This dream stopped being cathartic a long time ago. Is this really what death is like?
Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. I suppose I should introduce myself. The name's Ryan. For a while, I was a nobody, then I was a different type of nobody, then another type of nobody, and then a police officer.
Which, in my opinion, is way worse than being a nobody. See, when you're a nobody, you're just another face, another nameless individual who goes about their awful, meaningless life like everyone else. When you're a police officer, everything is pretty much the same, but people actually notice you. They notice you're just another drone, and, even worse, they have a nice shiny name right in front of them that they can pin to you. They can push you around like an actual person rather than like a cardboard cutout.
So, yeah, I decided to be a police officer (because fuck what my parents said), and for a while I was content. I got a girlfriend, got an apartment that wasn't just a single room, and I even got recruited to a special unit by a detective named Flint. Except that wasn't such a good thing. Flint was a dick. He treated me like shit, told me I'd “be a street police until I died.” And to top off the shit sundae, there was Mr. Knight.
Mister. Fucking. Knight.
Mr. Knight was what he called himself, but he's actually some C-list vigilante superhero person named Moon Knight. Now, no one knows this guy's story (not even the man himself, I'd have to guess), but there are bits and pieces: he was a mercenary, he died, he has god powers or some shit, and he has multiple personalities. Whether “Mr. Knight” is one of those personalities is unclear to me, though I wouldn't be surprised if he (it?) is. What is clear to me is that he was a damn good detective.
Moon Knight and Flint were buddies. Knight helped him (and by “helped him” I mean “did all the work for him”) solve cases, mostly superpower-based murders. One night, I tried asking him why he insisted on solving a slasher case for us. He snarked at me, Flint snapped at me, and I left the crime scene in a very bad mood.
Later that night, I got an idea. The next morning, at the precinct, I started doing some digging on Moon Knight's villains, his rogues gallery. I found one name that stood out: Black Spectre.
That's when I decided to replace Moon Knight so I could finally get some goddamn respect. I started lifting weights, trained myself to use throwing darts, started making car bombs, even made a pretty badass costume. In addition to all of this, I posed as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent to get as much information on the Knight as possible by interrogating his old allies.
Operation: Spectre came to fruition. It did not end well.
Basically, I started as much shit as possible, turned the streets of New York City into a war zone. I put so much effort into killing that son of a bitch. What happened instead?
He blew me up with my own car bombs.
I was too busy lying on the ground, slowly bleeding out and burning to death, to notice that the asshole had called the police. I was taken to an ambulance, no doubt to be nursed back to health just so I could get the death penalty.
Only they doctors didn't nurse me back to health. I'm pretty sure I'm dead.
This place, I'm not sure it's Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, or somewhere else entirely, but it sucks. I've just been replaying the last night of my life for... I dunno how long. Days? Weeks? Months? Years? I don't know how many times I've gone through it either.
After a while, though, the variations started. Certain elements of the night changed so Moon Knight actually died. And for a while, it was great. Now, it's just annoying again.
Which brings me back to my original question: is this really what death is like?
It's replay #I-Don't-Fucking-Know, and this time I have more cars rigged to explode. As Moon Knight flies at me in that horrible glider, my finger tenses around the detonator.
Boom! The sheer force of the explosions knocks the guy off course, and he crashes to the ground in a white and red pulp. I stand over him, ready to deliver a badass speech, when I feel a sudden heat.
Oh, shit. The cars are on fire, and it's spreading. First it just spreads around the block, but then it just... Keeps going. Before I know it, the whole city is in flames. It's horrible. It's...
Oh god, what have I done?
I'm kneeling on the ground, watching the madness unfold around me, watching the awful hellfire engulf everything. I don't know what to do, and... And...
The flickering orange is replaced by stark white.
I'm looking at a ceiling. I faintly realize that I'm laying down. I look around: small room, looks kinda like a school classroom minus all of the shitty arts and crafts stuff. Then it hits me: I'm in a hospital.
I sit in the bed for a minute, trying to make sense of how I was dead and now I'm not. A word echoes through my mind: coma. A coma would explain why I was out for so long. I'm about to get out of bed, to call for a nurse, when I remember that I'm probably under arrest and that there's at least one cop outside the door.
Oh, and my legs are atrophied. Fucking perfect.
For a while, I squirm around in the bed, letting my senses come back. I try to make like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and wiggle my big toe, but I'm not that lucky. This is gonna suck.
As my everything starts waking up, I become aware of a rising heat, of alarms going off outside my room. Adrenaline fills my veins, and I desperately try to will my legs into moving.
The fire is here.