Trashy rumours and a blast from the past.
I knew something
was up the moment I entered the school.
As soon as I stepped through the wide open doors, every single head turned my way. Literally.
For a shocking moment I thought that maybe Buff Man had revealed my secret to everyone but that all changed when a tiny blonde girl pushed her way through the spectators.
“Tegan, is it true? Did you stalk Sabrina in the holidays?” Lizzy cried, coming so close to me that her small head managed to block my view of everyone else.
“Well…” I didn’t know what to say. It was true but I couldn’t explain why to Lizzy, let alone the whole school.
“She’s been saying things like how you’re obsessed with her and that you’re in love with her or something.” Lizzy continued to spiel.
“What?” I choked. She thinks I’m in love with her? What the flip? Is she crazy? Just the thought of being in love with Sabrina made me want to throw up my breakfast and maybe my spleen as well.
“That little liar.” I spat, pushing her out of my way and giving my fellow students a look that should have sent them running for the hills.
Then I stomped my way down the blue and white corrider towards my locker. Seriously, is she so egocentric that she thinks that…that…
I almost punched the door of my locker.
“You’re not, are you Tegan?” Lizzy asked feebly as she followed on my heels. “Because I thought…after all she’s done to me…that you’d be on my side.”
I turned to my best friend and flinched at the tears I saw in her big blue eyes.
“Oh God no! Lizzy, I hate her! I swear I do!”
Lizzy just nodded and I felt drained. School had barely started and there were already rumours and angst and drama.
I felt my spirits sink even more when I looked in my school planner and saw that I had English first up which was bad for two reasons.
Reason 1: It was the last lesson we had to finish the assignment…which Buff Man and I had barely started. To be honest, I had kind of forgotten what the assignment was.
Reason 2: I had to sit with Buff Man.
“ Great. Just what I need.” I muttered, my bad mood darkening by the minute. As I closed the door of my locker and leaned my back against it, I watched as countless students walked past in huddles groups, all of them shooting me odd looks.
Stupid Sabrina ruining my life.
Just as I suspected, English wasn’t any better.
The moment I walked into that stuffy little classroom and sat in my stiff wodden seat, Buff Man turned to me and gave me a warm smile.
“Hello Tegan. You look nice today.” He said with a sickeningly sweet smile. It made my skin crawl.
“Cut the crap. Jess is already dating someone and they seem serious.” I snapped, putting on my glasses and fiddling with the case.
Buff Man’s face fell but I felt no sympathy for him.
Then Buff Man cleared his throat and I looked back at him sharply.
“What?” I asked.
“Um…I was also wondering…is it true that you broke up with your boyfriend because you’re in love with Sabrina and that’s why you were following her around in the holidays?”
I think Buff Man realised halfway through that sentence that that was the worst thing so say because he trailed off and went red as I turned my death glare on.
Then I ignored him and tried to finish this stupid report on the relevance of Gothic Literature in society.
I got through the day by thinking about the massive double cheeseburger I was going to buy myself when school ended.
It still took all my self control not to flip out and attack all the people who couldn’t stop staring at me like I was some sort of freak of nature.
Sabrina was obviously the one behind the rumours. I had no doubt about it. The problem, however, was that she was telling the truth about me following her. There was no way I could deny it. There was also no way I could defend myself without sounding crazy. I couldn’t do anything! So I remained silent about the whole thing, hoping that it would blow over like everything else.
There was something else that was on my mind as well. Despite the fact that I was avoiding him like the plague, I was still surprised when I didn’t see Cory at all throughout the whole day. Lizzy later told me that he wasn’t at school and for some reason, his absence filled me with dread. I was kind of grateful that I wouldn’t have to see his gaunt face but at the same time, I hoped he was okay.
When the bell rang for the end of school, I basically fled the building.
Although Lizzy and Gina offered to go with me, I decided that I needed some time alone with just me and my food.
