There was a dream the other night. Or whatever you call memories that come back when you’re asleep.
I must’ve been fifteen then. Might not seem like much, but Daniel and I had done some math concerning my ‘actual’ age. The time that I’ve spent in Delirium probably amounted to almost two years. It’s just a matter of calculating the weeks. And then there was that last trip, where I ended up spending months or maybe even years running away. I’ll guesstimate that I spent three or four years there.
Now, from what people have told me about my blackouts, they only lasted for a few minutes. And from what my friends said about Kaya, she didn’t tend to hang around a lot. More often than not, she’d only stay an hour when I’d go to Delirium for a week or so. Either way, it’s really not that much time, which allows me to add those years in Delirium onto my actual age.
So mentally, I’ve lived for twenty years. Maybe twenty one, but I prefer twenty.
…yes. My head is fucked. Its productivity rate of sense is negative fifty thousand. Now shush up and read, nonexistent viewer.
Anyway, there was a dream/memory thing. It was back when I had begun to go to Delirium, when Daniel and I, and Delirium for that matter, were still reeling from Kaya’s death, and suddenly I came and fucked things up even more.
So let me tell you about it.
I run my finger down a blade of grass. It’s the colour of the night sky, and when I bring my finger away, a soft powder is left behind on it. I gaze at it curiously before quickly wiping it away on my clothes.
This whole place is strange…but I know it. I’ve seen it, felt it, smelt it, all through her. But this isn’t her…my hand has ordinary nails, and is about half the size of hers. And my hair isn’t white and falling into my eyes; it’s dark and past my shoulders. But…I feel…disconnected…like merely raising my hand feels like I’m moving through water…
My eyes suddenly close, against my will, and I hear a voice. Lie back down, he says. Let your mind sleep for a while, before they come collect you.
Some part of me recognises him. Not mentally, but my body shivers slightly at the sound of his voice. But before I can connect the face to the voice, my mind slips into unconsciousness.
Something jolts me awake, and I gasp. My head throbs and pulses as I try to gain sense of what’s happening. I hear voices. “Human…childling…esper…Kaya…
At the mention of her, I make myself speak. “Kaya?” I croak out, before a sword is suddenly thrust at my face.
“Silence,” I’m told. I close my eyes, nodding my head slightly, praying I don’t make a wrong move.
“Shall we kill her?” One growls eagerly.
“Don’t be an idiot,” the sword wielder hisses. “Didn’t you see that? Didn’t you hear her speak? Kaya, she said.”
“Why would she know her?”
“Maybe Blackrim’s kidnapper got help from this one, before poisoning her and knocking her out.” I resist the urge to gasp as the sword grazes under my chin. “What is Kaya to you?” he demands.
I don’t know how to answer this question. What relation should I claim? Mentor, jailor, guardian, acquaintance, friend. But as more pressure is applied to the sword, I give an answer. “Sister,” I whisper. “Kaya Blackrim is my sister.”
They’re shocked. It’s hard to hide my disbelief at how stupid they are; Kaya’s whole political career was the result of her being her the only living offspring of her parents. The other speaks first. “Then we should kill her,” he said. “Blackrim’s sister? They’ll send for our heads if they find out we let her go free.”
“Are you a fool?” The sword is taken away from my neck, and I breathe a sigh of relief before I’m suddenly pulled up. “We’re bringing her to the court. High chance they’ll pay a high price for information. Huh?” He pulls me close to him, and I can smell how sickly sweet his breath is. “After that, we’ll split her. What you say?”
I resist the urge to vomit, and he starts binding my arms before throwing me over his shoulder. I close my eyes, squeezing out tears as I’m carried away from the sticky blue grass I’d never forget.
I don’t speak again, not for the whole length of the journey there, despite the both of them providing details of the things they’d do to me after I wasn’t needed any more. There isn’t anything I could do. I know what it’s like to die; Kaya’s death had prepared me for that at least. I swallow the acid that rises inside me at the memory of her dying, and try to think of other things.
It’s fine, I tell myself. Dying is fine. It’ll be okay, you won’t hurt anymore. You won’t have to go through anymore pain, and you won’t see them again. You’ll be free, free from everything. You can finally get away. These thoughts, despite how painful they were, numbed the fear inside me, as I came to terms with my imminent death. Because they were true. Absolutely true.
