A/N: This story was actually finished about a month ago, in which time I spent floating between publishing and not publishing it here. Please bear in mind, the things in parentheses are the thoughts Kyle cannot allow himself to think, hence the brackets. Captalized "They" refers to Kyle's bullies.

I'm considering a sequel from possibly Stan's POV, if any of you are interested.


Kyle's POV

The bell rings and begins another torturous end.

Eyes flitting through hoards of my peers to the library's clock, I gauge my time on a mental scale. Seventeen seconds to eight AM. Four minutes and seventeen seconds until the tardy bell rings. Getting to my locker and Stan takes forty seconds in this traffic, maybe thirty if I'm quick. Getting to class takes another minute-ten. I can lengthen that to two minutes by stopping for water.

Wait, no. No water. The nearest fountain is the one in front of the first floor boys' bathroom. And that den of iniquity, that sink of corruption, will only trigger the memory of my first and final trip freshman year, when They dragged me kicking and screaming into –

(Drowning, submerged with no air)

No. Can't think about that.

That leaves a total one minute and fifty seconds needed. If I go now, I'll be stranded in my Trig class for a full two minutes and twenty seven seconds.

I cannot be alone for that long.

The only alternative option is to stay behind, stall, and trust that they are too serpentine to enter my sanctuary. ("You gonna cry now, Broflovski, ya freak?")

I wish there was a law against being as bestial and ignorant as they are.

One minute, forty nine seconds left.

(Students) Demons with human faces flow past, checking me for signs of flaw. I maintain a mask that resembles some sort of sanity until they lose interest. Keep my back rigid. Close my book and jam it into my backpack's colorful disarray. Its cover is in a nylon sheath. Pink. I flinch.

Minute-fifteen.

Colors and numbers are nature's placeholders. They are level wavelengths in a chaotic world. Without them, balance is lost and disorder ensues.

I am different. Even with them, my joints are long popped and I am wriggling through dirt to see sunlight. I am different, oh yes. So different, unique individual.

Freak. Weirdo. Monster.

Forty five seconds.

Better start packing up now, while time still permits it. My stamina is high, but my threshold for speed is minimal. Pity for bottom feeders like me.

If I was fast, maybe I could have outrun Them and survived.

Thirty three seconds. My pencil case produces a gasp as it's abruptly slid into place. The zipper closes over it, whining the entire way down its track.

Thirty more instants and I will enter a Ring of Fire where more than lava can burn you. So many occasions I've tread the blistering hallways, and They still terrify me.

I am now shipwrecked in an atoll of library tables now, the last slacker having scampered out the door. From her desk, the librarian regards me over the rim of her specs.

Stop staring. I know I'm hideous.

Eighteen…seventeen…sixteen…

The grumble of her clearing her throat rings into vacant space. She wants me to leave before I contaminate her precious ink-paper palace.

Too late.

Eleven…ten…nine…

Another grumble, louder and punctuated with a dry cough. Give it up, lady. You can't communicate with the dead.

Five seconds. Four.

Four is a safe number. Four sides to a square, four chambers to a heart, four members to a family: mother, father, two kids.

Sheila, Gerald, Ike, and What's-his-face.

Ah, good ol' What's-his-face. He'll be missed.

Two.

That's a lie. Nobody will miss me.

One.

One is the loneliest number. No one. Someone. Everyone.

I am no one. I was someone. I hate everyone.

Time's up, Kyle.

I jump to my feet and lurch toward the door, the librarian's gaze tailing me. Outside, the hall is still teeming. I have no problem wading through the mess, though. Everybody knows that I'm contagious.

At least, out here, They won't beat me. But They don't need fists to hurt me, make me bleed.

There. There it is, merely a hiss in the distorted mayhem, but still enough to be heard.

Mockie.

No sparks catch from the bait on my exhausted kindle. I will not remain to face Them and take it like a man. I will run away like a frightened child. Either road leads to my demise.

They know I'm broken, but won't let up until my clockwork runs out. Or Theirs. Whichever dies first.

Wished granted. I'm already spent, and soon, They will be, too.

My springs might not work, but the clock still ticks. One more day and the second hand will freeze time.

One day. At this rate, I don't know if I can make it.

It will be an empty 24 hours, with no regrets, no purpose, no goodbyes. But my date with Death is written in blood. This means no turning back, either.

(My best friend) Stan rivets me on the approach with a nod and that boyish, railroad grin of his. I'm a second early, and thirty nine closer to Doomsday.

I'm ready.

-x-

My Trig teacher – what was his name again? – is one of those old hacks who's thrown away some of his best years on educating (kids) burnt-out zombies in disguise. He believes that math can be "fun."

I despise words like that.

Likewise, they loathe me.

