Category Linkin Park

Like Shining Oil... by Emma Shinoda

Like Shining Oil...

A/N: So, I'm still working on Sometimes I Don't Make Sense, and it will hopefully be updated soon, but in the meantime, the idea for this story came to me while listening to the LPU 13 cd. The lyrics used throughout the story are from the song Primo (I'll Be Gone Longform Demo) by Linkin Park.

This is pretty long for a oneshot, and I apologize for that, but I couldn't find a good place to split it. It's also very angsty, so please don't read if you're not comfortable with that. Well, I don't want to give anymore away, so you'll have to read to find out.


I let out a small sigh, taking another drag of my cigarette while I stand outside the studio we're supposed to be recording at. Well, we are recording actually. At least, Mike and Brad are. Meanwhile, I'm standing alone in the darkness of the parking lot, shivering and feeling like an insecure teenager again for the first time in years.

For this album, Mike thought it would be a great idea if Brad joined us in the writing process. I was all for it at first. The more the merrier, right? Well, I'm not so certain anymore. It isn't that Brad doesn't have lyrical talent. In fact, quite the opposite. Maybe that's the problem. I'm starting to feel like he's taken my place. It's petty, I know. But writing lyrics used to be such an emotional, cathartic experience; an experience just between me and Mike. Now, our sessions mostly consist of Mike and Brad bouncing ideas back and forth, while I sit at the table in silence, just offering weak smiles and reassuring nods when they happen to look my way.

I'm starting to feel less and less a part of Linkin Park, less and less valuable to my band mates. I can feel myself drifting apart from the guys bit by bit, day by day. Countless times I've wondered, what would happen if I left. I used to be convinced that without my presence, the band wouldn't be able to survive. But now... Now I'm not so sure. Would they notice if I disappeared? Would I even be missed?

"Hey, Chester!"

I turn my head and squint through the darkness to see Mike walking towards me.

"What happened to you? I looked up and you were gone..."

Shrugging my shoulders in response, I glance down at my watch. It took over twenty minutes for him to realize I'd left...

"Nothing, man. Just needed some air, that's all. Did you want to try recording that song again?"

Mike's eyes light up at my statement, and I can tell already he has something up his sleeve. "Well, now that you mention it, Brad has a great idea of how we could rework it. We wanted to run it by you, see what you think."

"Alright," I nod, holding up my half smoked cigarette, "Just let me finish this, and I'll meet you in there."

"Sounds good." Mike starts to head back inside, but stops and turns to me once again. "Wait, I thought you quit smoking?"

"I did, just felt like having one..." I lie, flashing him an innocent smile until he disappears behind the studio doors.

It's not a total lie. I have quit, in a way. I'm not addicted to the nicotine anymore; no, I'm addicted to something else. The only reason I still smoke is so I have an excuse to carry a lighter with me. Seeing the orange flame fluttering in the breeze while I bring it up to light the cigarette nestled between my lips is just captivating.

Fire always fascinated me, which I suppose is obvious due to the flames adorning my wrists. It burns so bright, so free, so warm, without a care in the world. I find myself wishing I could inhale it, absorb it into my being, so that maybe it could cast some light on the sleeping demons inside me and chase them out. It seems to be exactly what I need right now. Me, so cold and dark inside. It seems to complete me; a man whose internal light has been shattered beyond repair.

I pull my lighter out of my pocket, needing to see that little flicker of blazing heat one more time. It's strange how such a simple thing can soothe me so much. With a slight frown, I tuck it away once more and take a final drag of my cigarette before I stub that out too and head back inside to find Mike and Brad.

To my surprise, I find Mike setting up the recording booth.

"Hey Mikey, you want me to try that verse again? I'll nail it this time, I swear."

I've been having a little trouble singing the last part of our song, Until It Breaks. But I feel like I'm getting close to mastering it, and I'm ready to give it another shot.

"Well, actually..." Mike glances up at me from his chair at the control center, and he looks ... guilty, almost. "Brad had the idea that maybe he could try singing it... Y'know, just for kicks, see how it sounds." He adds quickly.

"Oh..." I choke out, eyes widening in disbelief.

Mike picks up on my apprehension right away, giving me a wary look. "Er, would that be alright?"

I give my head a quick shake, cursing myself for overreacting. "Yeah, yeah of course that's fine. I just didn't know he could sing that well..."

