delirium- part 2, a short story by Gracifa. Date added: 2010-04-24. Times viewed: 499.
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My mind felt close to collapsing, I didn't know who I was. Was that memory really mine? I was disgusted with myself. The melted bodies still threatened to take me, to be a part of their repellent mosaic. Carlyn's ugly face liquefied in the opposite wall. She wailed as her skin crinkled and smoked, hanging from her cheekbones, then it dribbled away leaving nothing but a skull. I was sick, the memory, the smell and the fear I felt was just too much.
‘Elva!' Familiar's voice boomed down the pit of hell that held me hostage. A hand extended from the window above and I threw myself forward to take it. I was lifted to safety.
My sight blurred, a palette of colour splurged into one. I was flying so fast my eyes couldn't focus. My stomach rolled over, when I could see, I could see for miles. I swooped high and low over an impossible, glittering mountainous terrain with hundreds of valleys splitting the spectacular rock as if peeling back the earths crust. Bile rose again, I had to close my eyes. Landing shortly after, my legs gave way and I let myself fall to a smooth hard floor. Opening my eyes I rolled onto my backside, wincing in pain. I saw crystal rock everywhere, intricate layers of dazzling colour, set into a stone that was similar to marble. The Entity's sky weaved and pulsated enigmatically. Familiar had taken a winged form this time.
‘An angel?' was the first thing that came to mind. He had tawny feathers spreading from his wings that covered his entire back and where his hair would have been. His eyes were larger than normal and his skin was tanned and calloused.
He grinned, ‘an Ekek.' He answered matter of factly, his arms crossed, he spread his enormous wings as if to gloat.
‘Impressive,' I trailed off remembering what I had just come to know. Or what I had always known and had just forgotten.
‘Forget what you saw Elva, it's in the past. We all make mistakes. You live and you learn.' Familiar knelt and stroked my arm reassuringly like he always did. I felt at ease once more, accepting his words.
‘But if you ever saw Carlyn's poor face, destroyed because I was to wrapped up in my own self-pity. No one deserves that fate. I don't know who I am anymore Familiar.' I whispered. He did not offer an explanation and I was glad there was none.
Instead he tilted my chin to face him and said with conviction, ‘you do know who you are,' and then more playfully, ‘you look a mess by the way.'
I couldn't help but smile, looking down at myself I was surprised that my nightdress had even lasted this long. Thankfully the melted human skin seemed to have vanished. I cringed. ‘I don't think I can take anymore. I think I'll go mad. When can I go home?'
‘You can't. You have to stay until it is over. The Entity will not let you leave.' His tone was unusually sharp. Perplexed I saw a look close to animosity cross his features but then it was gone and I found myself questioning whether I had imagined it. I decided not to ask as he said, ‘Let me heal your burns.'
I let him help me stand and he did not hesitate to put his hands on the backs of my legs. The touch of his hand briefly stung but after the blinding light the scorched skin was healed.
I returned to my slouched position on the floor and resumed my relaxation. ‘Why hasn't Amantius caught up with me yet?' I asked. It had just occurred to me that he hadn't materialised in my last nightmare.
Familiar cocked his head to the side, a very bird-like mannerism, ‘Amantius is unable to travel freely within The Entity; The Entity fights him much like your body would a disease. He will find a way to you, it is only a matter of time.' His tone was grave and made me shiver even though it was warm.
‘I'm afraid of him. I'm afraid of what I will remember next.'
Familiar sat next to me his wings folding, ‘do not be afraid Elva, embrace who you are,' He said simply. Nothing he could have said would have stemmed the fear in me, so I let the serenity that he emitted saturate me.
‘Why do you make me feel so at ease?' I wondered aloud.
He chuckled softly, ‘that is just for your benefit, I want you to feel comfortable, and after all I am your familiar.'
I smiled wryly at him. Changing the subject I thought of my pursuers in the wood, it had seemed like days had passed since then, ‘I still haven't figured out who was chasing me in the wood yet, do you know?'
‘I cannot give information on your Earthly affairs.' He answered shortly.
I pouted, ‘not fair.' I leaned into Familiar, resting my head against his shoulder. He seemed almost surprised by the action, but didn't object. I closed my eyes. ‘Do you think it will all be over soon? I'm so confused.' I mumbled.
‘Yes, soon Elva.' He seemed confident, which reassured me somewhat.
