A/N: Bold quotes are not mine. This is a story I wrote for a contest about a year ago. Enjoy and happy Halloween!
All Work and No Play
"How's the studying going, Alicia?" Mom asked from in the kitchen.
I groaned and glanced up at the mirror next to the desk lamp, seeing my mother drying dishes with a cigarette twirling in her fingers.
"It's going," I grumbled dimly, flipping through the pages of my Physics book.
While studying, I tried not to think of my identical twin, Jessica, who was currently out at some party with her boyfriend Drake. Jessica never demonstrated any extraordinary skills in academies so Mom didn't mind so much when she went out partying or blew off her subjects. I, on the other hand, have been a straight-A student my entire life. Back in elementary school, I consistently won Science Fair each year I participated. Mom noticed my genius at a young age and had me in all honors classes since they were first offered. She told me if I put my mind to it, I can do whatever I wish and have anything my heart desires. I know she really wants me to accomplish something to help pull her out of poverty. As a single mom, she can barely afford the apartment we live in now.
"Are you ready for your exam Monday?" Mom asked, taking another puff.
"I was ready for that exam three weeks ago," I replied, tiredly.
It felt as though my entire life, I have done nothing but work.
I closed my text book and walked into the kitchen. I took in a breath and asked, "Mom, do you think it's okay if I go to whatever party Jessica's at for a little bit?"
Mom coughed on her last puff before answering, "No sweet girl, I don't think that's a good idea. All the drugs and the drinking… you'll only bring damage to your perfect brain."
"You let Jessica go all the time," I pointed out. "She actually gets to have a life. Unlike me she can, you know, do normal human things."
Mom looked into my eyes, sharply and replied, "Listen to me. The human world is a mess. People like you were put on this planet to help fix it. You can't just through away your gifts for a few meaningless parties. You're better than that."
I rolled my eyes and went to grab my Physics book. I told Mom I was going to study more in my room. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Mom let Jessica and I each have our own room, while she used the living room area as her bedroom.
Shutting the door, I plopped myself on my twin-sized bed and figured I may as well study some more. Perhaps Mom was right. Maybe I can make myself into whatever I want to be if I worked hard enough. If I could get to a world that would meet my desires, then I supposed all the hard work would be worth it.
I glanced into my open closet and see my oval leather mask with a pointed chin. Two years ago, I wore it for Halloween and carried a toy machine gun with it. To this day, no one was sure exactly what I was supposed to be. In my mind, I made up my own super-villain and dressed as that but did not explain this to anyone at the party I went to. With Jessica in her kitty-lingerie costume, I don't think anyone there realized we were twins. That was the only party I have ever gone to in my entire life, with the exception of my own birthday parties.
As my eyes fell back down to my textbook, I noticed some red spots that looked like a pen leaked and dripped on the pages. At the splash of another drop, I realized it was blood dripping from my nose. I stood up and grabbed a tissue from my dresser to wipe my nose. I then fell back down on my bed and picked up my book. I picked up my pencil to jot down side notes and then saw the blood drips began again.
I wiped my nose, but this time it felt dry. I then glanced down at my pencil and saw that the blood dribbled from its tip. Startled, I thrashed the pencil across the room. The writing utensil landed in front of my closet. When I glanced back down at my book, I saw the pages were clean, as though the blood never touched their creamy texture.
At the sound of sudden bang, I jerk my head up and look at my closet, noticing the mask from costume had fallen to the ground. Letting out a sigh, I walk over to my closet to pick it up, but stop as I notice my clothes hanging up seemed to be moving as though a breeze brushed against them. I glanced around my dim windowless room. There was no breeze.
I screeched and jumped back. A figure then emerged from my closet. It appeared human, only with rough pallid skin rather than the warmth of human flesh. What appeared to be either dark blood or black ink dripped from his mouth. This person or creature wore thin brass glasses. When he closed his eyes, his lids were red and swollen.
"All work and no play," he said, "can make…"
"Who are you?" I demanded in a panicked breath before he could finish, and added more softly, "What are you?"
The creature man laughed, the liquid substance the covered his face now dripped from the gums of his teeth.
"All work and no play," he repeated before explaining, "I am what you will be if you go on like this."