The pink book cover is blazing at the corner of my vision, and won't relent, so I yank it up into my lap. It's my Spanish textbook, not Trig, and therefore must be hidden.

I make it a habit to hide this damned book. They have called me a homo, faggot, Heeb queer bait for having, God forgive, a fucking pink book. Yup, that's me, Broflovski the freakin' fairy. (Laugh at me now, assholes, while you still have mouths to laugh with.)

One day seems like an awfully long time. But I got this far riding a bike with no wheels, and know that I must persevere, even with my engine sputtering and hacking on old gasoline.

Time flies when you have fun something to live for.

Too bad I don't. I never did.

(Stan, I'm so sorry.)

I did not pick the cover. Sheila did. I would never dress an unsuspecting textbook in pink. It's such a confusing color. It has unclear alliances with white and red, between nothingness and animus. It's the color of love, what's to come when Hell and the void unify into one.

I have never been in love.

Love does not loathe me. It would eradicate me if I am to remain.

It won't, though. That's one victory achieved through my death. There are too many others to count.

All I truly know at the moment is, I will die untouched by love.

Maybe I won't be alone. The thought comforts me, but only just, and unzips a memory from its pocket. The pieces rattle as they're strewn all over the floor, and suddenly, I'm locked inside my mind.

-x-

When I was a real boy, I had (a friend) an acquaintance named Kenny McCormick. He was a real boy, too, a boy who'd throw himself under commuter trains and over cliffs to earn a gasp or two when he would recover in breathless laughter. He was special.

Special warped to crazy when medicinal excavating turned up dark soil on his rap sheet. From there, clinical depression hummed its ugly tune, and refused to be silenced. Doctors gave Kenny candy to cure the crazies, sleek capsules in chocolate brown and fat discs in bubblegum pink, but he wouldn't have any of it. And for that, Kenny, the brightest person I was convinced I knew, fell hard from a burning orange in the sky to a defunct black splatter of tar on the sidewalk. This fall proved the first to be fatal; orange is passion's ink, bright and ablaze. But black is a treacherous color. It's what we turn when we die, and the piercing scope at your eyes' centers, through which the world is slaughtered.

We are born an orange flame on a wick and slowly burn out to black ash.

Orange, Kenny made us laugh. Black, and he was dangerous. With it added to his blood – instead of much-needed medicine – he became unpredictable. Vicious one day, hysterical and unchained the next. Above all, though, he was the eponymous emotion, depressed, and sharpened with hypersensitivity. The slightest touch, whether from the sun or a comforting human hand, caused him to flinch further away into his own sadness. Cartman warned us that Kenny was wound too tight, tweaked on meth and misery, and needed to be alone for a while.

The teachers had other ideas. They wanted to turn him over to the crazy police, and did just that the day his first slip-up led to the severe ass-kicking of Clyde. For two weeks, Cartman's teeth – wired by nerves – shredded his nails down to the quick, Craig's arm guarded Clyde by his waist, and all eyes monitored the halls for that towheaded madman.

Kenny returned as a color I could not name, and with no voice to recount his "vacation", which I doubt his bruised lips could've regurgitated, anyways. The pills crammed into his throat calmed the beast with which he shared his body, and scared him enough into maintaining the good behavior. We were all scared; especially Clyde, but he had Craig to disarm that.

The fear attested rational; change came swift and hard.

Before it achieved maximum velocity, the halls still clamored in whispers. When Kenny began showing up to school with cranberry rivulets – not quite thick enough to represent his inner madness – we wondered, and the whispers swelled. But when he rediscovered an allegiance with the enemy, that was when we panicked, and whispers dropped into sweet silence as pieces came together.

It was the change we'd heard about.

(My mother) Sheila muttered once over a glass of brandy with her bitter Jersey language that people don't change, just reveal themselves. I must say that, if Kenny was always destined to become what he did, why didn't I see the signs earlier on? How blind was I?

Stan and I remained cautious at first, speculating and worrying, observing him just as I'm sure med-school graduates armed with clipboards watched him from behind a pane of glass while he thrashed and screamed in his sterile, fluorescent prison. The benefits of our calculate-at-a-distance method did not serve him the same as being experimented on during those two weeks of hospital horror regrettably did, but actually produced a shocking backlash.

Three weeks in, with new bruises growing and old scars fading, aged photographs of haunting memories, change's red flag was raised but yielding no other warnings. That is, until that Thursday, when, post-gym, I snagged sight of Cartman, one hand pressed amorally on the boy's inner thigh, whispering intimately to Kenny. It was brief, and rocked me in ways that were frightening.

I did not need to hear any of the foul words Cartman passed into Kenny's ear, or read the lazy lull of Ken's head while he hungrily listened to every dirty thing Cartman promised to do to him. I just needed to see them, and I understood. For whatever reason, Cartman's licentious hand was the missing piece of the equation. I knew.

