AN: Have some friendship and death.
I do not own The Cat Lady or Hetalia in any way, shape, or form.
SOME FLOWERS NEVER POINT TOWARD THE SUN
"Dude, I was worried sick about you..." Al whined, answering the door for me. "You okay? You're all bloody... how did you even get back here?"
"I walked." I said quietly, coldly.
"... I told you there were bad things in the fog... what did you see out there?"
He pulled me into my flat and away from the empty and dismal hallway, shutting the door behind us.
"I saw a monster." I whispered.
He gave me look, of pity maybe, or understanding, I don't know, and pulled me against him. I limply stood there with my head on his shoulder, and I can't seem to recall whether I cried or not, but for the sake of my pride let's just say I didn't. I couldn't cry when it was my job to do these things in the first place.
I ran the hot water, knowing that I deserved at least a long bath.
When I slipped into the water there was a knock at the bathroom door.
"Hey Art? Can I ask you somethin'?"
"Is it important?" I sighed.
"Yeah, really important! The fate of the world depends on it!" he cried. I quirked a thick eyebrow at the door.
"Ask away then..."
"I'm making pancakes. How do you like yours?" I could hear the smile in his voice. I wanted to slap a hand against my own face.
"Oh, okay. I like pancakes. Maple syrup." I answered.
"'Kay, five pancakes with maple syrup comin' right up!"
"Five? I can't eat that much..."
"Oh trust me, you will when you try my pancakes."
"If you don't leave me alone I never will, Al."
"Wh-wha-" he stammered. "Why?"
"I can smell something funny. I think your pancakes are burning."
"That was too much. Really, that was too much..." I was sat at the table with my head resting on the cool metal, clutching my near exploding stomach. "Where did you learn to cook like that?"
"Dad taught me." Al answered. He was sat across from me, looking out the window as the rain continued to pound on the streets. He seemed deep in thought.
"The rain's back." he said. "Good thing too. No more fog."
I grimaced. "Yes, but when it rains, it hardly ever stops. What if it never does?"
"Then I guess it'll rain for million years. Still better than the damn fog."
"I don't get it... what's the point of... what did you say it was called again?" I had Al's laptop on my lap, completely puzzled at what was going on. He had made me an account on this so called social network, and my own smiling face was staring back at me from years before on my new profile picture.
"For the third time, social network. S'not that hard to remember."
"I just find the whole thing rather stupid." I grumbled childishly. "Why would I want to tell people I don't know that I'm having a bad day?"
"Well maybe you'd just feel better sharing it with your friends..."
"But I don't have any friends."
He snorted. "And you never will with that attitude."
"You, on the other hand, seem to have 274 of them. How is that even possible?"
"Hey, what can I say? People like me."
We were once again standing out on the balcony. The rain had stopped, and miraculously there was no fog at all. I had recently summoned the cats and since it was mellow out, I set their dishes on the ledge so that they could eat there.
"Dude, this is actually really cool." he was scratching the blue eyed one behind the ears. It meowed cheerfully and set back to eating like it was its first meal in days. Which it wasn't, I had fed it yesterday evening when Al wasn't around. "So they just come when you play the piano?"
I nodded, holding Teacup close to my chest. "Yes, but I don't play very often. Mostly just when I feel down." The green eyed fold hopped down and ran into my flat, leaving me feeling much colder. "Then again, if that's the case, I probably play more often than I thought."
We listened to the cats munch because there was more of the pesky silence. The rain started up again, sprinkling down a few feet from the covered ledge and balcony.
"Man, you're real depressing sometimes. I know a song just for that and it'll cheer you right up. Maybe I could play it sometime. S'called 'All Flowers in Time Bend Toward the Sun'."
"Flowers... yes, like roses? Of course they do."
"Do you know it?"
"Never heard of it."
"I figured as much... the singer drowned in Mississippi when he was young."
My cat clock was ticking and it was driving into a drowsy state. I had planned on finally finishing the book I was reading, but if the cat kept this up, I'd just fall asleep in the most important part. I yawned, placing the book beside me on my bed, and rested. I could do for a nice nap.
Later when I awoke, I just stayed there, staring dismally out into the dark of night.
"Since I was nice enough to make you a profile, I figure ya might wanna use it."
We were once again sitting in the spare room, or what was no Al's room, and he was trying to get me onto a social networking site.
"What am I even supposed to do with it?"
"Look for people you know. Talk to them. Maybe you have some old friends?" he suggested in what was supposed to be a helpful manner, but it just made me want to sulk.
"I don't know about that... I can't think of any names. I probably never cared enough for them."
"People you went to school with? Work?"
"... Nope. Friends: 0. At least this website is right about one thing."
"I'll add you later."
"Made coffee." he grumbled, passing me on the sofa and moving to sit at the table. He had indeed made coffee, and there was a steaming mug waiting for me as well. I didn't like the stuff, hated it actually, but it would have been rather rude to just waste his offer.
I sat across from him, and noticed how down he looked. His red eyes were peering at the table and he had a tight frown with scrunched up shoulders.
"Having a bad day?" I offered and he nodded. "What's wrong?"
"I just dunno how to get started with this thing..."he sighed, rubbing his eyes under his red wired glasses. "Been thinking about it for a few days and I can't get any ideas. Maybe... maybe it's pointless. Maybe I can't find where the bastard's hiding."
Alfred sipped his coffee, looking like he really needed it.
"Maybe I can help you." I offered. "I have more free time than I can deal with."
He looked up with a gleam of hope shining in his eyes.
I smiled wanly, unused to the action, and began explaining.
"There are four floors in the building, and two flats on each floor."
"... Ya really wanna help me? Wow, that's... that's real nice of ya there."
I nodded, unused to being told such things as well. I thought about my neighbors, trying not to stray into how they've acted towards me, and instead just thinking about them as people and gauging whether they were capable of being Eye of Adam.
"There's a rather rude man who lives above me in Flat 6, Roderich. Didn't I tell you about him? The one that shouted in my face? Roderich Edelstein."
"Do you know anything about him?"
"Not much," I replied. "... Wait. There used to be someone living there with him. Don't remember much, haven't seen them for ages."
"Could Roddy be our guy?"
"No," I snorted. "Never. He's far too stupid."
"I'll just trust you on that one then. Let's count him out of the picture."
"One of the flats is empty." I continued.
"I think it's the one on the first floor. Flat 1."
"There's an odd married couple that lives on my floor as well."
"Yeah? Know anything about them?"
"Well, the man... his name is Ivan Braginski. He's always brooding, kind of quiet. Though... I have heard him shouting a couple of times and he sounded almost like a completely different person... like... I don't know, like madman. Does that make sense? I gather they must have some serious relationship problems and they're trying to sort them out behind closed doors. It's impossible to hide this personal dirt from your neighbors, though I know it's none of my business, I can't exactly just plug my ears and pretend I don't know what's going on over there."
"Okay, interesting. And his wife?"
"Natalia Braginski... or was it Katyusha? I can't remember. She's very polite and sweet, always says hello. She's rather tiny, so little you could almost mistake her for a coat rack. Like a walking skeleton. I bet she only eats a leaf of lettuce a day, or nothing at all... come to think of it, she looks rather ill."
"They used to have a cat. Toris. I often wonder what happened to the poor little chap. Oh, and we can forget our flat, of course."
"Also, there's an old man in flat 5, right across from Roderich."
Alfred nodded. He was staring straight at me, absorbing every little bit of information I could offer. It seemed he really needed to find this man.
"There are also strange noises coming from flat 7 sometimes."
"Yeah? What kind?"
"Like... screaming... explosions... guns... Then shouted threats, very loud."
"... Huh. I think I might know what's going on there, probably just a gamer, but it's worth looking at."
I nodded, finishing off my coffee and setting the mug aside.
"Do you know the person who lives there?" Al asked.
"No, I don't. It's the top floor. I have no business up there. All I know is what I've overheard from neighbors' gossip. Sometimes I hear a dog barking on floor 1."
