The eastern sky had long been blue by the time the time the sun crawled up over the hills to throw its light into the river valley. The water began to sparkle from the edge of the opposite shore where the light was creeping down on the river at the same rate at which the sun was creeping up. A doe walked out from the shade of the woods and lowered her head lowered to the stream, while listening for any sound other than that of water on rock.
When she lifted her head and turned around to leap back into the cover of the forest, she saw a human girl sitting very still against a tree. She froze, her ears straight up, her eyes fixed on the girl, despite the dissimilarity between this creature and the orange-clad ones that pierced the delicate silence of her world with thundering explosions. The doe stared and stared, but the creature did not flinch, and finally she leapt off into the woods. Had she not leapt away so quickly, she would have heard the first sounds this creature had uttered in days-sounds she could not possibly interpret: "I'm sorry." She kept her body still and her eyes closed, but something nameless stirred inside her; something she had wanted to settle like sand at the bottom of a pond was bubbling back to the surface.
Keeping her eyes closed and her head steady, she took the bottle from its place beside her, unscrewed the top and put it to her lips, drinking down what she could without breaking her concentration and letting the rest spill over her tan hemp clothes and into the ground between her folded legs. She returned the bottle to her side and placed her hands again on her knees. Inhale. Ten seconds. Exhale. Twelve seconds. Inhale. Fifteen seconds. Exhale.
There was no cry for help in the way she sat on the other side of the bus terminal, right leg crossed over left, with her head tilted so her blond hair would cover her face. There was no cry for help in the way she slid her ticket through her fingers and stared at the floor in front of her. There was no trace of a cry for help in the way she walked onto the bus and straight to the back seat, where she would sit with her back to the window, her knees to her chest and her feet on the seat beside her. The way she kept anyone from sitting next to her was not a cry for help. The way she found her way out of that grey terminal, in that grey city on that grey, grey day did not contain a cry for help. "I've done the best I can for you. I'm sorry," she said to the city as she left.
She arrived at the library only a mile from her house. She arrived at one of the computers in the back. She discovered that hemlock could be purchased through a number of retailers online. She discovered that they would accept her check card, and would deliver to a P.O. Box. She discovered that the library's firewalls wouldn't block secure transmissions. She found this all very interesting.
Catherine could still hear when she had her headphones on, but she pretended not to. Her parents pounded on the door louder and louder until they threw it open in a burst of frustration, which was a good way for any conversation with her parents to start. Catherine would stare up at them-either of them or both together, it didn't really matter-motion to her headphones and mouth the words "I can't hear you," at which point her parents-either of them or both, it didn't really matter-would yank the headphone plug out of her diskman, without ever realizing that she was listening to classical Japanese koto music and not the latest teen angst death metal album.
"What is this?" they would yell, holding up a joint-either of them or both together. Catherine would shrug and look to the side.
"That does it Catherine! If we find illegal drugs in this house once more, you're going to boarding school." Catherine would shrug and look to the other side.
Exasperation, and then the words, "That does it Catherine. We've done all we can for you. I wash my hands of you."
Catherine's head turned up a little. "You mean that?"
"You mean that no matter what becomes of me, you will hold yourself blameless?"
"Damn right. We've given you everything and you don't even make an effort. You don't even make an effort!" The statement was punctuated by a door slam, and Catherine smiled. She stood up, took a bag of marijuana from under her mattress and sprinkled it over her desk-easy to find, but not too easy. She then slipped out the door with no intention of returning that night or the next.
Catherine was keenly aware of the texture of her thumb as it rubbed against the palm of her hand lying on her knees. She was aware of the air entering and escaping her nose in every breath, and even of the oxygen molecules being absorbed into her blood. As she became aware of her fish swimming along the glass on the other side of the room, for a moment she knew what it was like to be that fish. No words. No complicated system of abstract symbols to confuse with the real world. Just the impulses which guide the body. She was aware of what it would be like to be the fish, and for a moment she was the fish. She thought her hand moved on its own as it reached out to touch the rough wood grain of the bed, and came to the realization that there was no boundary between her hand and the bed, between her very being and the bed. It was all one. The atoms that made up her body and the atoms of the bed were one and the same. Transcending the abstract categories of the mind into a holistic world, she saw consciousness and life as a sheet of paper, which appears as an eight and a half by eleven rectangle when viewed from the front, but as something substanceless when seen from the side. There was no difference between being and non-being. She could flow into death and nothing would be lost. This is what she would do. This is what she would do.
She opened her eyes as an image of her funeral came into her mind. People crying, wearing black. Her parents lost in a period of grief. Two years. Five years. Maybe indefinite. No, she didn't want that. But maybe there was another way.
"Are you coming to my party tomorrow?"
"Oh definitely. Are you going to have anything vegan to eat?"
"Umm, no I don't think so."
"That's okay. I'll just eat before I go."
"When did you become vegan?"
"Just a couple of weeks ago."
"Umm, a couple of reasons. Mostly because of how animals are treated."
"Oh, so you don't care about how plants are treated?"
"Plants don't have a central nervous system. They don't feel pain. Besides, you need to raise more crops if you're going to feed them to livestock than if you're just going to eat the crops directly."
"I guess that makes sense. But you're still going to be eating and destroying living things."
"Yeah, I know. But if I could think of a way to live without harming anything, I would do it."