Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FICTION: Real Life by Alyssa Bennett

Her delicate body was strewn out on the hardwood floor of Jared's living room. Her pale arms were outstretched and her head was cocked to one side, revealing a nasty gash above her right ear. Her silky, pale blond hair was matted with blood that had spilled from the wound. There was a pool of drying blood surrounding her head. Her modest white T-shirt was also stained in red, proving the existence of more than just the one wound.

There were streaks of dried blood running down her once pretty face. Her blue eyes were wide open, staring lifelessly in the direction of the staircase. Her mouth was slightly ajar.

Jared's fingernails cut into the flesh of his tightly clenched fists. His breathing was heavy and ragged. He stared at Sophia's mangled corpse, unable to tear his gaze away.

His palms were bleeding now but he didn't care. At least he wasn't dead.

He let out a scream, raw and primal, full of pure rage. He'd just returned home from a busy shift at the local Tim Horton's, his pathetic part-time job, taken in the desperate hope that it'd help get him through college. He's been planning on enjoying a quiet, peaceful evening with his girlfriend and maybe watching a hockey game or something. Instead, he'd discovered the grisly remains of his sweet, innocent Sophia displayed grotesquely in the middle of his living room.

In an uncontrollable fit of blinded rage, Jared snatched the first object he could get his bleeding hands on and smashed it with all his might against the floor. The unfortunate object shattered and sent small pieces flying in every direction. Jared, now slightly less hysterical; the destruction had been most satisfactory, glanced downwards to find out what he'd just destroyed. The TV remote – damn. Now he'd be stuck unable to change the History Channel (which he did shamefully enjoy watching). But TV was the least of his concerns right now.

He sneaked a glance outside the big, clear window in his living room facing the street. Street lights lit up the evening as passerby calmly strolled along, oblivious to the fact they were walking past a crime scene. This enraged Jared; everyone should know. Everyone should know that Sophia had been murdered, and that Sophia had mattered.

And that Sophia's murderer would not get away.

He wanted to hurt somebody. Let out his overwhelming anger. He could just dash outside right now and begin knifing strangers; one of them could be Sophia's murderer. And as for the ones that weren't; they didn't matter.

The doorbell rang at that moment.

Jared just stood dumbfounded for a moment, suddenly jolted out of his sick little fantasy. He realized he was breathing abnormally loudly and made a conscious effort to quiet himself. He took one hesitant glance towards the bloodied corpse of his dead girlfriend before making a mad dash for the door.

It was that foreign exchange student from Japan or China or some other country in East Asia that Jared recognised from one of his college classes. Whatever her name was – Ai, or something. He didn't know her very well, but from what he saw of her in class, she seemed quite pleasant and friendly.

She smiled sweetly at Jared and greeted him with a friendly “hello”.

But there was fresh blood coating her lips and dripping down her fingertips. And that was all the evidence Jared needed.

His eyes widened for a moment before he grabbed Ai's shoulders and began shaking her violently.

“YOU KILLED HER!” he screamed hysterically at the girl, his voice cracking. “IT WAS YOU!”

Ai's eyes widened in surprise and fear. “Wha-what are you... talking about, Jared?” she protested, making no attempt to lash out despite the sudden attack. Sophia's blood dripped from her lips as she denied her actions.

Jared stopped shaking Ai but dug his fingernails into her skin instead until he drew blood and she winced.

“Your lips are coated in her blood,” Jared growled, a low, throaty snarl. His hazel eyes bore into her black ones, reflecting his hatred. “Her blood is dripping from your fingertips.” He dug his fingernails deeper into Ai's flesh, feeling her warm blood trickle out.

Ai stared at Jared, ignoring the pain in her shoulders.

“N-...no...” she slowly lifted one hand, with blood like crimson nail polish on her fingers, a sick accessory for her hands. She gingerly touched her fingers to her lips then slowly pulled her hand away, studying the red that had transferred over to her fingers in the motion.

Jared glared at her, hating her. She was sick, a twisted individual, and such a person should not be allowed a life. So... he would be doing the world a favour... yes... just helping rid the world of sadism...

“Jared... that's just my lipstick. And my nail polish,” Ai's voice cut through Jared's demented thoughts and startled him.

“Wha-what?” he straightened up, his hateful glare suddenly replaced with an expression of confusion. He blinked before casting a glance at the girl's red lips and fingertips. Her lips were no longer rife with dripping blood as he'd seen only seconds ago; instead, a smooth coat of crimson lipstick, and an identical shade of nail polish to match on her fingertips.

Ai was innocent.

She was simply paying him a friendly visit, and he was greeting her by accusing her of murder. He maintained his grip, staring at her with wide, shocked eyes as he let this reality slowly register in his mind.

He suddenly became aware of his claw-like hands digging into the flesh of this innocent girl.

