Better Than Me

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I should really stop dreaming.

Also, there was a legitimate reason for me not posting. WordPress on my iPad wasn’t working. Not to mention Year 12 is crushing my soul. 

Anyway. Flashbacks fucking suck. The end. 

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 “Well? What do you think?”

I jump as the man behind me speaks suddenly. After quickly looking around for humans, I speak. “What do you mean?” 

 “I know you know,” he says flatly. 

 “About what?” 

 “About what just happened. Come on. What do you think?” 

 I turn around slowly. “Kaya…disappeared. After someone crashed into the palace, right?” 

 “…you know that someone, don’t you?” 

 “…” 

 “Who was it? Did you see them?” I can see that Daniel’s trying to keep his voice as non threatening as possible, but I can still feel the tension radiating from him. 

“…I didn’t need to,” I whisper. “There’s no one else it would be.” 

 “Who?” 

 “He killed her,” I say to him. “How could you not consider him?” 

 He’s silent for a moment. “You mean…” 

 “Yes.” 

 “But he’s in hiding. Why would he steal Kaya?” 

 “I don’t know. Because he can?” I feel drained from this conversation. Daniel’s eyes won’t leave my face, as if I’m hiding something. Which I am.

“You know what Kaya’s capable of,” I explain. “If he could control Kaya, imagine what he could do.”

It dawns on him. Even though this is more of an attempt to sway his attention away from the truth of her death, it is a genuine concern, not just for him, but for Kaya’s world. Not that I care. “You’ve got a point,” he says. “With Kaya’s body on life support, it wouldn’t take much for someone like him to reanimate her. She’d be a true weapon then.” My blood runs cold at the image of Kaya taking a step like a puppet dangling from a string, so much closer to reality than he realises. “I don’t understand why he’d leave her on the lake after killing her though,” he argues. “Why would he let the enemy take her back only to retrieve her again? As a result, we now have new information concerning Esper tech. Not to mention it would be a more effective strategy to leave us in the dark on Kaya’s status.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he’s just showing off. Showing us that he can infiltrate the castle. Putting us on edge.”

“Why not just kill us then?”

I frown. I didn’t take Daniel to be the type to not percieve this. “Obviously he wants to torture us before he kills us. It would be more fun for him that way.” I let my disgust of the monster show on my face.

Daniel just stares at me. “Since when do you know how psychos work?” he enquires.

I shake my head. “I’ve been watching monsters longer than you,” I told him. “Their insanity isn’t that hard to pick up on.”

Daniel accepts my excuse. “Still, it’s a big risk, letting us take her back. Would he really gamble the goals of the Espers for a quick thrill?” he contemplates.

“He’s not working for them,” I object too quickly. Immediately, Daniel’s face becomes suspicious again. I quickly clarify. “I think he hates them as much as he hates us,” I say. “He has no side but his own.” Just like Kaya.

Daniel watches me for a moment, and I worry that he’s picked up on what I didn’t say. For a moment, I feel guilty that I’m keeping this from him. If our roles were reversed, I’d want to know the truth. Then he speaks again. “He’s like you then,” he concludes. “No other concern except for himself. Maybe it’s not just Kaya’s viewpoint that makes you understand him.”

His words are cruel, and they sting as if he slapped me. Why was that necessary? I look away from him, gritting my teeth in silence. One thing was for certain; any pity or guilt I felt for him immediately vanished.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That incident didn’t stay on my mind for long. Things at home were horrible, and though Daniel’s words stayed in my head long afterwards, I focused on other things.

Then he found out.

I didn’t speak to him when he appeared in my room. I never did. I always waited for him to start talking. And then he did. “Suicide,” he said flatly. 

My stomach leapt. 

“It was suicide,” he repeated. “Kaya knew she was going to die. And she did it anyway.” He stared at me, no set expression on his face. Then his eyes narrowed. “How long did you know?”

“…from the beginning,” I admitted, closing my eyes and shutting off my computer. I pushed it aside and sat up.

“Why?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“She didn’t want me to.”

“That’s not for her to decide,” he argued. “For gods sake, she was your friend too. How could you just accept this?”

