Now, Darcie stands atop the rock, the rock she calls “Top o’ the World”, or just “Top”. Top topped the top of a tall crag of rock on the oceanside. Darcie looks out at the deep blue ocean as it rushes in against the rocks so far below. The blue sky peppered with white flakey clouds so mirrors the blue ocean with its scattered white-caped waves, Darcie thinks she can’t tell which way is up or down.

She came here to think, to let her mind stretch out across the ocean and become the world. She came here to think about love and boys and Bobby Swanson. She came here a lot. She came here the night she’d found out about her dad.

Darcie went to high school and got good grades. She had no interest in rushing into adulthood as so many of her classmates had. She had no interest in being a child either. That left her with no place to be.

She cut her blond hair short, almost shaved. She dyed it blue to match her eyes. She pierced an eyebrow and her nipples, but wore clothes that hid her breasts. She looked boyish but liked boys. All the would-be lesbians fell for her. All the straight boys thought she was a freak. All the would-be gay boys made friends with her.

She was desperately lonely.

Except she had her dad. They ate together, breakfast and dinner. He’d cook her breakfast and himself dinner in the morning. She’d cook herself dinner and him breakfast at night.

“Goodnight pumpkin.”

“Goodnight dad.”

He’d wink at her deep blue eyes and close the door behind him as he left for the night shift. She’d do her homework, watch late-night TV and crawl into bed. Every night as she closed her eyes, she closed her ears and shut out the rest of the house. After years alone at night in the big old house, she’d had to learn to quiet her imagination and ignore the sounds. She didn’t really hear screams, footsteps, or moans. She heard creaky pipes, tree branches, and the wind. They all became white noise or else she’d never sleep.

One night, when she was 12, she awoke at about 3am from a very long dream about scrambled eggs. She could never get them fluffy enough, but the dream had given her an idea and a craving for eggs. Unable to fall back to sleep, she leapt out of bed and scuttled down to the kitchen. As she struggled noisily to get the right pan out of the cupboard, she froze. She only noticed the light coming from under the basement door because it had just gone out, but as she stood there looking at the darkness that filled the gap between the door and the floor, she knew a second ago that space had been lit. Standing in her bare feet on the cold kitchen tile in her pajamas, she suddenly became aware of how alone and exposed she was. She freaked out and screamed all the way back to her room, where she spent the night with her lights on clutching the frying pan.

“Oh, I’m sorry pumpkin,” her dad explained the next day, “I keep a light on a timer in the basement sometimes so it looks like there’s someone here besides just you. I should have told you about that.” He smiled. She lived for his smile. The only reason she bothered to study in school and get A’s was because she knew he’d smile when he saw her grades. He hung the moon for her. She loved him so.

The next night she woke herself up just before three and climbed down the old creaky steps to the kitchen to look at the light coming from under the basement door. At exactly three, the light went out, and she went back upstairs to sleep. She did that every night for a few weeks. Every now and then she still did it. It comforted her. It made her feel less alone.

Halloween night a year earlier, a year earlier from now as she stands on top of Top looking out over the ocean, her dad winked her a blue-eyed good-bye and she waited. She waited half an hour, put on her costume, and went out on the street where Bobby Swanson and Maggie Links picked her up for the party.

Maggie felt like she owed Darcie. They’d worked together on an English project and gotten an A, entirely because of Darcie. Maggie, the beautiful and popular girl, decided she owed Darcie and invited her to the big Halloween party. Darcie wouldn’t have gone, except for Bobby. She’d had a crush on Bobby for years. His smile reminded her of her dad’s.

Bobby dressed as a pimp, Maggie and Darcie as ho’s. In a blue and black corset to match her hair and a short leather skirt with torn fish-nets, Darcie felt extremely uncomfortable. She’d never shown so much cleavage, but when Bobby’s eyes lit up and he said “Wow” at the sight of her, she couldn’t help but smile and feel a flush rush to her cheeks. She couldn’t look at him.

Party. Loud music. “No, thanks. I don’t drink,” she says. Crowds. People. Masks. Heat. “Don’t touch me!” she yells. Devils. Vampires. Gouls. Smoke. Maggie vomiting over the toilet.

Darcie sat on a boulder in a dark corner of the backyard catching occasionally wisps of the ocean air. She sat alone staring off into the distance warning people away from her with her eyes.

“There you are,” said Bobby with a smile walking up to her. “You hiding?”

She smiled and tried to look at him, but looked away. “Yeah, I guess. I’m not much of a party person.”

“Yeah, it can be a bit much, can’t it?” He sat down next to her on the boulder, his warm body brushing up against hers, his arm around her shoulder. “I always need to take little breaks now and then or I get over stimulated. You know what I mean?” He looked at her and smiled with her dad’s smile and eyes almost as blue.

“Yeah, I do.” She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. It didn’t take much, not much at all, and they were making out. She couldn’t believe it. She was making out with Bobby Swanson. Her heart exploded and for a second, a brief second, she didn’t feel so alone. She let him take her, right there in the dark corner of the backyard in the cold. She had sex with him, and she loved it. She imagined him leaving Maggie to be her boyfriend. They’d have dinner with her dad. They’d spend weekends at the ocean. They’d be happy.

