Staring at the TV, Bram felt no will to turn it off. He never bothered even to get up and turn the light off to sleep. He felt no intention to do much of anything, and regret slid down the back of his throat. How could he make that trade? It was real, and he had crushed the life of his dog. Just as Nought wanted him to, guilt burnt on its way down, regret multifaceted with anger, loneliness, and so many more emotions he couldn’t even pin and yet they seemed to be floating away from him. They seemed to be turning foreign, and he didn’t even recognize each one separately. They intertwined and balled together as they overtook his chest, his heart and his stomach. Even the bile he coughed up sick in his mouth from helping the Chinese lady didn’t bring about a feeling. It was what Nought wanted. It was how he took over.
A sound bumped from under his feet. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the flashing television. The darkness came up around the TV and burnt its way through his emotionless expression. A set of eyes appeared. They were not the fawn browns of his mother, and they were the pale blues of Justyce’s lash ridden eyes. Jumping through Obscura faster than any vision had ever come before. No white fuzz, no dark matter, only eyes are jumping at him. The blue was clean salty crystals as if the water from the ocean had dried around the black centres and left soft piles of blue crystals.
To reach out and touch those crimson irsises, they twinkled and danced in front of him but also quickly backward stepped. Justyce’s face appeared now, full and overtaking Obscura. Her hair long, flowing freely down her shoulders. He could see she was wearing just a bra, no t-shirt. The white straps of her bra sat perfectly vertical on her body. Obscura pushed Bram.
Further, a fuller image came to him to reveal her breasts. Her stomach flat and naked as well. He could see her belly button and concave down from her rib cage. He realized she was lying on her back, and he could not see the surroundings; therefore, she could not differentiate between the bathroom or her bedroom.
From where the sound had come below his feet, he was sure it had to be her bedroom. She had a tall bed, a loft bed with a metal desk situated underneath. He could see her whole body now. Laying like a frog, her knees feel away from her body. She was exposing her panties, black and lacy. He could hear nothing else, see nothing except Justyce’s milky white body. She hands-on her thighs. Her head back and staring to the ceiling as her hand pulled down from the middle toward her knee cap. A sharp blade is slicing through the soft flesh, leaving a perfect red line in its place. He wanted to go, it was not his place to spy on her, but glue kept him there. The bond of Obscura made the decisions for him. The glue held Nought at bay while Bram witnessed what he hoped at first was a play on the lights, now revealed to be Justyce cutting herself.
In such a place, it was hidden from anyone seeing. In the soft flesh between her thighs, to get the pain and failures out somehow . Her body shuddered from a stifled cry as the blade sliced again. She held her hand over the edge of the bed and dropped the razor blade on the floor. Blood rolled off her leg onto the towel she laid on. The fresh plasma tainted her fingernails. Justyce suddenly slammed her thighs shut and rolled onto her side. Now convulsing in sobs and Bram’s heart broke for her. Did she, too, have cobwebs in her mind he could clear?
He had to tell his father. The glue of Obscura released him finally, and he was back staring at the television. The sick irony of Edward Scissorhands playing on the screen made his stomach roll. Threatening vomit, he pulled himself up. He fought it, but soon the convulsing overtook him. He allowed the stomach contents to release. He was no longer caring if he made a mess on his father’s floor. His father had much larger chaos in his house to clean up. The proverbially perfect stepdaughter was way more screwed up than anyone realized. Justyce, putting on a face of perfection, was secretly hurting herself to cover up. What? Bram didn’t know, and he couldn’t even pretend to try to understand. She had told him of some sorrows she carried. Nothing dark enough to hurt yourself. He needed to confront her and make her stop hurting herself. Nothing is ever so wrong.
He pulled himself up off the couch, his legs buckled to cramps. His back sore, and the base of his head swelled. The hit he took on the back of the sofa was more challenging than he realized. The light in the games room burnt his eyes. Bram stood from the couch, feeling old past his years. His back was crooked over like a troll emerging from the bridge, and his legs bow strung inward. If there had been neighbours nearby, they would surely see his silhouette projected through the triangular window, and he would be the ghost in the glass. Bram tried to stretch as if waking from a slumber, except there had been no relief from this slumber. Only sickening realization of deep-rooted problems. He never hesitated when he turned to run down the stairs. Not slowing to be sure of silent entry, he barreled himself into the hallway and knocked immediately on Justyce’s bedroom door. He was not even second-guessing himself before he turned the doorknob and bolted through the door.
