My best friend is dead.
My best friend is dead, and into the rabbit hole I tumble - into the rabbit hole, where the sides are too far for me to grab but yet everything is so close and everything is so loud and everything is just there.
But my best friend is not. My best friend is dead.
I don’t know how it happened, all I know is the feeling of my organs shutting down inside of me and all I know is the taste of my own salty tears and all I can do is run. I need to feel the adrenaline, that momentary euphoria.
Then I am crouching and people are calling my name but I don’t care. The sky turns black with anguish and the trees are made of colours I have never seen before. The sun doesn’t exist. The sun doesn’t exist, nor the moon, or any of the stars. And I - I don’t exist.
I can’t exist.
It’s dark when I surface. Actually dark, not just the world mourning in a way that only proves visible in my mind. I can see the silhouette of Denali, my little brother, sitting a little way away, so I reach out a shaking hand to take his. He stares at it for a few seconds, unmoving.
“Mummy says that it’s okay tuh’ be sad,” he says. Simply. As if that is the only thing that has been in his mind for the last few hours.
“I know it’s okay to be sad,” I reply, dropping my hand to my side. “But I am not sad.”
He, in his young wisdom, knew that I was not untroubled. He knew that the dictionary lacked the words to describe the pain ripping through me as if it were a solid knife.
He could see this in my face, and in the place I had hidden in, if nothing else.
“Whatever you’re feeling is okay. Even if you’re not okay, your feelings are va..pid?”
He nods, starting to walk home, expecting me to follow. The bushes swim with the trees and the dirt mixes with the stream, and a brilliant blue shoots out from behind my eyes when I try to stand, but I know I have to claw my way out of the everlasting rabbit hole I have thrown myself into. With my bitten nails and my non-existent willpower, I have to haul myself out, because he is dead. He will never not be dead, and he will never be here to help me.
When the house eventually comes into view, it is all in darkness. I wave Denali inside, but he stops to watch me, saying “I thought you promised to stop.”
“I know,” I reply forlornly, “but this is a special occasion, don’t you think?”
He always watches, does Denali. He always knows what my next move will be.
And in this case, thankfully, he nods, accepting it. Giving me a warning against getting ‘capurred’ by the police, he opens his arms for one of his few-and-far-between hugs.
The ‘capurring’ that Delani is referring to is my father, a rebel, who was returned to us in a wooden box, nailed down unceremoniously by government officials. I am not a rebel on such a high level as Dad was, but I do my art. Ahriham had joined some place months ago, he is –was- always praising it. As I think this, a plan forms in my mind.
I accept Denali’s hug, pulling him close in an embrace that feels so nauseatingly short. I whisper a final ‘I love you, stay safe,’ into his ear, and then he is gone and I am too, a clinking bag slung over my shoulder.
I act on autopilot, too busy reminiscing of days gone by when we would tag together. I don’t realise where I’m headed until I arrive, and then I remove my cans from the bag, and start to spray across my fallen friend’s window.
I finish without my usual flourish, but step back in awe. The spirals that fed into the silent weapons of distorted words mixed perfectly between the colours and then I am running again.
I’m spraying the alleyway walls, shrieking, laughing; allowing myself not to care for a few, vital seconds.
Epitomes rush through me and I feel myself reach some sort of metaphorical precipice within myself, looking over the rails of a bridge into rushing water below.
Silence is bestowed upon me, but this isn’t what I came to do.
I allow myself to think of Ahriham: the boy that I played with in the garden, oblivious to my mother’s worries that my Sunday dress would be muddied beyond repair. The tween I shared my first kiss with before we decided that it would be much, much better that we stayed friends. The all-around guy, with amazing morals. My mentor in almost everything - except fashion sense.
So no, I did not come here to fall to Death’s cold feet.
I drop my bag over the rails, and find myself walking to a darkened doorway.
Knocking on the door.
My best friend is dead, but I am not.
“I am here to fight with you,” I announce. “Like those who have come before me.”