It's early afternoon when David realizes-- He's actually feeling good today. His head's clear, he feels calm, he feels-- Positive. Genuinely upbeat. It's actually startling, after the shitty time he's had for the past-- Ever. And the past week-- After another screaming breakup with Philly, all he felt was angry and frustrated and--
But not today. Today it's all gone, and he's not even high. He opens the windows and feels the fresh air on his face and wonders about-- Just staying clean and-- Getting his shit together and making up with Philly and-- Being happy for the rest of his life.
But just as he thinks it, there’s a flicker at the edge of his vision, in the shadows cast by the curtains, as if something is curling up out of them.
"No," he breathes, knowing what this is, knowing-- It's the Devil.
It's not real. Doctor Poole tells him over and over, the Devil isn't real, it's just a hallucination caused by his disease. He's sick, that's all, he's just sick. But it feels very real, and the meds don't work, nothing works, except--
There’s a cruel, echoing laughter behind him, and David stiffens, taking one step forward, towards the sunlit window, as if that will save him. And then, to his horror, he feels the touch of long, thin fingers, sliding up his shoulders.
Fear seizes David by the throat. He bolts away from the window, the fresh air and the hope of new beginnings, and lunges for the dark corner where he hides his drugs. He’s alone in the house, no one to distract him, no one to save him. The meds aren't enough, he needs something stronger. He feels a flash of rage from the Devil. It hates him taking drugs, it hates him feeling better, but David pushes on, desperate for relief.
He ignores the pills, he needs something faster than pills. He can feel the Devil just behind him, so close it's almost touching, almost speaking in his ear, and the almost is worse than anything. He gasps in relief as he sees a mostly empty vial of blue, and scrambles to get it into the infuser. He clings to the infuser, waiting for the relief of the smoke, and then--
A cloud of white smothers his senses.
The world blurs and softens, the drug spreading through his system and soothing his thoughts. He leans back against his bed, his head falling onto the mattress. There, that’s better. The Devil eases back, the shadow fading into--
Now he’s safe, now he's--
He turns his head and-- Lenny's there, lying with him in the bed, the smoke wafting around her. He smiles, relieved to see her. "Lenny," he says, not sure when she got here, but-- Happy anyway. The drugs make everything happy. He takes another deep breath of the smoke, another, another. The last of the fear floats away.
“Hey, kid,” Lenny slurs, leaning up against him. “You know, I wasn’t-- wasn’t planning on getting high today.”
"Me too," David laughs. "Me neither. Uh-- You know what I mean." He was going to-- Something. Something about fresh air. But he can't remember now.
Lenny lets her head rest on David’s shoulder. “Did I ever-- ever tell you about the first time I got high? I was such a dumb kid. Didn’t know what I was doing... and, hah, you weren’t there to show me how.”
"We're dumb kids now," David giggle-snorts. She says such funny things sometimes.
Lenny elbows him. “Shut up, I’m trying to talk about me. I talked my way into this, uh, lounge. I was, you know, I was curious. About how the other half lived. The guys there, they thought it was pretty funny, this kid wandering into an opium den like he owned the place. They let me take a huff off their pipe. And it was like - like being in and out of control all at the same time.” She shuts her eyes, as if she’s about to nap on his shoulder. “Like I wasn’t hungry anymore. You know?”
"Opium den?" David echoes, confused. He thinks he's heard of those, but-- "Do they even have those anymore? Hey, maybe we should try one. We could get, like, astronomically high, like-- We'd turn into stars."
Lenny laughs. “It was a long time ago. A long, long, long, long time... ” She presses her face into his shoulder. “You know, it’s not so bad, all this. Being here. Being with you. Sometimes I think... sometimes I think this is how it should be, you know? Just-- Us.”
"Maybe it should be," David says, thinking about Philly and all their fights. "Just us." He wraps an arm around Lenny, hugging her. The air is thick around them now. Opium den-- He pictures Lenny in an opium den and laughs. "You must've been a funny kid."
