Come On Out, Shadow

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Before I could move, Noah grabbed the blade of the knife in what I assumed was a panicked attempt to stop her. He hissed as it cut into his hand and black blood ran down his arm, but he didn’t let it go.

“Fool!” Emisair fumed, furiously trying to twist the knife out of his grasp. I finally came to my senses and swiped her with my foot, throwing her across the room, and the knife falling out of her hand.

Noah ran and grabbed the knife, where it was swiftly dropped into his pocket. He gave Jhaq a once-over to confirm she was alright before we both turned back to Emisair.

She was staggering towards us. “She’s not safe!” she hissed. “Either we kill her, or she’ll kill us.”

“There has to be another way!” I insisted. “It’s possible! It just happened for fucks sake!”

“You stupid bitch…lightning never strikes twice in the same place. You’re delaying what is inevitable!” Emisair’s eyes were filled with rage.

“We’re not killing her!” Noah snarled. “Not when we can still save her! That’s all there is to it.” He was more furious than I had ever seen him, and he completely ignored the blood gushing out of his hand from Emisair’s knife. I was about to offer a cloth to wrap it with when Emisair suddenly leapt at him and my focus changed.

I managed to push him away in time, but as a result, it was I who was being pushed against the back of the room by a frenzied Emisair, right next to where Jhaq lay. Her nails were clawing into me, as if she were trying to rip out my heart- maybe she was- and as she did, her eyes seemed to glow completely red and her teeth spread into a sinister smile. “Come on out, Shadow,” she said maniacally. “I know you’re there! Come out and plaaaaa-”

With that, I socked her in the face and kicked her away. “Stop it!” Noah yelled at the both of us.

I ignored him. I had no care in the world anymore. “What are you trying to do?” I asked Emisair, walking towards her. “If you want to kill me…” Everything around me sharpened, intensified, amplified. I could see and feel her heartbeat from where I stood, and it would be nothing to rip it out…”Go ahead,” I finished with a grin.

So she did.

Or rather…she tried to.

I dropped to the ground when she flew at me again. She came to a halt standing above where I lay. Still reeling from her charge, she couldn’t block my foot smashing into her chest, sending her flying into the ceiling. It was almost too perfect that a chandelier was dangling right where Emisair was about to fly into.

Killing was far easier sans a human body.

There was a loud crashing sound as the thing shattered and fell to the ground around me, a shower of glass and crystal. I watched Emisair drop before my feet, shaking with rage and pain. Blood ran down her back, mixing with the glass on the ground. She hissed at me and I could see her body becoming longer, her claws scraping against the ground. A feverish grin spread across her face, and Noah started yelling at both of us to stop. But that wasn’t going to happen.

I raised my claw, ready to strike.

It wasn’t Noah who stopped us. Or even Daniel. It was Christan who yelled out “STOP!” from the doorway, perhaps saving the life of Emisair in the process.

Both of us froze and looked at him. He looked terrified, not at all like a natural king, though the crowds behind him wouldn’t be able to see that. “Step away from eachother,” he commanded shakily.

I immediately obeyed, partially out of sympathy for Christan, but also because I was slowly coming out of my psychotic/demon mode and I wanted things to stop. I fell back into my body, the cold of the room reaching me even with Emisair’s cloak. Emisair merely glared at him. “Your human’s slut has physically assaulted me,” she informed him, her body changing back as she spoke. “I shall not stand for it! Either discipline her or I shall gather my men and leave. Now.

I slowly got up. My senses were still distorted by my rampage. Christan was looking at me, trying to seem stern. “Cat…”

“She was going to murder Jhaq!” I croaked. “That was the only reason why I-”

“It’s true,” Noah confirmed. “It was Emisair who attacked first. Not Cat.”

Emisair flared up. “I was going to kill the demon inside her,” she said. “These two would put their fellow people in danger due to sentiment. I wasn’t about to let her slaughter us all when we knew that she was a danger.” She turned to Jhaq, lying asleep on her bed. “The woman that she was is no more. She would mercilessly murder everyone from her king to her little daughter. And these two would risk that.”

“No…” I took a deep breath. “I had the same monster inside me,” I confessed the boy-king, and the people behind him inhaled. “But I managed to force them out before I could be taken over completely. I believe that Jhaq is capable of doing the same, if she’s given the chance.”