So I ran, and tripped, and kept running until I saw the red neon sign of BigBurger.
Then I sat in the corner and just ate.
It probably wasn’t a very healthy way to deal with my problems but it made me feel better and eventually my sniffling stopped. All I wanted was for people to leave me alone. I wanted them to stop talking about me. I wanted them to stop making things up about me. I just wanted them to stop looking at me with those accusing eyes.
I was embarrassed and upset and incredibly angry. Nothing could comfort me except for the melted cheese and fries that I was devouring.
I think I spent about an hour or more just sitting by myself in that booth, wallowing in self pity and anger.
All my emotions felt like they were just stewing, ready to explode. So I ordered a chocolate sundae, and then another one.
I ended up eating so much that I was sick and puked it up in the bathroom, probably making everyone think I was bulimic.
I didn’t care. After I’d emptied my stomach, I stood there with my hands over my mouth, breathing hard. I felt surprisingly better, both physically and mentally.
After I rinsed my mouth out and fixed my hair in the mirror, I decided to go home and sleep it off.
However, I was reluctant leaving the checkered floors and shiny polished tables of my favourite fast food place. I suppose BigBurger had become a bit of a sanctuary for me, just like the abandoned railway station.
Then I laughed.
What was wrong with me? Why did I treasure a stingy little burger place so much? Had I sunk so low that my only coping mechanism was junk food?
“Get a hold of yourself Tegan.” I muttered. There was no point wallowing in self pity and eating my feelings. Gosh I was such a nutcase.
I felt a little more confident as I stood outside BigBurger, waiting for the traffic lights to change so I could cross the road safely and not get hit by the big green truck.
Then I walked across the zebra crossing and made my way towards the town centre. It would be quicker if I walked through that metropolis of office buildings and shops to get home rather than going around it.
Besides, I enjoyed getting lost in the crowd. Sometimes when I looked at the mass of people walking around in the city, they seemed to all move in unison like they weren’t individuals but a part of a big grey beast that was shifting and conorting itself.
It felt nice being a part of that. I guess that’s why I liked the big cities a lot better than a town like Fishbowl. With so many people around me, I could be anyone I wanted.
That was the problem was that the metropolis area of Fishbowl; it wasn’t that big so I still felt like myself as I walked among the business people and other school kids.
I was just in front of the mall when I noticed the figure staring at me.
I stopped and stared back, meeting the girl’s hazel eyes with my own.
She was standing a few metres to my left, leaning against a telephone booth with her slender arms crossed across her chest. She was about the same height as me, with short blonde hair and a blue knee length dress. I guessed that she must be in her twenties but to be honest, I couldn’t really tell. Her face was perfectly flawless, despite her ordinary features. However, it was her confidence that made her stand out. The way she held herself and her posture screamed that she knew who she was and was proud of it. She met my stare head on and not once did her expression falter. That scared me. Usually when you caught people staring at you, they looked away but this girl acted like I was the one doing something wrong.
Even when I looked away, I could tell she was still watching. I could feel her gaze on my face. Weirdo.
I continued the walk through the busy streets, my mind suddenly drifting to the most recent of my dreams.
I swallowed nervously.
I hadn’t had a dream for a while; not since Raith had been keeping me company. He had been distracting me so much that I hadn’t had much time to dwell on it. Now that I was alone, however, the nightmare came back into sharp focus.
I gritted my teeth as I remembered the look on her face as she rose out of the pile of rags; her tangled hair, her yellowish skin. I choked. I had to control myself. Raith said the dreams wouldn’t go away, that he had taken away a part of me. It seemed that he had taken my closure with what happened. I suddenly felt sickeningly guilty with myself again, feeling the beginnings of a breakdown.
As I left the city and the bustling of people, I found myself more alone with my thoughts, the silence around me making my inner voices amplified.
I was lonely again, but it was a different kind of lonely. It was an old loneliness, an old wound that hadn’t quite healed over yet.
