The Long Weekend
Jenna had been gone approximately thirty seconds when Josh started to get antsy. She’d been long overdue for a weekend away with the girls so, even though the darkness had been circling for days, Tyler had put on the best smile he could manage and waved her through the door with a promise that he’d be just fine on his own.
For three whole days.
And two very long nights.
God, the house seemed quiet without Jenna in it. Tyler hated the silence more than he could say.
A few minutes after his wife left, Tyler found himself missing his old apartment, full of noisy, smelly roommates. There had always been some madness going on there; some distraction to drown out his demon’s endless taunts.
Ten minutes later and he had cranked the sound system up so loud that blowing the ridiculously over-priced and unnecessarily sophisticated speakers became a real possibility. Tyler played the loudest, heaviest, bumpingist music he could find – music he didn’t even particularly like, but couldn’t ignore.
It didn’t help.
His demon had been with him too long; knew him too well. The demon – which looked exactly like Tyler, but paler, grimmer, with burning red eyes – only smiled and spoke to Tyler in his mind.
“Nice try,” it said without moving its lips.
Tyler walked past Blurryface. He refused to look in its direction. Sometimes, ignoring it helped. Sometimes, pretending the demon wasn’t there made it fade; dull and fuzzy, like a shadow cast in moonlight. Sometimes.
Not this time, though.
Blurryface laughed, the sound punching holes through Tyler’s mind. “Come on,” it teased, “it’s going to be a long weekend. You don’t want to spend it alone, do you?”
No. No, Tyler really didn’t.
He wished he’d found some excuse to lure Josh back to Columbus for the weekend. Three days of hanging out, playing Mario Kart, and making music with his best friend was exactly what Tyler needed to chase the darkness away. For a while, at least.
It would return, of course. It always did, eventually, and, with it, the demon would come creeping back into Tyler’s life, like a memory that was unwanted but couldn’t be forgotten. He could chase them away for a few days, a few weeks, even a few months at a time – long enough to build bigger walls, to fill his life with more light – but they came back.
They always came back.
“I’m never really gone, you know,” Blurryface taunted. “Just waiting.”
Tyler didn’t have to ask the demon what it waited for. He knew. Blurryface waited for technical glitches, for bum notes, for spectacular falls, for poor reviews… for anything that broke through Tyler’s walls enough to let a ray of darkness fall through. The daemon was a master. He worked at those cracks slowly, chipping away tiny pieces of wall until more and more darkness could spill through.
This time, it was nothing more than the thought of spending a single weekend alone. Tyler may have encouraged Jenna when she had proposed the getaway but he’d been terrified of that door closing behind her from the moment the suggestion had left her lips. He glanced at the time on his phone. Jenna had been gone barely twenty minutes and already the demon had broken through enough of Tyler’s wall that the darkness had nearly taken his legs. It sloshed around his knees, an oil spill on choppy waters of his soul.
Every step Tyler took as he paced the house dragged. The darkness weighed twice as much as he did and filled his feet. It made them heavy and clumsy.
“Relax,” Blurryface said with a laugh. “Sit down. You’ll wear yourself out.”
Blurryface didn’t speak out of concern for Tyler. It knew that Tyler was easiest to break when he was sitting still. When Tyler stopped moving, the darkness had a chance to settle. To harden. To become so firm that nothing less than a sledgehammer could break it.
Tyler glared at Blurryface as he passed. The demon shrugged. “Suit yourself,” it said. “I can wait. We have all weekend…”
All weekend. Tyler groaned, trying not to count the minutes.
It wasn’t too late… he could still call Josh. It was, what, a four-hour flight from LA? Josh could be home before dinner…
Tyler shook his head at the thought. No, he couldn’t just expect his best friend to drop everything and come rushing back to Columbus, just because being alone made his skin crawl. Besides, Josh was probably busy.
“That’s right,” the demon said, “Josh has a life, you know. He’s not just a pet you can call over when you need to cuddle. You call yourself his friend?”