I was shaking. “What could’ve I done?” I pleaded. “I couldn’t go into your world, remember? What could’ve I done to stop her?” Daniel continued to glare at me. “You don’t think I tried to stop her? After she told me, I begged her not to do this. But she ignored me, and then she was gone…” I took in a deep breath. “I knew her plan,” I admitted. “But there was only so much I could do. After she left, there was no way-“

“You could’ve told me!” he shouted. “I could’ve stopped her!”

“You would’ve. And then Kaya would been thrown in prison for conspiracy to high treason,” I retorted. 

“But that bastard would still be in jail. They would’ve released Kaya-“

“They killed her mother!” I blurted out. “And they wanted Kaya dead too, five years ago. Don’t you get it? This way, those men will die at the hands of the Espers. This is her revenge.”

“She wouldn’t give her life-“

“She would. You know that, don’t you?”

“I…” Daniel’s face was mixed with rage and despair. That’s when I figured it. He already knew that she’d give her life for this. That wasn’t the issue. It was that Kaya would throw him to the sharks too, despite everything they went through together. 

“Daniel…” The name was strange on my tongue. I had never called him by name before, and it was awkward. “I’m sorry,” I said at last. There wasn’t really anything else I could say.

Daniel quietly looked up at me. Immediately, I tensed up, already anticipating what was coming. And I was right. “Of course, it would be fine for you,” he spoke darkly. “None of this effects you. Even if Kaya’s dead. All you have to do is sit back and watch everyone die. That shouldn’t be too difficult.”

I had gotten up from my bed and had been pacing up and down my room for a while now, randomly picking up stuff from the floor, as if that would stop his words from hurting. He went on. “Nereida, Kaya, you’ve watched people die before. You’ll probably cheer when one of the Espers tears my fucking head off-“

That’s when I swung around, my fist smashing against his face. He stumbled back, caught off guard. Immediately, I backed away slightly, waiting for him to react. I just knew he’d get back at me. I knew that it was only a matter of seconds before I was lying on the ground getting the shit kicked out of me. I had no idea what possessed me to hit him.

Moments passed, and I realised that the blows I had been bracing myself for never came. Daniel just stood there, watching me, as if I was some strange beast that had escaped its cage. He once stared at Kaya the same way, in fact. “I deserved that,” he said finally. “I…shouldn’t have-“

“Shut the fuck up,” I hissed suddenly. His eyes widened. “How dare you. What do you take me for? I’m not…I’m not this twisted psycho who gets off on watching people die!” I was steadily losing control, but I didn’t give a crap. “Do you think I enjoy being able to do nothing? Do you think I’m happy to just sit there while people I care about die?! Why…” I tightened my hands into fists. “Why do you think I’d want you to die?!”

I could’ve slapped him for the incredulous look on his face. “You don’t?”

“No…” The anger quickly evaporated, and I was left trying to hold back what seemed like an endless supply of tears. “Don’t be stupid. If you died…” There’d be no one left to help me, I finished in my head. But I wouldn’t say them out loud to him. 

“…I spent the last few minutes verbally abusing you. You should hate me,” Daniel countered.

“I don’t.” I feel tired all of a sudden, and I sit down on the bed. “Kaya…was important to you too. I can understand how you feel.”

“….how do you do that?” he asked quietly. 

“…do what?” 

“Justify it. How can you allow people to do things to you that you can just sweep under the rug?”

I thought about that for a moment. It was just so…natural, that I never even questioned it until now. “It’s just…” I struggled to say, “it’s not like there aren’t more horrible people than them.”

“Like who?” Daniel retorted. “Is it even possible to hate someone who’s never done anything to you?”

“Yeah. It is.” If I looked at Daniel, I would burst into tears, so I kept my eyes firmly closed. “You were right, you know. About people who can’t do anything. Sometimes you can hate people so much just because they were involved and couldn’t, or didn’t, do anything to stop it.”

“…you mean…”

“…I’m sorry,” I said to him in a whisper. “I need to be alone.”

“You’re shaking…”

“I don’t care. Just go. Please,” I begged. 

For the first time since I had known him, Daniel did as I asked. I was finally left alone to shed the tears that I had locked in for the entire conversation. And for the rest of the night, I lay there, holding my knees and hating myself.

Next thing I knew, I was in Delirium.

