About Death by Chocolate
At seventeen years old, Julie deals with more problems than most teenagers her age. A runaway, she quickly ends up homeless and broke. When an old Gypsy woman offers to read her future in exchange for a meal, the challenge sounds like a dare. The tarot cards reveal a great destiny, and a perilous journey – and a red heart shaped box of chocolates melts reality and fantasy into one never ending nightmare where failure equals death.
Julie wakes up in an unwelcoming world filled with danger. A boy named Evan introduces himself as her guide, but will he really help her when she needs him the most? Demons of a long forgotten past haunt her dreams and seek revenge for something she doesn’t remember. Too many questions receive too little answers.
Will Julie accept the truth to survive?
The ill-fated chocolates. Their psychedelic effects would mess with my mind again and take me down a path filled with unpleasant surprises. And to find what? More empty promises?
I stared at the little dark balls remaining in the box, clueless as to which one would be the key to my great escape. Two chocolates in particular caught my attention. One piece bore black lines around its center while the other displayed an intricate maze of white streaks all over its surface.
Would the number of stripes on each crazy candy help me find the exit?
I seriously doubted it. Swallowing hard, I thought of Neo having to pick between the blue and the red pills in the Matrix. Didn’t he have to save the human race from computer domination? Just like me, I guess… Well according to what the Stranger said: “Save yourself to save the world”…
Okay. Time for decision-making. I went for the chocolate with the white streaks.
Holy Molly! As soon as the sweet milky flavor hit my tongue, a rush of adrenaline ran throughout my mind and body, but the sensations I had previously experienced in the cave were coming back much, much stronger. The air contained fine golden particles clouding with every breath before my eyes. As the snow melted, the grey sky turned pink and purple, and the freezing blizzard became a hot summer breeze gently playing with loose strands of my hair.
I weighed less than a feather. The pain inside my chest disappeared, and fear didn’t overwhelm me anymore. When I extended my arms and legs, I noticed the yellow and silver flames dancing all over my skin. They reflected only light and didn’t burn. Floating one foot above ground, I must have looked like an alien apparition dramatic enough to set the tone of the upcoming scene.
Closing my eyes, I propelled myself upwards, and flew like Superman until I passed the clouds and almost touched the ceiling of paradise. Boundaries had been broken. The shackles that tied me to my horrifying past had finally been removed. The bright orange sun shined with much intensity right above me, and I welcomed its soothing rays like a beautiful flower ready to blossom after a heavy rain.
Yet, the natural balance of elements felt slightly off, and a sense of uneasiness lingered.
Where had Kara gone? Just as I wondered about her, a dark silhouette slowly crept up close, aligning itself to shelter me from the sunlight. The black mass didn’t wear a linen dress and golden jewelry, and even less possessed a face and a body I could stare at. But I nonetheless knew what the shadow was and where it came from. Fueled by the torrent of all negative memories, my ugly truth had finally emerged from the abyss to fight me.
“Get ready for an epic showdown,” Evan whispered.
A cold breeze quickly rose from the ocean of clouds below, and growling thunder and lightning bolts transformed the peaceful interlude into absolute mayhem. The bigger the shadow grew, the more I struggled to stay afloat. When the gloom became huge and prevented any ray of light from reaching me, I began to fall.
Despite my hardest endeavors, I lost control and failed to fly away. My descent was swift, and I dropped like a bird after being hit by a hunter’s bullet to land amidst fast-moving muddy water and a storm of thick icy rock-drops. My fifteen minutes of glory had officially ended.
Kara burst out laughing. “You didn’t think you could escape so easily, did you?”
Drenched, bruised and feeling completely disoriented, I noticed the river of mud growing exponentially fast a few feet ahead of me. Staying on solid ground would be a challenge indeed, but as long as the dark shadow was up, I stood no chance to take off. Back to square one?
“I’m not scared of you. In fact, I’m not scared of anything or anyone,” I replied.
“Show me what you can do… because I’m ready.”
“Welcome to my world. I hope you’ll have fun.”
And now what? Thunder growled and sounded exactly like Kara’s evil laughter. My feet sunk into the wet soil. My little smartass exchange wouldn’t save me from the muddy river and the icy rain. I needed an umbrella. Or even better, a shield.
But my thought process got abruptly interrupted when I felt a strong shudder and the ground started tearing beneath me like paper. Water and mud rushed down the growing hole, smashing every side of my body at once, and I lost my balance.
Mark. Melissa. Dan. Kara. Their faces flooded my mind as I choked and drowned.
Fight back. Wake up and scream. Kill the dark shadow. Find yourself again and learn from your mistakes. Nothing’s doomed to fall short.
