– Path of Cheth. The Bearer of the Sangraal. The Black Brothers.1 –
“If all I hear is silence … if all I see is darkness ... if all I feel is emptiness ... How can I be sure I still exist?
Just because something in my chest keeps beating and my tired mind is still able to think?
What life is this that inhabits me, leaving me lost and unfeeling,
leading me towards inexistent worlds as I desperately try to escape reality?
In truth, if I feel nothing, and nothing fulfills me, then I can only be dead, dreaming about life, in this eternal sleep."
The days kept coming and going unnoticeably.
My new routine included following through with the essentials to keep up appearances. I replied to my mother’s e-mails on a daily basis, making up all sorts of things and keeping Gabriel’s prolonged absence a secret. I made sure to keep my school tasks in order, so teachers wouldn’t worry about me, which could lead to unwanted phone calls to my mother in Paris. I always had lunch with my friends, shamelessly taking advantage of my shy social image. I smiled a lot and laughed opportunely at all the jokes shared. Of course, I diligently answered and re-answered all the questions regarding Gabriel’s whereabouts. All in all, the most difficult person to deceive was Michael.
In the beginning his presence was the only thing able to warm me up, to breathe a spark of what I’d been back into me, and his presence helped me forget everything else. Being the bright sun that he was, all I had to do was turn towards him and be his mirror, reflecting his emotions and living through him. And so I smiled when he smiled, replied when he asked, accepted when he offered. But, as time went by, like everything else inside me, even my ability to be his mirror began to fade, as everything in me became dull and gray.
The knowledge that I would end up unable to hide my darkness from him made me restless, and anxious ... in the beginning. But ultimately even that disappeared and I couldn’t feel anything. Of course I still tried, as his worried expression became more common, but I just couldn’t care. And so I watched indifferently as his anguish at his own inability to help me grew deeper day by day. Our moments alone were more silent every day until even his bright smile started to fade as well. Rationally speaking I could only wonder why he kept insisting on waiting for me, or escorting me home, when I was obviously such sour company and there were dozens of other girls, more cheerful and funnier than I, fighting for his attention. However, even when I told him I didn’t mind if he’d rather spend his time with his friends, the only reply I got was a hurt and indignant expression, and the absurd confirmation that there was nothing he treasured more than my company.
On the other hand, my house, although certainly empty and silent, was constantly filled with sounds, voices and footsteps. The few first times I heard them I jumped to my feet and ran downstairs, looking everywhere, until I didn’t remember what I was looking for anymore. Then I learned that those sounds only existed in my head and so I started to ignore them, ironically aware that hearing things could never be a good sign.
From time to time, when the black precipice inside me threatened to overtake me, I’d untie the ribbon around my wrist to make sure I hadn’t gone completely insane; that all I remembered from before had really happened. The mark over my skin looked paler, not as raw as I recalled it, but to my relief it was as visible and perceptible as it had always been.
My nights too, became increasingly chaotic. The nightmare that, like clockwork, woke me up every night, started to finally imprint on my memory. At first there were only unrelated images, too fast and too blurred to make any sense. But, eventually, I started to understand that it always took place in the same scenario where light could not really reach and the air was old and cold. Ferocious screams filled the air and lightning bolts blasted against the walls, or was it the sound of metal clashing against metal? I was always terrified, but, strangely enough, never for fear that something might happen to me. There was something I urgently needed to reach, something really important, but I just couldn’t move. And then a ray of light would strike me down, leaving me blind and drowning in pain, and I would wake up. After that, no matter what I did or how much I tried, I could never go back to sleep. The pain, however, was very much real, slashing me from my left shoulder to the right side of my waist; my skin burning raw as if I’d really been cut, even though no mark remained to prove it had been anything more than a nightmare.
Too aware of what my recurrent dreams meant, I couldn’t help wonder if that was what awaited me ... death, since I was sure no one could ever survive an injury like that.
Besides those few things, nothing else mattered. I hadn’t cooked anything since Rachel had left, making sure our fridge and freezer were stacked with food. I truly had no appetite whatsoever, and if I did eat it was because I knew I needed to in order to function.
I also lost the ability to control time and, when I woke up from my frequent mental absences, hours would have gone by while I just sat somewhere, my mind completely blank.
The living room had become practically forbidden and, normally, I’d only go there when I couldn’t convince myself that what I’d just heard wasn’t real.
When I was able to grasp a few moments of clarity, I’d look at myself, at what I’d become, with disdain. In the end, I always wanted what I didn’t have. But, when I asked myself what it was that I really wanted, the answer was always the same — nothing. If before I’d wished for Michael’s affections, now no will filled my empty heart.
Ultimately it was as if Gabriel had really taken my Soul with him, which, on the other hand, didn’t sound all that improbable. After all, she rightfully belonged to him. The world around me had lost its color and my life had remained incomplete and empty of any kind of meaning. The weeks followed each other in a constant succession of days, the days in a constant succession of hours, the hours in succession of long, slow, never ending minutes. All the same, all unchanged ... all empty.