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Self Conversation

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You’re being angsty and edgy again mate.

For some reason, you sound like Togami.

Whatever. Would you prefer me to sound like Kaya? Or Daniel?

Do whatever the fuck you want. You’re my head, after all.

So what are you doing out here?

Like you said, being angsty and edgy.

Why are you being angsty and edgy though?

Why the hell would you care?

I am you. And I’m not sure if you know yourself.

I do. Somewhat.

Then enlighten me.

I can’t finish my IT.

…that’s it?

No. Of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t be breaking down, would I?

Fine then. What else is there?

The fact that I can’t finish anything I start.

You finished one thing.

That doesn’t count and you know it.

I see. So we’re discounting anything involving mass destruction?

…yes.

Very well.

My point is, I can barely finish the things that interest me, let alone things that don’t even peak that interest.

And?

It makes me feel bad about myself. Because I want to be able to finish, but I just feel so…unmotivated.

In other words, your depression decides to add a few pounds so that you can’t do shit.

Precisely.

Then again, that could just be you making excuses.

That is another thing. I’m probably just lazy, and I just blame it on the mental illness.

Then get over it. Stop hating yourself. Give yourself proof that you’re not a bad person. Actually work.

Oh, I get it. You can’t. There is something physically weighing you down. You just can’t tell if it’s just mental illness or laziness.

…yeah.

Well you’ve got to get over it. Your future lies in the balance. This shit is year 12, make or break year.

I want to be able to…

…but you don’t think you can?

No.

Why not?

Because I can’t finish anything, even if I set my mind to it. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, fuck, I don’t even know what my morals are!

Ohhhh, I see. It’s not just self hate. It’s guilt.

For some part.

Togami? Ash?

Yup.

I don’t know what you see in them. Togami’s a self absorbed prick and you’ve seen your other suitor. If one can call him that.

Togami appears to believe that I can get better. It’s not a relationship anyway. As for Ash…yeah, I can’t make excuses. He’s a sleaze bag.

So it’s Ash that you’re guilty about, not Togami.

Yeah. Everyone hates him.

Except for you.

I hate him too. Just not enough to stop seeing him.

Are you going to sleep with him again?

No.

Good. Now stick to it. Don’t let him seduce you with Sword Art Online.

Shaddup.

But that’s not it.

Of course it’s not.

Jeezus. It never stops, does it? What is it with being seventeen? Does something change suddenly that lures in hot dudes? Hehee. Cat Madigan 101: How to pick up hot dudes.

Oi.

Okay. Togami I’ll let you off the hook for. Ash, you’re kinda a bad person for. So what about candidate number three?

…he’s insanely intelligent, sweet and not condescending. And probably isn’t at all interested in me in that way.

…he asked you to the fucking movies. On fucking VALENTINES DAY.

…it’s Valentines Day on Saturday?

Argh….yes. And you’ve got a fucking date.

…he’s probably called it off. I’m a nutcase, as he’s now well aware.

Whatever…I know where this is going. ‘Why would he be interested in me? I’m insane, I’m ugly, I’m retarded. He’s going to lose interest in me eventually.’

Of course.

So what? You’re going to let a potential relationship slide out of your grasp?

Look, if he’s not interested in me, he’s not interested in me. And chances are, even if he is, he’ll eventually decide that I’m not worth the trouble.

If that’s the case, then what are you alive for?

Hmm?

You’re insane, ugly and retarded, as you pointed out. You’re lazy, because you’re not finishing the work you need to. And you’ll never be desirable to anyone because of those things. So why are you still alive?

…because I don’t have the guts to kill myself.

Oh, I see. So you’re just a waste of space, taking up everyone’s time and oxygen. You’re disgusting.

I hate myself.

As you should.

But…

What?

…I hate you more.

I hate you, the voice in my head that reminds me how horrible I am. You’re the one thing standing in the way of me living a normal life. You’ve always been there, clinging to me like a chain around my neck. I know what you are…

You are that miserable illness that’s been eating away at me since I was six. You just sit there and whisper things to me and feast on the pain it produces. I hate you far more than I’ll ever hate myself.

So kill me.

I can’t.

Of course you can. All you need is a bullet in the brain to take away the pain. Heh, I should be a poet.