You make your own destiny.
A sudden flashback brought me back to my bedroom, right after the phone call with Mark. I kept staring at the blood stain on the wall above the headboard of my bed, tears welling in my eyes. I felt so empty that day, I wanted to die. My heart had been crushed in a million pieces. The sharpest pain stung me right in the chest and didn’t leave me alone. The ache of loneliness would follow me and haunt me. The love had become poison. Hatred replaced every thought and every sensation.
I had been heartbroken too.
“Do you really think you can compare your break-up to you killing your best friend?” Evan said.
“Make peace with what you did!”
“I want to!”
“The battle is not over for you…” he continued.
“Are you surrendering?”
A loud hammering invaded my brain as if a construction crew had settled in. The sound of my speeding heartbeat joined the infernal ruckus. How could I still be alive? There was nothing left for me wherever the mud had taken me. Kara had cheated with her evil tricks. She had trapped me so I could never leave this place.
I felt pressure – squeezing every inch of my body – and the hammering became unbearable. I heaved and threw up. Opening my eyes gave no result as I saw only darkness. The pressure kept increasing until every bone would crush. But oddly enough, death didn’t come.
I stayed awake every second.
A big push from below finally ejected me out of the hole. When my mouth let out a scream I could finally hear, I crashed on the wet ground. My face landed in a puddle of dirt. Catching my breath, I slowly gathered my senses. The hammering had dissipated. None of my limbs had been broken; the palms of my hands were all scraped. What had just happened?
“You wanted to play, remember?” Kara’s voice echoed behind me.
A slithering noise instantly followed – and as I turned around, I saw a creature slowly work its way toward me out of the hole I had exited.
Alright… No time for a break. If a monster wanted to eat me, I’d need weapons to defeat it. Picturing armor, a mighty sword and a shield, I soon was dressed like in Braveheart but didn’t feel quite yet like Mel Gibson. Maybe I should have rehearsed first. Or imagined a lethal weapon a la Terminator 2 instead.
An emergency swap was obviously not possible. A giant snake-dragon-cockroach – seriously?? – rose out of the gap, opened its mouth and bared a pair of fangs three times my size. One drop of saliva ran along the edges and when it landed on top of my shield, caused the metal to start melting.
Discarding the heavy – and now useless – piece of equipment, I moved away to expand the space between the acid spitting monster and me. My zero gravity leaps helped me cover a large distance – thanks to the magic chocolates.
The beast wasn’t far behind, and I had to think quickly on my feet. Rising higher and higher like a skyscraper, the animal followed my every move. But when would the perfect moment to strike arrive? I needed more than a medieval sword to defeat such a creature. What about a short-range ballistic missile? Or a neutron bomb?
“Be as powerful as you can be…” Evan said, “remember the cave.”
Good point, except fighting the goo monster had been a real piece of cake in comparison to this thing.
“If you kill it, you save the world,” Evan continued, “what are you waiting for?”
I snorted. “What are you talking about? To save the world, I must save myself. And how am I going to save myself against such an oversized genetic anomaly?”
“After the battle is done and you won, the beast won’t seem so big anymore.”
“I only know one thing,” I replied, “but will it be enough?”
At this growing rate, the giant would reach the ceiling of the sky. I had to act fast.
“What will be enough?” Evan smiled at me.
“You know… My anger.” I said.
“You can beat anything with your anger… But it’s the last time you may use it. In the future, you must learn a different way to deal with things.”
I swallowed hard. The cloak of darkness above loomed like a vulture ready to eat my remains once everything would be over. The last bit of good in me wanted forgiveness. But could I really give up the strongest emotion I knew? Had there been a wall next to me I’d have punched it until my knuckles shattered. Punching a wall would also have been the easy way out.
There was no turning back. I thought of Kara, Dan, Mark, Melissa, my parents; the move to L.A. and my drive to Vegas. I thought of the Gypsy and every word she said to me I didn’t quite understand. Evan. My journey to the truth.
Looking at the monster, I forgot my doubts, and focused on getting as mad as possible. The gloom slowly descended toward me, and my rage increased. All the bad times in my life, the hopeless nights and desperate measures, and mostly the loneliness pushed me back into my worst frame of mind. The cloak would merge with me to give me the strength I needed.
I absorbed the darkness, feeling stronger the angrier I became, and ascended high in the sky, my weapon aimed at the center of the beast’s heart. No snake-dragon-cockroach would overcome my wrath. Evan made a valid point. Killing Kara had proven there was something seriously wicked about me… Better use the dark side of the force now than never.
