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Can

Hailley Fargo

I fell for him harder than I ever had before.  He picked me up and I thought to myself, Wow he actually cares about me.  He got me those little gifts that made me smile.  The calls and texts are constant, the visits long and never-ending.  It's perfect.  Or so I thought.

That's the trap I got caught in.  That perfect world.  The idea a man of that caliber actually existed.  Love had always failed with me, the man never turned out to be who I thought he was.  I was the girl who believed in love at first sight and wanted a princess wedding dress with enough tulle to fill a small room.  I had dream man in my head -- thirty-five, handsome, had traveled the world, was well off, intelligent, witty, and spontaneous.  These expectations destroyed every relationship I attempted to have; men could never live up to them, and sadness and disappointment always seemed to follow those relationships.  I'd practically given up.  Until I met him, then I could check off every requirement on my list.  He picked me up and swirled me around until I was so caught up in his world, I didn't see it coming.

My soul being sucked, that is.     

It was on our six-month anniversary.  I came over to his apartment, dressed to the nines.  A tight, strapless, black dress.  Stiletto heels.  Hair in an elaborate updo; an updo I might add that took forever as I straightened my unruly black curls and carefully arranged them.  I probably spent more time on my hair than any other part of my preparation.  I put on long silver earrings that barely brushed my shoulder and sparkled as the light hit them just right.  I was gorgeous, maybe even drop dead gorgeous.  When he saw me, he was definitely taken aback.  I didn't know whether to be offended or proud.  He put his arm around me and whispered things into my ear I don't want to repeat. 

When I got to the dining room I saw candles, a fancy dinner, champagne, classical music.  I couldn't stay classy, I dug right into the food.  Juices from the steak dribbled out of my mouth and I felt unattractive.  But he couldn't take his eyes off me.  I was probably a little tipsy.  Maybe.  After two courses I felt like crap, why did I eat so much?  But then he gave me my weakness: chocolate cake.  He knew how to twist my arm and so I ate more. 

After dinner he carried me to the living room.  Yes carried me.  And right there I knew -- I was head over heels in love.  I knew it.  He knew it.  And I loved how we didn't have to say anything, we just knew.  Foolish.  That's what I was, a foolish girl with unrealistic expectations.

In the living room, we talked.  Chit chat really, nothing important.  I don't remember any of the conversation.  There was a fireplace across from us and it warmed the room.  The leather couch was smooth and the seat cushion sloped downwards to bring us closer together.  I could feel him next to me.  Our thighs were touching and he was rubbing my knees.  It felt so good.  Then he leaned over.  I closed my eyes.   

I was expecting a heart-stopping kiss.  Instead, I felt this empty feeling.  I felt frozen.  I couldn't move my tongue.  Or close my mouth.  I felt my chest being pulled upwards while my head was anchored to the back of the couch.  And then I opened my eyes.  He wasn't even close to me.  We were connected by a bright, thick, electric blue light that was coming out of me.  A smile was spread across his face.  It wasn't a nice smile; it was a greedy, evil, diabolical smile.  I tried to stop him, tried to say something.  Nothing.  I couldn't make a sound. 

All I could do was just watch the blue leave me.  I couldn't stop it.  WHAT IS HAPPENING?  WHY IS IT HAPPENING?  The questions swirled around my head.  I couldn't understand anything.  What was the blue light?  Why was it coming out of me?  Why wasn't he doing anything?  Why was that evil smile spread across his face?  I didn't understand. 

So instead of trying to figure out the blue light I moved onto other things.  Stupid girl, I thought to myself.  Why did I fall, fall so fast and so hard?  I should have known, I should have realized.  Perfect doesn't exist in this world; nobody could live up to expectations I set.  Why didn't I see the holes?  The probability of me finding my "perfect" man was basically impossible.  

