The alarm went off signifying the beginning of another day.
It was finally a Friday. There was no better day in the week. It was one of the few days a week when most people were glad to be alive or just felt good about themselves.
Thanks to my Empath abilities I could feel good too. I'm what people would call an Empath. For those who don't know what that is, I basically live my life parallel to the emotions around me. Unfortunately most of the time its a drag. My abilities were the main reason I didn't have friends but I couldn't let it upset me.
Yawning and scratching my ruffled blonde hair, I worked my way up to sitting position. I scanned my room.
To say my room looked like a war zone would have been too flattering. Most of my books lay scattered across the floor. There was a white plate with chicken bones from an unknown date on the ground. Ants had had all but turned it black with movement just to get to the now very dry bones.
I ignored it and stretched my arms wider to absorb as much of the happiness as I could. Feeling the joy I jumped eagerly out of my bed. Still stretching my arms, I stood in front of a large full-length mirror. Looking at the mirror I saw a scrawny pale white man, who looked more like a teen than a young adult. Next to him was a full-grown male, his almost pitch black skin contrasting sharply with that of the kid's. The darker man standing a full head taller and dressed in black jeans, plain black hoody with a black tie.
"Hey yourself." Thulani said leaning on my wiry reflection. I felt his weight on me causing my knees to buckle. Thulani stared at me with his eye brow raised before relieving me of the pressure. Thulani sighed as if I'd failed some kind test of strength or will power. I kept smiling sheepishly at him. If it was a failed test it would have been a drop in the ocean of previous failures.
"Look I'm going to take a shower. I'm so fucking sick and tired of sharing a bed with another man, especially you." Thulani groaned "Just stay here and I'll be right back. As if I can fucking go anywhere else…" Thulani mumbled leaving
I saw his reflection leave and heard the shower turn on. Obediently I sat on my queen size bed facing the mirror, making sure he wouldn't disappear. I didn't know the rules but I knew enough to understand that if I left the range of any reflective plane he'd disappear and he'd be pissed when he got back.
I lay back on my bed spreading my arms out and basking once more in the joy that surrounded the city. It was difficult to be sad when there was so much happiness to be felt.
We lived by ourselves Thulani and I. Thulani always complained that no women came over but I knew that was just him being him. It wasn't like I could change that. I couldn't even get friends let alone a girlfriend. It was hard to imagine a girlfriend who would be able to see to Thulani or talk to him let alone have any sexual relations with him.
I know Thulani doesn't really exist. I created him. He's merely a figment of my imagination only visible to me. He can only exist or touch things when I'm in front of a reflective surface. It's the basic rules for him. I don't ask why, because it wouldn't make sense to him either after all he's in my head.
Living in this city with difficult enough to handle. Being an Empath made things so much worse. There weren't words that could ever explain what it was like for an empath to be without friends or family. Every day, every hour, every second, every moment seemed worse than the last.
To make things worse I'd bottled up all the rage, sadness, angst, malice, greed and jealousy that flowed around and inside of me and when the time came for the bottle to explode. Instead of the bottle popping my feelings grew a face, a body, arms and an attitude that was too cold to be human.
He told me his name was Thulani, I couldn't remember ever hearing the name before but it didn't matter. I must have heard it somewhere. Thulani was mean, crass and self centered but even with all his issues he was still treated me well and listened. It was more than I could ask for from anyone. He was my one and only friend.
Luckily for me Thulani wasn't the type of imaginary friend who took over people's bodies like the ones in those awful horror movies. I was too strong for that but…
There had been 4 occasions when I'd been so scared that I let Thulani take over, just to get out of difficult situations. I'd blacked out with a sharp pain in my skull. Only to wake up somewhere else with a cold feeling inside me and a lump on the back my head. Sometimes though, there was blood on my clothing. At first I'd been sure I'd been doing it on my own until I saw that Thulani had blood in his own clothing and hands, a clear mental signification of my guilt. He soon explained everything to me.
