the wound in his stomach and dripping onto the tile floor, mixing together with the blood from where he'd fallen on the glass.

It isn't enough, said the other Dana in her mind. It won't finish him.

She was right. It was enough to hurt him, to stop him for the moment, but the alcohol in his blood and the rage in his eyes would be enough for him to ignore his injury and come after her again. If Dana was going to survive, she had to do something.

As Randall steadied himself on his hands and knees, bleeding onto the floor like a stuck pig, Dana slipped past him and picked up the heavy, ceramic lid from the tank behind the toilet. He spat a mouthful of blood into the bathtub and craned his neck just in time for Dana to smash the lid against the side of his face, knocking his teeth loose and breaking his jawbone. He wailed in pain and fell against the side of the bathtub, raising an arm up in defense.

"Duh……" he pleaded through his broken jaw.

Dana didn't hesitate like last time. She brought the lid down on Randall's head with all the force in her body, splitting his scalp open and cracking the skull beneath with a wet crunch. As she beat Randall to death on the bathroom floor, the sound of it echoed through the silent house, from one end to the other, mingled with Dana's pained and tired panting as she pummeled her husband into nothing but a smear on the bathroom floor.

When she was done, she dropped the broken lid, caked with blood, hair, and bone, into the bathtub and stumbled out into the hall. Dana leaned against the wall and slid to the floor, gazing at Randall's body at eye-level as her bloodied arms trembled from the adrenaline comedown.

The bathroom began to melt away before her eyes, blurring away into nothing but colors as she felt herself becoming detached from her body again.

Two down, Dana thought to herself. Millions to go.

Dana watched the colors and lights of the world swirl around her in what she came to understand as a place somewhere beneath the physical, where matter and energy folded into one another. A place where boundaries didn't exist, a place in between atoms, a psychic space she could only visit as her mind, her consciousness, traveled between parallel universes. It was the seam that stitched the fabric of reality together.

She'd been there so many times, that in-between space, it was starting to feel more like home to her than anywhere she ended up. Dana rode the waves of churning space-time with a sense of relief, a moment's rest between the violence and terror of wherever she would end up. It was where she was always headed.

Dana felt a familiar 'pull' that told her she was about to 'wake up' into another life, to slip into the skin of another Dana. As soon as she had eyes to close, she shut them tight and felt the memories of her second-hand life fill her up like water in a pitcher. She'd gotten good at merging with these memories; at first, it took time to sort through all of them, to wait for them to 'settle' in her mind before she could access them. Eventually, she could slip into each parallel life as easily and quickly as if she'd always lived it, though the cost was the erosion of her own memories. Dana couldn't remember which life was hers anymore, which timeline was the 'original.' As far as she knew, she had always existed this way, that there was no original Dana. The only memory that stayed, that never changed, was that of the cold nowhere-place after death, the field of stars, and what the empty person told her she needed to do.

Dana opened her eyes and found herself standing in a living room, just like the thousands upon thousands she'd already seen before. Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, sometimes more lavish and well-furnished, sometimes more bare and empty. She'd stopped remarking on the differences between the lives she entered long ago and now simply recognized things by their bare utility.

Gun in the bedroom closet. Top shelf, lockbox. Latch weak, easy to open, said the other voice in the back of her mind. After a while, Dana had realized that the voice she'd been hearing in the back of her mind was her own, that she'd been split into two, joined together so close there was no way to tell which one was which. This second Dana, her mental twin, was detached from time, a passenger inside the body of whichever version of herself she inhabited, and knew everything that was going to happen. She seemed to have only one goal in mind: Keep herself alive.

Dana turned on her heel and strode quickly out of the living room, toward the stairs. There were always subtle differences between the bodies of her different selves that she needed a moment to get used to. Subtle changes in weight, old wounds and scars, different ages. A few times, she'd been pregnant or crippled, even bedridden. But between all these variations, even when her name was different, she still felt like herself in some unknowable way. No matter what changed, she was always still Dana on the inside.