No. I’m going to live.

No you’re not.

I am. I’m going to live so that every day for the rest of my life, I can tell you to go fuck yourself.

Everything you said was true.

No. Everything you said was true. It could happen. But then again, it might not. But I think I’ll stay around and find out.

You’re not going to survive me.

I will. I’m stronger than you. Look at what I survived already.

Give it up. I’m the one you should fear.

Genesis

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There was a dream the other night. Or whatever you call memories that come back when you’re asleep.

I must’ve been fifteen then. Might not seem like much, but Daniel and I had done some math concerning my ‘actual’ age. The time that I’ve spent in Delirium probably amounted to almost two years. It’s just a matter of calculating the weeks. And then there was that last trip, where I ended up spending months or maybe even years running away. I’ll guesstimate that I spent three or four years there.

Now, from what people have told me about my blackouts, they only lasted for a few minutes. And from what my friends said about Kaya, she didn’t tend to hang around a lot. More often than not, she’d only stay an hour when I’d go to Delirium for a week or so. Either way, it’s really not that much time, which allows me to add those years in Delirium onto my actual age.

So mentally, I’ve lived for twenty years. Maybe twenty one, but I prefer twenty.

…yes. My head is fucked. Its productivity rate of sense is negative fifty thousand. Now shush up and read, nonexistent viewer.

Anyway, there was a dream/memory thing. It was back when I had begun to go to Delirium, when Daniel and I, and Delirium for that matter, were still reeling from Kaya’s death, and suddenly I came and fucked things up even more.

So let me tell you about it.
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Blue.

I run my finger down a blade of grass. It’s the colour of the night sky, and when I bring my finger away, a soft powder is left behind on it. I gaze at it curiously before quickly wiping it away on my clothes.

This whole place is strange…but I know it. I’ve seen it, felt it, smelt it, all through her. But this isn’t her…my hand has ordinary nails, and is about half the size of hers. And my hair isn’t white and falling into my eyes; it’s dark and past my shoulders. But…I feel…disconnected…like merely raising my hand feels like I’m moving through water…

My eyes suddenly close, against my will, and I hear a voice. Lie back down, he says. Let your mind sleep for a while, before they come collect you.

Some part of me recognises him. Not mentally, but my body shivers slightly at the sound of his voice. But before I can connect the face to the voice, my mind slips into unconsciousness.

Something jolts me awake, and I gasp. My head throbs and pulses as I try to gain sense of what’s happening. I hear voices. “Human…childling…esper…Kaya…

At the mention of her, I make myself speak. “Kaya?” I croak out, before a sword is suddenly thrust at my face.

“Silence,” I’m told. I close my eyes, nodding my head slightly, praying I don’t make a wrong move.

“Shall we kill her?” One growls eagerly.

“Don’t be an idiot,” the sword wielder hisses. “Didn’t you see that? Didn’t you hear her speak? Kaya, she said.”

“Why would she know her?”

“Maybe Blackrim’s kidnapper got help from this one, before poisoning her and knocking her out.” I resist the urge to gasp as the sword grazes under my chin. “What is Kaya to you?” he demands.

I don’t know how to answer this question. What relation should I claim? Mentor, jailor, guardian, acquaintance, friend. But as more pressure is applied to the sword, I give an answer. “Sister,” I whisper. “Kaya Blackrim is my sister.”

They’re shocked. It’s hard to hide my disbelief at how stupid they are; Kaya’s whole political career was the result of her being her the only living offspring of her parents. The other speaks first. “Then we should kill her,” he said. “Blackrim’s sister? They’ll send for our heads if they find out we let her go free.”

“Are you a fool?” The sword is taken away from my neck, and I breathe a sigh of relief before I’m suddenly pulled up. “We’re bringing her to the court. High chance they’ll pay a high price for information. Huh?” He pulls me close to him, and I can smell how sickly sweet his breath is. “After that, we’ll split her. What you say?”

I resist the urge to vomit, and he starts binding my arms before throwing me over his shoulder. I close my eyes, squeezing out tears as I’m carried away from the sticky blue grass I’d never forget.

