What Follows

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5.1: Coloured Fingertips

`it’s not who you are that holds you back...it’s who you think you’re not`


We’re in a cemetery. The cemetery I am buried in apparently because we’re standing in front of my tombstone that has some bullshit written on it and many already-wilting, off-white flowers (because of the heat) scattered on the dusty ground in front of it.

Rosaline Bracken
2002-2019
A Daughter... A Sister...A Friend

Like I said, bullshit that’s supposed to equate me to all the other pure souls trapped here. That’s supposed to normalize my death in front of everybody. Cause little do they know that that ‘daughter’, that ‘sister’, that ‘friend’, left nothing of those ships behind.

Little do they know how lonely she was. Little do they know that instead of having that bullshit written, they could’ve gone for one, accurate word. A loner.

Benji struts away from Tobias who’s standing straight in front of my tombstone poker-faced. Benji sniffs my tombstone and the pathetic excuse of spread flowers, and I smirk. Yeppers, here lies the decomposing, dormant body, soon-to-be bones, of your spiritual companion.

I scoff loudly and cross my arms across my chest like any human in my situation would’ve done. Tobias glances at me and silently lifts an eyebrow.

“Guess, it’s all official, eh?” I say to no-one in particular. “Beneath this stone is the Darkoom I suppose,” I look at Tobias who’s rubbing his chin with his index and middle fingers.

He doesn’t say anything, and I exhale, thinking about how intimidating this ambience is. I mean a few seconds ago we were speaking of haircuts and blood pacts, and now all that remains are the crumbs of this dead conversation. The punctuated silences.

Perhaps Tobias is afraid he’d say something that would set me off. He doesn’t know that I couldn’t care less for a rock carrying my name.

However, the thought of it remains intimidating, because currently, on this huge, barren land, with carved rocks sticking out of it, are two lost spirits, doomed for eternity.

And even though Tobias tries to busy himself with stupid things like a robbery and haircuts, it’s clear that he’s ignoring a very huge gap of nothingness. And it’s either he got used to ignoring it through his thirty cycles or he’s gone numb through it. Because yes, the absence of some essential senses, a beating heart and an aching, bruised body do leave you with nothing but a sick, confused brain.

I look around the dull background of mundane, smeared greys and beiges, squinting against this scorching ball of fire we call star and feel my chest tighten claustrophobically. This is how I’m gonna spend the rest of eternity; existing in confined places, because I no longer have access to the world if it won’t give me more pain.

Tobias in his orange shirt and I with my scarlet dress stand out in the hollowness and bleakness of this place- no, space. Really cemeteries are perfect places to keep the dead. They’re boring, dull and lifeless. They’re just like ‘Darkooms’, but with some light.

A hint of a breeze tosses some dust and tiny pebbles around as I blink at my tombstone. Tobias whistles lowly and I turn my head to him.

“No-one’s here-” He remarks thickly. “Your funeral’s over-”

My funeral’s over, I think on loop. Should I be congratulated that all my traces in this world/dimension is finally gone? Or should I get offended because I know that my funeral might be the last day anyone remembers me?

“No-one’s here-” I repeat thoughtfully.

Benji barks, snapping me out of my thoughts, and Tobias looks down at his dear friend.

“Are you hungry?” He then asks him, squinting. Benji whines in response and Tobias looks up at me. “I think he’s hungry-” He pauses for a microsecond. ”Or thirsty-”

I soundlessly glance down at Benji’s open mouth and lolling tongue and conclude that he must be thirsty. Yet, I find myself thinking of the last time I’ve felt hungry and how it feels like a century ago. I wonder if I’ll miss that feeling one day, even though I’d know that there’s no point in being hungry for something I can’t taste.

The very thought of hunger intrigues me very much that I almost ask Tobias if he thinks the same, but I decide against it when I hear some shuffling. I like to think it’s the wind, but deep down I have a feeling that this is my punishment’s noisy entrance.

Tobias and I look towards the source of the sound in anticipation and find nothing but a scrap of paper, gliding on the bumpy ground.

I look behind me and with a ‘heart lurch’, I find Joshua standing with a roses bouquet, looking haggard in his faded jeans, grey sweater, denim jacket and messy, auburn hair. His hands are still a shaky, artistic mess with all the paint they’ve been dug into. They’re a canvas of his hard work that his father prefers to turn a blind eye to.

His muddy, blood-shot eyes roam around the cemetery’s emptiness, and I wonder if he feels the same about it. If he thinks that I really, truly belong here. He pushes a hand through his hair and quickly licks his lower lip before wearily looking at Benji, then ignoring him.

And I know I’m hypnotized by his presence, by the aura he fills this place with. It feels like... I miss him.

His untied shoelaces get ground under his worn-out jays when he approaches the tombstone and walks through Tobias. Tobias! I turn my head to my dead companion and my lips float around wordlessly as I eye his disturbed facial expression.

"Joshua-” I mutter under my breath and look back at him longingly. I thought he wouldn’t come. I thought he never cared to show up. I thought he hated me.

But we don’t bring roses to people we hate. We don’t come with glassy, distant eyes and dark circles beneath them when we funeralize them. We bring the rain on our haters, not the tears.

