Dark eyes and troubling dreams.
Some time throughout my little nap, my consciousness decided that it wanted to babble on in my head.
This was annoying because for the next few hours, I had to sit through an awful internal monologue about all the mistakes that had led me thus far into this disastrous situation. It wouldn’t just let me lie there in peace.
First of all, this problem arose because you are an unpunctual idiot. If you had been on time to that maths class at the start of the year, you wouldn’t have been elbowed in the face, gone to the bathroom and had a supernatural hottie almost fall on top of you.
Second of all, if you hadn’t been so curious, you wouldn’t have felt the need to approach the aforementioned supernatural babe and thus wouldn’t have had some of your soul sucked away and lost his ring.
Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up!
Thirdly, if you weren’t such a coward and actually had some shred of intellect, you wouldn’t have been pressured into stealing the ring back. You wouldn’t have got on the bad side of a psychotic angel and unleashed this horrible mess on yourself!
I was going to kill my brain. Vital organ my ass, that thing was going down.
“Shut up!” I screamed, stirring from my slumber and sitting up abruptly.
Dark trees and sunlight swum into focus and I wished desperately that I was still asleep.
With a yawn, I squinted against the light and rubbed my eyes tiredly. My limbs felt stiff, like I had been sleeping in a cramped position the whole time.
Once my eyes had adjusted to the light, I managed to take in my surroundings.
I was sitting in a small clearing surrounded by large twisting trees. It was strange the way the trees were arranged; it was like they were planted in a perfect circle around this spot of bare ground.
The ground itself was completely covered in leaves of all different shapes, sizes and colours. I had never seen colours that were so bright and vivid before. The reds, browns, yellows and greens were almost piercing, like I was staring into a new dimension of colour.
It wasn’t just the colours that were strange though. The forest smelt amazing. There was a certain freshness about the place like that clean, crisp smell in the air after it rained.
“So you’re finally awake.”
The voice surprised me and I turned quickly towards the sound, suddenly remembering that I wasn’t alone.
It only took me seconds to pin point the dark figure sitting amidst the vibrant autumn foliage in the bright, sunlit clearing. He was sitting on the ground against one of the gnarly ancient trees a few metres away from me, with his long legs stretched out in front of him and his hands behind his head.
He was back in his dark, casual clothes with not a trace of dirt on his hands.
I, on the other hand, was still in my long dark blue dress covered in blood.
I slowly traced the neat line of stitches that ran from the corner of my left shoulder all the way to my collar bone. I had a similar abrasion on my right shoulder.
Shock turned into anger. Anger at being so unprepared. Anger at believing that this was going to be easy. Anger that I had ever trusted Raith in the first place.
“Are you going to thank me?” Raith asked as he watched me with an unreadable expression on his calm face.
“Thank you? Are you serious?” I shouted, standing up and almost tripping on the hem of my skirt. “I should stab you in the face for not telling me what is going on in the first place! Why did Lucas bring my sister here? What does he want?”
With each question, I took a step forward until I was stranding right in front of Raith with my hands on my hips and a frown on my face.
“What was that thing that attacked me last night?” I said roughly, glaring down at the source of all my misery.
Raith just stared up at me, blinking innocently. Actually, it looked like he might start laughing by the way his jaw was twitching.
Damnit do I really look that funny?
“And why am I still wearing this dirty, tattered dress?” I added angrily, well aware that I was a mess.
“You want to change your clothes?” Raith asked simply, still looking at me serenely and ignoring my previous questions.
I almost grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and shook him up and down.
Why. Was. He. So. Calm?
“My clothing is the least of my problems!” I shrieked, my shrill voice echoing through the small clearing.
“Then why did you bring it up?”
Raith just smirked and I had to look away and focus on all the pretty scenery to stop myself from exploding into a million furious bits of anger and guts.
“Well, you changed you’re your clothes.” I said stiffly with clenched teeth as I tried to let the beauty of the forest flowers take me to my happy place. It worked momentarily and I let the serenity settle over me before I looked back at Raith.