‘I'll miss you, it was nice to have someone to talk to,' it was all I could say to Familiar, at any moment I could be catapulted into another nightmare, never to see my guide again. I hadn't had many friends in my life and Familiar had been more of one than most.
‘I'm sure we'll meet again someday even if we do part,' he said cryptically, I looked up and gave him a quizzical look. He shrugged, ‘you never know Elva.' He took my hand in his affectionately and I smiled at him and said, ‘I hope so.'
His facial expression changed abruptly and a crease appeared between his brow, his mind elsewhere.
‘It's Amantius, isn't it,' I was afraid of the answer.
‘Yes, he is close, I think we should leave Elva,' he stood and offered me his hand. I obliged and without warning he was carrying me in his arms, soaring through the air. My peace of mind was fading away; in the distance I could almost sense Amantius approach. Familiar swooped low making my stomach turn over nauseatingly. I would have found the experience thrilling if I weren't anticipating my next trip down memory lane and an imminent attack from Amantius.
Familiar took a sharp left and he vanished, dropping me into nothingness. For an instant I was blind and all I could see were the after effects that light left on your eyeballs. I landed on my feet this time. I appeared to be in a cathedral-like building made from cream marble. I was in a large corridor with four great arches spaced evenly down the length of it, to the left of each arch there seemed to be entryways to other areas out of view. Scarlet carpeting contrasted starkly with the off-white, stone architecture. Candles burned in sconces on the wall, causing shadows to dance provocatively and the only sound to be heard was a distant pattering noise that seemed to echo in every direction.
Curious at first my heart soon plummeted when I turned the first archway and the gnawing déjà vu feeling pricked the back of my mind again. An oil painting as big as I am tall hung on the wall framed in gold. I could not make out any detail, it was blurred as if my vision were the fault, it only seemed to distort when I looked directly at it. I broke out in a sweat and began to tremble as I advanced slowly; intuition told me that I had to get closer to see what the painting depicted. My breathing rapidly increased, my urge to run was stifling but I had to force it down. I had to finish this. As I got closer my impaired vision slowly improved, as did the echoing noise from all around. Apprehension overwhelmed me as I finally recognised the sound, Amantius.
I was rooted to the spot, petrified. Within the picture a scene was playing out, moving figures in an oil painting of my own memory, trapped in repeat. I watched unable to pull myself away.
I was lying in my bed, peering at the clock that read 3:25am, I had been awake for two hours now. Fane had just come home from wherever he went these days. It had gotten worse; he had taken up a habit of drinking heavily then stumbling home at ridiculous hours of the morning. I didn't understand why he did it to himself, when we grew up knowing what the affects of alcohol could do to a person. Many times Mum had gone down to the police station to retrieve him for getting arrested, he would frequently get into fights and cause trouble when drunk. He had been sacked at work because he turned up late all the time and we had slowly grown apart because of his addiction. I tried to reason with him many times but he just closed up, telling me to ‘leave him alone, he was an adult and could do what he wanted'. Of course he could, he was 21 now. He was ruining his life and no one could stop him. Not even me.
Fane was my only friend in this world; he had kept me safe like no one else had. He sometimes made me feel worth something, when most of my life I felt worthless. I missed the old him dearly, this new self-destructing behaviour mutated his personality. I looked at him and saw only a shadow of what he used to be. He used to laugh and have a passion for living, now he never smiled and his eyes were filled with a sorrow I could not comprehend.
Instead of going straight to his room like he usually did, he blundered into my room and slumped on my bed without a word.
‘Fane, you got the wrong room,' I said sitting up and turning on the bedside lamp.
His reaction was delayed and when he looked at me, his eyes did not focus all the way, he seemed lost in thought or too drunk to see. ‘No, no, wanted to talk...' he slurred.
I got out of bed to sit nearer to him, ‘what about?'
‘Just... just stuff...' I waited patiently for him to continue, ‘ I want to get better, but it's so hard... I know I got a problem... it's an escape you know?'
‘Yes I understand.' I put my arm around him and he smiled crookedly, swaying slightly, ‘you should get some sleep. Try to stop drinking for me.'
He nodded, ‘yes I will, promise.' He got up and clung to the door for support, ‘goodnight Elva.' Then he left.
