Chapter 4: Natasha
I hate you. I want you to die, slowly, painfully. I envision it with every fiber of my being. I revel in it. I let my rage engulf me. My very words struggle against the urge to leap off the page and suffocate you, squeeze the life out of your frail body. Can you feel them? My words crawl like insects in they shadows, they stalk you like wolves, tracking the scent of your silence. Can you feel them? They're on you, running up and down you, biting you, slicing you, digging themselves in to your skin. Can you feel them?
And now I come for you. I hide in the corner of your vision, and speak through the voice in the back of your mind. As you fall asleep, I whisper sweet nothings into your ears while you drift off to sleep, then I cut you into a thousand, insignificant pieces with my knife. Do you feel my breath on your neck? Do you see me, moving right next to you? Feel those shivers run down your spine and know it's my hate radiating through my body. I'm a caustic vapor, feel your lungs burn as you inhale me.
You're such a joke, you think that you know anything? You think these journals are real? No, no, Oktober laughs at you. We lie, and cheat, and steal away bits of you as you read us. We're all in this together, plotting against you. We all hate you, we all want you to die. You're worthless, you're scum. Crawl on your hands and knees like the scum you are, it will make the catharsis so much more vivid when we finally do crush you. I. Detest. You.
Eve of the Dead
I'm lost. I'm aware of my body, passively, I can feel what it feels, see what it sees, hear what it hears, but it's all dull. Vague. Like a half-remembered dream. I can feel myself trapped in my own mind, flowing around it like a liquid. I'm nebulous, nonreal, an abstract concept. I can feel the edges of me fraying away, breaking down. Let me start at the beginning.
Today was the Eve of the Dead, a celebration I am morbidly, and self-consciously fond of. I'm aware of how enjoying such an event conforms to prejudices people hold with regards to me, I know what people think about me, regardless, I cannot help being fascinated with this event. It's a day where mankind honors their greatest fear, they celebrate their biological enemy, Death. People masquerade as agents of terror and murder, no one is exempt, not even children. But at the same time, these agents are condescendingly complimented, given sweets, and sent on their way like the children they are.
Oktober and I have found ourselves stuck in the City of Augustine. Its a vapid town, dreary. I attempted to find intellectual material to consume on my first day, but my attempts were fruitless. The Mute Musician is equally as anguished with this situation, it's interesting that it has taken us this long to find a common ground to relate with each other on. I blame him, he's hostile and doesn't talk much, despite my many approaches.
"There is a festivity that I feel we should attend," the Trapper-Spider said this morning as he entered me room, unannounced and uninvited.
"Is that so?" I responded, disinterested.
"It is for the Eve of the Dead. I'd imagine you would enjoy it."
"You know I don't enjoy much, Spider."
"So you don't wish to attend?"
"I never said that," I answered with a sigh.
"Excellent, then Oktober will attend. You should at least try to enjoy yourself. The Mute Musician will be providing out outfits for the occasion."
So that evening, the four of us headed out to the celebration. The costumes provided by the Mute Musician were of surprisingly high quality. He dressed himself as a vampire, claiming that it would help him stimulate conversation with, 'unstable' women. Apparently, vampires attract that type of person. The Wordsmith was garbed in the clothes of a detective, trench coat and fedora, fitting considering his previous employment. The Trapper-Spider went as the typical antagonist of the Wordsmith's masquerade, an assassin, which was even more fitting. Katie wore the dress of a princess, typical for someone her age. As for myself, the Mute Musician produced a ridiculous magician's outfit for me, complete with ragged witch hat and cloak.
"Personally, I think we're a bit old for this," the Wordsmith said.
"Personally, I think you're an uptight prick who needs to have more fun," the Mute Musician responded.
It turned out that the Wordsmith's worries were unfounded, every attendee of the party were ludicrously mimicking a plethora of supernatural entities. As soon as we arrived, I stalked off to be on my own. I did not expect to find anyone with whom I could converse, or share my adoration of the celebration. My mindset is a more abstract one, not many people share it.
"Are you hiding too?" a voice next to me whispered. I glanced towards its source, mildly interested. "I find these events to be so caustically dull. But it's socially accepted to attend them, and I find life is easier if you put on the charade of applying to social norms, less people bother you."