When I was younger, I was never alone. It was one of the perks of being a twin.
I rubbed my face, my fingers cold.
There were times like today when it all came crashing down on me again. When I realised that I used to have a sister; that it wasn’t just a dream.
I remembered the way Megan and I used to race each other home from school everyday. I remembered how we used to trick everyone by pretending to be the other twin. I remembered how we used to finish each others sentences and how we could never sleep unless we were holding hands. Then I remembered when Tegan and Megan no longer existed, when it was just me. I remembered how lonely I was, how it felt like a part of me had died with her, how no one seemed to understand me, to connect with me on the deep level that my twin always had. It was like my soul had been torn and shredded over and over again. I remembered waking up one morning screaming her name, desperate to feel her fingers linked with mine. I remembered sitting in the park crying and crying until no more tears came, waiting for her to come home even though I knew she was gone. I knew even when they were still searching, even when they thought there was hope. I felt the chill in my bones, the ice in my lungs, the drowning, suffocating, tormenting pressure on my chest like my heart was being squeezed. I knew when she died.
I saw something wet drop on the ground and for a moment I thought it was going to rain. A glance at the sky made me realise that it wasn’t rain. I just crying. I was always crying and I hated myself for it. I hated myself for being so weak, for letting myself lose control.
Everything seemed to lose focus as I was filled with rage. Why was I so weak?
I felt the sudden urge to run, to run so far away that I would never have to think about Megan again, never have to look in the mirror and see her face instead of my own. But running wouldn’t make her go away. She was in my head. She was in my dreams. She would torment me and blame me for what happened until the day I died and we were reunited again. I didn’t blame her. I couldn’t. It was my fault. All of it.
A wind picked up and pulled my hair all over my face. I shivered, wishing I had brought a jacket with me. I was almost home though, my feet bringing me past the abandoned train station.
“Aww diddums.” A patronizingly sweet voice sneered.
I stopped, my heart hammering in my chest. Pushing my messy hair out of my face, I looked around for the person who had spoken.
I jumped back as a girl floated down in front of me. Floated down.
She hovered a few feet above the ground and smirked.
I didn’t have to think. Without a pause, I screamed. I screamed as high and shrill as I could before my feet sprung into action. A split second later I was running past her, my eyes glued to the sign reading Herring Avenue.
It was the girl from the city and she could fly! Why could she fly? What was she? Oh God oh God oh God oh God help me! And why was she following me? Another Babu was the absolute last thing I needed.
I kept screaming as I ran, a stitch forming in my side. Why won’t these people leave me alone? What did I do to deserve this?
I was getting just a little sick of creepy people popping up whenever they felt like it. It’s like there was a huge neon sign above my head that said: Don’t mind me, I’m totally fine with supernatural freaks stalking me. No really, it’s totally cool. It’s not like I have a life anyway. Go ahead. Give it your best shot.
I was half dead by the time I reached my house, my breathing sporadic and my legs aching. I was feeling dizzy and light headed, my palms clammy and cold.
I was stumbling up the steps when I felt something smash into the back of my head.
I screamed in pain, my vision going blinding white as I was thrown forward, my face slamming into the front door with a bang. My eyes became watery as the pain blossomed on my forehead and I struggled as something held me there, something like a hand around my neck.
“Who are you?” The girl yelled in my ear.
When I sobbed in response, she pulled me back and slammed my face into the door again. I screamed, feeling something warm trickle down my nose.
I bought my hands up to my throat but didn’t feel anything there. It was the trick Raith had used on me what seemed like years ago. This girl had to be another Reaper.
“Who are you?” the girl screamed again. “What did you do to him?” She began to bash my head repeatedly against the door and I couldn’t do anything but scream and wail, all rational articulate thought vanishing from my head as each thud was accompanied by a sharp, piercing pain that spread through my whole face.
A trail of blood was running down the door now, the deep red congealing and thick and spreading with each painful smash.