But then they went back inside. Bobby found Maggie in the bathroom and tenderly cleaned her up. He took care of her and helped her into the car and they headed home. Bobby and Maggie held hands sweetly in the front seat while Darcie sat in the back twisting with jealousy, feeling foolish and more alone than ever. She counted the moments until they dropped her off and she could cry.

Quietly weeping her way into the house, the clock in the living room caught her eye; it wasn’t quite three. She walked into the kitchen and stood in the dark watching the light under the basement door. Her breathing deepened. The tears slowed. She watched as the digital clock on the microwave turned to 3:00.

But the light didn’t go out. She stood there for 20 minutes watching the light stay on. Now she could swear she heard noises. Faint ones. A scuffling, or a scraping. Something, faint, but there. There in the basement. Quietly she crossed the distance to the door and reached out to turn the cold knob. The door swung open silently revealing rough wooden stairs. The sounds grew louder.

As she took her first steps down the stairs she had two thoughts. The first was the sudden realization that she’d never, in all these years, ever gone down into the basement. Why not? She didn’t know. It had never been off-limits. She’d just never gone down there. The second thought was that the wooden steps, the wooden steps in her otherwise creaky old house, made no sound at all beneath her weight.

She leaned against the cold outside wall to the left as she walked. To her right, were shelves littered with dust and cob webs, paint cans and old boxes. About halfway down the shelves stopped and the stairs opened up into the basement below. There she paused, struggling to identify the sounds. Rather than let her feet be visible first, she bent down and peered into the basement with just one eye.

Two hours later, her back aching, her stomach sick, she turned around and went back upstairs. She closed the door to the basement silently behind her and walked out the front door. She didn’t know where she was going, but she thought she might never come back. As her legs propelled her forward in the darkness, she replayed the nightmarish images in her head trying to somehow make them not be real, but they wouldn’t melt away.

She stood on top of Top in the dead of night looking out over the black ocean and the black sky. Bending over, she vomited off the cliff into the ocean so far below. She scraped her knees on the rocks. She could still feel the messy soreness of Bobby between her legs. She grabbed onto the rocks with her hands and screamed into the sea as her tears added salt water to salt water.

She went back home and went through the motions of a regular morning. She couldn’t look at her dad as he cooked. She couldn’t stomach the scrambled eggs he made for her. His smile made her sick.

She went to school, but couldn’t face anyone, especially Bobby. She caught a glimpse of him on her way in through the main entrance. He completely ignored her, his arm around Maggie, talking to a circle of admirers.

She hid in the bathroom all day, shaving off the rest of her blue hair with a razor she’d bought on the way to school. She cut herself a few times, but let the warm blood flow down her scalp and stain her shirt. She went into a stall and stripped naked. She shaved herself completely bald, even her eyebrows. She didn’t know what else to do.

“You look good, pumpkin.”

She didn’t answer. He was always so supportive. He was always so perfect; she wanted to scream. After he’d winked himself away, but before he came back, she returned to the basement. She found the knives, the tools, the chemicals, the blood-stains, and worst of all, the graves. Standing there, staring in disbelief at the remnants of the horror, her world, which had been struggling to stay whole all day, suddenly snapped in two, clean down the center. The two halves fell away leaving her there alone in the middle with nothing.

She walked back up the stairs, picked up the phone, and called 911.

A year later, Darcie went back to the same Halloween party. She didn’t dress up. She was the costume. The daughter of the monster, still shaved, still alone.

She found Maggie and Bobby. She found them and slipped drugs into their drinks. She coaxed them into her car and drove up to the middle of nowhere patch of road where you park to walk up to the top of Top. By now they’d both passed out, and it took her considerable time and effort to drag them both up the hill.

She stripped them naked and lay them on the rock on top of Top as the pale dawn broke. Darcie pulled out a long kitchen knife and stared down at them, hating them. She might never have known were it not for them. She’d still have him. She’d still have her dad, if no one else.

But then he would have kept killing. The only man she’d ever loved who’d lover her back would have kept killing.

“I’m sorry pumpkin. It never had anything to do with you. I’ll always love you.”

She brought the edge of the blade to Bobby’s neck, against the rough stubble of his hair. She could feel his pulse through the knife. She could see her dad in the basement covered in blood. She wanted to drain their blood all over the rock and bathe herself in it like he did. She wanted to know why he did it. A year and a thousand thoughts later she still had no idea. She didn’t know what else to do, but do it herself. She wanted to feel the warmth.

“I’m sorry pumpkin.”

“I’m sorry too.”

She stood up and used the knife to cut her head, not deeply, but enough to let the blood flow down her scalp. Enough to feel the warmth. She dropped the knife into the ocean, scrambled down the hill, and drove away. Maggie and Bobby awoke stranded and scared a long time later.

Now Darcie stands alone on top of Top trying to find the place where the ocean meets the sky. The blue sky peppered with white flakey clouds so mirrors the blue ocean with its scattered white-caped waves, Darcie can’t tell which way is up or down. The world spins and she steps off the cliff, off the top of Top, to see which way she falls.

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