Fight not with monsters,

lest ye become one

And when you gaze into the abyss,

The abyss gazes into you

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Xander: Finding the Right...

Sometimes there’s nothing to say. Sometimes silence expresses more than words. Dialing a number… it can do more damage than good. But humans are afflicted with the obsessive. So we keep making things worse trying to make them better.

Summer was a blur of sleepless nights and hazy days, parties and hell. It appeared that senior year wouldn’t be much different. They grilled us on colleges and we barely got by in classes. The social hierarchy deigned ever so slightly in honor of our final year. A girl named Michaela killed herself, and I stopped drinking so much alone. Mostly, life went on. As usual.


I was having an abnormally good day, so of course I had to run into Mallory Burke in the break room. Whatever higher being did or didn’t exist, they couldn’t possibly cut me a break.

"You’re late," she sneered as I went to clock in.

"Sorry," I spat, although it came out halfheartedly because I too happy for her spiteful games. Why Mallory got off on making me miserable was yet a mystery to me. "I was unaware you had superiority over me."

Mallory narrowed her lightly made-up eyes. "I just figured you were too high to make it. Or… were you too distracted trying to off yourself again?"

My jaw clenched, my nails dug into my palms. It was so like Mallory to bring that up. It had been over a year since I’d tried to kill myself. Since that chilled November when my life had taken a turn. I still didn’t know if that had been for better or worse. I still believed that there was something stopping me, some greater purpose. Only, I still didnt know what that was. And I thought that maybe everything really did happen for a reason, and the poin of life wasnt to figure taht out.

But the past was the past. If Mallory thought she could reopen my scars and watch me bleed, she was wrong.


"Come in!"

I pushed open the door and stepped into the room. My heart was tightening as I did so, but I knew that it was simply one of those things. There were demons in my life I had to overcome somehow, things I couldnt ever change. I'd made a promise to Reina, and that was something I would not neglect. I hadnt been able to save her, and more than ever I found myself hating myself for it. But there was still one thing left that I could do for her.

 Pink walls plastered with posters did little to express the girl perched on the bed. Her blonde ringlets cascaded around her face, her wide eyes filled with a glow.

"Xander," she greeted warmly. "How are you?" As far as girls went, there were none who meant quite the same to me as Wynter Pewter.  She was one of my closest friends anymore, the one I could talk to about the things I wouldn’t dare tell Cole or Loren. And she was always there, waiting, with those big eyes so full of wonder and adoration. And besides....she was Reina's little sister, and my once-best friend's smitten image.

Yes, I knew she liked me. Yes, I had kissed her once. Once. But that was over the summer, and it was the last thing I wanted to talk about.

"Been better," I replied. "But I’ve been much, much worse."

She smiled up at me. "Second semester starts tomorrow."

Oh, yes. My last semester before I was thrown out into the real world. I wasn’t quite sure whether to be scared or excited. I was certainly both. Wynter crawled across the bed and threw her arms around my neck. If I closed my eyes, I thought, I could have pretended it was Reina. So I kept them very, very open. "I’ll be here, Xander. Don’t forget that."

I held her to my chest, trying very carefully not to think about the last time I’d heard those words.

Alessa: Finding the Wrong...

I took a lengthy drag on the cigarette between my fingers. Tendrils of smoke twisted around me, vanishing into the darkened, starless sky above me. The air was cold, stinging me through my thin shirt.

A year. A year of my life lost to the enemy of apathy. Since then my world had been torn apart and flipped around more times than I could count. Now I was standing behind a driver’s education building, smoking and trying not to think about tomorrow. I thought I’d been ready to get the hell out of town. But escaping Black Hills was damn near impossibly.

I passed the cigarette before handing it back to the rightful owner. The blonde was watching me silently, the way he did everything, and intently enough to make me nervous.

"Thanks," I said softly, to which he only nodded. I summoned a smile for him, however weak it must have looked.

Gavin Kings gave me a slight nod. I turned my head to look out towards the street. It was vacant, still. There was little to no movement in my little motionless town. The one I was leaving behind.

Gavin must have been able to tell something was bothering me, because a moment later he stepped forward to put his arms around me. We’d only known each other for a few weeks, but there was some sort of  connection between us I found a bit of comfort in. I didnt much think there was anything emotional between us. Mostly I liked the way he held me in place when we kissed. And that he didn’t know about my past.

I moved my body until our lips brushed. Something twisted in the pit of my stomach. Something like fear. Like maybe I was stepping into water a bit too deep for me. I’d been here before, I told myself.

 Yes, myself replied. Yet you still don’t know how to swim.


With a deep breath that did little to sooth my nausea, I stepped through the doors of Black Hills High School. Student population: 2,000. Immediately I was struck with a wave of culture. Golden girls in mini skirts hurried by, exchanging gossip in excited whispers. Boys in Abercrombie and Fitch hoodies threw a football across the hall, earning glares from several tie clad teachers on patrol. Black-haired guys in chains sat on the floor with a guitar, strumming it nonchalantly. Girls in high tops pointed at the girls in polos and none too discreetly threw caddy comments in their faces.

With wide eyes, I made my way inside, swallowing the feeling the feeling that I’d taken a wrong turn and stumbled into hell. Second semester of my sophomore year. No, escape was definitely nowhere in my near future.


If this was hell, the devil himself had been stuck in my third hour. Due to a schedule mix-up, I’d been stuck in speech, which would have been fine and dandy if the mere thought of talking to people didn’t make me sick. Which it did.

Nevertheless, I stepped into the room, attempting to look slightly less lost and hopeless.

And there he was. My personal nightmare, the face that had kept me tossing and turning for months. The one I’d tried so hard to hate, or forget, but only wound up thinking about more. The one who had stolen my heart all those months before and held it still whether he wanted it or not. The reason I’d been dreading every fucking day at Black Hills.

Xander Ocher.

He was turned around in his desk, laughing at something the girl behind him had said. I realized that I was staring and hurried to find my seat. Right in front of him. Go figure.

I slid into my seat with a rush of anxiety. If I hadn’t planned on dropping this class already (I had) I was certainly dropping it now.

The bell rang. The teacher stood up. And just when I thought that maybe for once I’d be spared, I felt a light tap on the shoulder.

Against my better judgment, and possibly my will, I turned around. For the first time in ages, I looked ito those goddamn eyes, their icy blue piercing me straight to my heart. So many feelings were all rushing back, and I hated him, oh, how I hated him, but he was so damn perfect in all his shattered splendor.

"Alessa?" He asked softly, in the voice that made angels sick with envy. "What are you doing here?"

Great question.

"Um, I go here." Brilliant. Really brilliant. "I mean, um, I just got thrown into this class by accident."

His brow had creased in a slight frown. "I’m sorry," he said sincerely. He was always so sincere about everything. Like he really believed that every single movement shifted the atmosphere of the entire world. I only shrugged. I was trapped in his stare. Lost. Falling. Silently hoping he’d be the only to catch me.

"Yeah," I said at last. "So, you better be nice to me, or Gavin Kings will kick your ass."

Something flashed in his gaze, but was gone within a moment. "You’re with Gavin?"

I nodded, feeling a mixture of triumph and illness.

The teacher called out for our attention then, saving me from any more words with Xander. But I could feel him behind me, watching. Waiting, maybe. Waiting for me to fall flat on my face just so he could smirk and say I told you so.  

The End

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