Chapter 1: The Vision
“Miss Cole. May I speak with you for a moment?” I had dreaded the moment when I would hear those words. I was surprised, actually–not that I was being caught, but that it had not happened sooner.
“Yes, Ms. Parker?” I smiled sweetly, but it didn’t quite reach my eyes. My first-period chem teacher looked down her long nose. I tried not to stare at the blotch of concealer covering Ms. Parker’s wrinkles. Instead of telling you what happened before, maybe I should tell you what happened next…
The sun beat down on the cozy rural town, drenching the streets with a warm yellow tint. The air was stagnant, no voices or songbirds singing into the wind. The homes were shut tight, with blackout curtains drawn on the windows. Slowly, the sky darkened into a dark bruise, a chill reaching out with its bony hand and grasping those brave enough–or stupid enough–to fight back.
“Hey, Kay, come look at this.” I drag my finger across the mousepad to light the screen back up and push my computer at her.
“Oh. My. God Vic that is so true,” she says as she covers her giggles with her hand. The librarian shushes her from across the racks and we duck down behind the books, speaking in whispers.
“Seriously though, every time I sit in her class she just stares at me and it is like she is mad at me for, like, existing. And I swear I did not show her the story.” I am compiling a set of short stories that were all metaphors for how much of a witch my Chem teacher was. It all started on the first day of school when I raised my hand and a question right. She said I was not “supposed” to know that yet, and that next time I should wait until someone else answered wrong so the class could “learn”. I mean, I can not help that I know things I have never learned. See, it had been happening ever since I could remember. When something happened, or somebody said something, I could always predict what would happen next. Trying to explain to my best friend Kay that I could See through actions into the truth and future was like trying to explain why the sky was blue to a deaf dog–impossible. Of course, I had already known this. Kay tried to tell me that it was this weird science mumbo-jumbo thing that was just me imagining that I had thought of something first after it had already happened, but it was just my brain getting the timeline wrong. That sounded reasonable enough at the time, but I decided to test it. Every time I Saw something I wrote down and drew everything and printed the date and time very legibly at the top of both when I Saw it and when it would happen. I even wrote it in pen so people could tell if it had been re-written. I would give it to Kay after I wrote it, so she could know that I did not have it. Then, when something happened that I felt like I remembered from sometime long ago (that is what it felt like–like it had already happened in some other time) I wrote that down. At the end of the school year last year, I told Kay to give the original Sights back and compared the two–and passed out. They were the same dates. Even Kay could not deny that was freaky. She has not told anyone yet, so I am hoping the FBI–or the weird darkness I had begun to See–did not come after me.
Kay stands up and stretches over to the fiction bookshelf, opening it up and flipping through the pages so that the librarian will not kick us out. She pauses.
“Wait. Vic, what if what you wrote…” My unnatural violet eyes widen. I know what she is asking–what if what I wrote was a Sight? It hasn’t happened like that before, where I mindlessly write or talk it, but I guess it is possible.
“I do not think so. I mean, I just made it up.”
“Read that part again. Vic”–I already am, looking for answers–“you do not mention Ms. Parker’s name once. All you say is that the sky turns dark. What if you just… you know… Saw… something.” She whispers the last part. Her posture suggests she just wants to help me, but I see how her eyebrows are slightly raised, the right one a little more than the left. She is excited that she knows the secret of my curse. She does not understand. I cough into my elbow to cover the disappointment on my face. My straight black hair swings over my pale cheek, something that I know she hates.
“Ugh, you know I hate that,” she groans as she tugs at my hair.
“Ow! Stop it!” We both drop into silent giggles, glancing around to make sure no one is looking at us like we have three heads. Well, she is. I am checking to see if she noticed that I changed to subject.
Suddenly, I feel a shadow fall across my back. My entire body tenses up as I wait for the onslaught or visions. That is how they happened anyway–I live through what would happen. But I am usually lucid dreaming when it happens–it is as though I am physically there, but seeing the scene from someone else’s perspective. If I am still in the library, though, it means this is another type of Sight entirely. The kind that haunts me. The kind that changes me.
“Victoria.” The ghost creating the shadow hisses through my mind. It pushes at my barriers and starts shoving its memories in. This is how ghosts communicate–and it hurts like hell.
A child runs through a flowery field. A hawk sweeps across the silky summer sky. The child, now grown, takes the hand of his mother, leading her down a dark, damp, stone stairwell. The memories flit through my mind, some staying longer than others. I have learned through the years that the important ones stay for a second or two–and that it’s pointless to fight them. Suddenly, the ghost stops the reel of its past and brings forth what has not yet come. The ghost, after all, has not yet died. Its physical body is still breathing, blood pumping through its veins; this apparition had come back from the time of its death in order for me to prevent it from happening. At least, that is what these shadowy figures usually want.
