Alive

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I mechanically slipped the loop over my head, and pulled in the buckle to make it fit my neck. I walked over to the hinge on the door, and tossed the strap through the gap and over. I held the other end and gulped. Pull. 

I hoisted myself up, and clipped the end of the strap to my noose in one fell swoop. I closed my eyes. Sleep.

I was floating in space again, in the universe that I created. Dust and rock floated past me, the shadows swarmed around me. It was warm, not like Reality, which was steadily becoming colder and colder. 

Then someone shouted my name.

I woke up, struggling to breath. Of course, that was my intention. The banging coming from the other side of the door jolted me, causing my body to swing. Instinctly, I tried to regain my footing; but I was two, maybe three feet off the ground, dangling from my bag strap. 

I knew at once that I couldn’t do this to him. I couldn’t hurt him like this. I tried to unclip myself, but tugging on the strap only swung me around more, choked me more. I looked down. The lock. I attempted to reach it with my hand; bad idea. Desperately, I moved my foot to it, and pushed the lock down, and there was a click. 

Daniel barged in, slamming me and the door against the wall. I would’ve cried out at the pain if I had air to do so. When he saw me, his face twisted into a horrified expression. Immediately, he grabbed me and hoisted my body up. “How do I untie you?” he demanded. It was then that he noticed the clip. He held me up against the door, lifting me with his left arm, as he unclasped the makeshift noose with his free hand. 

He lowered me to the ground and loosened the bag strap, sliding it off. I just closed my eyes, ignoring his yells. I was too numb. Far too numb. 

Until I’d heard sobbing. I opened my eyes. Daniel was huddled over, tears streaming down his face. No… I crawled over to him, reached out to touch him.

He flinched. 

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “Please don’t cry. Daniel…”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I spent the rest of the day in the hospital. Eventually they took me home, blaming it on the medication. And I locked myself in my cupboard, forbidding myself from seeing light.

I am a monster. 

I sobbed and screamed without letting out a sound. My parents knocked on the door occasionally to make sure that I was still alive, and I created a handy bulge in my bed to create the illusion that I was under the covers in case they came in.

How could I do that? Why would I even think about hurting Daniel in such a way? Not just him either. Willis, Flash, Bad Dog, Evil, Snugglepot. Fucking hell. I didn’t even deserve to be human.

Worthless, Inconsiderate, Selfish, Whore, Bitch.

Finally, I slept. It was cold, but I had slept in worse conditions than a closet. I should be back there, freezing to death. No, that’s not good enough. I need worse. I should have my head sliced off again, or get stabbed millions upon millions of times. Or I should be sent back to that brothel to be tortured. Neck snapped. Drowning, again. Throat slit. Something. Maybe all of those.

Suddenly, I was warm.  

I knew who it was. “Don’t Daniel,” I croaked. 

He ignored me. “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” I hissed. “Just leave me there, okay?”

He kept walking, with me in his arms. He dropped me on the bed and pulled the covers over me before walking out of my bedroom.

Promptly, I got out and walked back into the closet, closing the door behind me. Instantly, it opened, and he grabbed my arm. “Bed,” he growled.

“I’m sleeping here.”

“That’s mature of you.”

“Just leave me alone, okay?” I cried, wrenching myself free and slamming the closet door. 

It opened again. “Don’t be stupid,” he insisted. “You can sleep here.”

“You know that I can.”

“And you know that this is foolish,” he retorts.

I closed the door again. When it opened, I kicked him in the stomach, sending him flying. I immediately shut it, hearing his grunt and curse from the other side. He didn’t open the door again though.

Good.

The pain flooded through me, and I collapsed onto the closet floor, tears coming back again. I needed this. This was only a teaspoon of what Daniel must’ve been feeling like when he found me. Jesus, how many times has he found me in similar predicaments? Getting choked by a shadow. Beaten to a pulp by my mother. Lying on the bathroom floor coughing out water. Cutting my thighs with a razor. I deserve all this.

Then I heard him speak, from behind the door. “I know what you’re doing.” 

I remained silent. He sighed. “You’re feeling guilty.”

No shit Sherlock.

“And you’re trying to make me go away so that you can suffer by yourself,” Daniel continued. “Because you believe that you deserve to. But that’s wrong.”

Liar.

“Kicking me won’t make me think of you badly. Because that’s the only reason why you did it, so I’d hate you.”

I hit you in the beginning. When we first became friends.

“That’s the one thing about you. You’re so careful about everyone’s reactions that you calculate your every move. That’s why I know that you’re doing this to drive me away. Because you’re usually so deadly afraid of being violent towards someone you care about. And I know you do care. You let that slip today in the bathroom.”

I kept my mouth closed. I heard Daniel sigh. “I don’t hate you,” he told me. “I never would. I just want you to be safe…and I thought that was going to be possible without Delirium in your life. But…” His voice trailed off.

I curled into a ball on the ground, huddling under my clothes. Eventually, he spoke again. “Do you still need me?” he asked me. “Is there any reason for me to still be in your life?”