The sword left my hand as I embraced the last bit of the malevolent cloud. A cold wind rose and wrapped me tight, carrying me away as I heard a loud whimper from the creature, followed by a shriek. Watching from afar, I saw fire crackling the animal’s carapace, consuming it from the inside. The sulfurous stench of the burning body invaded the space, and a dark column of smoke cluttered the sky. When I sensed the beast had finally died, I felt my own heartbeat slowing down to a stop.
Had I saved myself? Closing my eyes as if to drift into a deep sleep, I wished to awake back in the world where I belonged. No more monsters. No more ghosts. No more pain.
“Give me what I was promised!” I screamed and the sky broke in another ruckus of light and thunder. The monster finished burning and the rain washed off the ashes, leaving nothing behind.
The sunlight had yet to come. Reopening my eyes, I saw Kara floating in front of me. She had recovered my sword, and was twirling it like a baton in the air. Unsure of her intentions, I stared at her hands, mesmerized by her dexterity.
“Do you think you’ve done a good job here?” she sneered.
“Yes. I’ve learned my lesson. Now set me free.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay with me? Because I missed you, you know?” she whined, twirling the weapon so fast I could only hear the blade cutting through the air.
“Set me free!” I begged.
Her purple eyes glowed harder. “As you wish.”
Feeling an odd pinch in my chest, I lost my breath.
“What…” And tasted blood in my mouth.
“Go.” She burst out laughing and dropped the smeared sword into the emptiness below her.
When the sun finally reappeared and its bright light shined over me, I smiled.
I woke up sitting at a table in a kitchen that looked familiar. Rubbing my eyes a few times, I noticed a red heart-shaped box, and after pulling the lid, counted twelve chocolates.
Someone was calling my name. A voice I could recognize anywhere.
I searched for him in the Gypsy’s house. I wanted to talk to him, but he didn’t say anything further. Deep inside, I knew he was more than just my subconscious.
So I made it out. Strange the box still contained all the chocolates, as if I had never eaten one in the first place. Snatching the piece with the white streaks, I took a bite and closed my eyes. What would happen? Anything. Nothing. Not feeling much more than a cheap milky flavor with way too much sugar, I spat the candy out in a tissue and tossed it in the trash.
I hadn’t crossed a portal or seen Kara. Still standing in the middle of the messy kitchen, I couldn’t even find out where the Gypsy had gone.
“Remember what you did… and what you need to do now.” Evan blurted out.
Where was he hiding?
“Who is Evan?” I said. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I tasted the last bit of the chocolate.
“You’ve come a long way to ask such a question…”
“I need an answer. I have to know.” The lid of the box of chocolates fell on the ground. I hadn’t touched it.
His laughter resonated in the room. “Why?” he mockingly asked.
“Because I succeeded.”
I stared ahead, as if I could miraculously see him standing in front of me.
“Remember Mark?” he said.
I shrugged. “What about him?”
“Remember his brother?”
“We all knew you were blinded by your anger when you hit Melissa right in the nose…”
Not knowing what he meant, I didn’t reply anything.
“But you got angry for the wrong reason.”
“Because someone made you believe things that weren’t true.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You must find Evan.”
“Who is he?” I was feeling lightheaded, and needed to sit down.
“Mark. You must ask him.”
“Why? What are you keeping from me?”
“You forgot it was him because you lost control over your temper.” He laughed. “Funny really.”
“I forgot about Evan? I don’t know of any Evan.” The whole exchange made absolutely no sense to me.
“You’re only at the beginning of your journey to redemption… And the second chapter starts now.”
I heard him snap his fingers and the entire kitchen melted before my eyes, as a force of absurd proportions sucked me down a hole that had suddenly appeared in the ground. Unable to hold myself onto anything, the table and the chairs led the way for me to follow – wherever this new opening was taking me now.
Don’t tell me I was going back. No way. NO WAY!
When my fall finally stopped, I landed on the hard metal bench of a jail cell. A cop in uniform was walking on the other side of the bars.
“How long have I been here for?” My mouth felt so parched I could barely speak up.
“Long enough for your father to bail you out,” the cop said without glancing once at me. He inserted a key in the lock and the door opened with a squeak.
My legs cramped up a little as I stood. When the blood flowed again, I moved toward him.
“You’re too young to ruin your life this way. Find a better hobby next time,” he said. Our eyes met for a millisecond and I exited.
My father was outside waiting next to the car. As soon as I looked at him, I knew my time in crazy land would be a fairytale in comparison to the punishment that awaited me at home.
If I ever made it there before another dream stole reality from me…