Dazed, I had to tear myself away before the scene replayed. I was shaking violently and the anxiety in my stomach coiled and constricted like a lethal snake ready to strike. I could still hear Amantius approach, but as I looked around me I could not see him, he hadn't materialised yet. I bolted back toward the main hallway and around the next archway, which revealed a second oil painting that obscured my sight. My gut wrenching fear escalated ordering me not to look, that I didn't want to know what it concealed. But I needed to know what had happened, I had to learn more of the forgotten memory. I advanced more quickly this time, the colours blurred and smudged as I drew closer, then finally it unveiled its secrets.
I'd had a really bad day at work. I hadn't had much sleep from the night before because Fane had kept me up late. I worried about him. I hadn't gone to sleep until 5am; after Fane had come home my brain wouldn't switch off. I would just think too much and the more time went by, the more frustrated I got. I had to get up at 7, so with just 2 hours sleep I knew my day would be a long one. I worked as a cashier in a large supermarket and I had an 8-hour shift that day. I messed up so many times and had a few complaints put in about me. I hated my job anyway so I wasn't too bothered if I was sacked. Before my shift was over my assistant manager, head of my department cornered me.
‘That's been the fourth complaint in a month Elva.' He stated crossing his arms as I was putting on my jacket.
‘I'm aware of that.' I said simply, disregarding his threat and not meeting his eyes.
‘Perhaps you should take some time off,' he said more gently this time but I still grew exasperated. I sighed and left without a word. I couldn't be bothered that day; I'd talk about it when I was next in, after a full night's sleep.
On the way home I walked the same monotonous route I always did, down the back lanes and away from the barrage of the public. It was a particularly dismal day, the wind was icy sharp and the sky was overcast. I wanted desperately to go home and sleep.
But I never did get home. As I passed under the motorway bridge that led to the lane behind my house I saw a pile of old clothes on the other side. Well, that was what it appeared to be from afar. As I approached my brain couldn't register what my eyes told me. It was impossible for a human body to bend at those angles, impossible for bones to twist that way. I couldn't recall how I had reached the contorted figure, I was just there, knelt beside it, everything happening in a strange dream-like quality.
The figure had the same shape face as I, even the same green eyes, but they stared blankly at nothing, emitting no life, its body mangled and broken beyond repair. ‘Fane... Fane... wake up...' The words didn't sound like mine. I sat there shaking the body for hours, repeating the same words. I had no concept of time or anything for that matter. Something had snapped in my mind. It was as if it had seized up, the information it was receiving just wouldn't sink in. It was too devastating, too catastrophic. It was too much to comprehend. If I were to let it in the world would end. My brother, the only being in this life who had protected me and loved me, dead.
I was kneeling on the floor, I was screaming with my hands over my ears as if that would protect me from the awful knowledge that had corrupted my mind. I couldn't see, my mind hurt, it hurt so much I couldn't stop shrieking. It wasn't true, it couldn't be real. What had I done to deserve this? Why would fate want someone to suffer so much? I realised I couldn't breathe, I had forgotten how. So wrapped up in my own despair I could not see, hear or breathe. Could I even move? I had to. I had to see if Fane lived, see if this was a sick nightmare The Entity had composed. I wanted so much to believe it was, but deep down I knew it was my own nightmare come to life.
I hadn't noticed the moths that were now bouncing off the walls; I was too lost in my own pain. I got to my feet and glanced about the surrounding area. Amantius was nowhere in sight, yet I could almost feel his presence. I dashed back up to the corridor, sparing one more glance behind me. The painting was blackening, decaying before my very eyes. Something tore through the canvas; there was a blinding light then a writhing mass of moths slipped through, sealing the gap behind it. Amantius manifested, his figure the same crippled imitation of a human, his grey aura pulling at The Entity's life. I didn't wait to see him advance; I found the third portrait and sprinted to the end not allowing myself time to think of the consequences.
Someone had eventually found us. But my eyes did not leave my brother until someone dragged me away. When they did, I flipped, I went mad, I kicked and I screamed and didn't stop until I felt a brief sting and I fell dead to the world. I did not dream, there was just darkness and I welcomed it.
I woke up in my Mothers bed and I briefly forgot how I had gotten there. Mum was there at the end of the bed, crying, sobbing with pure heart felt sorrow. I was about to ask her what was wrong but then it hit me, and I got up so quick I fell back down, I kept repeating the word ‘no' over and over, I didn't know what do with myself. Mother came to me and took me in her arms but my words had turned into shouts, I was shouting at the top of my lungs. I didn't know how to release the grief. The agony inside split me open and ripped my guts out and there was no respite, I was being tortured alive. It felt like an eternity of pain went by until my body finally gave into exhaustion.
