Backlight Chapter 6

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Chapter 6: 420, mate

The next day I wake up to my phone going off. On one hand, yay, I did sleep, but on the other, I’m not sleeping anymore.

With a wordless groan, I grab the device and unlock it to find a message from Jahid.

Jahid Mansour: I heard from Ivy about last night. Are you okay?

Wh… Why does he care?

LightEnvelopingDark: Idk yet. Just woke up.

Jahid Mansour: Oh crap, I woke you up, didn’t I?

Jahid Mansour: I’m so sorry!

I smile. He’s so sweet.

LightEnvelopingDark: It’s fine. I had nightmares all night anyway.

Jahid Mansour: Oh no… Did you sleep at all?

LightEnvelopingDark: A little, I guess.

The bubble indicating that Jahid is typing bops up and down for quite some time before Jahid replies.

Jahid Mansour: Can I call you?

LightEvelopingDark: Sure.

And sure enough, he does. I accept the call.

Valo: …


Jahid: Hello?

Valo: …!

What the hell?

Jahid: Valo? Are you there?

Valo: …!!

Why can’t I talk?

Jahid: I’ll hang up. Let’s continue in text.

What the fuck? What the fucking hell??

Jahid Mansour: So you can’t talk?

LightEnvelopingDark: I think so?? What the fuck?

LightEnvelopingDark: Idk whats goign on im frakin out???

Jahid Mansour: Habibi, calm down. It’s okay.

LightEnvelopingDark: Why cant i talk????

Jahid Mansour: You’re nonverbal.


LightEnvelopingDark: What is that?

Jahid sends me a Wikipedia link.

Jahid Mansour: Basically the thing with the skull last night has made you mute for now.

LightEnvelopingDark: Oh.

Jahid Mansour: But you can still type though! Try looking up a text-to-speech app to use until your voice comes back.

What the fuck though.

LightEnvelopingDark: I guess I have to do that.

LightEnvelopingDark: How do you know about this kind of stuff?

Jahid Mansour: I get mutism sometimes too.

LightEnvelopingDark: Oh.

Jahid Mansour: I usually get it when I’m super stressed. But it passes after a while.

Jahid Mansour: I have no idea how long it’ll take with you, though.

LightEnvelopingDark: That’s fine.

Jahid Mansour: Is this the first time this has happened to you?

LightEnvelopingDark: Yeah…

Jahid Mansour: Alright.

Jahid Mansour: All you can really do is to wait until it ends.

Jahid Mansour: If you try to force yourself to talk, it’ll make it worse.

LightEnvelopingDark: Okay…

LightEnvelopingDark: Thank you.

Jahid Mansour: No problem. :)

LightEnvelopingDark: I had no idea what was happening. I was kinda freaking out.

Jahid Mansour: That was partly my fault. I’m sorry.

LightEnvelopingDark: What? No??

Jahid Mansour: It is! I suggested calling just so I could confirm my suspicions.

LightEnvelopingDark: ??

Jahid Mansour: What I gathered from what Ivy told me, I thought you might have gone mute.

LightEnvelopingDark: Ah.

Jahid Mansour: I’m sorry for distressing you.

LightEnvelopingDark: No, it’s fine. Better find out now and not when I actually had to talk to someone.

Jahid Mansour: I guess you’re right…

My phone beeps. Message from Nigel.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Hey man, are you okay?

Jahid sends me another message, but I reply to Nigel first

LightEnvelopingDark: Yeah, I’m fine. I can’t talk tho.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: What?

LightEnvelopingDark: I’m mute now.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: What? For real??

LightEnvelopingDark: Yeah. Jahid called me but I couldn’t even say hello.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Oh shit… Is that because of last night?

LightEnvelopingDark: I’m guessing so… I’ll look for a text-to-speech app until it blows over.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Oh. That’s good.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Hey are you free today?

LightEnvelopingDark: What did you have in mind?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: 420 mate. I feel super bad about last night and I wanted to make it up to you.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Let’s just chill for today.

Aw, Nigel…

LightEnvelopingDark: That sounds great! :)

LightEnvelopingDark: Are we smoking orr

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Nah mate, brownies

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Made them extra fudgy, just for you.

Oh my god I love him.

LightEnvelopingDark: Awww. :’) Should I bring something? Pizza?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Nah man, don’t worry about a thing, this party is sponsored by Nigel Catering.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Although. Soda. If you really want to bring some.

