Complete but not without presence.
Shapes in blackness, who? What? Where am I?
“Who's there?” A far off voice. Distant but distinct. Her own.
“It's Ryan.” Another far off voice. From the direction of the voice a shape emerged. The American, all in black. Complete black.
“Where are we?” Her voice was not so distant now.
“This is the world of your mind.”
“If this is my mind what are you doing here?”
“I'm not really here. No mind can comprehend two consciousnesses, at least not completely. That truth is a fundamental part of what is happening to you now.”
A slight laugh. “Really? And what is that?”
“Demonic possession.” The diagnosis was deadpan.
“Possession.” The word drifted into the nothingness. Time ground on as she waited, wondering if the word would ever glance off something in the void and return to her. Perhaps the echo would make more sense than that disconnected voice which had uttered the word. No echo. Nothing.
“When you tried to take the Idol one of the demons bound to it projected itself onto you. Now it is breaking you down, squeezing you out, making room for itself to take full control. It has been a one-sided war until now.”
“What do you mean one-sided?” Lara was slightly insulted, she was never one to take things sitting down.
“You've avoided this place for so long,” Ryan gestured vaguely to the surrounding void. “You haven't been where the fight is taking place.”
“So where do I need to go to fight?”
“That's a question for you to answer. This is your mind, I'm just an observer.”
“Can I get rid of you then?”
“If you want to.”
“Hmm.” Lara mused. She soon became aware of her consciousness becoming embodied. Kinesthetically she could sense her existence in this world. Other things in the blackness forced themselves on her mind. Distant light, shapes, sound...tall, graceful Lombardy poplars. A shadow in the distance. “We're at my home.”
She and Ryan were standing at the back of the grounds by the spot where her mother and father had taken that old portrait. The sky was gray, just as it had been on that day. Lara could see that she too was wearing all black. “Why are we here?” Ryan asked.
“I don't know.”
“Is the demon here?”
“How should I know?” Lara's jaw clenched.
“This is your world, take control of it,” Ryan chided gently. With a rush they were in the front hall of the manor. Winston was there. He turned sensing Lara's presence but as he approached she could tell he was not aware of Ryan, or even her sudden appearance. His face was creased with worry, his mouth turned in a regretful arc.
“Post came for you Lara,” He handed her a letter and immediately turned to leave. Lara looked at the return address. The writing betrayed the sender before she read the name: James. Her heart caught in her throat.
“What is it?” Ryan asked.
“This is a memory,” Lara whispered. “I remember this day. This is the letter he wrote me breaking off the engagement. He told me about Evelyn and he tried to...say he was sorry.”
“And what happens after?”
“I thought about flying out to Syria and getting him back. I even packed a suitcase with my pistols in it. If he wouldn't have me back I would have killed her right there...but I was afraid to see him again, afraid to have him see me weak, afraid to make him sad, worst of all, afraid to see him happy with someone else. God, how I loved him. But I was just a girl then. We were both children really. We didn't know what we wanted.”
“And you spent the rest of the day shooting bottles of wine in the yard. You liked the way the glass shattered and the liquid spilled everywhere. That night you cried instead of sleeping.”
Lara turned sharply to him. “How did you know that?”
“Two consciousnesses can't share the same mind completely but bits and pieces do overlap. During this process common ground can get entangled. It's hard to explain.”
“What you mean to say is that you've experienced something similar. Common ground.”
Ryan hesitated. “If that helps you to understand you could look at it that way.” A pause. “What now?”
“I don't know. I don't even know what I'm looking for.”
“Right...the demon in my mind.” “I've been acquainting myself with your dark place. That dark place you hardly know.” Behind her Lara sensed something dart into the main hall. A distant shadow. Her hands dropped instinctively to her hips. “Did you hear that?”
“Where are my guns?” Lara muttered as she walked toward the main hall. Her insides were buzzing, everything on edge. Her stomach twisted into a series of knots. Step. Step. Step. As she rounded the corner into the main hall her house vanished.
“Where are we?”
"Take control Lara.”
“I thought I was.”
“Something led you here. Why?”
Lara squinted her eyes. It was a graveyard. She looked at some of the names on the headstones. She didn't recognize them. One at the end of the row—a large white marble stone with and angel engraved in it—caught her attention. She looked at the name and immediately turned away. She felt like vomiting.
“What is it?”
“I killed that man,” she whispered. She cupped her mouth with one hand. “I... killed...all these people.” As she walked through the rows of stones the names took on a new clarity. The cold black lettering leaped out like white hot flame onto her mind. She tried to force her mind to let them leave, she didn't want anyone to see this place, especially not Ryan Caruso. But her mind forced her down the rows. A contract killer here, a henchman there, a thief, a competitor. One row, two rows...some had been accidents, some had been self-defense, some had been left to die...
Lara came to the third row and the names lost meaning. She saw Ryan kneeling by a small black headstone at the end. He looked up at her with those sad blue eyes. “Not all. The rest are mine.” She looked out over the rest of the cemetery. Scores of headstones she had not noticed before greeted her. Ryan Caruso's killing field made her two rows of stones look paltry by comparison. As she looked back into his eyes she began to sense the pain behind them. It was still elusive, but she sensed it as if it were hers. She wondered if he felt the same desire to hide this place as she had felt moments before. She felt he did but that at the same time he wanted it to be seen.
