Chapitre 1 - Suicide Season
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Chapter 1 – Suicide Season


"All I'm saying is that we should ask for a real physics teacher who knows what he's talking about."

Cyril was sitting on the floor in the hallway, his back against the wall, varnished electric blue and white by someone who must have thought it would be in good taste when the school was last renovated twenty years ago. Ada, on the other hand, was perched on the back of one of the ugly yellow metal chairs that were bolted to the tiles in this corner of the second floor. Their next class wasn't starting for another twenty minutes - the downside of a schedule designed by a computer rather than a human being.

"Seriously, the next time he screws up a practical demonstration, we should all get up and leave. Don’t you agree?" he insisted, clicking his pen.

"Fuck no. Imagine we're the only two assholes who get up?" she said while continuing to untangle the wires of her headphones.

Cyril shrugged. "I heard the sophomores from MPI class did it with their English teacher."

"I also heard the sophomores from MPI class are a bunch of fucking liars." She stuffed the left earpiece into her ear. The right one only worked if she bent the jack in a specific way, but she'd already spent all her pocket money for the month.

Cyril went back to scribbling in his notebook with his Bic pen without contradicting her. She admired his ability to draw without dreading the impossibility of erasing his mistakes; all the asymmetrical faces got extra eyes, all the features fractured by a clumsy hand became artistic choices. She leaned in for a better look, while Mindless Self Indulgence screamed obscenities into her left ear. Currently, Cyril was busy meticulously drawing interlacing dragon scales, stars and eyes that had almost covered the entire page already.

He looked up and noticed her watching him. The pen clicked, pages were turned at full speed, and before she had time to realize that he wanted to show her a particular drawing, she already had a double page practically plastered against her face. "What do you think?"

She grabbed the notebook and pulled it away a little. The double page was covered with angry lines, shaped like a raven with neon feathers holding an eye in its beak. "You did that? I mean, I know you drew it, but it's not someone else’s design, I mean?"

Cyril shook his head, proud of himself. "When I have enough money, I'll have it done on my back."


"You bet."

"Vivid colors like that don’t hold, over time. And I'm not just saying that because I'm more tanned than you. I saw it in a video. It's going to fade super fast."

"Me too," he said, miming a hanging.

She threw his notebook back at him. "Don't start with that fucking bullshit." He only smiled wider.


"The ST vector, 'see, allows you to determine-"

Ada added a line in the margin of her notebook. 18 of them now. "'See" was the math teacher's verbal tic. She sprinkled it into almost every sentence with the enthusiasm of a kid who would have been given colored sprinkles to decorate their birthday cake. It had become a hobby to count them every class and see if she would break her personal record; it currently stood at 64 "’see" in an hour. Sometimes some of the students would ask unnecessary questions near the end of class, hoping to artificially inflate the number when it looked like a new record might fall.

It wasn't likely to happen today, because they had to solve several problems during which there was little chance that anyone would be able to risk a question, but it was still worth counting, because there were already bets placed on the total number that would be reached at the end of the year.

The general mood turned sour toward the end of the hour when they received their grades from a test that had taken place two weeks before. The class average for this one was disastrous - even Ada, who was a pretty good student, was very surprised to see a 13.5/20 scrawled in red marker on her copy. A grade like that would have delighted an average student, but it was a blow to her intended course of study. Her disappointment was quickly replaced by exasperation, however, when the top student of the class burst into tears after receiving a 15. A wave of murderous impulse seemed to briefly wash through the rest of the class as she blew her nose in her sweater. Ada had a furious urge to throw a chair in her face.

Cyril was sitting two rows back, scribbling on one of his arms with markers. She turned to him, and seeing her looking at him, he pretended to blow his nose in his copy. She suppressed a laugh, then silently enunciated, "How much?". He answered by drawing a "5" in the air and then miming a gun to his head.


In the end, no one had stood up to protest the quality of the physics-chemistry teacher's demonstrations.

Ada was now doing her homework at home, listening absent-mindedly to the radio. She turned down the volume for Katy Perry's Waking Up in Vegas, then turned it up for Linkin Park's Shadow of the Day.

