Song: Demons by Jacob Lee
Content Warning: contains mention of self-harm, which might be triggering for some
Rain kisses my face, soft and yearning, but cold to the touch. It bleeds onto the streets far below my perch, the water running down cracked asphalt, smearing the colors of traffic lights. Nature is skilled at watercolor, even when her materials are made by man. Black, red, green, and sometimes orange wash down the road, occupied by the occasional car. It’s long after midnight, and most people are in bed. The city is left to quiet thought and the whisper of rain.
But I’m not here to admire the view. Or the silence.
Song is out here, somewhere. And I’m supposed to stop her from whatever crazy plan she has next.
I pull my arms tighter around myself, trying to find warmth. Late November doesn’t give me much of a chance, though it could be worse.
I walk across the flat roof of this building, some four floors up from the street, and hope my shoes don’t slip. It’s a good thing I’ve never been afraid of heights. But then, Song had been. Never climbed trees, never went on anything that would take her far above ground. Even on swings at the playground, when we were young, she barely went up—terrified of falling. Since the accident, though, she’s not been the same.
None of us have.
I bite my lip, reassuring myself I’m not dreaming, before climbing halfway down a fire escape and jumping across the narrow alley to the building beside mine, catching the metal ladder running up the side. My arms groan in being yanked from their sockets, but at least I made it.
Song’s doing her rounds again. I need to catch up.
No, she doesn’t fear anything now. Nothing except the voices in her mind and the memories of when she lost her brother. Wasn’t even her fault. Some psycho had got it into his mind to hire people who’d randomly drive into vehicles, a new sort of suicide missions. Song had been the one that day, her and her little brother. She made it out, hadn’t been hit on that side, but her brother was gone.
I wasn’t there, but no one I knew could speak of it. Maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t. I can’t handle the sight of blood, and this was much more than blood. Song never forgot it. We hear it in her screams, never mind how many months have passed.
Yes, we put her in an asylum, more for the sake of her distraught parents. But she wasn’t crazy, not like that. She’d always find a way out—I’ve never figured out how, and I personally don’t think it’s that important. She never hurts anyone except those who deserve it.
I pause at the edge of another building, looking at the deserted streets around me. Overhead, an airplane drones by, the rumble shaking the roof I’m standing on. I sniff, my cold nose starting to drip.
I need to get moving.
It’s time, Dev. I’m going to take him down.
Song’s last text passes before my eyes as I crawl across the pipes connecting the buildings. She’s been hunting for him ever since she was allowed out of the hospital, five months ago. I can’t blame her. Our government and judicial systems are worthless ever since someone got it into their head to seize control and require everything pass through them. Sounds nice for whoever’s in power, but it makes life even worse for the rest of us. This man will not be brought to justice for years, and Song can’t wait that long.
I wish she could. I wish I could somehow take her pain and her darkness away. But I can’t. Some things you can only do yourself.
I see her, some hundred feet away, perched on the edge of a building. Who else could it be? Who else stalks the streets at night, running the risk of imprisonment for taking the law into one’s own hands? No one, except criminals, and the few who try to stop them.
“Song,” I whisper, squatting down beside her, and laying a hand gently on her shoulder. I know better than to touch her there harder than a whisper of wind. Some people’s scars streak their wrists, but hers lie elsewhere.
Always a perfectionist, everything not exactly right drove her nearly insane until she fixed it. And sometimes, that meant tearing her skin over the slight blemish, scabs turning into scars, pain and grief and insecurity marring her arms and shoulders. No one knows—since the accident—what it’s doing to her mind, what it’s doing to her body. But I know. She had shown me, because she trusted me. And I would never dare to harm her, even by pressing on skin that’s bruised and torn. Like her heart.
Oh, if I could mend that! Heal her heart and her mind! But I think she sees me only as a big brother, her protective shadow. Yet if that is how I can help her, I will bury my feelings and wait until the world ends before I tell her that I love her—even with her past.
She turns to me at last, her face damp with the misting rain. She shivers and edges closer to me, as if soothed by my aura of warmth. “You got my text?” she asks, her voice soft and light, as if asking when the rain would stop.
“Yes.” There’s not much else to say.
“You’re not trying to stop me.” It’s a question, even if she doesn’t lilt it like one.
The wind gusts below us, a rising whoosh of rain across drowned streets. The traffic lights at the nearest intersection slowly fade from green to red, but no one is there to disturb the running rivulets of rain. The watercolor continues.
“Song,” I say, a bitter smile on my lips. “There was never any stopping you once your mind was made up. And that hasn’t changed.” If anything, her will has become stronger, in all but silencing the voices that scream in her head. “But, tell me, what are you going to do?”
