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Hell is other people is a quote from a book I read a long time ago. It is a play is about three people who enter a room and there is no way out. They don't understand how they got there until they realize they start driving each other crazy. The three people are actually in hell and hell is other people. I wonder if I am in hell with Auster and Nicholas.
The school is still the same grave of hopelessness that it always is. Students who should be in class are all hanging out around the library area. Only a couple of the students are actually reading anything, but the rest are socializing about little things that they perceive as being so important. Nick and I walk into the library because Nick expects that he'll meet Auster there. I don't know why he thinks this. He probably saw Auster there before. As I walk into the library, I see so many faces that I know. Most of them are seniors like me. A teacher I had in my junior year said that a lot of seniors got this thing called senioritis, which caused a lot of laziness. The library must have been the birth of the epidemic.
I turn expecting to see Auster but it's not. It's my cousin Badger.
I don't reply to him off the wall. Badger is confused and I can see why. Nick and I aren't friends. We don't hang out together but here we are walking together as though nothing was different.
"What's been going on? I call up to the house and no one answers. Have you heard from your parents?"
I shake my head. I don't usually lie to my cousin but I feel like he is way over my head. What if he knew the truth? Saccharine killed Ditch to protect me. Was that something that he would understand?
"Since when do you two start hanging out?"
There was silence again. Nick didn't answer and I didn't answer. We hadn't prepared to be questioned by anyone. My cousin's concerns were the least of my worries at this point.
I think I see Auster?" Nick states,
"I'll go on ahead."
He leaves me here hung to dry and I am facing my cousin.
"Don't do it..."
"Don't do it..."
"Do what? What are you talking about?"
Badger leans in close to me. I haven't really seen this concern on his face for awhile but that concern is apparent now. He is looking at me with this complexity that I don't really understand yet.
He whispers into my ear, "I know you've always been...you know different. You know —I know your preference for men. I don't mind. I've never judged it. I only worry that you are getting over your head. Nick's girlfriend just did something horrible to him. He is a confused guy. I know for a fact though that he is not gay. I don't want you to put too many emotions into that."
"Is that what you think we are hanging around together for?"
I laugh a little, amused by it.
"Isn't that the reason. He's leading you on Vic. He wants someone to fill that void his girlfriend left when she cheated but it won't go anywhere. I know Nick. He's wishy washy. You can't rely on him. In the end he'll hurt you."
I thought for a moment.
It'd be so much harder to fight this then to just go with it. I decided at that moment that I'd just go with it. I'd just take the bullet.
"Ok...I'll back off."
"Good talk" he says satisfied with whatever motive he started this conversation to achieve, "I'm going to class now but if you need me call ok?"
I nod. I smile. I do everything I that I can to get him away from me as possible. Truth is he was never really there as a cousin but for some reason he'd been taking some sort of initiative lately. I wonder if he thinks maybe I need him. Does he see the desperation in my eyes?
If only he knew strange people were attacking me for something I had done in my past but couldn't remember doing. How would he react? How would he react if he knew his favorite uncle was dead?
He goes away and I sigh in relief.
I pace around the room looking for Auster and Nick while eying the students around me. Why is everyone laughing so much today? They walk around with no clear meaning but to entertain themselves. They don't think about what happens after they are entertained. What does that moment of happiness really mean? You are happy one moment and then the next moment, you can be completely filled with the opposite emotion. All happiness that man has comes to an end at one point or another. The last point is the one that will always get them. I am talking about death. The human sentiment always has that extreme high where you feel like your life has been completely satisfied. They are happy all of their lives and suddenly they are dead. What happens to all the happiness and what does it all mean now? I can give them all the benefit of the doubt and say that it will continue through the memories of their loved ones. What happens when the people who remember you die as well? Sooner or later, your entire existence goes back into the same meaningless unhappy void from which it sprang.
"Victor, we are over here," Auster says from the corner of the room.