"First floor? Where you said one of the apartments was empty?"
"Yes. Which means the owner of the other flat keeps a dog. … I hate dogs."
"Right, 'course ya do."
"Can you imagine the man you're looking for being a dog lover?"
"Can't see why not."
"In that case, let's look into it. Lastly there's a woman with a baby living upstairs."
"I'm not sure. I hardly see her. When I do it's usually in the halls when she's pushing a pram with a baby inside. She always has tons of shopping hanging from it. Once, I nearly asked her if she needed help to carry it upstairs."
"I hesitated for a moment and by the time I offered she grabbed the baby and the shopping bags and marched off upstairs. Anyway, that's all I know at the moment."
A tree branch hit the window, startling us both out of thought. We laughed a little and I took the mugs, heading to the kitchen.
"Hey Art? What's a pram?"
"Oh, I think you'd call it a... a stroller?"
I turned on the warm water, rinsing out the mugs and soaping up a sponge. I washed them, dried them with a spare rag, and put them away in the cupboard, leaning against the door frame of a kitchen.
"That reminds me," Al began, resting his cheek on one fist and gazing out the window at the tapping branch and rain. "I found an old stroller in my room with all that stuff... do you have kids or something?"
My heart clenched and I may have replied more harsh than I had planned, but what could I do about it when he was opening up old wounds?
"Who do you want to know?"
"Hey, just curious..." he defended, then grinned slyly at me as if he was completely unfazed by my tone. "I can tell you're hiding some big dark secret, Artie."
Then his grin turned genuine again as he looked at me. "You might feel better if you talk about it."
"Al, you don't want to know, trust me..."
"Okay," he looked at the window again, scrunching up his cheek childishly against his hand. "Okay, I get it. You don't want to, but I want us to be friends. I could really use one right now is all."
"I'm not very good at friendships. I thought that was rather obvious."
He ignored me. "Friends should trust each other, ya know? I told you about Amelia and all that shit, why can't you tell me you story?"
"You told me about her because you wanted to! I didn't force you to, did I? My private things are... nobody else's business, not even yours."
I moved back into the kitchen and away from his slightly alarmed eyes. He clearly hadn't expected me to react this way, and I couldn't blame him, but I just wish that everyone would stop bringing it up.
"Why does everyone want to remind me of this?" I said to myself, but I knew he could hear me. "Isn't ten terrible years of suffering enough to let go and never bring it up again? Even-"
There was a sudden knock at the door.
I startled, wiping at my eyes I hadn't realized were crying, and left the kitchen in a hurry. I didn't give Alfred a glance. I knew if I would have and seen his bewildered expression, I'd just be sent into another fit again. The knocking persisted and gradually grew louder.
I stood near the door and called out. "Who is it?"
Silence. The person on the other side of the door said nothing, or perhaps it wasn't a person, but some sort of mail. I ran a hand through my pale blonde hair, wiped at my eyes again, and began to undo the many locks on my door. I twisted the deadbolt, turned the lock on the door knob, and reached up to pull out the chain.
"Hang on a second," I said, in case there really was someone on the other side. I turned around to fumble with the light switch, noticing now that the lights had been off the entire time. I could see Al from the corner of my vision giving the door a curious look. Then, I heard the door slam open behind me, and he suddenly stood with wide eyes looking past me.
I whirled around and found a man dressed completely in black. He was at least a foot taller than me, and wore dark sunglasses. He also had large bouquet of roses in his hands. Their curvy red petals could have sent me into a rage right then and there, I hated roses with a fiery passion, but the confusion beat the rage.
The man did not answer. He thrust the roses up into my face, and I could smell their sickly sweet scent. This freed his other hand, and for reasons I couldn't decipher at the time, he was holding a rather large and intimidating hammer. I backed away from him and the flowers, eying them strangely.
"What's that... in your other hand?" my voice left me for a moment, and I backed up more, now a few feet away from the doorway.
The tall man still did not answer, only left me with frightening silence.
"Go away-" I started, but he interrupted me. He threw the roses to the ground, stomping on them like I wished I could have. His hold on the hammer tightened and his knuckles were white, but I still could not gauge a facial expression from him. I thought maybe his eyes showed in under the shades.
He had no problem stepping on the mutilated petals more, now walking to me at a steady pace. I quickly backed away, knowing I needed to keep my eyes on him but wanting to just turn my back and run to my room and lock the door. He turned off the light on the way, forcing me into the other room where I assumed Al still was, but when I looked, the chair was empty and there was no sign of him. The frightening man turned those lights off too, and I felt my chances becoming slimmer by the second. I could bolt past him and leave the flat, but that would most likely leave Alfred alone with a most likely dangerous person.
I felt the small of my back hit the dining table, and that was all the time he needed to raise the hammer and strike me over the head. I felt the pain for only a short moment. My vision was becoming blurry and everything momentarily faded, making me collapse onto the carpet. I heard the sound of a door clicking open, and a little surprised gasp from Al.
Then I lost consciousness for an uncountable time that month.
I can't be too sure if it was in my mind, or if I really and truly saw it, but my vision rested on the Crow's eye again. It was the same dull gray as last time, but it didn't move rapidly, only stared straight at me or perhaps through me. I heard its cries coming from somewhere behind me but something was keeping me from turning around. The Crow's eye had a single sliver of light inside and it was weak, suggesting that it never saw the sun, or maybe it never even saw reality. Its caws turned into laughter in my disgruntled state of mind. I could feel my feet being picked up, and I was dragged somewhere. I lost the feeling of warm carpet and came to terms with freeing tiles. I heard the flapping of wings, and the cawing was gone along with the eye.
I opened my eyes and stood, though I felt like I wasn't awake yet. A dream? Yes, a dream. It had to be, considering I was currently standing in a rustic concrete room filled with oil drums in the corners and wooden oars leaning on the door frames. The first door looked like that of an old freezer. There were brown splotches on the off-white surface, and on the rusted and almost completely orange latch hung a stubborn padlock. The door next to it was a single swinging door with no handle, all you needed to do to open it is to lean against it. I pushed it open and entered the dimly lit room, everything a rustic orange. One side of the wall was lined completely with a dirty and cracked mirror.
It showed a strange, foul creature behind me with strange robotic legs. It sort of resembled a spider, and its mouth was unhinged and opened wide with red smeared around the edges. It kept crawling around the orange room, making an obnoxious scurrying noise and picking things up off the floor with its scissor-like hands and stuffing them into its disfigured mouth. Its eyes were sunken in, hollow, with red dripping from them and it had a scraggly yellow mess atop its head that looked like dirty hair. Turning, I realized that there was no such monster in the room, thank God, and that it was only a figment of the mirror.
Another odd things about this reflection was that I looked different in the mirror. I had dark circles under my eyes, and I was constantly walking as if I were under some sort of narcotic influence. My hair was a complete mess, not that that's unusual but it was obviously worse than usual in the reflection, and my pupils were dull and lifeless. Whenever I walked, my reflection would follow with the same woozy gait, actually lagging behind me slightly. My reflection was also wearing hospital robes. In fact, remembering the bathroom mirror from back when I was in the hospital, this reflection looked exactly as I did then.
I dismissed it as a strange, twisted trick mirror or perhaps just my befuddled imagination and left, shuddering. Even outside I could hear the metallic arachnid scurrying. In the door frame I nearly slipped on a small puddle of red, probably blood, but collected myself and wiped it off on the hard floor. It occurred to me that I should be frightened, but I was becoming easily used to the sight of blood.
Back in the room I had started in, I took the door that had been behind me. This one took me back to my flat, or maybe what looked like it. It lead straight into the hallway and the first noticeable thing was my piano. It was completely overturned on its side to make room for the swelling walls. All that lined the walls were dozens, or even hundreds of, well, human skulls. It was the strangest, most morbid thing. Now I knew I was dreaming, for seeing this in reality would just be completely impossible. The windows still shone through the decayed heads, though the curtains were frayed and looked like they were burned on the edges. There was no breeze coming from outside, if outside even existed here.
