Guilt

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The day before my birthday went like this. Still not dealing.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Daniel frowns at me. “Cat?”

“Yes Daniel?”

He hesitates. “…what are you doing?”

“Yoga.”

“Oh good.” He pauses. “Why?”

“Because I’m unfit and depressed and this will hopefully make me fit and undepressed.”

“Is that even a word?”

“…I really don’t know. I nearly thought I said ‘undressed’ for a moment. No idea why.” I lift my legs into the air and place my feet behind my head, as Daniel watches on with wide eyes. “So what’s up?”

“…would it be inappropriate to say ‘dat ass’?”

“Yes. And please don’t say phrases like that, it really doesn’t suit you.”

“Thank Christ. Anyway, we’ve got a job to do.”

“Oh?”

“Do you remember Thommand going on about the Lake of Ghosts a few months back?”

It takes me a moment to respond, as the image of Kaya falling through the ice flashes across my eyes. “Go on.”

“There’s been more activity. It could just be someone wandering for kicks, but Thommand’s thinking humans. He wants us to check it out.”

“Us? I thought I was in the time out corner.”

“You’ve been allowed out for nearly a month now. It’s just, well, I’ve been keeping certain people off your back so that you could have time to heal a little bit. You needed it.”

This makes me smile. “Really? You did that for me?”

“Moving on…before you get mushy,” Daniel says dryly, though I know he’s secretly happy to see my reaction.

“Why, I’d never.” I slowly roll my back down so each vertebrae lies flat on the mat. I had made the mistake of going too fast the day before, and I was determined not to repeat it, for my back’s sake.

Daniel continues. “Do you want to bring Papa Willis along? Thommand will allow it, and Noah’s willing to let him come along.”

“Yeah, Papa Willis will love it. A day with an emotionally whacked semi-human and the worst babysitter ever in a supposedly haunted forest which has been frozen over.” I’m still lying on the ground as I speak. “Interesting why he didn’t recommend Noah like last time though.”

“Hmm?”

“I thought that Noah would’ve been recommended, not Willis, considering his condition,” I muse thoughtfully. “I’m wondering why he’d put him forward.”

Daniel sighs. “You know what the Lake of Ghosts means to them,” he reminds me. “They claim not to feel guilt, but…well, those rumours about it wouldn’t be there if that was true. And since Kaya’s death, it would be even more dangerous for them to go near.”

“So they’re sending us three instead. But why me?” I sit up and cross my legs. “Considering my amount of self hatred, is it really wise to send me to a ground that kills the guilty?”

“If you were normal,” Daniel says.

That’s when I remember. “Oh yeah…” It’s been so long since I’ve died in Delirium that I completely forgot. “Respawning. Right.” Something occurs to me. “Wait, so Thommand is perfectly fine to send you and Papa Willis out there as well?”

“Humans,” Daniel says simply. “And we’re not in danger of guilt. Or at least Willis isn’t. But I made it back across when Kaya died, so I’ll be able to manage. At the very least, Willis will be able to help me when we’re on there.”

“If you say so.” I make a face as the program playing on my iPad comes to a finish. “I don’t enjoy drowning though. It’s a horrible way to die. It’s cold…and the last thing you feel is desperation.”

“You’re still coming though.”

“Oh yes.”
_______________________________________________________________________________

It was dawn when us three shivering humans reached it. I pointed it out to Papa Willis, who was sporting two of Daniel’s woollen coats. “Where the ice begins to form on the ground,” I told him. “You can see the bodies from here.”

“There’s bodies?” Papa Willis croaked.

“Yeah…under the ice…” It’s as if I’m looking into a window, into a frozen world. A horrible, grim picture. It’s almost too clear; maybe there isn’t any ice that will separate me from the freezing water.

“I…don’t see anything,” Papa Willis says uncertainly. “Sorry Cat, I’m trying.”

“It’s okay,” I told him. “It just means you’re luckier than me.” Something suddenly covered my eyes. “Hey!”

“Not taking any chances,” Daniel informed me. “It’s only for when we’re walking on the ice. When we’ve reached the ground, Willis will take it off.”

“Fine…” I grumbled. “Wait, why Willis?” The only response I received was the sound of Daniel treading onto the ice. “Daniel!”

“Willis, if there’s any danger, then take of the blindfold. Otherwise, keep guiding her towards that stretch of land there. Be careful of weak spots in the ice. When you’re done, meet at the ground there,” Daniel called, his voice becoming more distant.