I don’t speak again, not for the whole length of the journey there, despite the both of them providing details of the things they’d do to me after I wasn’t needed any more. There isn’t anything I could do. I know what it’s like to die; Kaya’s death had prepared me for that at least. I swallow the acid that rises inside me at the memory of her dying, and try to think of other things.

It’s fine, I tell myself. Dying is fine. It’ll be okay, you won’t hurt anymore. You won’t have to go through anymore pain, and you won’t see them again. You’ll be free, free from everything. You can finally get away. These thoughts, despite how painful they were, numbed the fear inside me, as I came to terms with my imminent death. Because they were true. Absolutely true.

There’s new voices, and the sound of thunder rings in my ears, getting louder and louder, until the man stops and drops me at his feet. Then, silence.

“A human?” A man barks suddenly.

I open my eyes. The owner of the voice has silver hair, like Kaya did, and moonlike eyes which glower at me when I look at him. He towers over everyone that crowds around, intimidating in both body and voice. Some part of me knows him, though I can’t put a name to his face. “Is that what you have to show me? I am already aware of the plague, there’s no need to bring one of the rats to show me.”

“Human?! Impossible!” The crowd bristles at the stupidity of these two, who are now becoming very, very frightened now that they realise that I lied. “She claimed to be related to Kaya! Her sister, she said…” the man stammered, his voice losing confidence by the second. He glares towards me and raises his foot to kick me. I hiss as he belts me in the ribs again and again. “Lying little shit…” he growls. “I’ll kill you!”

“Cease.” The giant of a man sounds bored. “Is it just me, or are humans proving themselves more capable than ourselves lately? The both of you are letting our race down. You prove yourselves poor excuses for Etheral beings.”

The kicking doesn’t stop. Sighing, the man raises his hand and suddenly, two figures rush past him, heading for my captors. There’s a scream, and something wet splashes against my face, and I slowly look up to see the both of them slump to the ground next to me. For that moment, I can’t breathe. I scramble backward, away from the fresh corpses, only to back into the large man. “As for you,” he says, just as bored as before, “give me one reason to keep you alive.”

“W-what?”

He sighs. “Just as I thought.” He raises his hand again.

I feel them behind me, and it’s only a split second before my throat will be opened. “Miranda!” I blurt out suddenly. I don’t know what the point of that word was, but everything freezes. And for the first time, the large man shows something other than complete boredom on his face. His eyes are narrowed at me, and he lowers his hand.

“Miranda…” he muses. “Another sister of yours?”

Flashes of memory come to me, of a woman with long silver hair and wide gold eyes as her throat is spilled out. “No,” I say simply. “Kaya’s mother.”

He belts across my face, and I’m thrown back to the floor. “I don’t recall asking you to speak,” he retorts. “Shut up.”

I hate him. Everything floods back to me. Kaya’s memories fill my mind, I can see everything that this man is responsible for. I get past the pain, glaring at him. “Then kill me,” I growl. “I’m only here because of what I have to say. So if you’re done with listening, then get those shadow things to slit my throat already!”

The crowds are silent, and I’m now deeply afraid. I was all talk, and this dictator before me knows it. All that was a burst of anger, Kaya’s anger. I’m going to die now.

Then he grins, and takes out a knife himself. He’s going to kill me himself? “Maybe there’s more to this ‘human’ than she’s letting on,” he muses, coming towards me. The knife presses against my cheek, biting into my skin, and digging deeper even after scarlet starts trickling from the wound. “Hmm? What’s this?”

I look up, shaking. “Blood,” I whisper. “What do you think?”

He pauses. “So you’ve become one of your pets, have you?” he enquires. “You must be desperate…”

Blood is pooling inside my mouth. I don’t know what to say to this. Does he think I’m Kaya?

“Well? What do you have to say for yourself, Kaya Blackrim?” he hisses, so quiet that only I can hear.

Cat?!”

The crowd looks away from the both of us, as if a parent had scolded them for staring for too long. The knife never wavers as the man turns toward the source of the voice, irritation evident on his face. “What do you want?” he asks.

I know him. It’s not Kaya’s memory this time, I can immediately put a face to this voice. But can I trust it? I close my eyes, not willing to look at him.

“What is she doing here?” His voice is trying to remain level, though it’s not succeeding well.

She? You sound like you know her….” The knife finally moves away from my face, leaving behind a bitter sting.

