Chapter 10 - Should Some Things Remain in the Dark?
What’s all this? The aged hinges cry as they’re forced to turn against a gradient of rust. There are fat, yellow envelopes with wrinkles, piled sloppily on top of other things. I pick each one up with care, and set it on the floor to accompany my knees as I kneel down. Looking back into the chest, I notice that the thin, matte leather on the outside and the opaque velvet on the inside are two separate, dusky shades of black. Previously beneath the envelopes are a few oddities that look like rejected gifts. A few toy cars, almost brand new, and a plastic rifle, coated a high-profile, neon orange. My hands dive under them as if I’m a creature that burrows in dirt. Beyond the items already discovered, there is a blanket that looks well-used, the fabric pilling. I pull it out of the trunk to--
What the hell is that…?
My hand clenches a fist with the quilt still inside, squeezing it like a lemon as I stare at a book laying confidently at the bottom of the box. Suddenly, I start to hear a faint and irksome ringing in my ears. The cover... has a pentagram carved in the middle with a metallic blue filling the indents. Reluctantly, my fingertips sprawl out and yearn to grasp it. Cradling the dubious literature in my palms, I let it fall open. It’s just symbols… Is this some kind of joke? I toss the book back where I found it, and hastily cover it up with the fall-themed duvet. Cautiously, I twist the little aluminum latch on one of the envelopes and stick my hand inside. My thumb and pointer come out with a constrained family portrait to be held before my eyes for inspection. There’s a father, much taller than the mother, and a little boy at their feet. The picture is so small that I can’t quite ascertain their expressions, but body language says enough. Curiosity wins me over as I dump the rest of the envelope’s guts onto the grimy floor. Now, all these pictures... have faces that are scratched white. It looks like each one has been keyed with hatred. Did Mochta do this?
I decide to clean up, and try my best to make everything look untouched. I even scoop a dust bunny off the floor boards and place it atop the chest, where the stroke of my hand left a mark. I go to return the room to darkness, and descend its stairs. Peeking over the rail, I see Mochta’s back turned to me. He must be making a midnight snack, it’s way too late for dinner. I take a seat at the granite island. I’m not the best at getting someone’s attention. But, eventually, Mochta turns enough to catch a part of me in the corner of his eye.
“Aah!” He jolts before swiveling fully in my direction. “Ah… Where have you been?” He turns back towards the cabinets in far reach to venture for a mug.
“I went upstairs.”
The silence after an ear-splitting clamor makes my blood run cold. Before the last hiss of air even dissipated from my lips, Mochta dropped his mug.
“Oh... o-oops,” he chuckles nervously. While my countenance grows pale, Mochta begins cleaning up the pieces.
After a while, my voice box finally rings its vocal chords, “Mochta…?”
“I really wish you hadn’t done that.”
I watch him discard the poor mug’s remains in the trash can. Then, he puts his hands on the far side of the counter to look up at me with tears in his eyes. Why does he look so sad?
“You’re gonna ask a ton of questions now, aren’t you?”
“N-No.. you don’t need to tell me anything.” I can’t deny that I’m shivering now, as if the air has turned mercilessly cold. Mochta’s lip trembles, and his lids fall with a tear sliding down the hill that is his cheekbone.
“Are you okay…?” I have to ask. I have to say something, that’s what you do when you care about someone. He tries to compress the countertop with his grip, but it won’t budge.
“What did you see up there?”
“Um…” Crap. Should I just tell him the truth, or would it be better to fib? It’s not like I understood anything from what I saw. “Um..” But I can’t think of anything to replace the truth. I start to sweat as I press my thumb into the center of my alternative palm.
I squeak unintentionally. Like a mechanism that needs oiling, my head turns to face Mochta’s unavoidable presence. His hair is getting long, I notice some of the loose, blonde curls are almost touching his eyes. His steely eyes that usually remind me of a crisp, translucent sea water. “Hmm..?”
“Please don’t…” A sniffle changes his whole demeanor as his face is soon swarmed with tears he frantically tries to fend off. “Please don’t think of me any differently!”
Huh? A spry little nerve-ending taps my spine and impels me to stand. I race to be at Mochta’s side and enfold him protectively in my arms. “What are you talking about, you big baby?”
“I- I’ve never told anyone the truth about what happened that day... a-and it never stops eating away at me.” he hics and stutters. I embrace him a bit tighter as he tugs on my sleeve.
