Of all the contradictions humanity could offer, we could all agree that a graze on the back was abysmal. The second I was ferried back to my room, I was already in and out. My eyes closed for a moment; and when I opened them again, my vision was muted with violet hues. I have come to despise these guestrooms–it reminded me too much of what had become of Penny.
Of all people, Gabriel was the one who took me out. She is Patrizia’s best friend, so it would make the most sense if she stayed with her for as long as possible. Yet, when I asked her why she didn't stay, she said, ‘It’s a rather…blunt reason.’
A moment later, she picked a pen and a small notepad from her denim flannel. Opening to the next blank page, she drew out a rosary. ‘You know what this is, right?’
From there, she told me about how her family always tried to force their teachings unto her. ‘By “teachings”, I meant those bizarre legends like walking on water or some shit. But oh well. Some things stick.’
It recalled me the first time I met Marwin, and how it went was safe to say that it was the polar opposite of her. Two years had passed, but I could remember the vivid passion in his face and the haste in his words, asking me if I believed in God. I said no. He found it impossible, as he thought everyone believed in God. I laughed and said my life would be meaningless if I walk myself blindfolded. ‘So you think my life is meaningless?’ he lashed out. Knowing my first day of school would become shambles if I kept this up, I made things up and played along.
Of course, things had changed. Marwin no longer held a grudge, but his faith was still as stubborn. Despite that, he seemed constantly tired. He no longer said much aside from school, so I tried my best to amuse him, though of course with my own style.
‘Have you heard of “The Devil’s Trill”?’ I asked.
‘Bored?’ she said. ‘But yeah. Music class.’
‘You know the story, don’t you?’
She stared at me, blank.
‘Well, story time. The composer…’
‘He was on his deathbed when the devil asked him to be his servant. After some time, Tartini made him play the violin. Then he woke up and tried to retain what he remembered. Thus the “Devil’s Trill”.’
‘Are you implying about Marwin?’
‘If that’s what you think.’
She went silent for a while, before she said, ‘About Marwin…’
‘It’s different. You’ve heard how proud he is as a Christian, right? Look at him now. Or do I have to repeat what he’s done to Patrizia?’
‘And you decide to look at every hypocritical thing, all because of some book.’
‘Gabriel. Look at the Necronomicon and this entire place.’
‘And? The culprit is trying to get away with murder and blame it on him, right?’
‘Maybe, but if Marwin didn’t come, none of us would die in the first place.’
Our conversation cut short when the door clicked open. Neilan threw Normand inside and said, ‘If you need anything, Sevrin and I will be at Pierre’s. From what happened earlier, we can’t risk leaving him anymore.’
Normand was barely conscious, so Gabriel used a chain to tie him onto the bed. ‘He just cares,’ she finished her sentence. ‘Why do you think he came here, then?’
I didn’t answer. Not because I don’t know, but because I was skeptical. Pierre was the one inviting Marwin here, and at first he didn’t want to. Yet, these resemblances were all too coincidental…
Marwin came in not long after. His emotional indifference remained vivid. I never knew that a colour so grey could be so pronounced. His hands were clutching the Necronomicon tight, knowing full-well he had repeated the pattern.
‘Normand?’ he voiced out. Normand didn’t answer. He walked up and looked at him. Gabriel went on to slap Normand in the face. ‘Dead asleep,’ she said, so Marwin sat back down.
Now, I’m sitting on the dusty floor with two other people, watching a grown adult sleeping. We shared beef jerky and crackers.
After a while, Gabriel stood up and asked Marwin for a talk. ‘Want some coffee?’ she said.
‘I’ve never tried one.’
‘Well, I definitely need one right now. You?’ She gestured at me.
‘Who could pass up such an opportunity?’ I replied. ‘But why, I wonder? Are you hiding something?’
‘Starting a fire alone is more of a pain than you think.’
‘Whatever you say, camper girl.Can’t risk any of you to watch Normand, anyway.’
She gave me a neutral look before she told Marwin, ‘Decide when you want, then.’ Marwin gave an easy nod and walked off.
Meanwhile, Normand lay limp, unaware of his wrists tied onto the metal bedframe. None of his fingers were moving. To test my luck, I went up and pinched his cheek and whispered, ‘Hey, Normand. Hey.’
He didn’t move.
‘It’s Ms. Collins’s class.’