Ada was sixteen and not too sure what that meant. Not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to be asked to choose what would determine her future career. Not old enough to travel alone, but old enough to take driving lessons in a four-wheeled death trap that was going 90 kilometers per hour on the highway.

She thought back to Cyril's drawings and began scribbling abstract star shapes in the margin of her notebook. Their friendship tended to be the talk of the class, who saw them half as some kind of weird pseudo-couple, half as the token emos. In truth, it was just a detention for drawing instead of listening in French class that had brought them together at the beginning of the year, and there was nothing romantic between them. And Cyril was far more passionate about art than she was.

What did she like to do in life? What did she want to do later? Did she have a plan? Did she have any project at all? People kept asking her these questions. She should have a vague idea, right? Not drawing, surely? When in doubt, she had chosen the path that would close the fewest doors for her. Still, she wasn't sure it was the right choice.

On the radio, it was now time for the news. They were talking about the first African-American president in U.S. history. Talking about global warming and the penguins that were going extinct. Talking about a cure for a type of cancer. Talking about the H1N1 flu. Talking about space telescopes. Talking about the economic crisis. Talking about hope. Talking about disasters.

What did she think about all this? She was constantly asked to have opinions about the news too. What did she feel? What emotions? A vague concern, perhaps. A lot of confusion, basically. A lot of aimless anger, certainly.

The future had never seemed blurrier than today.

She threw one of her erasers against a wall. Throwing things was really the only thing that calmed her down whenever she was threatening to explode.

The phone vibrated. New text message.

whats math 5th problem?

I don’t have a lot of texts left just saying

still no unlimited texts?

No. 5th problem is a scalar product


How do you manage

manage what

Not freaking out all the time

turn off the radio

No I mean about your grades

you think im not freaking out?

You're a good pretender

i trained very hard lol

She put her phone down. Maybe she was worrying about nothing. Maybe everyone was completely out of their depth and just pretending to know perfectly well where they stood. Maybe that was what she needed, to pretend she knew what she was doing and where she was going until it ended up being true.

Oddly enough, that prospect wasn’t more reassuring.


The French teacher was not as bad as the Chemistry teacher, and since the Baccalaureate exams were held at the end of the year for his class, he was often followed with a little more assiduity. However, he had a habit of seeing metaphors everywhere (a problem for Ada, who couldn’t see them anywhere), of criticizing invention copies rather cruelly (a problem for Cyril, who only swore by them), and of over-scoring essays (a problem for the whole class, because, for real, who picks essays?)

Here, in this particular case, he was talking about a poem written by Rimbaud, with some turns of phrase that Ada thought were very odd. "My stars in the sky had a soft frou-frou"? What was that supposed to mean? Did the stars make noise? Did they wear dresses? Poetic license had its limits. Hopefully she'd be done with this literary crap next year.

She lingered on the last line, which ended with "a foot next to my heart". She tried to imagine what kind of contortion someone would have to go through to have a foot next to their heart, but her brain returned a 404 error. Maybe that was another weird metaphor. Maybe Rimbaud was very flexible. Maybe it was someone else's foot who was sitting on- Oh. Oh no. She needed to get this image out of her head immediately.

Her reverie was abruptly interrupted when she realized that voices were rising in tone between the teacher and a student in the third row. The rest of the class had their eyes on them and she had missed the beginning of the fight.

"…Just saying, I'm not the only one doing something else during your class."

"If that's the case, the other students at least have the decency to pretend and not spread their homework on the table!"

"That's just because I'm not a big hypocrite, sir."

"Get out."


"Get out of my class right now!"

The guy hesitated for a moment, then shoved everything in front of him into his bag in a heap before pushing his chair back, making it squeak loudly against the prefab floor, and standing up, concluding, "Yeah, yeah, I think that's exactly what I'm gonna do."

The door slammed. One could have heard a fly buzzing.

Before the teacher even had time to open his mouth to pick up where he left off, Cyril stood up and yelled, "LET’S GO, EVERYONE GET OUT!" and Ada reflexively stood up to follow suit.

She stopped when she realized that none of the other students had stood up, that all eyes were now on them, and that the teacher was staring at them with a look of utter incomprehension.


Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Can you explain to me what happened in French class this morning, Ada?"