"Well he's no singing prodigy or anything, but he used to sing backup when we were in high school, and he has a pretty good set of lungs on him."

Mike is interrupted by movement in the booth. I look up and am faced with Brad sitting on a stool inside the small space, giving Mike a thumbs up. Mike presses a few buttons while Brad readjusts the headphones covering his ears. My headphones.

On Mike's signal, he begins singing the familiar lines, and I can't believe how good they sound pouring from his lips. I've been trying for weeks to get this to sound right, and now Brad comes in and does a perfect run through on his first try... I can tell Mike is excited, and as soon as Brad has finished recording, he joins Mike in the control room where they begin an animated conversation about changing this word, or tweaking that chorus.

I sigh, feeling again like a third wheel, and drag myself over to the couch. Pulling out my notebook, I grab a nearby pen and write down a few lines on my own, since I don't see any opportunity to share them with Mike and Brad.

Like shining oil,

This night is dripping down

Night is dripping down


It's going to be a long night...


The drive home is quiet. Almost too quiet, but it counteracts the loud screaming of the little voices in my head. All I can think about is how great Brad sounded, singing my part of the song. I wonder if I had worked longer on it, practiced harder, if it would've made any difference. Would I have been able to perfect it, or was I destined to lose out to Brad?

The thoughts are still swirling in my head by the time I get home, but I push them away, hide them in a dark corner so they can come back to taunt me later, once I'm alone again. I notice Sam's car sitting in the driveway, she must be here to drop off Draven. Quietly closing and locking the front door behind me, I follow the sound of voices into the kitchen. Talinda and Sam are sitting at the table, chatting about Draven's soccer game. I don't feel like disturbing them, so instead I head upstairs to take a shower and crawl into bed.

I'm woken up a few hours later by the sound of my phone ringing. The caller ID shows Talinda's name. Strange... With a shrug, I answer.


"Hey Ches, just wondering when you'll be back from the studio."

With a small frown, I reply, "Tal, I've been home for hours..."

"What? Where are you?"

"In our bedroom."

"Oh. I'm sorry, sweetie, I didn't even realize you'd come home..."

"It's alright. I think I'm gonna go outside and have a smoke." I say, and hang up. Suddenly, I'm not feeling tired anymore.

The balcony used to be my favorite place in the house. I would come out here for a cigarette, or even just to watch the sunset, and think how lucky I am to have such amazing family and friends. Now though, those thoughts seem so foreign, like a far away memory from another realm of time. Nothing has changed, really. I still have the same beautiful wife and kids. The same five best friends - five brothers - and the best career in the world. So why can't I feel that same sense of pride and joy anymore? I think it's just me. I've changed these past few months, and not for the better.

Now, I stand on this same balcony, and instead of counting my blessings I'm faintly wondering if a jump from this high up would be enough to kill me. It's almost appealing, the idea of never having to feel again. Never having to fake another smile. Never having to fight against myself with every intake of air. It's almost appealing, but I couldn't betray Talinda like that. Couldn't inflict so much pain and confusion upon Draven and Tyler. Couldn't abandon the guys, and Linkin Park.

But even so, I'm drifting away. My body may be tethered to the earth, but my soul is floating far off into the distance. I wish I could follow it. The close bonds I used to have with Mike, with Talinda - hell, with everyone - are being broken down. The ropes are being cut, one at a time, while I retreat further and further into my own mind. I can realize that it's happening, but I feel powerless to stop it.

I contemplate lighting a second cigarette, but change my mind and reach for my notebook instead, continuing my verse from earlier.

And I'm trying not to think

What I'm leaving now

'Cause I'm leaving now

It's time you let me go

Let me go...

Somehow, I don't think I'll be getting any sleep tonight.


As I suspected, I'm awake far before my alarm clock rings. I'm not sure if I fell asleep at some point or not, but it doesn't feel like it. I look across the bed at Talinda, who's still indulging in a peaceful sleep, her back turned to me. With a low sigh, I climb out of bed and head for the bathroom. I have an hour before I have to be at the studio again.

