The last thing I remember before I died was the sickening smirk on his ugly, bald head morphing into a snarl. Then, in the blink of an eye, I was dead. That was the only way to describe it.
An unbearably strong pang of raw love that struck me so hard it hurt, every cell in my body yearning for James’s touch, to put my head on his chest, smell his cinnamon-sandalwood scent, hold my hand in his- and then it was over. Crash! Waves of despair crashed over me, heart howling for mercy. James would never like me. My parents didn’t care I was missing. Everyone was better than me. There will always be someone better. Always, always, always. I couldn’t breathe. Each uneven thump of my heart was like a knife piercing my back. Through tear-streaked vision I saw James’s father cackling over me like the devil watching my demise. I must be dead.
Always. Always. Always. Always broken. Always hurting. Always an outsider. Always ordinary. Grief in every imaginable form possible screamed over me in a tidal wave. I was pushed under water in a sea of more than melancholy, monsters lurking just below me as I struggled to get up. I clutched my heart, feeling it shatter to pieces under my touch.
Slam! Another sob wracked my chest, another wave of memories and worries and crushed hopes. You will never be great. A smooth, calm voice whispered. Never. Never. Never. Never the best french horn. Never the prettiest girl. Never the smartest. Never extraordinary. Something snapped. I screamed, a blood curdling cry that soared through the room. At least I was dead. At least I was dead. There was solace in that, yet every second still set my lungs on fire as I was dragged further under.
Always. Never. Always. Never. ALWAYS. NEVER! I shrieked, the devilish man yanking my wrist. I didn’t fight. Couldn’t fight. Wouldn’t fight. I am dead, I am dead, I am dead. The words repeated over and over in my head like a prayer. More memories clashed over my mind. Rainy days. Failed tests. Girls my age brandishing their shiny trophies and straight A’s and me, overwhelmed with a burning frustration that I couldn’t even begin to put out. I went limp in his grasp, tears spilling rivers down my cheeks. Never enough. Never the best. Never.
Just when my soul was starting to rip, the ear splitting howls of my inner demons the only noise in the world (James’s father’s roar the loudest of them all), I felt it snap. One last heart-wrenching burst of grief- and then a rush of a million emotions all at once. Jealousy anger surprise love pride confidence empathy sympathy fear awe pain happiness despair- abruptly, it all stopped. Opening my eyes, I saw James passed out on the floor, saw the devil sprint out of the room clutching his head like it was about to split open. Shuddering and colder than I’d ever been before, I just laid there. There was no triumph. No relief. Just pure, ice cold disappointment that I wasn’t dead.
I don’t know how long I was out, but when I woke up, Vivian was still huddled in a ball, sobbing quietly. There was no sign of my father, no way to tell that he had ever been there at all- except for Vivian’s eyes. They were no longer the brilliant blue I knew them to be. They were pure silver like the color had drained from them along with her tears. I said nothing, just moved over and closed the open door, wrapping her in my arms.
Truth be told, I was scared to death. My father had never pushed anyone as hard as Vivian, forcing so much grief upon her that it physically changed her. For someone that had led an enviably normal life, there was no telling what she might do.
“Viv?” I asked, lifting my head from her shoulder. Her eyes dilated, drawing in a rattling breath. The new silver of her eyes looked out of place in her face now that I was so accustomed to the blue. It was strange. Frosty. Beautiful. When the words finally fell from her lips, it was in a rough husk from crying for so long.
“Am I dead?” I looked her in the eyes, taken aback. When I didn’t answer she whimpered, grip on me tightening. “Please say I’m dead.” The words were so full of hope it hurt. My father had wrecked her. Vivian Rose. Sweet, innocent, blue-eyed girl. Vivian Rose. Broken, fragile, silver-eyed angel. I’ll never forget the pain in her eyes when I shook my head.
Slowly, I stood up, extending my hand. To my surprise, she took it. I started walking her to the bathroom, turning on the lights. Might as well get all the pain out of the way at once.
“Ok, I know this is going to be tough. Don’t look yet!” I warned when her head turned towards the mirror. Her gaze snapped back to me. The silver was still unsettling, strange… but I had to admit, it looked natural on her. Or at least it would, once I got the image of the startling blue out of my mind. “I don’t know what he told you. What memories ran through your head, how much insurmountable despair held you under. But you’re better already. Not dead. Not yet.” Her chin fell slightly, curtain of lashes brushing her cheeks like feathers.
I gestured to the mirror. She turned, studying her reflection. For a second, she didn’t see… looking at her hair, skin, running a tentative finger along her pale cheeks. A pang of guilt strummed in my chest.
“Your eyes.” Her hands flew up to her mouth. She stumbled back, shivering.
