The student council room is a neutral white from the flourescent lighting, where you could hear the faint buzz of the lamps that slowly diminishes the moment the light switch is on. Room 414.
Clare is brought over to a table, where she is made seated on a plastic chair that feels it could just about collapse under her bum. Her handcuffed arms are behind the chair's back, while her feet have been bound together with duct tape, behind the front legs of the chair by the ankles.
The two gropers are sitting on the couch, taking a bite from the opened chip bag in the midst – discussing all the things they'd want to do during the holidays, going skiing by Lake Louise, doing a 'Sex and the City' marathon, buying a nice sweater for their boyfriends; all as if Clare isn't even there, scornfully watching them. Janice and Emilia.
Then Gina shows up, along with a boy – it's someone whose name Clare doesn't know, but she recognises from the beatings she'd get. He'd just stand by and glee without even throwing a punch.
"Do you want to know why you are here, Clare?" he goes, coldly, scrutinising her reactions.
It makes her a little sick to the stomach, seeing all their faces.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you!" He lunges towards her, pulling her chin towards him. "Clare.. Clare?"
She languidly glances at him. And spits – landing on his hazel eyes.
He wipes it off with his hand.
"I don't know your name," she says, "but I'd rather spit your face – all your faces a thousand times over than spend even one second looking into those soulless eyes."
(the abyss gazes also into you)
"Soulless..? You think we're soulless?" His voice is arid, something like a sucking water drain underlying tenor coolness.
"I think I will call you Ass Hole." She grins. "A. H. for short."
Gina smirks in the background. "Burn..!"
A.H. looks a little miffed, but then his expression changes to a sly one. "You're funny, Clare. For the record, my actual name is Martin. Not that it will matter much anyway- my original question still stands; do you want to know why you are here?"
Non, your name is not Martin, it's still Ass Hole for all I care.
"Because you bums put a tack in Martin's suit, framed me for it and took me here?"
"Martin- what-? Oh. Wrong. Because you, Clare.. you are just a mistake. A clown who stumbles through classes. See, people here think you must have been shit out by accident, and that your parents couldn't really give a single damn about you, so all they did was kept you going on with a minimal standard. Hence, the Clare who gets test scores like 53 and mumbles to herself as if no one else were there. I get you, Clare. I really do, and I'm sorry about you."
Her face, welling with utter humiliation, an ice cold blade that has lodged itself in her abdomen, piercing deeper and deeper into her heart. A single tear escapes her eye, and then another, as her breath rattles in and out her lungs.
"Aww, poor widdle Clare," Gina goes. "It's always so painful to confront the truth, isn't it?"
"You fuckers.." Clare's wrists pull against the chair, straining to break the handcuffs while she leans forward, getting a whiff of A.H.'s stale breath, wanting so badly to tear his eyes out.
"You want to know why you are here, Clare?" A.H. says. "We're going to fix you nicely, so it won't be such a bother, enduring your presence. Starting with your face.."
Gina pulls out a makeup kit onto the table, and Clare starts to writhe in the chair, screaming, wanting to break free at any cost. But Gina remains unfazed; she notions to Janice and Emilia to hold down Clare while she gets to work, pulling out a white swab and brushes it against Clare's lips, smearing her dark lipstick down her chin.
Clare tastes the alcohol, which is like spicy resin with an antiseptic aftertaste – she tries biting the swab, but Gina's fingers are too fast, and she winds up biting her own lip instead.
Then Gina starts applying another lipstick to Clare, which gets smeared over her cheeks with Clare shaking her head left and right.
"C'mon Clare, it'll only be harder on the both of us if you resist," Gina goes, as she dabs the lipstick remover over her cheeks.
Clare winces with every touch, as if the humility of it is painful to endure. She gives up struggling as she tastes the lipstick applied, flavoured like mangoes, imagining how ghastly the final result will be.
Gina then starts powdering Clare's cheeks, and after that, applies some eyeliner to her eyes.
"Your hair's too damn short for me to style.." Gina remarks, combing down her pageboy hair. "Ah well. Et voila! Bring the mirror."
Emilia gets a pink handmirror by the sink and shows it to Clare.
It looks as though her own face has been redone in the style of those modelling covers, what with the glossy lipstick, facial skin powdered a light shade – it surprises her that they've actually done a decent job making her look conventionally pretty.
But this just isn't her at all. This is herself muddled to look like all those other girls.
"There, you see, now you look more bearable on the eyes," A.H. says.
"Like you scum," Clare goes, scowling at her reflection, how she could have easily resembled them.
"Don't call us that, Clare.. if we're the scum, then what are you? 'Oh, I'm way above all of you plebs, bow down before me, I'm the swan in hiding'!? What rubbish.. you know what? Lose that holier-than-thou attitude of yours. Can't stand it."
"Over my dead body."
"You just suck, Clare," Gina says, smirking. "Always remember that."
