— Witnesses
Angelic trumpets never graced my ears. There was a purposeful discomfort in church; the clothes restricted our bodies; the songs were sung as a hymn, and together- a flock. There was a purposeful discomfort in community; an authenticity was lacking. The path was slick, and a misstep or faltered breathe meant disqualification. A blemish stood starkly against a pure society.
I relinquished my faith, not through fear, nor spite, nor any other dramatic reason. Faith required work, and I didn’t believe in work. My battle with god was the easiest one fought, only for the biggest challenge to come in the term of a gender marker.
Hope was a crutch, and so what? If the heavens were to burst open one bright morning with songs, trumpets, and flying angels carrying stringed harps. What would change? I’d still be me. If it were true. If my pain yielded eternal pleasure would that not too turn to ash? If this was all I was to be; then, I was nothing more than a memory. A trick of light that confused décor with consciousness.
I had once lied in a soaking sheet of mine own blood and urine. If there was something to believe in, it would have happened then. So where does that leave me now? Forced to choose; change or be nothing more than an apparition. A passing cloud worn thin, only able to give so much.
I bit on the inside of my cheek in punishment. The past would drape itself around my neck like a noose. If I lost my footing; I would lose my mind.
My phone rested heavily on my thigh. Thoughts from past nights drifted hazily through my vision. Everything was so confusing, and I was still alone. I don’t think I could keep going on like this. My spirit had already faltered.
I struggled to find the meaning behind my effort. There was no reward for failure. There was no reward for success either, so there was no reason to move. There was no reason to wake or to question the absurdities of the world or the cruelties of predators masking themselves with deceptions. The physical needs of my fading body kept my heart from stopping all-together. The warmth from the heavens was nothing more than the carcinogenic rays of a dying fire, and I wanted death- no, I wanted something else, only without the baggage attached.
I clutched my phone and pushed my body toward movement. Momentum was the cure. My feet stood shakily; I had drunk the last of my flask. Now, I relied on nothing more than the memory of completeness.
Together—my body and I— solemnly hobbled like a monk in procession. My thoughts bit with a vengeance from their forced dormancy. I hugged my arms close, focusing on the warmth my body gave.
Stella said self-love came with time, but everyone said that about everything. Most people had not hurt themselves with razors, so why did we?
I loved myself; that was the truth, and it hurt, because if I accepted this; then, I had to accept the pain I inflicted was not from self-loathing. In my mind’s twisted faculties, she believed death was the better option for all aspects of me. The pain was for love. Suffering ceased through death. I wanted to give my body peace. My soul would handle whatever came after.
The leaves left marks of Autumn’s subtle touch. Yellowed fringes graced the edges of the bushy giants. I walked thoughtless, through the overarching trees, stretching across the street of our neighborhood.
The roads winded atop the uneven terrain dangerously. Blind drivers frequently sped through the scenic road. If I were destined to turn into a blood stain on the pavement they would do more than scoop me to the side. My life was worth more. My meat would be ceremoniously dumped into a beautifully-carved mahogany box and then laid below into the earth to be consumed just as all else; however, unlike that meat, which had once taken form as a deer, I would be cursed with a false-moniker etched on granite. Punished in life; desecrated in death. Peace was never for us; love was never for us; liars would be made of us all.
The injustice served as a grim reminder of what would happen if I kept this secret. I knew it did not matter. I was dust; I was ash, and my whatever sound they used was just a sound. If I were not vain enough to care; then, their weapons would never hurt me.
I did care. Visions of my tomb disturbed my waking thoughts; sounds of chisels rode the in soft waves in moments of focus; the cursed letters echoed their dissents to my existence. Forget me; that is all I would ask, and yet, that was not an option. There truly, only ever, was one path. The rest brought me to the same place with varying degrees of pain.
I picked up my phone and typed in Claire’s contact info. My phone buzzed a few times before her voice caught on, “Good morning, Beautiful.” She said.
“I’m ready.” I said.
I moved the phone away from the squealing excitement on the other line, “Okay.” She said after a moment, “Should we do this fancily? Bring Jason down and drag Sam out of whatever craphole, he is sleeping in?”
“We do need to find him, but I’m not doing it alone. Something happened last night.”
