A Devil and A Gun
"It's like you never think of anyone else," my sister stated. She crossed her arms, staring me down. My eyebrows rose as I waited for her to continue. She muddled through her own thoughts for a moment, before taking a seat next to me at the dining room table. I leaned back, feeling as if she was invading my personal bubble. She just scooted closer.
"Like, you are so rude sometimes." She held up a hand as I opened my mouth to object.
"Get to the point," I spat. She just rolled her eyes.
"It's like when everyone else would think, I should help them out, it would be nice, but you do the opposite. Your happiness beats everyone else's, like you listen to the devil or something."
I thought of showing her how much of a devil I could be. I sighed as I felt little whispers enter my ear. I just shook away those thoughts. I let her words settle in, and then tried to translate them into something a little more tactful.
"You, mean I put myself first," I stated. She nodded, but continued to stare at me, as if she was still looking for something. I leaned further away, pushing my chair back, and I felt the small little claws cleverly pull my hair over its body.
"I don’t get it," She mumbled.
She shook her head, allowing her body to slump a bit.
"How you just, I dunno, say…" She waved her hand, as if she was grabbing her words out of the air.
"Fuck off?" I asked, chuckling as she rolled her eyes again.
"Yeah, I guess."
I looked her over from top to bottom, and I could see those dark circles starting to form under her eyes. Her face was still a bit chubby, but that was to be expected in a twelve year old. Twelve seemed so far away from being sixteen, yet, I could still think of how shitty middle school was. I didn't really know a normal way to explain it. I knew exactly when it started, when I first felt that little whisper. I shook my head ignoring those memories. I really didn't know a good way to explain it, I still don't.
"Let's say you are in a room."
Her head shot up.
"Just go with it."
She nodded, but I still paused, till the whispers started again and small claws pricked at the skin on my ear.
"Say you're standing in a room, and there is this person facing you. Between the two of you is a table with a gun on it. Now, this person represents all of the annoying stupid things in life. It could be Mom, me, your best friend, Dad…" I let that last suggestion slip out of my lips with as little snap as possible.
"It can be anybody, but they just always seem to make you feel useless." I looked her over as she stared at the floor. She let my words flow through her ears, knotting her hands together.
"Now, you also are the representation of everything bad to them. In fact, some might even say you cause all your own problems and theirs."
Taylor looked up and nodded, now looking me dead in the eyes.
"So, there is this gun. You, have to make a decision, you have to shoot someone to make the problems stop. Who do you shoot?"
"What? That's just messed up, Nicole. Why do you have to shoot anyone? Is someone making you?"
"That is not the point," I sighed. "You, just have to shoot. Who would it be?"
"Why can’t you just talk? Why can’t you just leave the gun on the table?"
“You just can’t,” I growled.
“Fine, I’d shoot myself.”
"You'd shoot yourself?" I asked, not entirely surprised.
"Yeah, so the other person could live."
"I'd shoot them."
"What?" she jerked back, eyes wide, before jumping out of her chair. From calm to outrage in 10 seconds flat.
"That's how I say fuck off," I stated. "I don't see myself as the problem, so it has to be them."
"Maybe, you don't listen to a devil, maybe you just are one!" Taylor called after me, as I walked to the back of the dining room.
I shrugged, feeling the little thing with wings and a hooked tail shake behind my ear with laughter.
That was the first time we ever had the gun and the devil conversation. I didn't know it then, but the idea that this little thing was controlling everything I did, bothered me. The tiny little red thing, so small , it rested on top of my ear; its talons curling around the cartilage. It's face was jagged, sharp; the skin pulled so tightly you would think a bone would pop through; its eyes yellow, glinting even in the blackest parts of the night, and it's forked tail hung down to lay, lightly, around my ear lobe.
It was the devil’s whispers that got me to mouth off half the time. Didn't matter it was to my friends, my mom, my teacher, whoever. I kept quiet till its little tongue would spin words so clever, so sweet and cruel, that they would just slip out of my lips. It felt so good to watch their idiot faces as I dealt them what I felt they deserved.
Sometimes I would say sorry latter, other times I wouldn't, just like any other person. I just didn't like feeling helpless; I wanted to seem like someone you didn't want to mess with. I wasn't the type to get into fights by any means, I’d never put my hands on anyone; I just like to talk shit, even if it was just in my head. The little devil would create such violent fantasies of the people I hated to deal with; they could be hit by cars, or trapped in a burning building. I never really told anyone about those little fantasies, no one except Taylor. She'd always call me a freak.