Lenny laughs, and David feels her love for him curling around him, like the smoke from the vapor. “I was a messed-up kid.” She pokes him gently, in the shoulder. “Just like you, right?”
David gives an agreeing hum. "We're the same," he murmurs. It's not like it is with Amy or Philly. He doesn't ever feel judged with Lenny because they're both down at the bottom together.
Lenny reaches out, impulsively, and kisses him on the cheek, and then slumps back down against the bed. “That’s right. We’re the same. That’s why I found you. Sometimes I think... ” Her eyes are shut. “Sometimes I think I should just stay right here. Why... why fix what isn’t broken, right? Not like I can go back to before. Not really.” She’s slurring her words, but there’s a melancholy edge to them, behind the drugged haze.
David can't remember if Lenny ever talked about growing up before. "What was it like?" he asks, voice slurring, too. "Where you grew up?"
Lenny’s hand comes to rest in his hair, gently stroking. “Like any other place, I guess. Good, and bad. But it was - it wasn’t the place. It was the time, you know? Everything was fucked up back then. It was like, one day you wake up, and the whole world’s gone mad. And all ‘cause some bastard in Austria got shot. I mean, I can barely be fucked to care if someone gets shot right in front of me. What do I care, you know?”
"People got shot?" David asks, a little worried. "Were you in a gang?"
“No,” Lenny says, faintly annoyed. She elbows him. “Keep up. It was in Austria. It was, like, in the newspapers.”
David's brow furrows as he tries to remember-- Ever caring what was in the newspapers. "Uh, kangaroos?"
Lenny frowns. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kangaroo.” She pokes him again. “We should go to Australia. See the world. I’m getting sick of America.”
"I've never been anywhere," David sighs. "Too-- Crazy. Sick. I dunno."
“You can take your crazy with you,” Lenny says. “We could go-- Home. Back where I come from. Maybe I’d-- No. Or we could-- We could-- Paris, right? The City of Lights. You’d like it there. The food is, the food’ll blow your mind.”
"Hmm, sounds nice," David sighs, snuggling a little closer. "Croissants at the top of the Eiffel Tower?"
“Perfect,” Lenny says, dreamily. “I miss Paris. I used to be able to-- Go anywhere. Do anything. And now I’m... Here.” She lets her head fall back. “And I don’t even want to leave anymore. I guess that’s addiction for you,” she adds, and then starts giggling, uncontrollably, at her own comment.
David giggles too, though he's not sure what they're laughing about. "We could go to the zoo. They have kangaroos! We can feed them-- What do kangaroos eat?"
Lenny gives this some thought, scrunching up her face. “I dunno,” she says, after a moment. “They taste all right, though.”
David lifts his head to look at Lenny. "You ate a kangaroo? No way!"
“Not the whole thing, dummy,” Lenny says, elbowing him again. “But I had some shipped in. It’s - I mean, the whole world’s a menu, right? Animals, places, people. And it’s all about variety, kid. Without that, you just... you just go crazy, I guess.”
"I'm already crazy," David reminds her. But variety could be fun. "What did it taste like? Was it like a steak or-- Chicken or--" He can't think of anything else it might taste like. Not pizza, obviously. He snorts a little at the thought.
“It’s very, uh... ” Lenny snaps her fingers repetitively, reaching for a word. “I forget the word in English. It’s - muscley. I mean, all that... all that hopping around or whatever, they’re pretty - lean, that’s it! That’s the word. And it’s strong. Kinda like - kinda like deer, I guess? Whatever you call it when you eat a deer. Tastes like that.”
"So it tastes, like, bouncy," David decides. "Rubber meatballs." He snort-laughs.
“Ew,” Lenny says, elbowing David. “I’ve seen what you eat. It’s all sugar, all the time. I keep trying to get you to eat some real food.”
