Cursed XVIII~

[18] — Inkstained Dreams

The tickle in my stomach climbed to the base of my throat. I urged my body to expel the liquid, but I could not focus on more than one task at hand- moving my body forward. My hand held the edges of the cavern, which were slick from the drips of running water trickling from the ceiling. Among the water were whispers. Echoes of ghosts swirled like a sinister mist through the cracks along the cavern walls.

I stopped feeling the tickle reach the back of my tongue. At once I vomited black fluid. I rested my bodyweight against the wall to ease my shaky nerves. My vision was blurred in a hypnotic mirage. The darkness casted images in front of me. Hands reached from the wall to grab onto my hair. I felt cold fingers trail down the small of my back. I was in no condition to acknowledge the company.

“Woah, Alex is puking!” A voice I recalled from high school shouted out behind me. This was the first noise I could decipher. It was followed by a chorus of ghostly laughs.

I ignored them, brushing my hair out of my face. The lantern remained lit. I dragged it above my face. This offered no comfort to my mind.

Sweat pooled from my cheeks and my chest before the heat overran my senses. My breath turned heavy as another wave of pressure erupted from my stomach against my will. I collapsed again leaking the contents of my stomach onto the cave floor.

No peace came with the end of then outpour. I was left spitting remnant acidic bursts of saliva and poison out. Sweat dripped down my neck and into my shirt. Thankfully the tunnel had cooled with my progress.


Euphoria had brought peace; it was a drug, I supposed, but never did it dump venom such as this through my veins. Runic Script rose from my skin like dark scribbles wrought from a pagan deity. I tried to decipher the ancient symbols, yet my vision failed to comply.

That was until I turned my wrist over, which to my shock, the symbol of the fortune teller was penned in the same black-dye as the rest of my body. It was as if I were dressed as a sacrificial lamb. The eye watched me as a spirit or celestial creature. A dark angel mounted upon my shoulder.

The room shifted and swirled psychedelically as I dragged myself further into the corridor. Sconces flickered to life as I passed them. One after another.

Alone again… Why do you think everyone abandons you? Another voice crept through the decrepit cavern.

So cold… So numb… Just as the voices said so it was. My breathe was foggy and visible, yet a numbing cold gripped its frosty tendrils within my veins. I felt the weight of the world push itself into the weakest part of my back, and just as the thought entered my head so too did the mountain take its advantage.

How easy it could be to just fall.

The earth is soft, sister… Soft…

The edge was taken off and instead the voices eased into a gentle lullaby.

Lambs gather white upon Autumn hills,

Bleating fat rejoices within fenced pastures.

Foxes… Fanged fury… Feast.

I shook myself from the trance their voices had lolled me into. The ground was twirling in a nauseating blur of grey and brown blobs.

Feast. Feast. Feast… The voices echoed, in spite of my best efforts to ignore their taunts.

I placed my hand beside the rocky entrance into another winding chamber. As I entered the room the voices behind me dispelled with a gently breeze that whispered sincerity. There was hope ahead. I pushed myself forward through the tunnel, trudging across the uneven terrain.


I continued moving through the caverns. There was no option of turning back; instead, I had to place my hopes toward finding one of the other mine entrances, or finding the seed… I thought again of Alice’s promises. It was insane, yet had Euphoria not placed the darkness at bay? I would give my life if there was a way to feel better.

I had felt this darkness for far too long. Tonight, I will end it. I can be better. I just need to push through this.

I felt the walls beside me softly tremble. I turned a hazy eye in confusion as I watched the rocks squish and roll into a smooth, clay-like paste.

The form of my mom’s face took shape in the clay. Her lips moved, but I could not hear a sound. As I walked past I heard her voice repeat, “Who will love you? Who will love you…”

“I had hope you.” I said as another taste of stomach bile touched my tongue.

My father’s eyes cast down in disappointment. Blood poured from a stone gash in his chest.

“So that’s it? Our son is dead?” My mom wailed, “Replaced by you?” Her shrieks shook the walls. I turned back in fear.

“You never had one.” I said calmly. Sobs poured from the ceiling as water began to seep in from every crack and crevice in the corridor. A distant candle behind me was extinguished by the water. Another one beside me succumbed after the water compiled within the sconce.

“I am only here to protect you.” My mother said, “This is wrong. Please, turn back.”

“Alex. This won’t fix you.” Claire’s said.

“I don’t need to be fixed.”

The water drizzled in. My shoes were already soaked from the waves of cries from my tormented mother. I did not know what else to do but continue forward.


I had spent every waking moment of my life inside this frame with thoughts and feelings unknown to everyone save myself, so why then do others believe they know me better than I know myself? I was myself. Why did others believe youth dissuaded internal reflection?

It was not real. The drugs had taken root. That was all this was. An illusion created from bad shit. My fingers felt the indents of the silver as I continued my descent.

