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Gateways to Peace

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The knife’s sweetly cold edge feels so good against my skin. It traces a thin crimson line over my wrist. I resist the urge to lick the blood away. No need to make a masochistic ritual any weirder than it has to be. I know, I know, only ten and already cutting. I’m supposed to wait for my teenage angst for being so depressed. No one even believes me when I say I’m miserable. That’s one of my reasons. I know that my wretchedness is supposed to have limits, but I’m not subject to a lot of limits as of late.

I’m Faith. I don’t look depressed. I wear bright colors, I put my hair in ponytails, and my room is mostly blue and green. I have a family of four (not including me), and from the outside, a pretty good life. But no one listens. ‘You’re too young to understand this,’ ‘Too immature’, ‘too innocent’. No one believes that one of the greatest minds in the family belongs to the little sister. No one will let me even try to show them. So I hold my tears in. For all they put me through by shooting me down, I love them. I don’t want them to see me for who I am. I need to protect them from that.



I talk to my sister more than anyone else. She killed herself when she was thirteen. I miss her. She related to me. Still does, actually. Little flickers of shadow, hairpins that aren’t mine, and the Ouija board. Always the board, but it’s not the same as being with her immortal soul. I want to die too. Freedom from this earth, entry to a place with Dani…Why wouldn’t I want that? The only thing holding me back is my family. I don’t want them to mourn.



Faith’s been the weirdest little sister ever lately. Dark makeup, dark clothes. I’d think she was going Goth, if she acted like it. She’s still happy. Even happier, actually. It’s annoying. When Mom asked her about it she said, “Everyone wears dark clothes to a funeral.” Creepy little bitch… Agh, it’s raining again. It rains all the fucking time in Washington. I hate it. Naturally, Mom makes me hang with the annoying baby of the family. She’s so immature. In fact, she’s coming up for one of Mom’s ‘sibling bonding’ assignments right now. I sigh and put my laptop on sleep. If I silently whip it out while she’s talking, she won’t notice. Dumb little kid. I almost jump out of my skin. Thunder cracked while I was thinking, and my stomach feels shaken up from being startled. Then I hear a scraping, grating sound outside my window.

Normally I wouldn’t feel the fright I do now, but I just watched three horror movies in a row. I slowly creep over to my room’s window and peer out. I let out a sigh of relief. A rosebush is scratching the wall. Suddenly, the whole place is illuminated. Lightening. I clap a hand over my mouth, holding in the scream. I’m completely unnerved. Slowly, light footsteps pad up the stairs, like someone is either light or trying to be unnoticed. I freeze. “Der?” a childish voice asks. I relax. It’s only Faith. “What d’ya want, twerp?” I spit, still irritable from the fright. “Mom said to come up. Hey, how do you know if a gun is loaded?” I shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe you just have to keep track until you shoot.” She nods reasonably. “And how noisy is it to fire a .22 pistol?” “If it’s silenced, then it’s obvious. Can we hurry up and get this over with?” She nods again, and then pulls an L-shaped object out of her schoolbag.

In her hand, it’s almost unrecognizable. Almost. A .22 pistol, pointed with a small hand at me. We’ve all seen it in the movies. Shaking, trembling, almost unwilling hands on the gun. This was more frightening. She wasn’t scared, or hesitant, or regretful. She knew what she was doing. She knew it was murder. She didn’t care. “What--- What are you doing?” I ask hoarsely, hoping it’s a stupid prank. “I need to die, Der. One funeral after another, until I can finally have mine. I don’t want sobs. I want to die without anyone grieving.” “I won’t grieve!” I cry out. “I’ll be happy for your life, not sad for your death, I swear!” One sad look crosses her face, but the gun doesn’t fall. “But now you know,” she said. “I can’t leave you to spread the story. You’re a tattletale, Derod. I know it.” “No!” I choke out. “I won’t tell, Faith, I promise! It’ll be a secret!” “Derod, don’t lie to me. It hurts.” A quick movement over the trigger silences the thunder outside.