“This dress is impractical to walk around in…and full of stains and rips.” I said quite rationally as I glanced down at myself again. “I want to be in something comfortable.”
Raith ran a hand through his hair thoughtfully and I tried not to notice how cute he looked with all the strands sticking up in random directions.
“Alright then.” He said eventually.
Raith suddenly stood up and I jumped back so he wouldn’t invade my personal bubble.
He walked slowly around me as I stood rigidly under his intense look of concentration. His eyes were narrow and sharp, taking in every detail. It made me uncomfortable. It felt like I was on some sort of pedestal or a doll on display.
“Okay.” Raith finally said, satisfied and standing in front of me again. Then he gave me a wolfish grin and snapped his fingers.
I jumped again as a weird sensation of wind and flapping material surrounded my body. It felt like millions of moths were sitting on me and fluttering their wings all in unison. An instant later, I was wearing a plain light grey T-shirt and white cotton shorts with strawberries printed on them.
I stared at Raith, stunned and horrified as he nodded in satisfaction.
Then I started screaming at him.
“You put me in my pyjamas?” I cried, unable to comprehend what was going on in this boy’s tiny, pea-sized brain.
“Well you said you wanted to be in something comfortable!” Raith defended, throwing his hands up in surrender. “And lately I’ve seen you in your pyjamas a lot so that’s the first thing that came to my mind. Actually, not the first thing.” Raith raised an eyebrow suggestively and I turned three shades of red.
“Do you know how weird it’s going to be if I walk around a freaking forest in winter wearing my pyjamas?” I shrieked, fanning my face before my blush became too obvious.
“First of all, it’s not winter anymore. The seasons here change pretty much every day.”
I looked around and scrunched up my face at the pretty yellow, red and orange leaves littering the ground and the lack of snow.
“Fine.” I grudgingly agreed, although I’m sure autumn weather could be equally as cold.
“Second of all, do you think anyone here is going to care what you’re wearing? It’s not a fashion show.” Raith continued calmly.
“Could you not list things like that? You’re beginning to sound like my consciousness. First this and second that.” I interrupted sourly, crossing my arms across my chest and narrowing my eyes at him.
Raith gave me a really confused look and scratched his head.
“Is that who you were arguing with when you were asleep?” He asked with a smirk.
At my embarrassed silence, Raith just snorted.
“And you call me crazy.” He muttered under his breath.
I let out a frustrated groan and sat down on a conveniently placed pile of leaves.
“So you put me in my pyjamas ‘cause you couldn’t think of anything else?” I snapped as I watched Raith sit down cross legged opposite me.
“Well…” Raith suddenly went red and became quite interested in a leaf on the ground.
“Well what?” I pressed, my curiosity temporarily overriding my anger.
“Well your pyjamas also smell like strawberries…and I like the smell of strawberries…” he mumbled, his eyes still glued to the ground.
I stared at him.
What the flip?
I sniffed the sleeve of my shirt and was surprised at the strawberry smell.
“You’re such a pervert!” I cried, although I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. That was possibly the most random thing I had ever heard. “And you once told me you hated strawberries.” I added.
“I hate the taste, not the smell. There’s a difference you know.” Raith snapped, glaring at the ground even though he was as red as, well, a strawberry.
“You are such a creep.” I teased, my smile widening.
“Shut up. Let’s start walking.” Raith said angrily, standing up and stomping his way through the foliage.
I was so shocked by his sudden movement that it took me a second to catch up with what was going on.
“Wait! But where are we going?” I asked as I quickly stood up and followed him. There was no way I was going to get lost in this weird place where the seasons changed every day.
Raith paused at the edge of the clearing where the thick forest took over.
“I don’t know but we shouldn’t stay too long in one place. Things live here.” He said thoughtfully.
Then he moved some stray branches out of the way so we could walk out of the neat little clearing and into the wilder part of the forest.
The change was instantaneous.
The ground became uneven and littered with small stones and sticks. The tall trees closed in above us, shielding us from the sunlight and turning the air chill and damp.
