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Chapter 4 : The Sickening Sound of the Truth
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I was fucking hungry. I dunno how I got to sleep but when I woke up I felt like my stomach was completely gone. I shoulda had more than a couple spoonfuls of cereal yesterday, I guess. Isn’t it weird how yesterday I wasn’t even thinking about it? When I was eating that cereal I didn’t even want it. I wasn’t even hungry. But now I feel so stupid because I was just feeding myself for the sake of feeding myself. I wasn’t thinking about if something bad were to happen – I didn’t think about the next time I would eat – how far away that time would be. But now it looks like a mighty long time, doesn’t it? Sure does.
But even more than I was hungry, I wanted a smoke. I needed it. I had a hard time sleeping last night – I kept waking up in the middle of the night, sweaty. Was it muggy? I don’t remember.
What time is it? No one else is awake, the sun’s not really up yet. Clock. Clock. Time. I looked around like a rabid animal. Watch. Time. Clock. There. I grabbed Luna’s wrist and twisted it, turned it so I could read it. The hands were blurry, the numbers were going in circles around the clock. I thought we didn’t have magic here.
Luna jerked awake, pulling her arm back. Neville glared at me, then examined the damage on Luna’s forearm. I guess there were some marks from my grip or something because Neville said, “Careful, mate,” with an unfriendly tone. When he looked at me, his eyes were empty. Like he didn’t really care about anything. It scared me because that wasn’t Neville. And after all that I still didn’t know what the fucking time was.
It didn’t matter, really. I didn’t get much sleep last night anyway. I don’t even remember what I was thinking about. Everything was just a blur. Nothing seemed real.
It was the second day. We were beginning to act and behave how we do when we’re alone. I won’t throw the word ‘comfortable’ around our atmosphere because that definitely wasn’t it. It was more like we had accepted the fact that three other people were gonna be around us all the time and that it wasn’t gonna stop us from doing what we wanted.
When Vandy woke up, she grunted and stretched, and she looked around and us, almost like she was surprised we were still there. Like, “Oh, what are you guys doing here?” It kinda made me wonder how good her dream was it if made her forget about being trapped in the middle of nowhere. Maybe she thought being here was the dream.
I could really use a smoke.
“So what are we going to do today?” said Luna. I wanted to know where she was getting this optimism from. More importantly, why couldn’t she keep that shit to herself? It’s too late for hope. We’re all gonna die.
“I dunno, Luna,” Neville said, leaning his head back. “I’m gonna try and pretend I’m not starving to death.”
“That’s why we need to do something. To take your mind off –”
“Will you give it a rest, Luna?” I snapped. My neck twitched.
“I’m just trying to be positive.” She didn’t even sound annoyed. She just sounded the way she always sounds – crazy.
“There is no more room for positive.”
“Geez, Clyde, the way you talk makes me wanna just die right now,” said Neville. He more like mumbled it.
“Yeah, Clyde can have that effect on people,” said Vandy.
I felt like I’d been stabbed in the chest. When I looked at her, her eyes were already staring back at me, as though she were waiting, hoping I’d turn around. And her gray eye was like ice, the brown one like fire. It was intimidating but I didn’t look like a pansy this time. I just glared back. I didn’t want to look away first but I had to. I was afraid she was gonna spit on me or something.
A surge of electricity coursed through me and I was overwhelmed by an inexplicable sensation of anger and fury. When I looked around the compartment and I saw how everyone was looking at me with tension, I really wanted to kill all of them. Luna, how far down your throat do you think I can shove my fist? How many times do I have to mention the Cruciatus curse before you kill yourself, Neville? And Vandy, your eyes are so pretty I’d like to just tear ‘em out and keep ‘em for myself.
I wrung my hands, watching their mouths move but hearing no sound from them. The only thing I heard was a sharp ringing in my ears, and it hurt but the pain felt good. My toes curled inside my shoes. The hair on my arms was standing on end. I rubbed my eyes: it felt like a colony of ants was crawling behind them. My breath was short and heavy. I kept rubbing my eyes until they were watering, until my hands were covered in tears that felt like blood.
