“Daniel, help me!”
“Get it out of her!”
“Don’t let her lose consciousness!”
“Is there anything we can give her?”
“Don’t you see it’s trying to kill her?!”
Those were the last things I heard before…
I could tell from the pure white surrounding me that this was not Reality. But it didn’t feel like Delirium either.
It was warm. I could’ve lain there forever, basking in that glow. But then I heard her voice. Don’t you wonder why I’ve given up on you?
“Hey Kaya.” I coughed and sat up. When I looked around, she was there, standing in front of me clear as day. I couldn’t help it. I ran towards her, and she gave no resistance when I hugged her.
“I’m still annoyed at you,” she murmured, squeezing me back.
“I-I know. And you’re right.” I looked at her face. There were no scars or blood or bruises. The only anomaly were her purple eyes, and they didn’t seem to bulge like they did when she was alive. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”
“Actually, no.” Kaya’s expression became concerned. “What do you remember?”
I remembered, shamefully, what I had done. “I took the pills. I think sixteen? And then I heard voices. Daniel’s, Jhaq’s, Noah’s…” I thought I saw her flinch at Noah’s name. “I should be dead, shouldn’t I? Why am I not?”
“You…didn’t take any.”
Kaya frowned. “I took over,” she reported. “Everything was spinning, and then I saw what you had been seeing. I got to the sink and I coughed it all up as fast as I could. By the way,” she grimaced, “your brother undoubtedly heard you. He’s going to tell your mother.”
“It’s fine. But what do you mean? I remember taking-”
“I know you do,” Kaya interrupted. “And I thought you had too. Why else would’ve I purged you, if I didn’t think you had consumed something dangerous? But there was no medication. No pills.”
“Nothing,” she repeated.
“But…why then? Why would I imagine-” I stopped there. If any normal person asked this, it would be one thing. But I was a psycho. It was nothing for me to see things that weren’t there.
Still, this wasn’t the usual hallucination. While I can’t deny that Delirium is indeed not normal, I can say that I have a good idea how it works. And this was the first time that I have hallucinated about my actions in Reality.
“What’s happening in Delirium?” I asked. When she raised an eyebrow, I corrected my wording. “Your world.”
“I don’t know if I can…” she told me hesitantly. “Since your…capture, I’ve become more apprehensive about watching yourself there.”
“I need to go back,” I said. “I need to find out what happened.”
Something in Kaya’s voice put me on edge. “What? What is it?”
“There’s something I want you to consider when you return. Just to mull over for a while.”
“What happened to my body?” This wasn’t a question; she spoke as if it were an instruction.
And then Kaya vanished from sight.
“Kaya!” I ran over to where she was standing, only to find thin air. I was alone.
Suddenly, I heard rumbling, as if a herd of horses were approaching. I could see nothing though, only the large white expanse in front of me. “Ka-”
Then there was a flash.
My eyes flew open, gazing at those before me; Daniel, Emisair- to my dismay-, Noah, even Papa Willis was there. And a shadow, being held down by Jhaq of all people, who was growling and hissing in a manner that reminded me of Kaya.
Then I realised that my feet weren’t touching the ground. Nor was any part of my body.
My head was touching the ceiling. Of Daniel’s bedroom.
Oh fuck me.
“Shiiiiiiiiii-” That was all I got out before gravity woke up and sent me falling to the ground below. Daniel dove to catch me, but narrowly missed. “Oof!” I landed on the ground, dazed and confused. Somewhere I could hear Emisair’s low chuckle.
Daniel caught me up in his arms. “Cat! Cat!”
The pain of being dropped from five metres into the air onto my ass finally kicked in. I rolled over in agony, out of Daniel’s grasp. “Ow….son of a bitch…..”
“Are you alright?” Noah asked tentatively.
“MY BUTTCHEEKS!” I howled. “Owwwwwwwww!”
The room was silent, albeit the growling coming from Jhaq and the shadow. “She’s okay,” Willis confirmed.
“Owwww….oh….oh no I’m not….this is hell….” I groaned.
