Keen eyes follow his lean frame, watching as he takes brisk strides towards the sink, squirting some liquid soap onto his empty plate and proceeding to wash and rinse it. His back is ramrod-straight with unspoken tension, muscles taut as he flexes his shoulders.
He shoots me a vexed look over his shoulders and grumbles lowly, "quit acting like you don't know why."
I pause for a moment, expression thoughtful. The last of the pancakes (half-eaten) hangs from between the tip of my index and thumb and hovers barely inches away from my mouth. The pieces begin to fall into place bit by bit and realization hits me like a fired bullet travelling at twice the speed of sound, my lips part to form a silent 'O', eyes dancing wildly with amusement.
Snickering, I press my free hand to my mouth in hopes of muffling the sound. Yet it bubbles chaotically in my gut, emerging as half choked, boisterous laughter after a few moment's attempts at holding them in.
"You mean you're stuck babysitting me."
It's neither a question, nor an unproven theory. It is fact, and he knows this.
That is why when he whips his head around for the second time and our gazes lock, his features are harsh, brows pinching together. My head falls back and my legs lift a few metres off the ground, my back meeting the soft cushion of the couch as boisterous laughter spills from my lips. I cannot help it, not when I know that the man in charge of keeping me in my temporary cell has also been ordered to stay with me in said cell.
Like a scenario wherein a teacher punishes an entire class for the wrong doings of a single child.
It's hilarious yet somewhat frightening; watching his eyes further darken with indescribable anger, pink lips parting to exhale a heated breath.
A part of me is somewhat scared that he might retaliate to more drastic measures, but another part of me – the side that is fed up – also says fuck it. My life is just another meaningless piece in the humongous and complicated puzzle that is earth, disposing of me will do more good than harm. I have no family or friends to mourn over me and nothing of importance to lose. That's if we're not counting the two hundred dollar debt my neighbor; Madelyn, owes me and my mother's heirloom which is lost somewhere underneath the mess my residence habours.
Overall, I am - as they say - 'going with the flow.' Doing what needs to be done to survive whilst running from my demons. Since I'm already in hell, dead or alive, I might as well go with it. But that doesn't mean I'm going be a dumb pushover.
Aïdon angrily brushes back wayward wisps of midnight hair with his hand. Adamant still, they fall back in place over his forehead.
"Shut up and don't break anything." With that he dismisses my jest and if his reaction isn't enough, then the heaviness laced in his words is a clear giveaway of his inner frustrations.
My cheeks are flushed, redness running up my neck and cheeks from my breathless wheezing, chest heaving as I struggle to catch my breath and simultaneously keep the loud sputters of laughter from tumbling off the tip of my tongue. Bright eyes swimming with humor watch the man ascend the flight of stairs, once more leaving me in daunting silence.
Once he disappears from view, I break out into another round of a laughing fit.
Two hours later, Aïdon finds his way back down the stairs mumbling something about how he hates this. Since then he has been here, black hair curled lazily and dark eyes cast down at his lap where a bunch of papers lay, each tainted with ink and stamped with some kind of official seal. His eyes languidly peruse over the words, lips parting and brows pinching when he comes across something he doesn't understand or he feels is wrong, and further squinting when he tries to evaluate something.
He hasn't once glanced up from his work, only a couple of times and it was to clamber up the stairs, returning with a handful of files and a thick leather book.
He should be at least resting or enjoying his time, glad to be free from whatever tiresome activities he engages in during the day, instead he still chooses to bury himself underneath bothersome layers of paperwork.
I, of course being the kind person that I am, have decided to keep him company. Solely for the purpose of his sanity remaining intact and not for my own entertainment.
"What are you doing?"
Jaw muscles flex as pink lips press together in annoyance as the serene silence that encompasses us is broken, the blue cover of a used pen trapped between the soft flesh and occasionally being nibbled on.
My eyes leisurely sweep over his relaxed frame; strong legs swung over the other, chest rising and falling slowly with even, steady breaths. A piece of paper is held between his fingers as dark, calculating eyes scrutinize the words scribbled on the white surface.
My gaze shifts to the silver chain which sits idly on his neck, then to his veined fingers when he silently reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Forcing my eyes away and instead focusing on his face, I press further, "did you lose your tongue upstairs?"
