It was Hecate’s genuine belief that nobody deserved to die. In anyone, she saw emotions, motivations, and a purpose in whatever the universe was supposed to be. In everyone, she saw a person . . . but that outlook, regrettably, was a painful one. She felt a responsibility for those she lost, mostly since she’d often know she’d lost somebody before anybody else did. She started to know before they even died.
This didn’t seem out of the ordinary for Hecate at all. She’d done odder things, she thought, like wearing that weird eyepatch all the time. But she’d somehow—dare I say it, miraculously—always known when something tragic was about to happen. And even if she never knew precisely what it was, it still sickened her when the same omen appeared: six straight sleepless nights. Hecate’s random outbursts of insomnia took a toll on her, and capping it off with tragedy didn’t help. Classmates were driven away by her dissonance, and she was always left in suspense. It became like a sort of twisted countdown, like a ticking time-bomb: six, five, four, three, two, one . . . boom. Hecate was a prophet of tragedy, and it sure wasn’t easy.
* * *
Hecate was hoping a new school and a new environment would mean an escape from all this—a new start, perhaps—but even still, and no matter how much she wanted to, she couldn’t fall asleep. The eye uncovered by her eyepatch drifted around the room as the populous neon street outside her and her dad’s apartment hummed and honked.
The apartment was ideal, she supposed. It was compact—cozy, even—and it had power, and, uh . . . character . . . ugh, she was just denying it. This sucked. The floor creaked at even the pitter of the scampering mice, the old wall clock’s ambience was maddening, the cot for Hecate and her dad to share was coarse and barely fit the both of them, and—worst of all—the sleepless nights continued. That night, the night before the first semester of school began, was the sixth night.
In frightened silence, Hecate laid on the cramped cot and fretted about tomorrow. What would happen? Would it happen to her? Would anybody—even she—survive it? She hadn’t even told anybody about it this time, not even her own father. She had good intentions, of course: people who are told they could die don’t tend to take it very calmly. Not to mention, her dad came off as a very suspicion-driven man; he was never free of anxiety. The words “I can’t sleep” would keep him as awake as Hecate is, worrying about his daughter. So, in safe conclusion, she kept to herself.
She glanced at the wall clock, whose loud tickings cried for attention. Ten to midnight. This night couldn’t possibly feel any longer . . . and it was almost the seventh day. Hecate. panicking, defaulted to the only thing she could depend on in such a trying time as this: eating. Luckily, she hadn’t eaten all of the cheese-and-cracker platter they were gifted as a moving present. It was sort of stale, but it’s the thought, right? Hecate slowly—weakly—got up and hobbled over to the fridge, trying to make as little noise as possible . . . and failing miserably.
After hopefully not awaking her dad, she approached the fridge. The fridge couldn’t have been any newer than the 70’s; the same could go for all the apartments appliances, so as Hecate reached for the rusty handle and pulled, it broke right off. Hecate stared blankly at the jaded handle now in her grip. She couldn’t even process what was happening. Everything was going to fall apart, and now she couldn’t even resort to a precious myriad of assorted cheeses.
She leaned against the fridge, resting her head on its dated metal face. She was exhausted from all this . . . stuff that was happening. All this stuff she had dealt with all her life. All this stuff she had made other people deal with all her life.
Hecate spun around, frightened by her dad’s sudden presence.
“Oh . . . yeah, hey, dad . . .”
“Hecate . . . did you break the fridge?”
“. . . Yeah, sorry. I wanted to finish the cheese.”
“No, no, it’s fine . . . why are you . . .”, her dad paused. “Oh no.”
“Yeah . . .”
“Is this the first night?”
“. . . No, it’s . . . the sixth one.” There was silence—cold, thoughtful silence—as her dad slowly got up from the cot. Hecate, panicked and incredulous, stammered, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I just didn’t want you to—” as her dad pulled her into a hug.
“It’s fine. It’s fine . . .”, her dad assured. His voice was shaky. It wasn’t fine.
“Dad, I’m so sorry.” Neither said anything. Neither could say anything. Neither knew what could be said. The clock, however, did. It knew it was now midnight, and chimed the coming of the seventh day.
“You won’t be able to sleep now either, will you?” asked Hecate.
“I doubt it . . .”, replied her dad, but seeing her distraught expression, he continued. “Since I’m awake, do you want to talk?”
He gestured to the kitchen bar, where he sat down on a stool and expected Hecate to follow, but she just stood there, fridge handle in hand.
“Honey, it’s alright—”
“But it’s not, dad . . .” Hecate muttered, her nose starting to stuff up from the tears. “Nothing is alright. Somebody might die tomorrow. My teacher could get in a car crash. One of my classmates could fall off a roof. Somebody could die, and it’s all my fault.”
“Hecate . . . none of that is your fault. It may happen, and it may be awful, and you may know about it, but none of it is your fault. Does the weather forecast make it storm?”
“I . . . guess not.”
“If it’s predicted to storm, the most we can do is brace ourselves and enjoy the calm,” her dad concluded, finding a convenient point to his tangent. Hecate sniffed, and sat down next to her dad. She smiled. He smiled. They smiled.
“The eyepatch is getting kind of tight, and I can’t loosen it any more,” commented Hecate, abruptly. Her dad’s smile faded.
“I’ll buy you a new one tomorrow while I’m job-hunting. In the meantime, please don’t—”
“Don’t take it off, I know,” Hecate finished. Her dad’s warm smile began to glow again, and they talked into the night. Her dad would be kept up, but he was to be happy to be there, and Hecate felt a little better with some company.
* * *
Morning came, and it came without much showmanship, as if it knew its coming meant nothing good. Day, like an uninvited guest at a house party, just showed up. As the sun monotonously rose and the sky brightened, Hecate watched, mentally preparing herself for the day to come. Hecate’s dad eventually fell asleep on the barstool; exhausted, he’d played his part. Hecate was ready. She packed up and left the apartment for school, donning eyepatch and all, her dad still snoozing at the kitchen bar.
Hecate walked out—tipsy, yet prepared for the worst—into the bright, busy day. The streets were noisy and gridlocked. The sidewalks were crammed with shabby folk begging for money and suited business-people with briefcases. The school was multiple bus rides away. So much could happen today—so much had to happen today.
Nothing bad would actually happen that day . . . but Hecate couldn’t have imagined what catastrophe had begun.