After a quick shower, I decide I'd better shave. I've thought about letting my facial hair grow out, but Talinda doesn't like it when I do that, so I always end up shaving it off. I'm almost finished when the razor catches on my skin, leaving a thin cut that begins dripping trails of red. I hiss at the stinging pain, but make no move to clean it up. All I can do is stare while the blood cascades down my cheek, pooling at my chin before the small droplets fall into the sink below me. I watch until the scratch dries up on its own, unable to tear my eyes from the crimson trail that's now drying on my cheek. I find myself reveling in the sharp pain, reminding me of a habit I haven't thought of in years...

Before I can stop to think about what I'm doing, my hands are fiddling frantically with the razor and attempting to pull the blade out. It takes me a couple minutes to remember how I used to do this, but once I'm holding the shimmering metal in the palm of my hand, I'm too far gone for rational thought. I make one thin cut on the inside of my left forearm, then another, and another, until I have them lined all the way up both arms in neat little rows. My breathing has picked up, and I begin to get a bit light-headed from the blood loss, but I feel more content than I have in months.

It isn't until Talinda knocks on the bathroom door that I snap out of my daze. Shit. I curse under my breath as I scramble to clean up all the evidence of my 'slip up'. I pull on a black, long sleeved shirt, praying the cuts on my arms have stopped bleeding enough that they won't soak through the thin cotton. I fly out of the bathroom, almost knocking Talinda over in the process, but I don't stop to apologize. I can't stop. I have to get out of the house before she realizes what I've done.

She calls out to me, but I just yell back that I'm late for the studio. After slipping my shoes on and grabbing my keys, I run out the door, breathing a sigh of relief once I'm safely inside my car. I frown, remembering I haven't eaten anything, but I shrug it off. I'm not hungry anyways.


The rest of the guys are already at the studio by the time I arrive. Joe spots me right away as I walk through the door, offering me a grin and a nod.

I do my best to smile back. "Hey man, what's happening?"

"Dude, have you heard the tape of Brad singing the end of Until It Breaks?"

It takes every ounce of my self control not to scowl at him. "Yeah, I was here last night when he recorded it."

"Well Mike just mixed it into the rest of the song, and it gels perfectly! You have to hear it..."

"Oh, okay..." I trail off, feeling a little hurt that Mike mixed the track without telling me.

I weave my way through the room, stopping once I find Mike, Brad, and Dave huddling around a laptop.

"Hey, Chaz Man!" Dave says, wrapping me in a hug.

I pat him on the shoulder before turning to Mike. "Joe said you already mixed Until It Breaks?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, I did. But it's not like, final or anything. I just wanted to see how it sounded with Brad's vocals."


"And what?"

"How does it sound?"

"You wanna hear it?"

"Sure." I say with a reluctant nod.

Three minutes later they're all staring expectantly at me, waiting for my reaction. I have to admit, it sounds good. Really good. And if I'm being honest with myself, I don't think I could've done it any better.

"Yeah, it sounds great." I reply, forcing a smile. "If you guys are happy with it, we should keep it."

They each nod their agreement, before focusing back on the laptop while Mike continues to tweak things around.

I leave them to their work, deciding to check what the rest of the guys are working on. Rob is set up in the soundproof box with his drum set, and Joe is sitting in the control room, working on a new beat for Tinfoil. Everyone has their own project, their own niche, except for me. After a few minutes of standing in the middle of the room feeling awkward, I decide to just leave.

"Hey, Mike?" I call, "I'm not feeling well, so I'm gonna head home, if that's alright."

Mike lifts his hand in acknowledgment, but doesn't turn around. With a defeated sigh, I trudge out to my car.

I can't stay here, but I don't feel like going home yet. I decide to go for a drive, hoping it'll clear my head some. With the windows rolled down, singing my heart out to Stone Temple Pilots on the radio, I'm almost beginning to feel like my old self. After the end of Interstate Love Song, Stryker's voice comes on; announcing Crawling as the next song. It's always strange for me to hear my own voice on the radio, but for some reason I decide to listen to it.

It's almost funny how, despite all the pain and sentiment I put into the song when I wrote it so many years back, I don't think I've ever related to it more than I do in this moment. The lyrics seem to encompass every pent up feeling and emotion I've been hiding away these last few months. And, with an incredulous, defeated laugh, I realize I really haven't changed as much as I thought I had. I'm still the same insecure, tormented, angst-ridden man I was twelve years ago. I've just become much better at concealing it.

