Hindsight and AftermathMature

Somewhere between Jak’s and the showers, she lost her bottle of whiskey. It felt like a tragedy; she couldn’t remember if she’d finished it, and she was certain it was lost forever. What a waste of good whiskey. In the far rooms of the bathhouse were the tubs - cavernous rooms with round in-set baths, steam rising like fog all around the room. Late at night it was usually abandoned, but the baths were kept hot all night anyway. The lights were clean and low, reminiscent of the full moon just beyond the thick stone walls. Rin didn’t realize she’d undressed until she was knee-deep in the scalding water. Her skin turned red where the water swallowed her, still she stepped deeper in. Every step brought stabbing heat to more and more of her exposed skin, but she didn’t seem to notice.

Rin couldn’t place the absence she felt from the world around her. She knew who and where she was, she knew her past and her present, she recognized everything - yet she felt distant somehow, as if she were really observing it all from another place in time, as another version of herself. She did not know how she yet felt about the person she was observing. The blood-stained mess of a woman slowly sinking beneath the water could not be real, could she?

Fully submerged, she felt calmer. Fewer sounds made it to her consciousness and the quiet was a pleasant comfort. She expected to think of the events of the evening, but she found herself without any paths of thought to get lost down. Silence and water surrounded her and for a long while, she drifted.

It happened the same way it always happened. Her mind was cold and blank, her mouth was dry. She felt hot rage strengthen her skeleton. The world around her dimmed to nothing but empty whiteness. The steel pipe was heavy in her small hands, her fingers unable to even wrap all the way around it with both hands. Her heartbeat was wild and vicious, pumping blinding adrenalin through her veins until she was swinging her arms and screaming, until she felt bones give way to steel, until she was too exhausted to lift her arms, her throat too sore to speak. The only color she could see was red. It always happened the same way.

She could still taste the liquid from the small bottle that had cost her so much and done so little to save her. Like licorice and menthol. Her body caught fire and she screamed some more, crying late into the night and right through the morning, heaving and retching and scratching her stomach with her brittle nails, digging for the thing writhing inside of her and eating her alive. She did this for days, alone, wailing until she had no voice, even though no one ever came. When her screams were mute she pounded her small fists into the concrete floors, over and over, until her skin swelled up and her bones ached, and still, she beat her fists against the ground.

Rin woke to a throbbing headache and stumbled around her trailer to find a handful of pain pills she could throw down the back of her throat. The small circular tabs were harder to get down than usual, and as she scooped handfuls of water to her lips, she caught sight of a stretch of black across her neck. Her fingers frantically pulled her hair up off her shoulders as she assessed the startlingly vivid bruise across her throat. Where the rope had once bitten into her skin there were twisting shades of purple and yellow, and where they combined was an atramentous bruise like she’d never seen.

She brushed the very tips of her fingers along it and cringed. It felt as if she were attempting to swallow boulders every time she tried to get the pills down, and eventually, she spit them out and crawled back into bed. Lying on her back and staring at the ceiling of her trailer, in rhythm with the pounding of her head, her vision faded in and out. She’d just woken up and already she felt exhausted. She was thirsty and queasy and right full of venom and piss. It was too early and she was too miserable to think about the things she’d done the night before. With a groan, she flopped her arm over her eyes to help keep out the terrible, offensive light sneaking in through her blinds. It was too bloody late to wish she could change it, and she didn’t wish she could, any how. If all women could defend themselves, there would be a lot more burned down pubs. Those men were simply unfortunate in their target selection, she couldn’t be to blame for their stupidity.

Of course, Jak wouldn’t see it that way. Jak didn’t quite understand what happened when Rin went off; he understood that there was often a trail of carnage, and that said carnage needed to be reigned in - but he could not reign her in, and the difference sometimes escaped him.

He meant well, of course, darling Jak, but Rin was beyond a quick patch job and it sometimes stung to see him realize it over and over, every time she snapped.

Her door swung open and she briefly wondered where Glitch had disappeared to. Though her eyes were closed she could tell from the clack of metal on her floor that it was Jak come to visit. “If you’ve come to lecture me, I’ve a throbbing headache and it would be super if you could wait until it’s gone,” she said, not bothering to lift her arm from over her eyes.

For a long moment there was no response. Jak’s weight caused the bed to shift slightly as he sat down beside her feet. His voice was aggressive but restrained when he finally spoke. “Did they give you that bruise?”

She shrugged but the movement hurt her head and she winced faintly. “Yes,” she answered, “the barkeep tried to keep me pinned.”

Once more he was silent, but his hand settled over her leg, gently, and it felt like understanding.

The End

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