This story is an existential drama focusing on psychology, depression, and romance. There is plenty of sexual content, but most of it is in the next two chapters. If you are looking for a stroke story, please go back to the main page. If you are looking for a deep love story, I hope you enjoy. I hope you'll be patient and save your votes until the end. Thank you.
If someone were to ask just who “she” was, I wouldn’t be able to answer, as I hadn’t the slightest clue. A hallucination? Some kind of angel? For the past five years, I would greet each morning with the last warm fingers of a dream clinging to my mind. I’d roll on my side, and lying next to me would be a girl of my age, but with beauty unmatched by anyone else on the planet. With liquid smooth skin as soft as ripe fruit, a complexion shade like that of molten bronze and silver mixed together, and bright blue eyes that held unparalleled kindness and warmth, the very sight of her was like a religious experience. Her most predominant feature was her hair, an elegant crimson that could remove all fear of blood from anyone’s soul. Groups of strands would stick together and then curl towards the end like a tongue of fire, granting her a tempered and yet untamable mane that hung down to her thighs.
Along with the face of a goddess, she had a figure that made a mockery of the word “perfection”. Her glassy-smooth legs seemed to stretch her miles, coming to an end at a full but taut rear end with the shaven entrance to her gates of paradise just barely visible under the folds of the cotton sheet. Her midsection was like that of a bikini model’s, with a concave dip on either side from her perfect slenderness. Cliché as the term was, she certainly had an hourglass figure. Last but not least, even though she looked only eighteen, she had D-Cup breasts that looked as soft as water balloons but firm and lively.
Every day, I would wake up with her beside me, lying in bed naked as if we had spent half of the previous night making sweet, passionate love. Each time, she would appear to almost be faintly glowing, and coupled with her flawless beauty, I was surely justified in calling her an angel. Lying there, I would watch as her eyes opened like the rising sun, letting me stare into her beautiful blues. Staring right back at me with endless love, she would smile, hum, and fall back to sleep. Even while knowing how it would end, I would always reach out and try to touch her, desperate to feel some sort of proof that she was real, but always, she would fade away before I could even stroke her hair.
Suffice to say, I was almost haunted by this “dream”. This girl, this figment of my imagination, was the light of my life and the reason why I went to bed each night and plowed through each day. I had never heard her voice, never touched her, never been able to speak to her, and I didn’t even know her name… yet I loved her. She was my secret, the one aspect of my life that I would never speak of, no matter what. When she first started to appear, I even obsessed over her. I would draw her every night on a sketchpad hidden under my bed, remembering her visage with crystal clarity and moving my hand with skill that I would never accept as my own, mirroring her image with graphite and paper with such closeness that I would hold no doubts as to being possessed.
Ironically, she was actually the only dream I would ever have. I would meet her each morning in a half-awake state, but through the night, my mind’s eye would see nothing but an endless expansion of darkness, in which I would hover aimlessly until waking up. The only variance from the black sky was a single speck of light in the distance, a twinkling star almost completely out of sight, then I would wake up to find the girl beside me. I often wondered if she was that star. She certainly fit the role. She was the light of my life, a light I desperately needed, one of the last few reasons why I was still alive. Being able to wake up and see her each morning, even if for less than a minute, she supplied me with enough will power to endure the life I didn’t want. But I have her, I’ll always have her, and the day she disappears is the day I lose that final reason not to end it all.
But she wasn’t here today. I didn’t expect her to, seeing as how I found myself waking up in the hospital. A bright light had shone through my eyelids, stabbing my already sore brain. I could hear the beeping of a heart monitor nearby. My mind was a jumbled mess from the cocktail of drugs being pumped into me from the IV bags at my side, but I delved into my consciousness in search of answers. I remembered sitting in class… 6th period. Senior Biology was half finished… but there was something wrong. I remembered that my hands had been trembling, even more than usual. My skin was being pricked with invisible needles like all my limbs had fallen asleep, but I couldn’t remember if it had come suddenly or if it had built over time. I remembered the first dagger stabbing me in the back of the neck. I remembered falling out of my chair, roaring in agony as I collapsed to the floor.
But it wasn’t the lights or the beeping that had woken me up. It was the pain burning ceaselessly throughout my body. In the single moment from when I woke up, I went from being fine to feeling like I was in the burn ward, charred from head to toe. My muscles all felt like they were being pierced with hot nails, my organs twisted into knots. I leaned over the edge of the bed and vomited on the floor. My heart monitor was sending a digital scream, bringing in a nurse.
“Kill me!” I screamed as the pain intensified.
I sat on the hospital bed with my worried parents, facing Dr. Turner, a blonde woman in her early thirties. I had an IV bag of morphine hanging next to me, trying to suppress the chronic pain that was ravaging my body. I was receiving the maximum amount possible, but even then, all of my skin felt like a blistering sunburn and my insides faired no better.
“What you experienced in class was a seizure, caused by multiple tumors in your brain, focused on two specific areas. It may be possible for us to kill them with a heavy dose of radiation and chemotherapy, but with how small and numerous these tumors are, the chances are slim. It’s a completely new form of cancer, and we aren’t sure what its long-term effects are.”
My parents started to cry, but I was completely calm. “Is it deadly? What the hell is going on with me?”
“Not in the traditional sense, but we just aren’t completely sure.” She held up an x-ray of my brain and pointed to a light spot. “That is the largest group of tumors and we imagine the oldest. However, whether they have grown over time or have always been there is a mystery. They are attached to your limbic system. Specifically, they are growing from the part of your brain that produces the chemical serotonin, as well as other chemicals that control mood. It appears that they aren’t growing any further, but—”
“Let me guess, they’re basically smothering that part of my brain down and starving me of those chemicals?”
She nodded and pointed to another bright spot. “Yes, exactly. Now as for the chronic pain, these tumors on your brainstem are the source. The tumors are basically rooting down into your nervous system, causing continuous stimulation of pain receptors. They’re basically acting as electrodes hooked up to your spinal column. It seems that until now, they haven’t been large enough to trigger you continuous pain. You could almost say that the tumors have finally activated. What you’re experiencing now, that pain is from the tumors simply existing. That seizure you had earlier was the tumors reaching the peak level of stimulation and maximum. That may have been a one-time thing or they could randomly occur from now on while on top of your current condition.
