Agnes Lamb is your average sixteen-year-old: bored and desperate, majoring in procrastination and a hundred percent done with her current life.
Willing to do anything it takes to simply feel again, Agnes starts to explore the workings of her inner mind - but "anything it takes" is quite the gray area, and Agnes is blissfully unaware that in her struggle for self-improvement, she might very well be destroying everything else.
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The roof slopes downwards to the left, with only a small, dusty skylight to offer extra brightness; numerous marks indicate spots where someone previously hung their posters. Various black spiders lurk in the corners, barely distinguishable from the dark shadows that seem to swallow the already tiny room whole. A frail-looking bed appears to be built out of the darkness itself as well, with intricate curls and twists in it that are frightening rather than beautiful. The pure blackness under the bed looks like it's hiding my worst nightmares. Other than that, there isn't any furniture in the room. It looks like a void.
I wait to feel horrified or angry or disgusted, but none of those emotions dawn. Instead, amused thoughts dance through my mind as if this is some screwed-up joke - I'm reminded of a Tim Burton movie, where two parallel worlds always seem to clash; one of color, like my past, and one where everything is saturated. Is this my black-and-white future, full of 19th century gothic figures?
"Go figure," I say softly, leaning against the doorway. From this angle, the carpet seems an even more bland color. I half expect Frankenstein's monster to come crawling out of the floor with his ruined skin and stitched-together limbs, perhaps with a botched nose and a worm or two. By now, what could possibly still surprise me? A piano falling through the roof, Charlie Chaplin dancing across the hallway, a real fire-breathing, honest-to-god dragon? A miracle to save me from this new start, a disaster to prevent the continuation of my life's story, a combination of the two to change the course?
It's not that bad. It could be worse, it could always be worse - how could I, after all, allow myself to feel slighted by a dusty room if many children don't even have a toilet to speak of? How can guilt be fair if there's always a 'worse' to a bad situation; how can anger be just if there is so much to forgive in the world? How can I, of all people, feel miserable when so many others have lost everything? How can I be worried about a few spiders if there are kids who sleep without their mother at night? How can I complain about not going out for dinner when on the other side of the world, there are children with gaunt faces and large eyes, who dare not even think of when they will next eat? How is it fair to compare two different sides to a puzzle to each other at all?
Puzzles - I remember sitting at my grandmother's table, gently trying to make her understand that purple isn't the same as brown when I click two pieces together. I remember taking a blue piece of ocean out of her wrinkled hands, which always smelled of peaches, and putting it in place. I remember looking away when she shuffled over to the toilet in that painfully slow pace of hers, unable to control her own bladder. I remember looking over at the pictures of when she was young and beautiful, with thick black hair and a smile playing on the edge of her lips, before the permanent creases appeared between her eyebrows. I remember standing in front of her casket on that dreary day and realizing that growing old is inevitable, and that one day it'll be me they put in the dark, dank ground. I remember the smell of oncoming spring and sadness, and the clinking of fragile wine glasses as we toasted to a life that had already passed. I remember the way the rain pelted against the windows, how the wet dirt stuck to my black shoes, and how the living room was filled with a thick aroma of roses, violets and daffodils.
But all of that was all right, because I knew that it had been her time. She'd spent all of her laughter and tears, she had seen what she wanted to see, she had said what had to be said. Sometimes enough is just enough and I think she knew that, too. But what about Lee? What about the things he should still have done? What about the mortgage he'd never forgotten, the children he'd never had, the arguments we'd never shared? What about the long life he could have led, surrounded by people who could not do anything but love him for who he was? What about the secrets he had never spilled, the crushes he'd never had the chance to have, the exams he could have aced?
It has been two months and still every thought I have leads to Lee. At night, I lie awake and think about the little things I didn't notice after Lee's fall - had his eyes been closed or wide open? And, if so, had they reflected the droopy colors of the dawn or had they been flat, empty as a dredged lake? It cannot possibly be healthy to keep on pushing myself to remember, but I can't find it in myself to stop, because to stop would mean forgetting, and to forget would mean to not remember Lee, and to not remember Lee would be unforgivable. And if I could not forgive myself, then how could I ever smile at my parents and laugh at silly jokes and cry about sad movies ever again?
I can feel part of myself go to sleep as I stare straight ahead, seeing nothing and yet everything all at once and I just stand there, feeling my legs go numb as I think about how the edge of the doorway is digging into my shoulder blades, and how I will go to sleep tonight and stare up at that spider-ridden sloped ceiling, and how Lee would've curled into my side like a puppy and laughed about the situation until his throat went sore. And I think that I need to stop doing this, stop making four dimensions out of three, but I am not sure if I can. It's become part of me like the roots are part of a tree and the moon is part of the sky and without it, I'd just be another person living in this world without noticing the way the light hits the walls like a halo and how my stomach sags when I breathe out and how it feels to have rain sliding down your already wet arms like cold, liquid sunshine. I wouldn't think about how beautiful it is to just lie down sometimes and stare at the ceiling and think about all the colors in there, all the little particles that make up part of a home, which makes up part of a life, which is part of a world that is part of a galaxy which, in turn, is part of a universe. And maybe there's another universe out there with another Agnes, who is sitting on a playground swing with a boy called Lee Fern, thinking about the cookies her mother is making for her at home and the warm bed waiting for her at night and all the fun she will have tomorrow.
Sometimes that's the only consolation I have.