Throughout the rest of high school I tried to keep him in check, hiding him behind my hair and a smile. I'd ignore his whispers the best I could and repeated, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," over and over in my mind. Taylor made me ashamed of him, or really, everyone did.
My sister and I are very different. If I was the classic stuck up nerd, the one that thought she was better than everyone else, Taylor was the prom queen. I wouldn't say I was beautiful by any means, but give me a hair straighter and some make up and I could hit a seven out of ten. My sister, with her five-foot-seven lean frame; huge breast, gorgeous, auburn, waist length hair; and sun kissed skin, was an easy ten. The only thing I beat her in was the ass department; something I try to remind her of daily if I can. If I was in the shadows Taylor hogged the spotlight. I guess part of me should have noticed it sooner, seeing as I watched her so much, but I didn't, too focused on my own devil whispering things in my ear.
No matter the jealousy I think every older sibling had this white night complex. My mother loves to tell the story of the McDonald’s play place. It's not much to tell, just two sisters, one is three the other seven, attempting to climb up the tubes and ride the slides. Back when I didn’t have little claws always scratching at the skin on my neck. Taylor used to cling to my shirts like a leach. Didn't matter if I pushed her, hit her, or stomped on her feet, she would just grab a hold again, and start saying "Sissy, Sisssy!" After pushing her down for the fifth time in the tubes, I ran away, but stopped short when I heard her crying. Turning around, I found a older boy shoving her down and kicking her, and something snapped, cause I just stomped over, and kicked him, head first, down the slide. After that I put her on my lap, pushed us down the tube, and demanded the little dick apologized.
It is easy to watch out for bullies. It is easy to kick them down a slide. A phone call is always worse that a three -year- old's whimpers. When your mother, shakily, is trying to tell you something you just don’t want to hear.
“Nicole, are you still there?”
I didn’t answer, trying to listen instead for the whispers of my devil. He was nowhere to be found; I couldn’t feel him clawing at my ear, or hiding beneath my hair. Without his whispers I didn’t know what to say.
“Nicole, it’s going to be okay.”
And just like that he was back; he was next to my ear, his claws curled pricking my skin, as his sweet low whispers started to flow from his lips and out of mine.
“Okay? Nothing is okay, Mom. Taylor tried to kill herself. What exactly is okay about that? What the fuck were you doing? Aren’t you her mother, aren’t you supposed to be watching her?”
I let that last question fall, before I chucked my phone at the wall. It cracked, leaving a hole in the plaster, and my little devil giggled. I let the anger fill me up as I screamed and hit things, till my voice was sore, till my arms were tried. Then the tears came, and my devil just curled up to sleep behind my ear.
The next couple of weeks I kept him close. I hated this feeling, helpless. I couldn’t shove this down a slide, I couldn’t beat this to a pulp, and God damn it, how selfish was she? It made my vision go red whenever I thought about it. How dare she. How dare she!
It took weeks for my mother to convince me to visit her in the hospital. Apparently, I was the only one allowed in; the hospital had some odd rule about her getting to control her visitors, and I was the only one on the accepted list. It was an awful place, with all these hoops you had to jump through to get in. After entering the normal hospital you made your way over to the mentally unstable wing, there you got searched, making sure you didn’t have any razors or pills that you could sneak them. The thing that always got me was how depressing it was. You would think they would paint the walls some happy color like yellow, or something, but they were all still this depressing white, with dead tree pictures hanging in the hall.
As I made my way to the visiting room, I felt my little red friend crawl out from my hair to hover right by my ear. His claws flexed, ready to begin his whispers if I needed them. She still looked like a model, sitting on that dingy grey couch. She wasn’t wearing makeup and her hair was kept in a messy ponytail. She looked up at me as I entered the room, but she didn’t say anything, her eyes just drifted back to her feet.
I sat down next to her, eyeing all the other kids in the room. Some just stared off like Taylor, not even really trying; others plastered smiles on their faces, a fake smile, that didn’t really reach their eyes. It didn’t make sense to me while they were still faking it.