“Oh shit, what?” Claire gasped, “Who’d you fuck?”
“Why do you always think its sex?”
“I don’t know what else could it be?”
“I’ll tell you, when you get down here.”
“It better be good if you’re making me wait.” She said, “I’ll be off work in an hour. Jason isn’t doing anything, other than shoving photos of different apartments in my face. I will endure for you, my love.”
She hung up, sending me paragraphs of different heart emojis. I would have felt overwhelmed with love were everything not so fucking confusing. I wished to return to the beginning.
No one was home; I sat in my living room and watched the world outside move. A few rainclouds had gathered in the distance, but the sun reigned for now. I watched the overcast roll in. The distant rumble of thunder pounded in the distance. Ominous signs were all there, but these wings have healed enough. My wounds were not so deep to keep me away even with the uncertainty of the future.
I checked my phone for nearest meteor shower. A few pages explaining a coalition of a blue moon with a meteor shower in mid-October. Further down the page I saw an advertisement for Clearwater’s Fall Festival. They rescheduled it for the day of the meteor shower. As I scrolled past the activities list I saw Kiera, The Fortune Teller’s picture posted below a small caption. She would be at the festival doing readings.
The hours passed, until I got a call from Claire. “We’re here, darling.” Her voice cooed on the other line, following a rhythmic knock, and the sound of my door opening.
The summer breeze blew cool scents of the lake in my house, “Parents?” Claire asked.
“Gone.” I responded.
“Oh, cool.” She said, “Well, we tried calling Sam. He’s not picking up. Figured we’d just swing by and see what’s going on?”
“Yea,” Jason said, “What is going on? I don’t mind coming down here every once-in-a-while, but gas is expensive.”
“Zip it.” Claire shot at him, “Should we smoke then grab Sam?”
“I think we should go now.” I said.
“Smoke at his place?” Claire asked.
“I’m saying, Sam is acting weird, so be careful.”
“Weird how?” Jason asked.
“He took a weird drug.” I said, sparing the details.
“What drug?” Claire groaned.
“I don’t know.” I said, “He’s just being weird, so can we be careful?”
“He’s a grown ass adult.” Claire said sharply, “I can’t keep babysitting him.”
“Claire,” Jason said.
“Dude, he does this every year.”
“I don’t think it’s his fault.” I said, feeling somewhat responsible for his part in this.
“He turned his location off.” Jason said, “Should we still go to his house?”
“He’s either there or at the bar; notice how I said singular. Alex, that is how much we love you.” Claire said walking back toward the door.
I grabbed my backpack and slid a pair of boots over my feet, before preparing myself for my confession.
We skirted through the mountainous roads, wounding hills like spools of thread. Around the other side laid the final stretch of forest, which rushed by ominously. Featureless faces watched from the shadows. Their ghostly, pale flesh was masked by the overbearing brush. I felt their eyes sear into me; until, the pine trees ceased, and the valley laid exposed before us. Swaths of agricultural land were divvied into evenly spaced rectangles, which shone in different hues of green and yellow during the day. Now, the fields were a singular night sea. The lights of the town twinkled through the interlaced limbs of the southern, timber forest.
Claire drove through the logging camp and into a quiet compound, that lied near one of the lake’s various coves. Claire threw her car in park, and shut off the engine. With a beep, the lights turned on, and the doors unlocked.
“Idiot.” Claire said, pointing to Sam’s truck, which laid awkwardly angled in a ditch to the side of his gravel driveway.
We pushed open Sam’s door and kicked out shoes off by a woven basket near the entrance.
“Sam.” Jason called out, “You here?”
There was no response. Jason crept up his stairs, while I stayed close behind Claire.
“Found him.” Jason called out from Sam’s room.
Claire and I rushed upstairs; Sam was sitting in his chair, looking through photos on his phone. A slight smell of rot lingered in his room.
“What are you doing, weirdo?” Claire asked.
Sam ignored her continuing to look through old photos. Every so often he would delete one.
“Hello?” Jason called out.
As I neared I noticed every pictures Sam deleted had me in it. Claire grabbed his phone. Sam stood up aggressively. Jason stepped forward, but Sam lowered his head.
“Sorry.” He muttered.
“What’s your deal?” Jason asked.
