What Follows

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2.2: Time Perception

~the deeper you dig . . . the darker it gets~


“How the hell?” I say confusedly. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Tobias sighs, gets up, and starts pacing around the living room. ”Look, this will be difficult to grasp-” He shakes his index finger as if warning me. I shift in the chair to have a better view of him talking. “Basically, whoever designed this-” He waves his arms around. “Wants us to suffer in the worst possible way-” He shrugs. “And that is, by letting us live the same month we’ve killed ourselves in every year. We live in darkness in all the other months, then get resurrected just to live this damned month where we can see the damage we’ve done.” He looks down.

I am too shocked to say a word.

“And I’ve lived through thirty cycles-” He says, looking away. “Thirty years, thirty summers, thirty Mays, whatever you say-”

“You-you-” I stutter in utter horror at the thought. “You’ve watched yourself die thirty times? You’ve watched your dead body being carried around thirty times?”

Tobias scoffs. “That’d be easy.”

“Easy?” I make a face. “It’s-it’s-” I shake my head, and the sniffing returns.

"Grotesque?" He completes my sentence with a lifted brow. ”Nothing compares to watching people you love, move on, and forget about you.” He then clenches his fists and opens them with a ‘poof’ and wide eyes. “Oblivion. Forever.”

I stare openly at Tobias with a scowl. “How can you be so sure that that’s how this works? You’ve got no proof-” I trail off, looking in my laps. After all, he’s a weird stranger who popped out of nowhere.

“Look, this-” He points upstairs for some reason. “-isn’t going to get even slightly better. This is like the tip of the iceberg as they’d put it. The biggest proof is that I’m literally a forty-seven-year-old, stuck in a seventeen-year-old’s body-” He points at himself. “I’m not sure if you’ll meet more people who also killed themselves in this ‘glorious’ month-” He shrugs. “But even if you do, not all of them will be as friendly as I am. Some of them are hostile. Some have absolutely lost their marbles. Some are just like wandering ghosts. And some are just not there for you to see because they’re pulled into much more drama. As long as you’re not in the ′Darkoom’, you still have some unfinished business here.”

My mouth hangs open at the load of information he told me. ”God-” I rake my hair with my hands. ”Oh no,” I start sniffing as a question flies right through my head.

What have I done?

“Look, we’ve been promised hell. And here we are, living through it-” Tobias states with a heavy sigh. “It’s like God trapped our spirits with our sick brains. Ultimate torture.”

I stand up and shake my head. “This isn’t it-” I say, hurt. “This isn’t my end-”

Tobias sits down and leans back in his chair, a nostalgic glint in his hazels. “That was what I thought too.”

“What do you mean?!” I sniff loudly, suddenly feeling claustrophobic. Like I am trapped in a little cage in the pit of the ground. I can’t breathe. “There’s no way out?” My hands reach for my throat like I used to do when my parents started fighting.

Tobias frowns, making a face. “How can you have a way out out of your way out?” He shakes his head. “We killed ourselves. We had our way out. And this-” He waves around. “This is your way out. This is all the out you can get. There is no ‘outter’ than that.”

I blink at him, gulping. “I didn’t know-” I shake my head, overwhelmed by the truthfulness of his words. “I didn’t know-”

“News flash, darlin’-” He cocks his head to the side, his red curls following. “No one knew. We did the deed, and we’re paying the price.”

“Look,” Tobias says softly with a sigh, and I divert my gaze to him. “I didn’t have anybody when I first arrived here in packaged delivery. No-one. I had to figure it all out alone. All. Alone. No-one was there to comfort me when the darkness overwhelmed me, and no-one was there to guide me through my days-” He looks down and shakes the mob of his red hair that looks so much brighter in the sunlight coming from the windows. “So, really, I’m only trying to ‘help’ you if such a thing is permitted here-” He scoffs. “Maybe I’ll get damned by it, who knows. But that’s all I’m trying to do.

“Figuring this out, took me five years. And God knows how difficult it was for me. So I just want to save you the time and curiosity, because knowing whatever this is about is inevitable-” He sighs. “And you have no choice but to suck it up for eternity. Because this-” He purses his lips. “This is what you deserve. What I deserve. What everyone here deserves-”

I make a face and get ready to argue, but he beats me to it.

