AN:

I decided to write this.

It's going to be quite the confusing novel so hold on tight to your seat.

Apologies in advance for the hysteria that this will bring to your mind because of how weird it is.


Cast inspired by:

Rolf - Liam Hemsworth

Paolo - Christoph Waltz

Roger - Oscar Isaac


One by One

Chapter One

.. . ..

Everyone has stuff under the surface.

It's not the stuff that surprises me. It's who I become because of the stuff—what I'm capable of.

I don't know why I have to remember, why I can't forget. Every morning, I wake up like this... so foreign, so away... and then I remember who I was last night. Somewhere else, I can precisely remember what I did.

There was so much blood, so much blood.

Rolf, he said to himself, isn't this so much fun?

But it isn't. Not for me.

My head hurts, my eyes burn, and my mouth feels so dry. I always wake up that way—thirsty, hungry. Sometimes I'm afraid it's affecting me—he's affecting me. I mean, could it be? Could I actually become someone else—the me from somewhere else inside of me? I guess I could. I don't know. I'm not gonna spend time thinking about it because my throat burns and the light from the window burns against my skin. I'm thankful it's winter, at least, but the light from the sun couldn't burn brighter, could it? I honestly hope not.

Rolling to my side, under all of the useless, cold white sheets, I face the clock.

6: 55 AM.

Of course, I sigh. I wake up early on all the days I don't have to go anywhere. Isn't that great?

I try not think about my dreams when I'm awake. Showering, brushing my teeth, and picking at my soggy sad eggs, I try to let my mind float in an empty, vast limbo. The world is so much grayer when you're not thinking, when you're just stuck there living in the middle of the stratosphere. Once I've pushed the plate of eggs away from myself, I just stare at the glass patio door and pretend to focus on something else entirely. Miranda called me, Lina still owes me my wrench, and my dad is somewhere in Austria seizing life, I recollect.

Successfully, I smile. The old man will never stop traveling until his feet fall off—and even then, he'd just make me carry him.

Pushing my chair back, I grab my plate, dirty with the eggs and a small orange slice on the side, and toss it into the sink. Soon enough, I slip on my brown boots, zip up my orange windbreaker, and pull on a black beanie to head out. Everything is seamless and autonomous that way when I'm not thinking. I slip on black gloves and soon find myself in the middle of the woods, leaves crunching under my foot, and the sky blue and pale. I can feel the wind on my face before I even head out outside. Once I do, once I'm circled by trees and shrubs, once the world swallows me and I'm isolated, I finally relax.

I look for the deer, for the white deer I always seem to see, and wait.

Crouched underneath a long, thick tree with ever winding branches, I patiently wait.

Rolf, he said in my dream, Rolf Wickham. There's always been a sweet touch to that name, he whispered coaxingly, such a sweet, intoxicating touch.

My dad was a hunter, of course. He idolized wolves. I mean, he idolized panthers, tigers, and lions too. Something about how ferocious and vicious they were, while all the while being so precise, so controlled, so fluid and quick. Once they had a focus, a sharpened target in sight, that was it.

However, despite those factors, wolves were his favorite thing. They were uncontrolled and controlled at the same time, precise and sloppy, fluid and disastrous, quick and languid. They were an anomaly and yet they survived, yet they lived, and there was nothing on their side—not skill, not structure, and not design. They were survivors.

My dad wanted me to be one too.

I guess I am.

Soon enough, I turn my head, searching through the lines and lines of bark, of green, and wait. Setting my sights on anything that resembles a white form, I let my mind focus.

I don't know why I'm searching for it. Actually, I do, Rolf, I tell myself. I don't know what else to do. I feel like I'm losing grip. I'm sinking into the mud and I'm searching for a branch, a way out. I don't think it's this—I know it's not this, but I still look for it. A white deer swallowed by the world, an impossible thing co-existing with possibility. It's so strange and so surreal... and beautiful.. and mine—

"Wickham!" I hear behind me. "Wickham!"

It's Paolo.

Child-like wonder in a sixty-one-year-old man. His red sneakers and black cap lodged on his head, I instantly know that it's him. In his prominent chin, green eyes, and long smile, I can find a small constant. It's not much of a thread between us. We're mostly just acquaintances of the woods, but it's a stabilizing connection. It's a stabilization of some sort... somehow.

"What are you doing here? Are you hiding?" He almost squeaks. I smile, maybe honestly, maybe not.

