↩️ Chapter Two
Luna’s neon sign hums back at me. I laugh maniacally to myself. It’s fitting that this would be my final resting place. I make my way in, past the customers, managers, cashiers, and baggers, and reach the dairy aisle. I push through the Employee Only entrance and open the walk-in dairy freezer. My breath turns into clouds as I survey my silver and white surroundings. The cold pinches my cheeks, and I turn around and back up against the wall as far in as I can go. Crates of milk block me from the door, and I let my body collapse slowly to the floor.
Darkness is the only thing I can see in front of me. I look around and up, but there’s nothing. I don’t panic, which is weird because I’m a little afraid of the dark. When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of it, which is what happens when you have uncles that think showing a child Chucky, Halloween, and Alien on videocassette at the age of five is appropriate. I hesitantly reach out and grasp at nothing. The last time I saw darkness like this was when I was ten. My dad had persuaded me to turn the carport lights off by myself. Heavy cloud cover obscured the sky, and I could hear every little creature (and not so little creature) with each step. This darkness is different for one reason: I can’t hear a single thing. No wind, animals, or basket wheels.
“Hey.” I nearly jump out of my skin. I whip around. “It’s time,” Hate says.
“Time for what?” I squint at nothing. Nothing slowly becomes something. A humanoid figure walks towards me with purpose. I take a step back.
“For me to join you in the real world.” The figure stops a few feet ahead of me. The only indication that he’s even there is the nothingness moving and coiling like smoke over where a body would be if he were human.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I wring my hands together. “The last thing I remember is that customer…” I trail off. We stand in silence for a few moments as I contemplate what this means.
“What that man said,” Hate seethes, “was the last straw in a pile of shit-covered straw.” I take another step back, and he mirrors my movement.
“Where am I? What is this? I’m crazy, right, that’s what this is.” Out of everything I’ve been through, every insult, abuse, and crap hand the world has dealt me, some random racist is what tips me over the edge? “No, no, no, no.” I moan and grip the back of my neck with both hands, straighten my back, and try to breathe. It was a trick my old track coach taught me in high school. Useful for a mile run, probably not so much for losing your mind.
“I would tell you that you’re not crazy, but I’m not so sure. Besides, would you even believe me? After all, I was born from your mind.” Hate crosses his arms and looks down on me. “Would it matter?”
“What?” I say, gulping down another breath.
“Would it matter if you were? You’re still here, you still exist. It’s not the end of the world.” I look at him like he’s the crazy one.
“You weren’t there when my mom, when she…” Tears sting my eyes, but I wipe them quickly.
Hate narrows what appears to be his eyes. “I was, actually. I was there. During the depression, when she heard Voices of her own, when she took your father’s .22, and at the funeral.” All I can do is stare. He smiles, but it isn’t a happy smile.
“You hate her so much. I can feel it when you talk about her to your coworkers and when you write those little poems of your’s-”
“Shut the fuck up!” My scream doesn’t echo, and Hate doesn’t give me the satisfaction of flinching. Standing here with nothing in my hands makes me feel vulnerable, so I cross my arms and tug at the collar of my shirt. “I loved her, love her, you son of a bitch.”
“I never said you didn’t.” He cocks his head slightly to the side. It’s as if he feels the need to analyze me. I don’t understand why – he and others have full access to my brain apparently. “You’re not her, you know.”
“I know.” I snap defensively.
“I don’t think you do.” Hate steps closer, and this time I stay still. “It could end differently for you.” He reaches a hand out to grip my shoulder, grounding me to the floor. His hand is not quite solid and reminds me of the first time I plunged into an ocean. I’m not sure if he’s trying to comfort me or take control. I back up again, and his arm drops to his side.
“What now?” I ask, gesturing to the endless black sky.
“Well, first, you need to wake up. Then, me and the rest of the Voices are going to help you get your life back on track.” I snort. As if it ever was.
“Funny. What do you get out of this?” I give Hate a suspicious glare. I’m not so naive as to believe that the Universe, God, or what have you has sent me a squad of supernatural beings to give me a makeover. The most likely answer is the one I dread the most: I’ve gone batshit crazy, and I need to commit myself. But that’s a decision for another day.
“You get to be free and live life on your terms. And since we’re a part of you, we win anyway.” He thrusts a hand out to me. He didn’t exactly answer my question, but I give it a firm shake anyway. “What to do about the racist…”
“There’s nothing I can do. If I confront him, there’s no telling what his reaction will be.” My cheeks turn red in embarrassment as I live the moment over again. “Go back to Mexico,” I mutter. “My mother’s side of the family has been in Texas since the Apache lived here.” Hate chuckles darkly and squeezes my hand so hard it hurts.
“I can think of a few things.” I gulp. Did I just make a deal with the Devil? “By the way, you never did give me a name.” I try to yank my hand away, but he grips it firmly. I quickly run through the most boring names I can think of and land on a winner.
“How about Guy?” I can almost feel Hate’s ego deflate. The darkness begins to brighten around me. Guy is pulling me out, and I follow him, somehow knowing there would be no turning back.
↪️ Chapter Four