I often tended to find myself in difficult situations as the cities emotions took over my weakened heart. It led to me doing unthinkable things, like loud out bursts and even violence. Something that was never good if one were ever as scrawny as me.
On some of the worst occasions my arms had been broken in two places and I'd even been stabbed in the stomach. On both of those occasions I wondered how my body had managed to get up at all. It was lucky the stab didn't hit any thing important. I liked to look on the bright side. Thulani always called me an idiot because of it though.
Now with Thulani around the outbursts had decreased and the fighting was gone too. He'd saved my life more times than I could count and more times then he would ever know.
The shower stopped running but I could still hear the sound of the dripping showerhead from all the way out here. I stared at the bathroom door and strained my ears to listen to the soft patter of feet on the tiles. The door opened and hot steam burst out the door defusing the further out into the light as it flowed. The steam divided in the center as a floating towel moved towards me. Between the darker bathroom and the light bed room I could almost swear that I could see a black smoke bouncing around in Thulani's shape.
As it got closer I couldn't see any darkness at all. Instead I stared hard at the floating droplets forming the shape of an extremely masculine man. There was a trail of water footprints leading from the shower to me. The bed sunk next to me raising me up slightly. I saw his completely naked form fully in the reflection of the mirror.
"What? Are you going to fantasize about me now?" He threatened.
I turned away and moved to the shower. I could feel the heat from the steam hitting my face as I inhaled the densely humid air. I closed the door. The handle felt surprisingly cool to the touch even in the suffocating heat.
The sound coming from the showerhead annoyed me. I closed it feeling instantly better by the action, I looked around my bathroom. It was big. In fact I could take five steps in any direction without bumping into anything. Stepping in front of the medicine cabinet where the sink jutted out the wall from underneath the cabinet.
"Jesus!" I cried swallowing down my heart, which had just climbed into my throat. My knuckles had turned a bright white from how hard I'd clutched to the sink.
"Sorry. I was just curious why you turned off the shower when you were going in anyway?"
I could sense Thulani's emotions and felt that he was bemused by my actions, which wasn't very different from my father's feelings when a question like this came up.
I staring at nothing and I fell back to a time when I had asked him a similar question, the stress and anger that oozed out of his every pore had made me burst into tears, but that hadn't been the 1st time I'd burst into tears after just looking at someone. My dad was about to answer but stopped as my tears filled him with pity for only a second before his anger redoubled and he stormed out of the bath slamming it behind him and screaming at my mother.
"Just because I want to," I replied waking up, "so, please just leave me alone." I managed slowly trying not to think about my mother and the fake feelings of mourning his father held at her funeral.
Inside, the cabinet was full of bottles. Each bottle half filled or almost empty. Most were antidepressants, coke, and crystal-meth all from a time before Thulani. All a testament to my own weakness.
The steam from Thulani's previous shower still made the air heavy.
I turned on the cold water tap on the sink and put the pressure on maximum before I took off my shirt and briefs.
My body shivered involuntarily as drops of cold water ricochied off the sunk and onto my exposed skin. I turned the tap off when I felt the air become light enough to breathe easily again.
I sighed heavily, smiling at myself. The time I took in the shower was my favorite in the word. It was the only time when my own emotions were fully in charge of the way I acted. I hated being a puppet, being pulled by tens of thousands of miniature strings each being held by a different member of the city. The showerhead let a burst of hot water out.
Oblivious to the heat, I held onto the taps, controlling the temperature making sure it was cold but not freezing. The water needed to be cool for me to enjoy it fully. The cool spray was what I imagined happiness would feel like if it was solid. Thulani was always hot to the touch.
I stood and cleansed myself of all the hate of the day before leaving whatever love and joy I had scrounge for along the way, even though it was never aimed at me.
An hour and a half passed and found me standing before my mirror fully dressed and ready for my psychology classes. Thulani dropped his hands around my shoulders pressing down on me once again.