The song ends as I'm pulling into my driveway. I turn the car off, but make no move to get out. Instead, I fish around in my backpack until I find my notebook and pull it out, flipping to the song I started last night. I guess this is becoming a habit of mine when I'm feeling down. Closing my eyes, I visualize a few more lines; carving them out of the pain I hold inside and penning them.

'Til then carry on

And miss me when I'm gone

Oh don't let anyone give you away

Just carry on

And miss me when I'm gone

Oh don't let anyone take my place

Take my place...

Crawling in my skin...


It's been three weeks since the day I messed up and self harmed again. It's on my mind constantly now, and I can't seem to go even twelve hours without cutting. It makes me sick, that I've become addicted again after ten years clean. But at the same time, feeling the pain release and watching the ruby trails on my skin is the only sense of tranquility I can find. I'm slowly going insane with anxiety and fear. I'm shying away from everyone, even my own wife and children, because I just don't know what to say to them anymore, and I'm terrified of them finding out how badly I've relapsed. I'm letting my relationships whither away, but no one is even fighting to keep them alive. They've all given up on me.

I haven't seen the guys since I left the studio that morning. At first they called me several times a day, but I either ignored the phone or had Talinda tell them I'm sick. They call less and less now, but they're doing fine in the studio without me. Mike even emailed me a couple tracks that they finished with the vocals I had already recorded. I assume they'll come looking for me when they need to record my voice, but until then I'd rather just keep to myself. I can't talk with them like I used to, can't be a part of the group like I used to. I feel like I have nothing in common with them anymore, but I guess I really don't have anything in common with anyone when all I can think about is self harm and how sick I feel.

Talinda knows there's something wrong with me, but she doesn't know what; and I can't bring myself to tell her that her husband is depressed and suicidal again. We went through this once before, and it almost tore us apart. She wonders why I won't cuddle or make love with her anymore. I know it hurts her when I reject her intimacy, but it would hurt more if she were to find out what I've become. If she were to see the ugly scars and bruises littering my body. She's stopped trying to force me to open up, and now we hardly talk except about trivial things like what we're having for dinner or whose turn it is to pick the kids up from school.

I'm standing out on the balcony again. I guess it's become my go-to place these last few weeks, and with each day that passes, a jump off the edge looks more and more enticing. I almost did it once, but Tyler coming out to ask if I wanted to play catch stopped me. I stand out here for hours each day, with the only friend who seems to understand my pain... My lighter. When I flick it on and stare at the small orange flame, it gives me a sense of calm, and even a bit of hope. Maybe one day I'll be able to relight the fire inside me. I just need to find a match that can break through the icy walls I've built around myself...


I hear Talinda call my name, followed by her stepping out onto the balcony, phone in hand.

"It's Mike. You've been avoiding him long enough, you need to talk to him."

"Okay, okay." I sigh, taking the phone and holding it up to my ear while Talinda heads back downstairs.


"Ches?" Mike sounds surprised to hear my voice... "How are you feeling, man?"

"Oh, uh, I'm alright." I lie. "How are you?"

"I'm fine. Hey, listen. I gave the rest of the guys the day off tomorrow, but do you think you might feel up to a recording session?"

"Um, yeah, that ... that sounds good." I agree, surprising myself.

"Great!" I can hear the smile in Mike's voice. "See you tomorrow at noon?"

"Yeah, sounds good."

"Alright, see ya then. Bye Chaz!"


I hang up the phone, feeling almost excited about tomorrow. A day of just me and Mike might be exactly what I need. Don't get me wrong, I love all the guys, but I've been missing our private sessions, since they've been few and far between lately. Maybe I'll show him the song I've been writing. He's always been good at seeing through my lyrics to what's really bothering me...


I pull into the studio parking lot at 11:58, feeling about as good as I have in months. I even stop to have a short chat with Jessica, the studio's secretary. My good mood deflates, however, when I enter our recording room to find Mike sitting on the couch and laughing ... with Brad.

"Hey, Ches!" Mike chirps, standing up and wrapping me in a tight hug once I enter the room. "Elisa and the kids are out of town for the weekend, so Brad decided to come in today. That's cool, right?"

"Yeah," I grin, doing my damnedest to mask my intense disappointment. "That's great!"

