Losing Blood (February of 2020)

(TW: This blog talks in-depth about self-harm. In fact, that’s one of the main themes of this one. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK. There’s also talk of possession, gun violence, gaslighting, mention of pet death, self-harm shaming, another four-on-one confrontation, ostracization, brief mention of a predatory doctor.)

Author’s Note:

The tattoo pictured as the featured photo is actually inked over the scars I mentioned below. It says, ‘Every sinner has a future.’ It depicts a tattoo described in Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Six of Crows’, a book series that Arkady and I had first bonded over. I got it after being one year clean.

Inworld:

“Everything you see is a translation, a more digestible version to spare your sanity.” Xhaxhollari’s face kept changing when he moved. I think he was wearing the body’s face to further fit my theory that he had been a piece of me, but it kept slipping like a fragile Snapchat filter. I have no idea who told this poor bloke that staring at a blanched, separately-moving reflection of yourself was less unsettling than whatever the fuck he was, but he was clearly dedicated. I could see a different face underneath the body’s, something colder but oddly soft, like he was carved from marble.

We were seated at the top of Big Ben’s clocktower. I’d barely spent any sort of time there– it looked as if my story had happened, explosion and uncovered skeleton and all. Yes, if any of you had read Zeitstück, that does, in fact, mean that I’m stepping around my own skeleton that rested in a hole in the floorboards.

Gee, Xanthe, why are you unhinged? I dunno–

Instead of staying on the surface and going upstairs in the Crosman house to drink myself into a light coma on Valentine’s day until the tears stopped coming, Xhaxhollari instead pulled me into ‘the other plane’ for, uh, tea. I’d asked early on for wine and he pointedly ignored that. We were both seated on the staircase that leads up to the clock face, with him perched a few steps above me.

What percentage of sanity is supposedly being spared? Because the way it’s going lately, I might as well go Lovecraftian-Horror gazing. With a pair of binoculars and everything.”

Xhaxhollari’s glitching face was unamused, wings rustling. He had six, count ‘em, six wings. They had little black dots on them, which stood in contrast. Then I realised those dots were actually eyes. One blinked at me. “Oh, it can worse. A lot worse. I’m going to try to help you prevent that.”

“Any chance you can reverse the last two months?” I paused. “Actually, please? I’d straight up give a piece of my soul for–”

“Ill-advised trades is part of how we’ve ended up in this mess.” I couldn’t tell who he was referring to, here. Thysia for trading her soul to appease her partner? Phisoxa trading piles of souls to entities like they were rare antiques? The series of fuckery that concluded with my existence? The more I thought about it, the more it felt like a jab. “You’d be amazed at how much you see and experience is a translation, a distortion, or a symbol. Including myself.”

I squinted at him. “So, are you an angel, or are you some… iteration of Neb’s or my collective past?”

“Both can at once be true,” he said noncommittally.This world supports the lives of that which exists in ways they never before have, and supports the existence of those who never have been. It also supports those who weren’t fated to exist, and gives them a home.” His eyes, sort of a lighter gold-green, seemed to hold pity for me.

I tensed. Well, pity is never a good sign.

Xhaxhollari’s head tilted, as if he could hear something in the distance. He frowned. “Ah. Chandra again. With Aberle.”

I sprang to my feet. “Fuck. Where?” I didn’t even question how Xhaxhollari could pick that up. The blighter had six wings, he probably sensed a goddamned disturbance in the force. “Can you get us there?”

Xhaxhollari turned his eyes towards me. More than two of them. I could almost feel what he was thinking– Yes, fine, I was just weeping in the basement, but this is what I was used to, damn it. “He’s my friend.”

It was a flurry of wind and the startling feeling of temporarily losing corporeality, but we were at Aberle’s workplace. Even though Aberle headed a sex work network, an assassin ring, a drug smuggling ring, and whatever the hell else he needs to expend his extra energy on, his headquarters were oddly industrial. It looked almost like a combination of the Portal games and the underground lab environment where Gus Fring put the German construction workers in Better Call Saul.