My heart lurched at the question. No was the right answer, the deadly logical side of me said. He’s part of Delirium, he doesn’t belong here. The longer you hold onto Daniel, the more you’ll be dragged away from the real world. And then you’ll never be normal. Say goodbye. NOW.

“I…” I found myself speaking for the first time since Daniel had began talking. I had to say it. Otherwise…. “I…” 

Send him away. Move on.

No.

So you’re going to be a freak that talks to herself for the rest of her life?

If he wants to leave, I’ll let him go. But he is the one person who has stood by me despite everything. And I’m not going to let pride get in the way, not this time.

“Of course I do,” I choked, sobbing again. “I…you’re….you’re the only person left that knows me for who I really am. And yet…you’re here.” I held onto the door handle and pulled myself up. “And I really don’t know why.”

The door opened and I was brought out into the light. Daniel stumbled backwards, as if he had been expecting me to be holding it back. His face was puffy and his eye was shining from tears. “But I love you,” I told him. “I know that. I know that I love you and I need you by my side, because…I want you to see me become a better person. I want you to see me be happy, and not post-breakdown-adrenaline-induced happy, but actually happy, and alive.” For the first time in what seemed like eternity, I smiled. It was an utterly broken smile, and the tears probably ruined it, but I didn’t care. “Is that…something you’d be interested in staying around for?”

Daniel stared at me before laughing weakly. “You and your moodswings,” he whispered. 

“Yours are worse.”

He laughed again. “And I’d love to. You being alive and happy sounds wonderful.”

Wonderful,” I mimicked him.

“Shush.”

I took his hand.

Better Than Me

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I should really stop dreaming.

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

Anyway. Flashbacks fucking suck. The end. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 “Well? What do you think?”

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

 “I know you know,” he says flatly. 

 “About what?” 

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

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

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

 “…” 

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

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

 “Who?” 

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

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

 “Yes.” 

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not just kill us then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Then he found out.

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

My stomach leapt. 

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

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

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

“She didn’t want me to.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She wouldn’t give her life-“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…do what?” 

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

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

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

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

“…you mean…”

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

“You’re shaking…”

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

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

Next thing I knew, I was in Delirium.

Self Conversation

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You’re being angsty and edgy again mate.

For some reason, you sound like Togami.

Whatever. Would you prefer me to sound like Kaya? Or Daniel?

Do whatever the fuck you want. You’re my head, after all.

So what are you doing out here?

Like you said, being angsty and edgy.

Why are you being angsty and edgy though?

Why the hell would you care?

I am you. And I’m not sure if you know yourself.

I do. Somewhat.

Then enlighten me.

I can’t finish my IT.

…that’s it?

No. Of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t be breaking down, would I?

Fine then. What else is there?

The fact that I can’t finish anything I start.

You finished one thing.

That doesn’t count and you know it.

I see. So we’re discounting anything involving mass destruction?

…yes.

Very well.

My point is, I can barely finish the things that interest me, let alone things that don’t even peak that interest.

And?

It makes me feel bad about myself. Because I want to be able to finish, but I just feel so…unmotivated.

In other words, your depression decides to add a few pounds so that you can’t do shit.

Precisely.

Then again, that could just be you making excuses.

That is another thing. I’m probably just lazy, and I just blame it on the mental illness.

Then get over it. Stop hating yourself. Give yourself proof that you’re not a bad person. Actually work.

Oh, I get it. You can’t. There is something physically weighing you down. You just can’t tell if it’s just mental illness or laziness.

…yeah.

Well you’ve got to get over it. Your future lies in the balance. This shit is year 12, make or break year.

I want to be able to…

…but you don’t think you can?

No.

Why not?

Because I can’t finish anything, even if I set my mind to it. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, fuck, I don’t even know what my morals are!

Ohhhh, I see. It’s not just self hate. It’s guilt.

For some part.

Togami? Ash?

Yup.

I don’t know what you see in them. Togami’s a self absorbed prick and you’ve seen your other suitor. If one can call him that.

Togami appears to believe that I can get better. It’s not a relationship anyway. As for Ash…yeah, I can’t make excuses. He’s a sleaze bag.

So it’s Ash that you’re guilty about, not Togami.

Yeah. Everyone hates him.

Except for you.

I hate him too. Just not enough to stop seeing him.

Are you going to sleep with him again?

No.

Good. Now stick to it. Don’t let him seduce you with Sword Art Online.

Shaddup.

But that’s not it.

Of course it’s not.

Jeezus. It never stops, does it? What is it with being seventeen? Does something change suddenly that lures in hot dudes? Hehee. Cat Madigan 101: How to pick up hot dudes.

Oi.

Okay. Togami I’ll let you off the hook for. Ash, you’re kinda a bad person for. So what about candidate number three?

…he’s insanely intelligent, sweet and not condescending. And probably isn’t at all interested in me in that way.

