19 February 2014

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10

The end of the hallway is mainly a dead end – it was originally supposed to lead out the back side of the school to the basketball courts, but the doors are kept shut until further notice due to repairs.

It seems Clare is going to have Gina and her cohorts cornered. They try pushing the exit doors open despite the warning notice, but they remain jammed in place.

Gina notices there's an emergency stairway to the side. She gets them to follow her as she pushes the door open, and she hurries up the stairwell, two steps at a time, frantically hoping to make it out the second floor landing. The door's locked. Up to the third floor – it's also locked. What the bloody hell.

"She's coming!" Emilia shouts, panting just steps behind.

The only thing left is the rooftop door, which Gina doesn't hesitate to go for.

Clare stumbles on one of the steps (it's awkward climbing with only one arm) and falls, sharply bumping her kneecap on a step's corner, and she has to wince, cradling her poor leg like a child, before she manages to resume chase – albeit with a limp.

She catches glimpse of their moving forms at the very top of the stairs, and hears the creak of a door pushed open.

Along with a howling breeze.

Before the rooftop door slowly whittles to a close, Clare bursts through it. She is greeted by a familiar coldness. The dark of the night, the haze visible and illuminated by building lights from far below. You could barely see the edges of the rooftop.

It's especially windy as the chill of the air blows through the fabric of her dress, carrying snowflakes in the breeze.

The sight of Gina, just ahead. Waiting for Clare.

"You..!" Clare snarls, but rushing ahead, she senses something not quite right.

Suddenly Jon charges her from the side, carrying her like a bull and he pummels her onto the snowy asphalt. Emilia is lifting a garbage can, where she smashes it onto Clare and the can's old contents come spilling out beside.

"Baited!" Jon exclaims. "Hook, line, and stinker."

Clare wheezes; it feels like she's been rammed in the chest, and the air doesn't seem to enter her lungs properly.

"You thought you had me?" Gina goes, approaching. "Thought you could.. grab me by the throat and kill me? So very predictable, like a bull seeing red. You must really hate me that much, I guess?" She glances aside for a moment, looking out at the orange haze of cityscape lights.

"I hate you absolutely," Clare tells her, before brushing the can away and swiftly attempting to stand up. Her vision starts to dim as her awareness undulates; it's what happens when you rise too quickly – the blood pressure has shifted away from your upper body.

They must have been staring at her, wondering why she seems out of it for a moment. As her consciousness returns to normal, someone punches her in the eye and she staggers back, the blunt pain reverberating through her entire skull.

Clare blindly swings at the air, expecting them to follow up. She hears their laughter.

Then another blow to her chest, followed by a knee to her chin-- it dislodges some of her teeth. She holds her arm up against her face to defend, but the next blow comes from the side, onto her jaw, and time seems to jump as the blood and saliva spill from her mouth.

On her knees, Clare rattles, feebly crawling as she sees her blood trickle onto the snow, in a red trail. So pretty.

She hears someone's grunt of effort and gets battered on her back. Her body simply collapses down like a frail table.

"Beat her into unrecognisable shape!"

The trio waste no time with delivering the coup de grâce – they use her back like a welcome mat, stomping on her, embedding footprints over her dress.

~

The clown has been very nice with Martin, avidly pointing the direction which Clare has gone. He's been keeping tabs on the unfolding drama – certainly it's a more than welcome distraction from just waiting around until the dance night is over.

"It'll be a hell of a story to tell at the bar," the clown notes to himself. "A pair of star-cross'd lovers chasing after each other." (He performs some Shakespeare on his off days.)

Martin makes it through to the cafeteria; David on the other hand is taking a whizz in the washrooms, and will be following shortly.

He sees the resultant massacre, the people who are fallen and just recovering under the geeks' attendance. The spillage of brownies over the floor. Some blood splatters.

A fight has broken out here – between Clare and those girls, Martin deduces. He looks at the recovering bodies, wondering if Clare is amidst them. She isn't; it's just the faces of those he'd see in some of his classes, chatting irrelevantly in the background with others.

