“I know what you’re thinking, I would be thinking the same thing.” I say, He looks over at me from his spot on the stool. His expression is hard to gauge. We are in the kitchen, now sitting across from each other to talk things out. I made tea for the both of us and then explained everything. Even about what had happened in the office earlier that night that I had been with Zedd. It has been especially hard because of the funeral and Devon’s feelings about his friend being gone. Starting with a clean slate means that I have to be honest, even if it upsets him. A great weight lifts from my chest as I tell my story. I am sure of what comes next, it will be something to the effect of ‘I believe what you experienced was real to you’ or something like it. I remember taking an abnormal psychology class and how real hallucinations are to people that suffer from schizophrenia both auditory and visual experiences. The real kicker is how both Zedd and I experienced it together. “I was honestly thinking it was me and there was seriously something wrong. It all started when I moved down here so I thought it had something to do with the job and new surroundings. Then Zedd approached me after the meeting,” I pause regaining my composure, “he described to me in detail about the same things that I had experienced. I was at a loss for words.” Devon nods but remains silent.
I give him space and continue to sip my tea as I look around the sparsely decorated space. Suddenly I realize for the first time how it must look to someone with Devon’s income. There are a few things here and there, some dark blue curtains, matching place mats and a rug. I haven’t had a chance to unpack my kitchenware and décor. Granted, I am not really the sort to have a ton of pictures or knick-knacks. My mother loves them, there is every kind of bird you can imagine scattered throughout our home. Flowery prints on every bed and lace curtains. It is something you would imagine to be popular in the 19th century, especially with her antique furniture. I suppose it is her over-zealous nature that made me lean toward modern and utilitarian design choices.
Devon’s voice comes out steady and low, “From the time that I’ve gotten to know you, you don’t seem like the type to make up stories. You’ve undoubtedly got talent and in a lot of ways I saw Zedd in both your work and demeanor.” I say nothing, allowing him to talk this out. It was better to let him come to his own conclusions. “I really want to believe that somehow the two of you are crazy, but this seems like too much of a coincidence to ignore.” Devon sighs and rubs his face, “this really is a lot to think about and it’s been a long day.” I nod, “I agree. Did you still want me to come in tomorrow?” I ask quietly. His eyebrows go up, “of course, why wouldn’t I?” I squirm a little but say, “OK I just wasn’t sure, you know─” He places a finger over his mouth and smiles. “Personal feelings aside, we still have a deadline to meet. Whether the end of the world is coming or not.” Devon stands, walks over to me, and wraps me in his arms. “Besides, I think the routine would help both of us.” He squeezes me tight and then turns toward the door. I feel on top of the world.
Tomorrow will start a new day, hopefully one that won’t involve re-living excruciating death. Devon walks me to the door and then he’s gone. I hug myself standing in the doorway as I watch him leave. The past week, especially in the last twenty-four hours, has been exhausting. I latch the door and turn back to my empty living room. There’s a pit forming in my belly and a lump in my throat.
I will try and save as many people as I can. However few that may be. I will sound like one of those crazy people shouting on the streets, ‘the end is near, it’s coming for you’ or something to that effect. I know how mean people can be and more importantly how they will tear me down. At least I will know the truth and hopefully others will see that. There are four days left after today. God help us all.
I’m at my desk, and for once feeling completely refreshed. I had slept in until nine-thirty but obviously I needed it. I had managed to text Devon letting him know that I am on my way and should be there in less than thirty minutes. When I arrive at the office there is hot tea, a fruit platter, and a note waiting for me. I feel my face grow hot from all of the attention. A low whistle sounds behind me followed by some playful teasing. Since the office is mostly men, I sort of expect it to happen. That doesn’t stop me from blushing. The handwriting in the note is lovely, unlike my chicken scratch. I rarely have to write anything but I can draw like the best of them. I never dreamed that my doodles would lead me to work somewhere as wonderful as this.
I smile down at his words, ‘have a great day today, I’ll be out with meetings for most of it but I’m with you in spirit.’
I fold the piece of paper and place it back on my desk. I am touched by his thoughtfulness, he really is perfect. The guilt rises as I think about how shitty I have made Devon’s life. I don’t deserve all of this.
I work for several hours, only getting up to stretch, grab water, and the occasional bathroom break. The fruit platter tides me over all day. Devon has really overdone it, I definitely won’t be eating lunch. At some point one of the sound guys approach me to look at my character weapon designs. He offers a few sound samples and asks for my input to get the sound files right. A few moments later he leaves and I am back to work. I know I won’t be able to leave as late as I usually do but I manage to accomplish a decent hunk in eight hours.