…he asked you to the fucking movies. On fucking VALENTINES DAY.

…it’s Valentines Day on Saturday?

Argh….yes. And you’ve got a fucking date.

…he’s probably called it off. I’m a nutcase, as he’s now well aware.

Whatever…I know where this is going. ‘Why would he be interested in me? I’m insane, I’m ugly, I’m retarded. He’s going to lose interest in me eventually.’

Of course.

So what? You’re going to let a potential relationship slide out of your grasp?

Look, if he’s not interested in me, he’s not interested in me. And chances are, even if he is, he’ll eventually decide that I’m not worth the trouble.

If that’s the case, then what are you alive for?

Hmm?

You’re insane, ugly and retarded, as you pointed out. You’re lazy, because you’re not finishing the work you need to. And you’ll never be desirable to anyone because of those things. So why are you still alive?

…because I don’t have the guts to kill myself.

Oh, I see. So you’re just a waste of space, taking up everyone’s time and oxygen. You’re disgusting.

I hate myself.

As you should.

But…

What?

…I hate you more.

I hate you, the voice in my head that reminds me how horrible I am. You’re the one thing standing in the way of me living a normal life. You’ve always been there, clinging to me like a chain around my neck. I know what you are…

You are that miserable illness that’s been eating away at me since I was six. You just sit there and whisper things to me and feast on the pain it produces. I hate you far more than I’ll ever hate myself.

So kill me.

I can’t.

Of course you can. All you need is a bullet in the brain to take away the pain. Heh, I should be a poet.

No. I’m going to live.

No you’re not.

I am. I’m going to live so that every day for the rest of my life, I can tell you to go fuck yourself.

Everything you said was true.

No. Everything you said was true. It could happen. But then again, it might not. But I think I’ll stay around and find out.

You’re not going to survive me.

I will. I’m stronger than you. Look at what I survived already.

Give it up. I’m the one you should fear.

You Are Not Allowed To Kill Me

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It’s happened again.

Ironic isn’t it? After a couple of weeks of positive thinking and telling myself that I’ll be okay, I’m now in that dark pit again where I feel as if nothing is going to make me feel better and that I might as well die.

I’m going to blame Robin Williams. He’s the one who got me started on thinking about depression and mental illness after all.

Long story short, I’m in hospital.

But it’s okay. I haven’t hurt myself. And Daniel’s going to stop me from doing anything.

I wish he didn’t have to see me like this. That’s why I didn’t tell him how I was feeling to begin with. I didn’t want him to think I was weak; at the time, I thought it was nothing, just another burst of depression over absolutely nothing.

Except by the end of the day, I was sobbing uncontrollably, and whenever I looked around the room, I could easily imagine all the ways I could kill myself. Maybe I’d stab myself with a sewing needle, or instead, use it to cut through the fly screen on my window and leap out onto the ground below. I never did anything of those things, but I could see them so vividly, I may as well have been doing them.

On Tuesday, I met up with Flash and I told him how much I wanted to die. Little did I know that he was watching. The same one who killed Kaya was waiting for me to give him the order to finish me off too. And I must’ve given him that order at some point, because I soon felt that sinking feeling that I had become accustomed to so much in my other Reality. I apologised to Flash for doing this, and I remember him crying softly as I died once again.

I arrived in the bright white space that was Limbo. It wasn’t Kaya who met me here though. Just the man who murdered her. “Take me back,” I ordered him.

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Take me back!” I snarled. “How dare you try pull the same thing on me! Wasn’t Kaya and Nereida enough for you?”

He merely smiled. “You wanted this,” he reminded me. “I was there when were crying out ‘I want it to be over! I just want to die!‘ Don’t tell me you didn’t mean it.”

I lunged at him and grabbed his throat. He laughed as I clawed at his face, tried to beat him senseless. “You think that’s going to take you back? You can’t reverse death, stupid bitch. Don’t you know that?”

“I didn’t want you to kill me! It’s not fair!”

Another dark laugh, and he threw me off him. I landed on my back, willing myself not to dissolve into tears. “Why on earth would you think such I thing? After everything you’ve seen, what reason do you have to think that anyone would want to help you?

“Since the age of fifteen, you’ve been dragged into the pits of hell itself, for no reason other than to be kicked and beaten like a dog. Your dear friend ended her life in front of your eyes, and you could do nothing to stop it. How many times have you been betrayed by those you’ve trusted? I’m not only speaking of my world. Those you love in Reality have always failed you in the end, haven’t they?”

I didn’t let myself say anything. “Your parents were destroying you bit by bit by the way they treated you, your schoolmates whispered about you behind your back, just for being different. You didn’t deserve any of that. But like I pointed out, it happened.

“You have no right to beg me to return your future. For you have none, Cat Madigan.” He turned away from me. “I’ll leave you to your own madness.”

A ball of fire blocked his exit.

“No,” I said.

He turned at me with his evil white eye and I could feel his presence in the back of my mind. Oh don’t be like that, my dear, his voice sneered. It doesn’t have to be like this, you know. Isn’t it so much easier to give in?