Neville’s voice was loud, louder than the ringing, which had stopped abruptly. I tried to catch my breath. My muscles were still tense, my eyes still tearing. They were all looking at me, scared. Not for me. For themselves. Like I was a wild animal and I was going to attack them at any sudden movement. I wanted to. But I wanted a cigarette more.
“You all right?” said Neville. I couldn’t tell if he really cared.
No, I was not all right. Just a second ago I wanted to kill everyone, even myself. My whole body’s shaking, my heart’s beating out of my chest, and I’m gonna throw up. I’m not okay.
“Yeah.” I didn’t want to make a scene because I knew Vandy was watching me. I could feel her eyes wanting me to mess up, wanting me to do something stupid. She wanted me to look weak. I wasn’t gonna give her the satisfaction of it. I can be strong, Vandy. I won’t break down.
I looked at Vandy, putting on the most intimidating stare I could come up with. It was a look that said, “Are you impressed?” She tried to match it but failed, letting her breath out of her nose, and looking away. At that point I wasn’t focusing on getting her to go out with me, but I wanted to show off to her that I could be the kind of person she wanted. I wanted to prove I could change and that I wasn’t just a slutty guy.
Neville and Luna’s eyes wandered toward me and the air was awkwardly silent. It made me uncomfortable to be in my own body to just sit there and say nothing, with all those eyes on me. I didn’t feel like speaking. Opening my mouth would mean puking. I felt an unknown sense of emptiness and nothingness. I felt like there was no reason why I was still breathing.
Looking around, I started daydreaming about ways I could kill myself using things in the compartment. I could use my shoelaces to hang myself from the luggage thing up top. I could jump out the window and fall off the bridge. I could break the glass and slit my throat with it. So many possibilities…
But what would Vandy think? She’d think I was cheating. She’d think I was weak if I couldn’t stick it out and survive this. It would be taking the easy way out if I killed myself. And I did not want to leave and let them talk shit about me after I died.
I slid myself into the corner of the compartment and hugged my knees close to my chest. I started rocking involuntarily. I wanted to go home. I wanted to disappear. I wished none of this would have happened. I think I started crying.
I heard voices. I couldn’t tell if I was making them up or not. They were talking to me. No. About me. And they were whispering. Like they didn’t want me to hear. But I did hear. I heard everything.
“What’s wrong with him?” said a high-pitched girl voice.
“I dunno, he’s really…” That one was a guy.
“Maybe he’s finally realized what a pig he’s been and he hates himself now.” That was a different girl voice. Not as quiet.
“No, it’s probably… he doesn’t have any more cigarettes,” said the guy.
At the sound of the word I jumped up, blood sloshing around inside me. I grabbed Neville’s shoulders and shook him, not really seeing him. I screamed, “Where? Cigarettes – where?” He looked scared and Luna grabbed Neville, but I didn’t care.
“I don’t have any!” he said. Fucking liar.
I jerked him out of my grasp and grabbed Luna’s long blonde hair. She grunted and gasped but I wasn’t pulling hard. “What about you – you have cigarettes?”
“No, Clyde, I don’t have any –” I let her go. Waste of skin.
“Somebody has them, I know you do.” I turned and punched my fists into the wall behind Vandy. She barely even flinched. I looked at her and I knew I had fire in my eyes.
“Not me,” she said calmly.
I spun around in a circle. There was no one else. I started panting. “But there’s got to be –”
“No, Clyde,” said Neville.
“No, I heard someone say –”
“We don’t have any cigarettes, Clyde.”
“But you have to, I –”
“No! Snap out of it!”
“I need a fucking cigarette – just one and I’ll –”
With a loud smack my cheek was burning, the compartment silent. My brain shut off. My heart stopped. My limbs wanted to go limp. I looked in the direction of where it came from. With a satisfied expression, Vandy sat back down.
Something told me her smacking me had nothing to do with my outburst.
They were all looking at me with fear.