Nick and Auster are in a relatively private section of the library. Auster seems so happy to see us. I wonder why. I wonder if he has felt such loneliness in bearing the secrets of Patra and has felt a void in which only people who share in those secrets can fill. I feel like that at moments. I felt like that when I went to Nick's house the prior evening.
Auster intentions are clearly seen in the next moments as I stand there and witness him moving an object across a table without his hands. I don't see anything at first , but Nick pulls me closer. I start to notice that the rock is moving, unassisted. My eyes concentrate on the movement. The rock does not levitate off the table, but only slides with a lot of friction towards Auster's hands. The presence of some other force of phenomenon is being witnessed through my eyes. I can see the rock and I can tell that it is moving without assistance, but the fact that I know something must be there causes my senses to create an image for this force. It is a rock, but the heaviness of which it moves makes it seem like it is a brick. He drags the pencil holder back to its original position and seems satisfied with his demonstration.
"You can control it now?" I ask.
I am a little jealous of the fact that Auster can do this. Truthfully, I don't have that much control of the wind as Auster does his earth power. I couldn't imagine just gently moving something. His power was controlled while mine was so impulsive.
"Pointless," Nick says, "The things coming for us won't be stopped by rocks."
It seems to be his key phrase. I look over to him to see that I may not be the only one who is slightly turned off by Auster's control.
Auster lifts his head, "I can move more than rocks."
I wonder what he means by that but I don't have enough time to ask. Nick is coming at it and he Nick seems to have an annoyance that I don't really get all the way.
"These people want to kill us. You do get that don't you? Like dead..."
"Wait didn't you not believe in any of this? What changed?"
I kind of understand where Nick is coming from. He circles around Auster and picks up the rock that Auster was demonstrating on. He throws it on the floor of the library.
"Victor was attacked by his father," Nick explains, exchanging a hard glare with Auster "He came to my house."
Auster turns to me concerned, "Is this true?"
He moves into me but I hold out my hand. I don't want to become a victim in all of this. I don't want to be held and comforted. I DID NOT want to become weak in all this.
"Yes," I say, from a distance, "He's dead though. My mother killed him to protect me."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Auster states, "We are in this together though. I wasn't attacked lately but I do feel like people have been watching me."
I look around.
There is a window to my left. Just as I say that a little girl pops up at the window. She is a little girl. She is so small. I wonder what she would be doing on campus. She looks maybe 6 or seven. Her eyes have dark circles around them.
She makes eye connections with me but then runs away.
"That was so creepy..." I say...
"What is there to be afraid of?" Nick states and looks over at Auster with sarcasm, "Your friend, Auster, can slide rocks across tables. All is safe now."
Auster seems to be offended because his aggression begins to show slightly, "I know it doesn't mean anything. You think I'm dumb, Nick? It is just a start, though. The power was given to us for a reason. We might be able to use it."
"Why are you so certain that something was given to us?" Nick says.
I agree, "Yeah, Patra says we stole it."
"At least I can control mine," Auster states, smiling over to Nick, "Did you even ask for your power to come when you were in those woods? Didn't it just come by itself? Did you even know what was happening?"
They were getting heated. I could feel the tension almost peeling away. I didn't blame Auster for getting a little offended. Nick had a way of sneaking up under your skin and taking jabs at you.
I don't want it to sound like I'm bitter, but I have just really lost the motivation to hear them keep arguing about these stupid issues. Patra never told us that we had to be around each other and critique one another. I feel as though I am the outsider of these two. Though Auster and I may have intellectual values, he seems to into what Patra has told us. Nick and I are just two different. I don't even understand how a person like Nick and a person like myself are allowed to share the same air. He is cool and sarcastic. I am awkward and a realist. We are so completely opposite.
"Shouldn't the girl Patra be here to struggle this as well?'' I ask, envying her absence.
We were stuck together, but she had managed to escape.
Auster looks at me and then stares out as though looking in Patra's cold face as he speaks, "I spoke to her. She wants nothing to do with it."