The blue light continued to get thinner, now thin enough that I could barely pick it out against the reds, yellows, and oranges of the fire.  The world was hazy and dull, my vision fading and blurring.  Someone had opened the drain on my tub of life and my world of color was twirling away.  Then the world was black. 



When I woke up, I was back home.
  No note.  No explanation.  Nothing.  His number was deleted from my phone and all the photos of us together were gone.  It was like he was never here.  It wasn't until I reached under my couch to pick my shoes that I remembered him.  Next to my shoes, hidden under the couch, was the third Harry Potter book I had started rereading a few weeks ago.  My bookmark was a picture of the two of us in a random restaurant.  "The Dementors do it all wrong," he said when he saw my collection of books.  At the time I didn't think anything of his comment.  Now looking back, I wonder how he knew about them if he never took the time to read the books.  The comment had flown out of his mouth and I had laughed, "Why do they do it wrong?" I had jokingly asked.  He changed the topic.  I should have questioned it, but I didn't.  When I decided to pick the books back up and read them I had used a picture of the two of us as spite almost.  Or maybe I thought if I put him in the book so to speak, he would be more open to reading them.  I pulled the picture out and everything came back.  The electric blue light burned in my head.  When I tried to get up off the couch to look in a phone book, I couldn't move; my body was frozen to the cushion.    



My life wasn't the same after that night.  When I couldn't move from my couch, I knew something was wrong.  Every choice was already made me for me; I had no say in what I did.  In my brain when a decision arose, I saw the options like I was a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  But I couldn't choose, I couldn't have my final answer.  One of the letters starting blinking in front of my eyes and that was my decision.  I was a walking shell of life. 

My family and friends noticed it at first; they were scared for me.  "You've changed.  What happened?" they asked.  I couldn't answer them, the blinking light flashing two simple words, Say nothing.  That's what I did.  Somehow I could still function as a secretary for a CEO of a stationary company.  The pre-decided choices made me more efficient and I got a pay raise four months later.  "You should be happy," my mom told me over the phone.  I couldn't.    

I spent the next two years trying to discover what I was missing because I couldn't stand being a shell.  I thought if I could figure out who he was and what he did, I could get my life back.  It was difficult because every time I tried to do research, the choices in my head went haywire.  I had to learn how to override the system, which consisted of total focus.  I had to use all my energy, everything I had needed to be homed into making a choice, and I could override the game.  The downside of this tactic was that I couldn't think of anything else; my choice had to fill my mind be locked inside of it, making it impervious to outside thoughts.  I often had to wait several hours and eat several bowls of Reese's to have enough energy and sugar to continue on with my day.  Either way, when I successfully overrode the system, I experienced a terrible pain in my head.  My body started freaking out, trembling and shivering.  I was hot one second, ice cold the next.  It wanted me to conform to the "right choice."  But I wouldn't and my body hated me for it.  I lost weight and grew lethargic.  It was his fault.  He was deciding what I did; only he would make the choices I was forced to make.  I thought he was perfect and what does he do?  He takes away my life; he's not even close to being perfect.   

Research turned up basically nothing and with the pain, the search seemed worthless. And I had so little to work with.  I started at the library because it seemed to be a logical place to start.  "Fairy tales," I told the librarian because he was magical, because he was something that cannot be explained with numbers and formulas.  Nothing.  I stopped looking for answers when the library failed.  I thought, "Why bother?" after hours of pain and nothing.  I thought it would be easier to be a shell instead.   

Being a shell was hard.  There was a constant thought that probed my mind, wondering about that blue light.  I tried to suppress the urges, but a few months later I absentmindedly typed into Google, Electric blue light + man.  A fair amount of hits came up and I just started paging through them.  That probing thought had worked its way to the front of my head and I needed to follow through on it.  Nothing on the first ten pages.  It wasn't until the seventeenth page did I find something.  It was a piece of flash fiction where a young, blonde girl lost her blue light from a handsome man.  That was me, I thought.  But the story ended early; I had only discovered I wasn't the only one.  My search was back on.
 



