Speckle Eye

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She was standing in the middle of the road, right outside my house. I froze the second I saw her. What was she doing here?

It was then that our eyes met. Even in daylight they seemed to glow. It was the first time that I’d seen the deep gash on the right side of her face instead of the left, I noted. Then she started walking directly towards me at approximately the pace of a charging cheetah and before I could run, she grabbed me. “Cat Madigan?” she demanded. I nodded my head rapidly. “Good.” She released me. She was only slightly taller than me, and even then she seemed to tower over me. “What do you know about me?” she continued, becoming more and more frightening by the minute. 

“Um…” I swallowed. “You’re…Kaya, right?”

“Indeed. Now, why have you been watching me?”

“Huh? Watching-ow!” She had grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. Oddly enough, this terrifying woman was less frightening to me than the shadows were. I had probably seen too much of her life to be afraid of her by this point.

“Answer me!” she snarled. 

At that point, I decided it would be a good idea to scream out for Daniel; if Kaya was here, then chances are, he was too. Before I could though, I heard a roaring sound, and I turned to Kaya. “Get off the road!” I yelled. I wrenched myself out of her grasp, grabbed her, and pulled us back onto the side path. The asshole in the sports car zoomed past seconds later, making no attempt to slow down not only for us, but for another car pulling out of the driveway. 

I looked back at Kaya and tried not to laugh. Her eyes were bugging out of her head, her jaw hung open. No, it was more than that, she was visibly shaking. “…you okay?” I asked tentatively.

“What the FUCK was that?” she screeched. That was it. I lost it. After failing to conceal the first snort of laughter, I just doubled over, giggling helplessly. 

She looked down at me, confused and irritated. “What are you doing?” she said suspiciously.

“Your face,” I crowed. “I’m sorry, I really am, but…” I just buckled over laughing. Kaya stared at me. “It’s okay,” I reassured her. “It was just a car, they come by all the time here. Don’t worry about it-”

Don’t worry about it?!” she shrieked. “That thing tried to maul us! Just because we were in its way! Didn’t you hear it growling at us? I knew you humans were murdering bastards, but…why are you still laughing?”

Tears were streaming down my face. I suddenly had a vision of a Hungry Hungry Hippo totting down the road like Pacman. Omnomnomnomnomnom… “Oh Christ, oh god…” My stomach was starting to hurt. 

Eventually, I managed to calm down. I looked up, and saw that the anger had faded from Kaya’s face. “Okay, I’m okay now,” I informed her. “Are you okay?”

She nodded. “You, on the other hand, are insane.” 

“Uh huh.” I grinned. “Well aware of that.” Kaya was quiet again. “Do you want to come inside?” I asked. She hesitated. “It’s okay,” I reassured her. “They…the humans can’t see you here.”

“That’s why-”

“No, I mean they literally can’t see you. You’re invisible.”

“…invisible?” I nodded. I held out my hand for her to take, but she just stared at it. “Okay…” I sighed, taking it away.

She stood there. “What…did that mean?” 

“What?”

“…you offered me your hand. What did you mean by that?”

“…it’s a gesture,” I said weakly.

“What kind of gesture?”

“…friends?” I didn’t know how that would go down with her. “Forget it, I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m sorry. Do you want to come inside?”

Silence. I took this moment to look at her face. There was no cruelty in her gaze, quite the opposite; she was scared. If you took away her scars, her mutant purple eyes, there was just a scared little girl.

Suddenly, she thrusted out her hand, holding it in front of me as I had done. She looked at me expectantly. 

Without question, I placed my hand over hers, and the claws closed around it.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Why are they screaming at eachother?” Kaya asked, as my mother and father screamed at eachother while we quietly walked past them.

I shrugged. We ducked inside my room. “You’re lucky,” I told her. “It’s one of the cleaner days.”

Inside was Daniel. “There you are,” he said, walking over to Kaya. “Everyone at Helevia is having a heart attack right now, are you aware?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “Can you let them know I’m alright?” Daniel looked confused. “I’ll return soon. Unless you’d prefer to stay here with us.” She seemed oblivious to Daniel’s lack of interest or notice of me. I flushed and turned my head.

Daniel sighed. “I’ll go back. Will you be taking care of her from now on?” For the first time, he acknowledged my existence in this room.

“What do you mean?”

“Shadows follow her. That’s why Nereida sent me here to begin with. More often than not, I have to rescue her from them. But if she’s more comfortable with you…”

He can’t wait to be away from me. “If she wishes,” Kaya said mildly. “I cannot always be here however, and you seem more adept at this than I am.”

Daniel nodded. “I’ll see you then,” he said to her. He started walking towards my door.

“Goodbye,” I said softly after him.

I hadn’t expected him to reply. “Good day, Miss Madigan,” he said absently. Then he was gone.

“You don’t like him?” Kaya questioned me.

“It’s not that,” I told her. “I’m just…well, he doesn’t really like me.”

Kaya thought for a moment. “He was glad to have saved you,” she said to me. “He just doesn’t enjoy being in this world.”

“Why?” 

“Because no one sees him.” Kaya sighed. “Everyone one in my world but Nereida sees him as an animal. And in your world, everyone treats him as though he doesn’t exist. You as well.”

Guilt swelled up in my stomach. “I don’t know what’s real anymore,” I said in a whisper. “I’m…I’m the only one who can see you; no one else can. I’m…” I looked pleadingly at Kaya. “Please tell him I’m sorry. If he wants to speak with me, I’ll come with him and talk privately. It’s just…”

“-you don’t want everyone looking at you strangely,” Kaya finished. I flushed. “No, I understand. It’s obvious how this would look to other humans. And you shouldn’t be discriminated for talking to us. I’ll advise him on this. And what you said.”

“…thanks.”

We sat there quietly. I looked up at her. “Why have I been seeing you?” I asked.

Kaya frowned. “I came to this world to ask you this as well. Nereida tells me nothing.”

“What did she tell Daniel?”

“That a special girl needed saving.” I snorted at being called ‘special’. “And if he saved her, then she’d help him find his home.”

“…what good is that going to do?”

“Why do you say that?” Kaya’s eyes narrowed.

I looked down, suddenly afraid. “No one can see you guys,” I reminded her. “Even if Nereida finds out who he is, he won’t be able to go back. Not if they can’t see him.”

“Worst case scenario, he finds out what happened to his loved ones, and gains closure,” Kaya returned.

“…what would he do then?” 

“That’s up to him.”

“…I cannot imagine a fate worse than being invisible and alone.” 

“He won’t be alone.” I looked up to find Kaya staring at me. “You and him have the same eyes, you know.”

“We do?”

“Yes.” She gazed intently, holding my chin with her hand, careful not to claw me. “Millions of little lines, multicoloured dots. Blue, green, grey, gold, brown, olive. Scattered like a cluster of stars. You both have galaxies for eyes.” She turn turned from me and stared at her reflection in the mirror. “We only have the one colour. We’re so…dead. You humans are so full of life, so dynamic. Me and my mind, we’re all monsters. Not just me. We’re not all aware of it, but we are.”

“…no. You’re really not.” I took her hand and pushed myself against her chest, wrapping my arms around her. She froze, then after a few seconds, returned the hug.

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Better Than Me

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I should really stop dreaming.

Also, there was a legitimate reason for me not posting. WordPress on my iPad wasn’t working. Not to mention Year 12 is crushing my soul. 

Anyway. Flashbacks fucking suck. The end. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 “Well? What do you think?”