I knew instantly that Kenny lets Cartman abuse him so he can feel pain.

-x-

What I wonder now is, is that love? Is that pink, when it feels so wrong, so…red?

I may never know. Whatever you call their angry, sado-masochistic affair, it certainly doesn't portray a healthy love. It's something sick and wicked.

Even with each other, they are loveless.

Huh. I almost pity them.

The lunch bell chimes, and classroom order dissolves.

I find it almost tragic that none of us has ever experienced that euphoria. Not like we deserve it.

As I head toward the door, it occurs to me that Kenny's scars dry pink. False advertising, I think, and go out into the halls, swimming upstream to the cafeteria.

-x-

I enter the massive, domed building. The bell mounted on the wall strikes an unheard trill. Round one begins.

(It'll all be over tomorrow.) Whatever you do, do not look at Their table. Table number nine, a seating place for tyrants to plot amoral battle strategies. I hit the much-worn IGNORE button and push past. Don't look, don't feel, can't hear you, you don't exist. Walk and stare straight ahead.

The spot where it all began advances, and another unwanted memory rewinds the spool back five years.

-x-

Five years ago, lunch wasn't so bad. Five years ago, at the unripe age of twelve, I was midway through the process of being a real boy and becoming what I am now.

Then again, five years ago, it was still teasing.

That would change when, come the beginning of seventh grade, the school board would redo the cafeteria. And due to that, our entire crew moved to the hall along the E wing classrooms.

Since South Park is so small, (They would follow me until graduation) seventh and eighth graders share a school with high school-age kids. We were easy prey for upperclassman. But the E wing changed that, and removed us from the line of fire.

Life was good. Lunch became a safe haven.

I never let myself be that foolish again. That's one promise I intend to carry to my grave.

Lunch is my least favorite period now, all thanks to that one day a twelve year old I lost in time tricked me into believing it was safe to use the empty cafeteria to study. Tricked me into believing that (my killers) those sophomores were there to study, too, and wanted me to sit with them.

"Hi there. It's okay, come join us." (Oh God, their voices make me want to vomit.)

Tricked me into believing that they thought my jacket was cool.

"I love your coat, Kyle. Hey, can I see it?" (I should have runrunrun and never stopped.)

Tricked me into believing that, when it ended, it was over for good.

("You better fucking run.")

He tricked me more than they did.

(Kike crybaby.)

Kike crybaby. I held that above his head until the day he died. And when he finally did, I just spit in his casket and slammed the lid down hard, laughing.

I'll see him again soon enough.

-x-

I pass by the table where it happened, and shiver. An icy chill shoots up my spine and invites in another memory that I have to combat back into storage.

(Ha, look, he's cry –) Stop it. (Little baby kike, Jew nerd –) Quick, notice something. Anything. Distract.

The walls of the new cafeteria were painted blue.

Unfortunately. Blue is, after all, the color of deceit. It is the color of the water that will drown you, and the starving blood in your body. You do not trust a creature that houses such a color, just as you do not trust the boundless blue sky.

Kenny's eyes are blue. Turquoise, I believe, pixies that cackle before each betrayal.

Stan has blue eyes, too – a midnight blue that opens its jaws and carries you through unlit caverns to bottomless pupils.

There is no one left to trust, no safety left in this desolate world. I forfeited my faith a long time ago.

Two vultures wait alongside Stan at the table. A small herd grazes around them, unaware of the predators. Innocence does not situate well with immortality; they are hardly able to camouflage in these conditions.

Kenny is seated on (Eric) the fatass' lap, something easily noticed in the absence of their guises. Kenny sags like he's tired, pivoting his shoulders to rest against Cartman. His movement causes a chain to tumble the attached red swastika down to his sternum, and it disgusts me enough that I turn away.

When I die, who will be next to join their sick little cult?

(Stan, runrunrun.)

As I'm sitting, something pelts my back. It's accompanied by a "Faggot!" that freezes me in the 68 degrees. The chill returns quickly, a sharp icicle.

A collective, anticipatory breath behind me makes it difficult to find air. The (other students) clueless sheep continue chatting without fail. Stan's voice is perched just beyond the reverie, muffled: "Kyle?"

Kyle is not available at this time. Please leave a message at the tone, and he will get back to you never.

"Kyle, are you okay?"

(No, I am not okay. Not at all.) Across the abyss and just past the crag of Kenny's shoulder, the fatass' twin-sun eyes look out at me. Malice splits the smile on his face. And, although his hood and unkempt hair stand in the way, I sense Kenny's pixie-gaze on me. A smirk peeks out behind his hood's fabric, a crescent moon peeping through a cloudbank.

