Sunday, March 18, 2018

If We Must Pity Borderline, We must Rethink the Narcissist

Narcissists. In the last few years, it seems like everyone knows one. It seems like everyone was raised by at least one. And it seems, quite frankly, that if one if not overly fond of a person, it's because the person must be a Narcissist. The word is thrown around with the same hatred and shredded meaning as "trash" but with all the self-victimization as a person being called, with seething hatred, trash. The word's got a bite to it, some sting. 
We've been given a free card to just plain hate them. 

But what is a Narcissist, and why are they so very terrible? Pathological, long-standing and prevalent Narcissistic behavior is what is known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Personality Disorders do not go away, but they can be "toned down." It's not vanity, it's not thinking you're fabulous, and it's not even just low empathy. It is destructive. That's why it's in the Cluster B with the other malignant Personality Disorders - the ones that make for a good villain in a thriller or a type you love to hate in a comedy. They're the serial killers, the angels of death, the homewreckers, the train wrecks. Let's look at who else take up the company of the dreaded Narcissist under Cluster B!

Cluster B is called the dramatic, emotional, and erratic cluster. It includes:
  • Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder.
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Disorders in this cluster share problems with impulse control and emotional regulation. 

Not so surprising that the malignant types are grouped together, right? So what does "malignant" mean? "Disposed to cause harm, suffering, or distress deliberately; feeling or showing ill will or hatred." That's not pleasant but, like I said, these are the Personality Disorders that make for what we like to collectively call "evil." The life destroyers. The bringers of the drama. But wait isn't...isn't BORDERLINE just self-injurers who feel sadness and loneliness too intensely? Don't they just have a fear of abandonment? The Mighty told us not to stigmatize Borderline Personality Disorder! They can't help their mental illness-
WAIT RIGHT THERE. So, they cannot help their "mental illness" which is sitting pretty right next to "Anti Social" and "Narcissistic" personality disorders - never mind Histrionic - but the Borderline deserves empathy, care, compassion, and understanding that the Psychopath and Narcissist don't? (If you didn't know, Anti Social is what they DSM calls Psychopaths and has for a very long time.) Let's look at what Borderline Personality Disorder actually consists of, other than alarming suicide attempt rates and putting off therapists from ever wanting to touch the case. 
They idealize and devalue the people they get close to from minute to minute. The triangulation that Narcissists and Psychopaths use to keep their victims trapped in a relationship with them? Borderlines do it too, but they do it with a touch of dramatic flare, often in the form of emotionally blackmail over their very own lives. Instead of making their victims feel drawn to them again and bringing about more Oxycontin release, they say things like, "If you leave, I'll kill myself, I hate you, please don't leave." 
These are the "psycho girlfriends" of the Personality Disorder world. And unfortunately, it's vastly over-diagnosed in women and missed entirely in men. 

I am not here to demonize anyone who has Borderline Personality Disorder but I'm not here to pretend it's the only Disorder on that cluster that deserves human compassion. Narcissists are thought to be formed by childhood neglect and abuse but we don't have a windows worth of light we wish to shine on that disorder. What actually happens to the Narcissist is that they become so terrified of vulnerability, they will do anything to avoid it, whether it's to be covert (think of your "introverted and too sensitive for this world" friend) or to be grandiose and far superior to everyone else (your friend who is never wrong and exaggerated every job title they've held.) And so there has been talk of re-naming it Vulnerability Aversion Disorder. 
People don't want them to change it because "a narcissist is a narcissist! A bad person is a bad person!" If the shoe fits, and the old one has holes in it, why can't we just lace that new one up and wear it? When did we collectively decide that someone else's low empathy was an excuse to throw our own empathy out the window, right along with compassion and rational thought? Maybe we want an angry buzzword like "Narcissist." Forget helping the people with the Personality Disorder; we just want someone to hate! And we want it easy. We. Want. Someone. Easy. To Hate. 

Are you really going to bully people who are utterly terrified of being vulnerable? Where the Borderline may literally bleed their vulnerability out of their bodies to get their way, the Narcissist will pretend they don't even have blood to get their way. If they have blood, they have a weakness, and who needs that? Who needs to be human? Not the Narcissist, who needs no one.... except for everyone, because despite vulnerability aversion, Narcissists DO require lots of Narcissist supply. They need. Much like the Borderline needs you to stay and needs you to love, the Narcissist needs you to have an opinion about them. Love them, hate them, but do not ignore them. To be ignored is to be raw, like a baby crying and ignored - maybe even for hours, where the pathology began - the birth of that very Narcissist. 

Mark Twain wondered who might've been decent enough to ever pray for the Devil. I'm not as brilliant as Twain; I simply wonder who might be decent enough to pray for that neglected infant, even if it's thirty years after the crying came to a bitter end. 

Jessica, The Classy Aspie. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Massacres

I walked into each class on the first day of the semester and surveyed the room for potential hiding spots. Biology classes had those big tables they said would be great for hiding under, but we all knew those tables were so tall that anyone with aim could execute us all. The cabinets, though - I'd hide there. The art class had lots of cabinets too, and the desks were more solid and low which I found very important because art class was on the same floor as the principals office, two always-empty bathrooms, and it was quite an easy target. And on the first day of the semester, I'd fix my hair in the bathroom mirror and remember the orders that, if in the hall during a Lockdown (for school shooters) that I was to run in the bathroom and lock the door, opening it for no one.
My friends and I asked each other when we thought it would happen at our school - a large school represented by the Confederate flag in Louisiana - and who we thought would do it.
And we all agreed we knew people who would shoot us up in a heartbeat.

That was a decade ago. 

I no longer go to classes but I've got a small person rapidly approaching school-age and I adamantly refuse to put her into public school for many reasons, but the pure epidemic of school shootings definitely plays a part. I know that the mall, church, or musical outings are all now deemed likely places to get point-blank murdered, but schools are the worst. And, to this day, I know people who I'm shocked haven'tended up on the news and frankly, if they wanted any fame from the crimes of their urges, they're too late - we're so desensitized no one will remember the next guys name.
When my friends and I would gossip about who may be a culprit, there were common themes.
White. Male. Isolated. Often they'd never dated, or they had unusual sexual tastes. But to me, being a bit more of a chase-the-rabbit-down-the-hole type of girl who'd eventually major in psychology, it seemed like the common threads were woven even more tightly. And these threads have remained in the last decade.

They had the same walk. They often had downward cast eyes, poor posture, and other defensive body-language not unlike my own. But they didn't look bored or shy or even like they'd ever enthusiastically defend themselves. They looked ashamed.

Enjoyment and disgust are two of the most basic, primal emotions. If a one-year-old is splashing spilled milk on his tray and enjoying a new finding and then the father erupts into the room with "what in the world are you doing?!" that child shifts quickly from joy to shame in the reaction by the parent of disgust (or even anger.) Shame isn't something that magically came about due to the Abrahamic faiths like many of my atheist friends seem to believe. Shame developed for a reason - it keeps us in line with the rest of our social circle.

And this is where things get trickier. Not everyone has a social circle. I don't. Many of my online friends don't. There is a societal expectation in the west to be an extrovert. To have friends. To have at least three or four people to call for help or to hang out. When you don't have that, you're deemed weird, and that's not just by a few choice bullies - it's known and accepted.
 When shame comes from the very shunning from society itself, society is where the damage will be spread.

Some of these guys find solace online with forums and groups full of people who are angry and dejected. These places all have their reasons, but generally it's some form of white supremacist sexist garbage. They give impressionable, angry, isolated young men a reason for their bitter season. They put some fire behind that rage where it's really just a void. They find ways to place their sexual hangups at the fault of women. I read and analyzed Elliot Roger's Manifesto - it was one of the most painful things I've ever read. Rejected, spoiled little boys who were never taught how to be men are the ones murdering children.

It's not allowed to speak on this topic without offering a solution that will be shat on either way. I'm not going to say "just talk to lonely people" like one joke of an article I just read said was literally the solution to the issue - thinly veiled NRA propaganda. I'm not going to rant about healthcare. Stop teaching boys that they have to be loud to be masculine, that they need to be powerful to be masculine, that they need to compete to be masculine. Stop teaching boys that femininity is the opposition to their male identities, but that the two compliment each other. Stop teaching boys not to feel feelings and if they say they CAN'T feel feelings, help them learn to.


You're Disgusting

The feeling of disgust. Not only is it a very baseline emotion which helps keep us safe individually and, at one point, as a species - it's also the only thing that stands between reality and rationality.
Ever had that "they're just off, something isn't right" reaction to someone who was very outwardly normal? That frequently comes from instinctual disgust.
And there's no reason to limit this disturbing feeling to the things that are "icky." Intellectual and emotional disgust are always here to pick up the slack.

Much like our pupils shrinking at the sight of a nausea-inducing dumpster truck full of feces, our instincts about the people we encounter, befriend, grow close to, and become arch-enemies of can be spot on even before we know why we're correct. The tiny pieces of the picture we paint when standing before another human being makes a tremendous impression. Small cues may make it hard for some of us with social issues, but if you take a deep breathe you'll soon come to realize that you're sending and receiving messages to everyone in the room. No wifi required.
Hence the social exhaustion you may experience if you found your way to this blog.