Where did she go? She's not here..

"Hey," he says, getting their attention. "There was a fight here, right?"

"Mhm."

"Do you guys know where Clare's gone?"

"Clare? Who's that..?"

Apparently they don't know her name. "She is the girl in the black dress," he says, "with spider legs at the back."

"Oh, that's her, alright. Man, you should've been here, it was so surreal! She fought those guys like.. it was a 1 versus 6, right? Those three right here, if you saw her, she owned them like a boss. Like.. BAM! Bam bam bam!" (imitates karate chops)

"Where'd she go after?" Martin asks.

"Well, the other three, they got so scared of her they ran away, down that hallway there – she went after them. Hey dude, don't worry about her too much. If anything, she'll dominate the rest of them--"

"HEY! This isn't one of your little card GAMES! REAL PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE. IDIOT NERD." Martin bitch-slaps the geek on the cheek, before running after her.

"Ough! Sorries."

~

It seems like an eternity before their barrage of kicking stops. Clare starts to cough violently. Until a bit of blood finally comes out her mouth. She is too weak to even move – all strength seems to have left her. Feverish white dots start to spin in front of her blurred eyes.

With Clare still disoriented, Gina notions for the two to haul her up by the arms.

"Drag her over to the edges, would you kindly," Gina goes.

Clare's eyes widen; the realistion it is going to be her final moments alive. But it seems all she can do is look on like a ghost in a crippled body; the edge of the rooftop inevitably coming closer, and beyond it – the abyss of lights.

Strange.. the way her body is numbing the aching pain, she remembers when she would get sick, and while she lay in bed, her mama would come and give her some medicine that made her feel.. drowsy and calm. There isn't anything else in the world she needs to worry about – just rest there and relax.

Her heart is beating faster and faster, she could feel the thumps within, pounding, yet the adrenaline doesn't seem to register in her awareness.

Her mind is jumping from one moment in her past to another, not wanting to endure the present any more it seems; the most mundane memories that take on the sweetest poignency. Her headphones, her reflection in the mirror when she's brushing her teeth. The way her mere would always seem to add too much salt to the dinner food.

The trees in summer.. when she'd take walks in the neighbourhood, and she'd admire the way the leaves would sway ever so slightly in the gentle breeze. The breeze which caresses her cheeks just right. Wonderful..

That joy she felt when she won the awards for her art. People could finally acknowledge the depictions of her subjective world – the look on that person's face when his eyes were wide open to her images, absorbing them sweetly.

Martin..

I.. I want to see Martin..!One last time..!

(he betrayed you)

(remember?)

Please.. I.. I felt so happy when I was with him..

She remembers the way he'd hold her in his arms at the dance. Carefully, delicately. Almost like he was lifting her up onto the clouds. She could float with her head on his shoulders, smelling the masculin conditioner from his hair.

A strong gust of wind blows over her, and she now sees the one thing that just separates her from falling. A knee-high concrete bannister.

"Turn her around," she hears Gina say.

As they force Clare the other way, the very ground seems to rumble underneath her feet.

"Clare..?" Gina pulls at her chin. "You awake? Look at me-- look at me. Do you understand what is about to happen with you?"

Clare can only make a low groan – her throat aches from coughing.

"This is the final minute of your life," Gina goes. "The last thing you will see is us glancing down at your suicide, and maybe some glimpses of the pretty lights as your body tumbles over. But that will not be the end.

"After you die, we will tell the story of a poor, crazed girl named Clare, who decided to go on a psychotic rampage that night. In her path, she injured Janice, Martin, and other people, who bravely attempted to stop the raging bull. We chased you up the staircase to the rooftop, where you had the urge to kill yourself because you thought the unfair world was against you, and blaming other people for your unfortunate position wasn't enough.

"We tried to reason and lure you away, but alas, poor Clare dove off the rooftop and.. in a few years, you'll be all but forgotten, just a ghost haunting this school. Everyone will talk about you like a legend – Clare the basket-case. The moral of your story will be to never become like you, that weird, offbeat kid.