It was a sunny Thursday when I saw a woman, a few years younger than me who was freaking out in an alley on my way to work.  I recognized the signs immediately.  Her body contorted itself into an oddly shaped ball then into a straight, unnatural line.  I immediately recognized her symptoms because I could see her eyes: see was battling with the choices in her head.  I only got like this when I was really going against his choice – like when I was trying to tell my mom about the night.  I ran out of the room, my mom following but I closed the bedroom door, allowing my body to hurt itself before finally come to peace. 

I needed to help this woman.  Rushing over to her I pulled her up, allowing her to lean against me.  A splitting pain ran through my head, but somehow in my need to get to her, I overrode his choices.   

"You thought he loved you.  But he didn't." I whispered those words into her ear.  She was still shaking.  "Blue light." 

A nod.  "The blue light," she whimpered.  "The blue light." 

"Shh, don‘t say a word.  Focus on the blue sky above us and the pain will go away."  I brushed her hair in a slow, repetitive motion.  She put her hands on top of each other, and pulled one hand away from the other as if opening a box.  "What?"  I asked.

The woman couldn't say a word; she just kept making the box opening motion.  Her eyes started to close and her breathing slowed. 

"Remember the park," she whispered before closing her eyes.  Her skin turned cold and I knew he had killed her.  This was his way of telling me to leave things alone.  Don't investigate.  But I couldn't stop now; killing her only gave me a drive to keep searching.  Laying her on the ground I ran away with "Remember the park" running through my head.



It took me a week to put together what "Remember the park," meant.  When I tried to think about it, my brain froze; he knew I was onto something.  Somehow, I put the pieces together: he had taken me there on our first date, to a busy, bustling park, a park surrounded by a sleepy city.  The city was more of a ghost nowadays; with most people commuting to the even bigger city thirty minutes to the east, but the park was always a hot spot.  Willow trees dotted the landscape, and many trails weaved in and out of the trees and the rest of nature.  Women walked their children on these paths, men ran it in the morning, and lovers strolled through, hands intertwined.  We had walked the path together sharing random facts about each other, and sharing our first kiss under a willow tree, shaded from the prying views of passersby. 

I went to the park everyday, walked the path everyday, looking for him.  I had to convince my brain I was walking for pure enjoyment, but really my eyes looked for him.  There was this desire to find him, to get back what he had taken from me.  I knew it might kill me, but if I could save the lives of other girls...  Who knew how many other soulless girls are out there?  If I could save them I would be happy. 

He appeared in May as the flowers bloomed and it rained more than I wanted.  Dressed in my oldest pair of jeans with a pair of bright yellow rain boots covering my feet I didn't expect to find him.  He was courting another girl under a willow tree.  She was fawning at his feet, her blonde hair billowing in the wind with the straying willow branches.  There was no doubt she was beautiful.  Was I like that?  I asked myself as I watched her -- her eyes not moving from his face.  Major swooning going on.  Did I act like that?  Like if he jumped off a cliff I would follow him, my arms flailing as I tumbled to my death.  Did I look that ridiculous and whipped?  Yes.  Yes you did.  And look what he did to you.    

I walked up to him.  Every step I took my level of pain in my forehead rose.  I squinted, but kept my eyes opened, the pain increasing by a fraction with every passing second.  He wasn't going to win this time.  The girl saw me coming up, and there was a sense of surprise in her eyes.  I silently pleaded with her, trying to tell her not to let him know I was behind him.  She squealed, her eyes telling him everything. 

He turned around and laughed, taking me in from head to toe.  "Oh, it's you.  What do you think you're doing?  I thought my message was pretty clear in the alley."  His voice was sinister, I don't remember him every using this tone when I was with him.  

"Getting my life back.  Trying to redeem the life you took in that alley." 

"No, you're not.  You know nothing."