There is simply no talking with these people. Because a monster would hardly recognise itself in the mirror – let alone a gang of monsters. Clare tries shutting her eyes, shutting those bums away from her consciousness as she pulls her inner focus on herself, those moments etched in memories that would remind her why she is happy to be alive.
("Oh look, she's closing her eyes-!")
Because what those devils say is absolutely not true. Her mama and papa always told her how she has royal blood inside her. One day, she would grow up to be like royalty, like a princess who would be revered by all and rule kindly over the kingdom. She would strut along the sidewalk, imitating Snow White when she is rescued by her darling prince.
And she would get the strangers on the street to kiss her by the cheeks, how cute it was that has happened.
(you are no royalty, you have no crown and your purity has been stained long ago)
Forget about royalty. When Jesus was on his way to being intitated as the Christ, he was hounded and attacked by the Devil – "If you really are the son of God, turn this rock into bread." Not only by the Devil himself, but by those other human beings who also cast doubt upon His divinity, shaming him for even bringing the concept up.
But Jesus managed to overcome all that (somehow), successfully becoming anointed by Jehovah under baptism, and shared His happiness with numerous other people.
But this happiness eventually upset the Jewish orthodoxy and lent Jesus the fate of crucifixion before thousands. The betrayal by Judas leading Jesus into Roman custody, where He is painfully whipped and made to wear a crown of poisoned thorns.
(after all, such a disgusting creature shouldn't even exist)
When she first ventured into art, she was a struggling amateur, a dilettante, whose brush strokes were unclumsy at best. The images she thought were profound, others found it provoked a slight spark of interest.
She didn't mind in the beginning – there was a lot to discover about making visual art, like colour complements, composition, genres like gothicism and bright, anime-inspired designs. She would scour through other artists' creations to expand her repertoire of ideas and designs.
She prefers using a pseudonym for her artistry; she finds it somewhat jarring to have her creations associated with her real, tangible and mundane self. Rarely will she ever allow anyone she knows in real life to see her art out of an embarassment, the feeling of having your private self being intruded upon. Especially with her parents.
Until it came time when she stumbled across the art contests, where she could finally be rewarded with something in addition to people's views and commentings. Some money and awards.
And win them she did. Some of her artwork made third place, only one of them managed to win first prize. Just one.
It was proof that she wouldn't have to land a mundane, dead-end job as some corporate worker. At last, she could have her passions carry her into a sustainable living.
But, even after all this time as an artist, she still hasn't flourished the way she would have liked. Her recent paintings posted online have gathered very little views in comparison with other artists; it has been feeling more like a chore than anything exciting to do, what with the frustrating lack of inspiration.
Is this because she has hit a dead end in being an artist?
Non, she refuses to believe that..
("Clare, you should pick a more stable career than artistry!" her mere said. "Something that can reliably bring the bread to the table. In this kind of economy, what if you run out of inspiration?")
Is there such a thing as true love in the world? The kind of love where you could melt yourself into another person's body and soul and caress their beating heart and pounding consciousness?
Only in fiction, it seems, you can acutely sense the emotion and chemistry between two characters. Their inner thoughts they are vying to express to one another, tales of beautiful memories yet to be shared. The ultimate reminder of why life exists. Why one is glad to be born. To fill a pervading sense of emptiness.
There has always been an inexplicable emptiness in her life. Some moments when she is alone, it is more acutely felt. Is this all there is to living – a series of sequential events, with sleep and dreaming the only reprieve from everyday mundanity?
"One day, everyone will grow to be a star of their own."
The whole world doesn't really matter if you cannot find love. But where to search for it, find it? She's felt the euphoric feeling at parties, while watching movies and dancing to music.
Or when she is staring out at the vastness of the sky, the wispy clouds like gentle whispers – when she would come across that field of towering trees in the mountains, almost like gazing up at snowy giants, imagining yourself getting terribly lost amongst them and never getting found by someone.
When she first encountered Martin that day, she'd never expected to feel all those things about him. He looked just like a more youthful version of Antonio Banderas, where she could call him cute (in a way). When he struck up a conversation about the weather and her music, she was actually a little perturbed.
No one really seemed to engage her like that. It was mostly just another excuse to berate her from other students, or it was just the adults who'd ask her questions out of 'concern.'
Everyone seemed unreal. Like they were dolls engaged with themselves in another world I don't belong.
And when he'd promise to protect her in the nurse's office – it almost felt too good to be real. Like it was a wish-fulfillment dream that she would suddenly wake up from, and sigh to herself about in the darkness.
She'd never forget the glimmer in his eyes when he said those words: "Because.. I absolutely refuse to be like those animals who'd hate you. Never.. I never want to believe that you are doomed to be misunderstood."
It was like a ray of light shining, piercing through the numbingly cold fog. It was that something she'd all but forgotten about – the acknowledgement of her existance. And most of all, it was genuine. Nobody had goaded him into saying such a thing.
