In This Farewell

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  No Houses
Missing many doses of an antipsychotic can have dangerous consequences, a truth Wren knows all too well. She has felt herself slipping for awhile now, and an unswallowed pill might just hammer the last nail.

Submitted: September 29, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 24, 2016



In this farewell, there’s no blood, there’s no alibi.
-What I’ve Done, Linkin Park


In This Farewell

I: Wren
There are several ways to write out a heartbeat. “Lub-dub” is what’s usually used in medical records, but the less official have the options of “dup-dup”, “ba-bum”, or “thump-thump”. There’s also “plop-plop” and “pop-pop”, but, frankly, I found  these to be stupid.
Regardless of the way one chooses to represent the sound, it occurs 100,000 times per day, stopping only when its source dies. It’s rhythmic. It’s constant. It’s annoying.
It was this sound I heard now as my head lay against the passenger-side window of my boyfriend’s Toyota-something. I was watching the snowstorm outside. I could see, maybe, 500 feet out before the world faded to white. My ear canal, when pressed against the window, acted as a resonator, amplifying the beat. Lub-dub, Lub-dub…
“What’s going on in that head of yours?” I heard from the driver’s seat.
“Just wishing my heart would stop beating.”
It was a bemused “hm”, not a concerned one. This was one of the reasons I liked Cyrus; he knew that when I said something weird, I’d usually explain myself with a little prompting. I just needed a moment to find the right words.
“Makes it hard to nap,” I said. “It’s like how some people can’t stand a clock ticking. It just annoys me.”
“I’d rather have you annoyed than dead,” said Cyrus.
I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, and the coolness of his tone wasn’t giving me any clues. I looked at him for the first time during our conversation. He was smiling, and his glance was turned slightly towards me. Joking.
“Depends on how annoyed,” I said. “Isn’t that the basis of water torture?”
Cyrus began to reply, but he didn’t finish his sentence, or even his word. I was thrown forward. My processing was slow, and somehow I heard him say “Shit!” without seeing his lips form the word. Maybe I hadn’t been looking at him.
When I became aware of everything again, I noticed we had stopped,alarmingly close to the rear bumper of the car in front of us. Cyrus’s arm had somehow ended up in front of my chest. Despite the meniality of the thing, I thought how this was generally a woman’s habit. I wondered if he had latently learnt it from his mother. Cy took his arm back, exhaled, then inhaled again.
“Crap. You okay?”
“Yeah,” I said. Then, noticing he looked flushed, I added: “Are you?”
Cy made two staccato sounds akin to a nervous laugh.
“I’ll feel better when we’re out of this,” he said, gesturing outside with his chin and fingers.
He turned towards me and smiled slightly. Lub-dub.
“Sorry,” he said.
“It’s not your fault they stopped,” I replied.
“No, for cussing,” he clarified. “I know you don’t like that. Though, I could have gone without jostling you, too.”
I felt myself blush. It was an illogical reaction that happened a bit more often than I cared to admit. I turned back to the window.
“That’s alright…”
The wind shaped the snow in strange ways. It seemed that if I looked hard enough, I would see some malevolent white figure. I could feel her staring at me. She was there, at the place where the world faded, just out of sight. The wind was her voice, but her whispers were wordless.
I shook my head. I was overtired. I leaned against the window, averting my gaze downwards. The cold glass chilled through my hair, making it feel as though it were wet. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. Once I was still enough, my heartbeat became audible again, picking up where it left off.
Lub-dub, Lub-dub…