"No, I just," I stand up, still looking around me for what I've been waiting for, "I was just looking for something."

"And what's that?" Paolo continues down toward me. "Am I allowed to know?"

"It's nothing," I obviously lie. Why would I tell him about something that wouldn't last a minute in a conversation? Maybe, someday, I'll tell him, but not today. It's strange enough today. "I didn't see it."

"So I'm not allowed to know," he states as if it's fact, "that's okay. I do not need to. I just wanted to ask."

I smile, but this time it's real, I know. Paolo finds his way down to me, grabbing my shoulders for balance before he steps down next to me. His hair has grown a little more and flares out from the sides of his cap. There's a little stubble on his face too. He's lucky to have hair growing in places still. My dad has patches all over himself. I know that, at some point, I will too.

"What are you doing here?" I ask, but it's as low as a mumble. Paolo always seems to hear me somehow, though.

He looks at me with one eyebrow raised. "Nothing," he lies, mimicking me. I laugh this time. "I'm just kidding," he corrects, waving his hand, "I am just walking... just looking around. I was going to fish, but it's too cold."

I understandingly hum in response.

"Sometimes I walk here after a bad dream," Paolo suddenly admits, looking ahead, "the sky, the trees," he gestures as he talks, "I feel... better when I see it. I feel... connected. I don't know to what, but I feel... good."

I hum again, nodding this time.

Then, suddenly, Paolo puts his hand on my shoulder. I can feel him looking at me before I turn to look at him. His green, gray eyes gaze at mine as if he's about to unravel right in front of me, so I find myself fidgeting. Is he going to show me something I can't give back? Is he going to show me a world I can't offer him? Friendship is difficult for me—especially when it needs to be reciprocal. I've lost a lot of people because I can't offer them what they offer me. I don't have light... not like how everyone else does. I—

"I want to show you something," he says suddenly, gripping my shoulder tighter, "can I show you something?"

"I, uh," I stammer. I can't offer what he's about to offer me.

"It's okay, it's not going to kill you," Paolo tells me, almost laughing, with a big smile on his face. My own furrowed eyebrows fall in response. I'm just gonna watch, I tell myself, I don't have to show him anything.

"Okay."

Soon enough, Paolo closes his eyes so I close mine. He keeps his hand tight on my shoulder. I can feel warmth seeping in through it. It's gradual at first, vibrating beneath the silence around us, then it's louder. I still feel the breeze from the air before it begins, but, always, the warmth slowly wraps around me. I don't smell wet bark, leaves, and dirt. I smell... a pond—fish, mud, grass—maybe.

When I open up my eyes, I and Paolo are on a boat, in the middle of a vast pond. Just us two in a sea of reflection.

"I come here," he blurts, and when I turn to him his hands are folded between his legs, "when I get bad dreams and ugly nightmares, I come here."

That must be great, I almost say. I don't have anywhere to go after a nightmare. I just... run to the woods. I search for a constant... and when I find one, I cling—as if I were to die if I let go. I attach myself to light when I can find it. I don't have any. I find myself looking away from him, out to the borders of the stream of water, and I feel envy. I say nothing and bask in his sun, but, on the inside, I feel envy. I feel envy and then shame.

It's my own dreams that stop my light, I tell myself. It's me—that part of me, living somewhere—that's sucking me dry. And because of that, I'm useless to others—to life. I can't do anything for life.

"It's nice here, right?" Paolo blurts again.

"Yeah," I mumble, almost green with envy.

I expect him to look over me onto his endless skies, above the various colorful hills, but, instead, he looks directly at me. His eyes fall into sadness and, then, suddenly, I know he knows.

Inside of me, the colorless valleys of darkness, I don't feel safe there. I don't go there. "You don't always have to have light inside of you," he begins, "you can find it outside... then you bring it back in. You find your light from the world, Rolf."

I swallow, looking away, suddenly even more embarrassed.

"You find light and then you make it yours," he continues, smiling at me. I can't smile back. "Is it okay... if I... give you some?"

I close my eyes. "I don't want you to do that. I couldn't give you any back."

"I know," Paolo says, while his hair flutters back from the wind, "I want you to keep it."

"I—I couldn't," I try.

Instead, Paolo smiles, opens his palm, and extends it my way. I want to let it linger, want to let it go, but I'm thirsty—for light, for a world away. I can't let it linger even when I want to.