At that he raised an eyebrow, as if to remind me of his arm, which currently had something resembling white plaster encasing what remained of it. I made a mental note to apologise later. Right now, I had bigger concerns. “Shadow,” I croaked.
Immediately, all eyes turned back to Jhaq, who had her hands wrapped around what I presumed was the monster’s neck. “Jhaq!” Noah said warningly.
Had he not said anything, things may have been different. But that split second hesitation was all the shadow needed, and suddenly, Jhaq collapsed and the shadow vanished. “No!” I managed to get up and stagger toward Jhaq.
Daniel got there first. “Jhaq, say something,” he urged. “If you can hear me squeeze my hand.”
“Mom…” I looked and saw Ray, her eyes wide open. God knows what she saw before with me, this was probably the last thing she needed.
“Get the girl out.” The order came from Emisair, and when I looked over to her, there was something on her face I had never seen before, though it was unclear whether it was fear or merely uncertainty.
Then Jhaq opened her eyes. Instead of green, her irises were dark. “Where…where am I?” she asked us.
“Noah…” I said slowly.
“I know.” He looked over at me and nodded slightly. He took Ray’s hand, and lead her out of the room. Her eyes were wide and frightened.
Daniel did not appear to notice anything. “You’re in my chambers,” he told her. “Cat is here, she’s alive and well, I promise.”
“Good,” she breathed. “May I sleep, my lord?”
“Of course,” he said, taking her hand. She smiled softly, before drifting off into a deep sleep.
I was uneasy. “Her eyes…”
“What about them?” Willis was confused.
So was Daniel. “There wasn’t anything wrong,” he said.
“What are you saying?” Emisair demanded. “Are you both blind?”
“See what?” Daniel frowned at me.
“I…” I didn’t understand. Her eyes had gone black as coal. Didn’t they notice at all?
Daniel shook his head. “You need rest,” he told me. “Willis, go and find His Grace. Tell him to send people to collect Jhaq and take her to her rooms.”
He nodded, and ran off quickly. “Emisair, if you don’t mind, I want to speak with Cat in private.”
“You aren’t the only one.” Emisair’s red eyes bore into my face. “You saw what was wrong, did you not?”
I groaned. “How should I know?”
“I know you did,” she insisted. “The physic saw, as did I. Even her daughter noticed. You can’t tell me this is all coincidence.”
“I didn’t see anything strange,” Daniel argued.
“Emisair, I learnt a long time ago not to believe what my eyes tell me,” I said softly.
Daniel inclined his head at that, and Emisair scowled. “I see that you are all but useless,” she said. “Very well. I’ll leave you and your paramour to your own business. I have better things to do.”
So what the hell were you doing here then? “By all means, go.”
The minute the door closed behind her, Daniel turned to me. “You saw something,” he said flatly. I nodded. “What is it then?”
“I…” I closed my eyes. “I may have been seeing things.”
“But what was it?”
“I’m not right in the head right now Daniel!”
“Are you ever?” he replied. “Why can’t you say?”
“My head…I….” I took a deep breath and I told him everything about what I had experienced before I woke up in Delirium; the pills, the meeting with Kaya, and the realisation that my suicide attempt was a figment of my imagination; one that belonged to neither Reality or Delirium.
Daniel listened in silence. “I know what you’re thinking,” I told him. “And I hate myself for it, even more than you do. I know how you feel about it. It’s just…at that moment I could feel nothing except pain, and before I knew it, I had found a packet of pills and…” I cut off. “I’m sorry. It was the stupidest thing I could’ve done, and I know-”
“That shadow that Jhaq had caught,” Daniel interjected. “Was that the monster we met when we went to get Papa Willis?”
“I….wouldn’t know,” I said slowly, confused as to how we got on this topic. “What was that anyway?”
He paused for a moment. “The thing inside your head,” he confessed.
“Remember how that thing took over you that one time?” he asked me. “I have a feeling it didn’t really leave.”
“So that’s why…”
“Wait, so is it gone now?”
“I think so,” Daniel assured me. “There wasn’t a shadow there last time.”
“Okay…” I said uncertainly.
“You look confused,” Daniel acknowledged.
