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Short Stories

Short Stories2019-09-18T17:11:00-04:00

New Beginnings

 New Beginnings

by Edward Liu

It was a troubling time. Seventeen years into life; too many left until the end of my days.

“Too many indeed.”

What was that voice?

“It’s me! You’ve known me for awhile now.”

What were those thoughts I didn’t want circulating through my head?

“I have feelings too, you know?”

What were those disheartening memories?

“She only broke up with you a few months ago! You couldn’t have already forgotten.”

I hadn’t forgotten, but I had tried to.

“I miss her.”

I missed her too, but I could not afford to miss her. I could not afford to think about her any longer.

“That’s impossible. We will practically see her everyday. With him.”

It didn’t matter. I had to work my way around it. I willed myself to,

“Yeah, okay. Good luck with that.”

I had to somehow make it through my final year of high school with two unwanted parties tagging along with me, holding me back. It was a difficult task, and I attempted to accomplish it through willpower alone for a small while.

“You tried your best for two months. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Two months was approximately how long into the school year I had held out before I began to lose control. All it took was one unlucky morning after a night of poor sleep. The first thought to circulate through my mind when I woke proved to have dire consequences.

“I’m so lonely.”

It had been several months, almost half a year even! It wasn’t like I had gone my entire life with a partner; I used to be on my own! Why couldn’t I handle being on my own then?

“It’s because I’m here. And she’s not.”

Indeed. It was all his fault. It was all my fault. Every morning became a dreadful reminder of my lonely situation. What did I have to look forward to?

“Nothing, nothing at all. It’s just you and me, partner.”

I had to shut him up, but how? I tried entering different worlds and living as another person unlike myself in several role-playing games, but it proved to be too time-consuming. I had my priorities out of order. In organizing and allocating time, there were three general categories to consider: work, sleep, and leisure. It was never a good idea to prioritize leisure over work and then work over sleep. The hour at which I went to bed progressively became later into the darkest hours of the night. The average number of hours I spent asleep each night was dropping again. I had experience with it before. Poor sleep equated to disorder within mental processes, nonexistent attention spans, uncontrollable thoughts, and many vivid reminders of the oh too recent devastation.

“She’s gone.”

Miraculously, my performance in school continued down its relatively stable course in comparison to the chaos ensuing within my mind. Alas, it too would soon be threatened by the drop.

“We can’t keep going like this.”

“Just a bit longer,” I told him. “We’ll tough it out until the two-week winter break.”

“Your willpower is wavering which is why we can’t keep up with the others in that class anymore. We are different from them.”

I knew he was right. There was a certain level of maintained pressure which came with being in that class, and I was growing weak.

“We can’t stay in there. We have to get out. Math is no longer our strength; it is our weakness. We’ll also get away from her.”

“We’ll push onward,” I thought. “Just a few more weeks.”

Those “few” weeks proved to stretch longer than I had expected them to, but finally, I crashed into the winter break.

“Well, we made it. What will you do now?”

My main priority was to get back on track by sleeping properly again. It proved to be easier said than done. I had two weeks, but I continued to sleep at late hours. I had had enough of dealing with the depressing trains of thought, the memories, the renewed loneliness. Near my wit’s end was when I stumbled across a possible solution.

“Why do I feel so…numb?”

Emotionally numb is what I started to feel when I woke in the morning, at least for the first few seconds. It took longer for the memories, for the loneliness, to set in, and it was all his doing.

Who was he? He was Wilbur and his title was “the Dealer.” Faceless is what Wilbur was, concealed under his hood. He always wore a dark gray hooded sweater, black pants, and dark coloured running shoes.

He was a mysterious figure and was thought to only exist in a separate plane. I met him on a still and quiet night at around one in the morning. School had started back up by then and I had piles of schoolwork to complete, but late at night is when the depressing thoughts were at their strongest. As I was wrestling with them in my head, moments before retreating to bed, he shined a light through my laptop’s screen and appeared; while it was powered off. True to his name, he dealt with drugs and he left one of his newest concoctions in my drawer; a gray pill which, unbeknownst to me, activated a mental process which he deemed, New Beginnings.

“Once taken, the pill’s effect will activate every time you deprive yourself of sleep, building strength with each successive night. When you wake up, the events of the day prior might become blurry.”

