I remember. Serene waves washed over our toes as cotton-ball-like clouds loomed overhead, bright white against pastel blue skies and air sweeter than honey as I laid next to you. I remember turning to you, craning my head upwards to meet dark, maroon-brown eyes staring softly back. They were so caring, so genuine, and so was that sly grin that crawled across your face as you caught me staring. My fingers were entwined in the dark streaks of your crimson dyed hair. Your arms were wrapped around my shoulder and I remember feeling safe next to you…
So what changed? How did we end up here? I miss you. I miss that tranquil feeling as if no force could disrupt how at peace we’d felt together. I want to stay there… I want to… I want…
I awaken suddenly to pain coursing through my entire body, my legs weak like a soaked sponge lying motionless and bruised, with wounds and cuts that sting stronger than a venomous bite. My vision fades in and out of focus as my mind races at a hundred miles per hour to catch up with the severity of the situation. Slowly I shift to turn my head, lifting it off of the back-breaking material beneath me. I see carmine pooling across the ground, my own blood leaking. As my vision rotates vertically, I see a familiar hallway I’d walked through countless years of my life. This is the home we built together.
Our stay together started out innocent. A mere infatuation—what we called ‘love’—was just to test the waters and feel what it was like to share your life with someone else. At first it felt refreshing; I was swimming in a pool of what I thought would stay cool and peaceful forever. However, as time slipped by, those waters grew dark and murky, and the wind vicious and cold. I wanted to get out. Twigs and dirt scratched my body as I struggled to breathe, to stay afloat, but I knew I was drowning.
Our so-called ‘love’ turned into something monstrous. Not one of those monsters that leaps out from the dark with teeth bared and eyes glaring. If it were, it would have been obvious; I would’ve known sooner and I could’ve escaped. It was a creature that hid its true form and took its precious time to groom and lure me into its trap. When I was within reach it would slowly start showing parts of itself I deemed normal, just minor flaws, “not a big deal”. But it would exhaust me, tear me down bit by bit, and betray my trust to devour me until I had nothing left to give. I tried to get away from you when I saw what was happening, but it was already too late. You had attached yourself to every aspect of my life, like ropes tied us together and you would never let me go. I had to cut myself loose. And here I am now, laying battered on the ground of our very own house while the little strength I have left slowly dissipates. I know I have to get out.
My fists clench shut, nails digging into my skin until red scars turn to red cuts, and I try to push my body off the wooden planks, but I can’t. My legs are broken and excruciating pain surges through me whenever I try to move them. It must’ve been a few minutes of me just lying here, panting and whimpering like an abused dog, while nauseating dizziness made me want to pour out my insides. Some part of me still thinks you’d come save me, as if you’d care at all, as if you weren’t the one who just crippled me. I grit my teeth in the memory of you just moments before shouting, screaming, begging me not to leave, and when I was ready to storm out you went silent.
I guess that’s when you decided you would do it. You broke my legs so I couldn’t leave, so I was stuck here forever, so that the ropes that attached me to you grew tighter and restricted me from all motion.
With a new sense of determination to escape surging through me, I grunt and start to grab and claw at the floor beneath me, barely moving as I start crawling helplessly across the blood-soaked ground. Mahogany floorboards creak with age and I pray that you aren’t near to hear my struggling but the rest of the house remains silent except for my staggering breaths of agony. When I manage to emerge from the narrow hallway, I grab the rug that sits buried under our coffee table and drag myself towards the living room with such force that it disrupts the porcelain vase sitting atop, causing it to roll and shatter on the hard floor. I sigh frustratedly before recognising the dark blue patterns painted on fragments of the once perfectly polished vase. I’m suddenly transported back to the memory of us strolling past stall after stall in the bustling flea market.
