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Heightened Midnight~ The Clock Strikes Twelve
Would you believe me if I told you I was a demon?
It had been several days since the Kishin incident. I had trekked through those crumbled ruins, passed the lonely abyss, limped through severed ties to the room where he stood cackling at the eroding walls. Had it simply been my imagination? Were his hands really soaked blood red with the twisted expression of enjoyment and release? Were his eyes tinted a pale, wolf-like ferocity, howling a mad storm of pleasantries in this room raining of red, red, red? Was that truly the waist down of the woman I had seconds ago grown to despise with a fiery heat of jealousy’s searing flames? And was that honestly the upper half of her body fading away into the thick air weighing heavily upon our souls, devouring, suffocating, and digesting the deepest remains of our sanity?
Had that actually been me laughing maniacally just as he was, reaching out to taste a drop of that delicious, salty, memory soaked dreamland? Swallowing days of hatred and nights of plotting. Heartless was the flavor. Evil was the spice.
Just like me.
Screams echo in my mind, the torn lines linking history to present. It takes me a while to note these screams are all my own. I am sitting, trembling, holding myself dearly in the midst of the tangling of these blankets, gasping at the pained cries, fighting away forming tears of discovery. Splotches of paint the color of melting roses drip around me. The gentle ‘plip’ ‘plop’ frightens me as hands weave in the crevices of my hair, pulling, tearing, ripping. The smell of something burning fill my nostrils. Singed flesh. It is my own and I am soon joining my own chorus of past exclamations, screeching to the dead night. Not too long after, the door to my room bursts open and he is standing there, bewildered, eyeing me as if I am some luscious piece of candy, eager to tear into its contents.
The hands are tightening, piercing skin, drawing flecks of precious blood.
“Kaze!” it speaks, lunging at me, blade in hand, glinting the mad gush of craving for numbers and results and needles and serums and tests and…
Hands are now wrapping comfortingly around me, swallowing me in the scent of familiarity. Warmth shrouds my every darkening thought, blearing into foreign dots of white where they slowly yet surely delve into a calming deep meadow of green and grey. I relax the tension, draw away my shaking grasp, impervious to the strings of earthly brown clinging between throbbing fingers.
“Sorry. Nightmare,” I whisper into the closeness of his skin. The sickening stench of his memories block my sense of smell, blinding me into a seething hunger. Pulling away gently, I can only manage a single weak willed grimace, dismissing his attempts of comfort.
He doesn’t believe me. I can see the hurt, longing, and disappointment blazing in his dull stare as he stands without questioning and shuts the door softly behind him.
The remainder of the night passed by without so much as a sigh.
“Subject seven, proceed to examination room A for today’s procedure.”
I shuddered, clenching and unclenching my slick palms, swallowing back a wave of nausea. Rooted to the spot, I willed myself to move cooperatively towards the men shrouded in white and grey, observing me with an unnerving sense of starvation. Instead, I cowered into the furthest corner of my cage, hugging the cool bars, whimpering. In their eyes I was simply their prey. Their only focus.
I was nothing but a toy.
“I repeat, subject seven, proceed to examination room A for today’s procedure.”
Glasses twinkled in the flickering lights of my isolation, emitting an ominous glow to draw me deeper in my imprisonment. A single chuckle brought forth a pecking need to strike at each and every – thing – that dared to touch me. Yet even so, fear bites its horrid teeth into my feet, suturing me to the spot, unwilling to let me go.
“You heard him,” one of the demonic voices cooed, enticing me forward, “Time for today’s operation, come here little birdie.” A ghastly white blob of a hand extended bravely into my territory, waving with a mock friendliness, beckoning me to my destruction. I shiver away, curling talons, poised to kill. But how could I? What little strength in my body had been brutally smacked down, pulled out, cut in, ripped apart, and poured in droplets of salty despair. This body of mine practically held no use for me but to salvage the tiniest of dignity I treasured so dearly.
So pushing the future’s consequences aside with a stubbornness unlike any other, I replied to the man’s invitation with a firm chomp and a sloppy swipe at his exposed, lifeless left eye.
The room exploded in black and blue as it dawned on me my victim had fought back. Fragmented pieces fell together as I slowly began to lose consciousness. Swearing angrily and screaming hysterically, where his eye once was bled an ocean of revolting, blackish liquid that seeped its ways through the cracks, slithered along the floorboards, wrapped around my ankles in hurried whispers.
‘run’ ‘run Alice’ ‘away, away, into the rabbit hole’
Punches were thrown at me as I tried so frantically to avoid them, to maneuver my way past them to the calling door that shone so brightly. How long had it been since I basked in the sun’s rays? I had powerful, healthy arms for a fifteen year old child. And what of now? Where these, as I clashed and returned several blows, the very same wrists? These frail, weak, trembling, flimsy parts? Were they truly, indeed my own?
‘come to Wonderland’ ‘fall into my shadow’ ‘Lightning will strike, wind will howl’ ‘come to Wonderland’
Slipping away into my paradise. I was fading away in the background noise, blankly staring at the hands engulfing my neck. At the voices who were not my friends screaming for them to stop. At the shimmering figure of my mother’s face watching helplessly; the final attachments of my mental stability.
I come for you.’
The snow was a blinding light, igniting the world in angelic shadows and powdery clouds.
In the distance, a lone tree stood, swaying obediently in the lonely breeze, tempting the girl to adventure forward. She wandered through the quietude, entranced by this delicate form of life existing in absolute nothingness. How a single plant could contain so much green intrigued her. Despite the stretched fields of blanketed white, life flourished beautifully in this single tree; fighting, surviving.
The girl suddenly grew frightened as the wind snatched her by the wrists and yanked her forward. It gave a fearsome howl and she was soon pressed against the tree, wincing at a burst of fiery pain igniting at her side. She willed herself to put her panicking thoughts to ease and tried to observe the damage, yet the wind resisted her efforts, pinning her face into the rough bark.
Tears formed across the girl’s eyes as crazy scenarios raced through her mind causing her to cry out in desperation.
It was then she noticed the rose.
Darkness bloomed into a sliver of silhouettes, colliding, merging, melting into a single mass flickering with an ominous glow. The girl held her breath as she gradually picked out the first curled leaf, then the second, and the stem, and the thorns.
The girl exhaled in wonder.
It was nothing but a rose yet it was also everything. Resting in the heart of the living and surrounded by lands of the dead. A rose so fragile, resting in a peaceful sanctuary, untouched by the corrupted. A rose with no flaws, perfected from each and every end, portraying an appearance of delicacy and everything pure.
Not only had the girl noticed the grace of this flower, but an odd feeling of familiarity washed over her. A sense of belonging and possession.
This rose was hers and hers alone.
This rose was a part of her whole existence.
This rose was meant to be in her hands and protected from all who dared take it from her.
With a grunt, she pushed deeper into the trunk of the swaying tree, unfazed by the distant roar of a coming storm. It slipped past her, the quivering branches, the fallen leaves. Impervious to all, mesmerized by the urgency of claiming her prize, she ran, she glided, she soared to the center of the universe. She was exclaiming, yelling, growing delirious with her inexplainable desires.
Something deep inside her ripped open and claws flew outward, gripping the ground in a furious rage. She growled and howled, all reasoning disintegrated in the midst of the sacred place. Her kindness had bled through to the floor in piles of black, forming cackling shadows and weeping darkness. Her hair faded away along the stretches of her back into clumped masses of blackened feathers, flickering with bolts of uncertainty and delusion, slashing blindly into the abyss. Her shadow grew larger, pulling itself from it’s prison, rising at last to the surface, no longer contained by it’s own master. It wrapped around the thickened neck of the still sprinting girl, suffocating, climbing into open eyes, ears, and mouths. Gagging, she pressed on, losing all she was with each step, remembering only that she would have that rose all to herself.
Years shot by, then decades, then centuries and still the lost creature continued forward to her destination. As she ventured deeper, her newly grown bird-like appearance became more and more blackened, molting into piles of ash at the world she left behind. Her sanity was slowly fading away into a heaping mass of broken promises and a stranger whom she no longer knew. A cracked smile tore into her mouth, rising up to her eyes exposing lines of jagged fangs flecked with red and black.
When she finally grew tired, her pale blue eyes sapped of her radiant youth, her grin splashed with bits of her lingering shadow, her eyes pounding the rush of blood in her head, she collapsed.
Completely spent. Alone. Confused with the last fragmented pieces of her memory vanishing. And defeated. She felt a horrible, aching, swelling shame of admitting defeat. She could not go on. She would never reach that rose.
And so she broke down and cried for all that she had lost for the pursuit of something never to be gained.
Then her form grew smaller and smaller until all that was left was a weeping young girl with lively blue eyes and a kind smile and a heart full of images, of remembrances, left shivering in the whiteness of snow.
And before her sat the single red rose. Still flawless. Just in arms reach.
Take it? (Read below)
Leave it? (Read the passage following the next passage)
With trembling fingers, pulsating with a slight reluctance, she reached for it. She simply couldn’t help it. She was entitled to the thing. It existed to only be touched by her.
Smiling, she released a single nervous chuckle as the stem grazed her. Soon her chuckle began to crescendo into a fit of giggles as her hand engulfed the rose, caressing it, testing for reassurance that this wasn’t a dream. Without a doubt it was real. Here she was, finally by her beloved object, shoulders shaking with a deranged excitement. ‘Mine, all mine’ she thought to herself, beaming at her trophy.
Her face then distorted that to a demon.
Her grin dissolved into a frightening sneer as her palm snapped closed around the thorny stem, dripping red, and she yanked with all her might.
Thunder exploded, lightning crashed. A terrifying wind howled through her roaring ears, tearing into her darkening eyes. Feathers rushed past her surprised face and tore at her flaked skin leaving tear stained marks.
Searing pain licked at her trembling fist, still clutching the rose. She tried to comfort herself, tried reminding herself she had captured what was lost.
But what rested in her hand wasn’t the rose she thought it was.
Thorns had stretched out, grasping the girl herself, portraying broken skin and exposed bone. A foul stench fell over the atmosphere smelling of singed hair and something metallic. The petals had begun to wither into wrinkled flakes, falling away at every touch. Leaves curled frantically upon themselves, bursting into miniature flames, spreading along the stem.
And the core. The very center of the rose… overflowed with a hideous red, pouring down her throbbing wrists, dripping into the white, staining it, covering her lunatic screams.
“Why?! Why?! Why?!”
Until her mouth had been completely filled with the sickly red. And her eyes grew dim. And the tree mourned for the girl that had been lost by looking for something
… she never had.
For a moment she stared at the rose with an eery fascination, wondering for a moment just what could her life be? She began to wonder if her mother’s sorrowful cry would leave her. She began to wonder if her father’s blank stare would be eradicated from her pounding head. She began to wonder if all those meaningless days of living and wondering what more there could be would ever come to leave her.
She wanted more. She wanted better.
She didn’t want to come to the same silent dinners. She didn’t want to constantly avoid the pathetic attempts of interaction between her friends. She didn’t want to be home. She didn’t want to return to the teasing. The uncertainty, the self-loathing. She didn’t want… She didn’t want…
Her eyes darted to the tree, swaying patiently, creaking with curious rhythm. The girl felt watched. She began to shiver violently, cradling herself, sobbing. She wanted a blanket. She wanted the warm embrace of her mother. She wanted the gentle pat by her father.
She wanted her life back.
She wanted her old life back.
She didn’t want perfection.
She didn’t need complete purity.
She wanted to live.