My bedroom door was unreachable, completely covered in skulls. The other room, the spare one, was completely reachable though. I briefly wondered why it couldn't have been the other way around. I didn't like going in that room, not after what had happened there so many years ago.
Luckily for me, the door was locked. I turned to leave the phantom of my flat but instead gasped. From where I had come, there was yet another wall of skulls, trapping me inside this place. I pushed at it with all of my might, but it was no use, it was not budging. I turned back to the spare room, but now that was covered in skulls as well, encompassing me in a smaller space every time I turned my back.
In the minuscule space I was still able to reach the dining table. I moved an old, bloody rag from the surface, now dried and an icky brown instead of a shocking scarlet, and under the rag was the key to the spare room as well as a hammer. It looked a lot like the one the strange man had used to knock me out and get me in this situation in the first place. Yes, this was a dream, but I find that in the way I live now, sometimes I'll need to treat dreams as real life.
I used the hammer to smash both new walls. The skulls, surprisingly, fell apart and away rather easily. I used the key and unlocked the door to the spare room. Opening it, I found that instead of what I was expecting, the door led into the old outdoorsy feel of Matthew's house.
It was the room that always had random passageways connected to it, the one with candles dotting every surface in the room. The ones I had blown out were still without a flame, but plenty remained, still waiting to be extinguished. Of course there was no sign of Matthew. It seemed he was always out on business, never waiting in his own home. That is, unless I'm stuck wandering around the woods lost.
I sighed and leaned down, knowing I would need to blow out a candle in order to leave this place yet again. I blew out the candle nearest to the door.
Memories flew into my mind, dramatic and racing. This time the first thing I saw was a field of barley, the golden straws swaying to and fro in the breeze. There were trees spotting the expanse of the field, green leaves and healthy brown trunks, perhaps it was summer. Then, suddenly, a car sped into the field. It was an old one, its color a worn blue that probably used to stunningly resemble the sky. It sped into the barley, bending the straws, grazing the trees. It hit one particularly thick tree at just the right angle that the car flipped on its side and then its hood, and it just kept rolling and rolling thanks to its dynamic speed and gusto. By the time it had stopped, it was resting on its side, the hood completely dented in with no movement whatsoever. The only thing that wasn't reigned in silence was the black, filthy smoke rising from the car's front, easily polluting the pure evening air of the barley field.
Then the scene was gone, and I was back in my so called flat.
I quickly left the place, wanting nothing more to do with the skull infested area. I was back in the room with the oil drums, and there was one last door I had not takes. It led somewhere outside.
Taking the door proved my assumptions correct. I was outside. It was late in the day though, past evening and nearing dusk. I was standing on a pier, or maybe it was a bridge. I could not tell with the looming fog. The wood of the pier was swelling and damp, and the tell-tale sound of splashing water below suggested that I was on some sort of body of water, though I couldn't tell exactly what or how large. There were rusty boats near the pier, and in the distance I could scarcely make out the dark outline of a humongous ship doing nothing but floating in place. There were old parts of boats littering the dock as well, and some old and broken barrels along the way.
The boats near me would probably just fall apart if I were to board them, they were so old and rotten through. In the splintering wood of one very near me, there were the crudely carved numbers:
In the distance there was a metallic service elevator that seemed to lower into the water. It seemed odd to me. I had never heard of an underwater elevator in the entirety of my life, and this one just looked so oddly built, it had the texture of aluminum. Wouldn't it be dangerous? The metal seemed very, very thin, and the only thing lowering you into the depths was a large rusty crank on top of the machine. There was an informational sign next to it, but I hardly understood a word of it as it was mostly just technical terms I had never learnt. The only thing I could decipher was the strange passenger amount. It seemed that the minimum passenger handling capacity was two, which was odd, because it looked like only one person alone was able to fit. Perhaps it was an accident, and that was actually the maximum? Then again, I wouldn't put it past this strange place.
There was no power to the machine, and nothing nearby to give it any, meaning I would need to find a power switch or the like elsewhere, if I even decided to use this strange contraption. It didn't look very safe, but it was probably my only way out of there.
I went inside the old building again reluctantly, remembering the numbers I had seen carved into the boat. I smartly entered them into the padlock, cheering inwardly when it clicked open and I was allowed inside the room. I opened the thick door and this room very much resembled the color of Matthew's house, maybe it was the amount of rust. Another mirror was on the wall, but I was silently thanking the world that there wasn't another one of those dastardly creatures in this room. Instead, I saw myself in the mirror, but again I looked different than I actually did. This reflection was wearing my pink sweater vest over a white shirt, and looked a little worse for wear. He had little splotches of mud dotting my face and clothes, and there was a little leaf stuck to my hair comically. I looked angry, or perhaps frustrated, and I knew that this was what I looked like when I was traversing the woods and the field of wheat.
There were also numerous levers on the wall, all in a neat horizontal line with rusted bases. I pulled the first one and gasped at what happened, in the mirror, a large beam abruptly crashed into the room, right where my reflection was standing. He quickly jumped out of the way however and moved to the right of me, still staring at me with my cold blue eyes. I grinned a little and chuckled, then noticed another thing in the mirror. On the opposite side of the room, there was a rusty metallic machine made of gears and levers, not moving. When I noticed a small plaque near it, I realized that it was the same machine in the shack, then I remembered that it was my own blood that turned it on. I thought for a moment, reeling on about how my reflection seemed to have a mind of his own, moving without my consent and dodging the heavy beams I sent crashing into the room.
I pulled lever after lever, sending the other me running away, and finally, he ended up trapped against the machine, leaning against it to get away from the heavy beams. I smiled apologetically, and he looked at me in fear. I shook my head and pulled the last lever. A beam came crashing down on top of the other me, and I winced as blood sprayed everywhere, powering the machine and turning the gears. I refused to glance at my destroyed other, only watched the machine as it worked and turned, dripping scarlet onto the ground.
Then the light abruptly went out.
I left the room quickly, sighing in relief when I found the others were still lit. Now would be a great time for me to wake up and leave this dream, I thought to myself. I wondered what had become of the intruder who knocked me out, or whether Alfred was able to get away, but I knew that was impossible and that duty called, whatever this duty was.
The only door I could reach was the one with the other mirror, the one that had the chilling monster skittering around on the floor. I went in, and sure enough, there was that awful skittering and the image of that thing crawling up the walls and across the floor.
I was surprised however, when the moment I walked in, my reflection began walking of his own accord. He dizzily moved to the monster, raised the same shard of glass from the hospital mirror, and stabbed at the monster. He missed a few times as it was very, very quick, but eventually he just stepped on one of its rickety legs and slashed right through its middle. A think, oozy red blood sprayed from the dead thing, and it quickly fell limply onto the ground, no longer skittering or gnawing at the floor. I was vaguely reminded of the red drug that came from a spider's heart, but now was clearly not the time to dwell on such things.
The other me now had stained red hospital robes, and he turned to hazily look at me, the gave me a sort of twisted grin that seemed to surprisingly fit my face very well, and again the lights went out.
There was the chilling noise of something creaking, smoothly, like an old metal door being opened in slow motion. I was rooted in place by fear and trepidation, putting my arms around myself as I felt shuffling and movement around me. I gasped at the Earth shattering sound of glass breaking, I even heard it land on the ground directly in front of me. There were crooked footsteps, and the room came back into light.
I was standing in front of myself, one of me serious and sane, the other hazed, and lost. He offered me another shuddering smile, holding out his hand for me to shake, but not saying a word. I laughed shakily, quietly, and took his hand, but instead of shaking it he merely pulled me out of the room and began to giggle. He was laughing, at what I do not know, but the laugh was anything but infectious. I gazed after him strangely as his laughs were becoming louder, his movements more confused, as he pulled me outside the building and onto the pier. He offered me a smiling glance over his shoulder, not matching the little flacks of blood he had stained there, and pulled me further out onto the pier. He giggled like a child and kept moving and dragging me behind at his chosen pace.
