What Follows

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9.0: Blurry Lights

`i.cry. for the life you've lived. and for the one you didn't. `

Seeing the darkness float and swirl around you, carry you and try to lull you to a whole new world is like how all the sounds you look forward to, birds chirping, waves crashing and wind chimes singing, get drowned away by a single thunderclap. A clap so consuming, so intense, you forget the sweetness of what it masked, you remember nothing more than the lingering fear it leaves hanging in the still air.

And maybe this is how it feels to get here when you're in the middle of a spiritual tornado, just blasts and blasts of shit with slices of fear of the unknown targeted at your poor, probably nonexistent heart.

And maybe getting here is how it feels to have a panic attack. A sense of foreboding followed by tight breaths, shaky hands and touch-touching your throat and thinking that maybe the whole universe got shoved in there and you just can't breathe.

But again, maybe it's just the magma and the heart-melting (in a very non-romantic manner) and the eye-stinging kind of betrayal. Maybe it's the 'my-life-has-been-nothing-but-a-lie' kind of 'I-don't-understand'.

And maybe it's just my need to find someone to talk to, yet just only having myself to process what's happening and cry for some reasons only the dead would understand.

So yes, I'm back at the Darkroom, alone, with the darkness having a staring contest with me. It looks deep in my eyes and I blankly stare into its pits. And maybe, maybe, eyes are gateways and maybe they're slowly absorbing all of it; the darkness.

And just about when I am at the apex of my hopelessness, a spark appears a foot in front of me, followed by a faint, distant light.

My lips part as my eyes follow the light. My mind obviously catapults to the conclusion that this could somehow be Tobias, even though I know very well that it could be anyone who killed themselves this month.

I am about to approach the 'light-which-is-a-dead-person' when I simply realize that if it is Tobias he'll just come to look for me and that I should just probably wait for him to find me.

I shuffle in my place restlessly and look around, hoping that he'll just pop out with his ridiculous smile and with a jumping Benji by his side. I click my tongue and decide to go for him myself because the process of waiting is just another name for 'getting-isolated-and-skinned-by-one's-thoughts'.

And I've just had enough.

I cautiously walk in the Darkoom, hoping that I'm actually going somewhere and am not just walking about my original position. It really is difficult because of the lack of direction, so there's no way of being sure that I'm making progress at all.

So I call out his name.

I do it thoughtlessly, not sure of my unsteady voice, not sure if it's loud enough, if it's really reaching him in this hollow, seemingly endless darkness. I clear my throat in apprehension, not sure if I should continue doing this, if I'll trigger anything by such action.

I've never done this before. I don't know what could be waiting for me in the darkness. But even that risk is much merciful that just spending time with my thoughts.

I put out my hands that I can't see, in front of me, knowing that this might be useless against anything but a barrier it can't penetrate. Simply because my hands can't feel any texture, any surface, it can feel nothing unless it's just stopped.

I call out his name again, louder and steadier, scanning the darkness for the light that had just appeared. And just finding nothing in response to all my trials, unveils the anxiety pressed to my sternum and coils it around my throat.

What if I never get to find Tobias and Benji? What if this is all I get? What if we were cheating God all that time and He figured it out?

I blink as if it would make a difference. Dammit, the darkness of my eyelids might be brighter than that of the Darkoom.

"C'mon, c'mon-" I whisper to myself, trying not to bawl my eyeballs out, trying to control my ricocheting mind, trying to stay optimistic for a second.

I gulp and it's almost too difficult to do with the sobs stifled in my throat. I gulp and tell myself that everything will be alright, that it just sucks to be dead like this. That I'll find them.

My heart stops when I see a bright light in my peripheral vision. I quickly turn and Tobias' name hurtles out of my mouth.

When the light gets brighter in the direction I'm walking in, I sniff and smile brittly with immense relief.

"Tobias-" I call out when there are a few feet between us and the figure immediately turns.

I find myself face to face with a girl my age with open, messy dark hair and blue lips. She stares at me and my smile drops with my heart.

Her eyes widen, her head tilts almost abnormally and then she screams like a banshee. I was sure I should've passed out from the spike of horror she passed through my guts.

I stand, mentally paralyzed as she seals her lips, directs her eyes to the ground and then starts laughing loudly, maniacally.

My breaths come out irregular, coarse, and I command my legs to move. Just about when the girl is about to pounce on me, something pulls me away by my arm.

I look next to me and find a surprisingly furious Tobias. My chest heaves down, releasing all its sobs in relief as I look at his familiar face; the only thing I know here beside Benji who's strutting by his side.

I whisper his name when we've moved far enough from this girl, and he whips his head in my direction with a prominent frown.

"Are you out of your mind?" He asks me, his eyes weary and his almost artificial red lips frowning. "What were you doing?"

My sobs come to an abrupt stop when I pick up on the strain in his voice and the tension in his shoulders.

"I was looking for you-" I tell him with a sniff, trying to search his face for a reason behind his unjustified anger.

"Well, don't!" He explodes and I shudder at his voice's thickness and seriousness. "Okay?" He breathes out and Benji whines, seemingly disturbed by his loudness.

"I was just looking for you-" I repeat absently, shakily, so so taken aback by the sharpness of his tone. I almost have nothing to tell him in response.

He inhales deeply, exasperatedly, running a hand through his hair and I almost want to cry. I want to cry for his ginger hair that he has pulled in a bun at the back of his head, making him appear much more dominant and quite scary. At his high cheekbones that accentuated his frown and forehead creases.

