Hello and welcome! I'm H.M. Friendly. I usually write science fiction, but this one is a bit of a spontaneous departure from that genre. This is a short story I wrote the other day, about depression and abusive relationships. My intent is for people who have experienced these things to feel an empathetic connection, and for people who have not experienced such things to gain a vicarious appreciation of these issues. If this story has impacted you in any noteworthy way, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks! 😀

(P.S. I'm new to reddit. Is there a way to format the font to serif? I believe this would make for better reading.)

The Ascendant

You want to create an angel.

You need a scapegoat.

You crave a martyr.

You are desperate for human connection.

There is a moment when you look within yourself and see that you are ugly, twisted, malformed, broken. You see yourself in chains, shackled, in a dark, dank dungeon; the walls are spikes, they’re slowly closing upon you. There is no ceiling, it is perpetual night, the sky is a deep blue, nearly indistinguishable from black. You see stars. You feel the fresh air. Escape, or death.

You must fly.

So you turn inside out. You reach into the world with long, yearning fingers. You find a person. A woman.

Who do you want her to be?

Who are *you?*

Who do you see in the mirror? Is it the same person your friends see? Your family?

Who are you?

So this girl, this woman, you find her in darkness. Past midnight. The sound of traffic in the distance. From around a red brick corner: coloured light, rave music, the sweet, heady smell of burning weed. She is sitting huddled against the wall, mired in shadow. She’s young. 19, maybe 20. Dark hair, a tight skirt, black, shiny boots, a tank top. She is smoking. The filter is white; upon it is the imprint of her lipstick, a deep blue-red, like suffocated blood. Her hand is trembling as she brings it to her lips.

You are walking by, but you stop, you ask her for a cigarette. She looks up at you. Her black mascara has run down her cheeks; she’s been crying. She fumbles in her pack and hands you a smoke.

You smoke together. You have a conversation. She is terse, reticent; she regards you with suspicion. You talk about nothing, about the nothingness of mundane living, the repetitive grind of existing. Waking, eating, shitting, working sightlessly, hopelessly, with no objective, no advancement, no future.

She is silent for a long while before she tells you that it is a little different for her. She hardly ever awakens because she hardly ever sleeps. She rarely shits because she barely eats. She goes to work every day. Hours pass. She is a machine. Nobody sees her. They all look through her. She goes home. She paints pictures all night, with bright colours: abstract, anguished, predominantly shades of reds, blues, and blacks, with the occasional splash of yellow. They are pictures of her soul.

She loathes food because eating sustains life. She has no food in her apartment. She used to, but she allowed it to deplete to nothingness, and intentionally neglected replacing it. She eats only when in public, for appearances sake, and even then only pecks. At home she drinks coffee, tea, rum, and whiskey. She waits for her inevitable and coveted dissolution.

She does not tell you all of this, not right away. Not for months. Much of it not at all. That night, she tells you that things are a little different for her, but nothing further. Then she grinds to death the glowing ember of her cigarette and stands, brushing herself off.

“I’ll see you around,” she says, tossing a backwards glance over a bare shoulder, and walks away.

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You see yourself within her. You feel a sense of levity, of hope. Your breath catches in your throat; you dare to wonder if there is someone out there who understands what it is like to be you.

Over several weeks, you get to know her. You have coffee. You chat. You have drinks. Eventually, you fuck. She is withdrawn, hesitant; she reacts to your touch by flinching. You are gentle, nurturing. She opens up.

Her pain is your pain. You are empowered by her sense of dependency, her absolute hopelessness. You are not malicious. You simply relish the sensation of not feeling intimidated.

Usually, with people, you see them outside of yourself; they are strong and capable and, if not happy, at least normal. They are reasonably well-adjusted. They are not inside themselves in a dungeon of spikes that is constantly constricting. You see them next to yourself: shining glass monuments beside a broken child’s toy, and you wither a little, with each of the millions of people you encounter. This is your normalcy.

So when you meet her, and you find that she is not apart from you – she is within you, she is a reflection of yourself – you feel a sense of strength, of joy, of connection. It is what you have been looking for all this time. In a sense, she is your angel, because she will allow you to fly.