The me of the past pressed the button of the underwater lift, and the sliding doors opened on command. He tried pulling me into the dangerous machine, but I kept my ground and shook my head, stating that it was obviously dangerous.
He stopped pulling at me and looked be dead in the eyes, blue on blue, and tightened his grip on my hand.
"What's the whole world?" he said quietly, offering another smile, this one horribly pained in his hazy, drugged state.
I nodded slowly, understanding with only those words, and tightened my grip on his hand as well. This time he pulled me into the lift successfully, with less force and more gentleness. The space was tight with both of us inside and he kept laughing, just wouldn't stop the bloody laughing. Then he uttered a tiny hiccup when the doors slid closed, and his grip on my hand became almost painful. He had steady, salty tears rolling down his cheeks, but he was still laughing at the grim situation we were in. Soon enough the water pressure would become too much, and the lift would close in on itself. Was he fearing the pain? We would live through anything, so what would it matter?
He rubbed at his eyes, giggling, swaying, and pointed to the thick glass window of the lift. I looked through it and saw nothing but green tinted water, and something in the distance. There were more things floating upwards as we descended down into the depths, these things, they almost looked like human figures.
My eyes widened when one hit the bottom of the lift, rattling us a bit. It floated up past the window, and my eyes widened as I gasped and reeled away. Yes, it was a human figure. It was me.
I moved upward when we moved downward, my own dead eyes staring back at my living ones.
"It's only you," my companion said, and he finally stopped giggling, just standing and silently crying. "It's only you, who lives forever."
There was an awful creaking noise as the walls began to dent inward, opening the screws and sending little squirts of water inside the lift. The drugged me plopped straight down into the growing puddle, not minding a bit if he got wet. He was still holding my hand and he drunkenly patted the spot beside himself, ogling at me sadly.
I sat next to him and it dented even more, the ceiling almost invisible now, the chaotic screeching of metal simply refused to stop, calling out to me sickeningly.
The last thing I felt were my own bones cracking, my own skin bruising. The last thing I heard was my own strangled cry not coming from me, and the last thing I saw were my own pale blue eyes ridden and red-rimmed with tears and longing.
Step... step... step...
I blearily opened my eyes, the first thing I saw being my bathroom door closing shut, and the first thing I hear the footsteps of the intruder going elsewhere in my flat. I felt something animatedly squirming behind me, and felt heavy, panicked breathing.
"Al... is tha' you?" I slurred, still waking up.
There was a surprised gasp and the squirming stopped for a moment. "A-Art! I really thought... I thought you were dead, dude! He hit you real hard, I thought you died..."
I tried to stretch my sleepy limbs, but was unable to in whatever bonds we were concealed in. I laughed tiredly.
"Me? Dead? Ha, no, no, no... you can't kill me so easy..." I could turn my head at least, and I tried to, only to be met with a mop of brown hair in my face. Okay, so we were somehow restrained back to back.
"Wha– but how-"
"Stop asking, we don't have the time." I reprimanded.
I felt him nod slowly. Now more awake, I looked down at my body to find that we were completely wrapped in duct tape. That may sound very strange, but it was true. As if we were in a complete body bag of duct tape together. Our captor had apparently dumped us into my bath tub, and it would seem the tape was stuck to that as well, keeping us in our own porcelain prison.
He kept panicking, squirming and breathing heavily.
"Just calm down, yeah?" I assured.
"Yeah... yeah, okay, I can... I can do that..."
"Duct tape?" I inquired, nudging down to the tape even though he couldn't see me.
"Yeah, he had a bunch of it..."
"Well... maybe we can rip it if we pull really hard?" I suggested in an attempt to calm my roommate down.
"I guess we can try. Don't think it'll do much, but yeah, try..."
We tried moving away from each other, his efforts less pointless than mine as he was clearly stronger, but still pointless in the end.
"It just won't do," I grunted, still pulling. "We're completely wrapped in it."
"We're like bugs... in a web, w-waiting to be eaten... But the spider's not here, he's gonna play with us first..."
"Pull yourself together," I said softly. "and stop being pessimistic. I can't think properly."
There was a long bout of silence, and I could just feel him wanting to squirm, but being unable to. He seemed so scared, it was actually very uncharacteristic of him. There was probably a reason for that.
"Did he hurt you?" I said quietly.
"Let's just say he packs a hell of a punch... head hurts so bad, but I'll be fine... You?"
"Me?" I laughed. "Fresh as a daisy. But I'll surely feel better after we've dealt with this unpleasant guest of ours..."
More silence. He fidgeted behind me, pulling at the tape on his own after we had long given up.
"Do ya... think he's gonna kill us?"
"No he most certainly is not." I said confidently. "Don't you worry, I'll figure something out. We just have to wait for him to come back. Sooner or later they all make a mistake."
"Never you mind that."
I leaned my head forward, my chin resting against the cool surface of the tape. There were still footsteps marching around outside, dealing with some awful matter.
"Art?" Alfred said quietly, jarring his shoulder against mine.
"Sorry I upset you... I shouldn't have pushed you so hard, ya don't gotta tell me..." he practically whispered. I wondered what his facial expression was in this situation.
"It's all right," I sighed. "Water under the bridge, lad. The more important thing is survival right now. Do you have any ideas?"
"Not really," he said hopelessly. "No, nothing, sorry... You?"
"We should kill the fucker."
"Wh-whoa! Where the hell did that come from? A-and anyway, with what? We're kinda stuck here! Gonna head-butt him to death?" he seemed shock by my change in demeanor, and I really couldn't blame him. On the outside, I didn't look all that threatening. I looked like the kind of bloke who wouldn't utter a single curse.
"I will if there's no other way." I sneered.
"Well, there has to be something, I dunno, a little more helpful... I'm not gonna die here. Not like this."
"No, you aren't, I'll make sure of that. Now what about those lock picks you always carry with you? The ones you used to break in?" I suggested, thinking myself helpful at the time.
"Does it look like we're locked in a room? We're wrapped in tape in case ya forgot! How's that gonna help?" he was obviously growing very nervous and skittish.
"I don't know, it's probably sharp. Use it to cut the tape?"
"Still can't reach 'em." he grumbled childishly. "Just forget 'em. Let's think of something else."
I sighed and nodded. Alfred was rather childish, as I had learned these past weeks. He was childish, and he always complained if someone bugged him or he didn't get what he wanted. Underneath that, however, he was very intelligent and calculating, and if he were to become angry, it would surely be a frightening sight.
"Okay, okay," I thought for a drawn out moment, trying to improvise some sort of plan, then an idea struck me. "What if we use this knife to cut the tape?"
"What?!" he said sharply, squirming more. I had to lean my chin down in order to smother a chuckle. "You have a knife?!" Alfred cried, craning his head around but only getting a face full of blonde hair.
"Yes, yes I do." I smiled even though he couldn't see it. "I'm sorry, though, I just remembered I can't reach it." I gave him a sickly sweet smile he couldn't see, and finally allowed myself a small giggle. "So let's just forget the knife and think of something else, okay?" I lied easily.
"Oh, not cool, Art... I actually thought you had one, and ya shouldn't joke about that... s'mean..." I felt him duck his head down.
"It wasn't a joke. I lied, just like you did about the lock picks." I simpered, trying to kick my legs in the tight weave of skin peeling tape. "You don't really have them."
"I ain't a liar! I just can't reach the damn things! Really!" he shouted, apparently not caring if our captor from outside heard our previously hushed conversation. He was becoming restless.
"... Really?" I said.
"Yeah! But apparently my word ain't enough! Ya know, I'll just show ya when we get outta this. That is, if we aren't chopped into little pieces, stuffed into garbage bags, and thrown in a dumpster." he said that last morbid part in a quiet voice, losing his volume and leaning his head down further.