There was some sort of silly gadget on the school counselor's desk, something shaped like gallows with several metal marbles hanging next to each other, and the counselor must have been playing with it just before Ada walked in for her summons, because the marbles kept ticking together. The chain reaction that made the last marble on the right move and then the first one on the left without swaying the middle three by one millimeter might have been fascinating, under normal circumstances. The present ones simply made it maddeningly regular.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"I understand you're a little shy. You don't have many friends in class. But the reason I sent separate summonses to you and Cyril is because I want to hear your side of the story without him interfering."

A little shy. So that's what she looked like from the outside. A withdrawn and rather timid girl. So the confusion, jitters and latent anger didn't show on the surface, then. After all, no one can hear an internal scream.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"You can be honest with me, I'm not going to shout, Ada."

She felt like grabbing the gadget and throwing it in the counselor's face. It looked pretty heavy. The angles of the gallows looked rather blunt. The mental image of the smiling face brutally disfigured by the impact, sunk in on itself, made her wince involuntarily.

How shy was a ticking time bomb? How far along was her countdown?

She clenched her fingers on either side of her seat as if she could have lifted it and flown out of the room. "Take it easy," she thought. "Take a deep breath. Tell her something, or it won't stop with a note, and it's your parents who will be sitting here on aluminum chairs listening to a silly gadget go tick-tick." She took a breath through her nose.

"I'm not sure why we did that, okay? It was dumb, and we won't do it again."

She risked a glance in the direction of the counselor's face. On closer inspection, her smile seemed forced. Polished over the years to be reassuring, but firm. "I don't think it's that simple, Ada. According to Mr. Hussain, your friend tried to get the whole class to walk out in protest, and you followed him without question. Are you sure you have nothing more to tell me?"

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The condescending attitude also helped to bring her countdown down faster than expected. Not being talked down to was a courtesy that seemed to be reserved exclusively for adults. And why was nobody ever asking a single straight question? What was the counselor trying to get her to say? That they were two dangerous revolutionaries? That she was planning a bad French remake of Bowling for Columbine? That she was being manipulated by Cyr-oh. Ah. Oh no. It was probably something like that. Hence the separate summonses.

"Cyril didn't tell me to protest, if that's what you mean. I just went with the flow."

The counselor flicked the button on her pen, adding a clack to the incessant rhythm of the tick-ticks. "You two are always together between classes, according to your teachers. He seems to have a lot of influence on you."

If she were in an action movie, an intervention team would be sweating over which wire to cut to deactivate the countdown before the entire building blew up in their faces.

"He doesn't have any influence on me, we're just friends."

Tick. Tick. Tick. Clack.

"That's very rare, boy-girl friendships, at your age."

Oh no. No, no, no. No way we're going down that slippery slope.

"We must be an exception, then. We get along great."

Tick. Tick. Tick. Clack.

"Does he encourage you to hurt yourself?"

"Huh? Uh, sorry - no?"

"I'm only asking since he attempted suicide last year."

The mental intervention team was desperately trying to find the red wire in the middle of an imbroglio of multi-colored cables, and was yelling into the radio that everyone left needed to evacuate the building because the countdown had just reached ten seconds.

"I… uh…"

"Are you having problems, at home?"

"What's that got to do with it?"

Tick. Tick. Tick. Clack. Couldn't she at least stop-

"I'm only asking because you're a good student and I don't want you to-"

"Can you stop doing that with your pen?"

The counselor stared at her in bewilderment. The sentence had come out on its own.

"…Please?" she added, very belatedly.

The pen finally came down to write on the page of her correspondence notebook.

"I'm just going to write a note to your parents explaining today's incident. You know that if you have any problems, my door is always open, right?"

Liar. The door was almost always locked between classes. And the gadget kept swinging tirelessly. Tick. Tick. Tick. Was this a demonstration of perpetual motion? A technique of mental suggestion? A form of torture?

"Thank you very much."

"You're welcome, Ada."

Quick. Put the notebook back in the bag. Get out of there before the bomb explodes. Five seconds before detonation. Even the bomb squad had given up.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Smile. Close the door. There's the hallway.

She ran to the study room. It must have been deserted at this hour, since almost everyone had to be in class.

