In which Katy loses her cool, says things she doesn’t mean, and gets exactly what she asks for.
The Beginning of the End: A Grocery Store Horror Story
I once saw a movie where the main character lost her family to a murderer. She proceeded to cry, not daintily, but the ugliest cry I have ever heard. And I suppose it was my lack of empathy at the time, as this was before I lost my family, but I cringed and laughed. Horrible, right? But I suppose I’m a little hard on myself. After all, ten-year-old kids are little shits, and people laugh at uncomfortable situations. I’m not laughing now.
“Arnold?” I scramble to my knees and shake his body. He can’t be dead. Not the way a human can. “Please, don’t do this.”
“Huh, I wasn’t sure if it would actually work.” Tom shakes his smoke spear and discards the blood of his brother in annoyance. The smoke spear evaporates when Guy delivers what sounds like a hard punch. A sob punctuates the air, but I don’t look behind me. I don’t want Arnold to be gone, but I can’t deny what is right in front of my eyes. I pull his head into my lap, card my fingers through his hair, and trace the lines on his forehead. Familiar grief tightens my chest, and a fog permeates my brain. He doesn’t feel gone; he’s right here. He was supposed to outlive me. He was supposed to carry memories of insignificant little me, not die on stiff library carpet. Why am I still here?
I get the vague sense that the others are still attempting to hold Tom down when Rain takes my hand. I squeeze it like a vice, and she does the same. Ever since my dad and mom passed away, it’s like my life, and everyone in it has been on a countdown. Every moment is the tick of a clock I never bought. What’s the point of doing any of it if we’re all just destined to end?
I finally turn around to see the others in human form. Gasps catching in his throat, Guy’s fists are whaling into Tom’s face while Regina tries to hold his legs down in desperation. I need to put away my grief for now and be there for my family. I give Rain’s hand one final squeeze.
Another blow cracks against Tom’s cheek.
“Help. me.” Tom’s hand reaches out to me; he looks pitiful. The audacity. I open my mouth to reply when another smoke tendril curls out from Tom’s body and quietly snakes it’s way around Regina, just out of the corner of my eye. Tom’s spear forms and sways behind her head like a cobra. It goes for the kill.
“NO!” I lurch forward on my hands and knees, too far away to make an impact, so I wait for the inevitable. But it never happens. Instead, the smoke evaporates in an instant, like it was never there. Did I do that? Tom shakes with rage and sends another spear my way, which I attempt to disintegrate with my mind, hoping my theory is correct. Gone like the last. I slowly stand to my feet and glare at my creation, my enemy, my family member. I’ve never truly cut a toxic person out of my life before, but there’s always a first for everything.
I open my front door with a sigh. Home sweet home. Only, it doesn’t feel so sweet. The fleshy-tan apartment walls make me want to vomit, and the laughter of the Voices in the kitchen sends my skin crawling. If I was a better Katy, I would head straight to my room and sleep off the day’s problems. Or sit down with my friends and vent. Selfish Katy would pull Guy aside and use him for stress relief and a shoulder to cry on. The shatter of broken glass and a loud giggle from Regina is more than I can take. I close the door with a bang and stomp to the kitchen. Arnold gives me a smile.
“Would all of you please,” I rub my temples with both hands, “SHUT UP!” The roar in my voice shocks them into silence. This is bad; I should apologize.
“What happened?” Guy moves forward to comfort me, but I back away, so he stops. I take a deep breath and tell them about my parking lot encounter and my first accidental meeting with the mysterious entity.
“So, you were just not going to tell us?” Arnold crosses his arms and squints his eyes like he’s trying to process how stupid I am.
“I wasn’t sure what it was, OK?” I turn away in disgust and move to the sink to rinse the blood off my arm when I realize there is no blood. It’s just gone. I check for scrapes, cuts, and anything to prove that the thing that hurt me is real, but I find none. What if… no, the Voices are real. They have to be. I replay the events of the past few days and my moments with the Voices before that. The problem is, I don’t trust my mind to tell me the truth. I don’t have definitive proof, and it’s this fact that sends me half-way over the edge.
“- we’ll need to cancel the trip since we can’t leave now,” Regina says to Rain. I whip around.
“Leave?” Despite my best efforts to conceal my insecurities, my voice cracks. Rain gives Regina an uncomfortable look, who, in turn, gives me a forced smile.
“Ya, we’ve been planning a road trip for just the two of us…” Regina points to Rain and goes on and on about the wonders of the Grand Canyon, sisterhood, and their plans to hitchhike. Of course, they want to leave; everyone does, in the end. The wrongness that is my existence, in combination with Regina’s soothing and obviously fake apologies for not telling me sooner, makes me want to drive an ax into my ugly kitchen wall over and over again until splinters are all that remain.
“Fine. Leave then.” The words are like poison as they exit my mouth. “Actually, all of you can leave. I’m done with this. Ever since I met you, you’ve been nothing but a pain in my ass.” Rain looks like she is about to cry, and Regina puts a comforting arm around her while giving me a disappointed look.
“Very funny.” Arnold laughs, but his chuckles lose traction as I cross my arms and stare at him with determination. “Are you kidding me?” I lean my back against the sink as the rage and exhaustion of the day mix in my chest.
“No,” I croak, “I’m not. I need peace, and I can’t do that if y’all are around. Look at me!” I point to my face. “I don’t know what’s real.” I bite my knuckle, leaving indents in the skin. “Something wants to kill me. Or does it? What if it wasn’t real? What if you’re not real?!” I ramble to myself, pacing back and forth across the kitchen.
“Hey, hey, hey. It’s OK.” Guy comes up to me, but just as he is about to encase me in a hug, I place my hand on his chest.
“I need you to leave.” My tone flat, I look around him and at the others. “All of you.” I can’t help but think that Tom must be enjoying this, but when I glance at him, he’s squeezing the dining room chair so hard I can almost hear the wood straining.
“You can’t make us leave,” he snaps, “where would you be without us?”
“Sane. Happy maybe.” Guy flinches but seems to finally understand how serious I am. He pats Arnold’s shoulder.
“Let’s go,” he motions to the group. Everyone slowly inches to the door, perhaps in the off chance I’ll take my decision back. The only one who doesn’t move is Tom. He approaches me, and I think, for a moment, that he might give me a hug. No dice.
“You want to know the funniest part?” He offers me a smile that is somehow both disgusted and proud. Are those tears in his eyes? “I didn’t put any of this together. You’re ruining a good thing, and it’s not my fault.” He almost giggles as he drives in the knife. “You moan and groan about your life, oh no, daddy and mommy are dead, and I don’t know what to do.”
“That’s enough-” Arnold stomps across the kitchen, but Guy stops him. Tom continues his tirade in a sing-song voice.
“Every little thing hurts me, oh, I’m so scared.” He gets into my face, and his voice drops into a snarl. “Grow the fuck up. Go to a fucking therapist. The. World. Doesn’t. Revolve. Around. You.” He throws his hands up in the air incredulously. “I can’t believe I’m the one who has to say it.”
“Get out.” Tom’s face turns red, and I know he wants to say more, but he just tuts at me and walks through the front door. The others follow, and none of them look back. The front door closes, and as soon as I hear the soft click, I grab the red plate in the sink from this morning’s breakfast and fling it against the wall. It shatters spectacularly into shards of red, but no one is there to scold me. No one tells me what I should or shouldn’t do. I walk to my bedroom and sit on my comforter in blissful silence. Finally.
Feedback is always appreciated 😀