The Devil in I, the Devil in You
The boys cramp back into the car, obnoxious rambling fuses with the excited electricity in the air around me. Fuel surges through the car and we are pulled forward, the intensity of a large magnet gripping onto us. Instead of my bones shaking in fear, it’s a much more pleasant adrenaline humming its way down my skeleton. The weight of the car lifts and we glide over the road, floating above every unimportant thing we pass.
Now I understand why he does this, it makes you feel powerful, like nothing can catch you, beat you, even match you. The house, trees, people, roads, it all blurs into an unintelligible clump of mass, until there’s nothing left but you, omnipotent and supreme.
We pull up by a mountain of jagged rocks, Brian yanks out the key and the rush dives from my fingertips and into the dead engine. What’s left inside is nothing I’ve felt before. There’s no rage, no sadness or dismay, no grief, no uncertainty, not even a hint of question in my veins.
My muscles tighten and stretch to pull me over the rocks, my movements fluid and decisive. I drop down into a pile of sand and call out to the jocks falling behind. Denis flips over the last one with a keg of beer a minute after, Graham isn’t long behind him and we all have to wait around for Brian to eventually huff and puff over it.
I can’t blame him, weedy little thing he is. What kind of muscles do you expect to build up when you have people paid to do everything but wipe your ass? I can’t help but be a little smug about it though. I don’t even have to say anything, my pursed lips and upward stare are enough to turn him into pouty boy.
“It’s my wrists. I have been driving all day. And I twisted my ankle last week.”
“Yeah yeah, whatever you say Myers.”
An arm of smoke reaches through the evening air, guiding us through the fading light. Dutchman’s Cave is in the distance. We must be close. The arm turns into a body and the sounds of the bonfire crackle through the breeze. The fruity must of alcohol follows and the body turns into a smog as we trudge up to the clusters of laughing, dancing, flirting teenagers.
I’ve never actually been to a high school party before, but I didn’t come here to fulfil some long desired adolescent milestone.
A slobbering mess of a man stumbles up to me. I refuse the oddly mixed beverage being offered and tap Brian on the shoulder, giving him a look to let him know I’m heading off to find Evan. He gives me a knowing nod and I begin to venture through the party pool.
Splashes of sticky liquid fly over my shoulder and I have to dodge a fist fight, sucky faces and a fire ball for some reason. Not quite sure if that guy has enough I.Q points to be this close to water.
After twenty, oh so long minutes, I start to ask around. My first roadblock is that only about five percent of the people here seem to talk in a language I can comprehend. I’d probably have a better chance with a toddler wearing a chainsaw for a hat. And the second is that the ones that can actually remember real words haven’t seen him since he first arrived.
So he’s here, but not here here. Great. I slump down onto a ruff edged log by the bonfire. The flames swirl through the breeze, letting the heat flare up and scorch my cheeks. Turning my face to the cloudless sky to sooth my sore skin, I can see nothing but the moon.
The imperfect ball, splattered with shimmering shades of grey stares back at me, whispering to me. I share more memories with the moon than anyone else. But tonight, it only speaks of one.
Every full moon, Evan and I would sneak off at midnight to the peak of Sundae hills. It took me two years to be able to make it to the top without riding on his back. After we’d giggled our way over the moss and moll hills, we would lay side by side, our faces lit by its radiant glow, and we would share bizarre stories of its power and the beasts born from it.
His tales were never as dark as mine; they were always filled with love and the beauty of the night. He would take my hand and tell me of its magic, tell me no matter what he was facing, if he could look up to the sky and see it staring back at him, he knew he was safe and everything was better again.
That told me all I need to know.
I turn my back to the fire and circle back towards Dutchman’s cave. I climb over the glistening rocks to where everything below is hidden and only the sounds of the night can reach. There’s a stony path blanketed in various verdant weeds, creeping through the cracks. It leads up to the edge of a cliff. All you can see over the precipice is a family of trees blocking the view of the town and the moon above, watching over them.
“Not in the party mood?” I say, crouching down next to him.
Evan’s feet dangle carelessly over the edge and he keeps his head planted on the sky. “I have to spend every day with those people,” he sighs dropping his gaze to the forest below, “why would I want to spend my one free night with them?”
The silence tingles in my ears. Evan lifts his knees and hangs his arms over them. “You know my father congratulated me for this,” he says holding up his right hand by his wrist.
“What happened?” I croak as I inch closer to him, my mouth dries at the sight of his cracked, beaten up knuckles.
“I sent a fifteen year old kid to the hospital with a broken nose and I get a well done.”
I stroke my fingers over his wrist and pull his hand from his grip to hold it in mine. His head turns to me and I see more pain in his eyes than I see in my own reflection.
“I don’t know whose life I’m living, it’s like watching a movie that’s playing out in front of me. How long has it been since I was me? I don’t even remember.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you Evan, but you’re still you.” I squeeze his hand tighter and he grips my fingers in his palm. “You’re here, with me, right now.”
“Why are you here? After everything, why are you here, holding my hand?” A layer of water covers his eyes like contacts, tears threaten to drip down and I can’t help but lean in and wrap my arms around his lifeless body. The air is cold but as I nuzzle my head into his neck and his arms clutch onto my back, tightening our embrace, all I feel is a surge of warmth between our bodies.
“I’m here because I wanted to see you again. The real you. And I’m not sure if I should be happy that I found it,” I say into his neck. His hand burrows into my hair and grips onto it, like it’s the last antidote for a deathly poison that’s running through his veins.
“I’ve thought about this so many times it doesn’t even feel real,” he speaks in breaths, I can barely hear his words but they sting my ears just the same.