And it's so confusing how the idea of crying now sounds more painful than ever. Like, okay, I know I cried about Sierra, Mom, Jake and Josh, but this sorta crying sounds different to my eyes and heart.

It sounds painful because he's basically my very last, last, dead string. The last string I thought I could count on when all my other strings seem to have failed me.

What has happened?

"Seriously, Roseline?" He says with a scoff, and I can't believe his once soft face can wear a mean, poker face so well. "Looking for me?" He shakes his head. "What's the point?" He asks me and I almost faint. "What's the bloody point of you looking for me?"

He shoots daggers for eyes in my direction.

"I don't know-" I say and it's like I've forgotten why I'm here in the first place, like I've forgotten I existed. Like I've forgotten to tell him that I came here, to him, seeking refuge from my problems. I never thought it would feel like that.

"Who knows, huh?" He asks and I don't fail to notice the tears filling his eyes. It disarms me.

"What's wrong?" I ask him nevertheless. I ask him about the change he seems to have wholeheartedly embraced. About the hopelessness that seems to have resided in his ribcage. "What happened?"

"Death happened-" He says, his chest rattling with the words. "And I just-" He closes his eyes, inhales deeply. "I just- I want space-" He looks up at me, non-smiling, unassuming.

I stare at him, terribly disappointed. I have no clue how I'm standing so still, how I'm still existing, because those are exactly the very same words many people have repeated around me. Then, 'they need some space', I'd tell myself, 'I exhaust them. I demand so much of their attention.'

I try to seem nonchalant and indifferent every time. Every time, I try to hide the fact that I'm grilling myself for what I could've done to push every person away.

I wonder what makes me stink so much.

So just like that, my lips do their thing; they try pulling themselves together into a smile. That very smile I did every time someone decided they've had enough of me.

But for some reason (maybe the weight of the day is concentrated on the corner of my lips?), I couldn't smile.

"Yeah, sure-" I say. "Sure, sure-"

His shoulders drop and a sigh escapes his lips. "You just- I just-" He exhales. "I hope you understand-"

Understand that I'm a nuisance? Yes, very well.

I wave a dismissive hand. "No pressure," I say.

"Don't come looking for me-" He adds, his lips sighing against the words and I wonder if that's another longer synonym for 'goodbye'. I wonder if he wants me to actually leave him and never come back. I wonder if he expects to be okay with it. "Don't come for me-"


"Do not-" Tobias says weakly. "I'll find you when I'm ready-"

I stare at him, barely holding myself together, barely keeping my spine from snapping and my knees from collapsing. This can't get any worse. So I scoff.

"That's not fair!" I finally tell him, my eyes stinging. "Why are you distancing yourself all of a sudden?"

The straightforwardness of my question leaves him with no answer. If he has expected an easy, light-hearted conversation, he should've known better. He should've known that those conversations are preserved for the living.

He looks down. "I'm not obliged to answer-"

"No!" I bluntly choke out. "You are-" Those are the only pathetic, powerless words that hurtle out of my mouth. "You can't just leave like that. We can't just...lose each other!" I explain my deepest fear that he seems to be indifferent to for some reason.

"Roseline-" He tells me. "We're dead-"

"I know-!" I say despite the pain sprouting from my insides and colouring my every corner deep-ocean blue. "I know and I know that we can't do anything about it. I know that it sucks and that we hate this-" I point around wildly. "But-" I sniff. "But we can hate this together-"

"You really think 'this' will last?" Tobias scoffs and I don't know what he wants me to say. A few beats of silence rush in the darkness around us. "Well, that's a bloody joke-" He continues, shaking his head. "You really think that we deserve the mercy of friendship? Do you think God is really going to let this happen?"

I narrow my eyes at him. "What do you mean?" I gulp and look at his unfocused eyes and his fidgety fingers. "Tell me, what do you mean?"

"It doesn't matter-"

I shake my head.

"It wasn't me who wanted this 'friendship'!" I explode in his face and I can tell I'm already crying. "Okay? It was you from the very beginning-"

"I didn-"

"Oh?" I sniff, frowning deeply. "You want to walk away after I've let you into my most personal moments? Secrets? My most painful memories?"

"Roseline-" Tobias whispers, trying to reach out with his goddamn beautiful hazels. "Please-"

"I can't believe this!" I yell at him. "I can't believe you're such an ass!" I grimace. "I can't believe I trusted you-"


"Do not call me that!" I snap. He shuts his eyes. "You know what? Just fucking go!"

Tobias looks up and swallows. "You don't understand-"

"Yeah? Tell me. Tell me what I don't understand. Tell me why you're walking away. Tell me why you've always been a closed book!" I pant out.

Tobias looks at me like it's physically impossible to answer.

"Yeah, that's what I thought-" I say quietly to his responselessness, my eyes lingering over his beaten figure. "I understand so very well-"

Then, dimensionless, I turn and run away from him, wanting the darkness to engulf me away from him and his echoing voice calling out my name.

But there's no way I can return. No way I can see his eyes that are clearly hiding tonnes of shit he doesn't entrust me with.

I will not be toyed with.

I run farther with blurs of lights crossing my peripheral vision, belonging to more dead, fucked people. I run and challenge the Darkoom into an end. I challenge it because I know that I feel no pain and will not stop running until the end of time.

I wonder if this darkness is infinite and expanding like the universe. And I wonder if it's just sucking me in deeper and deeper into the root of existence like a black hole.

With a sharp, sudden gasp, I feel like I've stumbled over something.

And it might just be another dimension.

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