"Maybe it won't come to that." I assured falsely, then laughed. "He might just throw out bodies in the river, or bury them in the woods. Maybe there won't be any chopping."
"Gee, what an optimist."
I snorted and leaned my head down like he had. My bathroom was the same as always. I supposed I wanted to memorize it as it was probably the last thing I'd see, scratch that, the last thing my American friend would see. I didn't like to think about that, however, and continued scoping the off white tiles of the dirty room. I should probably tidy up more, I decided. The bathtub which we were currently contained in had a strange yellow tint to it, as old tubs usually do, and the curtains had it as well. The sink was dripping and I figured that if I were in this mess by myself I would go mad trying to turn it off, as in the current silence it was making an awfully obnoxious thunking noise every time a droplet his the dirty porcelain. There was a single light bulb hanging above us, uselessly turned off, of course. The walls were made up of scratchy faded white tiles, and there was an odd system of pipes portruding from the tub and leading into the wall. I realized that it was just about the only thing we had any chance of reaching, though I had no clue as to how they would help us.
"Maybe we could pull this pipe off the wall?" I suggested, nudging my head the the closest rusty pipe.
"... How the hell is that gonna help us?"
"Stop asking questions and help me." I ordered, already trying to awkwardly squirm/bounce to the pipes. I craned my head and pushed, he did the same. We heard the pipe creaking under the pressure, screeching in protest as we pushed it. We'd probably have a nasty indent or an orange scuff on our foreheads after this ordeal, but if it meant possible escape it was certainly worth it.
The pipe creaked and groaned more, and I almost cheered in pointless joy when it finally came undone.
The already weak screws had come loose, completely separating one piece of piping from another, creating a gap. This also created the opportunity for it to spray us both in the face. I was now realizing just how stupid this idea was. We ducked our heads and our hair took most of the spray, though that didn't shield our face or neck in the slightest as it dripped and ricocheted.
Alfred coughed when the spray stopped, and I shook my head much like a wet dog.
"Wow, thanks Art, just what we needed." he quipped sarcastically. "A cold shower."
"Oh shut it."
We were stuck there for a long time after that. It could have been hours of just sitting and shivering off the cold water, not saying a word to each other and just coming to terms with what exactly we were stuck in. After what seemed like the longest time of me mulling over the circumstances, I closed my eyes and sighed tiredly, resting against Alfred's back.
"I used to like roses, you know?" I began quietly.
He came out of whatever thought he had when I said it, making a small confused sound.
"I used to like roses," I continued. "Like everyone else does, perhaps even more than others. See, there was this man... I should have told him from the start I was not interested, I didn't even swing that way... but for reasons I don't even know, I didn't. Maybe I was interested? In a way, probably. Flattered would be a better word. It was ten years ago, I can hardly remember him now. He did that thing every week, because he knew Alice was at work and I was in the flat alone. Every Friday night I'd get roses delivered by a courier."
The American behind me shuffled a bit, adjusting to my weight against his back and rested his head on the cool side of the tub. I pitied him, he was probably sporting a very nasty headache right now from the apparent punch.
"Who's Alice? Girlfriend?"
"My wife. She was a taxi driver, worked every weekend while I stayed home with Peter. Peter, our little son, he was only six months old at the time... well, no, five months and twenty-eight days. He would..." I gave a shaky breath. "He would be eleven now. Anyway, that one Friday evening a courier had delivered a big bouquet of the most beautiful roses."
I heard a phone ringing. Maybe in the flat above or below ours, I doubted it was in my own.
"Usually," I continued. "I would have thrown them away, but I really liked this particular bouquet somehow. They were extraordinary, absolutely stunning, and looked very expensive... I stood there looking at them, mesmerized. I didn't even hear the phone ringing at first, but then I heard It loud and clear, as if I'd woken up from a strange dream, and I knew it was him calling..."
A younger me stood leaning on the side table, gently petting the soft petals of crimson rose that had been delivered to my flat. I stared into their centers, traced along the dangerous stems, and sighed. My head snapped up when I heard the phone begin to ring. I pulled at the collar of my red turtle neck sweater, pacing to the phone. I knew it was him, as it was too coincidental for the phone to be ringing right after they had been delivered and for it not to be him. The courier must have alerted him that the roses had been delivered, yes, of course. I wondered if I should answer. I honestly didn't want anything to do with the man, but... it would be impolite not to thank him for the lovely roses, right? Right, I assured myself. Yes, all I was doing was being polite, that's all.
I pulled at the constricting neck of my sweater more and picked up the phone.
"Do you like the roses?" the voice on the other end drawled, as if they were smug about it.
I thought for a moment, giving them a sidewards glance. "... They're very pretty." I answered vaguely, as if I hadn't just stared at them dreamily.
"I knew you'd like them. Roses. They're beautiful. But not nearly as beautiful as you."
I hid the gasp I had almost released. "I have a family now." I said sternly, as if I was lecturing a stubborn toddler. "I'm sorry but I can't see you again. I've managed to patch things up with Alice, and there's Peter... We're making it work. Our son needs both of his parents. So it's not as if I could just run away with you. Life's not a film with Julia Roberts, you know." I laughed dryly, leaning against the wall and listening for Peter at the same time.
"But sometimes doing crazy things can change your life for the better!" he argued. I studied a smudge of dirt on the wall as he kept talking. "Do you really want to be that man who in ten years time realizes he's waster the best time of his life living with a woman he never loved?"
I blinked. "I... look, I love my wife..." Lie, what a bloody lie.
"I can take care of Peter. I told you before. I'll be a good second father to him, if you'd like."
"It doesn't work like that!" I exclaimed. "You know nothing about children."
"... I'll learn?" he said hopefully.
I sighed into the phone and shifted it onto my other shoulder. "Just give up. Honestly..."
"I could never give up on you." Oh, for crying out loud... "Come on, don't be like that... you're breaking my heart." I almost gagged at the sappy lines meant to lure me in. Honestly, who does this man think he is? We only went to dinner. Once.
"Oh shut it," I laughed as I said it. "Just shut up, all right?"
"Yeah, okay... I'm sorry, I got carried away. But please, just think about it. I have time. I'll wait."
"Listen," I reprimanded, hoping he got the full meaning of the word from my tone. "I have to go. It's getting late." I didn't even know what time it was.
"Yeah?" I muttered, already moving to put the phone down.
"When I call you again next Friday, you will answer, won't you?"
I actually thought about it. I really, and truly did. Was I happy here? Of course I was, with Peter... but sometimes...
"No." I said, before my thoughts stemmed into something awful. "I'm sorry but this is over. Goodbye and good luck, sir."
I hung up the phone, sighing and fiddling with my tight collar again. This probably wasn't the best thing to wear on a warm Spring day. I looked at the roses again, deciding I would need to do something about them. I would have really liked to keep them, they were rather lovely... but I didn't want Alice to know I had a secret admirer. She just couldn't see them. I could keep them, just away from her, right? Right, I assured myself. I'd need to hide them somewhere where she wouldn't suspect anything.
I stroked their petals again, noticing a little flash of white hiding in all the red. I carefully poked my hand in and grabbed the white thing, pulling it out and revealing it to be a note card.
"One day I know you will say 'yes'." it read. Now I would definitely need to throw this note away, just in case Alice would find it. I took the smooth vase in my arms, cradling it close to my chest and sniffing the sweet smell of vermillion flora. They were simply beautiful. I thought about putting them on the piano, but decided against it. That was just as obvious as the side table. I went to the piano anyway and scoped the room, looking for a replacement spot that wouldn't get me discovered. They would look lovely on the dining table, but that was a horrible idea. Alice had bought it a few weeks ago, and it just felt wrong to put them there because of that. It was a cheap old thing anyhow, would probably fall with the weight of them. We didn't have a lot of money at the moment. It would get better when I returned to week in a couple of months, surely. I entered Peter's room (AN: Now the spare/Al's room.). Maybe to check on him or to find a place for the roses, I wasn't sure at the time.
