'I want to pick up my battered old guitar and play it like I never have before. I want to play until my fingers bleed and the strings snap...'
Almost everyone has some kind of natural fear of the dark. I used to be terrified of it when I was younger; I’d imagine all kinds of supernatural monsters and evil creatures would come slithering out of the shadows and creep over my unconscious body, draining me of life with their venomous teeth. I’d check in my closet, under my bed, even behind my desk before I finally shutting the light off and dashing as fast as I could to my bed and hiding under the covers, trembling for hours until I was finally overcome by sleep.
But now, I love the dark and the night. I love everything after the sun goes down and the world is drained dry of light, like the life of it has been sucked away and it’s left, deadened and empty, cloaked in ebony silence. I think the night is the only time I can see the beauty of the world.
It’s the time I feel safest; when raven tendrils are curling comfortingly round me, soothing me and stroking me with their potent silence and shrouding the bleak world from my tired eyes.
Once I realised that the scariest things were the ones you can see brutally clearly in the harsh light of reality, I stopped being so scared of the night and the supernatural creatures that crept into my brain whenever dusk fell. I knew that really, there was nothing to be scared of at night- it was all just imagination. The rest of the time wasn’t; it was reality. Harsh, bleak reality.
Anyone who’s ever tormented me is probably scared right now, and I’m not. It makes me feel stronger to know that there’s something I’m not afraid of and everyone else is. I’m lying in the soft warmth of my bed, gazing up at the darkened ceiling and trying to breathe deep, calming breaths of the ebony obscurity smothering my room.
I guess I love the dark because it eclipses all the things I hate from my eyes.
In the dark of my silent room, I can’t catch a glimpse of my reflection in a dusty grey window or cracked mirror; I can’t see the endless slashes and scratches and scores all over me; I can’t see the tangled curtain of chestnut hair that tries and fails to hide my scared eyes from the world that ruined their purity.
I can still feel my body aching though; all the raw cuts and swollen bruises stinging whenever I sigh into the empty air around me. I can still here the relentless grind of worn tyres trundling through the dying streets of the city and the falling tears from the black clouds, trying to wash away the grey and the grime from the polluted world. And I can still hear the distant thump of heavy rock music from the spare room down the hall, reminding me that I’m still living in this nightmare that isn’t a dream.
I may still be able to sense all these things, but at least I can’t see it; here, in the dark and the quiet is the closest to calm I get these days.
However, for once, the soft, potency of the darkness surrounding me hasn’t calmed my angry soul and raw skeleton at all. My mind is churning and seething in a blood red sea of stormy thoughts and tangles. It feels like each thought is snagged in the copious white web of a venomous spider and is struggling and struggling to get free, but with each frantic movement only is only entombing itself in the silvery ribbons further.
My mind won’t stop; it won’t calm down and let me fall into an uneasy sleep plagued by nightmares. It’s keeping me locked and trapped in the reality I don’t want to be in.
Usually, I’d switch the light back on and start strumming away at my guitar, but that’s one of the main reasons I’m ensnared into this endless darkness in the first place; I can’t stop thinking about the one thing I still put my heart and soul into.
I can’t stop thinking about the thing that’s about to be contaminated by the sneering, putrid presence of my smug stepbrother.
The thing that’s kept me alive, the thing I love, the only thing I’ve really got left in this breaking generation of hatred and injustice.
And he’s going to destroy it.
My only remaining dream shattered; a tiny million little jagged shards that won’t be able to be pieced back together.
I’ll be left as nothing. Just a hollow shell where a writhing soul was once beating and seething.
I’ll be nothing but a ghost.
Deep down, I know I’m just being overdramatic and stupid about the whole thing; I don’t need to let him ruin it all for me. I might loathe everything about him, but there’s no reason why he should be able to turn the one tiny little escape in my life to yet something else to dread.
I don’t want to dread music- if I do, I’ll have nothing left.
But I’m too tired to fight anymore. I’m tired of it all, tired of losing every time. It’s pointless fighting when I know I’m defeated before I even begin.
I’m too tired to even fight for the only thing that keeps me breathing.
