Ray froze, gawking at his friend in awe for several moments. “Okay,” he managed eventually. “No joke, but who the hell are you and what have you done with Frank Iero?”
This chapter is for BJAisgod for being such a lovely emailer, being so constantly supportive of my work, and for putting my song to music- I absolutely loved it. I know I’ve already said it, but don’t let life get you down, ‘cause you’re really talented, honey. Stay strong. xoxo
Tranquility had turned to grey dust, falling from the cadaverous coffin-cloud like innocence’s ashes. They tumbled down across the twisted world in sheets of black snowflake-like lament, dusting humanity in its own flaws as they fell silently into the dying grey grass of the firefly field.
A thick, merciless mist cloaked the desolate countryside, as though the world was a corpse and this was its shrouding, making the whole field one shadow; cold and bitter and unfeeling, just like midwinter- except it was only just beginning to ghost summer; the oak tree that stood at the blackly gurgling riverside was shrouded in rain-bedraggled leaves, curling their silvery regrets, while the grey grass was long and wavering in the obsolete bleakness. But although the field might be silent; the field might be shadowed; it was not lonely.
Once more, like watery landmarks on a painting, two distinctive silhouettes were streaked on the rickety wooden bridge arched over the colorless gush of water carrying the river downstream. Occasional murmurs drifted out from where they sat together, the light and the dark, the believer and the betrayed, two completely different beings- yet in concert, they were content; complete; safe.
The wispy, carefree shadow was deep in concentration, her soft hair falling across her face as she bit her lip, tending to the violently-silent shadow’s chalky forearm, where several raw, ripped cuts dug deep into his veins, smearing their peaceful firefly-ghosted painting in ruby reality.
Neither spoke for a long while, and the silence became greedy; glutinous, indulging the bitter tears to be the only whisper in a breathless sigh of a beginning downfall.
The rain thickened and the temperature dropped, but they didn’t move. All the while she sat cross-legged on the dark, wet wood of the moldering bridge, tending his bloodied wounds, he sat, motionless; silent and still. Contemplating. Watching the tears, watching the rain and wishing it could wash the blood away.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” the wispy shadow murmured finally, pausing and looking up at him, eyelashes dewy from the pouring rain. She had golden eyes- bright, beautiful, untarnished gold that stared earnestly up at his shadowed, contorted face.
“What could you have done?” he asked emptily.
“I could have helped you,” she told him quietly, biting her lip and resuming cleansing the exposed red that leaked out of its veins and dribbled lucidly down his slashed skin. The wounds stuck out starkly in bloodied contrast the colorless bleak of the field- a snippet of a horror story that hadn’t quite begun, but threatened to consume everything.
“You are helping me.” His voice was blank, as though someone had stolen it.
“I wish I could have helped more, though” she insisted, pushing her sodden hair out of her dewy eyes and looking troubled as he winced at her cleansing of the deepest cut.
“You’ve helped me so much,” he said in a broken whisper, eyes flickering, threatening to spill over, out of their blankness. “I shouldn’t drag you into all this- I don’t want you to get hurt, Emily. They’re dangerous.”
“He’s just messed up. You know what it’s like to be messed up.”
“I’m not like him.” For someone whose voice had been eerily emotionless, his voice suddenly scored against his throat like a match flaring and the four words were spitting with red-hot disgust.
“I know, I know,” the wispy shadow soothed. “But I just meant- maybe if I talked to him, I could help him, help him see…”
“Emily,” his voice was emotionless, but his eyes were screaming- screaming. “No one can help him. He’s insane- he’s twisted. Stay away from him. Please.”
“If I could just-”
“No! You don’t seem to understand!” he said, his voice loud in the silvery loneliness. He wrenched his arm away from her lap, eyes blazing in the murky rain. “You’d be putting yourself in so much danger. You can’t do that, just because I got hurt.”
“I can,” she said stubbornly, yanking his arm back to resume her cleansing of the wounds. “And he’s just a teenager- like us. How dangerous can he be?”
The hunched shadow didn’t reply, but the fear in his troubled eyes spoke out for him, shrieking, screaming, trying to get out of their raped coffins.
Dangerous didn’t even begin to cover it.
Dangerous implied it wasn’t
Chapter Nine: The Unseen World
Darkness had long since woven its satin silence through the skeletal woodland and tried to choke out the stars before Frank Iero stirred from his Google-search trance. It was nearly nine thirty on Sunday night, and, for what was almost certainly the first time since he’d begun High School, Frank’s homework lay, forgotten, in a shuffled heap on his normally organised bedroom desk. And, instead of the homework being in a neat pile- generally organised in alphabetical order- it was all jumbled carelessly together and leant precariously over the side, threatening to spill over onto the carpet.
