The Voice of Reason
Survival was like fighting in a partially frozen pool; the frigid water made him sluggish, wearing his muscles out. He was exhausted, desperate to reach the other side to climb out. The strife would be worth it, he reminded himself. Just push forward, keep moving. Fight! Only the weak give up… only the weak fail. But he couldn’t climb out. Instead, he was caught in the thickness, trapped by it, being pulled, deeper into the darkness that had been consuming him for years: wondrous years, painful years.
Those years brought Soul confined to this frigid and cramped apartment he shared with his fiancé, Maka. His crimson eyes watched the heavy rain that ruined his Wednesday evening. But it was abnormal for the region. Nevada suffered infrequent showers, assuming it rained at all. Flood advisories were in effect. Rain reminded Soul of Maka, of a time long ago where they’d lie in bed, sleeping in one another’s embrace.
That’s right. He used to sleep. But, sleep was a sign of weakness, a disgusting human need. The dark rings that clung below his eyes, like a toddler to its mother, were testimony to the sleepless nights he spent trying to remember something aside from the confusion that now consumed his mind. Before, he crafted elegant music, scripts, and novellas. He wrote stories detailing his fairytale-esque romance with Maka. A passage of their engagement read like a Disney story.
Maybe that’s why she loved him and why she remained at his side.
After a long pause from his artistic expression, the desire to create was coming back to him. It might have been guilt, which was something he hadn’t realized until later. His love for Maka was forcing him to make amends for what he’d done and show her that he could be the person she wanted him to be. He could be the normal, mentally sound, soon-to-be-husband without the help of medication.
He didn’t need medication, he reminded himself, which perhaps was why Soul was standing in his bedroom, idly; looking at the music he’d crafted before locking himself away from the world. He’d bought the Sharpie rainbow, which became the tools with which he used to stain his walls. Paper was temporary; it burned, ripped, and could be destroyed with time. In an effort to make the art Maka loved immortal, he crafted music on the walls.
His love for her had not yet waned, and he knew that deep down, she was right. There was another voice however, that haunted the caverns of his mind.
“She’s wrong you know,” said the airy voice that slithered into the room. “You don’t need medication… You’re better as you are now, the perfect husband for Maka.”
Soul found flaws in those words, wondering if the demon was out for his well-being, or if it was a parasite. A one way relationship between himself and the disembodied voice seemed likely, considering everything it had convinced him to abandon. He postponed the ceremony because the demon told him to. He stopped going outside because the demon’s voice yelled louder each time he dared to venture toward the door. How much was this demon willing to take, before it finally delivered the power and unmatchable skill that he promised?
Alcohol was the only thing that eased the pounding in Soul’s head, caused by the voice’s loud monologues.
The voice suddenly yelled. “No drinking! That weakens you, every drink takes away from your strength!” The demon’s voice boomed.
A pain came to Soul’s temples as the monologue continued, so he stopped listening. “I don’t care, I just want a fucking drink.”
“Soul, who are you talking to?” The front door of the apartment was ajar, holding within its frame his young fiancé.
Maka was a young woman of nineteen; her blonde hair messy around her shoulders, the strands dripping water. She didn’t have a car, and since Soul wasn’t driving anymore, she was on her own for transportation. She walked, for the most part. Her soaked uniform clung to her thin frame: the thigh length teal skirt had lost its pleating, a white shirt that gave him a glimpse of the matching bra clinging to her thin chest, and the striped tie that was partially undone around her neck. The sound of the door closing caused his crimson eyes to leave her body and finally wander to her face. Her eyes were focused, staring at him, her lips slightly parted, tears lining her eyes, fighting against flesh to fall. She repeated her question.
“No one. I’m hungry.” His reply was his solution to distract her from his flawed existence.
“R-Really?!” Maka exclaimed, moving toward him lovingly. “What do you want?”
“Something small,” he mumbled, realizing that he would have to eat now. “Food can be poisoned or laced with chemicals.” He restated the explanation the demon had given to him when the voice started a little over a year ago.
“Of course,” she agreed. There was no point in arguing, so she simply let the comments pass idly, as she’d been doing for the past few months. “Do you want to make dinner together like we used to? Then things can start to get back to normal…” Maka sounded hopeful at the prospect of normalcy.
Soul started to rummage through the groceries she brought home. “What is all this shit? Bread, oranges, scallions, fish. Ew! I don’t like fish.”
“What do you mean you don’t like tilapia?” Maka asked desperately. “You love seafood, and tilapia is your favorite! Do you remember the dinner party we had last year? The entire menu was Asian style seafood a la Soul!”
“Don’t make up stories,” Soul mumbled standing from the worn couch. He walked over to his fiancé, arms lacing around her waist. He wondered, at times, if she still loved him.
The coy voice return to the forefront of his thoughts, “Test her.”
Soul heard the dare and tightened his arms around Maka’s waist, wanting to protect her from the voice. He could feel her ribs poking into his arms and a sharp gasp was forced from her body.
“Soul!” She yelped in pain. Her uneven nails, sharp and worn from biting, scratched at his arms in an attempt to free herself.
Soul let her go, realizing what he’d done. A sorrowful expression filled his eyes. She turned to face him, damp hair falling over her shoulder. Fists raised and she slammed them into his shoulders and chest, crying; loudly; whaling and desperate to make him understand her frustration, her fear, and her love.