Kind of like this.

Apparently, the drama was already well underway. Aberle was holding a pistol, tense and bristling as he pointed it at the enemy. Audric, his father, was between him and whoever the culprit was, hands raised to signal for a moment of pause. Kaspar was also there, with their crossbow pointed at… Aberle?

It was then when I noticed who Aberle was pointing the pistol at. Sabriel– which wouldn’t mean anything to you lot, unless you’re relating it to the novel series my brain probably nicked the name from. This Sabriel is an ex-spy with a heart of gold and a taste in disaster twinks, if his dating Aberle is any indication. Which is why it was so startling to see Sabriel’s boyfriend holding him at gunpoint.

“Boy, did you take anything?” Audric asked this in German first, then repeated it in English for the sake of us all knowing what he’s thinking.

Aberle exhaled sharply. For the first time, I noticed he was bleeding from a nasty bruise on the side of his head. “It attacked me! It’s right there, that– Gaslamp, thing, it just looked like Sabriel, then just– transformed.”

Xhaxhollari and I were mostly out of sight, behind a metal staircase to observe the scene. Sabriel looked like Sabriel– confused and vaguely distressed, but still like Sabriel. I wasn’t overly certain what Aberle was seeing or how he was seeing it. “Aberle, mate, it’s him. It’s your partner. What are you doing?”

Aberle whirled on me with the pistol, apparently having heard someone? Something? Else. I asked him afterwards and he said it sounded like the voice he had heard the female voice he’d heard when he’d first been attacked, who he assumed to be Chandra.

I felt Xhaxhollari’s largest pair of wings flare beside me.

“Do you want to have two bad shoulders, Augegift?” Kaspar hissed. Kaspar and Aberle even casually dating– gods, these polycule situations have gotten intense. Kaspar’s icy eyes were trained on Aberle’s extended arm, but were flickering towards myself and Xhaxhollari with a somewhat puzzled expression– which was good, because I almost wondered if I were the only one who could see him.

Aberle was frozen and slightly trembling. He’d been trained from birth as a BND agent and he was visibly doubting his senses in front of all of us, even seeming to struggle against something. Without warning, he swung his aim to Sabriel again.

Sabriel’s green eyes met mine. Then his body dropped like someone unplugged him, then there was an echoing crack of a gunshot within a fraction of a second. Yep, it was in that order, thank gods. I almost surprised myself by how quickly I’d acted, as if I were a video game character and the player had anticipated that move sooner than I. It was that strange sort of instinct that I remembered from the early days of Gaslamp, circa 2015. Sabriel’s soul was fresh in my hands, ready to be put back into him like a pair of batteries. There was a smoking bullet hole in the wall behind him, right where his chest would’ve been if he had remained standing. Aberle cursed in German and threw the pistol aside as if it had bitten him.

Audric swept up from behind him and did that arm-twist-behind-the-back maneuver you always see in action films to make sure Aberle stayed in place, just in case. I was quick in putting Sabriel’s soul back where it belonged- the body could remain motionless but alive for a long time after soul removal, but I didn’t want to risk it. With Aberle safely restrained and Sabriel back in his body, we had a while of a half-German, half-English back and forth.

Yes, Aberle had seen a manifestation of Chandra and Gaslamp in the place of Sabriel and I, he had been attacked before Audric and Kaspar ran in, he’d been unable to hear Kaspar’s, Audric’s, and my warnings, and he hadn’t meant to actually fire.

Throughout this entire exchange, Xhaxhollari stood, undoubtedly the most conspicuous of all of us. It was odd, how we all seemed to forget about him. It was like he had purposely decided to slip beyond our immediate awareness. It was only when he spoke that I remembered, oh yeah, there’s a whole angel-thing here. “He’s not insane, nor has he turned on us. I could sense there was something… targeting him. We should review the cameras to see if he’s consumed anything, or if Chandra’s somehow bewitched him.”