I jump as the man behind me speaks suddenly. After quickly looking around for humans, I speak. “What do you mean?” 

 “I know you know,” he says flatly. 

 “About what?” 

 “About what just happened. Come on. What do you think?” 

 I turn around slowly. “Kaya…disappeared. After someone crashed into the palace, right?” 

 “…you know that someone, don’t you?” 

 “…” 

 “Who was it? Did you see them?” I can see that Daniel’s trying to keep his voice as non threatening as possible, but I can still feel the tension radiating from him. 

“…I didn’t need to,” I whisper. “There’s no one else it would be.” 

 “Who?” 

 “He killed her,” I say to him. “How could you not consider him?” 

 He’s silent for a moment. “You mean…” 

 “Yes.” 

 “But he’s in hiding. Why would he steal Kaya?” 

 “I don’t know. Because he can?” I feel drained from this conversation. Daniel’s eyes won’t leave my face, as if I’m hiding something. Which I am.

“You know what Kaya’s capable of,” I explain. “If he could control Kaya, imagine what he could do.”

It dawns on him. Even though this is more of an attempt to sway his attention away from the truth of her death, it is a genuine concern, not just for him, but for Kaya’s world. Not that I care. “You’ve got a point,” he says. “With Kaya’s body on life support, it wouldn’t take much for someone like him to reanimate her. She’d be a true weapon then.” My blood runs cold at the image of Kaya taking a step like a puppet dangling from a string, so much closer to reality than he realises. “I don’t understand why he’d leave her on the lake after killing her though,” he argues. “Why would he let the enemy take her back only to retrieve her again? As a result, we now have new information concerning Esper tech. Not to mention it would be a more effective strategy to leave us in the dark on Kaya’s status.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he’s just showing off. Showing us that he can infiltrate the castle. Putting us on edge.”

“Why not just kill us then?”

I frown. I didn’t take Daniel to be the type to not percieve this. “Obviously he wants to torture us before he kills us. It would be more fun for him that way.” I let my disgust of the monster show on my face.

Daniel just stares at me. “Since when do you know how psychos work?” he enquires.

I shake my head. “I’ve been watching monsters longer than you,” I told him. “Their insanity isn’t that hard to pick up on.”

Daniel accepts my excuse. “Still, it’s a big risk, letting us take her back. Would he really gamble the goals of the Espers for a quick thrill?” he contemplates.

“He’s not working for them,” I object too quickly. Immediately, Daniel’s face becomes suspicious again. I quickly clarify. “I think he hates them as much as he hates us,” I say. “He has no side but his own.” Just like Kaya.

Daniel watches me for a moment, and I worry that he’s picked up on what I didn’t say. For a moment, I feel guilty that I’m keeping this from him. If our roles were reversed, I’d want to know the truth. Then he speaks again. “He’s like you then,” he concludes. “No other concern except for himself. Maybe it’s not just Kaya’s viewpoint that makes you understand him.”

His words are cruel, and they sting as if he slapped me. Why was that necessary? I look away from him, gritting my teeth in silence. One thing was for certain; any pity or guilt I felt for him immediately vanished.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That incident didn’t stay on my mind for long. Things at home were horrible, and though Daniel’s words stayed in my head long afterwards, I focused on other things.

Then he found out.

I didn’t speak to him when he appeared in my room. I never did. I always waited for him to start talking. And then he did. “Suicide,” he said flatly. 

My stomach leapt. 

“It was suicide,” he repeated. “Kaya knew she was going to die. And she did it anyway.” He stared at me, no set expression on his face. Then his eyes narrowed. “How long did you know?”

“…from the beginning,” I admitted, closing my eyes and shutting off my computer. I pushed it aside and sat up.

“Why?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“She didn’t want me to.”

“That’s not for her to decide,” he argued. “For gods sake, she was your friend too. How could you just accept this?”

I was shaking. “What could’ve I done?” I pleaded. “I couldn’t go into your world, remember? What could’ve I done to stop her?” Daniel continued to glare at me. “You don’t think I tried to stop her? After she told me, I begged her not to do this. But she ignored me, and then she was gone…” I took in a deep breath. “I knew her plan,” I admitted. “But there was only so much I could do. After she left, there was no way-“

“You could’ve told me!” he shouted. “I could’ve stopped her!”

“You would’ve. And then Kaya would been thrown in prison for conspiracy to high treason,” I retorted. 

“But that bastard would still be in jail. They would’ve released Kaya-“

“They killed her mother!” I blurted out. “And they wanted Kaya dead too, five years ago. Don’t you get it? This way, those men will die at the hands of the Espers. This is her revenge.”

“She wouldn’t give her life-“

“She would. You know that, don’t you?”

“I…” Daniel’s face was mixed with rage and despair. That’s when I figured it. He already knew that she’d give her life for this. That wasn’t the issue. It was that Kaya would throw him to the sharks too, despite everything they went through together. 

“Daniel…” The name was strange on my tongue. I had never called him by name before, and it was awkward. “I’m sorry,” I said at last. There wasn’t really anything else I could say.

Daniel quietly looked up at me. Immediately, I tensed up, already anticipating what was coming. And I was right. “Of course, it would be fine for you,” he spoke darkly. “None of this effects you. Even if Kaya’s dead. All you have to do is sit back and watch everyone die. That shouldn’t be too difficult.”

I had gotten up from my bed and had been pacing up and down my room for a while now, randomly picking up stuff from the floor, as if that would stop his words from hurting. He went on. “Nereida, Kaya, you’ve watched people die before. You’ll probably cheer when one of the Espers tears my fucking head off-“

That’s when I swung around, my fist smashing against his face. He stumbled back, caught off guard. Immediately, I backed away slightly, waiting for him to react. I just knew he’d get back at me. I knew that it was only a matter of seconds before I was lying on the ground getting the shit kicked out of me. I had no idea what possessed me to hit him.

Moments passed, and I realised that the blows I had been bracing myself for never came. Daniel just stood there, watching me, as if I was some strange beast that had escaped its cage. He once stared at Kaya the same way, in fact. “I deserved that,” he said finally. “I…shouldn’t have-“

“Shut the fuck up,” I hissed suddenly. His eyes widened. “How dare you. What do you take me for? I’m not…I’m not this twisted psycho who gets off on watching people die!” I was steadily losing control, but I didn’t give a crap. “Do you think I enjoy being able to do nothing? Do you think I’m happy to just sit there while people I care about die?! Why…” I tightened my hands into fists. “Why do you think I’d want you to die?!”

I could’ve slapped him for the incredulous look on his face. “You don’t?”

“No…” The anger quickly evaporated, and I was left trying to hold back what seemed like an endless supply of tears. “Don’t be stupid. If you died…” There’d be no one left to help me, I finished in my head. But I wouldn’t say them out loud to him. 

“…I spent the last few minutes verbally abusing you. You should hate me,” Daniel countered.

“I don’t.” I feel tired all of a sudden, and I sit down on the bed. “Kaya…was important to you too. I can understand how you feel.”

“….how do you do that?” he asked quietly. 

“…do what?” 

“Justify it. How can you allow people to do things to you that you can just sweep under the rug?”

I thought about that for a moment. It was just so…natural, that I never even questioned it until now. “It’s just…” I struggled to say, “it’s not like there aren’t more horrible people than them.”

“Like who?” Daniel retorted. “Is it even possible to hate someone who’s never done anything to you?”