The smell made my nose twitch and my stomach churn.
She was shouting something now but I couldn’t hear her over my screams. My brain decided to switch from panic mode to shut down mode, too overloaded with fear to try to help me fight back. I waited for unconsciousness, almost welcoming the comforting darkness void of responsibility and repercussions.
Then I heard someone yell “What the fuck?” and the pressure around my neck was gone.
I slumped against the door, my eyes closed as I listened to the two voices screaming at each other.
“Just what the fuck are you doing?” It was Raith’s voice.
“Don’t you give me that shit! What the fuck are you doing?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Like hell you don’t! You have a duty to perform! Why the hell are you hiding out here with this little shit when everything is falling apart up there? You can’t just absorb the power and forget about everything else that comes alone with it! You have a responsibility now-”
“I never wanted the responsibility or the power!”
“Well you should have thought of that before you fucking killed Tomb!”
The voices faded as the darkness reigned in and I thought I heard Raith shout my name before I embraced the comforting ebony bliss.
I opened my eyes a crack, grimacing at the bright light that temporarily blinded me.
“Lizzy?” I whispered, my voice hoarse as I squinted at the blonde figure.
“Jess! She’s awake!”
“Tegan? Oh thank God!”
I sat up slowly as someone flew at me, their arms around my neck.
“I was so scared! I came home and saw you unconscious outside the front door and there was blood everywhere! I thought you had died! What happened?”
I looked around and saw that I was lying on Jess’ bed. Lizzy was staring at me biting her bottom lip and Gina was pale and shaky. It looked like they had both been crying.
“I…I don’t really know what happened.” I said slowly, trying to come up with a good lie.
“Did someone attack you?” Jess screamed. “I tried calling mum but she didn’t answer her phone so I called Lizzy and Gina instead! Should I call the police?”
“No it’s ok…” I touched my face, grimacing at how tender my forehead felt.
“Was it Cory?” Lizzy blurted out, her voice laced with worry.
“Cory?” Jess scrambled onto the bed and stared at me with her huge eyes. “He’s not stalking you is he?” she whispered. “Because last time that happened-”
“I know what happened last time!” I shouted.
She cringed and we were silent. I glared at Jess’ purple doona, refusing to look at Lizzy, Gina or my sister. I knew they were worried about me and I also knew that I had hurt Jess’ feelings by snapping at her. She had just wanted to help after all.
And yet I couldn’t bring myself to speak to any of them.
“I’ll leave you to get some rest.” Jess said softly and when I glanced up I realised that she looked like she was about to cry.
I didn’t say anything, not trusting myself to speak.
As she rolled off the bed and left the room, Lizzy and Gina gave me worried looks before following her.
I lay back down, feeling defeated.
Before I knew it, I was fast asleep.
She slowly stood up, her hair a tangled mess, her face gaunt, beaten and bruised.
I flinched, edging backwards, trying to find a way out of the room. Smile had disappeared and loneliness swept over me so great that I felt like I was treading water in a vast ocean with no end.
Megan stumbled towards me, her skeletal legs bent at odd angles as she moved. Each breath she took was accompanied with a dry, rattling noise that came from deep in her lungs.
I could feel her heart beat thumping in sync with my own just like it used to.
My back reached the wall and I turned, my eyes scanning the darkness for a door leading me away from this place.
In that split second she was on me, her hands grabbing my shoulders as she opened her mouth and let out a bloodcurdling wail.
I screamed and pushed her away, her frail body crashing to the floor in an explosion of dust. Spinning quickly, I grabbed the handle of an old wooden door and tried to pull it open.
My heart stopped when the thing wouldn’t budge and I started shaking, the air cold and piercing in my lungs.
I could hear Megan’s shallow, shaky breaths behind me. With a hopeless cry, I pushed the door and it creaked open as I fell through with a crash.
I sprang onto my feet in a flash, ignoing the pain in my shins as Megan grabbed my arm.