“And who might you be?” Kaspar’s voice was sharp, as one’s would be after they almost witnessed a stand-off involving two partners and a metamour. Its eyes narrowed. “I’ve felt you before.”

Xhaxhollari’s face seemed to go blank, which was surprising, because I thought it was blank even at his resting expression. “Beg your pardon?”

The atmosphere seemed to be crackling. Somehow, Kaspar and Xhaxhollari looking at each other seemed like two stars reaching each other’s orbit. The perceptive and the unperceived, now taking full note of one another. It seemed somewhat like this wasn’t allowed. “I arrived here in record time,” Kaspar said coolly. “Crossbow in hand. I almost congratulated myself on being so well-prepared that I didn’t consider anyone else might be pulling strings.

I blinked. “Xhaxhollari was with me. That’s his name, by the way. I vaguely met him once before. He’s. Kind of me, I guess? But different.”

Audric laughed that hollow, distressed laugh. “Xanthe, the day you or any version of you dons a halo is the day I join a 12-step.”

Kaspar was taking in every single inch of Xhaxhollari’s visage, recognition creeping in on them like the dropping temperature before a storm. “Why do I feel like we might find something on those cameras?”

There was an awkward pause. I helpfully suggested that we find out.

The tension slowly ebbed as Kaspar and Audric reviewed the security footage throughout the day. Sabriel was comforting a shaky Aberle and I was taking the moment to get lost in my own thoughts– enjoying being useless, essentially. It was finally Kaspar who asked, “Did you adopt a new cat?” They glanced back at Xhaxhollari with a narrowed gaze as if blaming him for the realisation.

No, Aberle hadn’t. Kaspar kept asking about that cat. A stray, black cat that wanted to be pet by one but avoided others, what somehow had gotten into the facility. One that Aberle pet and no one else did. One that exited the frame of one security feed, leaving only their shadow, that shifted into the definite shape of a person.

My heart dropped through the floor.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

So, many of the supernatural folk of this realm could turn into animals at will. And Moon Spirits, like what I already knew Hemachandra was, needed physical contact to share hallucinations. Sound and I were also Moon Spirits– we could easily tap someone on the wrist or something and then just make them bug out for an hour or so. It was a great defense when we needed a quick escape. And, as Moon Spirits, if someone were to come up to us and, for example, pet us… Just as Aberle was doing to that odd, black cat on the screen…

This clever bitch.

My mind was folding backwards onto itself. How often had I stopped to pet a friendly cat on my way back from work? How often had I been confused or scared because Arkady could’ve sworn I’d done something I hadn’t? And when I was speaking to Hemachandra at the fountain?

How much of what I’ve seen has been real?

The Surface:

Between what Xhaxhollari had said about how things ‘translate’, the realisation that hallucinations may have been working my way into my brain, and a whole other person that occasionally talked through me, it was getting increasingly hard to update my partner on my life.

That, and he didn’t really seem to want to hear it. Now that Gaslamp was seemingly a defunct delusion, he seemed to treat everything from ‘the other plane’ like it had a disease– like he might catch whatever I had if he got too close to the subject.

And… I mean, hell, after waking up three days later from our misunderstanding from Valentine’s day, I wasn’t quite sure even where to pick things up. I already hit him with the, ‘Hey, sorry it sounded like I was pressuring you into sex, I actually just wanted to time travel,” and gotten a decidedly mixed reaction. Somehow, ‘Hey, remember that thing that happened to Neb? I’m terrified that it’s going to happen to me and sometimes I think her ghost is talking through me. Also, there’s someone that seems to be flirting with me and bent on killing me and she can confuse senses and nearly made one partner kill another the other night. Also there’s an angel involved.’ didn’t seem like quite the icebreaker I needed.

So, I stayed silent.

I don’t know how he might’ve reacted if I told him everything. Sometimes, I think it might have led to more rejection. Sometimes, I think I might have seen the light of an epiphany on his features.