“I am. Very.”
“And I forgive you, by the way.”
I didn’t realise how worried I was until I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. “Really?”
He grimaced. “Think of it this way. I’m willing to forgive instances where there are evil demons in your brain.”
“You mean I don’t qualify as an evil demon?”
“I’m afraid you’re just a plain, ordinary demon,” Daniel told me in a serious voice.
“However,” Daniel said, “If you ever feel like this, you’re to tell me. I know you like to keep things to yourself. But you don’t need to do it alone. I…I want to help. If I can.”
“Okay,” I agreed, allowing his embarrassment to fade. “I can do that. But I don’t want to be watched like a hawk if I do. More often than not, these things mean nothing.”
“Not always though,” Daniel pointed out.
“No,” I acknowledged. “But if you make it seem like an emergency, then…”
“I get it.” Daniel’s hand encased mine. “So you promise?”
“I do. I won’t hurt you like I did again. No matter how bad it gets.”
I meant every word I said, but my mind kept wandering back to the blackness of Jhaq’s eyes. I looked at her, now fast asleep, and wondered how long it would be before she went down the same spiral I did.
I awoke to a finger poking me in my shoulder. Immediately, I rolled around, five letters aglow, to see Emisair looking back at me. “Get up,” she hissed. “Noah wants to see you.”
I looked back at Daniel, sound asleep. “It cannot wait?”
“No.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me out of bed. “And your paramour would understand not.”
The eyes. But still…could I trust her? “Give me a moment,” I told her.
Emisair rolled her eyes and took off a velvet cloak she had been wearing. “Put this on then,” she ordered. “You’re already wearing more than an Infernal, but if you insist.”
I looked at Emisair. Cloak removed, she only wore a sheer black shift, which was cut so that her pelvic bones were exposed. Knowing Noah, he would be more than embarrassed to see her that way, but at least she wouldn’t be ashamed to show off her body. I, on the other hand, would never be able to handle both of their eyes on what was barely covered by Daniel’s shirt.
The halls were dark as Emisair lead me through. “I still don’t know why you were there,” I told her.
“I was curious,” she informed me.
“In other words, you wanted to see me in pain?”
“Don’t take me for a sadist,” she replied. “I am not the monster you take me for.”
“Neither am I.” She snorted at that. “Yes. You have every reason to think otherwise. But if you can take me for a monster at the sight of me, then I can do the same.”
“Stupid,” she said flatly.
“I’m going to get nowhere,” I said wearily. “Where is Noah?”
I didn’t recognise the place, but it reminded me of a dormitory. Noah was standing by a rickety bed where Jhaq lay. He smiled at me, trying not to look at the barely covered Emisair. “Don’t blame me,” she told him. “I brought her straight from Daniel’s bed, and she insisted on covering up.”
Noah still looked uncomfortable. “You can go back soon,” he told me. “I merely want you to confirm something for me.”
Jhaq looked so peaceful asleep. I really wished that this all meant nothing, that she would be fine. “Her eyes are black,” I told him. “And us three saw it. And maybe Ray, but I wouldn’t know what she’s said.”
“That shadow disappeared the moment before her eyes changed,” Emisair said. “This cannot be a coincidence.”
“It’s inside her now,” Noah confirmed. “She acts normal now, but who knows how long before it decides to take control and slit the first neck it sees?”
I couldn’t imagine Jhaq doing such a thing. “What should we do?” I asked. “We have to get it out.”
I ignored Emisair. “If we can get it out of me, we can get it out of her. We have to!”
“It’s not so simple,” Noah said weakly. He looked tireder than I had ever seen him.
I gave him a sad smile. “Never is, is it?”
He simply exhaled. “I think you were able to force it out, which is why you’re alright. If Jhaq were able to….well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“Maybe she hasn’t realised that it’s inside her? If she knew, she could try-”
“Do that, and that thing will realise that we know.” Emisair’s voice was hard. “There’s really only one thing we can do.”
That’s when I saw what she was holding in her claw. Jhaq stirred in her sleep at that moment, and Emisair brought the knife out of the shadows, ready to strike. “No!”