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An Ode to the Daughters of Darkness

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I have always been the kind of girl who's small, the one in the middle of the classroom, so that maybe I can melt away like a lemon drop. I will myself to be ice cream on a hot day, candle wax, frost on a windshield. Something that when met with heat, it ceases to exist. I live in LA now, perhaps my time has finally come. 

Freshmen year and Jessica sits next to me in English class, without an ounce of doubt.

The teacher tells us to get into groups, so she turns her desk towards mine and tells me I'm pretty, like it's the most normal thing in the world to say.

Of course, I don't believe her but we do our assignment, and she asks if I have a group of friends to sit with at lunch, which I don't but I lie anyway.

She says, "Well, if you're ever in need just come sit with me, my friends are awesome."

And although her words hang in the air the way a song ends without a final note, I say nothing.

She can't possibly know that this is my fourth day in the state, and know only my parents and sisters, one of which is currently living on a college campus.

Which is as sad as it sounds, but when you're a middle child, and want to melt away you live and breathe your stereotype.

Anyway, three periods later I find Jessica at lunch, sitting with upper classmen and she doesn't even bat an eyelash as she scoots over to let me sit beside her.

I am almost in awe of the way she so effortlessly introduces me from that shitty assignment in English just a few hours ago.

And when I go home to cry that day, it isn't because I miss Minnesota and my best friend Charlie.

It's because Hannah gave me her number in seconds, Matt asked me if I knew my way around campus, and Sam called me beautiful.

"You're red hair, is that natural?"

"Um… Yeah it is." I said trying to keep my voice easy.

"It's so pretty." The others began to heckle her, as if she'd never seen a red head before and I laughed with them.

They make it seem so easy, life I mean, breathing and laughing like this is how everything should be.

At dinner, Nicky tells us all about how it's too hot in California to play on the playground at lunch time.

Our mother talks about Sarah's phone call before asking me, "Did you make any friends, Ashy?"

Part of me wants to vomit at that stupid nickname Sarah gave me back when our parents brought me home for the first time, and she couldn't say my name.

The other part of me remembers meeting Emily in guitar after lunch, and the way she talked to me like I was an old friend, not some random new girl.

My eyes tear up again as I nod, "Yeah, I think I did." And for the first time in my life I want to stay somewhere.

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I am a screamer, and not in the dirty way; that way that makes boys cackle and cry with laughter as they ask you if they can see an example.

I am a screamer in the way that kids cry out when the ocean is too cold as their twin sister splashes them as if to entice me closer.

I screamed when I saw my first horror movie, but it wasn't a horror movie, it was Titanic.

I cry out at the tiniest of things bugs, sudden movement, rollercoasters, other people screaming, loud noises, touch.

My skin is always on fire and I don't know why, but touch makes me feel like I am burning alive.

I let the blame fall to my twin sister for squishing me in the womb, for making me small when all I ever wanted was to grow up.

And live, I desperately want to live, so maybe I scream to know that I am alive.

To let other's know that I was here once, that I exist inside of an endless voice, and fuck the idea of fading away scares me.

Once, I looked at Beth as she danced across the room and thought to myself; I wish she could be me for just one day to see how it feels to scream in the silences.

Beth can't scream anymore.

My skin still burns and I remember reading somewhere that hypothermia will do that to you.

Trick your mind into thinking you're on fire when it's just your brain trying to cope with what your body is telling you.

And fuck if I haven't been doing that my whole life; forcing my mind to cope with what my body is telling me.

Right now, it's telling me I'm hungry, telling me to keep blaming my sister for this emptiness that I don't know how to control.

Tells me to live, and I should know the only way to live by now, so why don't you just do it?

But the thing is, I feel lost and lonely, not just because I physically am those two things; it is because of the way that my emptiness has already swallowed me whole.

No preamble, no warning, I convince myself that I am not that scared little girl anymore.

Now that she's gone I can grow and live off of her as she once did to me back before we knew we existed.

So, I do it, and I do grow, and I do live.

I don't bother to ask myself at what cost but I know the answer already, and it isn't pretty, just like me.

When I scream now it sounds like death, and no one will ever forget the sound of death when it comes for them.

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I have the confidence of a goddess, but unfortunately got the hypocrisy that comes with it.

If you aren't my friend or covered in fur, I hate you instantly; unless of course my friend tells me you're wonderful.

Part of me thinks it comes from knowing what I want, who I want to be, and who is in my way to get there.

I just kind of got lost somewhere in that spiral of always knowing things.

You see I am a smart girl, I am proud and ignorant; because I can't ignore the fact that I am lying to the world every time I paint that stupid smile on my face.

I am beautiful and cunning, I will do what it takes to survive; meaning I will not hesitate to leave you in the dust.

Or ash. If you're caught up in a fire, who will be there to tell me I was wrong? They got caught up in a fire, the four of them, and I do not take responsibility for it.

Matt made it out too, and I told him he was a warrior, no a survivor, and he said this. "Part of me is here, the rest of it I couldn't tell you. But I know it isn't with me anymore."

I wonder if Ashley would put that in a book were she still alive, and I am terrified that the thought doesn't make me feel sorry she isn't.

Part of me wants to blame it on trauma, but she is my only real companion and if I push her away too; what will I be left with then?

I spend the rest of my life without an ounce of guilt for what I've done, and I wonder if that makes me a sociopath.

But that's such a harsh word for a – goddess… once that would have been a compliment.

Now I think of Hera, of Bastet and Venus; I remember how easily they fell from godhood the moment somebody stopped believing in them.

One day, I look around and wonder when it was I fell.

And I think back to that moment that I swallowed the terror whole, took a deep breath and tried not to think about the consequences of my actions.

Suddenly, the sound comes back on when I didn't even know it was on mute.

They are screaming, they are screaming so loudly that I don't even notice it is coming from my own mouth.

I feel my heart collapse and think that the guilt of what I've done is finally settling into my chest.

My life becomes a ghost story.

Only, I didn't know goddesses became ghosts.

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I find myself in the details, find little spots to fill and put myself inside of them.

What I am saying is, I have no idea who I am; because I have let the spaces within others define me.

I am somewhere between Beth's chuckle which is desperate to turn into laughter, and Matt's pressing urge to talk about football.

I know things I don't care about; like composers for Josh, classic novels for Ash, and constellations for Sam.

So when Mike and I are left alone one night, as I search for a spot to fill within him; the only thing I find missing is Emily.

But he doesn't want her, she's too 'angry' and 'rude'; I remind myself he doesn't know that I hold her weakness inside of me.

Hannah has tried to get him to sleep with her again, and I thought that Mike would do it for a second there.

Instead, he asks me to take him home, I didn't know what else to say but yes.

We're driving home and he tells me how he wishes Hannah would wake up and realize that she deserves someone who will love her.

It's silent, so I try to fill in the spaces, by telling him she's got a lot to learn, "She's a smart girl, she'll figure it out."

He asks me about the others, and we've been friends for so long that I tell him without noticing the soft smile he gives me all the while.

I put my hand on the gear shift and he puts his hand over mine as soon as the car is in park. "What about you?" He asks

"Me?"

"You?"

I'm too scared to admit that I am the pretty face who knows all the right things to say; I'm too scared to tell him that I am the breath between sentences, a gasp of laughter, a fleeting afterthought.

I have my place, but I am not anything more than the furniture that exists because otherwise the room would be empty. I am a knickknack, an antique, something to fill up emptiness.

"What? Nothing?" He asks, and I want to say that I am not nothing; that I am necessary and unnoticeable, that no one is nothing even when I feel like I am.

But I don't, instead I say, "I fill in the blanks."

And he smiles in a way I've never seen before as he responds, "What kind of blanks?"

When I kiss him, I am scared and hesitant, because I am afraid that I am filling up Emily's place; I don't realize I've said it until Mike says.

"That's not it at all." His eyes are bright as fireflies as he says, "I don't know what it is about you, but you are so full of life you fill up a room just by standing there."

He kisses me again and again, until I start to find myself in the details. The curl of his fingers, the digging of the gearshift in my ribs, the radio talk show host telling me that I should be sleeping on my left side to wake up more refreshed.

And I realize I am not in any of these things, instead I am inside of a girl who has been waiting for so long to wake up, I did not know she was asleep.

Make no mistake, Michael did not fill me up with myself; instead he woke up the girl inside of me.

I still fill in the empty spaces, but now I don't forget to fill up myself.

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I have no idea what it's like to breathe and have it feel easy, normal, or necessary.

Girls who grow up like me are always in pain, pinching shoes and screaming grandmothers proclaiming that no grandchild of theirs gets a B. And even though it's in another language it stings like an army of bees, pun entirely intended.

So girls like me build themselves up slowly, take all the love they can get and hide it away so that on those day when the world doesn't care about them, they have a reserve to fall back on.

What I didn't realize hiding away love does to you, is makes it your own, so I kept building and taking, because I didn't know how to stop.

One day, Hannah looks at me with tears in her eyes, keeping the words she wants to say to herself as she spits out a sentence like, "How do you love yourself so much?"

Mutiny nearly falls off of my tongue until I turn around and notice that all the love I had been taking was mine now; mine as in, it was my own way of saying I love you, to the little girl inside of me who needs it most.

I could have given her some of that love I had so carefully stored, but instead I say. "I had to fight my way to get here, you've gotta find your own way."

She doesn't believe me, and I don't believe me either.

I had thought my armor was built with courage, with strength, with conviction; but steel alone cannot build anything.

And when armor wasn't enough I thickened my skin, I kicked and screamed and fought my way out of hell.

When they tell me Matt is dead, I don't cry, instead I hold on to the last shred of normalcy I can and hold her close.

