Disclaimer: I own the things you don't recognize from the movie.
Author's Note: Hello? Are there still people reading? If you are...hi. I'm sorry. I really am. I actually just realized that there's this weird thing that interferes with my fanfic-writing and it's called "My Life." I really hadn't known there was one there until very recently and I am tremendously sorry. If you are still reading, I love you bundles and bundles and owe you a million billion trillion cookies. This chapter ought to make things a bit easier, and it's kind of a filler and still kind of a not-filler. It's pretty good in my opinion, at least. I hope you enjoy it. If you need any clarification, to yell at me, or to tell me how slightly less than decent this chapter was, leave a message. Thanks and enjoy!
Cadence to Arms
That next day, I went to the hospital with Matt and Sara for Matt's weekly radiation treatment...and to pick up anti-depressants for me. It turns out my mom sent Sara a letter mentioning my "eating disorder" problems and included a check to buy my prescription from the nearest hospital. She was...really pissed off at me for not saying anything to her, but then she got over it and went to take me to the hospital with her and Matt to get my pills. It was...awkward in the pharmacy, to say the least.
She glanced over through narrowed eyes. "Why didn't you tell me before, Jules?" I bit my lip hard, as not to let the monster within speak out. "Is this why you're always sick? Do you know what happens when people don't take their medications? I mean, honey, there's things we could have done for you if you had just told us. It wouldn't have had to be so hard, honey. We could've done something, baby. It could've been better for you." By the end of her short speech, she was breathless and moisture was collecting in her eyes. I wanted to reach over and wipe the tears away, or shake her to make her stop crying, or hold her or...I don't know. I don't know.
"I'm sorry, Sara. I'm sorry," I whispered, feeling the familiar trickle of blood leak out from under my teeth. She was watching me again, her usual smirk taking up residence on her perfect face, her thick, rosy lips over glossy white teeth. One of her talons was cutting into my shoulder blade, keeping me in place, in such order that I'd undoubtedly be forced to do her bidding. Sara placed her hand over one of the talons, and I flinched. She withdrew her hand.
"Honey...it's gonna be okay."
"No," I choked through the sobs, clutching my chest, finally exploding. "No, Sara, really, it's not gonna be okay. I'm done, I'm done, it's over." Marie's hissing laugh spilled from between her teeth, and her claws tightened into my shoulders. I grimaced, and with each breath, the claws tightened magnificently. I was surprised that they hadn't cut into me yet. Surprised that they hadn't spilt my blood yet. What was this ugly world?
"Jules, don't say that," Sara whispered, gently grabbing for my hands. She squeezed them with the sweet touch Marie couldn't manage. I wanted to succumb right then and there to the both of them, my happiness to Sara and my being to Marie. What again was this ugly world?
We made our way into the hospital, where Matt parted ways with us to get his radiation treatments, and Sara grasped my wrist, leading me to the pharmacy. She followed close, her iron eyes glinting at every step and every flinch of pain she inflicted upon me.
"Sara," I rasped, glancing down at my wrist. Her eyes followed mine and I tugged away from her an inch, before her grasp relinquished.
"I...I'm sorry, Juliet." She then cast her eyes back to the ground, as if the carpet was a map to my freedom, her freedom, Matt's freedom. She looked back up, this time with tears spilling from the sides. "I talked to the doctor. He told me something...something about you." My stomach churned, and her clucking tongue behind me told me to keep quiet, for she wanted to hear my downfall spoken aloud. "He told me that the patterns...the patterns over the years have indicated your prognosis." I held my breath. "Sweetheart, you have schizophrenia."
My fists clenched over my skirt, forming ugly bunches and whitening my knuckles.
-Schizophrenia, she chuckled, running her long fingernails down my scalp. -Now that it's been proven how insane you are...Well, at least you know I'm always here for you when you need me, huh?
-Shut up. Just shut up.
Her bells clanged as she laughed at me, her nails digging into my back, her refusing to relinquish her tight grip on me. Schizophrenia...it made sense. It made so much sense, I had no idea how I couldn't have figured it out before. Stupid of me, not to have figured it out before. How stupid can I really be? Really?
-It's up to you to figure out if I'm real or not, sweetheart. It's up to you to figure out if he's real or not. Maybe he's just something I'm giving you to...to make you feel better at the end of the day, if you've been a good girl. But if you're not a good girl, maybe I can take him away just as quickly. You have no power over him, dear. You have no power over anyone. Haven't you seen that by now? Her fists clenched into my back, squeezing the life right out of me. Once again my head swirled, and the world went dark.
When I came to, things were murky and sepia again. And we were in the house, she and I and Marie and a new, foreign visitor I'd never seen before. He was a young man, just hardly older than Marie and Jonah with dirty blond hair shorter than Jonah's, and a smile I didn't trust. He proceeded to walk through the kitchen, hands behind his back, inspecting nearly every last detail. Jonah descended the stairs, then stopped and scrutinized the visitor.
"Are you a client of Dr. Aickman's?" he asked, straightening his suspenders, almost self-consciously. The guest, nonplussed, only chuckled and turned about to face him.
"No, actually. I assume you're Jonah Halls?" he said, not particularly in a question form, then continued as if he hadn't asked it at all. "Yes, my name is Jacob Aickman. I am Dr. Aickman's nephew. He's asked me to come visit him this summer." His chuckle echoed lowly through the house, as if the mere sound of his voice shook the house's very foundation. "I understand that there is a young lady who frequents the home, having dealt in a seance or two herself? Marie Campbell, if I am not mistaken?" Jonah frowned ever deeper, his brow furrowing.
