“You keep leaving me,” a weak voice said.
The room was shrouded in darkness, a muted light coming through a crack of the wall behind the voice.
The walls, black as soot, were covered in similar, smaller cracks, handprints, holes. Some spots were smeared with blood. A door, ancient and crumbling, sat to the side of the voice, who was sitting on the floor, hunched over in the corner.
The light twinkled as if talking back.
“You always say that, that you never left,” the voice replied, the obvious hurt and annoyance coming through. The light twinkled more or at least tried to, as the crack slowly started to fill itself in with more darkness.
A giggle came from the door, a grey fog coming from the crack of space between the door and the floor.
“You came back!” the voice in the corner cried out, turning around, dark eyes looking around the dark space. The excited smile on their dirty face slowly disappeared, the joy, the hope, leaving their face in the form of tears.
“Oh, my sweet, ignorant, gullible fool,” the smoke whispered, grabbing the voice’s face with a hand, the squeeze on the voice’s cheeks painful.
“You came back,” the voice whispered.
“I will never leave you,” the smoke said, covering the voice with their stench of burning and must filled self.
“The light tried to talk to me again. They always leave.”
“Oh do they?” The smoke said, almost in surprise. The voice nodded. The smoke pulled away, a still wind pushing them to a broken window. The smoke covered the window, the soot, and despair of the window disappearing.
The voice was screaming at the window, banging on it. But they looked different. They were glowing but the light seemed to be dimming around them. Their face was tear-streaked, eyes red and puffy from who knows how long they were crying for. Their hands were bloodied and bruised, clothes covered in the soot, in dirt, in wood chips. Behind them was a pile of rocks and rubble, debris and trash.
The glowing voice seemed to be pleading. The voice inside the darkness watched, something in their chest stirring.
The smoke moved away from the window and clutched their face again.
“You are mine, and I am yours,” the smoke breathed, the voice choking. “What you saw could have been ages ago, however. Who knows how long they’ve actually been away.”
The voice pulled away.
“How long have you kept me in here? Why do you keep me in here!?”
The smoke laughed.
“Here you go again. They didn’t even break a hole in the wall this time, and now you suddenly have guts to talk back to me.”
It swirled around the voice, growing thick, choking the voice.
“Remember how you said you and I were the only ones who needed to be together? Remember how you said that I would never hurt you?” The smoke started to squeeze at the voice’s body. The voice let out a yell.
The dimming voice outside the house seemed to hear it.
From outside the house, the house actually looked like the entrance to a cave in underneath a fallen bridge.
They pulled rocks, broken tree limbs, and rusted car bits from under bigger boulders and used the bigger branches to move the bigger boulders. They never stopped working but the more they dug, the more rocks seemed to appear. When they heard the yell, however, the rocks stopped taking each moved rock’s place. It had happened before and they were able to get a small hole through all of the mess. Maybe it was happening again. So they kept digging and digging and digging and digging until they came upon a wooden wall.
The smoke had left the voice in a crumpled mess on the floor.
“You lock us both in here, with your– your pity for the things you can’t control, for past mistakes that are just that. Someone leaves you and you think it’s your fault because you weren’t good enough, when in reality it had nothing to do with you.”
“You… You promised you… wouldn’t hurt me,” the voice sobbed from the floor.
The smoked seemed to swell up and fill the room a face coming through.
“YOU’RE HURTING YOU,” the smoke bellowed, the face of the voice staring back at the one of the floor.
“YOU’RE HURTING ALL OF US,” the smoke screamed. “YOU WANTED TO BE LOCKED AWAY WITH ME, YOU WANTED TO BE ALONE WITH ME, EVEN THOUGH I DIDN’T WANT TO. I AM TIRED OF CHOKING YOU BECAUSE YOU NEED TO FEEL SOMETHING. I DON’T WANT TO FEEL YOU SPASM IN MY ARMS BECAUSE YOU’RE DYING, I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU SAD ALL THE TIME.”
The body on the floor laid still, the soot on the walls started to shift.
“You… you won’t let me out,” the smoke whispered, becoming a small puff. “When I go through that door, I don’t go anywhere. I can’t. It’s just a small sliver for me to lay in the dark so I can have a breather from you. I hear you screaming, blaming me. When you punch the door, you hit me. I’m the one to blame for things out of our control. You know this, you’ve gotten help to fix this and yet, you do this, to me, to YOU!”
The wall with the door rattled, the soot falling off in one flat sheet revealing a cracked wall with bright purple, almost neon, paint covering it. The door was made from a deep brown oak, with stained glass depicting three people in the middle.
The smoke grew bigger as it started to get angry again.
“I miss going outside! I miss your friends! I miss reading with you! Just because I am things that are sad that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy as well!”
The wall with the broken window shook, the soot falling off in one motion, showing off hundreds of thousands of pictures with the voice at parties, at restaurants, at parks, with friends, with lovers, with family, most smiles, some tears, few rages.
The smoke slowly went to the voice’s side, gently sitting them up and cradling their face.
“We have dreams, remember? We have promises to keep. We have more memories to make. We have lists with items to scratch off. We have tattoos to get. We have piercings to wish about.”
The third wall almost sighed in relief as the soot from it. This wall was white with scribbles in various colors appearing, disappearing and reappearing, some scratched out, checked off and circled with intent.
I will try more foods. Scratched out.
I will learn a second language. Circled.
I will learn to do a kickflip. Checked off.
Tears of smoke moved down the wisp’s face as they squeezed the voice’s face once more with the love a favorite auntie.
“You may always sit with me, hold hands with me. But never again will you use me to harm us again,” the smoke whispered.
The forth wall shuddered, the soot leaving, but the blackness remained. Post-it notes started to bloom out from the wall, scribbles, and dates written on them.
It’s okay if I feel sad today.
Just because I am upset now doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continue to try at a later date.
I need to rest so I don’t feel like this for any longer.
The voice looked around the room, noticing all that they had done before the soot had come.
“You have come far,” the now brightened voice cooed, standing in open doorway.
Soot fell from the ceiling, a bright wave of sunlight poured into the room from a glass ceiling, came in from the doorway, from the window. The light washed away all the soot, turning into a hurriedly made bed, a dresser, a computer desk, nightstand, and other bedroom items.
“You should be proud of your accomplishments as we are,” the glow said, grabbing a towel and a washcloth from the closet. The smoke pulled up the voice, the glow handed them their bath items and they disappeared into the voice’s chest.
The voice stared at themselves in the mirror, looking at their week-old clothes, their nappy hair, the crusted drool on their cheeks, the sleep lines on their forehead. They chuckled and sighed.
“At least… it wasn’t as bad as the last time.”