I wish he had known. As in, known beyond a doubt what was going on, as if I could’ve just played back everything that had run through my senses for him. But I couldn’t.

But hell, within the week after our disastrous holiday, I was settling in to sleeping next to Arkady when he mentioned, “Zara wanted to go to the market tomorrow. You work at three, right? We can make sure we’d be done by then.”

The market!

I had no rationale to think this, but, see, I’d visited the market the first time when I’d been Arkady’s birthday present in 2018. I somehow was just locked onto the idea that if I went to that place, in particular, that it would unlock that beautiful timeline when I wasn’t just an awkward subject well-worth avoiding. Like when I first went to the market, and the only unkind thing Arkady had to say about me was the fact that I’d dressed so poorly for the cold weather.

I needed that.

Thus, there I was, the next morning, dressed, hair combed, bag slung around my shoulder as if I was waiting for a neglectful parent to finally take me fishing. I looked the perfect idiot, sitting on that couch in the living room.

Will an Arrested Development reference make this better? No? Well, there’s always money in the banana stand…

And I felt the perfect idiot when the four of them, Arkady, Zara, Ash, and March came downstairs and dragged a crackling, static cloud of tension with them.

“Are we ready to go?” I wonder if the woodenness; the dread in my voice ever translated. I sort of wanted them to know that hope had become a facade and that they were about to prove me correct.

Arkady was the first to speak up. “Hey, um…” Fuck, y’all, this was so fucking hard to write. Each paragraph is searing me in real time. The next time I look hot and post a selfie, you lot had better show the fuck out. “Zara feels… uncomfortable, with the thought of you coming with us. We didn’t technically invite you, you just kind of assumed you were coming.”

I’m actually running out of words for that type of pain. But those of you who whooshed out a breath so sharply that your pets just looked at you, it doesn’t have to be explained to you, does it?

“What?”

“You and this Gaslamp shit!” It was Zara that was talking now, standing in the middle of the living room. “Everyone’s been uncomfortable around you! No one wants to be around you!”

There was a dull roaring in my ears. It sounded too much like my inworld. Or my first five or so friend groups. Or the body’s family.

And this household was never supposed to be like that.

“And you keep changing the story of what ‘Gaslamp’ even is!” Ash cut in. They were suddenly across from me, next to the fireplace. I was vaguely aware that I was surrounded by bodies, blocking my exit in any direction. I wasn’t quite aware who was in those bodies until each one began speaking again. “It doesn’t make any sense and it just happens to centre around people you don’t like. And you know what? Aberle was telling me about all of this ‘in the other plane’ and he agreed with you. And said that I should listen to you!”

The conversation I had with them afterwards. As it turns out, they do not appreciate their own magical world being outted, nor would they appreciate me telling you that they currently think March and themself are ‘Narvi and Vali’ of Norse pantheon relation. Funny ol’ world, innit?

They were saying this all as an accusation, as if the fact that a decade-long friendship might stand up for me was the final nail in my coffin. I suppose loyalty would be suspicious to someone like Ash.

Zara cut in again. “And we can all tell when you’ve self-harmed! You know why you do it so often? You do it to manipulate! You’re manipulative and that’s why you want me out of the house, because I can see through your bullshit!”

What? No. I was distantly resisting, but it wasn’t making it to my mouth. Arkady and Ash both told me to let them know when I’ve relapsed. You know nothing, you loud idiot.

“And you know what else you said?” Maybe it vaguely occurred to me that Ash said that as a continuation of Aberle’s words. That Ash, despite having dated him and even slept with him, never saw Aberle as his own person, just another facet of me that they could try to own. As if what they had done to Sparrow wasn’t enough. “You texted me. And at first, I was happy to get an apology! Until you said, you literally said, ‘When my life is in danger.’” They laughed at the notion. Laughed at it. “Tell me, Xanthe, how is your life in danger?”

The conversation in question.