You invite her in. Into the dungeon inside of you. You joyfully give her her own shackles, just like yours. You are no longer alone.

Your friends reproach you.

“This is toxic,” they say. “You two are no good for each other.”

But they are among those outside of your dungeon. They don’t understand; they can never understand. They speak imperiously about matters in which they have no experience or authority.

In your dungeon, you show her your chains. You tell her you and she are the same, that she is well off because you have each other: by sharing your collective pain and misery, you decrease the individual burden.

In your dungeon, there is a furled sheet of oiled leather. It is hidden beneath a loose stone. You pry the stone from the dirt, produce the scroll, and unroll it. Within it are several razors and scalpels. You were saving them for yourself, but now you have a grand idea.

You hear a constant grinding noise: the walls; they never stop, they’re crawling closer. Probably if you strained you could touch the spikes with your fingertips. You do not have much time.

She is kneeling on the dirty, weathered cobblestone, black, soggy moss growing within the cracks. Her knees are scraped raw, the tops of her feet. Her eyes are downcast. You scramble like a dog around the back of her, the cold steel of your chains dragging and clinking.

You begin to operate on her. You are altering her bone structure. You are manipulating her genetic expression, her blueprint. She weeps silently as you do this. She tells you she wishes she never met you. You tell her you love her, that this pain is necessary, that you are helping her grow.

Soon, bones begin to reach upwards and outwards from her shoulder blades. Upon these bones are skin and muscle, and soft, wet feathers. She is growing wings. She has become your angel. She will enable you to fly into the starry night.

Your family refuses to invite you to Christmas dinner. (Or is it that they invite, and you refuse to attend?)

You go to work, you come home. There she is; she’s moved in with you. You no longer have friends. She is your friend. She is the only friend you need. You do not leave the house, except for work. She is listless and moody. She wants to go out, to go downtown, to party, to see her friends, but you tell her you’ve had a bad day, that you really need her; you don’t know what you’ll do if left alone, and she begrudgingly consents.

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You spend the evening watching vacuous television programs, and then you fuck. She doesn’t flinch anymore. She is non-responsive.

In your dungeon, you are ecstatic. Her wings are growing strong and wide. After several months, they are a brilliant, lustrous white. You know it is time. You produce a key and unlock her shackles. It is none too soon, the spikes are close enough that they’re piercing her flesh; glistening beads of crimson swell, break, and crawl down her pale skin.

“Let’s fly out of here,” you say to her, “you and I, together!” Your eyes are wide and shining. “Finally, we can rise above all of this!” You embrace her, and encourage her to fly.

“Not with you,” she says, roughly pushing you away. A roaring fire in her eyes startles you. “No more.”

Her wings are strong and powerful; she flaps them mightily. Her feet lift from the ground. You cry out in hurt and anger, you try to grab her, to pull her back down. After everything you’ve been through, she has betrayed you. You will punish her. You will chain her, unable to move, her arms outstretched. You will tear off her wings. You will display them prominently just out of reach, a constant reminder of what she could have had. You will allow her to soil herself, her womanly blood flowing unmitigated down her thighs. She will feel shame. She has brought this upon herself.

But she is stronger than you ever imagined. She kicks free from you; the downdraft of her wings pushes you off balance, forces itself down your throat, chokes you.

She ascends, free, into the expansive night sky. The stars above burn ravenously.

You stand on the filthy brown carpet in the middle of your apartment. t feels (you feel) horrifyingly empty. . She has taken her things and left. There are spaces where they used to reside, the possessions that form her soul, the history of the girl and the woman she once was; from each epoch a different memento. They made her who she is today. They are all gone; she is gone, the spaces are bare. You spin in circles, dizzy, helpless, bewildered, alone.

The spikes close in from all sides.

~

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Note* I take steps to ensure that, in the event of a legal dispute regarding the ownership of this work, it is demonstrably provable in court that I am the true, original author of this work. Please don't open that box, it would be a hassle for everyone, and it would not be fruitful for you.*

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