The rest of the desk’s surface was uncharacteristically disorganised too; scattered in countless mugs of half-drunk tea, now stone-cold, a couple of browning apple cores, and numerous lined pages of hastily scribbled web-addresses and quotes and various other findings scrawled in Frank’s clear, concise script covered the rest of the pine surface, the latest resting under his poised pencil.
Normally, not only would Frank have completed his homework by at least nine thirty on a Sunday night, but he would also be in bed in preparation to get his set ten hours sleep, probably reading The Catcher in the Rye- or tallying up some last minute revision notes before flicking his bedside lamp off.
But instead, in some kind of breathing contradiction, Frank was hunched over his computer, eyes aching dully from staring at the artificial, blue-ish glare that screen omitted, which was also currently the only source of light in the darkened bedroom. It appeared that Frank was actually so engrossed in what he was researching on the web that he hadn’t even noticed all the light draining from the rusty October sky, leaving it cloudy and longing for the silver light of the moon.
The artificial glare of the computer screen hollowed out his innocent face unhealthily, making it look sunken and pasty, creating entrenched shadows where his usually soft, floppy waves of chestnut-brown hair tumbled greasily into his eyes and he hadn’t bothered brushing them away. His back ached grindingly from sitting in the swivel chair for so long, and his head was beginning to throb from taking in so much screen information, but Frank barely noticed- the facts on the screen that glared out artificially into the shadows had completely consumed him.
In fact, it was only when a soft knock at his bedroom door sounded several minutes later, that he was startled back into reality, jumped wildly in surprise and knocking one of the half-empty mugs of tea over in the process. It seeped slowly out across the surface of his haphazard desk, making one of the multiple, hastily scrawled notes go all soggy and limp as the door swung open.
Homely, warm golden light from the landing outside streamed into Frank’s darkened room, assaulting his shadow-blinking eyes and making them sting and ache like someone had blinded them in sharp, bruised bars.
“What are you doing?”
The voice that came from the indistinguishable shadow in the doorway was not one Frank expected to hear. He blinked, pausing in his hasty mopping of the spilt tea.
“Ray?” He ventured, squinting past the fuzzy shadows protesting in his blinded eyes. Once his vision cleared a little, the figure in the doorway grew clearer, confirming Frank’s guess- he’d recognise the silhouette of Ray Toro anywhere.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Ray said, stepping properly into the room and frowning. “Uh…Are you okay, Frankie?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” Frank’s voice croaked a little from lack of use as he raked a caffeine-clammy hand through his tangled hair and pushed his glasses back up his nose, only just realising they were almost at the point of slipping off.
“What are you doing?” Ray asked slowly, not sounding convinced. He looked around, confusion swamping his warm brown eyes as he closed the door behind himself and sat down in the half-darkness on Frank’s disturbingly unmade bed. It was also strewn with muddy clothes and what looked like all of Frank’s English coursework, and Ray fleetingly wondered if he’d walked into some kind of messed-up parallel universe.
“Oh, um… Research,” Frank said vaguely, which wasn’t actually a lie. He finished mopping up the spilt tea, minimised the open web pages, and swivelled round to face Ray. “Why are you here?”
“Nice to see you too,” Ray said mildly, picking up Frank’s mud-slathered navy sweatshirt beside him and blinking in disbelief.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Frank said quickly, feeling rude. “Sorry, I just meant-”
“Its fine, Frankie. I knew what you meant,” Ray smiled gently. “It’s just that, well, you know that we’ve got that French oral exam tomorrow-”
“Oh my gosh,” Frank yelped suddenly, gripping his hair in anguish and looking at Ray in panic. “That’s tomorrow?!”
Ray blinked, genuinely perplexed now. “…Frank?”
“Oh damn it, damn it, damn it!” Frank cried, slapping his forehead none too gently before scrabbling through the masses of paper littering the desk.
“What the hell is going on?” Ray asked worriedly, watching countless pages of paper and an apple core cascade in frantic fragments to the floor, Frank continuing to rummage wildly through the piles of paper and text books and jotters.
“I forgot- I just got carried away and, oh god,” Frank groaned, locating his French coursework and flicking feverishly through it.
“…You…You are still Frank, right?” Ray blinked.
“Of course I am!” Frank replied slightly snappishly, still immersed in flipping desperately through his coursework notes. “Who do you think I’d be?”
Ray kept sensibly quiet as Frank proceeded to ransack his room.