“You might not agree with me now-” He says quickly and stands up, towering over me. “Naturally. But when you see what you’ll see. The damage you’ve done. It’ll hit you like double-decker in the gut. Your only option will be getting used to it. Sucking it up.”

“So-” I start, calming down a little and thinking more. “What happens after all the people who care about us die? What happens when the Earth dies?” I lock his honey drops for eyes. “What’ll happen to us?”

Tobias smiles hesitantly, lifting his bony shoulders. “I don’t know.”

“Awesome,” I say sarcastically.

“I think ’bout it too.” He then says with raised brows. “But you shouldn’t get too positive ’bout this ‘aspect’. I mean, we’ll probably relive the past or something morbid.”

There’s a long pause during which I shut my eyes for a moment and sigh heavily. I flutter my eyes open and glance at Tobias who’s staring at me like an imbecile.

“What you staring at?” I ask bitterly.

“You.”

“Me?" I tilt my head down and look in his eyes. “Why?”

He smiles lazily and shakes his head. “You’re the first person I talked to besides myself in my thirty cycles.”

His hazel eyes dilate, and I purse my lips. “I’m...moved?”

He clears his throat and rubs his nape as I lift my brows at his behaviour. I then shake my head and move back before collapsing on the chair with a heavy sigh.

“When the hell are we getting back to the black shit?” I ask impatiently, trying to accept my fucked up fate.

“You mean the Darkoom?”

“The what-?” I look up at an excited Tobias. I blink at him.

“It’s a word I made up, fifteen cycles ago-” He says with an easy smirk. “It’s literally ‘Dark’ plus ‘Room’-” He smiles. “Like a ship name-”

I snort. “That’s everything, but a ship name-”

“It kinda is the same thing-” He says with a shrug.

“Did you kill yourself because of your stupidity?” I ask irritably. “This is some serious shit-”

Tobias lifts his brows. “Of course not-”

I hear the defensiveness in his voice and roll my eyes. “That shit shouldn’t offend you, dude. Like, it’s okay. We all killed ourselves for some stupid, fucked-up reason.”

“I’m not offended,” he says.

“Yeah, good. I thought I’m dealing with a forty-seven-year-old,” I tell him.

"Well-” He lifts an index finger. “I am hypothetically forty-seven, but technically just seventeen. I haven’t done what a forty-seven-year-old man does. You have to live something to be it.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“I think-” Tobias starts, sitting down when the house’s front door gets creaked open.

Tobias straightens up, changing his mind about sitting down, and I get up at the sight of a determined Aiden, dragging a red-faced Jacob inside by his pyjama’s shirt.

Jacob violently jerks Aiden’s hand off and screws up his face at him. “I’m not going to school even if the stupid universe stops expanding.”

Aiden looks very displeased with Jacob’s stubbornness. “You don’t get it, do you?” He whispers loudly, and I realize that he doesn’t want to wake up Mom and Dad. “Do you really wanna be another burden on Mom and Dad? Don’t you think they’ve had enough?”

"Bullshit!” He yells, and Aiden gives him a stern look. “Why the hell do you fucking care if they wake the fuck up?” He hollers furiously.

“Jake seriously, I’ve had enough of this. You have to go to school, and-”

“And what, huh?” He scoffs. “Act normal? Act like my sister didn’t just kill herself?” He waves his arm around dramatically as his eyes fill up with tears at a rate I didn’t think was possible. “Are you for real?” His voice breaks.

Aiden clenches his jaws and rests his hands on his younger brother’s shoulders with a heavy frown. “I’m sorry it had to be this way-”

With clenched teeth and bloodshot, teary eyes, Jacob glares at him. “You know it could’ve been different. There could’ve been other ways. You know.”

Aiden sighs. “No, Jake. She killed herself. She didn’t give herself the chance to explore those ways-”

“Did you just fucking swallow a sewer?” He asks him incredulously. “Are you aware of how shitty you sound? She’s your sister. Our only baby sister. She killed herself. And you know why. We both know-"

I frown at his words and shuffle closer to them.

Aiden runs a hand through his hair. “It couldn’t be only that-”

“Yeah, fucking justify their pathetic actions!“Jacob is on fire that doesn’t plan on dying out anytime soon.

‘Their’, though? ′Their’, who?

