And Other Stories


Rachel was sitting on the end of her sister's bed, looking at the floor. She was sick to her stomach with nerves, and her chest felt tight. An awful picture of what was going on had settled in her mind. It had to be it, except... It didn't make sense. It wasn't possible. But it wasn't just that her grip on reality was slipping, because then she would be alone in it.

"Okay." Raven spoke up behind her. "It's way too early to start the day, but we both know I'm not getting any more sleep." Raven came over and sat back down on the bed. She was holding that radio, still voicing seemingly random numbers on end. It seemed even creepier than usual, but Rachel wasn't going to begrudge Raven her comfort right now.

"Yeah." Rachel scooted around the corner of the bed to be next to Raven again. "So..." She couldn't sit still, inching a bit further from the edge. "How do I say this? It's insane."

Raven put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and she had to hold back the urge to flinch. Then she relaxed a little. "Yeah. But if you say it, then I don't have to, and... I don't think I can."

"Okay. That makes sense." Rachel stared up at the ceiling. "You were in my room earlier. Just before I came in here. Because you..." She hesitated. She couldn't say it. She felt like saying it aloud would cement it, somehow. Mark them both as actually delusional. Or worse, make it actually true, as if admitting it would turn an impossible nightmare into fact.

But she had to say it. There was no way to forget it, it would haunt her forever if she didn't face it. And Raven... Rachel took a deep breath. "Because you're the monster. I'm not just seeing things, and neither are you."

Rachel desperately wanted to see Raven's face twist in confusion or surprise, but she simply nodded, eyes downcast. Silence filled the room. The knot in her stomach hadn't loosened, and no wave of finality had come over her. It still didn't feel real. And it still didn't make sense.

There was just an awful sickly silence settling between them, no voice in the room but that radio. Rachel couldn't take it. She knew it had to be harder for Raven, that she should give her time, but she couldn't. "Raven." Raven looked up, and Rachel just stared at her eyes for what felt like a minute. She had to say something more, but she couldn't. She swallowed, and made herself say something. "What's going on?"

Raven looked away, and then slowly turned back to look Rachel in the eyes. "I don't know. I don't want to know. I just want it to stop. I want this to go away, to have never been real. For everything to have always been okay. That's all I want." Tears welled up in her eyes, and her lips started trembling.

"Raven..." Rachel got it. She wanted everything to go back to normal, too. But that... It couldn't possibly compare. "It's okay." It was such a hollow thing to say, but what else was there?

"It's not okay!" Raven was suddenly wide-eyed and looked desperate. "I keep trying to hurt you! It's not delusions, or shared nightmares, I remember it. Trying to hurt you." Raven broke her gaze, and started staring down to the ground. After a second of hesitation, she kept talking, in a smaller voice. "Wanting to. I could barely restrain myself. That first night you noticed, I ate all that raw beef just to... To keep from eating you. It's not like I'm just helplessly watching as my body twists itself out of shape and does awful things I can't stop. It's me. I'm not thinking right, but it's me. Or I remember it like it was me."

Raven stopped for a moment to take a few deep breaths. "Even during, I can... I can kind of remember myself. That I don't want to hurt you. And I can control myself a little, just... not enough. And that's ignoring what I do to myself during that! It's so clearly impossible but I remember what it feels like, Rachel. It doesn't hurt. I thought this was just a tortured nightmare I had every so often, but then one night you noticed, and it... It's real. Or I'm too broken to understand that it's not. I'm an impossible monster that wants to kill you, or I'm psychotic and have episodes of wanting to kill you while imagining my body shifts grotesquely." Raven finally looked back over to Rachel, a few tears on her cheeks but still holding them back. "I can't live like this, Rachel. I really can't." She gulped. "I shouldn't."

"Raven." The name leaped off Rachel's tongue before she knew what she was going to say. "I am so, so sorry. I can't understand being on... your end. But don't talk like that. Please." Rachel couldn't help also tearing up. She was so confused about everything, but that cut right through it. "You aren't going to hurt me. Whatever's happening, you haven't hurt me yet. We can get help. This has to be a delusion, we just need to see a psychiatrist, and..." Her stomach was sinking. She knew, she felt she knew, this was real. She had to look away, she couldn't let Raven see horror dawning on her face, not right now. She turned and just stared at that stupid fucking pentagram poster through a lens of tears.

