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A Certain Shadow
The lilies in my hand were as black as midnight. I bent down, setting them at the headstone of his grave. Sitting down against the base of the tree next to the headstone, I looked up into the cloudy sky, letting snow settle into my hair and onto my black coat. I closed my eyes. It was just like that day. That one fateful day that changed everything. I remember it so clearly, even now. I let the memory wash back into my eyes, the scene replaying itself in my head.
He picked me up from the University at 7, just like always, showing up in his sleek, black car. I got in, looking into his smiling emerald eyes.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Alright. You?” I replied.
He drove up to one of my favorite places, a little cliff looking down over the roiling sea. He parked under an old willow, getting out of the car and opening the door for me. I stepped out, and he offered me his hand. I slid my gloved fingers into his warm palm as we walked up along the edge of the cliff. Snow was falling, twisting through the air around us and alighting on the already snowy ground. Everything was quiet as we walked along the cliff. I gazed down into the lashing waves below us. The sky quickly began to darken as we made our way back to the car.
“I want to take you somewhere special,” he murmured as he drove us away from the cliff.
“Alright,” I said.
The place he took me was magical. It was a small cemetery away from the town. It was secluded, hidden away in a grove of trees. In the center of the cemetery was a huge, black archway. It seemed to be a relic of an older age. As the snow began to come down harder, he pulled me beneath the arch.
“This is it,” he said, his rich voice quiet.
I nodded, my voice not working. He pulled me into his arms, placing a gentle kiss on my forehead. Between us, silver glinted in the rapidly fading light. Crimson spattered my glasses. He fell, bathed in blood, like a scarlet angel through the darkness. An easy smile lifted his face. I could simply stand, a long bladed knife clutched in a trembling fist, tears falling to the ground.
Those were the last words I heard from him. I fell to my knees beside him, rocking back on my heels. Blood soaked through my trousers, my gloves, the snow, everything. I saw everything in a burgundy haze as the blood dried on my glasses. Once I could move again, I bent over him, placing the knife in his dead hand and pressing it to his chest.
I sighed, opening my eyes. They were calling my name. I stood up, running my hand one more time over the words engraved on his tombstone. The doctors were waiting for me back at the van. I held out my wrists and they bound them. I got into the van, leaning my head back on the white leather seat and closing my eyes. I had done this so many times since then. . .
I stumbled into my house and my mother screamed. The sound shocked me into reality. Words tumbled from my mouth. I could not stop myself. I slid back into a daze as she made a phone call, her voice high pitched and hurried. I collapsed in a chair, staring blankly at the table. Before long, I suppose, I could hear sirens wailing. I was out of the house, gentle hands leading me into the back of an ambulance. Questions. There were so many questions. I tried to answer them, but my head was muddled. I couldn’t think. I was taken out of the ambulance, through a door, up stairs, into a room with a bed. Before I could reach the bed, I collapsed, my legs giving out underneath me. Someone caught me, lifting me into the bed, lying me down. Darkness clouded my vision then.
When I awoke, it was light. Pale winter sunlight spilled through a window with pearly curtains. I tried to sit up, my arms barely able to lift my body. Someone had changed my clothes. I was in a hospital, of that I was certain.
“How could you?”
I turned, looking over my shoulder. My mother sat in one of the chairs in the room, crying. My eyes burned at the sight of her.
“What?” I snapped.
“You—you killed him, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I replied numbly.
“I- I’m so ashamed.”
My mother broke down in tears then, her sobs overwhelming her body. Those tears streaking down her cheeks seemed to light something within me. I snapped, lashing out with a hand and catching her by the collar of her dress. I glared into her baby blue eyes, something rushing inside me like the waves at the bottom of our cliff. I grabbed the only thing I could find- a syringe. I raised it above my head with my free hand, the other hand still holding my weeping mother in place.
“Don’t cry,” I cooed into her ear.
