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“Oh fuck, what was that?!”

The ground’s gone out from under you. No, wait, there it is—explosive acquaintance with your tailbone. You splay out your hands behind you, feet scrabbling at the grass, trying to scramble away.

Where’d it go? Shit — it could be —

A noise like a blender full of once-live things and a carrion finger dragged down your face. Your head is immersed in a blinding, nauseating greenish cloud, the color of everything dead and rotting.

“Oh fuck!” And it’s gone. You couldn't have drawn breath to yell if it wasn't.

Now you’re on your feet (how’d that happen?) and running. They mowed the grass this morning; great hanks of it are clogging between your toes. The park has never seemed so big.

— another rush of death-stench, you’d choke on it if it wasn't already gone —

Still running. Your harsh panting is threatening to resolve into words: you cough the impending meaning away, rejecting whatever you might have said. Somehow you don’t think the words would've been your own.

The night dew’s been gathering for a few hours already, and with the grass stuck to your feet you’re slipping. Can’t get good footing. Once you pass the old cottonwood you’ll be out on the street, safe, you’re sure of it — the pool of lamplight on the sidewalk is a beacon, it’s Shangri-La —

Rot and decay. You can’t breathe. You can’t scream. (No time to: it’s gone before you could try.)

And then your feet hit concrete. You backpedal to a halt, scraping your soles bloody on the rough sidewalk. Bent double, panting over your knees, you look back into the park.

It’s there.

Hovering. Right at the edge of the grass.

The rotting miasma, reeking of mortality, roils sickly in midair before you. The hum of the light behind you could almost be words…

You won’t get to contemplate them: now that the cloud can’t reach you, you’re doomed. It’s only another moment before the lamp falls. Broken glass: you’re bleeding in too many places to count. The sidewalk heaves. Great chunks of concrete: you’re bludgeoned off your feet. Sickening crunch of bone, more felt than heard.

Your last thought (before it’s all a rush of red and crackling) is to wonder: since when does death preserve?