“I agree,” Noah spoke up. “I don’t see the need to take a life in order to destroy what is only a potential threat. We have the time to stop it, it is still-”

“What time is this?” Emisair retorted. “The longer we wait, the stronger that thing is. We’re putting everyone at risk here by waiting for what is inevitable.” She looked directly at Christan. “I will not stand by and wait to die. Either stop this threat…or I’ll leave, with my men behind me.”

Oh please, please do.

Unfortunately, Christan was reluctant to let that happen. “You can’t,” he said weakly. “You know that-”

“I do know. Your forces are far weaker than theirs. Our alliance is the only thing that keeps your people safe. But if you will put them in danger, I see no point in my presence here,” Emisair spoke coldly. “Take a side. Now.”

I knew what Christan would pick, but I tried to speak out. “Listen-”

“What is this?” A voice called out.

The crowds moved around to make way for Daniel who strode into the room. He immediately went to my side and put his hand on my arm. I immediately felt warmer, calmer. “What has happened?” he questioned Noah.

Noah spoke immediately. “The Lady Emisair tried to end Jhaq’s life. Cat managed to stop her, and now Emisair is claiming that she is in the right.”

“I am in the right,” Emisair spoke with utter conviction. “That thing inside her is a slaughtering machine. It nearly took your paramour, and now it is succeeding in taking your servant.”

“And now she’s blackmailing his Grace into submitting to her will,” I spat. “If Jhaq doesn’t die, she’ll leave.”

Daniel’s face didn’t show anything. “Daniel,” Christan spoke. “What do you see?”

He remained silent. I myself had no idea what Christan meant. Noah took Daniel’s silence as an opportunity to speak. “Cat Madigan was able to escape unharmed. I have no doubt that she can assist me in helping Jhaq recover. Just give us that chance, your Grace.”

Before Christan could speak, there was a voice. “Master…Nnnn…”

Jhaq was slowly rising from her bed. “Don’t let her move,” Christan ordered, and several guards dashed in and raised their blades to her.

Slowly, Jhaq backed down, and opened her eyes. Still black. “What is this?” she asked, and her voice made my stomach flip.

“Drop your act,” Emisair ordered. “There’s no doubt of this now.”

“No doubt of what?” Daniel retorted. “Will you explain yourself?”

“Your servant is being taken by the same entity that nearly took Cat Madigan. And now that she speaks, there’s no doubt of it.”

Daniel looked at me in confusion. I bowed my head. “Her voice…it’s Axyl’s,” I admitted. “Not Jhaq’s.”

Emisair turned to Christan. “I believe we have more than enough to confirm this?” she enquired. There was a murmur of appreciation from the crowds, and Christan looked away from us. I knew he had made his decision.

“Cat…”

I flinched at the voice of the monster calling my name. I slowly looked at her, but I couldn’t keep my eyes on her terrified face for more than a second. Daniel watched me in silence.

“Now.” Emisair spoke as if the matter had been settled. “Onto the matter of the assault. I want the girl locked up, considering how she cannot be executed. I believe this is fair-”

“What on earth are you talking about?” Daniel spat.

“I kicked her into the chandelier,” I informed him.

Daniel raised an eyebrow, but Noah spoke before he could reply. “An attack which was initiated by Emisair’s own assault.” He raised his hand to show everyone the ugly knife wound that Emisair had given him.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed. The crowds started murmuring again, but this time, they were discussing Emisair’s own behaviour. It occurred to me from what they said that while Emisair could outrank both Daniel and myself, she was still an outsider, a visitor in this world. And by wounding one of their own…

“He was stopping me.” Emisair replied, unfazed. “That cut was his own fault, not mine.”

That was her big mistake. The people bristled at her for dismissing what she had done, for making herself out to be higher than the likes of themselves. Emisair seemed to realise what she had done, but she couldn’t recant now.

“Put her under house arrest,” Noah interjected. When Christan looked at him, he went on. “Both of them.”

“What?” Emisair spat.

“Noah…” I was about to argue.

“I will not pretend that Cat Madigan is innocent,” Noah said, meeting my eye. I remembered the moment when I lost control, when I was ready to kill the red eyed woman. “But it was Emisair’s actions which triggered her behaviour. If they’re both placed under house arrest, they will not be within proximity of eachother. No more incidents of this kind shall occur.” Noah shifted his gaze to Emisair. “If that does not stop them, then the next course will be, of course, imprisonment in the cells.”

Emisair fumed. “I am not to be treated like her. I do not need to be punished.”