“B-But I feel like if I tell anyone, it should be you.” Mochta’s eyes dart up at me since he’s hunched over, while I lean back to look at him with sincerity. His elbows are weakly teetering on the island’s surface, and he presses my forearm against his lips, a steady stream of tears soaking the pinched fabric.
“I promise nothing will change our friendship, Mochta.”
“Sit down, you look like you’re going to fall over.” I help him get onto a stool and keep a hand on his back, gently rubbing his shoulder blades as time goes leisurely by.
“I guess I should explain everything… from the beginning. My dad, he.. h-he started to…” I can feel Mochta shaking, and assume the worst as I take into account his eyes, staring wide and fearful at nothing.
“You don’t have to say it.”
“Well… my mom.. she didn’t do anything about it. She knew, I cried to her for help all the time but,” he whimpers and wipes a handful of sorrow off his porcelain face. “I guess, maybe, she was glad that it wasn’t her.” Mochta grits his teeth while I squeeze his shoulder, wishing I could do so much more to take the pain away.
“On my 8th birthday, I expressed in the kindest way possible, that I didn’t want the toys that were advertised to boys… I just.. didn’t. And then, you know what he said to me? ‘If you want to be a little princess, then I’ll treat you like one. I’ll lock you up and make your life hell until you grow a pair.’ Yeah… He was a seriously disturbed man.” Mochta balls up his fists on the polished, stone surface before him. “That next day, these older kids noticed how miserable I was while walking down the street. They called me over, and I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ They were pretty weird, there were three of them and they all had this mischievous aura. Their style was goth, of course, and they asked me if I hated my parents. I just looked away, but they gave me a book and a piece of paper they called ‘the code’. I kept it for a couple weeks… until I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanna say I was just a kid, or that they deserved it, but.. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling like a horrible person.” Mochta hangs his head. “And the fact that it actually worked... makes it all the more insane.”
What worked? I ponder. But I don’t want to interrupt him.
“Basically, I did a ritual. To summon a demon to kill my parents.”
My hand freezes, sends a chill up to my neck, and then continues to stroke Mochta’s back in a soothing manner.
“I.. remember setting everything up in my room at 3 a.m., and having a silent fit afterwards, because I felt so stupid for believing in it. I cried so much that night, and I couldn’t tell you why.” Mochta bows his head into his hands and forcefully grabs at the wavy fluff concealing his scalp. “I had the whole shebang,” he continues solemnly, “candles, chalk, I even dug up our cat’s grave for bones, I even sliced open the palm of my hand. Then, in the morning…” Mochta slaps a palm over his mouth as his cheeks puff up with a quiet retch. Tears drip and plop onto the crystalline gloss of the countertop below. I pull him in and try to comfort him with all the warmth I have to give, my fingertips curling into his cotton shirt. It’s as if I’m trying to wring the sadness out of him.
“I-In the morning,” he weeps. “I peeked into my parents room and… There was blood. Everywhere.” His voice flutters, cracking in anguish.
“It’s over now, all that matters is you’re safe. Let the burden fall off your shoulders.” I comb my fingers into his silken hair and rest the side of my visage on the back of his head. I let him cry until the flood gates have dispersed an entire river. My legs are almost numb.
“Shina.” Mochta’s forehead ends up resting on mine, our tired eyes gazing into each other. “You’re my best friend,” he adds.
Even though, deep down I’m wrestling with butterflies, I can’t help but smile for him. “You’re mine too.”
☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎
It’s a new day today. Last night, I refused to let Mochta keep sleeping on the couch. In the end, I had to carry him into his room and set him on his bed to show him how serious I was. The couch is pretty comfortable anyway, so I have no complaints. I managed to wake up earlier than Mochta, so I tried to make breakfast, but--
“Ugh! This is disgusting! How useless do I have to be to screw up eggs?!” I scrape the disappointment out of the pan and into the trash like mad. Meanwhile, I hear an adorable laugh.
“What’s disgusting?” Mochta inquires with a cheerful disposition.
“Oh.. you’re awake. I… tried to make breakfast.”
“Pfft. You tried to make breakfast?” he teases in more ways than one as he sits down in front of me.
“Two-faced…” I trail off with a mumbling growl as I focus on rinsing the matte, iron skillet.
“What was that?”
“H-How can you be all sad and sweet one day and be a bonehead the next?”
“’Cause you love me?”