“Why did I bring us here?”
“You tried to follow the demon. Maybe he's somewhere near.” Ryan said as he rose from his place by the headstone.
“Maybe. Let's have a look around.” Ryan nodded slightly and started off towards an edge of the graveyard. Lara started to follow but stopped by the small black headstone where Ryan had been kneeling. “Natalie Caruso. Beloved wife.” Lara felt inexplicable tears welling in her eyes. Her stomach tightened. Her heart caught in her throat.
A figure moved behind the stone. “Are we looking around or not?” Ryan's voice was terse.
Lara screwed her eyes shut and passed her sleeve over her eyes before she stood. Damn tears. I want to be strong. Strong like Daddy. With that thought the cemetery melted away. Out of the blackness rushed a new scene. The confines of a small luxury jet; soft white tones framed by faux mahogany wood. Expensive cologne...Daddy.
“Where are we?” Ryan asked.
“This plane crashed. My parents were killed.” Even as she spoke flames sprouted on the wing. The plane jerked into a fatal spin. The three passengers—mother, father, daughter—were thrown to the floor. Lara looked at her younger self, reaching for her parents, unable to reach them until her mother managed to place a life jacket around Lara's neck. It was that life jacket that had kept her afloat for twelve hours until help arrived. If only her parents had put theirs on first...
Lara's eyes began to cloud over just as they had in the cemetery. And again just as in the cemetery she was unable to leave the scene before her. She could not even move, only watch.
The ocean rushed up to meet them. Spin, fire and roar were replaced by blackness as water engulfed the plane. The fuselage groaned and buckled. The windows cracked. With a shrieking sigh the plane split. But water did not pour in, just blackness. Lara found herself in a wasteland. Two figures materialized.
“Daddy, Mommy,” Lara gasped. Can it be? They're alive? Daddy stretched out his arms.
“Little Lara...” He whispered. She ran forward into his embrace. Mommy wrapped them both in her arms.
“We're both so...disappointed in you,” Daddy said.
“We gave you life and you have spent it in death and loss,” Mommy frowned.
“What?” Lara looked up startled. “What do you...?”
“I can't think of someone weaker,” Daddy sighed. “You just let James Woodson walk all over you.”
“And then when you realized you loved him,” Mommy chided. “You didn't have the strength to get him back. And now he's dead. He and Paul are dead. Because of you.”
“That's not...that's not true,” Lara gasped. She sank to her knees, sobs racking her body.
A hand gripped her shoulder. “Lara! Find control! This is not real!” It was Ryan. “Those are not your parents. They're dead. This is the demon. Think. Control.”
Lara looked up at him and then to her parents. They smiled sadly at her. Sad, disappointed smiles. She tensed and then stood. “How do I get rid of it?”
“This is your mind,” Ryan counseled. “You find the way.”
Lara's hands dropped to her hips. This time she found the cold reassuring metal of her pistols. She drew them and aimed at the apparitions in front of her. “You are not real.”
“Good God Lara! Put those down!” Daddy shouted. “What do you think you're doing?”
“He's the demon,” Mommy replied. “It's the American. You know you can't trust him. He just wants the Idol for himself. He doesn't care what happens to you or anybody.”
“Lara,” Daddy continued, this time soothingly. “Kill him and this all goes away.”
Lara's eyes began to cloud up again. “I—I don't know...I...”
“Kill him,” Daddy ordered. Lara turned and trained her guns on Ryan. “He is the demon. He doesn't care about you or anybody.”
She gritted her teeth, trying to force the tears away. Ryan's face was impassive, resigned. Lara's fingers touched against the triggers. Squeeze the trigger, don't pull it. That was one of Lott's. Lara willed her hands to respond, squeeze off two rounds, kill Ryan Caruso. No, kill the demon.
But in his sad blue eyes she could see that black headstone: NATALIE CARUSO. BELOVED WIFE. “No, he does care,” Lara whispered.
“What?” Daddy demanded.
“He isn't the demon,” Lara turned and trained her pistols on Mommy and Daddy. “You are.”
With a flash her parents were gone. In their place was a shadow. Darker than the blackness. Its fiery eyes fixed Lara. She suddenly felt very weak, her pistols felt like granite boulders. “You foolish mortal! I will have you!” The shadow bolted at her. Lara instantly felt icy fingers at her throat crushing the life out of her. Those awful eyes filled her vision and in them she saw the very depths of hell. She could see herself writhing in hell, racked by those two rows of tombstones and the ones who laid buried there.
“Lara! This is still your world!” Ryan again. He seemed so distant. Just let me die. I don't belong here. I'm too bad. I'm only worthy of hell.
“Fight it! You must fight it!”
Deep within Lara felt a stirring. The ember of life that had all but been crushed out by weeks of sleepless nights, pain, shame and hopelessness had been kindled. She would fight. With a surge Lara threw back the shadow. It lingered for a moment and then darted for her. Lara drew her pistols and squeezed the triggers. Rich crimson flowed from the shadow. She squeezed the triggers again. More holes, more crimson. Lara squeezed them again and again until there was nothing but holes and crimson. What seemed like ages passed as the crimson faded.
No shadow, no eyes.