The night was still. I did not pause to dwell on the irony—it would catch up to me eventually. All the lights were off in my sister’s old brick home—naturally. Naturally. The door was locked, but I thought I heard the drone of a TV. I thought I heard my name. Maybe. It was too soon to tell.
The door was locked. That made sense. I stumbled to the back of the house, to the storm cellar, which was never unlocked—and it wasn’t. Good. That was good. I think I fell into it, because there was a crash, and my body ached—ached, as if I were set on fire and thrown into the Arctic sea. That’s what it felt like. There was dirt under my nails. There was dirt everywhere.
I curled myself into a ball. What else was there to do? It was pitch black. Entirely. There was nothing in front of me or around me. Just empty space and the beating of my heart. Why was it still beating? How was that possible? I thought I tasted salt in my mouth, salt and blood, but that was impossible. That would mean I was crying. Was I? I couldn’t tell.
The sounds in the house were clearer now. There was a TV on, in the kitchen so I couldn’t see its light from the front of the house. Footsteps on the floor. The drone of the TV. It was on the news, though what station I couldn’t tell. There was a name. Not my name. A name all too familiar to me, though.
Glass dropping. It shattered on the floor in a million pieces, and I fancied the shards falling through the floor and falling through my flesh. Right through my bones, right through me, through the Earth’s crust and through the Earth itself, until it was consumed in the core. No shards came. Footsteps. Running. Then they disappeared.
Outside. They moved outside. And the door to the storm cellar flew open, and I could feel my soul flying out with it.
She saw me. I was haggard. I looked like hell. Her face—pretty, clean, spotless face—was caught between blame and shock. I guess mine was too.
I smiled crookedly at her. That wasn’t my name anymore. That could never be my name anymore. I had thrown it away with both hands; I couldn’t take it back now.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” Her face was white. Ghost white. Stone white. Did her lip quiver? Were her eyes rimmed with tears? If I was not already in a jumble on the floor I would have collapsed. My demented smile faltered and died on my lips, leaving a stain.
I couldn’t stand that name. It wasn’t mine anymore. It was someone else’s. “No. No, don’t call me that, Tracy.”
Her lips fell apart, but her eyes seemed almost to retreat back into her skull. From me. She didn’t want to look at me, but her eyes were stuck like glue. I tried to stand. It didn’t work.
“That’s not my name anymore, Tracy.”
“It will always be your name.” Her voice—quiet, terrified, determined—I smiled again. Sugar-sweetly. I felt evil.
“Do you blame me, Tracy?”
She shook her head. Her eyes fell closed on their own accord. She would’ve collapsed if she hadn’t been gripped the rail of the stairs leading down to the cellar. “Why would you come here?”
“Did they say my name?”
“Not yet. You have to leave.”
I guess I felt disappointment. I could not have expected her support. It was not in her nature. It was in mine—this fire. Now it was burning us all. I faltered again.
“You’ve put my children in danger, Emilia. You have to leave.”
Her children. It was only natural she would want to protect them at any cost. Even the cost of her sister. I nodded slowly. Natural. It was natural. Her children had done nothing wrong…
“Are you listening to me?” Her voice was higher. Angrier. The mother coming to life, I suppose.
“I have nowhere to go, Tracy.” My voice was quiet. I was sinking. The darkness was pressing. My fingers trembled, and so did hers.
“You’ll have to find somewhere, then.” When I was silent, she continued. And I was silence. “What about him? I know you did this for him. Has he abandoned you?”
I was silence still. I thought. I wanted to cut something. I wanted to dig my shaking hands into the Earth. I wanted to set the world on fire. It didn’t scream. But they did. Child. They all screamed.
I wanted to cut her. He was my life now. My only life. My only hope and reason. Her voice rose and she asked again, “Has he abandoned you?”
The Earth shook beneath me. Blind tension, it surrounded me—cut my brain from my mouth. With daggers for teeth I snapped, “Not like you have.”
She was silent. Stone silent. His voice was in my ears, now. His promises. He wanted me to lose fear. Was I still afraid? I couldn’t tell.
Silence. There was no air anywhere. We were both suffocating. But then she pulled out of it and said, like ice, “Get out.”
I closed my eyes. Shut out her face. Rage. This wasn’t worth it. My face relaxed. I thought I could sleep—sleep here, forever. But I couldn’t.
“I’ll be gone before they know who did it, Tracy.”
“That’s not good enough.”
I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine it. Like mine. Mirrored. But where she turned to ice, I turned to fire. Where was the fire now? I couldn’t fight with Tracy. Not her. I had been fighting too much already.
They screamed. Their screams echoed. I ran with lightning in my breath.
“He’s controlling you, Emilia.”
Him. My life. My future. I wanted to shut her out. I believed in him, because he was me—reflected. I said, “If he has, it’s because I’ve let him.”
“Then you admit it.” I opened my eyes and saw her face. Melancholy. That’s what she was. “You’re like a cult. You’ve gone too far.”
I sighed. “No. No, I’ve done what I always promised I would. This isn’t him.”
“You’re just a desperate, delusional—”
“Tracy, listen to me!” I sprung up. My future. “Listen to me. I know who he is. I know who I am.” My throat closed together. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think—I was nothing. I thought I saw tears on her cheeks. Sirens in the distance. I could hear them now. I could feel them, on the back of my neck, calling for me…
My sister heard them too. Her face darkened. She was darkness. “Leave. Leave now.”
“I have nowhere to go.”
Glowering. That’s what she was. And I was defenseless beneath her. “Go back to him. I don’t care. But you’re not staying here.”
I sighed. How had I come here? My fingertips still shook—I was still terrified. My heart still beat irregularly. Did I want to be caught? Could I go back to life after this?
I took stock of the cellar. It was all dirt, with a few cans of tomato soup and ratty blankets in the corner. Useless. Why was it even built? In the middle of the city, with two feet of grass between this house and the next one? Who put a storm cellar in the city? But it was here, and I was here, and my sister was here telling me to get out of her house. I looked behind her, and saw the stars—muted by smog and clouds. But they were still there. And I was still here, more or less in one piece.
A fence. I would scale the fence. The house behind it—did it have people? I should’ve found this out. Chills overtook me; I almost sunk back to the ground, but remained balanced on my feet—miraculously. Tracy stared me down. She was waiting for me to make a move. But I had already made one, so monumental that it could never be forgiven or repented for.
“Do you want me to admit it?” I asked her. “Because I want to admit it.”
She was incredulous. Or surprised. Or frightened. I laughed. I was slaphappy. I wanted to laugh. I thought I could fly. “I want to declare it. Look at what I’ve done! You know, if they ever find out my name, they’ll never forget me? That’s a scary thought.”
Her eyes were microscopes, and she was dissecting me. I laughed in her face. I laughed at my sin. “I will declare it. Let them find me! They won’t be able to prove a thing.” I laughed again. I was giddy. I thought it to myself—they screamed! Children, they screamed! That was a terrible thing, a hideous thing. But I laughed, as if their blood was dripping from my fingertips.
No, no, I wouldn’t hurt children—no. I was remembering wrong. No, it was only one, that one man, so vile, so evil—surely I could be forgiven. Surely.
“I will declare it,” I repeated. “I will declare it.” I laughed. “I killed the President.” I laughed. “I killed the President of the United States!”
Yo, just so you know, haha....Emilia is completely batshit crazy. At least for now.