"Have no regrets about it. Pardon my poor French, Madame Belhomme.. c'est la vie. I really can't envision a better future for you than this." Gina smiles. "Good-bye."

Then Clare sees it happen.

The hand that will push her over.

Her own body tumbling down the depths.

The entirety of her last seconds a whizzing blur.

The ground swallowing her existance whole.

(death)

..

And it is as if all the built-up adrenaline has burst through that dam.

From someplace deep within, an emergency reservoir of sheer energy which flows through her body. Her senses are rejuvenated. Boosted to almost superhuman levels.

She just perceives Gina's hand, in mid-motion, every fine detail about it – the slight wrinkles over her knuckles, the pink fingernails, the stamp of a bunny on her wrist.

The hand which must be destroyed.

Clare rips her arm out of Joe's grasp, and clasps her fingers around Gina's wrist. Wrings the jointto an unnatural angle, snapping the bone into two pieces.

Now to Emilia.

Clare stomps on her toes, and knees her gut, crushing her insides, and pushes Emilia's head so far away with her palm that her body follows along in the air, like an accordion.

Now to Jon. (He is in the midst of aiming for her ribs.)

An elbow striking his plexus, cancelling his auto-attack animation – he vomits over himself (some of it getting on her too), and she follows up with a devestating kick to his groin, and he falters over, and Clare jams her foot on his kneecaps and drives him face-flat to the ground.

Gina's face is full of outraged disbelief; she clutches at her broken hand, dangling limp.

Clare quivers, shuddering in the blowing wind. It's apparent in her stillness that her body is quickly going to give way.

"Now you're gone!" Gina goes. "Finished! I'll fucking send you back to hell, bitch! Maybe you can go eat shit on your way down!"

With a furious grunt, she lunges onto Clare, thudding together. A tango of terrible rage and violence. They could smell each other's breaths. Amidst the grabs and tugs, Gina finds out that Clare still has a deceptively lot of tenacity left in her – it is just all Clare can do to keep from succumbing to Gina's attacks, maintaining her centre of gravity, enduring the blows, conserving her dwindling energies to wait for a good opening to strike.

The rooftop door bursts open.

"CLARE!!"

His voice, booming so clearly. Martin?

Clare wants to see him, so she briefly gives her focus on that figure, running towards her in seeming slow-motion, so far away..

Gina recalls when Clare's arm was stomped upon in the cafeteria, by the elbow. Time to widen an old injury. So she pulls at that arm which has been huddling behind Clare's back, gets a good hold of it, and applies torque to the forearm.

Hears it snap.

The pain is excruciating and all of Clare's will drains away into that one point of focus. She emits a wailing scream, and starts sobbing. It's just too much to take.

"NOO!" Martin yells. He sprints towards them, charging, wanting to badly just to make pain onto Gina.

Gina finally notices who's been yelling in the background. She turns, only to see Martin in a rush, a collision course towards her.

This time, Jon and Emilia aren't awake to save her.

Martin shoves Gina towards the edge, and he bashes her in the face with his two hands.

"DON'T YOU HURT HER ANYMORE! DON'T YOU TAKE CLARE AWAY!"

Gina never lets go of Clare's arm though, and as she topples over the edge into the abyss, she drags Clare along with her down.

"CLAREE!!"

Clare's body tumbles over the baluster, and it seems like she has gone, all trace of her disappeared before he could even.. do anything about it.

A new feeling begins to emerge inside Martin. Utter bleakness. A world that goes on without Clare. It would not care of her disappearance, even if it hurts him so much. A star disappears from the night sky – millions of galaxies of hundreds of millions of stars – not with the big explosion of a supernova, but with a faint whimper, a speck of one in a blink.

But then--

He hears a faint moaning from below.

Would he dare? He peers over the edge and to his massive astonishment, sees Clare dangling off just inches below, the spider legs of her dress caught up on an antenna.