"Matt died saving me." I tell Jessica, one night long after the war is over.

She gives me a twitching smile and says, "He'd be glad you're alive, he'd have picked to die so you could live any day."

I start crying, because what else can you do when you realize that someone shielded you in love to save your life; and all this time you thought it was your own fucking doing.

I learn to let go after that, start to live my life the way I think that Matt would have wanted me to.

I plant trees, I adopt a one-eyed cat, I start donating the shit I don't need. I give away all the love I had been so desperately holding onto, and never see it returned to me.

Then one day I look in the mirror and it's like I'm seeing my face for the first time in my life, and I am beautiful without armor.

I wonder if this is how Matt saw me, when he chose my life over his.

I don't cry, instead I feel a surging warmth in my heart, and suddenly I get what his final message to me was.

Love doesn't go away, love in any capacity when given, is here to stay. And he… He gave a lifetimes worth of love. I couldn't lose it if I tried.

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I am flawless, and I know it too; I look good in jeans, dresses, sweats, and underwear.

I can say the alphabet backwards and play the cello; because who doesn't love a girl who knows how to use her hands?

I know what my heart looks like and I wear it proudly everywhere I go, I say fuck a lot and don't give a shit that it's 'un-lady-like'.

I am full of life and everyone knows it, so they love me because they want to be me; and hell I'd want to be me too.

The only problem is that I'm not fucked up enough for my parents to notice me as anything more than the 'responsible one'. And I am responsible, and I do like being responsible, and trusted, and all that other shit teens want from their parents.

What I mean is that I want my mother to say something other than, "Take care of Hannah and/or Josh."

What I mean is I want my father to call me his little girl again, because even perfect girls feel small sometimes.

Maybe it's because I've never really had to fight for anything, except for the remote, that I don't even argue with my place in the family dynamic.

If you can call a prison a family; once I told my sister I didn't love her and I meant it. Once I called Josh a psycho and I meant it. Once I called my mother a slut and I meant it. I call my father Fuhrer so often my friends think it's a sign of affection.

I don't remember when I started giving pieces of myself away; thinking back I'd guess it was the night I kissed Sam and I felt something good for the first time in months. And I gave her that moment so I could never lose it.

When we go away that weekend I decide that I am allowed to be imperfect too, because I should be allowed to be human.

Hannah is gone now, and I can't say I'm relieved because I'm not, but I'm also not, not relieved. So, I guess I'm confused, and I don't like being confused.

My mother asks me why I didn't protect my sister and I lie through my teeth, tell her I tried to get her to stay with us, that I was scared; and she screams at me that I should have followed after her.

I don't say anything else, instead Josh steals the good liquor and locks us in his room; we play video games, we drink, we cry, and most of all we bitch about our parents.

He convinces me to buy an apartment with him, and we get the hell out of our facility of a home.

We live on, because it's all we know how to do.

Years later they find Hannah's head, her body devoured by something but they won't tell us what; for the first time in my life I wonder what it would be like to die.

But I am perfect, I am divine in my own right, and this I will survive too.

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They told me that when love comes for you, it will feel like pain and joy all at once.

I had imagined the way he'd caress my cheeks and sweep me off my feet, with the kind of practiced grace that comes with years of fairytale experience.

So, I open every storybook and work of fiction I can swallow, in the hopes that I find myself inside of it, find a romance that I can replicate with ease.

Turns out terrified princesses are falling out of fashion these days; and I know, I know I should want to be brave, but fuck me some of us aren't meant to be bold.

And believe me I have tried to be bold, I have tried and failed because I am a little girl always in over my head, never coming out on top.

Until I met him, the stuttering blundering beautiful boy, that made my face feel hot and heart beat faster.

I remember the warning signs, that I was in too deep; I didn't know how to pull myself out of it, so I ignored them.

Because this is what love looks like… right?

Turns out love comes in many different ways, and yes, this time it did hurt. And it kept hurting until suddenly he's holding a gun in his hand and he is ready to die for me.

I think to myself, now is the time to be brave, be bold, be a heroine and do it for him. "Shoot me Chris, let me do this." And he does, and I am so fucking scared I can't believe he'd actually go through with it.

I am not brave, or maybe it's not bravery I lack, it's my ability to understand how anyone who is supposed to love you could try to pull a trigger on you.

I remember the way Sarah looked coming home that night; the one where she told me that men are monsters, some just wear better disguises than others, and all it takes to bring them out is the right words coming from a pretty mouth.

He doesn't apologize for what he did, doesn't even acknowledge that he could in fact keep living his life had he chosen to end mine.

Nobody tells you that love has teeth, nobody will come to help you when you're already in the jaws of the beast, and I see that now.

He doesn't seem to understand that I know how to live in a world without him in it.

As he bangs on the door I remember the way he and Josh talk about the other girls; how they are so fuckable and date rape is such a harsh word. That Emily is a bitch but so damn good looking they can get passed it, that Jessica would sound better choking on a cock, and Sam could use a dick in her ass instead of that stick.

I used to find it endearing that Chris refused to let Josh talk about me that way, now I wish I had told them to suck each other's dicks because bestiality is illegal.

I back away, I close the storybook, life doesn't work that way.

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My first tattoo is a butterfly, because I love butterflies and I think that by getting one maybe somebody will notice me. And love me the way I can't help but love fluttering wings and vibrant symbolism.

How sad is that? Changing yourself for others? Didn't Disney teach you better than that, Han?

But I committed and I actually hate how much I loved getting a tat.

I love it so much I force Beth and Sam to get my next one with me; our initials tied together, because sister tattoos are cute. And it sits just above my heart because that's where they'll always be.

Jess wants to get one too, a trendy watercolor one but is too scared to go alone so I get my third; a tennis racket on my wrist.

Emily claims she's above getting tattoos, says they're gaudy and won't age well, but she comes with me when I get my next one. A semicolon on the back of my neck.

I take a break from ink for a while, a whole six months before I decide I want our mountain on my ankle; one of those outlines with the coordinates beneath.

My mother tells me to stop getting tattoos, that they're permanent but here's the thing; I love that about them. There is so much bullshit in this world that if something is permanent I want it in my life.

I am tired of turbulence, of never knowing what's coming next; who will stay and who will leave me. But in this permanent skin I have something forever, something that's mine, that I put there willingly.

One day, I wake up and see the butterfly on my shoulder and wish it were something else entirely, because I want more from my life than the boy who was never going to love me.

So I start to grow a garden, my arm a waterfall of color and flora that I could have never imagined existing on this body before.

It takes months to finish, and then some to heal; but once it's done I have a bouquet with me everywhere I go.

It is the most beautiful thing I own, it is no one else's but mine; and I love the way that it makes me feel.

My friends call me punk now, tell me I've out badassed Beth, who is considering more tattoos but is too indecisive to pick one.

They told me that someday I'd grow into my own skin, I just had to paint it first and never realized it. I never thought that I could slip so easily into this art gallery body.

When I look in the mirror now, I always take pictures, fill my Instagram with ink and my face, where once there was nothing.

I set out to have someone else fall in love with me, instead I fell in love with myself and that's beautiful. Isn't it?

The girl covered in color is beautiful, and that girl is me.

Michael gave me one thing at least, he gave me a love that's permanent.

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It is hard to remember a face you've never seen; and I feel like I have had my fair share of blank faces.

I was wandering around in a sea of empty hearts and empty faces long before I even knew it; which is just a fancy way of saying I had no friends growing up.

Not until I met Hannah in sixth grade biology, and she looked like she wanted to disappear; I know the feeling so well that I sit next to her. As if by association we are connected.

She tells me how this is her first day in public school; because her twin sister no longer wanted to go to their small private school, but their parents refused to separate them, so here she is trembling and terrified at suddenly being in an ocean.

At lunch we sit together, the three of us, Hannah with nothing left to say, and Beth with a whole world spilling out of her head.

And we have a connection, she and I, that leads to our first sleep over, our first movie hangout, our first school dance, then without warning we are all grown up.

Hannah pinning after the class president and Beth, pinning after me; of all people I never thought that I would be the lucky one that Beth Washington falls in love with.

"It's a tale as old as time, my sister's best friend becomes my girlfriend. Just call me Harry Potter." She smiles effortlessly before we come out to our parents.

"Ginny Weasley you mean, I'm good old HP in this case."

"Sure." She gives me a laugh and takes my hand before we spill our guts out to our families over dinner.

And her mother seems to care the most, feeling betrayed and all; but her father seems to have always known. My parents don't understand if they're supposed to pretend to be surprised or if they're allowed to instantly be happy for us.

Either way, Beth takes me to prom, we have sex, and drive on dirt roads; all of the things that teen couples are supposed to do.

And I am beyond furious when she doesn't get back to the lodge that night, I blame Hannah and Jess and Em and Mike, until I have no one left to blame but myself.

It's hard to forget the face of the person who taught you what it means to be alive. So I do my best to remember her, look at every old photo as if somehow, conjuring her image in my mind will bring her back to life.

Nearly a month passes by and I don't know why I think that she's dead, but I've convinced myself that the only way we'll see each other again is if I die.

When she comes back I can hardly believe it, actually I don't believe it at all until she's got her arms wrapped around my neck and she's crying.

She's thin, beyond thin and broken, but she is back; the light in her eyes is still there and I kiss her as quickly as I can. She tells me what happened, a mine and a man that saved her and Hannah.

Despite everything, her face is still bright and beautiful as a summer day; I realize the reason I didn't believe she was alive, was because seeing her felt like just another day.

You never forget the first face that brought you to life, and I never forgot her for a second.

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I am forgettable, yet necessary; like air or the ground beneath your feet.