If I have a few days in which I feel any hopefulness towards my fellow man - and to be clear, by hopefulness, I mean a bittersweet sense that maybe not everyone is terrible - it will surely soon be ruined by an onslaught of gross from social media, short encounters in markets, and in my personal life. I can be as alone as I am, as reclusive as I am, and still, someone will disgust me.
I don't always know what to do when I feel this way. Often it's a waiting game. Or it's a quick revenge. But there's always the joy of existing in the same space as someone that makes your internal organs scream "get away, get the fuck away!"

The upside to disgust and the plethora of it that I deal with is that it's often the ticking before the bomb goes off. Revulsion lets me know that even if I haven't figured it out yet, something is wrong with you. You're a con man. You're a serial killer. You're a pedophile. You like mayonnaise.  Without the gut-wrenching antipathy, the loathing, the desire to punch and puke every time I look at you - the fact you're disgusting may catch me off guard!
And we cannot have that.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Euthanasia 5-8


October 5

          Everyone is wondering where Francis may be. And I am so unconcerned about his having gone AWOL. I rarely seem as concerned as I feel, so they suspect nothing, but I know more than they think this time. My thoughts are usually wrapped up in some other fashion- panic is an old enemy, weaker than ever. I'm the only one who was very close to Francis, so why does it matter to them? If they’d cared when they had a chance, perhaps this all could have been avoided.
The perplexing behavior of waiting until a person’s eyes are sewn shut to send flowers must generate at least one half of my general disdain for others.
 I believe Lewis is on to me, and I can’t care, because what's there that Lewis can do? Nothing. He can attempt to throw me into a guilt-trip as he tends to do, but it never works, for guilt is not a piece of me or at least not a piece I have had intact in the last several years.
Francis is fine. Lewis suspects me of foul play even when I really have not done anything. It was a wonderful day, I think. 

     And it feels like I have done one of the best things that I have done in the entirety of my life. I knew he would not last until October 7th but I was hoping he would. I am not bitter that he fucked up my perfect plans of the perfect seven dying on the perfect day of October 7th. It throws everything off balance, but we will make it. I can't be mad at Francis.
     When he called and told me to come over, I knew why, so I took the Pact with me. It was nearly two this morning and I was in my bed, listening to music on my headphones, thinking, and my cell phone rang. I hoped it was Lewis but it was not...and then I realized I was happy to see it was Francis.
 So, I went to Francis's house, walking along the levee and through the forest in the cold, and when I entered his room, he was sitting against the wall with his wrists freshly cut. The inside of his room was dark and cold and I could barely see. You fucking have utilities, unlike me, I thought. Use them.
“Erika, finally,” he said. I pulled out the Pact.
“Honestly, why can you not wait?  Does knowing you will die soon, with all of your friends beside you, not make it better? You could be a part of something fantastic.”
“I'm sorry,” he said. I knelt down beside him.  His room felt eerie and he was crying. “I can never, ever have you because I know you'll die. The worms are all over the walls.” I looked around at the walls. I recalled that this wasn’t an unusual claim and directed my attention back to the subject. What was the subject?
“What?” He had clearly taken a number of pills judging from the several half-empty bottles on the floor in the corner of the room. Perhaps the medication he had always refused, followed with whiskey. “What do you mean...?”
“I have thought about it for the two years since I knew I loved you, you're going to die. You want to die. You don't love me at all.”
“Everyone dies,” I replied. “And you're wrong.”
 Francis had made his feelings as vague as possible since we were set up for homecoming by Miriam. Did he think I was someone else? It is possible, I thought, that I had simply been unable to take a hint and mistook a lack of words for a lack of feeling. Maybe spending that night, and several other nights, together meant something, but since he never made an official move, I had assumed his mind had been changed.
 He took the Pact from me and smeared blood from his wrist over his own name.
“I'm not wrong. And dying one day...isn't the same as constantly seeking it out...” he slurred.
“Why?” I asked.
“All you want to do is die. I’m wrong for caring because I know you’re selfish. You’re always talking about how you have to take care of your hit-list, and you want this all to happen…to see what will happen! If you could fall and keep watching, you would, and you know it.”
“They are not urges,” I snapped. “They are thought-out philosophical principles.”
“I know, Erika. Everything is a philosophical principle. You don’t want to be dead; you want to die. You're the only one I've been with. And you really like Lewis.”
 I felt stunned for a moment. I was glad it was dark in the room; I may have made a face.
“Why do you think that?”
“I don't think it, I know it, Erika,” he said. “When you're around him you act like a couple. He is overbearing. He knows nothing of the walls.”
I sighed. I wished I could ask Miriam what I was supposed to say in this situation. She would know.
“You're wrong,” I said again. “I love you.” I heard his hand slide across the floor slowly until it found mine. This is so strange.

Our conversation led me to the conclusion that he felt he was in love with me and couldn’t cope with the fact that I would kill myself soon and that I would never be happy with him. He hated my infatuation with Lewis. Sleeping with me made him emotionally attached. He was in too much pain because of that. But there had to be more, and the more that I asked, the closer I came to realize he was simply alone.
He said he was afraid I had only been pretending whenever I showed him emotion in our time together. I wondered why I needed to explain that when I show emotion, it tends to be genuine.
He couldn’t see me die even if it meant he would be dying alongside me. He didn’t want to ruin my plans by getting emotional on Sunday (although not holding out until Sunday was bad enough.) And then he asked me to help him complete his suicide. I was obliged to have been chosen by someone to assist in their suicide; the only time I had terminated anyone before, they didn’t consent to it. Too often I merely injure.
 As of late, I have done my research.
 I gave him pain pills from in my purse, and let them work while I sat with him and talked to him... he remained calm. In fact, I had never seen anyone still alive so sickeningly calm – I was more nervous than he was. I had always known Francis suffered from frequent bouts of psychosis but refused treatment other than appointments required for him to receive funds from the state but now I am positive that it was his primary cause of death.
Who wants to die just because self-controlled mortality will one day take a toll on someone you love? Who wants to live when they are ostracized by everyone due to a supposed illness and their family doesn't even talk to them? And why does he keep talking about worms?
“Erika,” he said slowly. “Why can’t you love me?”
The dark shade of blue across the room continuously captivated my attention as I waited for the final moment.
“I told you I do. Who said I don’t?” I retorted.
 He put his fingers over mine and looked at me. He was still bleeding a bit from his wrists. I never have had much room for anyone in my emotional spectrum, but Francis was always fascinating. I don't know exactly what love is, but I know I love all my signers.
I also know that I love Francis differently than I originally intended to.
“Do it…when I’m dead.”
“What do you mean?”
Please do not be implying…
“Be one finds out you were here. Do the cleaning when I'm gone.”
If anyone found out I had been in his house, helping him kill himself, I could be arrested before Sunday even though I was doing anything wrong. All DNA left here by me would easily be explained by the fact that I’d been over so many times. I leaned forward and kissed him. His lips were cold; so were mine. He wrapped a blood-stained arm around me and pulled me closer. This was distracting me from what I was there for, but what was the rush? This is the last time I’ll kiss anyone…
“No cleaning required. No one will know I was here for anything I wasn't supposed to be here for,” I told him.
He tried to smile and pulled me closer.
“Not anything?”
     Our friendship had been a great one. We never had turbulence and I never had to hide or feel inclined to fake some kind of foreign emotion around Francis. He never had to hide his crazy around me, either. And despite the fact that little became of my urgings for him to be closer to the other Pact signers, he did have a small social circle to keep him grounded more than he had in a very long time. At least he wasn’t alone.
“I will see you in a few days,” he said.
“Keep an eye on the crown.” I smiled. This was it. Time’s up, Erika. Do it.
  I quickly removed my pistol from within my purse, cocked, pressed it to his right temple, closed my eyes, and pulled.

      After a few moments, I opened my eyes. Am I dreaming? Have I lost my fucking mind? The blood splattered across me looked and felt like thick, wet paint. It was warm and I trembled. Oh my God, what did I do? What did I fucking do?
I’d been kneeling very closed when the trigger was pulled; I experienced this act of euthanasia as near as I could to that of a physician. That is what it was, and this is what I’d become – a physician. One that knows the cure.
 A physician with a specialty of assisted suicide. It was a beautiful composition. But I couldn’t stop shaking.

          I stayed with him for half an hour after his death to charge my phone, contemplating whether he had jinxed my plan entirely into failure, and observing him change. Francis was a nice boy and it’s a shame he cannot go out with the rest of us, but he’s painless now. Maybe he was better than us. He lives alone in the forest right near the river, so I wasn’t worried anyone saw me, and sound is no issue when you have a silencer. It was one of the most remote areas within St. Christina’s limits. Not really any need to move the body since it was a suicide.
 I wondered briefly if I had just contributed to the widespread rumors of the St. Christina forests being haunted in my releasing of Francis. No, he will be waiting for us. The scene looks and smells like suicide because it is suicide, so no one (save Lewis) is going to suspect foul play. What do I broadcast that he picks up on? I removed my silencer from the gun and cleaned my prints off with a makeup-wipe. I wrapped Francis's right hand around the gun handle loosely; I wouldn’t need it anymore. I turned on Francis’s desktop computer in the corner of the room, sat down, stared at the screen to avoid looking at Francis. I signed in with his password “nightwedding.” Opened writing program, typed a note, and printed it. I changed his password to a gibberish bit of nonsense and logged off.
Since I was already awake and in the mood, I had business to tend to. I retrieved a black long-sleeved t-shirt from Francis’s closet and put it on over my own bloody one.
     On the way out, I called Tommy's cell phone to see where he was, pretending I needed advice on what to wear for October 7th. As I had hoped, he was at his boyfriend's house as opposed to home with his parents, which is where I went. He informed me that he would be staying with his boyfriend for the duration of what I calculated as the rest of his life – his parents had been especially brutal lately, and he would rather spend his time with someone who loved him. Good for you, Tommy.

