(I WOULD LIKE TO REMIND YOU, READER, THAT THIS IS A HORROR STORY WHICH MEANS THAT IT SURELY CONTAINS: GORE(blood, guts, this kind of thing, you know), STRONG LANGUAGE(mostly ‘fuck’s), STRONG IMAGERY(blood, death, murders, etc) AND OVERALL LOTS OF BAD THINGS THAT CAN BE DISTURBING, TRIGGERING, ETC, SO BE VERY AWARE OF THIS BEFORE YOU READ please)
“We’ll be here around half past one. How’s that?”, Lucie asked energetically.
“Awesome! I’ll make food so call me when you’re about to leave, okay?”
“Roger that. Love you, bye!”
“Goodnight.” Leslie hung up. She felt a weight in her chest. This last word had a pinch of sadness to it, a small lump had formed in her throat by the time she pressed the button on the phone. She frowned. “Hmm… Am I sad?”, she asked with her hands resting on her hips. She shook her head and went back to Mitch, still seated in his highchair. “Come on, bro’! Bedtime!” She carried him upstairs while humming random melodies so as to hush the uncomfortable silence filling the house.
“There you go!”, she said and carefully laid him in the crib. She brushed her fingers against his cheeks. “You’re so pretty…” She tickled him faintly and Mitch responded with a large smile. That weird feeling still hadn’t left her chest and had actually gone stronger. It felt just as if there had been a sudden cold draught inside of her body leaving the whole place colder and gloomier than it already was. Leslie didn’t think she was sad but her body and mind sent her all the signs. Why would she be sad to look at her brother? And why would she be sad to say goodbye to Lucie? She felt mostly lost in a sea of “too much”; she was not sad nor depressed nor anything, she was lost. But above all, Leslie was tired of all the struggle to keep herself alive, tired of living an empty existence, and mostly, tired of being a burden to everyone – too – close to her. She sensed a tear roll down her cheek and it crashed onto Mitch’s nose. “Sorry.”, she whispered and wiped it away with her thumb. “I’m going to take a bath now. Sleep tight Mitch.” She kissed him on the forehead and headed to the bathroom.
She stopped in her tracks as she reached the bathroom’s door. “Shit, right.” She took her shirt off and covered the “evil fucking mirror” with it in order to avoid any other confrontation with her reflection. “There you go! Now let’s get down to business.” She let the water run while she got undressed. As she put her jogging pants in the dirty laundry basket, she noticed a red mark in the shape of a hand on the bottom back of the left leg. “Fuck that!”, she said with a frown. It was obviously blood but Leslie wasn’t having it. She shoved the pants deep down the basket and kicked it with the foot that still had a sock on. Leslie was exhausted with all that had happened to her on this one day, on top of her daily draining inner battles, and had no intention of letting any hallucination – or supernatural bully – stand in the way of her and a bubble bath. “I’m going to take a bath! You hear that, brain? You fucking hear that? I am going to take a nice relaxing bath and you won’t stop me.” She turned to face the tub when a sharp pain struck her in the head. She massaged her temples and growled. “You fucking stale bubble gum ain’t gonna ruin my bath! You’ve taking all the good away from me already, but this, no! Hear me?” She turned off the water and dipped one hand through the bubbles to feel the temperature. She let out a big sigh of relief and stepped in the warm pool. Her muscles relaxed as she let her shoulders sink under the water level but the wounds on her chest stung with the heat of the bath. Leslie rolled her eyes. “I’m so done…”, she whispered before burying herself in the water.
The vivid memories of what she had been rushed through ever since her parents left was faded away by the soothing caress of the heat on her worn-out body. It had only been one day and she had gotten worse than she got in a whole year. Slowly, she let the breath she had held in escape her mouth, creating bubbles that blurred the distorted vision she had from underwater. This was no different from the way she would see her surroundings from time to time, when the storm was at its peak and she was so tired that the only way her mind had left to fight was to force her into a state of numbness. This was close to how she saw the world when her body couldn’t handle its reality and any other else anymore. She shook her hands underwater attempting to extend the bubble bath’s life. She could have stayed in there forever if the heat could have lasted this long. Leslie massaged her neck and sank back into the tub with her eyes closed.