Scraps of old rubbish and food crunched beneath our shoes as we pushed our way through the crowd of strangers. It was late in the evening. The sun’s last rays of light bled hues of red and orange into the sky and set ups of stalls made from cheap material and tattered cloth lined the streets. I had my arm comfortably linked between yours. You had suggested we come here, claiming it to be ‘filled with old treasures from the past’. I’d been somewhat amused by your enthusiasm and eventually went with you thinking it would be a good opportunity to seek out furniture suitable for our new home.
The whole setup was illuminated by golden lights strung across stalls and street lamps beaming down. We walked around the market, occasionally stopping to examine food and exotic items before I’d started to feel boredom creeping its way into my mind. I was just about to suggest we leave when you stopped dead in your tracks, staring wide-eyed in front of you. At first I was confused; what were you doing? Before the brightest smile shot across your face, you turned to look into my eyes, and then dragged me by the hand to one of the pottery stalls ahead. Varying sizes of vases lined the shelves, all adorned with beautiful imagery and painted with intricate patterns.
Your eyes travelled across to a specific vase sitting amongst others, tucked away in a small corner, and you pointed to the item excitedly like a small child asking for a toy. It was no bigger than a shoe box; a plethora of thin, dark blue lines joined to create a stunning inked scenery. Towering narrow cliffs covered with blankets of flowers and birds soaring above. You rambled on and on about the Asian culture—your culture—that was encapsulated in this one object with passion and genuine interest. I watched in awe whenever your eyes would light up with excitement as you noticed another minuscule detail to point out and that stupid smile of yours never left your face. I remember being content with just standing there, staring and savouring every word that came tumbling out of your mouth. We went home that night, you still carrying that vase and obsessing over its charms and intricacies. I was happy to see you happy. I would’ve done anything to see you as happy as you were that night.
But that’s changed now. Now I’d do anything to see you suffer the way you’ve made me suffer.
I brush past the broken fragments, pushing them aside, but not without suffering a few cuts from the edges slicing the skin on my palm. I push back the happy memories of us bound to that vase, and with one great heave I push myself further towards my destination, but with every movement I make, my arms almost give way with exhaustion. They shake with fear and my mind clouds with nausea, making my vision sway from side to side as I continue towards my only way out.
When I reach the framed doorway I see the front door to my left half open with rays of sunlight shining through, a door directly to heaven. I can almost smell the freedom. Exhilarating fear and anticipation both fuel me to push further towards the light, despite every part of my body aching with cuts and bruises screaming at me to stop, to give up, to rest. My mind pounds with dizziness as I claw my way further to my only escape route. This is my chance, my way out; the door is the pair of scissors I need to cut myself loose and it’s only a few metres away, but what is mere metres feels like miles of never-ending dark oak wood and agonising pain.
When I can barely reach the door, I weakly push it open. White light spills across the foyer, blinding me. I force my eyes shut for a moment, but I’m practically bathing in warm rays of freedom until a giant figure shifts to block the light. Suddenly I feel darkness surrounding me and coldness shaking through my bones.
Terror, fear, and possibilities race through my mind before I open my eyes, but I already know who’s there. Your dark silhouette stands still, and in your left hand you grip a rusted baseball bat stained with red. I crane my head up to meet dark, maroon brown eyes staring back through shadows. For a moment I see a glimpse of that gentleness, a fragment of the boy I used to love, buried deep beneath a now sinister looking gaze.
Are you here to save me? To tend to my wounds? To pull me close into your arms and tell me everything is going to be okay? No… no… You’re here to kill me, aren’t you? To finish me off. I almost laugh at myself for still dreaming of that version of you even in this state, pathetically sprawled across on the floor, still suffering from your wounds. It’s no use lying to myself; the facade of the boy I used to know is long gone. My head drops to the ground in defeat, and fatigue swarms my mind. It’s okay—I tried my best but you always had me in the end. From the day I laid eyes on you to the day I lay broken in a pool of my own blood, I could never remove the scars that tied me to you.
Written by Nicole Lai and edited by Alana MacKenzie. Published on 28/05/2021. Header image by Maggie Chen.