The White Snake and Cane
By: Patrick Duong
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A Journal of the Arts
A gorgon with snakes for hair. Anyone who gazed upon her would be turned to stone, they said. That is the myth of Medusa, a terrible being who was beheaded and slain by Perseus. Except she supposedly reincarnated as a ten year old girl.
Meiko was a rather intelligent young girl who, at her age, was quite meticulous with the things she did and planned to do. Of course, she had to be careful, or else she would have never survived as long as she did with her snakes growing from her head. Meiko was aware of her history with Greece, but resolved to put that behind her, because as of right then, nobody knew what she was. Nobody had seen her snakes yet, so she decided to make the best of her reincarnation by being a good person.
Unlike her past life as a gorgon, Meiko was now a rather cute young girl. The only signs of abnormality were the white snakes that grew out her head, of course, and her eyes, which were a curious shade of yellow that, unlike her past self's hateful shade of crimson that her present snakes’ eyes had, gave off a sense of purity and innocence. Other people’s encounters with Meiko’s eyes made her decide to restart her new life from zero, free from her past. It took her quite a while, considering that she lived hating humans and dying by them previously, to get over it. But then again, as she was raised in her current life, she had grown fond of the humans who treated her kindly, as no one had done before.
She was not born with her snake hair, but rather her normal hair had turned into snakes as soon as she was conscious of her past life as a monster. And the change was not immediate either, but was rather slow and took around a year to fully develop. Her parents, as the humans called it, never saw her snakes, as she was extremely careful to keep a large red beanie on at all times. She only ever took it off if she knew for certain that she was alone. The red beanie kept her white snakes well hidden, and seeing that most of the time, the snakes had a mind of their own, they had enough room to move around. All was well when it came to concealing her
Meiko prepared to go out to school like usual. She looked out into the wintry sky, anticipating the activities she would do in school with the other ten year olds. It was interesting how she had lived for thousands of years in the past and gained so many memories, but still thought like a typical ten year old girl in her present life. Before she headed out the door, she looked back to a spot under her bed where a book laid, and smiled.
Meiko walked down the sidewalk, past the neighbors’ kids, and came across the park in her neighborhood. Today, she decided to deviate from her daily routine and walked up to the large tree in the center of the park. She looked up from under the tree.
Tell me something. Why is today so different? What makes today so special that now you decide to drop in on my life rather than any other ordinary day?
Because today, things will begin to change.
A group of boys rounded the corner and spotted a little girl. Something was off about the girl, and one of them crept toward her to take a closer look. He was accompanied by a companion who grinned as he caught a glimpse of what was off about the girl first.
Unseen by the snickering group of boys who were enraptured by the scene in front of them, a pale boy with hair and a tuxedo suit as white as snow stepped around the corner and leaned against a wooden post with his arms crossed. He had a seraphic smile on his face, but it was accompanied by empty, pupil-less, pinkish orange eyes. His expression gave no feeling of genuine joy, but rather a sardonic eeriness that would send shivers down one's spine. He slowly cast his gaze upon the boys and watched in silence.
Change how? What’s going to happen? My life isn’t some epic story about amazing powers for you to just record and share with others. Assuming that my life continues as it always does, nothing is going to change. Nothing out of the ordinary will happen, and my life will be the same as always. I will make it to school normally, attend class, go home, and end the day. That is the normal peaceful life of humans, is it not?
But things have already changed.
A tall black figure, fully robed in a cloak in the purest shade of black, emerged from behind the pure white boy. This figure had its hood up and from within the hood, there was no face. Instead there was a black void, and the entire entity radiated darkness and cold, even in the midst of the bright morning. This menacing entity glided over to the first boy who was nearest to the girl... and did his work.
Meiko lowered her head, frowning, then realized that something was amiss. The surrounding area was quiet. Too quiet, but she didn’t recognize why at first. Then realization hit her with the force of a speeding truck. The children had gone silent. During the time she spaced out from under her favorite tree in the park, the chatter of playing children had died out. Meiko had a further moment of clarity: her snakes had poked out from the bottom of the beanie. Nearly paralyzed from fear, she slowly turned around to come face to face with the petrified face of a boy with a mischievous smile reaching out with his hand like he was going to grab something. Behind him was another petrified smiling boy with his arms crossed, but his eyes had gone wide. Behind both of them was a group of young boys who were in the process of running for their lives. Recently, Meiko had questioned whether the snakes’ abilities had gone away or reduced in potency, but because it only worked on people, she was unwilling to try it out. It seemed as though her petrification process was not immediate, and the time it took depended on how far away they were from her.
