Hysteria

Janus C.


Vampire, vampire, hotter than hellfire! Strolling through the city, her heart has got no pity for ya! She tapped her fingers lightly against her thigh to the beat as her alarm rang out. After a moment, she sat up and stretched her arms out. Her small yawn turned into a bearing of fangs. Eventually, once the 30-second clip of the song ended, she clicked the alarm off and stood up to get dressed for the day.

Her name was Clarissa Handel, 22. Well, she was much older than that, some hundreds of years, in fact, but her appearance suggested otherwise. Her hair— wavy and a royal blue— ended an inch above her shoulders. Her eyes were a bright piercing red. Her skin was light yet grayed, for she had no life within her. She stood at 5 feet and 7 inches, a bit taller than some of her peers. Most importantly, she was a student attending the only college for monsters in the mortal realm, Fiend’s Valley University! It was a pleasure to live there, even throughout the summer. With the facilities powered by magic, there wasn’t much need for any restrictions on students staying as long as they needed.

Just like any other day, it was a good day for a pair of combat boots. Besides the boots, her dark red thigh-highs were a staple of her daily outfits. She even decided to pull out her favorite black dress— lacy at the shoulders, flared out slightly to the hem from her waist— for the occasion of the year, move-in day!

Why was it so special? Well, it was the day that her lovely and literally demonic ex-girlfriend, Hysteria, moved back on campus! Hysteria couldn’t live there because her job required her to stay in Hell during the hottest months. It was peak torture season, so the rest of the demons there needed as much help as they could get with punishing all those atrocious bastards. As such, she usually volunteered to work then. Clarissa grinned at the thought of how charitable and wonderful she was. Seeing her again after those long 3 months was the best thing one could ask for.

On the other hand, she had no idea what dorm her beloved would be staying in this semester. The two used to live in the same room— the one she’s currently staying in— but this year, Hysteria opted to get a new room after their breakup. So, it was time for her to get going—out to the campus green. Before leaving, she grabbed her blacked-out parasol and rubbed on some sunscreen. It was her daily routine to apply the substance so the sun’s rays wouldn’t slowly burn her skin to a crisp.

At the front of campus—the site of Clarissa’s room—two dorm halls were on opposite sides of a great marble walkway, which was then surrounded by a few yards of healthy, newly-cut grass. The walkway led up to a set of Gothic black gates with matching fencing that stretched across the entire perimeter of the university.

Hysteria would be a flame ascending from a set of proverbial stairs near that entrance to the campus grounds. These stairs disappeared after her and many other demons’ exits. They were like what a human would call a school bus, except they departed from the depths of the blazing underworld.

Right on cue, the stairs appeared with a burst of smoke just outside the gates. Clarissa practically sped down the hallways to one of the dorm’s doors. Her parasol opened with a fwoop in the entryway before she spun the door handle and burst through.

Excited to the brim, Clarissa teleported in a dim azure flash from one end of the green to the other until she had exhausted her power. The rest of the time she had her parasol in hand, running her way off to the front of the gate. She attempted to catch her breath quickly and stood silently, both hands clutching the parasol while waiting for Hysteria to grace her.

Most of the demons and other Hell-dwelling creatures had already left through the gates to find their rooms. The stairs descended back into the ground with a glorious rumble as her love leapt out onto the marble and landed on her feet in an explosive crash. The stone cracked around her, and fire burnt some of the surrounding grass.

Hysteria. She was a shining figure, burning with a blaze of dark red skin. Her wavy, licorice hair floated off past her right shoulder, defying gravity. Her frame was strong, muscled yet soft to the touch. She was tall, standing a few inches above Clarissa. The head upon her shoulders was round and plump. Her eyes were golden with bronzed, fiery irises like the sunrise that graced the planet each morning. She wore ripped-up black jeans and a tight sleeveless top with a high neck.

Clarissa swirled her parasol around as Hysteria approached. “Welcome back!” She smiled coyly. “Your entrance was spectacular as always. Truly.”

“Hey, Clarissa. You say it every time, but…your compliment is always appreciated.” She laughed and pulled her into a tight hug. “I missed you.”

Despite her arms burning from the sun-kissed contact, Clarissa’s smile grew. “I missed you too…”

Hysteria let go and sighed. “The work down there is…something, alright.”

“I understand, Hysteria. Torture sounds exhausting. Having to listen to all those cries…it must be irritating.” Clarissa put a hand to her chest and moved it away when she finished her statement.

