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Like Still Water

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It was night. It was a full moon, actually. They say magical things happen on full moons. Blurryface hoped for a miracle tonight.

It wasn't that he hated the nighttime, oh no. Blurryface loved the nighttime. It was the one time he felt free, himself, lifted. He felt the most powerful, the most influential. It made him a little scandalous. A little brave.

He watched the sun grow old and die out. Maybe it was just something about the night sky that sent a lick of adrenaline through him. He loved how the stars were small compared to the sun and they didn't obnoxiously blind your eyes with light whilst gifting you with their twinkly presence. They were cowardly but smart, waiting for the self-centred sun to disappear behind the skyline of its hilltop grave before they come out to shine their own light. Insignificant on their own but together they made the constellations, like an act of rebellion to threaten the sun's plans. You could see the same sun everyday. But you never see the same stars in the same sky twice. And the darker the sky, the brighter the stars. Darker was always better. Even the sun would one day become a black hole so gravitational not a single ray of light would escape it. Light always burned itself out, but darkness was always constant, so why fight or deny it for what he saw it as? Even the pupils dilate themselves enough to be able to see in the dark. That was Blurryface's philosophical way of thinking anyway.

He sat on the windowsill and pondered. He did a lot of this. The window was cold against his skin but he barely felt it. His skin felt numb. His nerves had heightened their sensitivity on the fresh bruises he received leaving the rest of himself disembodied and lifeless. Soulless, he felt; as if someone had ripped out a calculated piece of his heart, the specific section of feeling. He perched his knees tighter into his chest. The window sill was a special place for Blurryface; he could shield himself between the layers of curtain and glass to deny and hide from his problems. It was so easy for him to pretend he was a part of the wall, mindless and spine-less. He could stop blinking if he wanted to. He could hold and stop his breath if he wanted to. But his thoughts, he couldn't stop them even if he tried to. That's what differentiated him from the layers of plaster and paint. Eventually, he had to move and adjust his position to regulate the circulation in the lower half of his body. The little prickles in his legs were the only feeling he felt right now. He tried to put a word to it. Discomfort? Perhaps. The sound of a pebble being thrown at the window brought him out of his thoughts. He must have been rutted in deep, because it took another to be thrown for him to break his trance and open the sliding window.

"Spooky?" Blurry squinted at the familiar form at the end of his garden.

"Are you okay?" Spooky Jim asked, his voice laced thickly with concern.

"Could be better." Blurryface could manage something just above a whisper.

"I'm so sorry." Spooky breathed out, as if he was relieving the statement from his chest.

"It wasn't your fault."

"We both know that's a lie." Spooky said. "I feel like shit, I feel so responsible. If only I-"

"Stop." Blurry spoke out into the darkness, his croaky voice echoing the words back to him and condensing into the glass pane. "I chose to take the blame for you. The punishment you would have got would have been worse than me. Don't ever make someone regret doing a good deed."

Silence. Spooky thought over what his best friend had just said. Then: "Cry Baby's waiting for us at the treehouse. Come on, lets get out of here." He still couldn't hide the concern in his voice. At the mention of the treehouse something in Blurry calmed. He smiled a little to himself as he clambered outside. There was hope out the window, so that's where he'll go. He jumped down halfway without even a wince of discomfort, and they both set off together for their happy place.

 


  

Blurryface didn't know where he was running, but he was running as fast as his 14-year-old legs could carry him. Running away seemed the easier option. Bullies aren't very fun, but what's more un-fun than Bullies? Older Bullies that enjoy picking on high-school freshmen.

He hoped that by running into the forest behind the school would throw them off, he could hide easily in the shadows. Everyone always gives up looking for something or forgets about it when they can't find it after a while, right?

He skidded to a halt behind a tree, gasping for breath. After a moment, he peeked out to take a look but no one was behind him. He must have lost them whilst zigzagging through the bark. A sigh escaped him. How long was he going to keep running and hiding? He was sick of running and hiding. He swore that one day he was going to make a stand for himself. He pulled the red backpack tighter on his shoulders and started walking through the maze-like forest with a chin sagging onto his chest.

Blurry was startled suddenly by a cry. He quickly ducked behind a tree instinctively. His eyes furrowed when the sound continued; it was more sad than scary. Blurry looked out from behind the tree and saw a little girl, crying loudly and dramatically. He inched closer to her, her back was to him and she continued unaware.

"Hey." He said, wincing when his voice cracked a little. The girl stopped and turned to face him. She couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 years old, dressed in overly bright clothes and her half-and-half black and white hair pulled into two Siamese ponytails. "What's wrong, little girl?"

At this, she began bawling again, and Blurryface regretted ever opening his mouth. Or rather, her opening hers. "Hey, hey. I'm not going to hurt you." He kneeled on the ground in front of her to get to her eye-level, where she sat on a tree-stump. "What's your name?"

"C-C-Cry Baby." She choked out.

How fitting, Blurryface thought. "Why are you out here alone, Cry Baby?"

"My brother played a trick on me and left m-me."

"So that's why you're crying."

She nodded. "He said we could see the rabbits in the forest, but when we found them an orange dog - I've forgotten the name for it - starting chasing t-them and catching them in its t-teeth. My brother said it ate them. He l-laughed and ran away." She began welling up and sobbing loudly again and Blurry had to wince at the noise.

"Oh, okay stop crying." He tried consoling her. "Look, the dog was eating the rabbit, it was inspiring it." He paused, unsure where to go next but it was working; she looked up at him with glossy eyes and he continued. "The dog inpsires the rabbit to live every day to the fullest. The dog brings the rabbit's last day with it so it brings fear. And without fear, the rabbit wouldn't know its limit, wouldn't know what it's like to experience the bad. And without bad, there's no good. The rabbit needs fear to survive, like we do." Cry Baby looked at her Message Man with a blank, unblinking stare and Blurry knew she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. No one really understood.

"You look just like the rabbit."

Blurry was boggled out of his brain. Was it normal for 9 year olds to be this confusing?

"Your eyes. They're just the like the white rabbits', glowing and red." He instinctively blinked. Was that supposed to be a compliment? "Alice followed the white rabbit and went to Wonderland. I wonder where I'd be if I followed it. I wonder what the Mad Hatter would look like."

"I have a pretty good idea..." Blurry muttered.

A twig snapped. Blurry shot his head around so fast it almost gave him whiplash. Cry Baby stopped her nonsensical ramblings to widen her pretty eyes. "What was that?" She squeaked.

"Shh." Blurry tried to quieten her, spinning slowly and eyeing all around them. He couldn't see anyone. Had those Bullies found him, ready to jump out of hiding and attack? He couldn't just run away again and let the little girl face them. With an intake of breath he stepped forward in the direction where he heard the sound, more courageous than he'd ever felt.

"Hello? Come out. I know you're there." He was met with a rustle of the breeze through the leaves and a chirp of white birds settling somewhere. He walked around a few trees, trying to seek out the hiding spot of the not-so-silent spy. "Coward." He said, hoping insults would draw them out. But still, no one stepped out. They must have been a bigger coward that him. Or he might have been imagining things.

As he spun on his heels to head back towards Cry Baby, a boy fell out of the tree and landed right in front of Blurryface, making him let out a shriek of shock. A look of triumph washed over him after the shock died down. "I knew I heard you!"

The boy, as gracefully as he could, got to his feet and dusted of the leaves, cursing the branch that had given way to his weight.

Blurry stopped for a moment. "Wait, I know you."

The boy was shorter than him, but the same age. A green alien eyes beanie was snuggled on his head. A guilty look played on his features and he became nervous and shifty at Blurry's statement.

"Yeah, you do."

"You're one of them." Blurry said to the boy, who quickly shook his head but only to find himself nodding.

"I never wanted to- it's just that they... well, they're bigger than I am - heck, everyone's bigger than I am and I really didn't want to." He tried to explain, only to offer a pitiful attempt.

"Why were you in the tree?" Blurry asked instead. It would probably offer a better conversation.

"That other day after they... you know. I told them not to, and to stop. But they turned on me like animals. And I didn't want to stay with them anymore."

Recognition crossed Blurry's expression. "You helped me get away that day." The boy nodded. "That's not why you were in the tree though."

"I've kind of, well been following you since then." 

Blurry raised his eyebrows. "I thought I felt someone watching me walk home yesterday!" The boy looked sheepish. "What's your name?"

"Spooky Jim." He said. "I'd say that my friends call me Spooky, but I don't have any. Not real ones anyway."

"My name's Blurryface. And I care what you think."

Spooky Jim looked at him in understanding. "Words hurt. Actions too. I'll be mindful of mine from now on."

"And I'd say my friends call me Blurry, but I don't have any either. Not real ones anyway. No one wants to be my friend." He echoed his words.

"Does that make me a figment of your mind's imagination?"

Blurry smiled a sharp smile. "I guess so."

"Who's that?" Spooky pointed to Cry Baby, who was busy making daisy chains.

"A girl. I found her here alone."

"You're a fast runner by the way, it was real hard keeping up with you. Do you come here often?" Blurryface shook his head. "There's a treehouse around here, I found it once, it's abandoned. Come on, you can bring the girl with you."

Blurry turned to the little girl. "Cry Baby, come on."

She shook her head violently. "I don't want to." She continued to thread the daisy chain, muttering to herself. Blurry groaned at her stubbornness, then his face lit up with an idea.

"You'll have to be quick or we'll be late."

She looked up at him expectantly. "Late for what?"

"Follow me. I'll take you to Wonderland."

Her face brightened like a thousand suns and she ran to grab her rabbit by the hand. 

Chapter Text

"Mom? Mom. Mom!" Cry Baby shook her mother who had passed out on the couch. "Mom, please wake up."

"Go away, can't you see I'm sleeping?" The woman muttered in her slumber. Cigarettes lay butted in the ash tray on the floor beside her, along with an empty liquor bottle. Cry Baby let out a frustrated sigh. Could anything go right for her?

Hesitantly, she began making her way upstairs to the bedroom opposite hers. Fumes of cannabis seeped out from under the door. Her hand hovered against the wood for a few seconds before her knuckles tapped.

"What?" A spaced out, slightly annoyed voice came from behind the door. She winced at the tone but opened it anyway, regretting her decision when the awful smell hit her. "I didn't say you could come in, brat."

"Mom's passed out on the couch."

"What else is new?" Her brother said, blowing out a ring of smoke from his lounged position on his bed.

"But the neighbors are coming over today. The place is a mess." As she spoke he sat up and then got to his feet. When he walked over to her she saw his eyes had dilated bigger than usual.

"No, they're coming on the 7th. Didn't you read the calender?" Cry Baby's eyes dropped to the floor and he chuckled when he remembered. "Oh yeah, Miss Perfect can't read, can she?" He took another drag and blew a giant cloud in her face. Her eyes began to water and she coughed. He laughed. "Stupid girl, you're such a fucking failure. You can't even see how badly this family has fallen apart."

"I'm trying to keep it together." She defended herself.

"There's no keeping it together. Everything's gone to shit and it all started when you were born. Dad started cheating, Mom started drinking, then he walked out on us. But everything's all magical faeries and rainbows for you." He punctuated his sentence with a hard poke to her shoulder, and tears fell from her wet eyes. He rolled his eyes. "Maybe I should have wrote "Mistake" instead of "Crybaby" on your birth certificate." He closed the door loudly behind him.

She wiped angrily at her face, but the tears flowed out like an open faucet. She always let her emotions get the best of things. Her heart was too big for her body. 

And that was how she ended up outside Blurryface's front door. When he answered and saw her, shaking and tear-streaked, he gave a little sigh. "One of those days, huh? Me too." He gave a fearful, split-second glance over his shoulder. "Give me a minute to grab something." When he returned with his red beanie, Cry Baby had managed to stop the waterworks.

"Have you spoken to Spooky today?" She asked.

"Not since the treehouse last night. He didn't show up to school today." Blurry's forehead creased with concern.

"I guess he's been having one of those days too. Bet you my trashcan that he's at the treehouse."

The treehouse was the three friends' escape, a safe haven to run to when they didn't feel safe anywhere else. It was creaky and old, but they felt like they belonged there. It felt more like a home than their own houses. They were the crazies, but Cry Baby felt safer with them than with the normals.

"Hey, Spooky." Cry Baby greeted him, when she saw him inside. Hm, maybe she should have bet more than her trashcan.

"How are you guys?" He replied, flatly.

"My day has gone brilliantly. A+, honestly." Cry Baby rolled her eyes. "My brother is an ass-hat." She did have a colourful choice of words. She was only one or two years younger than Blurryface and Spooky Jim, but her dress sense made her look much younger. Untill she opened her mouth to let out a string of curses that would put Satan to shame.

"Tell us something we don't know." Spooky snickered.

"Enough about me. What about you, Blurry?" As soon as he entered the treehouse he took his usual spot by the glass-less window and stared out of it. "Hello? Earth to Blurry?"

At the mention of his name, Blurryface turned towards his friends. "Nothing new." He said. He always answered in a similar way, even when it didn't fit the question. This time when he craned his black neck around to look back out the window, Spooky noticed the discolouration on his face, made obvious in the lighting.

"Really? Because that bruise on your cheek looks new."

Blurryface screwed his eyes shut and opened them up quickly. "Lost his temper again, it was nothing too serious."

Silence filled the now tense air.

"You know, if you want to-"

"I said it's fine, guys. I don't want you involved." He stood from the little window ledge and leaned on the floor so he could rummage beneath the secret space hidden under the loose floorboard. He ignored the ukulele and went straight for his notebook instead.

Cry Baby watched with careful curiosity as he scribbled word after word down on the paper effortlessly. Her brother's earlier words echoed in her ears.

"Hey, do you mind if we practice again?"

Blurry smiled at her. "Sure." He turned to the page they had been working on last and he listened to Cry Baby as she attempted to read the third-grade words on the page, struggling ans with a broken flow.

"Care-ful-I." She said with a look of uncertainty.

"Uh-uh. Remember what sound the Y letter makes?"

"Carefully." She corrected herself. It wasn't that she was stupid. Nope. She just never learned, that's all. It was simple.

 

 


 

 

"There, I think that should do it." Blurry said, fixing the sign on the bottom of the trapdoor of the treehouse. "Just the finishing touches." He used his black permanent marker pen to ink on the three friends' names. "Uh, Cry Baby?" He called with a frown. "How do you spell your name? Is it one word, or two with a capital B?" He shouted down to her; she was on the ground and he was at the top of the roped ladder. When she didn't answer, he stopped what he was doing to look down at her expectantly.

"I don't know." She mumbled, barely audible for Spooky who was next to her to hear, let alone Blurryface who was up an 8ft ladder.

"Huh? I couldn't hear you." He jumped down from the top of the ladder and landed right in front of them, making Spooky Jim's heart almost burst out of his ribcage because Jesus, no one can make that jump without breaking something.

"I-I said I don't know." Tears began welling up in her eyes.

"You can't spell your own name?" Spooky asked. 

"I don't know how to read. I can't write." She replied, and that was what opened the floodgates. Spooky wrapped his arms around her, whispering cooing nothings but Blurry kept his eyes fixed tightly on her. How? How could someone live without knowing how to read and to write, it was beautiful. Reading could capture you in ways a film couldn't; it took your mind to places it could only dream about. And writing? That was the way to settle the score when your mind was limiting you to your harsh reality. There was so much to show her, and Blurry was determined to show her it all.

He bent over to her - she was still so much shorter than him - and levelled their eyes, something he never did. Eye-contact was hard to hold. "Do you want me to teach you?"

Through teary eyes she pushed herself out of Spooky's grasp and nodded vigorously. A smile played on her overly pink lips. "You could be my Alphabet Boy."

When she eventually could make out the letters on her birth certificate, she realised she didn't want her name to be spelt as 'Crybaby'. Her brother was far too unoriginal. Instead she added her own name to the trapdoor, as 'Cry Baby' in wibbily-wobbly baby writing. And she was never more proud. 

"Nice." Blurry commented when he noticed the addition.

"Thanks, Alphabet Boy."

 


 

Cry Baby had finished writing out the words she had just attempted to read and now Blurry was looking over them, making sure they were done right.

"Your handwriting is getting really nice, Cry Baby." He commented, making her beam a proud, wide-toothed smile. He placed the book back into the compartment and slid the panel back into place. As he stood, the panel beside it jutted.

"What the heck?"

The three friends looked at each other with questioning and curious looks. Blurry got to his knees again and pulled the second panel put of place.

"What is it, a second secret spot?" Spooky raised his eyebrows.

"But it's got something in it already..." Blurry said and he tried pulling it out. It was long and heavy and covered in sack material. With the help of Spooky he managed to do it, and they rested it against one of the walls. They uncovered it together in a cloud of dust, and all three of their faces stared back at them.

"A mirror?" Cry Baby couldn't hide her disappointment. It was long, but not not quite full sized, with elaborate detailed decoration around the edges. And by the bronze tone and weight of it, it must have been an expensive one at one point of its life, but the colour was fading at the corners and black spots had dotted its reflective surface.

"What were you expecting?" Blurry asked.

"Something more than a mirror." She rolled her eyes, but fixed her hair in it quickly before moving away from it.

"By how heavy it was, I'm surprised it didn't break a hole right through the floor." Blurry said, to Spooky's agreement.

"Who knows how long it's been in there. I'll bring something to clean it with so we don't choke on dust every time someone walks past it too quickly." Spooky held back a sneeze.

"Who hides a mirror in a random tree house in the forest anyway?" Cry Baby shook her head. The two friends were busy organising their items into the new 'secret spot' but Blurryface had his eyes trained onto the mirror. A gut feeling told him to throw that thing right out of the window and let it shatter on the forest floor.

Who would hide a mirror in a treehouse? 

Chapter Text

Blurryface knocked nervously on the door and had to pocket his hands once they started to twitch abnormally.

"Hey! You're on time." Spooky Jim smiled from behind his front door. It was Blurry's second time visiting his new friend's house and he was still nervous to be around his parents. He had got the feeling they weren't the nicest people in the world from the last time he visited.

Blurry glanced at the clock in the hallway. It was precisely 6 o'clock. "Well, I like being on time; I don't enjoy it when people aren't for me." He offered an uncalled explanation. He also neglected to mention that he wanted to make a good impression, also reasoning his motives for wearing a black button down shirt in the boiling hot summer. 

"Hello, Blurryface!" Spooky's mother smiled too widely, almost straining at the edges, as she put out the plates.

Blurryface smiled back weakly and took the empty seat opposite to Spooky, next to one of his brothers. If he didn't have to look anyone in the eye, he'd be alright.

"So," His father started, once everyone had settled. "Spooky Jim tells us your grades at school are very good."

"Yes," Blurryface nodded, relieved a topic was brought up that he could impress with. "I have mostly A's."

"Would that be in science and maths?"

"English Literature. Next year I don't plan on doing science or maths."

"No academic subjects?" His mother called out in a state of shock. Relief was swallowed down his throat along with the next bite of food, replaced with the bitter aftertaste of anxiety. "What are you going to study then?"

He hesitated before answering. "Performing Arts. Theatre, music, maybe I'll continue literature."

"Oh." Blurry could feel the distaste radiating off his friend's parents in waves. "I don't see purpose in studying those type of subjects. No one is going to need them, how many people end up making it in the world of performing arts?" His father choked out a little mocking laugh. "They're practically useless."

Blurry bit back his answer about how practical the use of simultaneous algebraic equations or the bonding of chemical elements were in the working world.

Spooky's mother hummed in agreement. "Those subjects are usually taken by the academically challenged. My Spooky is going to study all academics. We'll make a brainiac out of this one." She narrowed her eyes at her son, but with a smirky smile. Blurry thought the expression was terrifying. But Spooky seemed unaffected by his mother's strangulating words and steely gaze.

And also unaffected by the fact that she just called him stupid.

"Do you believe in God, Blurryface?"

He inwardly groaned. A question that he had no hope in making a good impression. He knew if he answered honestly they'd probably kick him out there and then, dinner half-finished. So instead of answering:

"My parents do, but my faith has been wavering and I'm not sure anymore. I'd like to hold on the belief that there is someone watching and protecting us."

He said:

"Yes."

"You should come to church on Sunday, our Spooky is a fine vessel. We volunteer him for every activity and no one gets more praise from the community."

Spooky was now blushing. "Mother, please."

"Oh, its nothing to be ashamed of! Our son is too modest, he believes in God, he is not unsure and God is protecting him."

Blurryface knew that was a direct jab at him. He felt uncomfortable, unwelcome and unwanted. He didn't need another set of parents chastising him for his every move.

"Thank you for the meal. It was lovely." He said when he finished, simply because it was the polite thing to do.

"Your parents hate me." He said to Spooky when they were alone in his bedroom later.

"No, they just have a fixed mindset, and they're really honest." Spooky shrugged.

"Honest in opinion, sure. But honest in truth, no."

Spooky became defensive. "What do you mean 'truth'?"

"Are you actually telling me you didn't see them literally maul me over dinner?"

"They weren't mauling! They were making conversation!"

"Spooky, I'm not the most sociable person, but I know what polite conversation is." Blurryface rolled his eyes. "It was all 'we want Spooky to do this, but you aren't doing that, shameful! We're so proud of what we made our son to be!'" 

"What's wrong with them being proud?"

"Can't you see? They're manipulating you, brainwashing you."

"Are you insane Blurry, they love me. They want what's best for me." Spooky's expression scarily resembled one his parents had made earlier that evening.

"Best for them, not you. Do you think they volunteer you for activities at church because it's a good deed? Not once did I hear them say you'll be rewarded in the hereafter. They want approval of the other families, to show you off like a possession they keep polishing." Blurry couldn't help a stone of jealousy setting in his stomach where he digested his dinner. His parents did nothing like that for him, not even use him for their own selfish interests like Spooky's did, so did it make him a freak to be jealous of Spooky? To long for some form of parenting even if it was bad? "They're trying to mould you into the perfect son." 

"Shut up! You think you can come into my house and announce that my parents don't love me?! You've been here twice, I've lived with them my entire life." Spooky was angry now. He clenched and unclenched his fists.

"That's why you can't see it." Blurry sighed with frustration. "Start changing what they ask you to do and you'll notice."

"Don't tell me what to do!"

"Fine, answer me this: do you even want to study academic subjects?"

"Yes." Spooky answered straight away.

"No, not what they want. What do you want to do when you get older? What type of person do you want to marry? How many kids do you want?"

Spooky was silent for a few seconds, because no one had ever asked him what he wanted before.

"Get out of my house."

Blurry shook his head and made his way to the door. He paused at the doorframe. "It's such a big world, Spooky Jim. Don't live through it with hands over your eyes. Especially when the hands aren't yours."

  

 


 

  

"With the golden leaves on the trees and that breezy air, it's really starting to feel like fall." Spooky Jim commented. He loved the fall. It was his favourite season.

"Yeah, nothing beats curling up with hot chocolate." Blurryface smiled.

They were on their way back from music store, the CD one opposite the one with the instruments, Spooky's second favourite place (after the treehouse of course) both with new CDs in hand.

"That tattoed guy - Jeez, I need to ask his name next time - said to me that that one would be good." Spooky pointed at the CD case his best friend was turning over in his hand.

"Seems so." Blurry nodded in approval. He looked up to crack a smile. "Found a new hiding spot, or is it still the mattress?"

Spooky laughed. "Blurry, you have no idea. It's a cavern under there, honestly."

They said their goodbyes, Spooky went into his house and Blurry continued the walk to his own.

Spooky Jim was ghost. Easily forgotten; always looked over like he didn't exist. He never really did fit in. He was an outcast, a red-lidded weirdo, who had his head more in the stars than he did down on Earth. He'd like to say he was thinking about God whenever he fell into the daydream, but his mind always wandered the edges of space, trying to find reason.

They offered him reason. "We're put on this Earth to pass God's test. When we do, we'll join him in heaven."

But to Spooky, that never seemed to be a good enough reason.

If his mind did wander upon God, it was a reminder of how much of a sinner he was. He didn't believe anymore, he didn't love his parents anymore. 

He was afraid of telling Him who he really adored. 

"Spooky? Is that you?" His mother called, sickly sweet.

"Yeah mom." He answered before jogging up the stairs.

"What's that, sweetheat?"

He stopped instantly, and a hand grabbed the CD through the jean pocket. "What's what?" Please no, please no, please no...

"That shirt is awful. Remind me to spring clean your wardrobe."

He looked down at his relatively new Metallica shirt, before shrugging and making his way upstairs. He decided not to mention that it was nowhere near spring - or that he actually liked the shirt he was wearing. But to please her, he changed it anyway and folded it up neatly before hiding it under his mattress along with the CD and the the other music he wasn't supposed to be listening to. He listened to his parents to live up to their expectations of him, but continued with his more satisfying, silent rebellion. The clothes and music he picked out for himself were pretty good and he was going to be The Judge of that, not the people he shared a roof with.

He had figured out his parents manipulation game a long time ago, with some eye-opening advice from Blurryface. He denied it for a while at first, even went as  far to stop talking to Blurryface at his parents' request, but he soon felt more alone than ever. But he began seeing the slyness in what his parents did, his family did. Life was not a test done to gain God's approval, it was a game to try and aim for top of the social hierarchy without any regard for others, to gain the approval of peers. He felt betrayed and used like a cog in a machine, like a piece in a game of chess. It was crushing. When he returned to Blurryface with an apology and bruised heart, Blurry couldn't help but reply with "At least your parents pretend to love you."

 

 


 

  

Blurry felt an awful tug in his chest. This usually happened around the crumbling building he called a home. Ignoring the pull like he always did, he opened the front door and sidled inside, instantly removing his red beanie and his shoes at the door. The house was quiet. It usually was. A quiet house meant he wasn't home.

His mother had already cooked and was now watching the TV. Just like always, at the exact time everyday, following the same routine. It was 4:30.