II: Cyrus
Screw the university. The roads were too bad to go any farther. I pulled in as far as I could along my parents’ driveway. ...My driveway? College made things like this weird. I had lived in the house before me for eighteen years of my life. Calling it “my house” wouldn’t be unacceptable. But, nowadays, I lived in a dorm room, and I was considered independent of my parents. So, calling it “my parents’ house” wouldn’t be unacceptable, either.
The tires locked in the snow, jolting me back to reality. I quit pondering possessives and shut off the car. Proper parking wasn’t on the top of my priority list, and it wasn’t like it would help now. I turned to Wren.
She had fallen asleep. I felt a tinge of embarrassment; I had never actually seen Wren sleeping. Usually, she had some line or crease in her forehead; she was the type of person who was constantly thinking. It was strange seeing her completely relaxed. It had an almost child-like effect. She looked cute.
I would never dare say this out loud to Wren, of course. Among her least favorite adjectives were “child-like” and “cute”.
“‘Cute’ is a word for babies, puppies, and skanky outfits,” she had once told me. “I don’t want to be seen as… as an object for people to oogle over. I want to be seen as beautiful, or classy, or elegant, or…”
“Sexy?” I had finished. “Hot?”
“Yes,” she had whispered whilst turning red; honest despite herself.
I laughed, then brushed my fingers against her chin, turning her face towards me. I stared at her for a moment. Her cheeks were still pink, and her glasses had slipped down slightly so that I could see the top halves of her eyes without looking through the glass. I had wanted to brush her hair back like they did in the movies, but Wren’s hair had been pulled back in a bun. I settled for stroking her cheek with my fingertips as I kissed her on the forehead. I was trying to be smooth, but inside my nerves were killing me.
“You are beautiful,” I whispered, hoping my voice didn’t shake.
Back in the present day, I brushed the renegade hair out of Wren’s face as I had wanted to long ago. I placed my hand on her shoulder and rubbed slightly, not wanting to startle her.
“Wren, wake up,” I said.
She didn’t, however. God, this was awkward. I had stared at her like a perv for long enough, I didn’t want to wake her too harshly and add jerk to the list.
“Wren?” I tried again.
She opened her eyes, and I watched as she focused, placing where she was. When she came fully to, she sat up and straightened her glasses. I pulled my hand back, but I didn’t really want to.
“You haven’t kidnapped me, have you?” she asked.
“Not yet,” I said, “but don’t tempt me.”
She cocked an eyebrow, but she was smiling--using only half her mouth, as was her way.
“It’s my parent’s house,” I explained. “I’ve almost killed you once today; I thought it’d better to get off the roads than risk doing it again.”
“I appreciate it,” she said, only half sarcastically.
I took the keys from the ignition and grabbed my coat from the back seat. Wren had no coat.
“We’ll be outside for two minutes, tops,” had been her reasoning. “We’re just walking from the dorm to the car, from the car to the house, and back again.”
It had seemed to be sound enough logic, so I hadn’t refuted her. Looking at the nearly solid mass of white outside, I wished I had.
“Let’s go,” I said, knowing Wren was too proud to take mine.
The instant I opened the door, the cold smacked me mercilessly. I gasped and tensed up. The snow was more like ice shards than flakes, and they stung my face as they hit. I could barely see anything through the swirling white. In that moment, I didn’t think snowflakes circled in a dance, they circled like vultures.
The snow on the ground was about three quarters up to my knee. Wren appeared beside me, disappearing into the ground just below her knee joint. Walking in snow that deep was difficult, like trying to run in water. Wren fell forward, and I stumbled down trying to catch her. The snow melted upon contact with my skin, and my hands burned with the sudden change in temperature.
I righted myself and put an arm around Wren. I knew it was useless--it wasn’t like I was going to shelter her from anything--but I felt better knowing she was there.
I fumbled with the once-familiar lock for a moment before opening the door. Wren was shivering violently. Her clothes were covered in snow, and her hair held hundreds of tiny droplets where flakes had fallen and melted. I figured I didn’t look much better.
“Hold on,” I said. “I’ll get you something dry to put on.”
Wren nodded her assent; her teeth were chattering too fiercely for her to give a verbal reply. I went down the hall to my room (or, what was my room), and took off my clothes. I replaced them with some flannel pajama bottoms and a loose T-shirt.
I wondered whether Wren would fit better in my mom’s or my sister’s clothing. She--Wren--was quite small, so my sister’s would probably be best, but would Wren ask whose they were? She wasn’t the type to be superstitious, but I doubted anyone would be completely comfortable in a dead girl’s clothes, even if they were as strictly logical as Wren.
The memory came uninvited. I saw my sister laying on the bathroom floor. Her skin was waxen and dove grey. Her lips had turned white, and her tongue protruded slightly between them. Her eyes were sunken and slightly open, with the pupils dilated. They were not my sister’s eyes. I screamed, and I couldn’t stop it. I would be locked in that spot forever, always screaming!
I pushed the thoughts back into their cage in the recesses of my mind. I wouldn’t let them hurt me again. It was past. It was her choice. It wasn’t my fault.