For the second time in as many days blood filled my vision, catching on my glasses. My grip loosened on bloodstained cloth and I let go. A thud. I looked down at the corpse at my feet. A wash of rubies spilled onto bleak tile from a slit throat. Stepping over the body, I ran. Out the door, down a hall, pushing past people wildly. I know how I must have looked, my clothes covered in blood, a wild gleam in my eyes. I was caught near the stairs by a large man in a doctor’s uniform.
The next two days were a blur, rushing past so fast it made my head spin and pound. I was taken from doctor to doctor, analyzed, questioned and tested. Before I knew what was going on, I was in a starched straight jacket, being forced into that white van. That oh-so-familiar white van. . .
I opened my eyes as we came to a halt. I knew the drill. One doctor climbed out and I followed. A smile twitched at my lips as I looked up at that ominous building before me. Grey walls masked a white interior. I stepped in the door and was led up to my cell. White walls, white floor, white jacket. I sagged against a wall, sliding down to the comfortable floor.
“Is there anything you need?”
It was my personal doctor. She stood in the doorway, her white coat making her blend in with the rest of the room. I stared at the wall for a moment, thinking. That blank, chalky, padded wall.
“Yes. I’d like a sharpie. A black one,” I said quietly.
The doctor smiled. She turned from the room, closing and locking the door. It was a few minutes before she returned, my request in her hand.
“Will you let me out of the jacket for a moment?” I asked.
Without answering, the doctor undid the back of my straightjacket, helping me out of it. I thanked her, taking the marker from her hand. I walked over to one of the walls, touching it with the tips of my fingers. I uncapped the marker, holding it beneath my nose for a second. He had always smelled vaguely like sharpie. I guessed it was because he was always writing notes to himself on his hands in sharpie.
He sat on the edge of the cliff. It was the height of summer, and we were out on the cliff together almost every day. That day, he sat on the very edge, long legs dangling over the precipice, ebony hair being tugged by the wind. I sat next to him, my head on his shoulder watching him sketch. Slowly and steadily, a picture formed on a previously white page. As he tucked away his pencil, out of a pocket came a black pen. I watched as he meticulously inked over the lines he had drawn. Putting away the pen, he picked a few colored pencils out of his art bag. Caressing the page with the colors, the image took on a new life. Finishing up the final color, he showed me the finished picture.
“It’s you,” he whispered in my ear.
I smiled at the likeness. He was a wonderful artist.
“Thank you,” I said.
“No matter how many times I draw you, I can never get the picture to look quite right,” he said.
“You’re a perfect artist. I don’t see anything wrong with this picture,” I said, looking into his beautiful face.
“Oh, the problem is not with the picture. You are the problem,” he replied, resting a hand on my shoulder.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“Every time I look at you, you are more amazing every time I set eyes on you that I can’t keep up,” he said, laughing at my confusion.
I blushed, casting my eyes to the ground. As I looked up again, he was pulling a sharpie out of his pocket. The strong smell washed over me as he uncapped it. Over the last two years, I’d grown to love that smell. That was a smell I always associated with him. Instead of writing on his own hand, he took my hand, flipping it over.
Hope for a future
A future where we are still
Together in love
I stared at the words inked on my skin, hoping silently that they would last forever. I wrapped my arms around his slender shoulders.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
“I love you,” was his reply.
Pulling the sharpie away from my nose I knew exactly what I wanted to write. I copied those words. The words that had filled my heart with so much joy on that day. My large, sloppy handwriting was a poor imitation of his graceful cursive, but the words and the thoughts behind them were the same. Taking in the wonderful aroma of the marker in my hand one more time, I handed it back to the doctor and picked up my jacket, slipping my arms into the sleeves. I turned around and the doctor did up the straps at the back of that white prison. I sat down as the doctor left. I stared up at the words on my wall. I could almost hear his laugh… see his lively smile… feel his alabaster hands on my skin. I sighed, resting my head against the wall. I wished I could die. I wished I could join him wherever he was. I longed to see him again, to be with him, even if it was only for a moment on the edge of my destruction.