It sounded harmless enough with a beneficial effect which is why I ingested the pill before he could finish. In the beginning, the effects were barely noticeable. Then the early morning emotional numbness started.

“If you sleep poorly for two or more nights in a row, well, your memory may slowly become unstable, rendering it incapable of creating and retaining memories.”

This became increasingly evident as the school days continued. It became increasingly difficult to retain information. After a month, I couldn’t remember a word of what I was being taught, but there were more memory issues yet to occur.

“Worst case scenario, your past will become nonexistent in your mind…”

Throughout the months after the breakup, I had tried my best to forge onward and not look back. I could feel my past closing in on me the entire time. The larger the gap between it and myself, the less I remembered which meant the less I’d think about it. On the other hand, whenever it got close enough to be nipping at my heels, I remembered vividly. Then one day, I couldn’t feel its presence; the memories which haunted me, tormented me for months. I started to occasionally look back, and the gap between myself and the past grew increasingly larger until I could only see a small number of scattered memories, and few of them recent.

“…and each minute you live in the present will be erased as they go by.”

New Beginnings proved to be a memory manipulation process. It became difficult to recall anything at all as the records of my past either vanished or became deeply repressed into the darkest reaches of my mind. It felt as though my brain was automatically deleting or archiving everything it processed. The mental torment lightened until it ceased completely. I regularly woke in the mornings feeling numb and remembering nothing; I became a boy without a past.

My mornings from then on truly became new beginnings.

My Hands

My Hands

by Emerald Naylor

He could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the wall. There must have been hundreds- no thousands- of people waiting for him. He rolled his shoulders back and tried not to think of the crowd.

Priscilla was still standing in the doorway behind him. She glared at his back.

“I can’t believe you- doing this again.” Her voice was steady, but he could tell she was trying hard not to shout.

He turned around to face her.

“I’ve told you, I have to do this. This is who I am; I’m their hero.” He started to turn back towards the arena when something in the shadows caught his eye.

“For gods sake! Stop being the damn hero!” She was yelling now. She sounded exasperated.

He took a step towards the shadows.

“You don’t have to be their hero. Come home with me; be mine. Be my hero,” She whimpered.

“Priscilla, shush.” He narrowed his eyes. There was something there, right in front of him.

“Lionel,”

He stepped closer. He could make out the outline of the figure through the darkness. There was something in its hands.

The shadowy figure lurched forward. He couldn’t move out of the way fast enough.

There was a sharp searing pain in his chest. He wasn’t sure what had happened but he started feeling hot.

And wet.

There was something dripping- no, pouring- down the front of his chest.

He saw drops of blood trailing towards the mysterious figure. Lionel’s hands went flying up to his chest. They were covered in blood- red, hot, sticky blood. He reached for the dagger and tried to stop the blood from spilling out of the wound.

“Lionel!” Priscilla’s voice echoed from behind him as he collapsed to his knees.

The dark figure was running away. The murmur of voices became quieter. Priscilla’s sobs bounced off the stone walls.

She was gripping his face; shouting, hoping, for him to respond.

“But… I’m the hero,” he whispered before his eyes rolled back and he entered a world full of darkness and silence.

*****

That was the first time I killed a man.

I sat back on my knees and looked at my hands. They were long and slender. They didn’t look like they could accomplish much, but they had started to prove me wrong.

My hand clenched in a fist- the dull blue veins struggled to pop out against my skin. My hands were calloused from the days I had held my weapon in anticipation for Lionel’s death.

Those days, if I closed my eyes, I could picture holding the hilt of the dagger between my hands. I knew I had to thrust it into Lionel’s heart, but I wasn’t ready to, and wouldn’t be for a long time.

I rubbed my hands together. They were rough, and felt grimy. I had no idea they were capable of such a horrific thing. I didn’t want to kill Lionel, but there had been no other way.

I couldn’t let his life go on. I couldn’t let him continue to love Priscilla if he was just going to repeatedly hurt her. He was going to keep running away; keep trying to be the hero. But every hero dies eventually.

My hands felt different.

For years, I had hid my hands under long sleeves. I would wear out the stitches as I constantly tugged at the sleeves, wishing they were just a little bit longer. My hands had never been anything to be proud of. They were dry and chapped; the nails were bitten down and broken; the muscles were clenched and stiff; and they always felt like ice.

