11 // ABYSS

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There was a guy we once knew on the scene, appropriately named Dan-E by the crew for his notorious pill-popping habit. Life and soul. Proper party animal. Put any kind of drug in front of him and he'd sniff it, swallow it, smoke it, whatever. I'd never seen anyone consume so much in my life and not drop down dead, and that's coming from someone who never refused much herself either, but Dan-E was a different league of user and I'd always known it for what it was. Even without the rumours, I could always see it. When people looked at Dan-E, he smiled - the biggest, broadest I'm-alright-Jack kinda smile you'd ever seen – but whenever people looked away, it was there, hiding behind the smile. A pressure that threatened to crush him. Like someone was pressing down a heavy weight on top of his shoulders.

Like ghosts were clinging to his back.

I saw it in him, because I saw it in me every day. Felt it. Felt them. Like we were part of some secret bloody club or something. That was until he fell into the abyss and never re-surfaced.

I still saw him now and then, down the high street sometimes, wearing layers of dirt-encrusted clothes to shield him from the cold, fingertips chewed right down to the bone. He lives in that abyss every single day and all that's left of him is a trail of bloodied fingerprints and soundless words coming from constantly-moving lips.

And now, this was it. This was my abyss. The biggest fucking comedown I'd ever had.

Like staring into the deepest chasm and knowing that once down there, I'd never be coming back out again.

I didn't want to be another Dan-E. I didn't want to hold onto the bloodied stumps of his hand and walk the darkness with him.

I didn't want this.

'Go on then,' Ethan said. 'Tell me I'm crazy.'

There was a gleam in his eyes, a light dancing on the surface that looked like he was getting a kind of twisted satisfaction from this.

I kept my hands braced against his chest, one final, useless barrier between me and the madness.

'Actually, I was thinking I must be the crazy one,' I replied. My voice was small, child-like, and I saw flashes of a tiny box-room. Paper peeling from walls where the sporous damp had claimed the plaster underneath. A shade-less bulb hanging from the ceiling, the stark white light flickering.

Flickering.

Ethan's face relaxed, a softness in his gaze that would have bordered on pity if it wasn't for the fact he was still holding me against the car.

'You're not crazy, Casey. You're just doing what the human mind tells you to do. All those things your imagination can conjure up, everything you see at the movies, everything you read in books, all the myths, all the fantasies, but when the shit hits the fan and you're shown something that pushes at the boundaries of logic, when what you think you know is challenged, it's only natural for your mind to fight back. A refusal to accept is what keeps most people sane. A refusal to believe the unbelievable is what stops your brain from flipping the switch and destroying you.'

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