“Not necessarily.” She looked at Clarissa as they walked past the first academic building. “The gags help with that. The only issue is how tedious it can be. It’s fulfilling work, but it is long. Each one gets an hour, and since we continuously restore their wounds, it gets old very fast. Not to mention, I…” She stopped herself and laughed again. “Can’t say that, actually!”

“You won’t divulge, even to me?”

“It’s a secret. Well, maybe I can tell you later!”

“Hm, alright! What dorm are you in, though?” The other students nearby were flooding into the Gothic halls. Each dorm building looked very similar in their structure. The paint and siding of each building were some kind of neutral hue, with different pops of color on the spires and the shutters of the stained glass windows. Each dorm was decorated with a different color combination, but they all resembled each other besides that. The only other indication was by the nameplates plastered on the front entrances.

“Invictus, 242. Promise you won’t show up out of nowhere?” Hysteria stopped walking and stared at Clarissa.

“How come?” She pulled her parasol closer to her.

“I have a roommate. At the very least, can you knock?”

“Of course….” Clarissa smirked.

Hysteria glared at her. “Come on. Promise!”

She giggled. “I absolutely promise I won’t enter uninvited.”

“Thank you.” As they got closer to Invictus Hall’s umber-colored exterior, Hysteria prepared to break off and enter. “See you at lunch, Clarie.” She waved and disappeared into the entryway.

The nickname! Ah, it had been so long, Clarissa thought. Her heart soared, and she wondered what she should even do next after that exchange. The sun was beating down above her, so she decided to head off under the shade and apply more sunscreen before anything else. The parasol was doing well enough, but sometimes she preferred to walk around like the rest of her friends. It took her a few minutes to completely cover herself in enough for the day. It was a sunscreen made specifically for vampires, sold by her friend Ode at their shop off-campus. Although she didn’t like the sun much, it was nice every once in a while when she was feeling particularly on top of the world.

After she was done, Clarissa took off to go to her first class, which admittedly was another thing she did rarely. What even was there left to learn in regards to Eldritch chants? She knew much of the basics, and it wasn’t her favorite thing in the world. The chants were only useful in the context of homicidal rituals, which she didn’t have to perform to kill someone. Besides, murder was wrong. In most cases.

Truly, the University had much too many highly-specific classes. Then again, it was made to teach mostly immortals and death-defying creatures, so there had to be a plethora of subjects to choose from. The logistics of the college always went right over her head, though. Clarissa wondered what in the world possessed the Lord of the Underworld and a coven to create this place in the middle of California. What was the story again? She thought for a brief moment, but she didn’t care too much. She was only grateful she had the opportunity to spend her life there. She giggled silently at the thought that Hysteria and Ode certainly wouldn’t like her being so nonchalant about its creation. Ode, particularly, had a soft spot for Satan, so they especially would have scolded her. She wondered how her friend was doing today. The two were supposed to meet for lunch, but Ode’s duties at the shop usually took precedence over hanging out. It was always a mystery how they ever had time for anything else.

The class ended with a demonstration, and afterwards, a student with a death-wish volunteered to have someone practice on him. Clarissa left feeling a little disgusted at his crudeness. In any case, she successfully passed the time for lunch to come up quickly. Ecstatic, she bounded out of the classroom and off to the cafe to grab a drink.

The cafe was the only place that was suited to tend to any kind of monstrous appetite. There were other restaurants scattered across Fiend’s Valley for lots of different cuisines, but the university needed to accommodate as many monsters as possible.

Contrary to popular belief, most vampires can actually eat regular food! Human blood is just the tastiest, most appealing, and fulfilling thing for them. Clarissa needed a lot of it to keep healthy when the rest of the time she just delightfully indulged in desserts and alcohol. Other types of food were reserved for special occasions when she wanted to be polite. Her favorite drink to get her actual fill was a mix of blood and fruit juice—delicious and refreshing! She couldn’t fathom only eating other organisms like some kind of carnivore.

With her drink in one hand and parasol in the other, she left out to the courtyard that sat in the middle of the university’s main building. The courtyard had about a dozen tables spread out across more marble flooring. There was a separate grassy section a few steps below the tables with trees for shade and some assorted flowers planted alongside the building.

Clarissa found Ode sitting patiently at one of the tables alone. They were an alien-like creature with pinkish-gray skin, layered with brown birthmarks and whitened scars. Multiple eyes with black sclera and white irises were scattered across their face. Their fringy, ivory hair came down across the sides of their face, a bit past their non-existent ears. Instead, they had little antennae at the top of their head. They were shorter than all of their friends— a bit stockier than the others, too. That day, they wore a simple black sundress that went to their knees.