Stan is sweating concern.

(Just wait until they all –) Somebody turn the reality back on. (Just wait until they all bleed tomorrow –) Please, I can't reach the switch.

By some act of mercy, time moves forward again, picking up speed to its typical war-machine pace.

I collapse down onto the bench. But I remained in battle too long. I fed Them, allowed Them to chew on my rotting carcass. I really shouldn't have done that, if only for one more day. Cartman and Kenny will have to starve, but it's no good if They got Their fix.

Ignore. Shut off brain and eat. One more day, one more day, one more day.

"Hey." A voice. "Hey, Kyle, are you okay?" A voice, feminine, lovely, and soft. My eyes slide in its direction.

My old flame flickers beside me. Wendy has on her worried face, one that wholly suits a girl already as maternal and thoughtful as she. Only seventeen, she radiates shimmering light that suggests she has aged well beyond her years. Maybe she has. Her hands are worn by doing battle with an invisible enemy. They splay beside mine, knuckles sharp walnuts beneath the skin.

Her eyes, a toffee shade of brown, study me. I will allow it.

"I'm fine." (I'm a liar.)

"You sure?" The question bathes in doubt. She wants to believe me, but knows me better.

"I'm sure." I raise my gaze and establish eye contact. My trickery works; her suspicion melts, open to complete destruction. "Really."

Wendy smiles. Pats my hand.

Such chaste skin on mine roasts like recently-extinguished barbeque ash.

She's still a virgin, I think. Or, maybe not, as far as I heard from Stan back when they were together. I honestly don't know.

(Maybe she loves m –) Shut up! The thought is so horrifying that I could end it right here.

No good. They'd call the paramedics if I took a fork to my arm. So I grit my teeth, to bite back the inner turmoil for another 20 hours.

Nobody. Loves. Me.

It occurs to me then that I will die pure. Not uncommon for human waste. Nobody wants us mutated freaks.

Beside Wendy, Butters adds an angle to his face, eyeing me under lemon yellow locks. "Oh gee, you sure you're okay, Kyle? You look awful sore about something…"

My lips splinter where the smile forms. "I'm fine, Butters. Really."

I wonder: was there ever anyone out there who realized just how not-fine I was? Ever?

Of course not. None of them cared.

Nobody does, and nobody will when I die. When I die, they will probably laugh and say good riddance to an utter failure.

"That's good, Kyle," Stan says with more kindness than I deserve. It adds an orange cadence to his voice that makes my head swim. "Very good." He smiles at me; his braces are mummified in a crosshatch of blue, so overwhelming against his Pacific eyes that it's nauseating. "You're our best friend…you know that, right?"

At this, (Cartman) the fatass sweeps Kenny's ear free of yellow and fills it with burnt black laceworks. Their horrible eyes find me, full of nightmares even though they're awake. I clench my fists under the table until red clots my vision. Whispers, nasty secrets and falsehoods, gnaw at what's left of me.

Kenny and Cartman are not my best friends. I don't know what they are. They are inklings that life was unfortunate enough to absorb. They are not black, or white, or any color registered on the spectrum. They are a blurred ying-yang, an unfinished circle that bled its colors into a tiresome shade of gray. And while they do bleed (I am going to make them bleed and bleed until the sky turns crimson) and breathe factories' airborne leftovers, I will not believe they are completely human. They are also not my best friends. They are nobody's friends except to the pall of blotchy twilight and to each other.

And, as I sit there, with something that is definitely not hydrochloric acid and making clawing strokes at the base of my esophagus, it becomes abundantly clear that I have never hated someone as much as I hate Cartman and Kenny right now.

How I could just kill them both. And God, how I want to.

-x-

Unlike his fat partner in crime, it did not start off as hatred between Kenny and I. There was actually a time that I liked him. His jacket broadcasted an orange that burned the flame fuelling his powerhouse. And boy, he was exciting.

Over time, Kenny became an outcast with Cartman. He was, after all, different, but his intentions were good; when they were too good for the fatass, he'd play third wheel to me and Stan. If he was with us in the heat, he'd wave off any offers we made to pay and buy with his own money. It was his beauty that got him the cash, but that baffled me the most; while his pockets generally went unfed, he looked noble. His hair was pure gold thread and his eyes were aquamarine stones that he could never afford. He cried not tears, but pearls. And he was always, always, clean – most likely so he could remain the sole, coveted member of Cartman's underground club, but still. However trashed Kenny got from long nights (selling him ass for ten bucks a hit down at Colfax Point) working or (scraping together bail money after his binge-drinking with Cartman led to an arrest for streaking in a public park) plain old insomnia, he was still a god alongside me and Stan.