From then on I mostly slept and consumed very little drink or food. Mother and other people I could not place forced me to eat, forced me to function every now and then only to be put back to sleep where I would find blissful peace. A week passed and I woke early one morning to find I was numb. Mechanically, I showered and ate breakfast and waited for Mother to get up. When she did, I noticed her eyes were swollen and dark from sleep deprivation and crying. She looked like a zombie, so haggard and old, as if she had aged twenty years in a week.
‘It's his funeral today, I'm glad your up.' Her voice was devoid of all emotion. She did not bother to ask if I was ok, knowing it was a stupid question.
‘I know.' My voice cracked from lack of use. I felt empty inside, like I would never feel again.
The morning went by in a blur. We arrived at the ceremony to find many people clustered into one room. It was a joke. All these people, these strangers, milling about like the world was still the same place, feeling like it was their duty as a good human being to attend, to say goodbye to a young man who'd died. They would whisper morosely amongst themselves, ‘such a shame, and such a waste, what a tragedy.' But they knew nothing. I wanted them gone. They didn't know Fane; they had no right to be there.
‘Mum. What are all these people doing here? I don't know them! Fane didn't know them!' My Mother was talking to someone; I couldn't understand words as people talked garbled gibberish all around. She looked at me tears spilling over, her lip trembling, ‘Elva you do know these people, what do you mean?'
‘Make them go! Make them go away!' I didn't hear my voice rising in volume until all the unfamiliar faces were turned to me, the room silent. I was hyperventilating and my Mother had me in her arms trying to hush me. My mind had relapsed; I felt fresh inconceivable grief consume me.
‘I want to see him one more time Mum, please.' I begged desperately. Everyone still peered at the spectacle, I didn't care. I wouldn't have cared if they had all dropped dead too. The world wasn't the same.
‘You can't Elva, he's gone.'
‘Gone how? Where's his body!' I wailed.
‘Cremated, it was the best way.' Mother sobbed, choking on tears.
‘How dare you! You should have asked me! I know what's best!' I knew there was nothing I could do, but I didn't know how to channel my agony. I just didn't know how to live anymore. How would I survive?
I did not want to see the ceremony, it was a mockery of Fane's existence, so I sat outside. I must have been there longer than I thought because when I was shaken from my reverie it was to find Mother sitting next to me.
She made me come home with her, even though I wanted nothing less than to stay in the very house Fane had lived in. At home I decided I wanted answers, ‘did he kill himself?'
Mum was taken aback for a moment then she averted her eyes from mine, ‘I-I don't know Elva.'
‘He didn't. He wouldn't. It would have been an accident, or someone killed him.' I tripped over my words delirious with anguish.
‘Well they're calling it an accident because he was drunk, when it- when it hap-happened. I don't know what he was doing up on that motorway bridge though-'
‘It was an accident, he wouldn't have left me,' I said viciously, I didn't care that I was being selfish. I had lost a brother, a friend and a father figure. My mother had only lost a son. He was gone and he wasn't ever coming back.
‘Elva, let's get some sleep-'
‘No.' I cut her off, I wanted to be alone.
Mother eventually went to bed, leaving me. I stayed in the same place for so long my body went dead. When I heard Fane's voice I jumped out of my chair, looking across the room I saw him, accept he wasn't broken and looked exactly as he had before the accident.
My grief forgotten I almost laughed, ‘I knew you wouldn't leave me.'
He smiled affectionately, ‘Of course I wouldn't leave you Elva.'
‘Will you stay with me forever?'
‘Yes.' He smiled his old smile, and I found myself smiling back.
‘Elva who are you talking to?' Mother's voice startled me; she stood in the doorway half asleep.
‘Fane, he's alive, he's right there!' I said happily.
Mother started to cry.
‘Mum, don't, everything's going to be ok!' I went to her side and held her, Fane watched us with a blank expression.
‘Elva I can't see anything, it's not real.'