In the vivid scene that the spirit has presented to me, I See a scene that I now know will change my life forever–the same exact moment in time that I had written about earlier, except this time I can see the body that I slipped into during the scene–me.
The walls are cold beneath my clammy fingertips as I trail them along while I walk down the long, dark hallway. Ever since the day I saw my own future, I’ve been shutting myself off from the world in order to protect my friends. I can feel my energy draining through every passing hour, and I feel weaker every day. I do not recognize myself in the mirror anymore. I refuse to believe that the thin, shadow-faced, dull-eyed girl is me. It can not be. The only time I have a spark in my life now is when I see a text from him. The only cyber relationship that I’ve allowed myself. I have tried to work on my abilities, but I can not See anything when I fall asleep; I have reached out to the ghost who ripped my reality apart, but all I have felt in my mind from my efforts was a dark force shoving me–hard–back into my own space. It is like every spirit has abandoned me since I’ve seen my future. I pull my pen out of the back pocket of my blue jeans and turn to the scribble-cover walls. At first, I had been writing in random places with anything I could find, but ever since I made a habit of writing my theories (the ones about why I was not receiving Sights) the pen I hold in my hand has been a staple accessory to every outfit I have. Not that I have worn anything other than these blue jeans and a sweatshirt–although I will occasionally treat myself to sweatpants.
DAY 403/THEORY 388: The ghost that visited me was a dark spirit and it cursed me to live a life of misery.
I think about that again. What if that is true? What if my last visitor had imparted to me a bit of its dark magic curse? But that does not ring true to me. Every other time that I have had that time of Sight I have been able to tell if something was laced with the poisonous tendrils of dark magic; then I can make sure I avoid being affected. When that apparition in the library came to me, I had felt none of the standard chills and whispers, and my hair had not stood on end with the detection of that evil riddled in death and deceit. I put my hand up to the wall again.
DAY 403/THEORY 389: The ghost was not what tainted me. Was it me?
I feel a click in my mind as all of my memories–and its memories–come back to me. I recall the scene of the future that it had deemed most important for me to understand. I have chosen to remember it by the excerpt in my short story collection about Ms. Parker–such a trivial game I had been playing.
The sky darkened into a dark bruise. A chill reaching out with its bony hand.
They both suggest one thing…
DAY 403/THEORY 390: The dream imparted the darkness upon me. The darkness in the sky was dark magic. The bony hand was its tendrils.
The pen drops to the ground, leaving a streak on the end of the period. The last thing I see before I feel a black fog slip over my mind is the boney hand.
When I wake up I see that the sky had become the black and purple colors of twilight. My head incessantly throbs, and I press the palms of my aching hands to my temples to stop the hisses of the whispering. Victoria. Victoria. Help. You are powerful. Powerful. With us, you are stronger. With us you are unstoppable. Victoria. Join us. My mind slips under the terror of sleep once again.
It is around noon when I come to again. At this point, I am unsure how many days have passed by without me living in them. I stretch my hands out in front of me and take in the dirt that has accumulated. Slowly, I put my legs underneath me and push my hands into the creaky wooden floorboards, quickly realizing that I do not have the mental focus or physical energy to get myself onto my feet. Not after all this time in what I am now recognizing as a coma. The stairs leading to my attic bedroom are just five yards ahead of me. I focus on the knots and cracks in the floor under my knees and start crawling, painstakingly slowly, only stopping when the top of my head hits the attic door. I pause for a second and sit back on my heels, rocking back and forth until I have the momentum to stand up. When I am finally able to take a step forward, I brace my left hand against the door frame and tug the door open with my right. I take a step up.
My little attic bedroom is and always has been sparse. There is a bed in the corner with a dresser next to it, and that’s about it. There is one window, just above the headboard of the bed, that I wish I could open right now. The air is stuffy, and it smells a little moldy. Funny–I did not notice that earlier. I spy my phone on top of the dresser and I shuffle over, tripping over a lump.
“Oh my god, gross,” I say to myself when I look at the long-dead mouse peeking out from underneath the rug. I take a quick whiff and unfortunately verify that it is the mouse that is emitting the ghastly odor.
I continue the trek to my phone and finally reach the dresser. There is a little green light on the top right corner of my phone, and I thank God that I had the mental capability to plug it in before I passed out the first time. As I move my hand closer, the screen lights up with a notification–in fact, it shows me that I have hundreds and hundreds of messages, mostly from my mom and my friends. I glance at the date on my phone and then open up the messages.
