LAST CHAPTER! Cry...
It's been one hell of a journey, I'll say. I loved this story, and it took me to so many places...but all good things must come to an end. A big shout-out to readers and reviewers who stuck with me and this story the entire way.
Well, suffice to say it is an ending occurring after the events of the play, from Shelley's point of view. I have three interpretations of it, but feel free to give me any others. (Ambiguity is not my strong point. Neither is grief, for that matter.)
Without further ado...
The baby was not even one when it died.
"Miscarriage," the doctor told her gently. "Only a month old…"
A month only? It had felt like much longer. She hadn't even known it existed before it was gone.
"It's only to be expected," he continued. "After all, under the circumstances…" He coughed, effectively glossing over an entire tragedy. "Deformities and such…I am surprised it was conceived, actually…"
She nodded numbly. The words seemed to cut at her, for all their understanding.
He said, unnerved by her silence but also expecting it, "It may be for the best. A child like that, if it had survived… I'm not sure what it would be…"
She gave a little smile that he missed. What would it be like? A child of incest, deformed, a monster baby, and a quarter bat to boot.
"If you need to talk to somebody, I know of a few people who may help," the doctor said, now peering closely at her. "After all, coming so soon after…that tragedy…it is a bit of a shock. There are some who are trained -"
She slid off the table and said sharply, "No. I don't need anything. Thanks anyway. I need to go."
"Miss Parker, I really think -"
"I said, no!"
She jogged out of the doctor's office. There were a few others in the waiting room, but she avoided their avid stares. It had been the same thing ever since –
The pain struck at her between the ribs. She made it out the door before sliding against the wall, clutching at her chest. She had never thought grief would be a physical pain.
When it had subsided – it had lasted hours the first, terrible days – she got back up and walked to her house, as if nothing had happened.
The first days had been bad. Sometimes she would wake up confused, wondering where she was. She hated those moments – moments when she thought everything was still the same. That she would get up and see her father off to work, her mother making breakfast, and Edgar sitting at the table, smiling –
No. Not that again.
Then she would remember. To experience the crushing grief day after day…
She wasn't sure what was worse though. Now, a month later, she felt…nothing. Like a cold numbness had engulfed her. She couldn't feel anything, and she wasn't sure if she couldn't, or because she didn't want to.
She had reached her house. Her house, not her home. It wasn't her home. It was a place she ate and slept and lived in, but it was not her house.
She wanted to go home.
Suddenly she turned a corner, walking in another direction. Home was the small house at the edge of the woods. Home was the place she had grown up all her life, where she had played and laughed and loved. Home was elsewhere.
When she reached it, it was yet another shock. Her home was shuttered and shadowed, as if the tragedy of a month ago had somehow darkened it irrevocably. The lawn, she noticed, was brown and dried in the sun; the flowerbeds her mother had carefully watched over had died, with only weeds springing up. The house itself had been worn down to begin with; now it looked as if it could fall apart any moment. In the front was a large, handmade 'For Sale' sign. Judging by its worn out look, it had been in disuse for a while. Nobody came to this town, and none of the folks would want to live in a house that had had held the infamous –
She stopped the meandering thoughts quickly. The door was locked – she had tried it before. She wondered if the locks had changed. She still had the key with her…
She tried it. It swung open slowly and she stepped in.
It was dark – the windows had been closed, with the only light coming from the tiny creaks between the shutter flaps. A thin layer of dust had settled ("You can't wait until it gets dirty" – how true it was), and the air felt stagnant, unbroken by the hurried pace of human life.
She walked in, feeling an odd sensation – dizzying, déjà vu. She had walked this hallway, sat in that living room, eaten in the kitchen, climbed up those stairs. Yet the covered furniture and utter silence was unfamiliar. She found herself tiptoeing down the second floor, peeking into rooms she had known for her entire life.