I sat down in my corner and put the side of my forefinger in my mouth, biting on the skin. It hurt but it felt good. The pain took away some of the longing in me and served as a distraction, but I knew it couldn’t be a permanent solution. My whole body quaked and my vision was blurry. I’m gonna die.
I just need a smoke.
How difficult is that?
Is it so much to ask for?
How can I get one? Think, Clyde. Think. Empty carton. No magic. Stuck on a bridge. Lots of other people.
We’re all gonna die.
…Maybe that’s it. If we all die… they’d give me one, right? Yeah. They have to. Clyde, you are a genius. How do you come up with such brilliance?
Well, I guess when your mind is put under extreme pressure like mine, things just sort of come to you.
Oh, this is brilliant. But I’ll have to plan it for at least a few more days. And that will be perfect because by that time everyone will be ready to die anyway. This is great. This is so great. I can’t wait to get started. I can’t wait to feel that smoke fill my lungs again. Can’t wait to feel the ash on my tongue. It’ll feel so great. Like reuniting with an old lover. Like having make-up sex.
Not that I know what that feels like. I usually don’t stick around long enough for there to be a fight, much less a make-up. What would Vandy think about that? She’d probably hate it. So I should stop. But how long do I have to wait before having sex? Maybe I should ask Vandy. I wonder if she’s had sex before. I won’t ask that.
But even if I did, I wouldn’t judge her based on her answer. Well, the old Clyde would but now I would try not to. Vandy said it’s not something to judge people on. It’s actually pretty gross, isn’t it? Haha. Yeah. People must think I’m disgusting. So why do they all want to fuck me? Oh, yeah. I’m irresistible.
Oh, stop being such a pig, Clyde. You’re only making it worse for yourself.
But if they want me, why resist?
Because it’s disgusting, that’s why!
What’s disgusting about being awesome?
It’s not awesome, you’re just being a whore.
Don’t call me that.
The stinging in my face doesn’t subside. I don’t know where it came from. It couldn’t have been Vandy again. Or maybe it was her. I don’t know. I’m confused.
“Clyde! What the hell?” said Neville. I look at where his voice came from and his face is blurry. I blink lots of times but nothing focuses. I think he looks like he’s concerned, but he wants to laugh. Laugh at me, Neville. Go ahead. Everyone else does. Or if they don’t they secretly want to.
“Did you seriously just slap yourself in the face?” said Vandy. She’s laughing. Before I even answer, she laughs. But I don’t want to answer. How stupid would that sound? I did just slap myself in the face, thank you for noticing.
Why did I do that?
Because he called me a whore.
I called myself a whore?
I called me a whore. That’s why.
“Clyde, are you okay?” said Luna’s voice.
“Of course he’s not okay, Lu, he just smacked himself in the face,” said Neville. I’d never heard that testiness in his voice before.
“I know, Neville. I was there when it happened.” Woah. She’s snippy too. Where the hell did that come from? The last I heard out of her mouth was optimism. I want to know what’s going on but I better keep my mouth shut first.
“Listen, do we have to do this now?”
“When else are we gonna do it, Neville? When we have some privacy?” She was being sarcastic.
“Well, we’re never gonna get any!"
“Because we’re all gonna die here!”
And with that, Luna collapsed into tears. The rest of us listened to her wails and her last sentence echoed around the room. I’d said it so many times before but it meant so much more when Luna said it. Luna was the only one who had hope for us. Now that she’s given up on us, there’s nothing left to happen. We’ll just wait to die.
Everyone in the room wanted to die. We were all thinking about dying but not saying anything. Luna’s consistent sobbing was our background noise, the soundtrack to our funerals that none of our families would ever attend because no one would know we were dead. Neville did nothing to console Luna. I wondered if they just broke up.
When I woke up this morning, didn’t Neville defend Luna when I grabbed her wrist for her watch? What the hell happened to that? And why is Luna now suddenly thinking we’re gonna die? Maybe she really thought that all along and this is the first time she’s said it. Either way, this is perfect for my plan. A few more days, kids, and you’ll all be thanking me.
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