I almost whistle as I go about staging a suicide. Eventually, I’ll be able to create my own suicide. I have all the satisfaction of a job well done. I go into the upstairs bathroom, put on rubber gloves, and wash the gun with cleaner. Then I walk back into Der’s bedroom and place the gun in his hand, curling his fingers around it. I go on his computer, open up a Word document, and type,

Guys, I couldn’t take it anymore. Life is beating the shit out of me, and I’ve decided to give up. Bye.

From Derod.

A brief computer suicide note, not even printed. Perfectly something Derod would do. I creep downstairs to my room and take out my little family of dolls. I still play with them, but not like most people. I enact different ways out of my pain, sizing them up in my mind, and switching to some baby’s game when anyone comes into the room. Lately, the Dollston family has been playing more deadly roles than usual. I dress the big brother doll in a suit and place him on a rag. I smile and, lifting up his black shirt, I write Thank You on his stomach. Derod had never been particularly kind to me, but now I finally had something to thank him for. I could thank him for dying.


“Derod!” I yell for the fourth time.

“Your homework’s down here! Come get it and work on it!” My son is the most pig-headed teenager I know.

He could be brilliant if he would apply himself. Rather than risk him throwing a tantrum, I go to my youngest daughter, Faith. She’s playing with her dolls in her room. Sweet little child. I’m just glad this world isn’t weighing on her yet, though I sometimes wish she understood pain. When I open the door, she looks slightly guilty. Probably embarrassed that she took my kitchen rag without asking. Little girls get nervous about the strangest things.

“Is your brother up in his room?” I ask, since she was there last.

She nods. “He got really weird after a while, then asked me to leave, so I did.” I smile at her. She’s so innocently adorable.

“Ok, sweetheart. I’ll go talk to him.” I leave the door of her room open, but as I walk away, she shuts it slowly behind me.

I storm into Derod’s room angrily. “Derod!” I yell again, walking around the corner to where he keeps his desk and bed. “I have been…calling for…” What I see slowly sinks in. Derod is lying on his bed, blood trickling out of a wound in his forehead, fingers around a gun I recognize as my husband’s. I stare at the document open on his computer. Only then do I scream.


I run upstairs, inwardly rejoicing. Derod’s body has been discovered, and that portion of the assignment is over. I almost laugh. This is so easy! But when I arrive, I have misgivings. Mom is sobbing over the body. I never expected that. But it’s not my fault. If Mom wasn’t so mushy, she wouldn’t be sad. It’s not my problem.

The funeral is held at the church I don’t remember ever hearing a service in. It’s tradition in this tiny town for all people who die young to have their funeral there. I don’t even have to change clothes from what I usually wear. Mom decided not to wear makeup, because she was crying as we got ready to go. When we arrive, the gathered people are mostly guy teenagers in button-down shirts and ripped jeans and gothic girls talking about how death was inevitable for him, like everyone else. All the other people here are a few family friends. The eulogies consisted of “He was the best motherfucker ever” and things like that. Mom was going to say a few words too, but she broke down and ran off into the churchyard for the rest of the service. Dad wasn’t there. He was in his drunken period. He gets caring and loving and helpful, and then gets drunk and angry and rude. He has violent mood swings that occur about every two weeks. Mom didn’t want him here. She’d divorce him, but he’s so contrite between drunkenness that she can’t bring herself to do it. I’m glad. I want to say bye to my daddy before I die. I don’t think our goodbye will be pretty, though. I don’t really like him anymore. He yells and makes mommy cry. He made Derod yell and stay in his room for days. He’s one of the reasons I want to leave. I love him. I love him like I love my entire family, no matter what, but I need to be with Dani. She can help me. But I still have to take care of things here first.