As we began our trek through the domain of dark, large, ancient trees, I looked around suspiciously, put on edge by what Raith had said.
“Okay, things live here. What kind of things?” I asked as I tried to tread carefully over the massive, overgrown roots of one of the huge trees.
“Bad things of a demonic nature.” Raith replied simply.
I rested my hand on the trunk of the tree so I wouldn’t lose my balance but quickly retracted it once I realised I had stuck it through a spiderweb. Ew.
“Bad things of a demonic nature…” I mumbled to myself as I hurriedly wiped my hand on my shorts and prayed to God that there wasn’t a giant man eating spider crawling somewhere on my back. “Like the thing that attacked me?” I asked, glancing at Raith who was several steps ahead of me.
He suddenly stopped walking and looked back at me with an unreadable expression.
Then he walked towards me and held out a hand to help me climb over the rest of those tricky tree roots.
“That was Requiem. He’s…he’s like a Reaper.” Raith said softly.
I took his hand and let him pull me over the small pile of knotted wood and back onto solid ground.
“When you say like a Reaper…” I began, waiting for Raith to finish the sentence as I let go of his hand and we continued our walk.
“I mean he’s a Reaper but only more powerful.”
Up ahead there was a massive fallen tree that blocked the rough path we had been following. It was massive, as least two metres in diameter, and covered with leaves, moss and strange plant life. It almost blended into the scenery, like it was just a part of the ground that had been pushed up.
We walked towards it but instead of climbing over, Raith turned and sat down on one of the jagged notches on the crumbling tree trunk. Uncertain, I took a seat next to him.
“Requiem can touch humans on earth without automatically taking their souls.” Raith continued, his eyes becoming unfocussed as he spoke. “He’s stronger too. He’s the same as Lucas. We call Reapers like him Death Lords because he can also bring the dead back to life if their souls are still in Purgatory.”
The thought of resurrecting the dead sent shivers down my spine. There was just something so taboo about it; something so wrong.
But if I could bring Megan back, would I?
“How do you become a Death Lord?” I asked Raith, watching him closely.
The wind had picked up and it sent the leaves rustling eerily in the beams of sunlight streaming in from the holes in the canopy.
“You don’t. For as long as this place has existed, there have only ever been three Death Lords who take charge training and monitoring Reapers. They have been here since the beginning of time and some say they even have the power to move between the realms of death.”
Raith turned and looked at me with a piercing gaze that made my hands start to shake.
“In other words, they can travel beyond Purgatory into heaven and hell but still return.” He whispered.
To stop the tremors in my hands, I looked away and picked up a piece of bark lying on the ground.
It was really soft and crumbly so I let it go mushy between my fingers.
“So you’ve never been to heaven or hell?” I asked.
Raith shook his head and I frowned.
“But then how do you know they exist? How do you know that there is a God waiting for you up there? Why are you so sure that that is where the souls go once they stop dancing?” The questions came tumbling out of my mouth as I twisted the frail piece of wood again and again until it broke apart into millions of splinters.
“To be honest, I don’t know. The Death Lords set the rules here, and what they say has to be true. So I guess I have to believe. Even angels and demons cannot go beyond Purgatory. They must do God’s or the Devil’s work on Earth. It is only until they fulfil their assigned ‘purpose’ that they are allowed to go to their master.”
My mind was spinning round and round and round and round like an out of control spinning top.
“Their assigned purpose? What if they fail?” I asked, trying to understand what he was telling me.
“Then they must take on a new purpose until they accomplish it.”
A new purpose?
“That sounds awful. I thought being especially good means that angels will be treasured in God’s kingdom and rest eternally or something like that, not made to do missions.” I protested.
“But you don’t understand. Deep within each angel is the unbending, unwavering love and loyalty to their God. Serving Him brings them the greatest happiness and once they have fulfilled their purpose, they will transcend to heaven to reap their reward as well as eternal bliss. They chose to do God’s work because they are the kindest, purest people from earth.”
I bit my lip uncertainly.
“And I suppose the same thing applies to demons?” I ventured.