The double door opened with a kick. Ada ran to the last table in the back of the room. Everything seemed to be a blur. She didn't even know what she was doing anymore. She wanted to cry or scream, but nothing would come out.

Instead, an aluminum chair was suddenly thrown with both hands against the ugly varnished wall, with an infernal racket. But that wasn't enough. So it was thrown again. And again. And again-

The fifth time, the chair twisted in the middle because of the impact. In her momentum, Ada fell hard against the wall, heard the sound of a branch breaking, felt some sort of vibration, and a dull pain immediately radiated up her right arm.


fuckin moron


yeah so good job on breakin your wrist btw

She really pissed me off ok

just do what i do and nod your head until she lets you go

thats what i did for my summons lol

Ada was typing the (finally unlimited) texts with her left hand, which took her longer than usual. Her little fit of rage had ended with a displaced fracture of her right wrist, with sprain. She initially thought she would be fine with a cast, but the doctors explained to her parents that surgery was necessary if she wanted to keep the same wrist mobility. She even had to have a plate put on a bone and was not allowed to move her hand for six weeks.

The only advantage was that the teachers were going to send her the content of their classes by email instead of forcing her to take notes - which begged the question: if they could do that, why didn't they do it all the time?

She was trying to figure out how to broach a slightly sensitive topic, and this was the second time she deleted her text and started over.

not so easy to type with the other hand huh

She smiled. Little bastard.

Shut up dunce lol

ok armless freak

What the hell. Might as well just go for it.

The counselor thinks you're manipulating me or something


Idk, she thinks you're making me do dangerous stuff

again wtf

According to her girls and boys can't be friends

ok so shes fucking insane


She took a deep breath. They really needed to talk about that other thing the counselor had told her about. Since then, Cyril's frequent jokes and mimes about suicide kept haunting her. If she kept it to herself, it could destroy their friendship. Why was it easier to smash a chair against a wall than to write a simple question?

We need to talk about something

It was a step backwards to make a jump, but at least it was a start.

oh so she told you about my bullshit from last year uh

she mentioned it too

The temperature in her room seemed to have just dropped five degrees. That said, it had been a lot easier than she expected, after all.

I think she's afraid we'll make a suicide pact or something

thats what i think too yeah

she saw two emos being buddies and she peed herself

I'm not emo I just like punk-rock ok

ok emo

She looked at her room. On the wall, there was still the wallpaper her parents had pasted on when she was a baby, with pastel-colored teddy bears. On top of it, she had hung a few posters, including the Harry Potter movies and a couple of bands, but the only one that could possibly pass for emo was the one of the album Alice & June by Indochine. Ironically, it also had a teddy bear on it, in the background. It was holding a wounded bird between his paws.

Don't even think about the central concept of that album1.

Ah, too late.

Why didn't you tell me about it

about what

Your suicide attempt

idk it never came up

Fucking liar you’re always joking about it

And doing that felt-tip pen stuff on your arms when nobody’s looking

I just didn't know it was based on a real thing

its easier to laugh about it if people dont know the context

felt tip pen is my trick to let off steam

im seeing a shrink dont worry i wont do it again

You want to talk about it or not

i dont really like to talk about it

another day if you like


I wish you told me before that other bitch did it though

me too lol

The temperature in the room had gradually returned to normal without her noticing. It seemed like a good time to change the subject, and there was something else she wanted to tell him about.

You know I was anesthetized for the surgery?

yeah and



The anesthesiologist had asked her to count backwards from ten, and she had only gotten to eight before falling into a dark, comfortable fog. Only she didn't stay there until she woke up.

At some undetermined point, she was suddenly sitting on some sort of transparent plate levitating in an orange sky. She felt good, but a little dizzy, so she had looked down, and realized she was flying over a brightly colored landscape of what looked like various corals and sponges. Everything looked a bit blurry, like looking through someone else's eyeglasses, and she felt nauseous - but she couldn't help but gawk at the strange creatures walking, rolling and jumping across the surreal meadow.

She'd leaned over more to get a better look at a creature shaped like a bicycle wheel pacing a scaly-looking path, slipped off the floating plate, and - and woke up in a hospital bed with a tube stuck in her hand.


