HOUSE OF THE DEAD by Valerija Muruzović (age 15)
Coordinator for Četvrta Beogradska gimnazija: Biljana Stojnić
School: Četvrta Beogradska gimnazija
Belgrade, Serbia

Number I

Your mother inspired me to write this story. She said she saw that in my eyes. Writing, I mean. She said, and I quote: “you are going to make this story work.” Your mother was something I had longed for with my whole being. I had never had someone like her. My life didn’t really need a mom; my own mother played that caring role in my life perfectly well. I needed a hero, and your mom was right there.

Your mother, was, since the moment I met her, the bravest and the most inspiring person I had ever seen. I'm not sure what was exactly inspiring about her. Maybe I made it up. I also know she feared your dad. I realize how bad he hurt her. I know that you loved her, but no matter how selfish that sounded, I think I loved her more. You were never my best friend – she was. And I know you knew that and will forever be grateful for you never mentioning it.

It is horrible to write something like that in a letter dedicated to a dead person. Believe me, I know that. And I know that one of the reasons you took your life is because I had never really listened; to your problems, your cries; I always spoke about her. That probably made you hate her, even though you should’ve hated me. But for one last time, Azar, I beg you to listen to me.

The thing that happened last summer.

We were in your room. The smoke from the accident stained your walls. You said he couldn’t afford to repaint them. And I knew he could, he just didn’t care enough.

“Dostoevsky,” you said, “that’s what is bothering me; him and his stupid, forever depressed characters, unable to make a single rational decision.” The way you said that sentence made me realize how much you disagreed with yourself. I know you liked them. Ivan, Raskolnikov, Porfiry, Nela; I think you even liked Price Valkovsky.

I couldn’t keep a smile. “Dostoevsky? Last week, you were obsessed with Metallica, trashrock band, and now we are discussing classic literature writer? And not just any classic literature writer, but Fyodor Dostoevsky, a man who probably had ideas we wouldn’t be able to comprehend in the next ten years.”

I remember how you looked at me – the look full of disgust. I straightened up. But it was just for a moment. Look of embarrassment replaced it.

“I still like Metallica. Just, this made me think a bit. Everything in my life was clear, and I always knew what I wanted, which side I am going to take, but those novels made me doubt certain things.”

I had no idea what you were talking about. I haven’t read Crime and Punishment, or any of his books, and I wasn’t planning on doing that.

She entered the room. Overhearing our conversation, she said that your opinions would probably change in the future. They all may seem stupid, she said, but it’s just for now. She laughed at you for criticizing Dostoevsky. “It’s all for now. Everything will change, believe me.”

This whole thing may have happened completely differently, I really don’t remember. The following day is the only day I recall from the last summer.

You were at the guitar class. I walked to your house, and I remember it was a cloudy day – streets smelled like rain and gas. I liked it. I don’t know what happened next, but I remember seeing her on the floor, with a terrified expression forever etched in her features. I remember the cold touch of the corpse, a lot of blood on the floor. The memory is interspersed with small details that I cannot connect. A beautiful red book that laid quietly, untouched on the table. I don't know why I remember the book.

I wasn’t crying, shaking, nor wondering who did that to her. I knew who did it, and I hated him. I feel a huge hatred for myself for not spending more time looking at her. Instead, I searched the whole house, looking for him. Maybe it is a good thing I failed to find him. Looking back now, I don’t really know what would have  happened  if I had.

Number II

After her funeral we never spoke again. I’m so sorry, Azar. You needed me. And a week later you were gone too.

My life has been a mess ever since. You don’t know how bad I wanted to cry, to pour it all out, but I couldn’t. I don’t know what stopped me. Whatever it was, it ruined me. I would lie if I said I know how I ended up in a hospital. They said it was an overdose. Maybe alcohol poisoning? No idea. After I came home, I thought about why I did that to myself. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, again, feeling absolutely nothing, I remembered a couple of things.

First, I recalled a funny feeling of losing senses. It felt like floating, like an endless ride on a carousel. You remember how much we liked carousels, Azar? We would spend hours on them, refusing to leave, spending all our money. Not a great investment – we never had enough to buy those chocolate ice creams. Maybe that substance, whatever it was, made me experience those nights with you once again.

Second, for the first time in three months I cried. It was a good cry. Every emotion I should’ve felt, but didn’t, overwhelmed me. I cried, and with each tear, I honored your mother more. She deserved to be properly mourned. Even though she wouldn’t be proud of me. I know my mom wasn’t.