Fall came, the leaves changing to auburn and gold and bronze. He would often take me walking down shady lanes in the afternoons, my fingers laced through his. Sometimes he would spin me around trough a pile of fallen leaves, sending them dancing through the air. We would often laugh together. That particular afternoon started out like any other. He took me out up onto our cliff, holding me close under the yellow leaves of the willow tree.
“I love fall,” he said, nestling his nose into my thick hair.
“So do I,” I said, pressing my face into his black sweater.
We stood in silence for a few minutes before he pushed me away from him slightly, looking into my eyes. I gazed back at him. The laughter had gone from his dark jade eyes.
“I want to die.”
That was all he said, but I understood. I understood him perfectly. He had told me before. Many times. He wanted to die, to go to the next world. I had decided long ago that if he was going to die, I wanted to go with him. When I had told him that, he had laughed and said he would like that.
“We would be together then. Forever in paradise. Just you and me and no one to bother us,” had been his words.
That had sounded good to me. Sometimes I felt selfish when I refused to take him out of his misery when he asked me to. It scared me sometimes. I wanted to keep him with me always. To make him smile and laugh as I had a knack for doing.
I snapped awake as the door of my cell opened. I had obviously fallen asleep as I sat there, looking up at the poem on my wall. I regarded my doctor coolly as she walked into the room and sat down next to me.
“What does the poem you wrote on the wall mean?” she asked, her chocolate eyes peering at me over wire-rimmed spectacles.
“I don’t know,” I lied.
“I see,” replied the doctor, “Would you like something to eat?”
“Yes please,” I said.
The doctor got up to leave, but I stopped her before she could get very far.
“Can I also have a sharpie?”
“Of course,” she replied with a smile.
She left the room. I waited. I guessed that it was nearly half of an hour before she returned with a plate of toast and a glass of milk and a black sharpie. She undid the back of my jacket and I slid out of it, picking up the toast and eating it quickly, drinking all of the milk in one go. Leaving the plate and cup on the floor, I picked up the sharpie and walked over to the opposite wall. The wall with the poem. I uncapped the sharpie, smelling the aromatic fumes it emitted. We would be together then. Forever in paradise. Just you and me and no one to bother us. That was his promise. I wrote it under his poem, the black ink bleeding slightly on the fabric of the padded walls. I capped the pen again, shoving it into the pocket of my white trousers.
“Can I keep it?” I asked the doctor.
“Sure,” she replied, standing up.
She must have seen the tears of gratitude welling up in my eyes before I quickly dashed them away with the back of a hand. She placed on of her smooth hands on my shoulder.
“Are you alright?” she asked, concern in her dark eyes.
I nodded slightly, sighing and pulling on my straight jacket. I remembered the last time he had said those same words to me. . .
I lay in bed, curled over to one side as the first few flakes of snow began to fall outside my bedroom window. He sat next to me, stroking my auburn curls.
“Are you alright?” he asked gently.
“I’m fine,” I replied, even though I knew it was probably a lie.
The last time I had checked, my temperature had been 101 degrees Fahrenheit. He simply smiled, running long fingers through my hair. A long while passed before he spoke
“I hope you get better soon. I hope that soon we can go out in the snow together like we did last year. So that we can walk up to the cliff and look down at that place where the sea blends with the clouds. I hope you’ll be well enough by tomorrow so that we can go out in the virgin snow,” he murmured, obviously thinking that I had fallen asleep.
I cracked an eye open, a slight smile playing at my lips.
“I hope so too,” I murmured.
He laughed softly, the bed creaking slightly as he stood up.
“I’ll go get you some hot chocolate,” he said, smiling as he left the room.
I closed my eyes again, pressing myself deeper under the covers and patiently awaiting his return.