“Freak.” Sam’s voice cut through the air, which made me jump forward. My heart fought against the sludge, but my reactions suffered. I felt bloated, ill, and at death’s door despite the absence of pain. Numbing jolts of energy pushed through my head and ribs where the brunt of Sam’s assault took place, but there was no pain.

I could suffer the abuses of the mind. I have had more practice than most. The whispers had long returned to complacent background noise.


This sentiment did not last much longer. Doubts diluted my fucked-up thoughts. What was there even to find? Another drug? Maybe this will be the one. Most likely not. I thought I was already dead. Now I know it to be true. Only death would taunt me so. Life veiled its tricks under a subtler tone.

The toe of my shoe struck the floor, which sent me sprawling forward. I caught myself on a stone slab. A faded pink table cloth was thrown over top. Old pictures and half-burnt candles were positioned atop. I cursed as I pulled myself upright and drifted around the corners of stone slab.

“Don’t blame yourself.” Stella’s voice said as the others quieted, “My mind was just as ill.”

It was false. It was not her. I moved on.

“I never got help. I never asked, and when I finally thought I could trust someone they went and threw their life away.” Stella’s voice trembled the cavern. The water had stopped trickling in, but I was treading in ankle-high water, while fighting off the effects of the drug.

“Its fine, Alex. Go off and die. I can wait for the next fucked up kid to wander in.”

I held my hand against the mountainside to steady my direction. The room had begun to spin whether from the drugs or Alice. I could only see a few feet ahead, and still the faces appeared. The whispers cried.

“Deceiver.” One voice rose.

“Predator.” Another said.


It is not real. I rubbed the fibers of the string. Their leather was rough and wearing. My breath caught in my throat for all but a brief moment.

“You are weak.”

“Crying won’t protect you.”

“You can’t hide from your mistakes.”

My breath became shallow and ragged. My lungs tightened and my throat constricted. “Leave me alone.” I whispered keeping my head pointed down. I focused on the sound of water sloshing aside with my shaky steps.

“Turn back.” Stella pleaded.

“No.” I responded. My feet trudged through the tunnel slipping on pebble and debris.

“It’s smart, Alex.” Jason said, “You’ll take advantage of everyone. Your inherent sickness will make people want to support you. I just wish I was as fucked up to do it.” He laughed.

“Third times the try.”

That was my voice , I thought. A shiver crept down my back. Drugs or death, I just need to keep moving.


“Congratulations,” She said, “You survived. That’s all you can do.”

“That’s all I needed to do.” I responded.

“And where has that left you? A little bit more effort and maybe we could be anywhere other than some bumfuck town next to a bunch of biblethumpers. Devin’s internship is in Paris. Where do you think you’ll be in ten years?” Only her laugh was different. It was laced with cruelty.

“No one will love you. Sam was the stupidest one of them, obviously he was going to say the quiet part out loud. You think Claire is okay with it? She just doesn’t want to be seen as a bigot, but you make her uncomfortable. Yea, sure its fine now, but what about in a year, Alex- When you want to start using the ladies’ room?”

The ground was shaking below me. The walls felt as if they were closing in on me. My other self-stared at me

“You are a fraud.” She said. “An ugly, perverted, monster that convinced itself they were the victim. You are not the victim, Alex.”

I have had these thoughts before, identical, but never had I heard them said to me aloud. The drugs amplified the pitches. The anger and the accusations with the shame ridden atop.

Similar to the other apparitions her likeness was cast in black stone. I stopped slowly and turned to face my golem. She spoke, but I no longer listened. Even in the darkness and in my drugged state I saw the glimmer of sorrow that occasionally flickered across her eyes.

Whether drugs or the mountain I knew she was only a reflection of me.

“My name isn’t Alex!” I pulled my head from its stubborn gaze on the floor and faced her. I faced my own image carved into the stone. A fanged smile was her response. The stonework shimmered as the surface of a lake.

“Then what’s your name, princess?”

“Fuck off.”

The water beneath me trembled as my twin followed me through the endless darkness. I could not make sense of my directions other than forward. I dared not look behind else I’d turn myself around. I doubt she would be of any help. Her voice deepened an octave in purposeful mocking fashion.

“Rachel? Gwen? I bet you chose Luna.” She giggled following close to my side.

I looked through the sides. It was as if I were in a bubble in space. Blue galaxies swirled in the distance.

“Sydney? Ashley? Dakota…” My twin’s voice spat incessantly in my ear.

“Why do you want to know my name?” I asked starting to get annoyed at her guesses. mirrored mirage that rose as smoke from a firepit.

“You saw Stella’s tree, right?” She asked, “Imagine what you’ll get? That is what we deserve after all. Alex carved into our gravestone for eternity. How does that sound, Alex?”

I stopped my slow gait to look at my face’s eyes. There wasn’t a trace of humor that once existed.

“Tell me, Alex. Before all you are is four letters and the memory of a dashing young, son.”


