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 Danielle Watkins
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 Danielle Watkins
Mercy
by Danielle Watkins  FollowFollow
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Danielle graduated with an English/Creative Writing degree that got her nowhere but applied for two mfa graduate programs despite her better...read more judgement. Writing is a hobby right now, but Danielle hopes to incorporate the craft into her career (emphasis on "hopes"). She currently has a piece published in volume five of Barking Sycamores, so she can at least say she has one piece published. When not dreaming about becoming a published author, Danielle enjoys reading literature (well, mostly teen dystopian novels, let's be real here), watching nerdy TV shows, and singing some classic Justin Timberlake. If she had the soaring, operatic voice of a European soprano, Danielle would be the singer of a female-fronted symphonic metal band, but she's an alto and is probably more the choir type.
Mercy
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Mercy

I open my eyes after an uneasy sleep.  In the haze between being asleep and being awake, I couldn’t remember where I was or why.  I soon realize I’m in my apartment.  Normal.  I check my clock.  It’s 10:30 a.m.  Normal.  I look beside me and find no one there.  Normal.  So why do I feel so tense?

            “Hey, come on!”  Reagan called, running barefoot towards the lake. 

            Struggling to get on my flip-flops, I followed suit, “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

            The lake glistened in the sun but upon further inspection, it was easy to notice the murk and weeds underneath the pristine exterior.  Reagan hastily dropped her towel and sunglasses on the ground as I carefully took off my flip-flops, laying my towel and sunscreen neatly next to Reagan’s pile.

            “Is it cold?” I asked.

            “Come and find out!” Reagan screamed as she plunged into the water.

            I rolled my eyes in amusement.  Reagan was always the crazy one.

            I look into the mirror as I brush my teeth, unsure of what I have to do today.  Am I working?  Maybe I go to school?  I spit and rinse it down the drain.  The sink looks dirty though, so I splash some water around and am pleased with the dust and gunk flowing down into oblivion.  It’s then that I hear a knock.

            “Be right there!”  I call.  Maybe this person is my friend and will know what I’m supposed to be doing right now.  I swish around some mouthwash, but when I spit, I notice all the grime had returned.  Instead of cleaning, I turn away, my stomach churning.  It’s just a dirty sink.  I can always clean it later, right?

            Someone knocks again, this time longer and louder.  I feel angry as I exclaim, “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

            I rush into the bedroom and put a pair of socks on.  I never liked walking around barefoot.

            As I open the door, I’m surprised to see Reagan.

            We were splashing around like silly little girls in the lake once I was brave enough to submerge.  Laughing and out of breath, we treaded the water when Reagan’s gaze focused on something behind me.

            “What?” I said smiling.

            When Reagan didn’t respond, I panicked, “What?  What is it?”

            Reagan let a sly smile form on her lips, “Stop freaking out.  I have a good idea.  Follow me!”  As Reagan swam back to shore, I was just glad nothing was behind me, so I followed her obediently.

            Reagan barely dried off and was sprinting toward the trails surrounding the lake as I gathered my things and once again struggled with my footwear.  When I finally caught up to her, Reagan still had that sly smile on her face.  She turned around abruptly and enquired, “You have to promise.”

            Reagan was really good at being specific, “Promise what?” I asked nervously.

            “We’re going to jump off the cliffs into the lake.  It’ll be fun, but I know you might chicken out when we get up there, so—”

            I opened my mouth in protest, but Reagan cut me off, “Promise you won’t chicken out.  I won’t force you to go up there with me.”

            I almost sighed until Reagan continued, “But, if you do decide to come up…we’re jumping.”

            Oh my god, she’s crazy, I instantly thought, but I must’ve looked shocked because Reagan just started to laugh.

            “Follow me…if you dare.” She said, insinuating that I was too afraid to run after her.

            Before she could look back and see me hesitating, I started my ascent up the rocky hill.  Maybe this would be fun after all.

“Reagan?” I say.  I almost don’t recognize her in her lime-green pant-suit.

            She smiles slyly and says, “Well, don’t act all surprised!  It’s not like I’m my evil twin or something.”

            It’s not funny, but somehow seeing Reagan makes me feel like a silly child again, so I hug her and laugh.  And she does too.  Her breath smells like whiskey—isn’t it a bit early for that? —and now I’m crying from laughing so hard.  We’re laughing manically now like two Catholic school girls smoking cigarettes in the bathroom.

            Finally I say, “Oh my god, sorry, come right in!”

            As I step back to invite her into my apartment, I notice her looking at something behind me.  A feeling of dread overcomes me and I step further away from her.

