I Grieve

All of today I couldn’t stop thinking about you. you’re always there, sitting in some distant corner of my mind but, today, you were front and centre.

I’d read about what happened to you in the newspaper. Your picture sat, out of focus, in the bottom corner of the 3rd page. A small headline crowned it, followed by a four-line article. “Body of local teen found drowned in river” my mum had it spread wide open on the table, carefully clipping coupons from the adjacent pages. I had just come down for breakfast still in my pyjamas.

I glanced over her shoulder scanning the article ‘Body found at the mouth of the Seven Sisters river confirmed to be that of 17-year-old Michael Olivier. He was discovered in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a young couple walking their dog. There is no further information at this time.’

“A terrible thing isn’t it? He was your age,” she spoke with the distant concern most people had upon hearing of a stranger’s death. I nodded, silent. Something sat stone heavy in the pit of my stomach and as I seated myself opposite my mother, nibbling half-heartedly at a slice of toast, it only seemed to tighten.

People talked about you that day at school. You didn’t go there. Your school was on the other side of town, but everyone knew someone, who knew someone that went there and something this big got talked about everywhere.

There was a lot of speculation. In English the teacher was called out to deal with a problem child and my classmates, few in number though they were, launched a massive debate over whether it was an accident or suicide. Most people thought suicide, they said that drugs were involved, a poor home life, the death of a family member. I could relate to that, my brother had died two years before.

The picture that they were posthumously painting of you wasn’t the prettiest.

When Andi the girl who sits next to me asked what I thought I just shrugged and said to her in my soft quiet way “there’s no way to know really,” although inside, I was hoping you had never been in the level of pain required to take your own life. Which left accident. Of course, there was the ever ubiquitous third scenario. But, that was seen as too much of a distant impossibility to even be considered.

You influenced a lot about that school day. Our weekly assembly was about coping with death, and how it’s important to talk to someone and not hold anything in. That was because of you, I don’t doubt the people in that room were indeed saddened by your death, though as I gazed at the sea of faces they looked about as grief stricken as my mother had that morning.

On the solitary walk home, my thoughts were occupied by you. I looked at the wood around me, which I walked through every day, and wondered if you had ever walked through here too. Maybe I’d seen you and never known it. Had you felt the sunshine on your skin, dappled through the deep green tree canopy. Did you even like the sunshine? Had you ever tripped over the exposed roots of the oak trees like I had? Maybe you stumbled home through here in the dark as a shortcut after a night out. Maybe that’s what you were doing the night before they found your body, grey and lifeless in the river.

I had to stop, the sensation in my stomach rose up in a crippling wave of nausea leaving me doubled over and fighting for breath. I slammed my hand into the rough bark of the tree I leant against. Desperate to feel something other than this. I managed to scrape off a layer of skin, small pin pricks of blood appeared on my palm.

I told my mum I tripped on a paving stone.

Another article appeared the next week. Front page this time. I saw the horror on my mother’s face first, the headline proudly announced ‘NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN TEEN DROWNING’ it was a large article, covering nearly the entire front page and I remember almost none of it. The two words that stuck for me were the ones I feared of reading for you.

There was a call for any information, witnesses and the like. I hoped for your sake, they got something.

I muttered I wasn’t feeling well and, retreating back to my bedroom, I drew my curtains and hid under the covers where I choked my cries down with a pillow and washed the running makeup from my face with the fur of my favourite stuffed animal.

Later that night after mustering up the courage to emerge from my cave I logged into Facebook only to be met by a barrage of posts about you. Other, more far-reaching newspapers had picked up the story. People had shared them and they came up in my recommended page. A memorial page had been set up for you, lots of people sharing their condolences and concern. Your older sister made a statement thanking everyone and asking for privacy she was the only person who actually knew you that did this. It was, on a certain level, touching. But I found myself getting increasingly sadder every time I logged on. It would eat me up until I was left sobbing on my bedroom floor.

You. A perfect stranger had gotten to me.

I couldn’t find anyone aside from your sister that knew you personally. No mother, no father, no girlfriend or boyfriend. A fist lodged itself in my throat when I realised, that you had never known that kind of love. I had never known it either, but my clock was still ticking, I had a lifetime to experience what you never could.