“If Cat’s dead?”

“So confident in my abilities,” I murmured.

“Noah gave you a tool. Use that to keep them off you. If Cat’s still alive, she can teach you how to use it.” I could barely make out his last sentence, his words were faint, quieter than a whisper.

“Willis?”

“Yeah?”

“Tell me the truth. Does Daniel have a flask in his hand?”

Silence.

“Goddammit Daniel,” I sighed.

“He usually drinks on the job?” Willis asked.

“Yeah…and at feasts. I don’t know what to make of it.”

“It’s his choice, I guess,” he sighed. “But you haven’t said anything to him about it?”

I grimaced through my blindfold. “Well…I tried once. But he just said that he needed it. It’s his way of keeping sane, I suppose. Like mine is…” I went silent.

“What?”

“I don’t actually have one,” I admitted. “I’m too scared to use anything, in case I become dependant on it. I’ve got too many vices as it is.” I decided that was enough on the subject. “Can we move onto the ice now?”

“…okay. Do you want me to hold your arm?”

“Yes please.”

He took my arm and started to lead. I felt the slight tremor of the ice as I stepped onto it, and I gripped Willis’ arm reflexively. “Easy now,” he said.

“Sorry…” We kept walking, at the pace of a snail, as to leave the ice undisturbed. I wondered if Willis was feeling the same vibrations beneath our feet, or if he was starting to see the lifeless bodies frozen below us. How much did he carry with him?

“Cat?”

“Hmm?”

“Why is everyone scared of this place?”

I hesitated. “How much do you know?”

“That if a guilty person walks on the lake then the ice will break. That’s it really.”

I sighed. “Before I say anything, I need to know. Do you have anything you’re particularly guilty about?”

“Not really, no,” Willis said.

“…really?”

“Why don’t you believe me?”

“Don’t take it personally, I don’t believe anyone,” I said cheerfully. “But it’s not that I think you’re lying.”

“Right…”

“What if I phrase it differently? Is there anything you wish that you could undo?”

“…”

“Ring a bell? Ding ding?”

“It’s not going to drown me.”

“Yeah, well, which of us would know better?”

“It’s stupid.”

“Can I decide that?”

He sighed. “I was with two of my friends when we ended up…” His voice trailed off.

I realised. “Here? In Delirium?”

Papa Willis nodded. “We had been here for three days before the things started chasing us. If we had known that we’d be hunted upon being seen, we would’ve stayed hidden in the woods, but…yeah.”

“Go on.”

“After a day on the run, we ran into someone who offered to hide us. We stayed in the basement, and she brought us food every now and then. I’ve got a feeling she was a hooker…but she was nice.”

“She helped us run when her pimp found us. We just got out when the…” He fell silent.

“I know the ones you’re talking about,” I told him.

“Okay…” Willis inhaled. “She was left behind, to face them. And later…Slenderman tried to hold them back by cutting one of them down, and then…”

“You don’t need to finish it,” I told him. I already knew how the story ended, and I didn’t need to know the identity of his other companion, the one who managed to escape.

Papa Willis sighed. “Yeah…I guess that qualifies as guilt, huh.”

I thought for a moment. “Survivors guilt, yeah. I’m not sure if that’s enough to fall through the ice though.”

“Tell me the story anyway, Cat,” Willis insisted. “Daniel isn’t afraid, and he knows what’s going on. I’ll be fine. C’mon.”

I groaned at that. Men… “Fine!” I snapped, feeling him flinch next to me. “But only when we’re close to land. Got it?”

“Okay. It’s not too far now,” he said. “Never took you for a snappy person.”

“Oh, I’m not usually. If I’m snarky around you, it means I’m comfortable enough to speak my mind,” I advised him. “That’s a good thing.”

“Is it?”

“It means that I don’t need to awkwardly make conversation to calm myself down,” I explained. “Those conversations usually head toward philosophy or Creepy pasta.”

“Nice.”

A while later, I breathed a sigh of relief as the ground beneath me stopped surging and there was calm inside my mind. “We’re on ground?”

“Yup. Now tell me what happened.”

“Okee! It’s story time, Papa Willis,” I said cheerfully, taking off the blindfold.

“…I’m beginning to regret this.”

“You wanted me to tell.”

“Fine.”