Soul stood, taking the beating she offered. He knew she wanted more than this. She deserved more too. He tried desperately to make her happy, but all his attempts failed miserable to please her.
They were best friends, partners, and lovers. But, now, they were fighting one another for a love they both wanted, but couldn’t grasp. All they could grasp was one another, in an emotional brawl that she believed would fix him and he believed would give her an outlet for her frustration.
Maka’s voice was twisted into fits of sobbing, and he stumbled when a fist found itself into his stomach. The world became small; his field of vision narrowed as if he was looking through a tunnel the size of a quarter. It widened seconds later, his vision returned. He was sitting in a chair, panting, trying to understand what had befallen him. Maka was strong; she’d taken years of kickboxing classes with her mother as a teenager.
Maka swung out her arms in defeat and frustration, desperate for him to understand why she felt as she did. One of her delicate hands caught a glass, knocking it from the counter. He watched the cup slide from the surface of the cheap plastic counter, spilling Sprite onto the floor, unsuccessfully cushioning the glass that chased the liquid. On impact, the glass shattered, jagged shards dancing through the soda.
“Damn it…” She mumbled, shoulders shuttering, hand supporting her head, covering her once brilliant olive eyes. “Damn it… Damn it…” Her voice hitched, and a frantic cry escaped her lips. Her weeping continued. The golden trestles’ that obscured her face trembled like long branches of a weeping tree; her slender frame hunched and twisted like the trunk of a tree, protecting itself from the cold outside world, seeking isolation and solace. Her legs were inches from the shattered glass, knees saturated with carbonation and syrup.
Soul ignored her display and walked toward his bedroom. Seeing the emotions he caused compound within her made him wonder what exactly he wanted. Medication was out of the question, of course, because that would ruin his genius. But where did that leave him? Marriage, which was their postponed arrangement, was about compromise. If he couldn’t compromise, surely she’d find someone else that would love her. Which one could he deal with easier?
“Make her pay,” the slithering voice returned. “Show her the man you are; the man that made her scream.”
“I’d never hurt her, and I know she loves me.” Soul attempted to defend himself.
“She loves who you used to be…” Weightless and heavy hands pulled at his neck, messing up his collar that stayed flat against his shirt.
He couldn’t bear with the horrific manic feeling that was starting to consume his mind. It gave him the inspiration to write music again. Did this demonic parasite give him anything at all? Was Soul reaping benefits, or sacrificing his wellbeing to the creature that consumed him?
Maka entered his room in a casual outfit: a low cut long sleeve shirt to protect her from the January cold and sweatpants that she’d adopted from his wardrobe when their relationship changed.
Olive eyes, filled with tears, found no safety or love in the crimson hues that once radiated both. His protecting nature, dedication, and love, was gone; swallowed by the cold that had been consumed, rather violently, by the change in season. “I miss you.”
“I’m still me,” he mumbled, staring at the messy notes on the wall behind her.
“You’re not…” She whispered.
Then, Soul felt a surge of anger, not at her, but at himself. He hated seeing this hopelessness becoming a part of her, the lifeless nature of her fake smiles, the way she begged him to do anything. He hated himself for making her this way, but he also hated her. The responsibility for their crumbling relationship wasn’t only his fault, so as she took out her anger on him, he took his out on her.
But it was not as therapeutic as he’d expected. He was in pain; his knuckles ached, lined with bruises and cuts. He was standing above Maka, looking over her slender body. Her messy hair, which was once shiny, was now dull and oily. Her cheeks were mismatched; both were flushed, but the left was dark and ugly; warped into a sickly purple bruise. The lipstick on her downward facing lips was smudged on her cheek, from the corners of her lips. But it looked damp, so perhaps it was blood? Her purple shirt was torn, red dots staining the white lace underneath. Bruises were on her arms where he’d violently gripped her.
“Please just take the meds.” She sobbed. “It will stop what you feel.” The tears started to spill from her bloodshot eyes.
“No!” The weightless voice boomed in anger. “No pills! Pills will destroy me!”
Maka’s hold tightened. “I-I can’t do this anymore, Soul. Make your ch-choice…” Her words caught within her throat, choking on her sobs. “Me or this.”
Soul closed his eyes, his full weight falling against her. He knew the right answer, and he didn’t want to live to find out what was hidden behind door number two. “This.” He answered, hoping she could understand.
“Okay,” she mumbled, pushing him away. Maka stood and turned her back on him, taking a few steps toward the door.
His hand shot out and started pulling her back.
“You made your choice.” Maka said thickly, willing herself to deal with her lover’s choice of madness.
Soul nodded. “This.” His grip tightened on her hand. “Us.”
“I choose us.” He repeated, pulling her down to her knees on the floor in front of him.
Maka desperately wanted to believe that he was choosing her. She had to believe that he loved her. So she opened the bottle and two pills dropped into the palm of her hand. “If you choose me, you have to take these.”
Soul studied the blue capsules. Maka offered them to him and he took the two into his hand. He rolled them around in palm, as if they were the jelly beans he loved as a child, and with this new visual in mind, he brought them to his lips. He took the two onto his tongue and swallowed, hoping that this would reinstate her love for him.
I love you Smina <3