III: Wren
Cyrus came back with a sweatshirt and the type of pajama bottoms that were adjusted by a tie in the waist. They were rather too large on me, so I had to pull the tie tightly, creating awkward creases. I wasn’t too perturbed by it; pajamas didn’t need to be stylish, and the sweatshirt covered my waist, anyway.
I came back from the bathroom to find Cyrus sitting on the couch. He was hunched forward, with his elbows resting on his knees. One hand hung limply while the other clutched at his hair. He hadn’t noticed my presence.
“You look pale,” I said, startling him a little. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said with a forced smile.
“Don’t lie to me.”
The smile faded as Cy’s expression changed. He had the slightly alarmed look of one caught in an act. He shifted his weight, and his facial features changed once more as he dropped his façade.
“It was here that Rhea…”
I knew the story. Rhea was Cy’s sister. The poor thing ended up offing herself in the basement bathroom. A paranoid schizophrenic. It had been Cyrus who had found her.
“--killed herself?” I supplied the ending to his sentence.
Cy looked up at me, and I realised the harshness of my words.
“I’m sorry,” I amended. “That wasn’t very… very prudent.”
Cy smiled. It was a sad smile, but it was infinitely better than the forced one.
“No,” he said. “It’s nice to hear someone say it straight up.”
My mouth twitched at the side, which I hoped he would recognize as a smile.
“I’d tell you ‘I’m sorry’, but you’re probably sick of hearing that, too.”
Cy shrugged. I didn’t know what else to say. I had never known Rhea, nor had I lost anyone. My pity was unwanted and my condolences were meaningless. I believed in no afterlife, so I couldn’t offer that she was “at peace” or “in a better place”. Cyrus must have seen my struggle, for he snapped back to his usual self and said:
“I’m alright, Miss Wren. It was a long time ago.”
I blushed a bit, and internally chided myself for it. Anyone could say “miss” and I wouldn’t think twice of it. It was just a courtesy. I suppose it was the way Cyrus said it that made it a pet name.
“Generally, one’s last name is paired with a title,” I said.
“Now, why would I use your last name when your first name’s so pretty?”
I felt the heat in my cheeks grow more intense, and Cy grinned at me.
“You know I don’t respond well to fl-flirting,” I said.
“Maybe that’s why I did it,” said Cy, “I like seeing you blush. But, if you want to know an appropriate reaction to a compliment, ‘thank-you’ usually does it.”
“But, I can’t take any credit for how pretty my name is,” I said. “It was my parents who choose it.”
“True enough,” Cy said with a shrug. “It was a pleasure to finally meet them, by the way. I can see how deeply they care about you.”
I personally thought that they cared a little too deeply. They often treated me like a moody cat. “Sure, you can pet her, but be careful! She may claw you!” Thinking about it, I supposed it was them that were trying not to claw me.
I took a breath to articulate this, but I was stopped by a sense of panic. The lights had gone out, and I jerked as my brain produced a response to the sudden visual change. I thought I heard a whisper, but I knew Cyrus hadn’t said anything. Was it the wind?
The startle passed in a matter of milliseconds as my amygdala decided it was safe.
“It’s okay,” said Cy, “it’s just a power outage.”
Had I gasped? I had heard nothing but the whisper. I was starting to feel uneasy in the darkness. The windows only offered an eerie blue light. I felt like something was watching me, standing just where the light faded away.
“I’ll go get some flashlights,” said Cy. “Be right back.”
I didn’t say so, but I really didn’t want to be left alone with the whisper.