He was fast asleep, his long yet so little eyelashes brushing his rosy cheeks softly. He had the cutest baby face that went perfectly with his growing blonde hair that could outshine the sun, resembling my own and Alice's. When he was awake it was an even better sight, his blue eyes and blonde hair could outmatch the cloudless sky. I really, really loved his blue eyes. Or anyone's for that matter.
In the corner of the room we had placed one of those cheap self-assembly units from the supermarket, a little shelf. All it was carrying was a lamp. I grinned to myself, setting the flowers down on the little empty shelf. They looked rather contrasting with his blue wall, but it was a nice contrast. It brought out the red beautifully.
Now I could tell Alice that Elizabeta had brought them for Peter. It seemed a rather innocent lie, if I do say so myself. I doubted she'd notice them anyway.
I went to leave the room, but stopped at the sight of Peter stirring. I smiled at his sleeping form warmly.
"I do hope you're dreaming about something nice, Love." I said quietly.
I ogled at my son for a while longer until I heard the sound of the front door opening and closing rather forcefully, signaling that Alice was home, and perhaps not in the best of moods. It was early for her, she wasn't supposed to be home for a few more hours at least. I wondered why. I gave Peter one last loving look and left his room, closing his door behind me softly.
The flat seemed oddly silent. Alice apparently was not making a single move, because in the silence I would have at least heard her moving, but there was not a ring to be heard in my little home.
She was simply leaning against the kitchen counter, tiredly rubbing at her acidic green eyes and slightly mussing up her thicker than normal eyebrows. (Though they weren't nearly as ridiculous as mine, I'll admit.)
"You're back early." I said from the door frame.
She only looked up, giving me full view of her messed long blonde hair, still held in her tight pig tails. Alice gave me a cold look from behind her clear glasses, almost looking right through me.
"Is something wrong?" I inquired.
"Yes, well, let's think about it for a minute..." she said pinching the bridge of her nose. "'Is something wrong?' you say... Yes, Arthur, there is something wrong."
I gulped, feeling sweat gather on my neck, but kept a straight face.
"Didn't you watch the telly at all?" I nearly sighed in relief. "Listen to the radio? Didn't talk to anyone today?" she asked, and I had a feeling it was sarcastic.
"Wh... what happened?" I asked. "Was there an accident?"
"Sure, sure. An accident, you could call it that. But if a guy walks into a busy restaurant during dinner service and detonates a bomb strapped to his chest... then I think the term 'terrorist attack' is more fitting. There's chaos spreading throughout the city. Everyone's panicking. The police and army are everywhere. But you don't even care, do you Arthur?"
I gave her a bewildered look, almost huffed. "Of course I care, I had no idea!"
"You should pay more attention to what's happening to this country, Arthur." she snapped, standing straight and no longer leaning on the counter. She folded her arms in distaste. "I could have died and you wouldn't even know!"
"Did you get hurt?" I replied instantly.
Alice was quiet for a moment. "... No, not really, but the cab's smashed quite badly. I was just there when it happened. There was smoke... clouds of dust so thick you couldn't see a fucking thing..."
She had always had remarkably colorful language, a trait I may or may not have been stuck with from her. I never cursed at all before I met Alice.
"So I stop," she said. "and all of a sudden some van hits me from the back. I hear my passengers screaming and shouting and there's blood on the rear window..." Alice chuckled dryly, shaking her head and running a hand through her golden hair. "And just then another car drives right into us and we're all stuck in that mess, nobody knows what's going on, but imagining this might just be the end of the world. But no. It was just some geezer with a bloody bomb. They closed all the main streets, in case there were more of them."
"What time was that?" I asked calmly.
She wouldn't stop looking at me as if everything was my fault. Her green, green eyes bored straight through me, as if I was insignificant to everything. I knew this was just how she acted, and not how she really felt. She was never one to show her real feelings, always listening to her head in an attempt to ignore her heart. I could tell she was really scared.
"Probably around 7 PM. I spent another two hours trying to get someone to tow the damn cab to the garage. Would you believe our insurance doesn't even cover this sort of thing?"
"You should have called me..." I nearly whispered.
"I did," she quipped. "four times. You didn't answer."
"I must have been-"
"Yeah, yeah. You were busy with the baby. Every time it's the same old story." she sighed, probably trying to calm herself down. She seemed to do that a lot lately; sighing. "We've still got that wine in the fridge, haven't we? Get some glasses. I need a drink."
I nodded lowly, wanting to slink back in my own shadow. Why was she so intimidating all the time?
"All right. I'll get the glasses. You get the wine." I said. Then again, she was looking so haggard and worn. "But... are you sure you don't want to take a shower first?"
"No. I just need a drink. I can wash later."
I nodded at her again, worrying at my bottom lip and going to the cabinet where we kept our new and clear glasses. I opened the glass door and picked two, noticing I was trembling slightly. I wondered when I had become so weak. Surely, as a man, I wouldn't be afraid of my own wife... no, that certainly wasn't the case. I must have just been tired, yes... Alice always got like this on bad days, it would soon pass after she had calmed down. Things would get better, I would just need to grit through the bad parts.
The phone rang again. I inwardly scowled, but kept up a calm demeanor. What is it was him again? I couldn't have Alice answering if that was the case. No, that just wouldn't do.
"Are you going to get that?" she called from the kitchen. "If it's Angie, tell her I'm not here. I don't want to talk to them tonight."
"Yes, of course." I called back, briskly walking back into the hall and setting the glasses down on the side table. I picked up the house phone and held it to my ear.
"It's me again. I'm sorry but..." Oh bloody hell. I quickly turned away from Alice so she wouldn't see my expression, trying not to look suspicious at all. She eyed my strangely. "... I had to hear your voice again. I love you." Oh would this man ever quit?
I said nothing into the line, feeling Alice's eyes on me. She couldn't hear what was on the other line, unless she was listening very hard, and even then it would be messy.
"Arthur?" he said. "You still there? Please, say something, anything..."
"Thanks," I chirped with false happiness. I could feel my sweater becoming constricting again. "Thank you, but we're already insured with someone else."
"I... excuse me? Arthur, it's me. The only thing I'm trying to sell to you is my heart-"
"We won't be needing pet insurance either!" I said, my voice becoming higher the more nervous I became.
"What are you talking about?" the man on the other end questioned.
"Would you like my wife to talk to you?" I said shakily, trying to give this idiot the obvious hint. "She's just come home from work. She usually deals with insurance companies."
"Oh will you just put the phone down?" Alice muttered, completely ornery. "Once you start talking to them, these insurance bloodsuckers will never leave you alone." I didn't reply to her.
"Oh, oh I see... I'm sorry Arthur... Should I hang up?"
"Just hang up, Arthur." Alice repeated. She left the room to re-enter the kitchen. I sighed in visible relief.
"Have you gone mad?!" I hissed into the phone. "This could have been a disaster!"
"How was I supposed to know?" he defended. "Where is she now?"
"In the other room. I can't talk. Just wanted to say... Just wanted to say that you've let me down. I'd never forgive you, or myself if she found out like this..."
I grimaced, pulling at my collar for the umpteenth time that day. "I'll tell you one thing, sir."
"Yeah? What is it?"
"I've had enough of this." I hissed. "Just leave me alone."
"Whoa! You change your game quickly, don't you?"
"Leave me alone, okay? I've got enough problems here. I don't want your damn love." I laughed dryly. "There's most likely no such thing as love, anyway. Bye."
I hung up the phone.
The dripping of the sink still hadn't stopped, but I'm sure neither of us noticed. Our captor still hadn't come for us, even after such a long time. Now I was sure it had been hours since we were first placed here.
"That's when the arguing started." I said. "It slowly grew into something bigger, something horrible."
The duct tape was beginning to sting. Whenever we would try to move, it would pull painfully at our skin, almost peeling. When we didn't move, we would become numb.