It was almost daylight when I sneaked in through Tommy's bedroom window. Little was visible. I felt frenzied. Move quickly. I found all the fireworks beside Tommy’s twin bed and put them in my purse to later give to Miriam, and went wandering about the house quietly.
I saw his parents’ room -  the door wide open - and both of them passed out cold. Down the short hallway, I found the kitchen, quickly shining my flashlight across the counter. The few seconds of light I allowed myself shown bananas, a clean sink, an array of vitamins, a bottle of pills labeled “Larry Smith.” His father. It was a plain white prescription pain pill meant to be taken at night- Vicodin- nothing too lethal... that is, until, I dumped the pills out into my purse for my own keeping and replaced them with a bottle of plain white, although smaller, placebo pills laced in a mega-dose of brodifacoum. I had been waiting to use these for months. I put the bottle back quietly and looked around. Hope he will not notice.
     I do not know much about his mother except for the fact that she drinks coffee from dawn until evening, so my game plan revolved around that. At first. I pulled out my allergy mask and put it on, and put on my gloves. I opened the over-sized coffee jar and stared inside, holding the leftover contents of what I’d given Kathleen in my other hand. Cyanide. It would be too obvious. I put it away, closed the coffee back up, and wandered to the living room.
 The purse is the window to a woman’s soul. They will search it. I found the keys to the family car and almost laughed out loud at how simple the solution was. Maybe the pills were over-kill.
I was exhausted, and double-checked that I had not left any trace of myself or forgotten anything. And I went outside and cut their brakes.

I made my way through the woods and back through town, weaving between the fences until my complex was in view. Fuck, I hope nobody saw me. If they did, I hope they wait until I’m six-feet-under to report it. What’s to report? Calling the station to report a girls pre-dawn stroll is a sure way to end up on the Crazy List.
It was daylight when I came back inside of my room after sneaking through town so as not to be seen. I took a freezing shower to get all the blood off me. I found it rather amusing that the body-soap I had borrowed from Joshua when I ran out of mine was just as red as the blood I was rinsing off. Simply stickier. From Francis’s blood to Joshua’s Axe would I ever smell like myself again?
There was no way to tell if I was trembling from adrenaline or from the ice-water anymore.

I wrapped up in a towel and I crawled into my bed, rolling up tightly in my blankets and listened to the beginning of a rainstorm. My thoughts raced and raced until I blinked one to many times.
 I slept for three hours until Lewis called. 

“Robin is looking for Francis but he won’t answer his phone,” he said. “And he hasn’t been online all day.
Even in a sleepy stupor, I was puzzled. If they’re looking for Francis, why are they not checking his house?
“Good morning. Why are you not at school?”
“Don't play dumb, Erika.” I sighed.
 I knew he would be suspicious. I knew he wouldn’t tell, though.
“I am not playing anything; I was asleep for once. Imagine that.”
“For how long now, dear? Why aren’t you at school?”
“I cannot wait until the day you get off my case,” I said. “Which is not too far off. So, what are you doing today, other than playing hooky?”
“Coming to get you.” He hung up. My automatic internal reaction was, “Oh shit” and I quickly got dressed. I brushed my teeth. I hid the bloody clothes.
When he got here, he didn’t mention Francis at all. We went back to his house via a silent ride in his truck and sat on his bed.
     Sitting on his bed often feels like an interrogation room more than just a bed now that we’re older. We used to wrestle on it, sleep on it, play video games on it, and beat each other up on it after rough-play turned into brawls. Now we sit on it awkwardly and talk, and talking turns into questioning, and questioning turns into quiet distrust. Maybe it’s only me who feels awkward, but he surely looks awkward. Perhaps it’s my imagination.
 I shrink into myself and look at the floor.
“I made an A on my science test yesterday,” he said in the middle of some amount of rambling about liquid ink making his drawings messy.
I felt my entire being freeze into my unsavory self; irate and ice-cold. The joyous frenzy was dead for the sake of socializing with someone I care too much about.
“Why are you even trying? You’re going to be dead before the next report card.”
 I saw his face was suddenly overcome with a sad look, almost of realization. I sincerely hoped he had not just now realized that he is going to die Sunday. That may cause complications once we’re all standing on the fucking roof. We do not want that. You're in my grade. Not promising.
“No. It's just...good that the last test I take is a good grade, I guess.”
 I nodded. Everyone has a way to measure their dignity, and Lewis had finally been able to function in a classroom setting without a panic attack. He’s smart, if often neurotic. His power over his own panic was finally coming around.
I felt cautiously happy for him as I let go of my own inner ice.

     The rest of the day was spent walking around in the rain through St. Christina and getting phone calls from the rest of the Pact signers. No one wanted to spend their last Friday at school. They’re asking if Francis has texted either of us because he’s not been online. Lewis wasn’t very talkative, and neither was I; we are usually comfortable in silence with each other. My energy had been spent in the dark.
 I was cold in my short, sleeveless dress so Lewis gave me his jacket and it smelled like him.  I would have been so much happier if he would just hold me.
Tommy is the only one who seems vigilant about Francis, always wanting to dig into everyone’s problems to find out what is going on. It always was a decent distraction from his own. He will probably never know I’ve set his parents deaths into motion; they had seen him for the final time. It wasn’t unusual for Tommy to bail on his home and he would usually stay gone for a week at least, sometimes even staying with me before my grandmother passed. And this time he decided to spend his final days with Zach.

Everything is going just fine, and we only have one day left. One more day that I will write after this, one more day to feel. Then I will be in the dirt somewhere, literally not far from where I am, but that is only my body. Six people out of their misery, six people less. When you think of six less people, you think of six less people in the population count. Not each individual friend, with all the baggage of emotions, a family, personality, and each other. Not six less lives. Just an even lower population statistic for St. Christina. That is what I am to the world — a statistic. For now. That is until they trace so many things back to me.
Then I’m the bad guy.
“I’m going to need to give Lithium to Zach tonight…” I said as we walked past one of three Baptist churches in St. Christina. It was on a road we’d avoided since someone from the past attacked me near my apartment and I got revenge. After that, he moved from my apartment complex to a house with his grandparents on this very long, curved road.
His name is Caleb and he had bullied me from elementary school onward, giving me black eye not long ago. Lewis broke his nose, but that wasn’t enough for me. Miriam and Tommy were my accomplices in his third-degree burns, but only they know it was me. He has plenty of enemies so I suppose his parents decided that moving him to a more secure location was the best idea.
“You going to take her over there?” Lewis asked.
“I think I’ll get him to come pick her up…” I said slowly. “It’s cold out and he has a car.”
“Yeah…good idea.”
Lewis knows how attached I am to my rat but I cannot bring her with me where I am going. I observed the dying flowers along the road. They were pretty. And I found myself walking so close to Lewis that we were touching, and when I noticed, I pulled away only to return in a few moments like a magnet. He either did not notice, or did not mind.
He seemed distracted. Trapped in his head, holding his tongue.

     The rain came down harder and harder over the afternoon.
“Your hair is entirely soaked.” Lewis remarked as we finally walked back up the porch of his house. It had been a beautifully rainy long walk and the sky was darkening. We didn’t bother with umbrellas too often. “Do you want to dry it?”
“I kind of like it,” I said quietly. “I would not mind drying the rest of my body off, though.”
 Lewis was always willing to let me come to his house when I needed relief from having no heat or warm water although he wasn’t fully aware that my utilities were completely cut off and had been for months. I took a warm shower, thought about the beauty of falling water drops and I hoped to fall off of the high school would be so much like being a water drop. If only I could fade into the concrete. If only I would fall through it.
 I got out and put on a white t-shirt and red plaid boxers Lewis set out for me while I was behind the curtain. I felt so comfortable in his clothing.
I left mine over the towel rack to dry overnight.
     When I went into the kitchen fifteen minutes later, finally warm, Lewis had cooked cheesy pasta. He put a large amount in a bowl and set it on the table in my usual seat, and sat down across from me with his own bowl.
“I know you don't care about your health since we're about to be dead, but you need to eat,” he said.
I smiled and nodded. Francis said we act like a couple. Was he right?
 We both ate and talked about everything other than the Pact. Music, stupid and funny things our friends had done lately, Lewis’s new cellphone, his freedom from his mother, watercolor versus charcoal, what it would be like to open a bakery, things we always wished had happened but never would. Running away.