But now- now my hands were different. They felt stronger- bigger even. I didn’t want to buy expensive gloves to hide them, or big rings to distract from the rough skin and broken nails. I wasn’t ashamed of my hands anymore, because I knew what they could do. These hands, these hands were my hands, and they were capable of anything. I was capable of anything.

I had a sense of pride, and an overwhelming feeling of being in control. I had control over my life- I had the power to do whatever I wanted. I had the power to change other lives too, so I made Priscilla’s life better. Even though it meant destroying Lionel.

Lionel was important to me. Lionel was my oldest…my oldest friend. I had never given that much attention to anyone. I knew him. I knew his hopes and dreams. I knew why he wanted to be the hero. And I took that away from him.

The day of Lionel’s death was difficult for me and all those around me. I drifted around my house, not really cluing in to what anyone said. I knew I wasn’t focusing. People would talk to me and I would just stare ahead, never being able to concentrate.

There was a distance that day. I was disconnected from everything. Even my body. I felt lost; like I was staggering through a forest in my dreams. Everything was hazy. I didn’t know why I was there. I felt isolated.

I thought about how easy it would be to just fix Lionel’s death.

I didn’t tell anybody right away. No one had known how much it tore me apart inside. Lionel. He wasn’t supposed to die- not yet. But the idea had entered my mind months prior, and it was impossible to push away. I saw the benefit from his death for everyone. Well, everyone except me.

My hands felt incredibly dirty at first. I kept wandering into my bathroom, hoping that time I would feel better. I remember leaning over the bathroom sink and turning on the tap. There was no blood, but I continued to

scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

The water burned against my hands.

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

They were bright red. They shouldn’t be red- there was no blood! I stopped scrubbing and started clawing. Clawing and scratching at my hands, desperate to get out of my skin.

They burned like hell.

These stupid, stupid, hands were causing me so much pain. Maybe if the water was hotter….

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

There was blood now. I reached for the soap. My hands were numb, and I missed. I barely heard the shattering of the soap dispenser over my wailing.

“Winnie,” a voice called from the other side of the bathroom door, interrupting my endless scrubbing, “Are you alright?”

I answered. Not sure what I said, but I did answer. I had to, because I couldn’t let anyone know what had happened. Not yet. I had made a promise to keep it a secret. I didn’t say anything, not until everyone was allowed to know. Not until I had finally made headlines.

I stepped out and looked my husband in the eyes. I tried to smile.

He knew.

I knew he knew. He could see right through that smile.

He took my filthy hands in his and stared at them. He was silent; I tried to hold my breath.

“What-” he started, but I just shook my head.

“Don’t ask. You don’t- I can’t tell you, yet. Please,” I whispered.

My husband looked me in the eyes. Whatever he saw there scared him because he slowly backed away.

“Winnie,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ll listen. When you’re ready, I’ll listen.”

A few hours later he was pleading for me to come out of the bathroom again. He gave me a tea, wrapped my hands in gauze, and carried me to bed. My cries filled the house that night.

Eventually my husband would begin to recognize the signs. He would notice my constant anxiety the days before, or my bloodshot eyes from the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. And those red hands; he would always understand what the red hands meant.

He would try to stop me before I spent hours in the bathroom. He would try to stop the constant scrub,

scrub,

scrubbing.

He would recognize the signs. He would coax me out of the bathroom- call me back to reality. He would kiss my hands and gently rub lotion into them. But then, he would back away from me- just like he did the first time with Lionel. He would back away and give me my space. Eventually I would talk to him, usually a few nights later. I would confess who I had killed, and then tell him all the dirty details; how I did it, who watched, and my pen of choice.

He would listen to all of my confessions. He sat there, wide-eyed. Slightly frightened, but understanding.

“Priscilla was there. He was just about to go out for his big fight. Lionel had promised Priscilla that they would be together- she wanted to run away, but he- he lied to her. He was never going to stop fighting just for her. He loved the glory too much. I had to do it- I couldn’t keep hurting her.

“It was the weekend you were away. I locked myself in our room and planned out the entire thing for hours. Lionel couldn’t know who his murderer was- it had to be a secret.

“Oh god! I’m a terrible person! It was so hard; so hard to press the pen to the paper. That pen had granted him so much, and then it just took it all away with one stab to his heart.”

