“I have a special assignment for you. It’s crucial that you do well on this mission.”
“Of course. What do you need me to do?”
“There’s a girl who is in desperate need. Her father is the deacon of their local church, but he’s not exactly what you might call an upstanding citizen. Her life is miserable. I need you to go and help her, before she does something… drastic.”
“I understand. I’ll do my best to keep her safe.”
“There is one other thing I need you to do. There’s been rumors of a demon spotted around in that area. I want you to find it. As soon as you do, call for reinforcements. We’ll be there to destroy it. It might even be the cause of this community’s problems.”
“Yes, sir. I understand.”
“Good. Then go. Find the girl and take good care of her, and find that demon. We don’t want things to get anymore out of hand than they already are.”
As awful as it is to say, I’m not surprised that it happened. In fact, what I’m more surprised at is that it didn’t happen any sooner than this. The only reason I found out is because Beth didn’t come to school today, and of course rumors spread all over school. I don’t blame her for not coming. Why would she want to come? It’s not like anyone treats her well here to begin with. I’m sure she’d only face even more ridicule from her mother offing herself.
I’ve always felt bad for Beth, though. She’s three years behind me, so it’s not as if we ever get a chance to interact, but regardless I keep an eye on her. I’ve always felt like an older sister to her in some ways. Again, that’s without interacting with her, it’s just a weird feeling I get when I look at her.
She doesn’t know me. I don’t know if she even realizes I exist. So it’s not like I could go over to see her and see if she’s okay or whatever. Her grandparents probably wouldn’t like seeing me around anyway. I’m not sure how highly they think of my family. They give my father the respect he desires from everyone in the community, but beyond that they probably don’t want to have anything to do with us.
Despite the fact that none of this had anything to do with me, the news followed me around all day long. Isn’t that just how it goes, though? Gossip spreads fast in small communities, especially in high school when it has to do with one of the students.
But even when I got home from school, that news still wouldn’t leave me alone. The moment I walked in the door, I heard Mom and Dad yelling at each other. Well, it was more like Mom was talking in a loud tone so she could be heard over Dad’s yelling.
“You can’t possibly expect us to participate in such a thing after all that woman did!” Mom was saying.
“Marilyn, shut up and just listen to me for a moment!” Dad spat back. I slammed the door shut to let them know I was home and immediately began stomping up the stairs rather than saying anything to them. Not that this sort of thing wasn’t an unusual sight to come home to, but that didn’t make it any easier to bear.
Even up in my room, with the door closed, I could still hear their ‘conversation’ going on. While I only heard incoherent yelling for the most part, I did get the gist of what they were talking about. It had to do with Beth’s mom. Rather, her funeral. Since Dad’s a deacon, apparently that means he is required to be present at her funeral, and of course that means Mom and I have to go as well.
Mom’s not thrilled with the idea. I’m not either, but for entirely different reasons than her. I know what the people there are like, and they’re going to make the funeral a living hell to go through. I’m sure Beth is going to be there. Probably her grandparents too. I feel really bad for her. Maybe I could try and talk to her then. Ha, as if. If Mom or Dad saw me going near her, they’d probably ground me or something. That’s just how they are.
I was attempting to do my homework while this all went on. Wasn’t easy with all the yelling. At some point I heard the door slam. Everything went quiet soon after that, and a few minutes later my door opened a crack. Mom peered in.
“Yeah?” I said, glancing toward her with a heavy breath.
“I assume you heard all of that?” I rolled my eyes in response and nodded my head. Mom pushed the door open a little further and took a step into my room, leaning against the door frame. “The funeral is tomorrow at four. Wear something presentable, and black.”
“Are you really okay with this?” I asked her, though I regretted saying anything at all. She frowned at me, then turned out of the room.
“It doesn’t matter how I feel about this, we have to go.”
“Yeah, right. Because we have to worry about our social standing,” I muttered under my breath. Either she didn’t hear me, or she just had nothing to say to that. Mom left the room and closed the door behind her. Finally the house was quiet.
It wasn’t peaceful, though. The air was thick with tension and I actually found it rather difficult to breathe. I opened my window, despite it being a windy day. Breathing in the cold air helped some. I decided to abandon my homework, because it was never going to get done at this rate, and instead I climbed out of my window and onto the roof of the house. My window opened out onto a nice little niche, so it was easy to sit out there and just let my worries drift off. Well, until I got caught, anyway.
I laid out on the roof for a long time, just gazing at the sky and the clouds drifting along. I told myself I wasn’t cold, even though I was. I just ignored it. My fingertips, ears, and nose were growing numb, but still I ignored it. I guess you could call this my way of rebelling, though it’s not like anyone was around to care.
I started thinking about Beth again. I wondered how she was holding up after everything that happened, and for that matter how well she was going to hold up in the upcoming days. I’ve never lost anyone before, so I can only imagine how terrible it must be for someone– especially someone as close as a parent– to die. It must be even worse for them to have killed themselves.
Why was it that I felt so strange whenever I saw or thought about Beth? I just had this urge to go to her, to get to know her. I know she’s got a terrible home life, but it’s not like I can do anything about it. Not as if my life is much better.
I stayed up there until my father’s car pulled back into the driveway. That was the cue for me to get off the roof as fast as I could and back into my room. I climbed back through my window and shut it tight, then collapsed on my bed and realized just how cold and numb I had become while I was sitting out there. Maybe I’ll catch a cold and I won’t have to go to the funeral at all.
“Hannah!” Dad barged into the room without knocking– as was his custom– and his voice was unnecessarily loud. I looked up at him from where I was lying on the bed, blinking a few times to readjust my eyesight after being out and staring at the sky for so long.
“Did your mother tell you about tomorrow?” he asked, still unnecessarily gruff. I nodded my head and he snorted. “Fine. Dinner will be ready soon, so come downstairs.”
Despite how well we all got along, for some reason my father was a huge believer in family dinners. They used to be alright, but lately they’ve been quiet and awkward. Or they’d be not-so-quiet and even more awkward. I’ve come to despise family dinners.
Dad left, without closing the door again, and I sighed and got up to shut it, then I returned to the bed and threw myself down on it. So many thoughts were buzzing through my head at once. I buried my face in my pillow and closed my eyes, breathing slow and deep.
It was around this time that I realized that not only was my body numb, but every part of me was growing numb. Numb to life, to existence in general. I hated it. I hated every waking moment of it. I hated school, I hated homework, and most of all I hated living in this house with these people. I just wanted it all to go away. The only thing I wanted to do was find some small, dark place I could curl up in and go to sleep and never wake up. That sounded agreeable.
I made a wish. I wished that something would change. That I could finally find an escape. I didn’t realize just then that such a wish could actually come true, nor the method in which it would happen.