Being as beautiful as Kenny grants you immunity from bullies, adults, heartache, and – in his case – Death himself. Kenny had no idea how lucky he was.

That luck, of course, ran out when the adults held him hostage and the circling bullies began to close in. Death was still out of the question, waving his scythe just beyond accessible reach. So Kenny's oil drums of colorful gumdrops became a new food group for him, rings grew up the shells of his ears, darkness leaked into the overflows beneath his eyes, and he began to shed his orange coat for a new black one, but I swore to Sheila and Gerald after Pep Talk Number One that I would cope with Kenny's changing behavior. I'd adjust and he'd still be my good friend.

Back then, I dined on their lies.

Stan and I began to see less and less of Kenny as melancholy replaced every aspect of his futile life. Last we chummed it with Ken, he was hardly human, but a lost lamb. His lovely gaze was cracked, sinking into insomnia-darkened craters, and his voice was a church bell tolling in mourning when he said goodbye. The pills in his pockets mocked us musically as he vanished.

In school was the only place I saw him as usual, but I doubt he saw me. (Nobody ever saw me. I'm invisible even to ghosts.) Fat fell from bone and the wind whistled when it passed between his ribs. Kenny resembled a leftover of society more and more with each passing day.

This was before Cartman stole him, tied him to a bed, sacrificed him to a wicked god but kept his soul, and built this knew Kenny out of foul words, heavy views, and backwards beliefs. The morning after I saw them in the locker room, Cartman growled from the back of his throat that I'd better stay the fuck away from him and his Kinny or he'd clock me in my goddamn Jew-mouth. He did anyways at my mocking, snarling reply, and when I composed myself long enough to snap back into a fighting stance, he had disappeared. Folded his jelly rolls over and over until he could scuttle away.

Sheila screeched all day long about my bloody lip. I let the shrill shards fall and didn't bother watching my step when I crossed the glass minefield to my bedroom.

At school the following morning, Kenny radiated with a colder confidence than I had ever seen, Cartman's thick arm at his narrow waist and amoral signature of their alliance around his neck. He gave me a chemical smile that hardly belonged on his choirboy face, and delivered a spike of fear into my veins. That same day, the big, bad adults threatened expulsion for starting a schoolyard fight, until Mrs. Cartman (fucked the principal to make it go away) straightened things out. A month later, during a dance, Butters stumbled out from the janitor's closet, crying and roughed-up and speechless when Stan tried to compel him to talk. Acid-eyes leered at Butters through the door crack, burning holes where the blood could not be found.

When it was splashed all over the news – the lack of the acid-eyed evildoers noted – Pep Talk Number Two failed to give explanation.

Butters was the first victim of many horrors to come. And once I realized that, I realized that, if they weren't going after me next, then they were going after Stan…

-x-

I shovel food into my gut's empty gulch for the rest of the period. Their gazes open new wounds in my back for infections to ferment the entire time.

It's such a shame that, when I die, I will be officially lower than Them, even when I'm still on the slab instead of in the ground.

Their parents will call Them victims. I will be the homicidal maniac that They turned me into.

I can accept that. The only line that I hope won't be drawn between us is the line of murder.

Because, those kids, They have killed. They've killed dozens…me included.

-x-

(My best friend) Stan tells me goodbye as we leave Social Science before flouncing over to an idling Corvette at the curb. It glitters in the sun with the allure of a poison bottle's cobalt glass, a shield to its toxic occupants.

Cobalt. Of course it had to be blue.

One viper is perched on the hood, wearing a tiara of sunlight in his flaxen hair and smuggling his pills were Stan can't see. The other waits in the driver's seat, his hand and cigarette swaying out of the window in the breeze. Both of them watch me, to see if I'll follow.

I don't. I am trapped between dead and alive, thinking unnecessary thoughts.

Cartman and Kenny want Stan all to themselves. The intrusion is scathing and I'm forced to answer.

(No. You stay the hell away from him, you lowlife druggies.) Good. They can have him.

In fact, when I die, they can have anything unfortunate enough to ever be associated with me. My treat, motherfuckers.

Venomous truth. I accept it.

Rotating on my heel, I head off in the direction of (Mom's) Sheila's car.

She didn't used to have to drive me home. But Their abuse created tears I must've failed to hide, because sooner rather later, her urging wrung a confession out of me. I was sure to sugarcoat, though, so she wouldn't worry, panic, or something of the sort. I wasn't worthy of being worried over.

Every step carries me closer to tomorrow. Wonderful, wonderful tomorrow.

"Hello, bubbie," she trills as I slide into the backseat. If she hurries, They won't see Kyle the Loserboy getting a ride home from his mockie mommy.

She lingers. Her eyes are bolted to my vile reflection in the rearview. They're green eyes, just like mine.