What I saw from my own memory told me Fane lived, why had Mother not seen him? He was right there. I was so confused, so utterly baffled I didn't know what I should feel or believe. I now knew the memories were my own and not a nightmare The Entity had invented, but what did they mean? Somehow, I had fallen to the red carpet lost in my memory, getting to my feet I saw that Amantius had not yet reached the third archway. Moments must have passed since my revelation. I didn't hesitate to move and raced to the corridor, I nearly tripped over in horror when I saw that Amantius had just emerged, pursuing me slowly as if savouring the chase. He began his disjointed amble toward me, staggering on broken limbs, hastening now that I was in his sights.
Gasping I made it to the fourth and final archway, my sight clouded and smeared the oil painting ahead, but slowly cleared as I drew closer. The dread coiled in my stomach had struck, I couldn't go back, I had to know the truth.
Mother kept on telling me Fane was my imagination, but I refused to believe her. For some reason she was lying. I didn't know why, but it made me angry, as if she wanted him dead. A few days after Fane had returned, the police came and took me away, I went willingly, I wanted to prove I wasn't mad. That's what they kept saying; they kept telling me I was ill. I was fine, in fact I was joyous, Fane wasn't dead after all, it had all been a dream.
That was when I started to see the strange ‘energy' that only I was attuned to. It frightened me to begin with but I soon grew accustomed to its presence, just as I had with Fane's. At first it was faint, almost transparent but it solidified as the days went by. I was sectioned into a psychiatric hospital, but I knew I would be out soon because I would prove Fane was alive and that the substance was real. Fane came along of course, keeping his promise of never leaving me. But they started to give me drugs, horrible drugs that made me feel dead, tranquillised. Fane never came to me when I was sedated like this, but I could still see the Energy capering to unheard music. Every day when the drugs wore off Fane would reappear and we would talk like we always did.
‘Where do you go when they drug me?' I asked one night. Fane lounged on a wicker chair in my sparse room.
‘Oh, just away, I don't want to talk to you when you're not yourself Elva, that's what those drugs do to you, make you change.' He said, shrugging.
I nodded, ‘yeah, I hate them Fane. I'm going to run away tonight, because I'm a willing patient they haven't given me one of the secure rooms.'
‘Yeah, you got some real crazy people in this place Elva, and you're not even mad!' Fane joked and I laughed.
Sobering I said, ‘the weird Energy is calling to me I think, it's getting more erratic each day.'
‘Where does it tell you to go?' Fane asked then added, ‘I wish I could see it.'
‘I'm not sure but I'll find out, ‘ I answered, meaning it. A stray bit of it drifted in front of me and I tried to grab it, only it moved away just before my fingers brushed it.
Suddenly there was a knock on my door, I sighed, it was time for another chat. My psychiatrist entered and Fane got out of his seat and quietly stood in the corner of the room, the psychiatrist sat in the now empty chair. I folded my arms and watched a string of the element dodge his head.
‘Hello Elva,' he said. He was always too nice, I felt as though it was a façade. When he spoke the sincerity of his words never quite met his eyes. During his visits we talked a lot about my childhood, Fane had encouraged me to comply. His last visit he had decided that enough was said about my past and had gone on to question me about Fane. The interrogation angered me, he would ask such ridiculous questions.
‘Hello.' I said, now staring at the wall ahead.
‘How has your day been?'
I looked at him and raised a brow, ‘how do you think?'
Instead of answering he asked, ‘is Fane here?'
‘Yes he is, if you cared to look.' He didn't look.
‘Elva, I understand you believe he is here but it is difficult for me to agree.' He paused, ‘I wanted to ask you, why do you think Fane is here? What does he think about his death?'
‘He's here to protect me, like he promised,' I huffed, bored of the conversation. ‘He knows he didn't die.'
‘Don't you think it odd that everyone else believes he is dead?'
‘Why don't you ever ask about the Energy?' I countered.
‘Because that is just another addition to your delusion, this issue with Fane is more important.'
‘I'm not going to listen to this,' I was feeling uncomfortable. Fane stood there like a statue.
‘I'm here to help you.' He always said he was ‘here to help me', it was condescending and it grew so frustrating that it made me furious.
‘I don't need it.'
‘Tell me Elva,' he started over, leaning forward in his chair, elbows on knees, ‘do you ever wonder why it is you don't see Fane when you've had your medication?'