LightEnvelopingDark: Haha, ofc I’ll bring some. What do you want?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Your call, mate.

LightEnvelopingDark: Alright.

I get out of bed and find just how sore I am. My shoulders are stiff, maybe because I slept in a weird position or because my muscles were tensed up all night. I have no way of knowing.

My hand, especially the fingers that got dislocated and then relocated, are still throbbing with dull pain. I sigh and down more painkillers with some lukewarm water straight out of the tap.

I don’t think I need to have breakfast since Nigel already has pizza waiting. I don’t have food in my flat anyway.

So I just have a quick shower and dress in fresh clothes before leaving. On the way to Nigel’s, I stop by a grocery store to get the soda I promised.

I ring Nigel’s doorbell and Nigel opens in record time. He beams at me and motions me to come in.

Nigel: Exactly who I wanted to see!

Nigel heads to the kitchen and I follow him to put the soda in the fridge. It smells sweet and chocolate-y in here.

Nigel: Did you get the text-to-speech app working?

Now I realize that I forgot to even look for the app. Yeesh. I scramble for my phone and the notes app.

Valo: I forgot to install it at home. Give me a moment to find one.

Nigel: Take your time, mate.

I start dicking around in the app store while Nigel gets the brownies out of the oven and starts cutting them to equal pieces. I end up having to install a few apps before I find one that suits me.

Valo: How does this sound?


Nigel: Like a text-to-speech app.

I shrug. I’ll take it.

Valo: It does Finnish too.

Nigel: I have no idea what you just said to me.

Nigel: Anyway, have a brownie!

He holds out the pan. Oh hell yes.

> Take a side piece > Take a middle piece

I bite in and the chocolatey flavour fills my mouth. The center is really fudgy and sticky.

It’s delicious.

Nigel grins at me.

Nigel: Good, right?

I give him a thumbs up.

Nigel: Do you want another one?

Of course I do. I grab another piece and shove it down my gullet.

Nigel claps his hands.

Nigel: Alright! The pizza is in the living room.

We relocate to Nigel’s living room and… there doesn’t seem to be much space to sit on. Everything is cluttered with… I don’t even know what it is. It looks like computer parts?

Nigel: Ah shit, I forgot to tidy up.

Nigel: Sorry about this. I’ve been so absorbed with building it that I’ve kinda… forgotten all else.

Oh, this must be the android he’s building!

Valo: Is this the android? How is it going?

Nigel grins.

While Nigel and I clear out space to sit, Nigel gives me a lecture that I don’t understand even a half of. But what I gather from it, the android is coming together great and it should be functionable soon.

We manage to clear the couch and collapse on it. Nigel turns the TV on.

Nigel: For the entertainment today, I only have the finest cinematic masterpieces for us to enjoy.

Valo: So… Youtube poops?

Nigel: Youtube poops.

Nigel: But also classics, such as Yellow Submarine and episode 8 from season 3 of Twin Peaks.

Nigel: Suffice to say, I have prepared entertainment for hours.

Valo: Awesome.

I sit back on the couch, letting myself sink into the cushions. I’m starting to feel the brownies start to kick in.

Nigel: Ow, fuck. Better close the blinds.

Nigel: Fucking Finnish summer, does it ever get dark?

Nigel scrambles to the windows and almost trips on some cords. I choke back a giggle. God, he’s so cute.

Nigel returns to the sofa and falls down so heavily that he jostles me a little. He puts on a movie and settles in onto the cushions.

Nigel: So… How did it go with Nana last night?

What? Nana?

Valo: What about Nana?

Nigel: Did you… get along?

I think back to last night. Nana was… a little abrasive, but she did walk me home…

> We didn’t get along > We did get along
Nigel: Aw, what happened? I mean we didn’t argue.
She said… Nigel grins.
Nana: Even though she’s dating the guy you’re crushing on. Nigel: Oh? What happened?
I feel myself blush. I can’t tell Nigel that.

Valo: Like, when we were in the house or after?

Nigel: I don’t fucking know. Which one is more-

Nigel: Wait. Did something happen after I left?

Valo: I mean…

Valo: Nana took me home, but that’s all.

Nigel stares at me.

Nigel: That’s… that’s all?

I blink.

Valo: Yeah?

Valo: Should something have happened?

Nigel stares at me again.

Nigel: Are you…

Nigel: Are you gay?

Wh… What?

Valo: Where is this coming from, all of a sudden?

Nigel: I thought you’d hit it off with her. You look like you like strong women.

