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When the waitress brings the iced water to your table, you notice that his glass is opaque. "What's up with that?" you ask him, sipping from the edge of the ice cubes crinkling in your cup.

"Long story," he says, pushing his glass to the edge of the tablecloth. It nearly catches on the white floral embossing and spills, but he steadies it just in time.

"We have time," you say, shrugging. "This is a date, after all."

He clears his throat. "Okay - so - tell me, have you ever drowned before?"

You think back to when you were seven or eight. "Almost? I was at a water park with my folks, and thought I could swim against the tide pool. Does that count?"

"Almost drowning is different from actually drowning. For one thing, the water doesn't feel nearly as cold when it enters your lungs. It's warm - almost amniotic."

"Then there's the lights. When you close your eyes and you see them dancing behind the lids of your eyes, tracing paths like star trails." He draws a slow squiggled web with his fingers. "Just like this." You nod, half-comprehending.

"After that, that's when you get the NDE. Near-death experience. The darkness all around you, so thick around you that you could cease to exist if you stopped to think, even for a moment. And the light is so bright and so warm, it crackles on the inside of your skull." The candlelight flickers, catching itself almost audibly on the ice cubes in your glass. He pauses to let the words sink in. "What most people do then, they either stay and be consumed by the dark, or they move towards the light and awaken on the deck of some public pool, or next to a lifeguard in the middle of a crowded beach, or the shore of a cold lake, green water spilling from their throats. And they never come back."

"But there was something there and then for me, a presence or a mood - for really, what's the difference when you're dead - and it sang of hair and sea grass and other tangled things, and of strands of bubbles rising, rising, bursting in the dappled undersurface of the sky. It was close enough to touch. And real enough, too."

You are suddenly aware of how the whites of his eyes glimmer like a mouthful of teeth for an instant, and recoil involuntarily, accidentally knocking his drink off the table. He reaches out a hand to catch it but it is too late. The glass shatters, and you swear you can see a thousand wet smiles glittering in the shards, just as sure as you can see the colour drain from his face.

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