"What do you mean?" I asked, unable to picture myself ever turning into anything like this.
He stepped forward, his glasses falling to the tip of his nose. "You only work, nothing else. Eventually it will drive you mad!"
"But I have to work hard," I protested. "It's the only way to get what I want."
"And just what might that be?" the demon asked. "Are you truly living your dreams? Is this life really your wish?"
"I… uh…" I looked down unsure of what to say.
The creature looked deeply into my eyes and said, "No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true. It is freedom you wish for, is it not?"
I thought for a moment. The freedom to do as I please when I desired seemed like a far-fetched dream, a dream I yearned for deeply.
The demon nodded. "I see, you are an independent person. You can have this freedom, but one stands in your way."
I look to my room door, knowing that who he spoke of was just on the other side, likely passed out on the sofa, my mother.
I drew in a sharp breath as I opened my eyes. I sit up finding my Physics book in my lap. I must have dozed off while studying and my whole encounter with the over-worked demon was a dream, a strange one no doubt.
I decided to put my studies away and get some actual sleep, figuring I could start fresh tomorrow.
Just as I began to turn off my lamp, I hear the front door open, followed by a fit of giggles. Jessica must be home.
"Oh Drake, that necklace you gave me was so… was so sweet!" Jessica exclaimed, stuttering her words. Apparently there was drinking at this party.
"You know, I am so romantic. Sometimes, I think I should marry myself," Drake replied proudly.
As Jessica giggled some more, I rolled my eyes, hoping he would leave soon. I did not hear Mom participate in the conversation. I guess she must have drank until she passed out, again.
Drake did eventually leave and soon after, I heard a knock on my door.
"Jessica?" I called out, tiredly.
My twin sister opened the door and smiled, sheepishly. "Hey."
"Hey," I replied with less enthusiasm. It was so obviously she was wasted. I could almost smell the stench of the alcohol when she opened the door.
"So… how was your night here with mom?" she asked me as she stumbled to my bed.
"What do you think?" I groaned, resting my head on my pillow.
Jessica placed her fingers sloppily on her chin and replied, "I think… I think… I don't know. I guess I don't."
"If you don't think, then you shouldn't talk!" I snapped in annoyance. Jessica never makes any sense when she's had this much to drink.
"Are you like… mad at me or something?" Jessica asked, looking down at me.
I sighed and sat back up. I shouldn't take my frustrations out on my sister. It wasn't her fault she was allowed to go out and have fun while I was stuck here. It was Mom's fault.
"No, I'm not mad, Jess," I said more softly. "I'm just a bit tired from all the studying, that's all. I think I'm gonna go to sleep now, okay? You can tell me about the party tomorrow."
She nodded. "Okay. Night night, Alicia."
"Goodnight," I replied, resting my head back down on my pillow. As I closed my eyes, I tried desperately not to think of the dream I had earlier.
The creepy overworked demon seemed to appear in my dreams every night now. The words 'all work and no play,' began to haunt my every moment.
Today, as I sat out in the living room to study, I glared at the pull-out Mom slept on, trying not to imagine the freedom I would have if not for her presence.
At this time, Mom and Jessica were out shopping for new outfits for Jessica. As usual, I was stuck in the apartment so I could study and hopefully someday make the world a better place.
I heard a knock on the front door and went to answer it.
"All work and no play."
I gasped and jumped back at the sight of this demon yet again. However, when I blinked he vanished.
"Whoa, you all right there, Jess?" Instead, it was Drake.
I scratched my head. "I… uh…"
"Still a bit hungover, eh?" he asked with a grin.
This would probably be a good time to tell him I'm not Jessica, but for some reason, I didn't.
"Well," he glanced at his watch. "You have about two hours to recover, because tonight, I'm taking you out again."
I briefly turned my head to look back at my desk and then turned back to Drake and asked, "Can we go now?"
He tilted his head, gazing at me oddly. "Well, its only five. We might want to wait a little before anything fun starts."
"Well…" I began trying to think quickly. "I just wanted to get a new dress first."
Drake pointed at me with enthusiasm. "Now you're talking. Come on, let's go."
As I stepped out and started to close the door, Drake looked in and frowned. "Hey, where's your sister?"