“Please…” her voice croaked with wavering gasps, “Please… take me… back…” she sniffled and pressed her knuckles to her eyes, pushing, continuing to beg the tree.
“I… want… to go…” she coughed, staring at the rose, still red, still pretty.
Yet so… hideous.
“I want to go home!” she exclaimed, leaping to her feet, running to the nearest branch of the tree. Without second thought, she began to climb. She pleaded, she begged, she apologized, she promised redemption. She promised for gratitude.
She promised to love herself.
Then the tree began to shake, and the world began to spin, and the next branch she reached for snapped.
She fell into a ripple of time.
And she finally woke up.
Ah, ha, this was just for fun. It may be tad lame and very rushed, but I had fun writing it. Beware the sappiness of romantic comedy!
Dancing with the Madman
First, a conversation:
In Stein and Kaze’s home;
(the episode of the dance; the night of Medusa’s plan to release the Kishin)
*Stein walked into the living room to find me on the sofa, relaxing with a book in hand. He was already dressed and prepared to take his leave.
“You coming?” – Stein
“You know how I feel about events like this.” *flips the page, sighing* -Me
“I really don’t understand you sometimes.”-Stein
“Then just what exactly have these six years been to you?” *slams book shut, eyeing him impatiently*
*Giving it some thought* “Let’s see… Absolute torture, agonizingly long, hell…”
“Alright, jerk. Better go get a move on. Your crowd awaits.”
“Ha, ha.” *walks into next room* “But this’ll go to waste.”
*reaching out to grab my cup of tea* “…Hmm…?”
“After all that effort I put into selecting, modifying, cutting-“
“St-Stein!” *the china clatters neatly back on the table* “Don’t tell me you’ve started experimenting again!”
*walks back in, something behind his back* “I’m hurt that you would think so lowly of me.” *pouts*
“Then have the decency to choose your words carefully!” *fuming, turning to face him* “Why are you smiling at me like that? It’s a bit unnerving.”
*chuckles, pulling out a long, slim, jasmine green dress, intricate designs dancing majestically across the delicate fabric. It seemed oddly familiar. Something new, something borrowed, as the phrase goes. To my astonishment, the patterns were made entirely of stitches. Yet it was so… hauntingly beautiful… but just why Stein would be showing it to me… I didn’t… oh*
“You like it?”-Stein
“Good. I can’t wait to see what you’ll look like in it.” *eyes gleaming with… mischief??*
“Like hell you will!”
“Oh come on, I’m sure you’ll look adorable.”
“A-All the more reason to stay home!” *jumping to my feet*
“You’re turning red.” *teasing*
“Sh-Shut up!” *storming past him, I kicked his chair in a fit of rage*
“Now you didn’t have to take it out on the furniture…” *humorously*
“I’m going to bed!”
“Aww, but the dress-“
“You’re almost as bad as Spirit!”
“So that’s a…no?”
“Ha, ha. She’ll come eventually.”
‘This was ridiculous. Why did I bother coming here? Why didn’t I just stay in bed? This is stupid, surely no one saw me. I’ll just go ahead and leave…’
“Whoa! You look absolutely stunning! The symmetry! The glorious symmetry! I expected nothing less from you my dear, Kaze!”
‘And now I’m put straight in the spotlight. Leave it to Kid.’
“Th-Thanks…” I grimaced, waving away his compliment. “Ah, but I just came to check up on someth-“
“Tell me, where did you acquire such a dress fitting to your beauty?”
‘How rude! The nerve! Interrupting me when I’m trying to conjure up an excuse to leave!’
“W-Well, I er…”
“I made it,” Stein answered for me, wrapping an arm tightly around my waist.
“St-Stein!” I exclaimed, unable to hide the surprise in my tone.
“I couldn’t have my date wearing something hideous, it would ruin my image.”
At this, I rammed my fist as hard as I could at his head.
“Oh I’m sorry,” I hissed, massaging my throbbing hand, “Have I ‘ruined’ your image, darling?”
Rubbing the spot, he chuckled, “Yes, I believe so. In fact I’m quite certain you damaged something internally as well.”
Apparently awkward silences did not sit well with Death the Kid. He clasped his hands together nervously.
“Now! Please do enjoy yourself, Kaze. We have plenty of refreshments and room on the floor to dance to your pleasing.”
A smirk crawled across Stein’s face at the mentioning of dance. My stomach dropped at the sight.
“Oh, no. Get the thought out of your mind right now,” I demanded, clicking my way over to the balcony, seeking a place to hide away. A hand snatched my wrist, spinning me into his chest. With a small ‘oof’, I was finding myself just tall enough to be a breath away from his neck. The veins shifted as I listened to the childish grin on his face.
“You aren’t escaping me that easily, darling.”
‘Mocking me? He was actually mocking me!’
“Must you keep up with the couple act?” I asked shakily as his hands guided my left to his shoulder and laced slowly through my right.
“Who said I was acting?” he whispered into my ear, barely grazing his lips against it. I shivered despite the sudden temperature rising in the room.
“Idiot”” we said together as he laughed lightly. I didn’t realize that I too had broken into a smile. He gazed at me thoughtfully as I lifted a brow questionably.
“What is it? Do I have something on my face?”
“Surprisingly, not today.”
“Wonderful. Glad to see I’m improving on my eating skills,” I scoffed, exhaling a humored sigh. Stein chuckled, shaking his head.
“No, I was just thinking… You should wear that more often.”
“What?” I laughed amusingly, “The dress? I suppose it’s nice and all, but not exactly suitable for hunting souls.”
“No, silly,” he beamed, clearly thrilled at my final approval of his creation. Though it really was nice. Who would have thought something so simple could turn into something mesmerizing with some stitching? It almost seemed too perfect. “I meant your smile. But the dress looks good on you too.”
“Hmm?” By this time, I grew fully aware of the closeness of our bodies and the fact we were moving. The grace of our steps; so in sync. Dancing! We were dancing! And I hadn’t fallen on my face!
“You’re most beautiful when you smile.” For a second he glanced away almost as if shy before peering deep into my eyes. “When you’re happy.”
‘T-Too much!’ I screamed in my mind, growing increasingly hot. This was far too much to take in. I hadn’t the faintest clue just how to react to something like this! Was I supposed to say thank you? Was this another one of his famous teasing? For the first time ever, I have absolutely nothing to say! He’s left me speechless!
“Oh my, have you nothing to say for once?”
He chuckled, pulling me close to swoop me off my feet, landing me back gently at a slant, a hand holding me steady at my back. On instinct and pure adrenaline, I found myself looping my grip more securely around his shoulder and squeezing our intertwined grasp.
“Your thinking face is pretty cute,” he breathed into my face, heat spreading along my neck, trailing to the pits of my stomach. “It makes it so difficult to restrain myself from dissecting you right here.”
‘?!’ I feared my mind was going to explode from all this confusion.
“Q-Quit saying such… ridiculous things!” I stammered, averting my eyes.
“You’re blushing after my comment on wanting to dissect you?” he asked with feign shock, dissolving into a smirk, “How peculiar…”
“N-No! It’s nothing l-like that!”
“Fascinating… this requires further examination,” he noted to himself, bringing me back into his chest, lifting up my chin. “Would you accompany upstairs for a full body inspection?”
All the color surely drained from my face then.
“A-Are you stu-?!”
My sentence hung heavily in the air as I slowly processed Stein pecking my forehead with a gentle kiss. He smiled innocently, stepping back, hands remaining on my shoulders. “I really do wish I could stay by your side for the remainder of the night, but I’m afraid I have some important manners to attend to…” he trailed off, eyeing something behind me. “Please,” he raised a hand to offer me his signature pat on the head. “Do enjoy yourself.” He paused to ruffle my hair, “I’m glad you decided to come.”
And with that, he wandered off to the refreshments while I stood dumbfounded, trying with great difficulty to grasp just what in the world had happened.
Hey guys! Sorry for like the spamming of posts, aha. Let me know if you want me to attempt to finish something or you want more fanfic stuff or whatever! I’ll take any recommendations/requests (ah… reasonable haha)
🙂 Happy day after Thankgiving<3
Lost, I am hopelessly lost. The first day of school and I can’t even find my first period classroom. English was first up on my schedule, room 223A. I begin to panic, lifting up my wrist to view the time on my worn out watch. It reads 8:27, my heart drops. I only had three minutes left to get to class.
With the hallways being deserted, I forget of the no running rule and sprint down the endless corridor, moving my head from side to side seeing foreign numbers, none of which belonging to my core class. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!
No teacher was in sight, they were all in their own room, probably beginning their first lesson of the year. This only makes me more upset. Right before I had gotten out of Papa’s car, he had bid me yet another good day, and specifically asked me to make it to class on time just this once. And that was almost fifteen minutes ago, and even though I had practically traveled around the entire school, I just couldn’t find my classroom. Now, my stamina was heavily decreasing, my breathing coming out in heavy huffs.
Just when I had given up and decided to slow down to a stroll, I turn a corner and am abruptly knocked to the hard floor. Unprepared, I fell to my back, the wind getting knocked out of me. As I struggle to return the air supply to my lungs, I feel a heavy weight being pressed upon my chest. I look up to see a boy, just about my age, his lips only inches from my own. For a while, we lay like that, his uneven breath tickling my nose. He had been running as well, no doubt a lost individual such as me. His eyes were a soft hazel, reflecting back a bewildered me, staring curiously at him. A hint of spearmint is detectable, and I’m relieved at this. The last thing I needed was for a cute looking boy to be on top of me with coffee breath. Oh god, coffee breath.
My face goes beet red as I try desperately to hold my breath, fearing I’d get him to collapse from the overwhelming stench of bitter coffee. I begin to wonder if anyone is going to attempt to move away, when the tardy bell rings and the announcements go off. Finally, the attractive youth backs up away from me, stumbling on his feet. When I’m relieved of his weight, I try getting off the ground with great difficulty. He offers his hand to help me up. I took his warm hand in mine, dizzy from the power of his concerned stare. As I get to my feet and release his hand, I make a dumb attempt to brush myself off, not that there was anything on my clothes. The guy looks as me apologetically, waiting for the announcers to quite blabbering. Once they finish, saying something about good luck and first day of school, he immediately dives into the, I’m so sorry stage.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry about that, Xing,” my head jerks up at the sound of my name, “I was kind of running late and well, I guess I wasn’t really watching where I was going, I just can’t find my freaking class.”
“Wait,” I held my hands up to give me time to speak, “It’s fine, really, but how do you know my name?” He looks hurt when I say this.
“Well, I’m from your middle school, remember?” Carefully eyeing him up and down, I blush, I did recognize him. How could I have mistaken him for a stranger? He was my crush from seventh grade.
“Oh yeah, hey Matt, sorry, guess my contact shifted when you rammed into me,” I come up as an excuse, poking around at my eye for emphasis. In truth, I couldn’t recognize him at first due to his hair length. Before it had been so terribly short, a small patch of scraggly dark brown hair that changed into a gold color in the sunlight. Now it was longer, not so much to be able to put into a ponytail, but a more sophisticated length. I could already picture him in a tuxedo and making it look amazing. However, it did bother me that someone I had liked in the past now appeared before me, just the two of us, alone. My feelings for him had already diminished during the 8th grade and he became nonexistent to my life, but now here he was, looking more charming than ever.
He looks at me even more guiltily now, apologizing once more. I look down at my feet, avoiding any eye contact. I was still a bit stunned from our encounter, and by occasional glances, I could tell he was too. He rubbed his neck nervously.
“So… what brings you to being tardy in the hallway?” he asks. I shrug.