“By that logic, neither should Cat,” Noah replied. “Your actions are equivalent to hers. And one can go on to say that while Cat’s behaviour is expected of her, because of her humanity, you on the other hand should be able to control your actions.”

She bristled. Noah, as the victim in this, had the most influence over her fate, and she knew it. He may not be letting me off the hook for my behaviour- I was about to kill her for fucks sake- but Emisair would’ve murdered Jhaq in cold blood, and he wasn’t going to stop till she was punished for that.

“I believe this is fair,” Christan finally said. “Cat Madigan will be confined to her chamber for a moon, as will Emisair. Remove them now.”

“Wait,” Emisair said suddenly. “For Cat Madigan, this is not a long period of time. More often than not, she’s unconscious in her room. She could sleep for a moon, and wake up when she’s ready to be released.”

Even I had to admit she had a point. If our roles were reversed, I’d find it pretty unfair too. Of course, I wouldn’t be such a bitch and start a fight with her.

Well, maybe. I dunno.

“Then I’ll watch her,” Noah proposed. “I’ll account for when she’s awake and when she’s not. She can be released after thirty days and thirty nights of activity.”

“And separate her everyone?” Emisair interjected, a sudden gleam in her eye. “Including Daniel?”

Daniel put his hand on mine, covering the light that was about to be thrown in her fucking face. “Her chambers are my chambers,” he reminded her. “We can house Noah if he wishes. Either way, her punishment is identical to yours, my lady.”

She scowled. “Fine. But she is still confined.”

“As you are,” Daniel agreed.

She turned on her heel and stormed out, only to be grabbed by a guard. “I know my way,” she snapped.

Another guard approached me, and gestured for me to walk with him. I was surprised that he didn’t grab me. Perhaps he was afraid.

I followed him, but Daniel stayed behind. As the door closed, he raised a hand to me, as if to wave.

That’s when I remembered Jhaq.

And Axyl.

“What’s going to happen?” I asked the guard urgently. “Will she be alright?”

“What do you think?” There was no unkindness in his face, he even appeared sorry, if only a little bit.

I shook my head. I knew what I thought. I loved Jhaq…but I was even more afraid of Axyl. And if she attacked me, I knew what my first instinct would be. Still, Jhaq hadn’t hurt anyone. The only signs of Axyl she had shown us were her voice and her black eyes…

“Why can’t Daniel see her eyes?” I questioned.

Unexpectedly, the guard answered my question. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “Perhaps it’s part of his humanity. That would explain it.”

“But I’m human too,” I reminded him.

“Are you?” he replied. “We all saw you.”

I grimaced. “I have no excuse for that,” I admitted. “But even if I’m not human, I’m still treated like one.”

“We cannot change the manner of our birth,” he pointed out. “We have no control of how our lives turn out.”

I thought of Kaya, one moment a promising politician, the next a deadly weapon. I remembered Nereida’s brutal death at the hands of the same one who killed Kaya, her old friend. Daniel himself had been thrown into this world the minute he left mine. And who would’ve thought I would’ve become this? A depressed paranoid schizophrenic with a growing detachment from Reality, no longer able to feel pain or death. “Believe me, I know.”

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Dark Hearts and Eyes

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“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.”

“Huh?”

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.”

“….huh?”

“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.”

“Cat…”

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.”

“…okay.”

“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.
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“RRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Hol-”

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.

Uh oh.

“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?”

“You didn’t…see?”

“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.

“…wait…what?”

“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…”

“Right.”

“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.

“Awwww.”

“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.”

“Obviously.”

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!”

Beasts Inside

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“Shit!” The monster that stabbed me got a ball of heat to the face, causing them to scream out. “Get him out of here!” I yelled to Daniel. My sight blurred and I knew I had only seconds more to live. So I let go of my body once again.

The monsters crowded around me, stabbing my mangled body repeatedly, taking no notice of the shadow. I shrieked at them, grabbing them and flinging them at eachother so they’d all go flying towards the wall. “Run, you idiot!” I told Daniel, my voice more animalistic than human.

He hesitated before pulling Papa Willis with him as he ran. “What about her?” Willis protested.

“I’ll be fine!” I yelled, hurling away the monsters that attempted to follow. “Get both your asses out!” I ordered Daniel. He nodded, and pulled Willis away, till both were out of my sight.