For that moment, I felt a wave of peace and calm wash over me, and I stumbled slightly. There you go… he said in what was meant to be a soothing voice. Now just go down…deeper still…

I was aware of him coming up behind me, his hand resting on my head, pushing me down into oblivion. It’s alright…it’s alright to just give in…

No.

I swung around and bit into his upper arm like an animal. Surprise crossed his face, something that I had never seen of him before. I could taste the rotting flesh of his arm, but I willed myself not to let go of him. He tried to rip himself away, but by doing so, my teeth sunk even deeper into his body and with a single clench of my jaw, I managed to crush the bone completely in half.

I spat the bloody limb out, and I looked at the expression on his face in sadistic satisfaction. “No,” I repeated. “You’re not going to kill me. You’ve taken everything from me, and I owe you absolutely nothing. My life is not yours to take. Now Neekah….”

This time when I lunge at him, there’s fear in his eyes. “Yes, I know exactly who you are,” I told him. “And I know whatyou are too. And you no longer terrify me. Now. LET ME OUT!

I gasped for air when I woke up suddenly. Flash and the sickbay attendant were there, watching me. “Oh…”

“Cat!” Flash’s face had tears streaming down it, and I couldn’t help but break down in his arms, just relieved that I was alive, that I could stop my own mind from killing me. I apologised over and over that day. I was the most selfish human being in the world, and nothing would ever convince me otherwise.

Apparently after I blacked out, Kaya came out, and the two of them managed to get me to school before Kaya couldn’t carry me anymore. Flash joked that she had finally done something besides snapping at people, but the relief in his face was clearly there.

I felt better the next day. I had a minor breakdown in Literature, but I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives.

Then the next day, it happened again.

The coordinator for the youth reference group that I was apart of was attending my session with Lolly. She told me that because I was in the beginning of my ‘mental health journey’, I wouldn’t be as useful to the group as the others, who had apparently ‘finished’ theirs. In other words, they didn’t want me there.

I ran out of the room and bolted myself in the bathroom. I didn’t want her to see me cry. Crying was something only certain people were allowed to see. After about ten minutes of pleading, Lolly managed to convince me to come back, after said coordinator left.

“I’m sorry,” she said awkwardly. “But if it’s any consolation, she said that once you’re on the road to recovery, you can come back to the group.”

I just looked at her. “I’m not going to survive this though,” I told her hollowly. “So what good is it to tell me that?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you think I mean?”

“Are you planning to kill yourself?”

“Not at the moment,” I said. “I’d give myself a year. But…” I inhaled, trying to hold back tears. “Everything is building up. How long do you think I’ll have before my luck runs out and I snap, and no one’s there to stop me?”

“By snap, you mean…”

I raised an eyebrow. I didn’t care how rude I was being. Lolly knew exactly what I meant by ‘snap’.

“Right…if you went home, what would you do?”

“I’d try and talk to friends,” I said. “Or I’d go to Delirium and stay there for a while.”

“I’d prefer that you not to go into Delirium,” she told me.

And I’d prefer that my life wasn’t a complete shit heap.

“But,” she said. “If you can’t get ahold of your friends, what do you think you could do to distract yourself from those sort of thoughts?”

“I don’t know,” I said honestly. “I guess I’d do what I did on Monday and Tuesday.”

“Which is?”

“Cry into a pillow.”

“On Monday…did you fantasise about killing yourself?”

I explained how on Monday, all I could see were death instruments all around me. “It’s not something I would act on. But I easily imagine it, and that scares me, to be honest.”

She was silent. “Would…would you be willing to go to hospital?”

I thought about it for a moment, but I already knew that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. “I can’t tell you what I would do,” I said. “I never know what I’m going to do. On Monday, I thought I was going to be fine, but then I broke down in the evening, unable to think of anything but wanting to die. I’d like to say that I wouldn’t hurt myself…but I can’t tell you that without lying.”

“Then you’re going to have to come in.”

“…okay.”

She went out, and Daniel came barging in then. He immediately grabbed me up in his arms and held me close to him. “It’s alright,” he repeated over and over. I think he was trying to convince himself, rather than me. “You’re getting help now. It’ll be okay.”

“Will I?” I croaked.

“Look…” Daniel stroked my hair softly. “I know it’s going to be tempting…but I want you to stay in Reality for your stay in hospital. I’ll bring Ray and Noah in to see you, but I want you to stay there until you’re better.”

“Thommand will want me there,” I said. “He’s going to want me to be on the frontline again. He won’t care about me getting better.”

“Well I do. He’s not going to send you out into war without my say so. And in your condition, you wouldn’t be strong enough anyway.”

“Do you think you can stop him?”

“He won’t have a choice,” he ensured me. “Christan is a lot of things, but he won’t force you to go out into battle when you’re in hospital. He’d want you healed, and he’ll command Thommand to let you recover.”