The stream is coming up and I need to stay focused. I am really not looking forward to people’s comments. I take a sip of water and lean back in my chair. There is no way that their words will hurt more than the suffering I have endured by these hellish creatures. If I do decide to ride this out until the end hopefully I will die in an instant. I shudder rubbing my hands along my arms. At least, I want to believe that I will. If not, I’d rather take a bullet to the head, thank you. At this point I would welcome a stabbing or torture. Even if someone tortures me for days on end it will be a walk in the park comparatively.
I am torn from my dark thoughts when the little jingle from my phone alarm goes off. I grab my stylus and slide it into my bag. I will need to have something calm and familiar to relax me after the livestream. I veer off at the last second and decide the stairs are a better option. The elevator and I are beginning to have a complicated relationship.
The train ride is uneventful. I run by the convenience store and grab something quick to eat before my adventure today. I get home shortly after and put some water in the small plastic container. I heat the noodles up in the microwave and sit with the tray of veggies in front of the T.V. I remember what I brought in and set up my pad and stylus on the computer. Just as I sit down the microwave goes off. I shuffle over to it, take my food, and then slump down. My signal is great here, so there shouldn’t be lag during the stream. Hopefully I get the same signal strength when I broadcast my plea. I allow myself some food and one show. I glance at my webcam throughout it, my anxiety skyrocketing. My stomach churns and I’ve suddenly lost my appetite. The credits roll and I stare blankly at the screen, putting off the inevitable. I rise from the couch moving slower than a child at bedtime. Earlier I had been so sure of this─ that I can put myself out there for the greater good. The truth is I’m scared shitless. Even with what I’ve seen it’s hard to convince myself to do it. I feel ashamed of my thoughts, here I am lucky enough to have a glimpse of the future and all I can think about is how scared I am of public speaking. People will need time to make up their minds. Even the ones that are on the fence and may later decide I’m telling the truth. It has to be today. I stand by the desk chair and dig my nails into the cushion. Save them, my mind screams. Do it for them, they deserve to hear it. With shaky hands I slide into my computer chair and open the streaming software. I adjust the webcam for the hundredth time until I’m perfectly centered. I open the website and then look at the live stream button. It is now or never. I take several deep breaths and shove the panic down. I can’t come off as some hysterical or overly emotional woman. My mouse hovers over the live button. Here we go.
I jump and scream as my doorbell goes off. My hand has a death grip around the fabric on my chest. I curse and let out a huge sigh. Jesus I’m jumpy these days. I frown glancing back at my screen. What’s going on? I’m not expecting a delivery today. This time they both ring the doorbell and knock. I walk up to the door and peer through the peephole. Confused I turn the deadbolt and open the door.
“Hey” I say smiling up at Devon.
“Hey,” he replies. His demeanor is cool and business-like.
I’m thrown a little by his tone but quickly regain my composure. “What’s going on?” I ask. His eyes are following every detail of my face. I know that look, it’s the one your parents give you when they are trying to figure out if you’re lying. Unsure of what to do my hands reach up to my hair and I gently tug on the ends. It’s a nervous tic I’ve had for years. I really don’t like someone staring at me for long periods of time, it feels weird. “Did you want to come in, or─” “These things, these creatures that you are seeing, what do they look like?” I blink a few times and then respond, “they look similar to what a grim reaper would. Kind of cliché actually, long flowing spectral material, sort of see-through with a hood that covers what’s underneath.” I frown trying to figure out a better way to convey what they are. “It’s hard to explain. They’re cliché but not at the same time. I say see-through but it isn’t like you would think. The space sort of bends around them─ the only thing I can try to compare it to is the event horizon circling a black hole.” I shudder thinking about the horrible feelings of dread and emptiness They bring. “I’ve never seen what’s under Their veil, it’s only black.” Devon pulls out a folded piece of paper, unfolds it, and then holds it in front of me. “Like this?” The drawing is so detailed it takes my mind a moment to drink it all in. It’s beautifully horrific.
The creatures stand over piles and piles of bodies. My eyes follow the twists and turns of the streets down to the very end of the drawing. Every surface is covered with people─ they tumble from alleyways and spill from building windows. In the distance there is a massive ball of light, bathing all of the gore and destruction in its pure, white glow. They are turned toward the light, their foul essence radiating from them. Even if you haven’t experienced it, you can just feel it there─ the disgusting joy that they are taking in all of humanity’s suffering. I recoil at Their long, spindly bodies sitting on top of Their human throne. They are impossibly long, bent at impossible angles and yet not a stitch of Their bodies can be seen. I can’t help it─ the bile rises in the back of my throat but I at least manage to swallow it down. My hand instinctively goes over my mouth as I take a step back. Devon folds it back up and places it in his pocket.
