By the time I step outside, the leaves are on fire. Autumn has arrived, and it’s going to rain. I hate autumn, and I hate the rain.

It was raining when she left.

It was october. 

I hurry to the bus stop.

Kill me.

As far as I know, I’m the only one that can hear them. Though “hear” doesn’t seem like the right word for it. It’s more of a feeling. A feeling with words.

You’ve probably got one, too, whether you realize it or not. A chant. A phrase or word that you subconsciously repeat like a mantra. Or maybe a song lyric you can’t get out of your head. And I can hear it. Especially when you’re under stress. Which is why I hate going to the airport. Or the hospital. Or school. 

It’s not like mind-reading. Conscious thoughts are far too fleeting, and slippery. This is different. 

I tried to tell my doctor. I tried to tell my parents. But every time I try to put it into words, they jumble, and tangle in the air. So no one really understands. 

I stare at the tiled floor of the glass shelter by the bus stop. The ground is covered in the mud from boots and shoes running in puddles. Rain pounds on the glass all around us. There’s about fifty people stuffed in this little space, and my head is a cacophony of everyone’s thoughts.

This is so stupid, this is so stupid

It’s gonna be okay, it’s gonna be okay

Is it almost over? Is it almost over? Is it almost over?

Most of them are vulgar, but I’m sure your imagination can fill those gaps without my help. 

We all shiver, and squish together on benches, and against the windows, several people casting an occasional glance toward the street, where the bus was supposed to be twenty minutes ago.

I hate crowds, and I am a little claustrophobic, but I hate the rain even more, so I remain standing in the quiet chaos, hands in hoodie pockets, wriggling my toe through the hole in my soggy sneakers, like an idiot. I wish I brought my earbuds. 

I was eight when I first heard them. It frightened me. Until then, they were only a dull hum in the background. But then Rachel was gone. And we found her journal. And in that journal we found her chants. 

Someone sneezes. Someone else sighs. 

Kill me kill me kill me

Not far from me, a man with dreads bobs his head, as if listening to music, only I don’t see any earbuds. Maybe he’s thinking about a song. Normally I try to block out everyone’s chants as best I can, but I allow myself to listen. It takes a moment to single out his, but then it surfaces above the muck of everyone else’s. 

Every action has its equal opposite reaction.

Oh, I think I recognize that one. Where had I heard that before? I keep listening, hoping to catch more of the lyrics. 

Every action has its equal opposite reaction.

Great. That’s all he remembers. I open my mind to everyone else in the room. There has to be someone who remembers a full song, or at least most of it. No such luck. Unless you count the old man in the corner who somehow managed to memorize all of Fireflies by Owl City. And I’ve heard that enough times to last the rest of my life. 

I’m going to be late, I’m going to be late, I’m going to be late-

I glance up to see a high-school aged girl bouncing on her toes and gripping her purse. She’s probably on her way to her first job. She can’t be older than sixteen. Sixteen. That’s how old Rachel was…

Kill me kill me kill me

I don’t know whose chant that is, but I block it out, and try not to remember Rachel’s journal. I stifle the memory best I can, but it bubbles up before I can stop it. 

I hate myself I hate myself I hate myself I hate myself

The pages were full of the ugly words. We had no idea. There was no warning. At least, not that I could see. She seemed so happy. But, as the old man in the corner would put it, “Everything is never as it seems”. 

Since then, I could hear other chants. They became more clear, and pronounced, until I learned to block them out, usually with music. But I forgot my earbuds. Like an idiot. 

That’s my chant right now. ‘Like an idiot’. This is mostly because I slept in late, and didn't have time for breakfast. And I was in such a hurry, I accidently grabbed my crappy sneakers, and forgot my earbuds. You know, like an idiot. 

Thunder cracks outside. The high school girl lets out a small shriek, and her chant quickly changes;

I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die without going to England!

Maybe I’m a monster, but I have to bite my lip to keep from snickering. But then-

Kill me kill me please kill me already 

My stomach churns. I’ve tried to block that person out, but now their chant is louder. And I have no earbuds to protect me. Usually this sort of chant stems from fatigue, or annoyance, but this is different. This time, the voice is desperate, and sincere. A cold settles over me. I hate chants like this. The kind that clearly indicates someone’s loss of feeling, or will to live. It makes me sick. Reminds me of my failure. Why couldn’t I hear Rachel’s chant? Why couldn’t I save her? I’m such an idiot…

I crane my neck to look over the shoulder of a large woman to see if it’s still raining. It’s let up a bit, but the world is still gray and loud. 

It was raining when Rachel left.

I hate myself I hate myself

At the time, I could not understand what happened. I was a child, after all. Now, years later, I am still confused. Why couldn’t I hear her chant until it was too late? I could have done something-

Every action has its equal opposite reaction.

Despite the rain and chants confusion, everything seems silent for a moment. 

Every action.

The insistent pounding on the glass softens, and a cloud hovering over the sun passes at last. 

Every action has its equal opposite reaction. Of course. I’d ignored the real meaning until now. Like an idiot. 

I crane my neck again and hone in on the depressed voice. 

Kill me kill me kill me

Finally, I spot the source. A middle-aged woman slouches at the far edge of the shelter - her hair is short, streaked with gray, and uncombed. Her brown jacket is torn and stained, and tired lines crease her face, though I doubt she’s more than forty-something. Heavy bags weigh her eyes down. Eyes that have long since given up. A woman who has lost everything. 

To the right, the man with dreads has grown tired of his chant, and is most likely shuffling through other options. But his chant has become my own. 

I gently push past the woman in front of me. 

Every action has its equal opposite reaction.

“Excuse me, sorry- pardon me-”

A couple people grumble and complain, but l’ve never cared less. “Sorry-” I mumble, stepping on toes as I cross the space towards the woman. She doesn’t look up yet. 

Every action has its equal opposite reaction.

I’m almost there. I can make a difference. I won’t ignore it any more. 

Kill me kill me kill me

At last, I’m only one person away.

Every action-

I tap her on the shoulder. 

She looks up, slowly, fighting a thousand sorrows pushing her down.

I smile. 

“Hey,” I say, and outside, the sky begins to clear. “I... I want to help.”

October 10, 2020 02:14

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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