My eyes flickered to Zara and March. They beheld no confusion in their gaze. They were already expecting whatever I was about to say. My inworld, my magic, everything that I held sacred and shared with Ash and Arkady as a token as absolute trust, was being strung out for judge and jury to see. “W-Well. Some… interplanar things translate differently. I don’t yet know of its full influence out here. And there’s been something targeting me. Well, not just me. And I’ve seen it cause actual possession-like actions and–” I fell silent when I caught Ash’s reaction.

They laughed, a bitter, energetic, triumphant laugh that was quickly followed up by a glance to Zara, then back at me.

I’m being bullied. The thought wasn’t mine, but I agreed with it.

There’s a Chris Crutcher quote that I read in my early days from “Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes.” The main character had been beaten up and commented on how he’d stopped feeling the beating after a while.

His friend says, “Sometimes, your body decides to be your friend and stops feeling for a while.”

The main character quips back and says, “If my body was my friend, it would have run faster.”

So, the fact that I can’t remember much of the second half of this, maybe my brain was being my friend. I remember March adding in filler phrases, clearly happy to be on the winning team for once. At one point, he actually went up to Ash and whispered something in their ear, smirking at me. Whatever it was, it made Ash smile without any happiness.

I don’t remember Arkady saying much of anything. I don’t think he did.

By the time they stopped yelling at me, I was pretty sure the market had closed. I went upstairs. I numbly abandoned the clothes I’d chosen for the outing, changed into my work uniform, and– didn’t remember the rest of the fucking day.

Not that I had completely thrown in the towel, mind you.

My first action was reaching out to Aberle about what exactly he said to Ash. “It wasn’t… really anything like that,” he said, aghast. “I wasn’t trying to petition them to ‘your side’ or anything. They were talking about you like you were crazy and a lost cause, and you know, my mom was schizophrenic, my dad has psychosis– genetically, I’m pretty fucked, so I’ve always been sensitive to that shit. I told them about how my mom kept thinking a doctor was in a rival spy team and couldn’t be trusted. It all sounded ludicrous, but my dad finally listened to her, and… yeah, no, the guy wasn’t a spy, but he was being pervy with her and trying to take advantage while she was medicated out of her mind. I shared that as like, an anecdote. Xanthe, if I ever thought they’d relay it all to you like that, I–” There was a long pause. “What the hell is going on over there?”

“I think we’ll have to catch up once we find Hemachandra, dear friend,” I said hoarsely. “But. Seriously. Don’t try to stand up for me. It just tends to make things worse.”

It was the next night where Arkady and I were sleeping next to one another. I’d tried to, um, cut the pain away. I think I’d tried to cut back on booze to appease Ash and, well, that desire for self-destruction and escapism wasn’t just going to go away. I’d mostly kept my habit to my thighs, but had recently, well… run out of room. It was cold, so I could usually get away with wearing long sleeves, but I always did get too hot in my sleep.

But of course, Arkady’s seemingly-psychic ass just decides to roll over in his sleep and grip my right forearm, pulling it to him like it was a teddy bear. I winced– what I did was still fresh enough to sting, swell, and feel warm to the touch. He made a soft noise in his throat, his brow furrowing as his hand softly ran across my arm. He seemed… almost sad.

I’d hoped that it would be forgotten with the morning, but no. He asked to see it.

I showed him on one condition– that it wouldn’t get back to Zara.

I did try to talk with Ash. I wanted to address whatever theories they had– you know, the ones everyone but me knew about.

And not only that, but Ash had violated my trust by playing telephone with my other plane. See, you may not know this if you’re reading this blog, but my inworld used to be sacred, closeted, protected from those who willfully misunderstand it. Now it was being shared like everyone’s favourite inside joke.

It was like having nudes passed around and made fun of. And yeah, I’d had that happen, too, and it was pretty much the same feeling.

I was grappling with that while also trying to do damage control.