“I... I'm... I'm sorry,” he managed to choke out as he quickly pulled his hands away and freed her. His fingers were covered in her blood; now he was the one accidentally accessorizing in blood.

He gazed up from staring at his bloody fingers and was rather surprised to see that Ai hadn't moved. He'd had no doubt she'd bolt the moment he released her from his painful grip, like anyone, really, would've. But there she stood before him, studying him with a look of concern painted on her face. He could see a circle of red staining the shoulder of Ai's cute pink T-shirt and a wave of guilt washed over him for acting so impulsively.

“What happened, Jared?” she asked softly.

“My...” Jared swallowed hard. He glanced at Ai and hesitated before continuing. “My... girlfriend was murdered.”

He didn't know what he had expected her response to be. Whether he'd expected her to say something to magically make everything all better, or the obvious “oh, I'm sorry”, what people usually said when they were confronted with bad news that didn't actually affect them and couldn't think of anything better to say, and probably didn't much care.

Ai's reply was a little less monotone than “oh, I'm sorry”, but it by no means improved the situation. However, she managed to change everything with four whispered words.

“Jared, I'm your girlfriend.”

Jared was taken aback. He gasped and stared wide-eyed, trying to comprehend what the girl meant. “What?! I hardly know you!” He paused for a moment, then his eyes flashed with anger. “Are you... hitting on me?!”

Ai just shook her head. “We've been through this before, Jared. You are delusional. You suffer from some sort of multiple personality disorder. Sophia doesn't exist, Jared, she never has. You just made her up.” She spewed her nonsense at him with such seriousness that she succeeded in forcing him to question his sanity.

But... Sophia was real. Of course she was. Had been. He could tell the difference between reality and imaginary friends... right?

His anger was replaced by a need to prove he was right. Prove to Ai, prove to himself. A need to make sure that Sophia had indeed existed, that he wasn't just some mental guy living in a made up dream world.

“N-no,” he told her shakily. “No. She existed. Her... her body is in the other room. See, follow me.” Without waiting for a response, Jared turned and began walking briskly towards his living room. Ai followed hesitantly.

Jared cautiously stepped through the doorway leading into the living room, dreading the morbid sight of his unfortunate lover's corpse sprawled on the floor. Ai was directly behind him, watching him patiently.

He led Ai into the room before glancing at Sophia's body.

There was no body. Nothing. Not even a single drop of blood left on the hardwood floor from the gigantic puddle of the stuff that had been there before.

If it had been there before.

There was, however, plastic fragments of a smashed TV remote on the floor.

Ai glanced over at Jared after surveying the empty room. Her expression was knowing but gentle, with possibly a little bit of pity. Jared didn't even see her. He was preoccupied staring dumbfounded at the emptiness where he had earlier so clearly seen a mangled corpse lay. He wanted so badly for her to have been real, for her to have existed. But deep down, he knew. Knew she hadn't existed.

Jared stared at the floor absently, attempting to comprehend the entire ordeal. Ai approached him slowly and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Everything's okay, Jared,” she assured him softly. “Nobody really got hurt. There's no point in mourning someone who didn't exist.”

“Please,” Jared murmured without bothering to even look up. “I need some time alone, Ai.”

Ai hesitated before replying. “I...” she stopped and studied Jared with uncertainty. Then she finally said, “Okay,” and made her way out of his house carefully.

Jared continued pointlessly staring at the floor long after he heard the front door close. He wasn't quite ready to accept Sophia's non-existence. She had seemed so real, yet there was no evidence of her existence. And he had seen Ai's makeup as blood; obviously he could be delusional at times.

But if Sophia hadn't been real, what was real? Was the floor he was so intently staring at really real? Were his hands, that he'd now raised in front of his face to study, with dried blood on the fingertips and palms – his and Ai's – were they real?

Breathing heavily – or was that merely his imagination? – he walked out of the living room, or maybe he just thought he did. Into the kitchen, if it existed. He thought he then pulled open a drawer, but of course he couldn't be sure. Retrieved a steak knife that might not have existed. He gazed at its real-looking blade, though he'd already been fooled more than once by 'real-looking' stuff.

He shoved the knife, if it was indeed real, into the flesh of his left wrist. Blood spurted out of the wound, if it was really there. The pain felt real, but there was no way of knowing for sure. The blood looked quite convincing, but blood had already tricked him once before. He forced the knife to strike his flesh again, unless he just imagined that. The pain was excruciating but it didn't hurt him, because he didn't know if it was real.

He cut himself several more times, or at least he thought he did.

He died.

Death was cold, infinite darkness. He couldn't see a thing and he didn't know where he was. He couldn't feel anything, not even whatever he was sitting on. He sat on nothingness.

Only one thought circled his otherwise empty mind. Is this real?

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