Behind the Dark Curtain
Rushing home after my appointment this afternoon with the psychiatrist, I feel like this is all finally getting to me. The hurt, the pain, the depression. My logic tells me that nothing could have prevented Heeroís death, that it was what it was, and that is a freak accident, but the voiceÖ it looms in the back of my mind, insistent on making me crazy. It isnít even that I donít know itís all bullshit Ė itís just that my emotions are out of control, and the more I try to put Heero behind me and get on with my life, the more the voice makes me feel the hurt. And the trouble is too, itís my voice, or at least it sounds like my voice, and not like some other "thing" thatís residing in the folds of my brain, trying to make me nuttier than I already am after the childhood that Iíve had.
I slam the front door closed behind me and run upstairs to the bedroom. Changing out of my uniform and into a pair of old gym shorts and a T-shirt, I notice that my answering machine has a message. I hit play, and Quatreís face graces the screen. Heís checking up on me again. I realize that I feel pretty shitty these days, but is it that obvious, that he keeps calling every day or two? I should be thankful that I have friends like Quatre and Trowa though. Wufei, too. Because only they know me well enough to know whatís going on in my head, or to know what weíve all been through in the past, both collectively and on our own. Yes, then that explains why Quatre is always so worried about you, doesnít it? I feel myself smirk listening to the end of his message, though the slight smile never does reach my lips.
Dialing up Quatreís number, I find him in his office at his home here on the Earth. Thatís part of the reason why Iíve been seeing so much of him lately; because he hasnít been back to the colony since Heeroís death. I still donít know if thatís because of me or not, but the question soon leaves my mind, being filed away under "unimportant."
"Cat." He smiles at me, as always, even though his eyes say that heís deeply saddened to see me in my current state.
"Duo, Iím glad you called back."
"I always do."
"How are things going? The therapy sessions?" His sea-green eyes glisten like jewels against the backdrop of his fair skin and almost-white hair.
I guess Iíve taken too long to try to answer him, because he starts again.
"I have business in Brussels over the next couple of days. Can I come by?"
He means can he stay for a few days, so he can force me to eat and make sure Iím doing all right. I know he just wants to check up on me, and though I really donít want any company, I tell him yes anyway. "You know you donít have to ask," I say, my eyes distant as they stare through him. I know he can sense how out of sorts I am this afternoon, so thereís no point in telling him that I really just want to be alone.
"Good. I was just finishing some things here, and then Iíll be leaving straight off. I was planning on getting there by about eleven, if that isnít too late."
"Itís fine, Cat. Iíll be here." Itís not like coming in late is going to disturb all the sleep that Iím not getting.
He smiles again, a sympathetic, disheartened smile. "Great. Then Iíll see you in a few hours."
Clicking off the machine, I terminate the call, then figure itís time for a shower before Quatre gets here. As stressful of an afternoon as its been, hopefully it will relax me.
Letting the water run until its hot, I strip of my clothes and unbraid my hair before getting in the shower. Once inside, the steaming water almost sears my skin, but I donít adjust it. Iíve found that my senses are so dulled lately, I need overkill to feel anything anymore. Not until my skin is bright red and on the verge of being scalded do I turn down the hot water so that the temperature is at a more comfortable level.
Shampooing my hair, I remember how Heero used to love to stand behind me in the shower, washing it for me. He loved my hair, to run his fingers through it, and watch the soap and water slide off it as I rinsed it. He used to tell me that my hair was very sensual, and that it turned him on. It must have, because frequently the hair washing sessions lead toÖother things. God, I miss you so much, Heero. Itís times like this that I miss him the most, and I feel the sadness descending upon me again as I rinse out my hair. Youíre fault. The voice is back. YOUíRE fault! I startle myself and nearly slip and fall in the shower. Itís time to get out before I really do.
After towel-drying my hair and putting my shorts back on, I go back to the bedroom and sit, the sadness still with me. Thoughts of the afternoonís session with the shrink return to me, as does the depression that Iíve begun to associate with the unsuccessful attempts that we are making to get me over Heeoís death. Iím so alone without you here, Heero. A first sob shudders through me, opening the gateway for the rest of them, and soon Iím back to the misery that has been my every waking moment since that day almost a little over a month ago that I just canít seem to let go of.