“Demons do the devil’s work because it pleases them as much as it pleases Satan. They have no reward once it is over.”
All the talk of angels and demons and divine purposes was making me dizzy.
If what Raith said is true, then that means some angels may have been around for centuries because they were never able to complete a mission. And they all do it for a God that they’ve never met.
“What if there isn’t something after Purgatory?” I asked. “What if you finish your purpose and then poof, nothing. You disappear into nothingness. What if the Death Lords are lying and there is nothing beyond this.” I looked into Raith’s deep green eyes and he met my gaze straight on.
“Well Tegan, that’s why you need to have faith.” He said simply.
Faith. I hoped Raith was right. I liked to think that Megan is up there in paradise somewhere, away from the cruelty of the world and the cruelty of this limbo.
I remembered the feeling of the claws through my skin and raised a hand to the stiches on my shoulders.
“Does it hurt?” Raith asked softy, reaching over to lay a finger on the wound. His touch made my skin tingle and my face grew hot.
I had to swallow all the excess spit that was building up in my mouth and managed to shake my head in response to his question.
It was just the memory of the pain that remained.
“It should heal quickly. Wounds heal fast here.” Raith said, his fingers still resting on my shoulder.
There was a question that was burning inside of me now. Something that I needed to know.
“Raith, can we die in Purgatory?” I whispered, my eyes never leaving his.
An intense emotion flickered across Raith’s face but it was too quick for me to tell what it was. Instead, his eyes became cold and his face blank.
“We don’t die from things like blood loss or minor wounds but if enough damage is done then yes, we will die. I don’t know what happens then. If it’s an angel or a demon then I suppose they go to heaven or hell. The same thing would happen with souls. But if a Reaper dies…we just disappear.”
Raith stood up stiffly and turned away so I couldn’t see his face anymore.
“Let’s stop talking about this and keep going.” He said before walking away.
I took my time to catch up to him and wondered if someone close to him had died in Purgatory.
The forest seemed like a never ending expanse of brown, red, yellow and orange. The trees were all massive; so thick that if I tried hugging one, my hands wouldn’t be able to meet on the other side.
They were spaced out conveniently enough to allow Raith and I to walk a steady path around them but at the same time, close enough together that their branches formed a thick canopy that prevented me from seeing the sky. The sunlight still managed to get in, somehow. Maybe it was magic.
We had been walking for hours. At least it felt like hours. I couldn’t tell the time in this place. The sunlight seemed to come from everywhere at once and my shadow was always in the same spot behind me.
I was still wearing Sabrina’s black flats and found that although they were comfortable, the souls of the shoes were still incredibly thin and the ground was rough against my feet. Not only were there little sticks and minute pebbles everywhere but every now and again there’d be little ditches in the ground which made me stumble and trip.
I had never been a fan of hiking or camping so I found this trek through the forest to be incredibly boring and exhausting.
Once I got over the charm of the outdoors and all the sights nature had to offer, this place seemed a little dull.
I walked around a funny little shrub that seemed to grow everywhere on the forest floor. It was spiky and green and looked a bit like an overgrown, green sea urchin.
There were so many strange and exotic plants here, but not once had I seen even a whisper of any animals.
I could hear the sound of birds calling to each other, but I could never see any.
Do the spirits of animals not come here? Did they go somewhere else?
“You can hear birds but not see them. I think it’s all part of the illusion.” Raith had told me when I asked him. I wasn’t sure what that meant but throughout the walk, Raith seemed to become distant and distracted. He walked with a purpose even though he had no idea where we were going. I could tell he didn’t want to talk so I just followed silently at his heels, my eyes glued to the floor just in case I tripped on a raised root or stone.
There were often times when I thought I saw something moving through the trees next to us but every time I looked, there was nothing.
It seemed that Raith and I were alone.
I had stopped paying attention to my surroundings long before Raith stopped in front of me and, in my distracted state, I walked into his back with an oomph.
“What’s wrong?” I asked Raith quietly, watching as he turned to face me slowly.
