Un città che da neun sentiero era segnato

There’s a reason why misanthropy is considered an aspect of a personality disorder. Pathological bitterness, reflexive ennui, inescapable empathy that only picked out everything loathsome and disgusting about people – no one should be born with these qualities, in this enormity. These were issues that literally ate away one’s insides like a cancer for your emotions until you were simply…

She collapsed against the wall, rain-slick and numb. All at once, her body fell to pieces, before slowly gathered together again in the form of a fetus, tense and shivering. A stifled sob of exhaustion and desperation shook the body.

It was exhausting to be this upset all the time. Do you know how much effort goes into the feelings associated with extreme disinterest? There was a saying once… “X muscles to smile, Y muscles to frown” – but this? It wracked the whole body. It left one totally depleted, every muscle torn apart until they were a huddled mass, curled up against the cold stone of a damp alleyway, hardly recognizable as human.

“Are you okay?”

Something slithered past her boot… a thing at once serpentine and porcine judging from the sounds it made while rooting through the detritus collecting behind her. A rotten smell permeated the damp air of the alley – still, she didn’t bother to move from where she huddled, only thinking idly: shouldn’t someone clean this place up once and while, and why didn’t the rain wash anything away?

Sitting, listening as she often did, summoned something from just beyond the thin membrane of her eyelids: a discarded memory that tasted like childhood laughter and felt like innocence in a world framed in watercolors. That’s right, rain used to bring to mind the sheen of yellow raincoats and red umbrellas. If she only reached out, then…

No, she didn’t dare to open her eyes. This was part of the endless cycle that she had fallen into. She knew just how fragile that kind of recollection was – how easily it would shatter when exposed to the harshness of the light. She had to ignore it, keep the memory down, or else…

Unbidden, or rather, forced through the cracks between her fingers as she desperately sought to tighten her grip on them, other thoughts came bubbling up to the surface, wisps of smoky memory – times dipped in the too-sweet flavors of safety, trust, camaraderie, love, adoration, freedom, delight, adventure… The images themselves had no clarity, but something completed the pictures as they came out half-formed. The comfort of a parent’s embrace; the childish excitement of a new friend; the subtle smile of a friend who aspired to become something more…. 

“I’m worried about you.”

Blurry eyes flared open, weakened arms loosened their hold against her own body, a primal hunger for… but the images could not be grasped, and she was only able to witness, once more, the memories dissipate against the force of her breathless sigh, shattering their too-short lives. Something cruel and childish cackled far, far away. She knew that that was going to happen already, but she opened her eyes anyway, and another drop of hope was squeezed out from her desiccated body.

None of it really mattered.

It was cold tonight. The drizzle felt like tiny barbs on her face, screaming as they half-melted and froze again into a mask of ice. For all her self-delusions that the cold didn’t really bother her, the chill cut deep. She tried to hug her knees to her chest tighter, but one could only fold so deeply into themselves. The laws of the conservation of mass still held true enough here, for now. She rubbed her face with the sleeve of her coat, pulling away crystallized salt. When her hands fell to her sides, something damp, prickly and winged licked the crystals away, muttering darkly.

“It’s been a while.”

Just to the side, on the twisted sidewalk, the disembodied feet of a dozen dozen passersby paid her no mind. She was, as usual, left alone. Why wouldn’t she be? She lingered there in the alley, so close to those dark, dead things that she could be mistaken for one herself – if not for the fact that she continued to breathe. She recalled someone saying that even a brain-dead patient who was made to breathe was still considered alive – can you believe that?

With no compulsion of her own, her jaw slackened a little, and the pressure on her teeth relaxed enough for her to take another ragged breath.

Yeah, still alive.

“Just checking in.”

She felt something stir in the pit below her chest, and did what she could to ignore it. Nothing good would come of reaching into the depths of her body in search of that cruel, hard object that vibrated weakly, forever seeking attention. Nothing good ever came of the compulsive need to hope, only to be…

The phone case was well-worn, with small photo-stickers depicting a sullen-looking girl surrounded by others of similar age. They wore bright smiles, exuded warmth, oozed a relaxed sort of charm. In a few photos, even the sullen girl wore an expression that seemed…

Another faint vibration – it hurt just to feel it. The screen produced another note in a radiantly warm color, read and left unreplied:

“We miss you.”

If living was a constant flux of hope and despair, wouldn’t it be better to just retreat from it all, and find a place where you needn’t feel either?

Of course, that couldn’t possibly work, when you really thought about it. After all, isn’t the entire feeling of despair defined as the state of lacking any hope? So, if you go to a place where there is neither, then surely, inevitably, that void would be filled with…

“…

But maybe this was the happier ending, after all. If you couldn’t trust your friends, family, or even your own body, at least the things that nibbled away at you in the dark could always be depended upon.

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