I looked back at the monsters coming towards me. “We’re doing nothing!” I heard one yell. “We were lied to! This isn’t a human!”

It was easy to kill them all, too simple to break them in my hand. But then I realised that no more came. We were still on the run, and yet, I heard no more approaching my way.

Oh no…I was such a fool. How many were up the other end, hunting Daniel and Willis?

I didn’t know what to do with my body though. I couldn’t leave it there…but touching it would trap me inside, and I was still dead. Or at any rate, dying. I wasn’t entirely sure. What use could I like that? But they would no doubt take it the minute I abandoned it to go after the two men running for their lives.

So I chose the option I valued more. I flew down the halls, desperately trying to sense them. I couldn’t see or hear any other presence following or approaching me, the two of them were far ahead of me. It was only because I recognised Willis’ scent that I was able to follow it, and soon, I could not only smell him, but Daniel as well. I wasn’t far…but this didn’t reassure me.

Then I heard a scream that could only be human. That’s when I decided to charge, smashing through several walls in the process in an almost cartoon-like manner. I had less than a second to take in the scene; Willis was lying in a pool of blood, and Daniel was barely keeping the freaks-with mouths stretched out like a crocodile’s- off him, frantically striking against two swords. He caught sight of me and his eyes widened. When a monster swiped at him, and he barely missed the edge of the sword, I flew at him and crushed him against a wall. “You don’t-” I punched him in the nose, “Touch-” I grabbed his neck, my claws wrapping around his throat, “Daniel!” With that, I jerked it to the right and let him fall to the ground.

At the same moment, Daniel’s sword was entering the neck of the other one, black blood spraying everywhere. “That was close,” I said softly, as the monster crumpled below.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Willis,” I reminded him.

Immediately he flashed around to my friend. Willis’ eyes were closed and he was barely moving. “I’ll be fine here,” Daniel told me. “Get your body back, now.”

“I’m probably dead…”

“Just go.” Something in his voice told me that I had to go now. So I went along the trail of rubble, when the whole mess hit me at last. It was far from a good time, but nothing stopped me as I crumpled to the ground in a quivering heap. I don’t know how long I was there, shaking, but when I finally looked up, someone was standing above me.

My face was smooth and emotionless. My eyes revealed nothing as they gazed down upon my shadow. Then my lips turned up into a sinister smile, as my hand was lifted to be inspected by my cool, silent stare. After a moment, Cat Madigan walked away, towards the pathway that my shadow had created.

I grabbed her by the arm. In that moment, it felt insanely hot, as if she were made of metal than flesh. But I didn’t re-enter my body. “Who are you?” I demanded.

She looked at me. “I’m Cat Madigan,” she said. But her voice was like a toddler’s, giving her away completely.

I twisted her arm and slammed her to the ground. “Don’t give me that,” I growled. “Get out of my body now.”

She smiled again. “Make me,” she said in that toddler voice, as the five letters lit up. There was no way I was backing down.

I had no time to think as a ball of fire surged towards my face. I nearly flipped backwards to dodge it, and I swiped her leg, causing her to fall to the ground. But she wasn’t fazed. Giving another maniacal laugh, she suddenly launched into the air, hovering above me.

Okay, that’s new. “I know you’re not me,” I snarled. “So why don’t you just tell me what you’re trying here?”

Another smile. “Does it really matter?” she asked, still floating in the air. “Well…you’ll be dead soon anyway, I suppose.”

At that I laughed, and when I saw her flinch, I felt even more pleased with myself. “You can try,” I told her. “God knows I have. Now…your name?”

“Axyl,” she said. “Sigma former. Helevia.”

“Don’t give me your backstory,” I told Axyl. “Even if you were from Helevia, that’s not the side you were on when it fell.” She shrugged. “Anyway….” I jumped into the air below her and aimed my foot upwards.

My kick launched her down the hall, where she was knocked into the wall ten metres from her. “Always wanted to do that,” I murmured to myself.

Axyl looked up with another eerie smile. “You can’t get me out,” she informed me. “This is my body now.”

“Cat!”

Both the imposter and I flashed around to see Daniel. Immediately, Axyl flew to Daniel. “Don’t you frigging dare!” I screamed at her, grabbing her burning arms.

“Daniel, help me!” she called out.

Daniel froze. “Daniel, I need you!” I shouted. “I can’t get back in, she’s taken over!” Still he didn’t move. “Didn’t you hear me? She’s taken over my body, I have to get her out!”