I had to supress my gasp when I saw his face.
Raith looked sick. His usual pale skin was sallow and his eyes had lost their mesmerising shine that had captivated me so for long. Even his posture seemed off. He was slouched like he was exhausted and weak.
In fact, the only time I had seen him like this was in the soft sunlight outside Sabrina’s house all those weeks ago, when I had stolen the ring for him.
“Raith, what…” I stopped when I realised I didn’t know what I wanted to ask. Why did he look so unwell?
Raith stared at me with a haggard look on his face. He opened his mouth to say something but before he could speak, he suddenly collapsed.
I ran to his side and fell to my knees beside his limp body.
Dirt and bits of wood dug into my bare knees but I ignored it, my heart in my throat as I shook the lifeless boy lying in front of me.
He had fallen on his side and I hurriedly turned him onto his back.
I didn’t know what was happening.
Raith’s eyes were closed but his eyelids were fluttering like he was having a bad dream. His face seemed strangely gaunt and his breathing was shallow and shaky.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.
My mind was in full panic mode, all rational thought taking flight as I grabbed Raith’s hands and squeezed them tight. He was cold and clammy like he had a fever.
What do I do?
He looked like he was in so much pain. Why oh why didn’t I take that first aid course?
“Raith?” I yelled, leaning over him so I could see his face more clearly. “Raith, please wake up!”
Raith’s body started quivering and I had to bite my lip hard to stop me from screaming. He was having some sort of seizure. There was an awful gurgling coming from his throat and I quickly tried to turn him back onto his side so he didn’t choke.
He was heavier than he looked and I struggled, all the while blinking away the tears in my eyes as my fingers dug into the side of his arm.
“Raith.” I whispered, managing to push him onto his back with a heave.
The shaking become violent and a white, frothy substance ran out of his mouth, down his cheek and onto the ground.
Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God.
“It’s okay Raith.” I said tearfully, wiping the spittle from his mouth with the back of my hand. His skin was cold to the touch and I flinched at the shock it sent through my fingers.
Then Raith let out a gasp and his eyes flew open.
My whole body froze.
Fear pulsed through my veins like little needles of ice.
I couldn’t look away.
Raith was staring at me, but those weren’t his eyes.
Now I started to shake.
The whites of his eyes and his iris had turned black, and his pupils had become so small that they were nothing but white pinpricks in a vast expanse of darkness.
It wasn’t natural.
It wasn’t right.
It wouldn’t let me look away.
I couldn’t open my mouth. I couldn’t even move.
There was someone else here with us. I could see them out of the corner of my eye but I was paralysed. Every muscle in my body was frozen. I could feel my chest start to ache and my head spin from the lack of oxygen.
Everything started to go cloudy.
Those black eyes.
They drew me in, those white pin pricks.
Tears started to run down my face. My lungs were straining in pan. I felt dizzy but was it from the absence of air or something else?
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Someone was walking towards us.
Who was it? If only I could see.
If only…but I could only see…
It felt like I was falling. There was a sensation in my stomach like I was being dropped from a skyscraper, only my body wasn’t moving. I was falling right into those eyes. I was falling into that blank white abyss that clung to me hungrily like a beast.
Would it ever let me go?
The room smelt of cigarettes and stale perfume.
The stench was everywhere. It had sunk into the torn and stained brown carpet. It had sunk into the red velvet curtains covering the one, grimy window. It had even sunk into the threadbare, crimson cushions on the dilapidated, two person couch in the corner of the shabby apartment.
The couch was the one piece of furniture in the dark room. That, and the low wooden coffee table in front of it. There was an empty pack of cigarettes sitting on the table, next to a solid glass ashtray like the ones found in posh 5 star hotels. There were so many cigarette butts in the ashtray that some had spilled out onto the dark table, the ash sprinkling across the ringed stains of coffee mugs and teacups. The stains were old. It had been a long time since the table had seen hot beverages.
Near the ashtray was a shiny silver lighter and, alongside that, four neat rows of white powder and a dusty credit card.
