After what feels like hours, the front door opens. I want to be relieved, but I’m not sure if it’s Ivan or that thing trying to draw me out. Multiple times since I entered the bathroom, it has spoken in a disembodied voice, trying to lure me out, but I have stayed put, afraid for my own safety.
I wait for some kind of greeting, something to tell me that it really is Ivan. When I hear nothing, I call out.
“Ivan? Is that you?”
“It’s me, Nico,” responds a voice that is very clearly Ivan’s, but his tone is off. He sounds stressed. “Where are you?”
“In the bathroom. I need help. Can you come here?”
“I’m not sure, Nico.” His voice is definitely strained. “I’m scared.”
“What is it? Is that thing back again?”
“No, but I’m not sure it’s safe down there.”
I realize the creature might have gone after him too. He might believe that I’m not really here, like I had felt earlier.
“Ok, I’ll come to you.”
Even though I’m pretty sure it’s really Ivan this time, a nagging thought in the back of my head keeps saying that it might be something else. I stand up carefully, wincing at the pain in my chest, and place my hand on the doorknob. Cautiously, I open the door. One foot at a time, struggling to stay standing, I step out into the hall.
“It came again babe. It hurt me this time, I don’t know how but—”
He has a gun.
Leaning against the wall, barely able to move, I suddenly feel very exposed. I’m no longer worried about explaining what happened to him. All I do is stare at him in silence while I try to figure out what to do.
At the end of the hallway stands my boyfriend, but he’s changed. His hair is disheveled and dirty, and there are rips in his jeans. Blood drips down his arm from a narrow cut. His eyes are cold and sharp. Nothing like the caring eyes I’m used to seeing.
In his outstretched arm, Ivan holds a pistol. I’ve never seen him hold a gun before, and he holds this one shakily, like he’s not sure what to do with it. Regardless of his skill, it’s pointed at me, and his finger is on the trigger, so I don’t want to take any chances.
“Ivan, what’s going on?”
His eyes harden even more, and he adjusts his grip, aiming for my torso, no longer shaking.
“It said you had to repent. It said I was in danger. What did you do, Nico?”
“I-I didn’t do anything!” I stammer. “It told me the same thing about you.”
“Did it now?” He laughs, and it’s unlike any laugh I’ve ever heard him make. It sounds inhuman, devoid of all real emotion. Hollow. “It told me you would say that. It told me you would lie, try to avoid it. That you couldn’t own up to who you are, that I would find out the hard way if I didn’t make you tell me.”
“What are you talking about, Ivan?! Do you really think that I would put you in danger?” I’m shaking now, barely able to hold myself up.
“Shut up, Nico,” he growls, and I flinch. I’ve never heard him like this before, with so much malice and hatred. I’m truly scared.
“Listen to me,” he commands. “You’re going to tell me exactly what you did. Then, when the police get here, you’re going to tell them, and they’re going to take you away, and I’ll finally be safe.”
“You called the police?”
The pain becomes too much, and I collapse to the floor. Ivan readjusts the gun so it is still pointing at me.
“Yes. And if you try anything before they get here, I’ll shoot you.”
I feel like I’ve truly lost him to something out of my control. But I can’t give up on him, because that would mean giving up on the life we’ve built together, on my entire world. If I do that, there’s no coming back.
“Ivan, please, baby, stop this. Whatever it told you, it was lying. It’s trying to tear us apart, don’t you see that?”
“It was lying, huh? About the baby? About your baby?”
“My— my what?”
“The baby you had before you met me. The one nobody seems to know anything about, because you made sure it and its mother were never found.”
“What the hell are you talking about Ivan? I’ve never had a baby!”
He glares at me. “Stop. Lying.”
“I’m not lying to you. Do you really think that I could do something like that? That I could murder a child?! I’ve never had a baby, I swear. Hell, you were my first time!”
For a moment, his eyes soften. I see concern, just a hint of it, and I take my moment.
“Hand me the gun, Ivan, and we can talk about this.”
The concern disappears, and he steps towards me.
“No more talking, Nico. I’ve had enough. You don’t deserve the cops, the jail, where you can hurt other people. You only deserve one thing.”
I raise my head. The barrel of the gun is pointed directly in between my eyes. I can see down it, into an endless black tunnel, a tunnel full of five year’s worth of memories, all ready to be thrown away. I think of the box hidden beneath my desk, think of the ring inside of it. Tears flood from my eyes, not for my imminent death, but for Ivan. For what has happened to him, for my love for him, for all the things we’ll never get to do.
“I love you,” I whisper, and the gunshot splits the air.