“So is there any way to lessen the extent of my pain?”
“Yes, with anti-convulsion medicine, pain killers, and maybe some antidepressants, we might be able to lessen the extent.”
“By how much?”
“Well, at this point we can’t quite be sure. With drugs, we can make it so that you won’t black out if the seizures persist, make the pain tolerable, and maybe take away the edge of the depression so that you won’t become suicidal.”
‘It’s too late for that.’ “So it won’t kill me, but it will fill me with excruciating pain and make me incapable of happiness?”
“Yes,” Dr. Turner said mournfully.
Not wanting to bother staying in the hospital, I asked to be discharged. Before leaving, we stopped off at the hospital pharmacy to pick up my meds. I was holding my hands out in the cold October air as we drove, hoping that the raw chill might ease the dull throbbing in my fingers. The pain pills were slowly kicking in, making it so that the sting was bearable, but already, the word “bearable” had gained a whole new meaning for me. The drive home was silent, for my parents were trying to keep back tears, but I was calm. That’s the one good thing about being suicidal: the prospect of your own death actually brings you peace. Now I didn’t have to feel guilty about killing myself. The effect it would have on my family was one of the only things keeping me from ending it all. Now I could just let the cancer do it for me.
In a way, it felt good to finally have an answer as to why I suffered from depression. I had been depressed for most of my eighteen years, even suicidal, completely in contrast to the comfortable middle-class life I lived in my hometown in Maine. I couldn’t even count the number of antidepressants, forced therapy lessons, and thoughts of longing to just die. There are people starving all over the world, people suffering. It’s a mystery to people like me why they just don’t kill themselves. It is the only question I will leave behind. How do they have lives that make my horrors look pathetic, but they have the will to live that I lack? That was always an issue nagging in the back of my mind: being depressed without having a reason. It was that mixture of guilt for knowing that I should consider myself lucky but the inability to do so, and the feeling of helplessness from the knowledge that it meant that nothing could change how I felt, and that if I would wish for death in a comfortable life, then I would wish for death no matter what.
But now, I just don’t care. I don’t need to care. I may not have suffered as much as people in Africa or other hellholes like that, but… at least they are capable of feeling happiness. Compared to them, I’m broken, and these tumors are the proof. I have felt the bite of a blade to try and cancel out my inner pain with outer pain. I have felt my sanity ripped away by years of sadness. Depression is more than sadness. It is the inability to feel joy. It’s a missing foundation, like a building with a sinkhole where its fourth cornerstone should be. No matter what you use to try and support the building, it’ll fall away, and the building can never stand, until it too crumbles and falls into the pit. To live with depression is like running a marathon with one leg, and the only help you can get is people suggesting you buy a better pair of shoes.
But hopefully, I’ll be dead soon and I won’t have to feel pain or sadness anymore.
Coming home, I went straight upstairs and hid in my room. I just wanted to go to sleep; maybe it would ease my suffering. Downstairs, I could hear my parents telling my younger sister and brother the bad news.
I was completely in awe, hovering in empty space within my dream. Before me, roaring in limitless intensity was the single star I always saw when I slept. Before now, it had been little more than a single speck of light off in the distance, but now it was clearly in view, the size of the moon and nearly frightening, simply because I realized now that it was not simply a star. In actuality, it was a black hole, devouring a star from the inside out, sucking in the flames and gas of the celestial giant. I could see it as if the sun was a piece of fruit cut in half to reveal the core. Yet miraculously, the sun did not shrink or diminish in size. It seemed more like it was constantly regenerating. Cast around the eternally-dying star was a green oval-shaped nebula, about three times as large as the star itself, and making the whole thing resemble an eye with the black hole as the pupil.
“The eye of God…” I murmured.
While the star was beyond my human comprehension in terms of size, I could feel myself being pulled towards it through the strength of its gravity. Whether this was truly the eye of God, I could not be sure, but one thing I was certain of was that it was my death. No, this object within my dream would not kill me, but it was the symbol of my end. The closer my mind got to it, the closer my body got to death. At the beautiful sight, I could not help but smile hysterically. “I’m going to die, I’m finally going to die. Just a little longer and I will finally find peace.”
I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, I found myself back in my bed. As always, the imaginary angel was lying beside me, clearly visible in the light of the morning sun. Beautiful, she was so beautiful. The two of us were less than a foot apart, yet it felt like a mile. Lying there, this gorgeous hallucination in front of me, I felt my pain disappear like the extinguishing of a candle. Repeating my morning ritual, I reached up and tried to touch her, desperate to experience the sensation of her skin against my own. As expected, she disappeared just as I was about to make contact, but something stopped me from retracting my arm and letting it fall. My eyes wide, my hand trembling, I scanned through the recorded sensations of that brief second, desperate to figure out if what I had sensed so briefly had been real.
It was faint, so faint that it was almost beyond the reach of my sensations, but it HAD been there. Warmth, that was what I felt, the air within the space that she always occupied was warmer, as if energized by her body heat. My rolled my hand around through the empty space she had left behind, running my fingers through the warm air as if her long crimson hair were brushing against my palm. I then held my hand up to my face, clutching some of the air from that space, and smelled it. Like the warmth, what I detected within that air was almost beyond my ability to sense, but it was there, an aroma so faint that I was actually working my mind into a headache trying to analyze it. Roses, that was what it was.
Shaken by this new revelation, I rolled over towards my window and winced from the light of the midday sun shining directly into my eyes. My parents had let me skip school.
“I might as well get used to this…”
I immediately grabbed my bottle of meds as my agony began to flare from being conscious, downing two pills without anything to drink. It took time to get dressed, as I quickly found that my muscles were stiff from the waves of throbbing pain. Aching all over, I walked downstairs and saw my dad in the living room, reading the newspaper. He was there to make sure I got through the day without hurting myself. Trying to stay unnoticed, I snuck into the kitchen. The last thing I wanted was for him to want some long conversation about how I could talk to him at any time and all that other stuff. I took my antidepressants and convulsion meds, and made myself a bowl of cereal. Just as I was crossing the kitchen with the bowl, a bolt of electricity shot up my spine, making me feel like I was being flogged with red-hot chains. I dropped the bowl with a loud smash and collapsed to the floor, gripping my skull and roaring in anguish. This was even worse than my first seizure, a level of pain reserved for the damned souls of Hell. My dad bolted out of his chair and rushed over to me. Within thirty seconds, it was over. I could feel the pain ebbing away, until it was at its normal levels.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m ok.”