“Leslie, look at me!” Leslie opened her eyes and saw her mom in front of her wearing a yellow swimsuit, she smiled. It was her mother’s favorite, despite everyone having told her that it looked horrible. It had small daisies all over it and “Oh daisy…” written on the front in black bold italics and “…Quack!” on the back. She thought it to be extremely funny and it reminded her of her childhood. It formerly had – a really bad imitation of – a white, cartoon-style, duck “tail”. Her father had chopped it off because it was really too much for him to take.
“Leslie!”, her mother yelled again. She was standing only six feet away from her but she was having so much fun that she couldn’t control herself and was therefore being very loud.
“What?”, she asked with a large smile on her face, already sensing the quirky move coming.
“Look! I’m going to turn into a mermaid!”, Sophie fiercely claimed.
“You… what?” Leslie giggled. Her mother’s eyes were sparkling; she sounded so confident.
“Don’t miss it, it’s gonna be epic! Ready?”
Leslie stepped back and wrapped her left arm on the ladder of the swimming pool, resting half her weight on one of the steps, to watch her mom imitate a mermaid underwater. It lasted a mere fifteen seconds and then she was back up, completely out of breath. “Fuck, I’m winded.”, she said, panting. “So?”, she gulped, “What do you think?” The smile on her face was too big for Leslie to have the guts and give a straightforward answer. “Hmm…” She tried to seem as serious as she could and keep her laughter deep down her throat. “A mermaid, huh?” Her mother’s smile grew weaker, almost faltering. “You looked like a frog.”, she said, dead serious. But she couldn’t hold it in anymore and burst out laughing. “A freaking frog, mom!” Sophie’s face went red as a beet. “A… A frog?”, she asked, faking being devastated and turning around. Leslie stopped laughing and came to her. “Mom… I didn’t mean to–” Her mother turned around suddenly and screamed while she playfully splashed water on Leslie. “A frog, a goddamm frog!” And they both laughed, until it hurt.
“Shit. I put water everywhere! Again…” Leslie chuckled. She remembered that day. It was a little while after she got out of rehab, her mother and her went to the pool in town to enjoy some mother-daughter time. They had so much fun playing silly games in the water, and they ate some extremely unhealthy junk food afterwards.
She reached out for the liquid soap bottle and poured some in the water. “I want the bubbles back.” She pouted like the difficult child that she never had to be. With a new-found strength, she frenetically shook her hands underwater to create more bubbles. “And more water on the floor! Genius me.” She played with the white foam but got discouraged midway and laid back in the tub. She let out a long, tired sigh. Her hands lazily moved through the homemade snow and she closed her eyes, drifting away in yet another memory.
It was a bit blurry this time; she must have been ten years old. Her mother was laughing really loud again. Another happy memory; her heart got warm. “You’ve got some in your hair!”, she said as she pointed to Leslie. Her hands were covered in chocolate. “You too, mommy!” They were making a chocolate cake for her father’s thirty-fifth birthday. Leslie was in charge of the whipped cream and the bottle got a little out of hand, she got cream everywhere. Sophie sat her up on the counter before taking some towels to wipe the mess out of their faces. Leslie picked a strawberry from the bowl next to her and when her mother came to her, she dipped it in her hair, bit in it and looked her straight in the eye while doing so. Her mother’s eyes widened. “Did you dare…”, she said in a slow, grave manner. She then ran her right hand all over Leslie’s face, giving her a free chocolate foundation. It made her nose itchy and she laughed.
Leslie gasped for air. The memory got her so relaxed she almost sunk underwater unconsciously; the foam was tickling her nose. “Hmm, what are you doing brain?”, she moaned. “Linking bath foam to whipped cream now, are we?” She laughed. She must have been really tired to doze so easily. Leslie grimaced; the water had started losing the soothing heat it once provided her with and it now felt more like a cold reminder that everything wasn’t okay. The weight in her chest was still here and so was the lump in her throat. She buried her head in her knees, turning her body into a human hearth in the middle of the tub, in order to live through the heat’s death. Those were the very few happy memories that she owned and it sure felt nice to get to relive them so vividly now and then, but she had three of those in one day. “But why?”, Leslie whispered. Could it have been a new disease her brain had caught, one it had invented just because it could? She hadn’t read about anything like that. This was strange. “This is making me uncomfortable…” A cold breeze entered the room and caressed her bare back. Leslie shivered.