Despite Brad's presence, we do end up getting a lot of work done, and I have to feel satisfied with that. We have eight completed tracks now, and a couple others in the works. But I haven't been able to get even a minute alone to talk to Mike. He and Brad are practically attached at the hip...

After a few hours of vocal work, I call for a break, collapsing on the couch. I glance over at my two band mates, who are planted in front of Mike's laptop, laughing at some inside joke. With a longing frown, I swipe my notebook off the table in front of me, inspired to write down a couple more lines.

This air between us

Is getting thinner now

Getting thinner now


"Hi Chaz! Whatcha writing?"

I jolt forward in surprise at the disturbance, feeling Mike's warm breath graze my ear while he looks over my shoulder. I turn to make brief eye contact with him, and in that moment I swear he can see right through me. But it disappears quickly, and I glance back to my notebook, flipping it shut before Mike has time to read anything.

"Nothing important..."


I'm sitting on the bathroom floor, fighting another battle against my conscience. Another battle against the tiny, deadly blade in the palm of my hand. Although, I'm not quite sure why I call it a battle, because I lose every time. No matter how many times I carve those hideous cuts into my skin and promise myself it'll be the last time... I always come back to it. I can't live without it anymore. It's the only thing that keeps the emotional pain away, and if I don't have the sharp, delectable sting of fresh cuts to focus on, I go mad with misery.

I can't think straight. My mind has become so clouded with my own self hatred and insecurity that I can never quite tell what's real from what's just my own despondency playing tricks on me. Those voices in my head, they don't want me to see the truth. They don't want me to fix myself. And with each day, each grappling struggle for power and control, I'm beginning to cave in more and more. I'm beginning to agree with them, because it's just too damn painful to fight them any longer.

I sigh and press the cool metal to the inside of my arm, dragging a long, thick line that begins dripping blood immediately. I don't even bother to tell myself that this is the last cut. It's a lie, and I know it ... hollow and empty, just like I am. I've become so worthless, a failure as a husband, as a father, and as a friend. Talinda told me yesterday that my behavior is beginning to scare Draven and Tyler, so she's taken them to visit her parents for a week while I 'get myself together'. She doesn't know the half of it. I hate to disappoint her, but it's going to take a lot more than a week of 'rest and recuperation' to repair this mess I've become.

With a grunt of pain I push myself up off the floor, getting shakily to my feet and throwing my soiled razor in the trash. I head downstairs to the kitchen, not even bothering to clean my arm first. I like watching the blood spill. It's as if I'm purging the demons from inside me, one drop at a time. I pour myself a shot of vodka, down it, and then pour another. It burns my throat that's already raw from screaming at myself, but I'll take any type of distraction from the increasingly labored beat of my heart. After I've drank about half the bottle, I drag myself back upstairs, breathing a tiny sigh of relief when I step out onto my balcony.

Right away I reach for my lighter and a cigarette. It takes several minutes for me to control my trembling hands enough to light it, but I eventually get it. It's not as if I don't have enough time to spare. Time seems to be the one thing I have plenty of. Too much, even, if you ask me. The faint worry rolls through my mind of what will happen when Talinda and the boys come back, but I push it away and focus instead on the warmth of that tiny flame, pressed so close to my nose that I can feel a dull pain from the heat it's producing. I can't afford to let myself think of them, not now when it takes all of my willpower and attention just to continue breathing. Just to make myself sleep another night, wake up another day...

In this moment, the minor hiss of the lighter as it struggles to maintain its brightness in the path of the wind is the most comforting thing I've ever heard. I let every other thought drift away while it captures all of my attention, and I observe with care its bitter fight to remain afloat. Eventually, though, the wind becomes too strong and its light is extinguished. I know how it feels.

I stand out on the terrace, leaning over the ledge and taking in the world below me, until I notice the sun beginning to set; making me wonder how an entire day could pass by so quickly? I've always admired the sunset, taking solace in the fact that even the brightest of things can be swallowed by darkness. No matter how hard it tries, the sun can't light the sky forever. There will always be dark things in the world, and no one can remain sunny all the time. But, no matter how bad the darkness seems, no matter how plunged into the black abyss we may feel, the sun doesn't give up. It rises again, each and every day, returning to its job of lighting the world. To me, it's the picture of strength and determination, and I wish I could find even half as much strength within myself.