Aiden’s face falls. Of course. He hates it when things get out of control, when things change beyond his comprehension, when he’s forced out of his comfort zone. “You know they couldn’t help it-”

“Who they?” Tobias says next to my ears, and I jump away, glaring at him. He shuts up with a sheepish smile and raises surrendering hands. I glance back at my brothers who are still glaring at each other.

“Well, she died!” Jacob enunciated. “Of course I should’ve- I should’ve thought of it this way. That it was only ′natural’. Not their ′fault’.”

Aiden sighs heavily and just shakes his head. “Are you gonna tell her friends or will I have to be the one to do so?”

I shift, knowing that Tobias is close by (I can literally hear him ‘breathe’).

Jacob looks down and furrows his brows. “This is just too difficult.” He sniffs. “Too fucking difficult.”

“I’ll do it then-” Aiden breathes gently, placing his hands on his younger brother’s shoulders. “I’ll tell her friends. You needn’t worry about it. Her funeral’s tomorrow-”

"Tomorrow-?” His voice breaks and tears roll down his cheeks uncontrollably.

“I know-” Aiden sighs heavily. “It’s just so mean. So harsh. But, hey-” He lifts Jacob’s chin up. “We’re in this together. Your pain is shared, Jake. Don’t be so hard on yourself-”

He moves his head away and straightens up. “My pain is shared when you admit that they are the reason she’s dead. At least one of them-”

"Fine,” Aiden gives in with a sigh. “They’re evil monsters who deserve to die. Happy?”

Jacob narrows his eyes at him, and Aiden chuckles, trying to lighten up the mood. It saddens me.

“I’m serious-” He says, and Jacob tilts his head. “You just go to school-”

“I’m not going. There’s no way I’m going to handle seeing the hallways without her-” He says. ”Her friends are my friends. I can’t fucking do it-”

“Okay-” Aiden sighs. “Don’t go. I guess I’ll have to hit Joshua up-”

“Oh, no,” I mutter under my breath.

“He broke up with her, dude-” Jacob says, making a face.

"Judas ditched you?” Tobias says, and I ignore him.

“Well, he can spread the message-” Aiden says.

“He’s an asshole. Just text Sierra or Mason-” Jacob dictates, and I almost cheer for him.

“Sierra, I’ll -uh- call her,” Aiden mutters, shaking his head.

“Don’t get too worked up about it,” Jacob says bitterly. “Half of them won’t even care enough.”

Aiden sighs, and I wonder why my death saddens him so much. We were never that close.

Aiden is about to pull Jacob for a hug when Jacob shakes his head and backs off.

“Jake-”

“I just need some time-” He tells Aiden, his ocean eyes overflowing with a fresh batch of tears. “I don’t want to talk to anyone-”

I frown and bite down on my lip.

“But, Mom and Dad-” Aiden starts.

"Especially them-” Jacob snaps sharply, his eyes falling on Aiden’s muddy ones. “They should avoid me.”

Aiden and I look helplessly at him as Tobias whistles lowly beside me. Jacob sounded so hostile, it worries me. Why is he being so his bitter with my parents? He is literally their sweetheart because he’s the youngest.

Jacob scoffs at what I guess is Aiden’s displeased facial expression, shakes his head, and walks by him, nudging him in the shoulder purposefully. I watch his back walk away from us, watch him run his slender, pale fingers in his soft, golden curls, and my lips frown.

When Jacob disappears up the stairs, I turn to Aiden who has his hands caught in his hair, and who is looking after Jacob as well.

“Jacob loves you a lot,” Tobias remarks from beside me. “Why would you kill yourself?”

I turn to Tobias who looks curious and scowl. “None of your business.”

Tobias then shrugs with a ridiculous smirk before I look back at Aiden who stands, hands by his sides now, lost in thought. I watch him curiously, waiting for something to happen. For him to burst into tears or just anything.

All that happens is that his phone buzzes in his pyjama’s pocket. He fishes it out, looks at the screen, and picks up with a sigh.

“Hey babe,” is what he says in his deep, rumbling voice. “Yes-” He says in response to something. Then, with a hand on his hip, and a shaky voice he says, “Babe, my sister just killed herself.”

And just like that, Tobias puts a hand on my shoulders, and we’re pulled back into the ‘Darkoom’.

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