Raven didn't say anything in response. Rachel wanted to kick herself. She needed to help her sister, not freak out again over the situation. She had already had the realization, and then tried to bury it. It didn't prepare her better for the next time she had to accept it. It just twisted it a little more. Rachel tore her eyes away from the poster and back to her sister. "If this is real, I can help you with it. There has to be a reason. Something we can figure out. Like... Possession?" Rachel stifled a groan after she said that. That couldn't be real. This couldn't be real. She had to be helpful, but... how? She tried to think about what Raven told her. "Wait. Raven, you said it like I only noticed a while after you started having... episodes. How long has this been going on for you?"

Raven looked down for a second before answering. "April."

Rachel's eyes widened. "April? It's been eight months?"

Slowly, Raven nodded. "Yeah. I think, anyways. Maybe it started earlier and I just managed to forget. It... It isn't that often. And once you started noticing, you have... kept noticing." Raven faltered for a second, and then shifted away from Rachel on the bed. "It's so much worse now, Rachel. You've been awake. You struggle and run and whatever grip I have on myself slips more. The last time you ran away from me, I... Oh, god."

"Raven? It's okay, try to stay calm." Rachel reached over and put a hand on Raven's back, but she jerked away.

"Rachel, I couldn't remember what happened. Just that I chased you, and you screamed, and then I wake up and mom and dad are up and concerned and... I really thought I had finally hurt you. I don't know what happened, but... I can't trust that I can hold back. And I—I did hurt you, earlier. Pushed you down and... When you spoke, something in me broke and I could run back here and then... I didn't wake up. I was already awake. I can't handle this."

"Raven..." Rachel reached out to Raven again, and ignored when she flinched, to pull her into a hug. "Things will be okay. You aren't going to hurt me. I know you aren't. Okay?"

Raven just started sobbing. Rachel couldn't hold back her tears either, and held her sister tight as they cried. The room was full of hics and sobs and monotone counting.

Eventually, Raven pulled away. Her face was red, but she was smiling slightly. It didn't last long. Rachel could have used a longer hug, but she would take it.

"Sorry." Raven sighed before continuing. She was clearly trying to maintain a false composure. "I was... I've been freaking out. You're right, this can't be happening. We should see someone."

"Yeah." Rachel wished she could feel confident, but... "I think that would help make all this make sense. Until then..." She glanced down at the radio, sitting in Raven's lap. "Does that help?"

Raven nodded. "It really does. I don't know why, but it's calming. And it helps me fall asleep without... that. I guess that's another point of evidence this is in my head. Actually..." She furrowed her eyebrows. "I can't remember the radio working while I was having an episode. It's either staticy or silent, or that time you borrowed it... God that was a stupid idea of mine."

"It's okay." Rachel took a breath. "I have been having rough nights when it was storming. So maybe you couldn't get a good signal?" Raven nodded, but a sickly feeling was settling in Rachel's stomach. If the radio was part of it for Raven, that made sense. But then why did she have problems on those nights? "...Raven, do you mind if I change the subject? Because I think right now we should just relax a bit." Raven nodded. Rachel shifted in place, and then sighed. She couldn't think of anything to actually shift their attention to, except... "That station is weird. Really weird. I've looked up that kind of thing before, and there are stations that read numbers. There's a lot of results about them being used for spying and stuff like that. But they apparently all... Stop? So there's actually a start and end for a message. Does this one ever end?"

Slowly, Raven shook her head. "I never really questioned it. It's always doing more numbers, at a steady pace." She hesitated, and then shrugged. "If you pay attention, there's a pattern to it. It gives a string of numbers and then repeats them backwards. And as far as I can tell it is always doing that. And flips, and then repeats every previous thing backwards. Adds something new, flips all of that. I have no idea why, but... I used to try and pick out the patterns, but now I just let it be background."

"Huh. That's weird. Maybe it's some weird art project? I wonder where it's broadcast from."

"Oh. That's a good question." Raven looked around her room, and then shrugged. "Do you want to go out in the living room and look it up? Until mom and dad get up and we... Explain that we're insane." Raven grinned a little.

"I don't have a better idea." It would probably help to be out of Raven's room. She must have felt the same way, to make the suggestion. "Let's do that. And maybe I can make us breakfast."

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