God damn Vivien. God damn her.
It was uncomfortably warm, the wet heat of summer’s eve. She was soaked in it, sweat pooling in her armpits and back and the creases of her fucking eyelids. God damn summer. God damn sun. God damn Vivien.
And god damn these crowds. Why were there so many people on the street so late in the day anyway? She honestly didn’t know what was worse, the people who tried to barge past her or those who ostentatiously removed themselves from her path. An old wound, but one constantly picked at by every scabby passerby. She had a limp, not a crippling contagious disease.
She’d almost lost sight of Vivien’s golden hair in the crowd. She was tall, visible with hunched shoulders over the mass of people but Andy’s own height was working against her. She had to duck and weave to keep her in sight at all. And of course Vivien was setting a driving pace, long legs eating up the pavement and forcing her to half-shuffle-run, left leg splaying out and almost tripping passers-by.
She didn’t really know why she was following her. She just – she had to understand. It was her curse, just as apathy was Vivien’s.
And that was why her behaviour had been so confusing – not apathy, so she’d followed, desperately trying to understand why they’d fought, to discern something from her walk, her posture, like some shoddy would-be Sherlock Holmes.
She pulled at her waistcoat. The crowd was thinning a bit, but Viv had sped up, pulling away from her, and so she launched herself onward – click thump, click thump against the pavement.
It took her under a second to realise what the man bumping into her Vivien was doing. She tried to run – why wasn’t anyone doing anything, bystander intervention couldn’t be that strong – stumbled, pushed on. Viv was staggering herself – finally she managed to scream something, watched the stupid too slow pedestrians turn – couldn’t they see, couldn’t they see? – cane tumbling from her grasp, falling, the man spinning, walking away, no-one stopping him, no-one, Viv stumbling, tumbling, screaming again why was no-one doing anything please please and the car, the crunch, Viv’s body rolling, a long low moan of despair that seemed to echo forever, please no, please no –
– Viv’s hand left contact with Andy as she convulsed violently, twitching like a gallows bird from the rope. What – what had she – Andy saw her die –
Andy collapsed, juddering against the ground with motions that clattered her cane like the rattle of bones, her mouth working soundlessly, eyes wide with terror. A whine slipped from her.
‘Andy – Andy –’
‘You died – you died and I didn’t do anything – oh god, oh god, I didn’t call the ambulance or catch your killer – I – I – I – ’ She was crying, face scrumpled and raw.
‘You – you did see me die then?’
Andy nodded, sobbing dying down. ‘And then – and then you were gone – and they thought I was mad, god I was mad, the room, the white room –’
‘The pills, Andy. I found the pills. GG126.’
Andy laughed, a crisp little noise like dead leaves. ‘Vitamin H.’ She laughed again at Viv’s blank expression and her head suddenly twitched one, two, three times. ‘Halperidol. It’s schizophrenia medication. An anti-psychotic. With lovely little side effects.’
‘I don’t know. Maybe. All I know is I had an imaginary friend. So everyone thought – well, what you’d expect them to think. Didn’t help that I didn’t…react very well.’
Viv slumped to the ground beside her. For a moment they sat there in silence.
‘What now?’ she croaked.
Andy gave another laugh. ‘Seriously? That’s…that’s it?’
‘I’d been worried it was – not prescribed. Anti psychotics is – it’s a little better. At least it makes sense.’ She swallowed the betrayal of Andy seeing her death. No matter how private it felt, how wrong it felt that she’d seen it.
Andy bit her lip. ‘Well. I have an appointment.’
‘With a psychiatrist. Biweekly checkups.’
‘But – but you aren’t actually – I mean, I’m real – you don’t need to…’
‘Of course.’ She smiled, a smile so bittersweet it stung. ‘Of course you’d say that. But I have to go, Vivien. He helps. He helps me care. I sometimes – sometimes I wonder if this is how you felt – feel – all the time. Nothing mattering.’
Viv swallowed. Andy was meant to care. The idea of her, hollow and looking at others as nothing more than shells, puppets and worn out husks as she did –
‘Go then. If it helps.’ She swallowed again – there was a funny burning sensation behind her eyes and her nose felt drippy.
Andy peered at her for a moment, fingers tattooing against her cane then laughed, more full bodied than before. ‘You’ll walk me there. Silly. You’re still my best friend. My only friend.’ There was something shining brittle and needy in her eyes. Viv thought of Andy’s sheer maniacal despair at her death. That long, dead scream, echoing in her memory and Andy’s.
She nodded, stood. ‘Right then.’
They walked in silence for some time. Viv lit another cigarette and dawdled slightly so Andy could stay ahead and lead. After a while she asked, ‘What will you tell him? About me.’
Andy frowned. ‘Nothing. He’d think I’d relapsed. He’s nice but – well – death proof friends with Frankenstein eyes won’t help.’ She bit her lip. ‘Let’s talk about how your day went.’