Tears had prickled at the side of my eyes. I clenched my jaw as my arms tried to steady my shaking body. I must have looked like an utter fool, but I could barely control my movements let alone the torrent of cold sorrow that gripped my heart.

“Fine.” I said shaking.

“It’s better for the both of us. We all must die, but we’d be damned if our bodies were desecrated in such fashion.”

“I know.” I said emotionlessly. I leaned forward into the ear of my shadow, “You can bury me under whatever fucking name you want. My flesh means nothing to me.” I twisted the blade that hovered where my shadow’s waist would have been. I threw the lantern in the opposite direction and stumbled forward more so in a constant state of falling than running.

A screech responded behind me as I flew through the abyss. All at once the blue spirals faded and were replaced by a red luminescent glow that struck through the interior as bolts of electricity.

The walls and floor shook as the earth sounded like it was splitting apart. The mountain rumbled as my voice called from behind, “I won’t let you do this to us!” She roared from behind me. I stood in fear for all but a moment before throwing my body forward with every ounce of energy I could spare. I felt the knife’s handle lay in my hand as I moved forward. I did not know if it could help, but I was damned before I threw away the only weapon I had.

The tunnel moved on and on. I was losing momentum. The sound of heavy feet slammed into the water behind me.

“You are going to fuck us both! I will not be remembered that way. I am more than that name.”

“So am I. Fuck everyone else.” I said plunging into the cavern’s walls.


I fell into a jellyfish. My body moved and conformed and all was black until at once the full spectrum of color shot through my vision.

I emerged in a small, well maintained room. Three beds were stacked beside one another.

Stella ran over.

“How did you find me?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter.” She said, “I came back.”

“Who was that?” I cried.

“Another illusion from Kiera. It’s not her last trap. She is going to hurt you.”

“She didn’t seem evil, Stella.” I said frantically attempting to catch my breath.

“I was wrong. We had loved one another for so long, and I never knew how the drugs affected her.”

“What do you mean, Stella? The drugs, like Euphoria? That’s the entire reason I’m here.”

“Because you are fucked too.”

This shocked me back, “Are you another illusion?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter, freak.” She said vindictively, “It was tragic what happened to Alex Mortiz. A depressed stoner that went into the forest to kill himself. He slashed his wrists by the lakeside.”

“No. Please, Stella.” I said weakly. I felt the noose tighten its fibrous tendons. I couldn’t fight anymore. I can let myself fall… The mountain had won, it could take what it wanted.

I heard the sound of boots approaching. I felt the weight of heavy leather push my face onto a carpet.

She leaned down and grabbed a length of my hair, “You look like you don’t know what’s between your pants, Alex. I can do this much for your parents before your passing.” Scraps of hair fell beside me as tears pooled on the dusty, stone floor.

I closed my eyes and waited for the nightmare to end. For once I could say I tried my best, right? I just wasn’t strong enough, and that’s okay too. I never needed to be strong. I just wanted to be.

The scalping took a few wretched minutes. Even without looking I could tell she was slicing lochs off with a razor blade.

“I have a knife.” I mumbled quietly.

“Presentation, Little Bird.” Her once familiar voice was coated in venom, “I don’t know why I am going through the effort. I’d have given you a year or two at most before you do this part on your own.”

Stella finished her butchery and pushed my face back into the floor, “Do you want to do it, or shall I?” The question was left unanswered.

“You know they lied to you.” Stella said, “They told you they loved you, but it was always conditional. You weren’t a monster, when they said those things. It was wrong of them to make false promises, but was it not wrong of you to force your issues on everyone around you? They will tell you you’re beautiful, Alex. Inconvenience will turn friends to strangers. They will pretend to care; they will care for as long as it is easy. Do not trust them. No one can love a self-loathing creature. Don’t you hate yourself, Alex? Why pretend any differently?”

“I want to be called Grace.” I said looking at the dark cavern walls behind Stella’s draping dress.

“I don’t care.” Stella said. “At least I’m honest. Now, do you want to slice your veins open, Alex, or should I?”

“Don’t bother.” I said shakily pushing myself up. Scraps of loose hair fell beside me. I wiped stained tears from my eyes. I should have seen it coming to some degree. I could never figure out a way to love myself, and that was always going to get me in the end.

I wrenched the dagger, I had stolen from my other self, from my belt. I scrunched up my sleeves and held the tip of the blade to my exposed skin. The past scarring had already healed in ugly, white streaks.

The steel was cold, but a part of me felt exhilarated by the returning sensation. I had promised myself never again, and once more I fell short. There were no magical cures for some people. We were cursed from birth and fated for blood. It was always this way.


A hand grabbed onto me as I held the knife across my wrist, which was all the encouragement my weakened frame needed to drop the weapon and collapse. I felt the weight of my body find a familiar pair of arms. I smelled cinnamon.

“That’s not my voice.” Stella cried. I felt her arms grasp onto me. Her sobs were muffled in my hoodie, “I would never hurt you, sister.”

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