I finally walked home close to midnight. Lewis had made it obvious that he was mourning what was probably the last day we would spend as best friends; I may have made it obvious, too. He hastily kissed me on the forehead as I was about to walk out of the door after refusing a ride. Lewis was tired. We were wearing almost identical clothing, since I was wearing his and he was dressed for bed.
 He had put his hoodie on me and I had promised to bring it back the next day.
“Be careful.”
“Tend to be. Goodnight.”

I stood outside my apartment door whispering quietly to my rat. Tommy’s boyfriend drove over, along with Tommy, and picked up Lithium along with her cage and leftover food. I kissed her goodbye, and she seemed unfazed. Tommy hugged me goodnight as Zach carried the cage down to the car and I tried very hard not to cry. I bit my lip so hard that a drop of blood fell onto my foot.  
Tommy knew I was crying but knew better than to say anything about it. I hugged him tightly and whispered for him to go.
Now I am entirely alone in this apartment; even though my rat doesn’t speak, she was good company during the long nights I’ve spent here since my grandmother passed.
This is real alone.
Sunday morning, I will write. And that will be the last from me. No one will read about our deaths from my viewpoint. Naturally. Maybe through the lenses of a few anal-retentive, sensationalist journalists, or maybe from the warped view of the pastors condemning us to hellfire. Not my view.
Sunday will be my last entry. It’s the last of everything. Then I will be forever gone. Finally.
I am curious to know what Lewis writes in his entries, but I’ll never find out. Does he even write long entries, does he use any detail? Does he only write the minimum of what I asked?
I hope it’s nothing mean. I do not say mean things about him. Do I?


Chapter 6

October 6

          Today I called Erika to see if she wanted to go someplace because I was unfortunately determined to make her change her mind by tomorrow just to save myself the grief of going on top of the school alone with her. I won't tell her I got everyone to back out, but she needs to reconsider the consequences of what she's trying to do. I’m only confident that the others aren’t going to tattle because I nearly threatened them.
 I do not want to be six stories up with my violent best friend feeling betrayed. Hopefully if she feels important to someone she won't want to kill herself. But Erika is so determined, and now I know tomorrow is going to be one hell of a day. I could very well be pushed, because she has made it clear that anyone who backs out will regret it although I don't think she anticipated anyone backing out once on the top of the school. She thought they would back out before the meeting, that it would be obvious, that once I signed it was really sealed.
In a way this is good, because since no one is going to do it, she has to be alive to come after us.

          I picked her up and we went to the park. We used to do this when we were younger so that we could spy on the other people, or we would narrate their thoughts into something stupid but funny or Erika would find a way scare them shitless. I thought she would grow out of that. She didn’t.
 But today at the park, she didn't seem too interested other people’s affairs. She immediately began an interrogation.
“Why do you suddenly feel the need to see me every day?” she asked. Her face was blank, her voice was monotone, and I felt sick. “It’s as if we were young again.”
“We are young. We've always done this, until you started ignoring me this summer, and there’s nothing else to do.”
I looked at Erika.
Wrong answer. Very wrong answer. But at least her blankness broke and for almost a whole second, she looked genuinely hurt. Then blank again. I don't understand why that made her upset.
She moved some gravel around with her feet, staring at them intently.  I knew I had messed up as soon as I said it, but especially when she stopped asking questions.
“So, what have you been doing in your spare time?” I asked. 
“Getting ready for tomorrow.” She removed her ballet shoes and pinched the wet grass with her toes. “Not really anything else to do.”
“Where’s Francis been?”
The words felt dirty coming from my mouth. As much as I hated thinking about it, Erika did spend a good amount of spare time with him and that suddenly ceased to be the case.
“I don't know. Why don’t you ask him? You and Tommy must think I have a Francis-radar on my head.”
And then, the smirk.
 I rolled my eyes. I thought she would at least confess to knowing something of his whereabouts. I obviously knew. Francis told me personally he didn’t feel like waiting for the October 7th showdown and that he would keep his promise not to jump, but couldn’t promise he wouldn’t kill himself. He didn’t want to hear anything from me and simply walked away.
“There’s an issue with that and you know it,” I said and looked away from the water to the place in the sky where it had gotten even darker as the storm moved into town. “How do I ask a dead person where they are?”
These words sounded foreign in my voice. She shrugged and tightened the thin purple scarf wrapped atop her head.
“Is he? And why would you want to ask a dead person where they are, necro?” she smirked at me once more.
 This pissed me off. I didn’t care about the rude remark, but necrophilia is very much a sensitive topic for Erika and she’s using the word to be a bitch during a serious discussion about Francis. She spent a night in jail for sneaking around and being suspicious while trying to steal from the funeral home. Everyone at school ran with it and started rumors, deciding she sneaked in for for perverse reasons. That’s the only rumor she’s ever been very bothered by.
But she walked right into this. It was her own carelessness.
“You’re the necro, Erika. Remember? No wonder you’ve stayed single. A pulse is nice at the very least.”
“Yeah. People with a pulse standing on a street corner with AIDS.”
“Well then, shut the flying fuck up.”
“You said it first!” She was totally unaffected by my screaming. “You're the one acting like you didn't walk right into a motherfucking topic.”
“I know I did and you are losing it. I thought I was supposed to be the one with no sense of humor,” she sighed.
“Maybe those rednecks were right, dear. Did you have fun with Francis, at least, while that lasted?  I’d think so considering what I heard you were doing with him at homecoming. After, too.”
She shrugged. I couldn’t stop the words from falling out of a sore place in my mouth. For some reason, I hated that she had been with at the dance with Francis. I avoided bringing up topics that made me unable to control the words I’d say but it usually ended up happening eventually anyway. Silence seems to be the cousin of white lies.
“You know nothing.”
“That’s sick.”
“Would you like any details?” she snapped. “Since you seem so very intent on it.”
My stomach turned hard. I looked at her, and she appeared so poised. No one from a distance would suspect this vomit-worthy conversation to be happening between us. Why couldn’t we be normal?
“No one was dead when that happened. Or the times after.”
“No one has to be dead for the thought alone to be gross enough.” I gritted my teeth. I want to slap her right now.
“Why, because of me, or because of him?”
“The mixture. You could do a lot fucking better.” I knew I needed to stop talking. Why Francis of all people? He could have thought she was a worm the entire time. “What do you mean times after?”
“Clearly, I can’t do better. They’re not exactly lining up,” she mumbles. “And yes, times after, Lewis. You are not my brother, you cannot decide who I do and do not get involved with, which doesn’t even matter now.”
“I never tried to. Not going to homecoming was a big-ass mistake because you clearly need a baby sitter around guys like Francis. Times after,” I gritted my teeth. I don’t want to picture her with him. “You've just been way too secretive lately.”
“When am I not secretive?”
“No normal person chooses to live in an abandoned apartment with no electricity when they have somewhere they could stay unless they're hiding a lot of bad shit, Erika.”
“Where am I supposed to go? Somewhere you can keep track of what I do with my own body twenty-four seven?”
My mind went silent except for the stinging sound of my hand against Erika’s face. Her cheek turned completely red with my handprint and she gasped.
I felt the pain radiate throughout my hand and the regret radiate through my body. She wouldn’t look at me; she bit her lip and stared at the dark gray downpour moving towards us, more eager than angry. We settled in intimate silence.

          Erika finally got up and walked off. I was pissed as anything and I knew she had to be upset, so I didn't think to go after her to at least give her a ride home until five minutes later when I decided moron. Destroyer of my own vague plan.
 She had admitted to knowing Francis was dead and I snapped on her for being human. She was suicidal. It was pouring. I hit her.
I drove down the street between the park and a deep forest in my nearly broke-down blue truck to look for her and I finally spotted her walking, slowly, tip-toeing by a ditch that was quickly filling with water.
I rolled my window down.
“Get in.”
 She just looked at me. This time, her face actually showed sadness. Not anger, not placidity. If it couldn't be blamed on the fact her face was covered in rain, I would have thought she was crying. She's human, Lewis. Stop telling yourself that the pact changed that.
 Then she looked really fucking pissed. I said,
 “Come on, at least let me take you home. I’m sorry.
“No,” she mouthed.
 Erika kept walking. I pulled over to the side of the muddy street, threw open the door, and got out. I felt now that I was dealing with a person as opposed to a robot.
“Get away,” she warned.
 I picked her up around her waist, and for a moment her cold hands slid over my arms and then hesitantly broke away. I shoved her into the truck and before I could get the door shut, Erika had climbed over and was out the driver’s side door. And she looked like she may start running but knew better. She walked slowly, once again, down the street.
     I put my truck in park and ran towards Erika, picked her up again, was kicked in the process, and walked back to the truck with her screaming. If anyone sees this, it's going to look like I'm kidnapping her. Fuck.
“Shut up! You need to calm the fuck down.”
 I opened the passenger door and shoved her in, shut and locked it. I ran back around to the driver side, got in, and locked that door, switched to drive, and started driving too fast for her to safely jump out of the window.
“Why the fuck can't I go home?” she asked, wavering.
“You can once I know you're not going to do anything fucked up.”
“Why does it matter? We’ll be dead in twenty-four hours!”
“I want you to make it until morning without hurting yourself or anyone else.”