There was her mother's bedroom. It had always been her mother's bedroom. She could only barely recall the days when her father had slept in the same room as her mother. There was her bedroom. It had been divested of her items, taken to her new home. This was the guest bedroom. Her father had slept in there, until her mother had accepted him back into her room, luckily making room for –
And there it was again. The pain.
The door was open and she couldn't help but see inside. It looked exactly the same – bare, lacking any personal items – he had not had time to put any in –
Oh God, it wouldn't go away –
She fled the house.
This wasn't home. Home was with her parents, with Edgar. This wasn't home either.
She was homeless.
Sometimes, lying in bed, she would miss her mother the most. She would feel it when sitting at a still-unfamiliar kitchen table, eating food prepared by another person. Once she had relaxed too much in the living room – had put her feet up on the coffee table and, hearing a person enter, quickly taken it off, expecting a reprimand: "Feet off the table, Shelley" – only to hear nothing. The lack of any lecture itself had hurt more than anything. But in bed, wishing childishly that her mother would come and tuck her in, she would miss Meredith Parker the most.
Other times she would miss her father – yes, even her insane father. He had been roughly loving towards her, in his own way. She wished, sometimes, that he would come banging through the door, announcing his presence. She missed his quiet protectiveness of her, the way he could scold her one moment than quietly indulge her in the next. And in her heart she could not blame him for anything. She had understood, at last, that night – it had not been for revenge, but for love – and hadn't she seen the exact, almost murderous love in the eyes of…
Edgar. She could finally say it. Edgar.
She missed Edgar at strange times. Sometimes seeing someone wearing the same clothing; walking with the same stance; sometimes, even seeing an animal, reminding her of his feral state. Sometimes, it hurt so much she wanted to scream, to rage, to destroy something.
Whom could she target, though? The townspeople? They had already learned their lesson. They had murmured their apologies, on the night her life was destroyed; at the funeral too, watching the people she loved most in the world leave her forever; whenever they encountered her, on the streets, at her school, at her house. They would talk about the things they had learned, the tolerance and the regret and the forgiveness…so much that it sickened her. She was starting to avoid people now.
Her father, who had killed himself with Edgar, and her mother too. She could blame him. Her mother, who had hidden the secrets all her life. She could blame her. She could even blame Edgar – pitiful, self-loathing, suicidal Edgar. But they had all died…
Oh God, she couldn't handle it. She ran – fled the table where she was eating, locking herself in her room, wishing she could cry or yell or claw the tormenting grief from her chest.
Sleep came instead, mercifully quick.
She was dreaming. She must be dreaming.
Edgar was lying next to her, in some cloudy, nebulous world. He looked over at her.
She hugged him. "Hey Edgar."
He stroked her hair. "Are you all right?"
There was a long pause. She tilted her face up at him. This was an odd dream. She didn't remember being able to control how she moved, what she said, what she could do, in her dreams. This felt personal…like she was living it. Strange…in her dreams she usually felt detached from it all…
"Oh, yes," he said.
She glared at him suddenly, anger unleashing itself. "That's it? 'Oh, yes'? You bastard! You selfish son of a…" She whacked him, repeatedly. "You went and you killed…you stupid, idiotic – moron! And you just died! Why did you die? Why did you even WANT to die? Why did you leave me?"
She sobbed. She punched him one last time and pulled away.
After a little while she felt his hand on her shoulder; she shrieked, without turning around, "Don't touch me!" His hand snapped back.
"I want to get out," she said after a while.
She felt his gaze on her back. "Will you come back?" he asked.
He said, "I love you."
She crossed the street, saw a crowd and veered away before they could catch sight of her. There was a shortcut through the woods. She was getting used to taking shortcuts. She was getting used to being alone.
She jogged over the underlying branches, dodged the hanging branches, and skidded to a halt at a trail. Without thinking she turned, moving up, clearing the heavy trees until she had reached –
She teetered – she should be going back. They would be waiting for her to go back, and she needed to go home.
She had no home.
