The Day Before

5 min
Image of 2018
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The day before, I woke up. Everything was still. The only movement came from the dust particles, floating through the filtered sunlight. There was no rush, so I took time to stretch my tired limbs before leaving the warmth of my bed. It was quiet in the flat, which I found surprising, even though I lived alone. I made my way through every room, leaving all the doors open, and the blinds drawn. I craved the noise of the city, something to cut the silence in half. However, even with every window pushed out as far as possible, the world stayed still. It occured to me that I couldn’t hear myself breathing. In fact, I wasn’t breathing at all.

I stumbled down the fire escape, barely stopping to dress myself. The streets, once vibrant veins that wove through the buildings, coursing with the bustle of people in a hurry, stood empty. Everything had flat, muted colors where they should of been vibrant. As I descended, I got glimpses into empty apartments, simply four walls and a ceiling, nothing like the whimsical normality of over furnished homes that I saw only yesterday. I sprinted across the empty sidewalk. After scouring the nearby blocks, the feeling of loneliness sunk into my chest, the weight grounding me to the pavement. I got a glimpse of motion in the corner of my eye. I spun around to see a girl, no more than fifteen years old, staring at me on the other side of the street. I tried to call out to her, but my voice died in my throat, and I could only gasp. She started to cross the street, swimming through the thick silence that coated the air. She stopped on the medien, and only then did I recognize her. Her face, familiar from the pages of newspapers that blew past on windy days, was the face of the girl they found laying in bed, surrounded by empty pill bottles. She looked at me now, sad eyes and pale skin, held together with a white dress. The one they buried her in. She held out a hand to me. I hesitated, trying to comprehend how she was here, how I was here, and how no one else was.

Her hand was cold. I held it like I would hold an egg, gentle with the fear of squeezing too hard and breaking it. As soon as I made contact with her, she turned and lead me across the street. We ducked through alleyways, traversing the hidden world of the city’s shadows. We stopped at last, in front of a tall and decrepit brick building. After a moment, the girl pulled me forward, through the front door. The wooden door, garnished with chipped paint and cracks, was a portal. We were transported into a warm home, the air sweet with the smell of fresh bread. I heard a call, the first sound since I woke up. The voice, floating without attachment, called out to wash up for dinner. I heard footsteps running upstairs, presumably children rushing to the staircase. I stepped forward, and my hand slipped out of the girl’s. I turned to her, and saw she had no intention of following. Her dead eyes were glassy, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. She shook her head, omitting me from comforting her. I walked cautiously into the kitchen, stopping in the doorway. A worn wooden table supported dishes of food, surrounded by a family. Two young children fought over a slice of bread, while their parents sat at the other end, holding hands in silence. In the distance between the children and the adults, a single chair sat unused. I made my way to the table, clearing my throat to get attention. They didn’t hear me. I didn’t hear me. My throat stayed silent, and I stayed invisible. I noticed a wall of framed photos behind the mother. Upon closer inspection, I realized the house, the family, the unused chair, they all once belonged to the girl in the hall. I gazed into each frame at her, her smile and body warm with the saturation of life.

The creaking of the table drew me away from the pictures. The mother had gotten to her feet, hurrying out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Following behind, quiet as a breeze, was the girl in white. I trailed close behind, shyly, afraid of disturbing them. Upstairs was a small hallway, with four open doors, and one closed. I reached out to the doorknob of the shut door, and it opened without my touch, revealing the mother, weeping on the floor. The room was blue. Not a happy blue, but melancholy paint on drywall, sealing the place in time. Everything was orderly. The bed made, the desk cleaned. Yet, everything was wrong. A layer of dust choked the room. It was too still. On the floor, next to the mother, the girl lay on her side crying. She reached out to tuck a loose hair behind her mom’s ear, but her hand simply passed through like a ghost. She saw me, and got up. She put her hand on my cheek, closed her eyes, and concentrated. This is what happens, a voice cried out in my head. Please remember that this is what happens. Tears fell freely from both of our eyes, meeting in small beads on the carpet.

Suddenly, I was no longer in the blue room. I was standing in the street once more. I whipped around, trying to get my bearings. My heart lept without warning, hitting my ribs hard. I fell to the pavement in front of a puddle. I searched it for my reflection, but saw nothing but the sky above. I lifted my gaze to the city around me, and found myself far from alone. I scrambled to my feet. People stood, completely motionless. Some stood in store fronts, and some in the middle of the street, watery eyes staring into apartment windows. I ran to the person closest to me. I grabbed his wrist to pull him from a cafe door. He turned to face me, broken eyes searching mine. I gasped at his familiarity, putting a hand over my mouth. The memories came in flashes- late nights in the back of cars, to trips around the ferris wheel, to holding hands in the park, to sitting alone in class, to the phone call that ruined my life, to the funeral. I threw myself into him, trying to hug life back into the stiff body. He put his hands over mine, his brows furrowing as he focused on the details of my face. I love you. I will never stop loving you. Please don’t do this. I opened my mouth dumbly, and closed it again. This is what happens. Please remember that this is what happens. His voice rang in my head, but I was mute. I was unable to communicate how much I missed him, how much I needed him. He dropped his hands and returned his focus to the cafe. I turned with him, and saw a girl cleaning the windows. I squinted past the glare of the sun, and saw that it wasn’t any girl, it was me. I was laughing and talking with an old man who sat alone in a booth, sipping a drink. I bounced back to the counter, taking orders and smiling. I looked past a customer and his daughter, directly at myself, my sad eyes searched for him outside the window, knowing he wouldn’t be there. I stopped watching myself, my heart aching. I realized that all the hollow shells of the broken people were gone. The city, once again, had died and faded away.

And then it was dark.

And then I woke up.

I threw away the blankets, and fled my room. It was silent. I struggled with the lock of a window, my hands shaking. I finally opened it, and pushed it open. The noises of the city flooded my apartment, and life was normal. I returned to my room, and found a piece of paper on the floor. I felt sick. It was my note, the one I planned to leave by the window I would choose to leap from tonight. It was meant for my parents as a sort of apology. I crashed to the floor, screaming and sobbing at the weight of it all. After I calmed down some, I grabbed the phone. I dialed the number I knew so well, the one I could enter despite the wall of water blurring my vision. It rung twice, before the voice on the other line picked up. I opened my mouth, all of my fears falling from my lips. I was shaking and uncertain and afraid of judgement. But I thought back to everything that just happened. I took a deep breath, and in one sentence taxed the extent of what little courage I had.

“Mom? I need help. I’m so sorry.”

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