Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Crimson Regrets over That River

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There’s so much noise within all the chaos. The rubble around us that was once a train sta- tion a mere two seconds ago is about to collapse on top of us. A boy stands before me, shielding me from the debris with his arms. His suit is all torn, and my once red dress is now brown, tattered, and burnt.


There has been an accident, and we’re caught in the middle. There’s panic everywhere, but within the chaos, the boy doesn’t speak.


“We need...we need to get out of here,” I grunt out the obvious.


He remains silent. Of course, he does. That’s just the way he is. He’s looking around, analyz- ing within the wreckage. He then points to a single opening that leads to the nearest medical team. “There’s our best shot,” he says blankly. And of course, he’s not fazed. He takes my hand and we tread through the broken pieces of the train station.


However, every step feels like my head is being pulled deeper towards the ground. My stumbles are slowing us down...And his wobbles aren’t making any of this better. He has cuts every- where: Scrapes on his face, nasty gashes on his arms, and even deadly slashes through his pants. It almost feels like the train station was trying to deliberately torture him...No, torture us. I think there’s something wrong with my lungs...All the smog is making it hard to breathe. The boy then covers my mouths with his sleeve, letting me breathe better. “You’re lungs might be disintegrating as we speak. This is bad. Your lungs can’t take this.” How’d he know about my sensitive respiratory system? He must have heard me breathing heavily...Observant.
We’re so close to the exit of this chaotic mess. Just...Just a few more steps! Just a few more steps and we can get treated and go home. Just a little bit more, and I can go to school soon. And help Franziska with her schoolwork. And help Jerry feel less stressed. And keep my word to Mor- pheus. Not to mention Soren! Who’s she going to confide in now!? And I need to see Ivan one last time. Sorry, Ivan. Oh, I haven’t even started my will!


There are so many things I haven’t done yet. So much hope wasted and so much sorrow to spare.


“Why is it so far...So far away!?”
“Just hold on a little bit longer, okay?” So close.
“We’re almost out...We’re almost there...I’m glad.” It’s closer. “Yeah...We are. Are you feeling okay?” The smog is getting darker... “I’m fine. Can you still breathe?”
“Yeah. I—” Coughing, sputtering blood. “I’m not fine...but we’ll make it.”
“You need to get out of here.” The ceiling above us begins to lightly crumble.
“What?” From behind us, the debris of metal, glass, and cement is now collapsing violently. “GET OUT OF HERE.”
“Wait, what are you—” Push.
“So many promises to be kept and so little time left. Let this be the last one I keep.” Stum-
ble. Tears.
“This isn’t a time to be philosophical!” Reaches out hand.
“This isn’t a time to be selfless if you have others waiting for you.”
“Don’t you dare—You need to—” Scream. Shove. Crash. Crack. Blackout. “Live on without me.” Dark. Cough. Sputter. Fadeout.
“Thanks for everything.” A final reach out.

 

A few months earlier
I’m looking down at my hands. Red. Red everywhere. It’s almost time for school but...I don't want to go. But I don’t have a choice. There’s nobody who’s going to push me to go, nor is there any- one who’s going to tell me to rest. I need to get out of here. I need to get to school. I can’t let...I can’t let anyone see me like this. I hate this hollow sadness. I want it gone. But I can’t stop lying to myself the second I’m alone. The red flowing down dripping onto my hands...I hate it. I don’t hate the red, I hate where it comes from.


The worst scars aren’t the ones that are self-inflicted because those can heal. The worst scars are the ones that come from the places everyone sees and judges. I hate my eyes. They’re brown, dull, and bloody. I hate them so much. I despise them with all of my being, however little that may truly be, it’s still hate. The way my eyes have to release droplets of crimson and mix in with the mahogany agony trickling down my shoulders sends my head spinning. And it makes me think that if I were a little bit tougher, I could maybe hold back. But I never can. The paranoia comes back every time. The hysteria is always there.
The worst part? There’s no known cause for anything. Not for my eyes, not for my cutting habits, not even for my sadness. Because everything I have is perfect enough to not be heartbroken about. So why am I so shattered?


Well, if I knew that, would I honestly be like this?


I look in the mirror. Brown skin, dark brown-red hair draped behind my shoulders down to my torso, boring brown eyes, red streaming down my arms and face...What a boring description of myself. But there’s nothing else there. Am I the smart kid? Sure. Am I the depressed kid? Sure. Am I positive? Sure. Am I empty? To an extent. Am I normal? Everyone seems to think so, making it count. But I’m sick of it. SO sick of it. So that’s why I...

 

I don’t want to be here anymore.


Why haven’t I passed out yet? No matter, I better clean this up. I wipe up all the blood, clean it off with rubbing alcohol and take all the murder clean-up protocols. I was planning on going to law school, so of course, I check it over with luminol. I’m 18 but I’m not an idiot. I think I’m clear. I put on a red hoodie over black leggings with a strip of red and blue down the sides and rush out of my house.


I get to school almost late and I put a smile back on the moment I step into my classroom.


“Hey, Mira! It’s not like you to be close to late, what happened?” Marielle runs up to me and greets me with a hug, her red hair almost making its way into my mouth. Some more students join her, namely Vivian, Jerry, and Franziska.


“Oh, just slept in a little.” I shrug.
“That’s not like you. I was afraid you were ditching me! I need you to look over my presenta- tion...” Franziska yanks my arm towards her laptop, open and ready. “Does it look good?”
I skim over it and point to a sentence. “This is an independent clause, so take out the period.”
“Sweet, thanks!” Her short bob hair bounce as she reads it over again.
“Hey...” Vivian whispers in my ear, “why do you help Z all the time? Shouldn’t she be asking the teacher this stuff??”
“Yeah, but why would the teacher fix a mistake that she could easily? The moment I’m gone, she’ll be forced to stand on her own. That’s what’s best for her.” I reply, smiling.
“Whatever you say.” Vivian rolls her blue eyes, brushing her frizzy dark curls out of the way and sits down.
“How are you, Jerry?” I turn to the slightly overweight boy beside me. “I’m okay I guess.” He averts his eyes. Something’s bothering him. “Anything wrong? You know you can talk to me.”
“I’m fine. Just tired of school.”
“We’ll get there together, okay?”
“Yeah.”

