“Whisper, whisper, whisper… How frugal my sanity rests.” Casey reads from her blog; a blog that’s filled with useless anecdotes, but it’s Casey’s only precious possession. For years it has been her secret, kept private in the digital world. But, what is private anyhow lately in the digital world? Everything is easily replicated including the nasty comments below Casey’s Instagram picture. ‘SLUT’ plastered like a label on a tuna can, but Casey shifts her stare to examine the popup, ‘Please confirm deletion of your account’. Her blog, her only friend, and without hesitation, ‘Confirm.’
My direction is very simple, take over and fight. I will deal with Casey’s confusion and fear later, and I slam the computer screen shut. No more nonsense. No more doubt.
“Dinner’s on the table.” Sam, the uncle, our uncle, his routine shout before exiting the house. An evening shift, and Casey and I alone in the dark hours.
“Thanks.” I always like to make her say that and listen for the footsteps to be gone. Alone at last and time to feed my retribution. A surge of motivation and I gather our phone and some snacks from the kitchen, dumping the mash potatoes and meatloaf into Zapper’s bowl, and he so easily obliges. No wonder he has gained a pound in the last week.
The streets can easily find a drunk who stumbles out from the taxicab, girls in their miniskirts giggling over some cunning yet dimwitted remark about someone’s boyfriend, and a loner hunting for her next mission.
I snap the cap off the lens and focus Jeannine’s panties. Pink. No one would have thought otherwise, but she’s predictable, just as her boyfriend, unstrapping the hooks of her bra and like a savage thrusting his tongue into her mouth.
A shutter snap and another. One assault of forensics taken. Well, not much uncommon evidence, but enough to smear someone else’s life. Jeannine is too easy, and I mean that in either way: as conquest and as my plan.
Theodore, however, has very few skeletons to rattle. I followed him a few times after school, but it’s always the same, check the mail, wipe your shoes before entering the house, and homework, before prayer and youth church gathering every Thursday. What innocence? Only if his eyes didn’t stray to the group leader, Eric. I’m not sure what would be more condemning, that Eric is a boy or that he’s thirty-five? But, there is nothing to hang Theodore on. Nothing to pin on him. Nothing that would devour his parents and cause a scandal at the school.
And then there is Genevieve, the mastermind of Casey’s demise, just because over a boy. A lying son-of-a-bitch, Derek, but he’ll get a paragraph of his own.
Genevieve, even her name sounds pretentious. I managed to find the truth about her MIA last semester. It’s not that she has travelled Europe with her older brother. First of all, as if any parent would even allow that, but she kept claiming how cool her parents are. The truth, she’s been hospitalized for bulimia; although that is not what sent her to the hospital. She threatened to jump off from the roof because her boyfriend at a time didn’t call her in twenty hours. To some extent, I can empathise, but she doesn’t deserve empathy. She deserves exorcism because as soon as she returned, she made Casey her target. Casey, an innocent classmate, whom she spoke only to once, and it wasn’t even a conversation, rather an insult. Casey became the target, all because she was the witness to Genevieve’s moment of hysteria. It’s not like Casey could have avoided it. Genevieve simply lives across the street. And there, the trigger for all of Genevieve’s ruthlessness and the infamous ‘SLUT’ comments. Yes, not only one, but many.
Derek, a simple boy, a boy Casey hardly knew as well. A boy who would do anything to be in the ‘in’ crowd. A boy who started the rumour and spread it like wildfire. A boy Casey has never even talked to, but there it was, the un-truth of Casey’s and Derek’s encounter behind the school as if that was ever a turn-on. But, the comments said it all. It started with little boasting. ‘I tapped it.’ ‘Her panties, I flung with artful skill.’ Whatever that even meant and Casey wasn’t even aware that she was the topic of the well-planned out the execution, a hanging.
It took a week for the whispers to reach her innocent and sensitive eyes and with a gust of wind, she was knocked out. She cowered in the toilets after the whispers got louder after the dots were connected and the gush of comments flooded her social media. ‘Disgusting Cunt’, was the hardest to bear.
I bear it with her, a wound we both cannot patch with a tiny band-aid. She is gushing with blood and I am gushing with anger.
Snap. Another photograph taken. Derek and his vandalism and tricks of retailing the snow, the dust, the white, whatever slang you want to put on it. He definitely found the ‘in’ crown. The wrong crowd.
Morning, the sun shines through the dusty window, but Casey wakes up unaware of my nightly savaging, what I have mastered for the glory of school hallways. Let her be in peace. The quiet time between brushing her teeth and sizzling sound of the kettle. Our uncle must be pulling a double-shift; the car is still missing in the driveway, and I am quiet, observing. She brushes the picture of her parents oh so gently, but she doesn’t cry for them any longer. She was only five when it all happened, and that was a decade ago. Wounds heal, time passes, memories fade, but they are never gone. Casey’s not gone. I’m proud of keeping her alive. Her breath a little shorter and faster, but she manages to get through another lonely morning, another uninventive walk to school, another familiar faces of schoolmates she doesn’t talk to.
Before opening that final door, she takes that final inhale and enters the chaos, the alarm. Someone shouting, ‘Get it all off! All of it!’
I have been plotting this for weeks. Images scattered across the walls, the lockers, the plank doors. Vindication, my bliss, and Casey stands there looking at the chaos, paralyzed and frightened. Only with my guidance, she makes down the corridor. The fallen crumpled photographs, like snow beneath our feet, and we lift one for an examination. Casey’s eyes bulging horrified, mine with confusion. It’s not the photograph I have taken. It’s not the photograph I have taped to the concrete and metal.
It’s a photograph of a severed arm, not an innocent pecking of teenagers. Another collection of stab wounds, like a constellation. We pick another photograph off from the floor. A throat washed with blood like a slasher movie. Then another. A body entangled with soil and branches, yet so meticulously placed as if post-mortem, for display. A monument to be admired, condemned, and a lesson. ‘Beware, the boogie man is out there, watching.’ And then a close up of poor Jeannine’s face, all smeared in dark red, only her lips remain unpolluted. Her only crime, the pink panties in the next image.
Casey averts in disgust. I avert in shock and anger. ‘Someone has upstaged me!’ One shout echoes in our cerebrum. ‘Someone has upstaged me!’ Our fingers curl to a fist. Casey’s because of the violation. Mine due to rage. ‘SOMEONE HAS UPSTAGED ME!’
All the time wasted, scouting for perfect shots, for perfect moments, to trap Jeannine and her indiscretions. All my efforts gone, and Casey walks into the washroom like a zombie. Pale like a ghost, yet in control of her stomach. Her eyes pure looking back at me. Looking back at us. My reflection, Casey’s reflection, in the end, it’s all the same.
But there, a glint of transformation. Casey’s composure shifts. The fragile quiver of her mouth twists to a smirk. The microscopic fear in her eyes turns to glee. Cold and a stone, and I do not recognize her. I do not recognize us. I do not recognize this next whisper hurling in Casey’s head, our head, ‘Hi.’
A voice I do not recognize. A voice that terrifies me. Me. My directive is very simple, take over and fight, but I cannot fight, and stand petrified looking at Casey and I, with only one question, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ Knowing that the person looking back at us is not Casey.
© Jacob Greb — 2019
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