“We’re taking you to the hospital.”
“No.” I declared. My dad looked at me as I picked up the broken shards of the bowl and stood up. “I’m going to be having these seizures for the rest of my life. I can’t go to the hospital after every one. I’ll get used to them eventually.”
I suffered two more seizures that day, both of them causing me to fall to the floor in agony. My mom got home with my older sister and younger brother. They all paused when they saw me in the TV room. I was watching a horror movie and the room was dark. There were bags under my eyes from the strain of my seizures and my hands were trembling more than usual. I looked at my mom and gently shook my head. She got the message and slowly pulled my siblings away.
The dinner had an awkward silence as everyone tried not to stare at me.
“Emily, you wouldn’t happen to know what my homework is, would you? Did you talk to my teachers?” I asked my sister.
“I need to head back to school tomorrow, I can’t afford to lose two days as a senior.”
“No, absolutely not,” my mom argued.
“I need to go back to school sometime, and this pain and these seizures aren’t going to go away. I have cancer, not some goddamn cold that will go away after a day of rest.”
Everyone tensed as I mentioned the cancer.
“There is no reason for me to stay home.”
The sky was a dark gray and sleeting as my mom drove me to school. Other students were swarming in to get out of the rain and snow as the doors were finally unlocked. First period was about to start and I hadn’t wanted to wait for it with all of the other kids. The last thing I needed was an awkward twenty minutes outside the school with everyone staring at me.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” my mom asked for the hundredth time.
“Like I said, there is no reason for me to stay home.”
I stepped out of the car and into the falling snow and rain, pulling up the hood of my sweatshirt. It was going to be a harsh winter. Fall hadn’t even ended and the ground was covered by a foot of snow and ice. I didn’t notice the cold as I walked towards the school. I was the last person inside and I quickly headed towards my first class. I was hoping to stay unnoticed, putting off the inevitable awkwardness. I stepped into the small classroom, trying to hide behind the crowds of kids getting into their seats. I sat in the back of the class where no one would see me. If I had been noticed, no one was mentioning it. The teacher began calling attendance. I became more and more tense as he approached my name.
“Marcus Clive?” he asked, doubtingly.
As one wave, everyone turned to me.
“Ah, I had heard that you had suffered a seizure on Monday, are you alright now?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I found out that I have a new form of cancer, but I’m fine.”
Everyone gasped and began muttering amongst each other. The teacher was silent for almost a minute.
“Please, continue,” I said dryly as I took a pill.
I walked down the crowded halls with everyone staring at me. Every few seconds, someone would ask me a question about the disease in my brain or tell me all that lame bullshit about how I could talk to them at any time. I reached for my pills the second enough time had passed since my last one. Just as I put my hand on the cap, the sensation of being stabbed in the back of the skull with a nail bat ran through my body, sending me tumbling down to the floor and roaring in pain. People around me freaked out as I writhed on the floor, gripping my skull as the tumors on my brainstem all sent a particularly strong tremor through my nerves. Within several seconds, it was over. I lied on the floor in a cold sweat, slowly trying to get up.
I raised my head and coughed up a mouthful of blood onto the floor. The stress of my constant pain, coupled with my seizures had ruptured an artery or vein somewhere. People tried to help me up but I waved them away. I took two pills and ignored the voices of everyone as I walked away with a limp.
It was lunch and I was sitting where I always sat. Against the wall of the cafeteria was a set of folded bleachers where students could sit during lunch if they didn’t want to be at a table. As always, I was by myself, but that was because I was compelled to be. I sighed as another girl came up to me and said that if I ever wanted to talk, I could talk to her.
‘You’re only saying that because of my cancer. If I didn’t have a brain full of tumors, nothing would change between us. I barely even know who you are.’ I fought the temptation to say it, but my anger was making difficult. “Thanks,” I said instead, but with a tone as dry as the brick wall behind me.
She walked away and I looked out over the cafeteria for the hundredth time, trying to avoid the gaze of the people looking at me and loathing what everyone was. Humanity was as much of a cancer as the tumors in my brain, and I hated my species with every fiber in my being. I hated the weakness, the greed, the stupidity, the shortsightedness, and every other thing that made us the overgrown cockroaches that we were. I had to hate them, for my own good. Even before my cancer, my life had been agony. My mind was ravaged by its own cold existence, all this time cheated out of chemicals like serotonin. For most of my life I haven’t known what peace, happiness, or sanity meant. I’m trapped in a realm of existence that I cannot escape from, and no matter how well I live, be it a billionaire or a homeless vagrant, my misery and anger will be never leave me. That sadness had in time been twisted into hatred, the feeling of not belonging to any part of the world decaying into loathing for that world. Hatred is my only means of survival, the only alternative to wallowing in despair. It hurts less to hate the world around me than to want to be a part of it. It hurts less to hate others than to be starving for a connection.
But I don’t want to be the cliché outsider who thinks that he knows better than everyone because he sees everything in a jaded light. Social constructs and conventions always seem like a stupid waste of time to me, but I only think they’re stupid because I’m incapable of enjoying them. While I always judge the people around me and hate them for being human, I never think myself better than them. If anything, they are all better than me. I envy them all; envy them for the lives they get to live, the mental stability they get to enjoy. Social lives, friendships, romance, just the ability to integrate within collective and find joy and understanding… There are students down below me who are parts of something bigger, be it something as simple as a school club, but I’m simply not capable of being able to do that.
I looked at the tables surrounded by just girls. There was a time when I would have sold my soul to just find a girl who would go out with me. In my heart, I knew that only love or death could bring me peace, and I had known it for years. For close to a decade, I had been looking for my soul mate, the one girl who could take away my pain. At least, that’s what I used to want. Now I knew it was too late.
I staggered through the hall, trying to recover from a seizure only a few moments’ prior.
“Marcus, do you want to talk?”
I already knew who it was. Her name was Julia, and she was one of the few people who were nice to me. Well, she used to be. I hadn’t talked to her since sophomore year. She was kind and beautiful, and for a while, I thought that I loved her. But then I learned that she had a boyfriend, and after that, I simply lost interest. Now I saw her simply as a nuisance, a reminder of the days of wishing I could be with her, no matter what the cost, days when my pain and desperation were euphoria compared to my current agony.