I watched her for a little while, seeing her heart shaped lips purse together as her hands knotted together. Now, I saw the red lines coating her arms, the colors from white deep scars to deep purple, still heeling, to fresh scabs. It was not something you could look past. His whispers started then, but I kept my mouth shut. She was going to have to speak first. When she looked up at me I could see the whimpering toddler hidden behind her eyes. My hands clenched, itching for something to hit or throw. She continued to stare at me and I waited.
“How do you do it?” Syd whispered. She leaned in, fingers still tangled.
“Do what?” I tried to keep my voice as even as possible, but I know I sounded annoyed.
“Choose to shoot the other person. You know, in the room, with the gun.” As she said the last part, she let her eyes fall back to the floor.
We hadn’t talked about the room with the gun in over a year, and suddenly I could see my sister had a little devil of her own. Unlike mine, hers was colored blue. Its claws and eyes were similar, yet its words were so very different. Instead of visions of smashing other people’s faces in, instead of letting words of hurt, fly from her lips to stab at others, it let poison sink into her mind. It whispered that it was always her fault. It twisted her beautiful face and figure into an ugly thing. It made her smarts seem dull and useless. It made her kindness seem selfish. Yet, my sister couldn’t see its little horns and twisted tail. She saw it as something with feathered wings.
“When did you start to think like that?” she asked. My devil’s grip on my ear grew tighter, his claws clenching, the same as my hands. In and out I thought, ignoring his whispers, still eyeing the blue thing hanging on a strand of her hair. I wanted to snatch it off her ear and crush it between my fingers. I wondered if that was what she was trying to do every time she clamped her hands together. Was she trying to strangle it?
“You’re already pointing it,” I stated. She looked up at me confused, and felt my own anger rising again as I thought about our parents. Yet, a small bit of pride was in me for her pushing them out.
“You’re, keeping Mom and Dad from seeing you. You’re, identifying them as part of the problem.” I sighed, as she just looked at me confused.
“Why are you asking this now?” I felt frustrated. I could've told her all this before, I could’ve shown her how to switch the colors of the devil clinging to her ear. At least, I could have tried.
“The therapist asked me who I thought had the most confidence, and best life,” she whispered. I waited, seeing her hands tangle again.
“I told her my sister is almost deluded, nothing is ever her problem, and everything just works out perfectly for her.”
I just blinked at her, thinking of at least ten ways my life was nowhere near perfect.
“And?” I asked, pushing her to continue.
“I told her about your gun theory.”
I smirked, wondering now if I was the one who would get checked into this place.
“She thinks, you, might have anger issues.”
I laughed, hard and uncontrollably. My little devil laughed along with me, clutching his stomach in glee.
“I probably do,” I finally said. Syd just stared at me in shock. My smile grew as I realized, if she had said that to me a few years ago I would’ve snapped, screamed that I didn’t, probably only showing that I really did. Maybe it wasn’t a situation you should be laughing at, but I just found it hilarious. My sister, the one who called me a freak for thinking the way I did, now wanted to know how and why.
Then a thought popped into my head. I knew who she could shoot if she was in that room. Yet, I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her mad, but it was worth a shot.
“If we were in the room with the gun right now, I’d shoot you.”
“This is a lot of shit you are putting me through ya know,” I said, placing my hand on my chin, my devil chuckling.
“What the hell? ” She stood as she screamed, but my smile only grew. I could see, just behind her other ear, something small and red start to stretch, just waking up.
Taylor Stuttered for a moment before yelling "I shouldn't have let you in here!"
“No, you shouldn’t have. You should focus on you, ‘cause once you pull that trigger, you are the only one left in the room. It doesn’t matter who you shoot.”
“So, I’d be alone? Then I would just shoot myself anyway.”
I shook my head.
“Life only gives you one bullet.”
“You, make no fucking sense. Just get out!”
My smile remained as a I stood. I felt all the other depressed people staring at me, but it didn’t matter. Those words came from that red little thing behind her ear, and her blue one was still stuttering confused. My devil was cackling, hugging his stomach. I waited till I left the hospital to start laughing too. After all, I didn’t want them to throw me in there with her.
My name was quickly removed from the list, but Mom and Dad’s was put back on. There was apparently many a therapy session with screaming. Some of her words were meant for me, some for them, and some for other people. She turned sixteen in that hospital and I never tried to visit her again. I just waited.
