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[personal profile] nightwindows
This is a slightly reworked version of a short story I wrote some time ago, inspired by Sarah McLachlan's "In the Arms of the Angels"...

Title: Sweet Madness, Glorious Sadness
Warnings: Angst like you wouldn't believe. Death, too.

There are ruins here. A building that burned down years ago. The only things left standing now are some tattered remains of what used to be walls. A bathtub, broken and rusted, sits in one corner, next to a chunk of wall slightly taller than a grown man. Everything is black and charred, except the pipes, which are brown and rusted. A few feet from the tub are the remains of a doorway, a blackened frame held together by rust and rot. It stands as if a gate into hell, an invisible barrier between this world and the next.

It's the perfect place for a suicide.

There are cops milling around the perimeter, but she sees none of them. All she sees now is the doorway, as she refuses to look beyond it. She already knows. They told her when they called her; they announced it on the radio. She knows that by now it is playing on the local channels. The news crews are still here, filming their live stories a few feet away. The cops won't let them in to see the body. For that, at least, she is grateful.

They tell her she shouldn't go in there, ain't nothing there she wants to see. But she needs to see. Reluctantly, they let her pass.

She steps closer to the scene, imagining that a door still stands, blocking her vision. She imagines this place as it might once have been: a fancy hotel perhaps, hosting parties for the rich, kitchens staffed with famous cooks. Maybe a corporate office building, with hundreds of cubicles and unhappy workers. She pictures them coming and going from this bottom-floor bathroom, laughing and chatting and enjoying the day. Blissfully unaware of what was coming. Perhaps some of them had been caught in the fire, died in it. She doesn't know.

Another step, and another, until finally there is nothing left to postpone this moment, this revelation. She opens the imaginary door, closing her eyes, preparing for the scene in front of her.

At first glance, it looks like he is simply taking a bath. It's a familiar scene - how many times has she walked in on him in the tub? She imagines him sitting up, smiling at her. Laughing at her blushing cheeks. Teasing her about joining him, winking suggestively. Ridiculously.

Reality filters through against her will. The details are all wrong. For one, the wall is burnt and rotting, nothing like the blue ceramic tiles of their bathroom. She focuses on the walls, unable to look down. Not wanting to acknowledge the blood instead of water, the long cuts along his arms, the way his head falls so unnaturally against the back of the tub. She can't avoid it for long.

She steps further into the room, wishing desperately that this is all just some horrible nightmare, that she will wake up in a few minutes and smell his famous french toast grilling in the kitchen. She closes her eyes again, smelling the light cinnamon and egg, savoring it. The scent of blood and death choke her instead, and she knows it's real. He's gone.

She sinks to the floor, clutching at her chest as the sobs wrack her body, nearly tearing her apart.

She's known, of course, that he was unhappy. He never shows it or says anything about it. But she's known. It's in the way he smiles, the way he laughs. Something inside him is deeply painful, some part of him brutally destroyed. But he lives his life as a normal human being, smiling and laughing and cheering along with the rest of them.

He's only twenty-three. So young, but he's always seemed so old.

There was a note for her left on the refrigerator, held up by an old real estate magnet. "I'm sorry. I love you. You're always my best friend. See you around!" She'd thought he'd gone on another one of his random trips. He does that - disappears, shows up a couple months later as if no time has gone by at all. She thinks he does it because he doesn't want her to see him when he's in pain.

Maybe to him this is just another trip, one he won't be coming back from. He's always been morbid like that.

Once the gasping and dry-heaving slow, at least for now, into soft hiccups, she moves closer to the bathtub. She takes his hand, ignoring the clammy coldness. To her it is warm and full of life, just as he was the last time she saw him.

"Going on another trip?" she asks, trying to smile through her tears.

"Taking a ride in the arms of the angels, honey." He sounds happier than she's heard him in years.

"I wish you weren't leaving..."

"Keep smiling, honey. Eventually you'll see me again. But before that you'll meet a nice handsome man, get married, have his babies, and then they'll have babies. You'll be the spitting image of your mother," he replies with a laugh.

"I can't imagine a life without you in it," she says, trying to hold back the tears as she looks up into his eyes. He smiles so brightly, and for the first time, there's no pain behind it.

"You can't be a fag-hag forever, silly," he reprimands with a wink. Even in death, he can always make her smile.

"I'll miss you."

"I'll be here. I'm always here."

"I love you. You're the best friend I've ever had."

"I know." His smile is sadder now. He squeezes her hand gently before dropping it, letting her know that this is where he really wants to be. He is standing now, and she can see that a tall, handsome man with wings is holding him gently. She blows them a kiss between the hiccups and sobs, then waves goodbye. He returns the kiss and the wave.

Then he's gone.

She collapses to the floor, letting the sobs overtake her once more. The police are leading people from the mortuary through the crime scene now. One of the cops makes soothing noises as he lifts her gently from the floor, carrying her out to where an ambulance is waiting. They check for signs of shock while she cries, but find none.

"Are you going to be okay?" the officer asks her.

She pauses, considering. Will she be okay? How can anything be okay now? A soft breeze caresses her cheek, feeling suspiciously like the fingers of her best friend.

"I'll survive."
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September 2013

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