My mind is throbbing painfully by now, and I turn over, sighing wearily and pulling my duvet more closely around me, trying to numb my thoughts by the night and the bullets of rain lashing against my window.
The events of the day won’t stop slashing through my mind in a tangled blur of confusion and anger and hurt; and I just can’t let go. It’s been a day crammed full of things I wish hadn’t happened, although I don’t think I’m alone in that aspect for once.
I think of Steve and Mom. I think of Mikey. And I think of Gerard.
I wonder if life ever comes easily to anyone. I’ve yet to meet someone who dances through it all, unaffected. Everyone seems so worn down and ruined by it.
Even Ocean, a fighter and a terrifying, fiendish girl no one would dare cross finds it all a struggle and I can see, more often than I’d like, in her emerald eyes, the fractures and failings she’s trying to fight her way through.
She made her hasty departure earlier this evening as soon as she could slip past Gerard, who was sprawled out across the hall table, hidden behind his raven hair and endless layers of black leather, slightly unnerving giggles still spilling uncontrollably from his lips. I, however, was left with an angry Steve, a worried Mom, and a scared Mikey. Not to mention a drunken Gerard, who, sadly, wasn’t any more of a pleasant experience than a sober Gerard.
He was loud and wild and more than slightly scary. Not scary in the sense I was scared he’d hurt someone or damage something, but scary in the sense it looked as if he was breaking apart and he didn’t even know it. He was scary because he looked as if he’d strayed so far from reality he wasn’t sure what it was anymore.
However, just because I glimpsed something other than the smugness and sneering self-conceit in him, didn’t make me feel any sympathy towards him; he was even more repulsive and callous than normal.
He started spitting spite at me like venom from his alcohol laced tongue as soon as Ocean slipped tactfully out of the front door, a thousand tiny little red-hot spikes stabbed into my already raw body.
I could feel the anger bubbling up inside me poisonously as he threw insult after insult at me, the hurt fury rising inside of me until I wanted to fly at him and punch him the way I get punched every day, snap and sneer and snigger at him the way he does to me. I wanted to hurt him the way I get hurt everyday so as he knew how it felt to be anything other than popular and perfect.
It wasn’t just me he was slurring venomously at either; he was spitting angrily at everyone, his words indistinct and garbled, spewing haphazardly from his drunken lips, but although he was giving all the appearances of anger, it somehow seemed more like he was scared.
I don’t really know why I got that impression. I must have been wrong; Gerard is the last person I’d imagine to be scared with his overdose of confidence and copious smug, sneering self-satisfaction.
Before I could let my rising anger get the better of me, Steve spoke, his voice broken and quiet, eyes full of hurt and worry as he looked at Gerard, who swore angrily back at him with those wild eyes.
Luckily, I managed to slip off upstairs just as Steve started yelling at Gerard properly, and shoved my headphones on to block out the sound with the tortured howl of Casey Chaos; the wonderful raw, tainted aggression of the vicious guitars empathising with my own messed up anger and confusion and hatred for my own reality.
Once the pulsing anger had drained out of me, I just sat on my bed for hours, playing my guitar, strumming away at the soft strings with loving fingers, caressing the fret board I knew so well and losing myself in the bittersweet music that I was creating.
But I couldn’t rid my thoughts of the incidents occurring downstairs. And more annoyingly, I couldn’t stop wondering if this was the last time I’d ever comfort myself with my music and let the soft, tender chords soothe my angry, seething soul.
Much to my surprise, even now, as I lie in the dark of my room, I can’t stop wondering about the events of the evening; I can’t stop seeing the hurt and the fear in my younger stepbrother’s innocent hazel eyes when his older brother stumbled so recklessly into the hall, soaked by the icy grey tears of a corrupted world. Maybe it’s because Mikey’s expression reminded me so much of myself.
However, much more surprisingly and irritatingly, I can’t stop seeing the muddle of emerald and hazel emotions tangled in pure chaos in Gerard’s usually concealed, black-rimmed eyes; hurt and insecurity and fear, but all jumbled up along with the tentacles of alcohol so it was almost impossible to tell whether the emotions were true or just alcohol induced.