Three months after that she was finally released. I met her at my parent’s house. I poured myself a drink from their bar, feeling my little devil twitching next to my ear, though I doubt I would need him. She came in all done up, my mom having makeup for her in the car, and of course she looked like a model. I smiled at her and her at me. I set my glass on the table, ignoring my mother’s look of warning. My eyes locked with my Dad for just a second and felt the whispers start, but I kept my lips pressed shut. In and out, I thought.
“Out of the loony bin, huh?” I asked with a chuckled, looking back at my sister. Syd just walked right up to me and pointed her finger at my head. She cocked back her hand and then she laughed.
Our parents stared at us oddly, and I giggled along with her.
In two years a lot can change, Two years later, and in an attempt to feel closer to us, my parents planned a trip to Ireland. It had been years since we had a family vacation, and while I was excited, the idea of spending that much time with them all, made me more than a
Amazingly enough we didn’t scream at each other. We all sat in tiny version of a mini cooper, laughing, and only raising our voices when my father took a turn too sharply, around what the Irish called a “wee” cliff, wee, meaning more like eight-hundred foot drop. It had been so long since my family had fully enjoyed each others’ company. My little devil slept happily in my hair, not even bothering to come and dangle by my ear. The last stop of our trip was the Cliffs’ of Moher. After many twists and turns up winding “wee” cliffs, we made it safely to the viewing area.
The wind was so strong it felt as if it could pick you up like a kite. It pulled at us all, and made me happy for the gift shop tucked into the side of the cliff, that sold hot cocoa. Taylor and I, bundled in our scarves and jackets, ran to the top. Green grass stretched out behind us as far as the eye could see, over the rolling hills. On the other side was the ocean. The smell of salt and sheep whipped around us. We went right up next to the barrier, watching the sun glisten off the water. Small waves crashed on the rocks so far below us. We took plenty of pictures, none of them really showing how vast the ocean looked. As we continued to walk around the viewing area my smile didn’t fade, that is, until we reached the very top.
For some reason, this, the tallest part of the cliff, was an area where the barrier stopped and you could stand right on the edge, feeling as if you were about to take off soaring. Before this there were hundreds of signs reading “Are you depressed? Does life got you down? If so call this number.” Until then, I never realized how easily this could be the perfect suicide point. I looked down to the rocks below, imagining how a body would look after hitting them, limbs contorted, blood and organs staining the rocks for only a moment, before the water would carry them away. My devil stretched and climbed over to my ear, as I stared at my sister. Taylor had been out of the hospital for while. There were times when I saw that small blue creature reappear. The next day new lines would be engraved on my sister’s abdomen, easily seen when she would stretch, her t-shirt lifting a couple inches. Yet, it had been so long since new marks were apparent on her skin, and this entire trip she was laughing, smiling.
“If she ruined this perfect vacation by ending up down there,” I thought, looking down to the rocks and water again. “Hell, I would rather push her myself.”
Taylor got up past the blocked off area. She ran right to the edge, lifting up her arms out wide, like she was a bird about to fly away. I waited, almost expecting her to take that next step, or leap. Would she regret it half way down? Would she see the rocks and scream in terror, wanting to rewind and climb back up? It is like that faint line between fear and irritation. I hated having to think about any of this at all, but Taylor had run right past those signs. I don’t think she even saw them. She just spun around to face me.
“Sissy, take a picture!”
“Sissy, what are you four?” I yelled back over the wind.
“We both look pretty today, we need a good sister picture.”
I waited for our dad to raise the camera, as we stood on the edge of the world. The wind whipped our hair and burned our cheeks, as we smiled. I felt my eyes watering as we posed, realizing that these conditions would never make attractive pictures. After my Dad gave the thumbs up, Taylor ran over to him and I walked back slower. I glanced over her shoulder when she took the camera, and to my surprise, we did look good. Regardless of the wind, the endless ocean behind us was not the focus of the shot. Our dark hair whipping around us, the light making our skin seem even and glowing, all of it made us look great. Though, of course, Taylor still out shined me.
“We look fantastic, like supermodels!” Taylor declared. I smiled, happy she finally saw in herself what everyone else saw.
“You, do look good.” I stated. My little devil clung to my ear, huffing at my compliment.
