“I’m afraid of you, ” the voice says.
Erin’s on the phone with her mother. She’s sitting on the couch. She’s holding the phone in one hand. She listens.
“I don’t want to be near you. You seem so violent. Like you could do anything.”
There are things Erin wants to say. She doesn’t say them.
“You’re out of control.”
“I’ve never been,” Erin says.
“Those kids who shot up that school,” the voice says. “Do you think they showed it? They didn’t tell people. They didn’t warn people. They didn’t do anything. They just gave you a vibe. Until one day they started killing.”
Erin carefully hangs up the phone. She looks at the phone. “I don’t want you to do this,” she says. “Don’t think about me.”
Her head’s full of white and fire.
Erin stands. She goes to the bathroom. She looks in the mirror. She has white-blond hair. It falls to her waist. She’s wearing a jacket. She closes her eyes. It feels like fading.
“It’s only wounds.”
She opens her eyes. She goes to the closet. She takes a stuffed unicorn down from the shelf. Erin walks to the table. She sets the unicorn down. The unicorn has no balance. Its legs give out. Its horn lowers. Its nose sprawls onto a coaster. Erin sits down. She closes her eyes. In the world behind her eyes, the unicorn is tall and strong. It nuzzles her hand.
“It’s only wounds,” Erin explains. “She has wounds. I have wounds. The trick is to talk so they don’t rub together.”
“You can’t,” the unicorn says.
“I want to just . . . fade away,” Erin says. “So that I don’t hurt her any more. I don’t want her to think about me.”
“People think about things,” the unicorn says.
“I want to forgive her,” Erin says. “I want to take her pain and heal it. I want to make her okay. I want to come together with her in brightness and have things be as they should have been.”
“She won’t,” the unicorn says.
Erin opens her eyes and makes the unicorn small. She stands.
“You don’t understand,” she says. “You’re just an imaginary thing. You’re a dream. You’re less than human.”
The unicorn doesn’t move.
“I can reach for it,” she says. “I can make it happen. I can change things. I can fix her. She’s not hurting me on purpose. It’s only wounds.”
Erin sits down. She picks up the phone. She calls a friend.
“Yo,” says Branwen.
“I want to do it,” Erin says. “I promised I’d call.”
Branwen sighs. “It’s not worth it.”
“It’s good to be human,” Branwen says. “You get hopes. And dreams. And loves beyond the great love. You get a lot.”
“But you don’t have answers.”
“No,” Branwen admits. “You don’t.”
“When you promise,” Erin says.
“No,” Branwen says. Her voice is full of pain. “Erin, there’s nothing you can do. She’ll think what she thinks. You can’t stop her.”
“When you promise something that humans can’t fulfill,” Erin says, “you don’t have to be human any more.”
“Can’t,” Branwen says. “Not ‘don’t have to.'”
“Don’t think about me any more,” Erin says. “You won’t have to. I promise.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” Branwen says. “Not from weakness.”
“Oh,” Erin says.
“No,” Erin says. “It’s not weakness. The going away. The ending. They’re weak. But not the promise. Not the real one.”
“I promise that she’ll think brightly of me. That she’ll love me. That she doesn’t want to hurt me. That it’s only wounds.”
“Hey—” Branwen says.
The line goes dead.
She’s not supposed to think about Erin. But she does.