Blurryface loved his mother, if anyone asked then that would be the answer because it was the truth. Unless they asked in what context, which they never did. Blurry loved his mother as he would love a neighbor, someone who would be close enough to have a presence in your life but with enough distance to be uninvolved in it.

Blurryface sat and stared blindly at the TV. He knew there was nothing to believe anyway. It might as well have been playing static. With a quick glance at the clock that had had ticked to 5:10, he wordlessly retreated upstairs to his room to seclude and mentally prepare himself before he arrived.

At 5:14 he arrived. Blurry heard the grumble of a truck pull up onto the crunchy gravel driveway. Heard the front door open followed by a "Where's dinner?". The keys hit the cabinet in the hallway. The boots thundered till the sofa creaked at the strained effort.

It was now 5:15. Blurry opened his bedroom door, padded softly down the carpeted stairs and missed the creaky third step like it was second nature. He helped his mother place the plates on the dining table and took his seat. There was no quiver in his repetitive movement and no fear in his robotic bones, but he felt a shiver at the words:

"Dinner's ready."

The sofa creaked at the strain. Heavy boots thundered. Blurry thought it strange to wear shoes inside your own home. A growl in his stomach couldn't be concealed. Did he skip lunch again?

"Hungry, boy?"

Blurry's fingers twitched under the table. "It's been a long day, sir."

A chuckle escaped him. "It ain't over yet."

The twitching continued when his clasped hands came together for Grace. He had to swallow a lump in his throat before he gagged on whatever food he swallowed.

Blurry took his plate to the kitchen sink. It was 5:53. Blurryface was early; he really must have been hungry. He took his time washing his plate repeatedly, until the clock showed him 5:57. With a sigh he dried his hands on the dishcloth turned around to make his way up the stairs to his room. 

"Clean it." A half-eaten plate was tossed into his hands and the remnants of food spilled onto his black shirt. Blurry started shaking at the knees, because it was already 5:57, and he had to be upstairs now before it got too late, before 6, before post-dinner drinking time. Now.

"Did you not hear me, boy?"

Blurry snapped out of it and quickly went to the sink, scrubbing the plate as fast as he could, the stain on his shirt had been forgotten about. He felt his life drain away every second that ticked on the kitchen clock. Each tick-tock echoed in his ears till they rung with pain. The plate and soap was slippery and before Blurry could regain control of his quick hands the plate fell and was heading towards the floor. The tick-tock slowed painfully till the plate hit the tiled floor and smashed, then sped up to match his fast paced heart. It was 5:59. He was done for.

Blurry was already reaching for the dustpan and brush to clean away any evidence of his failure when he heard the voice.

"What was that noise?" Boots thundered. He froze in the doorway when he saw the plate and his face twisted. "Just another thing you've managed to fuck up!" He walked towards him. "Look at you, so much of a failure that you can't even wash dishes without screwing it up!"

Blurry felt heavy soaking up all of his words, he wished he would just hit him already, because his words ached him so much more than his punches did. 

"I think you enjoy this, don't you?" He took another step closer do Blurry had to take a step back. Blurry's free hand grabbed the edge of the kitchen sink behind him so hard his already paleing knuckles turned an inhuman white.

"Please." He whispered. "Leave me alone."

Somehow he heard and laughed. "Do you think I'm playing a game?"

The dustpan was knocked from Blurryface's hand and sent sliding across the tiles. A fist flew at his stomach. Blurry doubled over in pain, but braced for a second one because he never did only hit once. The second one came when he managed to straighten himself up, sending him sliding down the cabinet to the floor. He left him there with his legs stretched out, wallowing in pity.

"Go away." Blurryface croaked, even though he had already left. "Leave me alone."

He sat there for a while, eyes dulling until his hand began moving on his own accord, picking up a broken piece of ceramic plate and holding it in his hand.

"Go away." He repeated. His hand closed into a fist and tightened. "Leave me alone." He chanted in a hush. Blood dripped out of his palm. "Leave me alone." That was when the tears fell. "Don't leave me alone." He didn't really want to be alone. Nothing killed a man faster than his own head. The ticking continued in the back of his brain, eating up the colour that once was there. It was 6:01. He was late.

His mother didn't say a word as she stared blindly at the TV. Didn't say a word when Blurryface finally had the energy to heave himself up to his room. Didn't say a word as she cleaned up the broken plate and the droplets of red. Didn't say a word when her husband slid a hand up her thigh and a tongue down her neck. Didn't say a word as she made breakfast in the morning.

And Blurryface didn't say a word as he ate it, got ready for school and continued like nothing happened, the only evidence were the freshly painted pair of hands to cover the plasters that bound the cuts on his palms. 

Chapter Text

Spooky was jealous of Cry Baby. Unlike him, she didn't attend school and have to put with the futility of it all. The education system was so pointless. The American Dream was a lie. Getting a job and working till he was 65 and the living embodiment of a skeleton and was not the good life. Paying taxes till he was 65 and fresh out of a state pension was not the good life either. His tyre hit a pothole in the road and he cursed. The government didn't even consider using taxes for anything particularly useful, did they?

He pulled up outside of school and watched as others rushed around, eager to meet their friends and try to be as high as they could on the High School Hierarchy. What was the need? Did they not understand the vastness of the universe and how small and insignificant they were? It was all just temporary. Temporary school, jobs, relationships. Even the very lives they were living were temporary. How many worlds were there out there, for this planet to be the one to develop the substantial conditions to grow life from the primordial soup, only to watch as life destroyed itself? Spooky believed there must be life out there, if not in this universe, then in others parallel to his own.

There had to be meaning. There had to.

His locker was being blocked by a girl that he knew of, but bever really spoke to to know her personally. Anxiety began feeding his way into his body. Would she move if she noticed him standing there awkwardly? Would he have to talk and make a fool of himself? What was her name again? He was glad he was in his last year and going to be free of this soon. 

"Excuse me." He said, because it was the only coherent thing his mind could generate. Short, quick and hard to mess up. The girl turned after a long moment, and Spooky stopped worrying about repeating himself because he spoke too quietly.

She was an explosion of opposites, a walking contradiction, almost. The right half of her face was ash-grey and accented with blue on her eyelids, the colour bleeding down onto ther cheekbones. The right half of her lips were a matching blue, the colour curved down into a frown. The left half of her face was blindingly white and accented with red on her eyelids, this time the colour winged upwards to her temple. The red colour on the left half of her lips was curved up into a grin. One eyebrow was arched over dramatically and the other was low and droopy. Her clothes looked as if someone had torn down the middle of two completely different items and sewn them together. Her juxaposing colours and patterns gave Spooky a migraine, like a kaleidoscope dancing behind his vision.

Her face fell when she saw him and it resembled grief, as if someone had murdered her cat or something equally horrifying.

"I'm so sorry!" She gasped and moved out of the way. "I can be really selfish and inconsiderate sometimes." She sniffed.

"It's fine, um-" He stopped, realising he still hadn't remembered her name, and he sure as hell wasn't going to ask, because that was just awkward.

"Hurricane." She stated. Spooky almost scoffed, because of course this train-wreak of a girl would call herself Hurricane. 

"Nice name." He said instead.

"Really?" Her saddened expression changed completely within seconds and her flat voice was now ecstatic; a child on Christmas wouldn't have come close. Now Spooky was sweating, firstly because this girl was weirdly somehow weirder than him and secondly because he could sense a conversation coming and he most certainly was not prepared for it.

"Most people think that it's weird. Think I'm weird." Her overjoyed face became angry and vengeful and Spooky was scared she might hit someone, probably him because he was still stood here talking to her. "They think I'm strange, deranged. But they never say it to my face, it's all whispers." She clenched her fists. "I hate them. I don't have to explain anything. I dont have to fucking tell them anything." 

Spooky thought about changing the subject, (or better yet just running far away) but his anti-social brain thought otherwise. Luckily Hurricane was cycling through more emotions. 

She beamed widely at him, her rage forgotten as if it evaporated into thin air. "I didn't get your name." 

"I'm Spooky Jim."

She became overly excited in a matter of milliseconds. "Oh! I've heard of you! In music class the professor credited you for some extra work you did!" Hurricane was now bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.

"He did...?" Spooky trailed off, unsure of where it would set her off next. He decided not to tell her he wasn't even studying music, it was all his own choosing, his own work, because people never really respond positively to that.

"Yeah..." she said and her face twisted slightly, as if she was realizing something. "He says you're really talented and consistent." There was now a jealous tone to her voice, and she stopped bouncing to narrow her eyes at Spooky.

"Oh. That's nice if him." Spooky said.

"Yeah." He could detect malice in her tone. If she didn't hit him before she was definitely going to now. "Anyway, I need to go." As Hurricane left she knocked into him, leaving him as bruised as he was confused. Shaking his head to rid himself of his migraine, he grabbed his books from his locker and made his way to Blurry's locker on the other corridor. 

"You're late. The bell just rang." He said.

"Nice to see you too. And yeah, sorry. I just went... through a rollercoaster of emotions." Spooky  couldn't help but feel emotionally drained after his run-in with Hurricane, like she sucked the energy out of him. When Blurryface didn't respond Spooky looked over and saw his friend had that dangerous distant look in his eye. Spooky tapped him on the shoulder and Blurry flinched violently.

"Dude... what's wrong?" Spooky asked with concern.

Maybe he could have used the loose excuse that his hands were in his pockets and it made his balance off. But when they made eye contact Blurry knew excuses were pointless when his best friend gave him that worried, but knowing look. 

"Do you want to tell me what happened?" 

"Nothing happened. I'm fine." Spooky's face fell at the rejection, but it was nothing he wasn't used to. "Come on, I told you the bell went ages ago."

 

 


 

 

"Come on, Spooky Jim." A boy urged him.  Spooky didn't want to. "Are you scared?" Spooky was most definitely not scared. He didn't get scared. He was just... concerned a little, that they were going to get into trouble. They weren't exactly being saints.

"Look, Spooky Jim." Another boy, an older one with a rather large forehead, clapped him on the shoulder. He had tiny little horns protruding from his forehead that had started to discolour and turn purple, something he was very proud of. A hand touched the tip of one; the other restless hand tapping repeatedly where it rested on Spooky's shoulder. "It's just a little confrontation, nothing to be scared of."

"I'm not scared." He said, firmly, but his pubescent voice failed him slightly.

"Oh, I'm sure you aren't. But I've been after our friend for a while now and now that I've found his little spot I've just got to ask him about it." Spooky still seemed apprehensive. "You know I enjoy your company, right Spooky?" He continued, hand still tapping annoyingly as if he couldn't control it. Spooky nodded. "And you remember what he said to me last time? He hurt my feelings, Spooky. Aren't you going to help stand up for your friends?"

The murmur that hummed through the group of boys only added to the static that filled his head. "O-okay."

"There! There he is!" One of the boys whisper shouted. Everyone squatted to their cover and fell silent they watched their prey come out into the open.

"See, what did I tell you guys? Out of the music room. Thanks for helping me find him, Spooky." The tall, big-headed boy with the horns and quiff threw a smile his way, too wide and gleaming. Spooky didn't feel very appreciated, only uncomfortable. Big-head caught onto him. "If you don't know, now you'll know. Heroes always get remembered, but Legends never die. How do you want to be remembered?"

Spooky didn't know.

"That's something you need to understand before you answer." He turned to the others. "Ready, guys?"

They marched up behind the boy with Spooky falling behind, failing to keep up with their long-legged pace.

"Hey Blurryface." At that, Blurryface froze and turned slowly. He stared at his assailant in the face. "Aren't you going to say anything? I said hey." Big-head pushed Blurry's shoulder and he winced, as if it had already been hurting. "Not a talker, huh? Or are you ashamed of that shitty voice?"

"Don't act all coy. I walked past the music room yesterday, I heard that God-awful shit you were playing. Why don't we tell everyone about it?" Big-head seemed to feed off the laughter of the group. "I need someone to kill me!" He mocked. "I'm tired of taking my own life!" He paused to laugh before making the most serious face he could muster. "Do me a favour, and stay out of the music room. Finders keepers, understand?"

Blurry kept his head down, standing cowardly. His eyes shifted left and right, up and back down, like he was trying his best to look anywhere except at the person with the authority. During his glitchy eye movements he caught eye-contact with Spooky for a millisecond before they were on the floor again.

"There's some people who have a really tough time getting through this life." Blurry muttered.

The laugh that followed was devil-like. "Aw, we got a little emo here!" He jeered. "Do my words bother you, Blurryface? Do they make you sad?" He pouted, baby like. Blurry turned away to try to walk away from them, but Big-head was quick on his feet and beat him to it, stepping in front and blocking his path. A large demon shadow casted over Blurryface as the tall boy blocked out the sun.

"Hold it, emo, We didn't say you could go."

Spooky felt his heart race. He had to do something. This was so wrong, it was eating him. Maybe of he hadn't led Big-head to the room yesterday, he wouldn't be going through this now. This was his fault-his fault-his...

"Look, why don't we-" Spooky started, but Big-head shot him a look that sent shivers down his spine.

"Shut up, idiot. Can't you see I'm trying to stimulate some conversation with the emo?"
Big-head pointed to the spot where Blurryface had been standing, except he wasn't standing there anymore. Everyone looked around but Blurryface had disappeared.

"W-Where...Where'd he go?" Spooky smiled slyly as he watched the red backpack vanish behind the school wall he had just scaled over. "Great, Spooky. Look what you did, he's gone."

"Well maybe we should leave him alone. He hasn't done anything wrong."

Spooky wasn't just an idiot, he was a foolish idiot, because instead of just playing it off he had to open his mouth, and now he was going to die.

"What did you just say?"
His heart began pumping acid instead of blood through his veins and around his frail 14 year-old body. He knew he was done for then. Instead of opening his mouth and making things worse for himself, he decided to pull a Blurryface and run for it too.

The bullies were hot on his trail and he wasn't as fast as Blurryface but he was super-aerodynamic, enough to believe that for a split second he would be able to get away from them. Then he got to the wall, realising he can't climb for shit. This wasn't just any wall either, it was twelve feet high and sheer with practically no handholds of any kind. How the hell did Blurryface manage to do it with such ease in the space of three seconds?

Knowing he had no other options, he ran alongside the wall till he got to the fence and from there he was able to get over.

Big-head was hot on his trail and managed to grab ahold of Spooky's ankle, making his lose his balance and fall from the top of the fence onto his back on the other side, knocking whatever wind he had out of him. He had to pick himself up of the floor and carry on running until there was no breath left in him at all, and he collapsed in an alleyway somewhere, his lungs deflated. His chest heaved like it was reaching for the sky. His thoughts began catching up with him, and his body began trembling and his ribcage contracted till it squeezed painfully on his lungs. His mind rolled at 500 miles an hour, and all he was thinking of was that they almost had him and they most certainly were going to get him tomorrow.  In short, if he didn't die in this filthy alleyway from hyperventilating, he was going to be murdered at school, because all he just did was paint a giant target on the back of his head.

When his body stilled and his mind cleared, he stood on shaky legs, beyond confused. What on earth just happened to him? He felt like his body had just malfunctioned. He rubbed a hand at his face, only for it to come away wet. Tears had escaped him without his knowledge. 14 year-olds did not malfunction. And they most certainly did not cry. Why was he like this?

 

 


 

 

Spooky Jim was finding it hard to keep his eyes open. It was hard enough, but the boring monotonous voice of the teacher made it even harder. He was sat in a dreary physics class he didn't even want to attend. He could imagine Blurryface in music class now, shying away in the corner far from the keyboard, instead writing out the notes for Moonlight Sonata

Shit. He was thinking about Blurry again. He shook his head to clear his daydream. He really needed to stop doing that. 

It wasn't his fault his friend was seriously attractive, and one of the nicest people he new (they were hard to come across) so who could blame him for having a little crush? Well, maybe it was a little more than a crush. There was something magnetic about him. He would never admit that to Blurryface, never. Not only were nice people hard to come across, but also were friends. And he wasn't going to give up a friendship for a crush that would be over soon.

He hoped.

Spooky almost smacked himself. "Stop thinking about him." He chanted quietly. What was he thinking about again? Yes, music class. That Blurry atten-

He sighed with frustration.

Spooky didn't attend the music class, but he was around the music room (and Blurryface) enough to get to know the teacher, and the drum set.

Spooky Jim had been playing since he was 12 years old. He had given up by 14 because his parents didn't find it cute anymore, closer to a distraction from  studying and praying. After he met Blurryface, he rediscovered his love for the drums and used them as rebellion. His parents weren't exactly aware of this rebellion, but to Spooky it was rebellion nonetheless. 

The bell seemed to wake him up and he grabbed his things and ran out of the class. He had math next. Urgh.

"Spooky!" 

He turned quickly to the distressed call, it sounded a lot like-

"Blurryface? What are you doing here, I thought you had double music."

"I never went. Please, I-I need to-" His hands grabbed at Spooky's arms, gripping the sleeves of his shirt. His breaths were shaky, eyes shifty.

"Hey, hey. I need you to calm down, okay? What's wrong?"

"I need to get away, get out of here. Let's go to the treehouse. I can't be alone, Spooky."

Spooky didn't have to think twice. Math could go suck it, for all he cared. One look at his shaky friend and Spooky was already moving.

"Come on." He said, grabbing his wrist. It trembled. 

They climbled over the fence together. By the time they reached the treehouse, Blurry seemed to have calmed a little.

They sat on the floor together, cross-legged, opposite one another.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Spooky broke the silence.

Blurryface sniffed, but his eyes were dry. He said nothing, only held out his hands to show Spooky his palms. The paint had worn away some and the band-aids had been ripped off fiercely, the skin raw from the burn. Blood had dried where new scabs were beginning to form. Spooky knew from the ashamed look on Blurry's face that he was responsible for this. He sighed with pain.

"I hate him. I hate him." He spewed angrily.

Spooky went forwards to embrace his friend. "I know." He cooed. 

"I skipped music class. I walked around alone for a while, but my head got too loud and I was scared, Spooky. Scared of what's around the corner." His expression was nothing short of being terrified. "I don't want to end up doing something I'd regret."

"I'm here, okay? I'm always here. Don't think for a second that you're alone." Spooky put a hand on Blurry's shoulder comfortingly.

The light caught Blurryface's soft smile and glowing eyes, and it made him look scaringly beautiful. 

"Ow." Spooky said, when the light caught his eye from the mirror behind Blurryface. Damn it, even the universe knew he was staring too long.

Blurryface turned around and realised something when his eyes landed on the mirror. "Hey, you cleaned it." 

Spooky furrowed his brows together. "No I didn't."

Blurry rubber a finger on the surface and it cane away without a spec of dust or grime. The only thing marring its perfection was a paint mark Blurryface's sweaty hand left behind.

"You didn't? Then who did?"

"Maybe Cry Baby did. She does enjoy staring at herself." Spooky offered. 

"Yeah, maybe." Blurryface said, unconvinced. Cry Baby would never in a million years slave away to clean something she didn't have to, especially if someone else was going to do it. Blurry stared at his reflection. The reflection stared back. Then in a split-second, it winked at him.

Blurryface blinked his eyes reflexively. He did just see that, didn't he? Or was it the reflection blinking at the same time as him? He moved closer to the mirror, and the reflection followed him, as it should. He shook his head and sat back down with Spooky.

"By the way," his friend began, "Do you know someone called Hurricane?"

"A handful, isn't she?" Blurry smirked.

Both of the boys were too preoccupied with their own conversation to notice Blurryface's paint mark fade away and sink into the other side of the mirror, as if it were the reflection and not the true image.

Chapter Text

Cry Baby was stood outside the school Spooky and Blurryface attended. She did this often, because whilst she waited for her friends she enjoyed watching the educated children as they left their school, eager to be away from their prison as soon as they could. 

Today however, just like the last few times, her eyes were trained on someone in particular.

The boy in shorts and with dashing brown eyes waltzed over to her, a smug look on his face. "Hey, Cry Baby." He said.

"Hey, Johnny." She smiled. As they both walked away together, she cast a paranoid glance over her shoulder. She hadn't spotted them, which meant they probably hadn't seen her either. Good. That meant there was less explaining to do. Johnny noticed her gaze behind them and followed it, so she smiled up at him and connected their lips in quick distraction.

They had been seeing each other for a month now. Cry Baby had fallen in love far too quickly, and had accepted it all too keenly too. It wasn't her fault she felt every emotion so much stronger than everyone else. A simple crush would quickly become a fatal attraction, annoyance would be rage, happiness was close to ecstacy. Cry Baby was addicted to things that made her feel, even if they were toxic to her. And it wasn't drugs; she wasn't going to touch them, not after what she had seen them do to her brother. She could get her own high without them, just by feeling things with other people.

And so, it was inevitable that Cry Baby would fall for Blurryface. When she did, she pushed those feeling deep deep down never to  be uncovered. She knew that Blurry didn't have the time or the interest to be with her in ways other than friendship. At first she tried to drop little hints, be a little more forward with herself, but she could see that nothing was being reciprocated and she was tied to a carousel. Chasing round and round but never really getting anywhere. After a while, that love was forgotten; traded with loyalty and respect. Though when she reminisced it made her feel regretfully sick, like she ate too much pink cotton candy. Or maybe that was the dizzying thought of continuously spinning on a child's fairground ride. 

"My birthday is coming up." Cry Baby said. "Come over, bring a few friends."

"My friends? Why do you want my friends? Aren't you going to call some of your own?" 

Cry Baby shrugged. "My friends are not really party people."

"Oh, they're quiet girls?" Johnny smirked. "Nothing like you then."

"Oh, definitely quiet girls," Crybaby blinked her long lashes. "Nothing like me at all."

"Well, you better get writing your invitations then."

Her heart sped up dramatically. "Huh?"

"You've never heard that line? It's a figure of speech, babe." He cupped her cheek with his palm. 

"Oh, right." She said. "Sorry."

"Come on," He laughed. "You're so fucking dumb sometimes. Who even writes invitations anymore?"

"Not me, that's for sure." She smiled falsely.

Cry Baby wished she didn't have to lie about her "school" and home life, but if she wanted this relationship to work she had to, and she was already slipping deep. She looked at him with wide eyes; large, round and open, drinking in all of him in his light. Before she knew it, she was leaning in. Johnny was surprised but mirrored her, too helpless to stop. 

His lips were slightly chapped because of the autumn weather but she enjoyed the feeling they brought to her own mouth. It felt intimate, unique. His breath quickened when she deepened the kiss, and he matched her fierceness. They started to drown in each other, and there was no saving Cry Baby now. 

"I love you." She whispered against his lips.

He froze, and Cry Baby realized she had just made the biggest mistake of her life. She stepped back, fearful.

"Um, Uh-" Johnny stuttered. "I-It's only been a month, Cry Baby."

Cry Baby felt a sharp pain in her chest. "S-so what? I can still love you, can't I?"

"Are you expecting me to say it back?" He looked at her with an uncomfortable expression.

Cry Baby felt her throat close up. "I-I mean, it would be nice."

He shook his head. "I can't, Cry Baby."

She didn't need to hear anymore. She ran off, her feet hitting the forest floor hard. She didn't stop running till she got home, and her face was wet with tears. She barely noticed them when they escaped anymore.

The house was empty. She went straight to the bathroom, and opened the faucet. Stripping herself of her clothes, she sat in the tub and allowed her tears to mingle with the bath water as it filled up.  

Why did she always spill? She said too much, she overflowed. And now Johnny was going to think she was some clingy, pathetic girl with attachment issues. 

"God, I wish I never spoke." She whispered to herself. The soap bar lay next to her, and it took all her strength not to choke herself with it. It wouldn't take much to just lay under the water, letting it fill her airways and lungs till she ceased to exist. She could do that with no trouble. Or maybe throw a toaster in, just because she felt a little dramatic, because it was more her style to go out with a bang. Or a sizzle.

Because of her stupid mouth, she had managed to ruin the one good thing she had; she scared him away. Cry Baby leaned her head back on the edge of the tub, and her mind wandered. 

 

 


 

 

The child at play was scared. She had never rode her bike without training wheels before. But she was adventurous, so felt compelled to do it. She wasn't careful, didn't tiptoe. What kind of life would she be living if she didn't risk a few things? Well she'd probably avoid the dirt for one - which she'd been finding herself in a lot lately - but Cry Baby was never a dolly and teddybear type of girl. She was mud pies and bugs. She was interested in new and unusual things, not boring and monotonous things. Like the flowers in the patch, they had faces and spoke; her friends, she used to call them.

"Watch my heathens!" She cried one day when her brother trekked through the flower patch.

"You mean heathers." He said, rolling his eyes.

"That's what I said." She scratched her chin. What was the difference?

"Daddy, can you take off my training wheels for me? I really want to ride a two wheeler."

"I'm busy, sweetheart. Ask your brother to use a spanner from the shed."

Crybaby hadn't seen her brother all day, or last night for that matter. She was hoping that her daddy would help her ride her two-wheeler. Maybe he could hold onto the seat with his hands while she made her way around. He'd keep her out of the dirt.

"But Daddy..."

"Don't start with the crocodile tears, Cry Baby. I have another shift at the company."

Her daddy never seemed to have time for her anymore. So, motivated as ever, she decided she'd find the spanner (whatever that is) and remove the wheels herself. When she found the right tool that fit the bolts on her bike, she removed them without any effort. They were so worn out. Tossing them aside, she climbed on the bike and gripped the handlebars tight.

"Here goes nothing." She said. Cry Baby sped off but almost instantly fell to the forest ground, once, twice, three times. But she was resilient. Everytime she hit the dirt she got up and carried on. Eventually, she could hold herself for a few moments, only to wobble and fall again. The pedal hit her knee and sunk into the flesh between her kneecap. Cry Baby cried out in pain. A tear or three escaped and she kicked the bike away from her, roaring in frustration. Angry pools of magma formed in her eyes and escaped like lava down a volcano. Her knee throbbed painfully, and little drops of blood began oozing out in quick pumps. She sobbed angrilly and fiercely, but the injury wasn't why she was crying. She could never do anything right, never.

