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Obsession, like its Gorgon sisters, Compulsion and Addiction, consumes, setting fires that burn long down the river of time. So it was with M, who, in the twilight of her teens, began the obsession that would infuse everything she did, everything she was, with its insidious siren song. Sometimes smoldering, sometimes raging conflagration, it burned through five careers, three marriages, the love of two children, numerous cats, oceans of alcohol, truckloads of chocolate chip mint ice cream.

She had tried so many times to control it, had seen a legion of therapists, gone through forests of tissues drying torrents of tears in countless sessions, all to no avail. Yes, there were times when she would right herself in the saddle of the beast that carried her forward into her sad life, but it was always a short lived reprieve. Inevitably the beast would unexpectedly twist, turn or buck, throwing her into ever deeper descents into the hellfire of her deviously compulsive mind. It was a beast she seemed destined, some would say doomed, to ride.

Family and friends would periodically try to rescue her. There were numerous interventions undertaken by an ever evolving cast of colleagues, lovers, family and friends, filled with emotional descriptions of what the beast was doing to everyone around her. She would dissolve into tears, rivers of which seemed to extinguish the fires of the monster raging within her. For varying lengths of time they would get her back, love and relief would flow, gratitude would be offered to all the positive spiritual forces in the world.

The beast, however, was never fully extinguished, its faintly glowing embers would persist deep in the shadowy realm of her primal self, waiting for the circumstances of her life to blow across them, coax renewed flames up from them, raise the chimeric phoenix from the ashes left by each futile attempt to love her back to a being that could be hugged, kissed, held.

No moment would be opportune for the re-ignition of such torching compulsion, but the timing was always the worst possible. Calibrated to do the utmost damage to anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves caring about her, the beast would emerge and charge around, laying waste to every ounce of love and compassion offered up from the deep wells of human to human concern available to her.

Decades burned by without any change to her story. One had to wonder if hers was a struggle of a more eternal nature.

As would be expected, she arrived at a moment of utter destitution, hopelessness, emptiness. The black hole of her obsession collapsing in on itself, sucking her tortured being rapidly towards the event horizon of being-not-being.

There came a day when a bullet crashed through her brain, ending her tortured life.

She was found by the banks of a stream, water gaily tumbling by. A gun was never found. There were no signs of struggle, no signs that anyone else had been present, no definitive indication she had done it herself. Had she taken her own life? Had the universe taken pity on her and sent a delivering angel, or taken pity on humanity and sent an avenging one? The moment is recorded in the databases of the cosmos, but the information is unavailable to anyone who might still care.

Those same cosmic databases also record, halfway around the world, a girl child inhaling her first breath at the precise moment M breathed her last. The reader will decide if these two events were more than temporally connected.

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