"Is this a choice now? What if I wanted nothing to do with it?"
"Everyone is driven to this goal," Nick explains, "Perhaps Patra may have a real reason. I don't knock anyone for what they want to do."
There he was again trying to be too cool. He was too cool to admit that we needed her help because we didn't know what the hell was going on.
"We have to stick together," Auster states, "We have to talk her into this."
I am disconcerted by how he jumps into words that symbolize some kind of unity. "We" is a term that I am not accustomed to using. I don't really want to be responsible for what that word can imply. I was born alone and I will die alone. The façade of humanity in thinking that they can ever have some kind of true companionship on earth makes me laugh.
"What did she say when you talked to her?" I ask.
Auster compliments Nick's way of thinking surprisingly, "Patra is religious. She thinks that what we did was atheist. I think she feels whatever is next, we had it coming."
"I just want to disappear," I state.
That is how I feel. I just didn't want to deal with this. While Auster and Nick were going back and forth with their morals and their beliefs I just didn't want to deal with this.
Auster shakes his head, "It isn't going to stop. These people know who we are now. We have to figure out exactly what happened last summer when we tried to swap bodies. Whatever happened, we have to fix it."
"Then what, swap bodies again?" Nick asks kind of confused.
"Switching bodies only as a last option. Maybe there is a way to convince the spirits to stop haunting us," I say suddenly, "Like maybe come to an agreement to remain in these bodies and die naturally and never hop bodies again."
"I don't think these things are up for negotiation," I reply, thinking about Ditch.
"We go to Patra. She knows things. She's hiding things," Auster says.
"What if she doesn't talk?" Nick asks, "We can't freakin force this girl to talk. She's going to do what she wants ..."
Nick stops talking all of a sudden.
We don't know what is happening at that very time. But I think I am the first one to see it. The little girl who was playing by the window has walked out into the traffic. From the window of the library I see she is standing there in the middle of fast paced traffic. She is looking over at us and just staring.
"Oh my god!" someone screams.
We are all thinking the same thing. The little girl is smiling. She is suicidal. She clearly understands what she is doing.
"They are after us," Auster states.
"What?" I ask.
"They are after us," he replies again, "Look."
We notice now the crashes. There are multiple crashes around the girl outside. It is a pile up. People are hectic not understanding what is going on. I seem to understand what Auster is stating though. One of the most important things Patra told us was that the spirits can only enter into the flesh if a soul is not already present there.
That little girl must have been a spirit who knew how to send the souls away from bodies. She had to kill them.
Before I knew it there were people coming from the crashes as though nothing had ever happened to them. A crowd had formed around the crashes and people were noticing the strange behavior. Some people were screaming out but none of them were saying anything. The people who had just crashed must have been dead and almost instantly they had been possessed. They were running...running towards the library.
"We have to go," Auster stated.
Nick grabs my hand and holds onto it, "Come on. We have to go."
"No. No more running," I state.
I was too tired to go anywhere. There was no where to go.
The people walk out from behind the library books. They are students. I have seen a few of them. Most of them are underclassmen, but I notice two seniors. At first there are just a few people, but then I realize that it seems as though a dozen or more students are approaching us. We have those emotionless eyes and they have no fear or awareness about approaching us. They walk to the back of the library towards us and each step they take invades our privacy. There is no place for us to go. The three of us are cornered in this room. I look at the window, but there are bars on it. The only way to get out of the library would be through them. I look at Nick and watch as he backs up into the wall behind me. His breathing is heavy and unmoved. Auster seems not to notice any threat. I watch the naivety of this boy as he takes steps forward towards them. He does not understand who they are. He has not seen evil clearly yet. Suddenly I see Nick trying to call him back, but he speaks too low.
"Don't go near them," Nick is saying, but Auster does not hear him.
I am watching, waiting for something to happen. Nick is too afraid to make his voice heard and I just don't want to. I am afraid of what will happen if he becomes aware of it. He will try to run and they will become excited. They will attack us with more aggression like Ditch did when I tried to run. Where is the presence of my wind? They must be possessed with the same spirit that Ditch was possessed with. They have the same detached look that he had. It seems that their eyes show that they are no longer alive.
