WARNING: If you're triggered by anything like death, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc., please don't read. I don't want any of you lovelies to be hurt. In this story, I'm not going to be inconsiderate and gloss over it. I kinda want to put as much gruesome detail in as I can (no smut, stop thinking like that), to put forth mental illness and the horrible things it can do to you. I will always put trigger warnings at the start of every chapter that it's necessary.
Prepare yourself. If you're triggered, leave NOW. If you're not, proceed with caution.
T/W: Mention of guns, war, and self-harm.
He didn't want to wake up, not again. He felt the warm rays of the sun on his face, but he didn't want to feel it. He heard the birds chirping outside his window, but he didn't want to hear it. He felt his brain slowly waking up, preparing itself for the day ahead, but he didn't want to.
He wanted to fall asleep again, and never wake up.
"Dan, sweetie," his mother said, sitting on the bed next to him. She gently brushed his brown fringe away from his closed eyes, and he felt the warmth of her fingers against his cool skin. He didn't want to.
"It's time to get up, you have school today," she continued. School - the place where the halls were a battleground each and the students were the soldiers, lead by the teachers who were captains and lieutenants. The soldiers made the few kids like Dan, the refugees and the homeless and the scared, scatter before them. Lead by the principal, the equivalent of a war general, it was hell.
Dan was a refugee left homeless, alone and scared in the war-stricken country. He and the people like him were forced to either fight or give in, and those who were lucky enough to be ignored usually escaped scott-free. But the ones like Dan, who were targeted from the beginning just for being different? Well, it was like they were executed, resurrected and executed again, day after day, with the only solace being someone dropping out or graduating.
There were kids like Dan, the ones that sat alone at lunch, sitting still enough so they wouldn't get noticed. They were the ones that got called faggots and emo and loser and queer. They were the ones that, in primary school, brought bruises and broken teeth and fractured bones to show-and-tell, but never told who did it for fear of it happening again. Nobody ever asked how it happened, and so they never told. They were the ones that slowly learned to bottle up their emotions and keep their opinions to themselves if they wanted to survive, for every time they opened their mouth, they were shut down. They learned to trust nobody.
There were the kids like Willow, the ones who got picked on for being gay and ugly and nerdy and depressed, the ones who got told to get over it. But at least Willow and her band of friends had the confidence to keep smiling to each other. There were a few of them, boys and girls, enough to fit a cafeteria table, and they all had each other to rely on. They were the ones that, despite their obvious natural beauty, grace and talent, were picked on for the simplest of flaws, such as glasses, stomach fat, different colour skin, a foreign accent. They were peppered with mental bullet after mental bullet, but somehow they had each other's strength to fall back on. They were the ones that could so easily fit in, but chose not to.
Dan didn't remember the last time he had truly smiled, not faking it, or the last time he felt like he could trust another.
There were the kids like Morghann, who were vibrant and happy, but could always fall to pieces if hit too hard with those mental bullets that the soldiers always carried around. But they were flexible, and always found a way to bounce back. They'd always be back the next day as bright and chipper as usual, but would also always be shot down as soon as they spoke a word. A simple "hello" would have people reeling, mocking them, cruelly mimicking them, sending them back into their shells until they deemed it safe to emerge again. And so it repeated.
Dan had never had the strength to do that.
There were the ones like Caitlyn and Melissa, who were the popular girls, with the sporty boyfriends, who didn't need makeup to look beautiful. They smiled at everyone, but did nothing to stop the soldiers shooting at the helpless and alone.
There were the kids like Casey and Joey, the sporty boys, the popular ones that everyone liked because they were good at everything. The ones that got the cheerleader girlfriends and the friends in high places. They were the ones that gave the order to fire.
Dan was relentlessly shot at and beaten down, and they always knew where to shoot so the blood and bruises wouldn't show. He knew others were going through the same thing, and he felt horrible for never doing a thing to help them, but how could he help them when he couldn't find the strength to help himself? He didn't have anyone to fall back on, not even his family. His little brother was in grade five, his father was always working and his mother was usually busy with work or around the house. He couldn't bother them, it wasn't fair to them.
But who, then?
"Dan, please don't fall back asleep," she went on, pulling Dan out of his thoughts. "You have to get up now."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming," he grumbled, or tried to. His more articulate British accent prevented him from sounding rude. But hey, this was England, there were about fifty million different accents from what he'd heard.
"I'll be downstairs," his mother said, and he could hear the smile in his voice.