We quickly pulled up to the top of the levee and I slammed the breaks on. Holy shit.
     The forest on the other side of the levee by the river was lit up with red and blue flashing lights. St. Christina police were swarmed near Francis's house.
An ambulance, too.
“Oh my God,” I said.
 Erika was staring intently, frozen.
“I suppose this was… to be expected,” she replied slowly.
She gazed out the window; we were too far away to see exactly what was going on, but I could see three police cars and the ambulance through the clearing in the trees. Erika saw them, too.
“What the fuck is this?” I asked.
She responded quickly,
“We shouldn't be here. It's like an arsonist watching their fire from within the crowd.”
I looked at her and she slowly shifted her gaze from the blinking forest to my eyes. My heart was pounding in my ears. Francis was found dead and the person likely responsible was sitting in my truck. Erika wouldn’t be this afraid if he’d killed himself. She was more afraid than I was. If she's this scared right now, does she really want to end her life?
“Yeah. Let's go back to your place.”
“Mine? Why?”
“There's only so much more you can hide, Erika; I'm going in your fucking room.”

          I pulled up in front of the tall, dark apartment building that I had become so accustomed to for years and then had suddenly been shunned from in the months before and after Mrs. Cohen's death. Erika had become more solitary, busier, and secretive as her grandmother got closer to death. I followed her up two flights of stairs and she pulled a key from her pocket and unlocked the door. We walked in.
     The living room was empty except for the rocking chair that Erika's grandmother usually sat in when she wasn't cooking or oil-painting. The television, bookshelf, and rug were gone – just the hardwood floor and creaky rocking chair remained. The tiny kitchen looked untouched and empty other than a bottle of mustard sitting on the counter. We walked down the short hallway, passing the bathroom and her grandmothers closed-up room, to Erika's room.
Her named was painted in purple on the door, as it always had been. Erika Violet Cohen.
It was dark inside, of course, but a small amount of light came in through her window from what was leftover of the sun. Erika walked to her desk and picked up her pink lighter and lit one large candle. I looked around her room; I saw several candles – mostly melted, a small purple box she kept random items in, her writing desk, the small, messy mattress in the corner where Erika had always slept, a large brown bow Erika practiced archery with as a pre-teen, and her black purse in the corner with fire-works sticking out. Her book shelf was gone and her book collection was scattered across the floor; some were open and some were closed. The box-spring was gone. Her dresser was gone.
I glanced at the closet; the door was closed, but I assumed her clothes were still hanging in there as usual. Lithium’s cage was gone, as was Lithium; she had handed her over to Zach last night day after saying goodbye for what she thinks is the last time. A page was open in her sketchbook on the floor, but all I could make out was a water-colored heart in the center of the page. She quickly picked it up from the floor and closed it.  Her laptop was in a pink bag on her desk, unable to charge in this apartment. It had been ages since I had seen her on it and she could only update her SocialBook status once in a while from her phone.
“What happened to all the furniture?” I asked. I wondered if her grandmothers’ room was also empty, but by the state of the apartment I was sure it was empty. Erika had gotten rid of all her grandmother’s clothes and probably anything else that made her think too much of her except for the rocking chair. Mrs. Cohen would have had a very stern talk with Erika if she knew anything about the pact. They were so close; if Erika’s grandmother had not been sick towards the end she would have seen there was something going on. Maybe she did.
“Pawn shop. I don't need furniture,” she said, falling onto her mattress. I noticed a small blood-stain near her desk.
“Wow. Why didn't you just leave this place?” I asked. This is so depressing, I thought. No wonder she's suicidal.
“I have had no reason to,” she said. “I wouldn't stay with Miriam long because of her brother and because...Miriam is Miriam...”
“You've always been able to stay at my house.”
I sat down beside Erika. She sighed. The flame from the candle was growing and shrinking on her desk. I watched it. So did she.
 The light amplified her paleness in a way, and the way her collar bones stood out much more than they used to. Her shirt was low-cut and I glanced back at her face quickly after I saw the black lace of her bra peeking out. Stop looking there.
She looked like she was disconnected from her body all the time, other than now, when her fingers were gripping the mattress intensely. She was thinking, and she really looked terrified.
“You know how I am about privacy.”
“Yeah and I know you weren't always as private as you are now. Not with me. You got me to sign a suicide pact, you told me about Kathleen before you spiked her, so you clearly have some trust, and I know about Francis.”
 I put my hand under her chin and turned her face to look at me. She kept her gaze downward. “What else is there to hide?”
She glanced up at me, horrified – no – stunned by my question, and after a brief moment she shrank back. Erika didn't answer for several moments and wouldn't look at me for more than a split second before darting her eyes away.
“Nothing,” she finally said. “I just like to be alone.”
She was lying and she knew I knew she was lying, but I decided not to press it further. It wasn't anything demented. She looked nervous with me being here, like she was being exposed. Nervous like a normal girl would be…I connected the flashing dots from the last several years -last several months, especially - in my head quickly.
Holy fucking shit.
“You look a little afraid,” I continued, ignoring my own flip-flopping stomach.
“I...don't know what I am,” she said quietly. “I don't know if I'm happy about what I did or not.”
“You mean about Francis?”
“Yes. I did the right thing, but I don't know if I am happy about it. Or worse, if I may have liked it.”
 I put my arm around her and she shrugged. “It doesn’t matter, I guess, since it already happened. But I'm glad you are here...”
She wrapped her cold fingers around mine and squeezed. She rested her head on my shoulder.  
Holy fucking shit.

          I stayed with Erika and talked about the police, Lithium’s new life with Zach, her current feelings and thoughts as well as what I could divulge of mine, and the “records” of the pact-days for another half hour until Miriam showed up and knocked on the door.
 Erika allowed her in without questions and she sat on the bed on the other side of Erika. Miriam was wearing a long white shirt and jeans and she moved very slowly, her eyes were squinty as if she'd been crying. No matter how non-threatening Miriam seems, I always get the creeps around her, like I would if I knew an alligator wasn’t far from where I was sitting.
Erika tenses up every time Miriam touches her.
“Have either if you talked to the other signers tonight?” she asked, more to Erika than to me. I shook my head anyway as Erka muttered flatly,
“I’ve been saving my battery life.
“I saw police near his house,” Erika said flatly. “What happened?”
“Oh my God,” I said, pretending not to know. “That's why they were by the levee?”
“Yeah,” said Miriam. “Erika...he couldn't wait for the pact to be fulfilled. He took an overdose and then shot himself. Mason told me.”
 She wrapped her warms around Erika and pulled her close. Erika sighed heavily. Even though I had known, and Erika had known and even been responsible to a large degree, the three of us were losing composure. We lost it. It's different when it becomes a spoken reality.
We sat for some time in broken silence and I felt Erika’s soft skin as my hand had ended up resting on her thigh. Erika dismissed both of us abruptly, handing the fireworks over to Miriam.
“I will see both of you tomorrow at 9:00 am on top of the school,” she said.
She handed me the hoodie she'd borrowed the night before to walk home.
“Yeah,” Miriam said.
As much as I wanted to ask Erika to leave that fucking apartment and sleep at my house, I knew better than to add onto her already set plans for what she thinks is her last night even though I don’t know why anyone would spend it alone.
 So, I nodded, hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. She shut the bedroom door quietly behind us and I walked out with Miriam.

We walked down the stairs in silence. I felt nauseated and overwhelmed.
     “She took that...well,” said Miriam. “Or maybe not. I can never tell.”
“She's going to process it alone,” I said. “And I can't tell either. She was kind of close to him, after all.”
 Miriam nodded and fumbled with the fireworks a bit, looking at me.
“Oh...well, I have to bring these in before Mason sits up and waits for me.”
“But you're not going to come up tomorrow,” I reminded her. I put my hands in my pockets.
“I know, but they'll be nice for New Year’s or something,” she said. “What were y'all doing, anyway?”
“What? Oh, we were talking.”
“Erika doesn't like people coming inside anymore. And you were just...talking?
“Yeah, what else would we be doing?”
Miriam is never direct. She dances around what she wants to say. And because of that, she’s nothing like Erika. Erika likes to rip to the core fast and hard. Miriam is a coward.
“Well...I don't know...I kind of figured, since this is supposed to be her last day...” Miriam stammered. “Um, just that she'd...want to do something else. I don't know.”
She stared directly at me and put her hand on her hip, as if she felt like she was being lied to. You are nothing like Erika.
“Something else? We weren', nothing like that. We didn’t…we’ve never done that.”
 Miriam's eyes widened and she nodded. This is getting weirder and weirder, I thought. I need a goddamn drink.
“I'm not going to ask why not... but... okay. Well, I'll see you tomorrow...after everything is settled.” She turned quickly, and I almost wanted to stop her and ask why she thought we were doing something else to verify what I probably figured out the hour before.
I wasn't sure I needed verification, but I wanted it. Everything could make sense now if I only asked for the truth.
I stopped her. My voice barely escaped.
“What?” she asked turning sharply to glare at me. “You’re almost a grown man, Lewis, you can’t get in trouble. She likes you. Don’t act like you don’t know.”
My heart raced and my mind went blank for several moments before it followed. I stared at her for a moment, no longer wary of her anger towards me – she’s been waiting for me to figure it out.
When she texted me to tell me this months ago, it was brushed off when Erika said Miriam was delusional. Erika tricked me. Miriam tried.
I nod and she tried to smile before turning to walk home. I turn away to walk to my truck.
“See you tomorrow.”
 I watched Miriam walk down the road and vanish as I got into my truck, and drove home. I should have offered her a ride but I couldn’t deal with anymore weird conversations, and all conversations between Miriam and I revolve around Erika. Miriam has always the same disdain for me as I had for Francis, and now that's starting to add up.