With those thoughts filling my mind, I turn and head back through the curtains into my bedroom, retrieving my notebook and pen from where they've been locked in my desk drawer for over a week now. With both of them in hand, I return to my spot on the balcony, writing down a few more lines while the sun finishes its descent; letting the moon try in vain to take its place.

Across that horizon

This sun is setting now

Slowly setting now

It’s time to let me go

Let me go...

Time for another night of, much like the sun, trying to make it through the dark hours, and hoping I see the next morning...


Three days...

I have three days before Talinda, Draven, and Tyler come back home, which is why I'm surprised when I hear the doorbell ring. I close my eyes, hoping whoever it is will give up and leave, but they persist. With an annoyed grunt, I stand up from the couch and walk over to the door; pulling it open to reveal Mike.

"Hey!" He yells before I have a chance to speak, causing me to flinch away from him. "Where the hell have you been? I haven't seen or heard from you in two weeks!"

"I've been ... around." I mumble, too tired to fight with him.

I can tell he's not satisfied with that answer, but instead of continuing to argue, he pushes past me and into the house. He pauses and looks around, seeming to be put off by the absolute stillness and silence that greets him.

"Where are Talinda and the boys?"

"They're, um, out..."

"Out? Come on, Chaz, it's 10:30 at night..."

I blink at him, shocked, but when I look over at the clock I realize he's right. I swear just a few minutes ago it was morning...

"They're visiting Tal's parents, alright?" I snap, feeling defensive.

"Chester..." Mike frowns, looking as if he doesn't know me any longer. Maybe he doesn't. "Are you okay?"

Am I okay? Ha, okay isn't even on the same planet as how I'm feeling. 'Okay' is the oasis that always seems to be floating just out of reach, serving no other purpose than to taunt me and remind me how broken I am. But I could never tell Mike that. So instead, I spit out another lie, something I've become so good at these last few months.

"I'm fine, why?" I add a raised eyebrow for effect.

"I ... I don't know, just asking, I guess." He sputters.

An awkward silence falls over the room, neither of us knowing what to say to each other. It's strange, because I don't think I've ever had an awkward silence with Mike for as long as I've known him. He seems to notice it too, and struggles to form words.

"So, uh, you haven't been at the studio in awhile..."

I almost want to roll my eyes. Keen observation, Mike. "Yeah, I guess I haven't."


I freeze, my mind reeling for any type of reasonable excuse, but Mike's voice stops me before I have time to answer.

"Hey, what happened to your wrist?"

I let out a terrified gasp, my mouth going dry as I look down and realize one of my cuts is partially visible underneath my long sleeved tee shirt. When I glance up again, Mike is standing right in front of me, reaching out to take my wrist in his hand. I jerk back violently, reestablishing space between my body and his.

"Nothing! I was slicing an apple, and um, the knife slipped."

He scowls. We both know it's a lie, but my gaze turns cold, daring him to disagree with me. He lets out a small sigh, glancing down at his feet, and he looks ... sad.

"Chester," he stares back up at me, brown eyes pleading, "I really hope that's not what I think it is..."

My eyes narrow, my whole body filling with rage. It surprises me, and I'm not even sure where it came from, but it clouds my mind, causing me to scoff at Mike.

"And want if it is, huh? What then?"

He doesn't understand...

He doesn't know what I'm dealing with...

He doesn't know I need this habit to survive...

"Come on Ches, don't be like this. I'm just worried, I care about you!" He says, and takes a step towards me again.

He doesn't really care about me...

He can't...

I'm not worth it...

"Mike, don't... Please don't..." I shake my head, backing away from him, but he keeps advancing.

Just leave me be...

You can't fix me...

"What am I supposed to do without you, huh? What am I supposed to do if you leave?!"

Carry on...

Miss me when I'm gone...

"I don't know! Just carry on! I'm not that important anyways..."

Don't let anyone take my place...

"Yes you are! You fucking are!"

I'm not...

My back hits the wall, and Mike puts both hands against the wall, on either side of my head, keeping me pinned.

"I fucking love you!" He growls, "You're my best friend, okay? And don't say you aren't important to me, because that's not for you to decide..."

Don't love me, Mike...

I'll just hurt you...