There’s new voices, and the sound of thunder rings in my ears, getting louder and louder, until the man stops and drops me at his feet. Then, silence.
“A human?” A man barks suddenly.
I open my eyes. The owner of the voice has silver hair, like Kaya did, and moonlike eyes which glower at me when I look at him. He towers over everyone that crowds around, intimidating in both body and voice. Some part of me knows him, though I can’t put a name to his face. “Is that what you have to show me? I am already aware of the plague, there’s no need to bring one of the rats to show me.”
“Human?! Impossible!” The crowd bristles at the stupidity of these two, who are now becoming very, very frightened now that they realise that I lied. “She claimed to be related to Kaya! Her sister, she said…” the man stammered, his voice losing confidence by the second. He glares towards me and raises his foot to kick me. I hiss as he belts me in the ribs again and again. “Lying little shit…” he growls. “I’ll kill you!”
“Cease.” The giant of a man sounds bored. “Is it just me, or are humans proving themselves more capable than ourselves lately? The both of you are letting our race down. You prove yourselves poor excuses for Etheral beings.”
The kicking doesn’t stop. Sighing, the man raises his hand and suddenly, two figures rush past him, heading for my captors. There’s a scream, and something wet splashes against my face, and I slowly look up to see the both of them slump to the ground next to me. For that moment, I can’t breathe. I scramble backward, away from the fresh corpses, only to back into the large man. “As for you,” he says, just as bored as before, “give me one reason to keep you alive.”
He sighs. “Just as I thought.” He raises his hand again.
I feel them behind me, and it’s only a split second before my throat will be opened. “Miranda!” I blurt out suddenly. I don’t know what the point of that word was, but everything freezes. And for the first time, the large man shows something other than complete boredom on his face. His eyes are narrowed at me, and he lowers his hand.
“Miranda…” he muses. “Another sister of yours?”
Flashes of memory come to me, of a woman with long silver hair and wide gold eyes as her throat is spilled out. “No,” I say simply. “Kaya’s mother.”
He belts across my face, and I’m thrown back to the floor. “I don’t recall asking you to speak,” he retorts. “Shut up.”
I hate him. Everything floods back to me. Kaya’s memories fill my mind, I can see everything that this man is responsible for. I get past the pain, glaring at him. “Then kill me,” I growl. “I’m only here because of what I have to say. So if you’re done with listening, then get those shadow things to slit my throat already!”
The crowds are silent, and I’m now deeply afraid. I was all talk, and this dictator before me knows it. All that was a burst of anger, Kaya’s anger. I’m going to die now.
Then he grins, and takes out a knife himself. He’s going to kill me himself? “Maybe there’s more to this ‘human’ than she’s letting on,” he muses, coming towards me. The knife presses against my cheek, biting into my skin, and digging deeper even after scarlet starts trickling from the wound. “Hmm? What’s this?”
I look up, shaking. “Blood,” I whisper. “What do you think?”
He pauses. “So you’ve become one of your pets, have you?” he enquires. “You must be desperate…”
Blood is pooling inside my mouth. I don’t know what to say to this. Does he think I’m Kaya?
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself, Kaya Blackrim?” he hisses, so quiet that only I can hear.
The crowd looks away from the both of us, as if a parent had scolded them for staring for too long. The knife never wavers as the man turns toward the source of the voice, irritation evident on his face. “What do you want?” he asks.
I know him. It’s not Kaya’s memory this time, I can immediately put a face to this voice. But can I trust it? I close my eyes, not willing to look at him.
“What is she doing here?” His voice is trying to remain level, though it’s not succeeding well.
“She? You sound like you know her….” The knife finally moves away from my face, leaving behind a bitter sting.
“I…I do. Kaya and I know her.”
“Knew her.” The man’s voice is smug as he delivers this reminder.
There’s quiet for a moment. “Knew her,” he amends. “Give her to me. I can talk to her.”
“Out of the question.” The large man’s voice is a growl. “I’m interrogating her.”
I hear footsteps approaching me. “About how she ended up here? With a knife? Why are you concerning yourself with these new humans when there’s Kaya’s disappearance to worry about?”