“What the…” Justyce screamed and pulled a blanket up over her body in a flash. Her room was immaculate, with no clothes on the floor, trinkets all lined up correctly, and even a beautiful bookshelf with books in alphabetical order. She sat up so quickly she hit her head on the ceiling. Ripping the blanket up to cover her nakedness but being sure to cover her legs. She looked doe-eyed at Bram. He held onto the doorknob, not sure what his next step was. He was frozen now, forced into action and directly frozen in his space, eyes locked on his stepsister. Her bedroom light had been off, but the hallway light was on and flooding her room now. Her hair matted on the back of her scalp from sweat and induced from her cuts. She opened her mouth to say something else, but they were interrupted by Bram’s father.
“What is going on up here?” His voice was angry. Possibly from being woken up or from finding his son bursting into his stepdaughter’s room. Bram hadn’t heard such a wave of anger from his voice and not directed at him anyway. He had heard it towards his mother when she would be clawing at Thomas for attention. His eyes screamed tired, broken sleep stories. He was wearing a dark burgundy housecoat.
“Uh, uh” Bram stumbled over his words, unsure how to tell his father what he witnessed.
“This freak just came rushing into my room!” Justyce shrieked and pointed at Bram. The betrayal he felt was swift. As if the realness of their earlier conversations meant nothing now, he stood, and he thought he was the naked one. His father is glaring, and his stepsister is pointing blame at him. The words failed him, and he wasn’t sure it would even be right to speak out about Justyce cutting. It had meant to be a private conversation, or at least he had hoped. Bram hadn’t preplanned anything before bursting into her room, and now he had nothing. He let go of the doorknob and hung his head, unsure of what excuse to even come up with.
“You’re a sick toad. Did you come in here to look at me?” Justyce screamed and pulled the blanket up higher when Bram had no reply to her accusation. Her eyes appeared hurt, filling with tears, and Bram turned to leave the room.
“Bram” His father’s voice was stern, but Bram ignored it. He no longer cared. There was no rhyme or reason he could even give. It was a mistake even to try to intervene. She was her person, it was her private matter, and Bram should not have involved himself. Although he still had a lingering nag to speak to his father. Maybe tomorrow, when he did not look so tired. He made his way up the stairs to the games room. Slapping the light off as he entered, he immediately threw himself on the couch for sleep. His father, unfortunately, followed him and knelt in front of the creaky wood-framed couch. Bram suddenly felt exhausted. Everything that had transpired in the last few days slammed down on him at once.
“Son.” He started, but Bram refused to open his eyes even to accept the conversation.
“It’s normal. With step-siblings.” Bram was disgusted. His father was trying to make the peeping tom excuse fly, but he hadn’t the energy to even argue it. His limbs felt increasingly heavy, pushing him further into the couch cushions.
“I know you’ve been having a hard time lately, and things with your mother don’t make it any easier.”
He wished his father would just stop talking.
“If there’s anything you want to talk about, son, I’m here for you” His father’s hand fell to rest on his back. He was patting encouragingly as Bram refused even to breath.
The hand lifted and disappeared with his father’s body. There was no door to close, but the lights turned off in the hallway below him now. Pitch black enveloped him like a comforting blanket, not Obscura this time. Not forcing him to witness something he didn’t necessarily want a part of. But sleep darkness, speaking softly in his ear. But dreams eluded him. It jumped and swayed away from him when he tried to grasp it. He wanted good dreams, fond memories of his Grandmother to woo him at night. Caress his burnt soul, but only nightmares came.
A demon ghost is sitting on top of his body, making him heavy and feeling as though he and the couch would break through the ceiling and crush Justyce too. Just as he had destroyed his dog, Denim, he wouldn’t even have a happy face to return to. His arms couldn’t move, his legs stationary, but his mind wouldn’t stop moving. The weight of everything holding him comatose to the couch and not allowing him the luxury of sleep, just stillness. Did his stepsister think she would amount to a smiling face behind a customer service counter? Was the self-harm to condition herself into accepting the inevitable? Bram was guessing, and he knew no more why Justyce cut herself than why his mother had been so sad. Would his mother’s new-found elation last?
The memory of Obscura full of the cobwebs, the ripping and renewing of the space he had done sprang forward. He visualized what he had done but couldn’t make much sense of it. How he saw the shape and colours of his mother’s eyes before him, and then it moved through him and into him. No longer in Obscura but in her mind, using Obscura to rip away the sticky webs of depression she had spent years spinning. The silvery coating is dissipating once it was removed, falling to nothing but floating ash in Obscura.