"Auster!" I scream out, "Don't be an idiot."
"We can talk to them," Auster states back to us, "We can try to negotiate a way to stop this madness."
.I dig deep in my soul, wanting to find that wind, because I know that they are here to do what Ditch could not do. They will kill Auster if I don't!
"Stay here," Nick states.
He walked forward trying to help Auster. There it was again. Nick was so tough on the outside but once someone needed his help he was the first one there.
Auster leans over to these possessed bodies, "Look. I know we stole our elements. We retained life without knowing. I have no memories of my past actions and with all intent ask for you for forgiveness."
Why doesn't my presence care? Why isn't it here? I watch as Auster walks closer to his death. I wonder how they will kill him. These people have no weapons, but they don't seem to be in need of them. If each of them had the same increased strength that Ditch had then it should not take them long to kill the three of us. It would be so easy for them. We were far outnumbered.
Just at that moment one of the things takes a leap forward and wraps his hands around Auster's neck strangling him. More threaten to move forward but I see a flash of fire.
The fire is more like a whip warding the spirits off and even causing the one wrapping his finger's around Auster to let loose. I am surprised to see that this fire actually is coming for Nick.
It isn't barely enough though. It just scares them for a moment.
My voice opens, "Oh my..."
"What?" Nick asks, "Oh my god...Victor behind you."
I don't know what is behind me but it doesn't even matter at this point. My presence is here. I understand the wind is here and it is angry. I am not sure if it is angrier with me for questioning it or with the possessed bodies that are approaching us. It is so angry and the force behind it makes me afraid.
"He's possessed with the wind," Nick is saying, "It has his body."
"Victor, Victor!" Auster is screaming out.
Nick is trying to ask me what's wrong, but I can't answer him. The power won't let me answer him. It possesses my body and immediately I am forced to just watch. I watch what goes on as though my soul has abandoned my body and watches at a distance as my body does something. The outer-body experience scares me. I wonder if this is how it feels like when you die and your soul is being carried for judgment. I watch as my body takes steps forward because of this angry windy devil that comes. It is the northern wind. It carries my body with anger towards the people who are approaching us. Auster is asking Nick what has happened to me, but Nick is trying to save me so he barks at Auster to shut the hell up.
"You aren't alone," Nick says to me.
If I could control my body, I would laugh. Does Nick always have to try to be the hero? He reaches out and touches my hand, but my hand shoves him off! I watch at how Nick backs off in a little bit of fear from my body. I don't blame him. My body looks intimidating. My body makes hard steps as though trying to dig into the earth at every step. I know that I don't walk like that.
"You aren't alone, you hear me?" Nick repeats.
The north wind has made me look as though I am carrying a ton on my shoulders. My heavy steps bring me to confront the people and immediately I see my body doing something so strange. The wind is blowing everywhere and it looks my body is going to summon the wind.
I can see the wind blowing everywhere. I can see my body standing still as though unaffected by it. I also see that the people who have come to confront me are getting cut. The cuts line up their hands and elbows. The sharpness of my wind is lifting their bodies off the ground. Some of them are trying to hold onto the bookshelf, but they don't realize how pointless this is.
"There's so much power," Auster says, "How come he has so much?"
"We have to get him back in control of his body."
I want to say something back but I don't have the chance.
The door slams and the north wind puts pressure against the door, making certain that the door keep shut. It wants no one to escape. Books are flying across the room. I wonder; is that Auster who has lost his balance and is being thrown to the other side of the room? Doesn't the north wind notice that people are being hurt? Then I noticed Auster getting back up. He had somehow managed to maneuver the pavement below them to rise and support his feet while he is holding onto Nick. In aide of Auster's earth element, they are not being blown away.
Oh, so he can move more than just a rock after all.. Good...he is able to break the outrage of my presence.