My eyes flutter anxiously when I give him my hand. I can't do this, but I do. I can't take someone else's light, but I will. It's only a little and I can feel a part of him floating away, in limbo, because of me. He doesn't take long to grab my hand and soon, a small, deep, far, far part of me, is lit—not brightly, but still... on. I can see a part of him, far, far away, going dim.

I feel as horrible as I did when I was envious, but now I'm ashamed.

"There," he says, "now you have a little light. Make it yours."

The boat gently rocks beneath us.

Somewhere far away, inside of me, I see a door. There's a light underneath it. I have a key in my hand. I can go in there, bask in the light, and make more rooms until the light's inside me. Soon enough, I'll have my own pond, my own sun, and it'll be just from one little room. Could that even be real? I ask myself. Could I have light because of Paolo's light?

I look up at him, at his green-gray eyes glimmering ahead at the pond around us, and I don't smile, but I want to. "Thank you."

"We are friends now," he admits as if that's an explanation, and I swell just the slightest at it.

"Okay."


At ease, Rolf—

at ease

. . .


I can't forget how much blood I had on my hands.

How horrible, I should think.

I killed him, I viciously stabbed him in the chest—over and over again—and my, oh my! I just don't feel as bad as I should. I'm sorry, but did you see me? I got away with it. No one knows where that guy is now—and there are no traces, no leads. How am I supposed to feel bad? Could I even feel bad?

I'm so thirsty, so hungry. There's this small opening inside of me, gnawing and poking at me. I have to fill it now.

I woke up this morning, before arriving to work, so differently, so focused, so sharp.

A part of me feels a deep sense of uneasiness. I have to keep moving. I have to go somewhere.

I curl my hands into myself. When I open them, above the wooden cubicle desk, there's prints there—deep, bold prints dotted with red. I can't keep myself in one place. No, I can't stay in one place. There's got to be movement.

Rolf, you're such a dependable employee, my manager might say, and why I never thought you could kill!

I never thought I could kill. I never wanted to so bad. There's always this fire inside of me, even now, cracking beneath the strikes of the clock above my head. I curl and stretch my fingers to distract from the heat inside of me somewhere. I flick my wrists and bite my lip to push away whatever keeps burning the sides of my stomach. I can't control it; it sears inside of my veins. It bothers me—it pains me. The suppression of whatever I'm pushing down, deep into myself, threatens to implode abruptly, uncontrollably.

I couldn't force myself to not do what I did that night even if I wanted to.

Gerald's bones were in my sink and I couldn't regret it even if I wanted to.

"Rolf... Rolf, man," I hear above me, a deep, familiar voice.

I look up to see Roger. He's older, sharper, charismatic, and his hair fades gradually from a sleek black to a clean gray. I'd like him if I didn't hate it here so much—beneath everyone, beneath the void.

"Hm," I barely say, lifting my head and looking at him with a disingenuous softness.

"How are you?" Roger feigns, throwing his hands on my back, "I see that you're not really typing."

I take a breath in, letting this distract me, letting his presence wash over whatever is happening inside of me. I pretend to feel as normal as I can. I'd want to feel as normal as I can, but... I definitely don't think I want to anymore. How horrible, I should think. How repugnant, I tell myself, but I don't believe any of it.

"And your—your hands," Roger almost yells, but whispers instead, "are you—are you okay? I can't have you working here if you're—"

"I'm fine," I lie.

"Rolf," he warns as if he knows.

"I'm fine," I affirm, pulling my chest and shoulders out. Roger doesn't bother again and nods, a disingenuous—I believe—smile on his face. People don't bother if they know it's not worth their time. Roger's time is worth more than both of my kidneys and Gerald's.

"If you ever need some... you know, time off," Roger whispers, leaning beside my face, "never hesitate to let me know. I'm not as evil as I seem."

Then, he walks away. I hear his shiny black heeled shoes around me and then behind me.

I can only imagine how I look from here. Dark circles under my eyelids, a growing beard and mustache, little dark, brown strands on my forehead, I look troubled. I look sick. I don't think I am though, I declare. I'm not sick. This could be me—this could be who I truly am.

Does anyone truly even know who they are? Beneath the layers and layers of who they're trying to be, trying to change, and trying to grow. You never stagnate enough to know who you are. I've been in the same place for so long that I think I have. I think I know who I am.

I'm not strong, weak, smart, stupid, or fragile. I'm alien.

Many people think that's a dangerous thing. "I don't," I say aloud.

