Elliott found the first piece of his death under his fiancé’s pillow when he was only eighteen. It was a cogwheel of sorts, wrought from black iron, and he knew what it was the moment that he found it. Once he felt its weight in his hands, he walked out the door while she was still asleep, and left his ring behind.

He learned the art of the oil change, and made a life for himself at a truck stop in the Mojave Desert. Every few months, he found another black cogwheel clattering around under the hood of a vehicle that was just passing through. Even out there, in the great red nothing, the pieces found their way to him, one by one. They were not intended as parts of the machines that carried them, and were always found separate from all else inside. The cars seemed to be couriers serving an unknown supplier, and their drivers were none the wiser.

He started putting the pieces together; not because he wanted to die, but because he couldn’t resist his desire to know what they would become once united. He imagined that the finished machine would be a magnificent hearse; that if he waited long enough, pistons and camshafts and axles would begin to arrive, and he’d find himself building his own carriage to the afterlife. His dreams of such majesty faded as the decades passed, as nothing but more gears arrived, and the desert robbed him of all hope of anything changing again.

It was in this way that Elliott built his own death; a machine without any visible purpose. It was mostly-symmetrical sphere of hundreds of grooved wheels, ever silent, and ever still. He exhaled his last breath while waiting for the final piece to arrive, which he believed would at last set the whole thing in motion. There was just enough space left in the structure for a simple loop of metal, just slightly wider than a finger’s width.

When it comes to death, there are always missing pieces.

One can only die so lucky, after all.

 The desert is as good a place as any for one's story to end.