“Uh- he came-” Tobias states, looking at Benji and furrowing his brows.

I smile at this, relief flooding my body. ”Yes-”

I bite in my lower lip as Joshua kneels and unwraps the red roses. I walk closer to him and watch him pick out one rose from the ten roses on his left palm and press it to his petal-soft, pink lips.

Somehow this scene invokes so much emotion in me because this act carried more love than I have ever been granted in my living days. I start sniffing and consider touching Joshua’s shoulder and turning him to me. I want to look in his earthy eyes. I want to be able to explain my love to him despite his betrayal. I want to tell him that I forgive him.

I want him and his rosy lips, most importantly, to explain his actions and agonizing words.

“You look at him like he means the world to you even though he’s one of the reasons why you don’t have one-” Tobias speaks softly from behind me, and I blink awake.

“We were very close-” I say simply as I watch Joshua push the white flowers out of the way and spread his red roses in front of my tombstone instead. “I loved watching him-” I pause and blink, certain that I’m crying. ”Paint-” I choke out and lift my hand toward his back that’s facing us. “Talk. Just doing anything-” I sniff. “And it’s hard to explain the love I hold for him after all the damage he’s left behind in me. It’s like I’m sure there was a reason behind this drastic change, you know?”

I turn my head to Tobias who locks my eyes with concern and funnily enough, care. I search his hazel eyes for what he thinks about me and find nothing. I wonder if he thinks that I’m pathetic and stupid because what I told him, is stupid. And I regret telling him. In fact, I regret thinking of Joshua like that in the first place. He broke my heart.

I look away from Tobias’ eyes and back at Joshua who’s now tracing my engraved name with his coloured fingertips.

“I thought he hated you-” Tobias says, and I shrug in response.

“This doesn’t look like hate-” I sniff. “It looks like confusion to me-"

“You know what it looks like to me?” Tobias asks, his voice gaining strength. I look at him and urge him to go on. “It looks like guilt.”

I freeze at the words that spilt from his lips and hung in the hot (I’m assuming), dusty air between us. “Guilt?" I mutter, drawing my eyes away from Tobias. “Possibly-” I say slowly, killing my stupid, flowery thoughts.

Tobias is right through and through. What am I thinking? Joshua, the infamous high school jock, is in love with a dead girl? I shake my head and get a grip on myself. Those ten, stupid, red roses mean nothing. Joshua’s just playing the role of any person visiting a damned grave. No more.

"Sorry,” I hear Joshua whisper before getting on his feet and staring at the tombstone some more. And I really want to get closer to him. I want, if possible, to hear his string of thoughts. I want to know if he really only feels guilty.

“You know, if you were alive, you could’ve figured out all of his confusing, contradicting actions by just talking to him-” Tobias says as Benji moves in circles around us.

“Easier said than done-” I sigh loudly.

Tobias scoffs, and I look at him with narrowed eyes.

“What?” I say, and he just shakes his head and looks back at Joshua. I know that there are words he’s holding back, and I know that since he’s holding them back that they’ll be painful and laced with the bitter truth.

I look at Joshua to find him noisily unwrapping a paper and staring at it. His height blocks the paper’s contents, but I’m certain that Tobias can at least get a glimpse of them since he’s taller.

Tobias is looking past his shoulders with creases between his eyebrows and a small smirk. “It’s some drawing-”

I lift my brows in surprise. “A drawing?”

“Yeah, can’t see what it is though-”

“How useful of you-” I whisper to myself. “Seriously, what’s the point of being tall if you can’t use it to sneak on people?”

“You know, this sort of thinking is the reason why people like you are midgets-” Tobias retorts, and I roll my eyes.

Joshua folds the paper anyway and drops it in front of my grave. My eyes widen, knowing that it’s my only chance to get a grab on it. I move to get it, but Tobias holds my forearm, and I irritably narrow my eyes at him.

“Not now-” He says. “You wouldn’t want to freak Judas out-”

I sigh and nod once. He’s right. The paper would disappear and Joshua would probably have a fit.

Joshua turns to us and Benji barks at him. He offers the dog a small smile before glancing sideways at nothing in particular. I give him a weird look because I thought that he hated all living creatures (he inspired me to hate them too). To add to my surprise, he kneels in front of Benji and reaches inside his jacket.

“If your Judas even tries harming Benji, I will be forced to give him a spiritual kick-” Tobias whispers furiously, but I don’t reply as I watch Joshua take out some biscuits in his palm and extend it to the dog.

Benji licks all the biscuits off his palm, wagging his tail as Joshua chuckles lightly, and I wonder if the Earth is still round. Because this is the greatest juxtaposition ever. Because it seems to me that I don’t really know who Joshua is.

“Well, good-” Tobias says bitterly as Joshua pats Benji. “At least he’s fed him-”

Joshua then suddenly looks up at me and his hands stop massaging Benji. Our eyes meet and I’m sure I can’t breathe anymore. He stands up slowly, unblinking and I almost believe he sees me.

“What the hell are you doing here?!” I then hear from behind me and know that this is something different.

I quickly glance at Tobias who looks entertained by the sudden appearance of my younger brother.

Jacob.

This won’t be good.

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