IV: Cyrus
“Mint chip or cookie dough?”
Wren started for the third time that night, which was somewhat unusual. She really wasn’t a jumpy person.
“Pardon?” she asked.
I dropped a couple of flashlights from between my arm and body, then held up and sat down two containers of ice cream with spoons.
 “Poor things’ll melt with the fridge gone kaput,” I said. “I say we end it quickly for them. Mercy kill and all that.”
Wren did her half-mouthed smile and pulled the cookie dough toward herself. I smiled back at her. For some reason, I had thought she would be a mint person.
I popped open the remaining container and stabbed my spoon into the artificially green, crystal-clad block. I took the spoonful in my mouth, and felt a sting as the cold found a sensitive spot in my front teeth.
“You said this was your parents’ place?” asked Wren, suddenly.
“Where are they?”
“Florida,” I said. “We go almost every year.”
“Seasonal migrators?” she asked.
Wren took a small breath, annoyed with not being immediately understood.
“I mean, are they the type of people who go somewhere warm in winter? They don’t like the cold?”, she rephrased.
“Oh. Um, I guess so.”
This was a lie. I knew damn well that it wasn’t the cold that drove them away from the house. They just couldn’t stand being in it at the same time of year that Rhea had--I forced myself to complete the silent sentence--killed herself.
“Well, sorry for whisking you away,” said Wren.
“Don’t be. I enjoyed meeting your family.”
I had dug a nicely sized hole past the ice crystals. Now I was free to eat the good part.
Wren gasped loudly, and I jerked my head up to see the trouble. She was staring, wide-eyed, into space. It was a stare I knew. And hated.
“Wren, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t have my medication.”
The whispered words turned to a heated fluid that trickled down inside my neck.
“I thought we’d be back at the dorms tonight. I didn’t bring any. I…” she trailed off.
The pale blue light reflected off the whites of her eyes. I wished she would look at me, or at least move her gaze from the chosen point unknown to me.
She winced and shifted her weight. I had used the wrong tone of voice. She thought of it as ginger, I knew. How could I explain my fear to her? I wasn’t afraid of hurting her, or of triggering her, or of her. I was afraid of being left behind.
“Nevermind. It’s fine. Forget I said anything,” she clipped.
I hated having her angry--or irritated rather; I doubted Wren was capable of true anger--with me, but at least that awful look was off her face.
I shut my container of ice cream and pointed to Wren’s.
“Are you finished?”
She nodded, refusing to look at me. I took hers and put both back in the freezer. Upon turning around, I realized that I should have just tossed them. Oh well. I didn’t care enough to turn and reopen the freezer.
Wren was staring into space again, but her expression was neutral. I sat behind her and wrapped my arms around her. She tensed and took a sharp breath.
“Bonjour, le baguette fromage,” I said.
“What on Earth?”
“I was told that girls are 75% less likely to be mad at you when you speak French to them.”
She laughed a little, despite herself.
“You’re ridiculous.”
“Would that have worked if I actually knew a proper sentence?” I asked.
“Hmm… Probably not,” she said.
“Well, it did somewhere.”
“Parallel Universe Theory.”
“Urgh,” she groaned, relaxing her posture. “Don’t give me that theoretical, dataless crap.”
She leaned into my touch, and I placed my head atop hers. I smiled a bit. “Dataless” was an insult only Wren would use. Knowing she was no longer upset, I figured it was safe to explain myself.
“I’m not worried about you; I’m worried for you,” I said. “You have to understand the difference.”
Wren stiffened a little, then did something that terrified me. She began to cry.

V: Wren
“Wren? Wren, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t-” I choked on my words as I was wracked by another sob.
This was why I hated crying; it was nothing but a hindrance to articulation and a waste of water.
“I don't want to hear them again,” I retried.
Cyrus stayed silent, not knowing how to respond.
“They scare me. They make me hate myself. They think I should die.”
“They don't think anything,” said Cy. “They're not real.”
“They're real enough! Real enough to scare me.”
I hated it, saying I was scared. I was admitting weakness.
“How long?”
“What?”, I asked.
“How long until you start hearing them? After you miss a dose, I mean.”
I kept quiet. I didn't want to admit to him that it didn't matter. Whether I had my medication or not, I was doomed.
“Crap,” he said, and I could tell he wanted to say something stronger.
I didn't know what conclusion Cy came to. I didn't care to ask. I didn't want to talk. Talking hurt, maybe even more than crying.
“What do I do, Wren? What do I say?”
I didn't know. What could he do? What could he say?
He was expecting an answer, but my lips had fused. Maybe “what” would be my last word.
“Wren, please say something.”
“Don't make a sound.”
I turned my head. Cyrus was not on my left, but that seemed to be the origin of the last sentence I heard.
“Please… Wren, please… The last time I heard Rhea go mute…”
Cy’s lips had fused as well, apparently. He was the one crying, now. I didn't remember having stopped, myself.
I turned around and touched his face. I was fading, and soon moving would hurt, too, but I had to show him I still cared. Sure, I was going numb, but I didn't want to see him cry.
“I don't know how to make them go away, Wren.”
I shook my head. I didn't know, either.