The thoughts made no sense. None of the training process in his mind connected. It seemed to run off track, derailing his chance at sleep. Bram made a few attempts to stop the charging locomotion of thoughts. He recalled those fuzzy cartoon sheep from the sleep country commercials, reading the numbers on the sides of their bellies to try and sleep. He would try to count them in his mind, but the thought train broke through even sheep number five and six. He couldn’t even seem to concentrate long enough to hit sheep number ten. So, then he tried to count them out loud, not caring his voice echoed through the entire upstairs of the house. He seriously doubted Justyce was sleeping either. Every time his thoughts went back to her, the slip of Obscura would inch closer. He would shoot his eyes open and shake his head. He was blinking away the folds of darkness before they could take him over.
Eventually, the sun crept in the triangular window, glowing a diamond through the room. It burst into millions of rainbows from the reflections of trinkets Sam had to decorate up here. The sun’s rays burning away the last hope Bram had of sleep. Trying to keep his eyes closed even when the sun made his lids boiling red as if the room itself were on fire. When it was just his mind on fire, burning with questions. Unanswered possibilities to what he had been experiencing.
He could hear movement downstairs now, and the weight finally seemed to lift off his body. Freeing his arms and legs, he rolled off the uncomfortable couch. Looking down the stairs, he finds both the bathroom door and the bedroom door are closed. Keeping his head down, he quickens his pace to the main floor. His father and Sam are both sitting at the kitchen table. There are no smells of food yet, only coffee. Telling Bram, it is still relatively early.
“Good morning, son” his father pipes up, trying to sound casual and not leaving Bram long to wonder if Sam knows of the commotion from the night before since his father digs straight in.
“Make yourself a coffee, and then we need to speak. Justyce has not come down yet, and I think she’s in the shower. That gives us time.” His father and Sam’s faces are both trained on Bram. There is no hesitation to Bram making himself a coffee, yet as soon as the last teaspoon of sugar drops in, he turns on his heels and heads back towards the sets of stairs.
“Hey!” His father raised his voice first. Maybe Bram wouldn’t have reacted the way he did if his father hadn’t raised his voice, but everything after happened very quickly.
“I said we need…” The table bumped as his father stood.
“We don’t need to talk” Bram cut his father off. He turned and stood toe to toe with his father. Having grown over the last summer, he was now taller. His muscles younger and faster to react.
His voice was low, hard and unyielding to his father’s will.
“Nothing happened” he insisted. He was staring down his nose at his father’s. The anger bubbling up, betrayal interlacing, and embarrassment propelled it faster than necessary.
“Something did happen” His breath hot on Bram’s face, which only infuriated him more.
“Yeah, your supposed perfect stepdaughter was cutting herself!” Bram spat the words, thrusting his chest out as an ape would to show strength. His father didn’t back down.
“That’s bullshit, a bald-faced lie to cover your ass! Did you learn this from your mother too?”
“It’s your fault…” Bram began, but the argument came to a halt when Thomas slammed his fist into the wall next to Bram’s head. He shuddered but held his position, and he would not let his father win.
“THOMAS” Sam screamed, apparently never seeing the anger side of his father.
“I will not have you terrorizing my daughter as your mother has!”
“I tried to help her” Bram sternly spoke the words, annunciating one at a time to get his point across.
“She has tormented us for years. She has taught you well.”
“Thomas” Sam repeated, now standing from the table as well. Pushing Bram harder against the wall, she stepped in between the two men. His eyes still burned into Bram’s, not relenting for a moment. Maybe even blaming Bram and his mother for the fact they had to move so far away.
“He’s just a boy”
She insisted and pushed Thomas back a step. Bram used the space to make his exit, glaring at his father one last time before slipping from the kitchen.
“We still need to discuss this!” His father’s voice was still strong and booming from behind him. Bram stormed up the stairs, straight past the washroom, which now had the light on. Justyce was in the shower. His pace slowed, remembering how her self harm had been so silent before, how his father’s attitude towards denial could lead to a devastating outcome. Should he knock on the door? His anger boiled dark inside him, but his footsteps slowed anyway.
There was no fan running, no water, no hairdryer. Nothing. Deathly silent, and all Bram could do was listen to the commotion he had caused in the kitchen.
“Thomas,” Sam was fussing over Bram’s father. Turning the very much impending important issue at hand, to a lesser dramatic pissed off son topic.
He stood silently in the hall, just outside the ghostly still bathroom. He hadn’t realized the coffee mug was still in his hand. Taking a sip, it was cold. Uncertainty ensued, and he took a step towards the staircase leading back down. Maybe he needed to apologize to his father. He still had a few days left here and didn’t come to fight. Sam seemed more understanding than he ever thought possible. Glancing at his cold coffee, the milky brown swirled from his arm’s vibration. He was nervous. Either way, he went. Nervous because this closed door was still much too quiet. Something was wrong. One more breath in, and Bram hastened himself into the blackness of dark matter which held Obscura.