“I…I do. Kaya and I know her.”

Knew her.” The man’s voice is smug as he delivers this reminder.

There’s quiet for a moment. “Knew her,” he amends. “Give her to me. I can talk to her.”

“Out of the question.” The large man’s voice is a growl. “I’m interrogating her.”

I hear footsteps approaching me. “About how she ended up here? With a knife? Why are you concerning yourself with these new humans when there’s Kaya’s disappearance to worry about?”

“That’s precisely why she’s being interrogated! Because she knows things only Kaya herself knew!”

I resist the urge to ask him how he knew about those things, in case he decides to stab me in the cheek again. Blood is starting to spill out of my mouth, and I feel like I’m going to faint, or vomit, or both.

“Kaya and Cat knew each other.” The voice is tired. “They were close. Kaya protected Cat when she started seeing shadows, and they began chasing her.”

There’s murmuring that this. “…So that’s the cause of your trips to that realm?” The man says softly. “I see.” I can feel footsteps retreating, and when he speaks again, his voice is fainter. “Question her. And you will tell me everything.”

I jerk as a hand touches my shoulder. “Stand up,” the voice tells me. I obey, and try to stop shaking as he takes my hand and leads me away. “You can open your eyes, you know.” Tentatively, I blink my them open. “Are you alright?”

I look at him and shrug. If I speak, more blood’s just gonna come out. He just sighs. “Here.” He pulls out a piece of cloth and dabs it across my mouth. I freeze. “Calm down. Only wiping away the blood.” He hands me the cloth. “Here. Spit out the blood.”

Hurriedly, I cough everything out, trying desperately not to vomit. “Come on, let’s get away from here,” Daniel says calmly, before pulling me along with him.

He leads me to a room and closes the door behind him. “What the hell did you do?” he hisses suddenly.

This change in temperament catches me off guard. “Wha-”

Daniel grabs my arm. “I swear to god, with everything that’s happening right now, this is not the time,” he growls. “I don’t know how you got away from the monsters, but please understand that-”

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!” I shout at him, pulling away from him. His face is surprised at this and my mouth hurts from simply talking, but I’m not in the place to care. “I haven’t…I haven’t done anything! I just…” I’m shaking uncontrollably, but I’ll be damned if I start crying in front of Daniel. “Just tell me where I am. Please.”

After a moment of silence, he speaks, somewhat cold. “You’ve…probably seen it before. Through Kaya I mean. The palace of the Etherals. Remember?”

I think for a moment, and nod. I can now see the similarities between Kaya’s memory and the decor of this room I’m in. “Fine,” Daniel says, before grabbing my wrists and examining them. I freeze up, but let him do it. “Nothing…” he murmurs. “What did you do then? Drugs? Jumping? Gun?”

“What?” I croak, realising what he’s talking about. “I…I never…”

“You ended up here,” Daniel says stonily. “Look, right now, I could care less why. I can already guess myself. After Kaya’s death and you still having dreams and getting attacked, it would be enough to drive anyone over the edge.”

This chilling assumption makes me feel ill. “Daniel…”

“What?” His voice is still devoid of emotion, of caring.

“I did not, fucking, kill myself!” I hiss. “I get it, I’m weak. But that doesn’t mean…” The urge to start sobbing is hurting my head, and I turn away from him in case it overflows.

He’s quiet. “You didn’t…”

“No.” I focus on getting my breathing back to normal.

“I…I see.” His hand touches my shoulder and I flinch away. “I’m sorry,” he sighs. “I shouldn’t have…it’s just…” He goes quiet and stands up. “That man who…carved into your face. He’ll want information. Where did you wake up?”

“Um…” I remember the strange grass I was lying in when I first opened my eyes. “I’m not sure. It was just…a field. The people who found me would be able to tell you more, but…” I indicate the blood splashed over me. It’s dark, like tar.

“Right…” He thinks for a second. “I’ll tell him that. And…I’ll try to get him to let you stay here. I’ll assume responsibility for you, and you’ll stay in my room most of the time.”

“Wait…I…” It finally hits me. This is my home now. Kaya’s world. But…I see the faces of everyone I’m leaving behind. Batman, Papa Willis, Delamore, Slenderman, Snugglepot… “Never mind,” I whisper.

