Chain Reaction

Cover of Chain Reaction

Chapter One

Health class always mentioned sex and it's repercussions but when mental illness was mentioned, it was short and brief. Mental illness was taught, examined, and acknowledged yet forgotten as soon as every student, including me, walked out of the classroom door. I was only a freshmen in high school when I learned about the signs of suicide. I didn't take it seriously. Reflecting on it now, I had come to realize no one in that tiny classroom took it seriously either. The pamphlet on suicide was probably crumpled up in my old backpack, which was shoved in my closet. I hadn't touched those memories of my ninth grade year since the last day I was a freshmen. Three years ago, to be exact. I was a senior now. Well, I was a senior an hour ago.

Perhaps I was a ghost. Maybe I was just hallucinating as I was dying. However, I was fairly certain the lifeless body sprawled on the floor was me. The body had shaggy, blond hair and a pistol was a foot away from the body's hand. Blood was everywhere. Grey matter protruded out of the head. It had to be me. An hour ago, I had put that pistol to my head. An hour ago, I had pulled the trigger. An hour ago, someone could have saved me.

I knew it was an hour that had passed since my permanent and irreversible action because the clock on my wall had moved its hands in proof. I couldn't feel my body. I commanded an action in my mind and I just did it. There was no explanation or logic I could associate with the situation. All I knew was that I could move my arms and my brain processed itself as moving but I couldn’t feel or see it.

Observing my body only angered me but I didn't know where to go, or even how to exist in this new state. Why was I even here? There was supposed to be an afterlife. Heaven or hell. My parents preached this idea to me since I was a child. Their preaching did not make a difference now.

My body wasn't in a good, fit shape and my gym shorts made my body look even bigger. I should have used those gym shorts to exercise in, not wear everyday because I was too big for all my other clothes. My two hundred and ninety pound body sprawled along the ground looked pathetic. I should have done so much more in my life but I ended it.

Cruelly enough, I didn't regret suicide. Why should I regret suicide anyways? I had nothing to live for. There was no girlfriend in my life. My parents fought and my younger sister was too young to talk about mature topics. Neither of them paid enough attention to me. I didn't talk to many people for them to notice my absence. How long would it take for someone to notice I was gone? No one from school would call. I was alone for the most part. My parents rarely called me down for dinner, which was the main contact we had.. I usually heard them fight during the day but they never heard me while I was drowning in fear and sadness. Loneliness had taken over me for years.

When my parents were happy, a long time ago, they had told me suicide was an unforgivable sin. They also said it was selfish and would hurt them more than me. The six-year-old me promised I would never do such a thing. I hope they remembered that memory when they find my body. I fully expected my parents to blame each other over my death. At least I was free from the fighting and loneliness.

If suicide is caused by mental illness, does that mean I was mentally ill? Depression doesn't seem like such a serious mental illness. Everyone becomes depressed, don't they? It must be severe mental illnesses like Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder that most people associate mental illness with. I hadn't felt so “mentally ill.”

Footsteps sounded at the stairs. A knock lightly tapped across my door frame. “Sebastian? Can you come find my Barbie with me?”

Chapter Two

“Sebastian, why are you ignoring me?” My five-year-old sister Anna Marie questioned my dead body through the door. Of all the people that I wanted to upset with my death, I didn't want her to be the first person. She was so young and innocent. Maybe I was too harsh on her when I was upset. She did come to my door often, now that I thought about it. All the anger I had felt vanished by hearing her small voice.

I heard her knock again on the warped door. I panicked in realization that the door wasn't locked. Thankfully, she knew better than to open the door without permission. After a minute or so, she left with a sigh. In the distance, she called for her Barbie which she had named Lucy. The house seemed quiet from my room. I could look around my room. It was as if I was a ghost. I was everywhere, viewing anything from whichever view I pleased. However, it also felt like I was nowhere. It felt like a dream.

Hours passed and my parents hadn't gotten home. However, the front door opened and then shut as voices sounded up the stairs. It had to be my sister and another girl who sounded about my age. Eventually they got close enough for me to hear.

“I've never seen you come over before,” Anna Marie giggled. “Do you like him?”

“He's my friend. We've been friends since before you were born. I have some important news to tell him, so I came to visit. I've never been here before, though. He only came to my house when we were young.” It was Flower Child's voice. Her name wasn't really Flower Child. Her name was Priscilla Emerson.

Priscilla was in a field a few blocks away picking daisies and weeds that looked like flowers when I had first saw her. I had been riding my bike, which I had proudly just had the training wheels taken off of. She looked pretty in her white dress with a pink ribbon tied around her waist. I was so young and I wanted a girl to call mine in a fashion that only six-year-old children possess. I had dropped the bike and grabbed a fistful of dandelions. My chubby fingers poked her back and I had then shoved the dandelions in her direction. The young children we used to be then sat and talked. I called her Flower Child because I had no idea what her name was and I considered myself to be more adult than her. We grew up together.