“Well…first of all, I’d better explain. There used to be humans, see. But then something else happened and, well, people like Noah and Jhaq came to be. And humans hated them.”

“Really? Why?”

“I dunno. Humans are stupid, Willis. Anyway, it was then that humans decided to get rid of them all.”

“Seriously?” Willis looked appalled. “We started this?”

“Not too sure about that,” I admitted. “What’s the first rule of history?”

Willis thought for a moment. “It’s written by the victors?”

“Mmmhm.”

Willis smiled, if only for a moment. “That’s means that the humans lost, didn’t they?”

I smiled sadly. “How many humans have you seen here?” I reminded him. “And this is only a recent occurrence. Before Daniel, humans were nonexistent.”

“…how did they die?” Willis’ voice is quiet.

“…you really want me to finish?”

“…yeah. I do.”

I gestured towards the Lake. “Helevians. And Etheral. Helevians caused the world to flood, drown out the humans. After that, Etherals froze it all. Because apparently, drowning them wasn’t cruel enough.” My voice had become bitter and sardonic.

Willis’s face was frozen. “Right.” When I didn’t say anymore, he tried to smile. “It’s…okay. Go on.”

I sighed. I didn’t like this story, and my version had been dumbed down from an account full of glorified descriptions of their victory, as well as stories of ugly, monstrous humans who, and I quote “slit our children’s throats and cooked them”. Between the impossible self-righteousness of these people in Delirium and, as Papa Willis pointed out before, the fact that history is written in favour of the winners, it would be impossible to know exactly what happened. But I continued. “Anyway, after that, people started to see the bodies of humans who had been frozen underneath the ice. Some more clear than others. The rumour goes on to say that a guilty mind will be able to see the corpses more clearly, as if there’s nothing separating them, not even the ice. An even guiltier mind will look at the corpses and see the faces of people they’ve betrayed. And if they walk on the ice, the guiltiest minds get weighed down until the ice breaks beneath them and they fall through.”

Willis shakes his head. “Well, there goes any sense of assurance I may have had. We’re going to die.”

“Nah.” I gestured towards myself. “Video game immortality, remember? And I’ll never let you die.”

“Promise?”

“Mmhm.” I grinned at him cheerfully. “Cross my heart and hope to die, hope to stick a pin in my-” Something in the distance caught my attention at that moment. “Oh dear.”

“…is ‘oh dear’ a euphemism for something?”

“Nope…”

The blurry figures started to approach the both of us. One of them called out. “Drop everything, you two. We have you surrounded, and don’t think we aren’t afraid to kill.”

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No More

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It’s all gone.

My other Reality, my shield in a way, has gone.

I’ll never see it again.

Because I killed it.

And I don’t know how long I can live with that.

Me, Myself And I All Hate You

Standard

Mum woke me up pounding at my door. “For fucks sake, stop locking the fucking door!” she screamed.

I wearily got up. “I’m sorry,” I said groggily. “I woke up in the middle of the night-”

“Shut up and get downstairs.” I heard her storm away, cursing under her breath.

Daniel pulled himself up. “What’s wrong with her?” He had given up on growling at her, as she never heard a word he said. Still, there was a familiar quiet anger radiating from him that I hadn’t seen in a while.

“Calm down,” I said to him. “I’ll just go down to breakfast, okay?”

That was probably the worst thing I could’ve done that day. You would’ve thought that after nearly seventeen years of this, I’d be used to it by now, or at least that’s what I thought. I entered the dining room bracing myself for another foul mood.

When I sat down, Mum began to speak. “I do too much for you,” she announced.

I held my tongue and started eating breakfast.

“That’s why you’re like this. Why you think you can get away with being a ratbag. You’re ruining your life with this, you know.”

Here we go.

“You’re a lazy, useless excuse. You never do anything for me.”

I pretend to be mentally stable, I hide my scars from people so that they don’t ask you about it, I keep quiet about the fact that I want to kill myself so that you don’t get even more stressed and hysterical…

“You’re so dramatic about everything,” she scoffs. “How it works is if I do anything that upsets Princess here, you have a tantrum and get sent to Helen, and I’m the bad guy again! That’s all they are, tantrums. It’s called attention seeking madam, and I’ve had enough of it.”

Bitch.

That’s not my voice though. Kaya?

“That medication would’ve helped you, but noooooo, you just had to keep up with the drama! No wonder you’re failing all your classes!”

