Evan North and the Fourth World chrysalis

Evan North wakes up to screaming today and he's not surprised at all. In the darkness of his undecorated room, his mother's tirade echoes like a shout down a canyon. She's all the way upstairs, damn it, why can he hear her so well? Evan sighs with the raspy voice of one just awoken and hauls himself off the floor.

It's not really the floor, precisely. He sleeps on a futon mattress whose frame is disassembled in the wake of a cross-country move. Blankets tangle his legs and he falls back to the cushion, grunting a curse. He's never too graceful in the morning.

Reflecting on the masochism of his daily actions, Evan pulls on some jeans and his glasses and heads upstairs, nearly falling into the litter box at the foot of the basement steps. The powder on the newly- erected drywall rubs off onto his bare upper half.

"Oh, you decided to get up. The garbage needs to be put out." His mother is fully awake and at the top of her game.

"Okay, just let me find a shirt," he replies, unable to keep his cynical edge from coming through in his speech. His mother clings to that mistake and runs with it.

"Oh, so you're what, shy now? You're not too shy to sneak your tramp girlfriend in here and fuck her in my house. No, I'd say you're pretty fucking bold."

Evan, we will soon find out, has a problem controlling his mouth. In this case, he sighs just loudly enough to be heard as he pulls on a black tee shirt. He knows this will get a reaction but does it anyway. Mother's nostrils flare.

"What're you sighing about? What's the matter, can't stand the truth? Can't handle hearing someone say it out loud?

Does it even phase you that you're graduating a year late? You're disgusting. You just fucking waltz all over the place and do whatever the fuck you want, and when someone calls you on it, oh, you fucking sigh! Oh, what's wrong? Poor baby doesn't like it when mommy yells?

Well then stop giving me something to yell about, you little shit. Maybe if you'd stop fucking up so much I wouldn't be yelling all the time!"

Evan reflects that if he were to make a BINGO card with some of his mother's favorite digs on it, he'd likely have a row or two by now. Four corners, even. The free space would be, "insults girlfriend", that being her standard intro.

She's not even really his girlfriend. More of a sympathy fuck type thing. He's not even sure what grade she's in, not that it matters.

He carries the full garbage bag out to the condominium complex's communal Dumpster and hurls it in. He likes to try and tune out the sounds of his house while he's in the parking lot, often without success.

A few more minutes of back-and-forth rambling and he leaves the house, backpack on his shoulder, to the tune of "Why are you leaving so early, going to go smoke somewhere? I don't doubt it."

He doesn't smoke, and he's been eighteen since March. Not that it matters to her, as long as it's something to yell about. Maybe he'll take up smoking anyway.

This is the quietest, most enjoyable part of his day, walking to school just before sunrise. The walk is short and easy, and he can enjoy the silence and the cold in peace.

Ahh. He'll have to see Terri before class, he completely forgot. Damn. She's nice and all, very sexual, very comforting, but a little bit clingy. Not the kind of person he's looking for.

What is he looking for? Damn if he knows. Oh well.

Terri, as per usual, waits at the river near the high school. She's a chimney like all her friends, smoking whenever she can, which makes kissing her similar to licking a soggy fireplace. He hasn't kissed anyone in awhile now, though, except her anyway, so it isn't so bad. At least she's there. Today this is no blessing, as she spots his dark mood right away.

"What's the matter baby?" It's that puppy-talk kind of "I'm planning to convince you to cut class so we can go somewhere and fuck" kind of drawl. Evan sighs with a mixture of anticipation and resignation. His heart's not it in today, but he supposed some part of him will be.

It's kind of his drug. Some junkies need a shot, some need a puff, and some need a sniff. Evan uses sex like an addict. He loves Terri when she's available, and hates her when he sees what he's doing to himself. And like any addict, he wakes up with the certain knowledge that today, yes, today I will quit, today I will send her away and become more of a man for it.