Never noticed, commonly forgotten, until I am gone and suddenly the world turns upside down. This is real, this is a new reality.

I am the first to die, in every instance even if it's just a lack of knowing, I lie bloody at the feet of a boy who won't die for another six hours yet.

But by then you have learned the lesson my life so diligently taught you. I am a scape goat, the girl so easily removed that no one will even remember my name by the end of it all.

Don't forget me so easily, people are supposed to like dynamics; let me live long enough to show you all of my facets.

That I am brave beyond measure, a survivor through and through.

Even when I am left alone to rot in my broken bones, without Matthew I will claw my way out. Just let me show you what kind of hero lies within me- Restart.

I see that glimmer of achievement in you; in the way you so helplessly let them stumble through the snow like wounded animals.

To you we are raw meat ripe for the slaughter, and even if I know I deserve it do we not deserve to- Restart.

The quicker man, really? All I see is cowards, and you have decided that these daughters of darkness will never see the light of day- Restart.

I have my own trophy, stop scaring me, I'm begging you if I live just once; I will show you a triumphant return like no other. One that would put Tolkin to shame- Restart.

The part of the game you don't see, ash filling lungs and the way our parents weep over our dead bodies.

How each second that passes is agony, that we must go on with whichever ending you decided to abandon us on. Even if it's in the middle of our story.

Once I was alone and the world was so dark, that I couldn't remember why I was the only one with a will to live in the first place.

My favorite ending, is when we all die, because then we get to meet up as ghosts, all of us. The terrible ten back again for a lifetime and it is a good afterlife.

I live in constant fear, because I know what always comes next will make me want to collapse on myself.

What I am saying is, please choose wisely. Decide if we deserve this hell, and once you have; give us atonement, let us strive for forgiveness.

You stop restarting, you pick up a pen instead.

It's your turn now, I have one final request. Do right by us.

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I am not the kind of bitch to apologize, even when it is undeniable that I am the one who's wrong.

I have spent too long apologizing for my very existence, that now even apologizing for the little shit feels like I've lost another battle against myself.

Still, I keep my head up high and keep on walking, because what else is a girl to do in a world that hates her?

They stumbled into my life, when I did not ask them to; The Washington's I mean, and part of me thinks that it would have been better if they didn't.

If Hannah had kept her awkward blushing and shaking hands to herself, or Josh with his singsong teasing and twitching personality.

I could have lived my whole life without them and not known any different, maybe then hearing she had a crush on my boyfriend would have spurred me to nip it in the bud.

But I didn't because Beth told me she'd get over it, and who wouldn't trust Beth?

That bitch likes to touch him when she thinks I'm not looking, Sam laughs it off like it's nothing, but it's not nothing.

Once, I found her diary in which she detailed her wet dreams, the pages filled with erotica about my boyfriend.

So when I say the bitch deserved it, I mean she wasn't the innocent little bird her brother remembers her as. I mean that we all have a little coal in our stockings, and hers is full of sexual pleasure at the hands of a boy who wants nothing to do with her.

Isn't that a rape fantasy? To want so desperately to fuck someone who is beyond unwilling? Were he a woman, would we feel more sympathy for him?

They blame me for the prank, and Jess of course, but what kind of bitch accepts an offer of sex from a man in a relationship? Who has shown nothing but disinterest.

The boy who was caught in the middle of it all doesn't seem to care beyond the initial guilt.

Hannah knew what she was doing, knew she was signing up to become a homewrecker, a slut, any number of names that I have come to associate with my own.

But she deserved it, deserved to be called a slut, deserved to be called a bitch, but somehow it's still poor Hannah. Dumbass had it coming, running out into the snow like that, the only thing I regret is that Beth went after her.

I remember reading her diary, finding the tale in which she detailed pinning Michael beneath her, him awkward and stuttering until he finally conceded. She talked about how hot she thought it would be to force herself on him.

Hannah becoming that monster makes sense in hindsight, now everyone can see what I knew was inside of her all along.

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I used to say that I have died before, but survived that too; now even lying dead in a mine shaft grave, I remember how death felt the first time around.

When you're twelve and think that you hold the world in your hand, you take every opportunity to prove to them that you are grown.

So I said yes in the moment, and it doesn't matter that I instantly regretted the decision because now I'm committed. I swallow everything that I can and swear that I see myself walk out the door when he is finally finished with me.

When I say I have died and survived, I mean in the sense that I am still breathing but I am unsure of where that leaves me. And I tell no one that I am dead, because I asked to die; my apparent suicide remains a secret that sits in my grave beside me.

Part of me thinks my father knows, however, maybe it's the creative gene within him that alerts him to tragedy; or maybe it's the story he never wanted to tell that he reads on my face the following weeks.

Anyway, I get my first knife in the tenth grade when I had my last date with a boy, tired of pulling the rope of love until it was straight; my father looked me up and down as I told him I was heading out and slapped the brown butterfly into my hand.

And I couldn't forget the feeling of choking the whole length of the movie, his entirely too rough hands reminding me of the way that I ate cyanide that night long ago.

Turns out, boys want what they want, and so the next week when he's grown tired of my avoidance, he corners me in the bathroom. I whip out my new knife and tell him to back up. He doesn't bother me again, a rumor goes around the school that I'm a lesbian, one I am all too happy to confirm.

I don't use my knife after that, but it's on my key ring just in case, it's the security blanket I never knew I needed.

They laugh when I tell them the knife story, though Josh tells me he'll kick anyone's ass who tries to pull that shit again.

I tell him he couldn't even kick my ass and we leave it at that; him knowing I'm right but not wanting to admit it.

I wonder what he would do if he knew I was dead then too, wonder if he'd be surprised, he always did pride himself on knowing every plot twist.

They say that all things come in threes, and I guess death came for me the third time; my own flesh and blood taking the last bit of me for herself.

I shouldn't be surprised, I forfeited myself to the will of others long ago; now I have no body, nothing left to give.

I wonder if this is finally the end, if I can finally get to the other side or whatever; instead it makes me watch Hannah tear into my flesh.

I think it a cruel irony, I became a victim by devouring; and now I am a victim who is being devoured.

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Every time that I have been to a funeral I have been on my period.

Which is to say, that I do not know how to say goodbye without blood and water. That my body is not willing to let go until it pays homage to your life in the form of a sacrifice.

I am thirteen and met with blood for the first time at my grandfather's funeral, I feel like the world is ending.

Sixteen, my aunt has died suddenly and I am told tragically; knowing what I know about death now, I hardly find staying asleep to be tragic, but I bleed to say goodbye all the same.

I remember the Washington's burying empty caskets and the blood seeping out of me despite not knowing if they are in fact dead. My blood melding with the woodgrain because I cannot bring myself to move, until Jessica shoves a tampon into my hand and tells me to get cleaned up.

Despite these sacrifices, I give myself a chance to play redeemer; go away with my friends so that we can leave the blood and tears behind us.

But death catches up quickly, and she craves our penance.

So I bathe in Josh's blood, a sacrifice left unfinished until his mind collapses on itself; Chris's blood splattering against the window panes as I desperately wait for his return.

And Emily, how her blood leaks into my soul when I realize what damage I have caused. I wonder how much of Jessica's blood was left as paint for wood as I so recklessly abandoned her.

How bravely Matt must have bled for Emily, cut open his wrists so she could stand a chance. Michael, bleeding on the inside, never one to show weakness as that beast wrapped his body around a column.

I don't know how it happened, but I overheard the rangers talk about Sam's body. That she was ripped in half, and burned alive; I imagine the buckets of blood she gave for me.

I tell myself that they gave me their sacrifice, that their death was meant for my life. It doesn't make me feel better, but it's all I have.

Seven funerals in three days, I am a walking artifact from a war I did not know I was fighting. And I bleed for them, I sit in the back of funeral homes weeping until I cannot breathe before moving on to the next tragedy.

I do not want to survive alone; I did not want my oozing blood to pay homage so constantly, so necessarily.

I try to close my eyes at night, but all I see is red; like I can never escape the soul crushing agony of knowing what it took to get me here.

I could not stop bleeding if I tried; part of me thinks that if I let enough of it go, my debts will be paid and I can be at peace.

But I am tired, and death… She catches up quickly.

Chapter Text

I am the most insecure person I have ever met, I am also the biggest liar I've ever met; perhaps that's why I hate myself so much.

I see the way people throw themselves at Beth's feet and decide that I want that too.

So, I pick a persona and play pretend; the world loves a shy girl… right? That's what Hollywood taught me all those years ago.

Be beautiful and quiet, small, meek, domestic, unfinished without the man you should so desperately desire.

And I do desire the love of a man who will look at me like I am his whole universe. He just doesn't get it, that I should be his world, perhaps his misread the script.

Or maybe I need to shove him in the right direction, remind him that beautiful boys deserve beautiful girls. The bitch always starts out with the good boy, he'll learn his lesson, he'll see eventually.

He leaves me a note, it's derogatory and perfect, right in every single way.

The perfect getaway leads the perfect girl into a perfect situation. I have the script ready in my head.

He'll tell me that Emily is a bitch, that he's ready for a good girl, the marrying type.

Halfway through planning our wedding the clock strikes me into reality; time to cement your new role, as the lead you were born to play.

I won't be Beth or Josh's sister, or Bob Washington's daughter; I'll be Hannah the love of Michael Monroe's life.

I have spent so long lying to myself and the rest of the world, even I believe that I am worth marrying.

I am worthy of being someone's forever girl. I want to be his, to be owned, and how fucked is that?

Halfway to the guest room I have to remind myself of what this will be, that this is my one and only chance.

I open the door, I say his name, and don't let him talk. I breathe in his words with the longest kiss I can manage.