Itís then, lying back on the bed and still crying, that I notice that presence again, the same presence that I felt during the wake and somewhat during the burial, the same presence that I know has been with me on and off since Heeroís death. Itís back. I feel its heaviness surround me and for a moment I involuntarily hold my breath. Iím lying on the bed, on my side the way I like to, the way I used to lay when Heero would put his arm over me, and that sensation is against me the way he used to be. I want to think that itís really you, Heero, but I donít know what to think anymore. I think Iím going crazy over you, is what I think. The feeling is warm and solid, the way he used to feel, and as much as I think it should comfort me, it unnerves me instead. Sobbing silently, I remain lying there, staring straight ahead at the wall, enveloped in my imagination, and my mind is screaming while my body remains still.
Itís almost a quarter to midnight when Quatre arrives. He has a key; I let him have one back when he and Trowa were here for the week, and I never asked for it back. Maybe it was my own instinct telling me that the day would come that heíd need to get in by himself. Convenient right now, because I donít have to get off the bed. Regardless, I hear him downstairs, bringing his bags in, shutting the door behind him, and then ascending the stairs. He finds me sitting up, leaning back against the headboard again, my hair a mess since I never did get back up to blow it dry, and I guess the look of me is concerning to him. Either that, or heís been receiving the waves of pain that have been radiating off me the entire couple of hours Iíve been lying here with that feeling around me. He comes close and sits at the edge of the bed.
"Duo?" Iím not right tonight, and he knows it. I can tell by his tone. Maybe he had a premonition about me today or something, and thatís why he decided to come out. Either way, I think he definitely realizes that Iíve been a loose cannon all these weeks, and Iíve been just holding it all back, trying to avoid that moment when I canít hold it back anymore.
"Hey Cat," I answer with a shaky voice. My eyes remain fixed on something, nothing, on the wall across the room. He reaches out to touch me and I suck in a breath as I flinch away from him. I donít know why I did that, but it startles us both.
"Duo, what can I do?"
"Nothing, Cat. Itís impossible to bring back the dead. We both know that."
Quatre frowns. "Iím worried about you, Duo."
For a few minutes we just sit silently. He studies my face and my body, seeing how swollen my eyes are, and how thin Iím getting, and he probably notices that my hair is getting dull and brittle as well. I never had split ends before this, but I donít fuss over myself the way I used to, either. I feel a little embarrassed now, that Iíve let myself go like this, but not enough to influence me into doing anything about it.
"It came back, you know. Itís here right now."
A sadistic smile graces my lips as I say, "Heeroís ghost. It visits me, you know." At this point I realize how ludicrous I sound, but the thing is, Iím perfectly serious. I suspect that Quatre knows this too, that Iím being visited by Heeroís ghost; either that or he just isnít going to doubt it right now, because he doesnít argue the point by trying to tell me that Iíve gone loopy.
"Duo, when is the last time youíve eaten or slept?"
"Oh, I dunno. I ate a doughnut this morning. I canít sleep much these days. Canít fall asleep, ya know? Every time I start to get groggy it all comes rushing back Ė the fact that Iím lying here alone and heísÖ" I hiccup, holding back a sob, and cut myself off.
"Can I please make you something?" Quatre is pleading to me with his eyes. "Look, I havenít eaten tonight either, so Iíll make something for both of us."
"Sure," I tell him, not really knowing whether I will actually consume what he makes, but I can at least try. We get off the bed and begin to head downstairs to the kitchen.
Quatre makes us bacon and fried eggs and toast. We arenít very talkative tonight, either of us, and I just watch quietly as he works at the stovetop, from my seat on one of the stools at the center island. My face is drooping, as is my hair, and I just rest my chin on a propped palm, only partially aware of everything thatís going on while my mind wanders elsewhere. Quatre takes a couple of dishes out of the cabinet and starts to divide up the food that heís cooked when I suddenly gasp loudly from the sensation of being touched again. It startles Quatre and the plate in his hand drops to the floor, shattering. He immediately hurries to start picking up the shards of broken china.
"I have it! Duo, leave it, Iíve got it," Quatre says, wanting me to stay seated where I am, but I have to get up to help. I have to get away from the creepiness that has just come over me.
"Let me get it," I say, rushing forward to start picking up pieces of glass that are scattered all over the kitchen floor.
"Duo, no! Youíre notÖ"
Before he can even finish his statement I realize that Iíve walked barefoot onto the broken glass. I donít even feel it, and if it isnít for the blood beginning to appear in little smears and droplets on the tile, bright little pools of my life draining out onto the stark, cold floor, I would never know any differently. Quatre grabs my arm and pulls me out of the kitchen, pushing me down on the sofa. There is bright red blood flowing from a group of tiny cuts on the bottoms of my feet and looking at them, I become distraught, my emotions unraveling now. Feet bleed a lot from little cuts; looks impressive at first, though the lacerations usually close up quickly.