He sits down, and I guess I should do the same, which I do, second seat from the front. I’m not all that fond of these people, I feel like I’m constantly being used but at the same time, it’s not like asking for peer editing is bad in any shape or form. I don’t think I’ll ever get it. “Thanks for being there for me at least.”
I beam at him, almost forgetting about my sorrows. “You’re welcome.”


Class begins and Mr. Braggy enters the classroom last minute, back slouched forward as always. “Alright, so we’re starting class off with a discussion.”


Some of our class groans but some of us also jump in our seats. I’m indifferent about it. “What’s it gonna be on?” Monica whines.


“Can we debate instead?” Jake, class clown, hollers from the back.


“SETTLE DOWN. It’s about whether you should stand up for your rights as was discussed
with our novel study.” Mr. Braggy chugs some coffee and then exhales deeply. “You all need to say something because of participation.”

Well, it’s not like I don’t want to participate, it’s just that depending on my answer, everyone will associate me with some sort of...I don’t know, trait? Like if I say nothing matters, we all die, they’ll call me some emo-goth. But if I go on and on about standing up for what’s right, I’ll be labelled as some social justice warrior. And social justice warriors don’t hurt themselves or feel de- pressed. And I can’t let anybody know that I’m depressed, either...I mean, even if nobody truly cares, I don’t want them to feel any remorse for it. It’s my issue, and pushing it onto them would just...make me plummet further into despair.


It’s not like I’m only sad, I have things that make me happy sometimes...like poetry or sing- ing...Drawing can be fun...I guess reading isn’t so bad. I like reading comics...Even the sneaky pervert side of me isn’t gone.


“Look, we’ll start with...Korey, you go first.” Mr. Braggy points his meaty finger to Korey, who’s fiddling with his beanie and overall seems like he’s done with school.


“Uhhh...Rights should be fought for because if you don’t, you’ll be taken advantage of.”

“Okay...anything else?”
“Nah.”
Our teacher sighs, disappointed. “Okay, next person.”


Next is...Vivian. “Well, obviously rights should be stood up for, I mean, they exist to spread equality.”
We go around the class. Jake thinks if you plan to stand up, you need to go BIG. Franziska thinks whips are okay. Jerry wants peaceful protests. Monica wants online debates. Florence thinks we should just burn everyone causing a scene. He got sent to sit in the hallway. Marielle thinks it’s better to let some things slide sometimes because effort should be better spent on other issues still regard- ing rights. Hailey believes the best way to convince everyone to agree to something is to bribe them with food. Bailey, Hailey’s twin thinks it should just be illegal to make a huge scene. There’s more to our class, but most of their replies go...forgotten.


But then my turn is only after another student; Morpheus, away and I don’t have an opinion. Should I just agree with the majority? I guess that would be best...


Or at least that was the plan until from the desk behind the one beside me speaks after his 10-second silence.


“Uh, Morpheus??” Korey whispers to Morpheus. “What’s the big idea?”


“Hmm, what a boring, one-sided conversation. Always standing up for what’s right...never stay silent...is that supposed to be a good thing?” Morpheus Mirrorson...That one kid who speaks sometimes and probably Mr. Braggy’s least favourite aside from Florence. “Guess you forgot that
the light won’t shine without the dark. And who’s the one deciding what’s right or not?” The way he speaks...so dead but the words so harsh...I can’t take my eyes off of him. “Is...is it really okay that, you, the one standing up, don’t get to decide whether it’s right or not. If what you think is right at the time only aggravates things...Society won’t accept it in that one way. So maybe it wasn’t even right in the first place.”


How could he have possibly thought of and said all that with a straight face? And that monotone voice...And the dead look in his right brown eye we all get to see, because he always keeps the left side of his olive coloured face covered. Suddenly, it’s my turn and I realize I’ve spaced out. But so has the rest of the class. You could hear no pin drop and still think a pin dropped. It’s so silent; it drives you mad. “U-um, I guess...people who’ll violate your right might always exist, it's just...” Craaap where was I even going with this!? Suddenly, Morpheus’s words ring into my head. Society... Version of Right...“I guess the more bad people there are, the more people will rise and go against them??” The moment the words echo through the classroom, I swear I hear Morpheus snicker.


“Hmmph.” I look back, trying to be discreet, but he’s smirking and doing his fancy pen flips. He’s also running a hand through his deep crimson hair


“Intriguing,” Mr. Braggy says under his breath. “Great, now go do your analysis questions.”


Well, I guess it’s nothing. I doubt anyone would remember...But why can’t I shake off Morpheus’s words? It’s bothering me...


School finally ends, which for many people is great, but for me, it’s really not. Home means I’m stuck by myself. Being by myself has sent me paranoid so many times...I’m afraid. I’ve had noth- ing remotely traumatizing happen... My parents might be dead, but they died fighting for their lives. That is, my mom died while giving birth and my father was just too sick to take care of us so I grew up in a foster home. Sure, Misaki died too but that was different. She was my twin sister who simply didn’t make it. It sucks that my family doesn’t exist in my own story...it looks cheap as if I just didn’t feel like creating characters. But it’s not my fault...I don’t know about any grandparents or siblings. I guess there’s the foster home I grew up in, but I was never really adopted...and that place still gives me nightmares to this day. I never really...appealed to anyone. I still have some friends from those times, Chelsea, Evelyn, but we rarely talk now. And it’s fine because I moved out of the foster home right after I turned 18. It’s been hard, but it’s okay. I’ll make it. I don't have a choice. But even so...


That’s the worst part because now I feel like all the crazy episodes aren’t anything big because well...I’ve lived a good enough life...Certain words have always been etched into my brain... Do...Do I truly need to have something happen to me to be diagnosed as depressed? If I try to tell anyone, will they help me or just convince me that they’re helping me?


