Named so for "The Nothing Song", also known as "Track 4", by Sigur Ros. Listen after reading.
Egan was curled up in the passenger seat, legs tucked underneath her and turned towards the side window, staring. She was absently running two pinched fingers down strands of hair, feeling the water bead and drip off the ends. The rain she had felt while standing on the corner had morphed into a fucking typhoon while they waited for the car, but she had refused to go inside. Gerard had refused to walk away from her, so they’d both become sad-sack, waterlogged excuses for people. The car smelt like city rain, grimy and a little chemical.
Egan was lost somewhere in her head, turning over memories. She was remembering rain at the beach one summer, the stormy bruise of the ocean, the lightning stabbing the sand; she was thinking about the man on the street and his sign and his Mary charm; she was trying not to see her mother and father’s faces. More and more she’d been missing them lately. She squeezed her eyes shut and blindly found the button to roll the window down and pressed it. Cold air and buckets of rain poured in, smacking into her face and collecting in the indentations in her seat. Then, the window rolled up. She pushed the button, and it came down an inch before going right back up. The next time, the button didn’t work.
“Gerard,” she mumbled, sounding a bit defeated, “Unlock the window please.” He glanced quickly at her, then back at the road, then back at her. Pressing his lips together, he took the window off lock.
“Thank you,” she whispered. The rest of the ride was silent.
The lights were on in the house when they stepped through the door. They’d almost been late for the movie and in a rush, so neither had bothered to turn them off. Gerard walked over the shining marble of the floor, heading for the staircase and his room. Egan knew she should retreat to her room as well, give everything time to cool off, let each of them get their shit together…but she couldn’t face it. They were shaky ground. She needed to know which way things would go from here.
“Why didn’t you come after me?” Gerard turned.
“I…I didn’t want to.” He shrugged, climbing up the stairs.
The words knocked the breath out of her. They were like a slap to the face.
He couldn’t really mean that.
“Don’t you even want me?” She couldn’t have spoken above a whisper, but he heard her anyway.
“I want you.” He nodded to himself. “More than you could ever know, I want you. But I didn’t want to chase after you. You wouldn’t have let me get near. I didn’t want to be rejected.”
“You’re not the only one.” She said in a pained voice.
“I haven’t rejected you.” He countered, looking her dead in the eye from the top of the stairs.
“I didn’t mean to reject you.”
“I want to believe that. But are you sure? Don’t lie to me.” He repeated her words from the restaurant.
“I didn’t mean to! I wasn’t trying to push you away!” She could feel hot tears, burning her eyes and nose and skin, but she didn’t wipe them away. Gerard watched her face, watched it fall. He turned away.
“Okay.” He said. “Okay.”
“Gerard? If I leave again? What would you do?”
“What do you want me to do?” That was the last thing she needed to hear.
“Let me go.” She snarled.
She didn’t even feel the rain. She didn’t feel it turn to snow. She never noticed she had no coat, or that her teeth were chattering so hard they bit her tongue, and she didn’t taste the blood. She walked, and she watched the streetlights.
She watched the sunsets they made on the pavement, oily and iridescent and then, when the pavement had become a snow covered path, she studied the perfect oranges that bloomed upon it where the light touched. Once, she looked behind her, but no one was there, just a line of footsteps tracing the arc of the streetlights. She didn’t look back again. Better to see straight ahead and know where you were going than to look back and remember why you needed to leave.
Dripping from the edges of the incandescent bulbs atop the poles were icicles, sparklingly beautiful and dangerous. She reached up to touch her hair, wet when she had left, and it crunched. She smiled at that, not at all sure why it was funny or whether it really was at all. When she moved to take her hand away, something prevented it from coming off. She yanked, and yanked harder still, until finally it came free with a wrench. The medallion on the knotted cord had gotten caught; dangling from it was a chunk of her hair, blood on the end of a few strands. She couldn’t feel where they’d been torn away. And her fingertips were blueish, like the string. That made her laugh. Everything was funnier.
She skipped towards the glow of a streetlight ten feet off. It took her longer than it should have; for some reason, her feet wouldn’t move like she wanted them to. When she reached the pole she stumbled into it and cracked her head, hard. She took a sloppy step back and smacked the wood with her palm. She didn’t feel it make contact but she saw it. She drew back and hit it again. It felt nice to hit something. She slapped it again and again, smiling and giggling before falling flat on her back in the snow and sluggishly swinging her arms and legs around, making an angel. Then she flopped over onto her belly and pressed her face into the snow, to give her angel a face. When she pulled back, there was a red flower blooming in the orange, to the left of where the angel’s right eye was. She tried to dip a finger into but missed. On the second try she touched it and tasted it, and felt nothing. It was like eating cotton. When she’d put her finger to her mouth the light had made a flash in her vision where the medallion had caught it. She stared at it for a moment.
