I’d never been particularly fond of loneliness, but I had viewed it as a natural part of existence. Even when surrounded by people, I’d always known that I was alone. Everyone was, at the end of the day, I supposed. People were people, who changed and grew and eventually left. And so everyone was left alone.
When the sun hit my face, I did not pause to consider a damn thing. My eyes fluttered open against the sting of daylight, and I rolled over to find Alice beside me, just where I’d left her.
She wasn’t there.
I shot up into a sitting position, first searching for her and then taking in my surroundings. And all the while a dull sort of panic had begun to fabricate within me, eating me away. I tried to ignore it, but soon it was consuming me, and I could do little to stop it.
The room looked much the same as ever, all white and scarcely decorated. Above my bed was the pitiable window, bars and all. On the bedside table was my well-worn copy of Alice in Wonderland, opened to the same page I’d left it on.
My heart rate was steadily rising, my vision going red and black around the edges. All the while I was gripping the sheets fiercely, trying to keep a hold on reality, when all I wanted to do was break down and scream.
That’s exactly what I did, a moment or two later. Then it was only a matter of time before the orderlies were in my room, terror evident in their gazes. I slipped away as they swarmed the room, doing whatever it was they were doing, measuring temperature and heart rate and blood pressure. I faded into the nothingness I had tried for so long to avoid. I let it take me willingly. I let the darkness shroud me and pull me under. I let go.
Nothing is a beautiful thing. Vacancy is oh-so inviting. I found myself in that place in between worlds, the place where feeling and absence are one and the same. When at last my eyes opened, with much effort and force on my part, and the nothing faded away, I found myself in none other than Carlisle Cullen’s office.
He was sitting behind his desk, looking high and mighty as ever, wearing that blank face and a black suit. His eyes were fixated on me, studying me intently. I shivered a little, despite myself, but dared to meet his gaze. There was nothing there, of course, but I thought that maybe a spark of emotion may have lit in them for a split second.
“Jasper,” he said at last. “Welcome back.”
I narrowed my eyes, my hands clenching around the arms of the chair I occupied. “What the hell is going on?” I demanded, my voice rising a good two levels on the volume scale. “What did you do to me? Where’s Alice?”
“Jasper,” he said again, his voice calm as ever. “Please, let me explain. Alice was never here.”
“You’re wrong!” I cried. He had to be. He had to be lying, trying to cover up whatever screwed-up industry his son was running underground. “I was with her. I was-”
“It’s all part of your delusion,” Dr. Cullen stated, cutting me off. “I’ve tried t keep it from you, hoping you would forget, hoping you would get better. It’s been almost three weeks since your last episode, a record time for you. But then… this. The nurses tell me you were ranting and raving about some underground science experiment. It’s… It’s never been that bad before, Jasper. I thought you were getting better, but you were getting worse all along.”
I was shaking my head long before he had finished speaking. “You’re wrong,” I told him again. “Alice is real. All of this is real. I know what I saw!”
“You’re schizophrenic, Jasper. In a way, it was real, though only to you. Alice has been your delusion for several years now, possibly even since before you were sent to me.”
I couldn’t listen to him anymore. I had to get out, had to escape. He was lying to me. He was keeping secrets, and for all I knew they could have been killing her right as we spoke. I had to save her. It was my purpose here, I was quite sure. I had to help her before it was too late.
“I know she’s real,” I spat one last time. Then I stood up and turned towards the door, fully intent on leaving all this behind. There was nothing wrong with me. there had never been anything wrong with me.
But Dr. Cullen’s voice kept me frozen in place as the next few words fell from his lips. I stopped and turned just enough to look him in the eyes. Out of all he had told me, this was the one thing I was begging to be false. I was desperate.
“She was, once,” he told me quietly. “I wish you wouldn’t make me tell you these things, Jasper. You were happy enough here. Why must you bring such pain upon yourself?”
“Tell me,” I growled lowly. I was so done with all the discretion. Whatever he had to say couldn’t possibly be any worse than what I’d already gone through in the last two days.
“You killed her,” he whispered. “And to cope with it, she became your delusion.”
Though my eyes had gone wide, they saw not a thing. They were looking though the window, past the horizon, into a world that no longer existed, a place so far gone it was forgotten. A world that the proper combination of drugs could shield from my mind. Images flickered across my mind, images of Alice and I tumbling around in a tangle of sheets and moonlight. Of myself at the breaking point, at that place I knew I couldn’t ever turn back from. Of Alice, laying lifeless in my arms as she bled out from her slender wrists, bathing me in blood. I’d done it for her. To save her from the monster I would inevitably become. Not that that justified it.
“Oh, God,” I moaned. “Oh, God, you’re right. I killed her. I killed her.”
My chest constricted. My heart felt as if it might swell and burst. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. I vaguely felt myself hit the floor hard, heard the doctor screaming meaningless words. My eyes rolled up into the back of my head; my body was overtaken by tremors. And for the second time that day, I let go, and let the shadows creep into my frozen, lifeless heart.