“You’re sick. Absolutely disgusting!” The voice in my head would shriek.

“You had to do it,” my husband would say.

“It was thrilling,” I would admit several days later.

That thrill never really left. It latched onto me and I haven’t been able to shake it since Lionel’s death all those years ago. There was a sort of excitement that came with obsessing over the perfect way to kill someone.

It was exhilarating.

It made me feel in control.

I remember the first time I experienced the adrenaline that came when I decided I was definitely going through with Lionel’s murder. That’s when I realized that my life had changed forever. I had disrupted the lives and stability of hundreds of people. It was exciting… and terrifying.

I would spend the weeks afterwards trying to sort out the different emotions in my head. The logical part of me would say it had to be done; that there was no way around it. The emotional part wished it didn’t have to be this way, and that I could have let him be the hero that lives. He didn’t have to go so soon. But the sick, twisted part of my brain chanted, “let’s do it again.”

And I did. To keep my career going and my image consistent, I continued to kill. At least, that’s what I told myself. If I’m honest, I killed because I liked it.

I killed Julie just for fun. Everyone had loved her, and I thought it’d be fun to shake things up again; to cause even more anger.

Adam was destined to die right from the start. From his very first word, I knew he would be dead by chapter twenty-eight.

Sometimes I would kill the heroes, like Lionel, so that others could have a chance.

Some people never accepted my kills. Others loved me for it.

Time and time again, I thought back on the first time I killed a man. Lionel. His death was tragic. I thought I had lost my mind. I didn’t think I could go through with it. I sent my editor an apology letter and a fruit basket.

Lionel was so important to me, for many reasons. He was the first person I felt truly connected to. He was the first one to demand that his story be told; he wanted everyone to know how powerful he was. He was great at everything, except loving, and for that he had to die.

I revisit his death every time I kill someone else. It’s a sort of mourning process. Misery loves company, and what’s more tragic than killing your best friend?

I remember what it was like to have the blade stab him in the heart. There was no resistance- his heart was empty. There was blood everywhere; it pooled at his feet and spilled over the pages. Priscilla screamed a few feet away. I wanted to calm her down, but I had to get the blood off my hands. They were stained. I had to scrub,

scrub,

and scrub until I stopped feeling deceitful.

I ran the water to drown out Lionel’s cries.

Or was it Priscilla’s?

“It’s for your own good,” I told Priscilla after I had calmed down, “Please, your life will be better now.” Then I slammed my notebook closed to shut her up too.

I sank back on my knees. I wrote that. I described his murder. I tore her heart out.

Her life did get better. I made sure of it. I introduced her to someone who would be her hero. I made everything final, and then I waited.

Sure enough, the day after its release, a newspaper was delivered to my door. The headline read:

“Winnie Williams Isn’t Afraid to Kill! Spoilers Ahead!”

Fin.

My Hands

My Hands

by Emerald Naylor

He could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the wall. There must have been hundreds- no thousands- of people waiting for him. He rolled his shoulders back and tried not to think of the crowd.

Priscilla was still standing in the doorway behind him. She glared at his back.

“I can’t believe you- doing this again.” Her voice was steady, but he could tell she was trying hard not to shout.

He turned around to face her.

“I’ve told you, I have to do this. This is who I am; I’m their hero.” He started to turn back towards the arena when something in the shadows caught his eye.

“For gods sake! Stop being the damn hero!” She was yelling now. She sounded exasperated.

He took a step towards the shadows.

“You don’t have to be their hero. Come home with me; be mine. Be my hero,” She whimpered.

“Priscilla, shush.” He narrowed his eyes. There was something there, right in front of him.

“Lionel,”

He stepped closer. He could make out the outline of the figure through the darkness. There was something in its hands.

The shadowy figure lurched forward. He couldn’t move out of the way fast enough.

There was a sharp searing pain in his chest. He wasn’t sure what had happened but he started feeling hot.

And wet.

There was something dripping- no, pouring- down the front of his chest.

He saw drops of blood trailing towards the mysterious figure. Lionel’s hands went flying up to his chest. They were covered in blood- red, hot, sticky blood. He reached for the dagger and tried to stop the blood from spilling out of the wound.

“Lionel!” Priscilla’s voice echoed from behind him as he collapsed to his knees.