I've seen stuff under anesthesia

mh what kind of stuff

Some kind of weird alien world

I'll tell you all about it

We so need to draw this

was it worse than fear and loathing in las vegas


lol ok


"No, more like with a foot at each pole of the axis, yeah, like that…"

The real benefit of the schedule holes was the opportunity to sit in the study room for an hour and draw. It was a four-handed… well, more like a three-handed job. Cyril was not a big fan of color, and his work was often either in black and white or enhanced with fluorescent highlighters. Ada, on the other hand, loved to color, but wasn't very good at drawing anything other than repetitive shapes. The combination of their talents was always a bit clumsy, but the result gave off an explosive energy.

"That's exactly right."

"Are you sure it was an animal? Not a plant or a machine? Looks like a lamp post with a foot on each end."

"It was jumping through the corals, I tell you. From one foot to the other, like this, spinning around with each jump, and the middle would swell up like a bubble and light up from the inside."

"A giant jumping glowstick. I don't know what they gave you but it was good shit."

Cyril was trying to draw the creatures Ada had glimpsed, and she was getting a little ahead of herself by coloring the sky with her good hand as best she could, in shades. Yes, that was it, the sky was orange like this… red toward the horizon, and almost yellow toward the sun. Her friend frowned, and paused in the middle of a line to better listen to what the walkman was playing. "What's this shit? Sounds like sub-subpar Lacuna Coil."

"It is Lacuna Coil. It's on the album that just came out."

"What the fuck happened to them?"

"I think Karmacode was so good they used up all their talent on it."

"Play something else."

She clicked the buttons on the player for a moment, trying to find a song from Snow Patrol, her eyes resting on their drafts of the phantasmagorical creatures they were trying to recreate. It was true that many of them looked a bit like machines or objects. She wondered briefly how the one that moved on spokes arranged in the shape of a wheel managed to get up if it ever fell on its side. Maybe it never got up. Maybe one of those creatures that jumped from one foot to the other fell on it to eat it. What if it wasn't feet? What if it was eating this way? What if it swallowed its food just by falling right on top of it, thanks to the pressure of the shock? How could an ecosystem get to this degree of strangeness? Briefly, she regretted wanting to go into physics rather than biology.

Not finding the song she was looking for fast enough, she clicked shuffle and, to her dismay, Metro Station ended up playing in their headphones. Cyril tapped the paper rhythmically with his index finger while continuing to cross out shadows with his pen with his other hand. She watched, fascinated, as a small alien beast appeared line by line in a wisp of smoke amidst the pink and purple land corals she had colored earlier.

Why was it so important to her to transcribe strange visions that were most certainly caused by a combination of chemicals?

Cyril's sleeve was getting dangerously close to an area he had just crosshatched, and he rolled it up to avoid ruining his work. For the first time, she noticed that the arm he sometimes scribbled on with markers was oddly discolored in several places between the elbow and the wrist, and shuddered.

"Hey. Listen. I want us to make a pact."

He looked at her with round eyes. She continued, "You know that thing in Harry Potter with the horcruxes?"

"The what?"

"Like you haven't read Harry Potter. Dude. Everybody's read Harry Potter."

"…Listen Ada, I'm gonna put this pen down, walk out of this room and-"

"No no no, I'm serious. Look, I want to be your horcrux, okay? I want to make a pact with you so you can't try to off yourself as long as I'm alive.

He was silent for several long seconds before answering. "Like… the opposite of a suicide pact? Some kind of survival pact?"

"Yeah, totally."

"You really needed Harry Potter to explain that to me?"

She began to put her pencils away in her pencil case. "Look, forget it, okay? It was a dumb idea."

He put down his pen.

"I’m in."

She paused, her hand still in her pencil case. He placed his right elbow on the table as if to make a bras d’honneur and repeated, "I’m in, I tell you. Let's go."

"Oh. Uh."

"What? Changed your mind?"

She pointed to her immobilized hand. "No, it's just that uh-"

"Oh, sorry." He resumed the same position, but with his left arm. Their hands clasped tightly enough over the table that a knuckle audibly cracked.

He looked her straight in the eye and added, "But you can't do anything stupid while I'm alive either."