Oh god, my head’s going there again. I gotta get home before anyone sees anything. Maybe I shouldn’t do it...I have this debate every time...But if I do it, I want it to be with pills. Or I want to cry so much that the blood won’t stop flowing.


I have the pills with me. I cross my favourite bridge. I’m taking the longer route home today. The glinting sun reflecting the droplets of water on the lush trees makes me wish I could truly enjoy it. But it’s not enough to make me stay. The fresh scent of spring is amazing. Even if it’s always spo- ken about nonstop, I love it. So I want to enjoy it one last time.


Why am I even doing this? I think it’s because I’m so tired of trying to fight it...and I just... don't like how I’m seen by everyone else. But what can I do? Do I change? Do I stay the same? This isn’t me I want to be. What’s the point of living a facade if there’s nothing underneath but despair?


And it sucks because I’m about to graduate but...I honestly don’t see a point. It’s better if I just...fade. I don’t need to be remembered if it’s like this.

I look around me: A bridge over a trickling stream surrounded by lush trees and the fresh scent of flowers blossoming. The sound of water is calming...I can almost taste the freshness from the moisture. I love the glint of the sun on the water.


But then my peace is interrupted by an all too familiar voice.


“Hey, how much longer are you going to block the bridge?” Morpheus, dead as always, cocks his head. How long has he been here?
“H-huh? Oh, sorry...” I step aside and he walks past me.
“That thing you said during that discussion...I found it quite intriguing,” Morpheus says, face still blank.
Wait...he found it intriguing? “O-Oh, thanks?”
“When worthy people die or vanish without a trace, the number of meat sacs becomes saturated with everything the worthy overlooked.”
“What?”
“I’m just saying...I think it’s good that you looked at it from a different angle.”
“Uh, thanks.”


And then he stops walking but keeps his back turned.

“So, are you planning to take pills or do it via blood loss?” There’s no one else nearby, so he’s talking to me?? How could he possibly know!? “E-excuse me?”
“You’re planning to end it today, aren’t you.”
“I-I...” There’s no way he can just guess this!
“You’ve been wearing hoodies to school every day. Even in now, in this humid spring. You come back paler and paler. You’ve been doing something that involves blood loss. I’m assuming cutting, which is dumb because you should have cut your calf instead of your arms since you never wear shorts.... but your eyes are also super dry all the time so...” I can’t do anything but stand in complete shock as he unravels everything. “Idiopathic Haemolacria. Am I correct?”
“That’s just conjecture.” Keep your cool, Mira! Don’t let the weird kid weird you out!
“Do you know how many times you stuttered since I started speaking to you? Four times. And we both know that’s not a part of your character. Or could it be...that you simply aren’t the same outside of school as many assume?”
“Wait, how are you...”
“Yes, if that were it...” He’s not listening... “You have an identity you aren’t proud of. But at the same time, you don’t know what you want, do you? You want the mask to be broken but...you want there to be something that isn’t pure pain.”


Did he just unveil all my sorrows in five seconds? My head’s starting to spin...I hold onto the railing for support.


“Don’t end it yet. You haven’t searched for anything, you’ve only waited.” “You...you don’t know what it’s like.”
“And you don’t know whether I know or not.”
How is he doing this? “Leave me alone, this doesn’t concern you.”
“No, it doesn’t. That’s the fun part.”

 

How can he find this FUN?? I could just leave but...There’s something about the way he’s speaking that has me glued to my spot. “LOOK.” I grit my teeth, ready to attack if needed. “You have no power over life and death. I’m just...going down the path death has for me. It just happens to be...this.”


“Don’t be an idiot. Mira...” That’s the first time he ever used my name... “Hey...Why am I talking to you right now? How do you think I got here?”
“Uhm...” I should run. But I want to know...
“Because if I threw my life away, I wouldn’t be able to stop you today. I wouldn’t be able to assist the rest of the world in their strive for tranquillity. Mira, I’m not capable of feeling very many things. And yet...I can differentiate emptiness and a spark of relief. And so can you.”
“How do you know I’m not just following death’s rules?”


And I know this has to be one of the most beautiful and purest forms of truth as Morpheus turns his head back to his right and with that straight poker face of his, he says: “Ending your own life because you lost hope isn’t the same as succumbing to death with your own two hands.”


Time stopped and for a moment, the light hit his eyes in a way where they didn’t look, no, feel so dead. It was enough to get me to almost drop onto my knees, sobbing into my hands. I realize that I’ve forgotten how hard I’ve worked to never let anybody see the blood flowing out. I turn around, red dripping down my cheeks, past the railing of the bridge and into the river.


Morpheus stands beside me, looking deeply into the river as I continue my sobbing. What am I doing? I need to get out of here. I need to find a way to make sure he doesn’t tell any—.


“Relax, I would have told everyone already if I wanted to.” His cold voice pierces through the trickling splashes.


I can’t say anything to him. There are too many questions everywhere, filling up every cavity of my mind.
“I know because I’ve paid attention. I didn’t tell anyone because the only thing I’d gain is the stupid opinions of our classmates and your distrust.” He points to the red dissolving into the water. “You're going to end up like those tears fading away if you keep it up like this.” He hands me a package of napkins.
“Th...thanks...” I squeal between my lips. I take a few deep breaths after I’ve cleaned up. “So what’s your deal?”


Morpheus turns to me and our eyes meet. But why are his eyes so dead? “Nothing. I saw you stumbling and noticed something held between your hands inside your pockets, which made a rattling sound. Your eyes have looked...robotic for a while now, except whenever you were helping someone else. So I followed you here. You should have noticed earlier, I wasn’t hiding it or anything.”


“Yeah well...I’m not like you.”
“Maybe not entirely, but we share one common trait.”
“What’s that?”
“What do you think it is?”

 

I shouldn’t be here...but he’s reeled me in with my curiosity. What do I think it is? What if it’s
nothing? But...then what would be the point?