(because they pity you)
Maybe it wasn't really love or attraction to her heart. Maybe it was more pity from him, as though he's seen a poor animal, unattended, malnourished, that he feels sorry for – instead of recognising that inner beauty she's been nurturing up to now.
"Why? I mean, not everyone likes the same things, but that doesn't mean it's bad or weird. It's just.. different. You know?"
And if it really is pity, then. How dare would anyone pity her? I don't need your goddamned pity, most of all. That isn't real love. It just demeans much of the entirety of her suffering that she's borne. As if to say, "Oh, you've been adrift in the doldrums for all this time, isn't it about time I rescued you from that?"
Has she been deluded in feeling affection for him?
I want you to really love me.. for who I am. That's why I touched you and held you in the shower like that. I wanted you to feel a piece of my heart.
"But I am nice to you," Martin goes. "How can you say-"
LIAR! You're just hiding behind that smile, intentionally keeping things ambiguous!
(because the truth causes everyone pain)
"What are you guys talking about?"
"I'm telling the guys some advice about watching over you," Martin goes. "So you don't need to worry about anything Clare. I've got everything under control!"
(the truth is very, very traumatic)
"You just suck, Clare," Gina says, smirking. "Always remember that."
But ambiguity only causes me more pain.. it scares me, because I don't know when you'll stop wanting me anymore. All the few friends that I ever had.. they liked me once, but they've moved on past me. I've been forgotten..
I remember them, but they don't remember me..
Please don't forget me. Don't leave me behind like an old toy. Please let me hear your voice, once more! Please care about me!
In the rain, she cries alone. No one is around to hear her sobs. The water pitter-patters, the wind blows, and the leaves fall.
She is lost in the forest.
Those beautiful, gnarly trees.
What was I crying about? I don't remember.. I think my parents left me out after a bad argument.
That day.. I was very upset about my pet bird dying. Because I forgot to feed it during the day. And now it's dead. I have to bury it in the ground myself.
Look at it.
It looks awful. Its body is shrivelled and the feathers are coming off.
But when I lay it in the hole I dug for it, it looks beautiful. It'll return to the earth that has nurtured it. It'll.. rot away. It'll be forgotten. And it could.. be happy again.
Just like me.
I'll lay myself somewhere on the leaves, and go to sleep forever.
She is crying, and she could hear all their voices echoing in the room like a demonic cacophony.
".. help me," she goes. "Somebody please help me.. help me.. Help me. Somebody HELP ME! DON'T LEAVE ME ALONE! DON'T ABANDON ME! PLEASE DON'T KILL ME!"
The room goes silent as Clare's pleas hang in the air, her panting, her eyes the redness of veins.
A long beat, where they glance at her sunken form.
Then Martin scoffs. He walks over to her, laying down his freshly brewed cup of coffee on the table.
"No," he says.
It is a black hole inside her chest, caving in by her heart. Sucking away all the possible warmth in her body into the emptiness. Her entire body goes deathly limp on the chair.
Then, somewhere in the cold, a deep rage begins surging through her.
It is a rage that has utterly relinquished any notion of happiness, of love and warmth. An inhuman rage that seeks to devour all life.
She finds the handcuffs easy to break under her newfound will. The chains seem to bend and snap like they were made out of wax.
She throws her entire self at Martin, her outstreched hands lunging for his face, her legs still taped to the chair. The table tumbles over her path, the cup flying and splashing black coffee over him, the porcelain shattering as it hits the floor.
When she feels his flesh, her first instinct is to grasp it and tear it apart.
He squirms on the floor underneath her, screaming for help, and the others come and try to take Clare off, grasping her numbed body that doesn't feel anything.
She leaves deep gashes along his nose and cheeks – her hands go down to his throat and she squeezes down on his Adam's apple, and she can hear the air wheeze in and out of his mouth, and sees his eyes widen, horrified,
he sputters spit,
only making her squeeze harder and harder until her fingers are aching under the pressure, and he goes through violent convulsions.
Then he stops moving.
He doesn't cough for air after she lets go, yet his eyes are wide open, staring off into blankness.
Clare pulls herself over to the chair where she tears the tape away from her feet, and she stands upright now, glancing at Gina, at Janice and what's-her-name – they are slowly backing away from her, towards the door. She quivers, wincing, a little light-headed.
Nobody wants me. So they can all just go and die.
(then what are your hands for?)
Nobody cares whether or not I exist. Nothing ever changes, so you can all just go and die.
(then what is your heart for?)
All my life, I've only ever felt pain. It would be better if I never existed. Maybe I should just die too.
"Is it.. alright for me to be here?" Clare asks no one in particular.
They are trembling, too afraid to even answer her.
So to their silence – she screams a primal scream, the beast who screams "I" to a hostile and indifferent world, and they bolt off into the hallways, leaving her alone in the room.