“I’m pretty much in the same situation as you, can’t find my stupid class,” I answer, peeking around the corner where I had come from, searching for any eavesdropping students. I found none.
“Well then, since I’ve already explored the entire school, perhaps I can be of assistance,” Mat continues, mocking a retarded looking bow as if to amuse me. “Allow me to be of assistance, least I can do from running into you, what’s your first period?”
“English,” I say all too excitedly, disregarding his previous gesture. I was beginning to sound like my father, but English was my favorite subject. Mat seems stunned to hear this.
“Hey, that’s where I’m heading too! Room 223A right?” he exclaims, his jaw dropping open too dramatically. I chuckle to myself, and then breathe out a sigh of defeat.
“Well then, so much for my professional tour guide. We’re both hopelessly lost now.” I watch as Mat’s broad shoulders kind of sag and he groans with frustration. For more of an effect, he bows his head down in a look of shame. My bubbly side shows up, giggling like a flirtatious youngster looking for trouble. “Hey, since we’re both heading for the same class, should we team up in finding this hidden room? Two heads are better than one right?”
My offer hangs heavily in the air for a painful few moments. I began to fear he would resort to insulting snorts and admit to never wanting to have anything to do with me. Nonetheless, go walking with someone like me. I was of the lower class, and he was perhaps the most popular kid in the whole school.
“I’d love to join you Miss Xing,” he finally replies, his eyes now staring patiently at mine. My face feels hot as I do my best to keep myself together. I hadn’t felt these feelings for a couple years, why were they returning so suddenly now?
Too eager to get myself out of that suffocating spot, I start to walk past him down the hallway where he had come from. “Well, I know for sure the hallway I came from is pretty much a dead end. No 223A in sight anywhere. Were there any additional routes where you came from?” I stop where I am, listening for his reply.
His shoulder barely brushes against mine when he comes up to stand next to me. It starts to feel numb at his touch. I try to weasel my way away from him when he says, “Well, I guess there was a corridor down that way,” he points straight down to the far end, “and then I came from the right, so go left?” Facing him again, I asked why he hadn’t just gone straight. “Well, I just thought that going right and left before straight was a good enough plan for me. I could have just retraced my steps and gone straight afterwards. Is that bad?”
Embarrassed, I shook my head. Why had I asked him such a ridiculous question? “Well, you know, I’m just kind of picky of how I travel. I usually go straight and then come back to right and left.” I felt dizzy at the sudden change of topic, we weren’t getting anywhere with this. I clear my throat before he can say anything else. “Well then, I guess left is our best option huh?” and with that, I was on my way, Mat staying uncomfortably close behind. Imagination or not, I could have sworn he was smiling.
The far end of the hallway seems longer than I remember it looking before. My nervous habit of having my hands sweat profusely had already started. I think back to when Mat had helped me to my feet. Had my hands been sweating then? I shake away the thought. This was the wrong place to think about that, it wasn’t like he was going to hold my hand again. Just, don’t think of anything, focus on not tripping on your own feet.
Listening to the soft echoes of our footsteps, I kept my eyes to the end of the hallway, still miles and miles away. My head starts to throb, my stomach begins to ache. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten so fast! And oh my dear god, why is it so quiet?! I began to panic, realizing just how wordless Mat was being. Was I boring him? Should I speak? I roll my eyes. Quite getting so paranoid, he’s just a friend you ran into.
Mat coughs, triggering something in my brain to go nuts. A friend that you were close to falling in love with in the 7th grade, this is no friend! Say something damn it!
“So… do you read much?” Again, that painful silence leaves me screaming in my head.
What the hell? So do you read much?! What kind of retarded question was that?! You were supposed to ask how his summer was! Ask how he was! Anything but that!
“Hmm…” he really seems to consider the question, taking a few more seconds to continue, “Well, I was really wrapped up in a book called The Glass Castle. I’ll admit that was pretty good. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King. Oh, and Dean Koontz is a heck of a writer too. I really enjoyed King’s The Shining. That gave me endless nightmares for a couple of weeks, and The Mist was creepy too.” He pauses, racking his brain for more things to say, “I’ve read a ton of books, ah, but none can compare to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It was nearly impossible for me to put those down, so yeah, you could say I read a lot,” he says casually, speeding up to match my pace beside me. My jaw could have easily dropped at that moment. Praise the lord, he’s a reader! I must have been staring at him for too long because he then looks at me confused. “What? Is it shocking that I like to read?”
“I-I didn’t say anything,” I stutter, baffled by his sudden tone of mockery.
“So first you have a thing against me choosing right and left before straight, and now you have a thing against me for reading?”
“E-Eh? Wait, what? I didn’t imply that at all!” I say, holding up my hands innocently. “Where are you getting these ideas?” It was then I broke my streak of staying balanced. I tried to turning towards him, walking sideways awkwardly, until I tripped and felt myself falling to the floor for the second time that day.
“Whoa there!” Mat exclaims, his hand clasping tightly to my arm. Once his grip is set, he pulls me back up to stable ground in one quick, swift motion. “Don’t want to fall down again do we?” He keeps his grip, loosening it a bit, holding me in place. My face flushes.
“Uh, thanks, I guess I have two left feet,” I say softly, tugging my arm away from his warm hand. He lets go, trying to determine whether or not I was alright.
“Hey, you actually don’t look too good. Your face is an odd mixture of red and pale white, you feeling alright?”
“Y-Yes! I’m feeling fine!” I answer too abruptly, too loudly. Then I look down shyly. “Er, I mean yeah, just feeling a bit dizzy.” It was true, my throbbing headache now delved into a slight nauseating dizziness. Perhaps I wasn’t lying to my father earlier today, I felt kind of ill. A warm hand then presses onto my forehead.
“You’re scorching hot, sweet Jesus!” he exclaims, brushing aside a couple of my bangs. He takes back his hand, observing me, furrowing his brows with concern, expecting me to fall flat on my face at any moment. “Maybe you should head on home and get some rest. I mean it is the first day, we’re not going to do anything really.”
“I’m alright, at least I feel fine,” I answer, recovering from the frequent times he had touched me. “Besides, then I’d leave you to looking for this this classroom all by yourself. I thought we were a team.” I try giving him my Papa smile, the dizziness becoming more unbearable. For the first time ever, someone doesn’t buy it.
“Oh come on, don’t give me that. I can practically see the heat waves radiating from your head. I’m pretty sure a guy like me can look for a stinking class.” He pauses to rub his neck. “Or, you know, at least wait out first period and head to second. I know where that one is for sure.” I sniff stubbornly.
“Hey, I’m a tough one, and we can’t let this door get the best of us. I am determined to find it before the second bell goes off. I’ve got fighting spirit, let’s go,” I recite my corny speech, praying he was the type of guy to just go with it. I began to stalk my way back to the end of the swaying hallway. He only laughs.
“You’re a strange one, alright, but if you collapse, I’m carrying you ok? I’ll be sure to lead you to that classroom no matter what, even if you’re unconscious.”
When he says that, I find myself feeling hot once again, but proceed on forward anyways. I find myself beginning to sway constantly, probably looking like a drunken fool. Mat takes notice right away and runs up beside me, providing a type of barricade to keep me more balanced. I feel like I’m being driven to the wall when I realize Mat was actually steering me towards it, trying to close in the space where I was at risk of collapsing.
“No offense, but you look like a drunk hobo looking for a public bench to crash,” he chuckles, “Don’t go dying on me now alright?” he teases. I narrow my eyes, offended, yet at the same time, happy he was making conversation. I hated awkward silences.
“Shut-up, I’m perfectly fine, just feeling a little under the weather.”
“So little, meaning having a tendency to sway off balance when walking? C’mon, let’s get you to the nurse’s or something.” I laugh at the suggestion.
“Ha, do you even now where that is?” Mat becomes silent for a while, looking away. His hand went back to rubbing his neck. That seemed to signify his nervous habit.
“No…” he whispers then glances back at me. “So… do you read much?” I flinch at the topic change. Was he mocking me?
“Yeah, I suppose so,” I answer dully, taking a quick note of what time it was. 8:37, we were already seven minutes into class.
“I don’t believe you,” he says, causing me to snap, but when I glare at him, I see a playful look in his eyes. He was just messing with me.
“I’ll have you know, I’m quite familiar with Stephen King. I read those two titles you spoke of before, as well as Cell and The Stand, so there. And if you’d like proof I’d be happy to fill out a questionnaire if you are willing to provide.”
Mat’s mouth hung open, shock reflecting from his hazel eyes. I blink a couple of times, wondering what has gotten him so shaken up, when he yells for me to look out. He spoke too late as I run straight into the wall. We’d finally reached the splitting pathway.
“Ow,” I say, clutching to my right temple, throbbing with pain. Mat is in a fit of laughter now. I shoot him a dirty look, rolling my eyes. “Yeah, I ran into a wall big deal, drunken hobo had too much to drink, now what was with that shocked look earlier?”
“Oh that,” he wipes his eyes, still grinning, “Right before you ran into the wall,” he waits for me to grimace at that specific detail, “I was just going to say it’s impressive you read a complicated book like The Stand. I never had the chance to finish it. Actually you’re perhaps the first girl I’ve spoken to whose even started reading it.” He places his hands into his pockets, eyeing me worriedly, “You alright there, clumsy?”
“Yes, I ran into a wall, tripped on my own feet, and got rammed to the ground by some kid, I’m feeling pretty good. I survived. What did I tell you? Fighting spirit all the way, woo,” I make a sad attempt to throw a weak fist pump into the air, feeling like such a dork. I took a quick gander at my surroundings, my face going pale.
“You are one heck of soldier alright. Hey, why do you look so pale?” He outstretches his arm, prepared to catch me. Chuckling nervously, I shuffle my feet.
“Ah, you see, I kind of forgot which way we were supposed to go.”
Mat just stands for a moment, processing what I just said when he withdraws his arms and resumes his nervous neck rub. He gives me an open mouth smile, revealing a set of perfectly straight, blinding teeth then gestures toward the left side.
“I knew that,” I lied, making my way through the new, untraveled area.
For a while, we walk in silence, keeping our eyes on the numbered doors we passed by. I had the right side covered, Mat, the left. I find myself smiling as we searched for our room in hiding. The strange illness I had felt before now seemed to be disappearing. I was finally beginning to walk straight again, when I thought of how funny it was that it was the first day of school, and out of all the problems in the world, I just couldn’t find my freaking class. I would have never thought searching for a door would be so time-consuming. The more numbers we came across by, the more I began to feel like we weren’t getting any progress done whatsoever. Finding this room was flat out impossible.
As if sharing my thoughts, Mat broke into a heavy, deep sigh.
“We’re never going to find room 223A are we?” He stops suddenly, pondering whether or not to continue this pointless scavenger hunt. Stopping just a few feet ahead of him, I look back mockingly.
“Don’t tell me you’re giving up?” I tease, placing my hands on my hips for more of an effect, shaking my head in disappointment, “and I had high hopes for you, Mat.” He laughs at my insult.
“As if! I’m just resting a bit, give me a second. Don’t go anywhere, wouldn’t want you to get yourself hurt.” He grins mischievously at me, provoking me to come up with a stubborn comeback. I only roll my eyes then slip off down the hallway, leaving Mat scrambling up after me.
“Hey, hey, hey, wait up. I’m just messing with you, I’m sorry. Don’t be upset with me please.” He gives me some sort of puppy eyed look, begging for forgiveness. Confused I cut down my quickened pace, all too much enjoying his adorable face.