She looked up and there she was in the park a couple of minutes away from her place. It was spring, at sunset, and the sky had this pretty pink and orange color. The wind was blowing slightly through the pages of the book she had in hands. She was reading The DeathSticks, a rather interesting “horror” rewriting of The Little Match Girl by a small and unknown author. It had only six chapters and she had already reached the chapter four, entitled “I believe in Hell“; it was getting really exciting. With her hair in the eyes, she smiled at the sky and savored the way the sunrays met the cold breeze on her skin. She put the book in her back pocket and went to the swings to play and sing melodies she would make up on the spot.
Leslie was seven years old and this was the day after her dog, Pixie, was put down at the vet’s office after half a year of suffering. She had come to the park to breathe, she recalled. Her parents were being their over-caring selves, looking after her, making tea and too much food, and always asking if she was doing fine. She needed space. No, she was not fine. She had lost her only best friend, she was hurt. And as much as she needed all the love they could provide, she needed some time on her own to take it all in and accept the fact that he was gone forever.
“Pixie the doggy, gone with the wind…” She sang as the wind dolefully pushed her on the swing, making her feet lift up some dust off the ground. “My only only friend died in my hands and that’s when I did understand that life’s a free poison that only leads to an end…” The tears that had pearled in her eyes finally escaped, tracing salty lines down her pale cheeks. Leslie dropped down, knees to the ground and with her finger, she wrote Pixie’s name in the dust. “I’m so sorry.”, she whispered. The wind rose and covered the letters with more dust. Leslie lied on her back and stared at the sky, scanning every cloud for a sign of Pixie. Guilt was devouring her insides while the pain was crushing her lungs; she cried.
Pixie and Leslie had been best friends ever since she learned to speak. He got hit by a car the night before they came back from their week at her grandmother’s. Pixie managed to drag his injured body to the doorstep and he stayed there all alone until they arrived the next morning. She remembered getting out the car and running to the door calling Pixie to hug him and stopping abruptly two feet away from his body. She was paralyzed by the sight. When her mother arrived, she screamed, “Nicolas, something’s wrong with Pixie! Call the vet!” and covered Leslie’s eyes with her hands dragging her away. But Leslie refused, instead she ran to Pixie and patted his head. The dog was still conscious and emitted very faint sounds to express the relief he had to finally see his family there for him. Her dress got covered in blood but Leslie didn’t care, Pixie was in pain and needed a hug.
In the vet’s office, they were all tense and close to tears. The vet said that it was a “miracle” that Pixie had survived but the bad news was that he didn’t have much time left. Leslie understood; Pixie had survived but he was dying. They took the selfish path when they chose not to put him down, Leslie knew that, but she needed a friend, and she didn’t want to be the judge of a living thing’s right to live or die. They decided to keep Pixie with them, even if he was in pain and put him through a life of medication and suffering, just because they weren’t strong enough, or ready enough to let go. “Leslie, look at me. At least he won’t suffer alone. You have to keep that in mind. We’ll give him all our love, that’s all we can do.”, her father told her. But Leslie couldn’t wipe away the frown on her forehead in spite of the slight joy she had to the thought that they could be friends for maybe another full year. “Honey, we can’t decide who lives or dies. And Pixie is family.”, her mother added and kissed her head. Leslie nodded. She knew this wasn’t right but she was as much at fault as them. They were all to blame, but what did Pixie think? Was he happy to spend more time with them even if he was drugged and in constant pain? Was he mad at Leslie?
She felt guilty for not having been there to stop the car or do something, anything, to save Pixie. But she became even guiltier to have put him through six months of pain just so she wouldn’t have to face the world alone. And she still felt guilty now as she was shaking in her parents’ bathtub. Often at night, lying in bed, she would think that maybe her life would’ve been easier if they had put him to sleep that day at the vet. Sure, she got to share her existence with Pixie for another six months, but maybe she would’ve been better if they had let him go that day. Because having Pixie in agony in her arms and seeing him breathing his last breath, seeing the life leave his eyes, probably left her more broken than seeing him leave with a painless injection would have, she thought.