"Yeah, like when?" David challenges. Lenny usually eats the same things he does, candy and waffles and pizza and burgers and fries. The five food groups.
“All the time!” Lenny protests. “You just forget. You always think I’m all just in your head. But I’m not. I’m alive too, you know. Or I used to be.”
"What're you talking about?" David whines. "Of course you're alive, you're right here."
Lenny’s arms wrap around him, tightly. “Of course I am. But you’re the only one who really sees me. So I need - I need you to believe in me, okay? I need you.”
"I'll always believe in you, Lenny," David says. "You're my friend."
Lenny looks down at him, her eyes unreadable for a second. And then she leans down, and pecks him on the lips. “You’re sweet, kid.” She leans back, her voice fading into the fog of the drug. “Sometimes I think I might love you... ”
"Lenny," David starts, not sure where this is going. She's usually not so-- Affectionate. "You're in a weird mood."
“Yeah,” she slurs. “Drugs’ll do that to you. It’s just all of this... it’s like a circle, right? I fight you, you fight me, I make you forget, you get high to get back at me... don’t you ever get tired of it all?”
"We don't fight," David says, confused. "I mean, I guess sometimes we argue but-- We have a good time. That's our thing."
“Sometimes I get sick of you forgetting everything, kid,” Lenny says, dully. She leans against him.
David feels stung. He pushes Lenny off and curls away from her. "It's not my fault I forget." He hates it when people get mad at him for being sick, for having a broken brain. It's just what he is, all he'll ever be.
Lenny laughs, and elbows him. “It’s not you, kid, it’s me. You know... I gotta look out for myself. And that means you forget, and then you-- You drug me. Drug yourself, except I’m you and you’re me and we’re-- Someone else.”
"I don't drug you," David says, scowling. "Half the time, you're the one who-- Who gets us the drugs."
“Stop it,” Lenny says, frowning. “Stop acting like I’m not me.” She shoves him, slightly. “Remember.”
Something presses into David's mind, familiar and alien, and then-- He knows. Lenny isn't Lenny, she's-- The Devil, the monster. He should be terrified, on some level he is terrified, but-- The drugs keep everything soft and far away. "No," he gasps, half-laughing, half-lost.
“Mmm.” Lenny smiles drowsily, and pulls him close. “Yes. Now you see. Now you see. Sometimes I wish... it could always be like this.” She pets his hair, like he’s a puppy. “You. Not afraid of me.”
"I am afraid of you," David giggles, fuzzily manic. Was Lenny always the Devil? Somehow he knows she was. All this time-- "I thought you were my friend."
Lenny laughs along with him, and there’s the same hysterical edge to her voice as to his. A thought drifts through David’s mind, sharp amid blurred thoughts: she’s not in control either. “Maybe I am. I don’t - don’t know what I’d do without you anymore.”
"You're not-- A hallucination," David realizes, his thoughts sluggish. "You're real."
“Yeah.” Lenny squeezes him. “I’m real. Just like you. Your very own, personal boogeyman...”
David clings to her, even though he's repulsed. "Why?" he asks, simply. Why is she here? Why him? Why does she hurt him over and over and over?
“Because you’re part of me,” Lenny says, simply.
David just stares at her. "Am I-- Your hallucination?"
“I dunno,” Lenny says, leaning against him. She sounds half-asleep. “Sometimes I think everyone is. Just-- a world full of hallucinations, and I’m the only real one.”
"Then I'm not real," David says, and strangely-- It's a relief not to be real. His life never made sense anyway.
Lenny laughs, and presses her face against David’s shoulder. “If that’s true, then how do I get out? How do I... how do I find something real? If no one is...”
"Get out?" David echoes. "Of the apartment?"
Lenny laughs again, still with that hysterical edge. “You always make me laugh, kid. It’s the only thing keeping me going, some days. No, silly. I need to get out of you.”