I could only nod. At this point, it hurt too much to try and feel anything.

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!”

Shot Me Down

Standard

I remember in primary school, I had a crush on Nate C, and I told all my friends about it. I would’ve been eight then, back when I was cute and innocent and the worst thing you could’ve called someone was a bullfrog. That’s what I called Gabby the Gab when she brought him over to where I was having lunch with Hannie and told him that I had a crush on him.

Later I got revenge and told her respective crush about her love for him. AND she was uninvited to my birthday party. I was a bitchy little kid.

The anger I felt when Gabby the Gab spilled my secret to Nate C was nothing compared to what I felt toward Jhaq when Daniel repeated word for word what she had said to him, though far more contained than then. Because Jhaq had meant no harm by saying anything, whereas Gabby the Gab was a scheming bitch.

When I confronted her about what she said, she flung herself at my feet and started shaking. I couldn’t be angry with her, no matter how much I wished to. “Jhaq…calm down now.” I helped her up and moved her onto the chair beside Daniel’s bed. “Take a deep breath, alright?” Slowly, she stopped shaking, as she realised that I wasn’t going to beat her. “Are you better?” I asked.

“Much,” whispered Jhaq.

“Good…” I inhaled. “When you told Daniel about…that, how did he react?”

She hesitated before starting. “His lord didn’t say anything, Miss Madigan,” she said.

“Was he…angry? Upset?” I don’t want to ask these questions, but I have to.

“His lord was…” Jhaq thought for a second. “Surprised.”

“Is that it?” I sat on the edge of the bed. “Nothing else?” She shook her head. “Great…”

Jhaq hesitated. “What…did his lord say to you?” she asked tentatively.

I took a deep breath. “He asked me if what you said was true.”

“And what did Miss…you say?”

“…I told him I didn’t know.”

She frowned, but continued. “And…he left?”

“Yes.”

“His lord will return,” she said decisively. “It means nothing.”

I nodded and went along with what she said. Meanwhile, I was praying that things would return to the way they were, before his Grace came along and fucked up my emotions. I didn’t have feelings for Daniel, it wasn’t like that, I insisted. I cared for him deeply, but nothing romantic would ever come out of it.

I waited for him to return, sitting before the large fireplace, gazing into the flames. Hours and hours I waited, but the castle had gone silent and still he hadn’t come back.

I went into a dream of sorts. It wasn’t a bad dream, not at all. I was on a cliff top when I leapt off, plummeting down. But in an instant, I was soaring high into the clouds, the world becoming smaller in the blink of an eye. Though I was up in the clouds, I wasn’t cold. Dragons don’t feel cold when their blood is always boiling.

I woke up when I felt myself leaving the ground. My eyes fluttered open and I saw Daniel. He froze when he saw me gazing up at him. “It’s okay,” I told him. “I’ll go back to sleep in a moment, I’ll forget that I’m seeing you now.”

“You can’t control your mind,” he pointed out.

“I can try.” I closed my eyes, and I felt myself drifting away. In the distance, I heard Daniel sigh, and I started floating again. At some point, I drifted down to the soft earth, and I felt something feather soft stroking my face.

I awoke to see Daniel watching me. “Don’t look at me like that,” I murmured.

“Like what?”

“Like you’re afraid of me. You’re the last person I want to do that.” I lifted myself up, and I found that I was on his bed again. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I just want you to know that it isn’t the way Jhaq may have described it.”

“Then what is it?”

“I…don’t know.” I look up at the ceiling, waiting for the answer to tumble out of the sky. When it didn’t, I tried to phrase it properly. “I…I care for you,” I said. “I…it’s not anything romantic, or…or anything like that. I’m just…I am…unused to this.”

“Unused to what?”

I took a deep breath. “Feeling safe, I suppose. I…can trust you, or at least I feel like I can. And I can’t say that for many others I know.”

“So why did you say to Jhaq that you had feelings for me?”

“I didn’t…I…” Daniel’s face is lost in the shadows, the right side of his face is full of darkness, where his eyepatch is. I can’t see what he’s thinking. “I…I told her that I was confused about my feelings. I didn’t say they were….”

“I understand.”

I shook my head. “If I don’t understand, how can you? Look…” I tried again. “As you know, I haven’t had the best record with romantic relationships.”

“Oh, I know.”

I stuck my tongue out at him, which made him grin slightly. “Shaddup.” I hesitated. “How I feel for you…is not like how I’ve felt in…courtship.”

“Just say dating.”

“Fine. The feelings I have now aren’t like those I had towards my boyfriends at the time, compri?”

Compri, he agreed.

“And recently, I’ve been questioning the nature of our relationship,” I said. “Mainly because….”

“Christan,” Daniel finished.

I frowned. “Be more specific.”

“I…may not have been completely asleep when he came to see you the other day,” he confessed. “I heard things.”

“…I see.”

“Don’t look at me like that,” he scolded. “You would’ve done the same. A lot is said when people can’t listen.”