"Yes. Marie Campbell is...an acquaintance of mine. May I ask what business you have with her?" Again the unwelcome guest chuckled, folding his arms imperiously over his chest.
"I'm arranged to meet her for dinner later. My parents died and left me a healthy inheritance, which I've been meaning to share with a young woman of generous moral fiber. Since I've arrived in Goatswood, I've heard quite a bit of Marie Campbell, and...being so close in my uncle's house, I suppose it would be a fitting opportunity to court, would it not?" Jacob's smirk only grew, as if he could sense Jonah's discomfort.
"Of course. Sir. I'm afraid Dr. Aickman is on an errand, but I shall alert him of your lodging as soon as he arrives. Shall I show you to the guest room?" He swept his arm back toward the stairwell, face blank and stony. Jacob nodded almost commandingly, and followed Jonah up. They walked the hallway, Jonah leading and inwardly cursing the caller, before he opened up the door to the guest room. "Here you are, sir."
"Much obliged, my friend," he chortled, then strolled in and slammed the door in Jonah's face.
Jonah's image faded to an outdoor scene. The sky was dark, and in a nearly clichéd turn of events, the raincloud above decided that now was the time to drop its load onto the unexpecting victims below. They didn't seem to pay it any attention. The funeral appeared to be for several people, the coffins all lined in a row, one after the other. Likewise, all the names scripted on the signs above the coffins seemed to make perfect sense to all the attendees, except for the name that seemed to be missing: Jonah Halls.
Marie Campbell, her hair tied up under her dark veil, observed the scene. Through her silent and endless tears, the only important detail to her lay ceremoniously above the black gloves that reached up to her elbows. Down on her left ring finger was a ring. Now, a ring to suit Marie Campbell was simple, uncomplicated, thin with perhaps a small gem and her initials engraved daintily within. However, the ring that actually was on her finger had none of the aforementioned qualities. The middle jewel, a diamond, was surrounded by a circle of other tiny, colored jewels, set in a thick gold band with silver detailing and useless inscriptions, tiny words that seemed to be in Latin. Marie fit simple elegance, and this was anything but. It was tawdry, gaudy, ostentatious.
Beside her stood a triumphant Jacob Aickman, his hand closed around her right hand. Though he was at a funeral, the funeral of his own uncle, the man who granted him the ability to get closer to the woman he was now engaged to, he had the audacity to smirk at his uncle's death for his engagement to the woman who didn't love him. It was a grand blessing, of course, that the boy with whom Marie was in love had disappeared after the deaths. Thank goodness for his disappearance.
The wedding was going to be quite as glorious as his fiancée's engagement ring, as bright and shining and pretentious. They would have rich, beautiful, intelligent (perhaps) children and die peacefully together at the ripe old age of 80-something. And no matter what she said, she'd be happy with him. It was no delusion. Congratulations, eh, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob and Marie Aickman?
The scene shifted once more, into an unfamiliar room that I identified as an old bathroom, and though we were still in their time, it remained as dilapidated as it would be today. The wallpaper, crusted over with stains and holes, was peeling in several places, particularly the corners, and hung over the top bar of the shower. A tiny window, to the top west wall of the room, housed spots and patches of mold and mildew. The only part of the room that seemed clean, even delicate, was the sink. It was made of what looked to be just about ivory, so pristine white and shining past the toothpaste residue beside the drain. The faucet dials were some kind of copper alloy, but what took the cake was the small soap holder sitting beside them. It was a simple sculpture, a tiny white porcelain elephant with a red and gold saddle on his back and a stream of water shooting upwards out of his trunk.
The same porcelain elephant was carved intricately into the sides of a dark brown box that sat on the floor between the knees of one Marie Campbell. She was sobbing, her ordinarily perfect chestnut hair strewn across her shoulders in knots and tangles that would never be seen in public. Her makeup too ran down her face, and her nose burned red from her tears. With trembling hands, she picked up the lid of the box, revealing a small pistol.
It as well had the recurrent elephant pattern, carved into what seemed to be a precious, precious silver. Marie expelled a light sigh, then took it by the handle.
"Father keeps it by his bedside," she whispered, leaving me wondering why she was talking to herself. Or perhaps it was her other self, just walking me through it, as she knew just how dull I was–but that's beside the point, of course. But perhaps this was in the original scene, the scene that was real life. Perhaps Marie was almost as odd as I had been, the type that mutters every meaningless thought that ran through her head. "Father keeps it by his bedside, in case of robbery, in case someone breaks in." She drew in another deep breath, then expelled it once more.
She drew it out of the box, her quivering arm rising as the pistol found its way into her mouth. Her tongue pressed against the cool metal. Her index finger stumbled toward the trigger. Her thumb cocked back the hammer.
Goodbye, Jonah, goodbye, Mother, goodbye, Father, good riddance, you stupid blockhead Jacob Aickman. To hell with me and to hell with all of you. I'm afraid you've lost me for the last time, Mother and Father. Aickman, I'd widely appreciate you going to a different sector of hell than I, preferably the Inner Ring of Level Seven, where the madmen violent against God and nature go. Where you belong, lying upon the desert sand beneath the torrents of flames. Meanwhile I will rest peacefully in the Middle Ring, where at least my thorned bush figure can be easily fed upon by the ugly, awful Harpies. But Jonah, dear Jonah, I pray your soul be allowed into the opposite of our predicament, that you be allowed home to heaven. Where you belong.
Her index finger stuttered on the trigger, and her eyes slowly fell shut. She drew breath a final time, then her finger abruptly pulled down, a rush of adrenaline flooding through her veins–