4.15.17 Mom: V, I have a paper of yours here… Did you need it for school?
4.15.17 Mom: I just recycled it. Are you home yet?
4.16.17 Mom: V, where are you!! Call me immediately.
4.16.17 Mom: This is not funny.
4.17.17 Mom: V???!!!
I look through the messages from everyone. Each one is more frantic than the next, but that’s not what catches my eye: the date is one year ago. Even when I became a recluse–because that is what I am, no matter how much I try to deny it–I had read through and occasionally answered the texts to appease the masses. This meant…I had not been to my phone in over a year. I had been passing out for over a year. The scariest thing I realize is that every time I woke up I put a mark on the wall next to where I passed out, but when I put a mark on there earlier, before I crawled up the stairs, there were only three marks.
“Oh my god. No wonder everyone is so scared.” I open up Google on my phone and put my name into the search bar. Victoria Cole. I click the first article that comes up, silently lifting my eyebrows into a stunned expression at the fact that something came up at all–I mean, it is not like I am some big shot athlete or anything, for that matter.
Local daughter and friend, Victoria Cole, missing.
2 months ago, seventeen-year-old Victoria “Vic” Cole left school and did not return home. She was not reported missing immediately, as her parents believed her to be at a party, or perhaps “sleeping over at her friend’s house. She was known to do that from time to time, and we trusted her enough to let her do her own thing,” her hysterical mother and father said when local police investigated the case…
I read further on and see that the whole piece, written by someone I had never heard of before, was just about the town’s reaction to my supposed disappearance. Instead of reading through and balling my eyes out finding out how much people “cared” about me, and how I will be “missed” (as if any of these people do not look at me like I am some sort of freak that was spawned from the devil and whose mission is to destroy the human race with my freaky psychic abilities), I close the tab and scroll through the search results until I find a more recent article. I quietly wonder why the more recent article wasn’t on the top… who is covering up? Yeah, I am not ignorant of the efforts that someone took to make sure that the nice, fluffy stuff was at the top.
I finally find one that is dated at a month ago, and skim through it.
Case closed on missing Victoria Cole
The girl who went missing early last year has not been found. The family and police issued a statement revealing that they have called off the search and labeled Victoria as deceased. Shortly after this, her friends and classmates opened up to us about the days before her disappearance. Kayla Morgan, a young woman who claimed to be Victoria’s best friend, said “nothing was out of the ordinary. She was doing well in school, she was still talking about mundane stuff. The only thing out of place in her life was the bullying. People were really awful to her about her unique eyes.” She refused to comment about her speculations as to what happened to Victoria. Another friend of hers, Guy Holden, described her as something entirely else, however. “She was very secretive, and she only talked in whispers to [Kay]. Something was definitely up, and I think it has something to do with her [violet] eyes,” he claimed. He went on to connect her disappearance to paranormal activity, as he had supposedly witnessed her speaking to no one beside her and reacting to what “it” had said. While this claim has no evidence to support it, it is the only lead that we have had in regards to any shady behaviors that Victoria was displaying during the days prior to her disappearance. We encourage any other witnesses or those who know something to come forward in an effort to give the Cole family peace.
God bless Kay for trying to cover up why I left. I know she knew something was up with me. The scariest part of this article is that Guy is one of the people who bullied me; in fact, he was the leader of everyone who had ever said a mean word to me. If he started speculating and looking into my “death”, he could get very close, simply because I know that he would stop at nothing to get back at me for telling him that he would not win the state championship in football (which, for the record, he did not). While this might seem trivial to someone who did not know Guy at least a little, football was his life dream, and he certainly did not appreciate my blatant disregard for his self-proclaimed prowess.
I power off my phone and set it back on the dust oak dresser. My hands come up to my face and wiped the tears that I hadn’t realized had been falling but that now have created a sad pool of salty liquid on the slats of floorboard beneath my aching feet. I lower myself onto the soft covers of my twin bed, burying my shaking, clammy hands into its childish and cheery tye-dye pattern. I choose to focus on that unfortunate juxtaposition instead of the truth. I can not go back. My old life has already ended–hell, its ending started when I stopped living in the present and was plagued by the future. I had no one to blame but myself. Letting myself listen to that ghost that told me my future was a bad idea, one that stemmed from my other questionable decisions like Seeing in the first place. As I look back at my past, I realize that I had started to pull away months ago when I first found out that what I was dreaming about was the future. I got stuck in the world that has not yet come, ignoring the fact that only actions in the present would change those futures. I began to look forward to those mysterious Sights, more than I looked forward to actually living.