Meiko glared down at the two snakes that poked out and roughly shoved them back into her beanie. Tears were freely running down her face as she processed the situation. She had to do something, or else she would be discovered. Meiko glanced over to the patch of shrubs near the edge of the park, and saw a decent sized rock that she could lift. She knew what she had to do, and she did it.
After the deed was done, Meiko ran to her school, still crying. She was incredibly late, and her uniform was battered. She stopped at the crosswalk of a street one block away from her school, bent over and out of breath from crying and running. Footsteps approached her and she quickly looked up, frantically trying to wipe her tears away and dust off her uniform. But as it turned out, she really didn’t need to. It was a boy, and he was facing her with a concerned expression, but he wasn’t looking at her. His eyes were looking right past her, or rather, not at all. The boy couldn’t see. Meiko came to this conclusion right after she saw his right hand holding a white can with a red tip.
“Are you okay?” The boy gently asked Meiko. “Do you need any help?”
“No,” she replied. “I’m fine, thanks.”
“What’s your name?” he inquired further. “And what happened? Why are you crying?”
“I’m Meiko,” she said. “There was this group of boys, and...”
Meiko broke down into tears again, and the boy bent over to help her.
“You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to. My name is Hitomu,” he said, reaching his hand out to help her up.
She took his hand, and he hauled her back up, then touched a band that was on his wrist, his face scrunched up in concentration. She looked at him in confusion, but it’s not as if he could see her do that.
“My braille watch says that it’s way past the time school is called in,” Hitomu announced. “Would you like to come back to my house to calm down and change your clothes? I can smell the dirt on you.”
“You can smell the dirt on me? That’s a weird thing to say to a person you just met.”
“I guess that is pretty creepy,” he laughed. “But it is true. See, my doctor says that my hearing and sense of smell is better than other people since I can’t see. And my hearing is better than my smell, which helps me with more than just a few things.”
“I suppose I can go with you,” Meiko said cautiously. “My parents are not home, and I can’t go into school like this.”
“Excellent! So it’s decided!” Hitomu said, and turned back the way he came. “Come on, it’s a five minute walk from here!”
The boy in all white and his dark companion stood in the shadow of a corner just around the bend, watching the events unfold in mild interest. The boy in all white reached inside his tuxedo while the dark figure reached for something on his back.
“It seems as though it’s time for another job,” the pale boy said to the dark figure, still fiddling inside his tuxedo jacket, then frowned slightly. “Though I think this one will take some time before it’s completed.”
The dark figure spoke with a deep and echoing voice, one that would paralyze a normal person out of fear, “I predict that there will be some collateral damage along the way.”
“True, considering what this girl is,” the boy said, pulling out a large golden ring. He smiled, then looked at his large, menacing companion who then revealed a large scythe that was just as long as the figure was tall. The white boy then carefully positioned the golden ring above his head, where it levitated and stayed fixed in a position parallel to his head. Both of them bowed their heads and thought: Is it time?
And indeed it was. The Angel of Death and Reaper of Souls departed, following Meiko and Hitomu.
As it turned out, it took a little under a minute to reach Hitomu’s house. With Meiko guiding Hitomu, the slow walk that Hitomu took everyday, waving his cane back and forth on the ground before moving a step, became a brisk stroll. During that stroll, they had a little conversation.
“Meiko, huh?” Hitomu said. “What does it mean?”
“Beautiful, blessed child,” Meiko replied. “That’s what my parents told me it means.” Hitomu nodded his head grimly and said in a casual tone, “I bet you are, in fact, very beautiful and blessed.”
Meiko blushed deeply. Eager to change the subject, she asked him back, “What about you? What does your name mean?”
“Single dream,” he replied. “Ha, it’s kind of odd, but rather accurate, because I do have one dream.”
“And what might that be?” she inquired.