“You need to talk to someone.”
“No, I just need to get to class.”
I spat out a mouthful of blood. The bleeding would always start after every seizure.
“Why won’t you look at me?” she asked in desperation.
“Because I’m in pain! I’ve been in pain long before I got these tumors. I used to think that either love or death could cure me, but I hate this world and everyone in it far too much to ever fall in love! I’m already dead, I’ve been dead for as long as I can remember, but for some reason, my body won’t take the hint and croak, so I’m stuck in this wretched and agonizing bag of flesh and bones, trapped in a world I despise and surrounded by a species that I pray would go extinct! You’ve made it clear that you cannot be the one to help me, no one can. I can only suffer until my abominable existence wipes itself out.”
“Are you mad at me?!” she asked defensively.
I turned around and walked away. “No, I’m mad at fate. I’m mad at my own cursed existence. If you want to help me, then put a bullet in my head.”
Wanting some fresh air and deciding it would be better not to risk having a seizure on the bus, I walked home. The weather wasn’t too bad, and the cold helped ease my pain a little, plus it gave me time alone with my thoughts, free from distractions and noise. Walking along the ice-caked road with my hood tightened to keep my ears warm from the snow, I let my mind wander back to my dream. If what I had concluded about that star was right, then my death truly was approaching and would soon conclude. Even if what Dr. Turner had said about my cancer not being terminal were correct, the side effects sure would be. How long could the human body truly last when forced to suffer endless torture?
‘Whether or not it is my true death or not, until that time comes, this is how I must march through time. Whether I will continue to exist in some other form is irrelevant, no mind can truly understand the meaning of death or the weight it carries, therefor, it cannot exist within our minds. We cannot comprehend death, we cannot understand it, not without experiencing it ourselves, at which point, we cease to exist. Therefor, death is incomprehensible; it is the end of all reason, in which all human rules and assumptions become meaningless. We can only understand things that exist, while we ourselves exist, so while we may fear death, it is impossible to become aware of it ourselves.
We cannot feel our own death, just as we can’t feel nonexistence. We can watch others die, we can feel our own lives slipping away, but we cannot feel that final moment. We cannot know precisely when it ends. We can see a million people die, but we cannot see our own. It’s like every single person is an immortal surrounded by mortals, a continuing paradox of observation and ignorance. Life occupies the entirety of our minds and our existences, it is infinity; it is the endlessness. Death is the world outside of infinity, the realm beyond argument, in which beginning and end are one in the same.
If I cannot find or detect the end of my life when it happens, then through my senses, it will never happen. I am immortal, and the only way for my death to occur is for everything and nothing to collide and end my existence. Or am I wrong? Will I continue to exist beyond death? Will I live on, even while my body rots in the ground? Is there a life after this one? Is it better? Is it worse?’
“Hey Marcus, want to play chess?” my brother Phil asked.
I was sitting on the couch in the living room, watching TV with a wet towel on my head. I had been feeling feverish all day. Phil was three years younger than me and had the same black hair as I did, though his was cut shorter and he had a different bone structure. He and I had been playing chess for years and he had never once beaten me. You could say it was the one activity we did as brothers, and from what I guessed, this was his attempt to try and distract me from my pain.
I shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”
Phil sat on the other end of the couch and the board was set up. I kept my eyes focused mainly on the TV, looking at the board only when it was my turn. I had some difficulty moving the pieces; my fingers felt stiff and brittle.
“Phil, do you know where I could get some pot?” I asked out of the blue.
“Come on, I know you’re a freshman, but you’ve always been on the social circuit. You must know someone who can sell me some weed.”
“No, I don’t hang around with people like that.”
I sighed again and continued to play. For once, Phil managed to beat me, but it was a hollow victory, especially with how quickly he won. I knocked over my king with a click of my tongue.
“Well now, it looks like the old king is dead and the new king has risen. Long live the king,” I said dryly before getting up and leaving.
“Hey Marcus, what’s up?” my sister asked, surprised to see me standing in the doorway.
Emily was a year younger than me and a Junior. She had my mom’s blond hair, but it was mixed with my dad’s dark hair gene.
“Do you know anyone at school who could sell me some pot?” I asked, nearly scaring her with how blunt I was.
“What? No! And you shouldn’t be smoking that stuff, it’s bad for you!”
“Oh cut the shit, Em! It’s goddamn marijuana, it’s completely harmless and you know it!”
Emily’s eyes darkened and we were both silent. I softened my tone before continuing. “You know I wouldn’t even bother with the stuff under normal circumstances… but things have changed.”
“Do you really think that stuff will help you?”
“I wouldn’t believe it if it did. I’m just hoping that it can make things easier. Come on, pot is probably the least dangerous thing I could put in my system these days and the government banning it is one of the most retarded things in the history mankind. It’s a fucking plant that makes people feel good. Besides, let’s say the anti-pot propaganda is true and it is bad for me, do you honestly think that I’ll live long enough to face the consequences?”
“Marcus, you’re not going to die,” she said softly, getting up from her bed and walking over to me.
“Emily, I’m already on borrowed time. The movie is over, the credits are rolling, and Rotten Tomatoes gave it all negative reviews. I’m going to die soon, I know it, so just be a good sister and let me be a little selfish before I kick the bucket.”
Emily sighed. “Mike Broflovski, you can find him under the football bleachers at school. I don’t know anything else about him.”
I was lying in bed, staring at her longingly on another school morning. With my eyes fixed upon her hallucinatory figure, the fires of agony within my body were silent, nearly making me sob tears of joy. It had been almost a minute since I had woken up and saw her open her eyes before falling back to sleep, but for once, I managed to overcome my desire to try and touch her, and instead was letting the delusion continue, or whatever it could be called. She was sleeping, this girl who’s name I did not know, this beautiful angel conjured up by my demented soul. She was sleeping so peacefully that I wasn’t sure I could ever overcome my guilt if I disturbed her.
