No longer live that life.
You should've learned by now:
I'll burn this whole world down.
I need some peace of mind,
No fear of what's behind.
You think you've won this fight?
You've only lost your mind."
I asked Michelle if she wanted this on her own blog, since she's apparently well enough to start using it again now. She's a lot more coherent in text than she was vocally, I'll admit, but it's getting better all the time. One bit of good news, at least...
But she said no. She just... well, you'll see. This conversation took place late last night. It's the real story of what happened on the farm the night the barn burned.
Unlike the last one, this recording sort of started mid-sentence, but I remember the tail end of the conversation before it.
Me: "Why are you even responding to him? Just ignore him. Or block him, for that matter."
Me: "And why not? What you're doing won't help, Michelle. That so-called 'Promise' you talked about in your post? Revenge won't get you want you want."
Michelle: "...And what do I want, Valerie? What should I be focusing on right now, you think?"
Me: (I shrug a bit.) "Healing. Moving on. Proving Luke wrong - proving everyone wrong."
Michelle: "And I am not doing that?"
Me: "Not by doing this, you're not."
She said nothing for a very long minute. I noticed something change in her eyes and she suddenly looked around, spotting the recorder before quickly grabbing it and turning it on. She then turned to me.
Michelle: "This is going to go on YOUR blog. Not mine." (She tosses the recorder at me.) "Having that goddamn blood moon on mine is reminder enough."
Me: (I catch it.) "Then just take it down! (Worriedly) Michelle, come on, all the comments on his blog? The ones on yours? Why even respond at all? What are you trying to prove? That he doesn't scare you? Just ignore him! Like everyone else does."
Michelle: "Ignoring an infection only makes it worse. Plus, what's that old thing...? 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer'? I'd rather know what the little rat is up to than find myself blindsided later... for a second time."
Me: "You're just giving him the attention he wants. He knows it bothers you. How could it not?"
Michelle: "Of course he riles me. He killed my family. He could potentially turn my brain inside out, but he can't. He's pathetic at mindscrewing, even with how I am now. He's been trying, but it's safe to say his abilities focus on brute force alone. I mean, on his blog he wants to kill me. On your blog he wants to convert me. On mine he's... actually managing to creep me out. Still though. One for all seasons. Makes it difficult to give any of it much thought."
Me: "You're playing Russian Roulette."
Michelle: "Valerie..." (She makes a helpless gesture with her arms.) "What the hell would you rather I do? Just forget it? Move on? Pretend they died in their sleep? Peaceful and painless? My family was BUTCHERED by a maniac and your advice is to take the High Road? They deserve to be avenged!"
Me: "Your family, Michelle, would not want to see you stooping to that level. Even if that meant walking away - they wouldn't--"
Michelle: "Daniel was fed arm-first into an auger, Valerie. Benjamin was mowed down in a sea of bullets. My dad had to watch BOTH of them die before getting stabbed and slashed until Morningstar had carved a hole straight through him. Don't try to tell me you know what they would want."
Me: (I try not to cringe.) "You're better than what you're planning."
Michelle: "There are no official plans yet. Lots of fond fantasies, I will admit, but the actual plan at this point remains in a fog." (Quietly) "Nothing I think of seems painful enough..."
A pain hit my chest, and I started to speak, but she just sighed, turning to the window in my room and the backyard instead of me.
Michelle: "...You won't change my mind, Valerie, but don't think I'm underestimating this. I know what it will make me... but I'm already a murderer. I've already gone that low. Proxy or not, he - whoever the hell he was - was still a human. Granted, I was half-out of my mind at the time, but still..."
She went to the window and there was a long minute of silence. When I looked at her, her eyes were closed. She had her shoulder and head against the wall, still facing the backyard.
Michelle: "I... used a hammer, you know. I was in the machinery shed getting things together. I had already been planning on running. There was nothing left to stay for, except... watching more death. After... that bastard spoke to me in my so-called 'Void', I decided to run. I think I hoped that maybe he'd come after me instead of the farm. But then I saw someone slinking around the shed in the shadows. A figure in black. I yelled at him and he... came at me. He had a knife. Sliced at me - I barely got out of the way. Cut me a bit. I managed to grab the arm that held the knife and I wrestled with him. Fought. He slammed me backwards against the workbench, but I got loose. Punched his face. He fell, so I bolted, but he grabbed me and I fell too and then he crawled up on top of me. On me. Strangling me. I shoved at him but I couldn't get him off. Then I... found the hammer lying on the floor. So I hit him with it. Again. And again. And again, until he fell off me and even then I just kept swinging at his skull I couldn't stop I just... I wanted to breathe. They never let me breathe...
I didn't know what to say. This was my second time hearing this story, though never in that much detail. And this time around it came from someone I trust to tell the truth... Still. I have a pretty vivid imagination. And I can't even fathom this.
