Sense of Life
“Guh…so, tell me again why we’re here when there’s no other businesses open on the entire street?”
A slender, bored-looking young woman sat behind a ridiculously large oak desk in a somewhat dark lobby. The building was obviously some kind of firm – law, medical, something else entirely. Whereas a place like this would be bustling with activity at nine in the morning, though, this particular place was entirely gone. There was only the aforementioned woman, a raven-haired young thing with a gunmetal nose-ring and piercing yellow-green eyes, and her co-worker. Well, co-worker or friend, but definitely only one or the other.
“You know how mister Sheldon is, Alicia,” the other girl responded. A stark contrast to Alicia, this girl was blond and looked quite happy to be alive. Her crisp white blouse and pleated cream-colored skirt played off of the other’s long-sleeve cobalt shirt and matching peasant skirt like day against night. “He’s gone all day, especially on holidays or days he can pass off as holidays. Even when the whole building gets the day off with him, the receptionists have to be here just in case anyone needs to know that ‘I’m sorry, mister Sheldon is out today. Can I take a message siiiiiiiir?’”
Uncharacteristically, Alicia smiled at the remark. She stood, brushing off her skirt to smooth out the wrinkles. “Well you know what, Tracy? Nobody’s gonna know if I go out for an early lunch and some smokes. And nobody will know if you join me. Wanna?”
Tracy nodded enthusiastically, rising from her seat as well and grabbing both girls’ purses. “Wanna! Let’s go to McDonald’s, I really want some FAT.”
Work sucked. McDonald’s almost sucked, were it not for those damned addictive apple pies. Alicia sat on the low concrete wall surrounding her apartment building, dragging the last of a cigarette and contemplating things as she was wont to do. It wouldn’t be long before she’d have something exciting to do, anyway, but the waiting was killing her. Only a scant few more hours, and then it’d be time.
Thoughts flew like keen arrows through her mind, each more enticing and portentous than the next. When it happened, what would she say? Who would it be that greeted her from outside that circle, and what fragments of memory from times past would they have to share with her? It was so uncontrollably exciting that Alicia found herself sucking the life out of her cigarette despite its having burned out a moment ago.
She’d skipped the rest of work, as had Tracy. There was no point being there when no one else was, and as such there’d be no witnesses to their playing hooky. The only problem was that, now that Alicia was alone in her own place, she had no one to talk to. She’d gotten used to it, for the most part, but some days it was more than a little irksome, being alone. Today was one of those days. Despite her excitement at the possibilities the night would visit on her, Alicia was lonely.
“Ye Gods,” she sighed, tendrils of smoke gripping at the pure air outside her lungs. “You’d think that with everything I put myself through, I’d at least be a little immune to loneliness. Guess I’ll have to work on that.”
She stared out towards the street. Myriad cars zoomed by, sending small shock-waves of disrupted air toward her and ruffling her skirt.
“Or…maybe actually make some friends.”
“Yes, mom. Yeah, I know how to get there from here. It’s no problem.”
The clock was deliberately slowing itself down to mock her. Time itself was working against her, and now her comfort was compromised in the largest of ways; by the abscessed burden of planning family get-togethers. How droll, she thought.
“Huh? Oh…oh, no I haven’t yet, no. Well yeah, she’s a nice girl and all, but I doubt we’d have anything to talk about outside of work. Well, we did go to McDonald’s today, but all she ever talked about was her boyfriend and happy this and pre-med that and yuck, y’know?”
“Uh-huh. Oh sure, mom, because it’s that easy! No, sorry…but I mean, why do I have to? Where is it written that I’ve got to be in a relationship with someone right now? Yeah, I know it’d make you and dad REALLY HAPPY to see me happy and all that, but come on, mom. Who’s gonna guarantee that I’ll actually be happy?”
“Well do you want me to settle? No? Then there’s nothing to talk about, really. Yes, Danny from the bookstore is cute, but that’s entirely irrelevant.”
“He’s gay, mom. What?! He is. Reuben, yeah. Well I don’t know how you didn’t figure it out, because it was damned obvious. They went to prom together! No, they didn’t go stag. That’s just what Danny told his parents.”
“It’s hard to say things like that, mom. It’s really hard to know that…uhm, well…that who you really are isn’t who everyone else wants you to be.”