Once Ode noticed her walking their way, they quickly looked up from the book they were reading. “Hello Clarissa! It’s nice to see you so early today!”

“That it is, Ode! I thought you weren’t able to come today?” Clarissa pulled out a chair and sat on the other side of the table.

“Luckily, it was fine,” they replied. “I closed the shop for a while so we could have lunch. It’s slow around this time, usually. Besides, I put a note, and everyone reads notes, right?”

Clarissa laughed. “It’s the opposite. For me, at least, I’ll disregard those things.”

Ode closed their eyes and sighed. “I know how you are, but my customers aren’t like that. They understand that running a shop alone can be stressful.”

“They do?”

“Yes, they do! My usuals are very nice.” Ode pressed down on their book and started reading again.

“Alright.” Clarissa giggled. She took a few sips of her drink and looked off to a set of doors that led into the courtyard. Hysteria walked through with another girl. They were coming closer, and…they were walking together?

Hysteria came up to the table with the other girl. “Hey, you two! Sorry to bring another person here randomly, but…this is Alice! She’s my roommate and a new student here. She’s also…” she whispered, “…a human!”

“A human? Here?” Ode looked at Hysteria confusedly.

“Mhm, the first of the kind in Fiend’s Valley!”

“Really?” Clarissa put her drink down on the table.

“Yeah,” Hysteria affirmed, taking a seat. She dragged a hand through her plum-tinted hair and gestured at Alice to sit down. “I was showing her around campus, so I invited her to lunch, too. I thought it would be a great opportunity for her to meet everyone. Being the only human here is likely terrifying. She needs some more friends than just me, you know?”

Clarissa took a good look at Alice. She was a slim girl sporting mid-length black hair with a round yellow flower pressed into it. Her eyes were a gleaming dark brown, and her skin was beige with rosy undertones. She was shorter than Clarissa, but only by a couple of inches. She wore a white t-shirt under a set of floral overalls that descended into a pair of Mary Janes. Her style was…kind of impeccable! Clarissa’s heart burned with an intense fire, rivaling that of the blasted sun.

“Of course. New friends are always welcome!” Ode chimed in, “it’s very nice to meet you, Alice! I’m Ode, and that over there is Clarissa. She’s usually pretty chatty, but it seems today she doesn’t want to say too much.”

Clarissa shot a glare at Ode, and they gave a knowing look back.

“Thank you. It’s nice to meet you, too!” Alice smiled brightly at the two of them. She seemed a bit oblivious, thankfully. All humans are the same, Clarissa thought.

The rest of the group exchanged more conversation as Clarissa sat silently, taking sips of her drink and watching the others. Eventually, she got up and went off to the bathroom. The group was laughing as she left.

There was a twinge of anger making its way into her head. She stepped into the bathroom and ran the sink. Her hands moved slowly under the water, and she cupped them to throw some water on her face.

“Get yourself together, fool,” she whispered into the mirror, “she’s only her roommate. What’s there to worry about?” The cold stung, but she kept splashing it on her face. Her hair was dripping now. She couldn’t go back like this.

She turned the faucet off and began drying her face. After a moment, the door to the bathroom opened with a quiet creak.

Ode walked in with a concerned expression. They stood next to Clarissa and spoke up. “I figured you were here. Are you alright?”

“I’m…I’m fine!” she said, casually tossing the soaked paper towel in her hand into the trash. Water kept dripping off onto the floor as she kept her head down.

“Evidenced by you running to the bathroom.”

“Hey, you don’t need to—” She stopped and glanced at them. “F-Fine. I’m a little upset.”

They smiled and put a hand on her back. “There’s nothing wrong with feeling how you do.”

“That doesn’t make it better…” She wiped her eyes. “It’s worse knowing that I can’t do anything. Isn’t it pointless to feel this way? She’s long gotten over me. I knew that already.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s pointless. If you feel horrible about it, maybe the best thing to do is to make strides on getting over her for good?”

“If I could have done that, I would have. It isn’t that easy.” She sighed, lifting her head and looking off into the mirror.

“Well, maybe take this as an opportunity to focus on something new, or someone new.” Ode grabbed a paper towel from the rack and handed it to Clarissa. She wiped her face again and crumpled the paper in her hands, making a ball with her fist around it.