I repeated Fane's reasons for leaving me whilst ‘medicated'. ‘No Elva, the medication prohibits the part of your brain that creates Fane. It is your brains way of dealing with the intense stress...' I didn't listen to the rest. I stared at Fane, doubting for the very first time. Why did he look so oddly quiet and passive? Was that really something the old Fane would have done? But then again, if the Energy was part of my ‘delusion' how is it I could still see that when drugged?
‘Leave me alone.' I said, interrupting his explanation. He left, obviously satisfied with the day's progress. I looked to Fane and he was gone. Bewildered I looked everywhere in my small room, he had vanished. That night I didn't want to think, I wanted to run and never stop. I didn't want to face the truth because I couldn't bare it. So I opened my window, slipped to the grass floor, sprinted into the surrounding wood and never looked back.
I had been running from a psychiatric hospital. My pursuers must be the police. How had I forgotten about Fane? I had seen him moments before running away. But he had vanished, just as I had felt a twinge of doubt that he may not be real. Doubt. I had then started to realise the truth. But then if they were right and he was dead, that would mean I was mad. How was I still in The Entity if I was mentally ill and thinking level headedly now? My mind was torn, I wanted Fane to be alive but my conscience told me otherwise. For the first time I felt like I could think clearly, there were no missing pieces to my memory anymore. All I had to do was assemble them, but I had no time because Amantius had caught up with me.
Moths were brushing my face, bumping up against me, their furry, fat bodies felt surprisingly heavy for such small creatures. It was hopeless keeping them all off of me, they kept coming in numbers as if I were their light source. Amantius was a few feet away, buckling and twisting on his limbs. For a minute I couldn't move as my mind raced, I had no way of getting to the door ahead. If I went left or right, Amantius could reach out and take me. What did he want? I had no intentions of finding out. With all my remaining will power I ignored the wriggling moths crawling all over me and attempted to slip past. There was a possibility I'd get by, but I doubted very much I would escape unscathed.
Taking advantage of Amantius's slow and awkward movements I feigned going right, then I sprinted left leaving him blundering back round to face me. As I slipped by a moth careened into my eye, I faltered letting out a screech of alarm. It all happened so fast. I didn't anticipate Amantius making such a quick recovery; he reached out for me faster than he had ever moved before. His hand was cold, hard and unforgiving. At close range I still could not see a body beneath the layer of writhing moths, no face to my impending doom. The hand that clutched me appeared to be made from moths yet it felt like skin and bone that clasped my wrist. This close, I could hear his strange aura that sucked the life from The Entity, humming softly.
‘What do you want?' I screamed in its face, hysterical with panic. It's head cocked to the side as if trying to decipher my words. Then my sight went black and Something invaded my mind and conjured a memory. It was the night when Fane and I had to stay in an unfamiliar room until Mother got better. As if in fast-forward, the memory sped up to the part where Fane had caught the moth that had startled me. Then it slowed down, replaying the part where Fane had chided me.
‘It's only a moth Elva, nothing to be scared of. We're safe now.'
Rejecting what I had just saw, I mentally pushed the presence out of my head, I felt exposed, like my mind had been violated. My sight returned and Amantius released me, he made no move to take hold of me again so I rushed to the door. It opened and I didn't hesitate to see where it would take me.
I fell to concrete and my legs buckled. I hadn't expected pain, so when it came I cried out in shock. My knees jarred from the impact; I crumpled to the floor wincing. When it subsided I tentatively got to my feet and my stomach did a somersault. A faint roaring sound like a distant waterfall came from all around and above, Earth's clear blue sky looked down on me. I was in the middle of an abandoned motorway, I could not see past the railings so I guessed that I was on a bridge. I experienced another spasm of trepidation; the scene was becoming all too familiar. I dashed to the nearest railing and looked below. It was as if the world was upside down, The Entity's energy violently swirled forever, a stormy sea of angry fuchsia cascading into a whirlpool below. This wasn't the same fantastic energy that had graced the sky before. It was a beast that craved destruction; it was vicious and savage, hungry for my demise. I didn't know whether I was on Earth or inside The Entity, part of me sickeningly recognised the bridge my brother had fallen from and the Earths blue atmosphere, but there were no people, no cars and an endless sea of ferocious Energy.
‘Elva.' I turned to look, Familiar in human form dressed in plain attire sauntered over and leaned casually against the railing beside me.
‘You're human?' I glanced uneasily back toward the surging, now burgundy mass. Something was wrong.