"Shit," I say with exasperation as my heart begins to beat fast.
"Wait here and Iíll get something for that. Hopefully there arenít any slivers of china stuck in the cuts," Quatre says as he disappears up the stairs, reappearing with peroxide, a pair of tweezers and a box of band-aids from the medicine cabinet.
"God I feel so stupid." I lift up my right foot that is dribbling a bit of blood and blot it with the paper towel that Iím handed.
"Just relax. Everything is fine. Youíre under a lot of stress and sometimes that causes us to do stupid things. Makes you bleed more, too."
Good old Quatre, always able to find the sensible part of any crazy situation. We sit, taking care of the tiny lacerations on the bottom of my feet in silence. My face is reddening now Ė I can feel it from the inside of my skin Ė and I detect an outburst coming on. Then, seemingly out of the blue to Quatre, I just lose it. From nowhere the emotion rips through me, and within seconds Iím close to hysterical, wiping off the bottom of my left foot now as the blood is mingled with salty tears. I think this is the nervous breakdown Iíve been staving off for so long. Itís finally here, brought on by a broken dish and some cuts on my feet. I really feel like Iím going insane with the internal hurt now, and no matter how hard I try to pull myself away from the edge of the black hole that Iím about to fall into I canít do it, and down I go.
In my lack of sanity, I push Quatre violently away from me and get up. He thankfully lands on the TV chair next to the sofa. Pacing the living room now, Iím looking for something to take my deep-rooted anger out on as I mumble to myself about being miserable and not being able to push my emotions down any longer. In my tearful rage, and for a lack of anything else to take out my frustrations, I go to the front door. Throwing every ounce of energy I can muster toward it, I haul off and release my closed fist into the back of it, since I know the solid wood of the door can withstand the hit. Howís that for clarity. Making sure I hit the door in stead of sending my fist through the drywall and into the neighborís place? The sickening wet crunch as the top of my hand breaks from the contact can be heard across the room, but I donít feel a thing. I just canít move my fingers now, and I stare at them, watching as the skin on the top of my hand turns bright red where the break is.
Quatre rushes over, trying to talk some sense into me, and I overhear myself screaming back at him, but almost as if Iím not in my own body anymore. I can almost see myself interacting with him, rather than feel it, like Iíve stepped out of myself. Heís trying to tell me that Iím not helping anything with what Iím doing, that Iím only hurting myself worse than Iíve already been hurt, and that Heero would never approve of me beating myself up the way I was doing. Youíre fault, Duo. Donít forget. The voice returns, clouding my judgment even more, and I turn on Quatre, yelling my wrath out to him.
"Donít you get it, Quatre? Donít you?" I scream. His face is close to tears himself as he tries to get me to calm down. I feel pangs of guilt within me, for upsetting him after heís been such a good friend through all of this, but Iím on fire now, and nothing can stop my rage. "He was EVERYTHING I had, Quatre. I have nothing now. Nothing. How would YOU feel if it were Trowa? Better yet - how would TROWA feel if it were YOU? " My last comment hits him like a slap in the face, and he backs off, until I finish my ranting. Then rather suddenly, my energy spent, I lean against the door cradling my broken hand against my chest and sink to the floor, cornered between the door and the wall.
"I canít live like this, Cat. I just canít. I canít take the pain anymore," I tell him, sobbing. Iím vaguely aware of him getting up, then returning a few minutes later. When he does, he brushes my hair away from my eyes, like Heero used to do, and a shiver runs through me as our eyes meet.
"Drink this. Youíll feel better." Heís kneeling before me, holding the glass up, waiting for me to take it.
Everyone always wants you to drink something to make you feel better. Well, unless itís something so strong that it resembles lighter fluid, it isnít going to make me feel any better, but I take a sip anyway. Its iced tea. I take a second gulp, my uninjured hand shaking badly as I try to hold the glass to my lips.
"I hurt too much, Cat. All my life all Iíve ever done is hurt. I thought I was finally done hurting, Cat, but Iím going to feel this hurt until the day I die. I canít do this anymore! God, Heero! WHY!" I sob uncontrollably.
"Shhh," Quatre says, trying to quiet me. "Finish the tea. Youíre dehydrated from crying so much," he tells me. Sounds reasonable enough. Canít run out of tears now, can I?