“That’s…you’re right.” She stood up straight and turned around, crossing her arms in front of her. As she shut her eyes, thoughts bounced around in her head for a while before she finally settled on a devious idea. She smiled wide at Ode and said, “maybe I do have something in mind that would help.”

“Really? What is it?”

“I’ll show you when the time comes!” With that, Clarissa paraded out of the bathroom.

The two walked back over to Hysteria and Alice headed to the table with their food. Hysteria held a tray while Alice held a foam container. Clarissa and Ode sat next to each other— her with a stupid grin, them with a perplexed stare.

Hysteria put her tray of charred steak and mushrooms down and pulled a chair out to sit. She stretched her arms out above her head and exhaled deeply. “It’s such a nice day today…the perfect temperature!” At noon, it was around 97 degrees Fahrenheit, a little sweltering to most.

“It makes sense you would like it.” Alice laughed as she opened up her container. Inside was a piece of crusted salmon with green beans and mashed potatoes. Fish and the smell of garlic— that meal was truly the bane of Clarissa’s existence!

“Ah, I want some of what you have…it looks really good!” Hysteria eyed Alice’s plate. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my usual, but human food seems much more delectable than demon cuisine.”

“Haha, well, salmon’s a really great dish! You can pair it with a lot of different flavors, but this type is my favorite. It’s a bit heavy with the potato, though.” She chomped down on a mouthful of potatoes.

The two girls bounced off of each other like nothing, like they’d been friends for years. It was unnatural; it was weird! What happened for them to be such good pals already? The question stung Clarissa’s mind like the sun on her fragile skin. She had to keep it together. Her goal was clear; she had no reason to be thinking like that after devising her plan.

The conversation felt like it lasted for hours, but it was really only 15 more minutes.

Ode picked up their book and stood from the table. “This has been really fun, everyone! I have to get back to my shop, though. If you want to stop by, it’s the shack at the end of Shadow Lane. It was really nice to meet you, Alice. You’re a very cool person!”

“Aw, thanks so much, Ode. You are too. I’ll try to come by some day this week, then!” Alice waved goodbye to them.

“Thank you! I always like to show off the collection of items I have.” Ode walked a bit away from the table. “Goodbye then, everyone!” They waved quickly and rushed off into the building with their book in hand.

“Dammit,” Hysteria cursed. She stood up with her tray. “I forgot. I have band practice in 10 minutes! I gotta go. It’s a bit of a walk, so…I’ll see you two later!” She put her tray back and threw out her trash a few feet away then promptly came back for a second. “Also, Clarissa, could you show Alice around a bit more? Maybe show her the auditorium, and I’ll cover anything else I missed later.”

Clarissa nodded. “Yeah, I can do that….See you, Hysteria!”

Hysteria waved at the two of them and ran off in a blast of smoke.

“Right, well…let’s get going, Alice!” Clarissa got up and motioned for Alice to follow her.

After the two girls threw out their own trash, Clarissa took Alice out of the courtyard and the main building. The auditorium was near a collection of recreational buildings at the back of campus. It was the biggest structure among them, standing at around three stories high. Marble walkways lined with flowers and grass connected each building together. The two walked toward the auditorium as Alice pointed out the flowers she liked. Despite the fire burning in Clarissa’s heart, this was the moment, the perfect time to conduct the first act of her plan!

“This is one of my favorite spots on campus. Feast your eyes on the grand performance hall, Alice!” Clarissa opened up the double doors and threw an arm behind her with her hand outstretched, showing off the room. It was a large stage hall covered in two floors and a balcony of cushy satin seating. The walls were lined with the same material and rose three stories up into the ceiling covered in recessed lighting. On the stage, a piano sat off to the side with the lid closed.

“You’re very theatrical. Do you act?” Alice asked with a raise of her brow as they walked down to the stage from the ramp on the side.

“No! I’m simply a musical artist.” Crossing her arms, Clarissa looked off at the piano. “It’s quite offensive you would suggest I’m a girl of the theatre…but I would say I’m a connoisseur when it comes to the act of flirtation.”

Alice blinked a few times. “Huh? What do you mean…?”

A moment of silence passed, and Clarissa’s face would have been pink if it had any circulation. She cursed under her breath then burst out into a fit of laughter. “Ahahaha!! I didn’t mean…” She struggled to find more words and stammered, “R-right, you see, Hysteria and I used to date. She’s the loveliest demon I could ask for, really.”

Alice smiled wryly and tugged at one of her overall straps. “Oh, I see! So, you mean…she was your girlfriend.”

