(Trigger Warning: Suicide, Injurious Behaviour)
This is what happened.
Lilith arrived on the island at 3.47 pm and her watch stopped working. The little hand kept trying to move but it felt like something was holding it back, which made it return to that same exact time. It shouldn’t have been weird, but it was considering she had bought it only two days ago. The boatman – the one with the pale skin, unkempt hair and eyes that didn’t blink once the entire time she was with him, left the minute she stepped foot on the sand leaving her with no means of going back. The thought of being trapped there should’ve occurred to her. Why didn’t it?
Nimeuh was beautiful, but ominously so.
But Lilith had always known that, she had grown up with stories about Nimeuh. It was huge. The centre was trees and even from her position on the shore, she could see just how big they were. They said that the forest was so dwindling that anyone who went in would spend years trying to find their way out before giving up. The shore was littered with scraps of wood and half-built boats as if attempts were made to leave but none had ever succeeded. Tall, daunting cliffs covered in the dense overgrowth of unwanted weeds stood on either side of her as if protecting the island. Her mother always said that the cliffs were hiding it so that no one found their way there. It reminded her of Ogygia, Calypso’s (the daughter of the Titan Atlas) beautiful prison.
She could hear Nimeuh calling to her. She used the same voice her mother used when she told her she loved her. She used the same voice as her friends, as the girl she had been in love with, as her third-grade teacher, and she pulled her in. How could she say no? So, she walked, right into the grove of insanity that she had once had nightmares about.
Inside, the canopy was so thick that barely any sunlight got through, completely enveloping her into the forest as if it had consumed her. The air around her was stuffy, as if she had been wrapped tightly in a warm blanket on a hot summer day. Lilith wiped her forehead with the back of her hand hoping that it would ease the discomfort just a little. It didn’t. She was hungry, thirsty, sweaty and she could taste her uneasiness. And yet, the need to keep on walking was so overpowering that the screams of her body were in a vacuum.
“It’s only a little further, you can do it, honey.”
“Come on, Lilith! I’m waiting for you!”
“Lils, where did you go?”
She broke into a sprint, not caring even a little about the twigs and branches that were cutting her everywhere. Pain was only an obstacle.
And then she stumbled into the clearing and something snapped in her. She fell face first on the ground, the exhaustion finally catching up to her. Turning on her back, she groaned. She turned her head, looking at her surroundings. The Sun was just over the horizon, hovering like he was waiting for her to make up her mind.
Where was she? What had she done? What had just happened?
The horror of her actions set in slowly and then all at once.
She had to get back home.
Lilith got up and immediately fell back down. But, she had to get back home. With that in mind, she used up whatever little strength she had left and stood up. Her legs shook but she willed them forward, towards the huge lake in the middle of the clearing – maybe some water would help her figure things out.
Cautiously, she sat down in front of the lake and looked down at her reflection. Her face was flushed, her hair in a wild disarray, her clothes were torn up and her arms and legs were bleeding. Blinking back the urge to cry, she cupped her hands and put them in the water. Just as the cool water touched her lips, the reflections in the lake changed. Her mother and her friends, their faces bloody and barely recognisable. She let out a scream. Her body instinctively pushed itself backwards, trying to get as far away as possible.
She looked around frantically thinking, ‘No, that can’t be true. They’re back home!’
That’s when she hears the screams – so full of fear and pain that it ices her blood. And so familiar.
“No, you – this isn’t real. You guys aren’t here! No!”
The more she tried to deny it, the louder the voices got. They were here. She had to go. She stood up and ran, right in the direction of the screams on the other side of the lake, heedless of danger, ripping through the branches and vines like water, through anything that kept her from getting to them.
Suddenly, it was like the forest had come to life. They were a carefully orchestrated chorus of horrors. What was Nimeuh doing to them?
All at once, it stopped. No voices, absolutely nothing; as if someone had decided to press pause. Lilith stood there, her back against the trunk of a tree, shuddering and shaking like a leaf on a stormy night. The tears ran freely, the screams still echoing in her mind – they had become a part of her, and her legs turned to water as they sank into the ground.
What was happening?
And then, it started again. But this time it was her father and her little brother. Oh God, she was killing them. They were all going to die because she was too arrogant to say that she wasn’t scared of the island. She had led all of them to their deaths because she couldn’t say no to a dare. This was on her.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry,” she mutters in between sobs. She curls up on the ground, clenching her hands over her ears trying to block out the piercing screams and rocks back and forth.
They stop and then start again. And stop. And start.
At some point, her screams mix into theirs. She screams until her throat burns and bleeds. The guilt settles on her and she collapses under its pressure.
Eventually, she gives up and stays right there on the ground.
Every time there was a new set of voices – her grandmother, her neighbour, her niece, her childhood friends, every single person she had ever cared about. All of them being led to their deaths because of her.
Then, she hears her again. Nimeuh. Her voice is sweet, soothing – a lover’s kiss in the midst of a violent windstorm.
“Come, child. Come with me and I’ll take you away. You won’t have to suffer anymore. You’ll be free.”
Entranced, she moves ahead as the soft whispers guide her.
She reaches the lake and drags her feet along. She stands in front of the edge, looking down. For the first time, her mind is at peace. And, for the first time since she had been here, she knew what she had to do.
“Go on, Lilith. This is the only way.” She looks up once, towards the trees and then, “Jump.”
Her instincts told her to panic but the voice told her to stay still. It was all going to be over soon. The pain and the guilt, she was going to be free from it all.
For a brief second, the hold of Nimeuh breaks and she kicks violently, trying to reach the surface. The water was crushing her. Her tears had mixed into the water. And just as the Sun set and the inkiness of the night sky stretched across, her muscles relaxed and she felt oddly calm and she sunk to the bottom. She looked around and saw herself surrounded by skeletons. Just as she closed her eyes, she realised that she was going to die like all the others before her, right here with no one around and only the screams of her loved ones echoing in her mind.
This was her end.
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