"Foot in the Grave"

by Acey

Disclaimer: Would like to but don't.

You remember that night in the park, when the girl made us move? There were lots of nights in parks, though, but that was our last before you fell. You had your bag right beside you and me on the other side, like always, and you were still wearing your glasses as we talked awhile that night. You'd fall asleep wearing them. I used to kid you about that, ask how you could manage because I knew they'd worry me to death and I'd have to pull them off.

To death. We were talking about death then. Neither of us really liked to talk about it unless we were trying to joke, or reaffirming how we intended to die. You know how that goes. I mean, there's not too much of a conversation there, not when you know what we do, not when you're as condemned as we are.

But you were in a thoughtful mood while I was in a morbid one. You told me how you'd really want to die, if you could control the circumstances, and I brushed it off kind of flippantly before I fell asleep myself.

I realized I never answered with how I'd want to die. Probably because I still don't, not even now, so there isn't a best case scenario I've got picked out in my mind somewhere. You could go poetically freeze to death asleep on a snowy mountain, probably still wearing those glasses, and you'd be happy that way. But I don't know about me. Senile and eighty in a rocking chair dying of a heart attack looks the same as twenty in a car crash without a seatbelt and the cars bursting into flames—neither situation any better than the other.

Death just doesn't appeal to me, no matter how many times I've doled it out in the name of salvation. But you don't like death, either.

At least, you didn't.

But I could count on never reaching eighty, or twenty, and I'd hoped I could count on the way I'd die. Pure and simple, you'd kill me, I'd kill you, and the Diabolo would choke and sputter at the rebellion. We promised to never give them the satisfaction of seeing us on their side. We'd be stronger than that, better than that.

The thing that's so funny now is that back then there were only two things I was worried about—you not being able to kill me and me catching you off guard. Snapping suddenly, changing before I could warn you—not just because I was a little older, but because I worried that maybe I was weaker, and I'd fall fast. I had a few nightmares like that, where I'd scream your name like a penitent priest begs God's forgiveness. You wouldn't turn around, just kept on like nothing was amiss, and after I stopped screaming you finally did turn, innocent Rai, your blue eyes that assumed nothing growing wider and wider till I struck you down. I struck and kept striking; you hadn't a chance in the world and you knew it. Struck until the world was a sea of red, and I liked it, liked seeing you like that, my best friend dead and the blood pooling around your corpse.

Then I'd wake in a cold sweat, search you out desperately in the dark, and even when I found you next to me, I couldn't fall asleep again. So I'd pull your bag out from under your arm and count the money inside. If I hadn't given up on getting back to sleep, I'd divide it out in my head for the number of days left in the month, figure in the fast food we'd buy and subtract that, anything to get my mind off the dream. Then I'd set it back beside you and sit down again, waiting for sunrise and watching you sleep, sure that your rest wasn't tainted.

But I guess it was, huh, Rai? I guess even someone as pure as you were, as kind, was susceptible. Anyone can fall prey to the Diabolo, that's what we said, that's what we knew, but I thought if anything you'd be immune, with how you were. Did you fight it? Or did it sneak up on you, like a thief on one of those crazy nights, so that before you knew it, you were gone?

I'm wondering if it matters anymore.

Maybe we were fools to trust each other, to hold each other to promises we couldn't keep. I'd be harder on you, I'd be crying and begging if I thought you were there in that body, but I know you aren't there now, Rai. I know you haven't been there since that night in the park, so there's nothing to hold me back.

I wish the real Rai could've gotten that death on a snowy mountain. I wish I didn't have to be the one to kill the shell of his body and the devil inside. I wish—you don't know how much I wish…