“Yeah. It is.” If I looked at Daniel, I would burst into tears, so I kept my eyes firmly closed. “You were right, you know. About people who can’t do anything. Sometimes you can hate people so much just because they were involved and couldn’t, or didn’t, do anything to stop it.”

“…you mean…”

“…I’m sorry,” I said to him in a whisper. “I need to be alone.”

“You’re shaking…”

“I don’t care. Just go. Please,” I begged. 

For the first time since I had known him, Daniel did as I asked. I was finally left alone to shed the tears that I had locked in for the entire conversation. And for the rest of the night, I lay there, holding my knees and hating myself.

Next thing I knew, I was in Delirium.

Infinity

Standard

Let me close my eyes.

When I open them again, they’re yours. But what does that mean?
_______________________________________________________________________________

“GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!” I screamed, obliterating the Espers whose claws were digging into me. “How…much…longer…”

Neekah finally came into view. About fucking time. “So savage…

“Stop,” I hissed. “What do I have to do to make this stop? I’ll do it.”

No shame at all…

“Nope. None at all. I’ve given up,” I said flatly.

One more, my love. One more.

I closed my eyes. I had been attacked by the mangled body of my mother, a screaming Jhaq, and finally, I’d been thrown back into a war where I finally gave up and let them tear me to pieces, only to wake up hearing Emisair barking orders before I was let lose into another. I just wanted to go home, wherever that was. I wanted Daniel…And that bastard knew it.

One….more….

…of course. Who else was left?

Oh god, what was this bastard going to pull with him?

My heart throbbed. Daniel… I opened my eyes, and stared at him. “Oh…”

He lay motionless, all life drained from him. His eyes were blank and empty, as if he were a stuffed animal. Was he going to come alive like Kaya had? But surrounding him were at least a dozen Espers along with a large array of lights and screens. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

Wait.

Eyes.

Two of them.

The right side of his face was completely unscathed. It wasn’t just the fact that his eye was still there; he looked younger than I had ever seen him. But it was undoubtedly him.

The Espers started murmuring suddenly, and I watched helplessly as wires were connected to his head and needles were inserted in his skull, causing the lights to start moving in a pattern that would only make sense to them. I didn’t know what was going on, but I could only assume that this was another distorted image that he was showing me. Another ‘scene’ he was creating.

The ‘Daniel’ gave out a sigh, and the Espers began speaking directly to him. “State your name,” I heard one say.

“Mmm….” It was as if he had a frog in his throat. “Mmmah….mmmahphh…mmmahphheeeu.”

….huh?

Matthew? Before I could think any further, he spoke again. “No…..I’m…wait….Gah….Gabe? Gabriel? I…” His voice was finally becoming clearer, though the things that came out of his mouth made even less sense.

“Two of the personas have been recognised,” one of the Espers spoke. “Continue uploading.”

I didn’t know why I was paying so much attention. This was all fabrication, it wasn’t real. It was all in my head…it didn’t make sense, none of it made sense. And why did it matter that it didn’t, this was not real!

In an attempt to remove myself from the situation in front of me, I looked around to see where exactly I was in this place. As I adjusted, I figured that I was looking down on this situation. Was I in a cell then? Wait…

Slowly, I raised my head to see my hands cuffed to the ceiling in front of me. I almost automatically became overwhelmed with nausea, as I made myself check behind me. Yup. That was the case for my legs as well.

Okay…

Carefully, I let the skin on my left hand heat up once again, and after a while, the metal began bubbling into a boiling liquid. I ignored the searing hot fluid burning my skin and focused on removing my hand from the cuff. Ow. I held the hand out in front of my face and analysed it. No cuts. Giving myself a moment to recover, I placed my left hand on the right cuff.

It was then that Daniel began screaming. My eyes flashed back to the scene below me, helpless to do anything but watch as the lights went haywire and the Espers hurry to wrench the wires and cables out of his skull. “Let me go!” he snarled, spasming uncontrollably. “No! Noooooooooo-”

With a loud zap, he suddenly fell silent, and slumped. His eyes fluttered shut. One of the Espers sighed, pulling out one last wire. “Encase the brain,” they murmured. “Send the subject to Readers for examination.”

“What alterations are required?”

A pause. “Wait until it’s awake, and capable of speaking. After analysing speech patterns, see if you can close off some of the data implanted. Then analyse it’s interactions once again.”

I squeezed my eyes shut as I heard them all walk away, Daniel in tow. I couldn’t bear to see his lifeless body strung along like a puppet. “I fail to understand why this is necessary,” a remaining Esper spoke, not walking with the others. “A functioning form is all that is needed, why bother giving it a personality?”

“We’ve already established the creation process,” the same one who was giving the order replied. “However, there are Etherals who would be greatly interested in the ability to change one’s personality. Who knows? We might not have to create more subjects if they are willing to supply us with them.”

“Still, I’d hardly call the creation process ‘established’. The other creations have been giving out as of late. We may no longer have ones to spare for extra experiments such as this.”

“Alas, this one is already spoken for. If there’s no more forms for Mutations, then it is up to them to create more. However, I’m not to take responsibility for the ones who lose control when it comes to experimentation. Hmmph. If one can call it that.”

“I believe that I’d have to agree. It’s still functional, despite everything. It wouldn’t do any good to simply send it to those who are all too happy to destroy it. Especially if it gains the ability to act as a natural subject would.”

“That’s indeed what I’m hoping for. An artificial being that is capable of thinking, feeling, reacting identically to a natural being.”

“You aren’t craving companionship are you? Mayhaps you shouldn’t be here, if you’re wanting more.”

“You’re the one making jests. It’s not a habit you should retain.”

“Hmmph. Even if your experiment is successful, it’ll be used for some other task after the Etheral are satisfied with your ability. If it’s physically functional, then it can be deployed for other more important things.”

“Very well. Once the data is confirmed as the prototype for later experiments, I’ll-” The Esper was suddenly cut off as my right hand suddenly broke free of the cuff and my upper body dropped.

For a few seconds, I just hung there upside down by my ankles in silence as they stood there frozen in disbelief.

Then I raised my hand and finished them off.

As the laboratory burned, I heard footsteps behind me. “That wasn’t necessary,” he purred. I closed my eyes, and felt my tears run down my forehead. “There there…” he said soothingly, wiping my forehead with his slimy hand. “Would you like to come down?

My eyes blinked open and I glowered at him in silence. In response, his hand cracked across my face. “Fuckin’ bitch,” his voice snarled. Obviously he got bored again. “Say something’. You know the truth now, don’cha? Your darling Prince Charming isn’t even human. Cmoooooon. Gimme some reaction!”

“Don’t give me that bullshit,” I hissed through the pain. “There’s no way that this is fucking real. You’re an illusionist, this is what you do. You mess with people’s heads, you messed with Kaya’s head, you messed with Nereida’s head!”

Urrrrrgh…god you’re dense,” he groaned dramatically. “Jeez, aren’t you meant to be the open minded one?” He shook his head and immediately, I felt myself falling to the ground. Instinctively, I braced my hands for impact and pushed against the cold metal floor so that I could roll safely onto its surface. “Very well. Why is it so difficult to believe Nereida and Daniel? Yes, yes, those weren’t their present forms, I believe that’s abundantly clear. But why does that mean that it’s not them?

Before I could object, he lifted me up off the ground and onto my feet. “Consider me an illusionist with a cause,” he said. “Both you and Kaya searched for the truth, and that’s what I’m giving you. It’s merely that you’re denying that it’s real because it’s something only you can see.” He chuckled darkly, his rotting face contorting into a strange grin. “That’s a bit rich, when you think about it. Why is what I’m showing you different from the entirety of my world to you?