After throwing her trantrum, she picked herself up and dusted herself off, getting back on the bike with a wince. She set off wobbling, unstable and had to stop before she fell again. Cry Baby took a deep breath in, and out. Her brows had furrowed and she set off again. Her knee throbbed horribly, but the more she focused on the pain the more determined she became. Cry Baby was going to make the pain worth it.

"I'm doing it!" She cheered. Her Jenga-tower riding could have been sniffed at, but she was doing it! With a beaming face, she rode it home. 

And it was worth almost blowing out her knee for. It was worth the lecture her mother gave her for getting blood stains on her lilac tights and muck on her nice dress. 

Sometimes she needed that extra push to know she could do something. Sometimes it meant she had to be hurt.

 

 


 

 

Cry Baby woke up to the sound of ringing. She lifted her head, she had dozed off in the bath. She picked up the telephone reciever beside her.

"Hello?" Only the monotonous dial tone spoke back to her. She was probably imagining it ringing anyway. She blinked her eyes a few times to fully open them. Her salty tears had dried out her itchy eyes. Her eye-makeup had started to run and the stinging sensation was made worse with the rubbing. But she carried on rubbing them anyway. What else was she good for but making things worse?

"I wish I hadn't cried so much." Cry Baby muttered. Drowning, she was, in her own tears. She let herself drown in despair, quite literally.

She realised she was still holding the receiver to her ear when it nearly slipped out of her pruned fingers. She had been in the water way too long. 

A metaphorical zap of electricity hit her, charging the lightbulb in her brain. With slippy fingers, she spun the dial to put in a number she had learned by heart. Before she could chicken out, a voice answered.

"Hello?"

"H-hey, Johnny...? W-would you like to come over?"

"Um... yeah, sure."

"O-okay. I'll see you soon, bye."

"Bye."

 

The doorbell went soon after, once Cry Baby had gotten dressed. She rushed to answer it.

"Um, hey." Johnny said. 

"Hi." Cry Baby said. "Come in."

He walked in a little hesitantly and they sat on the couch. Cry Baby subtly kicked an empty bottle under the couch, cursing herself for not cleaning up ealier.

"Look about before-"

"It was completely my fault. I was being pushy." Cry Baby interrupted him.

Johnny just smiled. "I'm sorry though, I shouldn't have been so cold-hearted about it." He took hold of her hand.

"I shouldn't have been so emotional about it. And I sure as fuck shouldn't have ran away like a child."

They looked at each other for a while, and a smirk curved onto Johnny's features. "C'mere."

Cry Baby scooted closer and he wrapped his arms around her. She held him close, tightly. She looked into his eyes. "I meant what I said earlier."

"I know you did. I just need time." He said.

"Kiss me." She commanded.

"You don't have to tell me twice." He leaned in, claiming her soft lips.

Maybe it was the moment, maybe it was his lips massaging hers, maybe it was his arms around her, but something clicked.

'I love him.' She thought. 'But he doesn't love me.'

'You can make him love you.' A voice in her head said. 'It's easy, give him a piece of you and he'll give it back.'

'A piece of me?'

'Something no man can resist.'

Whilst having her thought-versation she had unconsciously been making the kiss deeper and deeper. Johnny's hands gripped at her waist and he was pulling her body even closer to his own.

'Look,' the voice said. 'He's doing half the work for you already.'

So she went with it, because who was she to argue with her own thoughts? Love was a maze and sex was a game.

She climbed onto his lap and softly ground against him. He groaned and settled his hands on her buttocks, squeezing. Cry Baby marvelled at the effect she had on him.

"Upstairs?" He whispered. Cry Baby nodded, too far gone in love... or was it lust, because because both of the words' meanings were beginning to blend.

Johnny lifted her up and she wrapped her legs around him. He carried her to her bedroom, which was a blur of pink and she was lowered to the bed, giving her slight vertigo. Vertigo spin... spin spin, spinning top. Carousel spin. 

'He'll love me.' She thought. 'This will make him love me.'

Their clothes disappeared, much like Cry Baby's sense of clarity. She laid out all open for him on the old, faded red-stained sheets, where frequent washing hadn't removed them. They took each other's first time and afterwards, took a nap together.

Cry Baby awoke later to her lover missing. A note lay by the bedside.

I had to go, I was scared someone might come back to the house while I was still here and I didnt want to wake you.

See you soon,

Johnny.

"How sweet." Cry Baby smiled to herself, but felt a strange niggling feeling like something wasn't quite right. Ignoring it, she decided to stop by the treehouse. 

 

"Hey guys!" She burst through the trapdoor. "Sorry you guys couldn't find me after school, I was caught up with something."

"We came back early from school anyway." Spooky was about to say, but Blurryface interupted him. 

"It's fine. We waited for you for a while, but then thought you were already here."

Spooky looked over at him with confusion. Why did he just do that?

Cry Baby continued, unaware. "Sorry guys, I really should have let you know."

"Where were you anyway?" Blurry narrowed his eyes.

"I was at home, I had a few things I had to do..." she trailed off, then gasped. "Blurry, your hands!"

Blurryface quickly clenched his fists and brought them closer to him protectively. "It's a long story."

"Well it's a good job I like long stories. And that I carry band-aids on me now."

Blurry took her change of subject in his stride, and started explaining his injury as she kneeled in front of him and unwrapped a band-aid, swiftly smoothing it into his palm. As their skin touched she couldn't help but think what it would have been like if Blurry was in Johnny's place. She quickly pushed those no-good thoughts aside.

She smiled softly with almost pitying eyes. "I'm so sorry he makes you feel like you have to do this to yourself."

"It was a fluke."

Spooky and Cry Baby exchanged knowing glances. They gave him the dignity of staying quiet. 

"Anyway," Spooky broke the rising tension. "What's with you, you seem jittery, Cry Baby."

"So, I'm in a good mood for once and you all think something's up! Can't a girl be happy she's off her period?"

"Jeez, Cry, stop talking. TMI!"

She laughed and let out a breath, feeling Blurryface's stare. She had changed the subject again.

If he didn't notice the first time then he noticed now.

Chapter Text

Blurry's head hit the pillow and his eyelids were already beginning to shut. He was tired, so tired, so it was worth a try to sleep, right? No one was around in the dark cold night. The only sound was his own head buzzing, a repeat track of everything that had happened throughout the day. A repeat track of everything everyone ever said. Eventually though, he had managed to drift away to crack the door to the hallway of his dreams.

His dream self was in a tree, and he jumped down to the forest floor. The first thing he noticed was how aware he felt, like a lucid dreamer. It felt strange, he could feel his body laid down in his bed asleep but it was like his mind was drifting, still awake. A red bird chirped and landed on the forest floor, right in front of Blurryface. Its head was tilted so it could look at him through the widely spaced eyes on either side of its head. It let out a call, and flew away. Blurry stood for a moment, baffled. It landed again, surprising him and let out another call. Again it flew up into a tree further on. Blurryface then realised that the bird wanted him to follow it, so he began walking towards it. It continued to fly on, stopping at a tree to wait for him to catch up. They continued their pattern, silence apart from the occasional chirp and rustle of the leaves, until he stopped outside the treehouse.

The bird flew up into the open window and Blurry climbed up the roped ladder after it. When he got inside, he saw everything was exactly the same down to the names scribbled on the trapdoor. He would have believed it to be real if he didn't know he was lucidly dreaming. The red bird had perched itself on the floor in front of the mirror. Blurry stopped and stared. He rubbed his eyes and looked again but he wasn't tripping. The bird's reflection was different. It's ghostly form appeared as a white bird on the other side of the mirror. He walked towards it and his eyes widened. His own reflection did not appear as he did. His eyes were brown, he had no black covering his neck and arms, his teeth were still crooked but not sharp and he was wearing a hideous light blue shirt. Urgh, blue definitely wasn't his colour, he looked much too tanned against it. His expression was the only thing that was truly mirrored as the same, surprised look.

The red bird by his feet hopped forwards and dipped its beak into the mirror. Blurry gasped. The hard reflective surface melted at the touch and became mercury; the molten metal rippling outwards from the bird's impalement. The bird flew up onto Blurryface's shoulder, prompting him, and flew straight through the mercury. Blurry jumped back a little, but his eyes widened in disbelief as the liquified mirror became solid again. The red bird was now alongside the white bird on the other side of the mirror. Blurry raised a tentative hand to prod a black finger on the mirror. His false reflection on the other side mirrored his movements. Again it liquified, making Blurry remove his finger, in replace of a whole hand a moment later. He could walk his whole body right through if he wanted to. He looked deep into the eyes of his reflection. But they weren't his.

"Who are you?" They said in unison.

Soon the hallway to his dream became narrow and forced him out, bringing him back into thinking, back to being awake.

Blurryface heard the alarm go off and was quick to silence it. He opened his eyes and felt the remnants of the dream fade. What a weird thing to dream about. He dragged himself out of his warm bed. During the night he had cocooned himself in his blanket, all tucked up tightly. He wondered if that's what being in a coffin would be like, if it was cozy and not claustrophobic. The outside world made him feel claustrophobic, not a box. The inside four walls of a box couldn't judge you. So they made a God to do that. 

Deciding that morbid thoughts were not ideal for starting the day, he clicked on the hallway lights to make his way downstairs for breakfast. The hallway was not as illuminated as he thought it would be and he looked up to find that one of the four spotlights on the ceiling was out, leaving only three lit. How fitting, Blurry thought. The lack of lightbulbs in this house was a common, if not constant drought.

The chill hit him when he opened the front door and he instantly regretted leaving his house. Well, almost. The snow was coming. A fresh layer of black covered his hands, though the bright butterfly plasters were a little difficult to conceal.

The explanation for his disappearance from his music class would be relatively easy to explain. He was sick, and hadn't been in the whole day. But for Spooky, that would be harder to explain because he attended his first class yesterday. Blurryface worried for his friend. He could so easily be swayed into things he shouldn't be doing. And now, he was taking hits for him and Blurry was being selfish by using that for himself. Granted Blurry was mostly out of it yesterday when he begged him to skip off school with him, but they both really needed to stop doing that for each other.

"Hey, Blurry." Spooky greeted him when he joined Blurry by his locker.

"Hi, Spooky." Blurry smiled. "Hey, what are you going to say about yester-"

"Got it covered. Doctor's appointment, for personal reasons." He winked. Jeez, Spooky, what the fuck was that?! Spooky cringed at himself. Blurry seemed unaffected, thank God.

Blurry shook his head, but smirked. "I don't even want to know."

"Guess I'm the silver tongue here."

"You can't lie for shit."

"On the contrary, I happen to lie very well. When I'm not thinking about it, that is. When I think about lying, I mess up." Spooky explained his weird issue.

"Oh, Mr Academic here finds it hard to think? Shocker!" Blurry mock-gasped.

"Oh fuck off, Blurryface." Spooky chuckled. 

Blurryface rubbed at the plasters on his hands, and a thought came to him. "Was Cry Baby being weird yesterday?"

"She seemed pretty normal to me, why?" 

"Nothing." Blurry shook his head. An idea came to him. "Hey, why don't we go to Taco Bell? I can't even remember the last time we went."

"Sure." Spooky grinned.

"When do you want to go?" Blurryface asked.

"How about later today?" Spooky offered.

"It's a date." Blurry said. Wait, that was weird. Did that sound weird? When he said the words in his head, they seemed normal enough.

The bell rang.

"Um, okay, see you." Spooky muttered, holding his book up to his face to cover his flushing cheeks.

Okay that was weird. 

When Blurryface got to class, he prepared his excuse as to not mess it up. 

"I was ill yesterday sir, I think it was a bad stomach bug. I'm good now though, but did I miss any new content?" Blurry rubbed his itching fingers in circles against his thumb. 

"No, just continue from what you were doing last." Mr Brooke said.

Blurry sighed in relief. "Okay, thank you sir."

Mr Brooke was one of those kind of teachers that knew when to leave you alone, because you were having a bad day, or week, or life.

"But Blurryface, if there's any problem going on, I'm here for you to speak to me, okay?"

He was also actually concerned for you and really reassuring, not prying. He was jokey and a pretty comforting guy to be around in general. In fact, he reminded Blurry of a guy he knew pretty well...

Blurryface took his usual seat by the window. Sounds came from the keyboard across the classroom, where two students were practicing. They always hogged it every lesson, but even if they didn't he wouldn't dream of playing in front of other people. The only time Blurry ever really played was when he stayed back specially to do so, and he hadn't in so long his fingers itched and twitched to play. Blurry wished he could just walk up to it an start playing without thinking like he used to to. He would show those amateurs how to actually play, with skill like he could. He could prove those who doubted him wrong, prove himself superior. Which he was.

'No, I'm not not.' He said to himself. He wasn't any good, that was why he stopped, wasn't it? Ah, he couldn't remember. His memory always got a little foggy when it came to things that were touchy areas. Like how he was starting to forget why he was a mess yesterday. How did that happen again? His hand twitched and the feel of the band-aid brought back the bad memories. He cursed himself. Normal people don't forget things like that.

"You're a liar."

Blurry looked up from his notebook. "Excuse me?"

"I saw you yesterday. You weren't sick." Hurricane folded her arms at him.

"Actually I was, I had to go home."

"You seem fine now." She said bitchily.

"I got better."

Hurricane narrowed her steely eyes at him. Today the 'happy' side of her face was orange, and the 'sad' a dark purple. "Sure." She said, skeptical.

"Excuse me." A knock came at the door. When it opened, it was the attendance officer. "Can I borrow Blurryface, please?"

The colour drained from his face. One look from the concerned nod from Mr Brooke to the blank stare of the attendence officer, Blurry knew he was done for. He stood from his desk with shakey knees. He couldn't help but think he really should have stayed inside his house.

"Okay, take a seat Blurryface." The attendance officer said when she sat at her seat behind her large and important desk after the deathly silent walk down the corridor. She clicked a few buttons on her computer to check some records. "You were absent yesterday, care to explain?"

"I actually came into school but wasn't feeling to well, Ms." He said and she merely blinked, so he elaborated. "I think it was the bug or something, it was awful and I really didn't want to pass it onto anyone else so I went home."

"And you didn't think to inform the school nurse or any other receptionist staff for permission to leave?"

"I felt terrible, I really wanted to get home as quick as possible." His silver tongue darted quickly like a deceptive snake. It came naturally to him, lying. It starts by saying "I'm fine" when you're not, to putting a smile on when you barely feel it inside you, to changing how you act to seem normal, but soon that mask becomes you and the lies become the truth. One blends into another, like red blends with blue.

"I understand that, but you cannot leave school premises when you desire without notifying someone! What if there were a fire, or some emergency?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. It won't happen again."

"Actually that is why I brought you to my office. I've looked and spotted a few blanks in your records. I hope this disappearing act is not becoming a habbit." She looked cross, probably because chhasing up his absence interrupted her watching the Kardashians or something.

"Of course not. It was just this once, I promise." He embroidered his lies with woven silk thread. Blurryface's foot started tapping impatiently now. He wanted to be out of here, he was begging her to set him free.

"I don't want to see this happening again. I've put it down as a medical absence so you are very lucky. If I see another absense, I'll put you down for truancy and your parents are going to be informed. Understand?" She pointed a finger. 

He gulped. That was the absolute last thing he needed. "Yes Ms."

"You're free to go." She said finally.

"Thank you." He whispered and hurriedly rushed back to his class.

Jeez I don't think I'll be getting ill for the rest of the year, thought Blurry. He nodded at Mr Brooke as he re-entered the class, taking him seat again. Why did he feel like he was constantly on a loop?

'Thank God I'll have a break with Spooky after school.' Blurry smiled to himself, ignoring the look Hurricane was giving him, like he was the weird one. 'Actually, I better do some work.' He thought again. It wouldn't look good if the attendance officer decided to take a sneak peek at his work ethic in between episodes.

He began writing out a chapter from the textbook about decibels and pitch, groaning when he used a red pen and not the standard blue one by mistake. 

Blurryface looked at the nib where runny blotches of ink started to leak a little. He had always had a fascination with the colour red. It was bold, it was bright. Yet quite sombre, dark and mysterious. There were various shades, but blood red was Blurry's favourite. That was the shade Spooky wore on his eyelids. It was was the brightest red you could find, mixed with a dark maroon to create that contrasting mixed up colour. It kind of represented Blurry; a little mixed up in the head. Never what he liked, double-sided. 

Spooky once told him that using a red pen to draw lines would help sometimes. Blurry did do it a few times but not because he needed to do it, only because he liked the feeling of the pen as it glided the red ink along, making markings on his skin. Was that strange; is that what other people felt to help them cope? Did it count as an addiction? To a pen, of all things?

Well, at least it be a pen than a harpoon.

Blurryface was so deep in thought that he didn't hear the bell go, and when he saw everyone leaving the class he realised he didn't do any work the entire lesson. Again. 

He glanced at the piano, but shook his head.

 

 


  

 

Spooky Jim had spent an entire 15 minutes hiding his pathetic self in the bathroom, in a toilet stall with the door locked so he didn't have to look his coward face in the mirror. It had been 8 whole days since he ran from the those bullies, since his short-breathed incident, and it was making his whole body shaky just thinking about it. He had spent his previous days also avoiding and hiding from his Big-headed friend - luckily he didn't have any classes with him; the boy was a year older, but now it was after school and he was positive that they were waiting for him. Or Blurryface.

Spooky had been indirectly secretly stalking Blurryface for the last 8 days. It was a complete coincidence the first lunchtime (and the lunchtime after that); he just kept showing up where he did. Then the third time and the times after that Spooky was curious to see what Blurryface was like, who he hung around with, what he did, where he went. Watching this boy made Spooky feel so lonely. He had cast away his only friends to defend him - and act Blurryface probably wasn't even aware of - and now he had no one. But, if several days worth of stalking taught him anything, it was that the mysterious boy clad in black was lonely too. It would make sense to introduce himself, to apologise and plead his innocence but Spooky Jim felt too guilty and responsible. And it was unnerving talking to people he didn't know. Well actually, he kind of knew Blurry pretty well: he liked the swings at the park, the grass patch at the back of the school yard and the piano room. And he knew where he lived. Not that he  followed him home yesterday, he wasn't being creepy, he... was just- making sure... he got home okay.

With a pathetic sigh he opened the stall door and looked at his pathetic face in the mirror, to proceed to put one pathetic foot in front of the other in an attempt to drag his pathetic self out of the bathroom.

He was so pathetic.

Spooky Jim clutched onto the backpack on his shoulders. They were aching with the effort of keeping his body upright. He was so tired, so done with trying to outlive his own life while watching it live itself right before him. The last week he had felt like a mindless soul floating with no reason, no purpose, only continuing the expectations because his body had become a not-so-well oiled machine used to the routine. Upstairs in his bedroom was the only place he could be himself. He felt like he could deposit his problems on the stairs and enter a realm of nothingness. No expectations, no masks, just him and four walls.

"You are insane." He declared to himself. His thoughts seeped away quickly at the sound of music. Funny how music could help you do that.

He stopped dead in his tracks. Nope, he wasn't having an auditory hallucination, he was outside the music room. A smile beamed on his face. It was Blurryface. 

The door was cracked open the tiniest amount, not fully closed because of the stupid locks that locked on the the inside and not the out, meaning you would get locked inside if you didn't bring a key, because there was no keyhole on the outside, just a doorhandle. Spooky put an ear to the door to listen to what he had to play today.

The high notes were soft and tinkly, like wind chimes. It was a little more upbeat, not like yesterday's moving piece that felt like a dagger to Spooky's heart. It felt a little optimistic, and Spooky began tapping a rhythm on his thighs to match it.

"I don't know why I feed on emotion, there's a stomach inside my brain."

Jesus. Christ. He can sing. Like really sing. Spooky stopped the thigh-drumming to listen in awe with his mouth agape.

"I don't wanna be heard, I wanna be listened to. Does it bother anyone else when someone else has your name?" He stopped suddenly, before repeating louder:

"Does it bother anyone else when someone else has your name?"

"I scream, you scream, we all scream cuz we're terrified of what's around the corner. We stay in place because we don't wanna lose our lives, so let's think of something better."

Did he write that? That wasn't a song Spooky recognised, he would have remembered a song with lyrics like that. He began subconsciously tapping that beat again, imagining the snare and the symbols sound against the piano. 

"Hmm, something's missing." Blurryface muttered to himself. "More lyrics definitely, but another instrument maybe, though the uke won't fit this one." He was scribbling in a book.

He played the ukelele too? Just how talented was this guy? In the peak of his admiration and amazement he accidentally leaned against the door, making it creak.

Spooky almost pooped his pants and ducked, crawling towards the corner so he could run far away and dig a grave for himself.

"Hey! Who's there?" The door opened just as Spooky made it round the bend. "Hello?  Ugh, why does it keep feeling like someone's there?" Blurry said to himself, annoyed.

Spooky breathed a sigh of relief. No more blatant not so secret stalking. He thought to himself, but it wouldn't matter if he was standing right in front of Blurryface, he would never notice him because that's just what Spooky was, irrelevant, invisible.

That thought made him sad.

Chapter Text

Spooky Jim looked down at the white envelope in his hands. He was terrified of opening it. He picked away at the corner, curling up the paper before deciding no and instead slipping it into his galaxy printed backback.

"I've had a reasonable day. I'm not going to ruin it. Not before Taco Bell." He whispered to himself.

The end of school bell just went and Spooky Jim was waiting for Blurryface so they could set off for tacos together. He smoothed his hands over his "I Want To Believe" shirt for a fourth time in the last 7  seconds. Did he look okay? He wished he didn't spring up the plans today straight after school when he was dressed like a complete loon, so he could have at least put something semi-decent on to wear.

Why did care so much? It wasn't like it was... an actual date or something. Sure, Blurry said that, but he meant the other date. Spooky knew that much. Normal people hang out with their best friends all the time and don't feel weird. Like... butterflies?

'Normal people don't crush on their best friends.' A voice said to him, to his own despair, as he smoothed over his shirt another time.

"Hey, Dog-Breath."

"Hey, Bab-B..Argh!" Spooky had to physically bite his tongue to stop whatever trash was just about to come out of his mouth.

"Dude, are you okay?" Blurry looked extremely confused.

"Ow." Spooky let his tongue hang out of his mouth to touch the tenderness with a fingertip. "I lit my thong leal harth." He said with his tongue still out.

"If I didn't just witness that I would have laughed incredibly hard at what you just said." Blurry was holding his sides, some laugher spilling out. "And somehow behind that 'thong' I managed to hear your second voice."

"Thut up."

"What in God's name were you trying to say anyway?"

Spooky put his tongue back in. Well, it sure as heck was most definitely not baby boy. "Barbecue?"

"Wow, you are hungrier than I am. Come on, genius."

That second nickname brought his mind to the envelope. 'Let's hope I am one.'

They were mostly silent as they walked together. Spooky didn't enjoy the silence like Blurryface did. The silence breathed room for thoughts to think and feelings to feel. His brows furrowed, making a tiny little crease on his forehead.

"Spooky? You okay?"

Spooky quickly relaxed his facial features. "Yeah."

"Sure?" Blurry's face now became creased with worry.

"Yeah, just my tongue still kinda hurts."

They walked a little bit more, and Spooky hated the silence, but didn't know where to start the coversation, so let himself be trapped. The curiosity of what could be on the sheet of paper was starting to consume the entire thinking segment of his brain.

"Let's go this way, it's a shortcut." Blurryface pointed to a route Spooky didn't recognise, but he nodded anyway, a little too caught up to object. 

The road led off to a field with a path cut right through the grass. Blurry slowed his pace so he was in time with Soooky Jim.

"Hey, Spooky? What inspires you, man?"

Spooky had no idea, but he was glad for his thoughts to be interrupted. He looked at the swishy, hip-high grass around them. "Long grass that hasn't been cut." He said after a moment of thought. Spooky had been oppressed his whole life. Going over the long grass with a lawn mower was rather symbolic of him growing to that length only to be cut back.

Blurryface thought for a minute. "So failure to conform scares you?"

"No, it inspires me." That's what he asked, right?

"Scare, inspire, same thing." Blurry dismissed with a shrug.

"It it?"

"To me, yes. You see, failing to conform inspires you because you don't want to be like everyone else. You want to be your own person and not carry out what's expected of you. But deep down, failing to conform scares you because of the rejection that comes with it. If you're different, you're alone."

For some reason you're alone echoed in Spooky's empty skull. He nodded, understanding. He hated rules, but still felt compelled to follow them. "So what inspires you?"

"Death." Blurryface said eventually.

"So you're scared of death?" Spooky stumbled over a large rock as they walked.

"Not death itself. When the time comes I'll welcome it with open arms. It's the memories I'll leave behind when I die. I'm scared the won't be... memorable enough and I'll be forgotten. So, death inspires me to do something that will keep me remembered."

Spooky Jim stared in awe, almost tripping over another large rock in the process. "Blurryface, you'll never be forgotten. You're important to me and to Cry Baby and friends aren't people you can easily forget. Believe me, I've tried."

Blurryface smiled at his friend. "Thanks, Spooky."

They stopped in their tracks in front of a wooden sign that was planted firmly in the middle of the grassy path, where patches of flowers had started to bloom. Clearly by the low levels of erosion the path was not used often by the public. The sign read "BADLANDS AHEAD". Hm. That was probably why.

"That doesn't sound good." Spooky commented. "Are you sure you know where you're going?"

Blurry pressed his lips together. "Um... actually I've never been this way."

"What?!" Spooky almost shrieked. "We're lost! Why did I listen when I know you're not good with directions?"

"Hey! Look, you're not exactly a map whiz yourself so cut me some slack, okay?" Blurryface countered.

"We're definitely heading south. And I'm not talking about the compass point."