“Think something you like to hide,” he hints.
Something we like to hide? “Everything?”
“Be more specific. You’re trying to be deep and wise. Sometimes, you should just look at what everyone else can see. Literally.”
“Um...” Literally...Wait! “You...never let anybody see your left eye...”
“Yes. Because just like you, I dislike my eyes. But it’s not just that.”
“What else is there?”
“We are both pretty fake. We both have people who look at us in ways we don’t want to be
looked at.”

The words coming out of his mouth don’t match his flat tone. His dark hair, a few red streaks glinting under the sun, covers the left side of his face.


But it sucks that he’s right. Agh, I can’t let him hold me back. I’ve had conversations like this before...I mean, those conversations never meant anything, but it should be okay. Let’s just...play along and hopefully not let him know that I’ll just end it when I go home. “Why...are you here?”


“I already told you. I threw my attempt to leave this world to take down yours. And I’m succeeding.”
“How do you know I won’t just go home and do it?”
“You aren’t seriously going to kill yourself after I went out of my way to stop you. Because you’re going to be afraid that you’ll burden me with your death. Right?”
“No, I—” And suddenly the guilt of a thousand deadly sins pierces through me, and I can’t speak anymore.
“You wouldn’t want to have my efforts be wasted, would you?” The boy’s icy voice stops time. It’s weird, but the way he pronounces his words is soothing...
What’s happening? Why am I unable to move my lips? Everything has gone numb.
“Well, I don’t want to lie to you,” he says.


And finally, curiosity permits me to speak. “What do you mean?”
“I couldn’t care less if you died,” he snarls, but not cruelly. His voice is still flat, but it feels
like he’s trying to communicate something else.


I want to be offended. I want to punch him or yell at him for being insensitive. But a shiver
of insight hits me at the thought of sending a different message. “No, you couldn’t.” “What?”


“Because earlier you said something about not being able to feel...you...literally would not be able to care, would you?”
Morpheus smirks and leans on the railing with his left hand pushing against his cheek. “Exactly. And yet...here I am. Helping you.”
I don’t get it. “What was the point?”
“The point was to make myself useful to someone tired. I can breathe, but I’m bored. Because with every breath, you’re supposed to be thankful. But I can’t define thankful. But...that’s not important. You’re finding it hard to breathe.” He says almost hypnotically. He turns his body, facing me. He has a grey sweater wrapped around his waist and is wearing a white ‘XXX’ polo t-shirt matched with black denim jeans. He extends his arms slightly “Do you need someone to hold your breath?”

 

And those few words were all I needed to start weeping all over again. I bury myself in my arms, which are crossed on top of the railing. I can feel an arm go around my shoulders, presumably his. You’d expect me to snap or be mad...because why is he trying to make contact with me like this? Am I being taken advantage of? But there’s something different. An arm over my shoulder blades. That’s it. He’s not moving it into any dangerous directions or anything.


“Is that a yes?”
“Hey...you...said you couldn’t care less if I died, right?” I rasp out.
“Yeah.”
“Then...” I think I know what I want. The energy in me returns for a moment, and I don’t
think I’ve felt this alive in a long time. But I have no control over my words. “Would you care if I lived?”
“If you interest me like you did today, then perhaps, it’s likely I would care.”
“Why?”
“Because. You have what the meat sacs don’t. It’d be a shame if you left. But at the same
time...You’d still be dead. And I don’t know what it’s like for someone who matters to me to die.” He almost sounds sad around the end, to not be able to feel.
“Then...” I have no idea where this is coming from, but it feels good to say something and really mean it for once. I wipe away all the blood the best I can, and choke out meekly, “Then I’m going to make you feel something—Anything after I die.”
“Is that a promise? Is that going to be your new will to live?”
“It’s a promise to help me do something I haven’t done before.”


And for the first time, Morpheus looks surprised. “I...I see.” He stares blankly at me, eyes
wide and processing my words. But...I have no idea as to what I’ve said. I mean, I do but I...I don’t know how I’m supposed to accomplish something so out of the blue. Morpheus smiles softly but eyes still dead, contradicting everything. “Whatever.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. How would I know what it means?”
“You...” I try to lighten the mood by smiling and jokingly saying, “You aren’t trying to like...
bait me or anything, right?”
“No, women are annoying to me so I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t care about something else.” “Is...Is that so...” I mumble awkwardly. I look at the time on my phone. “I...I gotta go.”
“I know. Clean yourself up beforehand, though. See ya.” Morpheus walks past me, silently
smirking under his poker face.
“Okay...uh...Thanks...” I say, weakly.

He stops and turns one last time, smirking for real this time. “You’re welcome. Charisma is
my superpower. Don’t you forget that.”


And he disappears, taking a right towards the train station. I guess he’s got business there. He
did follow me here, so there’s no reason to go the way I am anymore. I’m full of something else, and it’s great. I didn't think a few words would move me so much.


You know when you watch a whole presentation on saving animals and climate change and then you feel super moved and you say you’ll try to make a difference but then you don’t?? Because you were just saying it at the moment? Well...this was more than that. But maybe the reason I want to be closer to this guy is that he's...different? I don’t know...but there was something.


I hastily run home as to not waste any more time. When I get home, I immediately rush to the bathroom where I had spent my morning and look at my stash of blades and pills. And I’m forced to make a decision. The inky smoke fills my vision again and I can’t breathe.


It was a mistake to come here right away.

 

I could just leave. He even said it himself: He doesn’t care. Everyone would remember me for a moment, but they’d remember me as someone else. But I can’t change that. I feel like I’m floating in a void of red and blue, but the colours aren’t mixing. I’m stuck on the verge of bleeding out or drowning despairingly.


I crouch in the corner of the bathroom, pills still in hand. My head is pounding, and I want to just sink into the floor. Breathing heavily, I try to make the pain stop by yanking at my hair, screaming gibberish into my knees until my throat is nothing more than a raspy numb caught be- tween my sobbing and weeping.
And then everything stops. I’m no longer crying. I’m limp on the ground like a corpse. My breathing is slow, calm, and my heartbeat is almost flat lining.