Normally, he would jolt up from bed as soon as he heard those words, as it was the only class he couldn’t risk himself to be late. But this time, he stayed in bed. He might be thinking it was another trick of mine to wake him up. If anything, he must beaware that it was summer break, and he preferred to think that this camp was nothing but a long nightmare.
I lent an ear onto his chest. His heart was still beating, albeit faint. Like Gabriel said, he was dead asleep. Except any slower and it would cut the ‘asleep’ out of the ‘dead’. Because of that, I found myself slapping Normand to wake him up. He should’ve sensed something; even a twitch on an eye would give me hope.
My calling became even louder, until I felt my middle finger slip into a warm, slick hole. My mind blankened. That instant, I lied him down and found something on my hands. Blood. It covered half of my middle finger and stained the rest. I flipped him over. A round wound, no smaller than a centimetre, was punctured on his nape.
No, he couldn’t be…
‘Normand? Hey! Don’t you dare…’
My hands froze in place. I needed to get to Sevrin as soon as possible, but before that I checked his pulse once again. It beat for a few more times; before it died down under my touch.
Normand Chevalier was dead. In front of me.
The moment those two had gotten back, Gabriel handed out the coffee I had requested earlier. She ignored my feelings on purpose. I snatched the coffee and poured it onto the floor, making sure she watched every last drop of her effort go to waste.
Marwin snapped. ‘Utterson, what are you—’
‘Why didn’t you tell me? You know he’s dead, don’t you?’
‘You saw it, didn’t you? The wound on his neck…you know, don’t you? So why? Why didn’t you save him?!’
Gabriel said nothing. At this point, I was tired of all this silence. If there’s no one making a sound, I’m going to make it myself.
‘You and Marwin…you’re the culprits, aren’t you? And Sevrin and Neilan...You killed Normand because he’s getting in Marwin’s way, right? You’re the one forcing Pierre to invite Marwin. And you…’ I pointed at Marwin. ‘You’re faking the “I didn’t want to come but whatever” thing, just so you can get away, right? Right?! Say something!’
‘No one wants to get away with murder! You said it yourself, right? But that’s because you’re trying to sound smart, so you can get away yourself! You think you can fool me, you half-eaten, over-boiled egg?’
Marwin bit his lip, but his irritation collapsed a moment later. I wiped my flowing tears away. They were blurring me from making actual sentences, and if anything I had probably spoken something stupid again.
Marwin said in a tired voice. ‘Look. All we have to do is talk and see what you’ve gathered in your little journal,’ said Marwin. ‘We can’t waste any more time.’
Gabriel then held a hand out to me. ‘Let’s go. We can’t stay here anymore.’
‘No. Just…leave me alone for now. I need time.’
Marwin whispered something to Gabriel. She furrowed his eyebrows until I said, ‘Get out. I’ll catch up with you in the chapel.’
He then yanked her arm, before they left for good.
Now as I’m writing this, the want to say sorry surfaces over me. Yet, I find no faults feeling sad. Is it my fault for thinking like this? If so, then it’s probably too late. The most I can do is to stand up and continue this investigation, like Marwin said.
I know there’s no point crying over what I can’t bring back, but facing death in front of my eyes was much harder than imagining it. Sure, Normand had many other friends whom he played cards and drink with; but me? I’m nothing but a friend under Normand’s shadow, desperate to go out and get my own damn life.
But I don’t hate him. I can’t. Otherwise I would have no one left. This school is an island, and I’m the lone church on the top. It’s my fault I can’t make friends.
No. I can’t blame myself like that. Normand’s death isn’t my fault. It’s Pierre’s fault for being such a genius and thinking that going on an abandoned island is a good idea. It’s the weather’s fault for not giving a single warning for the weather forecast. It’s Marwin’s fault for coming here. That’s right. If Marwin didn’t come here, none of us would die in the first place.
Curse this rain. Curse this camp. Curse this summer break.
Curse Marwin and his damned book.
I hate his unchanging face and his blatant words. I hate how he wiped the bruise Normand left him with without batting an eye. I hate his hypocrisy; how he always preached God’s teachings when he himself played with necromancy.
Am I being unreasonable. Probably. But now I’m tired of sorting emotions, and I want to let everything out for once. Because I’m being unresonable, I need to clear my head as soon as possible.
Yet, the words I had spoken to Penny rang clear in my mind.
‘What if Normand suddenly dies, then?’
‘I would be sad. But death is an absolute truth, and I won’t try to detest it.’
I hugged my knees and wept.
END OF ACT I