I could have lied in that warm bed for the rest of my life, just staring at her. With each breath she took, I could see her chest rising with the expansion of her lungs, and the flickering strands of her blood-colored hair. The blanket of my bed was barely wrapped around her beautiful frame, letting me look upon almost her entire body. Piercing this real-world dream, my alarm clock began to beep. Knowing that it would mean her disappearance, I reluctantly reached out over her to turn it off. Even with the deactivation button pressed, the girl remained with my arm stretched out over her like a bridge. She had never stayed this long before, was the hallucination just growing in depth? Would I finally be able to touch her? Humming in bliss, she opened her eyes and stared at me with a small but sweet smile on her lips.
Her voice was inaudible, but her lips parted and shaped the words with incomprehensible care, like a master artisan sculpting a spinning clay pot with her hands. I had never been one for reading lips, the ability completely eluded me, but once, just this one time, I was able to read the formation of the words like a bright neon sign, and hear them whispered in the center of my mind.
“I love you.”
Three words, three simple words, but the weight they carried pushed me over the edge. Unable to hold the tears of joy back any longer, I desperately reached out to embrace her, only for her to disappear before I could be blessed with her touch.
I stepped into the locker room of the school. It was time for gym class but I wouldn’t be participating. My constant pain was my permanent excuse. Why couldn’t this cancer have kicked in when I was a Freshman? I stuffed my backpack in one of the lockers and grabbed my pills.
“Why do you always cry when you fall down?”
I already knew who it was and I was trying to keep my blood from boiling. His name was Tom, and he was nothing but a punk and bully. He had tormented me all throughout middle and high school; an extra force driving me into depression. He was probably one of the largest reasons as to why I wanted to die.
“Tom, leave him alone, he has cancer,” another student warned.
“So? Its not like I would cry if I had that,” Tom grunted before shoving me.
I turned to him, the pudgy psychopath.
“You’re just a pathetic little bitch.”
In my mind, something snapped. The anger, which had always been suppressed by the fear of consequences, finally broke free. Tom was larger than I was, but I didn’t care. Practically foaming at the mouth, I reached out with both hands and grabbed him by the throat, slamming him against the lockers. I was strangling him with all the strength I could gather in my sick body, using adrenaline to increase the power of my muscles. I had my thumbs pressed against the main arteries in the side of his neck, halting the flow of blood to his brain while robbing him of the ability to breathe. He couldn’t focus enough to use his arms to free himself. I would normally never retaliate like this, as I had learned early in life that the bullies always got off without a single slap on the wrist but the victims who defended themselves basically got the chair. There was nothing that could be done but take the pain and hope your tormenter would eventually get bored. For what I was doing, I could easily get expelled, but not a single part of me cared. If I was going to live a life of agony and die an early death, I might as well do whatever the fuck I wanted and drag some bastards down with me.
“How about I correct some of the bullshit spewing out of that deformed pile of gray matter you call a brain? First of all, I don’t fall down. I have goddamn seizures. Second, the tumors in my head are strangling my limbic system just like I’m strangling you, meaning that my brain is now incapable of producing chemicals that let me feel anything other than misery and anger. Last but not least, when I have a seizure, all of my senses are so overwhelmed with the pain that I collapse as I am bombarded by waves of agony. I suffer every second, but when I have a seizure, it makes being lit on fire seem like a massage! Have you ever been in so much pain and wanted to die so bad that you almost used your own fingernails to slash your wrists? I think anyone would shed some tears if they experienced that.”
Tom was turning blue from the strangulation and I had to fight with everything I had to keep from murdering him right then and there in front of everyone. Instead of ending his life, I threw him down at the ground, inadvertently smashing his face against the corner of one of the locker room benches. The impact completely shattered his eye socket and fractured his skull. Another few centimeters and his eye would have been permanently lost. After he fell to the ground, I finished with a kick to the jaw, busting up almost half of his teeth. Tom was passed out on the floor and pouring blood with everyone staring at me in fear.
I opened my bottle of pain meds and took one out. “That is just a sample of what I live with constantly.”
Tom was rushed to the hospital and I was suspended for the rest of the month. Under normal circumstances, I would have been suspended for a full month or even expelled, but the punishment was light for several reasons. Tom had been the school bully ever since 6th grade and was nothing but a worthless punk. He treated everyone like shit and teasing someone with cancer was the worst thing anyone had ever seen. Everyone in the locker room testified against him and said that I had done what needed to be done long ago. I silently disagreed with them on that. What should have been done long ago was Tom being lined up in front of a firing squad and shot. I knew in the back of my mind that everyone was testifying for me because of my cancer, because everyone hated Tom, or because everyone now feared me. My sentence was also so light because of the recent trauma of learning of my disease.
My parents immediately picked me up from school. During the ride home, they constantly contradicted themselves. They would say how much trouble I was in and that what I did was wrong, then go back and say that Tom deserved it and what I did was reasonable. I didn’t really care about being suspended, and Thanksgiving vacation would come a few weeks after I got back, letting me have more time to relax.
As the days droned on, I spent my time watching horror movies. The lights would be turned off and I would laugh bitterly during every gruesome kill. Horror movies were one of the few things that I didn’t hate. The fact that I watched them in the dark on Friday and Saturday nights, while most people were hanging out with friends made my parents nag nonstop about my social behavior. They would tell me that I need to spend time friends, and I would tell them that I didn’t want friends.
“Who are you?” I whispered, once again lying in bed and facing the girl of my dreams.
Ever since she had first spoken (albeit while mute), I had been hoping and wishing that whatever it was, be it a hallucination or paranormal event, whatever it was that allowed me to see her each morning would grant me the ability to interact with her even further. At the question, she batted her eyes coyly and rolled onto her back, letting the pale light passing through my window shine down upon her naked body. The girl looked at me, giving a sleepy smile as if waking up on a Sunday morning with nothing to do but doze.
“My name is…”
The name was spoken, entering my mind and drawing confusion. I repeated it, uttering the unexplainable noise even without understanding it. The noise was not a word, consonant, or vowel, it was like nothing found in nature or anything humans had ever created, it could not be compared to anything. As soon as I heard it, I completely forgot it, but even with it slipping my memory, I was somehow able to repeat the sound if I so desired. The girl smiled as I said her name back to her, as if what she had told me and what I had said was her real name, but my mind would not allow me to be aware of it.
“Who are you?” I again asked.
The girl smiled and repeated her statement as well. This time, I instead focused on her voice. This was the first time I had ever heard it, and it was more beautiful than I ever imagined. Clear as the chiming of a bell but soft as the coos of pigeons, the sound of the three words preceding the blur that masked her name was like a lullaby.