“Then I’m going to make you feel something—Anything after I die.” “Is that going to be your new will to live?”
“It’s a promise to help me do something I haven’t done before.”
That’s right ...I did say that...I...Not today. Maybe another lifetime...


I muster up the energy to force my heavy body off the ground and stumble towards the
bathroom counter. I take all the blades, careful not to cut myself, and wobble towards the dumpster outside. Every step feels heavier, but I have to do this. I shove all the blades inside, though I don’t actually know where they should go. All I know is that they can’t be near me anymore. Satisfied, I make my way back home and despite my lacking stability, I don’t trip over anything.


I don’t know what part of me it was that had said what I said, but it doesn’t matter because now there’s a part of me that’s capable of such insight. And that makes me glad for some reason. When I make it home again, I organize the pills, organize my computer desk, and even bother doing some extra chores on top of some homework. It’s nice being productive.


I guess it’s time I get my life back together because Morpheus is right.


If I don’t want to live, I may as well live for someone else as cheesy as it sounds.


Once everything is done, I sink into bed and fall into a nice, welcoming slumber. I am tired. And I haven’t had a goodnight’s sleep in a long time. I guess I should go to work tomorrow. Bills won’t pay themselves....
I groggily open my eyes and look at the time... 5:30 am...Sweet, I can sleep for another hour and a half since I refuse to wake up early for my old ‘therapy’ now.

 

*MEEEEEEEEP* my alarm shrieks into my ears, jolting me awake. I shut it off and hold my head.


“Ugh, here come the headaches...” From the blood loss, I mean. I get up, brush, change into a wool sweater and jeans, still skip breakfast, and finally rush off to school.


Today feels better like I’ve finally accomplished something by doing something small. Which I guess is kind of what is happening right now...


But as I start to get closer, I realize that I still have to play the part I always have. Because if my classmates see me changing, they’re going to be suspicious. And I don’t feel like graduating with drama on my plate. Oh well...Maybe...


Maybe Morpheus can be the one to remember me as someone I accept. That...That sounds... It sounds right. I don’t know why it just does.


Before I get into my first class, which is Sociology, I take a deep breath, knowing that I need to calm down. But...I don’t think anyone will notice anyway. Maybe...Hopefully...Who cares, anyway? I’ve been fine so far...


I enter the room and as always, I take my seat. Everything is as it has always been. Carolle is telling me about her dog, Momo, Hiro is poking fun at my doodles of guys, and Soren is confiding in me about how she identifies herself as a trans girl. Good for her, I guess...


“Yeah, I feel better this way,” Soren says, nervous but relieved. “I like being identified as female.”
It must be nice knowing how you want to be seen...and being able to act on it. “That’s great, Soren.”
“Thanks.” He....I mean, she smiles a crooked smile and sits down.


Class starts, but I’m not paying attention. I think we’re talking about different responses to things now?? I don’t know, I’m absentmindedly-taking notes. I can review them later. Though, I guess I need to retake some other notes because well...Lately, I haven’t been taking very good notes. Mostly because I didn’t see the point.


“Ahem, Ms. Carmedy.” Mr. Flaman says my name sternly.


Shoot, I spaced out again! “Huh!? Yes?”


He sighs heavily. “Please see me after class.”


Crap, am I in trouble? All I did was space out...I was still taking notes...But I shouldn’t be
fazed. “Understood, sir.”


Class ends, and my short, panicking breaths are matching up to my racing my anxiety. I slowly walk up to Mr. Flaman and hope to not be in too much trouble. “You wanted to see me?”


“Ah, yes. Mira, Cayden was wondering if he could borrow your notes?”


Oh, so I’m not in trouble. Great, but do I need to help him?? Well not like I have a choice. “Of course, I’ll send them to him right away.”

“Wonderful. Also...I could help but notice how lost you looked during class. Do you understand the material? Everything okay?”


I’ve had this talk with Mrs. Yulio already. “I’m okay! Just tired,” I chuckle out, plastering my fake smile.
“I see. Well, thanks for your help, and come see me if you need anything.”
“Yeah, thanks.” What a waste of time. I stay behind to send Cayden the notes and then I run off to my other classes.


School finally ends, and I’m more motivated to go to work today. I’m a waitress at a fancy bubble tea place, and it’s fine, I suppose. I guess our boss, Gary, isn’t so bad. But he can be pretty bossy, which I don’t care for because we get free bubble tea. It’s great. Vivian and Marielle like to visit sometimes. Soren comes around pretty frequently. Maybe I’ll see her today. I have my outfit (which is just a bright green visor hat thing, a bright green apron on top of a black blouse with puffy shoulders, and black pants) in the locker room, so I don’t think I’m forgetting anything...


To get to work, I have to cross the bridge and then make a right to get to the train station, just like Morpheus did yesterday. When I get to the bridge though, I don’t see Morpheus...huh, I hoped to see him today. We only have a few classes together (Civics, Foods, sociology, psychology, music, I think that’s it??) out of the 8 we have daily, and it’s not like we talk so I can’t just...go up to him out of nowhere. Call me selfish, but yeah, I’m concerned as to what other people might think.


Morpheus is supposed to be the usual weird kid who I guess has a special way with words. But his poker-like attitude and his knowledge way too many concepts piss off a lot of people. Mr. Braggy, our Civics teacher, REALLY doesn’t enjoy his presence. Maybe it’s because he’s a straight-A student who does absolutely nothing sometimes. Have we worked on group projects ever? I don’t remember...Wow, I guess he’s invisible and the centre of attention at the same time.


I was going to thank him for yesterday, though. Talking to him did...something. I pause and leer at the stream that I had contaminated with my blood. This is exactly where I was standing about twenty-four hours ago. I’m looking at a past projection of myself. She’s sobbing, pulling at her hair, all the while Morpheus patiently stands beside her. I need to thank him for that. But I have no idea where he is. And...I don’t have his number either...