The dark figure was running away. The murmur of voices became quieter. Priscilla’s sobs bounced off the stone walls.

She was gripping his face; shouting, hoping, for him to respond.

“But… I’m the hero,” he whispered before his eyes rolled back and he entered a world full of darkness and silence.

*****

That was the first time I killed a man.

I sat back on my knees and looked at my hands. They were long and slender. They didn’t look like they could accomplish much, but they had started to prove me wrong.

My hand clenched in a fist- the dull blue veins struggled to pop out against my skin. My hands were calloused from the days I had held my weapon in anticipation for Lionel’s death.

Those days, if I closed my eyes, I could picture holding the hilt of the dagger between my hands. I knew I had to thrust it into Lionel’s heart, but I wasn’t ready to, and wouldn’t be for a long time.

I rubbed my hands together. They were rough, and felt grimy. I had no idea they were capable of such a horrific thing. I didn’t want to kill Lionel, but there had been no other way.

I couldn’t let his life go on. I couldn’t let him continue to love Priscilla if he was just going to repeatedly hurt her. He was going to keep running away; keep trying to be the hero. But every hero dies eventually.

My hands felt different.

For years, I had hid my hands under long sleeves. I would wear out the stitches as I constantly tugged at the sleeves, wishing they were just a little bit longer. My hands had never been anything to be proud of. They were dry and chapped; the nails were bitten down and broken; the muscles were clenched and stiff; and they always felt like ice.

But now- now my hands were different. They felt stronger- bigger even. I didn’t want to buy expensive gloves to hide them, or big rings to distract from the rough skin and broken nails. I wasn’t ashamed of my hands anymore, because I knew what they could do. These hands, these hands were my hands, and they were capable of anything. I was capable of anything.

I had a sense of pride, and an overwhelming feeling of being in control. I had control over my life- I had the power to do whatever I wanted. I had the power to change other lives too, so I made Priscilla’s life better. Even though it meant destroying Lionel.

Lionel was important to me. Lionel was my oldest…my oldest friend. I had never given that much attention to anyone. I knew him. I knew his hopes and dreams. I knew why he wanted to be the hero. And I took that away from him.

The day of Lionel’s death was difficult for me and all those around me. I drifted around my house, not really cluing in to what anyone said. I knew I wasn’t focusing. People would talk to me and I would just stare ahead, never being able to concentrate.

There was a distance that day. I was disconnected from everything. Even my body. I felt lost; like I was staggering through a forest in my dreams. Everything was hazy. I didn’t know why I was there. I felt isolated.

I thought about how easy it would be to just fix Lionel’s death.

I didn’t tell anybody right away. No one had known how much it tore me apart inside. Lionel. He wasn’t supposed to die- not yet. But the idea had entered my mind months prior, and it was impossible to push away. I saw the benefit from his death for everyone. Well, everyone except me.

My hands felt incredibly dirty at first. I kept wandering into my bathroom, hoping that time I would feel better. I remember leaning over the bathroom sink and turning on the tap. There was no blood, but I continued to

scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

The water burned against my hands.

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

They were bright red. They shouldn’t be red- there was no blood! I stopped scrubbing and started clawing. Clawing and scratching at my hands, desperate to get out of my skin.

They burned like hell.

These stupid, stupid, hands were causing me so much pain. Maybe if the water was hotter….

Scrub,

scrub,

scrub.

There was blood now. I reached for the soap. My hands were numb, and I missed. I barely heard the shattering of the soap dispenser over my wailing.

“Winnie,” a voice called from the other side of the bathroom door, interrupting my endless scrubbing, “Are you alright?”

I answered. Not sure what I said, but I did answer. I had to, because I couldn’t let anyone know what had happened. Not yet. I had made a promise to keep it a secret. I didn’t say anything, not until everyone was allowed to know. Not until I had finally made headlines.

I stepped out and looked my husband in the eyes. I tried to smile.

He knew.

I knew he knew. He could see right through that smile.

He took my filthy hands in his and stared at them. He was silent; I tried to hold my breath.

“What-” he started, but I just shook my head.

“Don’t ask. You don’t- I can’t tell you, yet. Please,” I whispered.

My husband looked me in the eyes. Whatever he saw there scared him because he slowly backed away.

“Winnie,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ll listen. When you’re ready, I’ll listen.”

