One Year Before Impact Day
“I tried to kill myself,” I told her. I watched the words sink in, but the expression on her face wasn’t like Sadie’s. It wasn’t anger, or resentment, or judgement. It was fear.
“What? Jesus, Charlie! Why did you-”
“I don’t know,” I said, cutting her off. “I was feeling really, really low. Like, so deep underwater I couldn’t even see the surface. And the only way out of it that I could think of was, well, suicide.”
Rachel was silent for a few seconds. She didn’t take her eyes off me, and her expression didn’t change.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t know what to say,” I told her. “I still don’t, clearly, but I felt like I had to say something.”
“You know you can always come to me with stuff like this, right? Even when you don’t know what to say.”
God, she was so hurt. Why did I ever think it was okay to do that to her? What would she have done if I hadn’t survived? I’d thought it was arrogant to think anyone would care, but…
“I wasn’t thinking clearly,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.” Unshed tears were beginning to sting my eyes, and I did my best to will them away.
“No, no, don’t apologise,” she said, shaking her head. “Just… Please, talk to me before you try anything like that again, okay?”
I just nodded, my arms trembling slightly, my eyes still watery. I still hadn’t told her everything, though, and I couldn’t stop there. I knew it was a lot to drop on her at once, but I was going to go crazy if I didn’t say something to someone.
“That’s… kind of what I wanted to talk to you about,” I said hesitantly.
“You’re thinking of trying again?” she asked, not accusing, just patient.
“No. Kind of the opposite of that,” I said.
“I don’t follow.”
Another deep breath. She’d believed me when I told her about Sadie. She’d reassured me when I was worried about our friendship. She hadn’t tried to lecture me about suicide. If anyone was going to know what to say, it was her.
“Rachel, I… I jumped off a bridge. Into traffic. I got hit by at least three cars. And now look at me.”
“That was you?” she exclaimed. “But… you seem fine.”
“I am. Completely. Like, not-even-a scratch fine,” I said, my heart pounding in my chest.
“Are you sure that’s actually what happened?” she asked.
“Yes,” I told her. “And I know it doesn’t exactly help me sound sane, but Sadie was there. She remembers it too.”
“Have you talked to anyone else about this?”
“God, no,” I said.
“That’s not all,” I interrupted. Rachel cringed.
“You’re not going to like it,” I warned her.
“I haven’t liked any part.”
I hesitated. She hadn’t stopped me, criticised me, or told me I was wrong or lying. There was no reason to believe that would change, but I was still scared. I gave myself a few moments to psyche myself up, then kept going.
“I was curious,” I said.
“Curious,” she repeated, her tone painfully bland.
“So I tried again. In different ways. Nothing worked.”
I could see a variety of emotions at war in her expressions. I recognised the winning emotion: curiosity.
“What are we talking about here? Without graphic details, please.”
“Um… Cutting, pills, asphyxiation, ten story drop. And I didn’t just survive. I’m completely unharmed.”
“That’s impossible,” she said. “How is that possible?”
“I wish I knew.”
She fell silent again, processing the new information. I’d told her everything, and I couldn’t take it back. All I could do was hope it wasn’t too much for her.
“That is kind of incredible,” she said at last.
“Incredible?” I asked, not expecting that at all.
“Well, yeah! I mean, how many unkillable people do you know?”
She actually seemed excited, and intrigued. She wasn’t afraid, and she didn’t tell me to pretend it wasn’t happening. Already, I felt so much better than I had.
“Depends on your definition, I guess,” I said. “Also, I don’t think unkillable is a real word.”
“I guess it kind of runs in the family, doesn’t it?” she said. “Except, like, complete opposites.”
I hadn’t even thought about it like that, but in a way, she was totally right. Sadie wasn’t exactly living, but she was still around, experiencing the world, and so far as I could tell, completely unable to be harmed. In a kind of twisted way, we were the same, but also completely opposite.
“What if I’m some kind of horrible science experiment?” I asked.
“Even if the experiment is horrible, it doesn’t mean that you are,” she reassured me. “Plus, there are all sorts of possibilities.”