One more push, and I’ll slit your throat, Kaya hisses in my head.

Kaya. No. “I’m not failing,” I murmur. “I’m keeping up with the work now.”

My mother scoffs. “Yeah, and how long is that going to last? You’re lazy. You’ll fall behind again, no doubt about that. And then I’m going to be the villain again because you’re a selfish, lying drama queen!”

Suddenly, my hand reaches for my bowl and lifts it up, over Mum’s head. I can almost see it smashing down, ceramic shattering, blood spilling out…

“Stop it!” I scream out loud. By some miracle, I manage to gain a split second’s control, and I turn to the left so that the bowl hits the floor. “Just stop!” I shriek, not quite sure whom I’m actually speaking to. I’m sobbing, and Mum screams and pelts me with her fists, and I can’t do anything because I’m so fucking useless in Reality.

I sweep up the shards afterwards while my mother types an abusive email about me to whoever reads them, and at some point, I decide to not be entirely useless. “You don’t have to scream at me just because you’re dying of cancer,” I tell her.

“I’m not.”

Too bad. I throw the shards away in the bin and go upstairs and buckle over. But someone catches me.

“Come on,” Daniel breathes into my ear. He holds me up and drags me into my room. “Easy does it now.” He shuts the door behind us and pulls me close to him. “It’s okay now…it’s alright…”
_______________________________________________________________________________

Much later, I felt better. Probably because I spent the journey to school madly singing British pop songs. It’s even more effective than crying. If only people couldn’t hear you as much.

“I’ve had a think about it,” I said to Daniel. “And I’ve decided not to let her hurt me anymore. I mean, I’ll probably forget to do this later, when I’m depressed and suicidal, but this is what I’m thinking right now.”

Daniel nodded. “Go on.”

I inhaled. “I am starting to get in control of my life,” I started. “Or at least I’m feeling that way. I think that I’m now in a place where I can begin to smile and let myself be happy again. It probably won’t stay that way, knowing my luck. But there’s absolutely no reason why I should stop right now, just because of what my mother says.

“I think she’s like me. She has trouble being happy, and she can’t express that properly. I’m the same.”

Daniel shook his head. “You don’t accuse her of being an attention seeking liar.”

“I do call her other things though,” I pointed out. “Emotionally unstable, hysterical, selfish, close minded.”

“She is those things though.”

“And that’s true to me,” I continued. “Just like all those things are true to her. Our minds are determined to believe what they want to. Does that make sense?”

Daniel paused. “Maybe,” he admitted. “But I refuse to believe that you’d be cruel enough to tell a recently suicidal person that they’re lying, that they’re not really in pain.”

“Hush,” I hissed.

“Cat,” he sighed. “It’s not right. It’s as if you can’t be happy if she isn’t. She’s just going to keep hurting you.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But I only have to deal with it for two more years. Not even that, actually. Then I can move out and live my own life away from her. After I get a job and find a flat.”

“You’ve got to go through that bridging course though,” he reminded me.

“True…so less than three years.” I had met with my school a week ago to discuss my schoolwork, and they decided to put me onto an alternate pathway into uni. It basically means I’m now doing easier courses and I don’t have to take the big exam at the end of Year 12. It does mean that I have to complete a certificate course in IT in order to graduate, and take an enabling course the next year in order to get into uni, should I wish to go. “But I can still work, and get a job. That might be better actually. I can save up money for a year and once I have enough to actually start renting, I can move out.”

Daniel looked a little skeptical. “I know it’s a lot harder than that,” I admitted. “But I don’t need to get into detail right away, do I? One step at a time.”

He smiled. “Exactly.”

I hesitated for a moment. Very rarely did I ask Daniel about his past. It was something I had learnt very early not to enquire about, and later I realised how guilty he felt about it, for leaving it behind. But it was an innocent question. “What did you do when you finished school?” I asked.

“Me? Hmm.” He frowned. I waited for him to continue, and after an eternity, he sighed. “Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Oh god, what did you do?” My mind started going through all the ridiculous careers; professional clown, ballet dancer, porn star.

“Firefighter,” he said, going a bit red.

“No way…” My eyes were probably popping out of my head. “That is wicked.”

Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head. “Immediately regretting that decision.”

“That’s so cool!” I crowed. “And nothing like what I was expecting.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What were you expecting?”