"You're manner of speech is educated, I approve of this," I responded. The owner of the voice smiled. She wore a black dress, had black hair, and excessive black eyeshadow.
"I'm not from here, obviously. I travel a lot, life is too short to live pinned down in any one place."
"I have known a variety of people with that motto, most of them were either running from or towards something, and I don't think any of them knew what it was."
"You speak from intimate experience."
"We all have our personal demons," I answered after a pause.
"How true. Speaking of, I must say your outfit amuses me."
"One of the people that I am attending this celebration with insisted upon it," I glared, but quickly turned the anger inward, saddened that I had allowed the words of a stranger effect me.
"I'd guess it fits your personality?"
"Some would say like a glove," I noticed abruptly that my conversational partner had been drifting further and further away from the party, and we were now on the outer rim of a circle of game and concession booths.
"Say, how would you like to get out of here? You said you were with friends? Would they mind?" She asked. I felt an expression of confusion flicker across my face; It lasted less than a second but she picked up on it. "Oh, no, you misunderstand me, I didn't mean anything like that. I just know a quiet cafe near here, it might be fun to go and talk over a cup of coffee. More fun than hanging around here, anyway."
So I found myself walking down the abandon streets of the City of Augustine. The woman, who's name was Echo, did most of the talking. I am still puzzled as to why I agreed to leave the party with her, and a bit annoyed with myself for it. Soon we arrived at the cafe of which she had spoken. It was dimly lit, and empty save for two employees, Echo, and myself.
"Are you familiar of the legend of my namesake?" Echo asked me.
"Echo was in love with Narcissus, correct? But he loved only himself, and so her constant longing for him withered her away into nothingness, until only her voice was left."
"Sad isn't it? Could you imagine?"
"Her only communication with the human world was through mimicking the voices of lonely travels and lost children in back alleys," I said, Echo looked mournful.
"What if she didn't just mimic voices though?" she said, "What if she could mimic appearances too? And personalities? Then she could live again, become real again." I noticed a slight change in her voice, but couldn't quite tell what exactly had changed.
"I suppose," a feeling of unease crept through me.
"Of course, there is an issue with that," I realized what was wrong with her voice, "She would still only be an echo," her voice was mine, "She'd be passing. Transient and unreal. She could not exist will the original did, but after the original had been gone long enough, she too would fade."
"An echo of a person. Having to jump between forms, constantly fearing fading away forever," I said. She smiled meekly at me, and nodded. A small, imperceptible vibration was rippling through her body, and he skin was becoming pale, almost transparent. "I'm so sorry," I said empathetically.
"You shouldn't be," there was a tinge of sadness in her voice. Slowly, she was becoming solid again, and opaque. Her skin tone changed, her hair grew shorter and blonde, and her black clothes began morphing shape. I found myself looking at my doppelganger across the table. "Like I said, I can't exist while the original is still around."
"I think it's time I leave," I said, my voice not faltering for a second, "I'll be more than willing to pick up the check." I dropped a twenty on the table and began walking away, but she grabbed me by my hand.
"You know it's not that easy," she said. I tried to pull away, but couldn't, her hand was clasped like a vice around mine. "And you also know you've already lost."
"Does the name Midas mean anything to you?" I asked, hoping that she would, and the shock would buy me a few seconds.
"It does," she paused for a moment, "Try not to name-drop, Natasha." A bizarre coldness was seeping into my hand. I glanced it, here hand and mine were slowly gluing themselves together, fusing like a reversed cell division. It took immense effort to hide the wave of terror that swept through me.
"You're going to do this in front of witnesses? How unprofessional," I said, Echo smiled.
"This isn't real, Natasha. This is all in your head. I slipped some ketamine into your coffee. You've been out cold for, oh, about an hour now," she grabbed my other hand, and pressed herself close to me, and the soul-chilling cold penetrated through every pore of my body. "As awful as this seems right now," our arms had completely fused, as well as our legs, "I assure you that it's a world better than what's going on in real life right now. I'm trying to be merciful, not letting you wake up. Truly, I am sorry for this." And then we were one. For one brief moment I saw her thoughts, her memories, the years, millennia of torture she went through. Then I was gone.