I shook my head; "You took something from me, that blue light.  I want it back.  I want to make my own choices without being told what to do."

Another laugh.  "You are one stupid girl.  My real name is Can not John or Thomas or whatever I told you.  There is no way to get back your soul which I so easily took from you."

"Please, give me my life back.  What did I do to deserve this?"  I could feel the anger rising in me.  I didn't deserve this.  I didn't want to lose a chunk of my life.  This wasn't expected or wanted.  This shell lifestyle needed to end…now.    

"You were innocent.  Easy prey.  Gullible.  You had this crazy idea of a "perfect man," a man that I became.  You had a target on your back and I attacked.  I pulled you in and pulled your soul out."

"Can," I tried his name out, my mouth attempting to spit it out, "Why?"

He smiled, "In Turkish ‘Can' means ‘soul.'  I need souls from easy girls like yourself and sweet cheeks over here," he motioned to the girl behind him, "to keep me alive."  Can pulled out a small, ring sized box with a cinnamon red coloring.  "This box is made out of Japanese Crape Myrtle bark, I made it myself to hold your precious souls.  As long as I have this, I have life." 

The options were playing in my head.  A) Kick him and grab the box.  B) Run, run, run.  C) Fall to the ground and beg forgiveness from him.  D) Continue to stand there before he kills you.  C was blinking.  I closed my eyes and focused on choice A.  That's what I wanted.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the girl.  She was standing still, immobile.  I think she was taking it all in but not understanding anything.  I wanted to stop time and tell her my story.  Show her how stupid she was acting and what he was going to do to her.  In the back of my head, I think she knew who Can was.  Even though she was under the spell, the same spell I fell under, just hearing him in that way, his evil way, brought everything into focus.  At least I hoped so.  I mean, he called her sweet cheeks for goodness sakes.     

Although it happened in a split second, I could feel my leg rising then my body leaving the ground.  The world was spinning around me and the pain was the most intense I had ever experienced.  Then everything came into focus for one second and I saw the box in his hand.

I missed.  My moment thinking about the girl distracted me.  My entire focus wasn't on my kick.  My body was falling.  The grass met my face and the sidewalk skidded across my legs.  I looked up and saw Can grinning at me.  It was same grin I saw when he sucked my soul.  Evil.       

He won.  He w--  Out of no where Can fell to the ground and the box flew out of his hands.  Standing behind him was the girl with a large branch in her hands.  Somewhere she found the strength to do something instead of being a bystander.  She saved my life. 

"Don't call me sweet cheeks," she hissed, dropping the branch next to Can's body.  Finally, she understood.       

I had it.  My fingers grasped the box, a tiny, smaller than my hand wooden box.  The wood felt rough under my hands.  I moved my fingers around for the opening.  At a glance the box looked like just a cube of wood, but there was a small grove.  I slid my nail under the no longer than two inches space, and cracked it open. 

Rays of blue light flooded my vision.  I could barely see; there was blue everywhere.  It was like Pandora's box.  But instead of evil rushing out, there was life.  One of the electric blue bolts stayed with me and ran through my body.  I was warm again, although I hadn't known how cold I was.  The pain went away and I clutched the box even tighter. 

Finally the blue stopped and only the empty box remained.  I looked around for Can.  He was on the ground, pale as a ghost.  I placed the box on next to him.  He reached his fingers out to take it, but I moved the box back a pace with my foot.   

"W-w-what are you doing?" he gasped. 

"Something that should have been done a long time ago."  This is for the women in the alley, for the girl in front of me, for me, and everyone else Can has hurt. I stepped on the box, all my pain, my hardships, anger and frustration contained in that one step.  It cracked, and Can screamed.  His body violently shaking, his arms and legs became tiny twigs, thinner than strands of hair.  His torso caved and shrank until the only his head was still the right size.  Bulging eyes exploding and the head disappeared with a CRACK.  He was gone as if he had never been there before. 

And I was back.