“Yes. We wrote songs together, sang duets….that kind of thing!”

“And this is your favorite place because of her, huh? That’s so cute!” Alice seemed to smile at that thought genuinely. “Though, she doesn’t seem like the type for classical.”

Somehow, Alice had ruined her gay gushing. Another pang of rage stabbed Clarissa in the neck.

“Well, sure…! Her style is much more rock-punk, but she’s a sweetheart at her core.” Clarissa cleared her throat. “Anyway, this is also the place where plays and orchestral processions happen, but I would say those are much less important than her presence.”

She laughed a little at Clarissa’s comment. “Can you play something? I’d love to hear, if that’s alright.”

Oh, she would give Alice a show, alright.

“Of course! I can’t promise it’ll be better than what she could do.” Clarissa sat herself at the bench and opened up the cover to play, cracking her knuckles before she began. “After all…” Clarissa snickered, “…she’s much more masterful with her fingers.” Her glare of glowing red shot through Alice like a bullet. She exposed her fangs with an open-toothed grin.

“H-Hm!” Alice coughed into her hand forcefully and took a step away from the piano, slowly descending to the audience. “You know, I really should get going—”

“Ah, ah! You’ll miss my performance!”

A sapphire glow took hold of Alice, sitting her in a chair as Clarissa’s audience. She was locked in place.

“Now then, Vivaldi’s Summer ‘Storm.’” The first notes echoed out into the hall; powerful chords struck the piano with such force it shook the entire thing. Her voice sank low and boomed out through the hall as the song escalated into arpeggios of tempestuous bolts. “Well…get running!”

Alice shrieked and stumbled on a bit of frayed carpet before she frantically ran towards the front doors. Clarissa laughed with vigor after she bolted from the stage. The song was left unfinished, but her first act was complete.

***

It had been about a month and a half since Clarissa’s first act. Occasionally, she would play smaller jokes on Alice that were much more lighthearted in nature.

While Alice was sitting in the courtyard, she dug around in her pocket for the note that Clarissa had sloppily planted a minute earlier. It had a very poorly drawn picture on it. The drawing depicted Clarissa smiling and holding hands with Hysteria as a crying Alice was in some kind of vehicle. Alice got up from under the tree she was sitting by and went to check the one that Clarissa was very obviously hiding behind.

Alice spoke up as she turned, put a hand on the tree, and pulled out the note. “Hey, is this supposed to be a car?”

Clarissa jumped audibly and stuttered, “W-what? Of course it is.”

“I was just thinking. Do you want to learn how to draw?”

“Why are you asking? It’s a perfectly fine drawing.”

Alice laughed a little at that. “You could spice it up a bit more, though. I promise I can help you if you want to learn.”

“Hm…p-perhaps I could use a little help.” Clarissa was, again, flustered. “But that’s all! Only so I can…make…better—”

“Threats?”

“Exactly! That’s all!”

Alice laughed some more.

Dammit! She had to kick it up a notch if she was going to get anywhere! How in the world was she supposed to get her to leave when she was so…infuriating?!

Despite Clarissa’s grumbling, the two ate lunch together. After getting their food, they sat next to each other under the tree with their respective lunches— Clarissa’s usual blend of blood and fruit and Alice’s bowl of lettuce and vegetables. It looked absolutely abhorrent. Tasteless!

Clarissa sipped her drink. “Why are you being so…” She stared at the window, watching the students inside walk down one of the halls.

“So…?” Alice put her fork down.

“…Ugh. You weren’t even afraid of me, were you?” Clarissa groaned and turned to look at her.

“Well, that’s not entirely untrue.” She smiled.

“Then what was it?”

“It was fascinating. Well…you are.”

If any one word could describe Clarissa’s face at that moment, it would be stunned. “What does that mean?”

“That scene at the auditorium…it was really fun, honestly! It was a little terrifying, considering you were…I don’t know? I think you were trying to threaten my life? But it was still kind of…exciting. You are a vampire, after all. It was a little flattering that you felt…threatened by me, too.” She laughed.

“I-I did not! I’m not…” Clarissa pouted at her.

Suuure.” Alice teased her and continued eating.

Clarissa glared back after taking another sip of her drink. “…Why did you come here, anyway? How?”

Alice put her bowl down again. “…I had been thinking of colleges to apply to for a while, so I planned to search again one morning to finally get some applications in. Instead, there was …  some kind of glitch on my computer. It showed the website on my screen when I opened it up one day.”