Familiar seemed unaffected by his surroundings, he chuckled and answered, ‘I'm only human because you are.'
‘What?' Goosebumps rose on my skin, my stomach mirrored that of the churning energy below. ‘"Because I am", what is that supposed to mean?'
Familiar looked at me and laughed, I saw my own eyes reflected back at me. He had my teeth. My mouth dried up and I couldn't breathe, I watched as his hair grew and his face shifted from his own masculine shape to my feminine one. His body shrunk and changed to the same as mine and in seconds I was looking at myself, only with Familiar's voice. ‘Don't be afraid Elva.' He tried to reach out to me with my own hand, but I recoiled in horror.
‘What are you, who are you?' I didn't understand what was happening, I was terrified. Familiar's behaviour was different.
‘Have you not worked it out yet Elva?' I saw my own smile; it offered no comfort and it appalled me. Then his voice began to change, Familiar was altering it to my voice, ‘I hope you're ready to come with me; you want relief don't you Elva? From the torment? I know how you feel, I know you Elva.' The mirror image of myself took a step toward me and held out a hand, willing me to comply with what was supposed to be an encouraging smile but turned menacing.
‘No, I-I still don't understand,' I stammered finding it difficult to speak over the dread that threatened to consume me, ‘where? Take me where? Why are you me? I don't understand!' I took a step back, unable to trust this creature that was once Familiar.
‘Trust me Elva, if you come with me, there will be no more pain. I know you cannot bare Fane's death; he's gone Elva, forever. ' The impostor leaned in to take hold of me. The mention of Fane's death punctured a new wound in my heart and an intense wave of grief shattered my already weak composure. What was this thing trying to do to me? It was as if it was trying to lure me into my own insanity.
‘No,' I shrieked and the other me flinched, not expecting my outburst. This being was malevolent, Familiar wanted to hurt me. I thought of all the times Familiar's touch had dulled my suspicions with a feeling of serenity, drugging me. I thought of how he had mimicked mannerisms of Fane to trick me into trusting him. What did he want from me? I felt betrayed, ‘you! What do you want from me?' Just then a patch in the air, not far from me began to darken and warp. It greyed and expanded and Amantius appeared.
I saw my own face contort in fury at Amantius's arrival, Familiar lunged at me but I dodged. I turned and ran as fast as my legs would carry me; I had no idea whether this motorway would end but I had to try, it was all I could do to save myself from this nightmare. I did not see Familiar materialise in front of me, my stolen face had darkened with irrational hatred, whether Amantius's presence or I had caused it I had no idea. My own hands seized me in a vice like grip that was impossible to break. Familiar pushed me up against the railing unmercifully, holding me still with inhuman strength.
‘Elva, you were supposed to want this,' my mind reeled making me dizzy, Familiar glanced behind and shouted out to Amantius, ‘leave us, she is mine now.' I half expected Amantius to listen, the creature that had probably done Familiar's bidding all along. But he ignored Familiar and disjointedly followed. The other me let out a shout of unintelligible rage, my heart hammered and it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn't going to survive this.
‘Please,' I whispered to Familiar, ‘I don't want to die.'
My own face looked confused by my statement, then laughed, mocking me, ‘Elva, you will not die.' Amantius was close, his moths were fluttering erratically as if excited, or was it because of something else? Familiar threw me over the edge of the railing and I screamed until my throat was raw. Weightless, I desperately flailed my limbs, seeking something to cling onto. Miraculously my hands met a protruding ledge in the bridge side; I hung on for my life unable to inhale a proper breath. I was so afraid I couldn't move, couldn't think. I could only peer down at my fate, the ominous energy boiling and convulsing, waiting for me to weaken and fall into its abyss.
Above me Familiar had disappeared, I couldn't see what was happening, only a blur of something unidentifiable every now and then stuck out into view. I realised they must have been fighting. Amantius moved quicker than he ever had before and unexpectedly lowered himself down over the railing offering his writhing hand, he must have apprehended Familiar somehow. I sobbed, ‘what do you want from me?' I didn't expect an answer. I was torn, survival instinct fought inside of me but my arms had grown tired and my fingers were slowly slipping. If I took Amantius's hand would my fate be any better? I wondered what would happen if I just gave in, would it be quick?