          It's not a good thing that the day before I'm going to try and talk her out of jumping off a building, we get into a confrontation. This is going to be turned around on me that I’m against her, just like the rest of the world, and it will be added to the list of “Reasons Erika Should Kill Herself.
     Talking someone out of suicide should never involve slapping them across the face.
I'm not smart. Never really have been… that’s why I’m in Erika’s grade. Why did I even let the argument get out of hand like I did? Why do I let my emotions control my mouth? I pushed the subject, even; in all honesty – and in all childishness - I started it.
I sabotaged it all right before finding out that she hasn't been hiding any secret from me at all. She's just been hiding from me. Erika has the ability to bring out the worst in me; she makes me neurotic. And angry. Especially since what I heard about homecoming struck a nerve in me. I didn’t want Erika anywhere near Francis and now I feel guilty because he’s dead. And in many situations, she brings out the best in me and shows me the strengths I have. I can’t forget those times. I can't believe what's been going on, entirely undetected.
 So here I am, and I'm scared. I hope everyone stays true to their promise. The promise to me, anyway. Which brings me to more guilt.
I have never broken a promise to Erika – not even as kids. Especially not one that was written and signed. It's against my morals in every way. And so it’s hard to make myself talk our friends out of doing what they promised to do even though the end result would be “death.” Am I helping, or am I prolonging their pain?
As far as convincing them not to jump, it wasn't hard to do because at this point in these people’s lives, they're nearly brain-dead. They just want guidance or a sliver of hope. What that hope is based on is up to them. Now I see how Erika got them to sign the pact in the first place – mix a few severely depressed, traumatized, sheltered kids with a very intelligent, delusional narcissist, and you have a memorable cluster suicide. Hopefully it won't work. I hope Erika isn’t literally or figuratively pushed over the edge. I hope this isn't recorded in any newspapers for everyone's sake. I hope no one ever finds out about the pact or about Erika's preparations, and I hope she comes into her right mind long enough to get off that building tomorrow morning and go to the Fall Festival like she has been doing her whole damn life.
Hope is all I can have tonight.
I will get her off the building. Then we really, really need to have a talk about something that's entirely unrelated but is really going to weigh on my mind. Please, don't let her get put in prison. She’ll never survive a Big Sally.

     I haven't talked to any of the others much except for Joshua. Tommy's been spending quality time with his boyfriend and texts a few times a day to see how I'm holding up, and Robin texts me to see if everyone's doing okay and if Erika has shown any signs of backing out of the pact herself.
 Joshua is very adamant about keeping the others off the building, by force if needed. He is still with me on the plan and has thanked me repeatedly for reminding me that he has a choice, and this our friends have a choice – choices not governed by Erika. He said he's going to be at the festival tomorrow and is willing to help in any way he can.
Only Joshua has seen this evolution as closely as I have.  
I'm not sure what anyone could do... even me. We’ve made choices and we’ve backed out of those choices. Our decisions are as fleeting as our will to stay alive. But unless Erika manages to pull me from the rooftop tomorrow, I'll write again. 

Wish me luck.


Chapter 7

October 7

          I have decided to get up extra early this morning to write. Okay, “extra” for me is maybe thirty minutes, and I really did not sleep. At all. I spent hours in my head – my last daydreams, and I would lie if I said they consisted of little more than that boy. I kept my hand to my cheek where he kissed me last night, knowing he was unaware of what it meant for me.
     So, awake I stayed. Why sleep on my last night? I’ll have forever to do that. But I am awake, for the last time. This is my last time to wake up, to write, to listen to The Birthday Massacre too loudly for my own good, and my last sunrise to see. I’ve danced, I’ve put on my makeup, I kissed the mirror.
And I am so unbelievably happy.   
Death is supposedly so sad and so very tragic... and I’ve experienced grief first-hand. I’m not jaded. I’m not immune. But death is freedom. I’ve unlocked my six closest friends, even if one was set free early; we are birds, and sometimes the bird reaches through the cage and plucks the key from the omnipresent hand of the oppressor.
Death has been tragic for some lately, though, and Kathleen Harvey’s parents are pressing the police about her suicide. A simple case of “my child would never kill themselves,” but Kathleen’s family may be prominent enough to get some work done. I’ll save the police some trouble. Once they find this, they can assure Kathleen’s parents they were right and that their child never committed suicide. They can take down that stupid memorial.
And Caleb wasn’t burned by a random vandal. And Francis didn’t die alone.

I’m sure whoever does manage to get a hold of this and read it and broadcast it will see this all in such a lack of light that it will distort everything I’d like to get across to humanity. They know fucking nothing. But here I am, on my death day, happier than I have been in my entire sixteen-year life. No longer does it matter that I am abnormal, or that Lewis won’t love me, or that God created me only to discover that this plain of existence is meant for escapism. Because I have won the race. God granted me that gift; the gift to win. I have indeed, because in two hours I will be getting scraped up off the pavement and each and every narrow mind will be painfully forced open with a meta-physical wrench.
 And my soul will smile, and I will never go to into another fucking classroom or to play games at another fucking Fall Festival.
I never did wallow in my own problems in peace like Lewis. I take them out on myself, others, and then I do something about it. That’s what I am doing now. I have never been one to get hurt easily – emotionally, anyway. I simply can’t care the way that others do.
And yet it’s too much pain to be in for sixteen long, drawn out years, and I am happy to the point of ecstasy to get out of it. I cannot imagine seventy years of this. That’s just masochistic.
 I will be glad to go wherever it is I am going. I think wherever it is will be full of people like me, if I'm not the first. People who will like me just fine, and laugh down at all the human sheep on this planet and laugh even harder when they blow themselves up.
 Francis is waiting on me.

          This world is wretched; I spent so much time being bandaged up by my grandmother that I barely had a chance to learn the skills she had to offer and to teach me before she died. My watercolors could’ve been so much better, and I could’ve learned more songs on the long-gone piano. The people of St. Christina were vicious to me, and to this day I am unsure why; I know I'm different, but I don't know how, and no one ever took the time to explain it to me. This is my suicide, but is it also their murder? My grandmother took care of me since I was an infant; she taught me to sit up straight, to cook, to pretend I was okay, she taught me to paint, and encouraged archery, dancing, and my writing.
Then she was gone; my mother never even existed to me once I left her body – she fed me for a few hours before I was taken under a lamp and she was hanging by the sheets. My father is unknown to me. The only boys that matter are the signers.
 Lewis has been my closest ally throughout my life and will be my closest ally in ending it. My real family is Lewis, Joshua, Tommy, Miriam, Robin, and the now late Francis. They are more than friends to me. They're blood.

I will walk out of this apartment one last time and make it through town, taking my time. I’ll pass more memories than I could ever hope to count, and I think about the routes each of my friends will be walk. Joshua’s isn’t much different from my own although I anticipate him being the last to show up.  If I’d allowed for it, I would walk down the levee for a way until I could see Francis’s house and whether they were still looking around.
But why bother now?
I’ve tried to feel anything about this – nerves, fear, butterflies. I don’t feel any of the things one may think would be natural to feel on such a day as this. But I’m happy I feel almost nothing but peaceful. When I leave the room and close the door, if everything comes back to me I will say goodbye to each thought as it crashes over me as waves do. And that’s what a thought without action is – a wave.
I’m not afraid of a fall. This entire sixteen years has been one steady fall from my beginning to my end, so what’s to fear now? Not death. Not hell. Not being alone; I won’t be alone. That’s been made certain of. Can I be certain that the others feel so calm? The only thing in life and in death to fear is the loss of control, but they’re under control. Aren’t they? I’m within my control. The moods of others can only be pulled by a string from afar – a text, a call, a poem posted passive-aggressively in haste to SocialBook. We know what hopelessness is, Dedicate our time to it, Hollowed out half-hearts, Show each other our scars, We know what hopelessness is, Dedicate our lives to dying, Hold each other crying, Hide each other's hearts, We know what hopelessness is, Dedicate our tongues to it, Singing ice songs to you, We hide what we do.

     The time has come to go meet Lewis, Robin, Tommy, Joshua and Miriam at St. Christina High School. My last hope is that when we jump, Lewis holds my hand. I do not care who is on the other side, if anyone, but I want his hand to hold mine this once without it being with an intention to get me away from an oncoming fight. I bet if anyone is nervous, it’s him.
     I’ll even go as far as to plead if it will get him on either side of me. It’s time to get it done.

Goodbye, world.


                        Chapter 8
October 7

          I survived this horrible day that Erika spent months planning so passionately. I don't know what to think of it; now I'm wishing I had gone along with her, but I didn't. I should have met that ledge with her and a scream and been fucking done with it.
It has been a long day.