“Look…I have to go. I have some cataloging I told Danny I’d do for him. Yeah, I was supposed to start on it three days ago, but I haven’t felt like it. Yes, mother…yes, mother. Oh gods, come on. Okay…okay. I love you. Yeah, see you on Monday. Bye.”
The phone made a harrowing noise as it hit the receiver and her mother went back to her own world. Alicia stretched out on her sofa, sighing and staring sleepily out her window to the street outside. People were everywhere. They had no clue as to her existence, her thoughts or feelings, anything at all about her. If anyone in the world were to be asked “what do you think of Alicia,” they wouldn’t have anything to say.
And…whose fault was that, anyway?
She stared at the cigarettes sitting on the coffee table in front of her. Wordlessly, Alicia lay down on her sofa and drifted off to sleep, turning her back on the cigarettes, the window, and all the people outside who had never and would never care about her or anyone like her.
”...Vassago, Furfur, Berith, Amon, and Ga’ap. I invoke thee in the name of Solomon, the sealer of souls, give me passage to the world beyond my time.”
The athame came down on Alicia’s wrist, cutting gently lengthwise. She winced, but kept going, still a little used to the feel of the knife on her flesh. Warm purple blood flowed freely from the wound, collecting in large droplets before traveling down to the floor with small, meek noises. Alicia directed her bleeding wrist over a small obsidian bowl, letting it gather into a miniscule puddle inside the vessel.
“My blood be chrism, the pact’s elixir. Drink from mine spiritual store, shadowed ones, and bring forth the power I wish only to glimpse on this night…”
Dipping her right index finger into the bloody bowl, Alicia brought it to the floor in front of her. Carefully, slowly, she drew a simple pattern. It resembled the head of a pitchfork, pointed directly at her, almost as if in indication of her womb. The look of the symbol made Alicia uneasy; her stomach turned in knots inside of her. She continued, though, unable to stop after having come this far.
“Open those hallowed gates which connect all time to itself in enmity and fear. Open the gates and give me the light I seek, only for this night. Great shadowed ones, I beseech thee in humility. I prostrate myself before thee, in hopes that thou might give me but one glimpse of thy power…”
Holding the bowl high over her head, Alicia felt sick. The wound on her wrist was aching now, a dull and unbearable feeling. The bowl tipped forward, pouring the remainder of her life’s blood directly onto the pitchfork symbol on the ground. Alicia looked around her for some sign of the rite’s efficacy, searching the circle for the points of light that were said to appear when the dead began making their way to the living.
There was nothing but darkness in Alicia’s bedroom. The wood floor was stained with blood and marked with the chalk outline of the runic circle she’d been instructed to draw. The grimoire she’d fought so hard to acquire sat close to her side at her left. Her bed, bookcase, windows and curtains, various dressers and nightstands were all the same as she’d left them, illuminated only by the various red and white candles situated in a particular order on top of each of them. Nothing was changing.
The sick feeling grew in her. Alicia dropped the bowl, eyes widening in panic. She heard noises all around her, harsh whispers and slow, guttural hums and snarls. She could see less and less as the minutes passed agonizingly by, darkness permeating every atom all around her. The candles went out…how did they go out? What the hell was happening here?!
There were things in the room with her. Presences. They wanted her…they wanted her!
With the last bit of vision Alicia could muster as she felt herself falling in slow motion to the floor, she saw it. One symbol, one solitary runic symbol in the circle had been smudged, changing it to an entirely different symbol. The circle was no longer a conduit, but a prison. One meant to suck the life out of its occupant and…
”...Gods…” she whispered weakly, feeling herself bleed all over. feeling her soul bleed all over.
There was nothing but darkness. The noises, the voices and growls and fearsome presences, everything grew closer and more intense. She felt herself fall through the floor, down an endless pit, through every layer of earth and into something that should not have existed.
She felt her blood leave her body from everywhere. Her pores, her mouth and nose, her eyes. The guttural noises grew intensely close, and she felt claws rendering her flesh. It didn’t hurt…oh dear Gods, it didn’t hurt.
Her skull was crushed. It didn’t hurt.
Her heart left her chest. It didn’t hurt. Her soul escaped her body. It had nowhere to go. She had nowhere to go. There was nothing here. Not even her. Nothing.
“I’m…so sorry….sorry….I’m sorry….... ... .. ... . ..... .”