Blurryface stepped in Tyler’s path, forcing him to come to a stop. Face-to-face with the demon, Tyler stared at his own grinning, red-eyed face. It was a mirror reflecting his own personal Hell but, instead of fire and heat, it made Tyler feel cold all over. Tearing his gaze away from promised damnation, Tyler turned and strode away from the demon.
He walked without knowing where he was going and found himself in his studio. It was quieter there; the black acoustic panels muffled most of the noise from the techno-rave-acid-house music Tyler had all but forgotten about. He wandered over to the keyboard and let his fingers dance across the keys.
Music helped. Channelling his fears, insecurities, and anger into music was the only way Tyler had made it through his teens. Even these days, when his bad days were fewer and farther between, Tyler needed music to keep the darkness at bay as much as he needed air to breathe. He considered sitting down at the keyboard and trying to turn some of the noise in his head into something productive but soon gave up the idea. The noise in his head was just that: noise. Meaningless, droning noise.
Besides, if Tyler sat at his keyboard, he wouldn’t be able to keep ignoring the drum kit in the corner.
“Like Josh has been ignoring you since he moved to L.A.?” Blurryface asked, examining his nails. The casual gesture might have been convincing, were it not for the undisguised glee in Blurryface’s burning eyes.
Tyler shoved past the demon and through the door.
“He doesn’t think about you at all, you know!” Blurryface called after him.
Low blow, Tyler thought. The demon had hit on one of Tyler’s deepest, most secret fears: that Josh had moved on and forgotten about him. In California, Josh was undoubtedly surrounded by people all the time; happy, carefree people who smiled all the time and never disappeared into their own minds for hours at a time.
He passed Blurryface who, leaning against the wall in the hallway, said, “Josh left you. Jenna left you. I’m the only one who sticks around.”
“Wish you wouldn’t,” Tyler grumbled without looking at the demon.
Blurryface’s laughter followed him into the bedroom. Tyler looked around for something – anything – that might be a distraction. He found nothing. Nothing but constant reminders of how alone he was. The big, empty king-sized bed was the worst. No way he was going to face a night alone in that thing. Thinking of the agonizingly long night ahead was exactly the wrong thing to do.
“Don’t worry,” Blurryface called from the bed. “You won’t be alone.” The demon laid on its side, head propped up on an elbow. It winked at Tyler, who shuddered and turned away.
“Who needs sleep, anyway? Let’s stay up all night and, you know, just talk. Remember the talks we used to have?”
Remember? How could Tyler ever forget? Those so-called “talks” were the reason Tyler almost didn’t make it out of his teens. His fingers absently rubbed the spot on his neck where the rope had once burned as his gaze fell on the closet across the room. Mention of those seemingly endless nights made Tyler think of the shoe box hidden at the very back of the highest shelf inside.
He dragged a chair over to the doors, slid them open, and climbed up. Reaching around a quilt, Tyler felt for the box he knew would be there. He wrestled the box out, then hopped off the chair. Staring down at the black shoe box, Tyler felt a rush of emotions so intense, he couldn’t find names for them.
Pain, so intense it made him numb.
Fear, so powerful his hand trembled.
Regret, so fierce it ate at his gut.
Too many. Too much. Tyler couldn’t handle the rush of emotions that swept over him. He sank to his knees beside the chair. The box fell from his hands, spewing its contents across the floor. Scraps of paper covered in early song lyrics, unsent letters, and photographs lay in a mess around Tyler. A dirty old rubber band caught his attention. He rubbed the tattoo on his wrist as his fingers brushed the band.
“Look,” Blurryface said, picking up a flimsy slip of plastic, “your first hospital admission for-”
Tyler clenched his jaw so tightly it felt like it would break. “My last hospital admission,” he ground out.
The demon shrugged. “To-may-toe, to-mah-toe.” It tossed the bracelet aside as if it meant nothing.