“It’s fine?” I say, making it sound more like a question. “I wasn’t mad or anything, I’m just eager to get to English I guess.”
He replies with a nod, his gaze falling to the side of me. For a while he stays like that, squinting as though reading something far away. Then without warning, his eyes lit up and excitement powdered his face. As I’m about to ask what had caught his attention, he suddenly exclaims past me, frantically waving his arms.
“Hey man! Think you could lend us a hand?” he asks loudly, pausing his mad gestures to pass me a trusting look. “Found another lost soul, a pal of mine,” he answers quickly, returning to his odd little ritual of hand motions. Curious, I turned to see for myself what had caused the commotion.
I felt my stomach drop ten stories.
Our new companion stood quite a distance away, a lone light resting over his head flickering with an eerie pattern. Times he would remain there, bathed in holy light at one minute and terrifying darkness the next. At the sound of Mat’s voice calling to him, he only moves to a point of having a perfect view of the two of us. He makes no further movement to approach, makes no attempt to grin kindly as a friend normally would to another, only watches with the eyes of an angelic spirit and a frightening demon.
I shiver despite the typically warm atmosphere in the hallway. The cold feeling is familiar, and I recall the dream I had the previous night. Once the memory settles in like an old friend, seeping it’s content snuggly into my restless mind, I ignore Mat now running up to give his pal a hearty handshake and instead try focusing more on the darker side of this stranger. I recognized the appearance right away, thinking back to the falling snow, the diminishing feathers, the distant waves.
The cloaked man.
Feathers. Millions and millions of feathers were drifting from the sky. It was a bright atmosphere, nothing but the scent of sweet petunias and heavenly roses pressing heavily upon my nose. The distant flapping of wings and the beautiful chirps of the morning lark singing its waking tune adds to the delightful setting. From somewhere nearby, the gentle exhaling ‘whoosh’ of a beach pulses a slight rhythm following the hissing inhale of the salty water; natures’ forever lasting chorus. The calmness of the scenery only makes me paranoid. Something terrible is going to happen.
Through the thick cloud of black feathers, I spot a lone figure. At this distance, with my lines of sight being very limited, the gender couldn’t be determined. Even with my sense of danger on high level, my curiosity soon gets the best of me, so with great caution, I attempt to advance toward it.
As I take my first step, I’m startled to hear a slight ‘crunch’ coming from the uneven ground. As I stagger back a bit from the sudden change of the surface, I find the flower aroma had taken its leave. Spread completely around me, were the powdery substances of white snow, bright from the warm reflection of the rising sun. To my shock, there are no feathers resting upon this new form of terrain. I take the time to observe a couple of them falling gracefully toward my feet. Just before contact, they evaporate with a slight ‘poof’, leaving nothing behind but pure wonderment and uneasiness. Where the flowers had disappeared off to escapes my mind, however I shake off the new wave of forthcoming bad fortune, and continue my trek to the figure.
For the next several steps, time appears to stretch into an agonizingly slow period. My breathing becomes slower, and my pace cuts down to half the speed I had taken before. Everything has been reduced to a delaying feel, everything except my restless mind. As I press on through the confusing dilemma, entities around me began to take a different shape.
The welcoming heat the sun had blanketed around my bare shoulders now began to withdraw, leaving a new growing coldness to crawl into my exposed skin. The wintriness appears to be too intense, given to the fact I should have at least been in simple clothing. But to my astonishment, I find my entire attire has gone missing, leaving me utterly naked. My eyes glance down to find even my feet are bare now, the bitter cold nipping at my numb toes. Hadn’t I been wearing shoes before? Where had my clothing gone off to?
Natures’ icy breath leaves me feeling dumber than ever, my grip on what was occurring slips away with each intake of the frosty air. It was so frigid, my breathe was clearly visible. I found myself constantly exhaling a thick, puffy mist.
Feelings of insecurity dawn on me as I remember I wasn’t alone in that place. My peripheral vision depicts a quick movement, alarming me. Normal speed has returned to me at last, my hastened reaction bidding me to jump back a few feet from where I had detected the intruder. Knees slightly bent, arms raised in a defensive position, I braced myself for combat when to my relief, I see only a vast outstretch of deserted winter land and a thicker downfall of feathers.
Even though there had been no one to deal with, I can’t help but feel a wave of embarrassment, my feet shuffling sheepishly. Then it crosses my mind, the figure was still nearby. I spun around frantically, making sure to hug myself tightly, radiating what little warmth I could manage. Then I saw it, or rather on closer inspection, him.
He was staring directly at me, only a couple of feet from where I stood. His attire consisted of a dark, menacing, hooded cloak, although his head remained out in the open. Despite having his body covered entirely by the outfit, I could still see the outline of his muscular body, powerful and dangerous. Short, black hair rests messily on top of his scalp, covered by tiny flecks of falling snow. His face looks to be slightly humored, a crooked smile spread amusingly across his light, pinkish lips. His eyebrows are arched in a way to express either confusion or fascination, and his eyes penetrate me with such discreet intensity, as if he were gazing into my very soul.
My heart rate quickens as I wonder if he had seen my ridiculous reaction to the noise that had startled me earlier. My face feels scorching hot. He was, in a way, quite good-looking, and here I was standing before him, wearing absolutely nothing, freezing in the bitter cold.
Almost as if he heard my thoughts, his head tilts slightly to the side. He now takes onto a look of confusion mimicking me by crossing his arms tightly against his own chest. Then with a swift movement, he nods toward me, as if gesturing me to take a second look at myself.
I felt warm, surprisingly warm, and it takes me only a few seconds to realize I am covered by a cloak, the same one as the mysterious man standing just before me. Looking back at him, I find him smiling proudly as though he had something to do with the sudden change in my appearance. He opens his mouth slightly, still amused, about ready to say his first few words.
Then without warning, a wave of feathers erupts into a rage, swirling around me faster and faster in a counterclockwise direction. Fear courses through my veins as I stood there defenseless, staring at the now frowning man for help. The wind continues its relentless speed, circling a dazed me, just about ready to pass out from an overdose in adrenaline. I catch a sad look surfacing in the motionless beings’ eyes, watching me carefully. Then as soon as I blink, he is gone, leaving behind a flock of feathers to be sucked into the on-going whirlwind. This process seems to go on forever until the miles and miles of snow blurs into a sea of black. The wind then finally dies down to a gentle breeze, and then nothing.
There is only darkness.
My eyes jerk open to a blaring alarm clock waking me from my slumber. Bringing myself to a sitting position, I gaze at the bright red digits reading 7:02. The annoying sound has now come to agitate me as I push myself off the creaking, old mattress and drowsily stagger to the opposite side of the room to slap my hand upon the snooze button. Instantly, the sound dies, leaving me to stand in the middle of the eerie silence which follows.
Sleepily, my hands find their way to my burning eyes, rubbing them a bit too roughly, causing them to water. As I fell into a yawn, I slump back over to my ancient bed, eager to have more time to rest. When I reach the end of the piece of furniture, I fall back onto it, letting my head sink into one of my plush pillows. Just when I think I’m officially comfortable, the door to my quarters opens suddenly, leading up to me jumping back into an upright posture. Standing just outside it, grinning all too happily for the morning is my father. Once he sees where I am sitting, his smile disappears.
“Oh c’mon honey, not this again,” he groans, shaking his in disproval, “it’s a new year, you can’t start this again. You don’t want to be late for the first day of school do you?”
Now it was my turn to groan. “Oh no, Papa, I’m just feeling under the weather. Can’t I just stay home for today?” It wasn’t a complete lie. That dream had left me feeling a bit queasy, all those dreams had an after affect like that for me, but it didn’t seem like Papa bought it.
“Xing, it’s the first day of high school. You’re a freshman and you’re just going to have to learn to tough it out, especially when you become a full-fledged adult. Now get off your lazy butt and get dressed, it’s a big day!” His tone drives off from a strict tone into an excited one, nearly leading to him skipping off down the hall when he finished speaking.
“I still don’t understand why you’re so happy!” I yell at him as he disappears into the dark hallway, whistling a small happy tune to himself. I shake my head, finding myself smiling anyways.
Somewhat ignoring his command, I remain where I am, waiting for the alarm to go off once more. I want nothing more than to fall back down upon the sheets and pass out for another interesting dream, but I decide to not risk that for Papas’ sake. So instead, after clicking off the alarm once more, I climb over to the shelf Papa built me for my 6th birthday hanging over my bed. Before moving onto my knees to reach for one of the books, I lean back to take a quick note of how crooked the shelf was, leaning too far to the right. So much for our father and daughter handiwork, I think to myself, hoping to remember to fix the frame in the future.
I went to rummage throughout the hundreds of books collecting dust, searching for my dream journal. Cursing to myself, I mentally vow to get rid of some of the aging fictional tales I had already read. As I take a couple of them out, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Brave New World, I find my white journal, decorative with green flowers and blue butterflies fluttering about, not exactly to my personal tastes. The hardback journal is cold at the touch, reminding me of the bizarre crisis I had endured in that bitter snow within dreamland. I shiver at the thought, pulling back the book, and throwing it onto my covers. I put back the two other stories I had taken out before, suggesting to myself I organize my shelf a bit better, it was a heaping mess.
Sitting with my legs crossed, I pull out the recorded recollections, flipping between the pages. One of the dates catches my eye, documented: August 9, 2012, two weeks ago. I quickly scan the scribbled handwriting, giving the door occasional glances and listening for my dads’ chipper tune. The smell of burnt bacon fills my nostrils. I sigh, sniffing in the heavenly smell, and quickly scan the page.
August 9, 2012
I had that dream again today. It always starts off the same, the peaceful place where everything seems calm, the distant waves of a nearby beach, the strong smell of flowers, and the strangest thing, black feathers falling freely around me and evaporating into nothing once they even get close to touching something, but I just get the sense that something bad is going to happen. This has happened ever since that day. Well, so far, every night it’s become true and I’ve been noticing a strange pattern.
“Xing? Are you getting dressed?” my dads’ voice startles me from my reading. I leap up from my bed, charging after the still open door, slamming it shut. Last thing I needed was for my dad to come in and read my personal stuff.
“Now I am!” I yell back, practically tripping as I run towards my closet door. I threw it open, picking a shirt at random and throwing it on over my blue laced tank top. Next, while still struggling to pull the t-shirt over my head, I thrust open a nearby drawer and yank out a pair of jeans. As soon as those are on, I jump back onto the bed, glancing back at the page I was on. I should have at least a couple of minutes to spare. I was usually a slow dresser.
Every single one of them is the same. It starts off serene, and then it goes horribly wrong. Today’s dream ended up with the sun exploding. At first it was just the perfect climate, and then all of a sudden, I look up and I find the sun growing larger and larger. I freaked out and tried running away, whatever good that would do, but I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move at all, and the heat just got worse and worse. Eventually I was at a near pass out state, until the sun finally just blew up. It was blinding, even with my eyes shut, but as it finally dimmed down a bit, I opened my eyes, having no idea how the heck I could have possibly survived (it is a dream I guess), and there, standing a distance away (I couldn’t see very well) I think it was a figure of some sort.
All this starts to come to memory, I recall there being a figure in all of my dreams. Every time, it would get closer and closer, only this time, I guess I was able to actually see the face. I already knew how the rest of the story went, but I continue on anyways, preparing myself for the gruesome image.