“Maybe you should calm down?” He suggested logically after a couple of moments watching his studious friend demolish all sense of order in his already confusingly untidy room. “And do you have booklet D on pronunciation tips? That’s why I popped round- I was in Stonebridge, doing some shopping for Mom’s birthday and thought I’d just call in here on the way back, because I can’t find it.”
“I don’t know!” Frank yelped, but seconds later, a paper booklet came flying across the room to land on Ray’s chest.
“Oh, thanks Frankie,” he smiled, opening it as Frank continued to upend his desk. “And, just saying,” he continued calmly, glancing up. “Remember to breathe. It’s kinda crucial for remaining alive.”
“But I’m going to fail!” Frank squeaked, dropping a large stack of French exercise books onto the carpet to face Ray in slightly fevered desperation.
“I seriously doubt that,” Ray said sensibly. “C’mon Frankie, you’re the brightest kid in our class- probably in the whole year. You’ll probably still ace the test.”
“But I haven’t opened a textbook since Friday night!” Frank panicked, raking a stressed hand through his hair and continuing to stare in panic at Ray.
Ray froze, gawking at his friend in awe for several moments. “Okay,” he managed eventually. “No joke, but who the hell are you and what have you done with Frank Iero?”
“Shut up,” Frank said rather snappishly. “I’ve had a lot on my mind, okay?”
“Like what?” Ray asked curiously. “Are you getting grief from Clarissa about going to that gig with Robbie on Friday?”
“Oh holy crap,” Frank slapped his forehead again. “Clarissa!”
“…You haven’t called her, have you?” Ray said grimly.
Frank shook his head, eyes wide.
“Ah,” Ray paused. “Oh dear.”
“She’s going to kill me, Ray,” Frank groaned, starting to rifle through the mounds of paper stacked on his desk once more.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Frank, it’s a high possibility,” Ray said sympathetically. “But really, are you alright? What’s on your mind that’s kept you from your homework for the first time since I’ve known you? It must be serious, Frank- you even completed an A* English essay on The Crucible when you were in bed with the flu.”
“I…It doesn’t matter,” Frank said somewhat frantically, flapping his hands, because really, what was he meant to say? That his life had been saved by a supposedly insane escaped convict that the whole county was searching for? That he was actually really liking a band that had a song called ‘Satan’s Cock’? That he’d got drunk for the first time in his life? Or that he’d spent the entire day researching the case of a supposedly bloodthirsty, inhumane escaped convict that had pushed him out of the line of oncoming traffic and whose fingers had trembled as they tried to make sure Frank was okay?
“Frank,” Ray frowned, genuinely concerned now. “You would tell me if it was something serious, right?”
“Of course I would,” Frank lied, biting his lip and feeling guilty, because he’d told more lies in the past three days that in the last year.
“Hmm,” Ray didn’t seem convinced. “Look, sit down for a second, yeah?” he patted the bed beside him, and with a sigh, Frank obediently sat down, the bedsprings groaning at his weight.
“Firstly, music,” Ray said sensibly, getting up momentarily to press play on Frank’s stereo system.
“…Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I’ll fry your guts and eat them for breakfast, ‘cause you fucking suck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Guts for breakfast-”
The stream of musical obscenities was abruptly cut off as Frank hurled himself towards the stereo and punched the ‘Off’ button frantically, cheeks flaming.
Ray stared, wide-eyed, at him. “…What’s in your stereo?” He asked, eyes twinkling slightly, after several moments of Frank squirming with embarrassment under his friend’s gaze.
“Nothing!” Frank squeaked in protest. “I was only listening to it to be polite to Robbie, okay?” He crossed his arms across his chest defensively, but couldn’t quite meet Ray’s eye.
“Frankie!” Ray laughed easily, smiling disbelievingly at his small friend. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of!”
“I’m not ashamed!” Frank lied, busying himself with continuing to search for his coursework rather frantically.
Ray shook his head in disbelief, smiling slightly as he flopped back down on the bed. “Frankie.”
“What?” Frank called over his shoulder.
“Stop that freaking out and sit down,” Ray commanded.
“I can’t sit down! I’ve got a whole six months’ work to revise in less than eight hours or I’ll fail and-”
With a sigh, Frank resigned himself and sat down once more beside Ray. He could feel his heart racing in his chest, making his pulse flutter and swoop sickeningly.
“Listen,” Ray began, looking seriously at Frank. “Sometimes I worry about you, Frankie. You work so hard- you don’t need to all the time. Sometimes it’s good to just live a little and maybe not get an A* in a test. I’m in no way saying neglect your studies, but studying expands way beyond school, yeah? Life is a study. Don’t forget how important that is, because ultimately, it’s far more important than any school subject. And as for your test tomorrow- dude, relax. You could pass it standing on your head.”