“Hmmph…” I didn’t know how I felt about Daniel taking in all that information. Nothing bad had been said, but still…

“So what happens now?” I asked him quietly.

He looked over. “What do you want to do?”

If I had just said what I meant to say all along, that he was my dearest friend and the last thing I would want was to lose him, that my confusion was nothing, and meant nothing, the conversation would’ve stopped there, and most likely would not have ever come up again.

Instead I asked, “What are you thinking?”

“What do you mean?”

“Okay…can I ask you something now?”

“…go on.”

“When Jhaq told you, what were you thinking?”

He didn’t say anything, and I was immediately suspicious. “Daniel, what is it?”

He shook his head. “How I feel isn’t important.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Of course it is. It’s why you left after confronting me.”

“Cat, don’t be-”

“Daniel, what on earth were you thinking that was so bad that you can’t tell me about it?”

After a few seconds of completely breathless silence, he exhaled. “You don’t belong here,” he told me softly. “And I…I can’t be part of Reality any more. I lost that right years ago, I…”

“What?” I didn’t know what else to say. Daniel went silent and closed his eyes. Slowly, I took his hand. “What happened to you Daniel?” I whispered.

“I…” He looked at me strangely. “You won’t…hate me, for what I show you, will you?”

I frowned. “That…would depend on what you showed me. But I know that you wouldn’t.”

Daniel paused. Then slowly, he raised his hand to his head and pushed his hair aside, and showed me his temple. When I gasped, he dropped the hair and looked away.

I looked at Daniel, trying not to look as shocked as I felt. “May I?” I asked.

Daniel inclined his head, almost shyly. I reached out and I brushed his hair away to reveal the dark red wound, the size of a twenty cent piece. “I…I had no idea,” I croaked out. The shape of it, the way it concaves in the centre, it’s…it can only be one thing.

“The bullet didn’t leave my head,” he said hollowly. “When I arrived here, they had to open up my head and take it out.”

“Who shot you?” I asked. When he didn’t answer, I realised what he was talking about. “Oh Daniel…”

Tears were streaming out of his left eye. “Unlike you, I couldn’t be saved,” Daniel said emotionlessly. “Bullet in the brain…there’s no coming back from that. And then I woke up there…in the cells, where Kaya was. I…knew that place. I had seen it before, in my own visions.”

“Your…own…visions…” Oh no…Not Daniel…

He gazed up at me. “When I realised…I screamed at them to kill me then. Of course, they weren’t so kind. Unfortunately, before they could subject me to all the treatments, they put me in the path of Kaya…and you know the rest.”

I was stunned. “I…” I stammered. I had no idea what to say to him. All those times I had tried to take my own life…what did he feel?

Daniel smiled softly and touched my face. “In a way, I admire you,” he admitted. “You’re still alive, despite everything. Whereas at the first opportunity, I was selfish enough to take my life. Some said it would take a lot of courage, but…”

“I was just as selfish,” I reminded him. “I was just unlucky.”

“Or very lucky.”

“…yeah.”

We were quiet for moment. “I’m going to get you out of here,” he told me. “If I can do that one simple thing, then I’ll finally be able to see myself in a good light. Cat Madigan…” He gripped my hand. “You’re going to be my saviour.”

“I admire your faith in me,” I noted dryly. “But…you haven’t done anything wrong.”

“I haven’t done anything right either,” he said.

I thought for a moment. “You still haven’t answered my question,” I reminded him. “What did you feel when Jhaq told you?”

He hesitated. “Would you like me to answer?”

It didn’t take me long to choose. I wanted the truth, despite everything. I braced myself. “Go ahead Daniel.”

You Love Him

Standard

Daniel was no longer having seizures, but he was confined to bed rest until he could stand without falling back down. As I didn’t have anything to do on Friday, I decided to leave Reality to stay with him during his recovery, leaving Kaya to her own devices. For the past few days, Daniel’s room was occupying the space that was my room, another piece of Delirium occupying Reality. Only this one have me a large headache. It was helpful when I was busy and needed to check in on Daniel without blacking out, but now all it gave me was a giant pain in the neck.

On Friday, I woke up in Daniel’s chambers, and when I opened the door, I saw the ostentatious hallways that was the palace. Trusting that the time I spent in Delirium wouldn’t be too long in Reality, I spent ten days in Delirium with Daniel.

I became used to having Jhaq and Noah as companions for this duration. When Daniel was asleep, I sometimes helped Jhaq with reading. She practised often and was now able to understand some poems, though I usually had to read them first in case she decided to show them to little Ray.

I slowly learnt to trust Noah, against my better judgement. My reasoning was that he had loved Kaya and supported her after her death, and anyone who was sympathetic with a traitor must have a decent reason for doing so. Besides that, he was willing to talk of things at court, and talk about Kaya when she was a child. He was able to satisfy some of my curiosity, though he still had boundaries, just like anyone else did.