"Stupid remarks and old grudges mixed with alcohol," I continued. "Turned into some sick exchange of pointless accusations. It really wasn't the first time we argued, but... but it was the last..."
"Just look at the state of this old place," Alice complained. "It's such a damn mess! Listen, I know you're with Peter all day, but it's not like he's still a little baby! He's six months already! I was off maternity leave a long time ago! You'll have to organize your day a bit better and get things done. If other stay at home parents find time, why can't you?!"
"Alice, you're drunk." I stated obviously. "Get off my case, alright? Look, I understand you've had a very bad day, but it's not my fault that the bomb had gone off and your car was damaged. I'd really like you to calm down now. I'm sure we can sort everything out, we always do." I said gently.
"Well, that's what you think." she drawled, taking a long swig of wine.
"Oh, really." I blinked, turning to look straight at her. "And what do you think then, Alice?"
"What do I think? Oh so it matters all of a sudden what I think! Well, I'll tell you, sure." she gave me a mock grin and glared at me, somehow at the same time.
"I think you're a lazy arse, Artie. You do nothin' all day, while I keep working to provide for this family. I think you're trying to shift the responsibility on me, like you always did. I think you use the baby as an excuse for everything." she accused sharply.
This set off an alarm in my mind. Don't poke the bear, Arthur. But I did anyway.
"And I think you're being horribly rude." I stated primly. "How dare you accuse me of such things?"
"It only takes one look at the flat to see it's all true."
"Let me go," I condemned, wanting to get out before it got out of hand. "I have to check on Peter. I left the window open in his room. He might be cold."
Alice remained quiet as she was still leaning on the wall, taking another bellowing swig of wine as I brushed past her into Peter's room. I put mu hand on the door handle, beginning to turn it slightly.
"Oh, that's right. Just walk away." I heard Alice growl. "That's all you ever do. You can never finish anything."
I turned to her sharply, trying to glare her down with icy blue eyes. It apparently had no effect on her burning forest green. Oh how I was beginning to loathe green eyes...
"If there's one thing I don't want to finish, it's this stupid conversation." I replied with my hand still on the silver handle.
Alice stood from her position, striding up to me with an air of arrogance.
"And why not?" she simpered, her smile looking sickening. "Are you afraid that I actually might be right? Are you scared of facing the truth? I'm sure Peter's fine. It's the hottest summer we've had in years."
I glanced at the door and bit my lip.
"It will be good for him to have some fresh air in there, won't you agree?" she said.
"I... I guess... fine, never mind. But Alice, I haven't done anything wrong!"
"Of course not!" she shouted, startling me. "Because you're the fucking perfect person, aren't you?!"
"That's not what I said!"
"Well if you're so perfect- yeah? Then why are we here now, fighting?! This is all messed up-"
"You're behaving like a five year old!" I cried. "What on Earth is wrong with you?"
"You!" she shrieked. "You always knew which strings to pull, to tip me over the fucking edge!"
Her face was becoming red. It could have been from the alcohol, or from anger, but I couldn't gauge a difference. All I knew was that she was accusing me of things I did not do, and that at this rate, we would surely wake Peter.
"Don't be nasty," I said. "I'm doing all I can."
"Are you really?!" she cried. "Okay, doing all you can... you obviously care about your wife, coming home after a hard day at work... she's going to be hungry! But wait, where's her dinner? Oh, let me guess- you didn't make it because you were too busy changing nappies, and singing, and playing, and washing?"
"Yeah, I think so. And I'm not going to feel guilty-"
"It's not your bloody job!" she yelled. "You should be going out and getting a job, or something! If anything, I should be the one staying home, not you!"
"Well if you spent more time with our son yourself you'd know how important these things are! We can't just leave him to a babysitter, someone has to do it! So, pardon me, there's no dinner for a hard working parent! From now on, she's going to have to cook for herself! Because, you know what? The husband is working just as hard, and he's really tired of being treated this way!"
Alice scoffed. "Well he'd better get used to it, because this is just the start. There are going to be some changes around here! I'm fed up of being pushed around by you! I put the bread on our table, don't I? And if you can't be the damn man of the family, then I'll make the rules! I'll get the respect I deserve!"
"How can you talk to me like this?!" I cried. "You're treating me like dirt! Didn't you forget something?! I'm your husband! The father of your child! Does that mean nothing to you?"
"A husband and a father? Why don't you start acting like one?! When was the last time you showed me that you cared about me?! All you ever talk about is the baby! I love him to bits too, I swear I do... But I want to have a husband, too!"
"Oh, I knew it. Is that what bothers you so much? Is it?"
"Of course it fucking bothers me! Does it not bother you that we never have time for each other?!"
"Look, Alice," I calmed. "We are new parents. It's always hard. All couples go through it, so I hear."
"Well fuck this then."
"I heard different." she said.
"I'm done talking to you." I dismissed, turning to Peter's door again and eying the handle.
"Of course you are," she nodded sarcastically. "That's what you always do. You run out of arguments, you stop talking to me, then you lock yourself in the bathroom and fucking cry like a hormonal teenage girl. I'm sick of repeating the same old thing over and over again!"
"Then why won't you give me a break, for God's sake? You're acting like I've done something terrible! I don't even know what your problem is... is there something you're not telling me, Alice?"
She glared daggers at me.
"You'd know if you listened to me. But you never listen to me, do you?! Not to a single word I've ever said!"
"Right, right," I breathed. "Here we go... it's not you, it's the alcohol speaking. I shouldn't be taking any of this seriously. I know tomorrow you'll be apologizing to me for it!"
"It was just a couple of glasses and you had some too!" she shrieked and grit her teeth. "I'm not drunk! But I wish I was... maybe then I could laugh at this shitty life and not care so much..."
"Oh that's a good one," I quipped. "You really care so much, Alice, you should get a medal or something."
"I thought you said you weren't going to talk to me anymore? Oh you're just full of shit... full of shit..."
(AN: Wow, such a great insult. Better add that one to the book. Also I'm sorry about Fem Iggy.)
"Why don't you look at yourself?" I hissed. "You keep picking on me for nothing."
"No, no. This was coming and you knew it."
"If you're so unhappy with me then what the hell are you still doing here?" I snarled. "Pack your bags and leave me alone."
I turned away from her imploring stare again.
"You're throwing me out?" she said calmly, then, she nearly screamed. "This is my fucking flat! I worked my fucking ass off for seven years to buy it! I'm not going anywhere-"
"Stop it." I'd assumed that my glare was finally a match for hers, as she reeled back a little when I said it.
"Stop it?" she breathed. "I've... I've only just started. We should finally say to each other what we really think, yeah?"
The blue curtains flew wildly in Peter's room, fleeing from the window but always coming back for a few minor seconds. The roses stirred in the gust as well, a few petals lost and thorns dancing. "We hadn't even noticed the storm had started. I was so absorbed in the stupid fight that I forgot all about the open window, anyway... and the roses, those fucking roses, right there, by his bed..."
Peter began to stir. It was a mere gurgle at first, a small sound that surely wouldn't be heard out the door. A few stray raindrops flew in from the window, welling the carpet like tear stains.
"He had some rare allergy to pollen, but we couldn't have known that. How were we supposed to know? It's rare... he started coughing... and... choking..."
Peter's little gurgles turned into weak coughs and sharp breaths, crying out to his fighting parents, but not getting an answer. The pollen filtered through the room like gaseous poison, stopping the baby's breath and making him wheeze. The sound probably would have been heard, had the two outside not started shouting, yelling, and screaming. Even his father who was determined not to wake him began to yell, and his cries were falling on deaf ears.
The coughs wouldn't stop, nor would the breath start. It was all the time that was needed for his parents to fight, all that time to become weaker and weaker.
"The next time we saw him... When we found him... he... He was..." I shook my head, willing myself not to cry over this issue once again. "After two days of what seemed like a narcotic dream, Alice had gone out and never came back again." I sighed shakily. "They found her nearly a week later. She drank herself dead in the woods. I nearly didn't recognize her when I saw her in the morgue... It really was a hot summer. She looked... bad."
