02: Memento Mori
September 14, 2012
For the past couple of days, Blake had found it hard to sleep. More than once he would stay up through the night, feet hanging off the bed, sheets askew, eyes staring up at the ceiling, the demons in his head calculating impossible scenarios. They usually ended with him either dead or inert—technically the same thing.
Now he found himself hunched over a medical journal, courtesy of his Anatomy and Physiology teacher. Every couple of minutes he would drift off, only to wake up with a jerk when his head slipped out of his hand. He couldn't concentrate; those sleepless nights were to blame.
It had been over a week since the incident at the bookstore, but besides his lack of shuteye, and the slight throbbing in his head along with it, life had returned to normal.
With a sigh, finally realizing, or admitting he wasn't going to get any studying done, he packed up his things and slung his backpack over his shoulder. He weaved his way between the assortment of students and chairs, stopping only when a girl blocked his path.
"Excuse me," he said and tapped her on the shoulder.
The girl whirled around, long black hair almost whipping him in the face. Black eyes stared him down, contemplating, watching him until thin eyebrows relaxed and the girl stepped aside.
Blake nodded his head in thanks, but couldn't shake the eerie feeling that she watched him leave. Like clockwork, his imagination ran at the ghostly awareness that sparked when thinking of what he now called his 'other self.'
He vigorously shook his head in hopes of easing those memories, even if only a minuscule amount. He remembered hearing something on the radio about how there was at least two of every person. It sounded far-fetched, and thinking back on it, the commercial continued with something about facial cream for a younger-looking you. He lamented, the subject better forgotten.
The crisp fall air assaulted his exposed skin upon exiting the school library. It was late in the evening, and after treading the usual path, he noticed the streets were quiet. Nothing unusual for a Monday night. A car horn beeped in the distance, drowning out the monotonous pitter-patter of rain as his ears focused on the more potent cacophony. Another beep followed by someone screaming profanities he could not make out, partially due to distance, mostly due to his lack of caring.
He arrived at his fourth floor apartment without issue and searched his bag for the key while wiping his black boots on the welcome mat. Although he feigned ignorance when anyone asked him if he was a neat freak, it was safe to say they were right.
The entrance of his comfortable two bedroom apartment greeted him along with the hall light, dark yellows reflecting onto the walls and enlarging any shadow it touched. The sound of the TV floated into his ears and it was obvious he had a visitor. It took more than he would like to admit to contain his sigh. He was doing a lot of that lately.
Without even glancing toward the living room, Blake made it a point to be extra loud as he threw his book-bag in the chair at the dining room table, an expensive red oak piece he indulged in last year. He grabbed a brown coaster off of it, and with aimed precision from years of practice, chucked it at the lump laying on his couch.
"Ow, dammit, what the hell!"
A messy blond tuft of hair peeked out from underneath Blake's favorite fleece blanket, emerald orbs looking over at him. "Welcome home, baby."
Blake exhaled a breath he didn't realize he was holding. "Turn off the hall light next time you decide to make yourself at home in my apartment."
"That's going to cost one round on you at the bar tonight. What'dya say?" The serious tone Leon tried to take made him roll his eyes.
Blake went straight to the fridge, remembering the donut he had specifically saved for after classes.
"Has my offer left you speechless?"
"Stop messing around." Blake continued to dig through the refrigerator, hands searching and eyes wandering as he tried to spot the raspberry-filled donut. "Did you see my donut in here?"
"Mmm," was all he got in reply.
Blake peered around the wall to see Leon reaching for a bag, no, the bag he had gotten from the bakery down the street yesterday.
"You ate my donut, didn't you." His eyes narrowed. It wasn't a question. Leon helped himself to anything and everything in his kitchen as if it were his own, and while Blake was happy he had someone he was so close with, he deeply regretted it at times like this.
"I was doing you a favor since It was sitting in there all lonely next to a half-eaten sandwich." Leon crumpled the bag between his fingers. "It was going bad..."
Blake tried not to snort at the comment. "This Friday, two donuts, my work."
"What?!" the blond practically yelled. "I have a date this Friday. Nope, no can do, buddy." Blake wondered why bringing food to his work would ruin said date, but opted against saying anything, not trying to rouse an argument.
"You and your date better like to read," was all Blake bothered to reply. The task of finding something else to eat was at the forefront of his mind, but even after sifting through all the contents the fridge had to offer, he was less-than satisfied. He shut the fridge door—harder than he thought, possibly annoyed at losing his dessert—and sat down next to Leon on the couch, absentmindedly wiggling his toes in the plush carpet.
His friend was sitting up now and had the blanket wrapped continuously around his body, looking less like a man in his twenties and more like a child.
"So. . . how about that bar I mentioned?" Leon sounded hopeful, even desperate.
Blake purposely kept silent. He knew better than anyone that it irritated Leon to no end, and soon enough he would be spouting anything, mostly nonsense, to get Blake to change his mind. Oddly enough, he was staying mute.
The silence lulled Blake into a sense of tepid comfort, washing away the anxieties from the harsh reality of life. The TV flickered a few feet away from him, the flashing lights acting like hypnosis, capturing his attention as he stared aimlessly into the depths of the screen. It wasn't until Leon spoke again that he snapped back into existence.
"What?" Blake asked, clearly missing the first half of what ever Leon had said.