In fact, infuriatingly, I haven’t been able to remove his expression from my thoughts all evening. Why is it I couldn’t stop thinking about someone I loathe? Why is it that I can’t stop thinking about the person who is about to destroy the one thing I have left?
Perhaps, in all honesty, it’s because I saw something in him I hadn’t expected. Something I could almost understand.
Something that could be the tiniest bit like me.
I angrily push that thought out of my head. I’m nothing like Gerard’s sneering smugness, and I never will be.
I don’t want to think about him or his stupid, scared little brother. I don’t want to think about the pain in Steve’s eyes. I don’t want to think about any of them, because if I do, I’ll end up caring too much.
I don’t care. I don’t want to care.
It’s so much easier not to.
Caring hurts, and I’ve had enough of hurting.
My thoughts are suddenly interrupted as my bedroom door swings open to reveal a very tired looking Mikey; his eyes are bloodshot and his mousy hair is tufty and un-brushed and sticking up in little clumps as if he’s been running anxious hands through it all evening, which, seeing as he’s spent most of it in his older brother’s room, is quite possible.
“S-sorry,” He stammers, shutting the door softly behind him as I groan slightly and lean over to flick on my bedside lamp.
In the soft golden glow, he looks even worse; horrible, tearing, raw insecurity ripping across his gently hazel irises. I feel another pang of sympathy for the skinny teenager as he tentatively picks his way across the room and scoops up his pyjamas from beside his little mattress, but ignore it angrily, shaking my hair across my face.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” he mumbles, not meeting my eyes and nibbling away at his lower lip.
“You didn’t,” I reply honestly, turning over onto my side and sighing heavily.
There’s an awkward silence as Mikey changes into his shabby penguin pyjamas and clambers into his makeshift bed, shaking slightly and removing his glasses, setting them down on the desk beside him.
He looks even more vulnerable without them, and somehow younger. I feel another stifled pang of sympathy shoot through my defensive, steely shell of scowling and sarcasm.
“A-are you okay?” I hear myself asking uncertainly, much to my own annoyance.
Mikey nods, biting his lip nervously.
“Ummm…is…is Gerard okay?” I mutter, trying not to let my hatred for the older boy taint my sentence too much.
Mikey looks up at me, eyes swollen in the dim light. “He will be,” he replies quietly before snuggling under his duvet and I flick the light back off, leaving us in darkness and silence.
“Sorry for ditching you at school today,” I mumble into the dark after a moment, chewing at my already stubby, ragged fingernails, unable to erase the glutinous guilt clawing through me.
“It’s fine,” Mikey mutters, his voice slightly muffled as if he’s huddled right under his duvet for comfort.
“Was your day okay?” I find myself persisting, somehow finding it easier to talk in the dark when I know no one can see me and the way I try and hide the truth behind my scruffy hair.
The dark hides the truth for me.
“…I guess,” Mikey mumbles. “Is it…always like that?”
“What, the school?” I clarify.
“Mm,” Mikey replies.
“Umm…yeah,” I reply honestly, trying not to think about the claustrophobic corridors and swarms of students drowning the grotty hallways. “But I guess it would be okay if you had people to go around with, y’know?”
“D-do you?” Mikey stammers, sounding apprehensive and almost as if he feels he’s crossed an invisible line.
I sigh heavily, turning over and facing Mikey’s mattress, even though I know he can’t see me in the dark, feeling slightly surprised that I don’t feel angry at his question. Usually, I hate it when people ask me about myself.
“Not really,” I reply reluctantly, chewing more violently at my nails. “People at school don’t really like me.” I suddenly sound very quiet.
“Oh,” Mikey sounds unsure of what his response should be.
There’s an awkward silence for a moment or to, excluding the soft patter of rain on the window and the distant, dull thump of angry rock music and various crashes and clatters from the guest room.
“W-why not?” He stammers suddenly, just as I thought he’d fallen asleep.
“Cause I’m a freak,” I spit angrily, punching my pillow. “Cause I’m…different to everyone else. I don’t like what they like, I’m not like them.”
