It isn’t real to him until he’s lying on his stomach, cheek pressed to the floor. He tries to move an arm and realizes he can’t feel them anymore.
Strangely, he thinks of Tess. Thinks he must look something like her, when he saw her lying face down in a puddle of her own blood. He thinks she died quickly, and that’s good. She died human. So will he.
There’s a girl on the floor screaming, her name on the tip of his tongue. For a moment he feels this overwhelming urge to get up, a tingling in his arms where there wasn’t before, his toes curling inside his boots. It’s so close, he could reach out and grab it. He remembers the time he took two bullets to the gut during a drop gone awry. Tess had killed everyone and then hauled him to his feet, pulled his arm over her shoulders and carried both their weight all the way back to their apartment.
On your feet, Texas. She’d said.
He’s not naïve enough to believe he’ll survive this, and there is a resigned, sad sort of comfort in knowing that he and Tess met similar fates. Like partners should. They really did work well together. Maybe he should’ve died with her instead. Maybe it would’ve been easier than looking at the girl pinned to the floor in front of him, thrashing and begging.
He knows somehow he’s been there before. Joel get up and I can fight and no just go just fucking go.
This is my last stop.
There’s something almost painfully simple about dying that he thinks Tess must have felt too. When you get over the initial shock and stop counting your breaths, when you simply take it as it comes––something dissolves, evaporates, breaks away from the universal plane. He stopped feeling the void a little while ago, that plummeting sensation in his stomach like a big, black stone falling. Now, he looks at his blood on the floor and thinks with detached fascination that all of that was inside him once. She must have had that thought too.
And when he’s dropped into the feeling of standing between crossroads and knowing the roads don’t have a destination, he thinks it could be worse.
Maybe he’ll see Tess there.