“I don’t need anyone else,” I whispered.
You don’t need anyone else, they all echoed, my sisters all on the floor surrounding me.
I stuck my hand into the inside of a peach, pulling it out to suck on the juices and residue on my fingers.
Tick, tick, I clicked my tongue.
“Raah!” I roared, digging my face into the peach, devouring every bit of flesh left in it in moments.
I licked my lips and threw the pit at the TV. It didn’t even crack a bit.
“I’m so weak,” I muttered, crawling into fetal position. “I’m so worthless.”
Yes. You are, they all said. But we love you anyway.
And we’ll be with you till you die.
I’d been taking large breaths for a long time. Just puffing my chest in and out.
There were no other options for me. Everyone in my life…everyone who could stop the evils out there…everyone who mattered…they were all dead. Or traitors. Or lost.
And it was all my fault.
I’d planned to just sit back and relax till I died, but I didn’t deserve any comfort at all.
Eve was probably lying about Donald being kind. He was you after all. He was probably a monster. Why else would she have waited so long to tell you the truth?
“You’re right,” I said, shaking my head. “So right.” I laughed. “Plus she tried to tell me I only heard you all because I was sick. Lying cunt.”
It’s a good thing Carter won’t ever have to find out how much of a disappointment one of his idols is. You’ve hurt him enough as is.
“You’re right. I know.”
Just imagine what Shay would think. She’d be disgusted.
Oh I don’t know. I think she’d be relieved that she was put in a magical coma instead of fucking him.
“You’re right. So, so right.”
Of course we are.
She never loved you. None of them did.
It was stupid of you to think anyone could. Anyone but us.
And you love us too. Right…big brother?
“Open the door Malcolm!”
Startled out of the position I was in, I sat on my knees and turned my head from side to side.
“Did you guys hear something?”
Would it matter if we did?
If someone wants to kill you, you should let them.
“I know. It just. It just sounded like…”
It doesn’t matter.
You don’t matter.
I nodded, spreading some of the peach residue left on me across my face.
Go to sleep.
Go to sleep, big brother.
Go to sleep fore…
“…for ten minutes! You come out or I come in!”
“It…it’s her.” My lips shook and my eyes widened. “I should…”
You don’t want to hurt her, do you?
“Of course not. But she’s right out there.”
“I can hear you Malcolm!”
Take her down.
So you don’t completely ruin her life. Again.
“Okay,” I said, standing up “Coming, kid!”
Sorry Raina, I thought. I don’t know why you’d come here but this is for your own good.
Reaching the door, I took a breath. This was going to suck.
“It’s good to see…” I started to say as I opened the door, ready to sucker punch her, but stopped when I saw her face.
“Oh my god.”
Carter had told me about what he’d accidentally done, but I’d never seen what had happened to her myself.
Moving what was left of her face into what looked like a sneer, Raina disappeared from where she was standing and the next thing I knew, I was getting kicked in the back of the head and knocked to the floor.
I grunted as one of her shoe heels dug into my back.
“Pick which question you want to answer first but you’re not getting up until you answer them all,” she stated as fact, sounding smug and superior.
“Kid, listen, you don’t know what…” She dug her heel in with more force. “Ahhh!”
“So, why are you naked in the middle of day? Why do you smell worse than the average Gap shopper? Why are your muscles so atrophied? Why did you think shutting yourself away from everything was a good idea? And why are you covered in what I can only hope is juice?”
Yup. Her face was almost unrecognizable but this was definitely Raina.
Get up!!! they shouted.
“Please get off me,” I begged.
“I weigh less than 100 pounds and I’m not even putting my entire body weight on you,” she said. “If you can’t get me off yourself, that’s a you problem.”
I tried to push myself up, but I couldn’t overcome her force at all.
You worthless waste of skin! they screamed.
“I’m trying,” I whimpered under my breath.
“Are you?” she asked, kicking me in the side. “Cause it doesn’t look like you’ve been trying at anything.”
I didn’t know what she was doing here, but if I was going to get rid of her but I hurt her, I was going to have to listen to her. Although maybe Adam had sent her to kill me and she was just playing with me. I’d be okay with that.
“I’m naked because there was no point in wearing clothes,” I started. “I smell bad because I haven’t showered in a week. My body is weak because I haven’t been eating or exercising. I shut myself away for everyone else’s sake. And I’m not too sure why I decided to cover myself in juice.” I turned my head around to look at her. “Happy?”
“Pretty hard to be so when both of my best friends have self-destructed,” she answered, taking her foot off of me and walking into my apartment.
