One Year Before Impact Day
I held my wrist over the sink, hand clenched into a fist, the tip of the knife resting against my soft flesh. I took a few deep breathes, trying to tell myself it wouldn’t hurt, even though I knew it would.
“Remember, down the street, not across the road,” I muttered to myself. Who’d have ever thought that little phrase would come in handy?
“What are you doing?” Sadie asked, standing right behind me. I cringed.
“Testing a theory,” I told her, meeting her accusing gaze in the mirror.
“You promised me you wouldn’t do this.”
“I promised you I wouldn’t try to kill myself,” I corrected her. “And I’m not.”
“What do you call this?” she demanded, staring pointedly at the knife in my hand.
“Like I said, testing a theory. Or a hypothesis, or whatever.”
I could tell Sadie wanted so badly to grab the knife out of my hands, but of course she couldn’t. She couldn’t do anything, no matter how hard she tried. I hated making her feel that way.
Sighing, I put the knife down. Sadie visibly relaxed, if only a little.
“I don’t think the distinction is really what’s important here,” she said.
“Look, I already know this isn’t going to kill me,” I told her. “I just need to prove it.”
“How do you know?” she demanded, almost frantically.
“Because nothing else worked, either,” I said. Her expression turned from hurt to horrified.
“What else have you tried?”
For a few seconds, I just stood there, debating whether or not I should actually tell her, after trying so hard to keep it all from her. There was no way she was going to take it well, but would good would lying have done?
“I’ve taken four lethal overdoses of medication, held my breath underwater for twenty minutes, jumped off a ten story building and drunk pretty much every chemical under the sink,” I confessed, and immediately wished I’d lied to her. She looked like her entire world was collapsing around her.
“How?” she asked, her voice trembling. “I never saw-”
“You do sleep sometimes, you know,” I told her.
“I don’t understand. Why?”
“Because of what I can do.”
“Do?” she asked, confused.
“Sadie, don’t you get it? I can’t die. Think of the possibilities!”
I already knew she wouldn’t understand. I doubted anybody would, but for the first time, I felt like I’d found something that gave me a reason to keep trying.
“Like ending up in a lab for the rest of your life? Which, for all you know, could be forever?”
“Only if someone finds out,” I said. “And they won’t.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m going to have a secret identity,” I told her.
I took a deep breath, knowing what her next reaction was going to be. Still, she was going to find out sooner or later.
“Sadie, this makes me the closest thing this world has to a superhero.”
“So, you’re going to dress up and fight crime?”
“Wouldn’t you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Look, Sadie. I grew up reading comic books. I grew up wishing that I could be more like Barbara, or Kara, or Diana. Reading those stories, it made me wish there really were people fighting to make the world a better place.”
“But those stories aren’t real,” she said. “I read them too, remember? They aren’t even realistic. You can’t just act them out and expect to get the same results.”
I shook my head, wishing I could make her understand.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying.”
“Then what do you mean?” she asked. I knew she was trying to understand, even though she wouldn’t.
“Those stories may not be real, but I am,” I told her. “And I can make the difference in this world that those stories made for me. I can be someone that people are inspired be. Something to hope for.”
She shook her head, looking at me like I was the craziest, stupidest person she’d ever met. Maybe she was right. I didn’t care.
“Please tell me you’re not serious,” she pleaded.
“Why not?” I asked. “What else am I gonna do with this power?”
“You mean apart from live a long and healthy life?” she said. “Donate your blood anonymously. Let scientists figure out a way to use it to help people.”
“Or make an army of immortal super soldiers,” I said cynically.
“Charlie, real life is not a comic book,” she said, exasperated.
“No, it’s not. It’s uglier, and more chaotic. We live in a world where a person like me would throw herself off a bridge because it was a genuinely more appealing option than being a part of it any longer.”
“You really believe you can make a difference,” she said, her tone almost accepting.
“I don’t know what I can do,” I confessed. “But I know that I can try.”
Sadie just looked at me, sad and tired but less distraught than she had been.
“You are such a nerd,” she said.
“You could help me, you know,” I suggested, speaking without thinking.
“How? I can’t do anything. I can’t even lift a sheet of paper.”
“Not, but you can see, and hear,” I pointed out. “And nobody can see or hear you.”
“So you want me to spy for you?”
“I’m just saying, you could help. You could make a difference too.”
For a while, Sadie was silent, her expression pensive. I just looked at the two of us in the mirror, marvelling at how different we were.
Even when she was alive, Sadie had been my polar opposite in just about every way. Where I was antisocial and rude, she was shy but very good natured. Where I was athletic and a little short, Sadie was thin and frail, in an elegant sort of way. She had long, straight brown hair, whilst mine was always short and messy. I was aggressive, and she was compassionate to a fault.
“I think you need help,” she said, at long last. “I also think you need to talk to somebody about the way you’re feeling, instead of coming up with insane plans to avoid facing the fact that you’re struggling.”
Her words hit me harder than a slap in the face would have. I knew she wouldn’t understand, but for her to go that far…
I left the room in silence, heading back to my room. Sadie followed, looking a little regretful. I aggressively pulled on a pair of sneakers, then reached up to open my window.
“Where are you going?” Sadie asked. For a moment, I considered just ignoring her, but if I didn’t answer her, she would have just followed me.
“To talk to Rachel,” I said bluntly. I knew if anyone would understand me, it would be her, and I needed to feel like somebody understood me, or at least supported me.
“It’s close to midnight,” Sadie pointed out.
“She’ll still be up.”
“So call her.”
“I don’t want to call her,” I told her. “I want to see her.”
“Video chat, then.”
It felt like Sadie was going out of her way to irritate me. I just wanted to yell at her to leave me alone, but even just talking to her was risky enough. I was always worried somebody would overhear me.
“That’s not what I mean,” I snapped. “What are you so worried about, anyway?”
“I just… I think the two of you are a little too close, sometimes,” Sadie said. “It’s not healthy.”
I felt my stomach churn. That was so unfair, and so unlike Sadie, I didn’t even know what to say. I knew Sadie had her issues with Rachel, but that…
“What the Hell is that supposed to mean?” I demanded.
“Nothing,” she said. “I just don’t think she’s good for you. And I don’t understand why you trust her more than Aidan or Liz.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I like spending time with her. She’s easy to talk to, and she actually understands me. She doesn’t try to lecture me, or smother me.”
“Fine, whatever,” Sadie said, backing away. “It’s not like I can stop you, anyway.”
Next Week: Does Our Friendship Ever Seem Weird To You?