And probably the last thing I recall, the blurry one, one I can’t really define – did it actually happen, or I just made it up? It was a lack of control. Well, lack of need for control. I couldn’t care less about anything. Everything in my life seemed unimportant, even distant, as if it is just one movie, for which I don't care if it will end or what will happen next.

I also realized why psychoactive substances are illegal, and why we had to listen to all those responsible drinking speeches. Horrible. Absence of a need for control is what I liked the most. But I also learned that need for control is probably the reason I’m still alive.

Now I’m under supervision all the time. I can`t really blame them – it must be frightening for parents to see their child like that. But I also don’t care – even though I want to, but again, I don’t feel things anymore. They don’t bother talking to me either, which is great, because I get to think about her now.

Your mother used to say how everything people do they do because of how they feel. Only in rare occasions others push them to make a decision they would otherwise avoid. That is probably why I don’t blame myself for your death – why I never mourned you like I mourned her.

See, the thing about her death is that it was inflicted upon her. She loved life, she found light in smallest details. “If I don’t know why I should  keep going today, I find a stray cat to feed. For her I shall wake up tomorrow.” Life was taken away from her. Because of him. That cat is also wondering why she is gone. Poor, lost kitten. That’s how I feel without her. Your mother fed my soul, my heart, my mind.

I know you’re probably wondering why I am writing all this. You knew even before I did.

All of those who have felt what is it like to have something so precious taken away from them, know, for sure, how in certain moments you don’t think of a person, or a thing you lost. You think of something, at first glance, irrelevant. You were irrelevant to my life Azar. You were never someone I feared I would lose. You were just a bystander, a spectator, just you – and you were never special. To me. Losing you felt like the feeling when you almost skip a step. Uncomfortable, but you forget it after a few seconds. If you actually read this, it would shatter your soul. But dead people don’t read. Luckily.

I am now acting like a selfish person I always was. I am reaching out to you. Not her. Because deep down I really looked at you as nothing but something I get to dispose all my toxic thoughts in. I still see you the same way. I will not change for you – I never believed you were worth the improvement. She was.

Number 3

People keep telling me what is wrong with me, Azar. I let them talk. You won’t believe things I heard in the past days. You would laugh, laugh with the same fake noise. You would lie again, telling me everything you thought I wanted to hear.

Honestly, all I ever wanted from you is to tell me how horrible of a person I really am. I wanted you to spit out how much you despise me. The truth. I wanted to see tears falling down your cheeks as you are yelling.

Then I wanted to break you all over again, apologizing and never improving. I wanted to manipulate you, take everything away. I lied to your mother, knowing, very well, that you wouldn’t dare to tell the truth. I liked how scared of me you were. I didn’t care. I wanted her.

Now when I get to explain what I loved about your mother, I can`t think of anything. Maybe I’m just ill. I think I was just obsessed with her. Real obsession. I wanted to keep her locked in a glass bell, safe, where I can look at her and softly lean, whispering how he can never find her. I hated the thought of her thinking about other things, people or even that kitten. I wished to be on her mind as much as she on mine. It is impossible to describe what emotion it was. Helplessness. I couldn't stop looking at her. She fascinated me. She was like my subject – the one I could observe and analyze, review the piles of data collected, tragically failing to predict the next move. And that was what fascinated and enchanted me the most. I had a feeling that if I could guess what she would say or do next, it would all stop; the two of us would be friends again as we once were. All I’ve written make me realize I never actually knew her. What a waste of your life. But I didn’t care – I wanted her for myself. I also realize this can be perceived as a love story, but I would like to state it was no such thing. Simply, obsession. Don’t over analyze that. The thing about her that made me the way I am, remains a mystery.

If she lived a bit longer – if you lived a bit longer, maybe I would have a chance to process this. Tell someone. Treat you right. But now it is too late for change. Your house is empty. Your room is rotting. Nature is gradually stepping in, slowly taking what is rightfully hers. Your goddamned father died. The one thing I forgot to mention. I don’t want to write about him.

I am sitting in your house right now. Like I said, it is an empty ruin, beholding the memory of your life, memory of her. Neighbors gave me side looks on my way here. Rightfully. I like it here. Humans always make everything so difficult. Now, when no one lives here, this place is more beautiful than ever. If you ask me, death of loved ones can be seen as a gift, rather than just a curse. Whatever.

Also, Azar – I finished Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is an idiot. For now.

Yours truly, Friend from the carousel.