It meant everything.
Using every ounce of willpower he possessed, Tyler calmly retrieved the hospital bracelet and replaced it in the box. The only sign of the anger Tyler fought against was in the glare he shot Blurryface. He took his time collecting the remaining items.
“I don’t know why you bother with all this crap,” the demon said nonchalantly. Tyler smacked its hand away as it reached for an old cassette tape.
Well, the demon would say that, wouldn’t it? Every item in the box was a reminder that Tyler had beaten it before. Every single thing inside was a weapon against Blurryface.
Tyler picked up a small plastic bottle and gave it a shake. The contents rattled. He ran his thumb across the label but didn’t bother reading it; he knew what it said. Zolpidem, take 2 pills before bed. The prescription was more than two years out of date but Tyler found himself pocketing the bottle before he clambered back up the chair to replace the box.
“Jenna hates it when you take that stuff,” Blurryface said as he followed Tyler from the room.
Yeah, she does, Tyler thought, but she went and left me all alone.
The demon didn’t give up that easily. “They’re probably not even any good anymore.”
Tyler ignored Blurryface which, as he expected, the demon did not take well. It slammed a hand against the sound system, silencing the music. “Don’t ignore me!” it said angrily, eyes flashing.
He did his best to do just that.
Truth be told, Tyler didn’t care much for sleeping pills himself – but neither did he care to spend the night with Blurryface’s whispered venom dripping into his ears. Jenna would be disappointed with Tyler, he knew that. But he’d be around for her to be disappointed with, which swayed the argument. If Tyler didn’t resort to the pills, would he make it through the long weekend?
The darkness tugged at him, reminding him that he’d already started to lose the battle.
He already felt tired, the mentally drained exhaustion of Depression beating at him – the kind you couldn’t sleep off. A wave washed over Tyler and he finally gave in to inactivity. Digging the bottle from his pocket, he set it on the coffee table and dropped heavily onto the sofa.
Blurryface’s tirade had doubled. The demon stood across the table from Tyler, shouting at him to pay attention, as its voice echoed loudly in Tyler’s mind. Groaning in pain and frustration, Tyler threw himself face down on the sofa. Grabbing a throw pillow, he dragged it over his head. He could still hear the demon’s voice in his mind, but at least it muffled the rest.
And, he didn’t have to see Blurryface, which was always best. Those glowing red eyes haunted Tyler.
If he hadn’t buried his face in the sofa – if he wasn’t clutching a pillow to his head – Tyler might have heard the lock on the front door click open. He might have heard the beep-beep-beep-beep of the security system being disabled. He might have noticed Josh’s, “Honey, I’m home!”, as his best friend entered the living room before Josh dropped a duffle bag over the back of the sofa-
-and right on the back of his head.
Tyler fell off the sofa in his scramble to get up. Josh recoiled at the same time, clutching his chest in surprise. They stared, wide-eyed, at one another without moving.
“What are you doing here?” Tyler asked finally, breaking the silence.
Josh ran a hand through his neon orange hair. “Well,” he said with a nervous laugh, “when you said Jenna was going away for the weekend, I thought, ‘Music and Mario Kart weekend.’”
He looked embarrassed. “I guess I probably should have asked. Maybe you wanted to spend the weekend al-”
Josh threw himself forward. The darkness shook loose as Tyler moved. He left it behind on the floor as he bounded over the sofa, throwing his arms around Josh, who laughed and patted him on the back.
Tyler pulled away, dashing at the tears that clung to his cheeks. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he said, earning a grin from his best friend.
Later, as they sat on the sofa, taking a break from wheeling around corners and snatching power-ups, Josh picked up the plastic bottle. He glanced at the label, frowning. “What’s this, bro?”
Tyler, who hadn’t yet stopped beaming, shrugged. “Nothing important,” he said. Taking the bottle from Josh, he tossed it casually over his shoulder, where it flew right through a silently fuming Blurryface.