Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Wake Me Up Inside
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Wake me up inside
Call my name and save me from the dark
Bid my blood to run
Before I come undone
Save me from the nothing I've become
-Evanescence, "Bring Me to Life"
He heard her voice calling his name, but he didn't lift his head. He didn't even move. The truth was that he'd hardly moved for the past week.
In the past he'd roamed the planet freely. Even the boundaries of the atmosphere hadn't been able to confine him. But over the course of the last week, a darkened bedroom had become his whole world.
"Clark." She spoke more fiercely. "If you don't get up, I swear I'm going to bring out the kryptonite."
"Leave me alone." His voice sounded dark and rusty to his own ears. Not surprising, really, as he'd hardly used it in a week.
He heard the angry click of her high heels on the wood floor as she stalked toward him. "When was the last time you left this room, Clark?"
He shut his eyes and didn't answer. She'd been gone when it happened, and hadn't had any way of knowing how badly it affected him, though she must have guessed. The phone had rung over and over again, but he'd ignored it, and finally taken it off the hook. He'd heard people pounding on the door, too, and guessed she'd sent friends over to check on him. But he hadn't cared enough to get up to answer the door.
Eventually, she'd obviously gotten worried enough to come home.
Somewhere deep inside, he was distressed to have caused her to leave an assignment. Chloe's work as an investigative reporter meant a great deal to her, and she couldn't be happy about abandoning an important story in the middle.
But deep down, he'd known she wouldn't leave him to face this alone, either.
"Perry says you haven't come into the office all week." The clicking halted as she stopped next to the bed, and he felt the mattress dip as she sat down next to him. "And I couldn't find a single story about anything Superman did all week, either. Have you been lying here since it happened?"
He maintained his sullen silence.
Her hand began stroking his hair, very gently. He closed his eyes, feeling a sudden burning beneath his lids. If only she'd been there when it happened...
He pushed the thought away. Nothing on earth could make him feel better about what he'd done. Not even Chloe.
"I read about it in the paper," she said, her voice as soft as if the darkened bedroom was a library. "It wasn't your fault, Clark."
It had been his fault. That was the whole problem. He'd been working as a superhero for a decade now, and he was supposed to be able to handle the bad guys without getting innocent bystanders killed. That was his job, damn it.
And it was a job he'd failed at miserably.
"I don't want to talk about it."
His voice sounded hoarse, rustier than ever. He didn't want to talk about it. He just wanted to lie here in the dark quiet and try to forget things that could never be forgotten.
"You need to talk about it." Her hand caressed his hair. "I know you, Clark. If you don't talk about things like this, they eat you up from the inside. And right now it looks to me like this is gnawing you to pieces."
She was wrong. It wasn't gnawing at him. All he felt inside was a vast hollow space, a vacancy where his soul had once been.
He didn't have any demons to exorcise.
All he had was emptiness.
"No." His voice was barely a whisper. "Just leave me alone."
"Clark." Her hand didn't stop touching his hair. "I know how much this must have freaked you out. But you can't do this. You can't just withdraw this way. The world needs you."
He squeezed his eyes shut more tightly, because they burned more than before. "The world is better off without me," he gritted out through his teeth.
"Crap." Her voice was as no-nonsense as ever, and her tone said clearly, I've never put up with self-pity from you, buddy, and I'm not going to put up with it now. "You know that's not true."
"Chloe. Just leave me alone."
He wanted to go back to the empty quiet of his darkened bedroom. He didn't want to talk. He just wanted to embrace the nothingness inside him until it consumed him entirely.
Because nothingness was so much better than the unbearable memories.
"No." She spoke briskly. "If you want to get rid of me, you're going to have to tell me exactly what happened."
Anger sparked inside him, genuine, sharp-edged anger slicing its way through the depression that had shrouded him in darkness for the past week. He opened his eyes and glared into the dimness of the room.
"Twenty-two people died because of me," he snapped. "That's what happened."
"According to what I read in the Planet," she said, her voice still very calm, "those people died because a madman set off bombs in downtown Metropolis."
He closed his eyes, remembering the screams of pain and terror and panic as twenty-two people were blown into lifeless gobbets of flesh and splintered shards of bone.
"I should have been able to figure out a way to save them," he whispered. Tears prickled at his eyelids again, and he squeezed them harder, but a tear made its way out from beneath his closed lids anyway. He felt it sliding slowly down his face.
"You got rid of almost every bomb," she said softly. "You saved hundreds of thousands of lives, Clark."
Pain welled up in his throat, choking him. "I wasn't fast enough. I tried so hard... but I wasn't fast enough, Chlo."
"Clark." She leaned over him, resting her head on his shoulder. "You did your best."
The raw pain clawed its way out of his chest, obliterating the peaceful nothingness, and a choked sob escaped him.
"My best wasn't good enough, Chloe."
Read Chapter 2 here.