This is right, he and I, we're perfect, he has to know that now. Right?

Chapter Text

I remember that there was something easy about his voice.

How everything that came out of his mouth seemed to feel natural and right.

Like maybe in this world of flying ships and fade rift levels, there really is something simple.

How his laugh sounded as musical as Queen, and dancing how simple it was to dance around him like a ballerina in a music box.

And that's what we did, danced around each other with jests and playful punches.

Until one day it became all too real, and I watched as the ease he had so diligently fought to maintain drips away like winter into spring.

So I became easy, when the difficulty of it all became too much, I made it all too simple.

First it was slurpies at seven-eleven's and midnight drives to the middle of nowhere; the kind of shit 80s movies taught me speed up the healing process.

Then it became mindless groping and sloppy drunk kisses at two am; the kind of shit 80s movies taught me cause the good girl to turn bad.

And bad I became, before I know it we're watching the sunrise in the sedan that used to be Beth's; we are naked and empty.

He asks me what it means to be alive and when I reply, "this" he laughs for the first time in months. I think he is no longer broken.

The next day we throw away his meds, and he reminds me that the best medicine truly is revenge. I don't know why but I agree.

We Rube Goldberg the fuck out of the cabin, all the while kissing and smiling, knowing that this is still the easy shit.

It is easy to love a monster when you become one yourself, I think to myself as I load a gun with blanks; Josh just above me strapping a saw in place.

He looks down at me, smiles clear as day, "What are you thinking about?"

"We're crazy." I say with a smirk.

"That's just the meds talking." He laughs.

"Or the lack thereof." I put the gun down and I watch the mastermind work his way through his issues.

"You're gonna regret saying that Sam Bam." He says stepping down to my level; laughter easy but the fire inside of him reminds me of Ganondorf's castle.

"Make me." I say with my hands tied down to the dock of his jeans. All this time, we've been a water level, drowning in something we won't name or mention. It's too much to face a fruitless battle, something worth fighting for but we don't know where to begin.

And I know what happens to every villain at the end of every game, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the downfall.

Chapter Text

I have always believed in miracles, the kinds that seem to appear in sports movies and make a wish campaigns.

You know the ones I'm referring to, the ones that are processed and artificial.

Based on a true story my ass, it's always a question of how much are you willing to pay. Miracles are a currency for those who know the right methods.

So when I wake up, I am hesitant to call it a miracle, because I have seen the exchanges made by those who wish for miracles; and let me tell you, it isn't god's work.

Despite my apprehension I get up, cold and fragile, my legs stiff as if they were ready for rigor mortis.

I name my willpower after the boy who saved me; dawn an armor of old leather and soot.

The world is dark and frightening; every noise is a monster and every movement a crunching bone.

But I am standing, I am alive and what more could I possibly ask for?

Limping is at least moving, clutching my middle as if it will keep me together, I move on.

Towards what I'm not certain, until it's right before my face and the panic sets in.

The shadowy movement that lurches and tumbles its way towards me like a drunkard towards a bar.

For a moment I realize that I am about to come face to face with the price I must pay for my life.

In the back of my mind I remember the sound I made when I landed in hell, how my bones cracked and melded into what should be my grave.

I turn back, the elevator is bent to the shape of my body, but I would not lie in that coffin.

I am standing, I am breathing despite the pain, the cold, the tiredness that threatens to consume me.

I lean down, I pick up a shovel and I turn to face the price tag for my miracle.

I will not go down, I will endure this. Whatever it takes.

Chapter Text

My grandfather took me shooting when I was a kid, something about how girls need to know how to protect themselves in this world.

I have always loved action movies, so I took to that gun like a tree to good soil; ironically, that's where I met my two best friends.

The three of us would have been unstoppable had the universe cut the bullshit and let us thrive.

Beth and Jess are gone now, victims of a beast they could have destroyed given that nature wasn't such a dick.

I have seen the way that metal bursts through paper, through metal and skin. Yet here in this metal morgue I am helpless.

I feel teeth in my shoulder, and my blood begins to boil.

Anger has and always will be my most powerful tool, I harbor it close and wield it like a weapon.

This world is not for the faint of heart, I have only met one girl who did not know that truth, and she became a victim of this mountain.

Us girls, we have to protect ourselves in this world, and now staring down the barrel of a gun, I don't know what else I can do to protect myself.

Michael is crying, but he'll do it, I know he will. He is a brick wall in a hurricane, nothing will take him down.

And I don't know what to do in that instant, send up a prayer or thank the god before me. The man who takes fate in his hands; because at least it will all be over.

The truth is, that we girls are told to fight our whole lives; protect yourself because no one will come to save you. Be your own hero or die.

I am tired of fighting, I am tired of running and attempting to be the action hero that will only ever be a villain.

Girls like me aren't heroes, we are villains. Too strong and self-assured, our burning desire to live mistaken for selfishness. And perhaps once I was… Selfish.

Now… now I want what is perhaps the most selfish thing in the world. To want to die is a horribly selfish thing, yet in this moment I crave such a release.

I see my life flash before my eyes in the gleam of that bullet, I give my life to it and do not regret the choice I've made.

Chapter Text

Death is easy, dying is a lot harder; I learned this lesson in the seconds I felt my spine crackle inside of me. When my soul left my body everything felt easy, better, and I felt free.

Only I stayed on earth, no other side for me, just watching my sister morph into a monster. Typical.

I stay because my mission is a spirit guide, I find this out the following year, when Jessica's souls is ripped from her mouth; and I am there to take her hand, "It's okay now, I'm here." She holds me and cries as we watch Michael arrive too late.

The anguish that fills him sends us tumbling down into the mines.

Death is easy, dying is a lot harder; Matt and his endless reserves of kindness strung up until he gives Jess and I his hands to take him down. He tries to apologize, I don't let him.

Death is easy, dying is a lot harder; Emily running as far and fast as she can is not good enough when met with the teeth of a grinder.

We pull her out and hold her close as that monster, my dear sister, drags the half corpse away.

Death is easy, dying is a lot harder; We take Chris from his neck, him spilling out before us trying to drown out the sounds of Ashley's tears.

"Don't worry, she'll be with us soon." I don't know how I've come to this realization so quickly, but I tell him anyway, he starts to scream. He fights the reality that the rest of us so easily accepted. He sobs as he tells us he doesn't want her to join us… So I tell him,

Death is easy, dying is a lot harder; Ashley follows quickly after, Chris is holding her the moment she melts into our reality.

It's quiet for awhile, recognition and realization falling among my friends they ask how long I've been dead. If I am alright with this. If I forgive them.

We go around in circles with apologies and kind words; we hug and cry when our bodies are revealed to those who survived. Except for mine of course. Being the first victim leaves you privy to being forgotten.

Death is easy, dying is a lot harder; There is fire and an empty house, no one seems surprised that this is how it all ends.

Jess and Em help Mike to his feet with gentle smiles and calm words, Mike hugs them both relieved and terrified. Chris and Ash grab Sam, lift her up and tell her how strong she is, let her know it's okay to lay down her weapons.

I grab Hannah, I hold her close and let her cry, she's so sorry, to everyone. I tell her that I would have wanted her to eat me if I'd been consulted, for the record, not like I was using that body anymore.

It was jarring to see my corpse, as you can probably imagine; I felt a disconnect that was unfamiliar and welcome. She was someone old, and I am something mythic I guess. Mountain shit is weird.

I expect there to be a light, we are all together now, it's time to go. We watch investigations come and go; nothing comes of it. Part of me is angry, I did my duty, I want to move on beyond this mountain.

And then we see him, Josh hunched over, Emily's body in his mouth, very much alive. I am not sick or angry.

I am terrified.

I close my eyes and pray that this is not my eternal fate; that I am not in hell.

I hope above all hopes that someone comes for Josh, one way or another.

I hope it doesn't take fifty years for someone to find him. For someone to kill him.

Death is supposed to be the easy part of dying. I thought I was done dying.

I await the day that Josh dies, watching the way his bones grow; hearing his new voice and the way his eyes are dead but he is not.

Death is the easy part, I hope it comes for him soon.

Chapter Text

There is a part of me, by which I mean all of me, that feels like the smallest speck of a girl.

I feel as though I am water, smooth and clear, so much so that anyone could fill my shoes and only find them damp.

And I see the way so many people are divided by me, and feel unworthy of such attention.

But then again, I feel unworthy of the life that my 'creators' have given me; I'm not a bad person just a person who has done bad things.

So when I say it's not my fault, I mean that I am a wet dream for anyone who likes to play at god. I mean that it is not me who makes the decisions for my life, yet I take the fall for them.

I am the Eve of this story, the woman who takes down mankind in spite of the fact that man was just as guilty. I am not the sole decider of my life, that honor falls to you. The one who now calls me slut, wimp, bitch, cunt, stupid ass hoe can't handle a little blank.

Well guess what, you knew better than I, and I am the one constantly living at your mercy; a slave to your narrative, a constant amnesiac who can't make one choice for herself.

Except I do.

Every night I decide to open the door or not, and it feels good to decide. It feels good to remind myself that I am not a mindless damsel who only grows teeth when her author decides she needs them.

Let me tell you a secret, I love the feeling of that door knob, as I am given back my autonomy.

My strings are tied to a story written by hands that do not mind blood; my author, cold and uncaring, gives me a narrative to follow.

I am following a script, what's your excuse?

The next time you look at my hands and see blood, remember that it's your hands you're looking at.

Remember that the only blood I bathe in is that of pigs.

Remember that no matter how this night ends for me, I will get to start over.

Remember that you will not.

And remember my name; Ashley the girl of an ash tree grove, who does not mind falling and failing.