A few hours later he was pleading for me to come out of the bathroom again. He gave me a tea, wrapped my hands in gauze, and carried me to bed. My cries filled the house that night.

Eventually my husband would begin to recognize the signs. He would notice my constant anxiety the days before, or my bloodshot eyes from the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. And those red hands; he would always understand what the red hands meant.

He would try to stop me before I spent hours in the bathroom. He would try to stop the constant scrub,

scrub,

scrubbing.

He would recognize the signs. He would coax me out of the bathroom- call me back to reality. He would kiss my hands and gently rub lotion into them. But then, he would back away from me- just like he did the first time with Lionel. He would back away and give me my space. Eventually I would talk to him, usually a few nights later. I would confess who I had killed, and then tell him all the dirty details; how I did it, who watched, and my pen of choice.

He would listen to all of my confessions. He sat there, wide-eyed. Slightly frightened, but understanding.

“Priscilla was there. He was just about to go out for his big fight. Lionel had promised Priscilla that they would be together- she wanted to run away, but he- he lied to her. He was never going to stop fighting just for her. He loved the glory too much. I had to do it- I couldn’t keep hurting her.

“It was the weekend you were away. I locked myself in our room and planned out the entire thing for hours. Lionel couldn’t know who his murderer was- it had to be a secret.

“Oh god! I’m a terrible person! It was so hard; so hard to press the pen to the paper. That pen had granted him so much, and then it just took it all away with one stab to his heart.”

“You’re sick. Absolutely disgusting!” The voice in my head would shriek.

“You had to do it,” my husband would say.

“It was thrilling,” I would admit several days later.

That thrill never really left. It latched onto me and I haven’t been able to shake it since Lionel’s death all those years ago. There was a sort of excitement that came with obsessing over the perfect way to kill someone.

It was exhilarating.

It made me feel in control.

I remember the first time I experienced the adrenaline that came when I decided I was definitely going through with Lionel’s murder. That’s when I realized that my life had changed forever. I had disrupted the lives and stability of hundreds of people. It was exciting… and terrifying.

I would spend the weeks afterwards trying to sort out the different emotions in my head. The logical part of me would say it had to be done; that there was no way around it. The emotional part wished it didn’t have to be this way, and that I could have let him be the hero that lives. He didn’t have to go so soon. But the sick, twisted part of my brain chanted, “let’s do it again.”

And I did. To keep my career going and my image consistent, I continued to kill. At least, that’s what I told myself. If I’m honest, I killed because I liked it.

I killed Julie just for fun. Everyone had loved her, and I thought it’d be fun to shake things up again; to cause even more anger.

Adam was destined to die right from the start. From his very first word, I knew he would be dead by chapter twenty-eight.

Sometimes I would kill the heroes, like Lionel, so that others could have a chance.

Some people never accepted my kills. Others loved me for it.

Time and time again, I thought back on the first time I killed a man. Lionel. His death was tragic. I thought I had lost my mind. I didn’t think I could go through with it. I sent my editor an apology letter and a fruit basket.

Lionel was so important to me, for many reasons. He was the first person I felt truly connected to. He was the first one to demand that his story be told; he wanted everyone to know how powerful he was. He was great at everything, except loving, and for that he had to die.

I revisit his death every time I kill someone else. It’s a sort of mourning process. Misery loves company, and what’s more tragic than killing your best friend?

I remember what it was like to have the blade stab him in the heart. There was no resistance- his heart was empty. There was blood everywhere; it pooled at his feet and spilled over the pages. Priscilla screamed a few feet away. I wanted to calm her down, but I had to get the blood off my hands. They were stained. I had to scrub,

scrub,

and scrub until I stopped feeling deceitful.

I ran the water to drown out Lionel’s cries.

Or was it Priscilla’s?

“It’s for your own good,” I told Priscilla after I had calmed down, “Please, your life will be better now.” Then I slammed my notebook closed to shut her up too.

I sank back on my knees. I wrote that. I described his murder. I tore her heart out.

Her life did get better. I made sure of it. I introduced her to someone who would be her hero. I made everything final, and then I waited.

Sure enough, the day after its release, a newspaper was delivered to my door. The headline read:

“Winnie Williams Isn’t Afraid to Kill! Spoilers Ahead!”

Fin.

Understand Me

Understand Me

By Eunice Adubea Owusu Amoah

Was he dead?