“Here.” He indicates a large bed sitting in the corner of the room. “Sleep there for now. Things are going to be okay, Cat.”

“What happened then?” I blurt out. “Why am I here?”

“…I really don’t know,” he sighs. “I wish I did. But if you didn’t…then…”

“…am I dead Daniel?” I whisper.

“I’ll find out…but I don’t know Cat. I really don’t know.”

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.”

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.

Go Away Daniel…

Standard

My only friend in the world was in my room when I came up from dinner. “I know what happened,” he told me. “It’s not your fault.”

“Oh really?” My voice was hollow.

“They kept yelling. What did you think was going to happen?”

“Something that didn’t involve me trying to smash a plate in front of them?” He tried to speak but I didn’t give him the chance. “Daniel, normal people don’t just…snap like that. There’s something…very, very wrong with me, you know there is.”

“I can’t say there isn’t,” he admitted. “It’s not your fault though-”

“That’s a lie,” I interrupted. “If I did the work my school wanted me to, I wouldn’t be falling apart like this. I wouldn’t be such a fucking nut-”

“You couldn’t do the work!” Daniel exploded. “Cat, you’re not well. You’ve never been well. But that’s the only reason why you’re not doing the work. And you can’t control that.”

“But what if I could?” I retorted. “What if this whole thing in my head is just an excuse? I always make excuses for myself. I’m not feeling well, or I’ve missed that lesson, or Things are bad at home. I’m always ready with them. There’s literally nothing stopping me from keeping up, only my stupid fucking excuses!”

“They’re not-”

“They are Daniel.” I was shaking, but there weren’t any tears this time.

He reached for me. “No,” I told him. “Don’t.”

“Cat, please-”

“No!” My chest felt like it was about to burst. “You can’t help me…”

“But I want to.”

“But you can’t,” I croaked. “I’m sorry. But you can’t save me. I’ve already destroyed myself, and there’s nothing left of me.”

“There is,” he insisted. “You can push through this, you’re strong enough to push through this.”

“I’m not. I don’t push through it. I lie there and let it consume me. That’s the only way I survive it, if I can really call it surviving.”

“You haven’t lost to it though.”

“I have.” I looked up at him. “You seem to think that ‘losing’ is when you kill yourself. The only reason I haven’t done that is because I’m too scared to die. And now look at me. It’s almost funny.” I smiled crookedly, my stomach aching with the effort. “All I can do is lie there. My emotions have eaten away at me, and I’m just this hollow shell. I’ve still lost, Daniel. I haven’t killed myself, but I’m still dead.”

“No…”

“Please go,” I begged him. “Leave me alone.”

“I can’t…”

“Go!” I gasped. “There’s nothing for you to do. I’m already dead, why the fuck do you think that I can be saved?!”

He looked away. “That’s right. There’s no reason for you to keep counting on me. I keep saying I’ll be fine, and then I change my mind and lie there, because I’m too lazy to try and make things better for myself. Just go already!”

Daniel’s eyes were bright green and shiny with tears when he looked back at me. Were my eyes the same? “If I go, will you kill yourself?”

“No.” I meant what I said. “I don’t have the energy. Nor the courage.”

“Never say that,” he told me fiercely. “Never say that suicide involves anything like courage!”

I said nothing. “Please…” he sobbed. “I don’t want to watch you die…I don’t want to lose anyone else…”

“Then go,” I whispered.

He stared back at me as if I just stabbed him. “I’m not going to do anything. I promise. But I’m dying, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. There’s nothing left of me to save.”

Daniel gulped. For a while, it looked as if he wasn’t going to do anything, but then he turned away and went for the door. He looked back with his hand on the handle. “I know what you want me to think,” he said softly. “And this would be so much easier if I did think that. But I don’t. You’re worthy of love, worthy of living. You deserve so much more than what’s in your head. And I’ll keep believing that, no matter what.” With that, he closed the door behind him.

I could finally cry again. Because I had hurt the person I loved the most. The one thing Daniel wanted was to redeem himself, to save me, and I had thrown that away. I didn’t care anymore, about living. Nothing was worth trying to survive.

I was the most despicable human in the world.