I mow another Spartan down. The Splatter achievement comes up. It’s been three weeks since Derod killed himself, and I’ve recovered pretty well. After all, it was what he wanted. I don’t think we should interfere. Don’t get me wrong, I miss him, but I wouldn’t have made him miserable by stopping him. I have made my peace with it, if you will. After all, I’m thirteen years old now. I have to be mature about this stuff. So while Dad is off drunk and Mom is grieving my big brother, I run the household. I slip money out of the grocery fund and go to the Food City down the road and provide for me and Faith. Speak of the sister. Here she is. “Hi Josh,” she says sunnily. “Hey,” I say as I blow a Spartan’s head off. Suddenly, the screen does that weird popcorn thing.


After I’m satisfied the TV looks problematic, I take my finger off of the remote button and hide the remote quickly. As expected, Josh looks around for it, then goes to the TV to use the manual buttons. I suppress a yell as I run forward, leaning into him, hearing him scream out as his head goes through the glass and into the wiring. Blood drops off of cuts in his face, and sparks begin to light up the air incredibly fast, electrifying Josh. He begins to shake, more small blue bits of light dancing off his skin. With a huge flash, the TV breaks down. So does my brother.


I run in answer to my daughter’s scream. I rush into the living room to a sickening smell of seared flesh. Tiny bloodstains dot the carpet below where my youngest and only son’s head is inside the screen. Leah’s makeup smears as she cries, and I turn her away from the sight and, trying to calm myself enough to make sense, I call 911.


Now I am an only child. Soon, untimely for them, perfect for me, I will be an orphan, free to die. I stop rubbing my makeup around in my eyes to make them tear up, and I run up to my room. I dress the younger boy doll in his nicest clothes, which are still scruffy, place him on the rag too, and scrawl Thank You across his stomach. After a moment, I draw black all over him and a red dot on the head of the Derod doll. Now there’s just the girl and the mommy and the daddy.



I lay weakly on my bed. Both my sons are gone, and all I have is the baby girl. She’s too young to understand my pain. I just wish she hadn’t had to see Josh that way. William is probably out of his drunken state by now. My door opens, and there’s Faith, holding a mom doll in one hand, with the other hand in her long, bulging skirt pocket. “Mom?” she asked. “I just thought that maybe you’d like me to do your hair in a braid. I just learned how you take the left strand to the middle, then the right—” “Okay,” I tell her, smiling. She’s so cute. I sit up and turn my back to her.


The hammer comes down on her head swiftly. I clamp a hand over her mouth, and putting all my hope for an easy death into it, I bring the hammer down again. She goes limp, but I can’t risk her not being dead. Again the hammer goes down. I go on and on, almost crying. It feels so great, yet so awful. Finally, oozing green-purple comes out and I know I’ve reached the brain. She’s dead. As I walk away, I push in the back of the mom doll’s rubber head.


“Faith,” I say, coming into her room. “We’re moving, sweetheart.” She looks up from her doll game. She’s been playing it for weeks, dressing her dolls formally and putting them on a rag and drawing on them. Maybe they’re having a formal sleepover and tattoo session. I don’t know. She’s been weird since Derod was murdered. I don’t buy the suicide story. First Derod, then Jake, and then my wife…oh god… I couldn’t go on if anything happened to Faith. Our family is in the clutches of a serial killer, and I have to get away, and take my only child left with me. She stands up and gathers all her dolls and says, “I’m ready.” “You’re going to need more than that. We’re not going back,” I clarify. Her face hardens. “I know that. But where we’re both going, these are all I need.” I sigh. She’s scarred from the murders, naturally. The innocent little kid had no idea how twisted some people can be. “Fine. How about I pack for you, and I’ll bring it along in case you change your mind?” I say gently. She nods. I cross the room to hug her, and I feel a warm wetness from her face. She’s crying. I keep holding her as she shakes with light sobs and murmurs something I can’t clearly hear. After it subsides and we’re all packed, we get in the car and drive.