“I can’t…” he said weakly.

What? “Why…” I asked, feeling uneasy.

Suddenly, Axyl leapt out of my grasp and leapt towards Daniel. “No!” I yelled.

She threw her arms around Daniel and sobbed. Daniel just stood there as she shook with tears. “I’m scared,” she whimpered. “Please…I want to go…”

“It’s alright,” he told her reassuringly. “We can leave now, I promise, Cat.” He met my gaze; there was no hate in his face, nor fear or disgust. Instead, there was an urgency reflected in his eye that made me realise what he was doing. I nodded once, and waited for his signal.

“Where did you get this?” he asked Axyl, gently removing the wand from her jacket-my jacket.

“I…” She only paused for half a second. “It was in one of the cells,” she continued confidently. “One of the freaks must’ve left it there by mistake.”

Heheh, gotcha.

“I thought you said you took it from a corpse,” he said to her.

For a moment she went pale. “It was. You’re right. There was a body there, a prisoner I think. Maybe the guards dropped it and they picked it-” She stopped talking a split second before Daniel raised the wand and sent her flying backwards.

I grabbed her before she could hit the wall, and closed my eyes, forcing my way into her head. Get out, I snarled.

She merely screamed. Fine then. Using all that remained of my strength, I struggled to regain control of my limbs, until finally, the force pushing against me suddenly disappeared, and I took the opportunity to enter completely.

The pain of the injuries my body had obtained made me cry out when I came to my senses. “It’s alright,” Daniel told me. “Only me.” He lifted me up and he began walking back through the debris.

I could finally speak. “That…was frightening,” I croaked.

He looked down at me, smiling crookedly. “That’s what tipped me off,” he informed me. “If you were the enemy, why would she stop fighting you, just because I was there?”

“Yeah…after that, she called the monsters freaks. That was stupid too…”

“I already figured it out though,” Daniel pointed out.

“Still. What if you hadn’t?”

“I suppose.”

We were getting closer to the room now. “It wasn’t a corpse,” I said aloud. “Or in a cell. I found it in a lab. That’s how I caused the explosion.” Then Papa Willis came into view. “Is he okay?” Then I noticed Noah.

“He will be,” he answered. “Lucky for him, Daniel knows how to make a tourniquet.”

“Why would he need a…” Then I saw Willis. His right arm was in tatters, and a piece of cloth was wound tightly around where the elbow should’ve been. “Holy….”

“Indeed…”

“Willis tried to hit them out of the way,” Daniel told me wearily. “One of those crocodile things was going to bite my head off. If Willis hadn’t blocked it, I would’ve lost my neck. But he lost his arm…”

“He’ll be okay though?”

“Yes,” Noah said. “Come along you two, we need to leave.”

____________________________________________________________

There’s no Delirium or Reality, both of the worlds in my head are real; though no one but I would consider this the case.
I killed too many in the end. I can’t make myself forget everything I’ve done. It’s better to stop now. I want to die before I end up destroying both of my worlds, because I know that will happen.
The room’s all fuzzy now. In a moment, I’ll stop breathing, and from there….I don’t know. Kaya didn’t die, god knows what’ll happen to me.
It didn’t matter in the end, what was real or not. Delirium taught me as much as Reality. Reality was just as painful as Delirium. No matter what anyone says, my actions did matter. And for that, I’m sorry.
May we meet again.

.

Let’s Raise Hell

Standard

Cat Madigan is back, bitch!

Sorry. That was rude.

But I’m back. And I need to catch up on Delirium. Starting now.

__________________________________________

“Okay, we’re moving,” Daniel said.

“What? What’s going on?” I was dragged away from Daniel’s desk where I had been sketching.

“Papa Willis isn’t on the network,” he said.

“What? He was last time.”

“And now he’s not.” He pulled me out into the hall, nearly running down the stairs.

“Daniel, stop for a moment,” I told him. He slowed down, but only to a pace. “I have to tell him that we’re going.”

“Why?”

“In case he can help us!”

He groaned. “If he could, he would’ve-”

“Daniel, please, let me try.”

Daniel sighed. “Fine. Just wait till we reach the armoury. I’ll get us some backup so you can get back to Reality for a bit.”

“Agreed.” He then broke off into a sprint again, this time with me following closely, with the crowds of people watching us pass by.