I stayed up in the attic for another three hours, the main events of that period of time being: staring at a bug crawl all the way across the ceiling; napping; turning on and off my phone–numerous times; and crying. After realizing that I was not doing myself any good by being so self-pitying and pathetic, I made my way downstairs where I am now preparing a very large turkey and cheddar sandwich with mayonnaise on white bread. I choose not to think about the fact that I have not eaten in a year…and I feel fine. Hungry, but fine. I have avoided looking in the mirror in the bathroom, mostly because I know that what I will find will haunt me more than the ghosts.
I walk over to the sink and turn on the faucet. The water squeaks out, its rusty metal passage complaining about the sudden task I have forced upon it. I decide to pass on washing my hands this time, mostly–all–because the water is definitely not the color it should be. I sigh, drop my hands, and slowly walk back over to the counter where I have set my mediocre ingredients. I throw them all together, no longer caring about the order that I have previously been so meticulous about, and take a bit bite out of the side. And another. And another. In five seconds flat I shove the entire sandwich into my mouth and have more than a little trouble chewing all of the soft, flimsy bread that has clumped together. My stomach is still growling at me to fit something else into it, but I ignore it for a second to respond to my other bodily needs.
I cross over into the bathroom and turn around to shut the door (although, clearly no else has been here in or will be here for a very long time) when suddenly my eyes catch into those of a stranger. Her sharp, violent, twilight eyes glare at me with terrifying hatred; her pasty white pallor and sunken features make me flinch at its unhealthiness and severity; her flat, pitch black hair that falls in a tumble off of her head gives her a horribly unkempt look, as if she hadn’t brushed her hair in…a year. I move my right hand up and she moves her left hand. I look from side to side, up and down, I even jump as I slip into a frantic state of mind. All she does is mirror my actions, but they look more grotesque and sickly than what I am doing. My heart starts beating as loud and as fast as the commuter rail going over an old, rickety track. Sweat starts to bead on my cheeks when my body temperature rises in desperation. I stare in horror at the corpse I have become in the last year. My hunger is long forgotten. My shock morphs into a rage at myself and at that shadowy, grave, boney hand’s stretch towards me. The violent eyes harden, and I see a flash of gold in them before I hear an explosion and my vision fades to black.
My head throbs as I lift it off of the cold tile flooring of the bathroom.
“What…” I look around me at the mess that the small room has become. The hand that I’ve set underneath me to push my prone body up into a sitting position gets pricked by a thousand tiny knives. I look down at the floor and see a disaster of red stained glass shards that came from the evidently shattered mirror. When I pick my hand up, I see a blanket of clear, jagged glass covering the entire palm. I wince at the sight. Fifteen minutes later, I have managed to carefully pull out each of the superficial shards. Grabbing a towel and gingerly wrapping around my tender hand, I lift myself up and survey the damage once again.
“How did this happen?” I mutter out loud to myself.
“You have become a dark Vision,” an empty voice says me. Its cold words surround me in a murky mental fog in which I have no choice but to heed its presence.
“Who is there? What do you mean?” I frantically spin around the room, searching for the owner of the dark voice.
“So many questions.” It trailed out the final s. It pauses. I do not dare interrupt it lest it leaves before giving me answers to my inquiries.
A shivering mist collects in front of me, its physical presence casting a dark aura over the room. I gasp in recognition, although I am not sure how I know what this is. It’s constantly phasing appearance from one ghastly body to the next has me feeling goosebumps rising on my arms, the hairs standing up straight.
“You–you–” I cough into my hand “–you are a True One!” A True One was the stuff of legend. In the early days of my Sights, I had popped onto a chatroom in which people discussed the legends of the Seers, Visions, and True Ones. While Seers developed their powers over time and were not immortal, and Visions were the dark, more powerful development of Seers, True Ones were the only beings that were the very first to get a Sight–each one has supposedly been in existence for upwards of three million years. Their gifts apparently evolved out of necessity, usually something like a war that had a disastrous outcome unless someone prevented it. They were omniscient beings–the only true Seers. Their abilities were so strong that they did not conform to the Light or the Dark. These beings simply were. Wait…
“What did you say about me? That I am a… a… Vision?” My heart beats impossibly faster as I step away from the swirling, hardening mist in front of me.
My jaw drops open as I watch in awe. The True One materializes from the dark shadow droplets. I guess it takes the shape of whoever it wants, and this one wanted to make me feel more comfortable. Its face is now one that I know by heart–the one in the profile picture of my online best friend. His username is divergent_mist1, so I address him as such.