Because I am like water, constant, clear, deadly, beautiful, and life giving, step into my skin and choose.

Chapter Text

In another life, I read this narrative as a fairytale, because at least in this way some of us get a happy ending.

The only problem is that fairytales are not kind to my breed of woman. The kind that is so desperate for love she'll do anything to steal away a prince.

I will get my eyes pecked out and be forced to dance to my grave no matter how long I change the name of the story I read.

In once upon a time, girls like me are wicked and shrewd, even with the qualities of a meek and humble servant.

I read Emily as Cinderella; Jess as Sleeping Beauty; Sam as Beauty with her Beast; Ashley is Snowy White; While Beth is a Little Mermaid.

But me? I am nowhere to be seen but a background character, if I even make an appearance, the wicked step sister, a barmaid pinning after Gaston, the evil queen.

I am not wicked, just lost.

I am a girl who looks for herself in others, and finds love in all the wrong places.

But the world of fairytales does not see growth, only stagnant characters who don't have to grow to be beautiful, kind, gentle.

So, I became a witch, with a heart of ice that cannot be thawed. I became a witch because this is what is done to characters that need to be taught a lesson.

And at least witches go down for what they believe in, right?

This fairytale of ours is a dark place, where there is no true love and no happy ending.

Or maybe, it's just mine that looks like that.

Maybe witches need love too, and maybe witches just need someone to reach out their hand and sing a love song. Any love song.

Maybe witches need saving as much as damsels, perhaps the step-sisters miss their own father too but cling to their mother because she's all they have left. What if the evil queen is so broken inside she doesn't know how to love a daughter because she does not know how to love herself first?

Everyone remembers the villains, but who wants to be remembered if that means their struggle was forgotten?

Chapter Text

I am exactly what you would call a mother hen, I watch over my little chickadees and yes, I do ship them thank you very much.

I see and hear every instant of their lives before it comes to fruition. Every aced class, ugly break up, and small house fire is a prediction in my mind.

My children are infuriating and stubborn, they fight and don't believe me when I tell them that a waterslide on concrete is a bad idea.

Still, when they come to me with scraped knees and broken hearts; I pull out my sewing kit talks and cookie dough nights to make it all better.

I am not a perfect mother, I struggle and falter like everyone in this world; but that makes me human. It makes me one of them, and all the more welcoming.

Emily's father dies suddenly when we are 13, she comes to my front door at sunset; we build a pillow fort and cry over ice cream buckets until the sun raises our spirits.

Josh breaks Hannah's arm, so we slave away over a stove to make her cinnamon hot chocolate that she accepts with a smile and forgiveness.

Michael begs me to help him ask Jess to prom, so I construct an arch out of butcher paper, and feel as though I'm giving him away on his wedding day.

Chris and I make snow angels and real ones for Ashley at Christmas.

Beth and Matt help me barbeque stuffed bell peppers on the Fourth of July.

You see, what a mother does has been stretched and morphed over the years. The media tells us that mothers are meant to be beacons of purity, gentleness, perfection incarnate in the form of a woman.

But being someone's mother does not require perfection. Only care and love are required for the job.

I do not pretend to love perfectly or even wholly, there are days when my children exhaust me to no end. I get tired and my world gets dark, just as everyone's does.

The difference is that I know the power of a smile, an ear to listen to, and an extra set of hands.

Mother's are a different breed, we know how to give. Most of all, we know how to receive our payment, through the happiness of others.

Chapter Text

I am nine years old and the class is holding a spelling bee, finalists in each class will compete to represent their grade, then their school, so on and so forth.

This is the last time I allow myself to feel intelligent as I stand before the class and perfectly spell the word vivacious. Every fourth grader's mouth drops as I'm told the word is correct, and I beam with pride as my opponent attempts to keep their composure.

I misspell the next word, acquiesce, and the kid beside me breathes a sigh of relief at my failure. One of the boys tells me that girls aren't meant for smart things, so it's good that I lost.

The older I get the less I remember to acquiesce, and the more vivacious I become. You see the world wants girls like me to remain docile, content to be pretty; but I am not content.

To be vivacious is to be bright, bold, loud, lively. I live and breathe a vocabulary word because I embody it.

When I am old enough to decide for myself what I want from this world, I take the word that made me feel tall and slap a patent on it.

A company. My company.

I create, I inspire, I fill the world with life and color. Because who says makeup has to be natural?

My inner nine-year-old embraces the colors of every rainbow I had been denied. My outer self does too.

Because you know, vivacious is a word that the dictionary takes the time to explain is for women. So I took this word and made it mine.

We have the power to do that, humans I mean. We have the power to take words back and make them ours. What once held shame and a memory of loss, now holds the key to my future.

A collection of symbols only has the power we give it, but no one will tell you that you can take that power away too.

To acquiesce is to give in, to agree reluctantly but without protest. I will not be that person, the one who hands themselves over to a world who thinks she's dumb.

I am far too full of life and purpose for a word like that.

Chapter Text

We are the kind of warriors whose battle field is a high school cafeteria.

Our weapons of choice are harsh words, screen shots, and rich parents.

We have been trained to fight with our mouths and shield our hearts as if our lives depend on it.

So when the time comes for battle, and we are defenseless against the cold, none of us are prepared to fight.

Beth trying to take the reins on a night gone wrong, a killer and monster corner Ash and Jess respectively.

And we run like hell, Sam dragging Josh and Hannah through the bowels of a monster we did not know lived on this mountain.

I watch Michael and Matthew try to light a fire of a plan, but it explodes before they even catch smoke.

That leaves Chris and I, the most unlikely of heroes to do the dirty work; clean up this mess and get our asses off this mountain.

We pick up our friends like fallen pieces of a board game, gathering our lost sheep until we are together and strongest in our numbers.

All is not well, but at least we have each other; Beth proclaims the night bullshit before we are attacked.

I see blood and bruises but I do not let these things faze me, Chris and I have never been bonded until we realized that we love the same people. That no matter our differences, we are connected by the strings of others.

So when I see him creeping towards that light bulb I know what needs to be done. We shout and demand to be seen by that beast; as one by one our friends rush out into the snow to safety.

There's a moment when he falters, falling to the ground to push me towards the exit, he wants to die for me.

But I won't let him, "Hey!" I shout at the monster as I scramble to the farthest wall I can, and it follows.

It approaches quickly, screeching and drooling at the sight of me, it's claws are on my face and for a moment I think it's all over.

Who could have seen it coming? The bitch, sacrificing herself for the greater good. A poetic irony to die happily on.

But he won't let me. Chris's hand is on my wrist and before I can register what's happening, we are in the snow and the lodge is on fire.

As the night ends I count my losses, I look between the shattered faces and broken spirits; and I am so thankful that the only casualty of this war, was my sweater.

Chapter Text

An open letter to those who made me.

To the men and women who willed me into creation so that I could be the set up to your story.

To those who came and saw the spectacle of my tragedy and didn't bat an eyelash.

To you who saw the wreckage coming from a mile away and did not falter as I fell.

To the man who decided that I would be the set up to your plot twist.

To those who saw my death as an opportunity for pain and suffering of others; my friends no less.

Fuck you.

My worth was not ever dependent on you, my story was worth more than a casualty.

The true tragedy is that you lost my story, and a character who could have triumphed over evil.

But you, you chose the easy way out, used me as an interest piece and watched me die.

All the things I could have been are casualties over your head, all the lives I could have had hang on your shoulders.

I am a lot of things honey, and dead is not one of them.

I am a goddess, a survivor, a sister, a lover, a fighter, I will not be your martyr.

I will claw my way out of your throats to tell my story.

When you think you are moving without cause, know it is my spirit, incarnate in you.

I am not finished.

Not yet.

Chapter Text

In church we are taught that Jesus died on a cross to save the ones he loved.

We are taught that we all have crosses to bear, meaning that we must all die for the betterment of something. I think.

I was never the best at paying attention in class, especially the ones about Jesus. I mean, Jesus is all fine and good it's just that I'm not. Jesus… Nobody but Jesus is Jesus so what the fuck is the point of trying to be like him?

Aren't we supposed to be ourselves?

So anyway, there we are right? On this mountain with these assholes that I call my friends, whom I love so dearly it's destroying me.

There is so much death hanging around us, that I feel as though we are in hell, or wherever people go when death calls their name.

We crawl through the bowels of the beast, Sam and I looking for a way back to the idiot who wants to save us.

She left me alone, and Chris too, he had to die on me when my hand was poised to open the door. His gaping mouth leading to nothing stuck in my mind's eye. Emily isn't coming back from the radio tower, and neither is Matt, I don't know what I was expecting from this endless night. Still, my heart has never been so heavy with loss.

"Help me!" I hear Jessica's voice, frantic and desperate for someone, anyone.

I think back to my youth group days, where I was told that destiny and God's will are wrapped up in one. That when we are called to serve our higher purpose we will know, and it will be undeniable.

I remember that song we used to sing, "Here I am lord, is it I lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart."

Jessica's voice stirs something in me, a bravery or something close enough to it that I feel full.

I think of her sultry sweetness and the pain that couldn't escape us after the loss of Hannah and Beth. The way that she must be falling apart just the same as me, how helpless and lost she must feel. How this is her last desperate attempt to reach out for someone, hoping that maybe by the grace of God or something that she will be saved.

Based on what Mike described… she needs help.

And this, I realize, is my cross to bear. The cause that I must go to bat for, fight for, despite my every nerve being on edge, she needs me.

I betray my good senses.

They tell me to meet Sam, to go find her and ignore the voice, I don't know for sure. But I know enough, I know that I love my friends, I know that Jessica deserves to be saved if she's managed to scrape by this so far. And I know that if I abandon her now, I will never forgive myself.