Or was he alive?

His skin felt warm and flushed all over.

Was he dying?

Or was he still in love?

Something warm and sticky was in his hand.

Blood.

His? Hers?

A face appeared before him.

Someone screaming his name.

Or maybe just screaming.

Screeches of fear. Or pain. Or surprise.

Was it her?

Was she beside him?

Screaming for him to stay alive?

Or screaming at him to just die?

He didn’t deserve to die, he thought.

She was the one who broke him.

He thought of the day they met.

“Boo,” she whispered.

He quickly spun around to face her.

His chin brushed against her short, wet, spiky hair.

He looked down at her and she looked up at him.

Two complete strangers who had fatefully met in a cemetery on a rainy night.

 

There was an ambulance.

His thoughts begged for the siren to be shut.

He was trying to remember.

What had she been wearing?

Had she smiled?

No.

She’d laughed though. Yes she’d-

The siren. The stupid siren. Too fucking loud.

She’d laughed. He’d stared at her in that beautiful moment, unable to pull himself from her allure….

 

 

 

“I can make you smile.” “Hi.” “Do you have an umbrella?” “Smile.” “Could you hear me crying?” “it was nice to meet y”-

THAT FUCKING SIREN!

HE WAS DYING!

Did they not understand?

He simply wanted to live one last time in this moment of death.

The ambulance got closer. He closed his eyes.

When he opened his eyes again, they were lifting him up in a gurney. He could faintly hear her talking with the paramedic.

“Are you his guardian?” the paramedic hastily asked.

“No,” she stuttered out. “I don’t know him. I think it was a hit and run.”

“I don’t know him.”

He closed his eyes.

“I don’t know him.”

Behind his eyelids, he saw her smiling face through the car headlights.

“I don’t know him.”

He released his last breath.

At least he’d made her smile one last time.

One Dance

One Dance

It Started with a Whisper

It Started with a Whisper

by Edward Liu

Why are you still alive?”

I remained silent.

“You didn’t jump that day. Why didn’t you jump?”

“Because I was afraid of not dying,” I said.

“You didn’t choose a tall enough building.”

“There’s always a slim chance of survival. How would I jump again if I somehow survived with every bone in my body shattered? Repeating the task would be near impossible,” I said, but that wasn’t all there was to it. Thinking about suicide is simple. Initiating the act was a whole other story. At least for me. Why was I still alive? I wondered that myself. It was almost a year since the lowest point of my life. What had I accomplished since then?

■ ■ ■

It started with a whisper almost four years ago, a small voice in the back of my head.

“This is bad,” it said softly as I stared at my score on the math test I had just been handed.

“I’ll make up for it,” I said.

Mathematics was my best subject growing up. I liked math. It was the only thing which I felt like I excelled in. My peers used to call me a human calculator and I felt an obligation to keep up my studies in math. It was also the only subject in which I scored above ninety percent. One bad mark did not predict my final mark, but things were different that year. Many things were different. The most obvious being I had taken the math course on a higher level, my school called it medallion level, as opposed to the normal academic level. I had never done so before that year.

“This is very bad,” the voice said a bit more clearly after the following math test.

“There’s still time,” I told it. “Just let me deal with it, like I did last year.” I thought I could deal with it, but several weeks later, I knew I was wrong. The voice knew, but it said nothing. I couldn’t fix my mark. It quickly went from bad to worse. One year prior, I had around a 92 in math. But then? In that medallion level class I was a mid-80. I was not used to feeling such a lack of skill in a math setting. That was only the beginning of my downfall.

“You lost your grip on the only thing defining your existence.”

I felt like nothing had changed in the way I handled my time, so why was I progressively performing worse in not only math, but in all subjects? When my grades first began to drop, I played games, or a single game rather (since I only remember playing one most of the time), more frequently to dive deeper into the virtual world in order to escape reality.

“If only you were as strong as that character you were roleplaying.”

Unfortunately for me, it worked. The voice retreated for a while. But my escapes worked a little too well. My grades got even worse. Why did it work so well? Maybe it had something to do with my life at home.