"Ready for what?" I asked knowing full well what the answer was. I flinched under the sudden pressure Thulani had put on my shoulders as he squeezed hard.
"Don't do this." He breathed dangerously. "You know exactly what. After all it was you who said you wanted to help people" Thulani said. There was disappointment in his tone and my heart sank.
"I know, but not by hurting someone!" I exclaimed defensively.
"You felt the surge of hate inside of her. She's evil. She has to be with all the negative energy inside of her and here's you're chance. You've seen what your own outbursts have caused. You've seen the blood on our hands. The police sirens rushing to pick up the bodies you left behind. This was your suggestion so make the world a better place!" Thulani said encouragingly. It was a speech that would have made any General brim with pride if the speech wasn't about killing another human being.
I looked at Thulani's reflection in the eye before looking away unable to hold my own against his eager glare.
I had liked her. She was beautiful, smart and quiet, like me. Just like me. Me before I met Thulani, before I was pushed by the hate, anger and sadness which covered the city like a fog. I was always surrounded by those feelings.
"Is she… like me?" I asked Thulani. The answer dawning on me for the first time.
The pressure of Thulani's grip lessened. Relieved by the feeling of blood rushing back into my shoulders, I looked up questioningly at him. He was clearly lost in his own thoughts. Each one completely out of range of my curiosity and Empath abilities. Yet another thing I could never presume to understand about him.
"Yes, she is." He finally let out. I could hear the apprehension in his voice, "but unlike you, who can control your power. She's controlled by her power making her a bitter vessel held down by the burden of life. She is beyond your feelings of love and understanding. She is even beyond the feelings you forged me out of. You... We… cannot reach her."
I knew how that felt like, it was the only thing I felt. My breath was heavy as I imagined my life without Thulani helping me block out those surges. I wouldn't have been alive. It was something I would never wish on my worst enemy. Let alone someone as beautiful as her.
"Okay." Breathed unable to even imagine how I'd do the deed What do we do?"
Thulani grinned as he rubbed my shoulders and told me his plan.
The sun set and the city lit up all around his apartment. The city was buzzing with activity as people started to get ready to have a good Friday night. It was already way past 7 o'clock and the night life was revving up around me.
I stood once again in front of my mirror. Thulani lay on the bed with my radio on his stomach. Hip-hop music blared out. The bass of each track's beat stopping my rushing heart. Every lyric spoken spoke of death and hardships constantly being punctuated by the word fuck. I turned away from the mirror and looked at him. I couldn't see him, all I could see was a floating radio which swung gently in the air.
After a minute I looked back at the mirror and stared at the same scrawny kid, who looked way younger than he raelly was. The kid was wearing black jeans and a black linkin Park top and in the center was a shiny silver dog tag. Thulani saw me checking myself out and stood up. The sun had completely set now and darkness swallowed the sky.
I still felt good but I was nervous too. Thulani switched off the radio and patted me on my back.
Thulani laughed and slapped my back nearly knocking me head first into the mirror. A part of me wished he had.
"That's good. I would have been nervous if you weren't" He said reassuringly. It worked I felt a little better. I was right to be nervous considering what I was about to do.
"Put that on a cloth then put the cloth over her mouth. It should take the fight out of her."
I put them back in my pockets and went to the kitchen. It was just as dirty as my room. The sink was full of dishes and cutlery. Gently I lifted most of the plates covering the sink and pulled out a large butcher knife with my left hand. I put it on the sink and gently places the plates back down, careful not to break anything.
I looked around and saw Thulani's face reflected on the stainless steel blade.
"It's too big and wide. You're not strong enough. Take the bread knife and a spare, make it thin too."
After 5 minutes I walked out of our apartment. It wasn't too long of a walk to her house, which was why I wasn't going to take a car. I didn't' want people to identify my car anyway. I locked the door and headed down the stairs. I should have taken the elevator since we live on the 6th floor but it had 3 mirrors and right now I rather felt like being alone to think this through. As I walked slowly down the stairs I measured the distance in my head and worked out how long it would take to get there.
