One of my many neuroses is an OCD-like organizing of my computer files, separated by year. I happened to be browsing some of the old folders, in this case from 2003, and I stumbled across this short I had written for a high school english assignment. I found it interesting enough to post. #throwbackthursday.
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I remember the thunder and the rain hammering the roof like an invading army. The creaks and groans of the old wood like nearby battle cries. The windows blocked out the chill air, but were unable to stymie the darkness, which flowed in thick as smoke. The swaying, flickering, light cast by an overhead chandelier sent our huddled shadows dancing across the walls. I remember watching them move, as if they were strangers circling us, preparing to close in. Unbroken by the fearful barking of a dog forgotten outside, or the screech of tires as somebody rushed home, the hypnotizing rhythm of the rain and thunder threatened to consume the four of us entirely. We were usually talkative when we were together, but this evening we all sat silently, as if we somehow anticipated the moment that was about to arrive. What I don’t remember is what we did earlier in the day, or how we arrived in that room on that dark night. Nor can I resolve precisely what came after. That night exists for me only as the exaggerated minutes that preceded her confession.
Emi was looking particularly glazed; I suppose I should have recognized the slight frown on the edges of her mouth and her vacant eyes, and known something was very wrong. Regardless, we would all soon find out. Somewhere outside, lost in the darkness, a tree must have fallen. We all jumped when we heard the crash. I looked from Karen to Sarah, and from Sarah to Emi. It was in this moment as Emi’s expression was thrown into harsh relief, the darkness momentarily suspended by a burst of brightest blue, that I saw written on her face what I had failed to see before. I remember Sarah asked her if everything was all right, but Emi didn’t answer. The rain crashed down harder than ever, and the street lights outside flashed angrily and went out. Perhaps it was because she had planned to tell us, or perhaps something in the darkness of this desolate evening resonated with the weight upon her heart. I can’t say for sure, but I remember her eyes locked to mine, and there was a look of watery supplication I had never seen before. And a darkness, even darker than the cold air that surrounded us. Remembering the emptiness in those eyes still makes me shiver. She had stiffened and started speaking. At first her voice seemed stuck in her throat, but it finally found its courage, and she said she had to tell us something. She hesitated, and I found myself wishing she would not continue, but it was only a moments pause before she did. I have forgotten her exact words, but I remember the images her words summoned as if they were burned into my mind’s eye.
She told us how her boyfriend had called her to his house on that stormy night the previous weekend. Intent upon surprising him, she had arrived early, only to find a surprise of her own: he was there with another girl, sending her out into the cold after a loving embrace, then gesturing for her to depart before Emi arrived. There was a pause in her story, but none of us responded. Her words didn’t seem to settle, rather they hovered uncomfortably in the air between us, the darkness all around them. Emi explained that she had confronted him, and in her temper, she had taken his gun from his study and turned it on him. Apparently they struggled, and as he tried to fight her off, he cut her arm with a kitchen knife. Emi rolled up her sleeve and showed us. A flash of lightning timed itself dramatically and illuminated a jagged swollen cut across her forearm. Karen put her hands over her mouth and made a whimpering sound. Sarah looked like she was crying. I didn’t know what to think. But the rain hammered on, so I just sat and listened. The details are lost… I do not know if I’ve blocked them, or if she never told us, but as the struggle escalated, she shot him. At this point she was trembling all over, and her voice trailed off. So there it was: my best friend had killed someone. With a seeming crescendo, thunder erupted directly overhead and as the lightening retreated, the darkness was set free. But suddenly the darkness did not feel oppressive, it felt like a void. We were no longer surrounded, instead we were isolated afloat in nothingness, our senses paralyzed and blank. Sarah sat perfectly still, dim and distant lights glistening on her wide eyes. Karen turned to me but was unable to speak.
Something else was different between us now. The emptiness was leaking into my body from the surrounding void. I felt scared and lost; I didn’t know what to do. Karen asked Emi if she had called the police. Fighting to maintain her composure, Emi merely shook her head but did not speak. The thoughtful silence returned, and we all sat still, now four strangers in the dark. I saw the glimmer of silent tears running down Emi’s face when she sniffled. She had killed someone. Was she now a different person? Was I? I remember a part of me wanted to comfort her, but another part held me back. I saw Karen, too, looking at her differently. Sarah was looking the other way. The void was growing larger, a separation between us four as we sat there in the darkness, the blood from this dark secret seeping through us.
I don’t think any of us spoke for the rest of the evening; there was nothing to say. I don’t know if I was different or if Emi was different. It was a strange thing, that the actions of a few moments of emotion could change everything for her and for us. A few days later I believe Sarah tipped the police, and Emi was arrested. It’s funny how finite the world is. One moment things seem static: boundaries seem clear and reality is well defined. But then in the time it takes for rain to descend, a moments darkness changes everything. Sometimes I am able to feel bad for her, or at least for the person I knew and cared about before that night. I never found out if she was the same person. If the person I thought I knew was a lie, or if the darkness was never a part of her, but merely exploited her in a moment of weakness. Is evil real, or are we all arbitrary victims of inscrutable circumstance and inexorable darkness?