“H-h-hail Mary, full of gr-grace…the Lord is w-w-w-ith thee. B-b-b-b-blessed art thou am-mong women, and b-blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…Holy M-Mary, mother of G-G-God, pray for us s-sinners now and at the hour of…d-death. Amen.”
She was floating. She was rising. She was drifting through the air, staring at the streetlights. Then they were gone. A darkness cut off the night sky, and a stuttering roar sounded in her ears. She was drifting again, but it felt more purposeful, more smooth and direct and fast.
Her floating jarred, came to an abrupt halt then picked up again, jilted this time, not smooth. The night became day and the sky was white and so much closer. Whispering surrounded her, whispering from people she couldn’t see. She closed her eyes, and it was all gone. All gone but the whispering.
Mother. That was her mother’s voice, her mama was speaking to her, she had come back. She’d not left her alone after all.
Love you. Mama. I love you.
Her mother was by her side, talking to her, but she didn’t know what she was saying. She couldn’t understand.
Mama, I can’t tell. Quieter…slower…
The talking got louder, faster, deeper. She wanted to hold her mother’s hand. Struggling like she was lifting the world, she lifted her palm.
Touch my hand. Mama. Please. Hold my hand. Mama please…
She rolled her head, feeling like it was locked into place, turning instinctively towards the voice, her mama’s voice.
“Don’t move Egan. Don’t move baby.”
Mama. I miss you.
Water was pooling in the corners of her eyes, she couldn’t breathe.
Everything shook, and she had the sensation of falling up, rushing past the air and stopping all at once. She wasn’t drifting anymore, she was cutting through the air. She was flying.
Follow me mama. Don’t go away.
“I’m here baby. I’ve got you.”
She could hear rain fall again, somewhere close by. Something was tugging at her arms, her legs, pulling and briefly her face was covered and it was dark.
Stop it. Mama, stop.
The light came back. All she wanted to do, could think to do, was sleep.
“She’s not moving anymore!”
I’m tired mama. Let me sleep.
She fell up, fell down, and all at once, her body caught fire and she leaned back her head and screamed.
“I’m hurting her! What do I do, it’s burning her!”
Take me out take me out TAKE ME OUT! PLEASE!
She could feel flames lick every square centimeter of her body and she thrashed and tried to roll out of the fire. Her wrists collided with something hard and so did her knees and she pushed with the strength she had but they wouldn’t give, the walls wouldn’t give.
She choked and tried to breathe to scream again.
“Help! Mama, I’m burning! Please! PLEASE!” Her voice broke, the fire was burning up her oxygen. It rose over her head and she breathed it in and now it was swimming through her lungs. Immediately something gripped her under the shoulders and pulled her head back out of the flames. The fire was searing her eyes, making her blind as she squeezed them closed. When she tried to cling to whatever kept her head from burning and scramble out of the ash the grip let go and she was forsaken to the burning once more.
“She’s trying to get out, God, what do I do?”
Suddenly she was thrust forward, something settling behind her as she raked her nails over the smooth walls around her. She clawed behind her body, trying to use whatever was back there to get leverage and get out before she burned alive.
“Egan, Egan, stop! Don’t move—“
“I know, I know baby I’m so sorry, you can’t move. Stop moving, you can’t get out.”
“PLEASE! It’s burning me! I’m burning! Mama, let me go!” She shrieked, throwing back her head and wailing until she ran out of breath.
“Egan, it’s me, it’s Gerard. Stay still.” Iron bars were around her now, clamping her to the thing behind her and she couldn’t get away, only burn.
Gerard held onto her, the water in the bathtub splashing in his face and eyes. It was hot enough that it hurt his skin, soaking through his clothes. He held on to Egan as tight as he could while she thrashed herself around, kicking and screaming and trying to claw his eyes and escape. He knew if he let go she would slip under the water again, choke like she had before. So he held on, and burned with her.
Finally, when eternity didn’t mean anything anymore, she grew too tired to move and slumped against him, her bare back pressing into his shirt. Intermittently, she sobbed and twitched feebly, but she stopped try to resist him.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” he whispered to soothe her, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
“HELLO? WHERE ARE YOU?” Some yelled from downstairs.
“Oh thank God—in the bathroom! We’re in the bathroom!” He was suddenly frantic, torn between wanting to find them and bring them here quicker and stay with Egan to keep her head above water. He was saved the choice when a man in a uniform appeared in the door way.
“They’re in here!” he yelled down the stairs before rushing to the side of the tub, grabbing Egan’s wrist to feel for a pulse.
“My name is Alan. Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. How long has she been unconscious?”
“A few minutes. She was awake right before you came. They told me to put her in hot water. It hurt her.” Gerard looked at the man liked he was asking for forgiveness.
“Help her,” he pleaded.