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.
_____________________________________________________________________

“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!”

The Strange Wills of Hearts

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“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?”

Drained

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Jhaq returned not long after. She was carrying different glass jars with her, and in two was her little daughter. “Ray?”

She climbed onto the bed next to Daniel. “Should she be…” I asked Jhaq, but she ignored me.

“J- I shall remove the bandage,” she announced. “I…must clean it.” She was struggling not to speak in third person. I remembered that I had given her another book, another set of words for her to read, from my own shelf. I didn’t know what she would think of the Hunger Games, but the last time I asked Daniel, he said she was enjoying it. He had to stop her from reading them to Ray as a bedtime story though.

He looked so different then. Daniel was so full of life, it was hard to see how now, barely moving except when he was screaming or crying out.

I looked over at his goddaughter, with her little face screwed up in a frown. “Daniel,” she said. Just that single word; Daniel.

“Look away,” Jhaq told the both of us. She took off the bandage, revealing the inflamed skin underneath, and little bits of white that remained of his eye. Ray whimpered and Jhaq looked up exasperated. “Jhaq said, look away,” she scolded both of us. “Silly girls.”

“I’m fine,” I told her. “I want to help.”

“This is nothing,” she said.

“It’ll make me feel like I’m doing something,” I pointed out. “Please Jhaq.”

She shook her head, pouring a fluid onto a cloth. I knew the smell. “Tea tree oil?” I asked.

She looked up. “It’s a good antiseptic,” I said. “I use it sometimes.”

Jhaq nodded. “This will help Daniel fight off infection,” she told me, dabbing it on his broken eye.

I thought of something. “I’ll be back,” I told Jhaq, walking out of Daniel’s chambers, not entirely sure of where to go.

As I walked out, I came into the hallway to my bedroom though. “Wha-” I looked back, and Daniel’s room was there, not mine. I frowned. Was Daniel’s bedroom now part of my house?

At least it’s cleaner.

I went into the kitchen, and started boiling the kettle. “Do we have lemongrass?” I asked mum, scrambling for a tea bag.

Mum mumbled something in response, but I didn’t pay too much mind. Calling back a word of thanks, I grabbed a bottle of essential oil in the kitchen, and finished preparing my cup of tea.

Jhaq frowned as I walked in. “I need to clear the air,” I told her. “It’ll help me breathe. Him too.”

She hesitated, then nodded. “The scents will help Daniel breathe,” she told me. “Mayhaps calm Daniel.”

“Good.” She began to wrap a long strip of cloth around Daniel’s head, covering up the newly placed bandage. Once again, he was barely moving, and I had to feel his heartbeat myself before I could reassure myself that he was still alive.

Then the door opened and I sprang up, expecting my mother or brother. Instead, a young man with grey hair walked in, and looked at me. “You are the human girl?” he asked.

Well, that’s certainly better than freak. “Yes, that’s me,” I told him. Jhaq dropped in a deep curtsey on the ground, and he swept past her without a word.

Then he did something surprising. He knelt down in a bow before me. “My lady,” he spoke, rising up again. “I have heard much about you.”

Part of me is frozen in shock. “Then why on earth would you be bowing?”

He smiled at me wryly. “You’re still a lady,” he said. “And a strong one at that. You’ve terrified his Grace to no end.”

“As long as he’s not coming back,” I simply said. I didn’t trust myself to open up to this stranger, even though he seemed far different from everyone else.

Then he sighed. “I trust that you know what happened.” I nodded. “I’m sorry for what has happened to you both,” he said sorrowfully. “Neither of you deserved what happened.”

I frowned at the bitter tone in his voice. “Has something like this happened before?”

“No, but sooner or later it would’ve.” The doctor’s face is stony. “It’ll happen again as well.”

I don’t know what to say to this declaration. “I cannot control him,” I settled for saying. The doctor nodded.

Daniel yelled out and I turned back to him. I didn’t need to put my hand to his forehead to know that he had a fever, but I did anyway, and his eyes fluttered open, or at least the single one did. “I…”

“Daniel?”

He stares at me for a moment. “Cat Madigan,” he murmured, before his eye closed again.

I stayed by him. “What can be done?” I asked the doctor.

He then proceeded to relay to me a full description of how Daniel’s eye was sliced right down the middle, informing me of how the pupil was completely destroyed and how the rest of his eye would be removed as soon as his body was stabilised. By the end of it, I was feeling slightly ill.

“He is slowly coming out of shock,” the doctor told me. “But he’s got an infection, and he needs blood. My lady…” He inhaled. “You know as well as I do that our blood will not do the job.”

“Then use mine,” I told him.

“I’d have to get his permission,” he replied.

“He’s delirious, how can you get permission from him?”

“My lady, no offence…but using your blood may cause complications. You know why.”

“Oh.” Freak. “I know…but, where else can we get human blood?”

He shook his head. “His Grace told me himself that you are the one human besides Daniel in these grounds. But we don’t know the structure of your blood, it has been through many treatments now.”

I thought for a moment. “It’s…strange.”

“Believe me, I know.” The doctor smiles at me strangely. “I’ve heard of what’s happened. And I can see why you terrify the king, especially now.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “It’s a frightening prospect; one who has suffered a million hells, and survives every one of them.”

“Not without scars.”

“That’s what makes you terrifying. Not the physical scars,” he added, “but all that suffering has made you strong as steel. You’re a girl forged by pain and rage, and you remember everything that’s ever happened to you. That’s why he’s afraid. He knows that you’ll get revenge, someday.”

I smiled up at him bitterly. “You make me sound like some warrior.”

“That’s what people consider you.”

“People?”

“Indeed.”