"+- 30 minutes" I thought out loud as I reached the last step.
I fingered the sharp end of the knife hidden in my sleeve. I remembered how it felt for me when I had been stabbed. It wasn't like TV. There was more blood in real life. Either that or it just felt like more blood when it was yours.
I looked to my left as I crossed closed stores. All I could see was black behind the thick glass panes. One the other side of the glass I saw myself and Thulani walking next me. He was unusually quiet. I, for the 1st time in a while, took a good look at my only friend. He tall at least a full head taller than me. He was almost as thin as me but unlike me I could see his strength. Muscle took up every inch of his body. He was so strong I could swear that I could even feel it at times.
I've finally left the stores, bars and nightclubs. The district had been of people huddled in groups walking around doing their own things, I had tasted their emotions and shuddered. They where full of false security and fear but every now and then there was genuine joy and pleasure, even love. I did my best to hang onto that but I couldn't.
I'd left that area and was now in the quieter residential subrubs. I was glad to be out of Main City, away from all those people. Now, I knew that if you saw people here then you were probably getting mugged, you just didn't know it yet.
That was a close one. A neighborhood patrol car had just turned before seeing me. It was important I wasn't seen. Not yet anyway. Not yet.
Shit! Shit! 5 guys up ahead. This scenario had the potential of turning bad, really bad, and I could just see the front of her house behind them. If they looked at me I'd nod and move on. Oh God I prayed they wouldn't look at me. If they robbed me and they'd found the knife I'd be dead before I knew it. Not even Thulani could handle all 5.
I thanked God twice. They passed without looking in my direction, they had been talking loudly but I couldn't hear a word.
My ears were too busy listening to the insanely loud drumming of my heartbeat on my chest.
I stood outside the gate. I was a minute off but that didn't matter now. I pulled out the knife and pointed the flat of the blade towards a street lamp behind me. The light exposed Thulani's face.
"Don't try waltzing through the front gate." Thulani whispered disparately pulling me to the next house. Too numb to protest I let myself cursing my own stupidity. Standing in front of the neighbor's massive wall, I put the blade in between my teeth and climbed.
The wall was really tall but I managed to use a near by tree to get me up. No one had seen me yet but it was only matter of time until someone did. This suburb was way too quiet for my liking. It made my drumming heart sound too loud and made my ears suspicious of even the smallest noises. I froze on the top of the wall and waited until every rustle or creek had been exposed as nothing. It took about 5 minutes before I jumped to the other side. My feet hit the ground with a thud, which sounded more like a bomb to my overly sensitive ears. I was breathing fast now and that mixed with my drumming heart sounded like a circus was marching through my head. After a minute I found the energy to move towards the 2-story house.
I was scared. So very scared!
Why was doing this! How could I do something as evil as killing someone? I was a weakling compared to most people even her. I was sure of it.
I stopped outside a thin brown back door. It had no windows but there was a line in the center signifying that it could split in half so only one side, top or bottom, would open. I took a deep breath as I realized just how big this house was. There was no way only one person lived here! I panicked. Why hadn't I thought of this sooner! I made a move to leave when Thulani appeared in front of me. There he was in all his glory.
I opened my mouth to speak but he put his hand over it.
"There's only one extra person and you have to kill her." I was nervous now.
How had he known what I was thinking? I remembered that Thulani was in my head so it only made sense that he knew what I was thinking. But how had he known about there only being one extra person inside? And how had he known it was a girl? I made to touch him but he avoided me and pointed to the back door.
As usual I obediently opened the back door and turned back to see that Thulani had disappeared again.
The globe over his head lit up the whole backyard and the changed everything from dark to light so fast I was blind. My heart jumped as I heard talking nearby. In my blind state I could already feel the prison bars closing on me. I was already coming to terms with my arrest.
I couldn't see anyone when my vision returned. My heart was beating so fast that it felt like someone was doing a drum roll on my chest with spanners. There was nothing else to it now.
