Charcoal Tears (Seraph Black Book 1)

By: Jane Washington

1





The Beast





There is a place inside my mind that doesn’t belong. It is overruling and underrated all at once; it is the place that I try my best to ignore. I make excuses, satiating its unspoken need to flee recognition and stalk, unseen, so that I don’t have to claim those things that define me in their darkness. I cage the wild beast that tugs at my heart, and it doesn’t like it. It wants to be used. It wants to be leashed, claimed, and ruled, so that it can make its viciousness my courage.

What if it succeeds?

I will use bricks instead. I will build them up solidly, block by reassuring block, until a garrison stands guard and only the curious battering of my heart against the drying mortar can be heard.

You see, there is safety in simplicity… in a life of simple peace, where the electricity doesn’t dance across the backs of my eyelids, and the sparks don’t slither over my consciousness. Only asinine peace, where my paintings don’t seem to paint themselves, leaving me with terrible feelings of premonition and a chill beneath my fingernails.

Peace.

I made vicious strokes with the brush, ignoring the paint that splattered to the floor, marking my sneakers. I didn’t even know what colour the shoes were supposed to be—black, or dark blue, maybe. It didn’t matter. I had bought them at a garage sale years ago, and they barely even fit anymore.

The watercolour outlines dripped down the paper and I flicked the brush onto a rickety wooden table beside me, reaching forward to smudge the paint into place with my fingers. The table was propped up with two good legs and one half of a broken baseball bat, and it housed all of the brushes that I was currently abandoning in lieu of my fingers. I made soft flicks upwards and coaxing, easy nudges toward where I wanted the paint to stain. People generally didn’t understand this thing that I did. They didn’t understand how it could look like I was damaging my art into existence. Every one of my works should have been a mess by the time I finished with them, but instead they grew into delicate and precise visions. Then again… people consisted of my little brother Tariq, my dead mother, and my art teacher—Quillan. Nobody else cared.

The first coat finished, I quickly washed my brushes and tipped them all into an empty jar. I shucked my painting shirt—an old sweatshirt of Tariq’s—and pulled the plain blouse that I had thrown off earlier over my singlet. I didn’t waste any effort on my hair, I didn’t bother with any fancy makeup and I didn’t check to see if my blouse was inside out, back-to-front or rent clear down the middle.

I simply grabbed my book bag and left the garage in my chameleon sneakers.

The garage door groaned as I pulled it down, protesting all the way until it landed with a sighing whump against the concrete. After it was locked, I re-hid the key under a rock in one of the bushes to the side. I had gradually turned the space into an art studio over the last two years, and my father still hadn’t noticed. I didn’t know why I bothered hiding the key in the same place. Habit? What would happen if he spontaneously decided to take a stroll around the boundaries of our underwhelming, insignificant rectangle of land? Even though the alcohol pumped through his system thicker than blood, he still had a brain in his head, and it still worked—at least half of the time. He might not remember that we owned a garage, but he would certainly know what one looked like.

I should probably move the key.

My progress toward the small, double-storey, faded-brick house was marked with caution, my eyes flicking occasionally up to the half-open windows, examining the torn curtains that snaked outside to tangle with the faint morning breeze. I planted myself by the window to the kitchen for a moment, but didn’t hear any activity. The house seemed to be sleeping, but then again, our house always seemed to be sleeping. Not that anyone had ever asked me, but I was firmly of the opinion that it was the quiet things in life that boasted the most menace: the silent people, the unspoken words… the sleeping houses. Deeming it safe, I entered through the front door and passed by the cracked linoleum and water-stained walls that decorated the kitchen, climbing the staircase to the second landing. As soon as my father’s snore shook through the house I relaxed and ran the rest of the way to Tariq’s bedroom. Tipping the door open, I peeped inside.

“Hey.” I stared at the back of his head, a shaggy mess of dark hair reminding me that I needed to give him another haircut. “We have to go. You ready?”

He turned, his eyes still glued to whatever he had been reading, and nodded without actually looking at me. “Yeah, sure. Ready.” He spoke lowly, almost a whisper.

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