The lighting of the place was quickly dimming down, but just before it did, the figure disappeared in the blink of an eye. Then, I felt something wet touching my legs. It was warm and sticky, it was awful, and the smell, I’ll never forget it, it was the stench of…blood. And to my horror, when I could finally move again, I looked down to find it was blood, a sea of blood, and it was already up to my knees. So much blood was everywhere, even when I looked out to the distance. It was literally an ocean of that dreadful stuff. And then after that, after I had the nerve to take a few steps from where I stood, I felt a hand on my leg. It was tugging on me very lightly and when I looked to see whose hand it was…
“Xing! Seriously, how long does it take for one girl to put on a shirt and some pants?!” my father screams from the kitchen. I quickly slam the book shut, sickened to the stomach by the content even without finishing it, and throw it back on my shelf behind some novels. When I am satisfied with the placement of the journal, I open the door and sprint to the bathroom making some quick minor hair adjustments and grab some pieces of jewelry, throwing them on sloppily. Thinking I was all set for the day, I run back out, only to slam face first into a wall. Oops! Contacts! I then rush back into the bathroom to jab a couple of contact lens into my eyes, nearly poking a hole in them.
Blinking rapidly to keep from going totally blind, I casually walk into the kitchen, now filled with the sweet aroma of scrambled eggs, chili powder and brown sugar style bacon, and French toast drizzled in succulent syrup. Smiling, I help myself to a plateful of food and sit down at the table, pigging out. Papa looks at me with a mixture of frustration and impatience and a hint of disgust.
“What?” I ask, though with a mouth full of food it sounded more like “wah?” He only looks at me, shaking his head again with disproval, but his frustration becomes replaced with humor.
“Jeez girl, mind cleaning up the syrup from your eyebrow?” he questions with a slight chuckle. His finger points to my right eyebrow, thick with sticky syrup. I have no idea how in the world I could have possibly managed that. Sheepishly, I lick my finger and wipe off the substance, stuffing yet another piece of delicious bacon into my bottomless mouth. “How are you not fat?”
At this, I burst into laughter, nearly choking to death on the piece of meat. “I’m a teen, unlike someone,” I reply, being sure to poke at my fathers’ bulging beer belly. He fakes an expression of hurt, sticking his bottom lip into a childish pout.
“Hey, no need to pick on your old man.” He pats his stomach contently, “So what if I’ve been putting on a few pounds?” I snort at this, forking in a scoopful of eggs coated with the salty liquid of soy sauce.
“A few?” I tease, continuing my pig out.
“Ha.” Confusion crosses his face now. “Did you put soy sauce on your eggs?” I burst into yet another fit of laughter.
“C’mon Dad, it’s my Asian blood that craves this stuff,” I retort, getting a couple of laughs from him. I shovel in the last bit of egg from my plate then move back from the table, heading for the sink. Then I throw in the dishes, making my way over to the living room where my backpack sat waiting, already packed full.
I glance questionably back at my smiling father, something glistening in his eyes. Still excited for his daughter, or perhaps something more?
“Yeah, I went ahead and packed everything for you since you were too lazy to do it yourself,” he said, answering one of my suspicions. He then sighs tiredly. Oh boy. My emotional daddy senses were on high. “I can’t believe my little baby is already in high school,” he says, as I cringe at the sound of the word, ‘baby’. I was tempted to speak against that comment, but I thought I’d let him have this one for now. He was in his emotional state, too vulnerable to make any offended remarks.
“Pretty soon, you’re going to graduate and move out the house and then I’m going to be all alone here…” His voice trails off as if in deep thought. Sadness washes up into his eyes, pushing a weight onto me, bringing me down with him. Several moments of silence pass on by, when I walk over to him and give him a weak, awkward daughterly hug. I feel his arms wrap around me, his hand stroking my hair. “You’ll always be my little girl, you know that right?” he says softly, pushing me back to where I could see his deep sea green eyes. I nod, feeling even more embarrassed with the sappy moment, moving back over to my backpack filled by my loving father. I quickly sling it across one of my shoulders, straining under the heavy weight. Just as I began to think the moment was over, he takes too much of a step in making the moment painful.
“You look so much like your mother.”
I swear I could have heard glass shattering, because just then, reality settles back in. A series of emotions from the past come up to haunt me just that very moment as well as last nights’ dream. My eyes began to sting once more, so I try blaming it on the contacts. Wordlessly, I walk past Papa, giving him my best smile, and went out into the garage where his red truck rests, waiting for its’ passengers. I make sure to grab my tennis shoes than jump into the leather seats of the vehicle, becoming oddly fascinated with the strap hanging off my backpack. I twiddle with it for a while, and put on my old, worn out shoes, waiting for my dad to compose himself. Something told me he was probably sitting down in a chair, head in his hands thinking about them. In these times, it was best to leave him alone and wait it out. I, on the other hand, had grown to bring myself out of my depressed state, but it didn’t help that I read the journal before leaving.
The door to the garage opens back up again, my dad walking right out, a smile back on his face. He was holding a couple of cups in his hand when he approaches the car. That was my father, putting a mask on to get through the day, being the father a girl needed. Like father, like daughter as they say, so I smile on back, tossing back the strap, settling back into my seat, and buckling my seatbelt. He passes one of the warm cups to me, the scent of French vanilla coffee drowning the musky smell of leather. He then slams the door shut with a jerk, and raises a toast.
“Here’s to a brand new day to my girl! May the odds ever be in her favor,” he announces in an Effie impersonating tone from Hunger Games, lifting his plastic cup.
“And ever in my favor, the odds may be,” I say, raising mine as well, clanking it against his cup. The garage door opens to a blinding ray of sunlight. Down the driveway we went, heading to my new school and old friends. I try my best to push out the dream of my mothers’ hand clasping around my ankle, the pleading look on her bloody face, calling for her baby girl.
New school year, new beginning, new dreams what could possibly go wrong?
Eight years ago:
Mom and Dad were fighting again.
Jacob, Jeannette, and I were all sitting on the sofa, trying to watch some TV, but most of all, trying to drown out the yelling and screaming coming from Mommy and Daddy’s room. From their expressions, I could tell Jeannette, being almost seven months, was doing a fine job of not letting it bother her, and Jacob, at age sixteen, was having a hard time trying to block them out. I was dealing with the same problem as Jacob, so instead of trying to ignore them, I try to make out what they were saying. The theme of whatever show my brother and sister were “watching” was pretty loud, so depicting what Mom and Dad were saying was a bit of a difficult task. I could only manage to hear bits and pieces.
“You need to…more time with…your own goddamn children Samuel!” I hear my mother’s voice shouting angrily, startling me with her sudden cursing. It was rare for her to use such foul language unless she was really steamed.
“…to support this family…have to travel for just a few days! I’ll be home…weeks…won’t know I’m gone!” my father yells back, growing more and more impatient with my mother’s stubbornness for not backing down from an argument.
It dawns on my, they were fighting about the same thing they always fought about, Dad’s business trips. He worked as a manager for one of the most famous bands in the area, “The Threads”, and though it may prove to be a bizarre name, their playing was known for being “music of the century” and “unforgettable”. Being the daughter of the man practically in charge of them, I’ve been to several of their concerts. My dad always took me, and they never came to impress me. They were usually too loud, and they only seemed too eager to finish and hang out with their fans, mainly the girls.
Just earlier today, Papa had come by to tell the whole family of his trip starting tomorrow and lasting for over a course of two entire weeks. Since then, which was almost thirty minutes ago, mom’s been talking his ear off about not being committed to this family and caring only for his career.
I knew none of that was true. Papa was only doing this for the family. As of late, we’ve been running short of cash, and even being a manager for a top band didn’t prove enough to support ourselves. Just missing one of those trips was equivalent to a whole month of starvation, but that fact still never seemed to get to Mother.
I’m pulled out of my thoughts when Jacob nudges me. I look up at him, his eyes glistening with a beautiful shimmering blue. I’ve always been envious of his eye color, what with mine being a simple dull brown, but mother had always told me in a way I was the more unique one of the browns, that I shined brighter than most, and at the time, I believed her. Any words of advice Mother gave was sure to be believable.
“Hey, are you doing alright there? Did you want to watch something else?” he asks me, switching to big brother mode. He hands me the remote, eyeing me cautiously, deciding whether or not to bring up the situation our parents were in. I smile and accept the remote, watching him sigh with relief at my childish seven year old need for entertainment.
In truth, I was not interested at all in the television. I wanted only to reassure my brother that I wasn’t attracted to the tension going on just a few doors down the hallway because that normally isn’t something a girl my age should be interested in over television. More than anything, I want them to stop fighting so we could get out of this bloody house. I needed some fresh air.
Just then, as if my prayers were answered, their door bursts open and I hear Mother stomping out towards us. Pretty soon, she stands in front of the set, arms crossed, nostrils flared.
Everyone at school thought she was beautiful, and I had to agree with them. Her long blonde hair stretched down to her pencil thin waist, and she was never seen going around town without a dress of some sort. Today, she wore one of a beautiful red which made her seem even skinnier, something I thought to be physically impossible. Her nose was an elegant, slender shape, perhaps the best looking scent detector I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. She could really smell anything from miles away. Of course that was who I got my great sense of smell from.
Her lips were a rose red, her eyes a sunflower yellow, and her skin a delightful shade of tan from endless days of lying in the sun. Burning in the sun was another thing which couldn’t be done. Her skin was just that fair.
“C’mon kids, get in the car, we’re going to your Aunt Jenny’s,” she fumes, not giving us a chance to reply, she storms out into the garage, slamming the door behind her, hard.
Jacob only shrugs, “Guess we’re going to Aunt Jenny’s.” He shuts off the electronics, and slowly rises to pick up restless Jeannette, now crying at the sudden realization Nickelodeon time was over. With slight grace and tender love, he swings her back and forth to a lulling rhythm, heading in the direction of our angry mother.
“Guess so,” I mutter under my breath, coming up to follow them, but just then, my dad came out from the back room, staring at me with a sullen look in his eyes. It was the same look that had always made me feel his pain and the need to hug him and tell him that everything would be ok. So having the mentality of a seven year old, I did just that.
“It’s ok Daddy,” I said, running into his open arms, “everything will be ok, Mommy will forgive you, she just doesn’t understand yet right?”
Giving me an unsure smile, he nods and lifts me up into the air, spinning me around like he always did when I was even younger. I find myself giggling uncontrollably, “Dad! I’m too old for this! Aren’t I heavy?” I ask uncertainly, he only grins and chuckles.
“Of course not my little angel, you’re light as a feather!” he exclaims, pulling me in and pressing his lips against my forehead as a loud ‘smack’ echoes the room. Finally he puts me down, patting my head lovingly, his face going serious. He gets down on one knee, so we see eye to eye. “Now, you go and take care of your mother ok? I want you to let her know how much you love her, and I’ll see you later ok? I promise you, I will come back home and we are going to go on a vacation.” I tilt my head at this, stunned by the sound of this new word. “You know what a vacation is?” he asked me as I shake my head violently. “Well sweetie, it’s when we go somewhere really fun as a family you see. We can go anywhere you want! We could go to an amusement park, a cruise, an airplane, or the beach?” My eyes grow wide at the sound of the last place. My facial reactions never seem to slip on by his way of judgment. He knew he had picked my curiosity just by how I reacted.
He chuckled, “The beach it is then. Your mother and I will take you there when I come back, you and Jacob and little Miss Jeannette, and you are all going to love it. There are these things called waves that go up and down, climbing up the sandy ground. We’ll all build some sandcastles and go swimming in the salty water!”