“Porn star,” I replied.

Daniel stared at me. “You’re a looney,” he finally replied.

“Yeah.” I grinned at him. “Little bit.”

“So you’re going to go to uni,” he quickly continued our previous conversation. “You’re certain of that. What about your mother then? Are you going to see her after that?”

I didn’t know how to answer. “I’m undecided,” I said slowly.

“Really?”

“There are times where I love her and times where I hate her,” I reminded him. “I guess it depends whether or not I forgive her or not.”

“Do you?”

“I’m undecided,” I repeated. “All I know is that she’s not going to stop me from being happy. And if she’s going to belittle me for the rest of my life…well, I don’t see why I should stay around to hear it.” I pressed the button to stop the bus, leapt up and gathered up everything in a rush to get off in time. Daniel and I started to walk toward my house. “I don’t think of family the way everyone else does,” I said quietly. “I hope it’s different when I have one of my own. Well, if I have one of my own. But I’m never going to put myself before my child. I’m never going to torment them and tell them they’re horrible people. Because they’re not. No one is. Not even Mum when you think about it.” I made a face. “I’ll probably be one of those parents that just lets their kid run wild because they’re too afraid of their children hating them.”

“You’ll learn,” Daniel said encouragingly. “You’ll have help from the people around you, your partner, friends, whatever. But more importantly, your child would grow up knowing that they could come to you for support, no matter what.”

I smiled. “Silly. But thanks.”

We walked together in silence for a while. “Porn star, huh,” Daniel mused. “I had no idea you had such a high opinion of me.

I stuck my tongue out. “Shush.”

Hide

Standard

There’s nothing more humiliating that bursting into tears during class. For absolutely no fucking reason. Or at least, one that would make sense to anyone but you.

It’s not necessarily an explosion, per se. There’s no trembling in the earth, no sound to be heard. I’d consider myself more like a waterfall than a volcano. I’m absolutely motionless as my tears fall, so no one realises what’s going on until my teacher comes up to me and asks to see my work, and they all turn towards me and see my tears.

Payne looks at me in mock sympathy. I know she doesn’t mean it, because she immediately whispers something and laughs to the girl next to her. My face is still as stone, but underneath, the feelings boil and hiss.

I don’t speak to Mrs S on the way out; she’s talking to a student, and although I know she’d want to speak to me, I know that she doesn’t have enough time to actually help, so I quickly get out of the way and hurry off to Math. I only last half the lesson before I hurry out, just wanting to lock myself away and cry.

Then Shiny comes out, calling my name. My new math teacher, who’s only been vaguely informed of my blackouts, and has probably got no idea about my growing death wish. So now, not only is he going to see me crying for no reason, but people will know that I’m out here.

I’ve got no choice but to stop. He catches up to me and takes in the sight of my wet face and scarlet cheeks. “I’ll give you five minutes to calm down,” he says. “But next time, tell me when you’re going.”

I nod, and he lets me go. I don’t bother to argue with him, but while I walk away, all the reasons why I can’t keep this promise to him flow through my mind; if I did, they’d send someone with me. And there was no one in that class that I’d be willing to let them see my tears; he might send frigging Payne with me.

The bathroom is empty. I grab onto the sink for dear life and break down sobbing. At last, the bubbling inside stops, everything simmers down, and I feel calmer, even sleepy.

Suddenly I hear footsteps.

Self preservation kicks in, and I go onto one of the stalls, though the girl opens the door to the bathroom a second before I close the door to the cubicle. “Cat?”

It’s not Payne, thank god. It’s one of her friends though, albeit one far nicer than that stuck up cow. I take a moment to breathe in enough air so I can say “I’m fine” without letting my voice crack.

“No you’re not, you’re in here,” she replies. “What’s wrong?”

How should I know? “I’ll be fine,” I lie. “I just need to collect myself.”

“Okay…” Her voice is skeptical, but I hear her retreat from my hiding spot. I take a few more moments to sob silently, to get that rest of that stored up energy out, before I dry my face and head out of the stall.

She’s still waiting. “Is there anything I can do?” She doesn’t ask me what’s wrong, and for that I’m grateful.

“No,” I tell her. I wash my hands and we start heading back.

“Are you okay now?”

I grin brightly. “No.”

She frowns. “Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Contradict yourself.”

“Everyone does it, not just me,” I tell her, before I open the door and things go back to normal.