She looks away from me, the ghost of a smile playing on her lips vanishing into the mist. “I’m going to kill him.”
My heart stops. She’s been wanting this for months, but how…how has she figured it out now? “Song, what—”
“He’s coming, driving home in his car below us. I’m going to kill him with this.” She reaches beside her and something glistens black against the dark grey of this roof, barely visible in the darkness. I see its shadows more than the thing itself. It looks like a sword in shape, but there the similarity ends.
“How? What even is that?”
“It’s…hard to explain, Dev. It’s like a magnet. The other end is on the roof of his car. The pull is so strong nothing can separate it once it is felt. It’ll take me down with it, but he will die too, so it doesn’t matter. There’s not much else to live for anyway.”
Each word she says is like a knife being thrust into my chest. The air chokes in my throat, and it’s a moment before I can gather my wits enough to respond.
“Song, you know that’s not true. Your parents have already lost enough, haven’t they?” When she doesn’t reply, I continue. “And I would miss you. I know you’ve been through so much, but, please, is there no other way?”
She looks at me and a sad smile plays on her lips. “No. I need to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else like he’s hurt me. Besides, then maybe the voices will go away.”
“The voices.” My own is a whisper. I never hear them, but I see what they’ve done to her life, what they’re still doing to her mind and to her skin.
“I made a deal with them.” She sighs, her shoulder blades rising and falling beneath her thin jacket. “If I do this, I’ll have peace. Isn’t that also worth it?”
A tear slips down my rain-washed face. Yes, peace, she wants it more than anything–and I want it for her too–but at that cost? At the cost of losing her, who is the brightness in my life? And will the voices give her peace, even at death?
She turns away from me and faces the alley below us. In the dripping, nighttime quiet, I hear a vehicle start, an engine purring to life. And then it comes near, splashing puddles as it meanders down the tiny street, unaware that above it, death and love and longing and hopelessness and the ever-burning desire for revenge war against each other.
But no war lasts forever.
Song glances at me, and there is a lightness in her eyes that I haven’t seen since before her brother died. She kisses my cheek, warm against the cold of rain and tears. And then she jumps.
I cry out, words lost to myself, and nearly throw myself after her when I remember that I actually don’t have a death wish. But I also don’t want to see my friend die.
I scramble down the fire escape, the stair swinging beneath my rushing weight, but it’s already too late.
I hear the dull thud of a body hitting something and the rip of metal–and perhaps something else I don’t want to know–and then the vehicle careers into the building and all goes still after crashing metal shakes the alley like thunder. The silence weighs heavily on my ears.
A sob tears through my body. I skid across a puddle as I reach the alley. The reek of hot metal and sweet blood greets my nostrils. The car hisses and smokes in the rain, but besides that, all is still.
Hoisting myself onto the roof of the car, I kneel on the slippery surface, the rain soaking through my clothes. But I hardly notice.
I take Song’s hand in mine. It’s still warm. I raise it to my lips and kiss it gently, my chest throbbing with emotion so thick, I’m afraid to let it break. Because if it does, a part of me might break with it.
Song stirs, a slight motion, yet I notice it all the same.
“Devin.” She never calls me that, except when she wants my full attention.
“Yes, Song, I’m here.” I scoot in closer until I’m beside her face, trying to ignore her wheezing breaths and the blood that is staining the roof of this once-silver vehicle. My shoulders shake, but not from the cold.
“You have to let me go.” It’s the barest of whispers, but she’s almost smiling.
“I can’t.” My words are scarcely louder than hers.
“The deal is paid. I’m free.”
I lean in closer to catch her words. Despite all the evidence before my eyes, I’m still denying she’s dying. Some part of me is determined to think that somehow, after all this, she’s going to live.
“Let me go.”
No. But I can’t say that. I will not let her die knowing I disagreed with her. That’s not what friends do–that’s not what you do when you love someone more than life itself. “I love you,” I say at last. And I mean every word.
“I’m sorry–” She’s about to say more when the breath catches in her throat. Her hand goes lax in mine.
I bend and kiss her forehead–a kiss of protection. “Be at peace.” The words stick in my throat, but I say them anyway. A strangled sob escapes my lips as I kiss her mouth as softly and gently as I loved her.
And around me, the misting rain finally falls away and all is still.
The traffic lights in the distance fade to green, the watercolor bleeding across the cracked asphalt. But no one goes, because no one is there. It’s just me, Song, and the man who killed her brother; two of us dead, one of us still living beneath November skies.
The rain has stopped. My love is at peace. Morning is a few hours away.
But all I can do is weep.