I feel the wind disappearing as the concentration in my body disappeared. I feel my essence being sucked back into my body.
I am aware. The wind is gone. I am left with screaming and tears. I am left with a library that looked like it has just gone through a tornado. The marked men's blood stain the walls of the library and their ligaments have been scattered like missing pieces to a puzzle.
The next thing I know is Nick grabbing onto my hand. He is completely shocked, "Oh god, what was that? What was that?'
I look over at Auster wanting some sort of comfort but he doesn't really offer any.
"We have to get out of here now."
We run out of the school and just as we leave the school we see Patra. We walk out of the building and see fire trucks. As I expected, a news truck is rolling up to the front of the school. Auster and Nick have started to walk because they don't want to seem suspicious. The religious kids in the building have already formed a little prayer group. Patra is a part of them.
She is staring at us with this confused look. Her and a couple people had gathered to witness the car crash but now everyone was running to the library. All this time, Nick still has not let go of my hand. He is freaking me out. Auster notices as well. I can see his eyes darting over to Nick and then at me. I wonder what he's thinking at this moment.
"Patra we need to talk to you," Auster states, "We need to talk to you."
"She isn't coming with us," Nick states.
Patra just looks at us with a blank stare. I notice all of a sudden the cops are all surrounding us. The cops are everywhere. They are quickly gathering and running up to the library.
Auster ignores Nick and looks down at Patra, "We need to stop the attacks. I know you must have some idea about how to get these people to stop. My car is around the corner, we can go talk about it."
Patra looks at us silently. She doesn't say a word. She puffs onto her cigarette.
Nick shakes her head, "See, she doesn't give a damn about us. Now can we get the HELL out of here?"
She exchanges looks with Nick and Auster. The three of them act as though something is supposed to be said. They act as though there is an explanation that will form from this long stupid silence. She is squinting now at Nick and then at Auster. Then she looks at me. Her eyes seem to be piercing into me as though trying to find some kind of truth.
"Let's go," I tell Auster, "What are you waiting for? She isn't coming."
Auster finally listens to me after ignoring Nick multiple times. He listens to me and we drive off leaving Patra there with her silent stare. She continues to stare and watch us with her silent eyes. She is completely withdrawn and seems to almost share in the guilt that we should feel.
Nick still hasn't let go of my hand and we hop into Auster's backseat as though he was operating some limo service. Auster actually has a nice car and the back seat is real clean, except the blood Nick smears on the seats.
"Your bleeding," I say.
I look at Nick in the backseat with me. He has a couple of scars across his face from where he came in contact with the wind. They are nothing serious and all of them have stopped bleeding except his hand. They probably need some alcohol, but he doesn't seem to be in a rush to get any.
Nick laughs a little bit, "It's funny how we end up always treating each other's wounds isn't it?"
"It's like we are taking turns," I say.
Auster, in the front seat, seems to have even less injuries than Nick. He looks exhausted for some reason. I wonder if it has to do with the earth element that he summoned. I am exhausted as well. I find it hard to breath. My chest feels heavy like I was running for miles and my mouth is dry like I am about to dehydrate.
"Why?" Auster asks me, while driving, "It was stupid to go that far into it, Victor. You can't do things like that."
"I couldn't control it," I say.
He doesn't seem to hear me, "Now we have to hope that no one finds out that it was you. You'll be in jail before we can do anything."
"Didn't you hear me?" I ask him, "I couldn't control the shit. It's not my fault."
Auster is acting like some sort of control but it isn't working. My mind has gone past those limits of control. Now all I feel is a sort of looseness.
"How did it feel?" Nick asks me.
"It felt like good," I stated shaking my head, "It feels like I took up a fight against death itself ... and I won..."
I'm surprised when Nick actually looks back at me. It's so weird how I lean over and actually grab his bleeding hand and I squeeze it. Why are we having this moment? It's even more weird when Nick smiles at me and squeezes back as though he understands exactly what I mean.