“Salty water?!” I exclaim, mesmerized by the description of this place called the beach. I can already picture it, the breathing water climbing up to my toes, buried in the hot sand, and Mommy and Daddy coming in to lift me in the air and toss me into the cool water. I would secretly taste this water whenever I wade in, really wanting to see if it was actually salty, and then I’d ask Jacob to take me the deeper end and we could go underwater to search for some fish. The idea sounds exciting, and I can hardly wait.
“Yes! The saltiest water you’ll ever swim in! It’ll be an adventure!” He becomes excited at the sound of this and goes in for another suffocating hug leaving me crying for several “mercy!” and “can’t breathe!” cries. Then he lets go, and bids me farewell, wishing me luck and to look after the crew while he was gone.
I leap through the door leading to the garage excitedly and jump into the little blue Smart car my mom had treasured for several years. When I’m buckled in, the garage door opens with a low hum, and blinding light comes into the room, making me and Momma squint. She looks at me through the rearview mirror, her sunflower eyes catching the reflection of the sun, causing them to glow, her lips widen to a dazzling smile at the sight of my wondrous plain brown eyes. I start to wonder if she saw the glint that made them special.
“Ok everyone! Let’s go have some fun!” she says in her mothering tone, hiding away any hint of anger or sadness from the heated debate. We’re backing out, off the driveway, and onto our neighborhood street. It’s a beautiful day, and several people were out about their afternoon stroll. When we drive down the area, every once in a while, a familiar face would give us a brief wave and a pleasant smile, and every time, I’d return the favor. Jacob was busy with Jeannette, making funny faces at her and getting her to laugh. I admired his brotherly skills and wished I could use my sisterly skills to make her laugh too, but of course, I was bad at that sort of thing.
The ride was soothing, mom was a safe driver, and we were never worried of getting into a car accident. Any car Mom drives was accident free, well, perhaps when it came to babies and food it was a different story, but driving wise, it was all safe. Despite that, I didn’t feel quite satisfied with the car ride today.
To be honest, I didn’t really want to go to Aunt Jenny’s. Not because it was far away, or the fact she gave us too many kisses and considered all of us as two year olds, even Jacob. Jeannette didn’t mind as much. With the last few words dad had told me, all I could think about was the beach and vacation. How amazing that trip sounded, and how far away it seemed!
“So Xing, you look very excited about something? What’s up? Did your father say something to you?” my mother’s melodic voice draws my attention, looking at me through the rearview mirror. I grin, nodding my head profusely.
“Do you really think we’re all going to the beach when Papa comes home?” I ask, sitting tall, waiting for her response. Her eyes dim to a gloomier color, but she maintains her perfect smile, eyeing back to the open road.
“Sure, that sounds fun! Has Daddy told you about the beach?” she asks back. I nod enthusiastically.
“He says the water is salty! Is that really true? The lakes and ponds we went to weren’t salty. Can we drink it?” I watch as she falls into little hiccups of laughter, Jacob was chuckling too, ruffling my hair with one of free hands. Jeannette fell into a series of soft murmurs, tugging on Jacob’s other hand, demanding to have back his full attention. I raise an eyebrow, curious as to what was so humorous about my question.
“That, my dear Xing, is probably not a good idea,” she says, recovering from her laughs, “The Ocean has sea creatures living in it, so the water may not taste very good. But yes, the water is very salty, so be sure to not open your eyes in it. It can be a bit painful. Nonetheless, we are going to have a wonderful time there, I can tell you that.”
I furrow my eyes in untrustworthy suspicion. “Cross your heart and hope to die?” She chuckles.
“Cross my heart and hope to die.”
Jimmy speaks first.
“Where were you?” he demands, anger in his voice. The vehicle jerks from side to side, dodging between cars. I fear we were going to have a collision.
“In the London Eye, Jimmy, where else?” My mind flashes back to Lightning and our conversation. “The line was long.” I start breathing heavily with fear, wondering what had happened to make time speed up so quickly. It was impossible for it to be so late. When I had last checked the time, with the Lotus’s, it was only five o’ clock! How could have an hour and thirty minutes passed in what I believed to be a five minute gap?
There was only one person on my mind who could have been responsible for this. Lightning. That little twerp must have been behind this. She was the only one could manipulate time from what I could tell. If she could stop it then she must be able to speed it up and slow it down too.
“Didn’t you even check your watch?” he asks, swerving the limo to the right to avoid hitting a white car, stopping suddenly to switch lanes. Offended, I answer without thinking.
“Of course I checked it, and get this. It read five o’clock just a few minutes ago!” I cringe at the insanity that seems to edge into my voice. Definitely not the most believable excuse to use.
“You probably had the time all screwed up,” he replies, disappointed. Another hard turn, we were exiting the highway. The seatbelt pushes into my side harshly, causing me to grunt as a puff of air escapes from me.
“Hey, take it easy on the turns, I’m already screwed. “ I double check the time on my wrist, hoping I had only hallucinated the dreadful hour it had read before. Sadly, it mocks me with a now even later time of six thirty-five. “I swear I didn’t have the time messed up. Last time I looked it said five o’clock, how could I get that confused with six thirty?!” Jimmy only shakes his head. In the front mirror, he struggles with emotions I couldn’t interpret. A need to tell him about my experience at the attraction comes over me, my hands tapping at the side of the door with a hidden anticipation. Jimmy notices my odd little rhythm taking place in the backseat, suspecting it to be something about Henry.
“It’s alright, Alia,” his voice sounds soothing now, trying to act in a calmly matter, “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just tell him it’s all my fault, and you’ll be fine.” The setting from outside my window appears to slow down now, our speed finally matching up to the law’s limit. To myself, I think back to Beatty and her actions she took in order to protect me. No, I couldn’t get Jimmy fired today either because of me. Harsher than what I’d intended, I decline his offer. Feeling a debate coming up, I reach for the button that would close the space, separating the two of us. As the dark tinted window closes, Jimmy’s eyes take one last sad look at me, and then disappear behind the closing glass.
When it’s securely closed and locked, I gaze back out into the dim, outdoor world. It’s a bit too dark for this time of day, as little streams of golden rays reached lazily across the lightly lit sky. It looks to be trying to grab onto the other side of the atmosphere in a pathetic attempt to remain in existence, the dark black night sky steadily consuming the little light there was. The sight makes me think of a certain book I had once read some of in one of the hotels Henry and I stayed at. Bits and pieces of the pages inside it come into focus. The world was created out of nothing, created by a God, a balance of light, and darkness. My mind thinks of the early dawn every morning, the entering light attacking away at the surrendering darkness. And then now, where just the opposite happens, darkness chases away the retreating light to keep in control for half the day. Both evenly balanced.
I try applying the same rules towards humanity. People on the news, police saving lives, chasing criminals, firefighters putting out harmful fires to aid victims to their safety, and from what I learned from Beatty, people in history who risked their lives to provide freedom for their fellow citizens. These were considered the good people weren’t they? Now, thinking on the other side, the darker hearts. Murderers killing for fun, terrorists sacrificing themselves in the most terrible ways, taking their own lives as well as any who surrounded them, and there are those like Henry, greedy for money, uncaring for the ones with no past or any existing happiness.
These scenarios don’t sound at all similar to the night and day sky. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve only been exposed to the evil side of life, but whatever the case, I felt like evil was the more dominant side, easily conquering over good. Perhaps it’s just Henry’s influence making me feel no hope for something to come to make my life more meaningful in the future. Perhaps it’s just my parent’s mysterious death lying heavily on my shoulders, sapping away my desire to fight for a better insight of life itself.
I close my eyes, listening to my heartbeat take flight, every passing second increasing the rate. Hands shaking, and sweating profusely, I feel a million butterflies stir around in my stomach, my legs shaking terribly.
All these insecure feelings were Henry’s fault. Ever since the day he took me in.
It was around the time when I was trapped in my endless nightmare, when I had received the tragic news of my parent’s death. Still no memory of anything before that day comes into focus. Everything is blurry at that point. Everything that occurred afterwards although, was as clear as day, the faint voices trying desperately to reach the young girl who had shrouded herself in darkness, pushing away those who wished to pity her, to get her to speak her mind. All of those voices had been so distant, drowned out, meaningless, foreign to me. All but a single voice that had caught my attention, a voice belonging to the man I would one day know as Henry Johns.
He was a role model to me back then, ever since I had lost my mother and father. Whenever I’d lock myself up into a tight ball, in a dark corner, he’d always give me a gentle tap on my shoulder, a kind smile, and extend an inviting hand to me. What a fool I was always trusting him, placing my hand into his, following him to whatever lie of a fairy tale he would take me next. Carnivals, fairs, the park, the movies, any child’s dream place, he’d take me there, gaining my love, bit by bit. A play was what it was, a childish play filled with fun and games, no troubles no regrets, and sometimes I’d forget about death being a part of reality. This happened for months, until my happiness had finally soared sky high. Until I knew how to smile and mean it.
Until he asked to adopt me.
He promised we would do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, and just be happy forever, together, as daughter and father. I was hesitant at first, something inside me trying to warn of his fake mask, of his lies. Something that wasn’t so easily willing to let go of my parents just yet. Something saying that there was no way he could fill in the position and actually be the caring father I had wanted so badly then. But I was blind by his non-existent glow, his forced smile, his patience to claim me. I ignored the feeling and said yes.
The play was over. His voice felt less and less kind-hearted, and more sinister and dark. It got louder and louder, harsher and harsher, until he was practically screaming at me day by day. Things as simple as being late or forgetting to do something would drive him into a blind, raging state. Punishment became a daily basis as I grew older, Jimmy and Beatty noticing the bruises and cuts becoming more numerous and worse as the performances I gave came and went. Sometimes he would strike in such a strong fury, that I would have the inability to walk for several days. His soothing, kind words became hurtful, targeting at my passed away family.
I hated him with a passion, but more than anything else, I hated myself. I hated myself for letting him abuse me in this way, I let him get to me, and I let him get away with everything terrible he’s done in his life. I let him run my life because I’m too foolish to let him go, because I don’t want to go back to being abandoned and alone anymore. He was the only one who took me in, and despite his uncaringness toward me, I felt like I was needed. This is my only purpose I can think of in life, without Henry, I wouldn’t know what to do or where to go. I longed for the day when I’d get over that foolish fear.
The limousine slows to a stop, bringing me back to reality. Out the window, darkness has taken over, the hotel waiting eerily in the hungry night. I listen as Jimmy makes his way over to my side, and opens the door for me, letting out dying slivers of light from the vehicle. The only other visible lights glow softly from a few rooms, the smallest murmur of televisions broadcasting nightly shows. My still shaky legs swing over out the side of the door, touching the wet, slushy ground. It had rained recently, the atmosphere feels damp on my face, and the nightly breeze is terribly cold. As if shaking from fear itself wasn’t enough, I begin to shiver from the low temperature, feeling icy daggers hitting me full force at my eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. My breathing becomes heavy, a puff of air visible due to the severe cold. Jimmy watches me pitifully, taking off his own coat to wrap around my violently shaking body.
“N-No, r-r-really, I-I’m f-f-f-fine,” my teeth chatter as I speak, each word requiring a huge effort for me to say. Jimmy only wraps the warm winter wear around me tighter, pulling me away from the door, and leading me toward the hotel entrance. He politely opens the front door, and leads me inside into the small lobby. I was hoping he would be able to come with me inside my room where Henry waited, but to my disappointment, he says he needs to get all the luggage I had packed earlier in the day to the airport to begin loading them. He tells me to be careful and he’d see me tomorrow in Paris. When he’s sure that I’ve been heated up properly, he takes back his jacket and gives me a friendly pat on my shoulder. Then he leaves me, standing there, walking back out into the black night.