“To see again...” he said wistfully. “See, I wasn’t always blind. My doctor said that at a young age, I could see, but I got an eye disease that all but blinded me. It’s... hmm,” Hitomu thought deeply for a second. “Glaucoma! That’s what it is. Apparently there are things called neurons that send what my eyes see to my brain, and that doesn’t happen in me anymore. So to achieve my dream of being able to see again, I want to become a doctor and study eye diseases! I’ve already read medical books in the library and I’m currently getting good grades in school so I can get into better schools! My parents say I’m pretty smart for a fifth grader. What about you? What do you want to do later in life?”
“What I want to do later in life...” Meiko mused. “I just want to live a normal and good life. Say, where’s your house?”
With a little guidance, Hitomu determined which house was his, and they walked to the front porch. It was a rather nice house with a lot of space. He welcomed her in with an extravagant bow and gestured for her to enter... but she couldn’t. He was standing right in front of the door. He then laughed and got out of the way for her to enter.
“I’m home!” he exclaimed.
Meiko tensed up and sharply inhaled, then calmed down once she realized there was nobody else in the house.
“Ha, you get nervous a lot with adults?” He asked. “Don’t worry, they’re at work. I just say ‘I’m home’ because it feels right.”
Meiko walked slowly through the hallway where a mirror and a coat rack hung. She looked at herself in the mirror. She was filthy, with stone dust and dirt with rips and tears all over her clothes. There were stains on her that she didn’t know were there before. They looked suspiciously like...
“Feel free to hang your coat up,” Hitomu called out to her. “Also go ahead and go upstairs to the bathroom. You can wash off in there.”
Hitomu then grinned and said, “and don’t worry about me being a peeping Tom. I can’t see you anyways.”
Meiko went up the stairs and into the bathroom, where she undressed and started bathing. Hitomu went in a little while after and collected her clothes.
“I know I said that you didn’t need to tell me what happened if you didn’t want to, but now I’m really curious about why you have so many rips and tears in your clothes. And what’s that odd smell?
“I fell!” She exclaimed. “I hit the sidewalk which tore my clothes and made me bleed. My blood is on my clothes.”
“Yeah, that smells about right,” he said, smiling at his own joke. Then he frowned again.
“Why is there so much of it? Did something happen between you and the boys you talked about?”
“I fell on the sidewalk really hard,” Meiko said. I just cleaned off my forehead, elbows, and knees. Please, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Hitomu relented and backed out slowly, feeling the walls to find the exit. Meiko sighed and lowered herself into the bath. Even though the boy was blind, she still didn’t take off her beanie. One can never be too careful, she thought to herself. Listening closely, she heard him downstairs using the washing machine. Only then did she take off her beanie. Her snakes hissed in irritation as she kept them in the muggy beanie while in a hot room. She washed each of them individually before getting out. While she was still drying off, her snakes suddenly turned their heads towards the door.
Hitomu stood outside about to knock when he heard a peculiar and swift rustling sound. In the short time he thought about what it could be, the door opened quickly, but only wide enough for a head to pop out.
“Care to open the door a little wider?” he asked. “I tossed your old clothes if that’s okay with you. I also got you some of my own that might fit you.” Meiko was slightly unnerved to see that Hitomu was facing right at her even though he couldn’t see.
“How do you know how open the door is?” she asked him.
He laughed then said, “don’t forget that this is my house. The hinges creak so I can hear how much a door has opened. I don’t even need to use my cane when I’m in here, since I know the house well enough to move around smoothly, though I still need to touch the walls from time to time.” He paused a bit before continuing, “Say, are you wearing a hat right now? Or some kind of headwear?”
Unconsciously, Meiko reached up and patted her beanie, which confirmed his thoughts. Hitomu nodded and backed out, leaving the clothes at the foot of the door, but not before she grabbed him and pulled him into the bathroom with her.
“Well this is awkward,” he said. “Isn’t this something that people a little older than us do? After all, we are middle schoolers, though it’s not like I can see anything weird anyways.” He laughed at his own expense.
“I just wanted to ask you to not talk about my beanie,” she said. “It’s... kind of personal.” Hitomu put his hands up saying, “alright, I won’t talk about it. But can you please let me go? And you left the water running a bit.”
Meiko scrambled to turn the shower handle all the way off while Hitomu collected himself and walked out the door. The boy was surprisingly intelligent for his age, just like her,
and his sense of hearing was phenomenal, she thought. She would have to be even more careful
After dressing and going downstairs, she saw Hitomu in the living room sitting in the middle of the floor. His eyes were closed and he was sitting in the lotus position.