My tone was completely flat, it had become that way about midway through the tale. It happened every time I had to talk about this, or think about it. I would just close myself off and forget it had ever happened. I was also trembling, I noted, no matter how hard it was to do under the sticky suction of duct tape. My body was almost completely numb now, and my back hurt something terrible.
"A-Art... I..." Alfred choked out. "Thanks for telling me... now I get it... I get why you're always so sad-"
The bathroom door slammed open. We both snapped out gazes up. I was able to look directly at our captor, still wearing the sunglasses and carrying the hammer. Al had to crane his neck, and even then couldn't see him. The intruder's expression was blank, like the walls of a new house. He was being completely apathetic and without emotion at all, or perhaps hiding his sick pleasure under his thick sunglasses.
"What do you want from us?!" I had the nerve to shout at him.
When he didn't answer, Alfred got the nerve to as well. "You deaf or something?!"
"No, Al, I'll handle this-"
"Let us go right now you asshole!" at this rate, the idiot was going to get himself killed and I would still be stuck here.
"Alfred!" I hissed.
My calculations were correct. The mystery man took a razor blade from his back pocket, and began to cut the tape, separating us. We both sat silently with baited breath, silently planning to make a run for it the moment we were free. But instead of being free, it only revealed another separate layer of tape, wrapped around us individually. Sure, we were able to squirm more now, but that didn't mean we could do much else. Just because we were ow separate didn't mean we were free. I watched in horror as the man quite literally slung Alfred over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He and I instantly squirmed like helpless little caterpillars to a large hawk. This man was tremendous is he was able to hurl Al over his shoulder like that, who was already sturdy by anyone's standards.
"You leave him alone!" I cried, trying my best to look intimidating though that wasn't the easiest thing right now. "Don't you dare! Just take me instead!" I was growing frantic. This man would not listen to reason. He was already moving to leave the bathroom pocketing his razor blade and stepping away from the tub. A new piece of tape was placed on my friend's mouth, not letting him speak at all.
"Take me..." I repeated to no one after he had left the room.
I was right, the sound of the droplets falling into the sink was headache inducing without someone there to cancel out the noise.
Over the expanse of these past months, weeks, however long it had been since this story had began, I had felt anything but helpless. At first, during the time I was stuck in the hospital, I had considered this immortality thing a gift. But at the old mansion where that demon Feliciano lived, I had felt it a curse. It made me endure horrible pain, but at the same time, it allowed me to exact the perfect revenge. And now, even with the face that I was completely immortal, I was helpless. My friend was out there, yes, I could call him my only friend, probably being brutally murdered, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.
It was storming outside, just like it had been that day so long ago. I heard the thunder and it thankfully stopped the endless dripping for a short while, but not long enough. I almost felt the lightning hit the ground a few seconds later as well, but it could have just been my imagination. Then the lights went out in my flat, most likely an effort of the storm.
I sat in depressed and contemplative silence for the longest time before there was a small sound in my flat. Not just any sound, but a distant creaking. The sound of hesitant footsteps and then another kind of creak, the sound of a door opening. The bathroom door was opening once again.
In the darkness it was rather difficult, but I recognized the face of our captor, signaling that it was my turn. I also noticed that he was not covered in blood, which at least was a good sign, but I couldn't be sure of anything.
"If you hurt my friend..." I growled, and for some reason my voice was shaking horribly. "I... I will..."
Before I could say another word, he set about cutting the tape still constraining me with his box cutting razor, eventually freeing me with minutes of effort.
When I was free, he stood away from me, looking down at me still sitting numbly in the tub. I slowly and shakily stood, becoming used to the process again. With the added height of the bathtub I was able to look him straight in the eye, that is, if he wasn't wearing those stupid shades.
All he did was turn and leave the bathroom, leaving me to my own devices alone and free.
"What...?" I said to myself. What's going on? I added as an afterthought. He was letting me go? Just like that? I worried for Alfred, wondering what had become of him.
"Where's my friend?" I said to the man's back. "What have you done to him?"
He left the bathroom and I followed after in the darkness of my flat. There was nothing notable in the hall outside the bathroom, nothing horrific. I hesitantly moved into the living room, preparing myself for the worst.
What I got was not the worst, but it certainly was not the best either.
He was still alive, that much was certain, and thank God for that as well. He was still completely wrapped in tape from neck to toe, and he still could not speak, nor could he see. He was stood on a chair with a loose rope looped around his neck. The rope was connected to the ceiling with a liberal amount of duct tape, obviously the killer was readying to have him hanged. I knew he was alive because he was still heavily squirming, and a few bruises showed that he put up one hell of a fight. He was also giving several muffled shouts.
I rushed past our intruding psychopath, but he was too quick for me. He grabbed my by the back of my shirt, holding me back with brute strength that I certainly couldn't match. He actually had the nerve to growl like a caged animal, and the noise didn't sound very human.
"You're sick." I snarled at him. "What is it you want me to do?!"
The lightning and thunder screamed once again, very, very close to the building. He just growled something under his breath.
"I don't understand a word you're saying!" I snapped.
All he did was roughly turn me around and pointed to my piano, eying me through his dark glasses. He pushed me back, forcing me into bench. I looked at him with bafflement. He pointed to the keys and nodded.
I slowly nodded as well, watching the hostage American from the corner of my eyes, and began to play a little tune. It was a deep melody, one that matched the storm that I couldn't place the title of. The sound of the keys echoed through the flat, the building, the bravado of the deep notes may have even reached outside.
I heard the calling of the cats, of course I did. They always came around when I played. I heard the pitter patter of their little paws on the fire escape, quickly climbing up the grated stairs. Alfred had stopped squirming, but he was still very tense.
The cats meowed and called, hissed and whined, coming from all different directions and padding my way. It was a big gathering this time, I could tell. There were more calls than usual, and they always were rather fond of the deep songs. The thunder yowled again, but they didn't seem to mind it, they were used to this weather. I heard them pattering on the escape, on the ledges, on the roof, I had grown accustomed to hearing them from several kilometers away. (AN: Almost said miles here. Oopsie.)
They were just near the window now, but they were stopped by something. Our attempting murderer turned his attention from me to the window in a split second, and I heard a single hiss from the crowd, and it sounded very much like Teacup. In that split second the pounced on the man, tens or dozens of them, all hissing, scratching and biting. He let out another monstrous growl as he fell to the ground, bleeding out of fierce feline inflicted wounds and writhing in pain. I stopped playing the music and the cats continued to attack, actually becoming very, very violent and gruesome. I won't go into details, but blood was quite literally splattering on the wall and the man was falling silent. It would seem they came for dinner, and were determined to get it.
I heard a sharp clatter and looked up, noticing that one of the cats got a little too excited and knocked over the chair supporting Alfred. I gasped, knocking over the piano bench in my panic and sped over to him, not knowing what to do at all. He was swinging and squirming pathetically at the same time, slowly becoming weaker. I panicked internally and pushed the chair back up and pulled him up to stand on it. He was heaving and panting, and I could tell that if he were able to he would be coughing as well.
"Stand still," I warned and assured at the same time. He did as he was told and stood on the chair, trembling and wheezing. "I'm going to be right back with a knife and I'll cute you down, all right?"
I left to the kitchen and hurriedly picked a sharp knife, coming back and stepping over the mess on my carpet.
I cut the rope first, relieving any threats to his life. Then I cut away at the tape little by little, listening to the commotion calm down behind me. I gently peeled the tape off of his face, freeing him completely just as I was.
He nearly fell down on top of me, but I was able to support some of his weight. He leaned on my heavily, coughing and panting, looking down at the spectacle on my carpet with horrified red eyes.
"They're... they're eating him." he breathed.
I nodded slowly.
"This is... I..." his voice shook.
"Just don't look," I said.
Have a nice time.
I do not own The Cat Lady, Hetalia, or the designs of the 2p characters.