I can't stand having him this close to me. His eyes are boring into mine, and I feel like he's looking through my soul. I feel like he's judging me for the choices I've made. Judging me for being weak enough to self harm again. I can't take it. I stare at the ground, and mutter the first words that come to my mind.

"You try to take the best of me... Go away..."

My words are so quiet that I almost wonder if he heard me, but I know he did by the way his breath catches in his throat. I glare up at him, my eyes piercing his for a change.

"You try to take the best of me, go away..." I say again, but louder.

He flinches, but doesn't move.

"You try to take the best of me... GO AWAY!"

I'm screaming now, my entire body trembling from rage and fear. At last he backs away, eyes wide in confused shock.

"Go away..." I repeat, my voice wavering to match my body.

He stares at me, unsure whether to leave or stay. Eventually, he casts me a sad, defeated frown, heading out the door and closing it behind him. As soon as the door shuts I collapse to the ground, allowing frenzied tears to spill until I can't feel anything but numbness.

After what feels like hours, I find the strength to pick myself up off the floor. The anger is still racking my body, but now it's directed at myself. Why did I scream at Mike like that? In the back of my mind I knew he was only trying to help, but I just feel threatened by everything now, since I'm too weak to defend myself any longer. I'm no good with people anymore. I'm no good with anything, and it's slowly killing me...

I scream out in frustration and drive my fist into the wall, but I'm so frail from exhaustion and apathy that it doesn't even leave a dent. I need to get this aggression out, or I'm going to explode. I rush through the house, my hands itching for any sort of tool to keep them busy. My gaze stops on a can of red paint left over from when Talinda redecorated Tyler's bedroom. It'll do.

With the can and paintbrush in hand, stumble into my office, the one room of the house Talinda allows me to do whatever I want with. I stare at the plain white wall through the tears that are still streaming, and paint the words that keep playing on repeat through my mind.

Just carry on

And miss me when I'm gone

Oh don't let anyone give you away

Just carry on

And miss me when I'm gone

Oh don't let anyone take my place

Take my place...

I'll paint it on the walls, 'cause I'm the one at fault...


Two days...

I have two days until my family returns. Two days until I see Talinda's frown, disappointed that I haven't magically fixed my problems and gone back to 'normal'. Two days until Draven and Tyler go back to walking on eggshells around me, wondering why I don't joke around or play with them anymore. Two days until the the painful reminder that I'm a failure to my family is shoved back under my nose.

I'm desperate to please them all, I just don't know how. It's been so long, I can't even remember what normality is supposed to look like anymore. Is happiness normal? I suppose it is, or it should be for someone as fortunate as I am. Yet, it's been ages since I can recall feeling happy. If I dive into my memories, I can bring to the surface little snapshots of happiness from my past, but now they feel so foreign. As if they happened to someone else, and I was just a bystander who watched them unfold from the sidelines.

With a sigh I push myself up off the couch, where I guess I fell asleep sometime last night. I wander aimlessly throughout the house, glancing around and almost not recognizing my surroundings. It feels so different being here alone, without the bustle of life that makes it a home. It feels lonely, as if the void within me has sucked away any hints of joy that used to abide here. I stop in front of my white wall, now stained with the drying paint of my lyrics. I briefly wonder if I should paint over it before Talinda and the boys return, but shake my head. I can't be bothered with it.

I force myself up the stairs, deciding on a shower and already feeling the tiny sliver of comfort from the hot water cascading over me. After a quick wash I wrap a towel around my waist, stopping in front of the mirror and taking in the man I've become. I've always been thin, but now my ribs are beginning to jut out due to my disinterest in consuming anything that isn't alcohol or nicotine. I have dark bags under my eyes and my cheekbones have sunken in, making me look about ten years older than I am. My hair has grown out since I haven't felt like putting in the effort to trim it. It looks messy and unkempt, but somehow seems fitting.

The biggest change though, is the scars. They've spread across my body like a wildfire, so that it's difficult to find a patch of skin that isn't tainted by unsightly cuts and bruises. I suppose they've always been there, but they used to be invisible - trapped within me. Now they've bled through to the surface, on display across my skin, broadcasting my pain and weakness to the world. My nose wrinkles in disgust as I stare, so ashamed of them and yet unable to look away. It's despicably alluring to watch the blood seep out, quenching my addiction.