Maybe, I was wrong. I hadn't been truly alone. Flower Child talked to me everyday in between classes with her brown eyes and thick, black hair. I had forgotten about her. Suicide was making me rethink my thoughts.

“Why'd he only go to your house?” Anna Marie questioned. Anna Marie had never known when to stop asking questions.

Their voices sounded closer through the door. “My mom and dad didn't want me around boy's without their supervision,” Flower Child answered.

They were outside my door now and a knock sounded. “He isn't going to answer. I think he's asleep,” Anna Marie told Flower Child.

Please, I thought to myself, do not let either of them find my body like this. “That's okay, I'll wait for him to wake up.”

“Do you want to help me find my Barbie?” Anna Marie's voice sounded hopeful.

“I'll make you a deal, if he doesn't wake up in twenty minutes, I'll help you find your Barbie.”

“It must be some important business.” Anna Marie's voice drifted off and footsteps sounded down the steps.

Chapter Three

I couldn't hear Flower Child outside of the door until a small sob escaped. A minute passed by before I heard her fragile voice through the door. “Bash,” she addressed me with my nickname through the old worn door, “I'm sorry about last night. I know, I was upset. That doesn't give me a reason to be angry. You were right, we have been distant. There's a reason for that, though. I've been frightened of you. You've shut me out of your life. It was as if you didn't want much to do with me.”

I reflected on last night. We were texting and she angrily replied, “You know, if you weren't so difficult, maybe I could help you. But no, you won't let anyone help because you're drowning in your own sorrow rather than seeing how lucky you are. Just don't talk to me, especially if you're going to accuse me of ignoring you when all I do is try to help.” I had memorized her text before I died. Her reply was based off of me accusing her of hating me. I regret the conversation now. I realize now that she was right. I was the worst enemy of me, but she didn't have the guts to say it.

Flower Child had always been by my side. It felt like we never spoke much since she got a new boyfriend. Her boyfriend, Freddy, seemed so protective of her. Flower Child was my best friend, my secret holder. Freddy took her in a whirlwind romance and removed me from the situation. I got text messages from her late at night. I had wanted to pretend I didn't see them, that I was asleep. However, I had insomnia and insomnia was a symptom of depression which led to suicide.

I hadn't planned my suicide until three months prior. I never set a date, but I was prepared with my dad's pistol. I knew he would never notice it's absence which is why I took it in a week's advance. I was a ticking time bomb. I had been waiting for the perfect excuse to kill myself. I waited for someone to make me feel worse. Flower Child was who I blamed. The letter on my desk blamed her. My parents and sister would blame me. Police would go through the letter and take my parents and Flower Child into questioning. Had they caused my death? Had they egged me on? Were they aware of my suicidal idealization? These were all questions the police would ask.

If I had the ability, I would rip up the letter. Seeing the events unfurl before me, I realized Flower Child was innocent. Anna Marie was innocent. The people I blamed had no cause in this. Perhaps, it had been my own mind playing tricks on me.

“Bash, I know you're awake. We were up until three in the morning and it's four in the afternoon. You have had plenty of sleep. You skipped school today,” she changed subjects. “You must be exhausted, but that doesn't mean you can skip school for two weeks like you have. Have your parents found out? You're going to be flagged for truancy. Look, I have news.” I heard her slide down on the wall, probably into a sitting position.

“I'm moving away from here for college.” What about Freddy, I wondered. How could you leave his side when he is your knight in shining armor, I thought snidely. “Things aren't working out so well here. I don't want to be around my parents. They're so restrictive. They don't even know about Freddy. I know bitching about my parents gives me no mercy especially with your parents. At least you have freedom. I want you to come to college with me in Santa Barbara. I know, you don't want to go to college. You don't even know what you want to do with your life. Maybe we could figure out together? I have your back.

“You always talk about how you need someone to push you into place. I can do that for you. Remember when you handed me those dandelions all those years back? Well, you gave me the push I needed to be happy. I can do it for you too. I'll be your dandelions. After all, I am the Flower Child.” She sniffled and her body scraped against the wall.

“Let's just escape the world. You can write notes to your little sister through the mail to keep contact. I'll email my aunt to tell her about our adventures. I already have a job lined up so I can support us until you can also get a job. It's not too late to sign up for financial aid, you know. The school is accepting letters-”

“Priscilla?” My mother questioned. Horror faded into my mind. Was this the moment they find out?

Chapter Four

Heavy footsteps pounding up the stairs sounded outside my bedroom door. If I wasn't dead, and if I could feel myself breathe, my breath would have caught in my chest. Below me, the body laid still. How much longer until they found out?

“What's going on?” My father demanded. I imagined him glaring at my mother. The wall sounded like something was being scraped against it again. It was most likely Priscilla getting up.

