Again, the kitchen knife lodged into the plaster of the wall, the soft thud comforting and familiar. Breathing out slowly, I picked up the next one from the impressive pile beside me, fingering the handle and balancing it in my palm. I did it all so, so slowly, taking my time as I paused to line up my throw, breathing deeply before I let the new knife fly across the room.
It hit the target perfectly; it was aligned at exactly the same level as the others, all of which were spaced exactly 3cm apart. I repeated my actions, again unnecessarily slowly, adjusting for the new blade, before lodging yet another knife tip into the wall.
I had long since lost track of how many times I'd thrown the entirety of the kitchens knife collection. Too many for sure, even while I made sure I took my time. Slow was good, slow was calming; slow was keeping me distracted, and not letting me sink back into a broken mess. Slow was me being pedantic, making absolutely sure the line of knives across the wall was perfect; not a blade too high or low, too close or too far. I needed it to be perfect; not just to occupy me, but because at the moment, nothing else seemed to be.
I had been thinking, thinking hard and deep, about how to get out of this. But the truth was, I had nothing. I had known I had nothing, but still I had tried; tried and failed. And so the throwing knives across the kitchen from my spot cross-legged on the floor was the only thing keeping me somewhat together right now, because knowing I was trapped was devastating. Not surprising, but devastating all the same.
So, having all but given up on escaping, I was left contemplating how I wanted to die. And it was, as I'd remarked earlier, a choice between bad, terrible, and unthinkable.
A slow death, fast death, or painful death. Not that any of the options were painless, but one in particular would be very painful; and that was a death I wanted to avoid at all costs. I had spent years avoiding being killed by Leon; I knew he planned to kill me slowly, torturously; and I refused to be part of it.
Which left me two options: fast or slow. The fast death; that had almost come about today. I was sure that if I tried to leave La Push again, and kept pushing on away from the border, it would kill me. But doing that would pretty much be suicide, and I balked at the idea; killing myself would be giving in, and that I refused to do. Plus, I was pretty sure I couldn't even bring myself to do it; I didn't have it in me. Add in the fact that I didn't want to hurt Jake by tearing at the imprint as I had today, and I wasn't too keen on a fast death.
Leaving just the slow death; the death that was the reason I couldn't stay in La Push. Death from the very ground I was sitting on, because to me, the land was poison, and it would fight to keep me out. It would kill me slowly; was already killing me slowly, and had been for more than three days. I didn't know how long it would take; a few more days, maybe? It gave me more time than the other deaths would, that's for sure, but that wasn't the only advantage.
The only thing that made a slow death even somewhat bearable was knowing that I would get to spend more time with Jake in the process; which was way too appealing. How could I ask him to pretty much watch me die? That was cruel. But at the same time, I couldn't imagine him cutting me off to save himself; if today was any indication, he wouldn't take this lying down. It would be hard to get to him to understand; but I had to. He needed to.
Yet despite this, a slow death definitely seemed the best choice; it was the only option I was willing to go with.
But there was a problem. A big problem.
The problem was that while I was waiting for a slow death to take me, it was more than likely the painful death would find me first.
I knew that Leon looked for me every year around this time. He knew it was when I was most likely to be sneaking into La Push, and twice I had fallen into his hands because I hadn't been able to stay away. Fortunately, I had escaped; but this time, that wouldn't be possible. I was a sitting duck, trapped on Quileute soil. And so I was left contemplating one very important question.
Was choosing a slow death worth the risk?
I didn't know, and it was that question I couldn't stop think about as I threw knife after knife after knife. Every few minutes I would run out, and I'd be forced to walk over to wall and pull them all out, one by one, butter knives and steak knives and chopping knives and any other blade I'd been able to get my hands on. And then I would settle back down, the collection of almost thirty blades next to me on the tiles, and begin again.
And it was as I was sitting myself down for yet another throwing round that I remembered something; a snippet of conversation with an old friend, that was bizarrely relevant to my internal debate. We had met when I first joined the police force; more than 30 years ago. David and I had been good friends immediately, and had even been partners for a time. Until, as always, I had left after five years; before people noticed things I didn't want them too.
However, I'd been too late to hide it from him. David didn't know what or why or how or anything, really; just enough to know I was different. And he'd been perfectly fine, not just knowing I was not quite who I had pretended to be, but with not knowing the specifics. And so, to my delight, we had remained friends; a rare treat for me. I still saw him often; though of course, we had to be vague about how we knew each other. However, he was now the chief commissioner for Seattle's police force; a station that was more than bit helpful in helping keep my secret, and fending off questions.