And that’s not even the main issue. How do I help him if I can’t find a way to communicate with him? The pestering questions enter and exit my mind constantly, but I can’t come to any solid ideas.


Suddenly, I feel a shove from behind me. I almost fall over the railing, but I manage to keep my balance. “Hey, watch it!” I snap, already pissed at not being able to think properly.


A frosty, white-haired boy turns back, with a panicked pale expression on his face. And my first thought is Oh no...he’s hot. His hazel-grey-green eyes look like they’re about to burst into tears. “Sorry!” He yells hastily and runs away in the direction of the train station. His dark gray sweater is unzipped and looks like it could just fall right off the shirt it’s over, which I don’t get a good look at, and his jeans are dirtier from repeated running.


“What’s his deal??” I question to myself. Wait, where have I seen him? I think he goes to our school...Oh well, like I should care. I walk onwards to the train station.

 

Now I’m on a sidewalk surrounded by some shops and office buildings. There are a lot of alleyways here, so one should always be careful at night. Good thing I took drama classes! And that I’m wearing boots. A boot to the face let alone the nuts should make you feel like your giving birth to one thousand babies all at once. Or at least that’s what the legends say. But I shouldn’t worry. It’s broad daylight, and it’s a pretty nice day, I guess. But...I also hate days like this sometimes. They re- mind me of the happy pictures we drew as kids with all the bright colours...pink, yellow, they’re such empty colours. Kids can be so empty. And some kids grow up to be full of joy and others full of sorrow. I guess I’m the latter. This sinking feeling...I can’t think about this stuff right now! I...I need to get to work.


I turn another corner and see someone familiar. The white-haired boy, frantically looking from one side of the road to the other.


“Where is he!?” he pants under his breath. I’m no longer that far behind because I’ve started to speed walk as to not be late. Did he lose a dog or something?


He runs up a few more buildings, and he peeks into every alley. Is he part of a gang!? But he’s a pretty boy! Oh no, what am I thinking!? ‘Wait, boys can be pretty! No need to be ashamed!’ I think to myself
And then he takes a sharp right into an alleyway just as I get close enough to ask him what’s wrong. I peek into the alley and he takes another left...I shouldn’t do this, but I follow him. I silently but swiftly take my steps until I’m at the corner. Wearing heeled boots today was a mistake. I peek behind the corner wall and force myself to hold back my gasp because of what I see.


“Morpheus! Oh my god, I found you!” The frosty-haired boy kneels and puts his hands on Morpheus’s shoulders, which is slouched against the back alley wall. I can’t see very well because of the dim lighting, but I know tears when I see them. And there are in fact, teardrops trickling down his face. But his face isn’t any different? Like it’s the same doll-like face but with tears, droplets trickling down. His eyes are weak, but they’re still dead. He’s shaking violently but I don’t see any injuries, so what happened!? The white-haired boy pulls him close. “Morph, your heartbeat is WAY too high. Look, let’s get you home.”


“Ivory...” Wait, Ivory?? “I’m fine, just stay like this for a little bit longer.”


“What did you do this time?” The other boy, Ivory, although I’m pretty sure that isn’t his name, asks gently. Compared to Morpheus, he seems to be just as lean, but a little bit healthier. He might be a tiny bit taller, but I can’t tell.


“The usual.”
“But you usually aren’t in such bad shape! What happened!?”
“It was deeper this time. But I have no regrets.” Morpheus rubs his eyes and smiles at the boy. “Sorry to worry you like that. I’m okay now.”
“It’s fine, but...be careful, okay? You...You really shouldn’t get into things you can’t handle...”
“Yeah, but if I do whatever I know I can, I’ll get bored. Besides, I don’t know what my limits are.”

 

What are they talking about!? Wait, are they doing drugs!?

The other boy sighs deeply and then helps Morpheus up.

“You never change. Look, We’re getting you home.”
“Hey, Ivory?”
“Hm?”

 

Morpheus beams at him, his one visible eye shimmering in the dim environment. He...HE
CAN SMILE AND MEAN IT!? No, he’s faking! There’s just no way... “Thanks for coming all this way for me.”


The other boy has his back turned towards me, so I can’t see his face...But then Morpheus pats his head as he’s...consoling him jokingly? Like, ‘there, there, it’s okay...’


Shoot, I better get out of here NOW. Those two are coming this way! Without thinking, I make a run for it, putting all the effort into stealth to waste. The last words I hear are:


“What was that!?” Ivory panics.
“Heh.” Silence. “Just a familiar walking pattern.”
“One Taro bubble tea with pearls!”
“With or without jelly?”
“Oh, apple jelly, please!” Weird combo, but I can’t judge, now can I? This is the job that
helps pay my bills.


“Coming right up!” I rush back into the kitchen and start working away. We’re short on staff
today...great...Oh well, if I do good enough I might get tipped well! It was a mistake to wear boots to work today...Especially after that incident of me spying on them. Yep, I’m just gonna go ahead and admit it. But...is it bad that I’m not regretting any of it? I know something about Morpheus now. He DOES have friends? And he CAN cry. But tears won’t explain his lack of expression. It’s like some- thing out of a movie where the main hero gets shot but isn’t crying or anything. It’s unreal. Though I’m not sure if he was hurt or anything. I don’t think they were doing drugs?


But most shockingly, he can smile. Either he can or he’s amazing at pretending. How do I move on from there though? Do I tell him that I was kind of...eavesdropping? But he has probably already noticed...He seems to pay attention to the tiniest of things. Well, that’s a pretty big understate- ment, I mean he DID kind of...find out about my habits...By paying attention to the clothes I’ve been wearing and just I don't know ...KNOWING things?? It’s so weird.


HE’S so weird. And so is his Ivory friend. Why’s a pretty boy like him friends with Mor- pheus Mirrorson?? His last name literally makes him sound like he’s the son of a mirror. Though I guess...Morpheus isn’t bad looking...Oh great. I’m thinking like a female protagonist in a Harem anime. This is annoying.


