CHAPTER 45
MY NAME IS ANNA APPLEBY

The supply room exited into a short hallway ending at another door which I knew fed into the back of the gymnasium. As I approached the door I heard Nodder say something about football, then a big cheer from the crowd of revelers, and then as I paused, just about to open the door and test my faith, I heard Nodder say, by way of introduction, “James Callifano!” The crowd erupted. Knowing that everyone in the place would be distracted, I opened the door, at first just a sliver, to peep my head through. Fortunately the whole gymnasium was very dimly lit, as its darkness clashed distinctly with my hallway. Feeling buffeted by this, I slunk my whole body through the door. I was behind a large elevated platform, bounded at the sides by large curtains that extended from the floor all the way up to the high ceiling perhaps fifty feet in the air. My door was beside one of these curtains so as to keep me hid. The platform itself seemed shallow, but it did encompass the width of the gym. When I stepped gently from the concealment of the curtain, knowing full well I was in a dark spot, I could see the shadowy shapes of the students stretching out in the distance beyond the platform, and when I moved a little more, I could see the backlit features of Nodder standing on the platform itself, about fifty feet away from me, and then two more figures on the platform approaching him to near what appeared to be a podium. Even though a spotlight hit and threw them into harsh silhouette, it was clear to me that these two figures were Chloe and James, for I could easily recognize Chloe from afar, by unclear sight alone — James less so, but it was plain from before that Nodder was introducing him, perhaps to give some kind of a speech. Of course Chloe would accompany him, and at first I thought that Nodder would intervene and pry Chloe away from James’ side, seeing as how Nodder despised her. But Nodder stood his ground, and even joined in with a cheer and a hand- clap. When James was within reach, Nodder stepped in and gave him a big hug, then released him and did the same to Chloe. Then Nodder left the platform, as a suited James took his position behind the podium, tapping the microphone, causing a loud popping noise to reverberate through the hall. But that was nothing compared to the victory holler he unleashed a second later. The students hollered back, either in unison or agony, I couldn’t tell which, but either way, they were ecstatic, and an energy filled the room. The ensuing words James would utter seemed unimportant to the day, as they were generic, simple words of conquest, and the crowd would cheer, as if on cue, as if the whole thing had been rehearsed and played out before in a million different gymnasiums in a million different high schools in a million different small towns across a million years of America, and all told, it rang to anyone who’d listen. I was ready to take my walk. I was going to walk up on that platform and stand in that spotlight.


To this day I often imagine how I must have appeared, a barefoot waif, straw-haired, covered in bloody cuts, uniform mangled and torn, not even supposed to be worn, emerging from deepest shadow into brightest light. James was at the podium still, milking the cheers, oblivious to anything, even when a few in the crowd started to point and react to my presence. It was Chloe who noticed this first, who turned to acknowledge me. Chloe, wearing the same red dress meant for me just hours before. Her eyes bulged as I moved toward her, though I wasn’t moving quickly at all, as I had no real purpose, other than to feel whatever in that moment would possess me to action. Chloe didn’t run to me or say anything or try and stop me. She just stood and watched, as if she too wanted to know what would happen next. As I stepped closer to her — twenty feet, ten — I could feel myself entering the light, and it stung like pain, a fear made physical, it caused my cuts to ooze and feel new, it forced my steps to slow, though this made me resolute, and I strained myself forward, and reached to within five feet of her — now fully bathed in the light — and James too turned toward me, and he as well bulged his eyes, as if he and Chloe were just mirrors of each other, and I stepped toward the podium, and a silence overtook the place, ecstasy receding into anticipation, for nobody dared say a word, nobody dared do anything but behold the sight of this impossible figure before them, standing there, next to her very own self, two hearts beating, two sisters, where there should be only one. I took the microphone from the podium, for I realized that I didn’t want to hide, I wanted everyone to see me, to hear me. I stepped away from the figures of Chloe and James, who by now were clutching each other in fear. I grasped then that I was engendering something akin to awe, that hundreds of eyes were upon me, trembling, though I could not see them myself, blinded with the spotlight in my eyes. But I felt them there, hushed before me, couples, waiting, hearts racing. I couldn’t disenchant them, or either quell their dread. I raised the microphone to my lips, and spoke.


“When I close my eyes, this is what I see. Two by two by two by two by two by two by two. All of you. But you are all two alone. You are all one plus one. That’s not me. I’m a real two, for I am she and she is me and we together make not one but two, you see? You spend your whole life being one, except for those few times when you think you’re two, like now, but you’re not two, you’re still one, in love with being two, but always alone as one, never together as two. And love? What do you know of love. For you know you can only love yourself and any illusion you have of loving another one is simply that, an illusion of two that’s really just one, really just you, all alone, one. Unless you’re me, for I am two, not one, so I know love, I know it more than you. Don’t believe me? Well let me ask you this. If you think you are two, and the other person cries, do you cry too? If you think you are two, and the other person falls, do you fall too? If you think you are two, and the other person dies, do you die too? There’s no way you do. No way. That’s how, for my two, I offer you a clue. You remember, me and her, not long ago, you could see us together, as easy as can be. Though, I might argue, you didn’t see me. Nobody knew me, and the only one who did was nobody. See? All so busy being one, laughing as one, playing as one, cool as one, wasted as one, sex as one, never realizing that none of those things needed two, just one, so you and you alone will always be just one. But I was two, and I was there, though nobody saw me, and nobody cared. Then suddenly I lost half of what was my two, and then everyone saw me, though nobody knew. Then everyone thought that the story was true, that I wanted to be one instead of my two. That I had done something that you would not do. I can tell you right now that none of that’s true. Or maybe it was. I don’t know what to do.”


I was lost and Chloe knew and had walked over to me — but the sight of her snapped my back and I began talking anew.


“You!” I screamed as I pointed at her. “You have no right to be me! I’m me!”

 

“But I’m you,” Chloe said.


“No!” I screamed back. “Do you want to know who I am? Do you all want to know who I am?” I screamed to the crowd. “You never cared before, but I’m gonna tell ya! I’m the one who killed her!” I screamed, pointing at Chloe. “I kicked her off a cliff, cuz she’s a fucking bitch! And you know what I did after that? I killed my mother, my own Goddamn mother, cuz I hated her, and I wanted her dead, and she flew down the stairs and she hit her head and was dead! And you know who else I killed? Coach Holden! You know why? Because he wouldn’t let James play football! So of course he deserved to die! I’m the one who killed Paolo too cuz he’s a little shit and he got in my eye! But I didn’t stop there,” I said now pointing at James. “I killed him! I killed him cuz I loved him, cuz that’s what I do! And Mr. Spellman? Wonder where he is? He’s dead, in my basement! With my dead mom! That’s what I do! And wait, where’s those three guys, I don’t even know their names! There you are! I can look you straight in the eye! I killed you, and you, and you! You wanna know why? Well I don’t know why! It’s just what I do! Cuz my name is Anna Appleby! I have the power to kill, without the power to die!”


I had time to take one breath before I saw the three footballers rush the platform and hoist themselves up. I turned to look at Chloe whose face bore a look of absolute horror. James was trying to get to me but Chloe held him back. Then I turned back and the three footballers were upon me. I heard Chloe scream and then other screams followed and I don’t know whose they were, but I hit the ground hard and those three boys began hitting me and I had no breath and they started pulling my arms and legs and the screaming got louder till I realized the scream was mine and then something hurt so bad I blacked out.