I clenched my teeth. His words were all too familiar. How many times had I used that argument? Just because someone else can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Pain, love, knowledge… It’s amazing how people can completely ignore the things they can’t, or even refuse to, understand. Even though I was forced to admit that the world in my head was essentially a hallucination, I never ignored it, because it was just as real as the world I was born into. And so was this experience he had dragged me into. Why should I deny that his word was truth?

I found a valid argument. “Stop trying to confuse me,” I said. “The experience with you, Nereida and I had never happened. I don’t know whether or not that’s how Nereida felt, but that definitely never happened. That wasn’t reality. Also…there’s no way that you would’ve known about Daniel’s life when he was imprisoned. Because they didn’t upload him to the network. He was considered unsuitable for experiments.” I pushed the memory of Daniel hooked up to those computer-like mechanisms out of my head. “And in the real world, you wouldn’t be allowed to set foot in the facility. So…wouldn’t that experience be purely based on your interpretation? Considering of course you’re not making that up…right?” I felt so drained by this argument. I was still trying to make sense of everything happening around me. The only thing I was clinging to right now was the fact that this was all something that he implanted in my head, a figment of my imagination. Because if this was another Delirium, then what the hell was happening to my head?

After a while, he spoke again. He sounded normal, well, as normal as he could’ve been. “Do you wish for an explanation?” he asked me. There was nothing hidden in his voice.

“…yes.”

He turned around and walked toward the hallway, toward more laboratories. It was then that I realised that this room was on fire. “Follow me.

I couldn’t allow myself to put my trust into this madman, no matter how normal he seemed now. But still…curiosity drove me to follow him into the darkness.

At last, we came to a door. “Ready?

I nodded faintly. He opened it and stepped inside, beckoning for me to follow. I stepped inside, and took it all in.

It was a playroom. More specifically, my playroom. I recognised the pink paint and the stickers covering the walls. “Why have you taken me….”

I was cut off by the sight of Kaya’s corpse lying on the ground, along with the body of a girl with long brown hair and hollow green eyes. My eyes. And next to them was…

“There’s…two of you?” I croaked.

Quiet now. Do you want to know how you were created or not?” Neekah asked, the one who lead me here.

“I…thought you were explaining how this was real.”

I am. You’re just being impatient.

“I think I have that right.” I approached my body and felt for a pulse. Nothing. Suddenly, something clicked in my head. Slowly, I turned my head toward Kaya’s body, toward the familiar, whirring sound coming from the life saving device inside her. “…oh.”

Are you beginning to realise?”

“…I don’t know. I…think I can gather how I ended up in Delirium though…and maybe something else. Assuming this is true, of course.” I looked at the second Neekah. “What are you planning to do here?”

He laughed in response. This one was still insane. “Very well…Miss Blackrim here has kindly followed me home, you see. Gave your lot quite a shock, you know. Anyway…she needs to go back, to do a little job for me. However, she can’t go back as the poison dragon with the poisonous tongue, you see. She needs to go back as a sweetling, an innocent child for them to corrupt. But not just any sweetling. A sweetling that has all their secrets, too dangerous to live, alas, there’s no way for her to die.” He gave me a bright smile that sent chills down my smile. “Let us make it a human sweetling, just so that it can pose as one of many who have come here by accident. A human sweetling that a lonely freak can keep as a pet.” It was then that he raised a sharpened sword and swung it down on Kaya’s hand. And then the other. “We must keep this though,” he said, rolling her onto her back. I took in the sight of the disc and flinched. “For a pretty, innocent and mysterious sweetling isn’t going to get off so easily with them. They’ll kill her again and again in order to get their fill.

In the span of a second, he raised his sword and swung it down on Kaya’s long neck. A black, murky fluid flooded out onto the floor, painting her face and hair. My stomach flipped and my head started spinning. And then he walked over to the girl who looked like me. I turned my head, not willing to watch him brutalise what I believed to be my corpse. “You should be thankful for all the effort I went to, in order to create an exact likeness of you,” Neekah said to me, the original one. “They’ll consider your hands, your feet and your face, but not much else. Though rest assured, your personal attributes shall be accounted for.” He walked away from me, towards my twin and kneeled down next to her. “Do you want anything adjusted? But your skin is already so silky…and your hair…” To my horror, he lifted up the girl’s freshly severed head and held it close to him. He started whispering words I couldn’t understand, as if he was soothing her. Blood spilled out onto his hands, and he stared at it, as if he was seeing the sun for the first time. Then he spoke again. “Just like a rose…” he sighed, taking a finger to his lips.

Hey!” the other man snapped, swinging his sword up, getting ready to drive into the madman holding my head. “That blood belongs to the freak with two heads! Give it back!

I started shaking then. Another time, another place, I ended up dead so that I could exist in a world I didn’t belong in. It wasn’t me though; but it could’ve been. They might’ve chosen me to get cut up, so another version of myself could travel to another world, another Delirium. I raised my trembling hands to my face, seeing nothing but blood. In another world, I was kidnapped and slaughtered like a pig. Maybe I didn’t even know Delirium existed. Why….

“Why?” I croaked. “Why did I have to exist here? Why…why did you have to kill her…so that I could live?”

Don’t feel so important,” Neekah told me, skilfully dodging his doppleganger’s swings. “You’re not the only one who gets to live. In an infinite amount of worlds, there is a Cat Madigan split between two worlds, choosing between the world she was born in and the world that only exists in her head. And in an infinite amount of worlds, there’s a Cat Madigan who is taken in order to play her part in a very important project. And in an infinite amount of worlds, that project ends up failing.” When Neekah looks up at me, I see no madness anymore. Only hard determination. “That’s your role in this. I want you to bring about a world where we succeed. And if you can do that, then you can return to your world for good. Isn’t that what you want?

It took a while to sink in, the words return to your world for good. At first, my mind was overcome with the knowledge that my existence in Delirium was the result of murdering another Cat Madigan; maybe even one who never was Cat Madigan. Maybe she had grown up without Kaya, without Daniel, until one day, she had an encounter with a corpse like man that would result in her death at his hands. And that could’ve just been easily been me.

And then it hit me. Delirium could stop. I didn’t have to have blackouts ever again. The hallucinations could stop, the dying could stop, the bloodshed could stop.

…Kaya could stop.

……so could Daniel.

Was that what I wanted?

I was so absorbed with this that I didn’t notice that Neekah had managed to come in close to my face. “Well?” he said, chuckling as I leapt back.

I straightened up and inhaled. “Tell me more about the project,” I ordered him. “I’m not agreeing,” I said, as he started grinning hungrily. “I doubt that you’d let me go unless I listened to what your purpose was. But if this is the only chance I have of returning to normal…then I have no choice but to take it.” My voice became a whisper.

As you wish…but we might want to go elsewhere.” He indicated his alter ego, and I realised with a shock that he was on the ground with a sword in his back. “Any requests, ma cherie?

“…I have one.”

I am all ears.

“…take me to your world,” I told him. “Take me to the world inside your head. Show me what the world looks like to you.”
_______________________________________________________________________________

The world that he envisioned…

It’s before me now, an endless abyss, nothing but shadows.

I shaped this world. Creator, destroyer, it depends on the teller. As my friend once said, history is written by the victors, or in this case, survivors.

What do you think when you’re here? Are you proud of me? Angry? Not that I care. You were once so important to me. However, I don’t know anymore if I was just another pawn in your mind games.