I can’t help but feel guilty. All this time, he’s been going through so much and he’s had to do it alone. He may have been the one to push me away but I never took the time to find out why. I just painted myself as the victim and let myself wallow in my one-sided self pity.
“I don’t know what happened between us Evan, and right now I don’t care. I’m here and I’m not planning on jumping off the cliff. So tell me what’s going on.”
I pull away from his desperate hold, my face so close to his that I can see every dimple bringing character to his face. His baby soft cheeks are dented with despair and he looks as though he wants to delve into every moment of anguish that he’s had since we parted ways. But instead, he takes a heavy breath, letting the muscle in his jaw pop and drops his head.
“I don’t have control over my life Elena, and I’m not sure that I ever will. That’s all there is to say.”
My stomach curdles. Every instinct inside of me is yanked down to my twisting gut. The air goes stale and we sit, our silence only drowned out by the humming of our skin. There’s no tension or awkwardness and neither of us dares to move an inch away from the other.
During the silence, I can tell his head is running wild with thoughts. Thoughts fuelled by a yearning regret. I can see it all over his face, but I can’t quite pin it down.
“You know we haven’t talked since it happened. We never got to talk about what exactly went on.”
“You never asked Evan.”
“I wanted to. Everyday. When I saw you that day back at school, it took everything in me not to take you in my arms and squeeze you until your head exploded.”
I let out a weary chuckle. I still don’t understand why he didn’t. He didn’t even come up to me and say hello. Six months I was gone. Six months and he didn’t so much as give me a “welcome back”. But for some reason, being here with him now, that doesn’t seem to matter.
“You want to know what happened, unfiltered by playground gossip and the media? I can tell you what it was like if you really want to know.”
“I do. If you can say it, I’m here to listen. Even if I don’t like what I hear.”
“Have you ever had someone grab you from behind? If you haven’t, and I assume you haven’t, then you can’t imagine the way it makes you feel. I once had a nightmare, and it was so vivid and real that it’s stuck with me to this day. I had been buried alive. I woke up without a shred of memory or idea where I was. I yelled and cried, screaming for hours. Useless screaming that did nothing but take away the last dregs of oxygen. The worst kind of claustrophobia. Unimaginable. And that was nothing in comparison to that day.”
“I didn’t know what or who was holding onto me, I only knew it was human when the hand wrapped around my jaw and fingers sunk into my cheeks. They were coated in mould and oil, any gasps of breath I got in were a sickly foul and the chemicals stung my sinuses. I couldn’t scream, not even cry. The only sound that I could make was through my nose and it only came out as a pitiful squeak.”
“ He was wrapped around me like a straight jacket. Then he threw my into a brick wall and my struggling stopped, everything stopped. Black was all I saw until I woke up. The sickly smell of honey reached in under the thin cracks in the giant wooden door. It was so small that room. And there was only one way out. My head throbbed for weeks, pain stabbing into my skull from every angle. There was no light and no window, I could barely tell when it was day.”
“ Six months I was down there. I knew that because I counted the days on the dirt, a foot away from the rancid hole that was supposed to be my toilet.”
“How… How did you know when a day passed if there were no windows?” Evan’s voice is so quiet a cricket could talk over him. His gaze stays fixed on the colourless pebbles. Not that I can look him in the eye either, if I did I don’t know if I could stop the river of tears that would follow. And I need to share this story. If not with him, then who?
“It was night when he came, but he never missed a day. I counted the hours once. That was my only connection to the outside world, the few seconds that I could taste the air and see that there was still a sky above me. It was a man, tall, large, hulk-like body. And he always wore the same mouldy green hood and stood in the shadows. His face hidden as he threw in my slop.”
“He never touched me, I wasn’t even tied up. In fact he never even said a word to me. But that almost made it worse. Every minute I wished that he would come in and do something, get it over with. I couldn’t stand not knowing what was going to happen to me. I just wanted it to be over.”
“My mind was playing tricks on me, things would appear and I couldn’t tell when I was awake or having a nightmare. They were indistinguishable. All I thought about was torture, rape, cuts, threats, pleading for mercy, my intestines wrapped around my body like you would with toilet paper at Halloween, a potato peeler making its way up my body slice by slice. I practically had a whole saw movie scripted out with me as the main character. And any of it could have been done to me at any minute. But none of it ever was.”
“Elena…” The light in his eyes is now the darkest black. Any sadness that I saw on his face earlier has multiplied into a pain unrecognisable to me.
I haven’t told many my story. In fact only Esther and the police. The only difference between my story then and my story now, is that then it was purely factual. I told it to them like an essay on a case I was studying educationally. It isn’t until now that I’m able to say, out loud, the way it made me feel.
“How did you escape?”
And here it is. The question I’m most terrified of. The “hows” and “whys”, those are what keep me up at night. Because I’ll never know the answers. This isn’t a science exam where I can open a textbook and find it written in plain English. I can’t ask Google, or find someone of a higher expertise. Maybe my mother could give me a clue; she always seemed to know everything. But I never got a chance to ask her. When I returned, I only got to see the look on her face from the opening in her coffin.
And as much as I’d like it to be, my life isn’t a story. I don’t have a world renowned detective, or an all-knowing psychic. I just have me. Clueless, young Elena. And Elena has no magic spell to answer the “whys”, “hows” and “whos”.
The only thing Elena can do is pass on that impotence to someone else. And maybe. Hopefully. Possibly. It can put a leash on that relentless beast, lurking in the black waters of the unknown.
*** I reeeeeaaaally hope you are enjoying! If you are, I would love to hear from you, be it a rate a comment or even a like :) It would mean a lot to me. P.S this chapter was half named after a Slipknot song ;) Corey is so Killer***