“Can we please resolve whatever it is you think I’m doing before the next hen-pecking session?” I pleaded with Ash, multiple times.

“There’s nothing to discuss,” they insisted.

It was ‘coincidentally’ in this conversation wherein they brought up my birds.

See, I hadn’t quite explained the situation with Inkwell and Quillby. They were budgerigar birds I acquired in Savannah in the summer of 2017– I’d been in the habit of letting them free-roam in my room during the day and it’d never been an issue before. However, the latch on my bedroom door was apparently quite weak and the feline hunter extraordinaire in training, Antari, had figured out how to take advantage of that and nearly had Quillby for lunch a month before.

It was then that Ash suggested the birds move into their sun room.

Fucking cunt.

It was a room they stored their wardrobe and many of their plants but it also, most importantly, two latching doors between the space that the cats dominated. I moved them in with relief. Finally, they could be safe.

And now that Ash had a problem with me personally, they were evicting my birds.

It was like within that change of heart, I could see my own future play out before me. That I, myself, would be thrown into danger, out of a space I was invited into. I saw myself losing my birds, having failed them by leading them into such a turbulent home. I felt that I would be the next to go, with the same level of callousness.

It was just one more example of how my failure to properly explain myself and maintain friendships was damning those around me along with myself.

Not only that, but Zara decided to weigh in once again, confirming that Ash, despite having ‘nothing to discuss’ with myself was definitely sharing screenshots.

Even just reading this gets me bloody heated.

Something about someone who’d just screamed at me in front of everyone, professing to know my demise had me a bit on edge.

But I still knew one safe place.

It wasn’t my room, that could be opened with a slight breeze. It wasn’t my home, wherein an outside friend had more of a voice than someone paying rent.

It was Arkady.

My audience may deem me stupid. Yeah, he’d yelled at me, and said some brutal things, but it was like I had known at my core that he wasn’t truly like that. That instinctively, despite all recent evidence on the contrary, he still felt safe.

I shakily dressed myself and called an Uber to the coffee stand in which Arkady worked. I’d given him some vague heads up through text and took my copy of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’ The coffee stand wherein he worked was actually situated in a hospital. So, while normally, the people-watching and the sound of milk steamers could soothe me, the atmosphere in which I chose to stave away an emotional breakdown could have been…. better chosen, in retrospect.

I stood in line and he handed me some sort of tea and lavender drink. I nursed it over the period of… about two hours? Not even my favourite book could keep my mind off things. I stared at page 2 of Oscar Wilde’s only novella for twenty minutes, the words melting before my vision.

I was seated in what looked like an ICU waiting room, which– was appropriate to what I was feeling, honestly. In constant dread for every bit of news, wondering if what was on life support was already beyond saving.

I about fainted in relief when Arkady was off-shift. (Yes, literally stood up and felt dizzy, though it could have been my recent poor diet and lack of sleep due to stress.)

“Oh, thank gods. I’m so sorry to come to your work, I just… didn’t… feel safe, just… at home, alone. Did you see what Zara sent me?” I was holding my book tightly to my chest as I followed him outside.

“Yeah, and I saw what you sent her,” Arkady said in a clipped tone. I bit back my reply that I thought I’d been extraordinarily polite, considering. I didn’t think that would help my case. “And I saw what you posted in that one metaphysical group. Did you forget I was in that group?”

Sure did!!

I had, in fact, posted about how violated and misunderstood of my own relationship with the supernatural being unveiled before a crowd, and how much of the crowd refused to understand it, and how they should’ve fucking Known better. Arkady wasn’t pleased about that, I could sense.

We walked together to the bus stop as he prepared to go back to the Crosman house. “Can we go anywhere else?” I asked thickly.

Arkady turned and looked at me. It was rainy, that day. I couldn’t tell how cold it was. I always felt so cold these days, no matter what the temperature was. “Please. Lunch can be on me, I just need a bit of time–… away.”