There was a woman sitting on the couch. The chair was so old that the springs were visibly sticking out of the faded green material. The woman didn’t care. She sat on the edge of her seat, a trembling hand grasping a near empty bottle of Jack Daniels Bourbon while the other held a cigarette to her red lips.
The woman was freakishly thin, verging on anorexia. Her cheeks were gaunt and her cheekbones stuck out like angular blades. Her arms and legs were almost skeletal, the skin clinging to bones and not much else. If one was to lift up her thin singlet, the outline of her ribs would be visible by the contours against her skin. One would also see a small scar near her navel, evidence of a Caesarean section from many years ago.
She must have been pretty once, perhaps even beautiful, but those days were long behind her in a forgotten place of fantasy. It was a place she could only visit in her drug induced highs. Now, her once radiant, thick golden locks were dry and stringy, the hair brittle right to the roots. Her wide, hazel eyes had become bloodshot and dull, and her skin, which had been as smooth and clear as porcelain, was now a bloody mess of blue and purple bruises. She had given up wearing makeup to cover up her abuse. She never left the apartment anyway.
The woman’s nose was broken in several places and had grown crookedly, no longer straight like it used to be. She had once prided herself on her nose. She had always thought it gave her an aristocratic look. She believed that that was what had first attracted him to her. But he was gone now. He had left a long time ago.
The woman took another drag on her cigarette and blew out a puff of smoke, her eyes vacant.
She could hear him again. He was shouting.
Who was he shouting at? She wondered. There’s no one else here.
She brought the bottle to her lips and took a sip.
No, that’s not right. There was someone else here. Wasn’t there a boy?
There was a massive bang as the door to the bedroom burst open and a giant of a man charged in. He was at least six feet tall with dark, unruly hair that framed a cruel face with a strong, square jaw. His blue eyes were as hard as ice and his narrow lips formed a stern thin line as he dragged a young boy behind him.
He threw the boy to the ground in front of the woman and kicked him in the ribs when the boy tried to get up.
“Stay on your knees!” The man bellowed. He smelt strongly of vodka and nicotine.
The boy flinched but didn’t say anything. He just lay on the ground, his whole body shaking as he looked up at the man.
He was about ten years old, with dark brown hair, green eyes and pale skin. He had inherited his mother’s straight, aristocratic nose and perfect complexion but apart from that, he was identical to his father. At least that’s what his mother told him. He couldn’t remember his real father. Instead, all he knew was this man.
“Do you know what this little shit did?” the man screamed at the woman on the couch.
She looked around in surprise, barely noticing the quivering boy on the floor at her feet.
“What do you mean, dearest?” she said in a soft voice. Her teeth were yellow and cracked from years of drug abuse.
“This boy had caused me nothing but fucking trouble!” the man yelled. He started taking off his belt and the boy let out a whimper.
“Mama, help me.” He pleaded, grasping at the woman’s feet.
His touch, or maybe it was his voice, brought the woman out of her stuper and her eyes momentarily cleared.
“No. Not again.” She said to the man, her tone desperate. “Please, he’s only a child. He doesn’t know any better.”
“Boys like him need discipline. I’ll teach him a lesson.”
The man had successfully removed his belt and started winding it around his fist.
“He had the fucking nerve to steal money from my wallet!” he suddenly shouted, his face red with rage.
“I…I was hungry. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” The boy begged, tears falling from his massive emerald eyes. Like his mother, he looked malnourished and thin.
The man let a fair bit of the belt hang loose so that the heavy metal belt buckle was dragging along the ground.
“You’re a liar. This is the only way you’ll learn.” he said as he took a swing from the flat metal flask in his front pocket.
Then he walked towards the boy.
“Please, I beg you, forgive him! Just this once!” The woman cried, dropping the bottle of Jack onto the floor.
It landed with a thud and the amber liquid split across the carpet like orange blood.
“No!” the man shouted. “This must be done!”
He lifted the belt high above his head and swung it down with lightning speed.
The woman suddenly launched herself off the couch and hugged her son protectively with her back to the man.