“Why’s that such a bad thing?” Mikey mumbles quietly, more to himself than me, seeming more confident in the dark too. “I’ll never understand why people are like that.”
“Search me,” I sigh in agreement. “I’ve been asking myself that question for years.”
“Um…you know…uh…we…um, we could always hang out. If you want, y’know? I didn’t mean…” Mikey trails off, and even though I can’t see him, I’m pretty sure he’s blushing and nibbling nervously at his lower lip.
To my surprise, I feel my lips half curve upwards in the darkness.
“I guess we could,” I reply uncertainly, not sure if Mikey would really want to hang out with me once he finds out what kind of person I am.
“Thanks,” I can’t see, but I feel almost certain Mikey’s smiling shakily in the darkness.
“It’s fine,” I reply, breathing out and finding it feels almost like a sigh of relief. “Hey, um, you play bass, right?”
“Yeah. Since I was eleven.”
“Well, um…would you give it up just because someone you hate was in your class?” I hear myself blurting out and then blink in surprise at the sentence I’ve just uttered; I never, ever ask people to help me. And strangely, it doesn’t feel bad.
It feels okay.
“Never,” Mikey says fervently. “It’s my life. I’d never give something up I love that much- I’d never give someone else the satisfaction of knowing they’d ruined it for me.”
There’s another silence this time, but it’s not awkward, just kind of peaceable as I think over his reply, and slowly, I can hear Mikey’s breathing getting slower while my eyelids droop shut on the dark of my bedroom. I finally feel almost relaxed, almost calm, as if Mikey’s words have soothed me the way the dark does.
I can still hear the heavy thump of rock music issuing from the spare room, and the occasional crash of something, along with Mikey’s trembling breathing from beside me.
And that’s when I realise.
I might not want to, but do.
I don’t remember finally falling into sleep, but I’m suddenly gasping awake from a nightmare, shaking and taking gulping breaths of the cold, black air around me, heart pounding fearfully in my chest as I jolt upright in the crumpled, tangled sheets of my bed.
The dream is slipping away as fast as my abrupt return to consciousness, but I’m left with the horrible cold clammy shaking and heart-pounding, my throat dry with fear as I blink rapidly, not wanting to fall back into a world of nightmares. I glance over at my bedside clock and groan as I see the luminous hands read just after three in the morning.
I fall back to my pillow with a soft thump, my thoughts and confusion about guitar resurrecting in my skull, along with Mikey’s response to my question, which makes me re-think the whole thing so many times it’s all just a muddy, tangled mess.
It feels like forever as I lie in the dark, the same old nagging thoughts about my guitar plaguing my numbed mind swooping round and round and round the same old track, until I can’t stand it any longer; I stumble up and out of my bed, dragging on a hoodie over my pyjamas, grabbing my old acoustic guitar from beside the window and tiptoeing from the room, not wanting to wake Mikey, who’s breathing softly and peacefully.
I somehow know that, until I sit down and play, I won’t be able to come to a decision.
The landing is silent and shadowy, all the lights off and the house cloaked in the silence of night, broken only gently by the ticking of the hall clock as I softly make my way down the stairs and into the deserted, darkened living room.
I don’t switch on the light; I just carefully make my way across the shadowy room until I’m sitting down on the windows seat, gazing out into the howling, rainy night and the violent, lashing rain illuminated by the pale, vulnerable glow from the moon that mingles with the greasy glow of the streetlamps.
And then my fingers find their way to the fret board, and I start to play. In the dark and the silence; soft, raw, tender notes and chords that drift gently across the room as I slowly lose myself in a world of bittersweet melody and unrefined, pure music. It’s nothing but me and the strings; me and the moonlight; me and the rain and the quiet and the dark.
The dark is the music.
And the music becomes me, until it’s what I’m breathing and beating and being.
I’m suddenly snatched from my temporarily peaceful little world by the sound of the living room door creaking open and clicking softly shut, the sickeningly familiar mingling of cinnamon, tobacco and smugness creeping into the silent air, but this time marred and tainted by the revolting stench of stagnant alcohol.