Blurry just rolled his eyes at the over-dramatic idiot. "Jeez, we'll find another route. It's not the end of the world."

"Let's turn back to the main road." Spooky said.

"No way, that'll take way too long. Let's keep going."

"Are you insane? You want to go in there?!"

"What's the worst that could happen?" Blurry fought a smirk. He did enjoy winding up his best friend. Who didn't?

"We could get more lost and kidnapped or killed!"

"There's no such thing as more lost." Blurry said as he wandered past the sign and towards a wooden fence further down the path.

"Blurry! Get back here, don't leave me!" Spooky quickly ran after the braver one.

As they walked the grass became shorter and thinner till it embraced their ankles. It wasn't really green at all, it was a very light chalky green colour, mixed with strands of pastel pinks and blues and lilacs. The longer grass was dotted around in patches, giving them a better view of the horizon. The field was large and went on for a couple of acres at least. It was then they spotted a girl sat cross legged near a patch of the longer grass. It towered over her small posture even when it had curved over like a sullen companion from where it couldn't support its own growth. 

"Oh no. It's her." Spooky uttered under his breath as he recognised the mix-matched clothes. This was the absolute worst. He would take murderers and kidnappers over seeing someone from school. "Quick, let's turn around while we still can!"

Blurry laughed. "Come on, Spooks. She's not that bad. I'm curious to know why she's here."

They walked closer and realised Hurricane had her eyes closed, hence the reason she didn't react to them. The long grass swayed around her quite gracefully.

"What are you two doing here?" She snapped suddenly, opening her eyes.

"We're not. We're passing through." Blurry quickly retaliated.

"You shouldn't be here." She grew angry very quickly.

"And why's that?"

"These are my Badlands. No one comes here but me." She stood up, as if she was protecting something, ready for a confrontation.

"Badlands?"

"My safe place." She said lightly and became dreamy, as if remembering a fond memory.

"We don't mean to intrude. We have a place like that too. It's special, right? Where you can think, escape, breathe easy. A safe place." Spooky let it flow from him, taking himself by surprise and making Blurry look at him with a knowing side-smile.

"Yeah." Hurricane said it more like it was question than an agreement.

"Did you put up the sign back there?" Blurry threw a thumb over his shoulder.

"No," She said, taking a strand of grass between her fingers and twirling it gently, without pulling it out. "It's always been there. Just like a lot of things. Always there." Hurricane stopped the finger twirling to peek at the boys inquisitively. "How did you find this place?"

"It was an accident. We took a wrong turn somewhere." Spooky said with an edge in his voice, directing it at Blurry. Blurry had to bite into his shoulder to prevent himself from laughing. The humour left him when he saw Hurricane's expression.

"Do you think something is funny?"

"No, I-"

"You think you can just show up and laugh, while my Badlands die out?" She grabbed the collar of Blurryface's shirt.

"Hey, let him go!" Spooky hollered.

Hurricane released him and turned away from the trespassers, covering her face with her hands. Her shoulders started to shake, but her sobs were silent. Spooky threw Blurry a look as if to say 'Not that bad, huh?'

Yet, he was the who put an arm around her first. "Whatever it is, you know it can be fixed, right?"

"This can't be fixed. I'm losing my safe place. You said you had one, how would you feel?"

Devastated. Incomplete. Homeless. "What do you mean you're losing it?"

Hurricane traced a pattern over the grass with her index finger. "This place used to be filled with lush green grass up to your shoulders. There was a river, it was the purest, until it dried out. There's nothing but dirt in its hollow now. The grass... the grass is dying; it lost its colour. My Badlands will be nothing but a pile of rocks soon. And I think it's me who did it."

She started to sob again, quietly. Blurryface squatted next to them. "How could you have done it?"

"Ever since I started coming here it started happening slowly, over time. I haunted like a ghost till the darkness that possessed left me and was taken in by the roots. I destroyed my safe place."

Spooky felt uncomfortable, like an itchy feeling that writhed through his bones. He put a hand on her shoulder to console her. "Hurricane, I know how you feel-"

"No! No you don't!" She moved out of Spooky's grasp and shouted. "Don't pretend to know how I feel! You don't know me or my Badlands!" Her fists clenched as she screamed. "Get out! Get away!" She had sunk to the floor again and began pounding the baked soil with her fists. "Go away!"

Spooky and Blurry exchanged glances and left quickly, deciding it was a better idea to leave. It was true, they didn't know her or what she was capable of. For all they knew she could've been the murderer Spooky was frightened about. They didn't stop running till they reached the sign. They stopped and heaved their chests for breath.

"See, I told you she was a handful." Blurry smirked as he panted out.

"You think I didn't realise the first time I met her?" Spooky gasoed out between breaths. "And I recall you saying she wasn't that bad." Spooky let out a big sigh. "What do we do now?"

Blurryface smirked again. "We do as said earlier, and go back to the main road."

 

 


 

  

Spooky was gonna do great things this year. His first year at high school, and he had already made some cool older friends, had been praised at church for being extra helpful after the sermon and had been accepted for the subjects he wanted to do. He didn't think anything could go wrong.

Untill a few weeks in, when little voices in the back of his brain started talking and telling him he wasn't really academically gifted and he should just give up before it gets too much.

But with a confused shake of his head, he ignored them and smiled, because that wasn't true, was it? The voices were clearly barking up the wrong tree, because Spooky gave up the drums to make more time to study.

So then they told him his friends were fakes. He was alone. 

But with a slightly dimmer smile, he shook his head. Of course he wasn't, he had plenty of friends. But he realised he didn't spend a lot of time around them because he was so busy studying. He took a quick mental note to try to fix that one.

Then the voices said Spooky Jim was questioning Things. Things that shouldn't be questioned. Ever.

The hardly-there wisp of a smile ghosted across his face. Okay, he didn't really have an answer to that one. But he knew he had an inquisitive mind, and that was prone to question.

But to question basic facts? Basic sin? Blasphemy, lust, and even love... to love another was a sin. Another... male, another boy. Everything was sin sin sin. 

"And you're doing it now, sin sin sin."

He shook himself again. Where did these thoughts even manifest from? He had never thought this way before.

Spooky stopped at the sound of a piano. What on earth was that? At this time? The end of school bell went ages ago and Spooky was staying behind to meet his friends. He wandered down the hall to the end where the music room was, the noise getting louder as he made his way closer.

Maybe I shouldn't... he thought to himself. Whoever it was, he didn't really need to see, did he? But whoever it was they were playing really really good and Spooky was too curious to know who it was than to turn around and head the other way. So against himself, he poked his face against the small window on the door of the room to see who it was. 

The boy was wearing black, and his back was to him so Spooky couldn't really get a good look at who he might have been. His fingers traipsed effortlessly along the ivory keys, clearly well practiced. He played some classical piece that seemed familiar to Spooky Jim's ears, but he couldn't recall a name for it. Instead he watched and listened as the boy continued to play, mesmorised with his talent. 

The boy stopped playing suddenly, as if something was wrong with the piano. He stood from the stool and went around the back of it, retrieving a new sheet of music. On his return back to the stool Spooky got a good look at his face. The boy started playing a different piece, and Spooky realised he had been staring too long very creepily. Just as he was about to walk into the room to compliment him on his talent, Spooky was hit with a wave of unfamiliar nausea.

"Don't go." The voices said. "You can't go in there."

Something very internal seemed to prevent him from entering the room and complimenting the boy like a normal person would. He had been watching too long, it would seem too weird, too random. The boy would be quick to turn what Spooky was trying to say around into something different. He should just forget it and leave. 

"That's right," they said. "Stay with us."

So he did, he began walking away from the distraction and curiousity of the music to the silence of the corridor and they really started to talk and say things Spooky didn't think he was even capable of acknowledging about himself. He was alone. He was stupid. He was weird.

He was a sinner.

And it all had an air of truth, because where else would all this come from if it didn't?

"Spooky Jim!" The big-forehead boy with the horned stumps caught his attention from the across the corridor and made his way over to him. He almost forgot that he was even meeting his friends.

"Hey." Spooky said, barely audible. Where did his voice go all of a sudden?

"The rest of the guys will be here soon." Big-head explained, sitting himself on a bench fixed against the corridor wall. Suddenly Spooky Jim became nervous about hanging around a bunch of people. "So," he said, after a tick-tock of silence. "What's been going on Spooky Jim?"

Now they had sat still, Big-head began tapping his foot restlessly. Spooky shrugged. "Nothing much." He was actually going to say studying, but that didn't seem cool enough to say to a guy like Big-head. Big-head stopped touching his jawline and cheekbones and admiring his baby horns in the reflective display across from him to snicker.

"Really, nothing? What do you do with your time?" His foot began tapping again.

"Just... sit around, I'm kinda lazy." He wasn't really. But church and the drums was a second and third thing that didn't seem like a good idea to share either. It's not like he was still playing them anyway.

"So you watch a lot of TV?" Big-head was adjusting the size of his quiff, looking dead ahead into the mirrored panel and not really paying any attention to the coversation he was having with Spooky, somehow forming words without taking in anything. 

"Yeah, I guess." Spooky only watched absolutely everything in the sci-fi genre. Space, alien controversy and NASA, you name it and he knew all about it.

"Ah, that's cool." Big-head commented, not the slightest bit interested. He was paying more attention to the curve of his chin at the moment that in what Spooky had to say. And his foot tapping was really fucking annoying.

"What about you?" Spooky asked. "What do you do with your spare time?"

Suddenly Big-head became very interested in the conversation as soon as the main aspect had averted to him. "Me? I like to make memories."

"Sorry?" Spooky said, confused.

"Let me make you understand by asking you a question. What would you rather be, a hero or a legend?"

"Um, a hero?" Spooky stuttered.

"Uh-uh, wrong!" He poked him the ribs. "Heroes do the good, the hard work. They get praised, sure! But once they go, they're gone. They get remembered every now and then, but they still go. And without a good enough legacy, how do we remember one hero from another similar one? Malcom X or Martin Luther King? Alexander Fleming or Florey and Chain? So easy to mistake one for another. But Hitler or Stalin? Those are names you will never mistake. These people are legends and they will never die, never be forgotten. They will always be remembered for the fear that they brought. I want to make my own memories, my own ways of being remembered. Understand?"

Spooky Jim in all honesty was a little worried for this boy and his way of thinking, but he nodded anyway. "Kind of, I guess." 

"I'll have to show you for you to understand."

They sat in silence for a while (aside from the consistent tap-tap-tap) until Spooky voiced himself to break his insanity. "How come we're all meeting here anyway?"

Big-head smirked, and leaned back on the bench, grinning wildly. The foot tapping ceased in replace of finger tapping instead. "There's someone I'm looking for. Not too long ago he poured his drink all over me, then said some nasty things. I just want to confront him."

"Oh." Spooky said, and if it weren't for that glinting smirk Spooky could've been convinced by Big-head's sincere tone.

"Yeah, good old Blurryface. Always fucking around."

Spooky had heard of Blurryface. He heard the other boys say some awful things about him. There was never a time when he saw him though.

"How do you know where he is?"

"I don't. I've been looking for a while, but I know he's still here in school somewhere."

Still... here...

Spooky's brain suddenly jammed into gear when the boy from the music room invaded his thoughts. Surely, that had to be him? Who else would be waiting around after hours? Spooky bit his tongue hard. He couldn't tell. No way. But those voices started muttering in his ear again and he began thinking.

He needed his friends to be with him. They clearly didn't like him, as the one-sided conversation he just had proved. Maybe, if he told Big-head, they could go together just them to check if it really was him before the rest got here, and Big-head would commemorate Spooky for it. And it wasn't likely it would be him, the boys had talked about Blurryface being a talentless piece of shit, so that was possibly someone else practicing.

"I think-" Spooky started before his mouth could stop. "I know where he is."

They walked down the hall and Spooky's legs felt like jelly as the sounds of the piano got louder and louder. Big-head's face twisted more and more as they reached the the door. They listened for a few minutes as the boy played a tune Spooky didn't recognise. He must have stopped playing the classical stuff to play this melody, and Spooky felt something break when he heard him open his mouth to sing a soft, barely audible tune that he couldn't quite make out. 

"I need something to kill me." His fingers danced on the keys. "I am tired of taking my own life."

Big-head heard every word, and he sneered. From the look on his face Spooky could make out jealousy. This confused him. Big-head never seemed to be a musical person, but it was clear on his expression he was seething with jealousy.

"That's him, alright." He spat. 

Spooky remembered why they were here and now felt a cold hand encase his heart. What did he just do? He just offered up the poor boy to these lions ready to eat, fit with blood running down their chins.

"He can have this day. But wait for tomorrow." Big-head clapped a hard hand on his shoulder. "Well done, Spooky Jim."

Spooky Jim didn't feel too appreciated.

 

 


 

 

All Spooky Jim could think about now was that white envelope in his backback. He ignored it for most of the time him and Blurryface spent eating the tacos together at Taco Bell, but now it eating away at his brain until it wanted to throw up. He was barely paying attention to what Blurryface was saying.

"So then I said to her-"

"Give me one minute, Blurry, I just really need the bathroom." Spooky interrupted, quickly grabbing his backpack and running off before he got a reply. This was beyond curiousity now. He needed to know.

Spooky picked a stall and bolted the door, tearing open the zip to the galaxy backpack and ransacking its contents until he found it. 

Student Report, Spooky Jim

He couldn't stand it any longer, even though he'd regret it. In a quick fluid motion he ripped open the envelope and pulled out the single paper that meant so much not to him, but to his parents.

Geometry: B

Physics: C

Chemistry: B

Further Maths: B

He stared, unbelieving. Not a single A grade. Not one! It was disgraceful. He double checked the name, making sure it was his. Spooky felt his knees go so weak he was scared he'd collapse on the dirty floor. How was he going to tell his parents? 

How did this even happen? To make things worse than they already were, he even managed to add a C grade in the mix. A C! Spooky's lips started to tremble. He couldn't, he couldn't show them. He stood there shaking, the paper flapping around till he shoved it deep in his pockets. 

He wasn't going to show them. He  was going to say it never arrived, work hard and show them the next report. That's the only thing he could do. 

Spooky typed a quick text to Blurry saying he wasn't feeling well and went home. Then he took the back exit and left quickly, so Blurry didn't have time to chase him and ask questions. He ran to try to keep his head clear.

It's going to be okay, it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay...

When he did get home, he was panting hard for breath, but he didn't stop until he reached his bedroom. The paper was going under that matress never to be fou-

"Spooky."

His heart stopped. The matress had been moved and all his music was out, scattered for all to see. His mother stood beside it, a beyond angry look on her face. 

"What is this?"

Spooky's grip on the report paper tightened. 

Chapter Text

A shiver slithered its way up Blurry's back. The snow had finally arrived, and its soft crunch added to the dry leaves under its blanket as Blurryface stepped over them. Even with his white hoodie, he couldn't help but feel cold. But this was a cold rutted deep in his bones, holding them together; a cold his skin wasn't used to. 

Blurryface was on his way to the treehouse. Granted, that was where Spooky was. He had ran off whilst they were hanging together and before Blurry could do, say or even process anything in his mind his friend had gone. Ghosted away. Blurryface thought about stopping by his house to check on him, but he realised it wasn't a great idea because it meant going through his parents and in all honesty, he just wasn't physically prepared for that.

That was three days ago. And Spooky wasn't one to ghost. That was Blurryface's usual job. 

The only time they could really talk anyway was the treehouse, so that's where he was sure Spooky would be today. He didn't really know what else was safe to do. With a quick shake of the frosted rope ladder (which did nothing to rid it of the frozen ice) Blurryface started climbing, taking care of his footing so he wouldn't slip and fall to his death. Or injury. Although he was always quite good at landing on his feet, not like Spooky, who could make it look incredibly easy to trip on thin air.

Banging a few times on the trapdoor to loosen the frozen hinges and knock off the lining of ice around the edges, Blurry pushed his way though, sighing sadly when he found the safe place completely empty. It was early afternoon and he was hoping for either of his friends to be here. Even Cry Baby had been uncharacteristically MIA. He closed the trapdoor and shivered, the cold air no different from outside. It may have well just snowed inside.

Blurry took out his ukulele and notebook and from the secret spot under the floorboards, and started to strum a little tune. The strings were frigid and stiff from the sharp air, where it had lay exposed to the temperature over the night. He hated leaving it here so uncovered, but it was better protected here than somewhere at home where it could be easily found. Blurry took a mental note to buy a case for it.

He opened the notebook where he wrote out a few notes and began playing to warm up the instrument.

"Poor girl," Blurry said, wincing at the horrid sound it made. He tuned it and stummed again, and smiled. "That's better."

When he finished, Blurryface put the ukulele down to flick through his notebook. There were poems, Cry Baby's writing practice, odd song verses and a lot of blank pages, a bit like him on the inside. He took the pencil out of the ring-binder and started doodling an image that had been playing on his head. He wasn't any artist, but it did look decent enough to be able to tell what it was without squinting. He squinted anyway, so his eyelashes fuzzed his vision and made it look a little not right. It was the red bird from his dream. On the page next to it he began writing in as much detail as he could about what happened in his dream.

Blurryface stole a quick glance at the mirror. It stood gleaming and proud like it always had and Blurryface was surprised at himself that he was expecting it to have moved by itself to another spot or something equally as impossible. But it didn't stop him from getting that twisted feeling in his stomach. As he stood to walk towards it, the trapdoor bursted open. 

Blurryface spun around with a huge gleam on his face, but it was quickly removed when he saw how Spooky struggled to heave his heavy body into the the treehouse. 

"Spooky?"

He was wearing a white vest - a vest! - in this freezing weather, matched with tiny holes dotted around on the shoulders and sides like a moth nibbled its way through purposely knowing it was his favourite. His skin was red, either with the cold or with the exertion of getting here. 

Spooky just sat there on his knees wordlessly, letting the door slam shut with a loud bang. Blurry moved forwards and put his hands on his shoulders, only to shriek and jerk away at the sub-zero temperature his friend's skin felt like.

"Hey, are you oka-Jesus Christ, you're fucking freezing Spooks!" Blurry hissed. "Look at the weather, what are you wearing?!"

"I just... threw anything on..." Spooky mumbled, letting himself be taken into Blurryface's embrace in an attempt to warm up. He wasn't even shivering. His skin felt so numb shivering was pointless.

"You could have gone into hypothermia and died." Blurry rubbed his hands up and down Spooky Jim's iceberg arms, trying to create some friction before removing his hoodie and dressing him in it. Spooky blinked a few times, the dulled feeling of Blurryface's skin on his skin stirring something in him.

"I'm fine..." He said, as Blurry propped him up against the wall, but he didn't want Blurryface to stop rubbing his skin. 

"If only I could light a fire or something for warmth."

Spooky chuckled, totally out of it. "A fire, in a wooden treehouse? Not the best idea."

Blurryface smiled, beside himself. "You're literally like an ice cube, I'm actually scared. Jeez, how long were you outside?"

"Don't know. I wandered for a few hours maybe." Spooky shivered, and he wasn't sure if it came across a legitimate shiver or not, but Blurryface began rubbing his hands over the hoodie torso regardless.

"What the hell were you doing out there?" Blurryface slipped his hands under the hoodie and the vest hem, flattening his hands against Spooky's body in circular motions.

Forget lighting a fire, Blurry's hands left burns on Spooky's skin wherever they touched. He forgot how to form coherent sentences.

"Um...I-I, Uh..." Spooky stuttered and inhaled sharply when Blurry traced over a particularly low part of his abdomen. Blurryface quickly retreated his hands when he realised he overstepped a boundary, much to Spooky Jim's dismay. 

"My report," Spooky said quickly before silence could envelope them and make things awkward. "My grades came through."

"And?" Blurry questioned. "What were they?"

Spooky turned his head to the side. "Not good enough."

"Well, you can fix it right?"

Spooky bit his lip and shook his head. "They found my stash. The music, my drumsticks, everything." His lip quivered, and Blurryface knew it wasn't because of the cold. He let out a deep sigh knowing whatever Spooky was going to tell him was far from good.

 

 


 

  

Spooky Jim felt his breaths quicken. 

"Explain. Now." His mother said in that tone that made his bones feeble. His tongue went dry like sandpaper but he couldn't disobey. He was stood there now wondering why he ever did disobey. "I  asked you something."

"Music." He blurted, the order snapping him into obedience. "It's just music."

She turned over a CD case with distain on her expression. "What on Earth would you need to listen to this type of music for?"

"It h-helps me. When I'm feeling down."

"Down? There's no reason for you to feel down. Listening to this trash is making you believe you feel down!"

"Sometimes I have bad days." Spooky tried justifying his mental state.

"And you think that accounts for you listening to this Satanic music?!"

"Satanic?" Spooky whispered. The music he listened to was about finding religion, being one with God. Nothing different from the hymns in Church, only a few metaphors and a couple of different instruments added in.

"And this?!" She held the drumsticks up. "Your father and I discussed this in front of you, your music is banned!"  Spooky felt small and powerless. "I want all this to be rid of by the end of today. I've had to call your father home early from work."

Great job, Spooky. Another inconvenience you've created just by existing.

She made her way out the room, only to stop halfway. "What is that?" She pointed to the paper in his hand. Spooky flinched. There was no hiding anything now.

"My report." He said, unclenching his hand. She uncurled it and Spooky had never seen a rage like the one in his mothers eyes when she read the letters.

"IS THIS A JOKE?" She screamed. "These are the grades you bring home after we slave away trying to get you the best future we can?!"

Spooky broke down in tears. "I'm sorry, mom. Please, it was a tough term, so much was going on-"

"I can't believe this." She shook her head, disappointment radiating off her in waves. "B's. Not a single A grade in sight."

Something clicked then, and she began grabbing the CDs in her arms and taking them out of the room. "It's this music. This satanic music that's poisoning your mind. Infecting your grades." She babbled incoherently.

"Mom? Mom!" Spooky chased after her down the stairs and out into the back garden. She dumped the entity into the family barbecue and retrieved the liquid spirit to drown them in. Spooky could only stare in horror. "Mom, please no. Dont do it, please!"

With her face twisted up, she lit the match. "We'll burn it out, out of this house. The only way to be rid of it."

Her fingers tossed the match in, and Spooky watched his possessions become alight with sobs to accompany the crackles of the flame. The foul smell of burning plastic filled his nostrils along with the smoke. She even added in the drumsticks for good measure. His drumsticks, his special ones.

"Let this be a lesson." She turned to him, but Spooky instead watched the plastic melt in the flames. Whatever was in there, was far from salvageable now. "You've let your hands become lazy, become idle and the Devil makes work of idle hands. I won't let you do the Devil's work."

 

 


 

 

Blurryface let out a breath he wasn't aware he was holding when Spooky concluded his story.

"I don't even know what to say." He said. Regardless of the awkwardness from earlier, he took Spooky's cold hand into his own. "You deserve so much better than that."

"I don't know what I'm going to do now. I have to go to extra Church sermons for 'cleansing'. I'm just glad it's our final year in school, or they'll have sent be to some Christian boarding school for sure." Spooky sniffed. "I'm just scared they're going to try and shove religion down my throat and destroy whatever belief I have left."

Blurryface tightened his grip. "That won't happen."

Spooky smiled with tight lips. "Thanks Blurry."

After a moment, Blurry released his grip and cleared his throat. "I'm gonna go pick up Cry Baby. She's been gone the last few days too, I'm getting kinda worried."

"Is she okay? I'll come too." Spooky started to get up.

"No, no. You need to stay here or you'll just get cold again." Blurryface looked around then picked up a scarf Cry Baby left. "Here," He said, wrapping it around Spooky's mouth. "If you breathe against the scarf, your breath will condense and keep you warm."

Spooky rolled his eyes. "This is why you're passing and I'm not." He said, muffled by the fabric.

"Oh, shut up. You're passing too." He rolled his eyes too. "I'll be back soon, okay?" Blurryface lifted up the trapdoor, pausing for confirmation.

Spooky could only nod. "Okay." He said muffled and leaned his head back on the wall as the trapdoor slammed shut. After a few minutes he had to take the wretched thing off his mouth because it started to irritate him.

Spooky sniffed at the hoodie. It smelt unmistakably of Blurryface. It was a woody pine scent, with some sort of smokey hint to it. Like a burning forest. Or maybe that was the wooden wall behind him, and the smoke that never left his nostrils from before. He realized how stupid he must have looked then, inhaling the fabric like he required it to breathe.

Spooky stood stiffly from his frozen position, moving his muscles to regain the some circulation. He noticed Blurryface had left out his notebook, something he never did. Spooky Jim had seen a few pages, it wasn't like it was off limits or something but it felt wrong to be left alone with it. He picked it up to put it back in its compartment, only to stop with it in his hand. If he moved it, Blurryface would think he looked through it. Not that he didn't think Blurry would mind, it was just rude to go through other people's stuff. Spooky should know. When he went to put it back down, he quickly flicked the pages (he couldn't help himself, okay) till grey shading caught his eye.

It was a drawing of a bird, and a rather good one at that. And it was rather new too, it was on the second most recent page. Aside it was a paragraph of writing, and if it weren't Blurry's, Spooky would have taken one look at the endless jumble of letters and closed it, too lazy to read it. When he did focus on the words however, he noticed they actually were jumbled up. The letters were reversed, and Spooky couldn't make anything out at all. At first he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, maybe the cold had affected him on a cranial level, but he realised the words had actually been written like that. It was strange, the writing on all the other pages was perfectly neat. He wondered if this was how frustrating being dyslexic would be like. It was useless, he couldn't crack this DaVinci code unless he used-

The mirror. Spooky turned towards the it, and took the book with him. He held the page up in front of the mirror and the backwards writing finally made sense. 