I swallowed hard and stepped inside. I could hear the voices conversing now. The conversation was animated but still I decided to follow it ignoring everything around the kitchen. I followed the passage until the passage walls disappeared revealing a large TV room. There were 3 couches surrounding the large screen. I saw a red hared woman laughing at the TV in the middle couch.
I had been sweating profusely since I'd stepped into the house but all at once each droplet ran cold sending a shiver down my spine. The red head stopped laughing and TV became mute. I hadn't made a sound but somehow she'd heard me.
I walked silently but quickly towards her couch with chloroform in my hand. She was just about to turn but my hand caught her mouth and covered it with the chloroform cloth. I clung onto her as she struggled.
Although she was a girl she managed to lift me with ease. She pulled at my hand as she turned her body left and right nearly flinging me off her each time. I felt myself loosing the battle.
She was just too strong, either that or I was really weak. She crashed herself into a wall using me as a shield. There was a mirror on the wall and I saw Thulani watching from a safe distance. Why wasn't he helping? This had been his idea now all he was doing was watching.
She took 2 steps back and crashed into the wall again. This time my head hit the wall and I fell off her. She broke free.
"Don't let her go!" Thulani shouted, I'd never heard him sound so desperate.
She ran to a drawer next to the couch and turned to me but I was already right in front of her. I moved so fast that I'd lost control and bumped into her. Our faces collided with each other hard. My nose felt light and awkward, like it was about to bleed.
We both fell over the drawer, pushed by our momentum. We landed on the ground behind it with me on top and with the spare knife resting in her stomach.
I looked in her eyes as she squirmed on the floor. I still held the knife tight, too shocked and scared to move it or let go. I watched, frozen, as she moved up reaching out for the gun she had pulled out of the drawer. She lifted the gun and put it next to my head. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, I must have punctured a lung or something. She looked at me with distraught eyes. It looked like she was to say something as I eyed the arm which held the gun. I was still too scared to move.
Looking again in her eyes I realized she wasn't looking at me. I was too scared to turn my eyes strayed to the mirror ahead. It was Thulani! She could see him. The gun wasn't aimed at me but at him.
"NO!" I screamed. I pushed the knife so deep my hand entered the wound. The gun went off and fell with her hand. Two tears rolled down the side of her face as her she stared frozen in frozen shock…
I had felt her heart beat as it slowed to a stop before I was hit with a final rush of emotion from her. My vision blurred as I looked back into the red heads eyes. I felt her emotions right up to the end. Each one more passionate than the last.
Fear, anger, determination but there was bigger emotion that had run all the other ones. I'd never felt it before. I didn't know what it was.
I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder and I looked at it before shaking it off. It was had blood on it. Surprised I turned and saw that she'd managed to hit him in the side. Thought he didn't look bad. He held into the wound loosely like has was holding a paper cut.
"You did it!" Thulani's voice came from behind me. I ignored it as I pulled my knife out of the red head's stomach. It was disgusting and surprisingly cool compared to the warmth he'd felt before. My vision was blocked by my own tears. My fingers trembled. Things were moving too fast for my head to handle. I needed reassurance and I needed it now.
"How could she see you? You're supposed to only be in my head. So how did she shoot you? You're not real!"
Thulani was wounded by the gunshot but not gravely, thanks to me.
I no longer needed a mirror to see him. He stood clear as day in front of me. Thulani grinned and was about to answer but stopped. His grin disappeared and he left the room leaving me with the dead body of the person I'd just killed. The TV was still on mute and the only sound I could hear was that of Thulani's foot steps as they climbed up the stairs and a clock ticking from a wall.
Eventually I couldn't hear the footsteps any more and the only sound that was left was that of the clock.
Each tick of the second hand sounded louder than the last until the sound seemed to cover the room hurting my ears with every second whici passed. I heard a scream but it was cut off.
After a few seconds I heard footsteps and something else I couldn't make out.