I push my thoughts away and focus on my orders. Let’s see, a taro bubble tea with apple jelly, a mango milk tea, Strawberry boba with extra boba...Okay, done! “Order up! Tables 3 and 7 are ready!”


“I got it!” My co-worker, Willow, takes the drinks on a tray and walks out of the kitchen. Willow has been working here for two years now, and she’s the one who taught me how to work here. She’s always cheery and just...makes it through her problems. “Man, I can’t believe Harry just had to be sick today. I bet he’s in bed sulking about this girlfriend!”

 

“Yeah, this sucks!” I whine. I don’t mind that much. It’s getting my mind off of Morpheus and Ivory. Wait, no it isn’t, why am I thinking of not thinking about them!? UGGGGHHHH BRAIN SHUT UP. Wait no I NEED TO WORK.


Ahahah I’m not gonna survive this real adult world. I’m not like Willow who can adult with- out a problem. She’s got three jobs, a family, and she’s in college majoring in accounting. Honestly, she’s the person I want to be. I haven’t been very successful, but hopefully, I can change that.


Where is all this positivity coming from? It’s weird. But It’s not...bad? I haven’t felt this energized in a long time. Before I know it, it’s 9:00 and my shift has finally ended.


“Hey, Willow? I’m gonna go cash out.”
“Huh? Sure thing!” She beams brightly. How can she smile while she’s sweeping the dirty floor?? Her dirty blonde ringlets fall over her chest, but they compliment her bright green eyes. “Oh, Mira...”
“Hmm?”
“You’ve been more chipper today.”
“Uh...Have I?” I’m chipper?
“Huh...It’s just that you were more pumped today but you were also deep in thought...” “Oh...Sorry...”
“Wait, that came out wrong! I meant those two things don’t usually mix, so...”
“I get it.” I nervously scratch the back of my head.
“Did you get a boyfriend or something? A girlfriend?” I feel my face go red and I shoot her
a look of pure terror.
“Whaaat? No, I don’t have time for that!”
“Weeeeellll whatever you say~” She teases.

Willow puts the broom back into the cleaning
closet and we both get into our jackets and leave as she locks the shop up. Since she’s been here since the shop’s opening, she has the privilege of being trusted by our boss. “Are you taking the train this late?”
“Yeah.”
“Hmm...Look it’s late, so why don’t I just drop you off?”
“It’s fine. You’ve already dropped me off several times before, I feel bad!” Please say yes I
don’t feel like waiting to get home into bed!
“Don’t be! Come on...” She takes out her cellphone. “I’ll call my fiancé to pick us up.” “That’s really nice of you, tha—Wait, fiancé!?”
“Oh, that’s right I never told you, did I!? I’m engaged!” She shows me her ring.
Lucky... “Oh my god, congratulations! I had no idea, I’m so sorry!”
“Aw, don’t be. Between you and me, I’ve tried to keep it from Harry because let’s be honest,
he has his own problems right now...”
“Yes, of course, I understand!” I’m jealous...she’s living the dream life.


Willow calls up her fiancé and then motions towards me. “Where do you live?” “Blossom street, 6th house from the playground.”
“Okay great, thanks!” She turns her attention to her phone. “Love you, honey!” Willow
hangs up.

“So how did the proposal go?” I’m bored, so I might as well hear a story that’ll likely make me sad later.
“It was in front of the municipal gardens in downtown!”
That’s so sweet... “That sounds so cute! I’m happy for you two!”
“Yeah, well...” She looks at the ground. “Not everyone is...”
“Huh?”
“Well, the thing is...” Willow takes a deep breath as a car pulls up in front of us, and as the
window rolls down, it all makes sense. Because on the other side of the window is a woman with brown skin, brown eyes, and short straight black hair. I look at Willow and I think she’s expecting me to either run away in disgust or begging me to not say anything.


“I see.” I give her a soft eye, and I think it’s enough to tell her that I don’t care. “I’m happy for you two!”
“Our families aren’t...” The other woman says as she gets out of the car and extends her hand out to me.

“I’m Tanya.”

“Pleasure to meet you! I’m Mira.” I shake her hand and notice Willow looking relieved. I’m glad she’s not stressed.
“Likewise. Honey, how was work?”
“Busy, but it’s over!” They kiss and I avert my eyes as to not be creepy or anything. What do people do in this kind of situation?


We get into Tanya’s car, and we all talk about our lives, like normal people.

 

“Yeah, Tanya’s mom is super against us, and my mom’s kind of a nutcase stuck in an asylum, so it’s been hard,” Willow says sympathetically.
“I’m so sorry!” I honestly am. But I can’t connect with them. I can’t empathize with a con- cept I’m unfamiliar with. “I guess I wouldn’t know...”
“Oh? You wouldn’t?” Willow asks. “Why not?”
“Well...I’ve never had parents to raise me...” Shoot, it sounds like I’m trying to make them feel bad for me!
“Wait, what!?” Tanya exclaims.
“Yeah, but I had a nice foster home I guess. I was never adopted, but I moved out and now I’ve got my own place and everything.”
“Mira...” Tanya puts pressure on my name sternly. “Doesn’t that make you sad?”
Is it supposed to? “It’s a shame that my mother died at birth and that my father was far too ill...and that my sister didn’t make it...But I...I didn’t know any of them. So yeah, I feel bad and like it’s partly my fault, but—”
“It’s not.” Willow cuts me off. “It’s nobody’s fault.”

 

She sounds like she’s holding back tears. As for me, I’ve gotten good at repressing it. I also really don’t want to dirty their car with my blood- stains. She turns to me from the front, almost angry tears welling up in her eyes. “Look at you... You’re doing the best you can. We all are.”

 

Tanya quickly pats her head before returning it to the steering wheel. “Calm down, sweetie.”
Willow turns to Tanya, bawling. “SHE’Z JUSCHT 18, TANYA! WAAAAHGAHAGA- HAA!”