Chapter Text

ˎɈʜϱiɿd ϱninɿυd ˎɿɘϱγT ɿɘϱγT
;Ɉʜϱin ɘʜɈ ʇo ƨɈƨɘɿoʇ ɘʜɈ nI
ˎɘγɘ ɿo bnɒʜ lɒɈɿommi ɈɒʜW
ʕγɿɈɘmmγƨ lυʇɿɒɘʇ γʜɈ ɘmɒɿʇ blυoƆ

.ƨɘiʞƨ ɿo ƨqɘɘb ɈnɒɈƨib Ɉɒʜw nI
ʕƨɘγɘ ɘniʜɈ ʇo ɘɿiʇ ɘʜɈ Ɉnɿυઘ
ʕɘɿiqƨɒ ɘʜ ɘɿɒb ƨϱniw Ɉɒʜw nO
ʕɘɿiʇ ɘʜɈ ɘziɘƨ ɘɿɒb ˎbnɒʜ ɘʜɈ ɈɒʜW

ˎɈɿɒ Ɉɒʜw & ˎɿɘblυoʜƨ Ɉɒʜw bnA
ʕɈɿɒɘʜ γʜɈ ʇo ƨwɘniƨ ɘʜɈ ɈƨiwɈ blυoƆ
ˎɈɒɘd oɈ nɒϱɘd Ɉɿɒɘʜ γʜɈ nɘʜw bnA
ʕɈɘɘʇ bɒɘɿb Ɉɒʜw & ʕbnɒʜ bɒɘɿb ɈɒʜW

ˎniɒʜɔ ɘʜɈ Ɉɒʜw ʕɿɘmmɒʜ ɘʜɈ ɈɒʜW
ʕniɒɿd γʜɈ ƨɒw ɘɔɒnɿυʇ Ɉɒʜw nI
ˎqƨɒɿϱ bɒɘɿb Ɉɒʜw ʕlivnɒ ɘʜɈ ɈɒʜW
!qƨɒlɔ ƨɿoɿɿɘɈ γlbɒɘb ƨɈi ɘɿɒႧ

ƨɿɒɘqƨ ɿiɘʜɈ nwob wɘɿʜɈ ƨɿɒɈƨ ɘʜɈ nɘʜW
:ƨɿɒɘɈ ɿiɘʜɈ ʜɈiw nɘvɒɘʜ b'ɿɘɈɒw bnA
ʕɘɘƨ oɈ ʞɿow ƨiʜ ɘlimƨ ɘʜ biႧ
ʕɘɘʜɈ ɘʞɒm dmɒ⅃ ɘʜɈ ɘbɒm oʜw ɘʜ biႧ

ˎɈʜϱiɿd ϱninɿυd ɿɘϱγT ɿɘϱγT
:Ɉʜϱin ɘʜɈ ʇo ƨɈƨɘɿoʇ ɘʜɈ nI
ˎɘγɘ ɿo bnɒʜ lɒɈɿommi ɈɒʜW
ʕγɿɈɘmmγƨ lυʇɿɒɘʇ γʜɈ ɘmɒɿʇ ɘɿɒႧ

ɘʞɒlઘ mɒilliW -

Chapter Text

The wind was sharp, and cold. The weather wasn't getting any better. Maybe Blurryface just felt that way because of how warm he felt in the treehouse with Spooky. It was just colder alone inside his head.

So when he got to CryBaby's house, we wasn't in a great mood to begin with. Her brother, seeming surprisingly sober, opened the door once he rang the doorbell.

"Yeah?" He asked.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but is CryBaby in?"

"And who are you, her boyfriend?" He raised an eyebrow.

"No I'm one of her friends, we've met before." Yeah, just when you were high.

He scruched his face. "You sure? I would've remembered a weird shit like you."

Blurry sighed. "Is she here or not?"

"She's not in." He smiled. "She left earlier today."

"Do you know where she went?" Blurryface questioned.

"Do I look like I give a fuck about what she does with her time? Aren't you supposed to be her friend?"

Something snapped.

"Aren't you supposed to be her brother?" Blurryface snarled.

He seemed taken aback by Blurry's outburst (Blurry wasn't one to usually speak back) and Blurryface used that time to leave before he said something else he'd regret. Only he didn't feel any remorse for that one.

Now Blurryface was back at square one. He had no idea where she was, and if she wasn't at home and wasn't at the treehouse then where the hell was she?

The cold licked at his skin and he  shivered, remembering he left his hoodie with Spooky. He didn't regret it though; Spooky seemed to need it more than he did. He started jogging to up the circulation in his body by a few notches. This Winter of Death wasn't going to have him too. Blurryface decided it was best to just go back to the treehouse. Spooky was alone there and he was chasing a ghost, apparently.

The forest's leafless trees offered him little shield from the cold. Their gnarled twig fingers reached out for him like they were seeking what warmth he had left. Blurryface had always felt like the trees were alive, that they could hear and think. And they could talk too. Their perfectly responsed rustle that would've gone along with the wind were like whispers to Blurryface; he always heard them.

That was when he felt it; a disturbance in the trees, something that didn't belong in the forest. He heard the whistle of the wind through the stark branches as a warning. Putting his faith in it, he ducked behind a tree and that was when he heard the voices.

"It's on Wednesday, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah."

"Just promise you won't be late?"

"I promise, Cry Baby."

Blurryface poked his head out a little, and saw his friend's hand entwined with a boy's. Blurryface recognised him. He was in the year below at school. Was it Jimmy or Jessie? Either way Burry wasn't too keen on him.

"Am I going to see you tomorrow?"

"Yeah you bet, babe."

As a goodbye, he brought their lips together and Blurry resisted the urge to throw up. When he left, Blurryface didn't miss the way Cry Baby sighed in happiness. Frankly, he really didn't care.

"That's nice," Blurry stepped out of the trees before he could stop himself. "You and him. Johnny, is it?"

"Blurry," Cry Baby nearly jumped out of her skin. "I-I didn't know you were there."

"That's funny," Blurryface smiled maliciously. "I didn't know he was in the picture either. And it's hilarious," he continued as he circled around her, his voice layered with sarcasm. "Because here I've been, worried sick about you these last few days but you're fine, right? Just a little too occupied to let your friends know you're okay."

"Blurry, I-"

"How long?" He said annoyed, cutting her excuse off.

She sighed with defeat. "Nearly two months."

Blurryface scoffed. "Two months and you didn't think to tell us? Are you ashamed of him? Or is it me and Spooky that's the problem?"

Blurry knew he wasn't really angry at Cry Baby. He was angry at the fact that she could love someone in a way he felt he'd never be able to. Something deep and dark in Blurry wanted her to feel how he felt. Loveless. Unlovable. He was jealous, but not in that way. He craved the idea of being loved, for someone to be there, only without the love part. He could never give himself to someone so openly just for them to tear his heart.

"We're friends, Cry Baby, we tell each other everything. I don't know why you thought I wouldn't be happy for you."

"But that's just it!" She cried. "You were always more than a friend to me!"

Blurryface quietened his anger to listen.

Cry Baby sighed deeply this time, like she was relieving the statement from somewhere deep in her chest. "I was convinced at one point I loved you. But I knew it wouldn't go anywhere. I'm a 'friend', right?" She started sniffing. "I started dating Johnny to get over you. He was a distraction at first, it was the only way to get you out of my head."

Blurryface had known. Blurry had always known. It was like those red eyes could see into your soul and read all your thoughts like a book and oh, how he loved to read. But he couldn't love Cry Baby, and it wasn't just because they were friends. He couldn't love anyone. He had never been shown love and he didn't know how to love. The only love he knew came in fist-sized packages and hurtful words. Sure, people were attractive and he imagined that having sex with a beautiful person would be appealing, but Blurry was sure he was incapable of feeling the emotion. Was there a label for that to stick on his head and fit him in a box?

"Well say something." Cry Baby's voice cracked. "A minute ago you weren't shutting up."

Blurry took a deep breath. "Look Cry Baby, I don't know- I don't have it in me to love someone that way. It's just always been that way with me, okay? I've never been shown love."

Cry Baby leaned close enough for Blurryface to see her watery eyes. "I could've shown you." She whispered with trembling lips.

Blurry moved away. "I'm sorry. I care about you a lot but I don't see you like that. We've always been friends, and that's always been sufficient enough for me."

"It was never enough for me. I'm sorry." She said, and she started walking away.

Blurry sensed she needed space, and let her walk unhappily away.

 

 


 

 

Blurryface was angry and he wasn't quite sure why. Maybe it was the memory fresh in his mind from yesterday that scathed away at him on his way to school. It simmered away under his second layer of skin, threatening to bubble over. He looked down at his hands. They didn't hurt anymore, but the little scars that had formed from constant scab-picking were beginning to itch. 

He ignored it.

It was only when Spooky met him by his locker that his anger fizzed away. 

"Hey. Everything okay?"

"I'm fine." Blurry said, but he shook his head instead of nodding it.

"Did you find Cry Baby yesterday?"

"Yeah, but it's a long story so I'll tell you later."

"Okay," Spooky shrugged in dismissal, confused. "Oh! Your hoodie!" Spooky Jim pulled out the spec-less white hoodie out from his backpack. 

Blurry allowed himself to smile a little at his friend. "Keep it. I'm sure I've still got some of your stuff I kept because I didn't return it."

"Okay, but if you see me wearing it everyday for the next two years, don't complain." 

Blurry smiled, and genuinely this time.

"I have to go to my Church group thing today after school. I'd bring you along for moral support, and to help me keep my sanity, but they won't allow it." As Spooky talked, he twisted the passcode to Blurry's locker and grabbed the books he needed for him.

Blurry took his books out of his friend's hands. "Even if they would, you'd need moral support for your moral support. I might just lose my own sanity." 

Spooky laughed.

"Honestly Spooky, it won't be that bad."

He laughed again, this time sarcastically. "Yeah, right."

The bell rung.

"I have math. I'll see you after drama class?" 

Blurry nodded. "See you."

Drama class was tolerable, because Blurryface quite enjoyed certain aspects of it. He liked script writing because he was in control of how the story would go and the idea of acting as a way to become a completely different person was fascinating, but he really loved the extensive theatrics of the villains in stories. The monologues, the wardrobe; aside from being evil, the villain was always better, whether in theatrical expression or character development. It was boring to act or write about the hero, unless he had some dark side. Any idiot could make up a hero. The villain requires motive, intelligence, flair. Any fool could throw around a magic hammer and be deemed a Norse God. That's why Blurryface always preferred Loki to Thor.

Today though, there was a different set of thoughts on his agenda. 

"Hey, you." He said to one of his classmates. "What's your name again?"

She had rainbow hair; a craze of sunshine yellow, ravenous red and provocative purple. She seemed too timid for such bold hair. "Dye," she said. "Dye Young? We've been in the same class for how long, dude."

"I'm sorry, I've got a terrible memory." Blurryface apologised. She let out a little sigh. "Do you know Johnny? Year below?"

Dye tucked a curtain of green behind her ear. "Sounds familiar. Does he have brown hair, nice eyes?"

Blurryface rolled his eyes. "That's him."

"What about him?"

"I need to know where he goes at lunch."

 

Blurry found him, leaning against the wall, waiting for his friends probably. Blurry didn't hesitate to walk right up to him.

"You're Johnny, right?"

Johnny scruched his nose. "Do I know you?"

Blurryface found that response rude. "Not exactly. But I know you're dating Cry Baby." 

He stood up straighter so he wasn't leaning on the wall and made the same expression. "So?"

"So, she is practically family to me. Don't even think about hurting her or I'm warning you it won't end well."

Johnny scoffed. "You're warning me?"

Blurryface took a step closer so he was right in front of him, in his personal space. His taller frame towered over the younger, arrogant boy and his shadow stretched out in the sun. "Yeah, I am. So don't take it lightly." Blurryface seemed to enjoy the way Johnny shrunk back a little, gulping in fear. Blurry smirked and walked away.

"It was nice talking to you." He called over his shoulder.

 

After school, Blurryface headed to the treehouse to try and recollect the mess of his thoughts. It took exactly 149 steps to get there. He took an extra one to make it 150. Blurry only usually counted his steps when he was thinking too deeply about things. He had counted the number of wooden panels on the treehouse an immeasurable number of times, but he did it again anyway to put the niggling to bed in his mind. Once he did, he opened up his notebook to journal the mess out of his head and onto the paper. It was always better to throw up on the page then to keep it locked in his brain.

When he opened it however, he found an entry he did not write. The first thing he noticed was the messy handwriting and assuned it was just Cry Baby's practice but on closer inspection, he saw the letters were backwards. He furrowed his brows. This was done purposely, she couldn't have done this. Blurry squinted painfully, trying to decipher the hieroglyphics, but it resulted in nothing but a migraine at the strain. 

He sighed angrily and shook his head, till he caught sight of the mirror. The bulb above his head lit up bright enough to fuse, and he held up the notebook against the mirror to read what was written on the page.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did He smile his work to see?
Did He who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

- William Blake

"The Tyger." Blurryface said, recognising it as a poem he read in literature class once. He looked up from the page in the reflection and saw a red bird perched on his shoulder. Blurry jumped violently, dropping the book in the process. He clapped a hand on his right shoulder and looked around but there was no bird. When he lined himself up to the mirror again, the bird was on his reflection's shoulder. 

"That's... insane." Blurryface said, looking back and forth between his own shoulder and his matching reflection's inhabitant. At least his reflection looked like him this time, like a normal reflection should.

Blurryface leaned closer to the reflection where the bird was, and touched at it on the mirror. His finger sunk into the surface, just like in his dream.

"No fucking way." Blurry whispered. And he wasn't going to stop there. This time, he was going all the way in. With a deep breath, he stretched out his arms and walked through the silver mercury. When he got through to the other side, he was met with an endless grey surrounding him, apart from the rectanglular window he just walked through behind him, showing him the inside of the treehouse. The air around Blurryface felt light like he was floating, but his feet felt like they were planted firmly on some sort of ground, though there wasn't any evidence of it being there. He walked forwards into the enternal grey as far as he dared away from the mirror's window. This bleakness was not what he was expecting to find on the other side of the mirror.

"You're not on the other side. Not yet."

Blurry jumped and spun around quickly, but his actions were delayed like he was cutting through water with his body and not air. The voice was deep and layered like there were many voices talking at once. It sounded rather demonic.

"If you're there then show yourself."

There was a smokey laugh. "You have no idea how ironic that just was."

A spiral of dust began gathering around Blurry, swirling till it settled in front of him, forming the shape of a man. He was without a face, without an identity, just a dark grey shadow with red X's where his eyes should have been.

"You called for me?" If he had facial features Blurryface guessed he would've been smirking.

"So to speak." Blurry said, apprehensive. "What are you?"

The red bird (which was very real looking now and not reflection-looking) flew from seemingly nowhere and landed impossibly on the shadow's shoulder. He stroked its scarlet feathers with a wispy finger. "Ah, ah. Who. Don't be rude."

Blurryface tilted his head. "Fine, who?"

The shadow tilted his head too. "Mr Misty-Eyed." Blurryface felt a shiver at the name. "Now I have a question. Why did you come here?" Mr Misty-Eyed said.

Blurry pointed at the red bird. "That bird brought me here in a dream."

"Your own two legs brought you here, don't blame my bird. What did you see?"

"In the mirror I saw myself-"

"Yes, that usually happens when one looks into a mirror."

"No, no. Only it wasn't quite me, it was inverted-"

"Reflective surfaces often do that."

"No! Not that type of inverted." Blurry was quickly becoming irritated at the shadow, who seemed to be enjoying Blurry's annoyance. "They looked just like me."

"I see." He said with bored tone to his voice, like he lost interest in the conversation. A hand stroked the bird's crimson feathers again. "She's lovely, isn't she? Her name is Ruby."

Blurry nodded politely. "Don't you have a white one too?"

He smiled knowingly, if it were possible for a shadow to. "That depends on which side of the mirror you saw it on."

Blurry thought for a moment. "That brings my next question. What is this place?"

Mr Misty-Eyed spun around with his arms wide. "This is the Void. The foot stone between worlds."

"Between worlds?"

"One that is yours, and one that coexists completely parallel in the multiverse."

"I'm sorry, multiverse?"

"There's more than two. In theory there would be an infinite number of Earths and therefore and infinite number of universes, which coexist together as a multiverse."

"Right." Blurry said, drawing out the word. "You said parallel. If this place exists, and is a foot stone to getting there, it's not exactly parallel, is it?"

"Technically the Void doesn't exist. It's just a narrow timeless anomaly that became a crack, which you've widened enough to slip through."

"So can I get through to the other side?"

"I suppose," he said coyly, smirking. "If you make the gap wider."

Blurryface was curious. "And how do I do that?"

"You ask too many questions. Answering them is not what I'm here for."

"Why are you here?"

"Not to undergo an interrogation, that's for sure." Blurryface really didn't like speaking to a shadow, it felt unnerving. Mr Misty-Eyed tilted his head, sensing his anxiety. "Hmm, you seem a little on edge. Let me change into something more comfortable."

His dust-man form began swirling round like a tornado, till he emerged new. He was a carbon copy of his father, down to the heavy boots. Blurry felt his chest contract violently. "Oops, not this one." He spun again till he emerged as Blurryface himself, tilting his head to see how Blurry would react to his imitation. He ended theatrically by bringing his fist to his mouth to cough out a cloud of grey. "How's this one?"

Blurry raised his eyebrows. "Slightly more comforting." It wasn't really, now being able to see what other people saw when he was stood in front of them only made him more aware of his flaws; his crooked teeth, his inward bent posture.

"People often listen intently if it's something they can relate to." With every word Mr Misty-Eyed spoke he breathed out swirls of smoke like a dragon. It tickled the back of his throat and Blurry wondered how he didn't choke.

"Wait a minute." Blurry said. "Were you my reflection?"

Mr Misty-Eyed snorted. "Oh, please! Do I look like a virtual image Hell-bent on trying to be your visual representation of the reflectve surface! No!"

Blurry didn't really understand a lot of what just came out of Mr Misty-Eyed's mouth, aside from the smokey breath. "What are you then?"

"I told you- Who."

"Stop with all the pointless talk and circling riddles! I hate loops!" Blurryface shouted, the built up anger finally bursting.

Blurry's shadow imitation folded his arms. "Are you done with your tantrum? If not I'd like you to leave. Ruby is much better company, she doesn't talk much and let's me steer the coversation." He stroked the bird's feathers again.

"I think I'd rather see you as the shadow. Having an argument with myself is just weird."

Mr Misty-Eyed complied, the features and red of Blurry's eyes fading into the crosses. "Either way, it doesn't really matter."

"Who was the other person in the mirror in my dream? Was it you?" Blurryface asked.

The shadow man brought his wispy fingers to his temples to massage them. "I told you this is a foot-stone to another world."

"So it was another person?"

"Another you, a doppelgänger, a look-alike. What you could have been in another life."

Blurry was quiet, trying to process the information. He wondered if this "other him" had seen him too.

"I can tell by that stupid expression you've had on your face for the last five minutes that you're trying to piece this all together, but don't bother. Do yourself a favour: go home, sleep on it and come back tomorrow. Or don't, I don't really care."

He still had a lot more questions, but decided against asking them. "The window will be open, right?"

"Indefinitely."

"So... no?"

"It won't be if you carry on asking questions. Get out."

Blurryface started backing up when the red X's on Mr Misty-Eyed began to glow red with anger. He stepped backwards out of the window, taking a deep breath and jumping back through. When he got back into the treehouse he lost his footing, landing backwards on his elbows in a death-drop. The mirror glistened. Blurryface stood up and  pressed a finger on the glass. The mirror was now hard and his finger rested on it, barred against crossing the reflective surface. 

 

 


 

 

Spooky was sweating at the collar. He itched at it a little. The pews looked uncomfortably unforgiving. He took a seat, waiting, unsure of what else to do. He must have been early seeing as nobody was here.

Granted, when he was told he was going to attend a Church reconciliation group he wasn't even sure what to expect. Or what that even meant, if he was honest. He twisted on the pew a little, getting himself comfortable. He guessed he was going to be here a while.

Spooky was the type of person who was both scared and inspired of his own ceiling. He was scared of what limitations meant to him, yet felt comfort in its boundaries. He was scared of uncertainty. The idea of walking alone on this Earth to eventually die without a purpose was terrifying, which is why he wanted to cling to God. Uncertainty was fear and fear was anxiety. And Spooky was done being anxious. Spooky may doubt, may gnaw and claw at the bishops and the system, but he was no good without it.

"Early." A boy said next to him, startling Spooky senseless.

"Argh! Jeez!" Spooky practically fell off the wooden bench. "Where the heck did you come from?"

"Did you ask your mother the same question? Or was the 'birds and bees' talk not sufficient enough?" His voice was monotonous, making his humour seem... odd. Spooky felt defensive at this stranger mentioning his subtlety psycho mother.

"I didn't mean that." Spooky defended. 

"I understood what you meant. I just assumed you were smart enough to realise that I'm here for the same reason as you." His sarcastic wit would have been likeable, but the fact that he was aiming specific words to destroy Spooky's heart wasn't. Spooky wasn't stupid, and frankly was sick of people thinking so. "Sorry for hitting your sore spots. Just habit." He said like he was reading Spooky's head again but the heartless drone of his voice made him seem not the slightest bit sorry. "My name is iRobot."

That explained his his lack of emotion. "Spooky Jim." Spooky felt nervous introducing himself. Why did he always attract weirdos?

"Sessions usually start with confession." iRobot pointed at the confession box. Spooky didn't miss the way his fingers twitched.

"I have nothing to confess." Spooky spat.

"They all say that."

Spooky wasn't too keen on squeezing himself in that small box. The tight walls and tense wood made it difficult to suck breaths in and out. He looked over at the boy next to him with narrowed eyes. "Why are you here?"

"My 4th month now." His feet began to tap. "I was aiming for 1600 on SAT's with a 1.3 Grade Point Average. Your story isn't much different, is it?"

Spooky felt his chest contract. A 1.3 GPA? Jeez, that was bad. "You're right about aiming for a 1600." You aim for the highest, or you go home.

iRobot cracked a little smile but his voice still had his emotionless drag. "Expectations are full of shit, right?"

Spooky smiled. "Yeah. Parents too sometimes."

"All the time." iRobot said. "My mother has a problem with oxy's; she's always angry. I stopped knocking for my father when he quit answering."

"My parents, they're... well- just complicated." Spooky shrugged.

iRobot hummed from the back of his throat in agreement. "I didn't get sent here just for low grades, though. I was 11 when I was diagnosed me with ADHD. I could never focus enough to get through a class. I have to come here as well as therapy."

"Therapy?"

"They sit me down and place a screen that can see right through my chest. You're able to see my heart, or what's left of it. To control the hyperactivity they numb everything. Everything."

A few other people had arrived by now, and the priest had took his place at the altar. Spooky felt a tap on his arm.

"Never lost my faith though." He whispered to him. "That's what they got wrong by sending me here."

iRobot seemed relatively human, except his face was stoic; devoid of any emotion. He seemed to be just an empty shell of a boy that he once was. The only trace of robotic-ness was a dangly silver earring hanging off his left earlobe.

"I think I had purpose once," he said again quietly to him as if he could see right through a hole in Spooky's head, to read all the colour there. "I'm not the same as I once was."

"How do you do it? How do you keep faith when you dont see it anymore?"

He was quiet. "If I'm honest, I quite enjoy coming here. The atmosphere of a holy place feels special to me. It's my safe place." He smoothed at the start of some facial hair that was beginning to grow. "It fills me with something that is as close to feeling as I get. It must be God."

"I have a safe place. But it isn't holy so when I get that feeling, how can it be God?"

"Because God is with you always. 'Our whole life's in the hand of God.' A saying my mother used to say. I don't think I ever let it go."

Spooky thought hard about being younger and enjoying coming to church. He couldn't let what his parents were doing come in between him and God, he loved God. 

"Do you believe, Spooky Jim?"

"Yeah, I just lose sight sometimes." Spooky sighed.

"All I can say is when you're lost in the universe, don't lose faith. You're human: you trip, you lust, you try." 

Spooky nodded. He lusts, he loves, he feels.

Chapter Text

The house was quiet because it was empty. Cry Baby had cleared it out, free of disturbances and potential embarrassments. She had even quickly cleaned up the house and even thought about putting up some decorations, but that seemed too childish. Instead she hung a few pastel ribbons because they seemed a little more mature. Cry Baby set out some red cups and stacked up a few boxes like building blocks as a makeshift stairway to reach her mother's alcohol on the top of the cupboard. She was sure she needed it, because Johnny had said his friends were hard partiers. All she needed now was to switch on the music when they arrived, and she was done. Once she prepared the party essentials, she sat on her sofa, waiting. Cry Baby had told Johnny to arrive at four, and it was only half three. 

The phone rang next to her and she excitedly rushed to it, only to slump when she saw the name. Blurryface was calling her. With an angry scrunched nose, she ignored it, just like the series of calls she'd been getting from him the last couple of days. Frankly she didn't know how she could ever face him again after he rejected her. It still hurt, a lot. She was sure after some space and healing time she'd be okay, but it still fucking hurt. It stung for two days straight, but seeing Johnny made it better.

She thought about what Blurry had said to her. She had confessed her love to him, finally, and not only had he spat in her face, but he told her he couldn't love anyone. What did that even mean? Was it possible for that to happen or was he making it up to let her down easily? Blurryface didn't love her, he didn't need her, and that was the key ingredient Cry Baby wanted. But love wasn't as easy as cake.

She shrugged the idea away, because today wasn't about him, it was all about her. Cry Baby was determined to forget her feelings.

The clock ticked to twelve minutes past four. Her guests were late. She sighed with annoyance and impatience, flopping backwards on the sofa. Cry Baby looked down at the pink dress she was wearing and smoothed her hands down it to stop wrinkles. She patted a balloon from one hand to another, before bursting it with her teeth from frustration.

One thing she asked. She asked him not to be late and he promised not to be. The phone lay beside her, silent. Cry Baby thought about calling but didn't want to be too clingly.