Nigel: But if you’re gay…

Nigel: Which is fine, by the way!

Valo: Wait.

Valo: You thought I was gay?

Valo: And you still tried to set me up with Nana?


Nigel: Now that you put it like that, it sounds bad.

I nod slowly at him.

Valo: I’m not gay, for the record.

Valo: I’m pansexual.

Nigel frowns.

Nigel: The fuck is that?

Valo: Uh. It means that I’m attracted to all genders.

Nigel: Wh… All genders?

Valo: Yeah, like nonbinary genders and so on.

Nigel: Oh, right.

Valo: So. Um, yeah. I do like girls, but I prefer guys.

Nigel: I see.

Nigel: Thanks for telling me this, mate.

He socks me on the shoulder gently.

A silence settles between us as we watch the movie. Nigel had put on some movie, which… I could have sworn it was live action 20 minutes ago? When did it became animated? Did Nigel put on something else? I wasn’t paying attention to the first half so I have no idea what’s going on. There are marching hammers and a wall that repeatedly closes a naked figure inside of it. Or something?

I can’t shake the awkward conversation with Nigel from my mind. Something is… off. Why am I thinking about Otto all of a sudden?

Wait, he said something important last night, didn’t he?

Aw, fuck, what was it? I was in such a shock that everything after the house is a blur. I can’t remember dick.

Oh goddammit, I was supposed to check my vaccines. Was that it?

I feel like that wasn’t it.

My chest feels tight.

Nigel: This guy.

Nigel: This guy has the right idea.

An involuntary grunt escapes me. The walls curl around the naked figure again.

Nigel: You can only trust yourself.

Nigel: I mean, he’s taking it a bit too far, of course you can have like… friends. And family.

Nigel: Humans are herd creatures, we can’t live in constant isolation. You have to have some company.

Nigel: But! But… when a push comes to shove…

His voice softens to a low murmur.

Nigel: You can’t depend on other people. In this world… You only have yourself.

Nigel: You can only trust yourself.

I hug my knees to my chest. My heart feels like it’s being squeezed. On the screen, there’s a deranged blue man making mincemeat. On the screen, there’s… something going on. I can barely comprehend it, but for some reason I’m thinking of mincemeat. Bile rises up my throat.

Nigel: What we really need is a new era.

Nigel: We need something like the industrial revolution.

Nigel: A new era.

I swallow thickly and reach for my phone.

Valo: Can you put on something else?

Nigel: Hm?

Nigel: Oh, yeah. Okay.

Nigel switches on to youtube and I catch a glimpse that his youtube poop playlist is five hours long.

Soon I find myself regretting asking Nigel to put on something else when the fragmented and jarring cacophony starts shredding my eardrums.

I can’t decide if this is better or worse than the blue mincemeat man.

… My nausea doesn’t pass. It keeps getting worse. I have to close my eyes and focus on my breathing. Maybe that’ll help.

Nope, it doesn’t. It’s making it worse, now that the lack of visual input is making my ears take in even more detail.

… And of course the youtube poop that is on now is making a lot of viscous sounds that totally, completely, 100% aren’t helping.

I remember the overly sweet and tacky brownie I ate. Or rather, the overly sweet and tacky brownie is reminding of itself. By crawling up my throat.

I stand up and stagger to Nigel’s bathroom. I open the toilet lid and… dear Jesus. If I didn’t need to vomit before, seeing the state of the toilet would have made it.

And so I re-acquaintance myself with the pizza I had earlier. I liked it way better when it was going down.

Nigel: Shit, mate, are you okay?

I cough and spit.

Nigel: I knew you shouldn’t have taken the second brownie.

Nigel: This strain is stronger than the usual.

What? What did he feed me?

Goddammit, I left my phone in the living room.

Nigel: Let me get you some water.

Nigel leaves and lean away from the toilet. Leaning my head against the cool porcelaine was tempting, but not when it’s in the state that it is.

The heating of the bathroom is making the air thick around me.

Or is it the heating? Hasn’t this happened before?

Nigel returns with a glass of water.

Nigel: Jesus, you look like shit.

I manage to grunt as I take the blessedly cool glass from him. I empty it in two gulps that are gone way too fast. I press the empty glass against my forehead and it does little to nothing to cool me down.

…I do feel a little better now that I’ve vomited. The air still feels like jelly against my face, though.

Nigel: How… how do you feel?

this is still a wip lmao. i'll finish it later

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