Somewhere far away from here, in my dreams, I see me—normal as ever—crunching branches under my shoe. I see someone that looks like me, but isn't me. I see someone who hasn't washed his hands in the sea. His beard isn't as big as mine and his eyes display a softness foreign from mine. He's quieter, lighter, but far from balanced and far from describable. He's alien... just like me.

Sometimes I dream about him.

It's nice, I admit. His light is nice, but it's... not mine. It leaves no space for what's mine. I need more space—for my fire, for the dark. I need to breathe. I can't breathe with him around. I couldn't do that to myself, yet I feel a strange sense of guilt... a strange uneasiness robbing him of his own space. He is me, isn't he?

He's also not real, I notice, but it never really feels that way.

Soon enough, all of these things don't seem to matter, as I walk home. Under the neon lights arranging from pink to blue along the Chinese diners and ATM machines, I find myself autonomously walking along the sidewalk. It's dark out. People walk past me as if I don't exist. All of their faces seem to blend together in a cohesive, stabilizing way. The wind that brushes against my skin feels as if it just rained out, but I know it hasn't.

I know that I filter the world the way I want to see it—not a lot of people can do that, but I do it. I color the sky gray when I want. I tint the cars that loom across from me, in the street, black and white and gray.

I make myself out to be evil, while the other me is light.

That could all be true, couldn't it? I ask myself. I could be good, couldn't I? If I wanted to be?

Thinking on that thought, I cross the street. I pass before the orange, red, and yellow lights of the cars. I take steps to go forward as if the future is any brighter.

Consequently, quite abruptly, I turn on my feet once I hit the pavement. I don't want to walk home—I know where I need to go now. The future is only bright if we make it bright. If I turn directions, if I maneuver the wheel, I can play around with the light filtering through the door. I can change how much space I get, how much space he gets.

Rolf, he tells me, this is wrong—you need to stop.

I shift my briefcase in my hands, briskly, quickly. My eyes probably look empty, they feel empty. I don't know what I'm looking at, but I know where I'm going. I know what I'm looking for.

In the soft, smooth fabric of my suit, I feel the glimmering dagger. I don't remember putting it there, but it's there. I can feel the way it slices through my pocket as I press on it. It's not the same one I killed Gerald with, but it's as useful as that one. It has the same promise as any other sharp edge. I can see the light in me flickering on and off, the fire crackling and cooling. Could I have peace? I think. Could I be free from light?

I'm so thirsty. I'm so hungry.

I look at my watch, shaking my sleeve to see the circular silver, and it's just enough time—just enough, but only enough.

After some time, I slip under subway signs and into subway cars. I look at reflections of me and hold to shiny, icy poles to keep balance. The people underneath me blend together as always, different colors fusing together, and I never look at them. I only look at one person at a time. I face them. I gaze at them. I tilt my head and analyze their facial ticks and the light in their eyes. I gauge whether they're honest, real, soft, and fragile under my hands. I think about whether I could take them, but it's never that easy. It's never that quick. There's rage there, wrath in me... hunger—there's emotion inside of my veins that I can't control.

Languidly, fluidly, I walk in and out of subway doors. I'm up and down stairs. I pass by signs and ignore most.

I'm at the place I want to be just at the time I need to be.

The person I'm looking for answers, brown, soft eyes looking back at me, "Rolf?"

"Mm," I answer back, "can I come in?"

She's small, thin, and frail. Her body dips in different places, but I never pay mind because she shares a resemblance to me. Slowly, she moves out the way, while I swipe the edge of my dagger in my pocket.

"Miranda," I say out loud.

I'm so hungry, I can't think straight. I'm so thirsty, I don't feel anything. I can't pay mind to what I'm doing. It's all fluid, all impulse. It's nothing I can connect to humanity. It's alien.

"Yeah?" She responds, folding her arms against her black dress. She was going somewhere, I notice.

"I'm sorry that you matter so much to me," I say.

She doesn't have time to answer again. I don't let her. I can't let her. There's an impulse that pulls so strong that I need it. I can't feel guilt, sadness, or despondency. I just feel... fire. I feel the water spilling out of the pot, lava rising somewhere to the top, and blood spreading across the tile floor.

Her body collapses before I feel the fire flicker off, and even as I know that it'll be on again just as it is off, I don't focus on the heat.

I just keep moving.

I've been stagnant long enough.


At ease, Rolf—

at ease

. . . .


AN:

This is going to be quite a weird ride, haha!

Too-da-loo!