Having the sudden need to comply with whatever it is that Quatreís telling me to do, I down the drink in a few quick swallows. Once I finish the glass he takes it from me, then just kneels before me as I stay huddled in the corner by the front door. He holds me, rocks me as I bury my head against him, and Iím vaguely aware of him whispering things to me about feeling better and getting some rest, and how I have every right to be so upset, but its taking the life out of me. Heero dying took the life out of me. My hand is throbbing, but in a few minutes time I donít notice the discomfort as much. My eyelids start to get heavy, and the urge to sleep is getting strong. In a little while I donít notice anything at all.
Tuesday, September 21, AC 203
Iím taking a minute to write here, though I really donít feel like it, nor do I know what to say. These therapy sessionsÖ I know theyíre supposed to help, but all its doing is making it more obvious that I canít function anymore. The more we talk about the past, the more we uncover how unstable I really am, despite the number of years I kept it together and remained strong so that Heero could be the one leaning on me, the more it becomes obvious that Iím seriously lacking in the upstairs department.
Tomorrow makes a month since Heeroís death. I havenít decided whether to celebrate by getting totally bombed off my ass again, or by just staying in bed with the memories all day. Oh right. I have to go to work. That wonít work. Looks like I need to stop by the liquor store on my way home then, since we seem to be out of Absolut, although I guess Southern Comfort is equally good for this kind of celebration. Oh lookÖI said "we" were out of Vodka, forgetting for a split second that there IS no "we" here anymore.
I think Iíd better stop here. The answering machine in the bedroom is beeping, and I know itís probably Quatre. He hasnít called in a day. Itís time. If I look too upset, the next thing I know, heíll be down here for the rest of the week, trying to make me dinner and get me to smile a little bit.
Turning myself away from the scene at the condo, I donít think Iíve felt another pain as deep and strong as the one Iím feeling now. I go back to Treize, who is waiting for me, seated inside the warmly-lit cottage. My cottage. The one from my dream of growing old and carefree with Duo at my side the whole time. Our cottage, nestled in the woods.
"HeeroÖ" He begins, and I raise my hand to stop him. I already know what heís going to say, and I already know that heís right, so I stop him.
"Iím not going back again."
Treize nods his approval. "It sometimes takes hurting the ones we love a little more before we are finally prompted to accept things the way that they are."
"I just have one question though," I say, sitting myself down beside the former leader of the OZ organization, the man who was at one time my enemy, and who now seems to be my best and most trusted ally.
"Why is it thatÖ why is my presence there so upsetting to him? I would thinkÖ"
"One would think that their presence would be comforting to the surviving loved ones?"
"Yes. Exactly." My eyes are trained on Treizeís as he attempts to answer my question.
"Itís a difficult thing, mingling with the living, Heero. You have to understandÖspirits, our spirits, have an unnerving effect on the living. Some of them, such as your friend, the former pilot of the Sandrock gundamÖ"
"You mean Quatre?"
"Yes," Treize says, nodding."Quatre Raberba Winner. I never knew it until passing to this side, but he has quite an intuitive ability, doesnít he?"
"Yes, he does, but then why doesnít he know Iím there when I am?"
"I think he does."
I was surprised. "He doesnít show it."
"He doesnít show it because it probably isnít anything more than a slight feeling to him, which could equally be his emotion or his thought creating that feeling in him. Duo is the one that you were the closest to, therefore, he is the one who is going to be most affected by your presence. Unfortunately though, most of the living are unable to comprehend everything that is going on around them on other planes. Especially when one considers how distraught he is, still suffering from your loss." Treize brings his hands together into a steeple, holding his fingers before his mouth, his elbows propped on the arms of his chair.
"What about all that guardian spirit stuff, and good hauntings and all of that? What about all the accounts of people communicating with the spirit world?" Heero knew there were accounts of this sort of thing in the newspapers every week Ė about psychics and everyday people who claim to have been visited by the spirit of a loved one, or even by the past owner of their home. Who ever knew that it was all the truth!
"Those spirits are lost souls, Heero. They either donít know they are deceased, or they have lost the way to Heaven. You, on the other hand, are neither. You have passed into the afterworld easily, therefore, the universal order knows that this is where you belong now."
"I donít understand," I say, readjusting myself in my chair. I glanced around the room noting all the comforts of my previous home that Iíd brought here with me, to my afterlife. It was still amazing to me that everything here could be so real, when all it was, was my imagination making it so. Honestly, this was all a bit much for my normally logical thinking mind, though I was doing my best to accept it all. What choice did I have but to accept it all? Here it was, right in front of me. Evidence, if I ever needed any.