     I showed up immediately before Erika and stood behind the pillar close to Joshua’s usual lunchtime hangout, out of sight. Miriam arrived at the same time and I watched her get out of the car at a distance with some football player, they kissed, and then they walked their separate ways. Miriam watched him walk across the parking lot for a long moment. For a moment I thought she’d follow him.
 I turned my attention back to Erika who was observing the surroundings and the people who were bringing in things for the Fall Festival. Once she thought no one was looking, she made a b-line for the door to the stairwell only a few yards from where I was hiding.
 I watched her, and followed her up the stairs.
My legs weren’t cooperating. One step, two. The door to the roof slammed shut. Nine steps, ten. What was I going to say? I made it to the top. The door. Staring back at me, black and cold. I pushed it open in defiance.
Erika turned and smiled at me once we were both on the roof and the door closed behind me. That's a lot of fucking stairs.
She was wearing a denim mini-skirt and her dark blue hoodie, covering a purple Hello-Kitty tank-top she wore frequently and often referred to as “lucky.” Her hair was sprayed with glitter she used last Halloween. I know she takes care of her appearance, but she suddenly cared about glittery hair on the day she planned to die? Part of the preparation rules involved looking our best… In my depression, I had barely changed shirts lately.
“How are you?” she asked.
I felt sick to my stomach from the situation but didn't want to give away the fact that no one else was going to arrive or that I wasn’t on board. I had spent all night rolling around in bed and getting up to vomit.
I needed to seem calm.
“I'm fine. You?” My voice was already quivering… But that should be normal even if I were about to jump.
 It was 9:00 and no one else had shown up yet. Erika didn't look entirely too nervous. Then again, she never does anymore. Our silence was thick and threatening and even Erika seemingly couldn’t stand it.
“I am glad you showed up first, Lewis,” she said softly and pointed her ballet-shoe toe at me and I remembered, somewhere in my skull, that she told me after studying body language that you can tell if someone is interested in you by where their toes face.
 Why was I even thinking about that? Now isn't the time to analyze our friendship. I smiled at her and she grinned and added in a low tone,
 “But they better hurry the fuck up.”
I nodded. The sky was getting darker and darker as we stood together – as she waited for the others and I waited for some form of bravery.
“Erika…I want to tell you something…” I said slowly. She stopped her sky-gazing and looked at me, almost nervously.
“Yeah?” We were both standing by the stairwell leading to the roof, waiting. I felt the words coming on and finally I met Erika’s gaze and said quietly,
“I want to hold your hand.”
Erika looked away nervously and then to the edge, and back to me. Her mind was betraying her attempt to be calm as she looked at me, deeply afraid, and our fingers met, and our hands touched briefly. She felt cold and soft and weak.
Then, to my absolute horror, I heard someone coming up slowly. A teacher? Was any activity happening on the goddamn roof this year? Did word get out? Did one of the signers decide this was too much for me?
 We pulled our hands back to our bodies.
It was goddamn Miriam. 
“Why are you late, and where’s everyone else?” asked Erika, sounding intruded on - anxious.
 Her eyes had changed. She was still looking at me but Miriam answered. I pulled nervously on my blue hoodie sleeves and felt my heart rate sky-rocket.
“I'm sorry, Mason woke up late and had to get ready for the Fall Festival. I don't know where they are...”
Miriam looked at me as I gave her the evil eye, and she shrugged tiredly.
 They saw her.
She cocked her head and beckoned them, and they lowered their heads or just averted their eyes. How could we tell what they were doing from so high up? I just know them so well now…Tommy gave a small wave. I looked at my own shadow against the gray concrete of the roof. Even my shadow feels small.
Then, she turned around to face me like a taunted demon. 
“Why aren’t they up here?” she asked.
Her mouth was twisted to the side and she was gritting her teeth, visibly. I sighed. It was time. I tried to hide my trembling hands in my pockets but my shaky voice gave me away. Nervous fucking wreck.
“Look, Erika,” I walked closer to her.
“You’re fucking kidding, right?”
She was too close to the edge for my liking and her eyes were glimmering with either a cannibalistic rage or tears. Miriam was teetering as well.
“They're not going to jump.”
“Why? What the fuck, Lewis?” The tone in her voice became very intense and almost nasal. She took a few quick steps towards me.
“I told them... I told everyone not to jump.” I looked at Miriam. “Everyone agreed, including Francis, including your little slave, here. I'm only up here to get you. I'm up here for you.”
Her expression returned to blank.
“I’m going to kill you all,” she said very quietly.
It wasn't as if I didn't already think she'd like to pitch me over the edge...
“Fuck you. You’re a terrible traitor. So are they,” she pointed towards the rest of the pact signers in the parking lot. “Why didn't you tell me, Miriam?”
 A few other teenagers were watching casually. But the pact signers…they were watching intently. They knew this could end very badly. I couldn’t really see their faces so well, being six stories up. I wondered what we looked like from their perspective. They probably had no fucking clue...
“I...uh...I wanted to...” Miriam stammered. “I didn’t know how.”
“With words, Miriam!”
“I don't want you to jump, Erika! There are ways to deal with problems without going to extreme measures.”
“Do you not understand that this is not a way to deal with my problems? I love this. We were made for this. I’m going to put an end to what I’m doing. Nobody else can. You had plenty of chances.”
What are you talking about?
“I know, Erika,” I lied. “But the things that led you to this...You have a chance…life…” Impending panic attack. “I know what you're hiding now.” 
“You don’t understand what I… Fuck it, ok, I’m jumping. I cannot even rely on my supposed friends.
 Miriam smiled and took one of the fireworks from her pink bag. She lit it, pointed it in the air, and it exploded with a ton of bright colors. She gasped at the colors and looked at Erika for approval, but Erika was only looking at me.
 “Know what I'm hiding? What? Friendship is a ridiculous concept.”
“No it's not! They're down there waiting for you to come down. I'm up here to tell you that...”
Erika took a step closer to the edge and I almost ran towards her as she turned around, but she screamed at the top of her lungs,
“You’re uninvited!
     This fireworks explosion caused nearly all the high school students -who would surely recognize us if they looked close - and some younger kids who had shown up already to come around to the side of the building where we were standing. I don't know why none of the teachers came up there –assholes- but they didn't. I heard thunder. What if they just think fireworks have been incorporated in the festivities?
I started to panic more; things got blurry. Every word I had rehearsed, every thought – it all slipped away. The kids below were looking at us, some as old as me, and some as young as four. Erika looked down at them, and some of them waved. I trembled more. Tommy, Joshua, and Robin were in the front row. 
“Erika, please.” 
“Lewis, I can’t make you do it,” she said. She sounded defeated. “I tried to help you. Don’t want it? Go to my room and on my desk, there’s a pink journal. Everything I cannot say is in it, including my records of this. Keep them for yourself alone or rid tangibility of it all if you like. Don't let yourself be known as an accessory. If you do that you’d be better off jumping.”
 She looked at Miriam. I could tell Miriam was going to follow Erika in whatever choices she made, as usual, so I didn't think to bother trying to talk her out of it until this one moment.
“Miriam, you promised too. Everyone promised not to jump. You agreed, too…”
 Erika sighed, looking at Miriam.
“You bother too much,” she said.
 Miriam ignored me and continued to shoot off the second candle. 
“Don't jump, and you can come with me to get it and we can talk about it.” I knew I sounded stupid; as if Erika was going to talk about anything with me after this, alive or not. “You're not alone. You're not as alone as you think you are.”
You're not as different as you think you are.
I had no clue what she was talking about, and my thoughts were racing so fast that I felt I may faint. The wind was picking up. The sky was gray and the air was cool like the day we were walking to my house for a suicide meeting.
 I felt intermittent drops of rain from the sky every few seconds, and Erika stared at me, glittering from the rain and the actual glitter she applied, now looking like a real person with real feelings. Her placid exterior was gone, and she didn't look so poised. My heart dropped.
          Then Erika made a decision and I was sent into shock. She took five running steps forward - to me - put both of her arms around my back, and kissed me. It wasn't a friendly kiss, either, if such a thing exists outside of me kissing her cheek the night before. It was real.
 I felt myself freeze and every kind of emotion I never allowed myself to admit ran through my entire body and I forgot I was on top of our school with two suicidal friends. I wrapped my arms around her in return. This is the part of the friendship I was avoiding thinking about until you were safe.
Her lips were cold against mine and she wrapped both of her arms around my back and squeezed, pressing herself against me. My hands were tangled up in her hair.
 I lost myself. I'm losing it.
Then it was over; she pulled away and stepped back.
“Bye,” she said.
 She took Miriam's hand and turned around.
“Stop!” I tried to scream but it was only a whisper. Whatever strength I had, you just took.
 I ran a few steps toward them before I began shutting down in fear. She turned around and looked at me, piercing me with her saddened, determined gaze. I heard thunder and I looked away for a split second, watching for the lightning I could nearly feel nearby. It struck.
Then I looked back, and they were both gone.

They jumped. All I could hear was a collective shrieking from below. I was scared to death to look over the edge and see what happened, so I didn't. I realized, upon trying to walk, that I had fallen to my knees and was shaking badly. I breathed halfway in and couldn't go further – I stood up anyway.