When Daniel was considered competent to work from bed, I became used to servants coming in and delivering messages to him. They no longer did double takes at the sight of me, one even bowed when they entered and encountered me sitting by Daniel’s side as he slept. I was responsible for taking messages when he was unconscious. Most of them were queries as to when he would recover, but there were some requests for him to look into something suspicious around the Lake of Ghosts after he was better. I kept that one in mind, just in case I felt like tagging along.

Daniel’s bandage was removed and replaced with a black eyepatch, like Noah had told me would happen. He complained of the strangeness of only having one eye on a regular basis, and how he wouldn’t be able to react properly now that his peripheral vision was disabled on his right. He was embarrassed about taking his eyepatch off, so he kept it on even when he was sleeping. He probably took it off when he was helped down to where the hot steam was to bathe, but according to Jhaq, he usually did that when I was catching up on rest.

I shouldn’t have been entirely surprised to see Christan raise his admittedly beautiful head again. Daniel was still bedridden, and he was asleep when Christan quietly came in.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded.

Christan put his finger to his lips as he closed the door behind him. “No one knows I’m here,” he explained.

“Should they?” My left hand started burning again, and I didn’t even care that Daniel was sleeping next to me. I would light this prick on fire if I had to, no questions asked.

“I don’t want to hurt either of you,” he told me. “I…may I sit down?”

I didn’t answer him. “As you wish,” he sighed. “I understand why you hate me so.”

I didn’t respond to that either. Daniel suddenly cried out, and I immediately grabbed his hand. “Cat,” he hissed.

“It’s alright,” I told him. “It was just a dream, that’s all Daniel.”

“Argh…” He let out a shudder and his left eye squeezed close. He was still wearing the eyepatch, the vain man.

“Relax now,” I told him. “Do you want to go back to sleep?”

“Sleep…yes…” he murmured. His eye blinked open and gazed up at me. He lifted the hand he was holding to his lips, and kissed the fingers. “You should sleep too, you know,” he told me. “You look drained.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted. “I’ll go to bed soon, I promise.”

“Good girl.” Even drowsy and exhausted, Daniel’s tone still managed to sound as dry as a bone. His hand slowly drifted down to his chest and he fell asleep once more.

I was gently removing my hand from his when Christan spoke. “Tell me about him,” Christan asked quietly.

“You’re lucky he didn’t see you,” I told him.

“Cat…I…” I turned to face him. “I want you to know that I am ashamed of what I had done. Not only what I had done to Daniel, but to you as well, most of all. You…” His face was scarlet, but he didn’t stop. “I called you a dear friend, and then I treated you like a dog. I know you can’t forgive me, but just know that I will never do anything like that again. To anyone.”

I hesitated before giving him a nod of acknowledgement. “Thankyou,” I said.

Christan tentatively walked to the end of Daniel’s bed. “Thommand would’ve banned me from coming here,” he confided in me. “He told me to act like the whole thing never happened. But that…wasn’t right. It did happen, and Daniel is proof of it.” We both watched Daniel’s sleeping face. “I’m curious,” he started.

“About what?”

“Mercy.” Christan was frowning. “Everyone knows who you are, Cat Madigan. What you’ve done hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

Here we go again. “I want to understand why some people die at your hand, while others are left alive,” he said. “Why you let me live.”

I hadn’t thought much over that, much to my surprise. I chose to spend more time considering why I killed at all, but I soon realised that he was right. “I…I don’t know.” I held my hand in front of me. The letters aren’t glowing right now, all that’s there are the dark scarlet carvings. “I…I suppose it has to do with loyalty. Of a sort,” I amended. “It has to do with my state of mind as well. In a blink of an eye, you don’t see that you have another option, you just focus on your instinct.”

“Instinct?”

I realised how awful that sounded. “It’s not always my instinct to kill,” I informed him. “But in that moment, when Daniel or I have been hurt by them…anger takes over, and I don’t see anything else.”

“What’s the difference between them and I though?”

“I think it’s the Cat Madigan,” I said. “You came to my world, remember?”

“I thought you two were the same.”

“No…” I told him sadly. “I’m weak in Reality. Daniel would tell you differently, but that’s the truth. When I’m in Reality, I can’t let many people know about your world, so I conceal my actions. So I can’t fight back in Reality, at least not with my physical body.” I remembered that day I murdered that Fury in the brothel, when I broke away completely and snapped every bone in her body. “Using…that though, is difficult. I can’t control her as easily.”

“The shadow,” he told me. “That’s your shadow.”

“I…yes…that’s what it is.” I closed my eyes. “I hate it when I come here. Every time, I feel like I’m becoming some sort of monster. I shouldn’t be able to kill like I do. But I can. I’m losing my humanity, and that means something to me.”

I knelt down on the floor beside Daniel’s bed. “He’s the only thing keeping me human,” I told Christan. “The only reason I can live with myself.”

“How did you two meet?” Christan asked. “When did this start?”