“How do you know about divergent_mist1? Scratch that, stupid question. Why are you showing yourself as him?” I stare at his–its–strong build and undeniable handsome face. But I do not think of him that way. I think of him as a brother. Just a friend. I swear. Ok, Victoria, stop digging a bigger grave for yourself to jump into. I snap back into focus when I realize he is… it is…(I will just let myself call it him)… still talking.
“I know you might not understand this right now, but I am him.”
I blankly stare at his admittedly gorgeous blue eyes.
“I am, like, I do not know… the rebellious fallen angel. Like, the rebel of the story. I somehow gained a consciousness or something like that, and I can actually talk to you.” He tugs at his soft, brown hair and starts looking a little bit crazy, at least to me. His wide eyes, dilated pupils, and overall tense posture do not really help his case, either.
“I can not believe I am actually here. I have been trying to reach you, like physically, but like, not like that, because you are like my best friend, but like actually communicate with you in this physical form instead of tapping into your phone to send you messages, but I never thought I would actually be able to do it, you know?”
I squint my eyes and scrunch my face up, turning my head from side to side and telling myself that this lunatic is just a figment of my imagination… but then that would make me insane, so I decide to deal with it head-on.
“I am just going to ignore the fact that you, divergent_mist1 are not only a True One, actually want to meet me of all people, and that you are the one that has been becoming my best friend in the whole world.” I leave out my shock at his good looks. I do not really think that will support my cause right now. Or maybe I am just trying to avoid the truth. Wait, he is omniscient. He definitely knows. I shove that thought to the back of my mind. “First of all, please think of a name other than divergent_mist1, even though I get it, very funny.”
“I have been thinking of a few. I thought about something like–”
“That is not my main point. Let me finish. How the hell were you able to materialize? I thought you guys were just a magical mist, or something equally as vague.”
“I do not know. I honestly can not say how it happened. All I know is that I have been trying to contact you for months”–about as long as I would have been speaking to divergent_mist1–him–on the phone–“and suddenly I was able to actually reach you. I guess I just wanted it badly enough. You were, like, the coolest person I had ever met, you know? I just wanted to know everything about you… about why you were so scared.” That last though scares me. I had told him everything about my Sights, and he had taken it all in stride. That had not seemed odd to me at the time, but now I get it. He was literally the source of the origin story of Sights… of me. I take a small, uneven, unbalanced step away from him and place the shaking palm of my right hand on my cold, sweaty forehead. All of this new and terrifying is making me woozy. Shutting my eyes tight, I take a deep breath in and slowly blow it out. I quietly turn around and grasp the doorknob with my unoccupied hand (equally as shaky; it takes me a couple tries to get a good grip on the smooth brass surface).
“Where are you going?” His voice is like I imagine a mouse’s to be. The meek words slip through the magicked air and slide into my ears. I sigh.
“I can not… I do not…” I hear him expel air from his nose quickly. He is disappointed. Why do I know that? I send that into the back of my mind, too. Soon I will have an overflowing library with extremely important books on it that no one has bothered to read.
“‘You can not, you do not,’ what, V.” The heat of his words makes me shiver in fear. I have no idea what True Ones are capable of, but somehow I get the feeling that crossing one of them would be a death sentence in the making. I know he already knows what I was going to say. Clearly, he thinks it will be far more enlightening for both of the people in the room if I voice my thoughts. I lower my head. Feeling a tug of energy go through me, I am forced to turn around and face him. Looking into his sad eyes staring through my soul, my heart sinks in regret for what I would have said to him. I can not… I do not… I will not do this with you. I have enough going on as it is. I can see in his posture the moment he realizes that I have changed my mind. His entire demeanor shifts and his aura brightens. I force a small smile, but it soon becomes genuine as he returns my sentiment.
I walk over to stand in front of him, and reach out my olive branch: “You should go with Achilles.” He chuckles, wraps me in a big bear hug, and whispers into my hair, “Thank you.”
The bell over the door jingles as I push open the door to small corner bookstore, Owl Books. Achilles hesitantly strides in behind me, immediately grabbing my hand and squeezing. Hard.
“Dude, if you want me to help you, I am going to want to have my hand intact.” He stares at me. He has not been in this realm long enough to know what pretty much everything means, which is why I am helping him–along with other reasons that I will not admit right now–but sometimes he could be so damn thick, it gave me a headache. “Let. Go. Of. My. Hand. Please.” He nods, but a customer strolls around the corner of the fiction shelf and Achilles gulps and keeps ahold of my hand. I reach around with my free hand and physically remove the iron bars that he has wrapped around my palm and wrist (his hand is really big, which I guess makes sense for his height). I am walking over to the back corner where we can have some privacy for today’s lesson on social cues when I feel a warmth wrap around my hand again, a little softer this time. I smirk. He is such a baby. I do not read into it any more than that. His low chuckle booms out behind me, and I whip my head around to glare at him.