Metal came into contact with flesh and the woman screamed.
Blood sprayed across the carpet and onto the wall.
“You stupid bitch!” the man roared, bringing the belt down again and again upon the womans back, the sharp edges of the rectangular belt buckle ripping through her singlet and skin while the leather made red welts across her milky skin.
“Mama! Mama!” the boy cried as his mother sobbed into his hair, her frail arms wrapped around him tightly.
“It’s okay Tyler.” She said through her tears. “This is all for the best. One day we’ll be a happy family. Just like you wanted.”
The man and the woman sat on the couch in silence. The man was asleep, passed out in a druken stupor with his mouth open and his sour breath adding to the odour of the room. As usual, the woman was staring into space, her eyes red and vacant.
The curtain was open this time, but it didn’t make much difference. The window was so caked with grime and dirt that the sunlight was struggling to get in.
They didn’t particularly like the light anyway. It hurt their eyes.
The woman looked much older than she did before. There were lines on her face, around her mouth and on her forehead. She was thinner too but her face wasn’t as puffy and bruised. There were a few scars across her cheek from a blow when the man was wearing a large ring. There were more scars across her back from when he belted her instead of her son but these had healed by now.
There was a sharp knock on the door and the sound echoed eerily around the empty room.
The woman didn’t move. She didn’t even blink.
The man continued to sleep.
The person knocked again and this time the sound was more insistent.
When the couple still didn’t stir, the knocking became continuous until the man suddenly woke with a snore.
“Who is it?” he demanded groggily as he squinted against the sunlight.
“What the fuck do you want?” he shouted angrily, smashing the empty beer bottle on the ground.
“We have your son here. He was caught stealing a car.”
The man turned to the woman and slapped her hard across the face.
“It’s your fucking kid again.” He said roughly, his mouth pulled back into a grimace. The woman didn’t respond, her eyes staring into space, watching something that wasn’t there.
The man swore again and stood up. He swayed a little, his thick arms gripping the armrest of the couch for support before he stumbled over to the door and unlocked it.
The woman listened to the muffled voices before the man slammed the door and returned to room with a fat hand clasped firmly around the wrist of a scrawny fifteen year old boy.
The boy had grown up a lot in the past five years. He had become incredibly tall, almost as tall as the man he despised. His hair had become darker and was cut roughly with blunt scissors. He wasn’t as deathly thin as he had once been, but he still didn’t look healthy. Despite his imperfections, the boy was incredibly attractive.
“Just what the fuck do you think you were doing?” The man demanded, letting go of the boy’s arm and slapping him across the face.
The boy fell sideways and smashed his head against the edge of the coffee table. Blood splattered across the dark wood and onto the carpet.
“Because of you, we have to go to court next week!” the man screamed.
He got down on his knees and pulled the boy’s head up by his hair.
“Why. Don’t. You. Ever. Learn?” He asked through gritted teeth.
The boy just stared back silently with hate in his eyes. He refused to speak to the man. His voice hadn’t been heard in that apartment for years.
The man pulled a lighter out of his pocket with one hand while the other still gripped the boy’s hair.
“I’ve been going easy on you lately.” He said. He let go of the boy and instead picked up one of the cigarettes that were sitting on the table.
The boy clutched his head in his hands, blood smearing through his fingers as he clenched his jaw against the pain.
The man lit the cigarette but instead of bringing it to his lips, he grabbed the boy’s arm instead.
“Don’t you resist me. You know what happens if you do, you little shit.” The man said with a sadistic smile.
He pushed the sleeve of the boy’s shirt up and twisted the burnt end of the cigarette into his skin. The boy looked away and bit his lip against the pain. He knew he wasn’t strong enough to fight the man. He also knew that he couldn’t run away and leave his mother behind.
His skin sizzled and the boy let out a whimper. No matter how many times it happened, the pain always cut through him like a knife. He turned to his mother but the woman on the couch continued to stare past him. She barely knew he was there. She was barely aware of anything these days.
