"Wanna head to the arcade after school?" I suggested, knowing full well we have exams in less than a month.
"Exams, yeah, yeah, I know. It's good to blow off some steam every now and then, you know."
Kuro and I have been friends since the very beginning. We quickly became inseparable. "We'll stay together forever!" How foolish I was to think the meaningless ramble of a child would hold true in our future.
The day after the exams finished, we headed to our local arcade. It's a short trek from the school, but not many people frequent it. It's an activity for people like me; people who are the exact opposite of Kuro.
Since before the exams, I've noticed Kuro staring blankly at a wall, only paying attention after I mention it to him, which he casually smiles off claiming 'he's just tired'.
We were making our way to the arcade. The walk there was silent, only occasionally being interrupted by the sound of a car going by. Kuro was playing with his fingers the whole way there. We stopped just outside the castle of quirky noises and even quirkier smells. "Head inside, Kuro. I'll meet with you in a bit."
I got some food and went inside the arcade. After quickly reuniting we him, we sat on opposite sides of the Street Fighter machine. "Listen, Kagami, I have to tell you something," He said, his voice quavering. "I got accepted into a top school. It's in another city. I-I'm moving."
"I see. Well, that's good for you, isn't it? A top school, huh? Good for you." I noticed my voice started to quaver too. Kuro just told me that and came to hug me. I moved away from him. He took it as a signal and left. I was left all alone in my madness.
"He's going to a top school, that's awesome for him. But, no matter what, I don't want him to leave. I don't want to be deserted. I want him to stay with me. But what if... I'm holding him back. Do I want to deprive him of his future? I'm that selfish, huh?" I cried myself to sleep that night.
I wanted to see him off, so I set out for his house the next day. It wasn't too far from my home, so it didn't take long to get there. As soon as I arrived at the door, I rang the bell. No reply. I kept ringing and waiting.
"No one lives there anymore, kid. They moved out yesterday."
Ethel was perfectly fine with the way things were, but I wasn’t. Seeing her being treated like this was like torture to me. What can I do? What can I do to stop this torture that’s being inflicted upon her? “Teacher! Ethel would like to say something,” I announced, motioning Ethel to say some. She stood up. All eyes shifted towards her. “I can’t believe you all can see-”
“Aiden, you’ve been at school for too long. Go rest,” Eren said. Damn it!
She smiled and sat back down. The brimming cheerfulness and hope on her face was dyed jet black. I failed yet again. “Aiden! Shush! The teacher is trying to explain! Pay attention,” Ethel scolded. Why is she acting like this? She has nothing to gain from being so stubborn. I’ll leave her be. She’ll lose hope soon enough.
Back at home, I tried to stop Ethel from going to school. “Please, Ethel! Nobody can see you anymore! You have no reason to go. Seeing you- sitting on the ground- I hated seeing that.” She glared at me with dismay, her eyes full of hatred. I couldn’t utter a word. She was about to snap. She stormed out of the living room. I heard her door slam shut. She has never been this rebellious before, so why is she acting like this now? She’s upset about something. I can’t do anything, I guess, I’ll leave her be for the time being.
As usual, Ethel came to school with me. As usual, no one could see her. As usual, she was forced to sit on the ground. However, throughout this torture that has been imposed upon her, she never stopped smiling. I stopped trying to convince her, but I still hadn’t given up.
“Aiden! Now’s your chance. Go talk to Eren,” Ethel said, shoving me towards him. Damn it! I didn’t want to talk this soon, but I’ve got no choice. “Hey, Eren! H-Hey! Long time no see. What’s going on?” I panicked.
“Don’t talk to me during school. People will think I’m crazy as well.” He ran off.
I sat outside with Ethel for the rest of the day. It felt peaceful. A feeling I hadn’t experienced in a long time. We sat in silence, yet it didn’t feel the least bit awkward to me. So people think I’m crazy, huh? It doesn’t really feel new. Oh well, not like I can do anything. I just hope she’ll leave school soon. That’s my main objective. I have to make her leave. But, I don’t think that’s possible anymore. She’s gotten attached to the school, to the teachers, to the students, to the buildings, the classes, and the feeling of being in a learning environment.
Back at home, we were as awkward as usual. We barely spoke. She kept making notes for the classes while I continued procrastinating. Seeing her work that hard just made me realize she was going to continue going to school, despite being her invisible. I lost hope. She wasn't going to listen to me, and she wasn't going to stop going to school. That much was clear. As I mindlessly scrolled through my feed, I saw Ethel standing in the corner of the room. She was scared. "Aiden, I'm sorry for what happened between you and Eren. It was all my fault you tried to help me, and I'm grateful for that, but I think it's time you admit it. I'm i-invisible to everyone. I don't exist to them!" She burst into tears. Her sobs made me hesitant to go and try to help her. She escaped to her room. I really can't do this, huh? I wish it'd all just end.
I woke up late the next day. Luckily, It was a Sunday. I prepared breakfast and set it down on the table. "Ethel, breakfast is ready. Come down and eat," I announced. I heard footsteps coming downstairs. "You should've woken me up. I bet you're hungry, dig- Ethel? Ethel, where are you?" I looked around. Nobody. The room was empty. The footsteps had stopped. I went to her room. "Ethel?" No response. Her things were there. I just shrugged it off and went to eat my breakfast.
I stayed up till midnight for Ethel. She never came. I made constant checks to her room to see if she was there, but she was no where to be found. Please, Ethel, just come back. Please.
