No. Not something. Someone.
A man stood out in the crowd. Not because of what he looked like, or what he wore, but because I knew him.
Abel Lukumi watched the train pull out of the station, wearing the same dark suit he had worn when I’d seen him at the hospital, after Jude had made me slit my wrists. The same suit he’d worn in Little Havana, when he’d slaughtered a chicken and had me drink its blood. My lips parted to speak or scream, but by the time Jamie came back, he was gone.
I stared out the window for seconds, or hours maybe, as people stood up, sat down, moved around the car. What did he want? Why was he following me?
I didn’t know what to do or say to Jamie and Stella. They didn’t really know about Lukumi; they wouldn’t understand. Noah would, but he wasn’t there.
“You’re sweating,” Stella said as she slipped into the seat beside me.
I was. I was shivering, too.
“Do you have a fever?”
Her expression softened. “Try to rest, if you can?”
I couldn’t. “I’m scared,” I said, though I didn’t mean to say it out loud.
“I know,” Stella said.
I wanted to scream that she didn’t know, that she would never know, because this wasn’t happening to her, it was happening to me. I wanted to scream that it wasn’t all right, and that it never would be again, because I’d killed people and that wasn’t the kind of thing that you could ever fix. Even if they’d deserved it. But I was tired and my friends were tired, and even if they didn’t fully get it, they understood what it was doing to me. They could lie to my face and pretend it was going to be all right, but I saw the truth in the fear in their eyes. I was getting worse. Much worse. And time was running out.
I was drenched in sweat when I woke up an hour later. I lifted my head from the seat, and the movement shook images loose from my dreams. Lukumi standing on one side of the platform, a black feather in his hand. Me standing on the other, a human heart in mine. The train tracks between us were filled with bodies without a scratch on them, except for a smear of blood beneath each of their noses. Bile rose in my throat. I stood up, grabbing the seat for support. Stella didn’t wake up, but Jamie turned as I crossed into the aisle. He pulled out his earbuds.
“Where’re you going?”
“Bathroom,” I said. I didn’t know if I would be sick, but better safe than sorry, and anyway, I needed to change my shirt, which was plastered to my skin. I haltingly made my way down the aisle, grabbing my bag on the way to the tiny train bathroom.
But I’d grabbed Noah’s bag, I realized, once I was locked inside. His was black and mine was gray. I blinked. My vision was filmy, so everything looked gray. I put the lid of the toilet seat down and sat on it, holding my head between my hands, blinking again. My T-shirt clung to my skin, making me itch.
Whatever. It didn’t matter about the bag. I’d change into one of Noah’s shirts. He wouldn’t mind.
I rummaged through it, but I could barely tell one piece of clothing from another. I bit my lip, clenched my jaw to keep myself from losing it, to keep myself here. As I did, my fingers curled around something in his bag that wasn’t clothes. I pulled it out.
My hand shifted into focus, and so did the thing in it. A straight razor. Noah’s razor. I remembered asking him once why he used it. He’d said it was the sharpest kind.
It gleamed under the fluorescent light. The weight of it was solid and reassuring, somehow, in my hand. I wasn’t shaking anymore. I could stand up.
I looked at it, and then at myself, in the mirror. Pain shot through my stomach—in an arc, it felt like. Left to right.
No one else felt like this. No one else was acting like this. Not Stella, not Jamie. Something inside me was different.
Something inside me.
Something inside me.
I looked at my face in the mirror.
“Something inside you is different,” my reflection said.
The razor hovered just an inch above my lower belly. A rushing sound filled my ears, like the sound of a thousand voices breathing, Yes. There was so much pressure, but my fingers didn’t shake. I looked at myself again.
“Get them out,” my reflection said.
Time skipped forward. One second I stood there, facing my reflection, listening to it. The next, my hand had already drawn the razor against my stomach.
It was just a tiny line. An inch long, no bigger. Little beads of blood welled from the cut, jewel-like and shimmering. Vivid. Everything was, actually. Whatever haze had clouded my vision had now lifted. I didn’t feel sick or hot. The only strange thing was the pressure in my fingers, drawing the razor to my stomach again.
A knock on the bathroom door startled me before I could trace the line again.
“Mara?” Jamie’s voice was muffled through the door. “We’re here.”
Mechanically I wiped the blade off with the hem of my shirt and put it back into Noah’s bag. I dabbed at my skin with tissues and exchanged the T-shirt I was wearing for a clean black one. I walked out of the bathroom on steady feet, feeling impossibly light. Almost giddy.
“Feel better?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said brightly as a trickle of blood ran down my stomach. “Much.”
I HADN’T BEEN TO NEW YORK since I was little, and I didn’t remember it like this.
We were practically the only non-suited people on the train, but when we stepped onto the track and climbed up the stairs, we blended right in. Penn Station swarmed with people—a man with dreadlocks down to his waist bumped my hip with his briefcase and apologized, but as I stepped aside, I was hit by a stroller being pushed by a mother with glazed, dead eyes. We got out of there as fast as we could.
The taxi line wasn’t much of an improvement. We were sandwiched between a preteen couple with matching acne, loudly making out, and an old couple wearing matching tennis shoes, arguing loudly over a map in a language I didn’t know.
“Ouch,” Jamie said.
“You okay?” Stella asked him.
“Oh, I am,” he said quietly. “But that dude’s wife just told him, ‘If they had to put your brain in a chicken, it would run straight to the butcher.’?”
“You understand them?”
“Hebrew,” Jamie explained, and then it was our turn in line. “Where to first, ladies?”
“I need a shower,” Stella said.
“Hotel?” I asked.
Stella tugged at a strand of hair. “I guess. If we have to. But I don’t like using you for that stuff, Jamie.”