Green is the color of life. From the ash, green will rise and flourish. Green money can buy you happiness and years.

When I sink that school into an infinite, dismal crater, it will be I who escapes with life to spare. They will all be all dead.

"How was school?"

She knows the reply well, but she still attempts to engage me in conversation.

Why does she insist on wasting her time on me? Can't she see that I don't want it? More importantly, can't she see that the "bond" we share is a lie?

"It was alright. Same old, same old."

This answer disappoints her, something clearly evident in the shift of her life-green eyes.

Oh please. What does she want – Great, (Mom) Sheila. I made a billion new friends, everybody loves me, I'm keeping my grades up, I got accepted into every college on my list, I made valedictorian, lunch was fantastic, and I'm seriously not going to end it all tomorrow and Them.

That's the biggest lie of all.

Sheila waits a few more seconds before throwing the car into reverse. From there, I break all connection and continue to soundlessly parish, lessen and shrink into nothingness. Her silent distress is unbearable, but I manage to escape it because, the entire ride (home) to her house, I can't stop thinking about the first time she tried to fix what's unfixable.

-x-

Sheila was still my mother when she had the physician for psychos nice doctor come and talk to me.

I'm not sure what I was. A real boy having his soul scooped out with Satan's ladle. A half-ghost at fifteen years old.

According to the nice doctor, Sheila had some concerns that I was (catching the crazies from Kenny) withdrawing. He promised that he would handle my inner secrets with care, that he would keep them safe from Vulture Sheila. I was allowed to talk and talk and be comfortable with it. The nice doctor hid the parrot in his coat and called out time confidential.

He lied.

So I lied, too, and said that everything was chipper in Kyle Land. I had three great friends – three wise men make a lonely messiah into a solid four – and an awesome girlfriend, and all of my classes were good/fun/fine. The foreign words and fibs inflated my tongue, but I just hit IGNORE.

The nice doctor's eyes were icy fraud blue, and clung to every hotly fake story I told.

After, when the parrot squawked that all systems were a go, Sheila was pissed. Like she wanted me to be infected.

I was. Am.

Thin walls might hide my ugliness from the world, but they amplified her anger that night. And the words. Slurred words, loud words, Jersey words, hateful words, black words, red words. I sat through it all, suffocated.

I wanted to cry, but I couldn't summon tears. I was already tired of crying. I was tired of giving Sheila reason to scream, tired of having to lie to nice doctors, and to myself.

Already, at age fifteen, I was tired of living.

-x-

Somehow, at (home) the house, my feet carry me up the stairs right to the bathroom.

Before, used to be I'd hunker down onto the piano bench and tap out a song for Ike (my brother.)

I will never touch that aberrant thing again. Never.

In the bathroom, I pass by the mirror, which surprisingly doesn't crack when I turn my green eyes toward it. It's hard not to pass by the mirror, after all – it occupies its own wall.

Ugh. The image born on the glass serves as a reminder that my hair is red. And, more than anything – more than Them and this twisted life I live – I hate that color. It's such an evil shade – the color of blood, flame, poison apples, a gutter slut's waiting lips. It lives within us all, and in the tumult of my unruly curls.

Twisting me neck up, I run my finger over the scar cutting beneath my chin, an indestructible pact I made to myself last year with the blade of (Dad's) Gerald's best knife that I would end it. Three hundred and sixty four days ago.

I gave myself a year to live. I could've ended my life in a second.

Of course, being Kyle the Loserboy, I didn't have the strength to stab myself in the neck. The scar tissue runs a fissure dangerously close to my silent vena cava. I think of its irony, that another demonic entity has been slumbering in my veins: blue, red's vile counterpart. Without them, we would diffuse into black. It's one of God's sickest games.

I don't believe in God. I only believe in Hell.

I desperately want to leave, take away the awful image of me, but I can't. The pale boy living inside the mirror enchants me in the most unusual, wrong way.

Under the harsh fluorescent glare, I lean in, surveying his figure, the last glance of it I will ever have.

His collarbones hook at his sternum, and have begun to show signs of wear and tear. Tangles of blood slither down his skull, fat jumbles of crimson yarn for passing felines to tug. Equally intrigued by me – or perhaps by his transparent confinement – he raises a hand to the glass, and our fingers splay over each other. Cold thrums between us when his eyes find me across a chasm of time. They're wide, with fear or something in that nature, and so very green, but, likewise, the sclera is of the purest winter white, taking after the appearance of a frozen patch of grass surrounded by snow. We share a blank look that borders curiosity, if anything at all.

For a moment, his lips draw back into a smile that I begin feel on my own face.

Horrified, I scrub and scrub the mirror until the unsightly boy vanishes. Even when the water completely coats the obscure glass, I keep erasing him away with the wet cloth, until I know that he's gone for good.