I wished for you, more than ever, to be alive. It confused me, why I felt like this. I couldn’t be grieving; you can’t grieve someone you’ve never known. But that’s what I was doing.

I waited for more information every day, desperate to know what had happened to you. If you’d suffered. Maybe you were at peace now. I didn’t believe in any God, or a heaven. But for you I wanted to. For you, I did.

They never found who did it. No more was ever known about you or what happened. You know, you’d be my brother’s age now.

I think about you and your sister. And while it is the nature of people to forget I still remember you. But this is the last day, I can’t do it anymore, after today I won’t remember you.

So I wanted to write this. I wanted to say goodbye.

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Someone Tried To Open My Door

There’s a reason the on-site accommodation at my university is called ‘The Street’. It’s a collection of about 30 three story houses all lined up along a pathway, much like a street in the real world but more secluded. It’s different to Halls, more personal, I’m only living with seven (well currently six, our new housemate has been due for a few days now) people instead of 107. We also have these cool electronic locks we have on the front doors, so only the people who live there can get in, plus locks on the bedroom doors. But, I almost never locked my door. We were pretty secluded at the end of the street and the only people who could get in I lived with, so there was never any reason to.

What I only recently found out though, was that our deadbolt has been broken for a few weeks and now the electronic lock doesn’t engage properly. When I found out I was annoyed that no one had told me, but otherwise unworried.

Tonight though…as I was getting ready for bed I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why exactly but, tonight for whatever reason I had to lock my door. It seemed stupid but this deep, intense fear I was feeling did not go away until I’d twisted the deadbolt on my own door and heard it click into place.

Satisfied that I’d abated my unexplained fears I climbed into bed, trying to get to sleep, but I couldn’t tonight. I tossed and turned until almost midnight when, the familiar house shaking bang of the front door opening and closing indicated one of my more nocturnal housemates had come in. At this point I just accepted the fact I wasn’t going to sleep tonight, because I can hear everything from my room. I listened closely trying to see if I could figure out which housemate it was. I only heard a few footsteps so thought it was someone on my floor.

The door to room 1 opened. Instant red flag, room 1 was empty until our newest member moved in. For a moment I convinced myself that it was our new housemate. I stayed listening hoping I was right. No. the footsteps continued up the hall stopping outside room 2. My room.

I froze, holding my breath, so that whoever it was thought my room was also empty. The door handle rattled in the quiet of my room as I stare at where my door would be in the darkness. By this point I’m shaking I’m so scared. I tried to press myself further into the wall as a banging started on my door. Too quiet for the others to hear but for me it might as well have been thunder it was so loud, like they were putting their whole body weight behind their attempts to get my door open.

I told myself that if I stayed as quiet as possible they would leave. Then, after the longest minute of my short life it stopped, but I realise now I don’t hear the front door open. I found myself relaxing, convincing myself someone was just trying to pull a prank on me and, at the same time thankful as fuck that I decided to lock my door.

Then just a few moments ago, I hear creaking footsteps on the stairs and, the door to the room above me has just been opened.

Asylum Party

I didn’t really want to go to the party. But my friends insisted. Elva wanted to sneak away from the confines of our prison-like private school, so Fox, Rochelle and I like the good lackies we were came along, I mean, who doesn’t enjoy an abandoned asylum party?

Although, after traipsing through what felt like miles of forest I was starting to reconsider my position. Fox complained that she was cold, asking if we were there yet. Elva told her to shut up.

Grenith’s asylum was about as creepy as most people would think it was. The first time I came here I broke in on a dare.

Fully titled Ashvale Grenith Manor, it was previously a Victorian mansion that became a sanatorium in the 1950s. But, was subsequently shut down around the 60s and abandoned ever since. We just called it Greniths now, the meeting place for Ashvale’s misfits, waifs and, strays.

The main hall was a fairly safe space. Large, lots of holes where windows used to be the only fixture being a horseshoe-shaped reception desk that was bolted to the floor and a stone staircase that ran up the middle and then split in half to reach adjacent ends of the next floor. Very fancy in its day. It was when you climbed all the way to the attic or into the shower blocks that shit started to get really freaky.

When we did get there the party, to say the least, was dire. Most people congregated in the large stone entrance hall around a fire.