I take my time getting dressed, and after a long pep talk convince myself to go for a walk. My main motivation is that I'm out of cigarettes, but at least it's something. I duck into the store, eager to claim my prize and leave before anyone recognizes me. The walk back home is much more relaxed, cigarette nestled between my lips comfortably while my eyes wander, taking in the world around me with mild interest.

I come to a stop in front of a park, watching as kids run around laughing and playing while their parents sit on the benches and chat. It's mesmerizing to me, just how ordinary the whole picture is. It's such a natural balance, and everyone looks so content in their roles within the scene. No one is frowning. No one is left out, cast aside while the rest enjoy their fun. Everyone looks comfortable. Everyone belongs.

With a gasp, I recognize something. This used to be my life. This used to be me, laughing, my arm slung around Talinda while she snaps a few pictures of the boys with her phone; Draven and Tyler chasing each other around the park with their plastic swords, pretending to be pirates. This used to be my family, and here I am staring at it in fascination and trying to comprehend the sheer regularity it holds. Only now, I'm an outsider. I'm staring through the window, and I can still see the spark of life, but I can't grasp it. I can't reach it, and with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I realize that I never will again.

I snap out of my trance when I notice two mothers glancing my way, shooting me strange looks. I drop my gaze to the ground, turning and stumbling away as fast as my legs will carry me. I can see it now, how alien I am to the rest of the world. I can see how different I've become from other people, and I know I can't blend in or pretend to be one of them any longer. My life has come to an end, and I'm only prolonging it by continuing to breathe. It's sad, but I can't bring myself to cry. I think deep down, I've known this for some time. I just didn't want to admit it.

My fingers begin to twitch, desperate to put everything I'm feeling into words. I speed up my pace, rushing up my driveway and fiddling with my key, trying to fit it into the damn door handle. Once I'm inside I take the stairs two at a time, my breathing heavy but my mind calm and determined once I've finally got my notebook in my hands.

Tell them I couldn’t help myself

And tell them I was alone

Tell them I was the only one

And there’s nothing that can stop me

From going home...

I used to be my own protection, but not now. 'Cause my path has lost direction, somehow...


One day...

Tomorrow. They'll be coming back tomorrow, and I know that I can't face them. If I see their faces again it'll only make things more difficult. For all of us. I'm sitting comfortably on the bathroom floor, surrounded by all the things that have gotten me through the last few weeks.






It's time for me to go. I've decided my fate, but I'm not scared of it. On the contrary, I'm quite at peace with the whole idea. For so long, I've felt trapped within my life, unsure where I'm coming from or where to go. Unsure what to do with myself. Unsure why I'm having so many problems and unsure how to resolve them. Now, I understand. I know how my life is going to end, and I know that I finally have some control over my destiny. I'm desperate for relief, for rest, and I feel calmer now, knowing that it's coming soon.

I've thought long and hard about how I should end things. I've thought of guns and I've thought of pills. But nothing seems more fitting than the place where it all started. My razor has been with me through thick and thin, so it's only fitting that it gets to do the job. I can see it gleaming at me, eager to do its job. Eager to sink into my skin and relieve me of my pain. It's oddly appropriate.

I reach for my cigarettes and lighter, wanting to have one last smoke before I go. Wanting to see that hypnotizing blaze once more. Cigarette held between my chapped lips, I flick on my lighter, but nothing happens. I try again, and again, desperate for that warm, carefree light, but all I'm greeted with is a low fizzle and a tiny, fleeting spark. With a sigh I drop it to the ground, tossing the cigarette down with it. It's been used up. It's empty and worthless, just like I am.

I settle instead for a swig of the vodka, and focus my attention on my arms. My flame tattoos are almost indistinguishable now, due to all the dark lines of scars interrupting the flow of the ink. Razor in hand, I take my time, dragging a slow, deliberate slit across the inside of my wrist before switching hands and giving my other wrist the same treatment. While the blood begins to pour, I reach for my notebook, opening it up to my still unnamed song, the song that contains all the pain and sorrow I've experienced over the past two months. Yet, something about it just doesn't seem complete...

I wince, pressing my fingers to my throbbing wrist, and with the collected blood I write down three more lines, before closing my eyes and waiting for death's sweet embrace to take me away.

Tell them I was the only one

And there’s nothing left to stop me

From going home...


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