-x-

In my room, I go directly to bed. And once under the abrasive quilt, I release my ultimate tears.

Over the years, my bed has been a shrine to my tears, the shameful saltwater I could not help but to free.

I guess, for that, I'm kind of a pussy.

When I was a real boy, I would smooth a gloss of blaze over the dead, rotten forest inside. I used the ploy that I was fiery, I was temperamental, I took no prisoners in my private war. I fought and spit curses at the bullies, told them to kiss my ass, suck my balls, go fuck themselves, and all manners of obscenities that would spout outrage from my mother Sheila. As far as wars go, though, it was my greatest defense: disguise. I did anything to protect myself, and still would. Anything to keep from bowing to my tormentors.

(Mom) Sheila would constantly remind with a wag of her finger, so close that it could've bashed the tip of my Jew-nose, that I could tell her (what was wrong with me) anything. According to her twisted logic, it was okay to cry. And so I did, more than any of them, but only when I was all alone, so nobody could see my laden, ugly tears. I didn't want to sit with a cancerous sac building at the nape of my brain around the watery emotions, which would inevitably burst when too full and drown me slowly. I wanted the hate, the pain, out, rather than just continue to absorb it. Thus, because I cried and let the hurt out, I was a pussy.

But I'd rather drown in my own tears than drown in pain.

"Kyle!" (Dad) Gerald calls from the dining room through the open door. "Come help your brother and I make dinner!"

Instead of directly obeying, I first slide out to the floor, and run a hang along the dusty underside of my bed until my fingers coil around a stiff plastic handle.

In my filthy hand, the serpent awakens, growls.

I cradle the gun I'm not supposed to have to my chest briefly. It's heavy with hunger and the shells that will feed it tomorrow. I have not touched it in nearly a month, but it still manages to feel warm.

In its ear, I whisper, "He's not my brother."

The trigger clicks twice, as its similarity of a chuckle, before I return it to its bed below mine. Exiting the room, I pause to scrape the tears off my face.

I will die crying. I just know it.

-x-

The scar is a direct spawn of my sixteenth year, and the only physical mar that foretells that I am not a real boy anymore, but something else entirely.

At sixteen, Ike, my brother-who-is-not-my-brother, insisted in his darling little twelve year old voice that I come with him and our mother to the supermarket.

He was a direct resemblance of that little mockie boy who began it all, and I was so horrified that I found myself sputtering an agreement.

I shouldn't have done that. I should've runrunrun, but of course I didn't, because the ghost of the twelve year old Heeb freak was now haunting Ike, all but bent on destroying me for good.

Wish granted.

Because, in that supermarket, It happened – It being the instant I knew what had to have been done. I was crossing in the vast produce section, weaving through hutches of (salmonella-infected semblances of fruits and vegetables) food, when one of Their voices materialized from seemingly across the universe.

Hey, Loserboy!

I turned and, startled, at Their closeness, tried to run. Of course, some twist of convoluted karma caught up with me right then, because I promptly ran right into one of the apple islands. I went down yelling, and a cascade of red demons rolled after me.

Red. Disgusting.

Mom and Ike stood over me while bystanders exchanged wicked mirth, but their eyes would not quite meet might. The lipstick on her front teeth showed and was most likely expanding due to them being sunken into her candied lower lip. Identical emeralds slid away, away, away from me, rolling to the furthest corners of her eyes. And Ike just gave me the crown of his jet black head, suddenly very taken by his ratty Converse.

Then, I once again cried. (Pussy.)

They denied me. At the worst possible time, they denied me. That moment – spread across the floor in a pool of produce, humiliation, dripping laughter, and shame, with my brother-who-is-not-my-brother and dearest mother standing over me without sympathy – was the defining moment of my life. Later, I slipped through the night to the kitchen, fished Gerald's knife out of the block, and slit my throat in the privacy of my room. The hot blood sizzled, boiling with glorious pain, over my thyroid as I murmured to the dark, "One year."

It buzzed with my secret until daybreak, but never said a word. It did not argue, do not encourage otherwise, only welcomed my decision into its silent arms.

It did not deny me.

Sheila and Ike may be okay with rejecting my place in their lives, but, when I die, I will make sure that doesn't happen. I will make sure that they claim me. That's my son/brother-who-is-not-my-brother.

And if they're humiliated, then I can relate.

It's amazing how quickly the tides can turn. Simply amazing.

-x-

Memory fading from my head, I roll over to the clock. Its lime green digits glow out 5:08 AM.

I remember how red my blood was. Even lacking light, I saw it: not red, but burgundy, like the richest wine. Burgundy – closer to black than red.