She reached the bedroom and pulled open the flimsy closet door. Dana had to stretch to reach the box at the back of the shelf, but eventually hooked a finger around the rough, plastic handle and pulled it back to let it drop into her hands. Neither she nor the other Dana knew what the combination was, but the box was old and the latch rattled when she moved it. At the bottom shelf of the closet was a spare toolbox that Dana fished a flat-head screwdriver out of before moving to the bed to calmly work on jimmying the latch open. Randall would be there soon, but she had time to prepare. It wasn't always as easy as having a gun lying around for her disposal; most of the time, she had to be more creative in how to kill her husband. Fortunately, after doing it over and over again, millions of times, it had become virtually effortless.

Just as Dana popped open the lid of the lockbox, she heard the front door slam downstairs, rattling the picture frames on the wall.

"Dana!" Randall shouted. Dana scowled, her stomach turning.

"Up here!" she called back, sweetly. He was angry. Always angry. A single constant of the endless lives she'd visited was his rage. She could hardly remember all the things the other Danas had done to set him off. There were so many, and none of them worth the violence that always came next. It frightened her, long ago. Over time, she numbed to it, even found it funny at times. Now, just the sound of his voice made the hate seem just as fresh as it did a thousand lives ago.

"What do you want for dinner?" Dana yelled as she flipped open the cylinder of the old revolver and loaded it with three golden bullets. It was what this universe's Dana had asked, before she knew what was going to happen.

"Fuck dinner!" Randall's voice boomed up the stairs. She could hear his feet hit the steps as she flipped the cylinder closed and pulled back the hammer. "Do you have any idea how much you cost me? How much you cost us?"

"Cost? What do you mean?" Dana called back robotically as she stood and put the lockbox back where she found it. After pushing the bedroom door half-closed, she moved to the bed and sat cross-legged below the pillows, the gun in her lap with both hands.

"Christ, how stupid are you?" Randall continued screaming, his voice in the hall outside. Dana took a deep breath and held it, her body stone-still.

Her husband burst into the room, the door slamming against the wall with the force he kicked it open. He was angry like an animal, so blind with rage he never looked to the bed on his right. Randall didn't even notice the broken lock as he seized the lockbox from the closet and began dialing in the code.

Dana exhaled through her nose and raised the pistol with both hands, barely shaking.


He dropped the metal box and spun around to face her. The look on his face as she pulled the trigger was always worth seeing.

Dana shot him in the stomach, first. Just so it would hurt.

The second hit him in the heart, or where it was supposed to be.

The third punched a hole between his eyes, just to make sure he wouldn't get up again.

It happened so fast, Randall barely had time to put a hand to his stomach before he was already dead on his feet. Inertia carried his body a single step, before even his muscles knew what happened, before falling over onto the carpet.

Dana's heartbeat was slow and calm. The only thing she felt was the tingling in her arms from the gun's kick. Tossing it aside, she laid herself flat on her back and closed her eyes, waiting for what would come next. In less than a minute, she could feel herself descending, pulling away from the body she inhabited, leaving this universe's Dana to pick up after her.

She opened her eyes and saw the ceiling pulling away from her, the room stretching out to an infinite distance before twisting around itself, colors spinning and whirling into a blur. Then, with a great snap, she was gone.

Am I still Dana? she asked herself in the timeless space between worlds. Am I still the same person that started this? Was I ever? The gradual erosion of her mind had stripped away everything she knew about herself. She wasn't just Dana, she was thousands and thousands of Danas, the residual memories of their lives collecting like dust in her mind, with no way to tell which was the first. Now, she was a formless revenant, not even a spirit so much as a shapeless thought with only one goal.

Kill Randall.

A new world snapped into focus. Dana was sitting on the living room couch, watching television. Randall always seemed to murder her at home, she noticed.