I suddenly felt uncomfortable. “Could I save Daniel with my blood? It’s closer than anything else available, and if it can bring me back to life, it can heal him.”

“If he accepts it. More precisely, if his body accepts it. That’s the main worry.”

“Is there a difference between injections and a transfusion?”

“Your blood is used to catering for your body. We don’t know how it’ll react to his. Best case scenario, he accepts it, and it heals his body without permanently impacting his system.”

“And then there’s an infinite amount of possibilities after that,” I concluded.

“Yes,” he said. “And there’s another issue.”

“What now?”

“A lot of blood is needed. He’s nearly comatose right now, but we’re not sure how much blood he’ll need. And we must think of your condition as well. If your bodies are like ours, then you won’t be able to reproduce enough blood to function, at least not in less than a day. You’d die from the blood loss.”

“…you forget who you’re talking to, sir.” Before he could interrupt me, I continued. “Take all the blood you can from me until I stop breathing. That’s how much you’d need for Daniel.”

He hesitated. “Resuscitate me if you want,” I told him. “But if you don’t, I’ll come back anyway.”

“My lady-”

“I’ve died from haemorrhaging more times than I am able to count, and I’m here to say this to you,” I said. “If there’s another option, think of one now.”

He thought for a moment before shaking his head in defeat. “I can’t,” he admitted. “He’s in no condition to consent,” he acknowledged. “But you do realise that this is a coin flip.”

“Of course I do.”
___________________________________________

The doctor lets me stay in Daniel’s room while this happens. Jhaq and Ray are asked to leave, but Ray refuses, and I don’t argue with her. “She can stay if she wants,” I say. “If her mother agrees,” I remedy, at the look on Jhaq’s face.

“You’ll come back,” Ray says firmly. She’s tiny, but she’s stubborn. I’ve forgotten how old she is.

“Of course. Think of a colour while I’m gone.”

“Why?”

“Just for a bit of fun.” Everything starts to go foggy once more. “How much has gone?” I asked the doctor.

“A litre,” he told me. “Shouldn’t be too much longer.”

“Doctor?”

He frowns at me. “What?”

“What’s your name?”

“I…” He looks away. “Noah.”

I smile. “I thought I knew you.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Him. He’s opening his eyes and looking over at me. “You’re going to live,” I said to him, as everything fades. “Stay alive for me.”

It’s like going asleep. “Promise me, Daniel.”

Strangers in Delirium

Standard

I’m used to people shouting at me when I wake up.

Today, it was Daniel.

Everything was blurry when I opened my eyes. “Where am I Daniel?”

He didn’t say anything, but he held my hand reassuringly until my sight returned. My other senses returned, one by one. This is what I took in; the walls were made of stone, but they weren’t threatening like a prison cell. It was warm, and it smelt of pine; Daniel must’ve put pine nuts in the fire. This wasn’t a hard bench I lay on, instead, all I could feel was soft, smooth sheets.

Then I realised we weren’t alone.

I could feel the eyes on me, and I rolled over to see them. They all flinched when I looked at them. “Am I really that hideous?” I said dryly.

“Humans,” Daniel said, as if that explained everything.

I recognised the little girl peeping through the crowd. “I know her,” I whispered to Daniel. “Her name’s Ray, right?”

He nodded once, and in that moment, the girl dashed through the people to him. He picked her up and squeezed her quickly. “My goddaughter,” he told me, before popping her on the bed beside me.

“Hello…” Daniel, this is not a good idea, there is a difference from a child from Reality and a child from Delirium. I don’t want her to start screaming, I’m a freak as it is!

But, to my surprise, the girl smiled at me and sat next to me on Daniel’s bed. Her presence managed to calm me in front of all the nosy strangers; out of all of them, she was the most ‘human’ looking. It didn’t stop me from recoiling from the others.

Daniel, as if hearing my silent plea, spoke up. “She isn’t on show. Either state your business or leave.”

The majority left, though a couple had legitimate reasons to speak with Daniel. That didn’t stop them from taking a second glance at me anyway. While they spoke, I looked at Ray. She was barely three years old, from what I saw. Her hair was golden and silky looking, but it was her eyes that were the most comforting. They were plain, green, human eyes. Nothing more. She smelt of roses and cream, and when she hugged me, I didn’t resist. After they left, I asked Daniel why I was here.

“Why are you ever here?” was his response.

I just ignored him. We sat in silence for a while, until he just talked to himself. “Things are mad at the moment. The Highest wants a party, I’m sad to say. In times like this…”

I was silent. There’s a great deal that can be said in silence and stillness. It’s so unnatural, that people automatically know that there is something wrong. Daniel stopped and sat down next to me. “What happened?”

I shut my eyes.

“What,” he pronounced. “Happened.”

I made a little movement with my hand and he was quick to realise. “Who did it?” he demanded.

“They’re all shadows to me,” I said softly. I felt as if the warmth from the room had returned to the fire, leaving me in the cold.

Suddenly, Daniel snatched me up in his arms and held me close against him. “Daniel…” I objected.

“Why…” he was saying over and over. It was alarming, Daniel had never done that.

When he released me, the girl had vanished, and I felt exhausted. I lay down on the bed and told Daniel, “I don’t feel like going back to Reality yet. I just need to sleep.”

He nodded.

“But I can’t.”

“Nightmares?”

I nodded.

“They can’t get you here.”

“Because they’re afraid of you.”

“I won’t go.”

“Please don’t,” I tell him.

Daniel sat next to me; I’m now used to him being with me when I struggle sleeping. I closed my eyes. “Why?” he murmured again.

You should be teasing me. Why are you being kind? “Why?” I agreed.