And then he remembers what it's like to feel unwanted, and alone, and he realizes that he doesn't have to feel that way, he can feel needed and accepted and all it takes is the right girl's opened legs and a few minutes of privacy and usually some kind of contraceptive. So simple. So easy, to pardon the pun. Evan feels like someone wants him when he's with a girl, and to him, though he'll never admit it, they're nothing but a shot or a pipe or a joint. A fix. A band- aid solution.

Two hours later he's pulling his jeans on and Terri is sprawled across his bed, naked from the waist down. The room smells like cigarettes with a hint of latex. Not a pleasant conversation, were someone to notice. Right now, he's just trying to find a sock for his right foot and remember what class he's supposed to be in.

"You all set, baby?" Terri doesn't even sound winded. She's got more experience than Evan ever will, which isn't a good thing. She's built up a resistance to climax, having been used so many times that she equates a boy's orgasm with the end of sex. It never occurs to her that there's more in it for her, were she to find the right guy. Or even the right toy.

Evan knows all this and refuses to care. He won't fall for her, he won't try to fix her. He's learned his lesson about helping people.

"I'm good for today. Maybe. Gimme a minute."

"Alright. You want me to get dressed?"

"Yeah."

Terri sits up and roots around the tangle of sheets for her panties, absolutely unconcerned to be exposed to him. He likes that about her at least, her lack of shame. It goes places. He, on the other hand, also has places to be. And they are places people go alone. He shoos her out as nicely as possible.

When Terri is out of sight (and out of mind) he bolts his front door and locks the knob. It's the only way into the house unless one were to rappel up the back wall to the balcony porch. Secured inside, and assured of at least two more hours of privacy, he slouches down to his room and locks that door, too, turns his lights to dim, cranks the radio, and lifts his mattress to reveal a stolen hunting knife.

Brown stains mark the edge, too smooth to be rust. This blade has tasted blood before, and will again now. Evan draws up his sleeve to reveal a lattice of white, shining scars, all healed over since his last session one week previous. Now, bracing himself, he draws his father's knife across the skin of his forearm, feeling at first pressure, then the bite of penetration, and the smooth line of fire he's come to know so well.

How long has he been doing this? He's forgotten, and anyway, it doesn't matter anymore, because his third cut of the day is the last one he makes.

This is how Evan North dies:

His radio pounds away, a bass line of pointless slamming echoing in his small, undecorated bedroom. Evan has no idea that his cat, a female, beautiful and gray, has all this time been watching him, curious as ever.

He places his blade against his wrist, the inside this time, confident, and calm, and has just begun to cut when the cat slinks up without a sound. Her gesture of affection, a playful shove against the back of his arm, shoves his wrist up just a little too far, and he feels the rubbery snap of something permanent being broken.

His eyes widen, and with his good hand he smashes the innocent animal across the room to pound against the wall, but the damage is done. He feels a hot, hot pain and watches his life drain through a cut that is much, much too big…

Moments pass and he tries to stop what's already almost over, pressing his filthy blankets to his wound, both hands slick with blood, and suddenly the music stops.

"What…" he slurs, because now he feels dizzy and drunk, and very, very warm, and the pain in his arm fades into nothing of importance, and by the time he decides to be confused it's already over, and the pain stops as his heart realizes it has nothing left to do.

Evan smiles but he doesn't know it.

"Am I gonna, am I, am I…" He can't talk very well anymore. It's been about ten minutes, he thinks. He'll never remember exactly.

And he asks one last question: "Am I?"

Warm arms hold his head up, and there's no pain. What is this? Certainly not heaven… he doesn't deserve that and he knows it. But that face, fading in and out, with shining blue eyes and lovely white hair, and those strong but gentle arms could only belong to an angel…

"Am I?" he asks again, and this time and answer comes from the radiant woman holding him,

"Yes, yes you are. You're home."

He goes back into the darkness, this time without fear.