“I’m meditating,” he said. “Every day, I’d do this, typically after school, for about an hour. I just listen to the house, hearing the pipes, the air, even the electricity. This is how I built up my sense of hearing. I read somewhere that blind people like me develop their sense of hearing to a point where they use sound to basically see. But today, something’s off. I can sense something else, not by hearing or smell, but it’s like a presence of a person that isn’t here. Like an entity, watching over us...”
“Are you sure someone else isn’t in the house?” Meiko asked him.
“No,” he said. “I’d hear them. Besides, my parents don’t come back till an hour later.”
Meiko went to the mirror in the hall and closed her eyes.
Is it you?
It seemed as though the boy was able to detect my presence. How he did it, I do not know.
He is rather intelligent. Perhaps he figured out the truth behind what is happening here. Or at least, he’s starting to piece it together, meaning that he could connect to you.
I told you to back off. Let me live a normal life. That’s all I want for my new life.
Then I will let you live as you please.
Meiko opened her eyes again. A girl with a blazing set of orange eyes stared back at her.
Meiko left before Hitomu’s parents got back. On the road, she evaluated herself. There was a new feeling there, one that produced a great amount of heat in her body. It was rather good, and... so it was quite obvious Meiko was beginning to feel love. No beating around the bush or dodging the question like others like to do, it was love. But the question becomes: Is it the right kind of love and will it stay?
Meiko got home at around two thirty, which was a little bit after the time her school got out. She went through the front door and said, “I’m home!”
Then, “Oh yeah, that’s right...”
Hitomu and his parents were sitting in the living room together watching TV. The evening news was on. A lady on the news was reading off an incident that happened earlier that day: “A report came in that said that a group of boys, all seventh graders in the same school, were murdered earlier today. There were no bodies to be found, but blood matching their DNA was found in the park that was in their neighborhood. The parents of these boys are desperately asking around if they have seen the incident occur and more specifically, the culprit. Please keep your children safe and report to the police if you find information that would help solve this case.
Thank you, and have a safe evening.”
Four years later...
Meiko ran out to meet Hitomu on their way to their first day in high school. Coincidentally, or not, Meiko had enrolled in the same high school as Hitomu did, and they both got accepted. They would be in separate classes, of course, but Meiko was excited nonetheless. They met each other at the same crosswalk they did everyday and walked together to school. On the way, Hitomu put on a more serious face, which was a stark contrast to the jovial mood he usually emanated during their walks together.
“What’s wrong?” Meiko asked him.
Hitomu stopped walking, then looked up before responding, “I feel like we’re being followed. And not by a person. I would have heard them. It feels nostalgic, like I’ve encountered this before. How strange...”
Unseen by Hitomu, Meiko’s face was a mask of fury. She had realized what was happening and quickly closed her eyes.
WHY ARE YOU HERE AGAIN!
So now you won’t even talk to me. Is this your way of finding loopholes in the agreement we made? You won’t interact with me, but you’ll still narrate my story like a creepy stalker? What is it this time? Another accident? Is that it?
Fine, well I’ll prove you wrong. Nothing is going to--
What is happening here?
Meiko quickly opened her eyes and dragged Hitomu along, looking scared and angry at the same time.
“Hang on,” Hitomu cried. “I can’t keep up! And I was so close to pinpointing that feeling I was talking about! What are you doing? Where are we going? This isn’t the way to school!” They stopped, and Hitomu put a hand on Meiko’s shoulder.
“You’re obviously upset,” he said gently. “Maybe you can tell me what’s wrong, and wecan work this out.”
“Nothing,” she replied. “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just a bit sad that we aren’t going to be in the same class.”
She was lying, and Hitomu knew it. His hearing had improved to the point that he could hear the slight discrepancy between the truth and a lie. That said, he decided not to press the matter and instead pulled her by the hand back to the correct path to school.
They were initiated into high school and it was a rather exciting day for the both of them, but Meiko was too apprehended to join in on the excitement. Her attitude on the first day repelled people, which immediately led to gossip being spread around the school. Near the end of the day, she heard most of the whispers, but then when she got out of her last period, heading towards the room the Hitomu was in, she came across a group of three girls looking at her.