“Huh? That’s not possible…is it?”

“Apparently, it is. It felt like it was almost made for me. I’ve always been really interested in monsters and mythology. So, it was really weird to find it sitting there in front of me. And it was totally free, too? It was perfect.”

“Hm…that’s one of the best parts. It’s very nice to not have to worry about worldly economics.” Clarissa sipped her drink again.

“It was all I worried about at home.” Alice laughed again.

Clarissa joined her. “I can’t imagine having to deal with money anymore. I had a hard time of it once, too.”

“Yeah. My family was strapped for money when I was younger, so I had to get a job as a teenager. And it kind of carried past high school. So even when things weren’t tough anymore, I still didn’t want to burden my parents. You’re much older, being a vampire and all, though. I’d assume that your experience was a lot different than mine, being that you’re from…when were you born?”

“That’s a very personal question…” Clarissa crossed her arms. “…but I’ll answer! Just because I’ve enjoyed this conversation.”

Alice giggled. “I’m glad!”

“Well, I was born in the mid-1800s in England. You’re not getting anything more specific than that.”

“Still, that puts you at almost 150, at least.”

“H-hey now…let’s not put a number to it. Vampires are sensitive about that kind of thing, you know? Consider me the age that I turned, alright?”

“What is that, then?”

“22.”

“I won’t ask how it happened.”

“You wouldn’t have gotten an answer if you had asked. Thank you…for being considerate.”

“Don’t mention it. I’m…sorry about my comment, earlier. I just thought…” Alice grabbed at her arm.

“Hm. It’s fine. I…apologize for my behavior at the auditorium, too. It was rash and unnecessary, really.” Clarissa sighed and looked down at the grass. “But don’t get the idea that this is over, alright?” She glanced back up at Alice.

“Hehe. I’ll keep that in mind.”

The two continued chatting until they finished eating and both went their separate ways to plan their next attacks.

***

On the week of Halloween, Clarissa devised her second act. It was much less intense than her first, since the two had all but made amends in the way of threats. That week, Hysteria and Ode were planning to host a karaoke night before the night of the university’s own festivities. Being that Ode was the only one who lived outside of campus, their house was a perfect location to sing loudly and horribly. Not only was karaoke fun, but it was a great opportunity for Clarissa to impress Hysteria and leave Alice in the dust.

As Clarissa got to Ode’s house, she noticed that Hysteria and Alice were already there, greeting Ode at the door. She took her time to get there, since she didn’t want to waste all her energy on teleportation that day.

“Hey, you two! It’s nice to see you both again. I’m glad we could set this up!” Ode stood at the door and held it open. Hysteria went in with the karaoke machine in hand.

“I’m glad too! I wish we could do this more, but I know you’re busy,” Alice said.

“Oh, yes, but it’s alright! These rare opportunities are much better that way!” They smiled and glanced out at their front yard. “Oh, Clarissa! Glad you could make it, too!”

She walked up to the patio and grinned. “Of course! I wouldn’t miss it. Karaoke is always so much fun.”

“I’ve never done it before, so I’m kind of nervous.” Alice laughed as she went through the entryway.

“Don’t be nervous! I’m bad at singing, myself, so if you’re not the greatest, it’s alright!” Ode reassured her.

Clarissa walked in after Alice, and Ode closed the door behind them.

As the machine was getting set up, Ode offered to get the three drinks. Alice decided to have water. Clarissa picked out some orange soda, and Hysteria chose to have some alcohol.

“Weird, I didn’t know you liked alcohol,” Hysteria said, sipping on her small cup of vodka.

“Oh, I absolutely hate it. I just got some because I know you like it. I’ll bring out some snacks in a little bit!” Ode went back into their kitchen as the TV turned on.

Hysteria stood up and grabbed the remote to turn the volume up. “Alright! Let’s get this started, then! This machine has just about any song you could think of. It’s the power of the internet, really. Aaand for my first song, I’m picking one that might shake the house a bit!”

Ode called in from the kitchen. “Be sure you don’t scare the ghosts too much! They’re very friendly neighbors!”

“I won’t, I promise!” Hysteria replied. She stood by the television and selected her song of choice. “It’s one of my own songs, anyway. This is my drummer’s favorite, called ‘Wrath of Poison.’”