There was music playing from some portable speakers but no one was dancing and the group was predominantly, female, which sucked for Elva and Fox who weren’t as free with their affection as I was.

I scanned the crowd of faces. None of them particularly interested me, they were all very plain looking.

“oh god, who invited the toffs?” some girl called out with the unmistakable village accent. The group let out a groan. I looked to Elva, while I found the fact they recognised where we were from without uniforms very impressive, we clearly weren’t as welcome as she made us out to be.

That was my train of thought until a voice called from the stairway, cocky and smug “that would be me,” I looked at the guy who must have been Alex.

Elva was right, he was hot, in a pale rock star kind of way. His long slender limbs made his movements appear smooth and languid. He crossed to where we were in seconds pulling Elva into him and kissing her rather ferociously. She gave a squeal of fake shock lifting her arms up almost to keep him at bay before wrapping them around his neck like a python and kissing him back with the same ferocity. Fox gagged and turned to the group of people who were still staring at us.

She gestured her head to Elva “we’re with her,” then wedged herself in between two people to strike up some conversation. I laughed and followed her not caring where Rochelle was or if she tagged along.

It seemed, barring that one girl, everyone else was fine with having some ‘toffs’ in their presence and we got conversation and booze flowing pretty quickly. Fox asked if anyone else was coming. After a pause, one girl with white hair finally answered “yeah, it was just kicking off when you got here, Alex invited some Musos and they’re bringing their crowd. Should pick up then.”

“Who’s their crowd?” I asked, curious.

The girl shrugged “A bunch of druggies and randos mostly, I don’t know them that well to be honest.”

She ended up being right though. When other bodies started showing up things improved, the music got louder and one of the randos convinced people to get up and dance.

That was the first time I saw him.

He was sitting on top of the reception desk, jean-clad legs kicking lazily back and forth, one of his hands was tapping out an invisible beat on his thigh. His head was tilted back, eyes closed like he was physically trying to absorb the music into him.

Then when the song ended and a new one came on, he came back down to Earth, back to the creepy chill of Grenith’s; eyes finally opened and staring directly at me, though perhaps into me would be a better way of describing it.

He had these strange eyes, ones that could look straight into your soul. I couldn’t tell if they were blue or green, though I eventually decided they were blue. They weren’t pretty, they were the kind of eyes that were hard to look at because they were so intense, and it held me captive.

The boy was certainly attractive, not in the way a lot of guys were, but attractive nonetheless. He also happened to be the complete opposite of what I thought I found attractive. While I favoured people who were tall and blond, he was short, and brunet.

His hair wasn’t especially straight either, it sat in lazy curls on his head, and for some reason I really wanted to run my hands through it. He had a sweet look about him, it was the face of a person you could trust and there was something about the way he walked. He carried himself with a quiet confidence that left people in awe.

He came towards me.

I was hypnotised and couldn’t look away, when I saw a flirtatious grin stretch across his face.

Briefly getting my wits about me I turned to face completely away from him and continued dancing, swaying my hips to the music; secretly hoping he’d come over for a closer look, or feel, either worked for me.

I felt someone behind me. I decided to keep the mystery alive and not turn around until they engaged me, it was more fun to make them work for it. There was a hand on my shoulder and suddenly I was facing him.

Not one to lose the mood, and because I was actually enjoying dancing, I barely skipped a beat in between being turned around to wrapping my arms around his neck. He didn’t seem to mind and we danced together in silence, the only communication happening with half smiles. Until he lent in to say “So, what brings you to the madhouse?” His voice was higher than I expected it to be, and it had what I thought was the vaguest trace of an accent which gave an odd lilt to it.

“Decorating ideas, abandoned asylum chic is all the rage right now,”

His smile spread even further across his face “aw, wish someone had told me before I went with the whole attention whore gothic vibe,”

I stifle a quiet chuckle before saying “No, that’s the next big thing, so you’re actually ahead of the curve,”

He nodded “A trend setter, I like it,”

I pulled myself in closer. He didn’t seem to mind and I said quietly into his chest. “I’m not here for decorating ideas,”

He answered just as quietly still swaying us to the music “So why are you here?”

“The stench of booze and desperation soothes me,”

“Fair enough, what’s your name?”

“Lilah,”

“That short for something?”