“Anna Marie let me in,” Flower Child offered my father an answer.

“I assumed that,” my father scoffed.

“Charles,” my mother barked at him to get him to loosen up.

I wanted to see what was going on outside the door. I wanted to see their facial expressions and be able to determine what the full situation was.

“I had to tell Bash something,” Flower Child began. “He hasn't been feeling well, to be honest. At first I thought he was ignoring me when I came up here, but I think he may be asleep. I haven't heard a peep from his room besides what sounds like a fan.”

I imagined my mother would switch into her I'm-a-good-mommy voice. “Priscilla, how did your parents let you here? I thought they didn't want you in a boy's house. Remember when your parents made me speak with them about Sebastian's intentions towards you? He was only six-”

“Chloe, none of that matters right now. Just see why the lazy piece of shit won't come out of his room,” my father interrupted.

“My parents don't know. I came here after school and told them I had an after school project. I needed to see him, I haven't been around him in two weeks,” Flower Child said quickly as if to excuse herself from being in their house uninvited.

My door popped open and my mother's shrill scream flooded the house. Flower Child began to scream with tears streaming down her face. I realized, now, that my mother and father were crying for the first time in years. Footsteps pounded up the stairs and Anna Marie's face appeared from the door frame.

“Mommy,” Anna Marie said hysterically, “What's wrong with Sebastian? Is he mad that I asked him to find my Barbie?” Her voice was high and squeaky. She began sobbing with confusion. She was too young to understand death.

My mother scooped Anna Marie in her arms and my father motioned for them to go down stairs. “Don't worry about Sebastian, baby.” My mother cried while running down the stairs. “Let's just sit in the living room and wait there. Some policemen are going to come and help, okay? Let's just stay here,” her voice faded into the downstairs of my house.

My father called 9-1-1 and Flower Child spread her arms above my dead body. As always in the spring, she was wearing a sundress which began to soil from the blood that had trickled on the floor from me. The pale purple she wore looked so lovely with her dark skin. Her braided hair covered her face. I didn't want her to be knelt over my body. Such a lovely girl didn't need to cry over me. My father paced my bedroom and then stooped over the gun.

“I should have noticed,” he whispered with tears streaming down his face. Flower Child glanced up at him and parted her lips to say something but then hugged my body instead. My father gazed around the room and spotted my note on my desk. I hoped now that my bad handwriting would stop him from being able to read it.

In my dismay, he began to read it. “To the people in my life,” my father began. “Are you happy now? I'm dead. With my father's pistol. I'm sure he wanted to use it on me... or maybe my mom. They did fight, after all. My mother cared for my sister, but did she care for me? No. They abandoned me. Priscilla, you were too busy with Freddy. Did you see the signs of suicide we learned in health class? Probably. You all probably saw it. Yet, you all ignored it. Even Anna Marie was too busy to notice me anymore. I'm tired of being the mute boy who is only spoken to when needed to do something. Sure, I wasn't mute but it damn near felt like it. See you all in hell.”

I regretted the letter. I didn't mean those things. I was angry. I made it seem like my father was going to kill my mother or me. The police would accuse Priscilla of knowing my plans. Hopefully, the text messages between her and me would prove otherwise. My parents would be questioned on the idea of them purposely ignoring me. This would all happen because I was being irrational. I could see that, now. I was irrational because I was upset.

Chapter Five

“I won't blame you,” my father muttered to Flower Child in disbelief. “It was Chloe and I,” he said to himself.

“He was sick...” Flower Child trailed off. “He wasn't thinking straight.” Flower Child put her hand against her mouth to prevent anymore screaming. Her hand traced my body’s arm.

Voices sounded downstairs. A policewoman offered to take care of Anna Marie to my mother so my mother could be upstairs. Anna Marie pleaded downstairs to be with my mother. The policewoman tried to assure Anna Marie my mother would be back to her when my mother could.

Radio's attached to the officers buzzed in codes and announced an ambulance was on their way. Metal jingled and at last my mother and two male police officers appeared. One officer guided my mother to my bed to take a seat. Flower Child rose up from my body, and while clutching her sides, she sank onto my bed. My mother put an arm around Flower Child and sobbed into her shoulder.

My father stared silently at my body with a hand pressed against his mouth. Tears continuously streamed down his face. Behind him, an officer shut the door.

They all then proceeded to give as much information as possible. Pictures of my body were taken and hysterical crying rose up from my mother and Flower Child. The note, gun, and my cellphone was taken as evidence. Horror was over taking my thoughts as statements were taken from my parents and Flower Child. Eventually, the paramedics appeared. A time of death was determined.