It doesn’t matter though. You’re gone now. Erased from existence, sealed away, I wouldn’t know. But there’s still the mystery of how I can see things from your eyes, despite everything.

Kaya’s Last Command

Standard

I guess if I should start anywhere, it better be here.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Get out.

“Leave me alone,” I whispered, though I knew it would never be that easy.

A dark chuckle filled my ears. Oh, don’t be so dull. I was looking forward to a good fight.

“You can go without-” Before I could continue, a scream filled my ears, and I felt all the blood rush from my face.

Another laugh. See? Not that simple this time, is it? he sneered.

“…where?”

Bathroom. The bloody one. You know exactly the one.

I did. I waited for everyone to focus on their work before quietly slipping away, and the minute I was out of the classroom, I sprinted to the meeting place.

There was no Daniel. Only him. “Should’ve guessed,” I murmured.

He merely laughed. “Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. What if I was torturing your paramour, and you ignored it?”

“What do you want?” I snarled, wishing to god that I could burn him or tear him apart with my teeth.

“I grow weary of waiting,” he said simply. “How long has it been, three, four years? And Kaya owes me something.”

“You killed her.”

“At her own behest. Though…death isn’t really the correct way to put it, is it?” He raised an eyebrow.

I remained silent. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to tattle on you,” he said cheerfully. “Besides, if they knew the truth, what could they do? Kill you again and again? Actually….”

“Your arm is back,” I interrupted.

“Ah, yes. I found a new one. Lovely girl. Very sweet, ’twas exactly what I needed,” he chuckled darkly.

I didn’t let up. “I destroyed your arm before as well.” I remembered the scent of burning flesh of that day. “How does that work?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he said temptingly. “Now, are you coming with me?”

“Wh-” He lunged at me suddenly, pinning me against the wall. I drove my foot upward and pushed him away. “No,” I snarled. “Leave me!”

“Cat?”

Delamore’s voice came from outside the door, and my involuntary glance towards it was enough. In less than a second, I felt my head smash onto the ground, his foot crushing my back. “Enough,” he purred. “Now, I’ll give you a minute.”

Fuck you… “Cat, I need you to open the door,” Delamore told me, as if it were that simple.

I inhaled a painful breath. “Delamore…” I croaked. “You need to get out of here.”

“Well, I’m not going anywhere,” she said stubbornly. “What’s going on?”

A bolt of pain shot through my brain. “Get out!” I shouted.

“I’m not going anywhere. I want you to open the door now,” she repeated.

“Stupid bitch,” he sneered. “Honestly, why do you keep them around?”

I was too agonised to speak now. They remind me that assholes like you aren’t real. Plus they keep me away from knives.

He laughed at that. “Oh really? How sweet.”

“Cat!”

Now come along dear, his voice an echo in my brain. The pain followed shortly after, tearing me from the inside out, screaming not even beginning to numb this agony.

Death followed not long after.
_______________________________________________________________________________

This was not Delirium.

The grass was green and sweet smelling, and cool against my cheek. Not blue and likely to stain your skin. And there was sun. Was this heaven?

….heaven? Me?

Not a chance.

I sat up. Yup. This was a human setting. But the question was, why was it a human setting? How did I end up here? Did Kaya walk me here? No, there’s no way that she’d go anywhere other the where she was meant to….unless someone else made her. Are you there Kaya?

No answer. No mistake about it; she had nothing to do with this. She’d be screaming at me for following him, for falling into that trap. And nothing had happened yet. Had it?

Immediately, I started checking for aches and pains. No, nothing. Whatever he had in store for me hadn’t come yet. My clothes were still intact, but it wasn’t the school uniform I had been wearing when I died. It was familiar though; it was Kaya’s skin suit. So what did that make this place? Reality? Delirium? Limbo? Neither?

There was a crack like a whip, and everything was black, as if that entire scene before me could be switched off like a light. “Where are you?” I murmured.

He simply laughed. I would’ve thought you’d want to know where you were, he purred.

“Yeah, well, you’re not gonna tell me that, are you?” I retorted. Anger was a distraction from how dreadfully afraid I was becoming; if I could cling to that, I’d be able to refrain from giving him what he wanted.

Well, no. But don’t you already know?

I flashed my head around. “No.”

Hmm….maybe if I switch on the light again…

Another crack, and I saw the grass sticking against my hip. Poison blue. This I recognised. “Why?”

You need to be here.

“No, I don’t.”

You do. I need you to start here.

“‘Need?’ I never knew you needed anything.”

In order for both of us to fulfil all the requirements of the bargain, I need you to start here.

Bargain? In my mind, Kaya falls beneath the ice again. “That deal was with you and Kaya only. It has nothing to do with me.”

Maybe so. But Kaya is no longer capable of carrying out her part. So you must do it.

“Oh really? Do tell me why I’m going to do it. Actually, tell me how you’re going to try to make me do it. That’s what I’m interested in.”

Flies are more attracted to sweet honey than with vinegar, my dear.

“You can get the same result with bullshit. Your point?”

I have no intention of forcing you to do anything. This is your decision.

My immediate instinct was to refuse flat out. This was a madman, a sadistic killer. I couldn’t trust his word. Didn’t Kaya make that mistake?

…no, she didn’t.

Everything was part of that deal with the devil, and Neekah had done nothing contrary to what was promised. Her life wasn’t as much stolen as…donated; he needed a body to shape, to mutate into something that would be able to carry out what Kaya couldn’t do, in exchange for his own freedom behind the scenes.

I had no words for how utterly pissed I was at Kaya Blackrim in that moment. But that wasn’t the issue right now.

“No matter what my choice, I still have to go through…this?” I murmured.

Well how else are you going to get out of here? he replied gleefully.

Next thing I knew, the floor had caved, and I was on my way down. It was about to begin.

Drag You Down

Standard

Still not dealing. And you really should know better by now.
_______________________________________________________________________________

“You see?” I whispered, raising my hands in the air. “These are the kind of situations where I make awkward conversation in order to calm myself down.”

“Can’t you just throw fireballs at them?” Papa Willis hissed back, shuffling close to me.

“All in good time.”

“Preferably before they slit our throats?”

“Wait,” I ordered him.

“Why?” he asked, exasperated.

“Willis, why haven’t they attacked us yet?”

“I…” He shook his head. “Is that a rhetorical question?”

“Think about it,” I advised. “Espers would’ve attacked immediately, probably while we were still on the ice. And would ordinary ones come here?”

“So…who are they?”

A slow smile came to my face. “Let’s see.”

Willis frowned at my overly happy face, but kept quiet.

My suspicions were confirmed when they were within ten metres of us. There were three of them, both humans. “Oh wow!” I said cheerfully. “This is awesome.”

They hesitated for a moment. The woman, who had called out before, spoke first. “State your name and breed,” she ordered.

“Breed?” Willis asked, confused.

“Humans,” I called back to the woman. “I’m Cat. This is Willis.”

There was murmuring. “Not possible,” one of them growled. “The both of you came from the mainland. Monsters live there.”

“It’s the truth,” I replied.

More murmuring. Then the same man stepped towards us. He had tangled blonde hair and dark, flickering eyes. “Hold out your hand,” he told us.

I hesitated, but Willis sighed and held out his good arm. The man took out a knife and raised it. I flared up. “Don’t you dare-”

The man swiped the blade across Willis’s finger, and dark red blood spilled out immediately. “He’s fine,” he called back. They relaxed slightly.