This was not a happy memory, she was as sad as could be, and remembering it only made the weight in her chest grow heavier. “Fuck that.” She stood up and got out of the water.
“Cooold…”, she said with a shaky voice before quickly wrapping a towel around her shivering body. Leslie leaned down, pulled the tub’s plug and stared at the tiny whirlpool forming as the water rushed through the drain. She took a deep breath and held it in while she took the towel off herself; holding her breath helped her deal with the cold. She bent down and began drying her legs, going upwards. She slowed her pace and carefully rubbed around the wounds on her chest to avoid any additional stinging. She sensed a tear roll down her cheeks and frowned. “What’s wrong?”, she asked. It wasn’t burning enough for her to cry of pain, Leslie didn’t understand. She shook it off and went on drying herself, now reaching for her back.
“Turn around now. Come on, turn around.”, she heard her mother say from behind her but she wouldn’t move. “Leslie? Leslie are you alright, honey?” Sophie sounded extremely worried. She looked up with concern at Leslie’s father who was coming running towards them. “Sweetheart, why are you crying? Leslie?” He was wearing his glasses again; they made him look like such an “office person”, which he was very far from. Leslie rubbed her eyes with the back of her hands and gave a faint smile. Her mother sat her down on her lap. “Are you hurt somewhere Leslie?”, she asked.
“No.”, she said and shook her head.
“Then tell us what’s wrong. We can’t help if we don’t know.”, her father explained. He sat close to them and laid a hand on her left shoulder.
“No.” She shook her head more vigorously this time and bit her bottom lip as if trying to hold back explosive tears.
“Honey, are you sad?” Her mother lifted slowly her chin with two fingers. Leslie looked into her eyes and saw genuine concern; she smiled and caressed her mother’s cheek with her small hand.
“No, I’m happy.” Her parents both sported a questioning look on their face. “I’m happy. But I’m crying because it feels like a last time.”
Leslie was sat on the bathroom floor, leaning against the bathtub and sobbing violently. She kept gasping for air until her eyes couldn’t afford any more tears. She brought her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I was right.”, she whispered. This was indeed the last time Leslie felt genuine happiness, the kind that ignites you to the bone and has you feeling like everything makes sense. It was the last time she felt it before it became like a myth she had read about in a book, before it became a white lie told to children through bedtime stories to hide the ugly face of reality. From that day on, all the times she felt happy seemed artificial, fictional, almost forced or simply not authentic. The happiness started fading that day at the river and died when Pixie was cremated.
“Why does this keep happening!?” She got up and, with her shaky arms, reached for the clothes she had dropped in the bathroom sink. She put them on swiftly as she mumbled. “Is that what it was? It’s like I was getting car-sick but with memories. Like, I felt it coming up so I was already sad… Is that even a thing? Dammit…” She could already feel another one coming as sunshine and funky music was filling the background of her mind. “Shit. Stop it!” Like it would incite daydreaming in a classroom to avoid anxiety, her brain seemed to be forcing memories on her to shelter her from a threatening reality. The images, the sounds, were as clear as those of her HDTV, and sometimes all her other senses were intensely involved. It reminded Leslie of the way she would usually spend her summer breaks: binge-watching all her favorite wildlife documentaries in her bed, falling asleep irregularly throughout the whole sessions – even though being completely absorbed – and feeling lost eighty percent of the time. “That song is nice though!” She sighed. The memories being forced on her were all so real, so graphic, and she wouldn’t even notice when she would slip into one. Her brain definitely seemed like it wanted to cut off her connection to the world. Leslie turned off the lights and ran out of the bathroom.
I can’t believe it took me one month to finally know what to write, but there you go! I’m quite satisfied. This is, as Chapter III was, a rather calm chapter. The next one is gonna be so much more different!
Yes, I do that thing now where I’ll advertise my works in my own works. Genius Chloë strikes again! Ha ha! The DeathSticks is a really short story compared to this one though and very less intense and no way near the same amount of writing per chapter! You can check it out though. It can be a fun read.
Can’t believe this chapter went over 3000 words. I mean, I can’t believe I can write over 3000 so “effortlessly”. Anyways. Hope you liked it and stay tuned for the next chapter! Shit’s about to hit the fan!
Thanks for your time! ❤
Next chapter is here!!!