It wasn’t really home. I had learned that home is not a place. It is a feeling. I sure did not feel at home in that house. It was where a tired and irritated father returned every night, always on the verge of exploding into a tantrum. Who’d want to live with that? Why did I have to live with that? He and my mother rarely got along. Their opinions almost always differed, and my father was never one to change his mind. I guess I got my occasional short temper from him. How many years has it been? How many years of me sitting in that same living room, having to listen to the many arguments they had in the kitchen? One might even ask “Why did you not retreat into your room?” Now that I think about it, I have no idea. I remember one time, my mother said to me, sobbing:

“If you’re going to turn into your father, it’s best not to get married.”

What happened as a result of my marks lowering, life in that house, and my constant gaming to escape? Depression. I fell into an endless void. The escapes no longer worked. My marks were at a record low and were still dropping. After a series of unfortunate events, I was nearing the brink of my sanity, pushed onto that edge by the voice upon its return. That was when it appeared. The voice adopted a physical form after several months of constantly tormenting me.

I was curled up in the corner of my room on one sad and lonely night almost a year ago. A night light was on and it illuminated my little corner.

“Why do you continue living?” the voice asked. At that point, it was clear to me that the voice was a male voice. He sounded as if he were right in front of me.

I looked up. He materialized out of the shadows and loomed over me. He wore a hooded cloak and, in the darkness, I couldn’t see his face. His arms were at his sides with his hands hidden in the cloak’s long sleeves. I couldn’t see his feet which made it seem like he was floating a few centimeters above the floor. “I don’t know,” I finally said.

“Why don’t we end this? Is this life worth living anymore?”

I put my head back down and he remained silent. When I finally looked back up, he had disappeared. I went to sleep that night thinking about what he had asked.

He began speaking to me more frequently, always wearing that pitch black hooded cloak which hung a shadow over his face at all times. It was the worst few months to wrap up the worst year of my short life. He would point out buildings I passed by and would make comments such as, “That one looks promising,” or “Maybe we’ll try it today?” On one occasion, only once, I found myself at the top of a certain apartment building. I looked down and instantly felt nauseous. Did I mention that I was afraid of heights? And still am? He urged me to jump. All the pain and suffering from constantly feeling like my existence is all for naught would be over in an instant. It was tempting. I had already made it to the edge of that roof. A single step was all it would take.

■ ■ ■

Luckily, I’m still here.

“Why didn’t you jump that day?” he asked.

“Because I was afraid of not dying. There’s always a slim chance of survival. How would I jump again if I somehow survived with every bone in my body shattered? Repeating the task would be near impossible,” I said. “Besides, it hasn’t been all bad.”

“What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you noticed? My grades are the highest they have ever been!”

“But they have been dropping for a while now, have they not? You’ll return to the wretched state you always fall back into! What can you do, all alone as you always are?!”

“I’m not always alone. You are here. Four years ago, I was beginning to fall off track, and two years ago, I fell off completely for a whole year. Then you emerged. For the first few months, it was horrible having you around, but look at me now. It is going to take time, but I will get back on track,” I said, staring confidently into the shadow that covered his face. “We will get back on track. I need you to believe in our ability. I need to believe in myself.” He remained silent. I couldn’t tell if he was hesitating, but he raised his hand and slowly removed his hood. A moment later, I was staring into a pair of tear-filled eyes; my eyes. He tried to hold back the flood of emotions he had held in since he first spoke to me, but failed miserably.

“It’s been so many months, so many years even,” he said, sobbing. “Do I truly think that this will be worth it?”

“To be fair, it may not be worth it. However, I won’t know until I experience it for myself,” I said. He slid a beat-up old calculator from somewhere in his sleeve into his hand and passed it to me.

“This,” he began. “This is what remains of the great ‘human calculator.’ The numbers don’t flow in my head like they used to before.”

I looked at the calculator in my hands and felt a hint of nostalgia. “The human calculator may be dead, but he can be rebuilt,” I finally said, recovering my resolve, placing the calculator on the table beside me. “Or I can try something new. Something I couldn’t quite do in the past.” I passed him a pen. It was a special pen. It could be used as both a pen for writing and a stylus for smart devices. I kept it on me at all times. “Like writing. The possibilities are endless in this life.”

“I,” he paused, inspected the pen in his right hand and looked back at me. He clutched the pen in his hand. I watched as his trembling lips showed a small hint of a smile, his eyes glimmered slightly with hope, and he vanished into thin air.

The pen landed next to the calculator on the table.

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