I didn’t. They were looking for human blood, scarlet and salty. When they open my hand, and after that, my throat, all they’ll find is this poisoned, steaming concoction which screams out monster. I held my breath in as the man looked toward me.

If he had taken my right hand, it would’ve gone that way. Instead, the man chose the left, and before he could cut it, the five letters glowed, and he froze. “Altered human,” I breathed out. “They changed me long ago. I’m probably not human anymore, but I’m not one of them either.”

Freak…” he said softly, reading the carvings. His face hardened. “You’ve encountered them.”

I nodded.

“And yet you’re here to tell the story.” His voice took on a growl. “Explain that.”

“Deal with the devil,” I said simply.

“Oh really?” he snarled. “What, are you going to rat us out? Is that why you’re out here? Both of you?” He glared at Willis, whose face had gone white as snow.

I shook my head. “In exchange for my freedom, all they wanted was my mortality,” I said quietly. “The transfusion, I’ve been told, acts as a life support; it keeps my organs functioning as my body repairs itself from fatal injuries.”

“And who told you that?”

I hesitated. Noah had, after analysing my healing process from when we rescued Papa Willis from the Espers. He was fascinated by Esper technology; I suspected if he was lower born, then he would’ve become one himself. “They did,” I told them, knowing already that there was no way they were going to let themselves trust me now. Not when I shared the blood of monsters.

My suspicions were confirmed. “Out on the ice,” the man snarled at me. He held the knife to my throat, and snatched my arm. “You won’t be needing this, but we will.” His hand went to my jacket and started unclasping it. He rolled it off and tossed it to one of his companions. The icy air whistled through my head; my layer under the jacket was just as warm as another layer of skin. “Now walk,” he ordered, and I stepped tentatively backward, until I could feel the world moving beneath my feet.

“I can vouch for her!” Willis insisted, as the other two held him back. “She wouldn’t hurt a fly, I swear, she’s done nothing wrong!”

“She’s a monster,” the third stranger spoke up. “Even if she doesn’t mean us harm, there’s no telling what she’ll do. There’s only one place for her; frozen down there, where she can’t hurt us.”

“No!” I watched Willis struggle in their grasp. I could hear the ice cracking beneath me slightly, as I continued treading backwards. The man with the knife didn’t let up, forcing me further out onto the fragile lake.

“You don’t need to be afraid of her!” The woman probably thought she was being comforting. “You can come with us, you don’t need to be with her. We’ll keep you safe, we promise.”

I glimpsed over my shoulder, trying to see how far out he would make me go, and my stomach flipped. Jhaq’s frozen face, eyes widened in fear, stared at me from beneath the ice, and the snapping sound increased. My head snapped back toward the man wielding the knife. “No,” I gasped.

CRASH!

The knife brushed against my neck as I grabbed his hand. The last thing I saw before I fell backward into the waters of hell was Willis tearing himself away from the other two, who stood there gobsmacked as their companion was pulled into the water with me.

The screaming water forced its way down my throat as I clawed at the newly formed ice above me. I felt it soften slightly where my left hand touched it, but the ice, despite how thin it was when I walked on it, had suddenly gained a foot in width. I could vaguely make out through the dark stormy water the writhing form of the man beside me, as the water choked him from within, until his flailing slowed and eventually came to a stop. The shadows started moving for their next pray, and as they came closer and closer, I braced myself for death.

Suddenly, there was light. I didn’t hesitate; summoning my remaining strength, I surged towards the source. The shadows clung to my legs, dragging me down, but I couldn’t stop now that I could see the sky.

The air was bitter and cold when I thrust my arms out of the water. I clung desperately to the ice so that I could raise my head above the surface and cough out the evil water in my lungs. Already, I could feel the ice forming over me, as I tried to lift the rest of my freezing body out.

The woman ran at me and raised her foot to kick me back down, only to go flying past me, which made me realise what Noah must’ve given Papa Willis. The ice was now grazing under my arms, so I heaved myself up. I felt something sharp biting through my skin, through my remaining clothing, as I crawled out on top of the ice, but I didn’t care. I was already used to that kind of pain, and a few nicks in my thighs were a fair exchange for avoiding death once again.

I rolled over and faintly watched the ice grow even more, sealing under the water the drowned body of the man with the dark eyes. Something trickled down my throat, warm and thick. I didn’t need to touch it to know that it was my blood, my poisoned black blood. The same substance was flowing from my legs right now, and when I sat up, my muscles stung from the injuries the ice gave me.

Willis staggered over to me. “You’re okay,” he croaked.

I nodded softly. “Thanks for breaking it,” I whispered. “I didn’t want to die that way.”

“Would anyone?”

I shook my head. I looked past Willis, to the two behind him. They were scowling at me, as if their eyes could push me under the water again, so I could drown with their friend. “What do we do?” I whispered to Willis.

He turned to them. “Get out of here,” he said to them. “Look, when we get back, we won’t mention the both of you. We’ll say that Cat got attacked by this man, and this man only.” He indicated their frozen companion. “You can get away. We don’t want anyone else to die. Please…”

The two looked at eachother, but I knew where their minds were at. “You came on behalf of them,” the woman spat. “You would’ve seen us in chains, or dead.”

“No! Look, hear us out-”

“Please,” I spoke up. “Please, just get out of here. Save yourselves. He…he would’ve wanted you two to live. That’s why…” I let my voice trail off.

The wind screamed around us, nearly concealing them from sight. There was no response, no response except for a loud crack, and when I flashed back at them, their forms had disappeared with a splash, and I realised. “No!” I screamed.

Willis held my shoulder. “Get back,” he told me.

“But-”

“You can’t save them. We’re only a little bit from land, c’mon.”

“Open a hole! Let them swim out!”

“I will Cat, I promise. Just get back.”

Reluctantly, I crawled backward until the world beneath me stopped. “Stay there,” Willis ordered, and he walked back to where they were standing. His back to me, he knelt down to the ground, and I watched as the ice cracked and parted. He hurried back and sat beside me, waiting for something to happen.

There was no point. “They’re not coming up,” I said hollowly.

“They might,” he insisted.

“But they’re not.” The ice was closing again, their final gateway closing. Suddenly, something did appear out of the water, and I gasped. Was this a miracle?

But it just stayed there, like a buoy floating on top of the water. My sudden hope quickly deflated as I realised. “They didn’t sink,” I murmured. “It was too late.”

“Shit…don’t look.”

I rolled over. “I won’t,” I replied. I squeezed my eyes shut. “I’m not.” But it’s still firmly implanted in my mind, that body floating atop the lake. The sound of the ice growing over the body was as loud as thunder; when it stopped, I thought I had gone deaf. It was pure silence.

Until I heard Willis stand up beside me. I tiredly turned to look at him walk away, towards a dark mass on the ground a little bit away from us. He scooped it up and started coming back. “Your jacket,” he said, placing it on my shoulders.

“I should freeze,” I said bitterly.

“Well, you’re not,” he said stubbornly. “It wasn’t your fault. They attacked us.”

“Because of me. They were protecting themselves.”

“Were they? Isn’t that what the monsters were doing in that story?”

“I…”

“Exactly.”

I curled up on the ground, pulling the coat over my head, taking me away from the brightness, at least for a little while. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. Sleep was warm…even in a place like this.
_______________________________________________________________________________
When I tried to remove the jacket even for a little bit, the wind smacks me in the face. “Ack!”

“Holy shit, you’re blue,” Daniel growled, pulling me toward him.