"Um…" I looked back inside and said, "She, uh… went out shopping with my mom for more school stuff."
Drake shrugged. "Well, hopefully your mom won't mind that you're gone when she gets back."
"Don't worry," I said assuringly. "She never minds when I go out."
That night my body had never felt so free and alive. Not a single thought of my academic troubles crossed my mind. I yearned to feel like this all the time.
However, that fun came to an abrupt halt, when Drake brought me home and we found both my mom and sister, sitting at the kitchen table.
"Alicia," Mom began sternly, "is there something you want to tell me?"
"Alicia?" Drake looked at me, horrified, and glanced over to Jessica. "But I thought…"
"Don't worry about it, sweetie," Jessica said, quickly, clearly not wanting her boyfriend present for this. "I'll call you tomorrow, okay?"
Still scratching his head, he walked out and waved awkwardly bye to both of us.
"Jessica," Mom said, in a forced calm tone. "Why don't you go on to your room?"
Jess shot me a brief sympathetic smile and walked out. My mind began to suddenly feel the cloudy effects of the alcohol.
"What were you thinking, Alicia?" Mom demanded. "Do you know what could have happened to you?"
"I'm fine, Mom," I protested, rolling my eyes.
"Why would you put this family through this?" Mom raged on. "Do you know what would happen here if something would have happened to you?"
"You wouldn't have me to depend on for future finances?" I answered for her. "That is my main purpose to you, isn't it? You never worry when Jessica goes out!"
"I do worry," Mom muttered. "Its just not the same."
"Why?" I demanded. "Because Jessica doesn't have a future in your eyes, it doesn't matter? Because of that, she gets to live every moment as though it's her last! Did you ever stop to think that maybe I would want to live like that for once?"
Before she could retort, I stormed off to my room. I hated my life. At this point I would do anything for a new one, something more free and pleasurable.
"All work and no play," the whisper came from my closet.
I did not want to end up like my old demon friend. I had to change that outcome. An idea came to me, a horrible one that is, but an idea. I went into my closet and picked up my mask, thinking it was time to make a dramatic change in my life.
I wrote a note to Jessica, feigning it to be from Drake wanting to apologize. After Mom passed out on the couch, she snuck out. I grabbed my leather villain mask and followed.
The moon hovered, blithely over the tall thin branches in the forest. I put my mask on and followed as she stumbled up the dirt hill and tripped over a tree root.
"Drake?" Jessica called. "Are you out here somewhere?"
Her voice seemed to draw in more fear as she continued to call for her boyfriend. I walked towards her, my foot cracking a stick on the ground.
At the sound, my sister turned her head.
"Who are you?" she demanded, stepping back in a panic.
I didn't answer. I almost felt as though I were outside of my body. I glanced over to a nearby tree, and saw my demon friend, peering from its trunk. He nodded, tilting his glasses.
"Who are you?" Jessica repeated, this time sounding much more terrified.
I didn't answer, instead, muttering, "All work and no play."
"What was that?" she asked, and then tilted her head. "Alicia, is that you?"
"All work and no play," I repeated, taking the machine gun, I had stolen from Mom's safe and began to fire it. The first shot went right through her chest, blood splurging out like a popped water balloon. Blocking any emotion, I continued to fire until her body was so horribly disfigured, no one would recognize her.
My sister's funeral was held outside. The greying clouds did not spare us any rain. As the preacher spoke, I gazed out among the other graves. Some of the stones were shapes as crosses while others were simply rectangular. The bare branches that hovered above them gave me a chill. Life could end at any second for anyone. I never wanted to waste another moment of it again. My sister taught me that.
Mom's arm rested tightly around my shoulder. "I just wish I could have told her how much I loved her, just once before she was taken away."
I recalled the horror and tragic expression on her face that night when I went back to the apartment and jerked her awake, saying something horrible happened in the forest to my sister. I told here we were just taking a nighttime stroll before we were attacked. I managed to escape, but only alone.
Just as the coffin was prepared to descend below ground, we were each permitted to approach for a final goodbye.
When I went up, I placed a single white rose on the coffin and whispered, "Thank you, sister, for teaching me every moment of life is precious."
I looked over at her gravestone, lying on the ground beside the coffin. On the stone, it said…
Here lies Alicia Mills