I jump and break off abruptly, looking up to see a slim, raven figure hovering by the doorway, their face shadowed by the darkness, but I’d know that silhouette anywhere.
My blood boils, bubbling up dangerously in my chest.
“…Whossair?” the figure slurs quietly, stumbling their way over to the arm of the sofa where they tumble over and hiccup stupidly.
My teeth clench angrily at the voice, and I don’t respond, all set to get up and leave before my temper gets the better of me, as I don’t really think a murder would help Steve’s stress levels right now.
“Is…is it y-you?” the voice rambles again, slightly muffled from where their mouth is presumably crushed into the cushions of the sofa. “The midget?” from the tone of his voice, I’m sure he’s smirking in that manner I loathe so much.
My hands are balling themselves into fists, hundreds of tiny little needles of anger juddering through me like rancid poison.
“It’s Frank,” I hiss furiously. “And I’m not a fucking midget.”
“Wasss it… youu playin’?” the ragged Jersey accent stumbles, and I see his shadow shift and slump down to sit on the sofa.
I nod tensely, knowing he can see my silhouette against the window.
“What are you doing down here?” I ask through gritted teeth, trying to block out the slowly rising hatred in my veins that feels like it’s going to explode out of me.
“I- I came down to get…drink,” he sniggers, raising a can in explanation. “An’ ‘en I heard…playing…”
“I’m going. I don’t want to spend any more time than necessary with you,” I spit in disgust, unable to control my emotions any longer. “You should stop fucking drinking. Do you have any idea how upset you made Mikey? And Steve? I’ve never seen him like that. What the fuck are you playing at? You just waltz in here and think you can do whatever the fuck you like! Do you even care you’ve turned everything upside-down?” I hiss furiously before I can stop myself, all my anger coming tumbling out of me, leaving me breathing heavily, chest churning in hatred for the intoxicated shadow before me.
I suddenly feel taken aback and slightly unnerved at my own words and the fact I realised I just stood up for Steve and Mikey.
The dark has given me the confidence I don’t usually have, just because I know he can’t see my fractures and failings dug and gouged into my face.
Gerard lets out a long, ragged sigh.
“I didn’t mean to mess things up,” he mumbles, suddenly sounding almost vulnerable and like a different person. More like the person I got a tiny glimmer of in the hallway this evening.
However, I push that thought away.
“Well, you did,” I snarl angrily.
“I don’t expect you to like me or anything,” Gerard suddenly sounds less drunk and more just angry, although his words are still slurring together. “Bu’ people aren’t always what you think they are, y’know. You shouldn’t judge when you don’t know someone. That…tha’ just makes you…o- one of the bullies.”
“What the fuck do you know about bullies?!” I snap angrily at his comparison, clenching my fists once more.
“A lot more than you’d think,” Gerard says seriously, despite the slur in his voice, and I hear him take a long gulp of his drink.
I snort incredulously. “Really?” I say, voice dripping heavily with sarcasm.
“Yes, really. You think you know it all, freak, but you know nothing about me,” Gerard snarls angrily, alcohol lacing his callous voice. “So you can just fuck off, okay?” his voice is getting louder and wilder with each word.
“Why are you so horrible to me? What did I ever fucking do to you?!” I shoot back furiously, trembling with suppressed hurt and anger that’s been building up ever since he and Mikey arrived.
“I don’t want to be here. Why the fucking hell should I be nice to you?” Gerard spits bitterly, hiccupping angrily.
Then there’s silence apart from his frenzied chugging of his drink.
My blood’s writhing in undiluted fury at his words.
I suddenly find myself thinking of Mikey, breathing softly under his duvet with his tufts of mousy hair and shabby penguin pyjamas, and think of how tentatively he asked to hang out with me.
I think of how he tried to help me today in school when Danny beat me up.
I think of how his trembling words soothed me into sleep.
I think of the tear in his innocent hazel eyes, and suddenly I feel even more furious than before.
I slide off the window seat, storming over to the sofa and sitting down beside the slim, ghostly pale person I loathe so much. He smells of cinnamon and tobacco and stale alcohol, making me want to retch.