Now! Get her now!
My sisters knew best.
I slowly stood up, not making a sound.
Before she could say anything else, I wildly threw a punch at the back of her head.
What the…?! I thought as I swung at the air.
Turning around, she was now standing where I had been when I attacked and I was inside the apartment.
“You switched us around,” I said. “Since when can you do that?”
Don’t talk! they shouted. Kill her!
Kill her? No, that’s not what I wanted to do.
“If you’d answered any of my texts or calls, you’d know,” she replied, coming back inside. “Now why did you just try to hit me?” she laughed.
She doesn’t even see you as a threat!
Break her neck!
“No! Stop it! I don’t want to hurt her!” I screamed, swinging at her again. Once again I failed to make contact, our places getting swapped. “I’m sorry,” I turned around. “I…I don’t…”
As she closed the door, her face changed again, but I still couldn’t tell what she was feeling.
“You’re hearing them, aren’t you?”
Here it comes. She’s about to call you crazy.
“Have these ‘sisters’ of yours been telling you to let you ruin yourself like this?”
“There was never anything good about me to ruin.”
“I bet they’ve been telling you that too.”
Teeth clenched, I shook my head.
“Eve and Olivia told me everything,” she continued. “What Eve did, tricking you, it wasn’t right. None of their lies have been.”
“Got that right,” I muttered.
Without any hesitation in her step, she strutted over to me and put a soft hand on my face.
Get her off! they screamed, a chill being sent down my spine.
“I’ve done a lot of things that weren’t right too. Things that I’m trying to put behind me.” She lowered her hand off my face, dropping it into my hand. “You said you shut yourself away for everyone else. Because of mistakes you made? You can put those behind you too.”
Looking into her eyes, one of her few features which weren’t mangled, there was something different about her. There was…a clearness.
I violently pulled my hand away from her, jumping back.
“Even if you’re not happy, it seems like you’re doing better.”
“I am,” she nodded. “Free from my father, together with Ally…ready to be a hero.”
Why are you talking? You should be smashing!
“Quiet down!” I cried back at my sisters. Turning my attention back to Raina, whose concern was plain to see even through the scarring, I said, “I’m happy for you then. I really am. But leaving things in the past? I can’t do that. What happened to Erica, Lillian, Shay and Joey…that’s all on me. And there’s nothing I can do to make up for it.”
The kid licked her lips and lowered her head.
“You’re right that there’s nothing we can do about Joey. But what happened to him was not your fault. He may have given his life for you, but I’m the one who let him go. And Lillian and Erica? I’m sorry, but they weren’t real.” Before my sisters or I could express our rage at her insulting the dead, she said something else. “What happened to Shay wasn’t your fault either.” She raised her head and smiled. It wasn’t a smirk or a grin as she usually wore, but just a warm smile. “And it’s not too late to save her.”
“Shay,” I whispered, my mouth held open.
Keeping the smile, she pressed her lips together and nodded.
She’s lying! You killed her!
Don’t ignore what she just said about Erica!
“Shay,” I repeated softly. “No!” I screamed, kicking an empty plastic container across the room. “No, you’re lying Raina! Lying like you are about my sisters!”
“Please listen to me, Malcolm!”
“That’s not my name!” I shouted back. “It’s just some bullshit I made up. And I’m no damn Donald either. Just…Bang or Bro.”
She walked further into the apartment. Was she trying to get closer to my sisters?
She better not try anything, I thought, walking behind her.
“You seem to have a real problem with lies, but you’re lying to yourself. I don’t give a damn who you were before we met. I’m not Eve or Olivia. All I know is Malcolm, the man I’ve fought side by side with, our lives on line time and time again. The one who’s always tried to talk sense to Carter and I.” Her voice softened. “The one we should have listened to more.”
“Do I look like someone you should be listening to?”
“Dunno. Do I look like a beauty pageant winner?” What was she talking about? “Be it what we look like or who we are on the inside, it doesn’t matter; change is always possible. For better or for worse. Or can you honestly tell me you prefer living like this?”
I spat at the floor next to her foot.
“It doesn’t matter. We’ll be dead soon enough.” I poked her chest. “For the same reason there’s nothing we can do for Shay.”
She frowned, starting down at my finger.
The next thing I knew, I was back on the floor, belly up, her foot on my stomach.
“Apparently I’m gonna have to stick with this if I want you to listen,” she bemoaned. “We think we have a way to beat Abraham. And like I said, save Shay. But we need you to do it!”
Enough messing around, Bro! Get rid of her!
I started taking large breaths again, Raina’s foot bouncing up and down as a result.
