Don't Look Back at Lucifer
“Thought you said they were at work all day?” Esther whispers, urgently edging the door shut.
I slither around to my desk, slide my laptop off of the surface and slip it into the back pack.
“Shit. This can’t be happening, shit,” Brian starts breaking down at the worst of times and I smoothly throw my backpack over my shoulder before grabbing onto his twitching body with both hands. “My parents. Shit. I’ll be dead. I swear it. Shit shit shit.”
“You need to shut up and get onto the damn ledge,” I command, shaking the panic out of him. Esther’s already at the window, gently nudging it open.
“I can’t man I can’t. It’s too high,” Brain quavers as I jab him towards the window.
“Nothing’s going to happen Bri. Just focus on breathing, let your body listen to what I tell you,” I reassure him, giving Esther a nod. “Esther’s going to climb down first and I’m going to help you get to her, okay? We won’t let you fall,” I say coolly as Esther drops herself onto the ledge without instruction.
The toilet flushes a few doors down and the muffled sound of the bathroom door creaking open jilts the panic in my veins. I yank the spasming Brian to the window and encourage his leg over the pane. The creaking transfers to the floor boards, coming closer every step.
Esther stands ready with her arms out to catch him, but he tenses against the edge.
“Come on Brian, we’ll get you a whole damn keg of beer if you can do this,” I plead desperately. I loop my arms around his armpits and lower him down to the overhang of the bottom floor office window. He scrapes his ankles against the brick, protesting his way down. Esther grabs onto him tightly, calming his flailing legs as he comes within reach. She gets him on his feet and he clutches onto her like he’s about to fall off the edge of a cliff.
I snatch the box off of the bed and pass it down to her. I turn my head just as I’m about to step out and a shadow appears below the crack in my door. I freeze in my motion, anxiously clutching onto the pane. The shadow doesn’t move.
Esther questions me with silent gestures and Brian starts to pant. His panting grows louder, collecting curse words with every breath. I shake my head violently, tensing my jaw and baring my teeth to tell him to shut up.
Esther responds to my plea by knocking him with her elbow, making him stumble. He latches onto Esther’s shirt, she starts to wobble and whacks his hand away, which only further unsteadies his balance and drops him straight into the bush below.
The twigs crunch under the weight of his back writhing around in pain. Esther shrugs it off and leans over the edge with the box in hand. Brian pulls up his torso to rub his neck and Esther drops the box onto his lap, knocking his head to the floor for a second time.
As Brian squirms and squeaks, my panic rises. I jerk my head back to the door and the shadow slowly steps out of view. I hear the clicking sound of footsteps on the tile flooring down the hall and my grip on the pane relaxes.
“Esther seriously! Go help him!” I demand, ducking through the window. Brian looks like he’s about to cry and Esther’s unsympathetic clicking in his face doesn’t seem to be doing much good. I frog jump down to the bushes. I must have borrowed some skill from Esther at some point; I’m usually as unskilled as a member of Brian’s family.
“Come on Bri,” I say, reaching my hand out to him, “we’ll deal with your broken limbs once we’re out of here.”
The backdoor slides open and the sound strikes into us like a thunderbolt. Esther snatches up the box and I grab Brian’s hand and yank him to his feet. Together we sprint towards the exit. Only a few metres and we’re home free.
I tug on Brian’s arm to throw him ahead of me. Esther’s already working on getting the gate open. It only takes a few seconds. But time is meaningless when emotions are in play. And the significance of these few seconds isn’t lost in the minutes or hours surrounding this moment.
A thump of my heart pounds my chest in each of these seconds that tick by. Another thought enters my head, another fear clutches at my ankles, threatening to drag me to the floor.
And in each of these five seconds, it’s another outcome that becomes our future reality; a Schrödinger’s box that in any second will contain a different cat.
The gates open, Esther and Brian are hurling themselves around the corner. But I just look back.
A figure walks out from behind the bush.
“Lannie! Get out of there!”
There’s no escaping. I could go with them, but we’d only get caught. This way, I’m only hurting myself, not them.
“Morgan.” I stiffen my back and lift my clenched jaw to reach above her authority.
Arms crossed and eyes stern, she steps toward me, slowly, hoping to prey on me and my infamous weaknesses.
“You have an early lunch then?” I ask, my stance held strong.
“I received a strange call from Chris. At least if you’re going to break in girl, shut the backdoor after you,” her voice is paralysing. It’s so calm and determined. The same way she managed to corner me right by an open exit.
She’s known we were here since she came home, and she played it. She played me, because she knew she could. She still has control over me. In her head, nothing’s changed. I haven’t taken that power from her yet. And that’s exactly my problem, I convinced myself I was free because I ran away, but that doesn’t make me free; it makes me hunted.
“You want to burn me? Beat me? Leave me bruised and broken? Go ahead and try, you can’t force me back,” I say through my teeth, holding my courage in my clenched fists.
“If I wanted to force you back here darling, you wouldn’t have a say in the matter,” Morgan patronises with that sickly sweet voice. If you could taste the sound it would be the searing flavour of burnt, boiled caramel.
All I want right now is to snap my words at her, so viciously they reach out to her neck, latch onto her veins and rip out her throat.
As much as I want to scream and curse until her ears bleed and her eyeballs drip from their sockets, I don’t have the words.
“You seem a little taken aback. Were you not aware that under the law you are still a child until March? That you have no right to make your own decisions? And that between me and social services, you are virtually a prisoner? Our prisoner.”
“Oh sweet dear, the only reason I let you go through this whole teenage runaway routine is so you would get it out of your system. Now stop being silly and get in the house.”
… This is a joke right? She tells me I have no say in my own life, that I’m her PRISONER sentenced until I turn eighteen, and she thinks I’m just going to waltz back in there and continue on as it was before?
“You delusional bitch.” The words slip out of my mouth without a thought. “You have such an inflated self image that you can’t see yourself as anything but an omnipotent judge, jury and executioner. If you can’t get a clue, go buy one you privileged, plastic demon.”
At first, she looks like the wind’s been knocked out of her. Her complexion loses its painted on colour and the pole that keeps her posture as perfect as a mannequin’s looks like it’s been yanked right out of her ass.
Though it’s a short lived victory. Her composure returns in a single heart beat. And the false layer of calm, cool and collected that was present beforehand has been taken over by a beast. One of unforgiving fury and unrelenting wrath. A kind of rage I’ve never seen on her, or anyone for that matter. The kind I wouldn’t dream of testing.
My mind goes blank, my fear matching up to her anger, ripping away my senses and shielding my vision with a thick, blurry glass, like a pixilated screen.
A rock, large, jagged.
On the floor. In my hand. In the air.
Blood, dripping. Hand, shaking.
The image on the screen moving, faster, faster, faster. Trees, roads, buildings. So blurred now, going so fast.
… But where?