“Daniel…” I tried to sound annoyed, but I was too tired to pull it off.

“I take it your adventure was more eventful than mine then.” He looked at Papa Willis.

“Humans,” he replied. “Three of them.”

“Really?” His voice sounded interested. “What happened? Where are they?”

Before Willis could respond, I spoke up. “Under the ice,” I murmured. “I would’ve joined them if it weren’t for Willis.”

“I see…” Daniel’s voice was weary. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” he said. “She probably wishes she were there with them though.”

“Why?” Daniel wrapped a blanket around me. “Why you want that?”

“They died because of me.”

Daniel snorted. “Let me guess. They attacked her, and she sent them under,” he said to Willis.

I was silent. “It’s okay. Hey.” He cupped my cheek. “You look like hell.”

“I want to go back,” I said weakly.

“Right.” Daniel pulled out a strip of cloth and tied it over my eyes. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to dig you out of the ice.”

“I hate it here,” I growled to myself. “I really really hate it here.”

Me, Myself And I All Hate You

Standard

Mum woke me up pounding at my door. “For fucks sake, stop locking the fucking door!” she screamed.

I wearily got up. “I’m sorry,” I said groggily. “I woke up in the middle of the night-”

“Shut up and get downstairs.” I heard her storm away, cursing under her breath.

Daniel pulled himself up. “What’s wrong with her?” He had given up on growling at her, as she never heard a word he said. Still, there was a familiar quiet anger radiating from him that I hadn’t seen in a while.

“Calm down,” I said to him. “I’ll just go down to breakfast, okay?”

That was probably the worst thing I could’ve done that day. You would’ve thought that after nearly seventeen years of this, I’d be used to it by now, or at least that’s what I thought. I entered the dining room bracing myself for another foul mood.

When I sat down, Mum began to speak. “I do too much for you,” she announced.

I held my tongue and started eating breakfast.

“That’s why you’re like this. Why you think you can get away with being a ratbag. You’re ruining your life with this, you know.”

Here we go.

“You’re a lazy, useless excuse. You never do anything for me.”

I pretend to be mentally stable, I hide my scars from people so that they don’t ask you about it, I keep quiet about the fact that I want to kill myself so that you don’t get even more stressed and hysterical…

“You’re so dramatic about everything,” she scoffs. “How it works is if I do anything that upsets Princess here, you have a tantrum and get sent to Helen, and I’m the bad guy again! That’s all they are, tantrums. It’s called attention seeking madam, and I’ve had enough of it.”

Bitch.

That’s not my voice though. Kaya?

“That medication would’ve helped you, but noooooo, you just had to keep up with the drama! No wonder you’re failing all your classes!”

One more push, and I’ll slit your throat, Kaya hisses in my head.

Kaya. No. “I’m not failing,” I murmur. “I’m keeping up with the work now.”

My mother scoffs. “Yeah, and how long is that going to last? You’re lazy. You’ll fall behind again, no doubt about that. And then I’m going to be the villain again because you’re a selfish, lying drama queen!”

Suddenly, my hand reaches for my bowl and lifts it up, over Mum’s head. I can almost see it smashing down, ceramic shattering, blood spilling out…

“Stop it!” I scream out loud. By some miracle, I manage to gain a split second’s control, and I turn to the left so that the bowl hits the floor. “Just stop!” I shriek, not quite sure whom I’m actually speaking to. I’m sobbing, and Mum screams and pelts me with her fists, and I can’t do anything because I’m so fucking useless in Reality.

I sweep up the shards afterwards while my mother types an abusive email about me to whoever reads them, and at some point, I decide to not be entirely useless. “You don’t have to scream at me just because you’re dying of cancer,” I tell her.

“I’m not.”

Too bad. I throw the shards away in the bin and go upstairs and buckle over. But someone catches me.

“Come on,” Daniel breathes into my ear. He holds me up and drags me into my room. “Easy does it now.” He shuts the door behind us and pulls me close to him. “It’s okay now…it’s alright…”
_______________________________________________________________________________

Much later, I felt better. Probably because I spent the journey to school madly singing British pop songs. It’s even more effective than crying. If only people couldn’t hear you as much.

“I’ve had a think about it,” I said to Daniel. “And I’ve decided not to let her hurt me anymore. I mean, I’ll probably forget to do this later, when I’m depressed and suicidal, but this is what I’m thinking right now.”

Daniel nodded. “Go on.”

I inhaled. “I am starting to get in control of my life,” I started. “Or at least I’m feeling that way. I think that I’m now in a place where I can begin to smile and let myself be happy again. It probably won’t stay that way, knowing my luck. But there’s absolutely no reason why I should stop right now, just because of what my mother says.

“I think she’s like me. She has trouble being happy, and she can’t express that properly. I’m the same.”

Daniel shook his head. “You don’t accuse her of being an attention seeking liar.”

“I do call her other things though,” I pointed out. “Emotionally unstable, hysterical, selfish, close minded.”

“She is those things though.”

“And that’s true to me,” I continued. “Just like all those things are true to her. Our minds are determined to believe what they want to. Does that make sense?”

Daniel paused. “Maybe,” he admitted. “But I refuse to believe that you’d be cruel enough to tell a recently suicidal person that they’re lying, that they’re not really in pain.”

“Hush,” I hissed.

“Cat,” he sighed. “It’s not right. It’s as if you can’t be happy if she isn’t. She’s just going to keep hurting you.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But I only have to deal with it for two more years. Not even that, actually. Then I can move out and live my own life away from her. After I get a job and find a flat.”

“You’ve got to go through that bridging course though,” he reminded me.

“True…so less than three years.” I had met with my school a week ago to discuss my schoolwork, and they decided to put me onto an alternate pathway into uni. It basically means I’m now doing easier courses and I don’t have to take the big exam at the end of Year 12. It does mean that I have to complete a certificate course in IT in order to graduate, and take an enabling course the next year in order to get into uni, should I wish to go. “But I can still work, and get a job. That might be better actually. I can save up money for a year and once I have enough to actually start renting, I can move out.”

Daniel looked a little skeptical. “I know it’s a lot harder than that,” I admitted. “But I don’t need to get into detail right away, do I? One step at a time.”

He smiled. “Exactly.”

I hesitated for a moment. Very rarely did I ask Daniel about his past. It was something I had learnt very early not to enquire about, and later I realised how guilty he felt about it, for leaving it behind. But it was an innocent question. “What did you do when you finished school?” I asked.

“Me? Hmm.” He frowned. I waited for him to continue, and after an eternity, he sighed. “Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Oh god, what did you do?” My mind started going through all the ridiculous careers; professional clown, ballet dancer, porn star.

“Firefighter,” he said, going a bit red.

“No way…” My eyes were probably popping out of my head. “That is wicked.”

Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head. “Immediately regretting that decision.”

“That’s so cool!” I crowed. “And nothing like what I was expecting.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What were you expecting?”

“Porn star,” I replied.

Daniel stared at me. “You’re a looney,” he finally replied.

“Yeah.” I grinned at him. “Little bit.”

“So you’re going to go to uni,” he quickly continued our previous conversation. “You’re certain of that. What about your mother then? Are you going to see her after that?”

I didn’t know how to answer. “I’m undecided,” I said slowly.

“Really?”

“There are times where I love her and times where I hate her,” I reminded him. “I guess it depends whether or not I forgive her or not.”

“Do you?”