Five minutes. He'll be here in five minutes. Just give him some time. He won't abandon you. Not on your birthday.

She kept believing it as she realigned the red cups and placed the cake on the table, even when the clock ticked on.

What time is it, Mr Wolf?

Fourty minutes past four.

How many steps, Mr Wolf?

As many as it takes.

She picked up the phone, and dialed Johnny's number. It rung. And rung. And rung. Then stopped. Cry Baby sighed and put the phone back down.

She looked out of the window. The street was empty.

 

 


 

  

Blurryface stepped down from the chair he was balanced on to replace the unlit lightbulb in the hall, nearly falling off in the process because of its wonky leg. He had had to run out in the cold to get a special spotlight lightbulb from the store across town, but he still did it without complaining. No one else in the house was going to. Blurryface looked at the broken chair as he put it back in its place at the dining table. He wasn't qualified to fix that, so there was nothing he could do. 

"I changed the lightbulb." He said as passed his mother as she was cooking. He stole an apple from the bowl and took a bite, wincing at the sourness. She barely nodded; it was a little tip of the head at most. Blurry let a little breath out. "One of the dining room chairs needs fixing though." He said after another bite, hopelessly trying to provoke some discussion. 

"Okay." She said, in a light whisper.

And Blurryface left the conversation there, along with his apple core. 

He tried to call Cry Baby, but she wasn't answering again. It was her birthday after all, and he really wanted her to know that he still cared about her and he wasn't letting this friendship that they'd built up crumble like cookies. They had known each other for a long time now, and even though she was a couple of years younger and acted a little childish now and again she had so much more power than she believed herself to have. And Blurryface was not going to let her sit there and blame herself for him rejecting her. But she still didn't answer, even on the third ring. 

He decided to leave that too, for now at least.

Blurry walked over to the letterbox when he heard it shunt. It was his report, a little late since it had been sent by post because he was too disinterested in picking it up from the office. It wasn't that he didn't care, he just felt that the school system's over-emphasis on grades was too demanding, not to mention pointless. The constant hammering of getting good grades is a big reason why mental health of teenagers is declining. There was too much pressure on people like Spooky Jim. After school, what was the grade? It didn't guarantee a place in a university, or safety from unemployment; it wasn't a direct trade in for 50k a year. All it was to Blurryface was a scarlet letter, nothing else. He didn't really have any plans for the future. If he planned to be a bum, there wouldn't be any disappointment if life decided to turn on its head. Wasn't there more to life than becoming a doctor or lawyer and slaving in the government's tax system? As much as he thought this, deep down Blurryface did want to become significant. Who knew where his future led? In a few years he just might mean something to someone.

"Hey mom, I got an A in music." He leaned in the doorway of the kitchen. 

"That's nice." She said, her back to him.

"Yeah, I mean it wasn't too hard; I quite like that subject."

A quiet hum of the throat.

"We had to write something and create a piece to go with it as an assignment."

A nod.

"Most people had partners, but I worked alone on it."

Silence this time.

"And..." Blurry trailed off, when he realised no amount of chatter was going to get her to listen when she wasn't even listening to begin with. Something internal snapped, like a rubber band against skin. "It wouldn't kill you listen to me." His fist clenched around the sheet of paper in his hand, the thought of showing his grades to her gone. She continued stirring the pot on the stove, unresponsive. Blurry had been ignored for the last time today. 

"Listen to me!" He brought his palm down on the countertop. "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" 

She turned her head silently to look sideways over her shoulder at him, her body still turned away.

"I'm your son, I'm not invisible! Stop treating me like I'm part of the decor!" He sucked in a breath when she merely blinked at him. "Am I that much of a disappointment that you can't even look me in the eye? Why? Do I have my daddy's eyes?"

Blurry's outbust became more of a taunt and he moved further into the kitchen, closer to her, his shoulder blades flexing like a tyger stalking its prey. "No wonder you can't see me as your son, because when you look at me, his face is all you see."

Her body language had changed now; her shoulders hunched and she drew inwards, fearful. But Blurryface wasn't done yet. As she grew more fearful, Blurry grew more arrogant. He didn't seem so angry anymore, only cruel. "You did well reproducing, didn't you? A spitting image to grow up just like his father." He sneered. "Are you proud?"

Blurryface only stopped when he realised tears were flowing from his mother's eyes and down her cheeks. He halted and his demeanour changed back into its normal, withdrawn posture as the realisation of what he just did settled in. Blurry took a few steps back, grabbing hold of the counter edge to stop himself falling over. With another look at his mother he turned and ran out of the front door and as fast as he could to the treehouse.

He didn't stop running, not till he reached the ladder and hauled himself up two steps at a time. With his heart and mind running a hundred miles a beat, he sat with his knees drawn to his chest, trying to get his sense and his breath back. 

It took a few moments, before he got up to look at the mirror. He was going back in today. Blurry stood up in front of it. Even though his reflection was the same, his father was all he could see.

He shook his head to rid the image away and brought his hand up slowly against the mirror and touched at the surface with his fingers. His eyes closed reflexively but opened up in confusion when they didn't go through like he expected them to. 

"Huh?" He said aloud. "This worked last time."

He pressed his fingers harder but there was no softness, no weak spot for him to enter by. 

"I must be missing something." Blurryface muttered, after he traced his hands over every spec of the mirror, even dancing with the fancy edges. He grew impatient. "Let me in!" He shouted, banging on the glass with his fist.

A lightbulb flickered over his head. "The bird! Here birdy!" He called, clicking his fingers and whistling. Blurry wondered if this is what going insane looked like. There was no bird in sight. "Damn it, what was her name again?" He grabbed his head, trying to rack his brain for answers. "Oh! Ruby! Here, Ruby!" He called. "Let me in."

Even still, there was no bird and no way through. Even birds were ignoring him now. That stupid shadow man, Blurry thought, he wasn't letting him through. He didn't even understand half of what he said because he spoke in riddles and avoided giving a straight answer. Now Mr Misty-Eyed - a damn shadow for God's sake - was ignoring him as well. Why was everyone looking over him like a ghost? He had feelings too, pretty valid ones at that.

A tweet caught Blurry's attention. He looked up, and saw the bird perched behind him on the window sill in the reflection. He turned around, but in the real world there was no bird sitting on the window sill. He smiled at the reflection. "Hi, Ruby. Are you going to let me in?"

The bird tweeted a response, and Blurryface tested it by placing his finger where the bird was on the mirror. It sunk in like it was water, and Blurryface walked through to the Void.

 

 


 

 

When Cry Baby had the idea, it didn't seem as stupid. Now, mid-plan, she realised this wasn't exactly a great idea. The paintbrush dripped red onto the soil. She was painting the white roses in the garden red. Why? The  white colour was incredibly boring against the purple heathens, uh heathers, and the mustard yellow daffodils. 

Except, the paint wasn't exactly made for painting roses, and the colour seeped off the petals and dripped everywhere. Cry Baby was covered in it; her hands and dress was layered with the colour and she looked as if she had just come out of a horror film murder scene. Only she was eleven, and smart enough to get up while running if she fell after a psycho grabbed her hair and pushed her down. She wasn't stupid enough to get caught.

Cry Baby plunked the brush back into the tin of paint, making ooze over the edge a little. In fact, she also chose red because it happened to be her two new best friends' favourite colour. Blurryface's eyes were a bright red, and he wore a red beanie a lot. Spooky Jim didn't have red eyes, so he wore red shadowy stuff around his eyes instead. Cry Baby thought that Spooky was jealous of Blurry's eyes, but maybe he just really liked them.

Like Cry Baby did.

Cry Baby didn't see her new friends a lot, because they were at school for most of the week. So she made some more friends, with the flowers in her magical garden instead. 

"The roses look lovely, Cry Baby." The Orchid said, tilting its face.

"No they don't." She said, tearing up. "They're just saying that to make me feel better. I ruined them. And now I'll get in trouble when mom comes back."

"Don't worry, Cry Baby. Just wash your hands and change your dress. It won't stain when you wash it." The chrysanthemum said. 

Cry Baby thought about the old red paint stains on her mother's old sheets. They were still there. 

"You're all useless!" She screeched, running into the kitchen and taking a knife from the drawer. She attempted to cut up the branches of the flowers, only the tool she selected wasn't suited to the job and some of the plants with sturdier stems survived the raged attack.

When she got inside Cry Baby put the knife down on the dining table, feeling a chill come over her. She never liked the kitchen; there was always something hauntingly eerie hanging in the air. It always brought strange feelings to Cry Baby, like she shouldn't be in there, even though it was a room just like all the others in her own home. She washed her hands in the sink, watching the red swirl down the drain. Her dress was ruined. She'd have to throw it away.

Cry Baby sat at the dining table, looking round at the kitchen and wondering why it felt so weird to her. The seat she was sat on was so large for her small frame, but difficult for her mother to fit her overly inflated ass onto. Apparently her brother knew silicone when he saw it. Cry Baby wondered if she'd need it to fit in the chair like her mother, to grow into her face.

'Silly girl. You are your mother's daughter.' She thought, looking at the knife and resisting the urge to lick up its blade.

Disturbed by her own thoughts, she put the knife back away in its drawer.

 

 


 

 

Blurryface could almost taste his breath condensing when he got through. The air felt differently from last time, it felt... empty. He looked around at the endless grey around him. It was empty. 

"Hello?" He called out. "I'm here, I got in!"

There was no answer. The shadow man was nowhere to be seen, or heard. 

"Mr Misty-Eyed? Are you there? Come out!"

There was a slight swoosh, like thin fabric flowing through the air. "You speak of the angry one." A quivering voice said.

This was definitely not the wise ass shadow who conversated with flow last time. "Who's there?" He said. "Where's Mr Misty-Eyed?"

"You don't speak in fear of him." The voice said.

"Well, he's not really scary, just annoying, I guess."

"You haven't seen all of him yet."

"Then can I at least see you? Come out, you don't need to be afraid of me." 

"You, him, me, what's the difference?"

Blurryface furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. "If there's no difference between us why are you scared?"

That seemed to work, because after a short moment of silence which Blurry presumed was thinking time, a figure began to softy appear out of thin air in front of him. The translucent figure had a flowered piece of cloth - no wait, it was a kimono - over his head, covering his face. His floral feet didn't quite touch the floor.

"I'm the Ghost of Lane Boy." He said. "I know more about you than you think."

Blurryface was a little taken aback. He wasn't expecting this at all, but then again, he had just walked through a damn mirror. The Ghost had a flowy careless look about him, but his inward hunching shoulders reflected fear and self-consciousness. 

"What do you know?" Blurryface asked.

"I know you aren't who you make yourself out to be." Lane Boy Ghost said. 

Blurry felt defensive at the accusation. "None of us are." He retorted.

"I would think that's right," the Ghost said tilting his see-through head. "But I'm a ghost. No one ever sees me, and I'm just ignored. So if I have little impact on those around me there's no need for me to be faker than fake."

"Unless you want some attention." Blurryface offered.

The Ghost of Lane Boy nodded, lifting a tar-stained arm to rub at his dark tinted glasses. "But attention isn't given, it's earned."

Blurry thought over this. "Those who are famous and successful are given attention with little done for it to be earned."

"That is a simple concept everyone kneels to. We all strive so hard for fame and success that we are willing to change who we are, even get our hands dirty, to achieve it. We are either tempted by control or controlled by temptation. Why did you come back?" The Ghost asked. 

"I wanted to know more about what's on the other side."

"Controlled by temptation," Lane Boy Ghost verified.

Blurryface nodded. He seemed to be understanding. "So how does one resist them?"

The Ghost lowered himself and squatted slowly, motioning for Blurryface to copy his action. He did, and went in close.

"Stay low." He whispered. "Stay hidden, undetected, ignored. You won't be controlled if you aren't acknowledged."

Blurryface didn't like the idea of being ignored all his life. It sounded lonely. "But you're still being controlled, by fear. Aren't you afraid of Mr Misty-Eyed?"

The Ghost seemed to get nervous. 

"I don't want to kneel to fame and success, I want fame and success to kneel to me." Blurry continued. "And that can't happen if I'm the one who stay's low. Ironically, you're telling me to avoid kneeling by kneeling."

Blurryface got up on his feet to look down at the ghost still on the floor. "Now, I do still want some answers. Can you tell me more about what's on the other side of the Void?"

"I've been once to one of the many sides before. In this one people burn smoke into the very air they breathe. And poison the same oceans from which they fish."

Why on earth would anyone do that, Blurry thought. "Can you take me there?" He asked instead.

"I can only slip in and out due to my ethereal nature. You on the other hand, won't be able to. However, I might be able to show you a window."

The Lane Boy Ghost lifted his darkened hands and jazzed them outwards, swirling open a window in front of Blurryface. It showed him a very similar brown-haired man wearing a red suit. He was shaking a tambourine on stage in front of thousands of people. 

"That's not right," Blurryface said. "Show me another one."

The Ghost repeated his magical action and revealed another him, this time as a captain playing basketball professionally with a team in the big leagues.

Blurryface shook his head. "That's not the one either."

The ghost repeated a final time, showing Blurry a boy in a blue t-shirt surrounded by a family. He had two brothers and a sister, and two smiling parents. They were all laughing about an unknown joke that the brown-haired boy had just made. Blurry felt jealousy grow in the pit of his stomach. He, this other him, was happy. Blurryface was turning green at the sides from jealousy. 

It was so unfair that he had been cursed with such a shit life, but this other him was blessed with everything. He didn't deserve it. He didn't deserve this attention and love. Blurryface did. Maybe they were the same person, but he wasn't feeing the same things Blurry was. It was unfair! Blurryface had done nothing wrong ever!

"That's him." Blurryface gruffed, staring down his doppelgänger, beginning to feel hate accompany the jealousy. "I want to go there."

"I'm sorry, you won't be able to."

"You can get there," Blurryface said, moving closer to the Ghost and pointing a finger at him. "You can take me there."

The Ghost attempted to move back. "I told you I can't."

"I said take me!" Blurryface shouted, making the Ghost sink to the floor quickly, hiding his head in his hands.

"Please don't!" He cried out from fear. "I-I can't. I'm sorry! I'm sorry for disappointing you! Don't, please."

Blurryface looked down at the form below him and he realised something that he should've realised when he first got here. His voice softed ever so slightly. "There's a way I can get there." He continued, pushing his own thoughts aside. "Mr Misty-Eyed said there was. Do you know a way or not?"

"This place is timeless. It doesn't even exist." The Ghost said, peeking out from hands. 

Blurryface furrowed his brows. "Timeless...?" He repeated. Then after a moment his face softened its creases. Blurry stopped hassling the Lane Boy Ghost almost immediately, turning on his heels and heading to the mirror without a thank you.

"That's why you don't fear him." The Ghost called after him, referring to the shadow man. his voice quivered. "You're exactly like him."

"That's just it, isn't it? I am him. I'm you too. This is a mirror and you're reflective of me, my emotional state." Blurryface stated, voicing his earlier realisation when he stood over the Lane Boy Ghost. His face saddened slightly. "That's why you're scared of Mr Misty-Eyed. There is a part of ourselves that we are petrified of, that we wish didn't exist. But it does." Blurry concluded, exiting the Void and returning to the treehouse through the mirror window.

 

 


 

 

Cry Baby sighed so intensely her rib cage forced around her lungs. Not one person had arrived. And it was her fault she supposed; maybe if she knew all of them well, not by name, she wouldn't be stuck in this desolate Hell. Actually Hell didn't sound so bad, she might have some company. Cry felt a little prick of tears that she tried to swallow down, but the  lump of emotion wobbled in her throat and came out in a sob. 

What time is it, Mr Wolf?

Quarter to six.

How many steps, Mr Wolf?

Doesn't matter. You're going in circles.

It wasn't a lie, here she was feeling sorry for herself and crying again. Because that's all she was. A crybaby. 

Tears ran freely, and howls of hurt echoed around the empty house. Her fists started flying from anger, hitting the table, tossing the cups filled with alcohol so they soaked the curtain. The cake hit the floor with a splat. She grabbed her stuffed bears and bunnies, ripping apart the soft bodied dolls, their fluffy insides becoming their out.

No one was ever going to agknowledge her. Even when Johnny came over he wasn't ever there when she woke up. All she was left with was blue blue knees, tripping over every boy she'd meet and falling for the next boy that breathes. Johnny hated her, Blurryface hated her, her family hated her. How many people actually cared about her?

Cry Baby looked at the half full bottle of liquor attentively. She hesitantly brought it to her lips, and swallowed the foul acid. She was her mother's daughter after all. It burned the back of her throat, and she took a few more swigs. Soon she was hazy, and she stood up with a swimming head and shaky legs. The bottle neck was safely clutched in her grip. Cry Baby surveyed the room in a circle, looking at the mess around her. She laughed, hard and solid at it, at the torn teddies.

"They've lost their heads!" She laughed hysterically before hiccuping. "They've lost their heads!"

She stumbled to the record player, struggling to set up a vinyl with the little depth-perception she had. It finally played and she whooped, swaying her hips out of time with it, lifting her hands up into the air. The action reminded her that she had a bottle in her hand, and she continued to drink mercilessly. In one of the cupboards she found a packet of her mother's cigarettes and she looked at it with blurred vision.

"These aren't candles but they'll do."

Finding a lighter, she lit one when the bottle was done with, not feeling so good in the stomach. Cry Baby brought it to her lips with awkward fingers and sucked in the smoke, choking when it hit the back of her liquor-wet throat.

She leaned back in her chair. "Happy Birthday, Cry Baby." She exhaled. Yes, and a Very Merry Un-Birthday it turned out to be too.

Her twitching fingers dropped the cigarette, the ember setting the alcohol dreched curtain alight. She looked at the growing flames with no fear. "My party's on fire!" She laughed. "My pity party's in flames!"

She leaned her head back, feeling it get heavy. The warmth from the flames started to lick at her bare arms, but her eyelids were closing. Cry Baby was a product of her parents, her sibling and herself. It'd be better if she closed her eyes for good.

Chapter Text

The little chime of the bell let the owner of the shop know a customer was coming in. The door swung back on its hinges and closed with a wooden thump.

"I'll be with you in just a minute." A voice called from the back. The customer took a knowing walk around the shelves stacked with CDs, tapes and vinyls, running his finger over each one sadly. Nirvana played softly in the background.

"Hey, Spooky Jim! What can I do you for?" The owner said, coming out from the storage room. Despite his rugged look - his arm's and sides of his neck covered in tattoos and the scuffy beard - Jeremy was the biggest sweetheart you'd meet.

"Nothing, actually." Spooky Jim said, flatly. "I'm not buying anything this time."

"Oh?" Jeremy said, tilting his head in confusion. Spooky was one of his best customers.

Spooky shook his head. "I'm running short on funds." He said, and it wasn't a lie, since his parents had stopped his allowance unless he asked for money directly with a reason for where it was going. And he didn't like lying to his parents no matter how horrible they were. It just never settled well in his stomach. Plus, it felt a little sore buying new music after all his had been burnt. "I'm just coming in for a breather."

"No worries," the tattooed man said, shifting him over to the beanbag. "There's that new playlist I recommended last time."

"I can't stay for too long. I have a thing... later on," Spooky babbled, realising mid-sentence that it would seem weird if he said "Church reconciliation group" instead. "I think I'll just have a look around."

He walked through the white licked wooden shelves, enjoying the feel of the place, its vintage aura. A few old looking lights dangled from the ceiling and hanged off the pillars and shelves. Its unique quality and calm setting was what attracted Spooky to the place more than the actual music.

Spooky came here to try to clear his head. A lot of things had been playing on him and he had to try and clean his crazy mind. 

Firstly, Blurryface was being distant from him and he had no idea why. It was bothering him more than his usual ghosting antics, because it felt like he was purposely trying to avoid him.

Secondly, it was Cry Baby's birthday. Spooky spoke to her yesterday to let her know he might drop by later today after Church. She'd probably forgotten. Her and Blurryface weren't exactly on great terms lately, as she had described to him since Blurryface hadn't bothered to tell him. Spooky didn't spite him for it though, even though it hurt his feelings. Blurryface was one to tell things only when he felt comfortable; something Spooky knew very well.

And Cry Baby on the other hand, was one to spill the beans on everything like she desperate for a pair of ears. She was keeping a secret boyfriend from them both (horrid taste if Spooky put his two pence in) but Blurry wasn't as forgiving as Spooky. It was quite hypocritical. Blurry kept a lot of secrets and didn't like any being kept from him.

But shit, was this a secret. She told him she used to have feelings for him and look what happened to them. 

Which came to his last point. Spooky has said feelings too. Not had. HAS. And what was he going to do now Blurryface said to Cry Baby he couldn't love anyone? This wasn't the type of crush Spooky could just forget. He already tried. 

Wait, he thought. What if Blurryface was being distant because he knew Spooky liked him? No, no, he shook his head dismissively. He couldn't know. Fuck, Blurryface didn't even know he was into guys at all. No, he couldn't possibly know. Spooky had done a good job hiding his feelings for a long time, even from himself.

It hit him then, that that's what would become of him. Further repression of his feelings, till he had to carry around a stone of condensed emotions heavy enough to break the floorboards and fall through the floor. He have to wear socks to stop them seeping from his toes every time he walked through the door.

Blurryface couldn't love anyone. Spooky pretended that statement didn't rip out one half of his heart, the half that wasn't asleep. It wasn't like he really had a chance anyway. But it hurt so deeply no matter how much he ignored it, because Spooky had so much repressed love to give.

He sighed. This had to have happened to him. Spooky Jim just wasn't confusing enough it seemed, and the universe was Hell-bent on making his love-life more confusing than it already was. He caught himself and scoffed, love-life? More like lack of. 

And further lacking in se-

"Stack these up for me will you?" Jeremy said to someone in the strorage room. 

Spooky looked over, quickly melting his thoughts. "Hired someone?" He asked.

"Yeah. Just an extra pair of hands, you know?" Jeremy said.

Spooky Jim nodded, pulling out a vinyl and turning it over in his hands to look at the back before he put it back on the shelf. A wheeled crate hit the door as someone came through it, and Spooky was about to smile at the new worker till he saw who it was. It was easy to recognise the one who made your life a living hell for a good number of years. Especially when they had purple horns.

Spooky ducked behind the shelf instead because shit what else was he going to do?

His heart started racing. Why him? Why him?! What were the chances? Spooky slowed his breathing as much as he could. He listened for Nirvana in the background so he could breathe to the beat of the music. No way was he going to have an attack here.

Spooky peeked out to take a glace at Big-head. It had been longer than a year now, at least. He dropped out early in his final year. Big-head looked the same, only even taller than he used to already be, same quiff, same yellow eyes, same proud walk. His horns were longer and curved now and there were new horns emerging from his shoulders and the top of his forearms on the outside crook of his elbow from under the vest he wore. 

The rational and mature thing to do here would be to speak to him and let bygones be bygones. But Spooky wasn't rational. He couldn't do it.

His breathing was starting to increase even more just at the fact that they were in the same room together. Spooky dived out of the store and ran across the street, almost swerving a car in the proces. He didn't care. He'd take the death by car headlamp over a bully any day of the week.

He burst into the instrument store across the road and hid behind a display, breathing hard, his chest paining, his head spinning. 

No, no, no, no, no!

 

 


 

 

Spooky Jim had really gotten to know Blurryface over the last few years enough to now confidently call him his best friend. It made him happy in his chest, to have someone like that with him. It made him feel less alone. He never really did have a best friend before and he didn't know how it felt. Were you supposed to think about them a lot, wonder if they were okay, cherish moments spent together? Were they your last thought before you slept and first thought when you woke? Did your day get immediately brighter just by a glance their way? Spooky wouldn't know, and probably wouldn't ever know.

They were weren't freshmen, or rather freshmeat anymore and the troubles that surrounded freshmen were to leave you following the next year.

Only they didn't. They loomed like a dark cloud in an empty sky. And loomed the year after that. And the year after that was no different either.

Spooky ducked his head out of the music room door into the hall. There was no one around. Why would there be? It was lunch and everyone normal was out in the sun. Not the dynamic duo. They were stuck inside because they knew what was good for them. 

"Clear." Spooky said to his friend, as Blurry pushed the stool against the sleek black piano. With a glance at Spooky, Blurryface only nodded with tight lips. There wasn't anything to say on the topic. Their silences spoke a thousand words instead.

They walked out the hall; one figure apprehensive, the other collectively calm. They reached record distance to the stairway and Spooky thought they might actually make it through lunch today, only for his knees to quake at the voices turning the corner behind them. 

"Should've known better."

Yes, thought Spooky, they should've. It would be better to avoid them and stay in the room he argued, but Blurry wouldn't have any of it. "We can't stay in here forever." He said. "They'll keep on treating us like this if we carry on showing we're scared."

And Spooky was beyond scared of Big-Head and co. He was terrified. And he could never hide it as well as Blurry, who could damn well make it look like getting cold cocked straight in the face was the same as getting booped on the nose. It was like... as if he was used to it. Like he got it a lot, like he had a high tolerance to pain. All kinds of pain. Blurry could stand right in front of you, pretend to be cool and hide his entire soul from you without letting so much as a blink of the eyes slide. If they were in battle Blurry would probably choose to die with dignity or sacrifice himself for someone else. Spooky would probably surrender or sell someone out. But obviously that was the old Spooky.

Now he was staring fear straight in the face, and if it weren't for Blurry being right next to him he knew he wouldn't be able to do it alone. The group of boys got closer. Their faces were a blur, an unidentifiable mess, because there was only one with yellow eyes who stuck out to Spooky in his most unfondest memories.

"Finally found some courage to crawl out of the Batcave? Pair of lions you are." Big-Head said with a sneer. They moved around them like vultures pecking at prey.