Ready to get this thing over with, I step over to the waiting elevator. It stares at me hungrily, beckoning me to enter into its carnivorous mouth. Gulping the troublesome lump that had arisen inside my dry throat, my legs gradually lead themselves into the machine. To my right I find a series of buttons waiting to be pressed to determine the riders’ destination. Alone, after making contact, a single “12”th floor button is lit, sending the invisible signals to the beast’s inner brain. Like the human body, it reacts after the given information is passed, and closes the cold, hard doors. The low, growl of the shaft rising up to the designated floor is painful, cruel. Sounds like the cruel laughter of someone watching with a sick sense of amusement. Watching with bated breath, craving for the coming time of suffering. A shadow flickers from afar.
The humming ceases, the laugher pauses. A soft, high-pitched ding sounds the room, the doors open. An elegant carpet taunts me with the false sense of comfort and cleanliness. Two faces stare back at me, a couple just passing on through. With a few kind greetings, they move past me on to the space behind me. A fake smile is easily managed, due to frequent practices. As the elevator falls back down to the lobby, I began to envy those who could only grimace and show their true thoughts and feelings. Walking down the endless, blinding hallway, more people laugh, smile, talk past me. They all acknowledge my presence, giving me an occasional, I know you, Good evening Alia, Hello, all for my fame right?
After a few more meaningless conversations from passing fans, I lower my hollow stare to the floor, paying special attention to the moving shadows. For a moment, I am fascinated with the numerous black figures of moving people and flickering candles rising from everything. Thinking, I marvel the peculiar fact of how much darker the shadows were when exposed to a stronger intensity of light. The hallway still goes on forever, my pace decreases in speed, after all, I was late already, what did it matter?
You would think, the brighter a source is, the less likely chance there is of being a darkness lurking nearby. This doesn’t appear to be the case however, as there is a deeper meaning behind this odd little insight. Taking on a different perspective, the lights found inside a human heart, the representing kindness, generosity, and compassion, the more of these there are, the better the person correct? Perhaps, but if the same rules concerning the lights and shadows were to be applied, wouldn’t this mean the purer the heart, the higher the risk is of creating an alternative darkness to one day, if released, be just as foul as one who has a blacker heart? Or it would be even worse.
Look at me, I sound like I’m trying to finish a science report.
I continue anyways, thinking back to Beatty, Jimmy, and even more so, myself. My closest friends had been so heart-warming to me, but if what I thought were to be true, then could they emit such a dark, terrifying shadow? As for myself, I didn’t know whether I was actually as strong of a light compared to them, but I knew I was far better than Henry. This leads me to another strange implication. If the theory to be reversed, would that mean Henry had a good side maybe even better than mine?
Something moves suddenly from the corner of my eye. Jumping in alarm, I realize I had been spacing out in my complicated dimension yet again. Paranoid, I search for the thing that had startled me, but to no avail. I go back to viewing the dark figures, trailing my eyes to my own. The shape is quite large, stretching a distance to my left, the legs are slanted, and the shoulders are resting upon a wooden door. A wooden door marked with the rusted, golden numbers of 1237. Room 1237. Henry’s room.
A late reaction, my hand clutches the cool handle, my chest teeming with fear. It was unlocked. With a small force, I push it down, the door creaking into the pitch black room. A narrow stream of light falls before me, stopping only at a short distance allowing me only a couple feet of vision. Already I feel my pupils begin to dilate, adjusting to the emptiness calling from within.
It is then that I find the answer to one of my previous questions. No, Henry couldn’t possibly have such a thing as a pure heart. Light creates an opposing darkness, but light itself cannot be formed from this blackness, it’s something that is just born. What then, creates light?
My footsteps echo rhythmically into the dark, trying to seek the demon waiting me out. My breathing quickens once my feet finally manage to part from the only source of light, falling helplessly into the swallowing dark sea. The door slams behind me. My vision goes black. My head spins frantically, searching for the hidden presence. A hand knocks me brutally to the uncomfortable, shaggy carpet.
The impact, whether it was the ground or the blunt force, releases a small cry of pain. My right cheek burns with a cold feeling, spreading across my entire face. Hands seeking for the stable support of the ground, I struggle to raise myself up to my knees. Footsteps that aren’t mine surround the area, circle around me. Frantically I search for the placement of the uneven rhythm, but my ears fail me, confusing me with different sound waves from the thin walls of neighboring customers listening to their nightly showings.
At last, the horrible pace comes to a stop. Before I can react, a blinding light penetrates my eyes. Squinting, I try to focus my sight upon the last remaining shadow standing next to the glowing lamp.
This certain shadow didn’t seem to fade away like the others. It doesn’t flee to the hidden corners, or cramped places to hide from the emitting light. It only stood there, glaring with such fierce eyes of a thousand storms and death and destruction. It didn’t flee from light.
It conquered it.
“I told you the time that you needed to be here didn’t I?” the shadow’s gruff voice spoke. With a lingering shakiness, I rise up to my useless feet at last, staring at it blankly. Awed by the appearance, I couldn’t bring myself to answer right away. In a blurred motion too fast to avoid, it grew in immense size and planted the next blow directly at that same spot that had taken a hit seconds ago. Another cry escapes me as I fall yet again onto the familiar surface. More force and anger appears to be applied to this attack, I feel a wet liquid trickle down from my mouth. It tastes of salt and a strong iron. I spit in disgust, picturing the look from Beatty’s once beaten face from earlier today. The expressionless, tearless face she had demonstrated for everyone who watched. I kept that close to heart.
“My apologizes, I wasn’t aware of the time,” my mouth stings with each word as I take another couple of seconds to spit out another wave of fresh blood. How hard had he punched me? A hand comes to my face to wipe away the warm wetness. Henry looked at me with such hatred; no regret could be seen about his previous actions.
“Well, I guess I could just let this all go. This was after all, a mistake right? An accident,” he emphasizes the last word, his deep sea eyes swirling into a dizzying pattern. I freeze was I’m doing. He was actually forgiving me? After only a few hits, he was giving me another chance? This wasn’t right, something seemed oddly off. “So then, why don’t you tell me the time, and we can head on out to find a different departure time shall we?” His tone is unreal so I am not easily fooled, so without taking my eyes at him, I roll up my sleeve…
And realize the stupid mistake I had just made.
The storm rages on, his veins bulge with a new burning passion. The now revealed golden watch hangs heavily on my arm, Henry’s attention set upon it. I try desperately to cover it back up with my sleeve, but the damage has already been done.
“Huh, so you do have a watch with you? You were perfectly aware of the time, yet you had the audacity to come in late and act like you haven’t had a clue.” My eyes widen at how furious he seems, I begin to find myself sinking lower and lower, feeling smaller and smaller. “You thought that I would actually let you get away with this? You actually set yourself to believe that I was the forgiving type for filthy trash like you?” He kept rambling, his volume getting louder and louder, my body becoming stiffer and stiffer. “Well, just look here, I most certainly am not one to let people like you off the hook that easily, and with things like these, good old fashion discipline is just the thing to get you on the right path.” The cracking of his knuckles shakes the room; my stomach does a million flips. Bile begins to build up at the base of my throat, making me feel the sudden urge to vomit.
My strong voice from before gives way, it becomes small and weak. “No,” I protest, climbing back to my unsteady feet. “Please, understand I really didn’t intend to be late, I must have forgotten to check the time.”
“And yet you remembered just fine to check it when I asked for it hmm?” he accuses coldly, taking a few steps toward my fearful body. The taste of blood becomes sickening, and I spew out even more at the floor, hitting one of Henry’s now uncomfortably close feet. Looking up, I see that same dark shadow that had made even light cower in fear, which was prepared to consume it whole, to finish the job. The face of a demon, he makes his next strike. On instinct, I dodge. This action infuriates him as he lunges yet again. He is immensely strong and insane with rage, whereas I am powerless and vulnerable to his abuse. Slap!
The impact of the ground the third time is still unpleasant and leaves me struggling to catch my breath on my numbing back. I try desperately to get up, but am paralyzed with the stabbing pain of losing a large supply of air. Once I finally recover enough to move, a harsh force is pressed onto my chest making me groan with a newly found pain. My head rises up briefly to catch a glimpse of the shoe I had spit some of my blood onto, glistening with a strange look of beauty. Weak from the lack of oxygen, I slam my head back onto the floor with exhaustion and shut my eyes in defeat. I began to pray for an opportunity to be relieved with some time to recover. My prayers seem to have been answered as the pressure on my body slowly disappears. I jerk my eyes open to the foot rising up and make the most of the moment, gasping for air with deep, rapid breaths. Then without warning, it fell back down with a force so strong, I didn’t just cry with pain, I screamed.
My hoarse scream terrifies even me. The sound of a crazed animal, it wasn’t human, such a horrible sound. Now, it began to dull from a solid scream to a grotesque gargling sound, thick with the heavy essence of blood.
The foot moves to the side and lands on the ground beside my shaking head. With a hard, straining push, I get to a sitting position, hugging my hard stomach, coughing uncontrollably. The pain was so great, I broke into shameful tears. The inhuman sound has finally been replaced with uneven sobs and even more ragged coughs. As my coughing fit was drawing to a close, I look back up to Henry, thrusting his head back and howling with laughter.
His eyes gleam with a terrible sense of admiration of what he had just done. He looks at me as one would look at a scientific experiment, a simple rat testing procedure. No hint of guilt is detected in his joyous moment of laughter. In his madman state, he cares for no one but himself, eager to spread along suffering and misery to his distasteful need to feel as the higher being. Regaining control of himself, he speaks in a smug whisper.
“Well then, you think that’s enough punishment as it is? Or… shall we continue on this night of hell?”
The tears continue to flow down my face along with the foul blood dripping off my chin. Dazed, I watch as the two salty liquids fall onto my shaking legs, leaving several dark, wet spots. My stomach is unable to support itself in the weak state it was in, my coughing turning into severe gagging. The blood supply never ends, hitting the carpet, staining it with a blackening red.
Henry wanted me to give in, to admit I was weak, and admit he was the stronger one, the one in charge. He only wanted to beat me enough into a fearful state, a point where I would be sure not to disobey again. He had the string tied loosely around me. All he now needed to do was pull and ensnare me in his trap.
Today is different though. My usual thoughts of surrender, I feel none. My head pulses with the rising mixture of anger and frustration, but even more so, self-pity. Being beat up to a pulp, this was normal to me, and it was normal to Henry. Just thinking this, the fact I thought being hurt physically and occasionally mentally was normal drives me insane with rage. Out of a million ways to live his life, he chose perhaps the most shameful, most pathetic path. I didn’t deserve any of this, and I sure wasn’t going to just sit down and let it happen to me.
In a slow motion, I drag away my hands from my unstable stomach. They clench into a tight fist, ready to cut the string.
Beatty would have told me to cease everything, give in. She wouldn’t want me to delve deeper into the path of pain, but taking in consideration of what she would have done being placed in my shoes, I knew she wouldn’t have let him win. No, she’d fight back if I wasn’t anywhere on the line. Isn’t this what Mama and Papa would want me to do? Would they have just simply admitted defeat now, only to have it happen to them again some other time?
“Coward,” I spat out with great difficulty, trying take in bigger gulps of air. Henry’s reaction is slightly delayed as he processes what I have just said. Another coughing fit overcomes me as a bewildered look crosses his face, then melts into an infuriated look not too long after. A sharp pain cuts into my side, pushing me over to roll across the wet ground.