This is awkward. “I’m fine, you guys! U-Uhm, oh, look! There’s my place! Would...Would you two like something to eat or uh drink!?”
“We’re good.” Tanya winks at me as she consoles her wife-to-be. “Have a good night!”
“You too! And thanks for the ride!” I wave at them as they leave. Man, they’re so lucky. Except for the family-nut-case thing. But...Maybe the wrongdoings of the rest of the world is exactly what can bring nice people like them together. So...Why am I still alone? Who am I kidding, I’m 18!


I graduate in a few months! Love should be the least of my worries! I’ve got exams to pass! And so does every other potential love interest, so it’s not like I have a chance anyway.


It’s nice to be home. But the fortress where I once hid my tattered self needs a better clean. It’s hard living alone, especially after living in a foster home for so long. I wonder how everyone is doing there? After I moved out, I had to switch schools, too. It’s strange knowing that Jayden and Bella existed. They were my friends, but we never exchanged numbers so it doesn’t feel like we had ever spoken. It’s like my memories were just one big dream and by recalling them now, I’m only cre- ating a memory of creating memories. It makes my head spin like crazy! I gaze around my tiny house. One bedroom, a kitchen, a full bathroom, and a dining area connected to the kitchen. It’s worn down, but that’s why rent is so cheap! My landlady, Ms. Bloomstine isn’t nice, but she’s no hell spawn like my next-door neighbours, the Ferrel family.


They’re a fairly aged mixed Indian-white couple with twin daughters, Vanya and Vanessa, who are older than me by two years. They do nothing but party...Seriously, how do they afford all that expensive wine!? They are pretty bratty. Their mother, Mrs. Ferrel, is SUPER tacky. As in, the way she speaks, the things she talks about, the way she looks with her tacky smile...Okay, yeah I’m jealous that they have their lives together. It’s not fair that Vanya and Vanessa can just make it through private school because their parents have bragging rights for owning a huge stationery business. And uh... Their parents may or may not think I’m actually older than their daughters because of the way I talk? No, I’m not tall, but it’d be better for you to assume I’m younger than making me sounds like I’m old.


How do I know this? Because their mom never stops asking me if I’m engaged or not...She also never stops asking if I’m Indian or Pakistani or Singaporean, to which I say who cares? I don’t know and I have no intention of knowing. Mr. Ferrel isn’t that bad, but he doesn’t acknowledge the flaws in his wife’s way of talking. One thing the entire family has in common? Oh yeah—They all brag about EVERYTHING.
Am I describing the antagonist in every kid's teen drama show? Yes. But am I lying? No, be- cause they’re all partying next door and if I say anything or call the police, they’ll make nasty remarks. Am I honestly any better? No, I cut myself and overdose on pills. But at least I was quiet about it...Who parties at 10 pm? Oh wait nevermind...that’s pretty normal...WAIT NO IT’S NOT, IT’S THURSDAY. Ugh, so annoying. Then again...


Why would the world accommodate my problems? The last thing I want is to burden anyone else. Maybe the Ferrels are the reason the rent of this place is so much lower than it could have been...I mean, 1200 a month including all utilities is a steal. Thank god I’m still in school or I would have lost it to the other potential tenant because students get priorities as the price for our suffering. If...If only the stupid Ferrels would SHUT THE HELL UP, DAMMIT! Ugh, Getting mad won’t do anything.


I go wash up and change. As I’m getting ready for bed, I take another good look at the scars all over my arms. There aren’t that many, but they’re still very deep. Much too deep than I’d ever want them to be. They’ll be around for a very long time, as an everlasting memory of my madness. I quick- ly put a shirt on, as to not focus on them for too long, and leap onto my excruciatingly stiff bed. Oh well, I can worry about living a luxurious life once I get a job! That is if anyone is willing to employ me...


Laying down on my side, I turn the desk light off and close my eyes. And I want to say that I could fall asleep any minute now, but not when my stupid neighbours are blasting their music! “Grrrrrr.....” I grit my teeth hard enough to make them screech, which sends my shivering. “Time to improvise.”


I grab my phone, plug in my ear buds, and put on some classical piano and violin music.


Of course, my playlist only has sad music in it that makes the earth’s great oceans pull me down but it doesn’t engulf me in its waves. Though there’s a part of me that wishes it would. In water, you
can fall as far as your breath is willing to take you. To be surrounded by a natural hug from all sides sounds relieving. It’s way better than the smoky, inky abyss I’m usually stuck in. The void of dead co- lours hasn’t been present for almost a day, and although I’m glad I'm no doubt full of an unnerving doubt that it’ll all go away.


Like the calming pool I’m floating in is about to be polluted by toxic acidic gas, but I can’t roll over and save my eyes because...The very poor I’m floating in is nothing more than poison. Roll over and sink downwards means that I’ll drown in poison but inhaling this gas might just disintegrate my lungs.


Suddenly, I’m struggling to breathe. Shoot, my lungs are...closing up! I...I gasp for air and weakly reach over onto my desk to get my inhaler. With a little bit more effort of stretching my arm, I grab my inhaler and take a few puffs. My exhales are short at first, but eventually, I regain stability of my lungs again. My heart’s going insane, and my hands won’t stop trembling! Let’s face it...I’m way too sick to be like this. My eyes are blurry and my respiratory system has always been so messed up, Misaki couldn’t handle it. And she was supposed to be the healthy one. Or maybe the doctors mixed us up. I’ll never know, and I don’t want to know. I think the difference between her and us while me were in our mother’s womb was that Misaki was kinda just normal-sized and I was a tiny premature baby? I don’t know, biology is weird.


Oh god, my head is pounding and pounding and pounding and pounding and pounding. But...I’m not crying. I’m not trying to fight it, I’m letting the headaches do their thing. I lay limp, hop- ing for it to go away. But I never did find out if they did, because I fall into a painfully needed coma before I can answer all of my questions. Bedtime is always the best time to speculate about things you don’t understand. Like what I saw today with Morpheus and the other guy. OR just Morpheus in general. OR how Willow and Tanya can be so happy. Or...
And I’m gone.