“Never let me go, okay?”
We sat on the concrete wall above the sea, Lia and I. Waves crashed down below, and I leaned in close to her. Our bodies connected, fit together like puzzle pieces. My arms around her waist, head on her shoulder; her head resting on top of mine, arms draped over me. “Promise me,” she whispered. I kissed her neck, then her lips. “I promise.”
Lia and I had known each other our whole lives. We met in kindergarten and immediately decided we were going to become best friends. And we did. We did everything together – went to after school clubs, shopped at the mall, watched movies, went to the beach. Everything. We were inseparable.
And as we got older, our feelings changed into things we didn’t, at first, understand. When we realized what the feelings meant, our friendship flourished into a beautiful relationship. The kind that is so pure, so natural, so beautiful that it makes you want to gag.
But I’m just being honest. She was everything to me. God, things were so easy back then.
We grew together, learned together. And when Lia became ill, we cried together.
She began hearing voices in her head. Telling her to kill herself. To crash her car, or take all of her Valium, or slit her throat, or jump off a bridge. She told me that she felt an urge, an itch, to give in to these voices. Not because she thought they were right, but because she wanted them to stop. She said that the voices weren’t her own. She said that she felt like she was possessed.
I told her that she was not possessed, she just needed help. “I don’t want to be sent away somewhere where they’ll lock me up and ask me questions and write on a stupid little notepad while I talk,” she said.
“You’re a danger to yourself,” I argued. “Please, Lia, just go for a little while. It won’t be forever. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
She glared at me. “You don’t know that, Ava. You don’t know how long they’d keep me,” she huffed. “And I’m not a danger. The voices are dangerous, but the voices aren’t mine. They don’t sound like mine.” She turned her head, nervously fidgeting with the engagement ring I’d gotten her three months prior. “What do they sound like?,” I asked.
“Well,” she said slowly, “Some sound like children. Some sound like old people, or younger adults. Others are strange and high pitched… And some…” She bit her lip, staring off into space with sad, glazed-over eyes.
I took her hand. “You know you can tell me anything,” I said. She sighed. “You’re really going to send me away for this one,” she said, her bottom lip quivering. I squeezed her hand, trying to offer some sort of comfort. “Some of them are deep, deep voices. And they tell me to do things that are unspeakable.” She paused, waiting for my reaction.
I stayed reserved, not knowing quite how to react. “What do they tell you to do?” A few tears fell down her cheek, and she quickly wiped them away with her sleeve. “They tell me to hurt people. Prey on them, kidnap them, hold them hostage, and torture them. They never tell me to kill them. They only want me to torture them. Put them through pain and never let them go.”
I remembered that time at the sea. “Never let me go, okay?”
“I know you’d never hurt someone,” I said. “No, no. Of course I wouldn’t.” She didn’t sound very confident, and her eyes flicked over to the window. My Lia wouldn’t hurt a fly. But things were happening to my Lia, things that couldn’t be explained. Not without a professional. And yet, she refused to get help.
Her condition worsened. First, she stopped leaving the house, other than to go to work. Then she quit her job.
She stopped leaving the house altogether. She’d spend all day and night lying in bed, whispering to herself, or to things I couldn’t see or hear. She’d snap out of it when I walked into the room, and would pretend she was reading or sleeping.
One day, she stopped responding to me completely.
Whatever I said to her, it must’ve been mundane, because I don’t even remember what it was. All I remember is her not responding, then me saying her name repeatedly, then tapping her, then shaking her. Nothing I did got her attention. All she did was whisper things that didn’t make sense. That I didn’t understand.
I called the local hospital and had her admitted to an adult psychiatric ward, hoping they could find a way to help her. I hated myself for not pushing her to go the day she mentioned the voices, but she was of semi-sound mind back then, and we are adults. I couldn’t force her.
I went home that night and got straight into bed, lying awake in the dark and staring at the swirly pattern on the ceiling of my bedroom. Somewhere around two in the morning, I finally closed my eyes. “Die.” A harsh, raspy whisper seemed to fill the entire room, echoing off of the gray walls and melting into the fabrics. My eyes snapped open, heart beating wildly. What was that? I looked around, afraid to move. Just a dream, I thought nervously.
“KILL YOURSELF.” I jumped and slapped my hands over my ears. What the fuck is happening? I shut my eyes tight and curled into a ball. Oh please, please don’t lose your mind, I thought. I needed to be there for Lia. “Die, die, die, die.” “Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up,” I whispered in return.
Eventually, I fell asleep. I woke up with a slamming headache, the kind of headache you get in the morning after drinking a bottle of wine the night before. When I stood up, it felt as if the house was trembling, and I flinched each time I turned a corner, feeling the presence of something evil. “Kill, kill, kill.” I ignored the voice.
I called the hospital, asked if I could come and visit Lia. I was shocked when I was told that she was speaking coherently again. Half an hour later, I was at the hospital, talking with her face to face. It felt like a miracle.
“You’re not going to believe this,” she said, “But I haven’t heard a voice since I came here.” For the first time in God knows how long, she smiled. A genuine smile, lighting up her face. The smile I fell in love with.
I couldn’t bear to see that smile falter. So I sat there, talked to her about her treatment, about how well she was doing. I told her that I was so proud of her. That I knew she would get better, that she was so strong.
It is so easy to think that someone else is strong, no matter what their condition is, when you feel so weak.
And, don’t get me wrong; I do think Lia is strong. I know she is strong. But still, I couldn’t tell her that I was hearing the same things she had been hearing. I didn’t want to get in the way of her recovery.
So I kept my mouth shut. Told her I loved her. Told her to stay a few weeks more.
“What?! But I’m getting better. I am better,” she insisted. “They told me I could leave in one week. I don’t want to stay any longer. Ava, I swear, I’m fine.”
“I know,” I told her, “but I need to make some arrangements.”
She agreed to stay until I found a new place for us to live.
Remember, like I said, Lia would never hurt a fly.
That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t hurt someone. Or that I haven’t.
I went straight home that night and washed the blood stains from the basement floor. I burned the bones and bodies of the lives I’d taken throughout the years, and the few bodies that thrived, though I’d broken and bruised them.
It had been a fun game for me, up until they decided to fight back. The dead and the undead, united, getting their revenge.
Lia never told anyone. She let me do my thing. She knew I loved to hurt. And she knew I’d never hurt her.
That’s why she let it happen. She let me take children from their mothers, or mothers from their children. Let me play with them, make modifications on them. Experiment on them. Hurt them for fun.
I never thought they could hurt us back. I had so much power over them, that I forgot all about karma. Karma’s a bitch. Everyone knows that.
So I got rid of everything.
I don’t hurt anyone these days. I care too much about my wife to give in to my urges. My hobbies. I gave it all up. I let them go.
But no matter what, I will never let my Lia go.