Count to Zero
CW: Suicide attempt, very explicitly this time
He didn’t move for the rest of the night, and he must have fallen to sleep, because when he blinked, he opened his eyes to find the sun had begun to rise. A blanket covered him and a pillow shielded his head from the floor. The sky gasped a coral blush, sunrise casting long, wallowing shadows across the landscape, and in the gloomy pockets between the hills, mist rolled like clouds gliding across the land.
It was so beautiful he wanted to cry.
Instead, he got up, shedding these false marks of Cain’s care. Legs like twin jackhammers, but he got them balanced. Just. The need had set in deep now, an ache through his bones as if he’d been walking for a hundred thousand years. His hands almost slipped from the chair as he lifted it, slick with sweat, and the way the perspiration trickled down his spine felt as if slugs crawled over his skin. Not that it was just the sweat. Every inch of his flesh felt toxic.
How could he have believed anyone could look at him like that unless they were even more fucked than he was?
Casper screamed as he slammed the chair into the mirror. Only way he could fucking lift it and he howled again, legs giving, when the chair bounced straight off.
What the fuck was this place?
Fuck, he couldn’t even smash the mirror to slit his own wrists and from inside that mocking glass, his ghastly reflection laughed at him. Teeth like knives, eyes the black spiral pits of the ghoul. Its face ran sallow white to his murky olive and its sweat glistened like diamond dew in the morning light.
The ghoul tapped its hip. Right over the front pocket.
“I don’t—” Casper shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself. Each breath ached to take, laboured. It all hurt so much. The need and the memories. “I just want to die.”
Howling laughter from the ghoul, the sound like a rusty knife driven through his ear into his skull. One black eye shuttered off in a wink and it slipped its fingers into the pocket of its jeans.
Casper’s hand trembled as he dug into his pocket. His fingers met plastic and a sob burst from his lips. A baggy. Powdered fucking life still swilling round the bottom. More than swilling, overflowing – the whole shebang he’d bought just for that special occasion. Sweet, heavenly release. Enough to wring out for a few days.
Enough to be too much.
In the mirror, the ghoul cackled, its head thrown back.
Somehow, he could imagine Cain finding him. The moment frozen in the doorway as he stared at that vomit-soaked body on the bed. Too still. Even sleep wasn’t this still. Then the shout, the sprint across the room. Grabbing his face, but the heat that must burn so hot against his cold skin would already be gone, and the wrenching sob, uncaring of the filth as he held that lifeless wretch against his chest and raged at the injustice that again he’d failed him.
“What was he talking about?” Casper croaked to the ghoul in the mirror, squeezing the baggy tight in his hand.
Tipping its head side to side, the ghoul swirled his fingers around his ears, slow and wandering as that creeping beginning of a carousel ride.
“I know he’s crazy, but—but—” Casper whet his lips—“he kept saying the same thing. What did he mean?”
No matter how dazzling the light that spilt across the mirror, it died in the pits of the ghoul’s eyes and its gaping maw. The scars on its cheek split open around its inimical grin, making three slashes of puckered black that oozed foul pus down its cheek.
Shaking its head, the ghoul pointed its finger at Casper, nail cracked and ragged with blood seeping from beneath the bed, then made the same funfair swirls around its head.
“Thanks,” Casper rasped. “I knew that one too.”
He took a shower first, scorching hot and he rubbed his skin raw. Each barely scabbed cut broke open and the blood swirled pink in the drain. The ghoul crouched on the counter watching him and licked its lips.
“Why won’t it come off?” Casper begged the ghoul, and the ghoul tilted its head one way, then the other, then its skin turned mottled brown and red with the handprints of filth and blood.
There was no hope. It’d never get better. Every time he closed his eyes, roaches crawled over his skin and the bed banged against the wall.
Sweat, stale and fresh, wafted off his clothes. Those dark stains on the t-shirt were mirrors of his skin. Casper left them lying on the floor and crouched naked before the mirror. A hunkered changeling, all protruding bone and gnarled, ruined skin. The ghoul was excited now. It paced back and forth in the mirror, its breath coming harsh and laboured and laden with the black spit drooling from the corner of its mouth.
Casper smiled at it and told it to be patient as he tapped the lines out on the polished beech floor.
And like the cretinous roach he was, he put his face to the wood to snort them up. One by one, big fat rails of brown powder that turned his nose numb behind the sharp tang of vinegar raising on his tongue.
In the mirror the ghoul chattered and aped and whooped.
It was already starting to hit. Casper’s legs wavered fuzzy beneath him as the distance to the bed stretched out like a tunnel, the light always dancing away from his clumsy grasping hands.
Everything was going to be okay.
The edge of the bed banged against his shin, but he didn’t feel it. Not really. He didn’t really feel anything now. Nothing but the cloud that cradled him in the arms of an angel. God reaching out to welcome him to death before those hands of searing light pushed him down to hell and the wide open arms of the devil.
The devil would speak with Cain’s dark chocolate voice and kiss like bitter-sweet sin, and Casper would sit by his side in the hellfire while the devil ran his fingers through his hair.
“Five hundred,” Casper whispered to the ghoul squatting over his chest.
“Four ninety-nine,” the ghoul croaked back.