The jurors were dropping like flies!
I smiled wickedly to myself in the jury lunchroom as I nibbled on my sandwich which I had brought from home. I knew the defendant was not guilty and I had enough remorse to make absolutely sure that the jury would not bring a guilty verdict.
The first two deceased jurors were replaced by two alternates. How did they die, you ask? Well, the first one died in the cafeteria of an alleged “heart attack” but I knew that I had slipped a small vial of sweet antifreeze in his iced tea. I had watched him two days ago and knew that he enjoyed it rather sweet. We were not sequestered so I was able to go home at night and slip the antifreeze into a hand sanitizer container in my purse. After all, who would suspect a hand sanitizer because we all knew the surfaces in the jury room were not very clean.
Unfortunately, the second juror slipped on spilled grease as he was getting into his chair in the lunchroom. Obviously, someone must have dropped something slippery by the chair where he usually sat. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital with a cracked skull and a hematoma and unfortunately did not make it.
Now there were ten! Somehow, I smirked as I thought of the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians” where the little Indians met their fate in nefarious ways.
Well, I knew I need not go further because without alternate jurors, a mistrial was called. The evidence was not deemed sufficient to retry the case although the “double jeopardy clause” did not apply in this case. The original witnesses were shaky at best and the evidence was circumstantial so it was decided not to retry the case.
I’ll bet you are wondering why, in my second paragraph, I admitted I felt some contrition. Do I seem like the type of person who would feel any sadness at their deaths?
I have to admit that I knew the murder victim. He had picked me out on a dating website and we began an affair (I later found out he was married, the skunk!) One night, after absolutely glorious hot and heavy sex, I stabbed him in the ear with a hatpin. After all, he deserved to die for his deceit. I could not let the innocent person, the defendant, suffer for my walk on the wild side, could I now?
Today. Right now. Today right now. Fast. So fast. He's coming. I smell him.
I run to the corner, my favorite corner, the corner that I love, the corner where I rest, my favorite corner. Now I turn around and run to the other corner, the corner where the squirrel was that one day.
STOP! I have an itch I must scratch my itch that I have because it itches and I must scratch it.
Back to the corner and turn around. My tail hits the bush, the rose bush where my ball goes sometimes, the rose bush where I like to pee but I can't pee there because she gets mad if I pee there so I can't pee there so I don't pee there. Except sometimes I pee there.
I smell him. He is coming. He will say hi. He always says hi. He will put the paper roll in the tube. I will chew the paper roll later.
Today. Right now. Today right now. Fast. So fast. He's coming. I smell him.
There he is! BARK! There he is! NOW!
I run. I will make it to him. He will pet me. He will pet my belly. He will call me good. He will scratch my ears. He will have treats. He will give me his paper rolls and I will chew them and I will smell his pants and he will call me good.
Faster! Almost there! This time! This time! This time I will make it to him!
Ouch. Zap. Zap hurts. Zap still works today. I don't like zap.
There he goes. There he goes again. There he goes.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will go faster. Tomorrow I will make it to him. Tomorrow!
Failure. Do you fear it? Most people do and if you are one of the lucky ones that don't, all I can say is you're lucky. Failure is something people see as something bad. Why? Why is failure bad? Failure. It has a negative vibe about it. I believe failure is one of the best things we have. How many times have you failed? Did you try again? If you did, why? What drove you to do it, to try again, despite not succeeding the first time? You see, failure is a teacher. A cruel teacher. One who gives the lesson the hard way. You will hate it, but you'll thank it later. Failure will teach you things victory will never will. What victory does is it builds ego. Failure builds character. You need to learn the joy in failing. How are you to do that? It's simple. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it be to ride a bike, or practice the subject you struggle in. It'll be hard, but it'll also be fun. Don't say things like "I don't have the self-esteem or confidence" or "I'm not good enough". What that does is destroy you even more. What you have to say is "I won't succeed in my first try. I'll try again. And again. And again. And again." The moment you succeed after failing so many times is something you can only experience. So I urge you. Get up. Learn a new skill. But remember, you will not succeed the first time. What is important is to try again. And again. I'll leave you with this: "A master has failed more times than a novice has tried."
I listed a few of my favorites. Two of these are from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, because it is my favorite book of all time. If you haven’t read it, you should. Anyways, I love each of these because I see a little bit of myself in every book I read. There’s always that one character, that one line, that scene that the author puts in their story carelessly that reaches out, grips something inside me and shakes something loose.
So, here they are:
I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebith instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. -Suzanne Collins (Mockingjay)
He stood waist-deep in the water for a few moments longer before climbing out and handing her the book. His pants clung to him, and he did not stop walking. In truth, I think he was afraid. Rudy Steiner was scared of the book thief’s kiss. He must have longed for it so much. He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them. -Markus Zusak (The Book Thief)
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13
Those who know what it’s like in the dark will do anything to stay in the light. -Victoria Aveyard (King’s Cage)
If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter and bread with only the scent of jam spread out on top of it. -Markus Zusak (The Book Thief)
Feeling everything, but nothing all at once
It hits you faster than your own creation
Now doubting your own creation
Am I swimming just to stay alive,
Or swimming in these waters to die?
Let screams free and they just echo back to me
Except I can’t recognize this helpless voice that,
Pleads my own sake, pleads my own name
Is it reaching for help