"C'mon answer me, I know you can hear me talking."
Harrumphing, my gaze turns spiteful. Aïdon tightens his grasp on the piece of paper so it crumbles under the force of his hold, then releases it, mumbling something unintelligible under his breath.
"What do you want?" He sighs finally.
My heart lifts. I whine and drawl out, "I'm bored."
He hums, rubbing a hand across his face and mutters a single word to serve as a solution to my dilemma. "Sleep."
"At this rate I'll be fatter than a hippo," I dismiss the option with a shake of my head, "what exactly is it that you do around here?"
"I'm a reaper," the reply is straight forward.
Satisfied with with reply, I prod further, "so you collect the souls of dead people, yes?"
"Exactly, though it's a bit more complicated than that." It's a low mutter as he absentmindedly flicks over a page.
"To be honest I thought you were a demon or something." I admit.
Dark eyes flicker to mine, eyebrows raised in curiosity, "how so?"
"I don't know, I thought that seeing as this is hell and... you know," my hand flails in the air, shyly gesturing to the entirety of the environment, "I just assumed everyone was a demon or something like that."
He shakes his head, firmly using one hand to secure the papers sitting on his lap and placing the other on the armrest, tucking his chin atop his lightly folded fist. "That is a normal human misconception, so I won't hold it against you, don't worry. There are several beings in hell and above, the concept of their existence and survival is complicated and I fear you might drown underneath it all if I dare venture far too deep."
I lean forward in my seat (juxtaposed to his), my ears soaking up this new information. I also take note of the way his body shifts slightly so he is angled to face me a bit more, the action is barely noticeable but it has my lips twitching.
"What about Magnus?" Absentmindedly, my lips move and words are sprouted, successfully cutting off the next string of words. I suppress a grimace at my bad manners, therefore I add; "apologies."
My stare is drawn to his face when he chuckles and says; "no worries. And to answer your question, Magnus is a skinwalker."
I'm about to shoot another question when he rises to his feet and discards the papers to the base of his chair. "I think I know just the thing to keep you busy," he says, "follow me."
Aïdom steers me up the stairs to the second floor and I'm vaguely aware of how I haven't stepped foot in this part of the house, as my daily routine only includes my room, the dining and living rooms, all of which are located on the ground and first floor.
As we approach the top of the stairs, Aïdon turns left, prompting me to do the same. My eyes are wide as we trudge past several paintings adorning the walls, however, one in particular has my steps faltering.
Deep, strikingly vivid and attention demanding.
Placed in a decorative border made from rich wood of an earthly brown shade, the piece is vivid and intense, a splatter of black and red clashing together violently on a white background. The swirls of black and occasional swipes of blood red translating to an unforgiving and violent tempest brewing with the foreseeable threat to wreck havoc and destroy all in it's path. Tainting the peace and harmony of the white, so all that is left is chaos.
However, on a closer look, the black swirls begin to shape into an image of hands reaching out for the other on opposite sides, fingertips barely brushing. Something precious and beautiful taking shape amidst the darkness
I'm far too deep in my observation, mind reeling and my attention consumed by the conveyed message that I fail to realize that Aïdon has paused in his movements. He stands at a distance, dark eyes dancing with curiosity.
"What do you see?" He asks, taking slow and quiet steps towards me. He stops mere meters away and tucks his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
My head tilts to meet his stare, feeling the words at the very tip of my tongue. "Hope."
Aïdon smiles – forced and devoid of warmth. Slow paced, we both continue to trudge forward, Aïdon leading and myself following until we come to stop at a door.
Dark like plain chocolate, the wooden door has carvings deep-rooted on its surface. Anxious to know what's hidden behind the door, I pad a little closer, watching Aïdon push it open to reveal a large ball room. The wooden floorboard creaks under my feet with each step I take further inside, lungs expanding to inhale calming gulps of the musky scent in the air.
With rows and rows of towering shelf lined one after the other, holding books of all sizes and colors. There are three ceiling-to-floor windows at the adjoining walls, allowing access to fresh air and sunlight.
The hard wood beneath my feet smoothens out into a warm brown rug, complimenting the vast array of browns being the shelves as well as the brownish red leather chairs laid out around a single table at a corner.
He brought me to a library.