I decided not to think about it, ‘I can't get to you, I'll fall!' Amantius lowered himself more and moths fell onto my face, I was beyond the point of caring about a few moths, I wanted to live. Making the transition from the ledge to Amantius's hand was precarious, he held me by a few fingers and I didn't even acknowledge the awful pain shooting up my arms.
Then Familiar must have recovered. Deliberately falling straight toward us, costumed in my own body and a look of triumph on his face, he ripped me from the feeble clasp and took me in his arms. As we both fell, the moths that made up Amantius's head peeled away and revealed a panicked face. A face the same shape as mine, it even had the same green eyes. Fane looked back at me helplessly, there was nothing he could do as Familiar took me down into the ocean of energy.
I expected death, I braced for the impact, and for the pain I would feel when I was torn to shreds by the violent mass of The Energy, but it never came. My eyes were clamped shut, and an almost unbearable rushing sound battered my ears.
Then I abruptly stopped falling, I was weightless. I noticed Familiar had disappeared, as he no longer clasped me. Opening my eyes I saw only The Energy, it filled my sight and threatened to blind me. The colours were so vivid and intense, the movement of the Energy so erratic and disorienting that I had to close my eyes again. I could almost feel the energy beat against my eyelids, as if trying to force its way into my brain.
Then I felt something warm seep inside my skin, radiating inwards until it filled every inch of me, I felt elated, to the point of mania and I actually laughed out loud. The rushing sound began to hum a pleasant rhythm, singing to me. Black and white pictures formed in my mind, flickering like roughly sketched shadows on an ancient film reel and I saw two crudely drawn figures embrace and shake hands. At first I was bewildered and did not know what they depicted then I gasped as realisation struck. The Entity was inside my head, trying to communicate with me, the figures embracing and shaking hands were its way of greeting me.
Instead of being afraid pleasure bubbled up in my chest, leaving me breathless, ‘I know what you're trying to say! It's nice to meet you too!' My voice was lost in the music of The Energy, but it was clear The Entity had heard as it replied by showing me another set of sketches.
This time I saw a figure form with long hair, wearing a gown and instinctively I knew it was me. I instantly noticed my elation seep away, a heavy feeling of hopelessness settled in my chest. The primitive drawing of myself began to fall down through the blank canvas. She fell further down and beneath her a small dot appeared. It grew larger the more she fell, and eventually turned into a large sphere, detailed with tiny markings. It was home, the tiny drawings within the sphere accurately marked Earth's continents.
Once my crudely drawn self had landed, a street was erected as a backdrop and shifting silhouettes rushed her. She was in despair, searching for someone amongst an onslaught of shadows, they closed in around her quickly whilst she remained trapped in slow motion. She was terribly alone. No. I was terribly alone. Fane wouldn't be there, who on Earth did I have? The depression deep inside of me was overwhelming; The Entity was showing me the outcome of returning to Earth. Did I want to go home? After everything that had happened, did I really want to return?
The canvas cleared and the warmth returned to my limbs, The Entity refilling me with mind numbing elation. Then my sketched figure reappeared, this time surrounded by squiggly markings. She was me, as I am now, suspended in The Entity's presence. Then the energy dispersed, she shrunk to a child like figure, flowers bloomed all around and a wave of pleasure passed through me leaving me tingling. The child version of me danced joyously, then another child figure joined her and they chased one another. The Entity was offering me a choice. To go home alone, back to my old life, without Fane, or to stay here where The Entity offered eternal comfort, reliving unblemished childhood memories.
I knew my decision. I felt guilty for leaving my mother behind but Familiar had been right all along, I could not bear Fane's death. I did not belong at home. I felt guilty for Amantius, part of Fane remained in that mysterious creature and instinct told me he had wished me to return to my old life. But selfishly I could not endure my life at home even if Fane's spirit itself ordered me to do so. If he could not come back to life, then nothing mattered to me. I felt a twinge of relief that Familiar had succeeded and taken me to The Entity. If this was death, if this was insanity, I didn't care, I wanted to feel the blissful ecstasy consume me.
‘I want to stay.' I said at last.
The Entity sketched a pair of eyes in my mind, they opened wide. When I opened mine, my hands were cupped together and something crawled against my palm. I was in a familiar field, daisies swayed in a summer breeze. I soaked in the smell of freshly cut grass and the warmth of the sun on my skin; behind I could hear the sounds of distant traffic and a familiar voice calling my name. I opened my hands and a butterfly took flight.
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