I’m sitting in front of Hannah Aines, twiddling my thumbs. I have been doing this for about ten minutes, now. I don’t know how to start this story – there’s so much to tell. I told her this and she told me ‘start from the beginning’.
So I’ll start from the beginning. And see where that takes me.
I close my eyes, my breaths seeping forth slow and shaky. I place my hands, palms down, on my lap. My mother used to tell me horror stories. They took place in the dark of night, under a full moon, and the hero or heroine would battle a vampire or a werewolf or a murderer because they’d hurt a loved one. The hero always won. The villain always died. The victim was always avenged.
My story isn’t like this. I look up at Hannah. She’s waiting patiently, with a notebook and a pen. I wish she wouldn’t take notes, like I’m a passage in a textbook; something to be read and analysed and remembered and forgotten. I take a deep breath, sigh, and decide to stop procrastinating.
“Okay. It started about a month ago. That’s when people started looking at me like I wasn’t quite human. A month ago... just after the accident. Me and Annie – one of the girls from the office – were walking home at about five in the evening. It was winter, so it was just starting to get properly dark, and we were going down this little side road. I hated the main roads – they were always too busy. I wasn’t ever good with crowds. It was a really dingy road, and we were joking about the old stories we’d heard. Vampires and ghosts in the shadows, that sort of thing. We stopped though, because we heard... heard something move in the shadows. But we couldn’t see anything. Annie asked if I reckoned we should go check it out. I was too scared too... maybe if I had then none of this would have happened. So we carried on walking.
“Then this... this little girl came out behind us. She was the strangest creature – thin as anything, with this long red hair that splashed out on the pavement like blood, when she... when she died.” When you killed me. “When she died. See, she came... came towards us, all calm and collected. She smoothed her little dress – she must only have been about ten. I asked her why she was out alone so late, and she said that she’d lost her mother. We offered to take her home, but something stirred in the shadows and she hid behind Annie. I went over, slowly, trying not to panic, and when I got there, there was this man and there was blood everywhere and a gun in his hand and a hole under his chin. Blood... thick and red and so much of it I could almost taste it. I screamed. Annie came rushing over and almost fainted when she saw it. We asked the girl what happened and she said that he tried to hurt her so she’d shot him to stop him.
“Someone heard the scream, and they came running round the corner and when they saw the man, they looked up and me and Annie and the little girl and they thought I had done it and that the little girl was Annie’s daughter. So... so they grabbed up the gu... gun and they pointed it at me.” I’m crying now. I hate this. “I held up my hands and I said I didn’t do it and they didn’t believe me. Annie pulled me out of the way but they fired anyway and the bullet hit the little girl. And... and they ran. I turned round, and she was lying there and there was blood all in her hair. There was a hole in her chest. I think she died instantly. I remember I was fixated. I couldn’t stop staring at the blood on her face and I think something... something snapped inside me. Like, in my head and my heart and my soul. The man who shot her just ran away – he didn’t care. Nobody cares. Not about anything but... but themselves.” My anger was overcoming me, and I was spitting when I talked. I must have looked like some sort of beast. I realized that my nails were digging into my thigh. My teeth are grinding. “I was thinking... I was thinking that death is... death is pretty. Life is ugly, and the people who are in it are ugly, and the things that happen in it are ugly. And now this girl was somewhere else. Maybe she was in heaven, in a pretty place with plastic flowers and fluffy clouds in the sparkling sky.” I look up at Hannah Aines. She’s giving me the sort of pitying look you’d give a child whose dog has died. Knowing and condescending. “Annie was trying to drag me away, but I didn’t want to leave her. So she left me, alone in that street with the dead man and the dead girl and I wished that I could be dead with them.” You will be. I will be. Pretty, pretty death.
I wish I was dead. I wish you were dead, too. I close my eyes. I like the blackness, I can block out the world. I can pretend it’s not there. I can pretend I’m alone. I can pretend that God gave me the death that I want.
“That girl was Cynthia, wasn’t it?” I look up sharply. I nod.
“She didn’t go to heaven. She’s in my head. I can’t make her go away.” You deserve it. “She says I deserve it. She says... says it’s my fault she died. She’s right, I know, but I wish she’d stop saying it.”
“Why is it your fault that she died?” It should have been you.
“It should have been me.”
“Why do you feel like that?” Because that bullet was for you.
“Because the bullet was for me. I took her life away by keeping mine. And I wish I hadn’t because I hate my life. I hate it... it’s horrible. I’m stuck in plastic box with a dead... dead girl that hates me and a load of so-called doctors that couldn’t care less if I lived or died!” I’m angry now.
“That’s not true, Clara.”
“Don’t call me that! Don’t act like you know me! You bitch, you know nothing! You don’t know me and you don’t... you don’t care. N... nobody cares.” I’m sobbing now; angry, furious, raging tears. I hate her. I hate her and it’s burning, burning a hole in my stomach and it’s swallowing me up hole I hate her and I want to hurt her, I want to rip her apart. I launch myself at her, scratching and biting, and she screams and then the nurses are back with their needles and their drugs.
I wake up later on back in my room.