"The human soul is different once it has passed through here. Consider it a failsafe, if you will, that you remain here, in everlasting peace, since your job thereÖ" Treizeís eyes motioned outside the window briefly, "Öis finished. Thatís why to the living, though they can feel our presence, it doesnít feel welcoming to them. It feels cold. Sad. Not like the way we used to feel around them before. Itís natureís way of ensuring that you realize here is where you need to be. You have work to do here now."
"But, Duo recognized that it was me. Heís even told Quatre that heís sure itís my ghost coming to him."
"He doesnít know it for sure. Thereís no way to let him know for sure, but even if there was, he is in enough emotional turmoil right now as it is. Feeling your presence obviously only makes him more reactive. It reminds him of what really is. It reminds him that you are not there with him any longer."
I did understand that, and I sigh at Treizeís ability to make sense like that. "So even if he knows Iím close by, all he will notice is the sadness of my absence."
Treize nods slowly. "Iím afraid so, Heero."
For many minutes I consider all the information that Treize has given me, mulling it over until it all seems clearer to me. I come to the depressing reality that there is nothing I can do to remain close to Duo, unless I wish to watch as I torment him even more than I already have by leaving him. The personal pain Iím feeling will be my constant reminder of just how much I miss him, too. The constant ache will be my reminder of my love for Duo. I find it more than just a little comical that, after all the growth and changing Iíve had since the wars, and after all the effort Iíve put into trying to feel instead of being emotionless, that Iíd wind up in a position where feeling will cause me never-ending torment. As I sit here thinking about all of this I can almost feel the emotional walls going back up, the same walls that Duo felt so much happiness in helping me take down.
Looking to Treize, I speak again, my eyes hard on him. "You said that I had work to do here."
"Ah, yes. We all do, in one form or another. My job, one of them, is apparently helping you." He says with a comforting smile.
"What is it that Iím responsible for?"
"That, Heero, no one realizes until the time comes. For now, all you need worry about is trying to be at peace and comfort with yourself. Youíll know what your great task is when the time comes."
Triezeís smile becomes lighter, and I question his expression. "Is there something else?"
"The good thing about fulfilling your purpose here is that will allow you opportunity."
"Opportunity? For what?"
"If you could wish one thing right nowÖone single wish, Heero, what would it be?" Treizeís eyes are sparkling now.
"To go back. To be with Duo again," I say of course. He doesnít answer verbally, but I can tell from his face that Iíve answered correctly. "You mean itís possible to go back?"
"In a matter of speaking, yes."
Suddenly my attention is sharper and my heartbeat is a little more deliberate as the premise of possibility fills me. "How?"
"Before you get your hopes up, let me warn you Ė itís not what youíre thinking, not quite. But yes, it is possible to apply for reincarnation, once you have completed your work here. Not everyone chooses to apply, but most who do usually are granted reincarnation."
"Why would someone not want to go back?" I ask him with a puzzled look.
"Think about that question in the pretense of not having someone special to try to get back to."
It was an interesting point. Before I became involved with Duo, I had no one. I had friends, yes, but no one that I would sacrifice and suffer for as much as I am willing to for Duoís sake. Perhaps I might have sacrificed a great deal for Relena too, but in either case I probably would just be satisfied to have ended my previous life and exist for eternity right here, in the comfort of whatever my mind thought paradise was at the moment. Of course since there is Duo to think of, I want nothing more than to be with him again, no matter how that is achieved.
"If you are granted new life, of course you wonít go back as yourself. The purpose isnít so that we can pick up where we left off, but rather to live again, no matter who we end up being, but the exciting part about that is that really, anything is possible, once youíve been reborn."
"Meaning that it isnít impossible that I could find my way back to him?"
"There are a lot of implications there that would always have to be considered, Heero. Just think of the age difference in that case, because time continues to pass for the living. But in answer to your question, tentatively, yes."
"Are you going to go back?" I think Iíve taken him off guard with that question, because his face goes momentarily blank.
"I havenít decided yet, Heero. While there is a special someone that Iíd consider trying to befriend once again if the opportunity were to ever present itself to me, I fear that things might be better left the way they are. I actually rather like it here, and I have to say, being your guide, of all people, has thus far been a rewarding experience for me.
For the first time since I died, a smile graced my lips; the smile of possibility. If that was what I had to go on for, then I would, if it gave me even a hint of a chance of being able to see Duo again and in living color.