“This is all your fault!” she screamed into my face, spittle and blood flying in all directions.
“I’m sorry!” I sobbed, ripping my arm from her grasp, her nails tearing my skin and drawing blood like red ink.
“It should have been you!” she shrieked and I fled.
Her voice echoed in the dreamscape and I then was running across the landing, down the stairs, out the door, through the trees, breathing, screaming, crying, gasping, dying, running running running…
I woke up in darkness, Megan’s voice ringing in my ears.
“Just a dream.” I whispered. “Just a dream.”
I sat up and turned on the lamp on the desk next to me. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I felt the air leave my lungs.
I started to hyperventilate, my eyes glued to the hand mirror sitting on Jess’ bedside table.
It wasn’t my reflection looking back at me. It was her; her face cracked and bleeding as she stared at me with those soulless eyes.
I screamed and hurled the mirror at the wall, frozen as the glass shattered into a million pieces and blood seemed to seep out from the shards.
What was going on? Was I still dreaming? I could still feel her here with me, cold and dead.
There was a picture lying on the floor. It had fallen out of the back of the mirror when I had thrown it at the wall.
I rolled out of the bed and stumbled over to it, falling to the ground beside it.
It was a picture of Megan and myself laughing at some long forgotten joke. I picked it up and held it tight in my hands, my eyes glued to the two figures.
We were so young that I barely recognized myself. There was a look in my eyes that had only returned recently. It was true happiness.
I hugged the photo to my chest, trying to hold onto this memory. I remembered when this was taken now. It had been our first trip to the beach and a boy at school had scared me by telling me that a shark would eat me if I went swimming.
I remembered that I refused to go anywhere near the water until the last day, when Megan took my hand and promised that nothing would hurt me as long as we were together.
I took a shuddering breath.
As long as we were together.
I wasn’t okay. I wondered if I ever would be. My sister would always be a part of me. I wouldn’t forget her. But I also couldn’t forget what had happened to her. As long as I lived, I had to accept that I was partially responsible for the abduction and murder of my twin.
My finger started prickling and I looked down. I had a paper cut.
I looked at the small red line. With the other hand, I pinched the cut and watched as my fingertip went white and a round ball of red appeared and elongated into a drop.
The prickling in my finger turned into a stinging sensation and the feeling ran down my hand.
The stinging moved from my hand into my arm and then into my whole body.
My mind was frozen, suspended in an emotionless state. I couldn’t feel anything except the warm tears on my face and the rough paper in my hands.
“Tegan, what happened?” he repeated.
“What happened?” I whispered, my voice flat. I was tingling now, the feeling pouring some colour back into my greyscale brain. “What happened?” I said louder. The numbness had worn off and anger replaced it, a burning anger so deep that it singed every nerve from the inside out.
I stood up and turned to the door where Raith was standing, his hands in his pockets and an innocent look on his face. Just the sight of him made me want to scream: his carelessness infuriating.
“You want to know what happened?” I asked blankly, my whole body shaking.
When Raith just stared back at me impassively, I blew up.
“You’re what happened” I suddenly shouted. “You made me like this! You made me remember! You made me lose control! You made me dream! You made me break into Sabrina’s house to get your stupid ring and now Babu is making my life a living hell and then some girl appears and tries to kill me all because of you!”
“And then you left me! You promised nothing would happen and you left me!” My voice cracked and the tears ran freely down my face.
“Tegan calm down-”
“No!” I shrieked, pointing an accusing finger at him. “It’s your fault that my life is falling apart and all you can say is calm down? Get out Raith and this time I mean it!”
“I can’t!” He took a step forward and I took a step back, vaguely aware that I was crying again.
“If I leave you alone, Morgue will come back and kill you.” He said fiercely, a wild look in his eyes.
“I’m sick of all of this! I don’t care anymore.” I shouted. “Let her kill me! Let Babu kill me! If it would make all of this stop-”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Like hell I don’t! Since when do you know how I feel? Since when do you care?”