I nodded “My full names Delilah. I hate it,”

“I think it’s a beautiful name,”

“That makes one person. Come on now yours,”

“Samuel,”

“That’s a good name,” he took that moment to reach behind and pull my arms off of him. I was confused, my forward flirtatiousness was working a second ago, but he seemed to be pulling away.

I kept quiet.

I’d never done needy and desperate before, and I was determined to not start then by asking if I’d done something.

But instead of letting them go he held on to one of my hands and lead me off of the dance floor. It turned out I was wrong. He wasn’t pulling away from me, but pulling me away.

I got a little rush from the idea of where this might go. “Do you want to see something cool?”

“Depends is it the site of my murder?” I got a loud full bodied laugh from him at that while he shook his head, not stopping, I followed him dutifully.

“No, I only murder the people I don’t like,”

“So you like me then?”

“You intrigue me,” I intrigued a lot of people.

“I’ll take it,” he lead me towards one of the corridors that spanned off the main hall.

When we got away from the general noise of the party he turned to face me, walking backwards with a surprising amount of ease, singing under his breath “come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” I rolled my eyes.

“This isn’t filling me with confidence,” he didn’t respond instead winking conspiratorially we passed a room with the door cracked open revealing three people smoking something unsavoury.

He picked up our pace and soon we were skipping along the bare floorboards, I was trying my hardest to not snap my ankle in half in the heels I was wearing. Because of this I eventually wriggled my hand loose and leaving him to continue running while I stopped dead to kick my heels off. The boy eventually halted and looked at me confused. I sent my shoes flying and heard them echo as they smacked into the wall.

Lowering my bare feet gently onto the chipped boards I jogged up to him smiling “right, I’m good to go now,”

“Okay then,” he bowed low “milady,” I took his extended hand again, and we continued as fast as we had before streaking past empty rooms and, discarded wheelchairs, tipped over gurneys, piles of plaster from where the roof had fallen in. It was an obstacle course of left behind items and poor maintenance.

We hurtled around a corner coming to a stop, outside double doors that spanned floor to ceiling. “what is this?”

“I was so taken with your dancing, I figured we should do it in the room that was actually intended for it don’t you?”

“A ballroom, you’re saying this mansion turned madhouse has a legit ballroom”

He grinned and raised his eyebrows “It does indeed, and a pretty girl like you would be seriously missing out if she doesn’t dance in a ballroom at least once, even one in a rundown, unmaintained former madhouse”

I shrugged pretending not to notice his compliment, while a strange and unfamiliar kind of giddiness took over me, “okay, show me what I’m missing.”

He pushed on the door and with some effort it scraped open “After you,”

He was right. I was missing out.

The room itself I imagine was small for a ballroom. It was long and narrow, but remarkably well kept considering the ramshackle state of the rest of the building. Mould was creeping up along a few of the walls and I saw traces of peeling wallpaper. However, for the most part it was clean and free of clutter and the ceiling was painted with breathtaking gold filigree. Moonlight was streaming in through the windows which just like the doors guarding its entrance ran floor to ceiling.

“You can open them if you want?” I look at him disbelievingly.

“They open?” he nodded. I went over to one grabbing the ornate brass handle and twisting it open. Even though I was kind of creeped out by the general atmosphere of the place, I maintained an effortlessly cool and confident persona.

I liked this guy and I was going to use every trick I knew if I needed to, to keep his attention.

I was amazed when I pushed on the glass and it actually swung open, I was 80% sure these were the only windows in the whole building that were A) still in their frames and B) still functioned as windows. Though I immediately regretted it when an icy gust of wind blew over my bare arms, “Oohhh Jesus mother Mary it’s cold!” I got a chuckle from Samuel at that. It seemed my humour was just right for his tastes. I made a note of that for future reference.

Warm solid arms wrapped around me “Come on, I’ll warm you up” I nestled into his chest not caring at all that this guy, who I had known for less than an hour, was embracing me the way someone would embrace a lover.

A black mist was creeping over my consciousness. Suddenly I felt bad about wanting to trick him, to lie and deceive to keep his attention. I knew already he was too good for that, too pure for me. Too bright. I wasn’t good enough.