“Stop drinking,” I say quietly through gritted teeth. “I don’t give a fuck what you do, because I think you’re a dick, but your brother isn’t and you’re hurting him by doing this.” once again, I’m surprised at how naturally the words slip out.
“Why should I do what some scrawny little midget wants me to?” he slurs angrily, looking over at me and jerking the can away from my reach.
He looks terrible in the soft, shadowy light of the moon and the dull, greasy street light filtering though the rain soaked glass of the window. His hair is dishevelled and sticking up in tufts, as if he’s been raking his hands through it all night. His eyes are bloodshot and swollen, and his skin so pale he looks almost dead.
Maybe he isn’t as perfect as I’d thought.
“Fine then,” I snap, and I grab the bottle off him before he has a chance to see what I’m doing.
“Hey!” he growls, lunging, but totally missing and falling off the sofa with a soft thump.
“You’re fucking pathetic,” I scoff as he groans and fails to get up.
He giggles drunkenly. “That sounds funny.”
I sigh heavily, furious with the usually careless, cool, smug gothic teenager who’s sprawled on the carpet. He’s so different now. He seems almost real, and it’s scary, because he seems more than real. He seems like he’s breaking.
“God, I’m so fuckin’ drunk,” He groans suddenly. “I bet I’m making a complete fuckin’ idiot of myself.”
I sigh heavily. “I’m going,” I growl, getting up, revolted and angry at my last playing of guitar being interrupted, especially by someone I hold so much hatred for, also not wanting to spend any more time in his intoxicated presence.
“No, no…’m sorry I disturbed you,” Gerard mutters, staggering up and sounding slightly more sober as he staggers towards the door. “I just heard this music and…it was so fuckin’ beautiful an’ I wanted to come listen to it.”
I blink, totally taken aback. “What?”
“You’re annoyingly talented.” Gerard spits out the words as if they’re poisoning his mouth. "For a midget."
And then the door’s shutting and all I can hear are his uneven, stumbling footsteps going back upstairs.
I just stand there for a moment in the darkened living room, utterly bemused as I find my lips half twitching in the direction of a smile.
Perhaps there is more to Gerard than I thought first. But I seriously doubt things will be any different tomorrow; I’m sure he’ll be the same taunting, smirking black-clad teenager with a careful film of carelessness over his ebony-rimmed eyes.
But somehow, I feel differently towards him. I don’t like him any more than I did before, but somehow, he’s made me realise that even the most confident appearing of people might not be as strong as everyone thinks, even if their weakness is only a tiny, alcohol induced glimmer that will almost certainly vanish by the morning.
Suddenly, I want to pick up my battered old guitar and play it like I never have before. I want to play until my fingers bleed and the strings snap. I want to play until there’s nothing else left.
So, for once, I do what my heart’s telling me.
I scoop up my guitar and go back to the window seat, where I stay for the rest of the night, strumming softly away at my guitar and losing myself in the music I love so much; chords and melodies and notes of broken dreams that somehow soothe me.
As I look out at the wild night and the lashing rain, I think of Ocean and her wild blue hair, her fierceness and blunt attitude. I think of Mom and her worried honey-brown eyes. I think of Steve and his blundering attempt at kindness. I think of Mikey and his trembling fear and hazel-eyed innocence. And I even think of Gerard and his hiding eyes, his sneering attitude, and the slur of drunken honesty in his Jersey voice.
I think of the bruises and cuts contaminating my body, and the injustice of them, the people who put them there, the people who made me feel like I’d lost.
I think of all the people that have made me who I am.
Suddenly, I know exactly what I want.
I don’t want to give up anymore.
I want to fight.
And I want to win.
What did you guys think? I hope it was alright…I took a bit of a risk with this chapter, and I’m not really that confident about it, so I’d really like to know you guys opinions. Are the characters okay?? I know it might not make a whole load of sense right now, but it will do soon, promise. And you got to find out a little more about Gerard…So…yeah…let me know your thoughts? Please? Thanks so much for reading- I’ll update as soon as I can. Love all you awesome people!