Ellie was there, a wide grin on her face as she saw me approach her.
My steps resonated on that lifeless, empty world.
And then when I looked into her eyes, each a complete void that threatened to swallow me whole, she spoke at last.
“So. Here you are, friend of friends. I hope your little memory adventure went well.”
“Excellent. In that case, we can finally move to the final stage of this Tale, and of all this Story. Don’t you think?”
“Yes, it’s about time. I understand now.”
“Ohoho, such conviction… Then, Mr. Fake Detective. Let us begin. I shall play the role of the perpetrator for this final farce…”
“Sure thing, Miss Fake Culprit. Bring it on.”
Her small and slender figure now towered over me, her imposing presence making all alarms ring inside my body.
But those were just instincts. There was nothing to fear anymore.
“So, Detective. Answer me this. When did this event begin?”
“In a weekday like any other. Right after school had started.”
“I see. Then, Detective. What did I, the culprit, perpetrate in this incident?”
“Murder. You murdered three people. Robbed them of their lives forever.”
“Perfect. And would you be so kind to, in true detective fashion, tell me how everything went down?”
She asked that of me.
But of course, no matter how much she wanted to play fool, she knew I wasn’t a true detective. There was no mystery to be solved here. I was a fake, a charade.
And so, I answered. The only way I knew how.
You lured your loved ones, made them follow your selfish script. But out of carelessness, you failed to account for the setting. You committed a fatal mistake.
Your loved ones were killed. And you couldn’t stand it. You had missed your initial objective, the one you had wanted dead the most, and instead killed the ones keeping you alive. So, lost as you were, you called upon everyone else who was in your side – all of your other loved ones – and betrayed them one by one, until there were none standing.
But you didn’t kill them. You stopped at the heavy wounds, never making them fatal. Which only further increased their pain. And them you left them to rot, you left them to die knowing that they wouldn’t.
After that, you wandered alone with no destination.
You wandered alone, until you arrived at the place where it had all started – and there, sitting in a bench and with their head hanging low, you found your last victim. And then you completely and utterly – killed them.
“Ohh, good job, friend of friends! You’ve nailed the meat of it all, haven’t you! That was certainly the most difficult part. So, so! The excitement rises, the crowd can’t wait! Will you be able to solve the last mystery? Will you be able to… reveal whose corpse that is that lies on that bench, awaiting the day it rots beyond recognition?! You’ve got THREE TRIES, my friend!”
At last, we had arrived at the conclusion. I would answer this question and – finally be released.
“That person… is someone that has appeared in this story before.”
“Excellent! Knox’s First, no issue!”
“No tricks were used in their killing. Both the perpetrator and the victim were unequivocally human.”
“Yes, yes, that’s right! This clears up a bunch of them, you know! Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, all check! Go on, go on, the public’s waiting!”
“The truth can be reached via mere logic, with no need for accidents or intuition. I can also assure that I, the detective, was not the killer, and that I’ve revealed all the information needed for the case to be understood.”
“Ohh, Six, Seventh are covered, and it seems like Eighth is…! Wait. Eighth… Never mind. Please continue.”
Her grin had completely vanished, but it only lasted for a split second. It came and went so quickly that I couldn’t help but doubt my senses.
“And to finish off – no thoughts have been concealed, and no one’s body double had anything to do with this.”
“Hmm, yes. Tenth, check. Though that one was mostly a formality, of course. Anything else you wish to add?”
I thought it over.
But, I really had said everything I could think of. Now there was only one thing left – to say the name of the victim, and we’d be done…
“No. Nothing to add, Ellie. It’s over now. The name of the victim is-“
“Woah woah woah. Stop right there. You’ve failed, friend of friends. You haven’t solved the ninth rule, nor the eighth for that matter. It was so fucking easy, but even so, you’ve still managed to fail. This is no longer anyone’s fault but your own. As it always has been.”
I struggled to make sense of all of this. In an instant I had gone from being completely confident to terribly afraid. I looked Ellie straight in the eye.
But her face – Ellie’s face, it looked like it wanted to kill me, to assassinate me, to cut me down to pieces-!
“Wh-what…? What do you mean I’ve failed?! I answered everything right, didn’t I!”
“OF COURSE NOT, FUCKING IDIOT! YOU’VE LIED TO ME AGAIN! YOU’VE LIED TO YOURSELF AGAIN!!! What do you MEAN you have presented all the clues?! What about that scene you completely refused to remember?! WHAT ABOUT IT?!”
“What about… That scene wasn’t necessary! It was just superfluous information! It could be deduced from elsewhe-“
“NO IT COULD NOT! And that’s not all. That’s not even the worst part. The most insulting, horrendous, impossibly idiotic thing is – all your thoughts are a lie! They’ve been since the very beginning! You know as well as I do, about what happened back then! Why, why do you keep hiding it from yourself! Why do you keep lying to your own mind like that?!?! It’s impossible, it makes no sense, why can’t you ACCEPT IT?!”
As Ellie broke down completely, I crumbled in fear. I fell to my knees, shaking from pure terror.
“LIAR! What terror and what piece of shit! Everything, it’s all a lie, for fuck’s sake! Why must you exist? Why must I exist? Can’t we just end this already? You were SUPPOSED to UNDERSTAND with this game! One more tale, one more fantasy, one more chance for you to get it! But you didn’t! You held tight to your fucking, fucking, fucking, FUCKING ESCAPISM! …Okay, you know what. I’m done. I’m off. Go die alone. That’s what you wanted, no? To indulge in happy self-insert, wish-fulfillment fictions of your brain until you just rotted away in the middle of nowhere! Then so be it, have it your way, I don’t give a fuck! Dying is all you deserve, scum! Those that are already dead will never come back!!!”
“Ellie, no… Please, I beg you… I don’t want to end like this…”
“Oh? That’s surprising. NOW you decide to be honest? Too late, BRO. I said I’m done, and I’m done.”
“No… please, I want to hold on to that last hope…!”
“Oh. Oh, I see. You refuse to acknowledge the issue, but pray every day for the solution to magically come. Hate to break it to ya, but that’s not how it goes.”
“I beg you-!”
“Why, why… why must you be so scared of me? Why… must you be scared of yourself?”
And so she vanished.
Alone, I had nowhere to go. Nothing to do.
I looked up at the sky.
From that bench in the park, where the corpse that had once been me waited for nature to reclaim it once more.
RAMPAGING RAVEN END
ME: Main Character, Detective.
ELLIE: Main Character, Culprit.