VI: Cyrus
How long had I slept? I couldn’t tell if it was midday or midnight. I sat up, and realized I wasn’t sitting up in bed, but on the floor.
Sleep loosened its hold of me and I remembered the previous night. I had begged Wren to try to sleep; things would get so much worse if she didn’t. She begged me not to “make her” (as much as she could beg in so few words). Her logic was that she’d get worse if she was left to lie in silence, so I lay on the floor--insisting she lay down on the couch--and talked, rambled, havered about nothing until she fell asleep.
That still didn’t explain why the room was pitch black. Wait, no. It wasn’t pitch. I turned around towards the only light in the room; the flashlight in Wren’s hand, pointed out the window.
There was nothing to see out the window. The outside had turned into an eerie gray. Snow wasn’t white, not when you were submerged in it.
“It’s creepy, isn’t it?” I asked.
Wren jumped and turned around in a single motion. The startle should have worn off in a matter of milliseconds, but it didn’t. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot, framed by dark circles that were a startling contrast to her flushed skin. Her hair was still in the previous day’s ponytail, but it was frizzy on top, and the band had slipped down a substantial amount.
“You never did fall asleep, did you?” I asked.
Silence. God, how I hated silence.
“How long have you been starting out that window?” I tried.
Wren swallowed, then finally spoke:
“Why are you keeping me here?”
“What have you done to me?”
Her voice was shaking. She was shaking.
“Wren, what are you talking about?”
“You’re part of it!”
Oh, no. Oh God, no.
“Wren, listen to me. It’s not real. You know me, Wren. You-”
She slapped me, hard. The shock of it paralyzed me. It was so unfamiliar, the stinging in my cheek. I’d never been slapped before.
When I opened my eyes (when had I closed them?), Wren had already started running.

VII: Wren
“You picked up a flashlight? Really?”
“How stupid.”
“She’s always been stupid.”
“He’s going to kill us!”
They were right. They were all right. They would tell me what to do. Once they finished insulting me, that was.
“Lock the door, moron.”
“Turn off the light.”
“No! Keep it on!”
I didn’t know which one was correct. I didn’t want to be alone in the dark, but what if he saw the light? He would break down the door and kill me. I didn’t want to die!
“She’s going to cry.”
“Damn weakling.”
They began to talk all at once. No voice was discernible from the others. Some were angry, some were scared, some were laughing at me. They only had one thing in common. They all hated me.
“DWoen’’rte maalkleg ao sionugntodo.d Siue!Tchh ea fyu’crkeianfg itdeiroyt!ou!”
I couldn’t make them shut up. I couldn’t decide. I didn’t want to be in the dark! I sat down on the tile floor. A woman screamed.
“Don’t sit down! He’ll catch you!”
I bolted up. My own face stared me down from the mirror. The reflection of the flashlight shrank and grew, shrank and grew. My face began to distort, swirling and twisting. I watched my mirror self scream as she melted away. They must have done this to her. They wanted the information!
The mirror rippled, forming faces that would disappear and come back.
“He’s going to kill you.”
“He’s going to torture you.”
“I hate you.”
“Kill yourself! It’s the only way he won’t get the information!
The faces were merging, now. They were all screaming, crying, bleeding. Blood began to puddle onto the floor. It smelled like metal and something sweet, and it made me want to vomit.
“Fucking hell, Wren, pull yourself together!”
I knew this man. Of course he would be in the mirror.
“You can’t let those bastards catch you!”
“I know,” I said. “They’ll kill me.”
“It doesn’t matter if they kill you, you piece of shit! Protect the damn info!”
“Don’t yell at me!” I shrieked.
“Oh, a dainty little fucker, are you? We always knew you were weak! We’ve always hated you, you whore!”
He was a horrible thing to look at. He was in constant, waving motion, every part of him twisting and rippling. It was making me sick.
The doorknob twisted, and the mirror man disappeared.
“Wren? Wren?!”
They knew who I was! I couldn’t let him in the door!
“Wren, please come out… Wren, I’m not going to hurt you!”
I began to scream. He pounded on the door.
“Don’t open it!”
“They’re after us!”
“It’s me! Wren, it’s me!”
“They know!”
“Get the tracker out of your arm!”
They were right. There was a tracker in my arm. I could feel it. I could see it. A blinking blue light, just under my skin.
I scoured through the drawers, the circle of light shaking with my hand. There was a comb with a metal piece on the end, made to create a straight part. I placed the point of the metal on the blue light.
I raised my hand.
I brought it down.
I screamed.