“What are you?”
Breaking character, the girl moved towards me, slowly yet suddenly, and nearly making me jump. She brought her face up to mine, our lips almost touching while we stared into each other’s eyes and exchanged the same breath.
“Wait for me,” she murmured, pulling away and disappearing.
I stepped into the school on the first of November, and it was as if time stopped upon my arrival. Everyone was standing like statues while staring at me with both fear and admiration. With my usual stony scowl and gray hood pulled up, I took a pain pill and proceeded to my locker. I was walking with a limp, for I had suffered a seizure in the shower earlier that morning and banged my leg. My dad was now adding a guardrail in case of another seizure.
After I stopped off at my locker, people started bombarding me with questions as they had done on my first day back. They asked me to tell them what happened in the locker room, even though the guys in there had already retold it a thousand times. They also asked me to repeat what I had said about my cancer, for that had been the first time I had actually described it to someone. I just ignored all of the questions, acting like they weren’t there. There was no reason to answer, even if it was just to be polite. They meant nothing to me, and once I graduated in the spring, I would never see them again.
I was lying in bed, holding a joint the size of a cigar. I had bought all the weed I could off that Mike guy and told him that he had better have more when I came back. If I was going to blow my savings on pot, I might as well get some customer service. I always had a few hours to myself after every school day, my siblings would be hanging out with friends or be playing sports and my parents would be at work, leaving me with the house.
Lighting up one end of the joint, I took a deep puff and immediately began coughing and hacking. Ok, maybe I should take it slower…
I began getting into more fights at school. Quite simply, I was done with the bullshit. If anyone insulted me, gave me lip, or got on my bad side, I did not hesitate to throw a punch. I was going to die soon so there was no reason to give a fuck about anyone or anything I decided I might as well deal with old business while I still had time. A lot of people had made my life a nightmare and I was paying them back. I received my fair share of injuries, I was often sporting a black eye, busted lip, or bruised face, but as long as I didn’t suffer a seizure during a fight, I normally won. I guess that was one advantage of full-body endless pain: your enemies can’t do anything to make you hurt anymore than you already are.
The school tried to ignore my actions, or at least punish me lightly. Each altercation earned me a couple days suspension, but they didn’t have the nerve to go any farther. The school system and I had bad history, and they certainly had a lot to apologize for. My parents were the same, putting up a false front of condemnation while being unable to gain the courage to punish me. They knew that I was self-destructing, acting out to try and cope with my pain. It was the only thing I could do.
It was the day before Thanksgiving and my relatives were expected to arrive in less than an hour. They all knew that I had cancer and I was not looking forward to some sappy family reunion. I walked to the door and grabbed my coat. “I’m going out for a walk.”
“But everyone is going to be here in just a few minutes!” my mom called from the kitchen, working feverishly to make a big dinner.
“Exactly. Could you do me a favor and tell them to act like I don’t have cancer?”
Before my mom could reply, I stepped outside and into the bitter cold. There was no wind, but the air was frigid and raw. The air was clear, showing a pale blue sky as the sun slowly drifted towards the horizon. The surrounding area was a mix of thick woods and marshy fields, the brown landscape now painted white. I started walking down the side of the road, not caring where it took me, even though I knew exactly where it led. The sand and gravel on the side of the roar was filled with garbage, from beer bottles to empty cigarette cartons. The cars that drove past me hit me with a sudden breeze, like a last dying breath. The raw frigid air, the bleak landscape, the taunting drones of cars driving by, and the trash around my feet was both comforting and depressing. The cold helped ease my chronic pain and the barren scenery made me feel more at home, but with each empty cigarette carton I kicked aside and each car that broke the silence, I was reminded of how alone I wanted to be and how much I couldn’t be.
I soon arrived at the wooded park down the road from my house, but I wasn’t ready to go home yet and I needed a break from the cars and the road. There was no one else around; even a member of the most bitter and chaotic family would choose to remain home rather than be subjected to this bitter cold and wind. I entered the forest, following the footprints of dogs and their owners, lightly covered by a sprinkle of fresh snow from the night before. As always, my thoughts were on my own mortality, as I tried to figure out how much time I had left. I should probably start making a will for when my body gives out and I at last achieve death, but what did I want?
I came to a stop, my eyes wide, my breathing shallow, staring at the creature before me. Resting against a fallen tree to get out of the wind, a coyote lay on the cold ground. Its chest heaved slowly, causing the dried blood around the bullet wound in its side to crack. Almost every night, the coyotes could be heard yipping and howling in the farthest reaches of the forest, but this was the first time I had seen one up close. From the looks of it, it had probably wandered onto someone’s yard and the property owner shot it to make sure no others came by. From the coagulation, it had likely happened the previous night, but from the placement of injury, it was probably still bleeding internally and had organ damage. The fact that it had been able to limp this far into the woods was a miracle.
I approached the wounded animal, slowly, but without fear. Right now, it was at its most dangerous, but what was the worst it could do to me? Bite my hand? I wasn’t sure I’d even feel it. The coyote looked up and gave a soft growl, but was too tired and cold to even show its teeth. I crouched down before it and reached out. It tried to bite me, but its fangs missed and I managed to rest my hand on the top of its head. Knowing it could not keep the bluff up any longer, it laid its head back onto the cold ground and waited for death. I brought my hand to its chest, feeling its desperate breaths and its feeble heart beating.
Too tired to move its head, the coyote shifted its gaze upwards, looking past me. I followed its eyes to the barren tree branches above, contrasting against the evening’s pink sky. For all I knew, this creature and I were thinking the same thing. Would I ever see green leaves on those branches again? Or would this be my last winter? Would I die, miserable and in pain, or was there even a glimmer of a chance for me to live my life without hiding from the world? Would the day ever come when I too can bask in the sun?
Solemnly, I reached in my pocket and pulled out my Swiss Army knife. I couldn’t leave this animal here to suffer. I had to put it out of its misery. I folded out the knife and put the tip to the back of the coyote’s spine. I hesitated, spending another minute looking into its eyes and feeling its body tremble. I had never killed an animal before, not counting the one or two mice I had run over when I was learning to drive, but this thing was much bigger than they were.
“You and I are exactly the same. The only differences are that you probably want to keep living… and I wish someone would be merciful enough to do this to me.”