“Oh… my god.” Vivian peeled her hands away from her face. What I saw plastered on her lips sent my mind reeling in shock. It was a smile. A smile. Pure, happy, eyes locked on the mirror with fascination.
“What is it? I-” I cut off the sentence, the words dying on my tongue. I liked your eyes the way they were before. Never would I let that sentence leave my lips… I didn’t like Vivian, certainly. So why were those brilliant blue eyes frozen in my mind?
“No, I- my eyes aren’t blue. They’re silver,” she smiled, looking back at me, “not gray. Not ordinary blue. Silver.” At my confused stare, Vivian laughed. “Do you know anyone with pure silver eyes?”
“Exactly. I’m… special.” The words were foreign on her lips, infectiously happy. On some level, I was aware how ironic it was that as I had always craved normalcy, Vivian had yearned to escape it. Nevertheless, I grinned at her, leaving the room to let her soak it in for a second; the beautiful frost of her eyes were still dancing across my mind even as I walked away.
2 weeks later…
Life had returned to normal… except that it hadn’t. My days were still the same schedule. School, classes, band, stealing glances at James- yet in a sense, everything had changed. People stared at me as I walked through the halls, whispers followed me everywhere I went.
“The girl that got kidnapped.”
“No one knows who took her.”
“I hear she ran away with James Blackthorn.”
Girls snickered behind my back, but I saw how they stared longingly at my silver eyes. Boys laughed at my name, but now they carefully watched my every step, faces contorting in visible envy when I talked to James.
It felt nice to be extraordinary for once. Vivian Rose, the talk of the school. Silver-eyed and confident. New persuasion powers untapped. To some it might have seemed like the chase was a miracle: such a short chapter of pain for such great rewards, a whirlwind of mystery experienced alongside my crush. Yet still every time I saw a kitchen knife or stood on a balcony, a dark urge screamed at me to take the leap, draw the knife.
Those minutes when I had thought I was dead had changed me, amplified the call of the void inside me to the point that some days it was the only sound I heard. Grief so strong it was physically overwhelming jumped out at me randomly every now and then, an aftershock of the weeks before. My parents were more than just concerned, and the police were on high-alert trying to capture James’ father off our descriptions, thinking that justice would calm my pain. Needless to say, counseling doesn’t help when you were convinced that you had been brushed by death itself.
My teachers were the same, my family, clubs, classes- but now everytime I looked in the mirror at my eyes I smiled, every time I got out of the shower my heart raced… but more than anything, I could feel his presence still. When I stared out the window during science, the shadows playing across the lawn looked like figures lurking in the dark. I screamed when I saw my vice principal again for the first time because his balding head and light eyes reminded me so much of him. Before bed, I swore I felt his sickening, power hungry presence hovering just behind me like a vengeful ghost. I know James did too.
Today I walked the halls with James, heading to science, the place where everything had started. We had destroyed his father’s power core, his one tether to the supernatural world. Everything had changed… then life had resumed its course, steadily chugging along like a grand river. I felt like the world should change as I had so much, but more or less (except for the occasional bad feeling), it was as though James’ father had never even existed. The police were turning up with no leads or evidence in the search, and the school only had one blurry security camera shot to aid their cause. No one had seen him- I was starting to think we never would again. It was a warm thought, one that made my brain rest easy. The drone of life continued on, buzzing in the masses of students around us.
“Hey, do you ever think about-” I stopped dead in my tracks, James doing the same beside me. There, standing at the end of the hall bathed in fluorescent light was a man with watery hazel eyes, disgustingly pale. His bald head gleamed as he fastidiously wiped off an imperceptible speck of dust from his impeccable black suit (which stood out like a sore thumb among the writhing mass of athletic-wear clad students). The world seemed to slow as his thin lips curled into a disgustingly wide sneer. Even from across the hall we could hear his voice loud and clear.
“Hello Ms. Rose, Mr. Blackthorn.” That slimy, superior voice watched over me, immediately triggering a mind-numbing panic in me like a tripped alarm. I shrieked, grabbing James’s hand and pivoting without a moment’s hesitation. As I started to sprint down the hall with James in tow, I heard the dreaded thump-thump after me.
“Whoa, there! Vivian, what are you doing?” Mrs. Croft (my favorite teacher) yelled, stopping me with a warning hand. My heart leapt as I struggled against her push.
“He’s here! He’s here!” James shouted at her, trying to pull me away, but now Mrs. Croft had a firm fist knotted in my shirt, concern sharp in her thoughtful eyes. I looked back to catch a glimpse of him, but there was nothing. Absolutely no trace of him in the crowd. She let us go with a promise to see the counselor after school.
As we walked away, I could’ve sworn I could hear his laugh far in the distance, an echo of a living nightmare.