90. Chelsea

Chapter 89

March 18th, 2013

Chelsea

This one we’ve seen before. It’s the garage.

“Jake? Jake, please don’t. I gotta –”

“Have to.”

“What did I do? What did I do, I don’t –”

She watched Jake hit her, and knock her to the ground and begin doing things to her that she didn’t want to see and didn’t want to think about.

“Now listen.”

“No, now shut – Chelsea, shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up!”

“Please stop. Please, Jake, please stop –”

Chelsea’s cellphone buzzed, and Izzy knew that it was the text she had sent her. She used it as a center point. She was a presence in the memory, even if she was a small one. She focused, shattered the walls of the memory and forced herself into –

May 18th, 2013

Izzy

– the scene. This memory belonged to her. The garage melted and reformed with no Chelsea in it. Jake sat on the ground and looked up at Izzy with tears in his eyes. She sat down next to him.

“Do you know where we are?” she asked him. She felt her voice solidify as it left her mouth and became a part of the memory. This was how it happened now.

“Yeah,” Jake said.

“Do you know what you did?”

He nodded. “We used to spend a lot of time here,” he said. He was crying. Blubbering. He could barely get the words out.

“We would count tiles in the dark,” he said. “We would – she would sit and watch the weather from here.” He indicated the space next to him. “She would draw these lines and connect them and start talking about what they all were. It was a bunch of math – she was … she was so fucking smart, Izzy. Jesus. She was so smart.”

She put her hand on his shoulder.

“You know, when I – when I did what I did, I didn’t mean to hurt anybody. You know? I didn’t mean it.”

He wiped his eyes.

“I should have told her she looked beautiful. I should have – Izzy, I didn’t – I mean, that’s all. I should have told her that.”

He looked down at the body of the girl he loved, as Izzy remembered it from the view from the front lawn – ripped apart and naked.

“Yeah,” Izzy said.

The memory burbled again. Chelsea was alive – Jake hit her and knocked her to the ground, and Izzy was there.

Izzy grabbed him by the shoulder with a strength she didn’t really possess.

“Izzy –” he said.

This was how it happened now.

She slammed him into the wall and smashed his head against it until it bled. He stared at her, bleary.

“Izzy? Please don’t, Izzy. Put the knife down.”

And suddenly, in the memory she was holding a knife.

“Did she beg?” Izzy asked him.

“Please –”

She stabbed him in the stomach and he crumpled to the ground. He was gasping. Sputtering.

“Oh, god. Izzy, don’t.”

She straddled his body. She grabbed him by the hair and held his head up to see Chelsea, lying there in a heap.

“Look at her,” Izzy said.

And then she was screaming.

“LOOK AT HER! LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID TO HER!”

She stabbed him over and over and over again, in the stomach and chest and neck and face. She slashed at his eyes and mouth. When the blade broke she threw it away and beat him with her fists. She grabbed him by the hair and slammed his skull into the concrete and kept hitting until her knuckles were bleeding and she was pounding viscera into the floor.

“Look at her,” she said. She screamed her heart out.

She crawls to Chelsea, who is alive and awake and shivering, and hugs her.

“He can’t hurt you now,” she said. “It’s okay. I’m here. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you.”

They’re both crying. They’re both crying.

“I’ve got you,” Izzy said. “Do you want to go outside?”

Chelsea nodded, and Izzy helped her up and steadied her as they walked into the evening.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Izzy said. “Come on.”

Chelsea took a few steps with Izzy’s help and stopped. She looked at her straight in the face.

Izzy smiled and sniffed some tears back.

“I should have been faster,” she said. “I thought I could do it, if I – I thought I could save you. This isn’t where I thought I was. I’m sorry. I thought I could. I tried.”

Chelsea hugged her, and grew steadier on her feet.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I can walk the rest of the way.”

“I didn’t want you to go,” Izzy said.

Chelsea turned to leave. Izzy fell to the floor.

“Chelsea?” she asked.

She turned around.

“I’m so tired, Chelsea. I’m – just a little bit longer. Please don’t go.”

“I’m so tired –”

Izzy saw her friend in the light of the evening and knew.

“I made this up,” Izzy said. “It’s a – this. I made it up, and you’re still – you’re still in there with him. And I made this up. This isn’t real.”

Chelsea shook her head.

The memory rumbled.

“This isn’t how it happened.” She sighed and smiled weakly. “You’re like the horse. The man I saw with the broken horse. This is – I’m coming up with this right now, but it doesn’t change anything for you.”

She reached out a grasping hand and intertwined her fingers with her best friend’s.

“So I’ll see you next time,” Izzy said. “I’m sure I’ll have more dreams about you.”

“Do you want me to stay?” Chelsea asked.

“Nah. I’m just going to rest a minute. You go on ahead. I’ll see you later.”

“What if you don’t?”

“You’ll be alright without me. He can’t – I’m so tired, Chelsea. I’m just gonna rest a minute. I’m so fucking tired.”

And Chelsea was gone.

You can’t really save anyone.

Izzy swallowed.

“Bye, now,” she said out loud, for the March night to hear her.

And then she woke up on the floor of the memory room. She sang very softly to herself.

She sang:

Oh, a storm is threatening my very life today …

She rolled over and stared at the ceiling and waited for something jolt her out of herself. Nothing came. There was something worming around inside her head, in between all the other things. Something that would have burned her horribly, if she had let it.

She held her temples, alone in the room, but the pressure didn’t go away. And then it came out of the walls around her. She was assailed by it.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It pulled her apart.

CLXXEXXHEXXXORXXXDXWXXXXXDXXAXXXXR

CXXXEXXHEXXOXKXXXDXXEXLXXDXXXPXXXX

It flooded her.

CLXXEXXHEXXOORXXXDXWXXLLXDXXAXXXXR

CXOSEXXHEXXOXKXXXDXWEXLXXDXXXPXXXX

And she knew. It was in her head.

CLOSE XHE XOOR AXD WXXLL DISAPXXXR

CXOSE XHE BOOK XXD WE’LL DXXXPXEAR

CLOSE THE DOOR AND WE’LL DISAPPEAR

CLOSE THE BOOK AND WE’LL DISAPPEAR

Close the door and we’ll disappear. Close the book and we’ll disappear.

It was the note, clear as anything.

She knew it in every language. She knew that it was fundamental. She knew that it was emblazoned on every piece of the world in big letters. She knew where ideas came from. She knew where they went. She knew that nobody else knew it. She knew that the last person to know it was her grandpa. She knew there was no time to mourn. She knew that the music man would be on his way to take it from her. She knew he would try to kill her. She knew why he wanted it. She knew exactly how terrified he was of what it said.

She knew where he would go. She knew where to meet him. She knew how to kill him.

She shook away the tiredness and stood up, and she left the room and went to see Sunday, feeling nothing but a rattling sensation all around her. Sunday looked up at her from his corner and then looked to his left. He wasn’t alone.

“Izzy,” Kyle Marshal said. “I’m supposed to tell you something. Your grandpa … your grandpa, Izzy. He’s …”

She nodded. He was dead. She had the words on the note, and Stagger Lee was coming.

He told her the plan.

Izzy nodded, and didn’t cry.

You can’t really save anyone, she thought. She held back the churning in her stomach. But she can remember them, and live a little more fiercely for them.

Close the door and we’ll disappear

Close the book and we’ll disappear

Chapter 91

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