“Get out of my head. Lesson one for today, invasion of privacy. People do not like it.”
“You know I can not help it. It is not even second nature to me, it is just me,” he rationalizes, and I realize micromanaging is not the way to go. I mean, I would not appreciate it if someone was trying to change who I was. Oh, come on. His grin counters my smirk from earlier, except I am sure he is way better to look at than me. His smile widens.
When we finally make our way to the little lounge area in the back (and by little I mean there are literally just two bean bag chairs on the ground that have been shoved into the corner), I pull out a piece of paper from the back pocket of my jeans and glance over the scribbled notes that cover its surface. These are all of the things I want to cover for Achilles to make sure he does not embarrass himself again. He has already scowled at a dog, ran a red light, and forced people to leave their seats in a restaurant simply because he wanted me to have a better view. I do not want him to add any more to that list. But seriously, it has only been a day and a half since he entered this dimension, and he’s already given at least twenty people a really bad first impression.
“Ok, the first order of business…”
We make it through my little lecture that was sporadically interrupted by Achilles’ clarifying questions, and when I look out the window at the front of the store, I see that the sky has turned a burnt orange.
“We should probably… get back,” I yawn, tired from the effort of talking my best friend out of questioning people’s fashion decisions. I push myself up off of the chair, my back aching.
“Yeah. You hungry?” I glare at him. He knows I hate that he can not get hungry. I really should not be surprised at that; he is technically just mist. I tell him as such and he throws his head back and laughs. He drags me out of the shop and into a MacDonald’s, smirking back at me when he hears my stomach growl.
“Hey, it is not my fault that I grew up in suburban America. MacDonald’s is everyone’s fast food staple, and I am not ashamed that my body has a natural response to the salty, greasy air.” He lifts his hands up to appease me and gestures for me to get in line beside him.
After chowing down on the biggest chicken sandwich I could find on the menu above the registers, Achilles and I make our way home along the quiet sidewalks. We make polite conversation. We talk about the weather, and I instruct him on current politics (what to say and what not to say in this day and age), and then we just walk. I keep glancing at him, wanting to talk about something, anything, to get him and his situation off my mind. I would, but I keep seeing him glance back, and there is a little smile on his face. He looks at his feet. I clear my throat.
“So…” I awkwardly start, cursing my inability to be smooth.
“So… thanks for teaching me all this stuff. I do not know how I would survive in this world without knowing the importance of a… what was it? A President?” He laughs. I had berated him for responding to someone’s comment about a news story about the President with, “that’s a weird name. Why would you follow a leader with a lamb’s name?” Suffice it to say, that person was not very happy. Then again, neither was Achilles when he had to go to the bathroom sink and wash off the thick chocolate milkshake from his shirt.
“You should have seen the look on your face when she threw that drink on you!” I imitate his shocked expression and he playfully shoves me over. Or, at least, he thinks it is playful. To me, it feels as though I have just been head-butted by a three-thousand-pound bull that has somehow been lifting weights far heavier than me–my arm throbs in tremendous pain, and I forcefully chuckle and then quickly look away to wince. He catches on as he always does and lightly turns my face towards him with his index finger. When he sees the light tears welling up in my eyes, his brows furrow.
“Guess it is just another thing you will have to work on,” I say, trying to comfort him.
“Work on? I can not believe you have not told me that I have been hurting you!”
“Hey.” He does not stop frantically checking my arm to check that it is alright. “Hey! I know you did not mean to. Stop feeling guilty, ok? It is just another thing I’ll try to get you through will ill-timed humor and lectures.” I pull his hand off of my bicep and push it back at him.
“I am so sorry–”
“Achilles, I told you not to–”
“No, I should have noticed that you were in pain. Wait… how come I did not notice? Usually, I get this niggling feeling at the back of my mind that helps me navigate your emotions, but it just was not there,” he rambles mostly to himself, and he stops walking. I can see the wheels turning in his head as he sifts through possible reasons. He has been doing this lately, mostly when he thinks I am not looking–furrowing his brow so much he has been getting little lines above the bridge of his nose; staring off into space so intensely I would be worried about the subject of his glare catching fire. This is the first time he has voiced out the problem, and I find myself dropping my mouth open and widening my eyes. Without telling me–because of some sort of male pride and stubbornness–he has clearly been struggling with the loss of some of his True One abilities. It makes a lot of sense, now that I think about it. He has not been as aware of my opinions as usual. He hasn’t been smirking whenever I think of him as something a little bit over the line of best friends (I am pretty sure at this point I have some kind of tell that comes across my face, the realization of which makes my cheeks burn in embarrassment). Overall, he has been less in tune with the world, his dimension, me, or the people around him.