I went through the door and ran downstairs, the blue walls a blur, and heard the screaming of what was at least sixty disturbed St. Christina citizens. Adults pushed their way through the crowd towards the scene. I heard distant sirens.
 I ran towards Robin, Tommy, and Joshua. I tried with all my strength not to look at the expected mess on the concrete fifteen feet in front of me. I may have been crying. I may have been screaming.
“Oh my God!” Tommy screamed repeatedly. “Oh my God, my God, oh my God.”  He was hysterical. “You were supposed to stop them.”
He looks how I feel. Several people backed away from the concrete where they fell, and I saw faces of fear and nausea. Robin sighed repeatedly, trying to steady himself. I wanted to die.
My eyes followed Joshua as he ran towards the place where they landed. I saw blood. I mostly saw Miriam -eyes still open. I wasn’t expecting that much blood. And Joshua knelt next to the other girl, who I noticed through my fingers I held up over my eyes had somehow gotten at least three feet away from Miriam. He was speaking to her and cradled her head in his lap. Her body was limp.
There was no way I could keep watching him. He was cradling the dead body of the girl I was in love with. I lost her. She won.

Soon he was sent back to us as paramedics arrived and the students were forced away.
“She wouldn’t listen. She kissed me, dude,” I whispered. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. “And jumped. What…don’t tell me…she’s – I can’t hear the words.”
“Of course, she did,” Joshua said. “She's loved you forever. Everyone knows.”
“Yeah? Well, no one fucking told me until it was too late.”
I crossed my arms over my chest, feeling surreal. I could feel myself trembling between sob-attacks.
 I kept my eyes on Joshua.
“Social cues, Lewis. Blatant ones.”
 I held myself and shivered harder. Robin was doing the same thing and he and Tommy stood close to me; Joshua was the only one who was close to calm and even he was crying silently.

          The Fall Festival was canceled today. Erika’s calamity was too much for fun activities to happen, and too many kids had gotten sick from the display. I'm surprised I didn't. Erika’s final wish had been to traumatize the town, and that she did. I didn't see them carry Erika and Miriam out, because I didn't want to. Because I assumed, like everyone else, except the ones brave enough to look longer than I did, that they were dead.

One of them is dead.

     According to the word of the kids who had been watching intently -like Erika had wanted- when they were falling to the ground, they were in a hugging position, wrapped around each other. No one could tell for sure that they had jumped together, and no one could tell for sure that one didn’t drag the other down without permission. Miriam fell first. The most common account is that Miriam pulled Erika.
Erika landed on top of Miriam. Miriam died. Joshua did actually speak to Erika though she was barely conscious, and he said it was awful to be near Miriam – the sickest thing he had ever seen, by far, and he couldn’t erase the images from his memory. And Joshua told me that all Erika said when he’d held her on the concrete was “am I dying?”
Erika is now in the hospital and then off to the mental and behavioral ward. We try to be polite and just call it “the ward.”

          Robin, Tommy, Joshua, and I went up to see her when she was in the emergency room. Erika was hooked to an IV which I only hoped was a painkiller for the broken ribs and fractured pelvis. She was having her wounds cleaned by a nurse and she looked at me. I was surprised they let all four of us in the room.
“Be sure,” she said quietly, “to get the journal. Hide yours.”
“I will. As soon as we leave.”
“I will not be out for about a month. Fucked up ribs. Pelvis is botched, also.”
“It’s going to be longer than a month, Erika,” said Robin bluntly.
We all looked at her with pity in our eyes and I knew she hated it. She looked like she always did, only with a few scrapes and bruises. I supposed it just reflects her ways more; the way she looked as a kid so many times when she would have her own panic attacks and tantrums from dealing with schoolyard assholes.
The way she was before she froze.
“Miriam didn’t make it,” Tommy muttered.
Erika blinked several times, her eyes darting around the room nervously.
“I know this,” she whispered. “I remember everything. The fall, Miriam dying so fast, looking at me - everything…”
Joshua had told me Erika didn’t fully lose consciousness after the fall and was trying to crawl away when he ran to her.
 “I told the law that you were up there to help us. I told them she wanted to jump. Don’t mention the pact to anyone.”
“Thanks…Erika…” Tommy said. “I’m so sorry we didn’t go with you.”
 We all knew that if word got out that we’d signed a suicide pact, we’d be blacklisted from any possible jobs or life.
“So the cops think that Miriam took you down with her?” Joshua asked. “Or what? It did look that way.”
“It was a blur,” she said slyly. I shivered. “But they only know about Miriam and I being suicidal. You’re in the clear. Keep it that way.”

          Before we left, I let the guys go out first to give me a minute with Erika.  I'm sure she didn't want me to be there, but I felt it was in order and even if it wasn't, I had to talk to her.
“You’re going to be okay,” I said. I put my hand over hers. She stared in front of her for a moment and then sighed. She was exhausted.
“No. I would have been if you had never betrayed me.”
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I wanted to save you.”
“You did the opposite of that. I have nothing now and nowhere.”
I decided not to argue. I couldn’t think clearly and neither could she. I leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. That's not going to cut it.
 Then I kissed her on the lips.
“You’re wrong.”

     Just for being on top of the building when the deed happened, I was questioned by policemen for a few moments. They caught me outside of the hospital when we were leaving.
“Excuse me sir, are you Lewis Ellington?” the cop asked. He was about my height and had steel blue eyes.
“Yeah. Yes sir.”
The guys stood back a few feet. I panicked and assumed Erika’s journal or the pact had been found. Was I an accomplice?
“You were on top of your school with Ms. Cohen and Ms. Lodge when the incident happened? Correct?” he spoke sharply.
“Yes sir.”
“How did you know your girlfriend was up there?”
“Well, she called me sometime this morning and seemed depressed and worried about Miriam and she’d talked about it… talked about feeling depressed lately. Then I followed her onto the roof.”
I was shivering and lying horribly. I’m apparently not a good accomplice.
“All right then. Any clue why Ms. Lodge was with her? Was she…prone to suicidal tendencies as well?”
“I…uh… yeah. She’s… Miriam was a cutter and obsessed with Erika and they’re…were…close. I guess that’s why this happened. Don’t know why she was with Erika…so early...”
“Well, thanks for your help Mr. Ellington. Ms. Cohen said you tried to help her and Ms. Lodge but that Ms. Lodge was pretty insistent… I’m sorry for your loss. Have a safe evening.”
He walked off. I turned to my friends and widened my eyes and could breathe. They looked as nervous as I felt. If the pact was found, we’d all end up in the ward.
Erika is letting Miriam take too much of the credit.

      When I got home, I heard the news of Francis being found dead the day before and Tommy's parents having a wreck as well on the television. Things were finally being televised and I was way ahead of them. They were labeling everything to be “apparent suicides” except for the wreck as part of a “string of accidents” so Erika is likely in the clear as well.
 Now they're investigating the string of deaths by checking how many people have stopped attending church in the past few months, as if that fucking matters, and interrogating the workers of the chemical plant down the way. I’m the only one who knows the truth. Because I got her diary.
 I only hope that when she gets out of the hospital, we can be friends still. Maybe she can stop acting on her delusions - or whatever this spree was- and we can move away. I read everything she wrote in her diary, like she told me to, and I know now what I want, and I hope that after today she still wants the same things she was hiding. Minus death and other horrific shit. There must be something equally wrong with me for having feelings for someone who has killed people and thought they were doing the right thing, so I can’t judge Erika too harshly. If she told me long before, what if the pact never came to be?
 Fuck “feelings.” I really love her. And have for a long time.

          Tommy, Robin, and Joshua are sleeping here tonight; we're all too fucked up to be around anyone else - especially Tommy. He told me that he couldn’t even face Zach. Surely, he may have hated his parents but they were his parents, and he just found out about their deaths and about their funeral dates. Francis is dead and everyone is shocked. Disturbed. Sick. Terrified.
 And even though Miriam was closest to Erika, we had all grown to be friends with her in the last few months. We don't want her to be dead. We still don't know exactly what was wrong with her, and I still don't know exactly what's wrong with Erika. No one will ever figure that out – not even the doctors.
 But I’ll never get the image of Miriam’s bloody head out of my mind, or the image of Joshua’s desperate clambering to see if Erika was going to live.

Erika’s getting locked up in the ward after making sure none of us get in trouble, and her followers are lying on blankets in my bedroom floor wishing they'd jumped off the building with her. Maybe with these deaths, they're going to see that committing suicide is a serious fucking decision and that the world keeps moving after you've done it. Three suicides, one failed. A suspicious car wreck. A strange fire. A burned boy. The town will be full of murmurs and SocialBook posts and newspaper pieces about Miriam and Erika, but even Kathleen only got a few memorial posters in her honor.
 Francis got nothing.
 What was Erika hoping for? Whatever she’s getting, she won’t experience from where she is. But I’m fucking dreading it.
 Erika may have lived, but my plan failed. I saved no one and we we’re left on the floor of my house.  I failed her and I failed everyone else in a way she never would have.

The paper we signed wasn't in her diary. I didn’t find it in any of the other things I picked up; I’m gathering the rest tomorrow and keeping it here for when Erika is free again.
 I hope she tore up that fucking pact.