Perhaps this insurrection will be my own resurrection.

Chapter Text

I never understood the point of pet names.

Who wants to be called baby, anyway? Being a baby sound fucking awful.

Sweetheart? I'm not a candy.

Honey?

Sugar?

What the fuck, I'm not edible, I'm a person.

The only one I've ever been okay with, is babe.

I don't know why, maybe because it is innocent enough without being too old timey like love or darling.

So there we were one night, all ten of us drinking and shitting around like we usually do.

And as casual as anything, Beth calls Jess babe.

It's soft and sweet, so innocent no one notices but me; I get to thinking that maybe it's not the pet name that bothers me, it's the way that it's said.

I am the daughter of a director, I have always known the power that words hold, but I did not realize how much power I had given to them until that moment.

Jess snuggled into Beth after grabbing whatever, I didn't so much notice anymore as I glanced around at my friends.

I give them each a name in my mind.

And remind myself how powerful a name can be.

Chapter Text

My knee is busted for weeks after the incident, not broken, but bloody every time I so much as move it.

Doctors tell me to take it easy, but I'm not an easy kind of person so of course I don't.

Now, months after the snow has melted, I miss the feeling of blood slipping out of me, at least then I could feel something other than regret.

In the pale light of my bedroom, I see the black and purple remains of that night, still a whisper of presence in my veins; trapped beneath the skin like water to a dam.

It's nights like these that I press on the skin, watch the colors melt and move in an almost dance because what else do you do when the ones you love are dead?

My parents are worried about me; think I'm going to kill myself or some bullshit.

But in order to kill myself I'd have to still be alive. You know?

Anyway, I prefer the pain keep me awake to the nightmares. I am the only person I know who fears both fire and snow.

But of course I do, because both kill, and both left me alive somehow, and what am I supposed to do with that?

Spelunking is kind of ruined for me, caves make me itchy, and nights do too. Also talking, loud noises, wind. Basically everything imaginable.

So yeah, I wish I were dead, I pretty much am anyway. Every night I give myself this pep talk about how I didn't die, but that doesn't change the fact that they did. The people I love are gone, the things I used to love are gone. What is there to lose?

Then all at once I hear them in the back of my mind; Mike calling me a quitter, Emily telling me I'm selfish, Jess reminding me of this chance I've been handed on a silver fucking platter. Ashley telling me it's okay to be scared and Chris to remind me that fear can't keep holding onto me forever. Matt tells me it's fine to let go, but he hopes I won't.

Beth reminds me to be strong and Hannah reminds me to keep fighting.

But Josh, there's a part of me that almost believes I'm holding his hand when he tells me, "You've got this, I didn't, but you do. You don't have to be me, you have so much life burning inside of you."

They tell me that despite the bruised and battered heart inside of my chest, that it is still beating. Whatever the reason, take this opportunity Sammy, don't squander it.

I am crying, but fierce, I scrounge up the broken bits of hope inside of me, and preserve.

Chapter Text

In which my name becomes a mantra, a battle cry or merely a reminder to keep breathing.

While I remain a damsel in the claws of a beast his voice and my name ring out like a prayer.

Like if he shouts for me enough times it will be enough to save me.

"Hold on Jess, I'm coming!" He shouts and for a moment I wonder how he expects me to do anything else. Like I am capable of anything other than screaming either; I'm not blaming him, just merely pointing out the facts. He and I scream for one another as a way to say I'm here, I'm alive, I am fighting for you.

I feel my blood crust and tighten over my skin as the brutal cold freezes it instantly, my throat will be raw and broken come the morning if I am lucky to make it that long.

I wonder what Michael will think of this beast, when he comes to fight it face to face.

I wonder if he will make it in time.

The monster croaks a wicked scream so vile and pungent before my face I lose every sense I have.

It's funny the power that a name holds, one moment I'm convinced I'm a goner the next I hear his voice; frantic and magical, the beast turns to the sound and leaves me abandoned on the elevator.

I am left to gasp and gape at the horror I've just witnessed; as I am left to process I almost miss the figure of my savoir above me.

"Jess." He says my name again, in that same desperate prayer.

"Mike… Help me." I rasp, still reeling yet trying to reach out for him; then it's down, down, down, nothing.

I am barely able to stand, but the way that Michael screamed my name still haunts me; I stand up, get my bearing, and attack the first thing I see. Matt's always been quick with his reflexes and even quicker to forgive. He is in awe of my might, of my grit and this life that I cling to so fiercely; he almost forgets to move on.

I tell him of my fall, and he wonders how I am still breathing. I would wonder the same thing if I didn't remember the voice of the boy who saved me. But this body has not failed me either, Michael gave me a chance that I was not willing to throw away.

Despite the pain, the blood and the bruises I am walking, running even. My body should be ready to collapse but I will not, this temple of mine will not crumble beneath the weight of this myth we now face.

We are running, Matt and I are side by side, the monster at our heels and we do not know where to turn next. He calls to me, "Jess! Hold on Jess." I wonder how he expects me to do anything else.

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I am a Prima Donna, I know that, but I also know that what we as human beings are meant to go through bullshit.

Despite the fact that this is all an 'interactive experience' we are still human; we are real in our own reality and fuck me that has to count for something.

And I know what you're thinking: Em you're a bitch, you had it coming, you deserve it.

Explain it away all you like, until you are standing before a folk tale; tell me all the things you wouldn't do. Sacrifice your friends or use your tongue as a weapon. I've heard it all hon, you can play me as a fool but we all know the truth.

No matter what you choose, this Prima is going to put up a fight no matter how many times you force me to fall.

I will still make it to the mines and I will still push through; I will acrobat and rock climb my way up and out even if you off me in that elevator. I still show you my full hand, this is what you have to play with, this is all I have to offer you, how will we continue?

Do you even remember my name at this point? Or have you assumed my persona, given me the name of a girl you know all too well? Have you forgotten that I too am merely a little girl, lost and alone, and ready to lash out at a moment's notice?

I made mistakes, but if I continue to stumble the only one left to blame is you.

Don't forget, whoever I become, it is your doing, that is in your power.

What would you make of this Prima? What will you make of me?

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I've always been told that I am a fighter, which is true, all of the Washington kids are trained in martial arts.

But I think most people meant in the metaphorical sense; in the 'you're so strong mentally you can pull through anything' kind of way.

What people forget so often, is that strength manifests in a multitude of ways.

So as we hang off that cliff I tell Hannah to trust me, she screams so blindly when I let go, I cannot hear the sound of my own heartbeat.

Still, I reach out my hands, grappling at the wall before me and catch a hold briefly as we tumble. I do this enough that when we land the only things that break are my nails and Hannah's glasses.

My knees are tingling inside of me, but I am standing and so is Hannah.

"Holy shit! Holy shit, Beth what do we do!?" She starts to cry, but I take her shoulders in my hands.

"Calm down, we're getting out of this." I tell her resolutely, looking for some way out. There are a few paths, and with my lighter, anything feels possible, I wish my fucking phone was here, but whatever I guess. Hannah and the others owe me after this.

It takes us some time, but we manage to get ourselves out of the mines. The dark, smoky, awful mines that are going to haunt my nightmares for week. When we get back the others are still up, Sam takes Hannah upstairs in an instant and I am left with the groveling remains of our friends.

I tell them not to worry about it, but they all owe me a new phone, a manicure, and a shot. The phone and manicure come a week later, the shot is immediate.

Back home Hannah asks me what I remember, I tell her about the man in the mask; she tells me about the monster that haunts her nightmares.

"How are you so brave Beth? Jesus fuck I thought we were goners for sure."

I want to say I'm quick on my feet, that I'm a real problem solver, instead a smirk and say, "I guess I just wasn't going down without a fight."

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There's something in the way that his eyes scan a room that feels merely surface.

Like nothing in this world permeates his mind because nothing is deserving of it.

He's not nonchalant, just existing in this world as if it wasn't a part of his plan but he's going along with it.

Then one day, late in the summer, so late the sky is lighting up with the smallest glimpses of sunlight, we're talking about music and nothing.

I don't remember what I said exactly, something to the effect of, "Music won't save you, music makes you want to save yourself."

And the way his eyes brightened stuck with me so deeply that I still feel that piercing gaze on my skin.

So I guess you can say that's how I fell in love, even if I didn't acknowledge it.

Perhaps I was afraid to name something as heavy as love in my heart.

Or maybe I didn't know how to love someone who is so surface.

When tragedy strikes, I watch the apathy of his soul melt away; he softens as life gets tough, and he makes my chest feel tight.

It isn't a lot, what we've got going on, it's bashful and hesitant, things I never thought I'd see his confidence become, but I love his downfall. Love the way that he has become more, with less.

He saves my life, twice, and when we're alone for the first time off that mountain I gather myself and ask him why.

"You know why, Ash." He says, voice tired.

"Do I?"

He asks me if I remember that summer, I ask him to tell me what happened.

"I told you that music saves people, tried to make a joke out of it. Then you told me that music… Music makes you want to save yourself. You went on this tangent about how words are powerful but humanity is more powerful, and you were so tired you sounded high or something, but you weren't… You were just you. I guess I couldn't imagine a world without the girl who saved me in it."

I want to kiss him, but hold myself back from doing so, instead I approach him and hold his face in my hands. "Then maybe I didn't save you, maybe you did it yourself?"

He takes my hand and kisses it, "No… It was all you."

And I suppose that look in his eyes, glossy as it is, speaks deeply to my soul. He is not disingenuous, and this tension that we have… It's enough to live off of.

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I'd like to put it on the record that I am the kind of person who finds comfort in corners.