It sounded like something was being dragged down the stairs. I saw Thulani holding the girl, she looked younger than she was, she was my age, my height and about the same size as me. He held her limp form with one hand.
Her eyes were closed and I wasn't sure if she was alive or dead. Thulani threw her next to me and I scrambled to check her pulse. My hand was shaking and my tears still burned into me.
Fortunately I managed to find something. She was still alive. There was a current of fear running inside her, as she lay unconscious next to me. There were also the same levels of hate and anger that I'd detected before. I could feel them in myself too.
Thulani looked at my confused expression and his grin returned. How could he have done this? He wasn't real. How could he pick her up and be visible to everyone? HE WASN"T REAL! He was supposed to only be a part of my subconscious.
"Well I guess that's all of you for this city."
"Who are you?" It felt like a stupid question but it seemed to be the best way to understand.
"Me? I'm the reason you go to church, I'm the reason you put up a dream catcher, I'm the reason the small kids are good, I'm the reason you put bricks under you're bed, I'm the reason you put on a night light. I'm the fear inside of everyone. But so you're simple mind can handle it let's just say that I'm that bad guy!" Thulani laughed out. He bent down on one knee and held the dead woman's head lifting it up and rubbing his head against hers. Her open eye's stared at me as her head moved with Thulani's, "Now she's a special kind of person. She makes sure the world stays stable. How you ask? By keeping the good guy alive. I guess to a nerd like you that makes her the… Guardian right? Or whatever your stupid games would call her."
Pointed his eyes at the still unconscious girl next to me my own followed relieved to be able to look away from the Guardian. "You're kind are the good guys you're like sponges that take up the anger an area. That's why some cities are brighter than others but when I've killed you both this will be the worst place in the world"
I had bearly absorbed a word he'd said. I'd just taken the keywords him bad, red head good, other girl good. I didn't include myself since I'd killed the good guy.
"Why didn't you kill her yourself" I said referring to the red head. I was stalling but I had no idea for what. The pair of us were in allot of trouble. Thulani had clearly thought this through.
Thulani was still holding the Guardians head up. He pulled it up higher then dropped it with a thud.
"I can't touch her or any of you when she's around but when she's gone…"
Thulani walked up to me and lifted me up by my hair. I screamed and screamed as he put me up against the wall.
"Don't do this! You're supposed to be my friend!" I cried but he just laughed.
"I was never your friend. You were supposed to have a friend but luck was on my side! Now I'm going to kill you then her but after living celibate in you're house I think I'll have fun 1st." He grinned at me and pulled harder. I was on my toes now.
I remembered long before Thulani came I was supposed to have a roommate. But he'd died in a car accident before I moved in. I guess a part of me was too desperate to have a friend, too desperate to have someone to care for me to see things clearly.
However, on the ground was someone who needed to be cared for way more than I ever deserved to. I suddenly felt what the red haired woman had felt. The emotion that had run through her like a raging river ran through me to.
Still an able to name it he knew it was fueled by the need to protect this one person. I felt stronger than I'd ever felt before. I grabbed Thulani's wrists. He howled in pain as I pulled his hands away from me.
"How? H-" He was cut off as my bread knife cut into his spun before twisting. He fell and behind her stood the girl. She looked sad and I could feel it inside me. I was filled with the urge to care for her. I hoped she hadn't caught on if she really was an empath like.
"I'll be your friend." She said as she hugged me tight.
My heart was filled with joy and sadness, relief and anxiety. I'd didn't know what to do but hugged her back as hard as I could praying to God that his emptiness would fade.
I stood in front of the mirror and saw the same scrawny kid from before and behind him was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was holding a baby and shouting at another down the stairs. I grinned as I read my newspaper-taking note of the headline.
"City rated as friendliest city in the world"
Meanwhile down the stair a 4 year old little boy was drawing a picture on the wall it was him, mommy, daddy (me), the baby and next to him was a tall black figure its smile wider than the head itself.