They suddenly became aware that several other students in the room were looking at them funny, and burst out laughing at about the same time at the thought of how ridiculous they both looked.


There were only a few weeks left before the exams. The year had seemed to last both three centuries and three days.

Ada knew she should have studied more, but anxiety made it hard for her to concentrate. Logically, she should have been doing other things to relax instead, but the guilt of not studying was also preventing her from doing anything else. As a result, she was once again sitting on the floor in a hallway during break, her eyes unfocused, bending her wrist, which had only healed a few days ago. Whenever she bent it at certain angles, an unpleasant sensation radiated up to her elbow - not exactly pain, but more like the muscular equivalent of eating a sour candy.

Right next to her was Cyril again, listening to something currently emitting a vague noise of bass and guitar filtered through several digital compressions and cheap headphones. He was nodding his head, lost in his own head, and gesturing like an orchestra conductor on heavy drugs.

She tried to decipher what was displayed on the upside-down screen of the walkman he had placed between them.

"What kind of band name is that? Midnight Blossom, seriously? Sounds super gay."

He reluctantly took out an earpiece and handed it to her. "Here, listen, you'll like this. But yeah, their name is kind of weird. Back when they made their demo, they were called Straight On Till Morning, but their label advised them to change it in case Disney peed its pants, since the quote comes from Peter Pan."

"Okay but why Midnight Blossom? What's the reference?"

"I read an interview with Cecil Fox, uh, the singer, where he said it came from a news story where a chick had offed herself out of the window right next door to him and he had seen the blood stain on the concrete, don't ask me how, and he thought it looked like a flower. Which would have bloomed on the ground at midnight, see."

She sighed, "I guess that's more sophisticated than being called Kill Yourself."

"Isn’t one of your favorite bands called Bullet For My Valentine?"

"Shut up. Just… shut the fuck up."

Cyril handed her the earpiece more insistently. She sighed a second time, unwound the cable and stuck the earpiece in her ear. Brutally bright synthesizer waves invaded her left ear and she winced. They reformed as pulsars before being sliced diagonally by an electric guitar and a throaty howl followed by strangely fragile and wobbly vocals.

"This guy doesn't have a great voice, uh?"

Cyril shushed with a finger and turned up the sound slightly.

"What's the title?"

"Riddle of the Sphinx. Did you listen to the lyrics?"

"Not really."

"It's about a guy who meets the Sphinx and asks her questions about the meaning of life and stuff, but the riddle she asks him in return is so hard to answer he can never leave."

English really wasn't Ada's strong suit. She painfully deciphered bits of the chorus between shouted words and explosions of guitars and synths… "I walk…..? I……? …What am I? What am I?" These last words kept coming back, like an anguished mantra.

Her friend was staring at her as if he was showing her one of his favorite movies and wanted to see her reaction during the best scene. She closed her eyes, plugged her right ear to hear better and leaned against the wall.

"Play it again from the beginning?"

He complied. She pictured him smiling.

The fluorescent synth layers came back, like air currents carrying abnormal clouds, then spread out to reveal a surreal nightmare landscape full of pulsating forms, neither organic nor mechanical, nimbed with unknown vapors. The electric guitar flew by like a fighter jet - no, a creature without no tail nor head, with rigid wings. She still couldn't make out the words, but the landscape was becoming more coherent, the scene clearer; she was witnessing a duel between the winged guitar and the fragile voice, of which only one winner would remain.

The fight culminated in screams ending in electronic glitches. Beyond the synthetic and alien aspect of the production, the pain almost oozed from the headphones, and conflicted with the epic tone of the main melody. The chorus picked up after the bridge with a key change, louder, more desperate. "What am I? What am I??"

An appropriate question, she thought.

Everything ended on an abrupt guitar shred. The landscape suddenly seemed very quiet, and disappeared. Maybe there was no answer to the question of the sphinx of the song. Maybe the confrontation between the winged guitar and the brittle voice only had losers.

Maybe that was the solution: no one had an answer for everything, so after all, why should she? Why should she try to give a shit about anything at all?

She slowly opened her eyes again, feeling as if she was coming out of a trance. Her gaze fell on Cyril, who was now smiling with all his teeth.

"Told you you'd like it."

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