Leon crumpled his nose and squeezed his eyebrows together. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just. . . fine. Tired. What was it you said?" That dull, pulsing ache was back in his forehead.
He gave Blake a funny look, but didn't mention it further. "If you go to the bar with me, I'll uh, buy you a donut?"
"Are you really trying to bribe me with something that was mine in the first place?"
"Would you just cut me some slack?" Leon crossed his legs and continued to complain. "I texted you and you ignored me, so I decided to wait at your place, but you took forever to come home and so I kinda fell asleep. And maybe ate your donut."
"There's no 'maybe ate my donut.' You did." Blake found himself smiling, amused at his friend's antics.
"That's not the point. You've been acting weird lately and I figured you just needed to get laid or something." Leon was fidgeting and refused to look Blake in the eye. "So, the bar?"
If Leon thought him getting laid would solve all of his problems, than his best-friend was a simple man indeed, but he meant good, and that was enough for him.
He pushed the blanket off of Leon's head and flicked him in the forehead. "A raspberry-filled donut."
Like a christmas tree, Leon's face lit up. "Yes, of course! Oh, but only one."
"Should I ask why?"
Leon rubbed where he was hit, but the corner of his lips turned slightly upward. "Remember, my date Friday?"
Blake figured it was better not to ask him how a donut, a measly ninety-nine cents, could affect his wallet. Not to mention they were about to go to a bar and spend an unmentionable about on beer.
The bar was packed with people. Tacky disco lights lit up the entrance all the way down to the bar, its skittle-assorted colors revealing throngs of males and females alike, each dancing and chatting to the tune being played across the loudspeakers.
Blake sat on a bar stool with a donut in-hand, munching away whilst watching everyone around him. He spotted Leon in the distance surrounded by girls, arms flailing around, mouth working a mile a minute. He probably did something stupid again and was trying to make up for it, and while watching him was always entertaining, he wasn't really in the mood.
He waved over the bartender and was currently nursing a Green Apple Cider beer. Blake was smart enough to pop a couple Tylenol before leaving the house, noting his headache was less noticeable, but still there, heavy and malaise.
A few ladies had approached him, making small talk and showing interest, yet he found it hard to come up with anything to say. He would feign interest before politely fleeing, either finding somewhere else to sit or turning his back on them altogether.
Maybe it was the flickering lights, or the constant vibrations on his feet, but after an hour Blake was starting to feel less and less aware. He waved to Leon in the crowd of people, lucky enough his friend was looking his way, and pointed toward the bathroom, giving him a thumbs up when he saw his concerned look. Leon didn't seem amused by the gesture, and after waving off the females he was chatting with, he made his way to Blake.
"I'm fine," was Blake's first words when Leon appeared next to him. It was hard to tell if he heard him, the music changing from a slower song to an upbeat one.
"Do you want to leave?" Leon asked, concern evident in his voice. A sudden unexplainable feeling took over Blake, calming his apprehension.
"I think I drank too much." An obvious lie, and he didn't think he could fool his blond-haired companion, but knew he would get the underlying meaning: I just need some space.
Their bodies were pushed apart when a couple of guys, slurring their words and running into others, broke them apart. The warmth provided by Leon vanished instantly, a creeping cold making its way up Blake's spine and deep into his bones.
He shook his head and waved to Leon, motioning for him to go back.
Without looking behind him, he sauntered around the inebriated men and women, squeezing through and dodging any advances his way. By the time he made it to the bathroom, he was exhausted.
The bathroom was small, containing only one urinal and two stalls. He bypassed them and went straight to the sink, its once white surface now covered in dirt and white powder that lined the edges.
The practically burning running water did nothing to ease his conscious nor his frigid skin. His reflection in the glass mirrored how he was feeling, sunken-in eyes with a pale disposition. His headache was replaced with a buzzing sensation that got louder and louder by the second.
"This sucks," Blake mumbled to himself and splashed water on his face, the warm sensation doing nothing more than giving him a momentary lapse of quiet from his churning thoughts.
The door creaked open, the noise so sudden it had Blake opening his eyes and glancing up, only to be greeted by an entirely different scene.
As he looked up, into the mirror, into what was supposed to be his splitting image, he would have screamed at the picture that was instead facing him if he hadn't just suddenly lost his voice.
Blood. Rose, tangerine, azure, black blood. His blood? No, no one's blood could be such an array of colors. The bathroom, in the span of a few seconds, had transformed into a blurry mass of a what could only be called hell.
Blake reached his hand to his cheeks, stopping short of his actual skin. He was scared to touch it, fear gripping his insides and keeping him from moving anymore, but he had to know if he was real, a corporeal being. This reminded him too much of that day he was trying so hard to forget, the nostalgic, deja vu type of awareness was frightening.
Then everything stopped: the pain, scenery, all things simple and complex. His world turned stark white, everything in existence reverting back to what it was at the beginning: nothing.
The only thing he could make out was a black shadow gripping his shoulder, staring at his face through the mirror. His body froze, his soul swaying in rejection to whatever had paralyzed him.
And then, in the blink of an eye, the world began again, this time the only thing he could visualize ended up being himself, his other self, whispering into his ear. The voice was feathery and smooth, so unlike the intense beating of his own heart.
"It's time to take back what's mine."
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