“you said we were going to dance,” as soon as I spoke I was being swayed gently from side to side while he hummed a made up tune. I fought to see through the growing darkness swamping every thought in my head. I wanted to stay in the moment. A sound brought me back.

“Can I see you again Lilah, after tonight I mean?”

“Okay,”

“When?”

“When the blackness goes away,” he was light. I decided then I didn’t want to taint him.

He seemed to understand what I was talking about “How are you going to make it go away?”

A pause. “I don’t know.”

Out of Body

I only wanted food.

I admit it. If I hadn’t locked myself away planning this doomed film project I would have eaten. If I wasn’t too lazy to cook myself something in that living biohazard my house calls a kitchen. I wouldn’t have gone out to buy myself something instead.

Honestly, I never imagined living a short life. When I thought about my future it always involved success and growing to a plump old age, full to the brim with life, and whatever it was I was going to achieve. Then, a man named Alex Mason who was jacked up on something, held up the corner shop I was in at knifepoint and I was stabbed in the chest and thigh. The knife almost certainly tore my femoral artery and, I was faced with the very real possibility that I was going to bleed out, on the floor of this damned shop at 19.

I was in surgery for hours. Something had gone wrong, they kept pouring blood into me. By the litre it seemed but, no matter how much they put in I kept bleeding it back out. I could only remember flashes of what happened. The ceiling kept blurring in and out of focus but I could make out flashing blue lights, which meant help had arrived, it felt like the lower half of my body was on fire.

There was an ambulance, hallways, so many people talking over my body that was somehow still alive. They weren’t giving up on me yet which was a good sign.

Whatever they used to put me under was doing weird things to me because, almost in an instant the doctors, fell away and I found myself separated from my body that lay immobile on the operating table.  An ashen and crumbling version of the hospital greeted me. I felt…drawn towards whatever it was that now sat beyond the OR. My curiosity got the better of me and I hopped down from the table still in a hospital gown. I wish I hadn’t.

Ash and grime coated every inch of this version of the hospital. The welcome desk was cracked in half, the patient rooms I mustered the nerve to peek into were completely ransacked. A lot of the lights weren’t working so as I explored, I followed the ones that were closely. I think whatever it was I encountered was counting on that as I found myself following the trail to the hospital’s grim basement area.

What caught my eye first was a girl stood facing a dead end hallway, she had on what looked like a metal underskirt straight from the Victorian ages. Her hair was an unnatural white that floated on a mysterious breeze, giving it a halo like quality.

She wasn’t facing me but a feeling in my gut was screaming to stay as far away from her as possible. The lights had fallen from their fittings in this area and she was almost completely in shadow. I made to follow my initial instincts as they usually did a good job of keeping me out of trouble. As I turned to leave though, a voice was carried to my ears along the same phantom breeze that affected the girl’s hair. It was soothing, silkily imploring me to step closer. I unconsciously dragged my left foot forward towards her. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t stop myself, and I edged closer and closer.

I could hear flies buzzing, it got louder and louder, until it felt like a swarm that was right on top of me. This was accompanied by a stench of rot, so overpowering I could taste it.

This girl was deathly still, yet no matter how hard I fought I couldn’t stop myself approaching her.

She finally moved, her hands slowly clutching the air at her sides. She reminded me of a black widow spider, waiting for her prey to drop its guard before it pounced. I didn’t want to be that prey but she was magnetising. I got almost within arms-reach when the frantic beating of my heart rate monitor broke me from my trance and I finally, stepped back, that’s when she rounded on me and dived for my hand which I didn’t even realise had been held up. I ripped it away instinctively and she came into contact with an invisible barrier. I screamed. And she dived again.

But that wasn’t what horrified me. The girl was me…she was wearing some grotesquely distorted copy of my face. The skin was sagging, exposing aged bone around her mouth and eye sockets which were bloodied black holes instead of actual eyes. Despite this though it was my face. I ran for it, and she dived after me again. I was almost certain she’d gotten me.

I woke up screaming. I survived the operation but the nurses had to sedate me to avoid tearing my stitches.

Ever since then, in that fleeting moment when the lights go out and darkness starts to surround me I see her. To think, if I’d been half a centimeter closer she could have gotten me. That invisible barrier that kept me safe that first time around? She can’t cross it. But, I think can, she wanted me to.

She still wants me to.