Dan waited until his mother had left before sitting up, the bed covers pooling around his waist. He sighed, and dragged himself out of bed, his bare feet hitting the cold wooden floor with a thud. Gathering up his school clothes that he'd littered around the room, he made his down down the hall into the bathroom. All he wanted was a long, hot shower, but because he didn't have much time, it'd have to be a quick, hot shower.
When he was under the water, feeling it bouncy and steam off his skin, he closed his eyes and stood there for a minute, loosening the muscles in his back. He couldn't help but reflect on the dream he'd had overnight, which may have resulted in all of the soldier analogies.
He had been standing in the middle of a barren plain, with two groups of people either side of him. Looking to his left, he'd seen the soldiers, the students and the teachers and the principal, in army gear with machine guns in their hands. They were looking past Dan.
He looked to his right and saw the rest - the outcasts, the refugees. He faintly recognised Willow and Morghann in the group. They held all sorts of guns in their hands, but they were dressed like survivors, not soldiers. They were all looking at Dan, and a boy he recognised as one of Willow's group, with scraggly black hair and blue glasses, had held his hand out, as if to say, "Join us."
But Dan had heard a cry. It was beautiful, and he'd immediately turned to it. Someone was running towards him, in that slow way you run in dreams, and the groups on either side of Dan raised their guns to each other. But Dan didn't care, for his focus was only on the boy running toward him.
The boy had reached him quicker than it seemed possible and jumped at him, a flash of jet black hair, and Dan suddenly found himself in a tight embrace.
Suddenly it was just the two of them in a beautiful sunlit field, with lush green grass spread out around them, waving in ripples in the wind. Dan just stood there as the boy hugged him, his arms around Dan's neck.
"What were you doing?" the boy asked, and his voice was like music to Dan's ears. "That wasn't safe."
"Nothing is safe," Dan found himself replying.
"I'm safe," the boy replied gently, and rested his head in the crook of Dan's neck. "We're safe. You're safe with me."
And Dan's arms had found their way around the boy's waist in return, returning the embrace.
And then it had ended. Dan opened his eyes and shook his head, realising that he'd been in the shower for far too long. He hurriedly shut off the water and got out, grabbing his towel.
As he was drying off, a sudden burst of pain shot up his right arm, and he winced. Looking down, he saw the scars.
Scars littered a small section of the tanned skin of his forearm - some were white from weeks ago, some were pink from days ago, and there were two red ones from the previous night. He remembered the feel of the cold metal on his skin, cutting through it like a knife through butter. He remembered relishing in the sharp spots of pain, and he hated himself for it. But he couldn't stop.
It was bad, he knew it was, but he couldn't find the strength to stop himself from doing it. He had to release the pain, and this seemed like the only way to do it.
Dan wanted to die. But he was too weak to cut deeper, to make the blood flow quicker. He knew that he would do it someday, but he could never find the will to do it.
He squeezed his eyes shut for a second, ridding those thoughts from his head. His mother was the only one that knew, and she also knew that she couldn't do anything to stop him. She'd tried, god knows she did. But eventually she realised that all she could do was help Dan through each day. He needed to cut. He wasn't going to die from blood loss, so she just helped him hide the scars.
He finished drying himself off and got dressed. He wore his normal black clothes, because he didn't really own anything else. He straightened his hair to get rid of those awful curls, put a bandage around his arm and went back down the hall to his room to get his backpack.
Everyone thought that he burned himself, and that's why he wore the bandage. They couldn't be more wrong.
He went into the kitchen, where his mother was making his little brother's breakfast and lunch, said little brother was drawing on scrap paper at the ding table and his father was reading a thick book through his thin reading glasses that sat on the end of his nose.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," his mother said, smiling over at him. Dan put a smile on his face as he said good morning back, but he didn't mean the smile at all.
His father looked up over his book. "Good morning, Dan," he said, nodding to him. Dan replied, nodding back.
"Hi Dan!" his little brother said, grinning over at him.
Dan walked over and ruffled the kid's hair. "Good morning to you, too, kiddo," he said.
"I've made you some toast, Dan," his mother said, nodding at the plate in front of the seat next to his brother, her silky auburn hair falling over her shoulder. "And you'd better get started on your lunch or you're going to be late. You slept through your alarm - I turned it off for you - and you were in the shower for a long time. Come on, hurry up now."
Rolling his eyes, he got to work.
Before long he was ready to go out the door. His mother kissed him on the cheek as he left, he ruffled his brother's hair one more time and waved to his father.
He was about to go to war again, and he wasn't sure if he'd come back alive.
I have no idea if that was good or bad.
I just want to say that in no way am I romanticising depression or anything like that. I just thought I'd give this kind of story a go :)