Michelle: "I panicked. Ran to the house to tell what was left of my family. Told them we had to fight. Morningstar showed up before too long. I was in my room at the time, and something heavy hit my window. It left a smear of blood. I heard a shout outside, then a gunshot and my window shattered. Then... Pepper's head got tossed inside. I grabbed the .22 and tried to run back to my brothers and dad, but I was... intercepted." (She looks at me.) "Christian stopped me. Grabbed me, then grabbed the gun. That's when I knew, but I still hesitated. He didn't. He used my own gun to pistol-whip me across the skull. It happened fast. Sent me flat on my back. I could hear the shooting outside. The yelling still echoes in my head. Christian was talking, but all I really remember is the hate. The rage. The heat... Raw. Driving... Next thing, I had tackled him. Punched him in the face as hard as I could, as many times as I could. My knuckles were bleeding, I think, but I couldn't really feel it... Then he blocked one and punched me back - throwing me off and down the stairs. When I was at the bottom... I didn't even think about Christian. I ran outside to join my family..."
She paused for another long while. I didn't blame her.
Michelle: "...I didn't get to help much. The barn was taken over by the flames of Hell soon enough. The heat just... warped everything. Jumped a few guys who were after Benjamin - he's ex-military, a snipper, but only had one of the farm rifles. He put a bullet into one of Morningstar's men though. Only earned a sea of bullets fired at him. He died gagging on his own blood. Another proxy Daniel landed up getting into a fist-fight with before cracking him across the skull with a metal bar and whoever it was fell into the manure lagoon. Even I'll admit, that's one way I wouldn't want to go. Can't swim in that... but then Daniel got jumped by one of the others. They beat on him, then shoved his arm into the auger. Another one turned it on. The screaming just..."
She shook her head, covering her face and trying to refocus. Her hands were actually shaking a bit.
Michelle: "...I watched my brother's body thrash around like a ragdoll. But from afar. With Ben's corpse. My dad saw up close. They had him. Made him watch. Made him stand so close he turned red with the blood splatter. We both lost it. He started attacking those that had him. I helped. My dad actually buried a hayhook into the spine of one. Then he went in the barn, going after Morningstar inside. The fire department chose then to show up - someone must have called it in - and that sort of... distracted the other proxies to let me go in after my dad. That's when I finally saw the little fuck himself. I saw Morningstar for the first time... as he was driving his goddamn knife through my dad's stomach. My dad died with his intestines hanging out - most of them no longer in one piece. Morningstar... licked his knife when he was done. Then he looked right at me. Right. Fucking. At me. Then He was there. Coming from the smoke. He was goddamn THERE and He..." (She gritted her teeth and punched the wall lightly.) "I lifted Benjamin's hangun and fired at them. But I missed. Completely. The Black King saved His Morning Star. Right before the barn began to collapse. I barely made it out. The ceiling fell in over me - the hay bails knocking me down. Pinned me for a bit. The hay was burning... and so I did too."
She carefully shrugged out of her jacket. All up her left arm and across her shoulder was a huge scar from a burn, still bright red. Parts of it looked like it was just getting over an infection. After revealing it, she covered it again a second later.
Michelle: (Bitterly) "Yet another reminder."
I had seen the scar before, though briefly. But it was back on the first day, when she wasn't talking much. It didn't take a genius to figure out how she got it, so I didn't ask.
Now I kind of wish I had, though I probably couldn't have done anything anyway. A month is too long, far too long. Once a scar has healed, it's forever.
She paused then, and fished out her sketchbook from her bag. She showed me one picture. Just one. I didn't want to scan it in, but she insisted I show it to you all. I think I know why, too, but... I'll just leave it. For now.
Michelle: "It's in my head, Valerie. I thought that by drawing it, I could control it, get it out... but it didn't work. So I have to avenge them. He can't get away. I have to kill him. Then I can move on."
I don't know what to do about all of this. I'm not even entirely sure what to say about it. Just... so often in our lives... we think we want something, and when we get it, we find it brings no satisfaction. Even when we stake our lives on the idea that there's nothing more in the world that we want more, it can still turn out to be nothing like we expected. I've gone through that feeling. Everyone has.
And I admit that I don't always know what I'm doing. I admit that I can be too optimistic sometimes. I've never once denied that I'm actually rather naive. But, in all honesty, naivete isn't a trait I want to let go of, even if it gets me hurt sometimes. It's not something I mind.
When it gets others hurt, on the other hand...
...I knew what kind of person Michelle was when I first met her. But I also knew what kind of person she could be. And... I know what kind of person Luke could be too, if he just...
Goddammit, it's fear. All of it. Nothing but needless fear.
I... need to think for a while. I know I'll have time, at least. And she did promise me that she knows better than to have me involved in any way. It'll really just be pretending though... sort of like pretending that baby calves aren't kept starved and anemic in lightless torture cells because I like the taste of veal.
(Actually, I don't eat veal, but I don't complain when my mom buys it for dinner for the rest of the family either.)
Good god, am I really on the fence about standing by and allowing my best friend to commit murder?