“I’m undecided,” I repeated. “All I know is that she’s not going to stop me from being happy. And if she’s going to belittle me for the rest of my life…well, I don’t see why I should stay around to hear it.” I pressed the button to stop the bus, leapt up and gathered up everything in a rush to get off in time. Daniel and I started to walk toward my house. “I don’t think of family the way everyone else does,” I said quietly. “I hope it’s different when I have one of my own. Well, if I have one of my own. But I’m never going to put myself before my child. I’m never going to torment them and tell them they’re horrible people. Because they’re not. No one is. Not even Mum when you think about it.” I made a face. “I’ll probably be one of those parents that just lets their kid run wild because they’re too afraid of their children hating them.”

“You’ll learn,” Daniel said encouragingly. “You’ll have help from the people around you, your partner, friends, whatever. But more importantly, your child would grow up knowing that they could come to you for support, no matter what.”

I smiled. “Silly. But thanks.”

We walked together in silence for a while. “Porn star, huh,” Daniel mused. “I had no idea you had such a high opinion of me.

I stuck my tongue out. “Shush.”

Watching

Standard

“Hey, you must be Cat?” the man asks. He has honest eyes, steely blue and he smiles kindly.

“Hmm…”

“I understand you’ve been feeling down lately?”

An image of driving a needle into my arm enters my mind and I flinch. “I…guess you could say that.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll be able to make you feel better,” he tells me certainly. “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

You’re not the first one to try and convince me, buddy. I just grimace and let them wheel me off into a cubicle enclosed by curtains. I’m already hating this place, and I wish to god that I had kept my mouth shut. Then Lolly wouldn’t have admitted me.

Daniel gives my hand a squeeze and I can only look at him helplessly. Personally, I’m about to implode, but all I can think about is how horrible he must be feeling, watching me lie on a hospital bed, crying for no reason. I keep smiling and telling him it’s okay, but the tears may be a bit of a contradiction, as he reminds me. Still, I’m glad he’s with me.

I go in to see the psychologist and her friend Tig the nurse. “I’ve got a brother called Tig,” I tell him. I leave out the fact that he’s a thieving little shit who causes my mother to have emotional breakdowns.

After millions of questions which I’m lacking in energy to answer, they tell me their recommendation; I should stay in this hospital for a night or two and undergo a mental assessment.

Three hours later, I’m thinking Fuck this place.

The thing with hospitals is that people are used to pain. It’s nothing for them to see a teenager with tears streaming down her face huddled in a ball on the bed. And they ignore it, because there’s worse people than you right now. I get it, I really do. It doesn’t stop it from hurting though.

Nurse Priscilla comes in and tells me of the situation. The Mowa Ward, where they wanted to take me, is full at the moment, meaning I could be here for a few hours. She also offered me antidepressants to take the edge off what I was feeling. Remembering the effects of the St Johns Wort, I declined, and watched her give me a funny look.

They let me call people here, but I can’t use Internet. So I call the only two numbers on my iPad worth keeping. Papa Willis doesn’t answer, but Flash does. When I tell him I’m in hospital, his mind leaps to the worst scenario, and he asks me what I did to myself. I quickly reassure him that I’m okay, I’m just there for observation, and he calms down. He tells me that he’s so happy I’m okay, and for that moment, I felt a peacefulness that had been absent since I first entered hospital.

Then the fucking phone disconnected and the nurse took it off me. Bitchface. Never trust anyone named Tig.

I talk to another nurse for a while. I actually like her. She knows how horrible I feel, and she seems to hate hospitals as much as I do. She offers to bring me some ‘gourmet’ food, and I agree, remembering too late that food in this hospital is incompatible with my picky eating habits.

“Want a sandwich?” I hold the plate of cheese and salad sandwiches out to Daniel. He just raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, me neither.”

“When was the last time you ate?” he questions suspiciously.

“That would be lunchtime.”

“You didn’t have lunch.”

“Wait, I bought a chocolate before I caught the train,” I pointed out. “So it was after lunchtime. And I had a cup of tea.”

He doesn’t look impressed. “I’m not eating the sandwiches.” I fold my arms.

“I’m not making you,” he replies. “The nurses however…”

“They can’t force me to eat. I’m not anorexic.”

“You are suicidal.”

“That’s not the correct term, but whatever. It’s not a matter of not wanting to eat, it’s the fact that there’s nothing good to eat. I’ll prove it.” I begin drinking the apple juice. “See? I’m consuming sugars. This gets converted into glucose. Glucose gives me energy to have more nervous breakdowns. It also helps me stay alive, which I am now proving that I want to do.”

“I never took you for a picky eater.”

“Didn’t you?”

“I always thought that you were someone who took what you got and dealt with it.”

I just stick my tongue out at him. “Want the list?”

“Sure, why not?”

This conversation is somehow distracting me from bursting into tears, so I continue. “With me, I’m fine with anything as long as it’s warm. Toasted sandwiches are fine. The only cold sandwiches I’ll eat are peanut butter ones.”

He laughs at that. “Peanut butter?”

“Don’t diss peanut butter!” I pretend to be outraged. “Peanut butter was my childhood, I’ll have you know.”

“Very well, very well. So cold food is off the table.”

“Well, cold meats. I hate cold ham and cheese. It turns my stomach.”

“What about vegetables?”

“I prefer them cooked, but I’ll force down some salads. But I love roast vegetables. Carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin. And hot broccoli and cauliflower is wonderful. Like I said, if it’s hot, I’m usually happy to eat it.” I wrinkle my nose. “Avocado is off the table. But there’s a legitimate reason for that; I’m allergic.”

“Really?”

“Yeah…I get violently ill if I eat it. My brother once gave it to me on pizza, and I vomited on him.”

“Sure that wasn’t on purpose?”

“The projection of the vomit was. Actual urge to vomit was not.”

“So that’s it?”

“Well, there’s sweet food as well,” I told him with a grimace. “I hate very sweet food, like donuts. I despise alcohol in Ether; not only is it very potent, but it’s horribly sweet.”

“How on earth do you survive in our world?” he asks incredulously.

“Immortality. And rat steak. Lots of rat steak.” It’s actually not bad, once you get around the idea of eating rats. Plus they’re a lot larger in Delirium than in Reality. The meat’s softer and more bitter than beef steak, but it smells really good when cooked properly.

“Kaya used to try catch rats in Delirium,” Daniel remembers. “She had more success with fish though. Rats were harder to kill without them rotting immediately.”

“Didn’t you have a go a hunting?”

“At the time, I pretty out of it. I’d just been broken out by a giant dragon and I had no idea where I was. I just ate what I was given.”

“Fair enough. I wish we could eat fish…”

“Fish is Helevian food,” Daniel points out, rolling his eyes. “Christan hasn’t even seen one, let alone eaten one.”

“True…but still. Fish hasn’t changed too much from Reality. I think I’d prefer it to rat steak. Plus it would probably be better for me.”

I’m vaguely aware of the nurses watching me as I have this conversation with my imaginary friend. But it’s the only thing keeping me in Reality, these conversations. They almost manage to convince me that things can go back to normal after this nightmare.

Nurse Priscilla comes back and takes my blood pressure. Again, she offers me medication. I deny again. I don’t trust myself to judge whether or not I need sedation, nor do I have any idea of what they’re going to do to me head-wise. What if they get rid of Daniel? Then I’d really be alone…

This makes me start crying again. I just want my friends, to be around people I love. I’m banned from Delirium, and I’m locked away from everyone I care about in Reality. I wish I’d never come here. I want to go home, wherever the hell that is.