“I…was fourteen at the time. Or fifteen, I’m not sure actually. No, I was fifteen. I was being attacked. Strangled, to be exact. Then suddenly, it stopped. And he was there.”

“You must’ve been frightened.”

“Of course I was. But not of him.” I thought back. “He wasn’t like them. He didn’t make any move to touch me, and I decided he was safe.”

“He wasn’t your guardian though,” Christan pointed out.

“That was Kaya,” I confirmed. “I could see Kaya, so it made more sense that she take care of me instead of Daniel. I still saw him though, of course. He was often with Kaya. He was annoyed with me though. Like I said, I’m weak in Reality, and I had trouble fighting off the Shadows there. So he didn’t have time for me unless he needed something. He was an ass.”

He laughed at that. “He wasn’t that bad though,” I added. “A couple of times, after bad attacks, he’d stay with me and help me sleep. And then when he found out about my parents, he stayed with me all night.” I smiled slightly. “He insists that he didn’t cry, but I know that it wasn’t me. I didn’t cry in front of others, well, not when I wasn’t in physical agony.”

“Never?”

“Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration,” I admitted. “Still, I could count on one hand the number of people whom I trusted enough to cry in front of for no reason.”

“Then Kaya died,” I sighed. Well, not exactly, but I don’t tell him that. “He was devastated, you know that.” Christan nodded. “So was I. But I…” I changed my mind at the last second. “I…I managed to get past it,” I lied. “I made myself focus on helping Daniel recover. It was difficult, but I managed to do it, somehow.”

“But then, after he recovered, I started having nightmares. I kept dreaming about Kaya dying, again and again. I thought it was me though, and I knew that I was going to die.

“Then the dreams got really bad. I could feel everything she felt, from the ice beneath her feet to the sudden shock of her heart stopping. And I couldn’t take it anymore. So…” What I was confiding in him was more than I trusted to some of my close friends, but I continued anyway.

“One night, I tried to drown myself,” I said quietly. “I held my head underwater until I started dreaming. But then I realised something.”

“And that was?”

“I was the stupidest person alive,” I said. “I would let myself die because of my visions, because I was frightened of a figment of my imagination. So I got my head out of the water, somehow.”

“Daniel came immediately. He was furious at first, but I was too out of it to care, I just wanted the pain inside my head to stop. I didn’t speak to him for a few days, not really. I couldn’t speak about it to anyone. I tried to get help from my friend, and she had a panic attack. She made it clear after that incident that I shouldn’t tell her these things, even if they were killing me, because she would be hurt too. So I kept it inside, along with everything else.

“I don’t remember when I started self harming, but I hated myself for doing it. I just wanted some way to get my pain out, and that seemed like the only option. Soon after, Daniel caught me, and I expected him to be angry. Instead, he took the razor from me, and let me cry on his shoulder.” I paused. “It was good to cry,” I added. “Before, I felt so cold on the inside, and I couldn’t do anything to get rid of it.”

“Anyway, after that, Daniel changed. Before, he was saying that I was weak, though never to my face. But then he took me under his wing. He didn’t treat me like an invisible person, he explained things to me, and he took my opinions seriously. And he stopped discouraging me when it came to fighting off the shadows. In return, I stopped being timid about everything, and I warmed up to him more. And I developed more a thick skin when it came to…what happened to me.”

“He cares about you deeply,” Christan observed. “He’s devoted to you and your safety, I know he is.”

I smiled softly. “When I changed, so did Daniel,” I said. “When I opened up to him, he relaxed a lot around more around me, and he stopped being so serious.” I laughed a little. “He teased me a lot too. But it wasn’t mean hearted, like other people are. He just did it to get me to stop being a sulk.” I looked down at Daniel. “He’s not perfect. But he’s the best man I know.”

“You love him.”

That statement made my heart stop. “You do,” Christan told me. “I should’ve seen it before, but I was blind. Now I can see the truth. He has your heart.”

“No, we’re not like that!” I flashed around in horror. “No, I don’t.”

“You do,” he repeated. “If he hadn’t survived your blood, how would’ve you felt? Tell me that.”

“I believe you should leave now,” I told him coldly. “You’ve overstayed your welcome enough.”

“So you don’t deny it.”

Leave. Now.”

He closed the door behind him, and I realised I was shaking. It made no sense to me why I was shaking, and I felt anger at Christan for making me feel that way.

Romantic feelings would always be pushed to the back of my mind when it came to people. Because no one would want to love a depressive schizophrenic, particularly one who is a total fuck up. It didn’t stop me from growing attachments to people though, which may or may not contribute to my emotional instability.

My ideal ‘romance’ wasn’t the type involving mushiness and flowers and stuff. To me, it’s more simple than that. I haven’t ever fallen in love, but I think that it would happen when I finally let myself trust them inexplicably.

Hence why I have classified myself as Forever Alone. Because after everything’s that happened to me, I don’t think I can let myself trust anyone that much. Besides, they all leave in the end. People always do. The only person who has stuck by me this far has been-

Oh god no.