“Look at her,” one of the girls said. “She looks like a delinquent. I walked up to her in the morning and she had the look of a killer on her face.”
“Worse,” said the second. “And what’s with that pathetic red beanie of hers? It looks awful.”
“I wonder if she’s covering anything up with it?” the last girl. “She has no hair sticking out from under it, so I’m thinking she’s bald or something. Maybe we should steal it and see what’s underneath.”
They all snickered, and Meiko was about to head over their way when Hitomu came out of his class. She gave the group of three one last glare before heading over to meet him.
“They were talking about your beanie, weren’t they?” he asked her as she approached.
“It’s fine,” she said, then led him out of school, walking home together.
“For this evening’s news, we have a group of three girls who mysteriously disappeared. The girls are a group of high school friends who started their first day today. Reports from their parents say that they went to school, came home, and went out again to go shopping and never came back. If anyone has any information on this case, please contact the police immediately.”
“WHAT?” Meiko exclaimed.
“I said that I got a letter from a hospital in America that says that they can fix my eyes,” Hitomu said. “So I accepted and I’m heading out tomorrow!”
“That’s amazing!” Meiko cried. “I’m so happy for you!”
“Thanks,” Hitomu said. “I won’t take too long though, I’ll be heading back in a matter of two days after I get there. So I’ll be gone for three days then I’ll be right back to see you. Ha, literally this time.”
They both laughed as they walked back to their houses.
“So what do you want to do first when you get your sight back?” Meiko asked. “See the sights? Watch a movie? Maybe just gaze into the sky and see the world?”
“No,” he said. “The first thing I’m going to do after the surgery is blindfold myself and wait till I get back here.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because the first thing I want to see is you,” he said. “Agh, that was really cheesy.”
Meiko blushed and stared at him. “That was really sweet,” she said. I’ll wait till you come back then.”
They reached the crosswalk where they went their respective ways and said their farewells.
“I’ll see you in three days,” Hitomu said.
“Likewise,” Meiko called back.
“It’s almost time, it’s almost time,” chimed the angel. “I can’t wait to do our job, don’t you agree?”
“Patience is key,” rumbled the reaper. “All will be done in due time.”
“I love our job,” said the angel as they watched in the shadows of the sidewalk directly across the crosswalk.
Every day after school, Meiko would go to Hitomu’s house and see his parents. They generally liked her, and together they would call Hitomu in America and see how he was doing that day. On the second day, the doctor who operated on Hitomu picked up the phone.
“Hello, is this Hitomu’s parents?”
“Yes,” they eagerly replied. “How’s our son? Is he okay?”
“Sir, Ma’am,” the doctor said slowly.
Hitomu’s parents and Meiko held their breaths around the phone in anticipation.
“Hitomu’s operation,” the doctor paused. “Was a huge success!”
Everybody, including the doctor, cheered. Hitomu’s parents hugged each other, then Meiko as they jumped around the house.
“I don’t know how,” the doctor continued. “But the operation restored his vision to a perfect twenty twenty. It’s a miracle.”
“Thank you so much,” everybody said to the doctor.
“Though I found it a little strange that Hitomu’s first request was to be blindfolded,” the doctor said. “Perhaps you all know something about this matter?”
“Hitomu has something very specific that he wants to see first,” Hitomu’s parents replied. “Something very special to him.”
"Ah, I understand now,” the doctor said. “Well that’s all I wanted to say, and congratulations.”
The third and final day...
Meiko rushed to Hitomu’s house after school to prepare the return home party. They made a cake and put up decorations all around the dining room. They shared a plan to turn off all the lights and pop out to surprise him when he came back. Nothing could ruin this day, Meiko thought. Nothing at all...
About thirty minutes before Hitomu was supposed to arrive, his parents urged her to take a shower. In private, they had bought a beautiful dress for her to wear and planned to give it to her when she came out. After all, this was their son’s to-be-girlfriend.
Meiko rushed to the bathroom upstairs and quickly undressed to bathe. She finished quickly, and covered herself in a towel, but before she could put anything on, Hitomu’s parents came in through the door.
And the Reaper of Souls was behind them, scythe raised and already going in a downwards arc.
A red beanie sat on top of the bathroom sink.