I was already dead. All there's left to do is to drive my suffering home

Contracting back to a sixteen year old, I breathe out, "One hour."

Below my bed, the pistol sighs, as if to agree. He knows. He definitely knows.

-x-

I pad across the threshold into the kitchen, where Sheila and Ike are seated at the table, murmuring with their heads together. Upon seeing me, she offers up a tight grimace that might pass for a smile before ducking back down.

I scowl at the stone on her finger. A black diamond. A galaxy surrounded by seven stars.

Seven is an unclean number. Seven virtues, seven vies, seven deadly sins. On the seventh day, God rested.

When I die today, I won't see God. I won't enter the light, but the unforgiving dark.

"Kyle, bubbie!" she exclaims, springing back when she notices I'm about to slink away. I pin her with a pleading look, then quickly smother it back to something tranquil. They can't know.

It makes no difference. They don't know. They never did.

(They didn't save me.)

"Sit down," she persists as I crawl back, patting the chair beside her. "Breakfast is almost ready."

I sit. Why not? One more meal won't kill me.

The irony almost draws a laugh. If only the meal would.

(My brother) Ike smiles weakly at me. I can read the malady tossed up by the churn of his ocean blue eyes.

He has it, too. The sickness. We all have it.

(It's Their fault. Their fault, Theirs, Theirs, Theirs. I'll make Them bleed for what They did to me, to my brother who is not my brother, to us all.)

I cannot wait for school today.

Sheila looks at me through the broken green glass of booze bottles, of what will be the urn to my unwanted ashes. "We love you, Kyle."

(I love you, too.) I meet her gaze. "Okay." It extinguishes her hope.

I want to leave, to scream, to do something other than sit there and watch her cry unreal tears. (I'm sorry, Mom. I wish I could fix this, I do. I feel so –)

Stop. Don't feel.

"Wait, where are you going?" she asks as I rise from my chair. My feet practically stick to the frozen ground.

"To get ready for school; I'll catch breakfast on the way out." I'm going up to my room, where a loaded gun is waiting to be put into my backpack and feed on sinner's blood. I think I'll wear all black today.

I'm going home.

-x-

Bang.

He's dead.

It's lightning in the palm of my hand, the rebound jetting up my arm absolutely exhilarating.

Lethality was hardened on all edges of his fox's smile when he went down. I hardly noticed it. His eyes held me. Yellow. They were fucking yellow like the breaching dawn. Yellow, the color of indulgence. So befitting to the fat, greedy bastard that he was. His weight remains loyal not only to his gluttonous appetite for underlings, but his desire for the spotlight. The whitewash spotlight, washing over those amber eyes.

I aimed for them.

The bullet lands cleanly, ripping through his forehead and catapulting him toward the lockers. They are blue, of course, traitors behind their general; he should've acknowledged that before choosing to stand there.

I would've shot him anyways.

I had taken a clean drive, but the result is not clean at all. A scandalous splatter of red erupts from my assault and flashes against the blue. Like the bull I have become, fire shatters through my core and unleashes a shrieking, firestorm's rage.

Kenny's pixie blue eyes follow every movement of his mentor's body. The scream is silent through the gaping orifice of his pill-popping mouth.

Shooting him would be a waste.

Stan.

(No.)

He's frozen in the sight of the serpent.

(Don't shoot don't shoot DON'T SHOOT)

They taught me this. They taught me everything. And when I tried to leave, They bound my wrists and forced me into learning that no fight is ever worth it if you lose.

My own venom disgusted me. So They milked it out of me and dumped the body. And when I tried to call for help, with my echoed screaming the only answer, it was then that I knew how truly alone I was. Am. And how I will remain come time for Death's visit.

Alone. Forgotten and left to die.

I felt the weight of the gun the entire time I walked to the bus stop. Every step was a step to Hell.

I'm here now.

(Stan, please forgive me.)

I have been suffering my entire life. You were all just too slow to notice. Inside, I was always screaming, but none of you heard me. So, today, the silence is over.

(I love you I can't do this oh God help me Idon'twanttokillhim)

Time slows and spoils.

Alone. Forgotten. Left to die.
Screaming. Crying. Dying.
Unheard. Unseen. Unloved.

Do the math.

I get it now.

The answer…is death. That's what it's always been.

We are all born to die.

Every second, we are closer to death.

We're dying. We're all dying.

(Stan, save me somebody please SAVE ME!)

It's time.

I cannot see the blue of his eyes through the tears.

With his destroyed voice, he rasps, "Kyle…"

Kyle is dead, Stan. They killed him, and you'll have to deal with me now, because I'm what's left.

"…I'm sorry."

No, you're not. "No, you're not."

I love you. Always.

I cradle the sweet black bar in my forefinger and squeeze.