Blurryface didn't speak. He hardly spoke in these regular confrontations because he didn't need to. His high-held chin and proud stance showed he wasn't going to be talked down to. Spooky didn't talk much either. He liked to make it out to Blurry that it was the same, cool reason. Only, it was because he could never quite find his voice since his throat closed up from being so frightened. Blurryface gave him benefit of the doubt.

They inched closer still, backing them to the stairs. 

"Stop touching that piano, freak. Your grimy hands leave markings on it and you ruin it." Big-Head said wearily, like he was tired of repeating it. He stood up to Blurryface, the tips of his baby horns almost touching Blurry's forehead. Big-Head then grew tired of the intimidation game and looked over at Spooky, like he just became aware of his presence.

"Spooky, my man! We haven't caught up in a while. Where were you last week, we were supposed to hang out." He said mockingly and through an arm over Spooky's shoulder.

Spooky attempted to wriggle out of the vice grip uncomfortably. "N-No we weren't."

"Don't flatter yourself. No one would ever want to willingly hang out with the sorry likes of you." Big-head jabbed, rolling up his sleeves. 

"Hey, I'm stood here, aren't I?" Blurryface said, standing up for his friend.

"I don't fucking know, are you?" Big-Head jeered. "Huh? Freak, are you?"

Blurry didn't answer.

"That's what I thought. In fact, the only reason Spooky Jim hangs around with you, is because he has no one else." A cog turned in Big-Head's mind. "Spooky, what do you say you come stay with us again?"

Spooky was going to blurt out no but his voice failed. He took a step back and he was dangerously close to the stair top edge. Then his mind betrayed him by actually rethinking the proposal. If he did, they wouldn't bother him anymore. He'd have his friends back. 

What friends? He thought logically. If he went back he'd go through the torture of bullying Blurryface again just to get himself out of it. How could he even consider doing that to his best friend? No. He wasn't the old Spooky Jim anymore.

"Take a h-hint." Spooky said. "I'm stood with Blurryface."

Big-Head laughed. "Nope." 

He pushed his hands forward and the next thing Spooky knew was he was falling, then he hit the step, and another and another; Spooky was tumbling down the hard steps uncontrollably, the voices and laughs and worried shouts echoes as his back hit the bottom. 

It knocked the wind right out of him and left him in a daze, his breathing at first barely there, then suddenly a seize of lung spasms as his brain caught up with the moment.

His lungs contracted violently but no air was filling them, they only continued to deflate further as Spooky hyperventilated. They felt as if they were instead filling with fire and exhaling smoke and it choked him. He coughed, retched, gasped, but oxygen was depleted from his brain and all he was thinking was I'm going to die.

"Spooky!" Blurryface cried out, running halfway down after his friend and jumping the rest of the way. Save of the wince-less sting in the pads of his feet, he landed right next to his gasping friend. He kneeled, taking a hold of Spooky's shoulders. "Damn it. Breathe Spooks. Okay, okay, let's take this a second at a time. Come on, I need you to breathe for me, okay?" He took a hold of his friend's back, attempting to hold him up. "That's it. Together, let's breathe. We'll breathe together to the beat, remember?"

 

 


 

 

And that's what he tried to do to get his breathing back into control. There was a bass drum being kicked at somewhere, and he went with it. 

Spooky counted his senses, like Blurryface suggested he do. He could see a cello stand, a band tour poster, one microphone box, one stack of old CDs and a rack of guitars. He could feel the scratch of the cheap carpet on his skin, the vibrations of the bass drum from someone practicing, the sweat running down the side of his left temple and the warmth of the hoodie he was wearing. He could hear the music from the speaker above him in his crouched position, the thrum of a uke somewhere and a ticking of his watch. He could smell the scent of incense burning and the smokey pine scent of Blurry faded in the unwashed hoodie. He could taste a twinge of metallic blood in his mouth where he bit the inside of his cheek.

Spooky breathed deeply, already feeling more grounded. He stood from his uncomfortable position behind the display and stretched his legs, hating himself. He really did hate himself for being like this. Panic attacks could come at any time and the worst thing about them was the shitty, low feeling he got when they left.

"Hey, you okay there?"

It was a girl's voice and Spooky thought his day just kept getting better. Because of course someone had to notice him. 

He looked over and saw a shot of familiar rainbow hair. "I'm good, thanks."

The girl took a second to stare.  "Hey, you go to my school. Aren't you Blurryface's friend?"

"That'd be me." He said. "How do you know Blurryface?" It was a standard question, Blurryface only conversated with people who knew his flow. And that was a grand total of two.

"Drama class. I'm Dye Young."

"Spooky Jim. Nice hair. You look kinda like a walking pride flag."

Silence. For a whole minute at least. Long enough for Spooky to regret very intently the splurge of words that left his mouth. 

Then a spitting laughter. "Considering I'm not straight no one has ever said that to me before!"

"For a minute I thought you'd take offence." Spooky breathed a quick sigh of relieving panic that built up in the brief silence.

"What's to take offence at? I'm gay, so what?" She shrugged.

Spooky wondered how she could be so confident in herself. 

"What're you doing in here?" He changed the subject.

Dye gave him a look and pointed down to her Guitar Centre polo top. "I work here. What are you doing here?"

"Uhhh," He struggled. "I- was just across the road and - um, I came to buy something?"

Dye seemed skeptical. "Okay. What're you looking for?"

My motivation to live which is rapidly declining, thought Spooky.

"Drums." He said instead.

"Cool, they're back here." He followed the Rocket Popsicle looking girl even though he knew where they were. He used to come here to practice untill he found the music room.

When they entered the back room Spooky had to stop and remember to breathe because being surrounding by several amazing sets was a little overwhelming when he hadn't so much as looked at a trap set in a while. He traced a light finger over a symbol. 

"Do you play?"

"Yeah, I'm not that great though." He sighed. "And it's been a while."

"Give one a go." Dye offered. 

Spooky was tempted. "I'd rather not, I'm a bit rusty." Yeah, there was no way he was embarrassing himself in front of someone from school.

Dye Young started speaking about the different types they were selling but it was all unintelligible to Spooky because he caught eye on the new displayed set in the middle and was too busy staring (and quite possibly drooling) in awe. It was matte black, with little orange skulls and alien faces printed all over. It didn't just match his aesthetic, it was screaming his name.

Dye Young caught him and smiled. "That's the new set just come in. Still doesn't have a name."

"I think I'm in love." Spooky said. 

She snickered. "Go on, try her out." She pressed a pair of red Zildjian sticks into his hand. 

Spooky didn't have to be told twice. He tapped the base drum, before adding in the tom-toms. The stretched out a little rhythm, nothing too complex, before crashing in the symbols and the snare. He forgot that Dye Young was even in the room. It was just him and the drum set, making noise together to block out everything else that went on. Spooky hit harder and harder; literally beating his nerves away, and he never wanted to stop.

It took him to places when he allowed himself to fully immerse himself in the music. He let it carry him, complete him. It had been so long, so so long since he played like this.

"Whoa." Dye said when he stopped. "You're amazing, dude."

Spooky Jim quickly put the sticks down. "I'm okay."

"No, seriously. I'm blown away, that was so rad! It was like professional drumming!"

"Thanks." Spooky smiled. "She's a beautiful set."

"You know what? I'm gonna name it Spooky. Well maybe only the snare."

Spooky felt a little pool of sadness in his chest. He would be able to afford the set just about... never. And where was he going to put them if he could?

"Don't think I'd buy her, though. Actually, I don't think I can buy any. I kind of just wasted your time." Spooky felt slightly guilty.

"No way, man! You coming into the store was honestly more interesting than anything going on all day, believe me." She complimented.

"Uh, thanks?" Spooky said, unsure of himself. He checked his watch and cursed; he made himself late for church.

"Oh, I really gotta go, I have a... a-a thing. See you, Dye." 

"Okay, see you around school. Bye!"

Spooky quickly exited the store and stood on the curb to hail a taxi-cab.

 

 


 

 

Spooky felt a heavy when he stepped through the Church doors. He felt like everything was weighing him down and pinning him to the ground by his neck. Hard to move, and to breathe.

His parents were pleased he was attending. So he kept trying to please them to keep on the better side of them. Who knows what they'd burn next.

iRobot concealed a smirk when Spooky took his seat next to him. "Either really early or really late. You're quite inconsistent, Spooky Jim."

"I've been told." Spooky breathed.

"Don't worry. You didn't miss much, just confession."

Good, Spooky thought. He definitely wasn't in the right condition to squeeze in a tiny box. He could imagine it being locked, with marks where fingernails had fought. He shuddered.

Spooky closed his eyes and quickly prayed instead.

Dear God, help me overcome this barrier You've put in my path as a test. Help me deal with the daily struggles of trying to please You. And please keep Blurryface safe.

The last part made him hitch his short breath in quickly.

"Are you okay?" iRobot's tone had the very slightest edge of concern masked in it. "You're breathing kind of funny."

Spooky tried very very hard to breathe normally. "I'm fine, just rushed to get here quickly."

iRobot placed his index finger on his chin as he was silent for a second. Then with the same finger pointed at Spooky: "Panic attacks."

"Excuse me?" Spooky could just about muster. How in the world did he infer that?

"You get panic attacks." 

"How did you even-?"

"Nevermind, it's something I do. I know people; I know a lot more than they let on." He paused. "I know the signs of lying. I can smell bullshit real easily."

Spooky felt like a fish in open water. "I wasn't actually bullshitting you."

"Sure." iRobot snorted. "How often do you get them?"

"Since when am I at liberty to discuss this?"

"Look, the way I see it," iRobot began scratching a scuff of barely-there facial hair. "You're in a Church. Confide in someone, if not Him. He practically knows anyway."

Spooky turned his buttocks on the pew to face iRobot a little better. His eyes were narrowed, skeptical.

"Okay, I'll tell you something first." iRobot added.

Spooky raised his eyebrows because that proposition caught his attention. He really wanted to know more about this mysterious, robotically-human boy with the silver earring.

"I got a girl pregnant."

Spooky's brain hit the brakes. It was the way he said it; so bluntly like it was typical conversation. "Hold on, what?" He had to be like, only sixteen or something, but Spooky wasn't judging.

"Yeah." iRobot said. "It was a while ago, before this." He pointed to his own chest. "She was cheating on her boyfriend with me. I tried to keep my morals, but she just changed me, she hunted all the good I had left. Then I found her throwing up in an alley because she didn't want to keep the baby. I didn't see her after that. Her elder brother paid me a visit though."

"And how did that work out?"

"What happened to him isn't important. The point is, I have no idea if she actually kept the baby or not. I could be a dad."

"Oh man." Spooky said. And he thought his life was confusing. "You sure it was yours?"

He nodded.

"Why don't you ever call her up and ask?" Spooky offered. 

"I don't want to know. I'm still a kid myself. I'm not ready for that. It was partly my fault yes, that I didn't use protection but she made me feel things. Desire. I don't get that anymore. It's just part of the Human Condition of life, to procreate."

Spooky thought about what he felt. Blurryface was special to him in a way he couldn't explain and he would do anything to keep him happy. He thought about the soft curve of his lips framing his crooked teeth that came through on those rare occasions when he smiled. He felt a longing for him, a deep pitted yearn that was more than just a crush. He wanted him. It wasn't a condition of procreation, because that was biologically impossible. What was it then if it wasn't solely lust?

"What's that thoughtful look for? Someone on your mind?" iRobot smirked.

"No." Spooky said way too quickly.

"Alright then." The smirking didn't stop. "Anyway, it's your turn."

"Fine," Spooky agreed with a shrug. He took a breath in, wondering what the fuck in his complicated life he could start with. "I-I have this friend."

iRobot quizzed a quick knowing eyebrow accompanied with a smug look, making Spooky regret the conversation immediately. He continued regardless. "He's being weird with me. Well he's always been a little strange if I'm honest, but he's the only friend I ever had. He wears black and red a lot, kinda represents the darker instruments inside his head. But he has a lot of things going on."

"Does he have a name, this friend?"

"Blurryface. Don't judge, he cares a lot about what others think."

iRobot didn't seem fazed. "How can I judge someone I don't know?"

You'd be surprised, Spooky thought. "I worry for him. He seems too unstable. I want nothing more than to be there for him, but he won't let me in."

The younger boy twitched a finger against his scratchy chin. The smirk was bold, rather mischievous. "So how long have you liked him?"

"Pfff, what?" Spooky snorted loudly, in the most overdramatic display he could manage. He stopped suddenly. "I don't- I mean, I don't... Is it that obvious?"

"I'm surprised he hasn't noticed."

"Jeez." Spooky rolled his eyes at himself. "That's the thing, he's... complicated."

"Tell him how you feel. Don't be afraid to tell him who you really adore."

"No way, man. I have a 1000% chance of getting rejected."

iRobot laughed. "Come on, dude. You don't know till you try."

Spooky stopped to think before better judgement got in the way and he shook his head. "I don't want to overwhelm him. It's not the right time."

"I get that." iRobot said. "Just go to him and talk to him at least about how he's behaving."

Spooky felt on edge. He didn't really do talking. Neither did Blurry.

"So how did that feel? Getting it off your chest."

"Not better. That isn't the half of it." Spooky was so very far from fine.

"What else is bothering you?"

"My grades are weighing me down. You know how that feels, right?" He paused, waiting for a nod of conformation from his intent listener. "All the grades are to me anymore are letters. Little letters in my head that build up a migraine and spell out suicide. It's not by choice though. It's murder. Killing all creativity, sucking up all the colour in my brain." He sighed ruggedly. "I don't know how long before my back breaks under the pressure of it all, iRobot. I know I have what it takes to be great. I can feel it like a whisper through my bones. But I can't hold this weight any longer."

iRobot was quick to advise. "You can't expect to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and run first in the marathon, can you? Take time, slow your pace. The finish line isn't going anywhere, Spooky Jim. You'll find if you lesson the weight it becomes less of a burden; don't let it pile up. Maybe your friend chose not to confide in you because he knows the pressure you're under, he wouldn't want to add to that. I'm sure he just cares about you, Spooky Jim."

A single long beeb interupted the conversation, it's monotone slicing the atmosphere. iRobot silenced his watch quickly and ignored it. "Believe me, you don't need to get so stressed out."

Spooky nodded. "Thanks."

"It's no problem- I'm sorry." iRobot apologised at the interuption, as the beeb echoed a second time.

"Something you have to do?" Spooky asked, intrigued.

"Somewhere I have to be, actually. A doctors appointment. I'll take my leave early today." He stood from his seat and moved out of the pew row. "Until next time, Spooky Jim."

 

 


 

  

Spooky knocked three times on Cry Baby's door. 'I hope she doesn't have anyone over.' He thought to himself as he waited for someone to answer. He didn't really fancy interrupting a moment with her possessive boyfriend. After a few moments of silence, Spooky began doubting himself. Was she even in? He did let her know he was coming.

He knocked again, this time with a shout, and stepped back from the door to look up at the house. When he inhaled, he caught a whiff of a strange smell. After a couple more choking breaths Spooky realised it was the smokey familiar scent of alcohol spirits burning. A scent he knew too well. He panicked then, running around to the other side of the house. 

"Cry Baby!" He shouted through the glass of the kitchen window. There was no response. He looked through and the kitchen was empty, but a grey cloud was coming from the living room. Spooky tugged as hard as he could at the window and finally jutted it open enough to slide inside. As quick as he could he climbed inside the house, his vision already beginning to blur from watering eyes at the smoke.

"Cry Baby!" He yelled again, immediately began coughing at the inhalation of the poison cloud. He ran to the living room, finding his friend passed on on the couch, the burning curtain behind her dangerously close to lighting her up. He froze at the sight of flames, bad memories brimming at the surface. Fear struck him. What was he trying to pull? He wasn't a hero.

But Cry Baby was in trouble and the Brave and Mighty Blurryface wasn't here to help. Spooky was on his own. He swallowed as much fear as he could and pushed the rest aside. Inching as close as he dared to the flames, he pulled at her limb, dragging her body away from the imminent danger. He then lifted her over his shoulder and carried her towards the kitchen window. 

Oops. He hadn't thought about how to get her outside. She was quite a short girl with a tiny frame, he thought. It wouldn't be much trouble.

Taking hold of Cry Baby from her underarms, he eased her body out of the window, letting her fall softly and safely onto the grass outside. He returned to the living room with a jug of water to extinguish the fire, and returned to squeeze himself back out of the window. He kneeled at Cry Baby's side when he got back outside. 

"Hey, Cry Baby, wake up." He tapped her. Thank the stars she didn't have any signs of physical injury except from a few black smokey marks but her breathing was faint and barely there. 

Spooky was trying his best to keep calm even though he was internally freaking out. He'd have to call an ambulance. Was she going to be okay?!

"Cry Baby? Come on, just breathe!"

He got out his phone from his pocket and rung 911.

"Hello? I need an ambulance. My friend was in a fire... no I don't need the fire brigade, the fire's out now. My friend is unconscious, hardly breathing."

After giving the address and pleading to hurry, he held onto Cry Baby's hand tight.

"The ambulance is on the way. Please be okay!"

Her breathing started to deepen on its own and she opened her eyes, to Spooky's relief. She began gasping and rolled over onto her side to vomit on the grass. Cry Baby continued to hyperventilate as she emptied the toxins from her stomach and Spooky rubbed her back and cooed despite the awful stench of alcohol. She rolled back over once she caught her breath.

"He left me alone!" She cried. "Everyone left me on my own!" 

Spooky felt broken. "You're not alone, Cry Baby. I'm here."

"He hates me. Everyone hates me!" Tears streamed her mucky face. 

Her screams were drowned out by sirens.

Chapter Text

There was a squeak of shoes on the polished floor. Blurryface pulled up a slipping red sock and kept speeding his feet ahead, ignoring the sour looks from the nurses as he passed them.

When he got the call from Spooky, he wasn't expecting a frenzied jumble of words and having to ask him to breathe and repeat what he said again slowly. 

Cry Baby was in a fucking fire. 

He was practically running down the hall, diving out the way of other people, wheelchairs and stretcher beds with glucose stands in tow. He had already checked nearly everywhere in this hall and she wasn't in any of them.

With shaking hands, he rang Spooky up. 

"I don't know where you are!" His voice spiked erratically.

"She's been moved from A&E. The floor just above. You'll have to come and find me."

He turned on his heels to head for the stairs. "Oh for fuck's sake, tell me where, Spooky!"

He didn't mean to shout. This certainly wasn't the way he wanted to speak to his friend after ghosting him again. He was just worried about Cry Baby and every emotion he'd been feeling had been manifesting itself as anger as of late.

The was a small pause of silence. "The third ward. Last room on the corridor to the left. There's a circular window." His voice came through small, wavering with the slightest hint of a crack of hurt.

Blurry swallowed a lump and ended the call without saying anything else.

When he got to the hall with the circular window at the end of it he walked all the way down and turned to the left, opening the door to let himself in. 

Cry Baby was asleep. Her face was paled against the white hospital gown and she had a tube in one of her arms. Her face looked peaceful.

Spooky was sat in one of the chairs next to the bed. He didn't turn when Blurry entered, he simply stared at Cry Baby's face.

"I can see the important people are here." Blurry commented at the lack of family members present in the room as he moved around the the other side of her bed.

Spooky didn't say anything about the issue. "She was awake earlier," he kept his gaze on Cry Baby. "She was okay, she just kept apologising over and over. We talked for a while."

"Yeah, you two seem to be doing a lot of talking lately." The line wasn't supposed to come across so spiteful. Or maybe it was. He felt so annoyed because Cry Baby had blabbed to Spooky about what happened between them. It wasn't that he didn't want him to know about his sexuality; Spooky was always told things one way or another. Blurry just wanted to be the one to do it when he was ready, to explain properly what he felt, not Cry Baby. That's why it was better off staying away now that Spooky knew he was a love-less fuck.

Spooky Jim glanced over with furrowed brows. "What's that supposed to mean? Oh, you are not blaming this shit on me."

"Of course not, this wasn't your fault." 

"No, I don't mean Cry Baby." Spooky hissed. "I mean us."

Blurry raked a quick hand through his fluffy hair, his beanie forgotten at home from the rush. "What's wrong with us?" He asked, staring at the floor and away from Spooky's eyes.

"You know damn well what's wrong, Blurry." Spooky sounded as if he was scolding a child.

Blurryface did know. But the thing was, that Spooky might have only known the half of it. Forget his love life. That damn mirror had been taking up the entire thinking segement of his brain. The root of the problem being that Blurry couldn't even begin to explain to Spooky what had been mowing its way through his brain.

Their argument had silenced at Cry Baby stirring. She fluttered her eyes open and let out a weak smile at Spooky, before glancing at Blurryface.

"Hey." She said when she spotted him.

"Hey." Blurry let out a breath along with the word. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," she said dismissively. "Wasn't expecting you here."

Blurry tried his best not to take offence. "Why not?"

Cry Baby scoffed. "Look around," she winced as she readjusted herself in a sitting position. "No one else came for me."

The fact that her own blood weren't here to help her made Blurryface really angry. "I know. I'm sorry about that."

"Don't apologise, there's no need." Spooky edged in sharply, making Blurry shoot a piercing look his way.

"Well," Cry Baby added, "You can't make people love you."

The statement loomed a silence over the three of them, each for their own reasons. 

"Geez, this air is thick." Cry Baby commented after her moment of thought. Blurry exchanged glances between them all, feeling prisoner to the tension, like a bird in a cage. It was thick enough to smother, plastering his insecurities to his neck in full view. Welcoming the silence and all its words.

"I think it's time to clear the air." She took a deep breath and continued. "I lied to you guys. I hid secrets and I did things I regret. Like not telling you about Johnny. And organising a birthday party without inviting you guys." 

Blurryface raised his brows, because this was news to him. "What? Wait a minute, that's what bothering you? I don't give a shit if we weren't invited; if you were with people, why were you alone and burning in a fucking building by yourself?!"

"Blurryface," Spooky said, prompting him to cool down, though he didn't seem to be disagreeing. It was such a Cry Baby thing to be bothered by something childish like who was or wasn't invited to a party at a time like this. Spooky got up to pull back the curtains and open the window to let some of the stuffy sound out. 

"No one showed. They didn't even bother letting me know. Not even Johnny, the asshole. I had a bit of a breakdown." She sighed. "I was careless. It was my fault the fire started."

"We're not mad at you, Cry Baby. We're just glad you're okay." Spooky rubbed his head and looked over at Blurry. "Right?"

There were a few seconds. "Right." He said finally. Because he wasn't mad at Cry Baby. That dipstick Johnny was fucking dead.

"I love you guys." She said with a weak smile.

"We love you too." Spooky gently clasped her hand.

There was a knock at the door. "Excuse me," a nurse said. "I'm going to have to ask you to step outside while I run a few more tests." 

"That's fine," Spooky said, pulling a face while he watched the nurse walk around to shut the window and close the curtains he just opened.

Outside, both boys stood infront of each other by the door silently. 

"Do you want to talk now? Now's the perfect time." Spooky quietly offered.

Blurryface looked up from the floor. "Was Cry Baby acting strange?"

Spooky Jim scoffed. "Of course you don't."

"Spooky..."

"No," He hissed. "This needs to stop. This... whatever it is you think you're doing. Just tell me what happened. Did he do anything?"

"No, he hasn't. It's just- God, just forget it Spooky." Blurry sighed.

Spooky swallowed a lump in his throat. "Please talk to me. Where were you, I called so many times and you just ignored me."

What was he supposed to say? In a magical mirror that leads to another universe? Chasing a Shadow Man? "I was at the treehouse." He cleverly masked his words. It was part truth. Just minus the magic mirror part.

"He hurt you again, didn't he? Let me see your hands." Spooky grasped at his friend's hands to look them over. They were paint-less and healed over; the skin fully showing for the first time in weeks.

Blurryface left his hands within Spooky's. "He did nothing, Spooky. This... whatever it is, is all me." 

Spooky bit his lip. "I'm worried about you, Blurry." 

"Stop wasting all your time trying to get to me. You won't understand. Nobody thinks what I think."

"Maybe if you explain..."

"You're out of my mind, Spooky. I'm... I'm out of my mind." He sunk his head. He had to be. What of he was making all this up, if it wasn't real at all? He wasn't crazy, right? It did happen? Mr Misty-Eyed, the Lane Boy Ghost. Misty-Ghost... Mr Lane Boy. His memory was getting fuzzy again.

"Look, I feel for you, but when did you believe you were alone? I just need to know you're okay. You can't keep stringing me along like this, it isn't fair. I'm supposed to be your best friend."

It wasn't fair at all. A little squeeze from Spooky reminded Blurry that they still had their hands entwined and Blurry left them there. "I'm sorry. I know I'm distant. It's just the way I deal with things. I know you worry, it's just the way you are; caring and loyal. And I know I'm a lot to deal with. But I..." Blurry trailed off. What was he doing? Here he was running off chasing his own infested imagination, while his friends were burning in fires and worrying down to the nail stubs over him. How selfish could one person be? Blurry had ignored his best friend then treated him like dirt. He was starting to get so lost that he was dreaming and seeing stars whenever he blinked. 

"You... what?" Spooky brought him back to Earth. His eyebrows were raised in expectance, eyes widened.

Blurry blinked twice; he'd forgotten what he was going to say. For some reason the words I care about you were floating around in his head. "I... I need the help of a friend, please." 

Spooky's expression dropped in what seemed to be disappointment. "Yeah." His hands loosened. "But you can't get that hiding from everyone you know. You can't live like a ghost forever."

Blurryface pulled his hands away when he felt the sweat gather from clasping another's hands for too long. "I'm sorry. I wish I could be a better friend, Spooks."

Spooky looked at him with a sad eyed smile. "You've always been... the bestest friend I've ever had, Blurry."

Blurry blindly smiled back. "Thanks bud, you too."

They sat side by side catching up on Spooky's church sessions and the unexpected visit from Big-head at the music store. 