His heart skips a beat – and his hands quiver. He blinks, wanting to make absolute sure that it isn't just his eyes tricking him. She is still there, real and tangible, against the backdrop of mist and light.

"Clare..!" he says delicately, as if shouting any louder could cause her to fall.

She doesn't seem to react at first. Then slowly yet surely, she glances up at the face that once greeted her a few days ago.. a lifetime ago.

"Martin.." she croaks.

The wind is blowing especially hard, and it makes Clare's dress ripple while the snow catches in Martin's eyes. He reaches down, bending over the baluster. He's only able to reach partway to her.

"Clare.. give me your hand!" Martin pleads. "I need your hand.."

He notices her spider legs starting to tear by their seams.

"Please.. reach for me!"

His voice sounds so far away to her, faint. She is in a semi-hallucinatory state – the darkness is pulling over her eyes. If there is one thing she'd like to tell Martin this instant, she is so glad to have lasted this long for knowing him.

("Clare..! CLARE--!")

And that she is so, so sorry for telling him his love wasn't real.

The white cotton emerges from the split.

"Take MY HAND!!" Martin shouts, his fingers outstretched as far as they can go.

Somehow, her awareness still receives his words – in one more burst of sudden reserve, she throws her good arm up blindly.

The overtaxed spider legs finally split.

Clare falls..

Martin clasps her hand at the last second, his heart shooting through the roof.

"I got you!" he yells in triumph, a bit of crazed laughter like a huge relief. "DON'T YOU LET GO."

She's so heavy though. Her grip is barely existent, and the sweat over their palms is making her slip. And the coldness.. he can hardly feel his hands.

I can't hold onto you much longer. I can't stand this pain, my arm is going to tear off.

Please hold my hand, please, at least hold onto it, I'm doing this for you.

Please hold my hand.

Damn. I'm so weak. My grip is losing yours.

I-- I don't want to lose you.

I wish I can hold you a little more longer. If only I wasn't too weak.

Who are you to me? If I could hold you longer, I'll tell you.

You're Clare, and only that matters.

Clare..

Martin gets his other hand to hold her too, at the expense of having a stable anchor to his position (that hand was clutching the railing).

Thus, he gets pulled forward with her.

If Gravity were a man, he'd slap Him so hard for being a total drag.

Martin slides forward over the baluster's railing, up to his lower stomach-- he leans his legs forward, keeping them at a downward angle. So that his pelvis is what keeps him from going any further.

"UrrgghhhHH!"

He tries arching his back up, and now, almost imperceptably, he feels his centre of gravity shift, little by little, back towards the roof.

And once he can feel his feet touch ground, he holds her hand, her arm, hauling her back up.

In the loneliness of the night, he pulls her up.. he pulls her up.. pulls her up..

He starts crying.

He has her here.. in his arms. Nothing could describe the beautiful relief he feels. His cries become unrestrained sobs.

For Clare, it is so heartbreaking to see him cry like that. Don't cry.. you'll make me sad too. I don't want you to cry. See, I'm caressing your face.. my fingers wipe away the tears dripping down your chin. Why don't you smile..?

I'm.. holding you too.

I..

Clare drifts away into a very deep sleep, and her hand droops down from Martin. Her eyes are still half-open, peaceful. The falling snowflakes gather upon her in the silence.

"Clare.. no.. no." Martin slaps her cheeks, trying to cajole her back awake – starting to panic. "No..!"

The rooftop door opens – it's David.

"CLAREE--!!" Martin screams out to the heavens, followed by the stifled, painful sobs of his bleeding heart.

"Martin!" David goes, rushing over. "Clare's--"

"DIAL 9-1-1 NOW DAVID," Martin demands, all the while fumbling for his own phone in his pocket. His fingers are trembling to press the right buttons, getting to the dial screen.

He types in the three magic numbers, and it seems like forever before he hears the dial tone, ringing.

Click. "911, what is your emergency?"

"MY CLARE IS DYING," he shouts into the receiver. "DO SOMETHING!"

June 2017

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