Victim Excerpt

[Victim]

Day 1

Prologue

Bwam! Bwam!

Someone was pounding on her door. The razorblade was in her hands. It reflected the light so oddly, almost surreally, in little waves on the surface. There really wasn’t that much blood. But this blade was an ally of the demon voice, its edges like a monster’s fangs.

Bwam! Bwam!

Do it. The demon voice. That’s what she called it, the voice that sometimes hijacked her thoughts. Her fingers pinched the blade, her other hand falling onto the floor. That drop made a sound, a very distinct thump. Surely they had heard it. Her ears were desensitized to it, but not the–

Bwam! Bwam!

Instinctively, she threw the blade under her bed, knowing it’d plant itself in the wall. Her nose sniffled, her body trying to pull in the monotonous snot and leaky tears. They would be in here any second now. But no one would care if her eyes were red.

The demon voice was screaming at her. Her mind used to be the gateway to eternity, the mirror into others’ worlds, the guiding thread to the edge of the maze, the shield, wand, and sword. But now it held too much pain. And she felt helpless against it.

If only it could all just go away.

Ominously, they barged into the room. The parents. The father threw aside the fallen chair, catapulting himself into her space. The mother nearly followed, failing to hide the hollowness and tears in her eyes. That was her daughter was on the floor, suffering.

The mother clung to the doorway as if her life depended on it. But the father was already to the teenage girl, putting pressure on her arms and trying to bandage them. The girl’s eyes were locked on the mother, daring her to enter the room. They both knew she wouldn’t do it. Instead, this power play was all about the daughter’s challenge: care. Care enough about things to face them, to let the daughter see something else in those eyes: no fear, no hollowness, no helplessness. What about love?

Slowly, the mother lifted her phone from her pocket, tapping it then holding it to her ear. Her eyes dodged the hardened gaze of her own child, opting instead to stare into the air. Her voice was pleading:

“Mica, you’ve got to get here quick. She’s done it again. . .”

 

1

Why is it always so grey?

I stared up at the sky, alone with my thoughts. It was just me on the roof’s far edge, no one else to be seen. They had taught us in school that the sky was blue. In fact, that was part of how we had memorized colors: the sky is blue, the blood is red, the grass is green. At least, I think that’s how I remember it. Everything gets a bit fuzzy after a while.

Maybe that’s because of the food.

That was probably deserved. After all, nachos for breakfast was probably not recommended. And I might have had a bit too much melted cheese with them. It tasted good, so was it really that bad of an idea? I mean, I at least enjoyed eating it, even if my stomach was not so happy about it later. Maybe I should do that again tomorrow, just to see what happens.

Here’s a thought: is all of this even real?

Is it? I had no idea, and it was my mind that was making me question things. I was staring at a sky: one that I knew was grey that everyone else said was blue. In these moments, it was just me and my thoughts, a retreat in a world of so much connection. I was free to ponder these things: is the sky really grey? Is it blue? Is this real? Is my mind playing the trickster? Is my brother even in the country?

So, what is life?

Happiness? There’s one theory. The journey unto death? There’s another. Life, the thing that we all go through and never quite understand? That’s a third theory, and a much more likely one. Besides, if I learned anything about philosophy in school, then it was this: people have been debating the meaning of everything, life included, for centuries. We have many theories, but there is no right one, no right answer. There can not be any right answer; it’s just not possible.

Right?

“La. La. La. LAAAAAAAA-” I picked up the phone as quickly as I could, mildly cursing out my brother. If only I could change that thing. I fumbled with it for a moment, to a bright, frighteningly-taunting scream. It was blaring at me to give some attention to it, as my clumsy hands fumbled around for the answer key. Finally, there was peace, once my finger had found the magic spot. I held the annoying device to my ear.

“Hello?” I asked into it, silently hoping it was not upside down. I did hold it up properly, right? Would it even be any different if I did not? Would this thing fix itself if I did hold it upside down? Would it?

“Mica, you’ve got to get here quick. She’s done it again. . . She’s. . . .” Ms. Henson. My breath caught in my throat, as I realized the seriousness of her words. I had to find the courage to speak. I had to ask:

“Again? Is she . . . alive?” I jumped to my feet instantly, thankfully finding them there below me. I stood fully, staring ahead in disbelief. My still-open mouth had found the words, even as my own thoughts simply suddenly could not. A monstrously huge jet flew past right before my eyes, disrupting the grey. Tearing it apart.

“Yes, just get here now. Quickly. She only listens to you.” Click. The line disconnected, cutting her off abruptly. I pulled the device down, staring at it in my hands. The ‘smart’ phone, the basis of all our other technology. A supposedly miraculous invention of the last century, meant to connect all of humanity into one glorious new age. And this horrid thing was how I always found out when she was hurt?

My hands were already working. My phone was put away, adding that distinct weight. From my pockets, I pulled out my leather gloves. My hands were pulling them on now, my one minor protection against injury. Sometimes, I wondered why I even bothered with them, but I also knew their usefulness. Leather was annoyingly hard to find these days.

I stared from the edge of the roof, slowly looking down. I had never wanted to be alive in the first place, and I knew it. Ever since I took my first breath, I had had this nagging feeling that I had never been meant to be born. One of these days, I was not going to survive this jump. Maybe that could be today? If only my mind would let me.

 

2

“She’s in her room.” Ms. Henson, staring at the wall, counting out the spots of the peeling paint. She was so focused, so determined to just stare there at that wall. The door to their apartment had let me in, recognizing me as a welcome guest. I nodded to her, knowing that she did not see me. To my left, I saw Mr. Henson disappearing through a door towards the back entrance. He must have been going to go smoke.

“How bad is it?” I asked, barely knowing if I even wanted an answer.

Ms. Henson whimpered, bringing her arms in tighter around her. She was hugging herself, likely wondering where she had gone wrong. Her skinny, bony arms could barely pull themselves around her; she appeared to always have such little strength. At the paint she still stared.

That bad? I gave no response to her, knowing the pain that it would cause. Instead, I moved towards the door to a certain room. It was pink, of all choices: the color she most hated. The ‘princess’ sign on the door still held her blood, from that very first time. I forced myself to breathe.

My hand was already upon the handle. I was turning it, slowly, wearily. The dread, the fear. I could feel it in the air, just like every other time before. It was like this door was a portal into all of our nightmares, the kind that force us to wake up screaming. The tension was so strong that I had to force myself to take in another breath, even with my hand slowly turning. My stomach rose up, towards my throat, as my guts threatened to empty themselves. I could feel the bile.

A sharp intake of breath. I jumped, having startled myself with my own breath. The puke was in my mouth, as I silently swallowed it back down. My throat was in pain, as I forced the bile back down anyways. At the same time, it felt like I was gulping for air, just trying to breathe. The handle, it was no longer in my hands. Instead, my arms were propped up against the doorframe, keeping me upright.

Every intake of air sent knives into my throat. I gulped it anyways, just trying not to cough. Then came the dizziness, as the floor appeared to swerve towards me. My eyes were forced shut, as my mind tried to protect me. I opened them again, just to see the pink right before me. How could it really not get any easier?

I blinked.

I was standing again, shock still. The walls around me were lost into the black oblivion, mere shadows I felt more than I could see. Sometimes, if I looked hard enough, then maybe, just maybe, I could see a flash of deep purple. It was so sudden, so rare. In this place, right now, it was me alone. Even when he came, it would just be me alone.

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