The Twilight Twenty-Five: Goodnight, Noises Everywhere
Pen name: Feisty Y. Beden
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Chapter 1: Dark
When I closed my eyes, I could almost forget. I could imagine that everyone I loved was still alive, that the house was quiet just because it was night and everyone was asleep. I could pretend. I didn't know what was worse: simply accepting the present, or deluding myself as much as I could, only to be crushed over and over again when I opened my eyes and could not ignore the evidence in front of me, plain as day.
It was still my bed. It was still my home, but no one else was here. No one else would ever be here. I shivered under my comforter. Charlie had bought me this comforter when I started high school. I'd told him I was too old now for my pink gingham. I'd been pretty snotty about it, too—I was ashamed to think of it now, full of regret—but he'd come home a few days later with this beautiful bedding set, grown up, feminine, but not frilly. It was perfect. Charlie. I choked back a sob. I knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep here again tonight.
When I opened my eyes, it was as dark as it had been when I'd squeezed my eyes shut and tried to pretend that we were back, ten, five, even one year ago, before the epidemic. I didn't know what time it was; the battery in my watch had died months ago. I wished I'd had an old wind-up watch—I think Grandpa Swan had had one. But even I could find it, even if it hadn't been destroyed or looted, how would I know how to set the time? And did time matter anymore?
I opened the door, not needing light to get from my room to Charlie's. I tried to push away my last memories of him alive, of him pale and shivering and covered in sweat. "Stay away," he'd rasped. "It's too late for me now."
"But, Daddy, I … don't care. Don't leave me. Daddy, Daddy," I'd said. My cheeks were wet, and I realized I was muttering Daddy, Daddy, Daddy out loud. I angrily wiped the tears away. I tried to picture Charlie healthy, Charlie picking me up and swinging me around while hugging me tightly, Charlie coming home reeking of fish and the outdoors, that special smile he had just for me. "You need to live, baby girl," he'd said, clumsily waving me away with a leaden arm. "You need to live for me."
Charlie picking me up from school. Charlie taking me to the mall to buy new shoes. Charlie burning our dinner and flapping his oven-mitted hands like a befuddled Muppet, trying his best not to swear in front of me. I forced the good memories in, breathing heavily and clenching my hands into fists.
But the bad ones always seeped back through the crevices: the day he'd come home, eyes wide and glazed over, stumbling as he tried to unlace his shoes. Collapsing in the foyer. I was stronger than I thought, letting him lean on my shoulder as I guided him up the stairs and to bed. "It's nothing," he'd said. "It's not … that." But we both knew he was lying. He was one of the last ones to get sick, and I'd foolishly thought—or had forced myself to believe—that maybe we Swans were made of such hearty stock that we'd survive this, that we'd be spared.
I was at his door now, and I pushed it open lightly. It still smelled like him, mostly like Charlie alive, but the scent of death clung to the walls like an oily residue. I crept to the bed where he'd died, where he'd slipped away like sand through my fingers.
"Stay away, Bella," he'd said. "Please." But I wouldn't. I knew when Charlie went that I was going to be alone. I didn't want to live alone. I wanted to catch what he had, to go with him. So many had already died, so many friends. God, I wished anyone else from school had survived, even bitchy Lauren Mallory. What I would have given just to hear her say something obnoxious about my clothes or my face right now. Why was I chosen? Why was I seemingly immune to this mystery virus? Was this my hell? I had crawled into bed with him as he tried to push me weakly away. I'd wrapped my arms around him and rocked him to his final sleep. "May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind be always at your back," I'd sung to him as his spirit escaped with his final breath.
I crawled into the bed, next to the pillows I'd dressed in Charlie's old clothes. If I tucked my head against the flannel and breathed deeply, I could almost imagine it was really him, even though the pillow had no warmth, no heartbeat. I snuggled against the shirt, the hard plastic buttons leaving an imprint on my cheek, and it soothed me enough that I felt a little drowsy again. I foggily remembered science class, when we'd learned about the Harlow experiments on baby rhesus monkeys. With my head resting on Charlie's old shirt, I could understand why the monkeys would choose the terrycloth mom.
I buried my nose into Charlie's fading scent and tried to put out of my mind that I was lying in the place where he had died.
He had died only once. Death was just one small part of this bed. I tried to remember all the nights he was alive, sleeping here, and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears from the vacuum of sound all around me.
In a few hours, it would be morning, a new day, whatever that meant now. It was meaningless. The sun would hang uselessly in the sky, a pretty bauble, nothing more. The sun, with its incongruous, even disrespectful cheeriness. What was there to shine about? Who would love your warmth? Who was left for you to nourish? I almost wished it just stayed dark all the time. It would be easier.
I closed my eyes and clutched the pillow tightly to me, praying for the oblivion that sleep would bring.
Outside, the air hung still and heavy, and I knew I was the only one breathing, the only heart beating.
I wished I could hear crickets, but it was just me, my chest rising and falling, the rushing of blood in my ears. It was just me.
And it would only be me, now and forever, amen.
 You can read about the famous experiment here: www dot uoregon dot edu/~adoption/studies/HarlowMLE dot htm
A/N: So my Twilight 25 Challenge this time will be a multi-chapter fic. Let's see if I can pull it off. I hope you like post-apocalyptic good times.