Title: This was Preventable Word Count: 1534 Warnings: Several References to Suicide (not explicitly shown). Mentions of Blood. Created for the Tropetember Event - (Plagued By Nightmares) Waking to a slew of missed calls, Rhea had known that night that the unthinkable had happened. She faintly remembers throwing a hoodie on and pulling her sneakers on as she flew out the door. He didn’t live that far away. She could make it. She didn’t make it. It still felt as though she was standing in the overgrown grass, doused in a mixture of red and blue lights and listening to the sirens roar in the background. What happened after that seemed to blur in her mind. Rhea wasn’t sure how she made it home, or why her hands were bleeding by the time she collapsed in the doorway. Sleep didn’t come that first night. It evaded her, perhaps as punishment for sleeping through his darkest moments. She didn’t deserve rest. Her alarm came and went the following morning, and Rhea didn’t budge from her spot on the floor. When her parents came down the stairs and took in the sight of their daughter, the two separated quickly to handle the issue at hand. Neither of them knew what had happened, but as far as Rhea was concerned, there was no way to really explain it. She briefly thought that she’d seen her mother withdrawing a phone, presumably to contact the school to warn Rhea wouldn’t be in today. The thought left as fast as it came when her father knelt to her level and gently took her hands in his. “Darling, what happened?” “I don’t know.” “Rhe, have you been here all night? Why are you in a hoodie? And your sneakers?” He was a soft spoken man as it was, but it struck Rhea how quietly he was speaking to her now. As though she’d break in a moment’s notice, and well, perhaps she would. “Honey?” “He called me.” She whispered. “He called me over twenty times. There were voicemails, too. Begging me to come to their house. That he needed help. Begging me to answer the phone. I slept through it. I slept through over twenty different calls from him. I failed him…” “Failed who, Rhea?” “Him. I promised him, you know? That if he needed me, I would always, always be there. And he needed me last night, but by the time I realized and made it to his house… There were so many police cars.. And ambulances. I feel like I can still hear the sirens. They were wheeling him out, but they weren’t doing anything to save him. And God, Dad, there was so much blood. I failed him.” Her father didn’t say anything as her mother snuck back into the room and moved to sit with the pair on the floor. Watching as her parents shared a worried glance, Rhea swallowed back the urge to cry. She didn’t deserve to be upset. This was her fault. “Can I go to bed?” “I—” Her father moved as though to argue that maybe she shouldn’t, but her mother cut him off with a glare. “Of course, sweetheart. I’ll come check on you in a little bit, okay?” Mom’s voice was always soothing in a way Dad’s wasn’t and it helped to ease the pressure building in Rhea’s chest. So upstairs she went. Before she knew it, Rhea was sprawled across her bed with a stuffed dragon clutched in her arms. She felt weightless and impossibly heavy at the same time. As though she could drift away at a moment’s notice or sink to the bottom of the sea just as fast. The events of the past night seemed to be catching up to her. Sleep demanded its due, and the harsh grip of its presence dragged her under into a restless slumber. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rhea’s eyes snapped open only to find herself laid out in the same overgrown grass she’d stood in hours earlier. The mix of blue and red lights nearly blinded her as she struggled to her feet. Everything was blurry and the EMTs were moving in slow motion as they pulled him from the house. Only as the world began to spin, as if to pull Rhea further into the depths of her own personal Hell, he sat up. Suddenly he was stalking towards her and Rhea was rooted to her spot. His eyes were dull — lifeless, really — as they studied her. Blood dripped down his arms and pooled at their feet when he came to a stop. It splattered with each hit, and it took everything in her power to tear her eyes away from the puddle. “You did this.” “You killed me, Rhea.” He took a step forward, pushing her backwards without a single thought. “I begged you for help, and you didn’t come.” Another step forward, another sharp jab at her chest that made her balance waver from the unexpected force. “I thought you cared about me, Rhea.” Yet another step forward, but this time Rhea was falling backwards into the grass again as he towered over her. Rhea gasped for air with each accusation, tears threatening to fall and a weight settling in her chest. This wasn’t him. This wasn’t him. This wasn’t him. A drop of blood splattered across her cheek and the tears finally fell. This was him, and it was her fault. “God, you’re fucking pathetic. Even now, it’s still about you.” His voice was harsh and grating, no longer the smooth, comforting one she’d grown to adore. In all the years they’d known each other, he’d never been one for anger, but maybe she deserved this. “You do deserve this. This was preventable, and you know that. What happened to always being there, Rhea? To protecting me? Oh, right, you were too busy protecting yourself to give a shit about me.” With each and every word, the weight in her chest grew heavier. Gasping for air, black crept into her vision and pulled her further and further in. “I was preventable, Rhea, but so were you.” The words echo in her mind as the world fades completely. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Waking to her pitch dark room, Rhea screamed. Her breaths came out in short, ragged gasps and the sound of someone running to her room just barely registered in her mind. The door to her bedroom swung open in one quick movement followed by the light flickering on. Her mother had come to check on her. She assumed her father wasn’t far behind. “Rhe?” The nickname hung in the air but all Rhea could hear was his voice. How angry he’d sounded when he spoke her name. “Rhea?” “What happened? Why was she scream—” Her father’s voice trailed off as he walked into the room. Rhea scooted back in her bed, clinging to the stuffed dragon and burying her face against its wings. She didn’t want to talk about it. They wouldn’t understand. “Honey?” “No, no, go away. Please. I don’t want to — to talk about it. Don’t ma—make me.” Stupid, stupid, stupid, she should’ve just gone to school. Staying home so her parents could hover was a mistake. “I just want to go back to sleep…” Her parents shared a quick look before slowly conceding and exiting her room. Her mother left the door cracked, if only slightly, to allow a beam of light to penetrate the darkness that sought to swallow Rhea whole. Rhea wasn’t sure how she knew she needed that, but maybe that was just a mother’s intuition kind of thing. Soon, she was drifting off again, only to awake once again in the overgrown grass with him walking towards her. It played out the same as before, only this time his laughter echoed around her as the world faded. When she woke again, screaming his name, her parents didn’t come. Rhea rolled out of bed and wandered back down the stairs to find them. The little dragon hung limp in her hand as she looked around only to find them huddled together in the kitchen. She wasn’t sure what they were talking about, probably her, but they were whispering. And so this became an unbroken pattern. Rhea returned to school but every night, she was greeted by his face and those accusations. It felt like her hands were coated in his blood, but no matter how often she washed them, the feeling wouldn’t leave. She did this. It was her fault. He was preventable. Those accusations whirled around in her mind endlessly, haunting her while she was awake and asleep now. Ever since that first night, it felt like he was out to give her the same fate he’d suffered. Cold, broken, and alone, waiting for someone to come and save her. Nobody ever did, and as the world would fade, she’d wake up to her waking nightmare. It wasn’t enough, it seemed, to be haunted nightly by his ghost, but she was doomed to experience it throughout the day too. The nightmare had begun as soon as she’d woken up that first night, only to be too late to save him. She wondered if they’d ever end. He was preventable. This was preventable. She deserved this fate, haunted by his bloody visage for the rest of her fucking life. She could’ve saved him. She didn’t.
top of page
bottom of page