Taking a deep breath, I forced the blade into its neck, severing the nerves as best as I could. Its body gave the smallest twitch and then everything became still and its eyes closed. I stayed there a little while longer, feeling the heat slowly leak from its body. I reached behind it into the crater of dirt of the uprooted tree and grasped a small handful of icy soil. I rubbed it between my hands, letting it thaw so that the smell of the nutrients could slip free. I stared at the dirt, moving it around to separate the minerals from the decaying matter, and then sprinkled it on the slain animal. Soon, I would die, just like this coyote, and I would return to the earth, just like everything else. For the first time in a long while, I actually smiled, knowing what I wanted. I wanted to be buried, but without a coffin, and certainly without being embalmed. I wanted to embrace my death, not hide from it in a pine box while noxious chemicals keep me from rotting. I wanted to feel the soil on my face, to be enveloped by the earth, and maybe have a tree planted over my grave. At least then, the worms and the plants would get more use out of my body than I ever did.
I wiped my hands off on the coyote’s fur and then stood up. It was time to go home.
I stepped through the front door of my home and was instantly bombarded by hugs and greetings from my relatives: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and everyone else. I could sense the awkwardness underneath their words as they asked how tall I was and all of the other cliché inquisitions.
“Dinner is ready!” I heard my mom call from the kitchen.
I had no appetite.
“I’m just going to go to bed.”
Before anyone could even try to stop me, I went upstairs and into my room. I moved to my bed, wincing as my muscles became more and more sore. I lied down and let my aching body settle.
“Please, just let me sleep and not wake up.”
“Why can’t I hear your name?” I asked, speaking to the girl while the hallucination would let me.
Having already gone through the recorded movements and actions, the girl opened her eyes and gazed at me with her usual warm smile, while almost laughing in a gentle hum.
“Are you even real?”
“Does it matter if I am real or not?”
Hearing her speak warmed my heart with the possibility that maybe she wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. “Yes, no… I’m not sure.”
The girl then moved closer to me, closing the gap between us and reducing it to a few unbearable inches. “If I don’t exist, if I am just a creation of your own mind, then you should be happy. If it is you who created me, then I am always with you. I am wherever you want me to be and you just have to wish it.”
I put my hand over my face and rolled onto my back, having suddenly felt my eyes watering up. Every word that passed from between her beautiful lips was a shock to my very soul, like the ending of a beautiful book.
“No, that’s not good enough. I need you with me. I need you to be real. I don’t know why, I just need—”
I was silenced, my whole body brought to a complete stop by the sensation of the girl leaning over and pressing her lips against my own. I moved my hand away from my eyes, in complete and utter disbelief. This was the first time I had ever been able to touch her, and that first touch was expressed through my first kiss. Her face, so close to mine, I could see every single detail of her visage and saturate myself with her rosy aroma. The sensation of her lips against mine, it went beyond just canceling out my pain, it made me feel… good. I felt happy, euphoric, like I had just been working for three days straight and was settling into a hot tub. Her lips were so soft and warm, but also carrying a gentle flavor. It was like I was kissing a wisp of steam from a cup of tea.
The girl eventually broke the connection and we stared into each other’s eyes. She then sat up and moved on top of me, her hands pushing down on my shoulders and her long crimson hair hanging down around our faces like a curtain, seceding the space between us from the outside world and making it all our own. Staring at her full breasts and feeling the smooth lips of her pussy rub up against the shaft of my hardening penis (with only the fabric of my boxers separating them) was driving me wild with hormonal lust.
In all honesty, I hadn’t been this aroused in months, I could literally feel the blood pumping furiously through my body and firing up the long-dormant parts of my brain that I had ignored for so long. But beyond her beauty, beyond her naked body resting on mine and making me hornier than ever in my life, the greatest feeling was her weight on me. It was real. I could feel her pushing down on my shoulders, sitting on my lap. I could even hear the springs of my mattress creak beneath us. This weight was real, it had to be, and that meant she was real.
“You need me to be real because you need to believe that there is some aspect of this world that can make you happy, that there is at least one person who can take away your pain. But if I am just a creation of your own mind, then you should be overjoyed. It means that you hold the key to your own happiness, and wherever you live, no matter how you live, you can make it paradise.”
The words were whispered and her face was lit with tender care and love. The girl then leaned down and settled herself on top of me like a cat, her chest pressed against mine and her face buried in the side of my neck. Her body, it was so warm and soft, I was completely at a loss for words on how to describe it. All I could do was wrap my arms around her womanly frame, hold her tight, and cry tears of joy. I didn’t care, real or not, she was here with me, and that was all that mattered. Whether she was some sort of angel from heaven or just a figment of my imagination, as long as she was with me, I’d be happy.
“Marcus, come on, it’s time to wake up. You’ve been in bed for too long,” my mom said, knocking on the door.
At the sound of the doorknob shaking, I turned with fear in my eyes. “No, don’t. Please, not yet.”
The handle was fully turned, and just as the door began to move, the girl disappeared, leaving me alone once again. My mom just stood in the doorway, looking at me and wondering why I was crying.
Even if my dreams had now reached new levels of depth and I could interact with the girl more than I had ever hoped, that didn’t help my daily routine. In fact, it made it worse. Spending every second longing to go back home and go to bed so that I could wake up beside that girl, my life became even more miserable. Everything that made my day difficult became horrible, and everything that had never bothered me before was now a curse, as it required time and stood in my way. Add that to my continuous pain and my multiple daily seizures, and each day went from being an endless hell to a taunting deprivation of the one light in my hellish life.
Such lively contact like that special night before was rare and not often repeated. The girl still appeared every morning for a few minutes, but I could rarely do anything more than touch her gently with my hand. Going further would cause her to disappear. She never spoke much, only when I said something to her or asked her questions, and even then, her answers were simple and often repeated. Regardless, just waking up next to her each morning was enough to get me through the day, but barely.
While my visions of the girl seemed to mature, every night, I dreamt about that star, the star being devoured by the black hole in its core, the star sitting in a nebula looking like the eye of God. I could feel myself drawing closer and closer to the black hole in the center, being pulled in towards my death. The closer I got, the larger the celestial mass became, surpassing my human comprehension. Yet strangely, after that night, while my increasing proximity continue to expand my view of the star around it, the black hole was actually shrinking like a contracting pupil. It was as if the black hole was sizing itself to correspond with my distance from it.