            “Don’t look so freaked out.  I have an idea, follow me!”  She begins to scamper away before backtracking and grabbing my hand.  I have no choice but to follow her.

            “Wait,” I suddenly shout, probably louder than I needed to, “I’m not wearing any shoes.”

            I begin to laugh again, but Reagan just stops and turns to face me.  I notice she is barefoot.

            “You have to promise.”

            I feel a shiver consume my soul, “Promise…what?”

            “We’re going to that tall building across from your apartment.  And we’re going to jump off into the street.  I know you might freak out, but—”

            Me, freak out?  Why would I be scared?  We weren’t really going to jump off a building, but I’m sure I need to be somewhere, an appointment maybe, if not work or school.  I begin to voice these protests, but Reagan continues, “Promise me you won’t freak out.  I won’t force you to come up there with me.”

            I feel cold and look down at my feet, which are still protected by fuzzy socks.

            “Come on, it’ll be better than you expect!”  She begins to skip away, singing, “Follow me if you dare, follow me if you dare.”

            I can’t help but hear an organ playing in a minor key, faintly, in the distance, to accompany her eerie song.  Yet, I follow her as we exit the building and enter the other one, making our ascent to the top.

            Out of breath, I finally reached the top.  I was able to keep up with Reagan for most of the trek.

            Reagan looked behind at me, smiling brightly, “Whew, don’t you—feel so—alive?” she panted.

            A smile formed on my lips, “Yeah, this could be fun.”

            Reagan walked over to me and slapped me on the back, “You’re a champ, Gillian.”

            “Ow!” I screeched, but soon we were laughing, as always.

            “Reagan?”

            “Did you hear something, Reagan?” I asked as our laughter died down.

            We both looked towards the bottom of the cliff and saw Carrie traversing up to meet us.

            “Oh no.” Reagan groaned. “No, no, no.”

            “I didn’t know your cousin was here.” I stated simply.

            “Oh hey, Gillian!  I didn’t know you were here either.” Carrie exclaimed.

            Although she was younger than Reagan and I, Carrie had an aura of excellence about her.  She was like one of those girls at our high school who was smiling all the time and was involved as a leader in almost every club.  Maybe Carrie would be one of those girls once she went to high school, but you wouldn’t be able to hate her despite your own measly excuse for not being involved in an extracurricular activity.  Well, I did join the art club this year to supplement my decent grades.  Not sure about Reagan, though.  She always gloats about getting As and the occasional B+, but I’ve never seen her report card. 

            “What are you guys doing?” Carrie asked shyly.

            I began to think of all the things we should be doing—swimming, sun tanning (with sunscreen, of course), walking on the trails—besides jumping off cliffs into the lake below.

            “We were just, you know, looking at the view and—”

            “We’re gonna jump off the cliff into the water below.” Reagan interrupted haughtily.

            Carrie pondered this and then said, “Isn’t that dangerous?  I don’t know if you should be doing that, you guys.”

            I sighed.  Maybe this wasn’t as fun as I had thought it might be.

            “You sound just like Gillian,” Reagan huffed, “You’re both no fun.”

            No fun? 

            “Maybe,” I said passionately, “your idea of fun is different than my idea of fun.”

            Reagan looked offended and began to well up, “I thought you wanted to do this.  I said I wouldn’t force you.”

            Great.  Every time I defend myself Reagan turns into an emotional, needy girl and I’m the bad-guy all of a sudden.

            “Look, let’s all just calm down.” Carrie was apparently the adult here.

            “Go away, little cousin.” Reagan tauntingly dismissed her.

            The only flaw Carrie had was that she desired the acceptance of her older cousin more than anything.

            I awkwardly stood there as Carrie stayed put.

            “All right,” Reagan gave in, “you can hang out with us.”

            Carrie rushed forward to embrace her cousin.

            Reagan held up her finger, “If…you jump first.”

            Carrie froze in her tracks, but then slowly turned around and began to walk away.

            I glared at Reagan but she didn’t return my gaze.

            Suddenly, Carrie flew past us and jumped off the cliff, screaming, “See you on the other side!”

            “Why did we have to take the stairs?” I huff as we reach the top floor of the building.

            “Oh, come on,” Reagan pants as she opens the hatch to the top of the building, “It’s good for you.”

            Reagan climbs up through the hatch and I follow.  The wind is wild and caresses my unkempt hair.

“Whew, don’t you—feel so—alive?” Reagan says distantly.

Alive?

Reagan looks over at me and for a moment I see sadness.  As quickly as it came, Reagan becomes animated and says proudly, “Well, you did it!  We’re at the top.”