‘Uh –’ Well, dearest friend who may or may not have been driven to psychosis and near suicide by my first death, I almost was killed again by the person who killed me before, but then butch punk police chick shot me and I tripped balls on some death hallucinogen, then I was alive again and your brother now believes you about me, but I shouted at him cause I’m a cunt who doesn’t think of anyone save maybe you as a worthwhile human being, and then I thought you were a drug user and zapped you with my shining light of what-the-dickens. How was maths? ‘Normal stuff. Getting clothes after death is a pain.’
‘I’d noticed you’d doubled up tights and jeans. It isn’t that cold.’
Viv scowled. ‘I died in summer. It was warm. Then I gave myself what I’m pretty sure was hypothermia getting to your house. At the moment, I want to be warm. It’s not like I’m hitting up any clubs or interacting with anyone where I’d give a shit about how they make my figure look.’
Andy chuckled. ‘Still managed to find an el cheapo leather jacket.’
‘It’s probably vinyl.’
Viv did the only sensible thing at this point, which was to stick out her tongue and blow a raspberry.
They walked along in silence for a little while longer, but it was a more comfortable silence, the silence of a quiet night and warm quilt. Eventually Andy turned to Viv.
‘Don’t take this the wrong way. But – for me at least. Could you – could you try and work out what’s happening to you?’ Her face was twisted somewhere between regret and pleading. ‘Please? I just – I need to know. I need to know why.’
‘I’m really not comfortable with it. But as there’s not much else to do as a member of the recently deceased…’
Andy gave her an awkward one-armed hug. ‘Thanks.’
‘Yeah.’ God, now she’d have to look into it because she felt so guilty – had Andy guilted her into it? Was it all calculated and deliberate? No, that was crazy thinking, that was the sort of thought she had about other people. Why couldn’t she live an ordinary dull life? Was that too much to ask?
Probably yes, actually.
When they reached the psychiatrist’s offices, they found him outside, leaned against the facade of the building exhaling smoke into the grey skies. Viv’s first impression was height – he was tall, and his suit didn’t quite disguise the lean steeliness of his body. His fingers seemed impossibly long for his body, slim and elegant. He smiled upon seeing them approach and straightened himself, hand brushing down his shirt.
‘Hello Andrea. I’m sorry about this – rolled myself one after a rather more difficult session than we normally have.’ He had high cheekbones and a mane of raven-dark hair that framed his face as he gestured vaguely with his cigarette.
‘Ah, a roller,’ said Viv, with roughly the feeling one might say Ah, a cockroach. She despised rollers. And despite his good looks and charm she despised the psychiatrist for being something different about Andy. He looked…strangely right next to her, in his neat suit and coat. Like a Victorian noble and their ward, a crime boss and their slightly scruffy servant.
He smiled, a little self-deprecatingly. ‘We all have our faults. Mine is lung cancer.’ His head half turned to Andy. ‘Who is –’
‘My friend. A friend. A person. Who’s my friend.’ Andy blushed, smiled a little, ran her fingers through her hair a bit.
‘It’s good you’ve made friends.’ He smiled at Viv, a little curiosity visible as he extended his damnable pale hand. ‘I’m Cannelis. Hugh Cannelis.’ He pronounced it with the faintest of accents, a slight elision of the last syllable into francophonic noise. She forced herself to smile as she shook it.
‘Nimue.’ God damn, she hoped Andy got that reference. It made sense to give a false name, she supposed Andy must have used her real name while talking to this calm, too sophisticated man. He gave another little smile.
‘Nice to meet you Nimue. If you want you can wait for Andrea inside –’
‘She’ll be fine. She’s got a thing –’ Andy half glared at Viv from behind Cannelis, ‘ – she needs to go do. You’ll see me in an hour. Right?’
‘Right.’ God damn it, but she would prefer to investigate her death than sit in that building. She forced herself to walk away nonchalantly, ignoring the way she felt him half watching her as she stalked away – and she knew she was stalking, revealing her feelings in her shoulders and the line of her body.
God damn Andy. God damn her death. She chuckled as she realised she was echoing Andy’s sentiments. Such was life. Such was death.
She pulled Paul’s phone from her jacket pocket. Where to begin – well, if she was going to dive into this she was going to dive into this head first with no sense at all. Thank christ for smartphones. She pulled up Google.
Resurrection would get her creepy christian sites. Undead would get her Twilight fanfiction. So it was time for the most cliché manoeuvre she could think of that she was capable of.
As it turned out there was an occult bookshop in walking distance, and it took her barely five minutes to stride to it. It looked occult too – not just in the boarded windows through which faint light glimmered, the cobwebs on the Victorian paned glass, the peeling dark wood, right down to the faintly leering faces barely effaced visible in the stonework. Even the sign saying they were open seemed ominous, like something straight from the set of a B grade horror movie remake full of shitty CGI and terrible homage shots.
She didn’t want to open the door. She didn’t want to go inside. She honestly didn’t care what had happened to her. The most she was willing to research was would it happen again? and if it did how can I make it stop?
She opened the door. She went inside.