The way that walls can coddle you when no one else will; when you're far too old to be held.

It's security and strength, things that I do not know how to hold on to.

Seems like I'm crazy right? Like I'm straight out of some horror movie about asylum patients.

And maybe I am a terror.

Maybe I am horrifying.

But I'm done apologizing for what makes me feel safe.

How else am I supposed to say that I find myself content with rough edges, that I am not a soft kind of person.

Despite what the world thinks, when I am backed into a corner I am at my most powerful.

At least this way I have only one option.

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Maybe it's morbid of me to say this, but I've always loved the way that life is fragile.

Knowing that all of this could take seconds to end, it sparks something in me that feels like power.

So, I go through life like everything is ending; and the world does her part to prove me right.

I'm not even talking about the big shit, like death and losing limbs; I'm talking losing friends, nights that are too short, and bad grades on tests.

Life feels like a test, and I'm not sure what it'll take to pass, but I hope I do.

Which is to say, that sometimes I feel like I am not doing enough.

Like I should be spurring more life into my friends' lives to compensate for whatever it is my own life that is lacking.

It's my idea to go up the mountain that fateful night. All in the name of living life to the fullest and having no regrets.

Then again, the next year in the spirit of healing, but how can you heal something that isn't there?

So, it's my fault we lost the twins, and it's my fault that my friends are going through hell.

I want to be forgiven, but no matter how many lifetimes I live I don't think I ever will.

Because how can I convince Karma that I didn't know any better, when I really did? How am I supposed to look God in the eye and say that it wasn't my fault, when it was?

I put everything I am into the survival of my friends, praying and hoping they come out of this alive.

Part of me knows I should have run for the switch when I had the chance, but Mike is more of a hero than I could ever hope to be.

Drinking in the gaze of the beast, blind and burning as it is, I name it Devil, Lucifer, Beelzebub, whatever the fuck floats your boat. I give it my sins in the form of blood.

I remember learning that people live for a bit after losing their heads, and guts.

That's true, the last thing I feel is fire on my skin and for a moment I think I've landed my ass in hell.

Just as I resign myself to fate, tell myself that I deserve this, something shifts.

My end, it has to be some kind of beginning.

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It is wrong to say that night is pitch black; trust me, the girl who has seen every new moon night with the eyes of a hawk.

Stars refuse to be burned out, unlike the lights that live on earth.

And the moon, even when she is gone from the sky her shadow hangs over us.

Oh no, night is merely child's play in darkness, in the type of black that is so empty nothing can touch it.

I see only a speck of light, in which I find myself bathing, barely a sliver of shine above me; the rest is so bleak for a minute I am convinced there is nothing but myself and the light above me.

Contrary to prior belief, the light does not beckon you forward when you die. Rather it taunts.

This is the last thing you will ever see, it says, I am the last thing you will ever see. How pathetic it is, for you to want me so desperately.

And yet, I do not want the light.

I want to live in the engulfing dark.

So I do.

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I have given my ex's persona's in my head to make the healing easier. Tell the stories of friends and lovers alike in ways that make me feel better.

James, the one who left me after a week to play sixth grade soccer, he dropped out of high school 'to play professional' but he hasn't managed to leave the state.

Kacey, who tried to get me expelled for cheating, so I watched her flunk instead.

Luke, he tried to make me turn towards Jesus and I almost did it too, until Jess convinced me that he wouldn't fuck me for converting. He's my favorite ex, I think he still prays for me.

Anyway, there's Allen and Kyle, brothers who wanted to have a threesome with me, at separate times. I hope it's obvious why I got out of that one.

Then there's Michael, the boy who stole my heart and breath in one fell swoop, so when he left me for Jess I took his favorite hoodie and wallet. Cash and all, I'm wearing that hoodie now…

I lost Jess next, because I couldn't rightfully cut out Michael without Jess; and out of all of them I think I regret losing her most. Despite everything I know she would have fought to save my life given the chance, surprise of all surprises, the bitch wasn't loyal with men. But she was loyal with love.

I guess before this I lost Beth too, to winter and the devil himself. Perhaps I should have converted after all.

Then Matt, because the idiot had to die for me, couldn't have let me handle myself, and gave in so easily to me; like a house in a hurricane he never stood a chance.

I find Ashley's hat and Chris's glasses after leaving Sam, I know they're gone. I wish I could say I stopped to say goodbye. I didn't. I kept moving. Kept living and pretended they would have wanted me to. And maybe they did, but I'll never know for sure.

Sam and Mike die for me, not that I'm surprised, but as I lie in the snow, surrounded by loneliness I feel the weight of their decision land on my shoulders.

No matter how many stories I formulate in my head to cope with all they gave me, I can't let them go. I can't say goodbye.

I wish that they were more than memories.

I wish they were with me, so that I could keep up my own persona; the one where I am always right and a bitch about it.

I can't avoid that I have to lie about their deaths to stay sane, to sound sane.

So I make them stories, it's easier this way.

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There is only one way that this story ends, and I know that all too well.

Despite my best efforts, a ghost can only do so much.

I cannot move the hands of the living or combat my brother's attempts of revenge.

But I do what I can, shove boxes off of shelves, guide them with gusts of wind, and follow their footsteps so carefully that when they trace them back it's clear as day.

No matter how desperately I want to do more, I know the truth.

There is only one way that all of this ends.

With the fires of hell, and a whole lot of courage.

On both ends of the veil.

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I can't say much surprises me anymore, in light of my whole fucking life.

The way my life so easily flips itself around which ever way the wind is blowing that day.

Life and death, love and loss, the constant struggle that I find myself caught up in.

Figures right?

Figures I would be the one to survive, to make it out alive.

That I am here and he… He isn't. The boy I thought I loved.

So when I find myself getting far too lost in thought I have to turn around and look at my life.

Look at the small apartment I live in, the view of Portland outside my window.

I look at the girl I live with.

The girl that I love.

The only other girl who made it out alive, and I see the sunrise with her smile.

Our apartment has pictures of things and places, none of us or the life we live.

Still, it's a good life.

Sam and I.

We make a good team.

Figures, right?

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In life, I thought that maybe there was a God; that perhaps there is supernatural and He who ruled the world would show mercy.

My family isn't particularly religious, we just kind of existed in the same plane as it for so long we became an amalgamation of belief.

Beth and Josh don't believe, but I have always been a romantic.

So what have I learned in the afterlife you ask?

It depends on which one.

The first I learned that the supernatural is really just natural.

Supernatural is only impeccable at hiding away. Making itself so obscure it is nearly untouchable from the rest of humanity.

Maybe that's why sunlight burned my skin, the world wasn't ready for a monster meant only for myths and believing eyes.

I was trapped in the body of beast I don't know if I'm allowed to believe in anyway.

My soul still cries out for a God to be real. I find myself praying because it is easier than accepting the evil I inhabit.

The first time I feel searing heat on my skin since being a person, it is fire, all consuming and taking me away.

The last thing I see, the smoldering sun rising over the mountains, a sight I used to and still revel in as I take my last breath.

And the second afterlife, the one that comes quickly and unforgivingly.

Well, I suppose, to each their own, but to me, She is the highest being there ever was.

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Then and now.

The way that time works has always bothered me.

The way that it is unforgiving.

The way that it ruthlessly repeats.

The way it turns over and over again.

The way that there is no changing what happens to me.

The way that neither of us can change my story.

The way that I will always come out of hell; the only question is will I burn?

The thing is, that this hell lies in knowing that no matter what I do, it will repeat.

The thing is, no matter how good I am, I will still suffer.

Then and now.

The cycle continues.

Then and now.

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I've always been stupidly good at braids, probably a direct result of my mother gifting me one of those Barbie styling heads for my fourth birthday; and my instance that I bring it with me as I waited in her office on long summer days.

Anyway, I'm the girl on the cheer team that others scramble to for their French, Dutch, and Fishtail braids. I'm not one to complain either, it's soothing, rhythmic, and their silky locks feel so smooth brushing against my skin, it's enough to hide away in. All this work has made me good with my hands, an added bonus.

It's no surprise to me that the first thing I do, after being rescued off that fucking mountain, is re-braid my hair. Tame every last bloodstained frizz until they lay neatly against my head.

It's a such a small thing to have control over, but the dance of my fingers helps my breath return to my body; and the light flicks of flyaways placated, so that I don't trick myself into thinking they too could be demons.

The doctors tell me there's another survivor, Emily sitting with her chin on her knees. Shivering with tears and the chill, she doesn't startle when I sit next to her.

Instead she merely shifts a bit away from me, holding onto her grudge as dearly as her life.

Still, I reach out my hands and twist them in her ever-soft hair, catching the scent of smoke and bergamot as I go. Weaving her a crown fitting of the princess she is, the one she's earned for surviving this hell; I let my own guard down and lay it at her feet.

She catches a glimpse of my work in the pale, transparent reflection of a window. Slowly she touches my handiwork, and I hear the catching of her voice in her chest.

I'm the one who relents, who pulls her in tight for the kind of sobbing that shatters the world, and she grips me back with equal vigor.

"I'm so sorry, Jessie. I'm so sorry." She sobs.

"I'm sorry, Emmie." I whisper back.

It's moments like these that change the world. Where two people can change so much that they somehow become one. Emptying our pockets of hate to fill them back up with whatever comes next.

Sometimes, I still catch her staring at nothing, emptying her eyes so that her brain can run its course. And when that happens I simply start to braid.

Rhythmic, soothing, soft hair and strong hands. Only now, she kisses my hands when I'm done. It's enough to find her, but more than that, it's enough for me to be found again.

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I am not one to mince words.

I will say what I want, when I want, and no cat catch will catch this tongue.