He lets out a long sigh and then crosses his arms. I’ve never seen him upset like this. ” Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought. The thing is Kate, yesterday all of these were blank sheets of paper when I went in to start clearing out Zedd’s office. “All of these? What do you mean?” I ask. “There are several pages there that when you string them together make a panoramic view of our city.” His hand motions toward his pocket, “I just brought the most centralized part of the picture.” Devon’s eyes harden and he stares me down. His whole demeanor has completely changed toward me. All I can do is stand here awkwardly wondering where in the hell all of this is going and why he’s looking at me this way. “Did I do something wrong?” I say. His body stays rigid but he shakes his head and shrugs, “I don’t know. Did you?” I’m taken back at his question. “No, of course not. How would I even─” I stop mid-sentence as I realize what he is insinuating. “I absolutely have not placed those in his office if you are asking.”
He scoffs at me, “sure. You and this whole innocent wounded animal routine is getting really old. Don’t lie to me Kate.” My eyebrows go up and I move a step away from the door. “I have no idea where any of this is coming from or what you are even talking about. You brought the drawings to me and Zedd’s office─ I assume─ is locked. What possible reason would I have to even go in there?” Devon’s silent, scathing glare tells me everything I need to know. “I can tolerate a lot of things, but lying to my face and disrespecting me like this is where I draw the line. How dare you still sit here and continue your bullshit. Stop behaving like a damn child and tell me the truth now.” My eyes widen and my lips trembles at his harsh words. They cut deep. Despite my best efforts a tear spills down my face and I angrily swipe it away. “How dare me?” My anger comes out in full force, “how dare you. You beat on my door after I’ve had a shit-show of a week, accuse me of drawing pictures and putting them in someone’s office, and to top-it-all-off make it sound as if I’m looking to manipulate you somehow? Fuck this.” I turn to leave but spin back toward him, “No, you know what? Fuck you. This is exactly why I have never gotten into a relationship, this right here. It brings nothing but pain. People are such bullshit and garbage.” The tears are really coming now and I practically rip my sleeve to run it across my face. I’ll be damned if he thinks I’m crying to make him feel bad. “Look, Kate scream all you want to─” “Fuck off. You come up here accusing me of the most bizarre thing and then rip at my insecurities. For your information, I tried my hardest not to show any emotion─ but you know, having your goddamn flesh burned off and feeling every second of it kind of makes that hard.” My chest is heaving when I finish but my tears have dried. “Yeah, well the cameras say otherwise.” His hand is shaking as he holds out his phone.
There is a clear image of the back of my head as I walk toward Zedd’s office with a manila folder. The time on the footage reads 3:30 a.m. I watch as I turn the handle and walk inside. After a few minutes I walk out and turn toward the camera. Just as my face is in full view the lights go out and the camera switches to night vision. The second it took for it to do that I was already out-of-view. I grab the phone and turn it toward him. “Show me somewhere on this footage of my actual face.” He lets out an exaggerated sigh but does what I ask. “I don’t need to, it’s obvious that’s you. It’s not like someone could just walk in off the street.” He’s scanning through the recording as he talks, “Besides what reason would anyone have to do that? Unless they get some sort of sick thrill from it.” I grind my jaw in annoyance, “not someone, Devon, some thing.” He rolls his eyes as he closes out the camera. “Yeah, alright so you managed to not have your face captured on camera and the automatic lights turned off. Some glitch. But don’t sit here and try to weasel your way out of this.” My hand presses into my forehead as I try my best not to explode in anger. “Just, look at the footage. Something or someone is clearly making it look like me.” “Kate, just stop─” “I don’t give a fuck what you think at this point.” My voice cracks but I manage to get out my next sentence, “you have no idea what I have been through. What Zedd went through. It’s the most horrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.” He jumps in, his voice full of venom, “don’t you dare talk about my best friend. You were here all of a couple of weeks and what, you think that you know more than I do about him?” My shoulders sag, this is going nowhere. He will never believe me and I just can’t do any of this bullshit anymore. “That’s fine, Devon. I’m sorry that you think I am the kind of person that would hurt another human being this way.” He opens his mouth and I wave my hand, “It doesn’t matter, none of it matters. I hope that you find whatever answers you are looking for but I would like you to please leave.” He starts to say something but I close the door in his face.
I can’t believe how this day started and how it will end.
I’m too exhausted to think and I don’t want to anymore. I look over at my computer and sigh. Saving the world will have to wait until tomorrow.