And it was a particular conversation with David that I had remembered, about what we both thought would be a good way die, and so without thinking, without pausing, I found myself calling him. And as the phone rung, and rung, and rung, I kept throwing my knives, waiting somewhat impatiently for him to answer. I needed to know; I needed an answer. Fast or slow. Fast or slow. And after what felt like an eternity–
'You know, I was starting to think you'd forgotten my number.' He said with a hint of a smile, skipping straight passed hello and going straight to conversation. 'You usually just turn up announced.' Any other time, I would have grinned at his words. Not tonight, though. Tonight, it was all I could do to keep my voice steady. Tonight, all I cared about was fast or slow.
'Do you still believe fast death is better than slow one?' I asked quietly, my voice hoarse and broken. Apparently, I wasn't as in control of my emotions as I'd thought; not that that was surprising.
'Do I WHAT?' I heard him ask, his tone alarmed and incredulous. Dammit, he hadn't answered; and I needed an answer. Fast or slow, fast or slow. Should I risk slow? Should I choose fast?
'Die fast or die slow?' I repeated, and this time my voice sounded even worse, cracking halfway through. Fast or slow, fast or slow; it was a mantra in my head, the only thing I could focus on. It made my voice somewhat urgent, and I wondered if he heard it.
'Thea, are you ok? You don't sound well.' He said slowly, his concern obvious.
'I need you to answer the question; it's important.' I replied, unable to hide a sliver of panic and fear, and there was a pause on the other line after my whispered words. Dear god, please tell me he's going to answer. I just needed one word; fast or slow. Fast or slow.
'I'm not answering until you tell me what's wrong. Are you sick?'
Fast or slow.
'No, I'm not sick.' I didn't even think before I replied; though, it was the truth. Kind of.
'I doubt that. You sound terrible.' He sounded like he was about to launch into a speech, and so I cut him off. Fast or slow, fast or slow; I couldn't wait.
'I'm not sick. I'm dying.' I said slowly, my voice shaking. I heard him gasp on the end of the line.
'WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE DYING?' He all but shouted, his voice demanding in my ear. I didn't reply, noticing for the first time that I'd stopped my knife throwing, and that my whole body was shaking because of it. He said something else, but I didn't catch it; he had faded into the background, like everything else.
Fast or slow. Fast or slow. Fast or slow. Why couldn't he just tell me!
'Thea, for the love of god, tell me if you're still there.' His desperate voice cut through.
'I'm here.' I said softly, my hand gripping tightly the hilt of a small wooden-hilted dagger; the one I kept on me at all times. 'Though I won't be for much longer.' There was another long pause.
'You need to stop this.' I sighed.
'I can't stop this; believe me, I tried.' My voice broke, and it took me a second to realise that tears were once again slowly rolling down my cheeks.
'So please tell me; fast or slow.' I repeated, and he said nothing. 'David, I only have until tomorrow. Maybe the day after, if I'm lucky.' I whispered, hoping it would get me the answer I needed.
'TOMORROW!?' He shouted, and started on a tirade of words that I couldn't hope to follow. I didn't have the brain capacity, the strength, or the will. I knew, though, that he wasn't going to answer; I would never know if he believed in fast or slow.
'Goodbye David.' I said softly, sadly.
'Thea, don't you DARE hang up–' His voice cut off mid-sentence as I hit the 'end call' button. The phone fell from my frozen fingers, landing in my lap, but I didn't pay attention to it. The tears were spilling down my cheeks faster now, I clapped my right hand over my mouth to hold back a sob. My left hand was still firmly clenched around the wooden hilt of the dagger, shaking with the rest of me as I tried to pull myself together; but I could feel that it wasn't working.
In a last ditch effort, my right hand frantically grabbed for a knife from the pile, hoping that distracting myself again would keep me in one piece. I would have thrown the small one I already had, but it went against instinct to part with it; I never knew when I might need it. But I was moving fast, too fast, and this time when I launched the blade into the air, it sunk into the wall more than foot below target. I stared at the slightly quivering knife for a moment, stunned by my inaccuracy. I got the feeling I could have stared for minutes, maybe even hours, as I tried to comprehend it; except I was interrupted, Jake's soft voice loud in the silent house.
'What are you doing?' He asked, and I turned my head to look at him. He was standing in the entrance of the kitchen, taking up the whole of the doorway. I had to blink the tears out of my eyes to see him properly, but that only made them fall down my cheeks; a fact I was sure he noticed as his I felt his concern spike. It was the first emotion I'd been able to pick up from him since the border incident, and I should have been happy; instead, all I could do was stare at him.
'Thea?' He said my name as a question, and still I stared; because Jake was right.
What was I doing? What was I doing, sitting on the kitchen floor, in the dark? Night had fallen in the time I'd been here, and only my enhanced sight allowed me to see the wall I was using as a target. What was I doing, throwing knives at the wall anyway? What was I doing, calling up friends to randomly ask whether I should die quickly or die slowly?
Jake took a step forward then; maybe because I still hadn't answered, or maybe because he just needed to be closer. Either way, it didn't matter; because my softly spoken words stopped him in his tracks.
'I'm deciding how I want to die.'