As her and Dad made their way back down the hill I stood on the edge of the world, for a little longer. My toes kissed the edge and it was odd; how easy it would be to take that next step and topple over the cliff? With the wind pushing at your back, it was almost like the world around you is encouraging you to do it, just jump. That kind of falling, knowing there is nothing to catch you, I wondered what that rush would feel like? Was that the feeling that Taylor got whenever she pressed the knife to her skin; an excitement at something new and dangerous, yet also a guilt; a knowing feeling that this is going against everything you should be doing, because shouldn’t you be fighting to survive, to live? What if it was better for me if I jumped; what if on the other side, where angels and devils actually played their games, it was better than this place? Did Taylor think of these things a lot? (Was thinking this way making me like her?) How would it feel to be lying, broken, among the rocks; looking up your horrified family as blood filled your mouth?
Honestly, I wanted to know, but I didn’t want to jump; The feeling was more like I wanted someone to be there, so I could push them over the edge; then I could call down to them my questions, hoping they could be answered before their last breath left them, but then, I wouldn’t really know how would it really feel, to know this beautiful place was the last thing I’d ever see. My little devil twitched in excitement; He wanted to know too; Yet, I wondered, would his little wings suddenly open up, right before I hit the rocks, laughing as he flew back to the top of the cliff? I could feel him squirm at that thought, and I knew my inkling was right.
I heard them calling up to me, wanting to continue on to the pub, back in town. I smiled, feeling little claws dig into my ear, and the wind pushing at my back; the wind gathered even more and I felt myself rise up on to my tip toes, causing my body to wiggle slightly off balance.
But then, I felt a small whisper tingle in my ear. I lowered my feet, turned around, and started my way back to the car. I could’ve been imagining it, but I could've sworn I felt soft feathers brush against my cheek. The little devil shook in fear. He hid behind the curves of my ear, under my hair. I just smiled. He knew. The next person I’d be pointing the gun at was him.
In the dark of our hotel room, I still felt him shaking. I could only see the vague outlines of my sister and parent’s beds. The Irish moon, barely a sliver, hanging in the sky letting my eyes focus. I reached up and pulled him out of my hair for the first time. He sat, curled in a ball, terrified, in the palm of my hand. So small, so easy to crush. As he looked up at me as his lip quivered, his yellow eyes seeming more pathetic.
A violent snore caused us both to jerk. I glared over at my father and again repeated, In and out. When I opened my eyes again I saw my little devil, gently rubbing the top of my thumb with his claw. He looked at me hesitantly as he pushed himself up to a squat.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I couldn’t remember the last time I had really meant those words, but right now I did. As my father’s snores grew louder, I shut my eyes even tighter, repeating those words.
I hadn’t thought about it in so long. I really didn’t want to think about it then, but that anger I felt on the cliff, that blinding rage, I suddenly could see it in the eyes of my father. I could still see his eyes wide and just staring at me, yet not really looking at me. I remembered his hands, how they clenched so easily around my throat. I don’t even remember what I had screamed at him, what we were even fighting about, but I remember that feeling, helpless. I opened my mouth to gasp for breath, but his hands just grew tighter, and I saw spots. Other people were screaming, I think it was Taylor, but I couldn’t tell. My eyes just focused on the red rage behind his eyes, and the matching devil, cackling on top of his head.
Then I was just alone, lying on the bathroom floor. I knew he was pacing back and forth in the next room; his footsteps echoed. At one point I felt Taylor’s hand, heard some mumble of words, but I didn’t respond. I just kept repeating in and out, in and out, in my head, feeling the air enter my mouth and float back out. I remember hearing my mother’s voice whisper to my sister.
“You can’t tell anyone. Your father could lose his job.”
Then I heard it, that slow, sweet, voice. It was just a whisper, but I could suddenly picture him being strangled by a belt, taking his air as he took mine. In and out I repeated, and as those whispers grew louder I grew angrier.
I looked back down at my devil. He was still cowering. I pulled my hand closer to my chest, still whispering my apologies to him. Staring down at him I saw his little eyes staring back at me, but along with their yellow glow, another one caught my eye. A tiny shining circle hanging off his left horn, softly sparkling, like a harvest moon. I felt him climb up my chest, to my neck, and finally, to settle back by my ear. His whispers started up again and slowly lulled me back to sleep.
“In and out, In and out,” he said.
Turns out Taylor was right. Sometimes, you don’t have to shoot.
Sometimes, you can just leave the gun on the table.