I can feel her hesitate as I reach into her mind. Telepathy is something we share, something we learned together and grew in side-by-side. We could share emotions, moments, and memories from a large distance without the need for speaking. We really were meant to be.
Panic slipped into her cranium as she processed the voice. My voice.
The woman squats beside me, waiting for news as her hand warms my back, sharing the power she has inside of her. I nod, my small body rocking with the action as I refocus on sending the message to Dametria.
Oh! I’ve been so worried about you. Where are you? Are you okay?
I’m fine. I’m… not myself.
She hesitates. What do you mean?
That pig you met…
No, I hear her respond in awe.
Yes. And the woman was the only one who could change me back.
“Good, good, Damian,” the woman whispers in my ear, listening to our conversation with her gift. “Pull her back to us. Tell her Jackie can’t come in.”
Dametria, I need your help, please.
I… but you… you hurt me. You didn’t want me anymore. You wanted Cressa-la.
I was wrong. It was stupid of me to think anyone could replace you. We match.
You don’t mean that, Damian. She pauses, sadness filling the space between us. I’m sorry. You should find someone else to do your bidding.
A wave of tingles washes over me, and I notice a slight purple tint shift over my vision. Suddenly, it’s as if a weight has been lifted off my chest and my eyes are no longer blind to everything around me. Suddenly, I feel terrible for all the things I’ve done and everything I’ve planned to do.
It gushes out of my body like a river.
Dametria, I need you. I always have. I’ve been so selfish, so manipulative, and I lost sight of what I had in front of me. The world will always be there but we aren’t promised tomorrow—and I want to spend every tomorrow I can with you as I am supposed to. As Damian and Amawa-na, and not as a pig separated from a life he was supposed to live.
Dametria’s shock parts through my mind as I collapse to the ground. What is happening to me? Why is guilt all I feel? These emotions should anger me, these pitiful, weak, fragile emotions—but why is that fire, that animal being choked out by them? What has changed?
“That’s enough, boy,” the woman says, releasing my back as another deluge of static rushes through my bones. I begin to shift and change, the bones cracking as they grow and alter themselves, my skin turning fleshy and my body elongating. My ripped and burned clothing seems tighter, but it’s the least of my worries as I struggle to stand on my two legs once again. Burns from Cressa-la’s power covered the front of my chest, twisting like frozen fire along my skin. She could have killed me in that instant… but she didn’t. And it angered me.
“What’d you do to me?” I press, finally feeling the fire licking my insides. “Why did I feel… so weak?”
“You needed to feel something to get her to return, Damian, and your mind had become so used to suppressing feelings, I had to open you up a bit.”
“You taught me to suppress them!”
“Yes, but emotions can be used as tools, remember? Don’t you recall what you did to Cressa-la when she was overwhelmed with the end of the world and the death of her tribe? She was almost your wife, and you almost possessed her power.”
“Almost,” I spit as the woman takes a seat.
“And when you brought the news to the Revli Tribe about the death of their Tribe Leader, you overtook the entire village in the midst of their mourning.” A smile formed along her ruby red lips as a drip of water made a trail down the side of her face. “And who could ever forget about what you did to Dametria?”
Something dislodges in my chest. It aches.
“I had to. She would have left. Everything I did was for her.”
“And look where that’s got the both of you. Love is such a weak emotion, Damian, and it causes us to make stupid decisions. But soon the stupidity that is left in your body will be rid of… if you only play the part.”
“I am,” I growl, clenching my fists as the beast inside begins to pace.
“Uh, uh, uh, no backlashing in my Fish Bowl,” she smirks, waving a hand. I’m thrown against the wall and pinned to it with ropes of light as they wrap around my body. Her body disappears in wisps of orange lights, and reappears just before me, purple tendrils momentarily wrapping around her fingers. “You’re slipping away, Damian-sai. And you wonder why I don’t hand over all my power just yet.”
I take a deep breath. She’s right. I can never fulfill my quest if I keep this up. Dametria is just a pawn in our game, no matter how strong my feelings are toward her. No matter if I really love her or not.
“Remember, Damian,” the woman says quietly as I hear my name resonating upstairs, the girl who belongs with me calling out for assurance that I’m alright, “fear the sea. Fear the moon. Fear them all. Trust nobody.”
She smiles before striding to her chair and settling back down, her purple irises shifting to a dark hazel as amusement fills them. She is enjoying every moment of this.
“Amawa-na,” she calls gently, ushering her forward with her voice. “It isn’t polite to break into someone’s home without saying hello to the owner.”
Dametria’s footsteps falter at her old name, before she became the girl who stood next to me day and night. The girl who will never be with me because she is too weak to even stand on her own.
One step at a time, she moves down the stairs as a protective barrier warps my vison. I assume Dametria can’t see me, so I keep my mouth shut. The woman needs the illusion that I’m not there. It would make Dametria skittish and possibly confuse her. And without water touching her, Dametria can’t do anything, which creates frustration, and then I’ll need to clean up her emotional mess as she crumbles. And she wonders why I never followed through with marriage after our engagement. Actually, that thought process makes me curious as to why the woman doesn’t let this play out like that. If Dametria is overrun by emotions, won’t she make irrational choices? Isn’t that what over-emotional women do?
“Damian?” the woman asks, not a hint of her voice fishing for an explanation. She knows, and she doesn’t hide it as Dametria stays stagnant at the top of the stairs. “He’s spoken to you?”
“He’s done more than that,” Dametria says calmly, but I can hear her voice waver. She’s worried. She should know better. So much better. “What do you want from me?”
“Whatever do you mean, dear?” She inquires, again, not a hint of her voice actually asking. She talks like an all-knowing being, although I know she isn’t one—she’s not God—but she makes it sound like she is to everyone around her. She’s always one step ahead, and that’s a good reason to speak with such sureness and poise… it’s something she’d taught me, and something I had been able to grasp up until I was changed into a lowly animal.
The woman smiles at Dametria’s silence, and lets out a low chuckle. “So many burdens on your heart, my dear. So many deeds done by your hands that stain like blood. But there is one whose are tinted with the crimson of even your blood, isn’t there? And you can’t help but give him everything you are every second of every day, even though you are always rejected. Is your greatest desire to be free of him, or for him to be under your spell for a change?”
The room crackles with energy, though absent with words, and I, too, am curious of the answer that will part the girl’s lips, the one I grew up with and loved since before I can remember, who made me her second choice. I’m glad she gets that feeling now, the feeling I had when she chose Tamir over me, even after I promised her an eternity together. She shattered that promise and the splinters made my heart bleed out with anger and jealousy. Dametria got what she deserved, and is still paying. But this woman has given her the choice to manipulate my thoughts, my emotions, my wishes, just as I had done to her. The animal inside lashes out in quiet spurts of anger as I struggle against the light holding me to the wall. I will not be anyone’s plaything.
“You came for a wish to be granted, my dear. Your greatest desire.”
She raps her fingers on the arm of her throne, purple sparking from her nails as the lights squeeze tighter, cutting off the circulation in my arms and wrapping around my mouth to silence me. I might be her follower, but I am not her slave.
“No, I came for Damian. I came to help him. I could feel… something I haven’t seen him express in years, and it…”
“Changed your mind about him?” The woman leans back in her chair and stretches her damp fingers on the ends of either armrest. “Let me ask you something, Dametria. Or maybe some things, depending on your answer.”
“And what makes you think I’ll answer them truthfully?” I can hear the danger in Dametria’s voice as she says this, her back to me. She doesn’t flinch beneath the weight of the woman’s eyes; she’d been so used to mine.
The woman leans forward, the smile falling from her face. “Because I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”
“And that is?”