Upon reaching the door, I immediately dropped. When I opened my eyes, I was in my room again. “Okay…” I grabbed my iPad and typed in my message for Papa Willis. Five minutes passed, and there was still no answer. “Crap!”

Then Mum came in. “I need you to set the table, dinner’s in ten. And fix your bloody room!” She popped out just as quickly as she came.

Double crap.

I had no choice. “Kaya!” I hissed. No answer. So I screamed internally, because actual screaming would alert the household, KAYAAAAAAA!

What? Her sudden appearance shocked me. She spoke as if she had been there all along.

“Gods sake…” I hissed. “Listen, can you take care of things here? We’re off to get Willis.”

About time. What am I allowed to do?

“Interact with the family only if they speak to you. Do not yell at anyone, do not kill anyone. And Mum wants the table set and my room clean.” I thought for a moment. “And I need to wash my hair too.”

I can have a shower? Kaya’s voice sounded happier.

“Yes, you may.” I listened for footsteps before sitting down on my bed.

I opened my eyes to see the last person I expected to encounter again. “What are you doing in the armoury? I would’ve thought that was beneath you.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “It is. It also happens to be where you are. So I am here.”

I sat up. “What do you want?”

“You’re going to save your little human friend. Why? Isn’t Daniel good enough for your bed?” she taunted.

“Are you here to spite me or do you have something to tell me which is actually useful?” I returned. I was tired of this so-called woman of fire. She kept trying to get a rise out of me, even in the most inappropriate circumstances. It was for that reason that I could never take her seriously. If she was capable of something other than mocking me, then I would probably have been hurt by her words. But alas, she wasn’t.

“I do,” she informed me, though it was clear to me that her words were just as likely to be bluster instead of actual advice. “I suggest that you prepare yourself for the worst.”

“Let me rephrase my previous remark…whatever the hell your name is. Do you have any information that can actually help me?”

“My name is Emisair of Fire, and that was it,” she told me. “You know what they’ve done. You of all people know what they’ve done. And you of all people can imagine what could’ve happened to that boy.”

“Of course I can imagine it. Why do you think I going after him?”

“That’s my point,” Emisair mused. “Why are you going after him when he’s already dead?”

“He’s not-”

“If he’s not, he’s a very lucky man. But you wouldn’t be rushing about the castle if you were so confident about his chance of survival.”

“Papa Willis is my dearest friend in the world,” I informed her. “I would probably do anything for him, and if I can save him, then I will, and nothing you say will stop me!”

She watched me as I got up off the ground and brushed myself off. I was walking away from her, towards the forgery, when she called after me. “Since when do you care about a lost life?”

“Since when don’t I?”

“Don’t you know?” Her voice became a purr. “You’re the hangwoman, Cat Madigan. How many people have you killed now? Can you even count that amount?”

I gritted my teeth, ready with my answer. “If I could change what I had done, I would,” I told her. “But I would never have touched them if-”

Emisair walked in front of me. “That’s why I’m not calling you a murderer,” she replied. “But you’re not far off that. It’s easy to justify whatever you’ve done wrong. But then you keep justifying it, until you no longer need a reason, you can just…” She ran her long nail across the flesh of her dark throat. “That is all I have to say.”

“…good.” We stood there, the two of us, until she sighed and turned on her foot, leaving the armoury. With that, I headed towards the hot furnace that was the forgery. I had never seen this place before, but I could see why Daniel might’ve kept me away. When the smiths looked up and saw me, my ears were suddenly filled with catcalls and whistles. One of them called out, “Oi Daniel! This ‘ere ‘yer little sweet’eart?” That was when all of them came over and surrounded me, and somehow, the leering and comments became worse.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t as uncomfortable as one would assume. Instead of shrinking away from them, I just laughed. The smiths were only teasing me, and if they knew about me and Daniel, then they knew that Daniel would crucify them if they laid a hand on me.

Which is why I didn’t recoil when two arms snaked around me and held me close. “Hello,” I said.

He just laughed and his hands gripped my waist. Suddenly, I was lifted into the air, and over Daniel’s shoulder. “Oi! Put me down!” I yelled, much to the entertainment of the men. He ignored me and walked out of the forgery, the laughter following us out.

Daniel closed the door behind us, and the laughter was muffled. “My dear sir,” I began.

He lifted my body and held me up in the air for a while. “Yes, I understand completely,” I told him. “You have muscles. You can lift Cat-Madigan-sized objects. You’re also not wearing a shirt. And your eyepatch makes you look badass.” He grinned and put me down on the ground. “Will that satisfy your vanity for one day?” I queried.