I step in front of him and pull the same move he did on me earlier: I raise my hand up to his jaw and turn him towards me, forcing him to look me in my eye. “Achilles, tell me exactly what is happening to you. Right. Now.” He makes a strange face, his eyes deepening from pools to lakes, and eyebrows lifting in the middle the slightest, little bit. I choose not to read into it. That little library back there has books falling off the shelves, at this point.
When he is done going into detail about everything he has been feeling or, more importantly, not feeling, which is pretty much the same conclusion that I had made when I saw him break down in the first place, we pause for a second, just standing. It does not feel awkward–I am way to comfortable with him to be worried about what he thinks of me (I do worry about that, but for an entirely different reason). I look behind me towards my house, which is just down the street a couple blocks down, and decide that it is time for us to decompress a little.
“Come with me.”
I lead him back to my house, and, after ignoring numerous suspicious and confused glances from the behemoth beside me, drag him over into the living room. The musty air fits the furniture perfectly, what with the tan sofa from the 70s that is sagging down in the middle and has more duct-tape than actual fabric, but that I have covered up with a soft, blue, fuzzy blanket. That is the only furniture in there other than a small, older, flat-screen television set that I walk over to and flick on. I walk back to Achilles, who is standing in the middle of the room and just staring at me. I do not blame him–why would I want to watch T.V. when there was clearly something disastrous going on within his not-so-human body? I lead him over to the couch, and before sitting him and myself down I reach over to the arm and grab the remote. Without words, I flick through the channels until I find a movie that I like. I can sense him looking at me, but I just keep my eyes on the screen, trying not to make it too obvious that I am falling asleep into his warm shoulder already. It should not be legal to have shoulders this comfortable. Achilles breathes in and I can tell he is setting himself up for a question. I beat him to it with the answer.
“Think of this as another lesson,” I say. “In order to function seamlessly in society you have to understand movie references,” I explain innocently, finally looking up at him and batting my eyelashes in an attempt to make him relax.
“Whatever you say,” he mutters, a small smile on his lips as he settles in next to me. For the next fifteen minutes of the movie, Achilles comments on everything, and I snap at him, telling him not to interrupt the movie–especially not when the characters are talking. That is a huge movie-watching faux pas. He finally relaxes completely, and soon his huge form is curling into mine as he gives me a big, warm hug. I hide my smile in his chest. The comfort level is a little too overwhelming, and my eyes grow heavy. My head nods forward and I feel my mind drifting off into sleep mode. The last thing I remember is Achilles shifting me onto my side with his prone body next to mine. The movie still plays in the background as the main characters embrace after the man spent ten years in World War Two. Yeah. I would say I am pretty comfortable right now.
I put my hands on the fence that rings around the balcony and lean forward into the breeze. The technicolor sunrise that sits atop the sparkling blue waves of the Atlantic calms my thoughts for a moment. Ever since I woke up this morning my mind has been racing. This is one of the first moments I have had to myself in a while–or, at least, since Achilles came into my life. Before that, I was a recluse for a year… I like to think of that part of my life as one big, long nightmare that I should probably forget about. Anyways, this solitude has forced me to think about everything. I start at the little issue of Achilles’ magical strength.
I think of all of the possible options for what has been happening to him and settle on this: his power had been coming to him through his dimension, which carries most of the magic of this time and all of the strongest magic. Since he had chosen to stay here with me and essentially revolt against his own True kind, he had cut himself off from the endless supply of power that had been flowing through him in that dimension. So this either meant that his abilities on this plane were finite, and he could potentially exhaust all of his resources and become human which is optimistic because another very plausible option is that his power is his life-source and he… well, he dies eventually. I refuse to give up on finding the answer, though, so I put that idea on the back burner and let it simmer for a little bit while I move on to the next pot of annoyingness.