The instruments started off quiet and quickly led into fast-paced drumming and guitar strumming. As the melody slowed down, Hysteria belted out the first phrase. It was a brash song filled with profanities and violence against worldly governments. This was certainly a song that Hysteria didn’t write. She likely made the arrangement, while her drummer wrote the lyrics. It was a great song by punk standards, but it was still really crude in the way of expletives. Since Hysteria was singing, it was still beautiful in that way, at least. Once the song finished, there was a pause before eruptions of oohs and aahs came from around the house.

Hysteria set down the mic and breathed heavily. “Woo! Now, who wants to go next?”

Clarissa wondered whether she would go then or wait until after Alice’s performance. It just so happened that before she could decide, Alice got up and stole the mic away from the coffee table.

“This is…a little nerve-wracking, but I’ll give it a go.” Alice used the remote to search for the song she wanted and settled on one that Clarissa was all too familiar with—it was off of The Scary Jokes’ BURN PYGMALION!!! album—“Death, Thrice Drawn.”

The electronic synths came in and flooded the room with their cheery blips and melodies, but at that moment, they felt more like knives that sank straight into Clarissa’s heart, stabbing it relentlessly. Alice’s voice lilted with the intro. “‘Hotshot, have you got a clue how long I’ve been pining for you? Spent so many sleepless nights in unbaptized decline, but in our parallel minds, we were just killing time ‘til our collision catalyst.’”

This wasn’t happening. Clarissa gauged Hysteria’s reaction at the couch. Hysteria was smiling, cheering Alice on. Did she notice it? Or was she just enjoying Alice’s performance?

“‘The awful truth has eluded you for too long. Uh oh, everything you know is all wrong.’” Alice closed her eyes, but despite this, Clarissa felt that this phrase and its subsequent verse were directed right at her; Alice was certainly staring into her soul.

“‘There is no substance left for the wyrm to eat itself. Such callow uncertainty in these pantomime end times. Sucks to be an optimist in this listless dissolution. It’s just a triptych in decay. Yeah, yeah.’” This was the awful truth that she knew would come. The previous phrase was sung again.

With the chorus came an overwhelming sense of despair. This was the end!

“‘I hope you know that you can trust me, baby, it’s just me! I hope you know that you don’t owe me, oh girl you own me! I hope you know you’re really special; you’re so next-level. I hope you know just how much I believe in you.’” Alice moved over to Hysteria as the instruments mellowed out and turned into the song’s outro. She was looking directly at Hysteria, who was wide-eyed with her mouth agape. “‘It’s quiet now; I doubt if any thoughts will ever come again, but there’s a sense of some lone consequence wheezing down my neck. It’s fine. We’re fine. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. I’d burn it all; I’d set the world on fire just to be with you.’”

As the song ended with a few final notes, Clarissa’s mind was swirling into the depths of some long-forgotten void. What was this? Was this really happening? Her eyes stung; her head was pounding. She burst from the room, passing Ode, who was just then bringing the platter of snacks into the living room.

“Clarissa? Where are you—” They were cut off by her exit through the backdoor and out to the yard.

She walked down to the weeping willow tree that was growing next to an adjacent creek. The serenity of the scene didn’t calm her roaring thoughts. Even as she sat with her back against the tree, looking out at the quiet stream, she felt like her endless life was over. The countless wispy leaves rustled in the wind; some fell to the grass beside her and others fell upon her hair.

She knew Hysteria was going to leave her forever. It was certain death to her heart.

The door at the house creaked open slowly and shut quietly. The person’s footsteps were subdued by the grass, but they crunched on the willow tree’s fallen branches. Clarissa continued to stare out at the flowing water. She breathed in deeply and exhaled the same.

Hysteria sat down in front of her. She set a hand on one of Clarissa’s and took hold of it gently. “I’m sorry. I…didn’t expect that, either.” Her expression was soft, relaxed, solemn.

Clarissa’s eyes stung again, and she sputtered out, “Did…what did she say?”

“I don’t think you’ll like it.”

“So…”

Hysteria hesitated, then spoke, “…she confessed to me. I didn’t get back to her yet, but…you know.” She looked away for a moment, then stared back at Clarissa.

“Ah…” Clarissa covered her face with her other hand. “I knew it. I knew this would happen.”

Hysteria opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She tightened her grip on Clarissa’s hand.

“Don’t…don’t go. Don’t leave me, please.” Clarissa’s voice was cracking.

Hysteria let go of Clarissa’s hand and took hold of the one on her face. She moved it away and stared into her eyes, still gripping that hand. “Clarissa, I would never leave you. I’ll always be here.”