"So what's this I hear about your love life?" Spooky dared to ask. He heard of Blurry's orientation from Cry Baby. If he had zero chance when he was convinced Blurry was straight, he'd be running into the minus now.

"Ah, well. I'm not entirely sure myself if I'm honest. It's hard to understand myself, forget explaining. It's complicated." How could he explain that he didn't feel love?

"I'm sure me of all people would understand complicated."

"What do you mean?" Blurry quizzed.

"Nothing." Spooky shrugged quickly.

It felt nice relieving everything to his best friend. It had been a while since they talked properly like this. One thing on his mind was still bothering him though.

"Hey, I was serious about Cry Baby before. Was she acting strange to you?"

"She's admitted in a hospital, she's bound to act a bit different."

"That's exactly what I mean though, she's impassively calm. How was she when she first woke up?" Blurry scratched along his jaw where a tiny patch of facial hair was coming through.

Spooky's eyes slowly followed the tips of Blurry's fingers as he traipsed them along his jaw. He wet his lips with his tongue and gulped. "Uh, j-just how she is now I guess." He paused to collect his thoughts. "Actually now that you mention it, no crying, no usual Cry Baby-ness."

Blurry exhaled. "I'm worried about her. We'll have to keep an extra watchful eye around her when she's vulnerable like this."

Spooky's eyes were wide and horrified. "You're not saying she was purposely trying to-" 

"I don't know, Spooky. I don't know." Blurryface said with the same amount of concern. Blurry had been there before, just never been successful.  

 

 


 

 

There was no time. If there were, Blurryface would have known it, but the Basement was without a clock. Without time. So even as the minutes dragged on into hours, the continuum didn't exist to Blurryface, because he was locked in the Basement's tickless void regardless.

"You'll learn to speak when spoken to!"

He was only trying to speak up against him hurting his mother and was sent to the Basement to speak to himself instead. But Blurryface wasn't by himself. He had friends. 

His shadow. Who was so likeminded to him that he copied every movement at the perfect time. 

And the mannequin body with the floral material drapped over the top of it, like an unstitched dress. His mother sewed that for him when he was an unborn, only Blurry's debut from the womb had a few extra parts in the wrong place.

His friends liked talking a lot to him because they had a lot of problems that Blurry liked to help solve. And th ey weren't imaginary! Blurry was eight years old, much too old for imaginary friends. These friends were real

Blurry rocked back and forth in his sitting position. There was only so much to do when stuck in a Basement and the conversation with his friends had died down long ago. His boredom was interrupted by a faint- wait, was that ticking?

The Basement hadn't been cleaned for a long time and there were boxes and boxes littered with old junk. Blurry stood from his sitting position and felt around at the boxes. The dim lightbulb swinging back and forth was hardly sufficient enough to know what he was doing and there was no window, so he couldn't even tell how long he'd been in there from daylight.

He fumbled around the boxes almost aimlessly, pushing a few over to get the ones underneath. There was a horrible damp smell among the cardboard and Blurry figured stuff must've been down here for years. 

Once he opened one, his eyebrows raised in pleasant surprise, regardless of the smell. It contained his old baby toys. He picked out a few, smiling nostalgically at the stackable rings, squeaky bears and alphabet blocks. He took out a block and rolled it in his hand. He loved spelling words as a kid.

"My blankie!" Blurryface exclaimed, noticing the rugged square of fabric that was once a baby blanket. Years of wear had left it with frayed edges and bobbled up fibres, but it was dear to him nonetheless.

A loud crash from the floor above made him jump. The ceiling shook enough to make the lightbulb flicker and he held the baby blanket close to him reflexively as the shouts got louder. 

Placing it next to him once it got quiet, he opened a few more boxes, chasing the ticking sound that was growing louder as he routed through the rest of them. When he opened a particularly ancient looking one, he realised these items didn't look familiar. 

There was an old journal with a rich leather cover. On the back was O.Z in gold lettering, which Blurry assumed were the owner's initials. Flicking through, he found every page of it to be completely empty.

Moving on to the next item, Blurry found a fancy metal photo frame, the glass covered in so much dust  he was unable to see the picture. Wiping it quickly without thinking too much about how dirty it actually was, he revealed a very old looking photograph of an middle-aged gentleman with large sideburns and a pocket chain hanging in his suit. There was a beautiful wife next to him. Blurryface could only guess that these people had once owned the house. Opening the back of the frame, he examined the back of the photograph and sure enough, found names. 'Oscar and Patricia Zabinsky' was etched on in inky joined up handwriting. So that was where the O.Z came from.

The ticking was much louder now, and he dug around the bottom of the box to pull out the source. It was an old pocket watch. So old that Blurry was suprised it was still able to tick. It was a dull redish gold colour, perhaps not real gold but painted well enough to look the part. It had black age spots littered across its surface. In fact, it seemed so bashed up that it wasn't even circular anymore, rather deformed to the point it looked heart shaped if you squinted. Blurry quite liked it, in an antique way. He replaced the the contents of the box but decided to keep the watch intstead, ignoring the judging looks the shadow and mannequin gave him.

 

 


 

 

Blurryface was carving a path through his jungle carpet as he paced back and forth. 42.. 43... 44... He stopped suddenly, before deciding to continue pacing till he counted 50 because he'd be up all night if he left it there. Once he did, he flopped on his bed to stare at the ceiling that used to scare him more than his own immaturity.

Used to, before Spooky stuck the same glow-in-the-dark stars that matched his own room up there. Spooky said they helped him stop feeling so closed in. He often dreamed of outer space. To Blurry, seeing another sky just added to his uncertainty. But he left them up there, because the thought of knowing there was a sleepless Spooky somewhere looking up at the same star-covered ceiling gave him comfort. Blurryface had counted them a dozen times before and it was a lot easier than counting sheep, like honestly, did anyone actually do that?

Now, at nearly 18 years old, he really did still need them up there.

He got up from his bed to sit at his desk and rubbed his temples to bring his thoughts back to him. Blurry had been losing sleep devising a strategy of getting to the world on the other side, but he had to figure out the final piece to the puzzle.

That Ghost, the Lane Boy Ghost said something important; that time didn't exist in the Void. He took a pencil to begin stetching and drew out his kimono drab demeanour, set with the glasses and floating floral Vans. On another paper he traced out grey smudges, blending them into a torso and limbs, creating a body. He took a red felt tip and dotted two crosses for eyes. Mr Misty-Eyed.

He looked at the drawings, trying to piece together a plan. The Ghost of Lane Boy said that he could only get through the Void because he was a ghost. Well that wasn't going to work, unless Blurry was planning to off himself and rise from the dead. Which he seemed to be debating as a rational idea as of late.

Blurryface stood from his desk, folding up his drawings and stuffing them inside the sketchbook. He was beyond able to think clearly. His hand picked up his phone on his own accord, scrolling through his few contacts before settling on Spooky's name. It had already began ringing before Blurry objected against himself about the time of night. He wasn't too bothered though. If Spooky answered then he was awake, and if he didn't, he was asleep. Either way, Blurry would have found some comfort.

"Hey." Came a soft answer after a short while of ringing.

"Hey." Blurry said, just as softly, trying to keep his voice down. "Did I wake you?"

"No, don't worry, you didn't."

"Then what the Hell are you doing awake at this time?"

There was a scoff. "I could ask you the same question, dude."

Blurryface sighed. "Just can't sleep."

"Yeah, I figured that, genius."
Blurryface let out a little giggle at the stolen nickname he often called Spooky. 

"What's bothering you?" Spooky asked.

"Nothing that doesn't bother me on a usual basis."

"Are you thinking about Cry Baby?"

Blurry paused. "Are you?"

There was a moment of silence.

"I've been thinking too much."

"Then let's not think," Blurryface started. "Let's forget."

Both Spooky Jim and Blurryface related to the problem of overthinking. But Blurry was different because he often forgot about things that made him too stressed, like a self defence mechanism embedded in his brain. He could easily just pretend that moment never happened, by dissociating from it.

"It's not that easy, Blurry." Spooky sighed. "It just isn't. I don't know how you do it."

"Because I've had to do it." 

There was a thick silence.

"Blurryface?" Came Spooky's small voice. "Are you still there?"

I'd never leave. "Yeah, I'm here."

"Can you just talk to me? About anything, just ramble or rant if you want." His voice sounded sleepy. "Hearing you talk is really soothing."

Blurry smiled to himself; Spooky must have felt really tired. "Sure, Spooks."

Blurry talked about nothing and everything. A quarter of the way into the conversation Spooky's hums of response had called it quits, and Blurry realised he had fallen asleep to the sound of his voice. And for the first time in a long time, Blurryface slept soundly too. 

Chapter Text

Blurryface felt his thoughts building up in his head to the point where he'd take a gun to his brain just to quieten them.

He was sat in Spooky's car today with promises of returning it to him tomorrow. The treehouse was a no-go zone for him as of late. He wasn't going to be going anywhere near that mirror till he sorted his head out first. His thoughts continued to build up, till he felt the air get thin from the pressure. 

He restarted the car and pulled back out onto the road. Blurryface wasn't technically legally certified to drive, but that didn't mean he didn't know how to. The only thing he didn't know was the actual road he was on, because he had been driving for so long that it had started to become dusk, and he had been following the trail of headlights going south, envying them for being more ahead then he was.

It would be easy, so so easy, to just apply the slightlest amount of pressure to the latch to crack open the door ever so slightly, and at this speed he would just fall out, and that would be it, no more wicked thoughts. Or perhaps, if he could pull, ever so slightly, at the steering wheel and it would be just as well. 

A glance in the rear-view mirror at the new seats reminded him this car did not belong to him. It was Spooky's, and Spooky put his heart into this car, something Blurry wasn't keen on destroying. Not only that, but a death on the road meant not only one person could die, and Blurry was keen not to have red paint on his hands. That was probably the only thing keeping him from going right now. He realised that God was cruel.

Not even music could distract him from his thoughts; he couldn't hide behind any sound because unfortunately, Spooky's radio had been stolen. He made a mental note to remind Spooky to replace the slot, or maybe Blurry could buy one for his birthday. 

The silence was a reminder of how violent the quiet really was and how dangerous it could be to the feeble mind. There was nothing left of any pride and dignity; it was worn on his sleeves with no way to hide. Blurry's skin crawled with the vibration of the car and he squirmed, hating it. The great thoughts would soon subside into something more terrifying. 

A blinking light and beep blimped, alerting him that he was low on fuel. With a sigh, he drove to the nearest gas station, not favouring returning Spooky's car empty.

His arrival at the gas station promted an itritated response. A large queue had formed and the long line of vehicles didn't even allow him to see past at the reason of the hold up. 

"Sorry." A girl said, walking past. It wasn't the mix-matched clothes and colours of Hurricane that caught his attention, it was the fact that she reeked of gas.

"Hey." He called through the open window. She turned around and gave a recognitive smile.

"Hi, Blurryface."

"What're you doing here? On foot, may I add."

"Isn't it obvious?" Hurricane said, wafting her arms, further intoxicating Blurry with the gas smell. Blurry figured it must've been emanating from her hands. 

"Uh, no?"

She scoffed. "I'm collecting Gasoline, silly. My canister is at the front."

Blurryface was going to ask if she was allowed to do that, but realised it wouldn't have mattered to her either way. "Oh, silly me. What for?" He asked instead. 

She tapped her nose with a knowing smile. "Don't you worry about that." The smell of gasoline was strong.

"I'm guessing you're the hold up, then."

"Oh, yeah. I was just apologising to the drivers." She said, but made no inclination of moving to rid herself as a obstacle. She paused for a moment. "Are you strange, Blurryface?"

"We're all pretty strange in our own way, I guess." He replied, used to her random switches of conversation.

"No. Are you strange, like me?"

Blurryface looked at her bluntly. "I'm sure we are more alike than we both know."

She beamed. "I hoped you would say that. I want to give you a gift." She began digging around her pockets. 

"Oh, no Hurricane, that's really not necces-"

"I don't have much, just this." She said, handing a couple of matches in his palm. "If you're anything like me, you'd know what to do with them. I look forward to seeing it happen." She said, and left the conversation there, wandering off to retrieve her canister full of gasoline.

They mustn't have been as alike as Blurryface thought, because she really had him stumped. He held them in his palm for a long time pondering, till a beep informed him he was next in line. He could still feel the weight of them hang heavy deep in his pocket as he filled up the car with gas, the smell of the flammable liquid intoxicatingly addictive. 

 

 


 

 

It was dark, because it was another night of lost sleep. Another night of ruthlessly thinking and getting nowhere, just like most nights. Hurriedly hurrying and behindly behind, the Shadow Man would say. It was a shame Blurry didn't share his capability for knowing the information he needed.

There was faith and sleep, and only one could be chosen from the two. Faith was to be to awake. To be awake was to think. And to think, meant loss of sleep. It was a vicious cycle, another loop to trap him in a vision of conscious dreams with red eyes closing and never awaking from their slumber. Forever Sleepers, Never Sleepers.

He refused to call Spooky for a second time. Spooky would have to watch him struggle from several rooms away. He didn't want to call him up again in the night time to tell him all his secrets, give him all his demons. Blurryface was a secretive guy, one to stand firm and never allow others to see any weakness. It was the way he survived growing up. It was the way he was made.

There was an added sound to the cogs turning over in his brain tonight. It was ticking. At first, Blurry wasn't fazed. He often was only able to hear it once the silence stepped in at the darkest part of the night. Most people would find the tick tocking an annoying companion to sleep with, but Blurryface enjoyed the steady, consistent sound as a way to keep his unruly mind at bay. Tonight though, it seemed much more louder than usual, forcing its way through the cracks in his skull to tick tick tick away till he couldn't think of anything other than the tick tick ticking, a repeat track in his head.

"Just shut up already." He grumbled, covering his temples with his fists as if he could force the sound out. He opened up the windows and drew back the curtains. Now, he thought. Now make a sound, he dared the watch as he glared at the drawer it was in. He sat on the edge of the mattress contemplating if he should go back to bed. When the ticking obviously didn't stop, he opened up the drawer, removing the contents of junk until he got to the bottom, and safely tucked away was the watch he found in the Basement all those years ago. The time read 4:05 on the heart-shaped clock face.

He knew the time wasn't wrong. For a watch so old it did have a long life. He actually tried to bash his way into it once, but for an antique it was practically indestructible. As he turned it over in his hands, the Ghost of Lane Boy's words came back to him. 

 "This place is timeless." He said. "It doesn't even exist."

But if time didn't exist in the Void, then maybe... yes just maybe, Blurry could get through by taking time with him. 'That's it!' Blurry thought, and his fist tightened around his watch. He'd make time exist there by physically taking it with him to get through.

Deciding to flip off everything, he slid open his window and climbed down. No matter what he promised himself, he was going to end up at the treehouse again. On the descent, he couldn't ignore the burn of his ears at the grunts and moans coming from the window as he passed his parent's bedroom. He knew that love made up most of sex, but that didn't mean it needed love to happen. That didn't mean that Blurryface never thought about sex. 

Still, the thought of parents was enough to make anyone projectile vomit.

Sex was... well, sex really. Urges. Desires. Fantasies. And Blurryface had plenty of all them. It was black and white, pretty simple to understand. Until feelings are thrown into the mix, then it gets very complicated indeed. No longer is it a need for biological reproduction, but something more... intimate. A way to bring someone closer, to let them in. And Blurry couldn't deal with allowing someone to know that much of him, to be so open, to willingly hand over his heart, only for them to have the power to tear it. 

He didn't submit power. So he didn't love. It was simple. 

Shaking unwilling thoughts, he continued his brisk walk through the night air, his beanie forgotten at home again. He walked along the road, feeling the cold waft around the tips of his ears. Deciding not to be spiteful at his forgetfulness, he strolled a long detour to the treehouse and let the cold envelope him rather than fighting it.

His hometown was in the dark tonight, even with the dim streetlamps. He had brought a torch with him, knowing the path he was going to take wouldn't be as illuminated. The walk was grimly dark and silent, the only sounds were a faint tweet of the night birds and the steady tick tock in his pocket.

Grim. That was how he felt, so very grim and without a single smile buried under the very many layers that made him. The public pathway came to a stop, and Blurry flicked on the torch to take the dark side route, the wind blowing through the swishy field grass. 

He didn't even know where he was for the second time today. He continued on; a nobody on a path to nowhere. For a second, he had to stop, because he was seriously lost at a stupid hour, virtually in the middle of nowhere. Sighing and wondering why he decided to come this way in the first place, he sat himself down on the damp field. His back hit something, and he shot straight back up. Pointing his torch he found it was a telephone pole. He realised this was helpful, because it probably lead to a house farm, or wherever it did lead to meant it there'd be somewhere to stay for the night other than wet grass. 

The telephone pole wires stretched on for a short while. He came to a gate and opened it, seeing a lone wooden house in the middle of the field. Well, it wasn't like he was expecting it to made of gold or anything, but it looked as if it was ready to fall to pieces any second. 

The walk up to it was quick, and easy since a candle was burning in a lantern on the porch. It softly flickered and Blurry could make out the shape of a person. At first glance it could have been mistaken for a demon - a demon sitting on her porch! - but as he got closer he realised it was someone he knew. 

"Hurricane?"

"Blurryface? What are you doing outside my home?" She stood from her creaking rocking chair.

"Believe it or not, I'm lost."

"You seem to get lost a Hell of a lot for someone who lives in town."

"Too often for my liking." He didn't add that the only places he went in this town were school and the treehouse, and the rare visit to his friends' houses.

"Why are you out here so late?"

"I... needed a walk. Why are you out here by yourself?" He joined her on the porch and leaned back against the wooden banister across from her. 

She began rocking on the chair again, deep in thought, the rhythmic creaks adding to the consistent tick tock. "I often find myself alone at night, unless I'm having sex."

There it was, brought up again as if it was the only thing that ran through peoples' minds. "Can't relate, unfortunately."

Hurricane could only smile sadly at the virgin joke as the candlelight flickered and softly lit up her features.

"Midas put his hands on me again. He isn't a boyfriend made of gold, but he could make me golden if I just show some respect."

Those words hit home and Blurry found his ears were burning with the silent shouts of 'Show some respect!' 

"You shouldn't be around toxic people if you can help it." He tried to offer.

"Oh, I don't let him touch me anymore. But he still gets to me, you know? I have spent way too many nights out here on this wooden porch waiting for the Night to become the Mourning."

He noticed that she still smelt faintly of gasoline, as if she tried to wash away the smell and couldn't quite get it. She continued to speak.

"I don't want to be buttered up and tasted when he's bored; mistaking me for bread."

"It's good you left him." Blurryface said bluntly, reminded of the dipstick Johnny. He didn't take kindly to assholes who treated their girlfriends like shit.

A moment of silence passed.

"You know Blurryface, it's the people we love the most that destroy us."

He thought for a moment, and realised he couldn't agree more. He couldn't trust himself to love someone and keep them happy when he didn't feel love and happiness. Both Hurricane and Cry Baby were perfect example of a loveless relationship. How he destroy someone like that? How could he let someone destroy him?

"It's cold tonight," he said. "You should've wrapped up." 

Hurricane smiled. "I've got thick skin."

He stood his leaned position. "I better get going, it's super late." He took a glance at the pocket watch. "Take care, Hurricane."

"You too. See you at school."

"See you." 

 

Blurry was thankful of the torch, because without the help of any streetlights the forest was almost pitch black. He could've easily got just as lost, if it wasn't for the rustle in the trees to tell him where he was going.

When he got to the treehouse, the mirror was not letting him in. He guessed as much, since he had treated the Ghost of Lane Boy like shit too. 

"Come on, Ruby." He mumbled. "It's important! I have to speak to the Lane Boy Ghost!"

The bird appeared on Blurryface's side of the mirror this time, and it did not look as happy to see him as last time. It squawked loudy, flapping its wings threateningly so Blurry had to duck out of the way of its bared talons. 

"Geez, what's wrong with you? Just let me in!"

It flew straight through, making the solid reflection become mercury. Blurryface also stepped through.

The Void was just as bare and cold as it was when Blurry first entered it.

"Hello?" He said, used to the echo. "Lane Boy Ghost?"

"If a wimp is what you're looking for, you're barking up the wrong tree, mate."

"Not you." Blurryface groaned at the layered voice.

"Nope? Then take a hike. There's plenty of trees out there."

Specs of grey dust began swirling around Blurry at gale force, before gathering and settling in front of him. Mr Misty-Eyed formed with his arms crossed and red crosses narrowed.

"I wanted to see the Ghost."

"I wanted you to piss off. But you're still here. No doubt as another attempt to get through?"

"How do you know that?"

"Blurry, Blurry, Blurry." Mr Misty-Eyed tutted. His dust began to swirl till he emerged as a copy of Blurryface. "You know you know the answer to that question."

"I can't believe you're me. We're like different people." Blurry said.

"Ew. No darling, I'm not you. I'm a Concept. A notion. A half-formed theory. Inprinted as a very particular emotion of yours. As is the Ghost of Lane Boy, only a very different emotion indeed." He scoffed, laughing pityingly as he retirned to his shadow form. "But we aren't so different, you and me. In fact, there are many Concepts wandering the Void just for you, and you haven't met them all yet."

"What if other people got in?"

"Theoretically, any person could have they're own Concepts too, as long as they feel some emotion."

Blurryface seemed to remember why he was here. "Let me get through to other side." He tried to be intimidating.

Mr Misty-Eyed just laughed. "Sunshine, I think you're lost. Take a U-turn back home."

"Take me, or I'll use this!" He pulled out the old pocket watch, twirling it on its chain and catching it in his palm. Mr Misty-Eyed widened his eyes in anger when he saw it, only for a split second. Then he laughed, howling and tearing up. Blurry felt a little vulnerable at the mocking.

"Jesus Blurryface, you're killing me here!" He was bent over, clutching his middle. "Explain to me," he wheezed when he eventually got his breath back. "Explain how you'll use that to get through."

"Time doesn't exist here. Bringing it makes it exist!"

"On what sound scientific knowledge did you base that idea on?"

Absolutely none.

"You're a fool! You thought you could come in here, swing around a watch and expect to break the infinite Void?" Mr Misty-Eyed laughed again. Blurryface felt a little stupid, because that's exactly what he thought. "Who do you think you are? Alice in Wonderland? Or how about 'Surrender Dorothy!'" The Shadow Man stopped when his taunt gave him an idea. "Alright, so you're no scientist, but you're the literary type, right? Let me explain in ways you'd understand. Okay, Alice. Tell me, what was she following to get down the hole?"

How was this relevant? "A white rabbit. In a waistcoat with a clock."

"Yes, yes! A clock, just like the one your holding. The rabbit was late, but late for what?"

"I- can't remember."

"It's not that you don't remember. You don't know. No one does, because it was never written. So to Alice, obviously, the rabbit wasn't late for anything. But on his own terms, he was pretty late since he knew what time he had to be there. So he had a hurried pace. Alice was slowly lagging behind him the whole journey since she wasn't the one who was late."

"What has this got to do with anything?" Blurry felt like shouting, because all these nonsensical riddles were beginning to drive him up the wall.

"Time is relative."

"So why didn't you just say that instead of giving my the entity of Lewis Carroll's library? Why didn't you just tell me what Newton said?"

"It was Einstein actually." He said smugly.

"Whatever!" Blurryface shouted, frustrated.

"Time is different for every person because of their speed. Every one is moving at different speeds constantly. The world you live in spins at a different speed to the world you want to get to. And both move at different speeds to this place." The Shadow Man paused. "I could get incredibly technically boring and go into the details of frequency vibrations, but you won't like that very much."

Blurryface scoffed.

"The Void moves at a much slower pace than out there, which is why," he spun his arms around theatrically. "Time appears to not exist at all. When in fact, it just moves extremely slowly."

"So how does the speed change affect you when you travel through to different worlds?"

"Ever read Narnia?"

How the Hell was this shadow so educated on literature, Blurry thought. "I saw the movies."

"God, the movies were awful." He commented. "It doesn't matter how much time you spend out there. When you come back through to this slow Void, your speed gets regulated and you come back the moment you left. Without the Void it would be impossible to get to the other side without your speed variating so much to the point you combust. So... this is like Lucy's wardrobe, of sorts."

"That's nice." Blurry commented, rolling his eyes.

"Yes, it's all very exciting." The Shadow Man shrugged. "But you've overstayed your welcome for a second time, I'm afraid. Now it's time to tap your ruby toes and return home." He pointed at Blurry's red socks.

"I want to go to other side." Blurry argued like one of Spooky's broken records.

"There are infinite worlds out there! How are you going to navigate to the one you want to get to? You can't do it yourself." Mr Misty-Eyed folded his arms and  narrowed his eyes. "But... I'll tell you what; I'll help get you to the other side, for a price."

Blurryface suddenly became interested. "And what's that?"

The Shadow smiled. "I'll tell you the truth. I can't get through myself. Yet. Like I said, I'm a Concept. I'm half of anything real and can't leave the Void. I need something before I can get through."

"The Ghost can get through."

"Lane Boy is a Concept different to me. Our natures and emotions are entirely unlike each other; he is a ghost, I am a shadow. Ghosts were once beings. What he sees are memories of a life he had, or perhaps, never had. Could have had. He hasn't really been there at all. I, however, am a shadow, which is a mere sliver of a being in the sun. A... trick of the light, if you will. And I want to get there just as badly as you do."

But once I have what I need - if you can get me it, of course - I will take you through to the right side you want to get to." He continued.

Blurryface really didn't trust him. "Swear." He said. "Swear an oath you will."

He smiled again and stuck out his wispy hand. "Truce?"

Blurryface took it tentatively and shook it. It felt strange, as if he was shaking hands with air, but it felt heavy as if it had weight. "Truce. What do you need?"

"Sunshine, Peter Pan would be crowing louder than Ruby if he heard me." There was a vicious smile. "You can't get a shadow without a body."