I watch the streaks the rain makes on the car windows as Dad drives his fastest and still safely to Seattle. His reasoning is that there’s enough people in Seattle to hide us from the serial killer. Hiding from his own daughter, however, is going to be harder. He says it’s a small house in the suburbs, just two bedrooms, a nice little place he had lived in before he met Mom and moved to a smaller town. Buildings replace trees as we get closer to our destination. Dad says he doesn’t want to move out of state. The police in Washington know about the three deaths in one home, and they’re on the case, and we should stay here if they need us. I wish we were out of state. A jail or asylum cell would impede the suicide effort. As we drive by, I see a girl look at us. Dani. A little girl about seven years old looks exactly like Dani did when she was that age in pictures. Another Dani even stops us to ask how to get to a local Dusk to Dawn. It’s in my mind. I know that. Dad wouldn’t see as many Danis as I did unless he knew he was going to see her again soon too.

We drive up to the house. It’s pretty, and pretty small, but I’m satisfied. We won’t be living here for too long. Dad starts to unpack, while I go inside and dress the last male doll in a suit ahead of time.



The house is peaceful at night. The city lights shine angelically through the windows, and no sign of the killer has shown up. I settle back into my chair with my book, and I’m three chapters into it when Faith runs into the room, her eyes wide. “Daddy,” she cries, “I was outside picking up my notebook and I heard noises in the garage!” I get up immediately and I dial 911. “Hello? Yes, my daughter says there’s someone in the house…thirty-fifth Bluebird Street…Ok. Alright. Bye.” “Daddy,” Faith implores, “what if he gets in the house? Go on to the garage, please.” I grab a knife from the kitchen, then sneak into the garage. There’s no one there at the immediate look around, but I’m not taking any chances. I see Faith grimly take hold of a shovel, and it’s almost scary how these deaths have aged her. Suddenly I hear a grunt from behind me, and blackness swallows the world.

I wake up terrified that I’ll hear Faith scream. I try to rise, but a piece of rope around my neck strangles me and I stop. Other ropes tie me to a car seat, with knots like the kinds on a sneaker. I’m in my own car, and I come to realize I’m covered in liquid. As I become more awake, I smell the unmistakable reek of gasoline. I see a reflection in the rear view mirror. Eyes come into focus, and I’ve never seen Faith’s eyes that way. An empty joy is behind them, and she holds my lighter. Only then do I scream. “Faith!” I roar, trying to penetrate the look in her face. “Faith, put that down! Baby, don’t do this! It’s not right, it---” “Daddy,” she said peacefully, “Try to understand. I don’t want to hurt you, so when I die, you’ll not grieve, because you won’t be here. Dad, believe me, I need this. You want me to be happy, don’t you?” I close my eyes, but I still feel the flame’s heat as she touches it to my chest.


I leap out of the car as fast as I can, but I overdid it with the gasoline. My shoelace catches fire, and I pull it off and throw it across the room, but I realize my mistake. It touches the floor mat, and suddenly most of the garage is on fire as the flames leap from place to place. Daddy’s screams accelerate as I watch, shocked, the room join him in becoming bright masses of fire. I flee, but yards from the house I can’t help but turn and watch in horrible fascination as the fire spreads to the house and both are being consumed. And I know, with a guilty twinge of pleasure just as bad as my fascination, that I caused it all. I barely see a blue and red light join the orange or hear the fire and police sirens, responding to Dad’s call and a neighbor’s. I barely notice them running towards the house, notice the policemen swarming me. They have to pry me away from the fire before I answer a word they say.

Well, here I am. The state asylum, in a white uniform in a room with white rubber walls. It all came out, the four murders, the suicidal desire, the way I think of death. My chance to die is gone, and even if it wasn’t, I’ve made friends with some workers, and they’d care if I died.

After I kill them, I’ll get out. I’ll find my friends, and they’ll die. And I’ll be free to follow them, making them all my little gateways to Dani and death and peace.

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