“Good enough.”

“How’d you get your strength back this fast by the way? Didn’t you lose enough blood to fill a Cat Madigan?”

He grimaced. “Lots of herbal stuff from Jhaq. I just get tired now and then.”

I frowned. “You going to be okay for this?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“What’s the plan?” I questioned.

“First, this.” Daniel held out a thin, gleaming object. Tentatively, I took it. “Not your usual type of stiletto, but still.”

“Huh?”

“That’s what it’s called,” he explained. “You like it?”

It’s a knife, I realised. One perfect for a Cat Madigan. I grinned. “Cool. Much cooler than roses.”

“So you don’t want roses?”

“I’ve never been given roses before…”

“Back to the situation at hand…” Daniel began. “You know your way around, don’t you?”

“…a little bit. I remember Willis’ cell, but I’m not sure how long it would take to find it.”

He nodded. “We need to find Noah, then we’ll be off. Plan of attack is to set off some distraction which they’ll chase after. Then it’s just a matter of silently making our way through the place, got it?”

“Yup. I can be quiet. Silent as a cat.”
_____________________________________________________

A couple hours later:

“FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!” I screamed as I sprinted through the halls, the monsters slowly gaining on me. This a good enough distraction, Daniel?

I then saw the dilapidated wall leading out toward the rocks and I jumped. Not my body though; my body dropped as I fell out of it, and my shadow stood in front of it at the ready. The monsters saw me as I was, and raised their blades.

I’m not afraid. I am the mad cat, and I will kill them too.

The Strange Wills of Hearts

Standard

“Ray?”

I see her when I get on the bus to go home, and I nearly run to reach her before someone else sits down next to her. “What is it?”

She has a bright smile on her face as she tells me. “He’s awake,” she says. “He wants to see you.”

“Thank god.” I nearly crush her in my arms, and I feel tears running down my face. I hadn’t realised how worried I had been. “It worked then?”

Ray nods. It’s as if she has lifted a giant weight which had been crushing my chest. I suddenly feel like I could sprint home to see him. Instead, I impatiently wait on the bus, praying that the traffic doesn’t slow it down.

I break out into a sprint when I get off the bus, though Ray still arrives at my house before me. I manage to slow myself down before my mother sees me running, but as soon as I enter the door, I head straight for my room.

He’s there, lying down on the bed when he sees me. He grins as he sees me. “What took you so long?” he asks in a faint voice.

I just throw my arms around him, and it’s a long time before I let go. “I thought you were going to die,” I whisper.

“It takes a lot to kill me,” Daniel says. “Though to be fair, that was pretty close.” He releases me and leans back to look at me. “You look like shit,” he concedes.

I grimace. “That’s generally what mass blood loss does, see.” He looks shocked. “Didn’t they tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Daniel asks. His eyes narrow and he glares over at Noah, who is standing by the door.

I look behind me. “I insisted on it,” I said. “You lost too much blood, and mine was the closest match.”

“Goddammit Cat Madigan,” Daniel groans. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Yeah well, you shouldn’t have attacked Christan either.” He growls at that. “Yes, the asshole deserved it, but you forgot who you’re dealing with.”

“Is he going to do it again though?” Daniel’s voice is hard as ice.

“I don’t know. My guess is not, though.”

He scoffs. “You would’ve killed him if I had died,” he states.

“Of course.” I smile at him, but it doesn’t reach my eyes. “In this world, that’s the only thing left after everything else that matters is gone.”

He’s not looking at me. Instead, he’s looking behind me, and the tired look on his face before becomes one of absolute loathing. I immediately know who it is. “You aren’t welcome here,” I inform the king behind me.

“Am I not to be forgiven ever?”

“No,” Daniel and I say in unison. “I’ve already given you my terms,” I remind him. “And I’m assuming you are not missing an eye, are you?”

I hear him walking towards me. “One more step and you’ll regret it,” Daniel says, shaking slightly.

“Get out,” I order him. Daniel begins to shake more violently. “Noah, get here now!” Jhaq pulled my arm. “I’m not leaving him!” I told her. “Daniel!”

Ten seconds later he stops, and he lies there, shivering. I sit beside him and stroke his forehead, measuring how hot he is. “How many of these have happened?” I ask.

“This is the third,” Noah tells me. “Don’t let his blood pressure rise.”