“Oh please, like you haven’t considered the comic book angle. You’re a bigger nerd than I am.”
I wouldn’t ever admit it, but my heart was singing a little to hear her say that.
“I do kinda like the idea,” I admitted, a little embarrassed to be called out on it.
“Right?” she said, excited. “And then we have a whole plethora of options to consider. Toxic waste accident, alien from another planet, mutant gene, ancient magic, the list is endless.”
“Magic? Really?” It was the last thing I’d ever expect her to think of.
“Hey, you will never meet a bigger sceptic than me, but if you’re telling me you have impossible healing powers. I am going to consider every possibility open,” she said, somehow managing to make believing in magic sound almost rational.
“You’ll make an excellent scientist someday,” I told her.
“Piss off, I’m an excellent scientist right now,” she shot back, smirking. “So, have you decided on a design for your costume?”
Costume? Wasn’t she jumping the gun a bit there? Taking the idea a little too far? Not that I didn’t see the appeal, but I also wanted to be taken seriously, and that didn’t exactly seem like the way to do it. I did love that her mind went to the same place as mine, though.
“I’m not a superhero,” I said.
“Of course you’re not. You haven’t got a costume. Or a name.”
“You’re ridiculous,” I told her.
“But you’re smiling again,” she said happily.
“Thanks,” I said, with just a hint of sarcasm.
“Thank you for talking to me,” she said seriously. “It means a lot that you trust me.”
“It means a lot that you believe me. And that you’re not freaked out by it.”
“I’m not gonna lie, I am a little freaked out that you tried to kill yourself, mostly because I had no idea you were feeling that way. But I really do think the whole not dying thing is pretty cool. You may consider me intrigued.”
I was relieved I could count on her to be honest about how she was feeling, too. And realistically, it would have bothered me a lot more if the thought of me killing myself didn’t affect her at all. I felt better having come clean to her, and there weren’t a lot of people I felt that way about.
“If I let you poke and prod me, will you promise not to stay mad?” I asked. Rachel just raised her eyebrows, and I realised the room for misinterpretation there, especially given our earlier conversation. I felt myself turning a little red. “Um. I probably need to get home.”
“Yeah, you know Aidan’s gonna be waiting up for you,” she said, stretching her arms out and leaning back a little. “So what are you gonna tell him? Are you going to talk to him about the whole immortality thing?”
“Ugh, he’s like an overprotective big brother and a nosy little sister all in one. I don’t think I’m ready to tell anyone else, though. At least not until I know more. Once was scary enough.”
“Well, you already told me about it, so if you need someone to talk to, you know where to find me,” she said gently.
“Yeah. Thanks,” I said. “Now, do I need to sneak out the back door again, or…?”
“At this time of night? Mum’s gonna be either too drunk to remember, too drunk to notice in the first place, or completely passed out. I think you’ll be fine.”
“So I can use the front door? Wow, how special.”
“Hey, it’s good practice for you, in case you ever need to sneak out of a boyfriend’s house.”
I frowned. For some reason, something about that comment annoyed me.
“Um, yeah. I guess,” I said, opening and closing her door as quietly as I could. As predicted, her mother was passed out on the couch. A deep crack ran through the floor beneath her. I carefully tiptoed to the front door, and slipped out.
Five Months Before Impact Day
“Your other best friend was a mechanical genius?” he asked.
“It’s like she was born with an engineering degree or something,” I said, trying not to sound overly proud.
“So, just keeping score here, you had a ghost, an assassin, a mechanical genius, and… Aidan,” he said, sounding almost as if he didn’t believe it, but wasn’t ready to give up on the idea just yet.
I grinned. “You’re just dying to know what was special about him, aren’t you?”
“Among other things.”
“Don’t you have other things you need to be doing?” I asked. “Not that I don’t enjoy our little chats, but I wouldn’t want you neglecting your evil empire.”
“Well, as you can imagine, without you causing trouble everything is actually going a lot better. So I can afford to take a little time off.”
“How nice for you,” I said.
Next Week: A Little Pain Never Hurt Anyone