When I opened my eyes again, my doctor had left, leaving me alone in my prison. I wished I could go to see him again. To his graveside. Once a week. That was the rule. I was allowed to go see him once a week. Sitting down on the floor, I closed my eyes, seeking rest. Sleep soon took me, lulling me into a comfortable dream of swirling colors and a warm darkness surrounding me. I awoke to a hand touching my shoulder. I jerked away as I saw my doctor bending over me.
“How long did I sleep?” I asked.
“Almost two whole days. You must be famished,” she said sweetly, stripping me of my jacket and offering me a plate of food.
“Not really,” I replied, standing up and stretching my cramped limbs.
“You have to eat,” the doctor insisted.
“No thank you,” I replied, pushing away the food she offered to me again.
Out of my pocket came the black sharpie. I looked at it for a minute, thinking. I opened it, smelling the sweet odor it gave off. A poem and a promise already graced the wall. His poem and his promise. My hand trembled as the tip of my pen touched the wall again. A poem, a promise and a prayer. I hope you get better soon. I hope we can go out in the snow together like we did last year. So that we can walk up to the cliff and look down at that place where the sea blends with the clouds. I hope you’ll be well enough by tomorrow so that we can go out on the virgin snow. The final word was barely written when my hand trembled so much that I dropped the pen. I ran to the small window of my cell, resting my arms against the wood and burying my head in them, biting my lip to keep back the flood of tears that threatened to escape my eyes. I choked back sobs as the comforting hand of my doctor stroked my back. Finally composing myself, I stood up straight, staring my doctor in the eye.
“I want to go visit him. Please.”
She looked at me blankly for a minute before realization dawned on her. She shook her head gently.
“No. You just went. Next Monday. I promise,” she said.
“I don’t want to go next Monday,” I replied.
“Must it be now?” she asked.
“Right now,” I replied, with more passion than I had ever said anything in my life.
My request seemed to shock the doctor. For a while she protested, but I won out in the end. I was taken out to the van, loaded up between two attendants and driven out. The drive seemed to take an age. Finally I was released from my straightjacket at the gate of that small cemetery on the edge of the wild. I ran from the van, past the small garden blooming with flowers and to the arch where this had started. I knelt on the grass beneath the arch as I had that evening four months before.
I could not leave him like that. I slid the knife from between his fingers and knelt beneath the arch. I cleared a patch of snow and clawed at the earth beneath it, creating a shallow depression in the earth. I pressed the knife into the hard ground point first, then covered up the hilt with dirt and snow. I stood, wiping off my bloodied and dirtied hands. I bowed my head for a moment before turning and running from the cemetery, leaving his body there.
Pressing around with the tips of my fingers, I found the slight difference in the earth. My heart leapt. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure my attendants were not watching my actions. I dug. My hands dipped into the soft spring earth, touching metal. I gripped the hilt of the knife, drawing it from the ground as Arthur drew Excalibur from the stone. I stashed the knife in my coat, standing and kicking the dirt back over the place where the knife had been concealed. Three long strides took me to his grave beneath that old ash tree. I knelt down before the headstone. The lilies I had left were still there, pristine as I had left them. I read the words adorning his headstone, tracing them with my fingers.
Darkness Follows Me
I keep within me the light
Colors surround me
I read the words again and again, drawing them into my heart so that I would always remember them. Out of my coat came the long knife. I pressed the tip to my chest, pricking the skin through my thin shirt. Metal sliced through flesh, but I felt nothing except the tears of relief spilling over my cheeks. I heard distant yelling and I saw scarlet spatter the ground before me. I collapsed to the soft ground, my hands still clutched at the hilt of my knife. I slipped slowly into darkness, letting myself fall back into a warm embrace. . .
I awoke in his strong, thin arms. My eyes widened and I turned to face him. His face was lively, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. I couldn’t help myself, I threw myself onto him, kissing his lips again and again, tears of joy and gratitude spilling from beneath my closed lashes. Kira’s arms held me to his chest protectively, as though he would never let me go again.
“Akemi… I’m so proud of you,” Kira murmured into my ear.
I treasure his words. Every word more precious than all the world to me.