I think of how much the sight of Christan enrages Daniel, and how my mother and my brother could come in and start screaming. “Don’t let them in again,” I order. “At least not while he’s conscious. He needs to recover and he’s in no condition to work, especially not with his Grace.”

“Yes my lady.” He leaves, and Jhaq, Ray and I are left in the room with Daniel, who has gone silent.

“You are learning, Miss Madigan,” Jhaq observes.

“What do you mean?”

“Miss Madigan, you are a lady,” Jhaq insists. “And now you have the words of one.”

“I…no, I’m not.” I look down at Daniel, now sleeping with a peaceful expression on his face. “I’m not a lady, I’m just his friend. To them, I’m a pet human he keeps for company, no one would take me seriously.”

“No.” Jhaq’s voice is determined. “Master Noah takes you seriously. That is a certainty.”

She was right. Noah paid attention to me and didn’t treat me like a monster. He didn’t call me Freak. That was how Christan was before though…
_______________________________________________________________________________

Daniel woke up again later on, and when he went to sleep, it’s wasn’t the aftermath of a seizure. He was upset about his eye, but he calmed down after I reassured him how awesome guys with eyepatches were. His vanity satisfied, he soon drifted off to sleep, his head cradled in my lap. I didn’t try to move him, I just sat with him.

Noah came in and sat down by Daniel’s bedside. “His Grace has promised he won’t intrude when Daniel is awake,” he informed me. “He doesn’t want Daniel to die, so he won’t do anything that would do him harm.”

If Daniel dies, I will not hesitate to make every fibre of your being burst into flames. “What about Thommand though? I’m more worried about him than his Grace.”

“He’s not going to do anything either. I don’t know if you know this, but Daniel’s a valued member of the king’s peers. Christan doesn’t want him dead now anymore than he did when he held out that dagger,” Noah explained. “Besides, Daniel has a fever still. Thommand’s scared for his own skin, he won’t go near anyone who is sick.”

“True.”

He was quiet for a moment. “You…you and Kaya were close, weren’t you?”

“Of course we were.” And now we’re too close for comfort.

“She mentioned you,” he told me. “She told me how you needed help, with them.”

“The shadows? Yeah, I remember.” Those used to be what I was most afraid of. My Delirium was still being created, from Kaya’s memories, I hadn’t fallen down that rabbit hole yet. “She was going to help me, before…”

“I know.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “How much…do you know about her?”

I thought about it. “I…I know she was escaping from here when she got attacked. Then I saw everything after.”

His face went dark. “Oh.”

“Yeah…” I grinned a little. “There was that too,” I added.

“I…”

“I’m the last person to judge anyone,” I told him. “Your secret, and Kaya’s, is safe with me.”

“Thank you.” Noah went quiet, as if he was about to say something, but changed his mind.

“What is it? Ask whatever you want.”

“Did she…” He sighed. “All my life, I’ve never stopped wondering what went on in that girl’s head. And I can’t help but wonder…” He looked up at me. “You saw her memories. Did she…feel the same way that I did about her? Even a little bit?”

I tried remembering Kaya’s thoughts from long ago. It seems like a lifetime ago, in a way it was. There was so many emotions, so strong and vivid. Rage and fear are the most powerful ones. But there’s calm too, calm and care and trust.

“I’d say so,” I told him. “After what Kaya went through, she swore never to trust anyone again, but she came close to doing that.”

“Truly?” Noah doesn’t seem convinced.

I smiled at him. “I don’t know how much Kaya loved people. People who go through all pain can either abandon love entirely or depend on it even more. But she cared for you the most, I can assure you that.”

He gave me a tired grimace. “You loved her,” I said. “Even after she was changed. Why?”

“I…continue to ask myself that question.” Noah paused. “When I knew her, she was the brightest girl in the world, and she didn’t care less what people thought. She was beautiful. And after…I still saw her that way. Even with her purple eyes and her scars, she was still my friend.” He smiled at me. “You have friends in your world, friends who stay by you as well.”

“Yeah…but none of them felt the same way that you did about Kaya.”

“Not one?”

“No.” I hold out my left hand, showing him the scars. “No one wants to love a freak.”

“He does.” Noah looked down at Daniel. “He will not abandon you…Cat.”

“I hope not.” I touched Daniel”s forehead again. It’s warm, but not feverish. “Hearts are so strange, aren’t they?”