She walks over and playfully slaps me on the back, “You’re a champ, Gillian.”

I don’t react, even though she hit me a bit hard.  In the silence that ensues, all I can hear is the wailing of the wind, a sad song somehow familiar.

            “Reagan?”

            Instantly, we both turn around and see Carrie coming up through the hatch.

            Reagan turns away but I can’t.  I start panting again and my palms feel moist in spite of the chilling wind.

“I didn’t know your cousin was here.” I say frantically, my eyes wide and watering from the attacking gusts of wind.

Carrie acts ambivalent, which seems wrong to me, “Hi Gillian.  It’s nice to see you.”

Her gaze moves toward Reagan, “It’s nice to see you as well, Reagan.”

Reagan doesn’t even flinch.

“What are you guys doing?” Carrie says without missing a beat.

I want to lie.  What we’re about to do is absurd.  I look at my feet with the fuzzy socks as if they could provide some sort of comfort.

“You shouldn’t do that, I mean, it’s dangerous.” Carrie says as if reciting a script.

I let out a sigh of relief, but I’m not sure why or what I’m reacting to.

“Reagan, what do you think?” Carrie asks, looking for scraps—anything she can get from her revered older cousin.

Reagan still refuses to acknowledge her.

I feel the heat rising in my cheeks as I shout, “Why do you always ignore her?  She’s your cousin for god’s sake!”

Reagan turns toward me with glassy eyes, “I never meant for any of this.  I said I wouldn’t force you, but somehow—”

She breaks down and sobs but no tears stream down her face.  I feel guilty for seeing her like this and I’m the bad-guy in this scenario.  Not because of Reagan, but because of something I did.

            Reagan smugly turned toward me and my glare is long gone, “See?  Even Carrie did it.  And before me too.  Who would’ve thought?”

            I just nodded even though I had no idea what was happening.  Suddenly, we heard a scream.  A scream that sounded like a giant, evil creature swallowed Carrie up and then stopped bellowing to chew up her tiny bones.  The hair stood up on my skin and I couldn’t make myself move.

            “Nonononono…” Reagan muttered and ran over to the edge of the cliff.

            “Carrie?” I could tell Reagan was trying to stay calm, “Carrie?” she cried.

            She ran past me and hurried down the cliff as I just stood there dumbstruck.

            Reluctantly, I stepped towards the edge of the cliff.  I don’t know what I was expecting—a body, a bloody mess against the dark blue water—but seeing nothing but the dark waves lap against the rocky shore didn’t ease the pain I felt in my stomach.

            Eventually, I met Reagan down by the lake.  I could tell she had been crying when she looked at me.

            “Reagan?” I barely managed.

            She looked away and said matter-of-factly, “We tell no one.  I want you to pro—”

            She looked at me desperately, “This is the last time I will ask you to promise me something.  Anything.”

            So I did.  But soon after Carrie’s “disappearance,” I stopped talking to Reagan.  We occasionally wrote to each other via Facebook, but that was it.  Every time Reagan posted a link to Carrie’s obituary on the day she was pronounced dead (not when we knew she actually died), I felt nauseous.  How could Reagan do this?  How could I do this? 

            I felt a sick pleasure when I read online that Reagan died from a drug overdose.  I could finally die in peace, I told myself.

Frozen, I’m planted in place.  I know what happens next.  It’s been happening ever since the end.  Reagan crying non-existent tears, Carrie still vying for her affection, and me standing still, seeing all, yet doing—saying— nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Carrie begins to glide towards the end of the building.  She’s coming towards me.  Faster and faster.  Soon she will pass me.  Soon she will be at the edge.  Soon she will jump off the edge.  Soon she will die.  I close my eyes.  I will see nothing. 

And I will do nothing.  I will say nothing.  I will hear nothing.  I will do nothing.  I will do nothing.  I will do nothing.

I open my eyes.

I feel like I have been sleeping for a long time.  A restful sleep with pleasant dreams.  But I can’t remember where I am or why. 

“Hello?” My voice sounds light and airy.

“My child, if you forgive men when they sin against you, I will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, I will not forgive your sins.”

I feel drunk off the wine of clouds.  These words do not frighten me.

“Am I ready, Father?” I say sleepily.  My eyes slowly begin to close.

When I awaken, I feel as if I have a hangover.  I begin to cry and I don’t know why.

I look around the room, bleary-eyed.  Everything looks familiar, yet somehow darker as if everything is covered in a thin veil of shadows.

            Where am I?  Who am I?  I hear knocking now.  I begin to sob.

            “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned!”

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