December was exceptionally rough, quite simply because I had decided to try chemo and radiation treatment for my cancer. Well, to be honest, my parents basically coerced me into doing it and making me feel guilty if I refused. They wanted me to live no matter what, so the only way to throw off their suspicions that I was eagerly awaiting death was to feint hopelessness and fear towards the treatment. I eventually agreed to treatment under one condition: if I didn’t see any results before New Year’s or I started losing my hair, I was going to quit. I didn’t have high expectations, but I would do it to get my parents off my back.
On my first day of chemotherapy, I found myself in a room with other cancer patients, all sitting in chairs lining the walls. Each one was hooked up to an IV, and their stages of treatment were all visible on their emaciating bodies. Considering the time it took for each session, everyone had methods of keeping boredom at bay. There were laptops, handheld game consoles, books, and one of the kids was even playing with a Rubik’s Cube. I sat by the window, letting the poison run through my veins. I was also receiving a heavy dose of morphine, helping to numb some of my pain. Hopefully I wouldn’t have a seizure in the hospital. The last thing I needed was some intern right out of med school sticking a tube down my throat.
Drowsy from the drugs running through me, I let my mind wander. My thoughts drifted back to the girl and what she had told me. She said that if she wasn’t real, if she was just a figment of my imagination, then I could call on her whenever I needed. Maybe it was something I should try. I closed my eyes, forcing aside all distractions and sensations. I focused my mind on the girl, but was unsure of what would actually bring her forth. If I just thought about her, would she appear in this room with me? Should I try and fall asleep and dream about her?
Slowly the sounds of the other patients faded, the world falling silent around me. But I was not alone. I felt someone gently grasp my hand and opened my eyes, staring into the beautiful blues of the girl. She was kneeling at my feet, naked as always. Behind her, the chemotherapy room had blurred into an unrecognizable collage, as if I was falling out of sync with reality.
“Marcus, my dear sweet Marcus…” she whispered, resting her head on my lap.
I slowly reached out and placed my hand on the top of her head, stroking her hair. “You’re really here,” I gasped in amazement.
“Of course I’m here; I’m always with you. Marcus, I’m so proud of you, for everything you’ve endured. Your patience will be rewarded, I promise you. Just hold on and I will bring you happiness.”
“What am I supposed to wait for?”
“The day when our souls can finally achieve convergence.”
I then jerked in my chair, having been awoken by the nurse. I had slept through the treatment.
Christmas and New Year’s came and went, and I was happy to see them go. I hated the holidays; all of the cheer and happiness made my organs fail. With the start of the New Year, I had the doctors check my condition and see if any progress had been made on my tumors. After a month of radiation and chemo, I had figured at least a slight change would be found. No. There was nothing. They had resisted the treatment and I was stuck where I was.
Each day, my pain was getting worse, and I found myself taking more and more pills than I was supposed to, both painkillers and anti-convulsion meds in an attempt to curb my seizures. Originally, I would take two painkillers every four hours and one anti-convulsion med every six, but now I was downing them like tic tacs. My body was weakening, but in a way, that was a good thing. I was close, so close. Soon I could rest in peace.
“Twenty bucks for a dose, and I’ll give you an extra ten for a clean needle and to help me set up. My hands are too shaky for something like this,” I said, standing in an alley in town.
The sky above was gray with a gentle snowfall pouring down on the dealer and I. Luckily, the café to our right kept us out of the wind. The man before me looked to be in his late twenties, unshaven with deep distrust in his eyes. I was a new customer to him, and normally he would have turned me away on instinct, but luckily I looked sick enough to pass for a hardened user.
“Let me see your hands.”
I held them up, letting him see them tremble. With every nerve ending in my fingers firing, my hands were shaking so badly that it looked like I had MS.
“Alright, fine. You’re in luck, kid. I just got some brand new syringes yesterday and I’ve got one left.”
He looked around to make sure we wouldn’t be seen and then took out his merchandise. Filling up a spoon with heroin, he clenched the handle with his teeth and used his hands to hold a lighter and protect the flame from the wind. Slowly the powder melted into its liquid form, and before it could cool, he unwrapped an unused syringe and filled it with the drug, finishing by handing it to me in exchange for the cash.
“Tch, luck. If luck were on my side today, this needle would end up killing me.”
With the dealer leaving, I sat down on the cold wet ground, pulling up my sleeve and looking for a vein. It certainly wasn’t hard; my skin was as thin as paper and my arteries were all swollen from malnutrition and the strain of my disease. I pushed the needle into my arm, not even feeling it amongst the billions of other painful pricks tormenting my body. I hesitated with my thumb on the plunger, wondering if this was really the route to take. My life was already cut short and the chances of there being a cure for my pain were slim, but did I really want to further burden myself with even a single injection of this toxin and risk developing an addiction? After all, the pot had been a dismal failure. What chance did heroin have of helping me? I concluded my hesitation with a laugh, deciding I didn’t have much to lose.
I pushed down onto the plunger, filling my bloodstream with the poison. Casting the empty syringe aside, I leaned my head back and stared up into the snowfall, waiting for the drug to take affect. Could I possibly be any more pathetic? Sitting in a back alley with heroin running through my veins, trying desperately to free myself for just a few moments from my disease… It was beyond pitiful; it was shameful. But soon, the drug began to take effect, numbing my senses and bringing down my pain to a dull throbbing while leaving my mind spinning. Waiting for this dark miracle to truly free me from my agony, I stared back up into the gray sky and let my mind wander.
Is there a god? I ask myself that question often, but of course, so does everybody. I don’t know if I am a believer, an atheist, or just an agnostic. I see no reason in the world, no meaning, no pattern behind the chaos other than the patterns humans try to create. Is there a purpose in any existence? Even mine? Was I created with this body simply to suffer? Was I created and then abandoned, never cared about by whatever deity might have cursed me with life? Was all of mankind created to suffer or was it created and then abandoned? There is so much pain in the world, so much agony beyond my own. What kind of twisted god would put us on this earth to live as the abominations that we are, caught in evolutionary limbo? Would our creator not also be our parent? Shouldn’t they try and protect us from harm? Are we merely entertainment? A TV show for more advance life forms? Or are w