“What the hell did you just say you little brat?!” his insane voice screams from beside me. My clenched hands find the stable surface of the warm ground. With a few quick breaths I find the strength I’ve been searching for, and use it to aid me to my feet at last. Clutching my now swelling side, I clear my full throat and face toward the stiff Henry staring with his menacing death stare.
“I said you were a coward,” my mouth runs off on its’ own accord, unstoppable and uncontrollable. Henry takes a threatening step towards me.
“Just who do you think you’re dealing with?”
A harsh, bitter smile makes its’ way across my lips, stinging with soreness of Henry’s previous hits. He stops in his tracks, confusion at the new attitude I had taken up on. “A coward. One who is fearful of how people will really figure out how weak he is. One who uses violence to try to strike fear into someone in order to feel like he has power. Yes Henry, you are in fact a simple, weak coward, trying to control me. Well I can say that I am not fooled, and never will I be. So go on, didn’t you say you wished to continue this night of hell?”
Baffled, the being before me freezes in place, wordless with a darkening expression looming over his mask of hatred and fury. I began to wonder if he was too puzzled to determine what action to take on next, until he finally seems to regain his composure. With one foot in front of the other, he staggers closer and closer to my weak self. Zombie like rhythm, a strange beat he stumbles to, his walk appears to be different, as if Henry himself were trying to work with a completely new host. The courage I had so recently experienced coursing through my very soul seems to drain with every dragging of Henry’s body. My body feels so terribly weak, as I have the sudden urge to drop unconscious upon the ground and let this nightmarish night pass away into the deep abyss.
The lights flicker once, then twice. Pressure is applied upon my scalp, soon pain is added. A grimace and a shout and I am suddenly lifted off my feet, hot heavy breathing burns my stinging face, tears escape and fall from my open, and wordless mouth with its silent screams. For the longest time, I hang there, slivers of my hair being torn away from the stress of the weight which Henry didn’t seem to wish to let go anytime soon. When I couldn’t think of anything becoming worse in this situation, the dragging begins.
For only a moment, I feel nothing, until gradually, the pain starts to spread and become overwhelming. In a matter of seconds, I fully recognize the harsh extent of the harm he was causing toward my very head. He was holding me by my own hair.
Screaming sounds of panic and desperation, I thrash my body, begging to be released. Henry pays no attention as he continues on to the next room, something dreadful planned in his lunatic mind. My mind too, no longer feels sane, as I continue spewing out meaningless noises unaware of what they were intended to be. A war goes on throughout my occupied mind, a war between two personalities debating of whether to fight back or surrender. To be a coward like my very enemy, or to fight back knowing I would probably lose anyways.
My eyes snap wide open. “Mama, Papa…” I mutter to myself, like a ritual, a traditional chant. Henry stops in his tracks, the pain numbs. “Mama…Papa,” I say once again, a stifled cry arouses from my lips. What do you want me to do? “Mama…Papa…” Henry stares at me, amused, and then breaks into a crazed cackle.
“You’ve finally done it Alia! You’ve gone mad haven’t you?!” He barks with laughter, not releasing me from his grip. “Oh, you poor dear… You want your mommy and your daddy little girl? Oh, well be my guest and tell them I said hi, oh wait, they’re dead!” His laugh is cold. “Oh, come on now, don’t cry. Perhaps if you say their name enough times then they’ll come on back to tell you just how worthless you are, maybe give you decent discipline themselves. Then I can save the trouble of having to lay a single finger on your filthy self.” A yank of my hair in an upward direction is inflicted as he chuckles once more. “Oh, now you’ve got me curious. I’m really starting to think your parents never died.” My eyes widen at this remark, my body going stiff yet again. “Perhaps they faked their death to get away from the likes of you. Oh, what a funny thought.” The room becomes blurry once again. My mind torturing me with consideration of what Henry was suggesting. “I bet you that’s what it is! I mean you just have to be some idiot to die in a car accident. So what was it? So, were they idiots in an accident or geniuses that were escaping their burden of a child? What do you think my little child?”
The pressure drops and I land harshly on my feet. Henry stares at me amused, waiting for my reply. All I can do is drown in my feelings of rage. Fury and rage and anger and fury and rage and anger and red and red and fire and fire and want and need and fury and rage and anger, but more than anything. Longing.
“You want to know what I think?” I huff, watching him stare at me blankly. “What I think is you should do us all a favor.” My fists clench into a numbing ball. “Screw off and die.” And without any warning, I tackle him.
Luck was on my side as even my frail, small body, knocks him down awkwardly to the very floor. Fists went soaring, talons flew out and skin was peeled open. I went straight for his eyes, missing once then twice to my distaste, beginning to see stars as he successfully punches me in my exposed stomach. To my advantage, blood flies from my mouth and lands right on my designated target, blinding him enough to allow me a chance to swipe at his features. The third attempt, I was victorious as he screams and kicks me off of his downed body. He casts such a strong force as I flew back several feet and hit my back against a lone side table. I was in the main bedroom of the suite, looking to the side to find a handsome looking bed. Henry was writhing around before me, holding his right eye, still screaming a terrible sound. Cursing many words, even some I was unfamiliar with, he was busy, and I had time.
I tried to calm myself down enough to think, trailing my eyes left to right, right to left, when I remember the front door, my key to freedom. Straining to get up, I grab onto the bed, pulling up to a standing position, keeping my eyes glued to the still writhing mass. My back used the wall for support as I backtracked the way I had been pulled into the room. The more progress I make, the faster my heart rate became as each second became beneficial to Henry’s recovery time. When it feels as though it might explode, I finally make out the hard knob against my wet back rich with sweat.
I take one last hard glance at screaming Henry, and spin around to the door. This is it! Just beyond this door is my ticket to a new life! I begin to wonder why I hadn’t done this before, when my heart stops at the terrible silence that penetrates the room. Henry has become silent, and looking back, he was attempting to get up. Time was up.
My hand almost misses the handle as I jerk it to the right, but it doesn’t budge. Adrenaline courses through me as I try throwing it to the left. Nothing happens. It was then that I heard a soft click. Looking up, I found to my dismay, the lock was hanging limply to the side. The door was unlocked. I found myself speaking to it with frustration. “No! Damn it! No! Open, please god, open!” I jiggle the handle side to the side but to no avail. Nothing was working, the door was stuck. I give up on the handle and began to bang on it with my pulsing fists. “Help!” I scream frantically. “Oh my god, please someone help me!!!” BANG! BANG! THRASH! THRASH! The door shakes slightly with the first two hits from my fists, then the impact of my entire body slamming against it. The pain was unbelievable, but I continue anyway. BANG! BANG! THRASH! THRASH! Bloody fists and an aching body, but no open door or any sign it was going to budge.
Tears stream down my face as I risk looking back at Henry, now on his knees, holding the bed for support. I slump to my knees, still attacking the door with my burning hands. “Please… just someone… please someone help me…”
A flicker. My eyes flew wide open to the small crack just below the door. Light was visible, but what interested me was the three shadows that seemed to pass by. That, and the tiniest sound of nearby laughter. My heart lifting with a new hope, I scream once more. “Hey! Wait! Please, I know you’re there, please help me! I’m being attacked!” The shadows freeze in place. All is silent for a bit, until the smallest shadow shakes slightly, a girl’s laugh was heard through the door. Soon, a chorus of laughter surrounds the room; my chest seems to drop with dread at the insanity of the voices I depict.
A wave of nausea hits me as the shadows began to shift. I feel the lights in the room dimming, the shadows increasing in size. To my horror, the darkening figures not only darken with a rich sort of power, but begin to grow, climbing up the hard wooden surface of the still unopened door. They grew up into a clearer image of a small girl, the very same one who was still shaking with laughter. Uneasiness envelopes me as two other figures continue to grow in immense size. They too shook with a seemingly sickening sense of humor.
Too terrified to speak, I only watch in awe as the forms suddenly became gravely stiff and silent. Their hands move in a slow like trance, pointing at me, one by one. A new wave of pain pierces through my heaving chest, sending out an animal like howl from my newly soaked lips. I jump away from the door in shock, clutching heavily to my burning chest. Soon after, I feel a wet substance on the surface of my skin, sliding down along the outline of my shaking hand. To my dismay, I find a dark wet spot forming at the base of where I had the unexpected attack.
Breathing harshly, I glance back up toward the door to see the three figures laughing yet again, clutching their sides from lack of oxygen of their crazed fit. Cold sweat forming at my forehead, I wince, trying desperately to crawl away from my hallucination. Impossible, this is impossible.
Henry could be heard groaning in the back, recovering more energy than ever, sending me into another panic state. My crawling process grew as did my speed, still cradling my mysteriously wounded chest. I proceed onward to my unknown destination as far away as possible from the looming door and the recovering Henry.
The cool wall feels hard against my soaked back now, the shadows still visible. Then to my relief they start to fade. Huffing out a puff of air, I sigh, thankful for the disappearing act, making sure to wait until the entire family vanished. When all was clear, I did a check up on Henry now standing with great difficulty, still clutching his oozing eye. He is almost at the point of full recovery. Then my eyes glide past him to a lone window tempting me graciously right next to the bedroom in the darkened washroom. Perhaps there’s a ledge I can use to climb to the next window!
My eyes gleaming with a new sense of hope, I struggle to my feet, groaning with the still lingering pain of the previous infliction by the deadly pointing of the delusional Alia and her fellow shadow friends. I shake my head furiously. No, no time for nonsense, Alia. Keep your head together!
One step forward and a drag, and another step forward and a limp. The pattern repeats with a step, a drag, a step, and a limp. A step, a drag, a step, and a limp. Step, drag, step, limp. Step. Drag. Step. Limp.
Continuing the rhythm, the washroom grew larger in size. I was about halfway there when the beat of my walk is disturbed. Step, and drag, and step and…trip. No time to scream as something wraps around my ankle, pulling me back to where I had started. Dragged for the umpteenth time, I dare myself to take a quick glance to see not Henry, but in fact another’s hand. A black hand. A hand shrouded in darkness. The size of a little girl, and not too far from that, two other hands reaching for my other free leg.
My blood curling scream echoes the room.
Trying desperately to claw away from my assailants, I continue my deafening screams. My mind is torn between trying to compose myself back to tactful thinking, and letting myself go insane. The wound in my chest makes me exhausted as I soon find myself giving way. My arms begin to feel like jelly, my legs slowly refusing to move another inch. The shadow’s hands are now pulling me even further from my way to freedom, directing me towards somewhere new. Just when I come to wonder where I am being taken, a swapping of my ankle seems to take place.
This new grip feels tighter and more personal. When I slowly turn my weak self to see just who was getting ready to put me out of my misery, I find the shadows gone. Instead, it’s an injured Henry, getting closer and closer to bringing me into a new world of pain.
I should have tried to struggle more, and then maybe I could have really had the chance to leave him forever. But I have no remaining energy, and the pain is too great. So I just quit moving and stay motionless, letting the conditions of my failure lead to a long and sleepless night.
“Oh yes, before I forget, Alia,” he says to me at one point, wiping away the dried blood from his knuckles, “I’m going to need to ask you to prepare a new piece for our next performance. I want it to be something the fans see as… unforgettable.”
I can’t help but find myself sneer at that point. Talking to a girl with changing eye colors and personalities? Witnessing a girl freeze time? Creepy shadows waving at me and dragging me across the floor? I was long past the crazy phase.
He wants an unforgettable presentation? Well I couldn’t just say no. I’ll make sure it’ll be the most unforgettable thing anyone’s ever seen. The most unforgettable thing he’s ever seen.
One he’s dying to watch.