Giving up on personal privacy, a sinking feeling said his stepsister needed him—more than anything in the world.
It was dark. There were no colours and no smells—nothing to indicate which direction to go. No faces, no words, nothing. Nought. He was there and heavier than usual. The warning was thick and real. Stating this was the end, an end to happiness, an end to sanity. The last straw he would strip away if he continued. Bram stood and refused to leave even as Nought pushed him back, even as it threatened him to leave.
Bram knew nothing else than to push back, and he pulled Obscura up from under Nought. The creature pulled all the light around and allowed it to flood into him. The first Bram had ever seen a shape or form, milky white the creature pulled his foot up and out of Obscura. No longer is the same, but the keeper. Bram pushed with everything he had against Nought. All the compassion he had left, all the courage it took from him to stay. His jealousy for Justyce’s perfection, gone. The simple shyness he mustered when the woman at the bookstore had flirted with him, gone. Everything rushed from him, and he used all his thoughts, feelings and emotions to force Nought to leave so he might see Justyce. Nought was obscuring the view, and Bram could feel the looming time restriction. It was now or never, and he thrust his beliefs, his confidences, his feelings of pride.
As the feelings materialized into a wave of solidified Obscura, Bram threw it straight to Nought. Crippling him into a pile of dissolvable shadows once more, and finally, he saw her.
Doubled over, he head was hung so low it nearly graced her toes. Tears sprung from her eyes, wetting the floor in front of her. The shroud of golden blonde hair was completely gone. Laying in spoils around her feet. Bram forced his hand to touch her, and even then, she still did not lookup. He could not catch those beautiful long lashes. He was sure his sense was with her, but she didn’t move. Only the toilet paper next to her fluttered. A piece tearing off from his force, floating down through the thick air as a feather would float. A feather troubled with her intention. He hadn’t needed to push harder to read the words, and the letters sprang to life, filling Obscura.
I’m not meant for this world
The words knocked him, smashing into Bram, trying to throw him out of Obscura. He pushed harder just to stay put, watching in horror as Nought pulled his power back together behind him. Pooling the darkness of Obscura into himself, it was a power struggle. Justyce was trying to push Bram out, and Nought was trying to conjure his power to build his substantial being back up. He wanted Justyce to take her own life, and he was rooting for it. Bram could feel his words, adding power to Justyce’s own words. Spilling out with her tears, they washed over him.
He felt useless and weak as the click resonated through Obscura. A sharp view of Justyce now formed as she turned the gun’s safety off. The barrel was placed softly in her mouth. A long-barrelled silver revolver, Bram never doubted it was loaded. Her tears told him she was serious, her face not lifting. Her cheeks never quivering, she bit down on the barrel. Bram had not much left, and he had already given all his rage and anxiety up. He had already used Obscura to force his mother’s cobwebs away, to risk his confidence and companionship to rescue her mental well being. A small light glinted in the dark recess’ of Bram’s mind. Something he had boxed away, something he had stored for safekeeping when he knew it might come of use again.
Love for his mother. It shone like a diamond. Even through the dark, it shone. Bram lifted it, tore it from hiding to charge what little power he had left in Obscura, what Nought had not yet absorbed and stolen from Bram. He held it back and away from his body. All the force he had left, Nought suddenly appeared. Knocking Bram back, he fell hard on his back.
He was far now from Justyce and the gun. There was no chance left; even the shining diamond of love was left for his mother would not help with how far he was. He could hardly see her. It was the smell that tipped him off. There was no bang of the hammer. No click of the trigger. It was the smell of gunpowder that made him release everything he had. He focused every bit of being he had into the bullet, and it put him. Just in the split second before it sliced through his stepsister’s head, it put him in front of the gun. The love he had for his mother had been stronger than he realized. It had transported him from the outside of the bathroom through a dark creature protected the hidden space and into the small area through an unknown dark matter level. Into Justyce’s suicide attempt, retrieving the revolver from her mouth. The bullet had already been dispelled, but it didn’t kill his sister.
Justyce screamed, a loud, bloody scream as the bullet shattered her cheek. Bram didn’t have time to meet her gaze. He thought nothing when his father broke the door down and tackled him into the bathtub. He felt nothing as his face smashed the ceramic tub, and he tasted nothing as he slipped into cold darkness.