She snarled under her breath. She hated this life, this numbness, this desolation of hope. She hated the regrets and the dreams of what could have been and the nightmares of what actually happened.
She hated her life.
"You came back."
She opened her eyes and looked at him.
"That doesn't mean I've forgiven you," she snapped.
He recoiled, then said, "Shelley, you have to understand -"
"Understand WHAT?" she shouted at him. "Why did you kill yourself?"
"I didn't -"
"I told you, we could still be a family!" She was standing over him, hands balled into fists. "Why did you ask to die? Why did you not want to be with me, and Mother, and Daddy? Why didn't you want to be a family?"
"A family?" he hissed. For once his anger was aimed at her, and she was frightened. Edgar had never, ever been angry with her. "You think that would have me happy? A FAMILY?"
"I didn't WANT a family, Shelley!" he raged. "I wanted love! I wanted to be able to…to love…to smile at a girl and not have her jump back…to be MYSELF without her screaming…" He grabbed onto her desperately. "You were the only one who could look at me…and talk to me…and touch me…but you…you…"
Suddenly he let go; in a panic, Shelley realized he was fleeing into the fog that surrounded this dream-haze-thing she had no comprehension of.
She slipped on a puddle and went tumbling to the damp, rocky floor. A stinging in her palms and a warm wetness told her that she had injured herself. She wiped it carelessly on her pants, wincing as she scraped skin off.
The light from the entrance had faded long ago; she was moving inward still, hand clinging to the walls. That, and the rare light from the broken cave top, was her only guide. Her eyes could not adjust to utter darkness; she was blind in this cave. Yet it felt comforting, safe, blackness wrapping itself about her like a cloak.
Her foot kicked into something solid; she heard it go skittering into the wall. Groping, she felt around on the floor until her hand knocked into something hard. It was rounded, ridged around the top…a helmet, she realized. With a light on top. Her fingers hooked the bottom edge and she lifted it up, fumbling for the light switch. The resulting light went directly to her eyes, blinding her.
After the stinging dissipated, she strapped the helmet on. The darkness had acquired an eerie edge with the light on, one she wasn't sure she liked. There were hard shadows, stalagmites and stalactites jutting out of the floor and ceiling.
It was actually a good thing she found the light. Without it, she might have tumbled to her death over the gaping chasm in the center of the cave.
As it was, she merely teetered on the edge. She missed the rope dangling nearby during her first panning of the cave, it was so thin. And when she did…she teetered some more, hesitating. She passed the light down, but the blackness of the maw swallowed up the feeble light.
Oh, what the hell.
She grabbed the rope, wincing as she slid down. It burned, rubbing her scraped palms, as she started sliding to the bottom.
"Do you think you can come back?" she asked him.
He raised his eyebrows. "I'm dead. Nobody comes back from that."
She didn't want to hear that. "You're a Bat Boy. You're…different."
"Shelley…you're asking for the impossible."
She wrapped his arms around herself. "I want you back."
"I want to…"
"We could make a new life. We could move away! We could get our own house…far away from anyone! We could live together…no one would have to know about us…"
She kissed him. He didn't try to resist.
He opened his eyes. "I wish I could," he breathed. "But I can't. You know I can't!"
She hit the ground a little too early, skidded and collapsed. Her ankle ached; she wondered if she had sprained it. Now she truly was grateful for the light.
She cast around for another place to explore. It seemed to go on…and she was tired. Her hands and knees were still stinging; she couldn't support herself on one leg. Her stomach growled suddenly, and she regretted leaving her backpack outside the cave.
The ground was dank, wet with dripping water, cold to the touch. Carefully she laid out her sweater, sweeping away water droplets with the tips of her fingers. She lay down, flicked off the light, and set it close beside her. The darkness was once again a blanket of comfort.
She closed her eyes and let sleep take her.
"I want to be with you," she cried. "I love you." She grabbed onto him. "I miss you."
"Then wait. You will be here…eventually. Wait."
She looked up at him. "No."
A horrified expression came over him. "No. Shelley, no."