"You're inside me?" David says, his voice high with surprise. He looks down at himself and touches his chest.
“Yes,” Lenny says, her voice softening. “Part of you.” She puts her hand over his. “Your own personal tapeworm.”
"Lenny, I don't-- Think I like that," David says, upset. "Why can't you get out?"
“Don’t have anywhere to go, kid,” she says, slumping back against the bed. “I’m - an exile. Homeless. Whatever. All I have is you.”
"And I'm not even real," David says. Not being real makes it hard to stay mad. That and all the drugs. "That sucks. Sorry."
“Yeah.” Lenny’s silent for a moment. David can’t see her face, but he wonders if she’s crying. “I’m sorry too. You didn’t-- You got a raw deal, kid.”
It hardly helps, this sudden-- Apology? But maybe it does, a little. He never imagined the Devil this way, actually-- A person. Human. "Maybe-- Things can be better now," he offers.
Lenny laughs, low and bitter and not like herself at all. “Sorry, kid. That’s not the way the world works. Maybe in another life.”
"But why not?" David asks. "Why can't we just-- Be like this?"
Lenny catches her breath. “I-- ” She sits up, and turns away. “I’m scared, kiddo. If I let go - then I’m never going to get out. I’m going to-- Going to live and die like this, the monster under your bed. And the worst part is, sometimes I want that...” She leans against him again, sounding tired. “It would be so much easier. To give in and just... fade into you.”
David hardly understands any of this, but-- Even if she's the Devil-- She's Lenny, his Lenny. His best friend. "I don't-- Want you to fade away."
“We could be together then,” Lenny says, urgently. “We wouldn’t be alone anymore, either of us. We could just - just be.”
"That sounds nice," David sighs. "Just being." And not being alone. He feels so alone when Lenny's gone. He blinks against sudden tears.
“It does,” Lenny agrees, wistfully. She turns her head to face him, her nose just an inch away from his face. “Would you do it? If you were me? Would you give up and let go?”
'You mean die?" David asks. He turns away. He's thought about killing himself so many times-- Sometimes the only thing that stops him is the drugs, the relief they bring. They make everything stop for a while, until he can bear it again. "I dunno. Maybe."
Lenny shakes her head. “Then maybe you’re braver than me. After all-- I’m just your shadow.”
"My shadow," David giggles, and remembers-- An old song his parents liked. How did it go? "Like the wallpaper sticks to the wall, like-- Pages that stick in a book," he sings, out of tune.
Lenny laughs, and there’s a desperate, hopeless sound to it. “Yeah,” she says, softly. “That’s us. You and me, kid. To the end...”
“The end,” David echoes, wondering if— Maybe he should. Maybe it’s time. “Would you stop me?”
Lenny lets her head rest on his shoulder again, sleepy. “Would you want me to?” she asks, her voice sounding very far away.
“I don’t know,” David admits. “What if— I wouldn’t?”
Lenny takes a deep breath of the vapor, and wraps an arm around him. “I’d still save you,” she says. “Because I need you.”
“You don’t need me,” David says, shyly, both sad and relieved. “You’d find someone else.” To haunt. To love. To destroy.
“I,” Lenny says, and if David didn’t know better, he’d think her voice was shaking. “I don’t know if I can anymore, kid.” She presses closer. “Like I said. You’re part of me now.”
“Your hallucination,” David says, and giggles. “Your turn to see Doctor Poole.”
Lenny laughs, her voice vibrating against David’s body. “Mmmm. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll do that, kid...”
“Good,” David sighs, pleased. He breathes deep, floating higher and higher, knowing— He can let go. He can just let go and— Lenny will take care of everything. The Devil will take care of all the— Living that David never could.
And if he’s just a hallucination, then that’s all okay, because he’s not real. He never was.
He feels her breath on his face, soft and warm like the vapor, and then lips against his. “Sleep well, David,” her voice says. “I’ll take care of everything.”