Clarissa stared back, feeling a thump in her chest with a wish floating in her head. She just wanted Hysteria to kiss her awake and tell her she was having a bad dream. There was no point trying anymore. “What did I do? Why did you…last year…why did you break up with me…?”

Hysteria sighed. “…You never did anything wrong. There’s not much more I can say that I already haven’t said. I still love you and care about you, but…not romantically, like I told you back then. I promise, I’ll always be your friend and your partner in crime. We’ll always be together somehow, even if it’s not like we used to. I don’t want to get your hopes up by saying things can go back to normal…” Hysteria cupped her hands around Clarissa’s face and caressed it lightly. “…but I believe in you. One day—I promise you—you can love another. You can grow from this.” She smiled so warmly that it made Clarissa melt. “You already have been, Clarie.”

Tears had been collecting in Clarissa’s eyes long before then. It was at that moment that they rushed down in streams, searing marks into Hysteria’s hands. She whimpered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and with another short breath, “I love you.”

Hysteria pulled her into a long and loving embrace. Her heart ached more and more every second it lasted. She thought back to all the times her emotions got the better of her, all the times she was trying to protect a love that no longer existed to the one it mattered most. In the end, her envy-fueled outrages were futile attempts to give herself some kind of reprieve from the pain she was feeling. None of it was right. None of it gave her any relief, either. It was all a huge mistake; regret filled her endlessly.

All she wanted was to be loved. She knew she was looking in the wrong direction, but she didn’t know where to turn next. Maybe moving on from their relationship was a concept she hadn’t fully grasped until now. It was painful. Moving on— it wasn’t what she had been doing at all. She was just avoiding the issue, acting like it wasn’t even there. In reality, she wasn’t at all trying her hardest. Maybe it was time to start that process. Truly, this time.

The two entered the house again a few moments later. Hysteria gave Clarissa another hug and lingered a hand on her back before she left to go to the living room. Clarissa’s eyes were still puffy and bloodshot. Luckily, her head felt a little better after she blew her nose and let the rest of her tears out.

Ode rushed over to Clarissa as Hysteria left her. “My gosh, are you okay? What happened?”

“I…” Clarissa cleared her throat and rubbed her eyes. “I’m okay now.”

“You don’t seem it.” Ode worriedly grabbed her a tissue.

Clarissa wiped her wet face with the fabric. It felt a little coarse, but it was comforting to wipe away her sorrows and throw them out. “No, I am. I was just…waking up.”

“I see. Did you rub your eyes enough?” Ode stared at her with a smile.

“Yeah, I did. I was being…quite insane.” Clarissa grinned back and started to laugh.

They laughed, too, and gave her a brief hug. “It’s okay. You’ll be okay.” Ode kept a hand on her back.

“I hope so.” She glanced at the other room.

“You will! I’m here for you. We all are.”

She thought about Alice’s karaoke from before. “…Alice caught me off guard, but…it’s alright. I’m trying…to move on.”

“I’m proud of you. I know it’s been tough, but I always knew you could do it.” Ode smiled at her and pulled her into another hug.

Clarissa smiled softly and leaned her head against their neck. “Thank you, Ode. I know I haven’t been by much lately, but…”

“I understand, Clarissa. There are other duties to attend to, sometimes! Though…please visit me again, soon.” They let go and stared at her.

“I will. I want to.”

“Good! I have a lot of new things in stock. I mean…I love spending time with you, in general, too.” Ode flustered a little and wrung their hands together.

She laughed. “Me too. Now, do you mind if I talk to Alice?”

“Of course not. Don’t let those snacks go to waste, though. I put some out for you, too!”

“I’ll get to them soon. Now…Alice!” She spotted Alice in the other room. Alice was scrolling through the songs again. “I’ll get you back for that rude comment about my art!”

Alice looked in at Clarissa and laughed heartily. She shouted back at her with a playful intonation, “I’d like to see you try!” At that, she dropped the remote and mic onto the carpeted floor and ran out into the front yard.

Ode grabbed Clarissa’s arm as she prepared herself to run after Alice. They looked at her with a pleading yet light expression. “Don’t hurt her, at least?”

Her grin widened. “If it comes to that, then she should consider herself…lucky.” She tapped their nose with a finger and zipped to the door in a flash. With both Ode and Hysteria in tow, she bounded out of the front door.

As the sun set below the mountains, their collective laughter filled the autumn air.



About the author
Janus C. is a senior at Rider University, majoring in Game Design. They hope to craft all kinds of stories that will bring people joy.

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