“No, no there’s nothing we can do. Especially not me.”
“Will you shut it with that, please? Eve thinks that Carter can beat Abe…”
“Oh, Eve thinks so,” I interrupted, to which I was met with a stomp to my stomach.
“…but if that’s gonna happen, we already need to have Shay up and running,” she continued. “And we’ve got a way to get that done.” I didn’t say anything this time. Neither did my sisters. I was just gonna wait until she was done explaining her bullshit. “Abe trapped Shay in her soul with some magical crap. Lucky for us, we’ve got someone who knows magical crap too. Eve thinks she can pull her out, but the spell requires someone who loves her. Olivia, Eve and I don’t fit the bill and Carter has lost his mind worse than you. You’re the only one can do it.”
Tears left my eyes.
Maybe she was telling the truth. Maybe she wasn’t. Either way…
“Joey,” I moaned.
“What about him?”
“He…he could have done it too. He loved her so much.” There was a look of surprise on her face, but not too much of one. “He loved her so damn much, Raina!”
She nodded in agreement.
“Isn’t that just one more reason to come with me? You think I’m lying but what could I possibly have to gain from that?! I know you’re mad at Eve and Olivia, and you have every right to be. But I know you still care about Shay and Carter. You care about Joey’s sacrifice. And I hope you care about me.” Tears came down her face, faster than they were mine. “We’re your family, Malcolm, not a bunch of guns.” She removed her foot and reached a hand down to me. “Come back to us.”
Hand quivering, I raised my hand up.
We’re you’re family!
You don’t need them!
Raina was smiling through her tears.
“Take my hand.”
All my sisters, all of them, were screaming at me. I couldn’t even hear what they were saying. It was just noise. Noise, noise, noise.
“They’re all screaming! They’ve all been screaming at me, Raina!”
She bent down and took my hand herself.
“I know you think they’re real. I’ve…I’ve hallucinated myself. You don’t just hear them, you feel them. And for you, they’ve been a part of your life for over a decade.” She squeezed. “I can get you medication and therapy. But you need to fight this now.”
She’s just trying to tear us apart!!! they all screamed simultaneously.
“Stop it! Let me think!” I covered my ears, but they just got louder.
My breathing got faster, my heart pounding. Raina’s mouth was moving but I couldn’t hear her.
“Please! Why can’t I have all of you?!”
I shut my eyes. Needed to focus. Needed a find a way to make them care about each other. I loved Shay. I loved Raina and the others. And I loved my sisters. Why couldn’t they just accept each other?!
Reopening my eyes, I was somewhere else.
“Oh god,” I said. “Did Raina teleport me here or am I actually crazy?” Looking at myself and my surroundings, I was in a suit and tie and sitting in a massive office. “Crazy it is.”
The door on the other end of the office opened up. A young woman walked in like she owned the place, taking a seat on the desk in front of me, legs crossed.
She poked my nose with a finger.
And for a moment, everything clicked.
“Malcolm!” I heard, coming back to reality as Raina slapped my face. “Can you hear me?”
“Brianna,” I repeated.
Teeth grit and a scowl on my face, I shot up to my feet and walked across the apartment.
“None of you are Brianna!” I screamed, kicking my guns.
Bro, please stop!
We love you!
We’ve always been here for you!
“No! You’re not her!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, tossing them around and doing anything else I could to ‘hurt’ them.
I didn’t know who Brianna was. But I knew she mattered to Donald…mattered to me the same way I felt about my sisters. No…she mattered more.
Please stop! Chewie shouted.
You’re hurting us, Bro, Dot said.
Think of all the good times we’ve had together, Zelda pleaded.
You saved us! Sparky tried to remind me.
They were getting me. Hurting my heart. I did still love them and every strike I made hurt me more than it did them. But I needed to be free.
“I’m sorry everyone,” I said, bashing Dot against a wall. “But I need you out of my head…and out of my life!
They all went quiet again.
We understand, Bro.
Do what you need to do.
But don’t forget.
We’ll always love you.
Dropping Dot, I realized I’d been crying through this whole thing. My former sisters were scattered across the floor. It was messed up, but I really was going to miss them.
“Goodbye,” I whispered.
Raina had stood up and was looking at me with a combination of fear and confusion.
I’d always supposedly been Raina and Carter’s mentor, but I never really saw myself that way. But they did look to me. They were the ones who needed me. Shay needed me. There was a chance I would never find out who Brianna was or why she was so important to me. But here and now, I knew who my family was.
“Alright kid. Tell me what you need me to do.”