How long will this go on? Dana thought as she stood and went to the garage. Randall, this universe's Randall, had an extensive tool set set into the wall. In the center of the bench was a brand-new Phillips-head screwdriver nearly the length of her forearm. In ten minutes, he would come home dangerously high on meth, fly into a panic, and murder her with it.

How many more times do I have to kill him? Picking up the screwdriver, Dana gripped the handle in her fist, squeezing it until her knuckles turned white. How many times have I done it already?

The walls of the flimsy home shuddered as the front door slammed shut. Randall would be stumbling through the kitchen in the dark, stinking of burnt plastic, and clawing for the first scrap of food he could find. Eventually, he will demand Dana loan him money. When she refuses, he will kill her.

This time, he wouldn't get the chance.

If it ever ends, Dana thought, what then? She turned off the garage light and crept through the house in the dark, holding the screwdriver upside down with the point tucked into her arm. Randall was panting, grunting, making strange high-pitched sounds as he tore through the kitchen around the corner.

What will be left of me when the killing is over? She took a step around the corner and stared down at Randall on his knees in front of the open fridge, eating cold leftovers from a bowl with his hands. When Dana flipped on the light, he jumped violently and dropped the bowl as he fell over. His pupils were size of dimes, his skin clammy and pale with sweat beading on his upper lip.

"H-Hey! Baby, I didn't know you was still up," he stammered while running a hand up the inside of his neck. Dana didn't answer. Nothing she said to him would matter in a few minutes.

"Hey baby, listen," Randall continued. He braced himself against the wall as he clambered to his feet. "You get paid yet? I know you get that direct deposit around midnight, dontcha? I just need to borrow a little bit. Just a little bit, just to pay back some buddies."

Every time, I lose a little piece of who I used to be, Dana thought as Randall neared her, keeping himself upright against the wall. Each time he dies, he takes something with him.

"Why are you looking at me like that, baby?" Randall was breathless, as if just standing cost him effort. "I know you got money, I just need a little bit. Just a little bit."

Is it worth it? Dana thought as Randall stumbled forward and put a hand on her shoulder. Is coming back to life really worth all this?

"Baby, why won't you talk to me?" Randall's eyes widened as his hand moved from Dana's shoulder, across her collar, and wrapped around her neck. "I know you got money, so tell me where the fuck-"

Dana's eyes flashed as she flipped the screwdriver over in her hand and plunged the sharp tip deep into Randall's right nostril, burying it in his sinus.

"YES," she hissed with a bestial growl. She grabbed Randall by the collar and slammed the heel of her palm into the handle of the screwdriver, driving it forward another inch. Randall screamed and let go of her neck, but Dana held onto him long enough to repeat the motion, not stopping until a dark trickle of blood ran down the tool's silver neck.

Randall made a gurgling cough sound and tried to scream, but fell to the kitchen floor before he could make a sound. He gripped the screwdriver and tried to yank it out, but howled in pain as it moved. Dana calmly stepped over him and sat on his chest, pinning his arms under her knees. Randall screamed again as she pushed the screwdriver up, stretching his nostril into a thin line, and angled the tip down. He clawed at her knees, tried to push her off of him, but couldn't get the right leverage with Dana's knees holding his elbows down.

With a grunt that turned into a powerful scream, Dana threw her body's weight against the screwdriver, pushing it through the soft cavity of Randall's sinuses until it broke through his skull, spearing into his brain with a squelch.

Freshly lobotomized, Randall twitched on the kitchen floor as Dana stood over him, a line of spittle dribbling from his open mouth and swirling with the blood from his nose. She braced herself against the nearby counter, raised her foot, and slammed her heel down on the screwdriver, burying it in his nose up to the handle. A rattling groan left his throat as Randall finally stopped moving.

One day, the killing would be over, and whatever was left of her after it was done deserved to live.

"Life belongs to those who fight for it," Dana said as the world around her began to melt away.