I had walked so far backwards that my back was against the wall and there was nowhere else to go. Raith, however, kept his distance, his eyes serious as he stared at me.
“Sorry isn’t going to help!” I screamed. “Sorry isn’t going to fix this!”
There was broken glass on the floor from the mirror and it sliced into the soles of my feet. I didn’t care. The sharp pain made everything clearer and more real.
“Do you know who this is?” I whispered, my voice a deathly low as I showed him the picture of Megan and myself. When Raith didn’t say anything, I continued. “This is my twin sister Megan. She was abducted when we were twelve by a man who thought she was me. He locked her in his basement for two years before killing her and then himself. They never found her body.”
When Raith still didn’t speak, I went on.
“It took me years to stop waking up screaming: to stop blaming myself for what happened. We moved to this town to forget everything but thanks to you, it looks like I never will!”
“What do you want me to say?” he finally yelled at me, his eyes wide as he ran his hands through his hair.
“Nothing! I don’t want you to say anything! I want you to stay the hell away from me!”
“And I told you that I can’t do that!”
“Why? Because I’ll die and then you’ll be in trouble?” I shouted. “Well I don’t care what they do to you because it can’t be worse than what I’m going through right now!”
Suddenly Raith was right in front of me, slamming his palms on the wall on either side of my head.
“You think that’s the only reason I don’t want you to die?” He whispered, his eyes dark as he leaned towards me.
“Don’t pretend there’s more than that Raith.” I hissed back.
He stared at me for a long moment, his eyes searching mine for some unknown emotion. I knew he wouldn’t find anything. All I could feel was adrenalin, adrenalin and anger.
Then he let his arms fall and moved so he could sit on the ground next to me, leaning against the wall. I slowly slid down so that I too was sitting. We didn’t talk for what felt like hours.
I buried my head in my hands and took shuddering breaths.
Anger was a strange emotion. It was fleeting and yet so powerful. At the time, it felt so strong and overwhelming, like if I didn’t get it out it would consume me like a fire. In a second it was gone and I suddenly felt like I was washed out and empty. There was nothing left; nothing for me to say or do or feel. So I tried to hold on to the anger, to hold on to anything that would make me feel something.
“Tyler.” Raith suddenly said.
I glanced at him.
“You asked me a long time ago whether Raith was my real name. It’s not. When I was alive, my name was Tyler.”
Tyler. The name was so ordinary. It made me realise that once upon a time, Raith must have been a normal teenager like myself; a person with a family and friends. The thought scared me. Thinking of him as an actual person instead of a supernatural freak made me feel different. It made me less angry and honestly, anger was all I had.
“You usually forget your name when you wake up. You forget everything so you feel no ties towards anyone still living. You’re still yourself but the memories of what makes you who you are are gone so they rename you.” Raith gave a bitter laugh and ran another hand through his hair.
“It’s funny though. I can remember everything: every damn thing that had happened when I was still alive. They don’t believe me because they say it’s not possible but I know better.”
I swallowed, trying to ignore the overwhelming yet fleeting feelings that were coursing through my veins as I listened to him talk. I knew I had issues but not once had I considered that something worse could have happened to someone else. The bitterness in Raith’s voice hinted that the memories of his life weren’t happy ones.
“How did you die?” I asked softly.
He didn’t speak for what felt like aeons and for a second I thought he wouldn’t answer me. He had warned me never to mention his death. The last time I did, he freaked out and had one of his violent mood swings. However, this time I wanted him to get angry. I needed him to do something to remind me why I should hate him with every breath I took.
“I...I did something that I’ve regretted every day of this cursed life. I…”
Raith’s voice caught in his throat and I wanted to stop him. Our relationship was about to reach an intimacy that I wasn’t ready for. Then he finished his sentence and I knew we’d never be the same again.
“I slit my wrists and bled out in the bathroom sink.”