As the tears welled in his eyes, he promised that one day he would take his mother away from this awful place. He would rescue her from this room of cigarettes and stale perfume. He would rescue her from the drugs. He would rescue her from this monster.
The waves crashed against the dark rocks in a violent spray of seawater and topaz.
The smell of salt was in the air, crisp and fresh as the day broke across the smooth white sand that stretched out as far as the eye could see.
There was a lighthouse in the distance, standing alone on the jagged precipice of black stone. Apart from this monument, the shore was devioid of life. Devoid except for two figures.
Near the water’s edge, sitting on an old piece of driftwood, was a skinny girl. The wind fanned her dark hair behind her like a silky black flag and she closed her eyes against the soft spray of sea water on her cheeks.
Her oversized t-shirt hung loosely off her thin frame and her tight black jeans were damp and covered in sand. She had been sitting there for days, watching the tide roll in and out with her large hazel eyes while she dug in the sand with her bare feet and long fingers.
Her makeup was running from a mix of water and tears, the dark eyeliner leaving spindly marks down her cheeks. There was a cigarette hanging from her lush red lips, the smoke drifting in delicate spiral tendrils into the sky.
She felt his presence before she saw him.
“So you’re the one they sent this time.” She said softly, taking the cigarette away from her lips. Her eyes did not once leave the turbulent waves.
The boy scoffed, shoving his hands into the pockets of his black jeans as he too stared out across the horizon. His green eyes were sparkling with amusement as he brushed his dark brown hair out of his face.
“No one sent me.” He said shortly. “I just wanted to see the sad bulimic girl for myself. You really are pathetic you know.”
The girl fiddled with the cigarette between her fingers before smirking.
“That’s ironic, coming from the kid who cut himself up. What’s the matter? Mommy didn’t love you?” she teased with a grin, looking up at the boy challengingly.
He stared back with a blank face.
“I could say the same for you. Did daddy call you fat? Is that why you vomit up your meals even though we’re dead and don’t need to eat?” he replied nonchalantly.
They stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment before the girl moved over and gestured for the boy to sit next to her.
He did so slowly and accepted the cigarette she offered to him, taking a long drag and letting it out slowly.
“You obviously don’t know much about me if you’re asking that question.” The girl said thoughtfully, her eyes becoming unfocused. “I’m not lucky like you. I’ve heard stories about you. They say you can remember your life before you died. I don’t remember anything. All I’ve got is that feeling…whenever I do it, it feels familiar.”
The boy was watching her. He couldn’t help it. There was something so broken and deranged about her expression that was mesmerising.
“I think you’re lying.” She suddenly shouted, turning sharply so they were facing each other. “No one is meant to remember. It’s not possible.” She giggled and turned away, hugging her knees to her chest.
“The familiarity you feel when you throw up, surely that is a fragment of a memory.” The boy said calmly.
“I’ve also got this.” This girl said, her expression once again serious. She held her right hand up and let the light catch on the thin silver ring on her index finger. “I was wearing it when I woke up. It’s special to me but I don’t know why. I want to know why.”
They both sat in silence, staring out into the horizon as the sun burned down upon them. They were both deep in thought, the sound of the ocean carrying away their thoughts.
“They call you Melancholy.” The boy said once they had finished a packet of cigarettes between them.
The girl scoffed and tucked a dark strand of hair behind her ear. The boy was taken aback by how beautiful she looked at that moment, sitting amidst the sea spray with the wind rushing through her hair.
“And they say I’m dramatic.” She said rolling her eyes. “I prefer to be called Scara.” She turned and smiled sweetly at the boy, her tear streaked face glowing.
“I’m Raith.” The boy said once he caught his breath.
“Will you help me Raith? Will you help me remember?” Scara whispered, leaning closer to him.
“I will.” Raith managed to say as he too started to lean in.
“You know what they’ll do to us if they find out, right?” The girl said so quietly that her words were almost swept away by the wind.
The boy turned the cigarette over in his hands a few times.
“I honestly don’t give a fuck.” He said as he buried the cigarette in the sand.
Then he kissed the girl.