My gaze shoots back up and I imagine myself caught in a blush. Mochta’s paying little attention, however, as he extends his arms across the countertop like a cat stretching after a nap. He yawns, “My eyes burn…”
“That’s what you get for being a crybaby.” The cooled, damp spatula in my hand swats the top of Mochta’s head.
“That didn’t hurt.”
Mochta shoos me away from the stove and starts to make french toast, as if he had been making it every day for his whole life.
“So, how did it go yesterday? Does your wing feel better?”
“Oh. It went… okay, I guess.”
“I wanted to get you a suppressor for your gun, but the guy behind the counter was already suspicious of me.”
“Really? What did he say?”
“Uh.. honestly, I think it was more my fault. I was so nervous, I started rambling on about how I was desperate to impress my brother-in-law on a last minute hunting trip--”
“Huh? Who’s your brother-in-law?”
“It’s called a lie, Shina.”
“Anyway, he did ask what I wanted it for, and then he said ‘You’re going hunting with this thing?’ and I paused for a bit and went, ‘It.. looks cooler?’ Thankfully, he just shook his head and told me, ‘Whatever, kid.’”
“Wow… You’re embarrassing.”
The sight of Mochta flushed turns a smile out of my empty expression.
☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎
Miraculously, another month goes by, and I have to say, it hasn’t been as pleasant as the month before. I can’t recall details, but apparently, I’ve left abruptly and come home at night several times with dried blood on my hands. It’s scary. Scary that I don’t remember who I killed, what I did, what they did… I don’t like it. Did I get an upgrade? Or was Death so disappointed in me somehow that I got a downgrade? Helios was a good kill though... Wasn’t it? ‘Good kill.’ Get a grip, Shina, you’re really starting to sound like a psycho.
“Hey.” Mochta comes to sit beside me on the sofa, he looks like a paperweight on a desk. Can he help bring me back down to Earth?
“Hey~” He waves a hand in my face. “You’re kinda creeping me out…”
I make a noise. I’m not really sure how to describe that noise, maybe it’s like a cross between a ‘hmm’ and a ‘huh’. My eyes widen a bit, I’m shocked I let myself stare at him for so long. How did I end up with such a beautiful roommate, again?
“It’s okay. I’m just.. worried about you.”
“I appreciate that.” I shift my prolonged gaze to my kneecaps.
“Will you be okay here by yourself if I go spend the night at Axel’s?”
“Yes!” I swing my head back up and turn to him with determination. “I’ll be fine.”
“Okay.” Unexpectedly, I’m pulled in for a hug, my arms pinned to my sides. How sweet. Though I wish--
Mochta releases me. “I’ll be back in the morning to make sure you don’t burn down the house trying to cook for yourself.”
The only response I can muster is a grunt. Mochta snickers, and soon after departs.
I’m alone. Should I be happy? Even when I’m alone, it feels like I’m being watched. Is Death always looking down on me? Doesn’t he have anything better to do?
“Aauugh!” What is this? Is my head going to explode?! My hands slap against either side, as if crushing my skull would eradicate the preexisting agony. My torso topples over, and flails onto the coffee table. The density of my bones, though wrapped in flesh, makes a reverberating clatter on the wood and glass. Am I about to have a vision? I haven’t had one in a while, is that why it hurts so much?!
Walking. Leg’s walking. Toffee-brown legs walking. Looking up, staring at a boy. Walking, walking to school. Lots of kids, teenagers, walking. Talking, they’re all chatting so close. We’re just observing, invisible. Walking, walking to the door, walking to our locker. Open it. Twist left 4 times, stop. Right 2 times, stop. Left 1 time, stop. Click. Pull. We reach for our Chemistry book. Look right. The boy, his back is turned. Don’t turn our head. Pretend. We are opening the book, turning the pages. A girl is talking to the boy. Read her lips. “Prom… go to the… Date.” A nod. The boy nods. She looks happy. He looks… he looks--
“Ugh!” I spring back up, letting my back rest at the foot of the couch while I stretch my legs under the table. What even was that? It didn’t look like anything to do with murder. I sigh. The rules of this game are so weird, and constantly changing. Woosh, a loud whoosh, my ears pick up as I turn my head to find the culprit of this sound. My wings had unfurled quickly, spreading out to at least 6 feet altogether. They really have a mind of their own. Do they want me to go somewhere? This is ridiculous, the vision I had was just of some jealous, teenage girl. Unless--
No, that’s impossible…
Could I stop her before she hurts someone?