VIII: Cyrus
I jimmied the toothpick in the lock while holding the flashlight under my arm. Wren had stopped screaming and sobbing. Fear burned in my head and chest as I worked. Why couldn’t I get the damn door open?!
Finally, it clicked, and I was able to turn the knob.
She was lying on the floor, a puddle of blood making its way through the cracks in the tiles. She looked dead. She looked like Rhea.
I vomited in the sink. My head was pounding. It was too much. It was all too much!
I closed my eyes and sunk to the ground. Oh, God, what was I supposed to do? I heard a soft groaning noise, and duly realized that I was the one making it. The room smelled like metal.
I opened my eyes again. I turned Wren over as I swallowed back bile. Her arm was torn open, a mangled red mess. It was still bleeding, and it occurred to me that Wren may very well bleed to death.
I couldn’t call emergency services. Both our cell phones were in the car, under several feet of snow. My parents didn’t have a home phone. I began to make gasping sobs; I was unable to pull myself together.
I had to stop the bleeding. I ran out to the garage, still making ugly choking noises. There was a length of rope somewhere in here, right? I riffled through everything, taking too long, taking hours. Finally I found it.
I ran back to Wren and began tying her arm in a homemade tourniquet. There was much more rope than what I needed,  but it would do.
The blood was sticky on my hands, and the smell was overwhelming. I bent over the sink again, but there was nothing left in my stomach to vomit. There was nothing I could do but cry.

IX: Wren
I was thirsty. I wanted water.
“He’s poisoned the taps, silly. That’s how he got me.”
I turned my head to the right. The girl was still sitting there, turning the flashlight on and off. I knew her from somewhere, but I couldn’t place her. I couldn’t think right at all. My arm hurt. I was thirsty.
“I’ve already told you you can’t drink it. Stop thinking about it.”
“Why. Are. You. Here?”
Speaking was hard. I could barely force out a word at a time.
“I’m here to help you, Wren. I’ll protect you from him.”
Good. I didn’t have the energy to scream any more. That was the only way I knew to make him go away.
“He’s a pretty convincing agent, isn’t he? He’s certainly good at crying.”
I nodded slightly. If I hadn’t of known better, I would have thought that he really was trying to help me.
“He probably another tracker in your other arm.”
I shuddered and groaned. I didn’t want to cut another arm open. The girl laughed.
“Cut it out or don’t, I don’t care. He knows you’re here, anyway. He’s not letting you go.”
“Want. To. Go. Home.”
I would have cried, but I couldn’t. I was dehydrated. I wanted water.
“Don’t think things like that. It only makes it worse. Besides, they’ll follow you wherever you go. Just like they followed me.”
“Who. Are. You?”
I tried to get a better look at her. But she seemed to go out of focus whenever I looked directly at her. She laughed again, but this time it was a bitter cackle.
“Someone very much like you. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten my name?”
I knew it was in my head somewhere, but I couldn’t coax it out.
“How rude,” she pouted. “It’s Rhea.”
I knew that name. But why? Before I could think about it, I coughed. The movement shot a stinging wave through my arm, and I cried out.
“Shush!” Rhea scolded. “If you’re too loud, they’ll come back and hurt you!”
My throat burned. I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the cup he had given me and drank it dry.
Rhea screamed, and it wasn’t just her. The whole room was screaming, furious at me for what I’d done. Rhea wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a shadow with red eyes. She grabbed me and slapped me across the face.
“Oh no, she drank it!”
“What a moron!”
“She’s going to get us all killed!”
“We hate you, you bitch!”
They began overlapping each other, and it sounded like an auditorium full of people, all talking at once. I hated it. It was too loud!
I sat on the floor and clamped my hands over my ears. My arm screamed against being put to use. Slowly, everyone began to quiet down. I could discern sentences from each other again.
“She’s sitting on the floor.”
“She’s so dumb.”
“She should die.”
“He poisoned it!”
Rhea was tapping on my forehead. I groaned, but otherwise refused to act. She began tapping more insistently.
“What?” I snapped.
Somehow she was in my side vision when I looked up, much too far away to be tapping me.
“That poison’s going to kill you.”
I nodded, fighting back tears. I didn’t want to die.
“You know how you have to stop it.”
I shook my head.
“Oh, no?”
Rhea giggled.
“Want me to tell you?”
I nodded.
“Hmmm, I don’t know. Maybe you wouldn’t like it.”
Hadn’t she just said herself that I was dying?! There wasn’t time for this!
“Tell me!” I tried to shout, but it came out as an unintelligible squawk.
“Oh, okay, don’t throw a hissy fit,” she said.
Suddenly, she was a shadow again. A cold, dark hand was holding my cheek.
“You have to kill him.”