“Oh, and as for the CD,” Ray grinned. “There’s no crime in liking music. But, uh, I’d advise on keeping it a secret from Clarissa and the rest of the crowd at school. They aren’t that open-minded when it comes to things like punk rock or Robbie.”
“Um,” Frank blushed, taken aback at Ray’s understanding. “Thanks, Ray.”
“You’re welcome,” Ray smiled kindly. “Now, I’d better head off- leave you to your panicking and your last-minute cramming.”
Frank ducked his head. “Sorry for um, freaking out a little.”
Ray waved a dismissive hand. “It’s cool. Just remember to breathe, okay?”
Frank managed a smile then. “I’ll try, Ray.”
“Good stuff, Iero. Anyway, I’ll see you in school tomorrow, yeah?” Ray said, getting up and heading for the door, the revision booklet on pronunciation clutched in his hand.
“Yeah,” Frank agreed, but the word died on his tongue as Ray stepped out into the blindingly bright light of the landing and closed the door, leaving Frank in the dark.
He sighed heavily and flopped down on his bed, mind in a tangle. For once, his thoughts weren’t dominated by schoolwork and revision and achieving A-grades- despite his upcoming test- instead, it was all full up of escaped convicts and victims called Emily Louise Hawthorn and Ballet Halls and a pair of gaunt, quirkily haunted muddy-green eyes flickering down at him in that amber flame.
It all had to mean something- something more than just the obvious. It was like a puzzle in Frank’s mind- like a complicated physics equation at school that would itch at the back of his mind until he’d solved it. But this was so much more difficult to solve; it was soaked in the one subject Frank had little knowledge of: Reality.
Sighing heavily, Frank picked himself up and trailed across to his darkened bedroom window, gazing down at the shadowy farmyard below. The silence was velvety and the richest shade of ebony under the starry sky that stared down at him like a thousand pairs of misunderstood eyes.
Frank let his gaze drift out to the horizon, where the skeletal black branches from the woods clawed their way across the pale, vulnerable glow of the moon. It’s shy, silvery light bathed the cornfield just beside the woodland, all barren and beautiful in the night’s silence.
Suddenly, a flash of black streaked through the moon’s midnight radiance- a shadow, a phantom, a misguided silhouette fleeing through the night- and Frank’s heart leapt bloodily in his chest, jolting adrenaline through his veins as he pressed his face closer to the cold windowpane, eyes straining to see more- but the moonlit autumn countryside appeared as silent and innocent as before.
But was that just the easy explanation- the obvious answer?
It suddenly occurred to Frank that there could be a whole world he’d never even considered, lurking in the shadows, misunderstood and unseen, because humanity was so brainwashed and blind they couldn’t see anything more than the obvious, painted in an undemanding, vivid scarlet accusation.
Stonebridge Police Force Investigations;
Detective Bryar, October 2006.
Name: Emily Louise Hawthorn.
Date of Birth: April 8th, 1990.
Date of Death: October 7th, 2006.
Cause of death: Serious lacerations to the neck and chest, suffocation.
Details: Body discovered at 5:55 PM on October 17th in Stonebridge ballet hall- around an hour prior to her death. Not alone; fellow school pupil, Gerard Way, 17, was found beside the body, distraught, incoherent. He was carrying her blood on his hands and clothes.
Suspects: Gerard Way [Suspect 1], believed but unconfirmed boyfriend of Emily. Saul Roth [Suspect 2], 17, who also attended Emily’s school, but otherwise seemingly unconnected to her, although Michael Way, 14, brother of Suspect 1 witnessed the two leaving school together on two occasions close to her death. [Note: Only suspected from older Way’s accusations. No evidence to prove he was guilty].
Investigation status: Ongoing.
8/10/06: Way has been arrested as the only obvious suspect and will attend a hearing later this month. Suspected conviction for life.
10/10/06: Way arrested on suspicion of murdering his believed girlfriend, Emily, after a row a fellow school pupil, Amanda James, 15, heard them having the day of her death. Way imprisoned for life. After previously accusing Saul Roth, Way broke down in court, crying: ‘I killed her. It’s all my fault’.
Hmm, it’s getting a little more exciting now! xD What did you guys think? I’d love to know…Also, I’ve been trying to balance my description a bit more so that it doesn’t cancel itself out…did it work okay? Please let me know :D I’ll update really soon, so…Rate? Review? You know how happy it’ll make me :’D Did you have a favourite bit? Love you all so much for sticking with this. Each and every one of you is amazing. Thank you.