Shock overtook me. When I had put the gun to my head, I never had thought much about what life would do after me. I had always been selfish. I had assumed since my life was over, no one else would matter. I assumed my parents wouldn't care. I didn't once think that Anna Marie would grow up seeing my dead body at such a young age. She was too young to be exposed to blood and brain fragments dispersed against the dirty hardwood floor.

Sound began to fade along with the scene in front of me. I wanted to scream, but nothing escaped from me. I felt as if I had a body once more and my body was being dragged at fast speeds through a tunnel. The scene of my death was slowly disappearing in the distance and I could soon sense temperature. The air felt warm. Surrounding me was pitch dark blackness. My body no longer felt like it was moving. I felt sensations in my fingertips and legs. Slowly, with an ache, I reached out into the darkness. I blinked. With every motion came drowsiness until I slowly passed out onto the surface below me that was as hard and cold as ice.

Chapter Six

When I managed to wake up, a warm, vanilla-toned light enveloped me. My surroundings gave me the sensation of clarity and a state of contentment. I could see my arms and legs. I felt clean, well-maintained. Before I had died, I neglected hygiene. I couldn't remember the last time I had brushed my teeth, let alone touched a hair brush.

An enormous, worn, cracked, and wooden mirror appeared to me as I looked behind my shoulder. I swiveled myself and felt aching in my head where a bullet had entered. The mirror reflected an uninjured head. My blue eyes shone in the mirror. I looked down at my clean jeans and graphic t-shirt I was clothed in. I seemed well put together in my reflection. Even my face was shaved.

I felt peaceful, as if everything in my life, before I had died, made sense. Warmness spread across my shoulder as if someone had touched it. I looked behind me, but there was no one. Warm light endlessly filled my vision and only the mirror disturbed it. I pressed my hand against my cheek on my face and watched the mirror replicate me. Was I alive? Was I in heaven? I needed answers. Although, maybe it was best just to accept facts.

“Sebastian,” a voice called. I looked all around but found nothing in sight. The light seemed to be supporting me to have the ability to sit.

“Who's there?” I called out. My voice didn't echo but sounded as if I was in a small, padded room.

“When you left the scene, your parents and Priscilla were questioned. They all blamed themselves and wanted to trade places with you. Anna Marie was put in Child Protective Services until the situation was cleared up. Your parents were innocent. Priscilla was innocent. Most people blame suicide on bullies, but not once has your conscious thought about bullies. You blamed those who were closest to you.

“After the destructive path of life you led, Anna Marie grew up to be silent. Maybe she was a mute, like the way you described yourself to be. Anna Marie didn't let anyone in her life. Through high school, people tried to date her. Yet still, she isolated herself. In college, she sought out to be a Psychiatrist. She gave medications out, once earning her degree, to help people. She wanted to prevent suicide. She never gave herself a break. She never even married.”

“Anna Marie...” Small tears fell to my face.

“Before you died, your parents fought because they were losing hope in their marriage. They had feared that they could not support you and your sister. They didn't want to divorce until you died. They had believed they would make it through the money problems. They believed eventually they could give you and Anna Marie a life they never received as children. They were fighting over you and your depression. After you died, a year of mourning took over your parents. They stopped fighting but divorced out of grief. Anna Marie lived with your mother. Your mother never remarried and mourned you until she was old enough to be taken to a home for the elderly for her Alzheimer disease. Your father, on the other hand, developed an alcohol addiction and died from blood poisoning.”

So many questions fled into my mind as I glanced around the light. “What about Flower Child? We were isolated from the rest of our family. They were bad people. She's the only one left that it would affect severely.”

The voice gave a chuckle. “Have you learned from your mistake? Not entirely, just enough to know it affected some people more than others. Your classmates mourned you. Your whole school mourned you. Many of them thought 'What could I have done to make a difference?' Some students recalled the times you pushed them away when they tried talking to you. Other students remembered the harassment they may have given you. Then, there are the bystanders, the ones who knew you but were afraid to speak, those who acknowledged you, and those who you interacted with in class.”

“I know my mistakes now-”

The voice interrupted me. “Priscilla ended her relationship with Freddy. She moved to Santa Barbara and thought of you often. She named her first child Sebastian. Although, I'm sure you must want to know what could have happened if you hadn't committed suicide.”

I nodded my head and sat in an anxious state. The voice continued on, “Priscilla would have left Freddy. You would have pursued her and begun a relationship with her. Your parents would conceive a child on a night where they got along. That child united them. Your father would move on to a permanent job and your mother stayed home and sent Anna Marie to school. Priscilla and you would have married with Anna Marie holding the baby, Eric, as a ring holder-”

“Let me change what happened. Give me one more chance,” I interrupted.

“Life is a chain reaction. You have become one and taught it to others. Your purpose has been fulfilled.”

My vision grew dark and the sight of my family and Flower Child filled my eyes. A tingling sensation ran through me as I slowly drifted to sleep. I was a flame on a candle that had burnt out.