X: Cyrus
It was useless. Maybe there wasn’t even an end to the snow. Maybe it just stretched upward and outward until it reached the ocean and the clouds. I could barely feel my legs as I stood up from the puddle of slush I had dislodged. Everything was wet and cold and dark.
I wished the lights were on. I wished there was someone to help me. I wished Wren wasn’t crazy.
I saw a light move behind me, and whirled around. Wren froze in her tracks.
“Don’t touch me,” she said in a hoarse whisper.
I put my hands up and bowed my head in an “okay” gesture. I didn’t know what to say. Anything I did would set her off. She backed away while keeping her gaze locked on me. I could do nothing but watch as she disappeared into the kitchen, her gait unsteady, her eyes crazed.
I heard a clatter, then the light preceded Wren through the doorway. She had a knife.
“Wren, what are you doing with that?!”
“Shut up!”
Oh God. Oh God, no. I couldn’t watch her cut into herself. I grabbed her by the wrists and pulled her hand with the knife towards me. It gave easily, too easily, and sent a stinging spike into my shoulder. I screamed as pain and panic took over. It wasn’t herself she was trying to stab.
I didn’t care that she was my girlfriend. I didn’t care that she was brilliant, and logical, and that her name was Wren. All I knew was a threat to my life that lit up the primal part of my brain. I pushed the knife away from me.

XI: Wren
Red poured out of his throat as he made an awful choking noise. His lips turned white, then blue, then indigo. The blood was far less viscous than I would have thought. It flowed like water would, dripping quickly and easily. He was dead.
I backed away and sat down, feeling sick and dizzy. My arm stilled burned where he had pressed against the cut. I had killed a man.
The police were going to find me. They’d know I killed him. I’d either get the death penalty or life in prison with a plea of insanity. I didn’t want to be labeled as insane for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to testify in court, to say that he was going to kill me so I killed him first and his lips turned purple and there was so much blood.
It was still everywhere, the red rippling and contorting. I hated it! Why was there so much blood?! God, I had done that!
“Get ahold of yourself.”
“She’s fucking crazy.”
“They know.”
“Just die.”
I was still holding the knife. I knew a vertical cut on the wrist would do it, but I didn’t want to bleed. There was too much blood, and I didn’t want to add more. It was on my arm and my hands and the walls and the floor and my clothes and on him, still pouring out his throat!
I untied the rope from my arm and tied one end to the railing by the basement stairs.
“Loop once.”
“Loop twice.”
“Round and round.”
I placed the noose around my neck and pulled. It put pressure on my windpipe, and I had to open my mouth to breathe properly. Even then, I started to feel my pulse in my head and neck.
Lub-dub. Lub-dub.
This would hurt, but not for long. After all, people pass out quickly when hanging. I once read that it only takes 7-10 seconds. Dying takes a couple minutes--the brain has to be starved of oxygen--but the feeling lasts only seconds.
It would only take ten seconds. Knowing that was enough to give me the courage to jump.
One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten… eleven… 

© Copyright 2019 Morgana Minuit. All rights reserved.

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