Hitomu was guided out of the taxi cab by the driver and then left him on the front doorstep. The driver drove away at Hitomu’s beckoning and he went through the front door. He undid the blindfold and looked around the house. The entire house was dark and there were decorations up, just as he expected. Hitomu smiled to himself and he slowly walked to the dining room where he smelled the cake. But there was a rather odd smell in the house.
Perhaps they messed up the cake a little bit. He thought. It’s fine.
Then he froze. There was only one person he could hear breathing.
Ah, so they anticipated me hearing them and one of them couldn’t hold their breath any longer, huh, he thought. Clever, but not clever enough.
Then in the darkness, he saw a figure. It was standing up and facing away from him.
“Meiko, is that you?” he called out. “I know you’re all there, so you can come out now.” He reached for the light switch. The figure turned its head, revealing a pair of crimson eyes that seemed to glow.
And the Angel of Death walked up behind him.
“How’s she doing back there?” asked the man driving a large black truck.
His companion looked back into the mobile containment chamber in the back of the truck.
“She’s doing fine,” the other man said. “We had to blindfold the guys that are in the back with her though. Something about looking at her dreadlocks sets her off. In the report, it says that they found a book in her room that told the story of Medusa, a Greek myth about a lady who turned everybody who looked at her into stone. Apparently her parents were really abusive which made her develop Dissociative Identity Disorder, and her alter ego was shaped in Medusa’s image.”
“Well you never know with these types,” said the driver. “They’re all crazy. Say, can you read the report to me again?”
“Yeah, sure,” said the other man. “It says here that at a young age, she murdered her parents in their sleep and their bodies decomposed into bones in her house. We got forensic evidence from the cleanup crew. Then about four years ago, she was the one responsible for the murders of all the little boys in the park. Nobody knew where they went and nothing showed up. Then there was no activity until a little while ago where the bodies of three high school girls showed up in the dumpster near the park. As it turns out, that was the place she dumped the bodies of the boys back then. Seems like she got a favorite dumping spot, huh. Then just today, the parents of her to-be-boyfriend barged in on her in the bathroom and caught a glimpse of her dreadlocks, which triggered her to kill them both. She got one right there, then finished the other downstairs in the dining room. That’s when the to-be-boyfriend showed up and saw all of this. It was his first time seeing, too. It says here that he just came back from a surgery that restored his vision. That’s pretty sad.”
“Yeah,” the driver said. “Go on.”
“Then after the kid takes in the sight of his mangled parents, he grabs a knife from the kitchen and runs out the door, dialing the police, but not before he got three stab wounds to the chest,” the reader continued. “The kid falls over in the place where we picked them up and the girl catches up to the kid, but not before he stabbed himself in the gut, trying to end his own life.”
“That’s pretty sad, man,” the driver said. “How’s the kid now?”
“Well he’s on the way to the hospital right now, but they say he isn’t going to make it there,” said the other man.
“I feel bad for the kid,” said the driver.
The Angel of Death and the Reaper of Souls sat on top of the ambulance that was speeding across the highway. The Reaper of Souls reached down through the ambulance’s roof and pulled. A transparent image of Hitomu drifted up and stayed for a bit, looking very confused.
“Seems to me like this is a job well done, huh,” said the angel.
No it was not.
“Agreed,” rumbled the reaper. “There was too much collateral damage.”
“Well, in the end, all we do is collect the souls required,” said the angel. “We don’t get too much of a say on morals, not that our morals fit what the audience had in mind. Isn’t that the case with you as well, Patrick? You only have one job, and it’s to narrate, though you broke that rule several times.”
So my hunch was right. There is some overseeing entity in my reality.
Indeed there is.
I thought I felt something peculiar. So is this it? Is this my fate? Is everybody bound to a fate they cannot escape? Is that fate made by you? After all, you did predict the change that would happen to Meiko, and yes, I heard every time you communicated with her, I just didn’t know what it was at the time.
“It is time for you to go,” said the reaper.
The soul of Hitomu, the single dream, drifted up and away into the sky, then plunged downwards towards the earth. Towards Hell.
The angel looked downwards where Hitomu’s soul disappeared with those emotionless orange pink eyes.
“The laws of religion are finicky, aren’t they,” said the angel. “He commited suicide, which is self-murder, which is, in turn, an unforgivable sin. This really doesn’t have a happy ending, does it?”
No it does not.