“That’s precisely why she’s being interrogated! Because she knows things only Kaya herself knew!”
I resist the urge to ask him how he knew about those things, in case he decides to stab me in the cheek again. Blood is starting to spill out of my mouth, and I feel like I’m going to faint, or vomit, or both.
“Kaya and Cat knew each other.” The voice is tired. “They were close. Kaya protected Cat when she started seeing shadows, and they began chasing her.”
There’s murmuring that this. “…So that’s the cause of your trips to that realm?” The man says softly. “I see.” I can feel footsteps retreating, and when he speaks again, his voice is fainter. “Question her. And you will tell me everything.”
I jerk as a hand touches my shoulder. “Stand up,” the voice tells me. I obey, and try to stop shaking as he takes my hand and leads me away. “You can open your eyes, you know.” Tentatively, I blink my them open. “Are you alright?”
I look at him and shrug. If I speak, more blood’s just gonna come out. He just sighs. “Here.” He pulls out a piece of cloth and dabs it across my mouth. I freeze. “Calm down. Only wiping away the blood.” He hands me the cloth. “Here. Spit out the blood.”
Hurriedly, I cough everything out, trying desperately not to vomit. “Come on, let’s get away from here,” Daniel says calmly, before pulling me along with him.
He leads me to a room and closes the door behind him. “What the hell did you do?” he hisses suddenly.
This change in temperament catches me off guard. “Wha-”
Daniel grabs my arm. “I swear to god, with everything that’s happening right now, this is not the time,” he growls. “I don’t know how you got away from the monsters, but please understand that-”
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!” I shout at him, pulling away from him. His face is surprised at this and my mouth hurts from simply talking, but I’m not in the place to care. “I haven’t…I haven’t done anything! I just…” I’m shaking uncontrollably, but I’ll be damned if I start crying in front of Daniel. “Just tell me where I am. Please.”
After a moment of silence, he speaks, somewhat cold. “You’ve…probably seen it before. Through Kaya I mean. The palace of the Etherals. Remember?”
I think for a moment, and nod. I can now see the similarities between Kaya’s memory and the decor of this room I’m in. “Fine,” Daniel says, before grabbing my wrists and examining them. I freeze up, but let him do it. “Nothing…” he murmurs. “What did you do then? Drugs? Jumping? Gun?”
“What?” I croak, realising what he’s talking about. “I…I never…”
“You ended up here,” Daniel says stonily. “Look, right now, I could care less why. I can already guess myself. After Kaya’s death and you still having dreams and getting attacked, it would be enough to drive anyone over the edge.”
This chilling assumption makes me feel ill. “Daniel…”
“What?” His voice is still devoid of emotion, of caring.
“I did not, fucking, kill myself!” I hiss. “I get it, I’m weak. But that doesn’t mean…” The urge to start sobbing is hurting my head, and I turn away from him in case it overflows.
He’s quiet. “You didn’t…”
“No.” I focus on getting my breathing back to normal.
“I…I see.” His hand touches my shoulder and I flinch away. “I’m sorry,” he sighs. “I shouldn’t have…it’s just…” He goes quiet and stands up. “That man who…carved into your face. He’ll want information. Where did you wake up?”
“Um…” I remember the strange grass I was lying in when I first opened my eyes. “I’m not sure. It was just…a field. The people who found me would be able to tell you more, but…” I indicate the blood splashed over me. It’s dark, like tar.
“Right…” He thinks for a second. “I’ll tell him that. And…I’ll try to get him to let you stay here. I’ll assume responsibility for you, and you’ll stay in my room most of the time.”
“Wait…I…” It finally hits me. This is my home now. Kaya’s world. But…I see the faces of everyone I’m leaving behind. Batman, Papa Willis, Delamore, Slenderman, Snugglepot… “Never mind,” I whisper.
“Here.” He indicates a large bed sitting in the corner of the room. “Sleep there for now. Things are going to be okay, Cat.”
“What happened then?” I blurt out. “Why am I here?”
“…I really don’t know,” he sighs. “I wish I did. But if you didn’t…then…”
“…am I dead Daniel?” I whisper.
“I’ll find out…but I don’t know Cat. I really don’t know.”