((I’m to write a senior thesis at the end of my college career, and this coming year I will begin working on it, being a novel, beside my mentor, if only to begin fleshing out the plot. It came to be rather unwittingly in my Creative Writing class this past semester, when one of our assigned exercises was to write a letter from one character to another character speaking specifically about a third character. Out emerged a shy, proper young woman named Freya writing to her protective brother, Peter, about a young emaciated man named Erik whom she feared had recently left her care and gone to seek out Peter, possibly with violent intentions. When I began to discuss this letter with my mentor, he urged me to consider making it into my senior thesis novel. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.

This piece of writing is my attempt to get into Erik’s head right before he vanishes from Freya’s care. I’m not sure if my novel will have dual protagonists, with alternating points of view from Freya AND Erik, but I knew I’d still need a degree of preparation even if I only stick to Freya’s viewpoint, given that Erik is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. I hope you enjoy.))

“I know what you’re thinking.”

Erik drew in a long breath, closing his eyes as he did so. Even in the solace of that self-created darkness, every hair on his body still rose to attention at the sound of the smooth, honey-coated voice that trickled through his mind. “Odalys,” he murmured, rubbing his hands over his thin forearms to frighten the goosebumps away. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

A soft chuckle wrapped around him, warm and velvety, and he forced the shiver away before it ever arrived. “You haven’t exactly called for me in quite some time, have you?”

“Since when has that ever kept you away?” he snapped, opening his eyes and looking over his shoulder. There she was. She stared at him, a smirk over her full, exceedingly rosy lips as she tilted her head to the side, her thick brown curls tumbling down over her shoulder. As beautiful as she was deadly, of course.

“Erik.” The purr cascaded over him and he turned to face her, feeling his lips curl into an insistent scowl. “I’ve missed you, you know.”

“You haven’t. Don’t lie to me.”

“Me?” She laughed again, beginning to take a few steps toward him, and he immediately felt every muscle in his body tense. “Lie to you? Darling, you know I’d never do tha-”

“Don’t touch me,” he snapped, sidestepping the hand that she’d extended toward his shoulder. She blinked, staring where he had been for a long moment before she turned her head to look at him and pulled her hand back. He ever so unwillingly followed the progress of her arm as she pressed it against her chest and draped her hand over her collarbone. “Don’t you dare ever touch me.”

She moistened her lips as she wrapped her other arm around her waist, dividing her long dress in half. “I don’t remember you ever dismissing my touch, darling. What’s happened to you?”

It was an eternal struggle to keep his eyes on her sharply angled face than to follow the picture that her hand painted. “I’ve changed, Odalys,” he said, forcing as much sharpness into his tone as he could. “We always knew that I would.”

“Nonsense.” The white slashes in the thick sleeves of her dark green dress distracted him when she threw her arms into her hips and left them akimbo. Her lips descended into such a deep frown, accompanied by her brows, that Erik could nearly feel the tension radiating off of her. “What in the world was there to change?”

“Myself. Everything. I…” He shook his head before he spun in a fast circle, swinging out his arms to gesture to everything around him. “Just look! Look at this, Odalys! For God’s sake, I have a home now, and a woman who loves me.”

Odalys scoffed, leaning forward as she did so. “Love? She couldn’t love you, Erik, and you know that. She’s merely amusing herself with you.” The woman stalked across the room, her heavy petticoats and skirts shushing as she did so. She stabbed an accusing finger at the picture directly above the TV, where Freya and Peter held each other in a close hug and smiled so broadly at the viewer. “THAT, Erik, is real love. What do YOU have to show me?”

Erik stared at the picture, releasing a deep breath that he didn’t even know he’d been holding. There she was, his angel, her soft pink braids hanging against her small, feminine shoulders. Her ever present beret slouched over her forehead, almost blocking the brilliant hazel eyes that stared into his very soul. He traced with his eyes her arms, the ones he’d traced so many times with his fingers, following every curve of them and freezing when he reached her long-fingered hand, pressed against a black background. Peter’s sweater. He began to breathe again as his eyes floated up to the strong face of Freya’s brother, looking into the sharp accusing gaze held there.

“She belongs to her brother, darling.” Erik took a few steps forward, staring up at the picture and reaching out to touch the frame, feeling its sturdiness beneath his fingers. “He loves her and would fight for her to the death. Nothing can ever come between them.” As much as he hated it, her velvety and husky tone was creeping in past his defenses, even as he saw Odalys gradually moving toward him out of the corner of his eye. “He would never let such a creature as yourself love her. You know it well.”

“Yes,” he whispered, pulling his hand back and touching his stringy, oily hair, knowing that Freya must hate to bring herself to caress it. His sharp, malnourished cheekbone stabbed at him beneath it. “Yes, you’re right…yes, of COURSE you’re right.”

“There’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing.” Odalys’s voice called for him to face her, to take in the huge black pupils that took over her gaze and her sharp-nailed hand reaching out for his face. “Give her up.”

“No.” Odalys’s hand froze as Erik shook his head, stepping toward her until only a vague inch of space separated them. “There is something. There IS. And I’m going to do it.” He reached out quickly to grab her face, to slam his lips against hers, but he rocketed through her figure and nearly stumbled into the couch. He spun around and found nothing behind him. “…you foul creature,” he hissed, clenching his hands into fists when a sharp cackle flew through the air, slowly dissipating into nothingness.

“Go take her, darling,” the voice echoed purely in his head, and he ripped a hand through his hair with a deep growl. “You know what you must to do claim what is yours.”

Erik sucked in a deep breath and looked around frantically. Nothing. No more sound. When he stared down the hallway, however, he froze. For once, he didn’t even think. As his feet carried him down the hallway all he knew was the sudden frantic beating of his heart. He ripped open the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and reached blindly for the orange prescription bottle, unlabeled and full to the brim of thick green pills. He’d never felt so helpless as when he struggled to force it open, twisting the cap mercilessly until it finally popped and flew across the room. Five, seven, ten pills poured into his palm and he threw his hand toward his mouth and missed every bit of it as the pills suddenly scattered across the floor.

“No,” he whispered, falling to his knees and grabbing after them, but he could already feel a strange sense of numbness creeping over him that soon washed over him like a tidal wave. Erik crumpled against the bathroom floor, the pills spilling from the bottle across the white tile floor with perky little claps, and he watched them as they slowly swung to a stop.

Get up. He sucked in a slow breath, fighting the sense of catatonia. Get. Up. His every muscle shook as he fought himself to lean up on his knees and threw his head limply back to stare at the eggshell white ceiling. You have a job to do. You cannot just sit here. Get up. Yes. Yes, he had to get up and claim Freya as his own. He threw out his hand blindly and let it cling to the countertop beside him, coaxing himself off the ground shortly after he did so. He dug his fingers insistently into the smooth counter as he rose and stared into the mirror at himself. Dark pools beneath his eyes looked as if they might swallow them. His cheekbones jutted out alarmingly. But you need your strength. He did.

Erik walked to the kitchen and searched through the drawers until he had three cutting knives laid out across the countertop. He sat and ate a sandwich, took the knives, and left the house with the knives tucked carefully away in his thick pockets, walking silently toward the bus stop to wait three hours for the first one.