Chapter 2 - Love is not a Fair Game
FEBRUARY 15, 2010
Katherine sits at her desk, head down, deep within thought as the teacher calls on her.
“Katherine.” He smiles a smug grin with an emotion she can’t quite place hidden within his eyes, she assumes it’s arrogance, or perhaps, an unearned air of self-importance. Maybe it’s why he’d become a teacher in the first place, to call on people like Katherine, people who were deep within their own thoughts. People who had no idea what they were doing. “Can you answer the question?”
Katherine slowly glances up, dazed, unknowing to what the teacher had been talking about.
“Hello?” He sighs but doesn’t look surprised. “I asked the class how the curse started.”
Good, an easy question.
Katherine takes a deep breath before thinking about the old, old tale from decades ago.
Everyone knew how this story began.
And it began with, “Jacob Rogers.” Katherine says the name without wavering, an unreadable emotion passing through her face. “He was a serial killer from the 1900’s, destined to be sentenced to death on the day of an eclipse. The most powerful eclipse ever to be upon the world. He swore innocence. And then, right before his death, he said if I die…the world will end."
Katherine fiddles with her thumbs, trying to regain her composure before expelling a shaky breath.
“Everyone knows that story’s just a myth.” A girl from the back of the classroom speaks up matter-of-factly as if she had spoken everyone’s inner thoughts.
The teacher pointed his ruler at her, shaking his head and sighing, “It’s the closest to the truth we’ve got. I suggest you think long and hard before writing it off.”
The bell rang and Katherine was left feeling half baked, a sip of the truth had pursed her lips, but had it really been the truth or had it been poison? She’d heard the story dozens and dozens of times, from chatter in the hallways, from teachers, from parents, from toddlers, from textbooks, from scrunched up pieces of paper that are almost unreadable. Katherine had begun to believe the world was a lost cause.
She stood up, her legs shaking at the mention of the ‘origin story’. A fear had reverberated through her as she thought about Harold, his brightening blue eyes and their date at the park yesterday. She mentally slaps herself, No, you can not think about him ever again. It was hard, though, to not care about someone you cared about.
Except you don’t care about him.
She wishes it were true.
Katherine had wished for a lot of things, in wishing wells, in shooting stars, in silent prayers, but the thing about wishing was, it wasn’t kind to those like her, to those who had no one.
AUGUST 21, 2015 - THE PRESENT
Katherine is walking home.
She walks slowly, timidly, as if the world was out to get her, and well, in a lot of ways, it was. She glances up at every bird, at every movement, at every snap of a twig, every slither of a shadow, every breeze of the wind. Her eyes gloss back and forth across the park, to the roads, and even, to the little playground. She couldn’t help but notice the children all playing together, smiles and laughter echoing all around her.
It was maddening.
How could everyone in the world be happy but her? It seemed foreign, the way their eyes expressed a joy Katherine had never quite felt, or at least if she did, she didn’t remember.
Katherine steps onto the porch of her small house. Once, this house had belonged to a family, and now, it was all Katherine’s. Everyone else that once populated it had died. Everyone but her.
She missed having a family.
She was about to turn her key into the lock when she heard a bird, a crow, a caw sounding from above. Startled, she drops her key and as soon as she does, the crow swoops down and clasps it, flying up, up, and away…
“WAIT!” She yells out at the sky as if it will listen. What will I do now? Katherine crosses her arms, letting out a breathy sigh. I guess I’ll need to contact a locksmith… Katherine takes out her phone but just as she powers it on, it dies. “Mother nature really has it out for me today!”
She steps down the stairs and begins to walk, yet again, although instead of walking home, she’s walking away, walking towards a person, and she’s going to ask to use their phone. And they’ll say yes, and all will be well again, or as close to well as Katherine’s life gets. She sets off onto the road again, just as it begins to rain.
“Even better.” She grumbles, trying to shield the rain unsuccessfully with her hand. Oh well, she was used to days like these, days where everything seemed to go wrong, days where it felt like the world was playing a cruel trick on her and any second now she was going to wake up, really wake up, and find out none of it was real… Maybe then she could be happy.
But for now, she thinks of only one thing: getting back that key.
This time, with each step, Katherine hadn’t analyzed every moment and movement in her surroundings. Perhaps if she hadn’t been so focused on getting that key, then maybe she wouldn’t of wandered into that alleyway, and maybe she wouldn’t have stumbled upon that book.
An ancient looking thing, with a torn-up cover but surprisingly still relatively intact. Katherine slowly picks up the notebook and opens it up. The pages are yellowed and thin, very obviously aged from time, a long, long time. Specks of dirt and smudges of ink spot the page and Katherine runs her finger over the date written in the corner: January 21st, 1920.
It’s a diary entry:
I am dying.
The curse, it’s all that I am and it is killing me.
I am among the first generation of the curse, little is known, all I know is that the people are in despair.
And I am dying.
“We all seem to die too soon.” Katherine flicks across the pages, sentences jumping out at her:
Please save me.
I talked to Keaton today, he wouldn’t tell me a thing.
The children outside look so helpless.
Houses are burning.
I can still hear the screaming.
Maybe it’s best I don’t live to see the morning.
There are ghosts in the walls.
I think I know how to end the curse.
Katherine stops at that page, at the words, her heart abruptly jolting in her chest, coming to a halt. Oh, please let it be true. She reads the page:
I think I know how to end the curse.
I’m afraid by the time anyone reads this, I’ll be long gone, a strain in the wrinkle of time.
FIND MAXIMUS ALBEIT.
She slams the book shut, her mind racing, twisting, contorting, shaping into a strange sense of hope. Katherine hadn’t felt hope in a long time and although she’d never admit it, the feeling scared her. Hope had let her down a hundred times before, what’s to stop it from doing it again?
And yet, this time she feels it will be different.
Katherine walks back towards the street, the rain had cleared up, the sun was shining, and across the road was Madeline.
She approaches her, warily, unbeknownst of what she was getting herself into. “Hey, Madeline.” She smiles. “I could use your help.”
FEBRUARY 15, 2010
Katherine kneels upon her parents graves.
They’re next to each other, together, even in death, even after death. She likes to imagine they’re watching over her, from the clouds, smiling, proud…
She knows it is not true though, because if her parents had been alive, they’d have surely hated Katherine.
Tears slither down her face, falling onto the dirt, and each one that falls, represents a different life she’d lost, a different burden she’d been forced to bear since birth. When people die, someone always talks about the joy they’ve spread, how they were the best person they’ve ever met. Katherine will get no such thing when she dies because all she’s ever spread was loss and heartbreak. To herself and to others.
“I’m sorry mom and dad.” Katherine whispers to the headstones, bowing her head.
In her hand are two white roses.
She places one atop her dads and one atop her moms.
“The rose of life.” She mutters under her breath, taking one last long stare at the graveyard before turning away.