Achilles had said something about me being a Vision back when he first appeared to me. I am not completely out of the loop; I know that a Vision is a Dark version of a Seer, but I had always heard the horror stories and legends of the insanity that ensued after a Vision. I also know that one was created after some sort of strong negative emotion. That last thing I definitely have checked off–I mean, I did have an emotional breakdown and become a recluse who was unconscious for almost a year. I think if I had any positive emotions about that whole ordeal I would need to see a therapist even more than I already did. Achilles could not be an object of my insanity because he had interacted with other people and other people had reacted to him interacting with them (no comment on whether or not those reactions were good or bad, but I will say they were interesting. They either had something to do with his social ineptness and inability to be completely inoffensive or with his looks–which I’ll admit are a little startling at first). Maybe I will just have to wait and see which honestly scares me a lot more than if I had found out immediately. Now I will not know when I will explode until I do, and who knows how many people I could hurt before I learn how to control myself.
I think about the possibilities for a while, not noticing when the sun hits its peak in the sky at noon, or when it makes its descent once again and the world is coated in an orange glow.
“You want some food? You have been out there for quite a long while, and I have a very strong feeling that you have not had anything to eat.”
I stay facing the edge of the balcony, collecting myself before I turn around and face him.
“I made grilled cheese. I think they a little bit extra grilled, but I put a lot of ketchup on the side…” Achilles gives his voice a lilt to coax me into coming inside. I take a deep breath, exhale, and turn to walk through the glass sliding door. He gives me a big smile and gestures for me to go in before him. Ever the gentleman.
“You know, you should really do that for everyone. People would no longer see you as a creepy large man-child, but as a respectable human.” He chuckles. He knows that he has been way more polite to me than strangers. It makes no sense to me that he would be gentlemanly for his best friend but not to people he does not know–In fact, I thought best friends were supposed to be impolite to each other.
“Just get over there and sit down,” he says as he pushes me all the way over to the island table in the middle of the kitchen.
“I’m perfectly capable of walking, you know,” I tell him around my laughter.
“Oh, come on. You and I both know that mere walking is a thousand times less fun than that was.”
“How do you know I thought that was fun?” He gives me a look, tilting his head down and to the side, lifting his eyebrows. I shrug and gesture for him to give me my dinner.
“I need you to tell me how awesome of a cook I am after tasting this. I mean, I know how good of a cook I am,” he laughs, “but I just want to share my inspiring self.” He places the charred bread and burnt cheese on a plate and slides it across the granite table to me.
“Yum… This looks so great…” I poke at the rock with the fork that he put next to my plate. He smacks my arm, and I notice it is considerably less damaging to my nerves than the last time his did something like that. He’s learning, thank god. I pick up the sandwich and try to bite into it, and try again, and again, from different angles and from every spot on the edge of the crust. When I look up at him, he has his pouty face on and is hanging his head in defeat.
“I think this is all because I left it on for like, a half an hour.” I burst out in a fit of laughter, clutching at my stomach and almost falling off of my chair. He starts at a very unmanly giggle himself but is cut off by the sudden shooting pain behind my eyes. I guess he can still sense anything that is intense enough. I press my index and middle fingers into my temples, trying to ease the pressure in my brain to something that was bearable, or at least to a point where I could formulate speech and ask what the hell was happening to me. Achilles’ face is crinkled in concern for me, and I have a fleeting feeling of gratitude for this considerate and kind man in front of me. Through all of my weird, dark, and messed up past, this man who towers over me, could have anyone in the whole entire world as a best friend, and could easily destroy someone and crush them into a tiny ball in on second, has stuck by my side and only been nice to me. I respect the hell out of him for having that kind of patience.
The room tilts to the side, the table suddenly twisting underneath me. I idly wonder why the plate is staying in place and not sliding off. I feel the hard tile of the cold floor slam into my back, air rushing out of my lungs. I fight for breath, and my ribs ache in the effort to get oxygen back into my shaking body. A pressure squeezes my upper arms and spreads from my shoulder to my elbow. My head falls back as I am lifted arm first. The pressure comes off of one of my biceps and moves to my lower back, the other pressure leaving shortly after to replace itself under my knees. My feet sway back and forth as I am carried to the couch just outside of the kitchen. My eyes have been blurring in and out of focus ever since the wind got knocked out of me, and I am incredibly disoriented and confused.
“Wh…” I lift my head briefly off of the soft, pillowy cushion, slamming it back down when knives stab into my neck at the effort.
“Sh-sh-sh… don’t talk. Rest, for now, I’ll explain everything when you wake up,” a voice whispers from above me. I reach out my hand to find the source of the noise, only to find that my eyes are being weighed down by some unnatural force and I can no longer find the energy and fight to open them. As my mind drifts further and further down the long, dark rabbit hole of sleep, I hear the soft, sibilant reassurances continue to swirl down to my ears from above me. Just before my body gives in to my brain, I feel a slight pressure just above my right brow and a sense of peace washes over me.