I was seeking what we had in the old days, where we used to find an excuse to walk to Dogtown just to be able to breathe and bitch without restraint. I wanted to be able to talk to him without whatever barriers that stood between us and I thought just the lack of proximity to the house might help.

He stared at me for a bit and then nodded. I kind of forget if I did, in fact, pay. I feel like I may have been the only one with a on me wallet anyway. But I do know we went to Tai Chi Bubble Tea.

My memory flashes to me sitting in a corner table across from him, having barely touched my meal, rambling about my birds, being scared they were going to die soon if I didn’t rehome them, that I was going to die soon, being scared to go back to the house. Fuck, I was even crying in public, now.

“Well… at least your inability to cry seems to be gone,” Arkady said, helpfully.

I didn’t want to laugh, but I did.

We were nearing the end of our meal when Arkady’s phone rang. I knew who it was before he even answered. “Yeah. Yeah, no, I’m… with them now. We’re at Tai Chi, on Mt. Hope.” He sighed. It was an awful sound; a pitying sound. “Yeah, it… is what it is.”

That single phrase, and the defeated way he said it, made pain lance through me like my sternum decided to break apart on its own.

The ride back was silent as the grave.

The next time I wrote in my journal, I needed an escape. And I did what I usually did when I was starved for comfort– I created a better reality.

TW: THE PHOTO BELOW CONTAINS DRIED BLOOD.

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“11/05/2020: Who knew 27 could feel so good? I was in a dark place earlier this year. I should have had faith that 2020 would end up just fine. My new parakeet is settling in, I’m excited for tonight’s plans. It’s giving me a sort of petty glee to know that karma hit Zara months late. Safe to say, she’ll be out a car for a long while. Though I don’t really think there’s a chance of her taking over the house again. Not after what she said. I have resisted the urge to say, ‘I told you so.’ Losing a close friend is bad enough. This is everything I’ve ever wanted. A life of magic and past lives, an adventure every week, being emotionally supported by–”
“– my loving husband. Engaged on this plane. It was all worth it. I’m so glad to be wrong.” — Xanthe CL Zeitstück

Sparrow:

Hi, I’m here to sheepishly raise my hand when Xanthe looks back at this time and goes, ‘Wow, I was really going overboard on the cutting, wasn’t I?’ and tell you I had a lot to do with that. It’s a habit, developed sometime in… Jesus, Aelaris’ time, at the age of 10, then I picked it up through 12-14.

The age of 10? Fuck, there’s something about the thought of that sweet little scrap of a thing wanting to cut herself up that makes me want to take the universe by the shoulders and scream at it.

Then when I was Story– you know, that combination of my self-destructive habits, my violence, my complete apathy for my well-being and Aelaris’ overwhelming emotion and self-hatred, yeah, no, we were a mess of bleeding cuts and fresh scar tissue. It’s a habit I still carry in the inworld. But the body’s almost one month from being two years clean, (fuck yeah!) the longest clean it’s ever been since we started, so I keep my habit to my inworld form.

And I’d been there when Zara yelled at us, made us feel like we were some evil freak because of it. She yelled at us in front of everyone and no one even stopped her. She actually made us feel helpless, and I fucking hated that. If there’s one feeling I hate more than any other, it’s helplessness.

Xanthe had written the journal entry above. I could read it. I wasn’t snooping, but it was open before me, probably just having been written by the time they switched out. Just seeing Zara’s name had me remembering what occurred in the living room and I was compulsively scratching at anything I could reach, trying to claw myself out of something that seemed so trapped and vulnerable.

We’d scratched open our wounds and were bleeding again.

As an angsty ‘Fuck you’, I’d swiped over the entry with our bleeding arm. It was a ‘You made me feel this, it’s you that’s decorating this entry with my blood’ like the emo fuck I am.

It was impulsive and childish, but hell, it was a fucking diary. We could write fanfic between ourselves and us and Milla Jovovich if we wanted, who the fuck cares?

I never would’ve done it if I knew what that would cause.