There was a determined lift to her chin. "You can't stop me."
"No! Not you, you can't!"
"Wait for me."
"Wait for me!"
She wasn't sure where she was anymore. Even with the light everything looked the same. Sometimes things blurred. She wondered if she was limping in circles.
"Please…" he begged her. "Why…why would you want to come…here?"
"You need help," she told him. "Look at this place! What is this?"
"I thought it was the place animals go to when they die," he muttered.
She grabbed his hand. "You are not an animal."
"Maybe it's hell. My own personal hell." Guilt, shame, and self-loathing all crossed his face…He dropped his gaze. "Everywhere you put me, look what I destroy."
She took his hand in hers. "You didn't destroy this."
He looked sick.
"I want to be with you, Edgar, I want to help you!"
"You can't help me."
"Let me try."
She crawled forward.
She was wet and cold.
She was hungry.
She was so very tired.
She wanted to lie down for just a bit.
But she had to keep going.
"Please," he whispered desperately. "Don't do this…"
"Why aren't you happy here? You wanted this."
He wrapped his arms around his knees. "I'll hate myself forever…for everything I've done to you." He looked up as she came down to his level and curled next to him. "It would have been better for everyone if your father had killed me the day we were born."
"But then I would never have met you," she murmured. She grinned. "I would have been stuck with Rick Taylor."
She kissed his cheek. "You're stuck here, aren't you?"
His eyes were half-wild with fear. "Please Shelley…"
"You can't move on."
"Let me help!"
She woke up. The light was gone. She felt blind.
She heaved herself up. The wounds were a dull pain to her. She felt waves of dizziness crash into her.
Keep moving. Keep going.
"All I can think of," he whispered, "are bad things…" He shuddered. "Being dragged out…in a cage…when I couldn't go to the revival…when they…they…attacked me…"
"Edgar, stop it."
"When they chased me…and being told…told…"
"Edgar…" The dense fog of nothingness was darkening, but Edgar didn't seem to notice.
"…that I couldn't love you…that you were…"
"Stop it, Edgar!"
She clamped a hand over his mouth as the fog turned pitch black.
How deep was she, she wondered.
How deep did the cave go?
She'd heard bats, but that was a while ago.
Maybe it led all the way down to the core. Wasn't the core molten lava? She could walk and walk and walk and eventually fall over the edge…
"I'm so alone," he finally murmured.
"Let me help you."
She stroked his cheek, his head, the ears which moved under her hand the way no human ears could. "When you were in that cage," she said, "What did you see first?"
He blinked. "I don't know…It's all so confusing…"
"You said you would forget about it whenever I looked at you…"
"Then think of me, right now," she said. "Think of us dancing…"
He stared at her.
"Of the revival, when everyone was with you…think of us together…"
"You were so pretty in that dress," he whispered. "And you came looking for me, even though…" He seemed to wipe away the thought. "You were worried for me…and then…" Pain.
"No! Stop it!" Shelley yelled. "Keep going! Remember what happened after!"
"We kissed," he said, almost dreamily. "You said you loved me…and I loved -" He started suddenly. "It's…"
"I see it…light…"
"Light?" she gasped disbelievingly.
"Go to it!" Shelley said. "Go!"
"I -" He was staring at her, and she could see the light too – it was pouring from Edgar himself, luminous, healing. "You did it," he whispered. "You did it, Shelley, you -" A bit of fear. "I'm not sure where it goes -"
"Don't worry," she assured him. "Just go."
He looked at her again, pure love in his yes. "I love you, Shelley."
"I love you, Edgar."
She could walk now.
It didn't hurt so much.
She could see…a light up ahead. Perhaps she was reaching the end.
The darkness receded. It was bright. She squinted, raising a hand.
She saw…a figure. Someone familiar. A smile broke out and she ran forward, her hunger, her fatigue, her pain, left behind her.
"Edgar!" she exclaimed.
And she raced into his waiting arms.