Still, the strongest thing I have ever said, was nothing.

All the goodbyes I never got to give...

They haunt me now.

Chapter Text

I like to think that my best friend is the dumbest bitch alive, but she's my dumb bitch so don't get any ideas.

I like to think she's too stupid to realize how much I love her.

I like to think the straight that has been inbred in our culture, makes the idea of gayness not even cross her mind.

So, one day, in eighth grade, I write her a valentine that says, "I give you my whole heart"

She laughed and hugged me, told me she loved me too. But I knew it wasn't the love I wanted from her.

And I know, she doesn't owe me a romance or anything like that.

It's not her fault.

Truly, it's mine.

I shouldn't have confessed to her like that.

Then in a blink of an eye we're seventeen, I am alone in my bedroom sobbing my eyes out. Because I am tired of being the gay one, the girl that is defined by what genitals she will/won't put in her mouth.

She walks in like an angel, all white dress and a tentative smile. "You didn't come downstairs."

"Not now Jess." I say wiping my tears out of my eyes.

"Please?" She holds out her hand and I can't refuse her loving gaze. How she outright ignores my crying because she knows I can't stand mushy shit.

I sigh and take her hand, fighting off the butterflies in my stomach at the contact.

When I get downstairs I see the science fair board she's decorated with photos of us, age four to seventeen we are beaming at every camera.

I cover my mouth at the sight of it, tears continuing to pour down my face as I turn to look at her.

She's got a stupid little sign that says, "Prom?" and I bust out laughing.

"What?" She asks.

"You're cute." I shake my head.

"Not as cute as you." She says, from behind the prom sign she pulls out the letter from all those years ago.

"What the fuck?" I ask without thinking.

"I wasn't ready then… but I guess I am now." She responds with ease. "Are you ready for my whole heart, Washington?"

I lunge at her, clinging to her neck like a newborn orangutan, and I kiss her hard.

I shouldn't have confessed the way I did, we were too young and ignorant.

But I'm so glad she confessed the way she did.

Chapter Text

Between the lines of deceit and betrayal; I find a little fire inside of me.

It flickers and wilts like flowers in the wind.

How easy it would be to lose.

How easy it would be to let that light burn out.

But I don't let it.

Instead I foster the flame.

Let it burn and brighten inside of me, just to see how far this goes.

I am a wild fire in an empty forest; no one will hear the crackling destruction, so did it ever happen?

I thought there were thousands of ways to be brave. Like isn't Cinderella brave for enduring evil and emerging kind?

Can't courage be standing behind a glass door when the enemy is strong enough to destroy the world?

Can't courage be turning back for a friend?

Can't courage be turning your back and blazing forward?

I am a blaze of empathy.

Of compassion.

How's that for a classic hero?

Chapter Text

It's a tale as old as time; boy meets girl, girl turns the world upside down, girl dies to give the boy new life.

But in this story, the girl is a princess; princess of a mountain and she rules with wicked grace.

She is the wind and weather, the turmoil and destruction.

And the boy, well, he is the monster burning it all down.

He comes with an army and razes the land, burns her crops, and gives her a death sentence.

I may give him life, but that does not mean I don't take.

I take the girls he loves, take the men he calls friends, and then, I take away his security.

When my life is gone I still have one thing left from him.

I have taken his safety and harbor it as mine; it is selfish and cruel of me.

But I will not apologize for the part I play in this tragedy.

It's a tale as old as time; revenge, the broken left to pick up the pieces, and the villain holding ransom one last bounty.

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My mom listens to this song on the radio that I can't stand; it's religious or at the very least country. I don't know why country songs make me assume they're religious but I digress.

I know it by heart without knowing a single word.

Until that very night when I'm face to face with a monster; and I know I'm not supposed to move but the words come out of me.

"I'm already there." I say it softly and those eyes of ice nearly melt as I sing. A comfort I suppose. Something that's mine and no one else's.

"Take a look around. I'm the sunshine in your hair. I'm the shadow on the ground."

I don't know why it steps away, looking confused and conflicted.

"I'm the whisper in the wind. And I'll be there till the end." I look too quickly, Mike is at the switch waiting for me to run. But I don't.

"I'm already there."

It's my last words, the blood then the fire. I expect that to be that; it's all over now.

But then she's there, the girl that broke my heart with her loss.

Glasses, butterfly tattoo, and a smile that sings a thousand songs.

But she only utters one line, "I'm already there."

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I am a song.

Fleeting and open to interpretation.

I disappear all too easily.

I am a different taste to each listener.

I do not expect to be found beautiful or transformative.

But I know what I am; I know that I am something worth listening to.

I am transcendent.

Most importantly, I will not go out quietly.

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I'm the kind of girl who fucks hard.

Once upon a time I heard that all things are about sex, except for sex. Sex is all about power.

So, I treat life like a game of cat and mouse.

Like every job and opportunity is something to fuck; which is to say I play rough and tender all at once.

Because this world will treat you like a submissive the second you show weakness.

I'm empathetic one fucking time and now I'm this mountain's goddamn bottom.

But I won't let this little slip up define me.

I will not let life fuck me raw; I'm the one in control.

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I used to tell myself that if you keep an open heart, love will find its way.

What I didn't account for, is that love isn't the only thing with a GPS.

In fact just about everyone has an iPhone these days.

So yes, I have welcomed pain and anguish into my soul.

I have cultivated jealousy and disdain.

But that doesn't mean it was worth nothing.

That doesn't mean love didn't find its way to me.

Because it did.

Love found me.

Settled in my heart.

And unlike all the other tenants I eventually had enough of; the ones I evicted and kicked to the curb.

Love remains.

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Sometimes, when I am at my most vulnerable, I ask myself the dreaded what if questions.

When I am at my strongest, I answer them.

I create narratives in my head, watching the branching paths splinter apart as my mind abstracts the story.

You see, the hardest lesson to swallow is this:

Vulnerability does not make you weak.

It takes strength to answer the scariest of questions.

And I do not fear my strength.

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Sometimes I feel like an icy road; useless until it melts away.

Dangerous until broken.

Unwanted.

Persistent.

Rebellious.

I exist without anyone's consent.

But that of my own.

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All too often I find myself thinking in terms of a climb.

Just get past these rough spots.

Look forward, the peak is just ahead.

Starting is always the hardest part.

They will always tell you not to look down.

But I think it's good to scare the shit out of yourself every now and again.

To make your legs wiggly inside and stare at your own demise.

Down is to reverse, to revert into who you once were.

Look down, but don't go that way.

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I think all too often we forget what it means to be sore.

We forget what it took to get us here.

That soreness means survival.

Be it a broken heart or a broken wrist.

So when it rains, and your heart longs for older days or your bones wish they did not feel the remnants of your history.

Remember that you're still here.

Despite broken blood and promises.

You are here.

We ache with memory.

And that is not without value.

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I am so loud that I often forget what it feels like to be silent.

What the buzz of radio waves and emptiness sounds like.

My mind goes quiet every now and again; it used to terrify me.

Now I revel in it.

Revel in the way that even our thoughts know when enough is enough.

When we are allowed to lay down our weapons and rest.

I no longer fight rest.

I pursue it.

And quiet, how lovely a companion she is.

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We humans are innovators; we want this life to be easy.

It's a fruitless and valiant effort.

We will never win the fight of ease, because all too often we make life hell for one another.

But in my own head, I've dreamt up a better world.

One where we invent kindness.

Where people work hard to foster love.

And scientists are paving the way to change the communication game.

A world like that, one where we all work to make the collective better.

Where love and the other are our highest priority.

I think that might be humanity's most profound invention.

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I wrote down my first word as a story.

In which I tried to explain away myself but ended up becoming somebody.

It is amazing the way we can create just by being.

It is amazing the way my words can touch another life.

It is amazing when something as unreal as me, can become connected to someone as real as you.

And that is truly beautiful.

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I thought that revenge would be a perfect sort of thing.

It turns out, what's better is the justice you gain from using your voice.

No matter the consequence.

We must speak.

Our actions must have meaning.

And we must pursue these endeavors, knowing that someone, someday, will get our story right.

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I think it's interesting.

The way that you can grow in someone else's mind.

How the simplest of sentences can start a storm of thought.

Like a plant.

Like a friend.

Maybe I'm still the same.

Maybe I'm different now.

Whichever is true, I feel different; I feel a little bit more.

More of what?

I don't entirely know.

But I guess, it doesn't matter what it means.

It matters how it feels.

And I feel a little more whole.

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We have all come back from something.

It is so tempting to feel, that after the storm, we are broken walls that could not handle the weight of rain and misery.

But you,

You are not broken.

You are resurrected.

Glorious and holy with the very steps you take.

There is something so beautiful about redemption.

Rising from the ashes, the grave, whatever the fuck.

It doesn't matter.

Keep rising.

Keep growing.

Don't let this world stifle you.

Endure, and then, you will return.

And what a beautiful story that is.

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There is so much power in existing.

The way you can enter and exit the stage of the lives of others.

I have always taken my being for granted.

Seen the way others will trample my name and I did not flinch.

My power is mine, strength and fury that cannot be contained.

When they tell you to sit down do not listen.

Look them dead in the eye and tell them, "I will be."

Being is such an understated, underrated strength.

Hold it close.

Treasure it.

And above all; be.

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I did not exist; or I guess I did.

But I was not whole, was not a total person until I put pen to paper.

Made thoughts into actions and changed the game to fit my needs.

My will is strong.

My creativity is stronger.

Maybe I didn't exist before and do now.

Or maybe I existed before but now I'm somebody.

And isn't that phenomenal?

That little things like this can make us human?

I think that's powerful,

Words, I mean.