“Ask her.” Sam said pointing to me.
“What?” Jason asked confused.
“Fuck you, Sam.” Claire said automatically.
I took a step forward, “Sam, who was that guy you met.”
“Stalking me?” He asked sardonically.
“Coming from the guy, who followed me to Savage.”
“What were you doing at Savage?” Claire asked.
“I sent you a voicemail. Did you not get it?” I asked dumbfounded. Sam giggled in his chair.
Claire opened her phone and checked her recent calls. “Oh, yea. Should I play it?” She asked.
“No.” I said, “Sam, who was he?”
“My new boss.” Sam said, “I’m out of the tree business.”
“And into the drug business?” Jason said, connecting a few of the dots.
“Broadcasting.” Sam replied sharply, “Good pay and I did it without my parent’s money buying me a piece of paper.”
“Sam, now you’re just starting to sound bitter.” Claire said, turning over to me with a guilty expression on her face.
“I’m just sick of being lied to.” He said.
“Who is lying?” Jason asked.
“She is.” Sam said.
“What is Claire lying about?” Jason asked again taking a step closer.
“He means me.” The words fell from my lips as light as a confession to the wind.
“This isn’t easy for me to say. I don’t know why it even matters. I hate the idea that I need to do this at all.”
“What are you dying?” Sam laughed.
“Your gay. It’s cool if you’re gay, Alex.” Jason said.
“I think I’m a girl.” The words fell out as steam through a vent. The knots that had been wriggling as interlocked tentacles simmered. At last I could say I did it; I said it; I said it. Whatever happened, now happened. I said it.
“Thinks… Alex what if it isn’t true?” Sam said suddenly. His eyes perked up a light flipped on, “She drugged you, dude. I took some shit too, sure, but you probably just got fucked. It’s a lie. They’re manipulating you.”
“Sam I will bite you.” Claire shot back, “We love you, Alex that is what he means to say. Right Jason?”
“Yea, of course.” Jason said “I just need to know how I can help. We sticking with Alex?”
“I don’t know.” I said. The shakes had ceased. The pain this had caused me for so long was so easy. Just a breath and some words, and it almost cost me my life. “I found something that has helped.” I began, hoping that truth would lead me through.
“A drug.” Sam said, “It’s a drug.”
“It has helped.” I said defiantly.
“It’s a crutch.” Sam retorted.
“Okay, so you are a girl, and now you take a drug?” Jason joked, “Can we specify?”
“She’s telling the truth.” Claire said, “At least, she has told me this before.”
“It doesn’t matter now.” I said, “Sam destroyed it.”
“You’re welcome.” Sam replied.
“So, what about you?” I went on the offensive, explaining the fortune teller, and the man in the suit.
“He’s into the mystic garbage.” Sam tossed off, “The dude is weird, but he is giving me money and free shit.”
“Show me the drug.” Claire said to Sam, who took out a funky smelling power bar from his dresser.
“Smells like shit.” Jason said.
“It’s a drug not a chocolate bar, genius.” Sam retorted.
Claire tossed her hands up, “You’re a grown up, Sam. Do what you want, but leave Alex and her friends alone.” Claire lectured.
He waved it away, “I’m the only real friend, Alex has right now. It’s a trick; these bitches are tricking you.”
“No Sam.” I said, “Its real. This is happening. It is true and I’m sorry if I got you caught up in this, but that guy is not good.”
“What do you think is going to happen there? Some magical bullshit to make all the negative thoughts in your head go away? That’s not how this works. You can’t just take a drug and have it work, Alex. You are going to regret it.”
“I have regretted every moment before Stella showed me Euphoria.”
“It’s the drugs.” Sam said.
“It’s the mountain, Sam.” I retorted.
“It’s you head.” Sam shot back.
“Ok, let’s just all go to sleep. It’s been a late night, yea? Tensions are high.” Claire said. “Come on, we can just leave.”
“Sam, do you want us to stay?” Jason asked.
He resumed scrolling through his pictures.
Claire sat with me for a while. We smoked a few bowls and played Minecraft. Sam had made me feel uneasy, but Claire and Jason made it easier to fall asleep.
[Previous Chapter] *** [Next Chapter]
3 thoughts on “Cursed XIII~”