“Thank you for coming. I’ve been asking for you all day.”
“I know, sorry, I’ve been dealing with a few things,” I say, watching as Sophia bites into an apple. “How are you?”
“Sore,” she mutters, she suddenly looks at me. “I heard it was your idea to use Sam’s power on me. I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for you.”
“They would have thought of it eventually.” I scratch at my wrist, turning my head towards the window as I hear my name being called.
“What’s wrong?” Sophia demands.
I turn back to her. “What?”
“It’s like you’re here but you’re not here. You said you’ve been dealing with things, what things?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” I lie. “Just rethinking that night.”
“You and me both,” she sighs, dropping the apple on her nightstand. She wipes her hands together and then leans back into her pillow. “Getting trapped in Amara’s hell-maze was not included in my daily criteria. I still don’t quite understand what happened. Curtis said they found us both unconscious, so if you didn’t escape, how did she?”
“I guess I channelled my inner witch a little too much.” I shrug and look down. “I cast a spell and it was strong enough to hurt her, but also strong enough to almost kill me.”
“Must have been one hell of a spell,” she mutters, making the doubt in her voice clear.
“Yeah,” I agree.
“Knocked you out until today too, didn’t it? Surely Sam has to let you practise after this, if he doesn’t then-”
The voice comes loud and sharp directly in my eardrum. I stand from the chair immediately, turning my head around the room in a panic.
“Did you hear that?” I say.
“Hear what?” Sophia demands. “What’s going on?”
“I have to go,” I say. “I’ll come see you tomorrow, I promise.”
I leave Sophia’s bedroom and I fall against the wall of the hallway. My hands cover my face as I learn to breathe again. As I look towards the end window, I see my mother. As clear as day, I see her. Her dark curls, her wise blue eyes, her cream, wool cardigan that she hardly ever took off. She looks right at me, and when I blink, she doesn’t disappear.
“It’s not possible,” I say, slowly approaching her.
“It is,” she says.
“You died. You’re dead.”
“Yes,” she says, placing her hands on my shoulders. I stare at her touch. I can feel it. I can feel her. “And you will be next if you don’t follow their orders.”
“Kill Sam?” I whisper.
She nods. “You have to do it, Theresa. Or they will torment us both for eternity.”
I shake her hands off of me, stepping backwards. “If you’re dead then how can I feel you? Ghosts can’t touch us.”
Her smile drops, twisting into a dark and terrifying grin. “Do what they say, kill the Malachi.”
“You don’t have a choice!”
She grabs my shoulders again and turns me around, running me towards the window. I scream as my body collides with the glass, as my spine snaps in two, as my whole body shatters and enforces pain that I have never experienced. I fall through the sky; my voice becomes lost as my head smacks into the pavement. I feel every moment of it, it’s as real as her touch against my shoulders. I feel my death, my agonizing and horrifying death, until I open my eyes and I am standing in the hallway against the window.
My mother is gone and the window is fixed. I am panting heavily, patting down my body that remains in the same condition.
It was so real that I can’t believe it wasn’t. The pain manifested throughout my being; the fear still stays with me now. What is happening to me? I start walking quickly down the hallway, paranoid that I’m going to meet a murderous version of my mother around every corner.
The paranoia takes me to Sam’s bedroom quarters. I enter the room and I slam the door behind me, breathing against the wood.
“Did you want something?”
I turn around, coming face-to-face with Sam. I wipe my forehead and I try to calm my breathing, but he looks right through it. He’s sat at his desk, writing something down.
“No, I’ll leave you alone.”
“Don’t do that,” he says. “Don’t leave.”
“Why not?” I say.
“Because I want you here.” He smiles, standing from the chair. “I wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Why wouldn’t I be alright?”
“You were complaining of headaches this morning.”
“Oh, yeah they’re bet. . . wait, I never told you I was getting headaches.”
“Yes, you did,” he says, leaning backwards against his desk. “You said there are consequences of casting a spell. I assumed they were headaches.”
I stare at him for a moment. I guess it makes sense. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? You’re sweating. Did you see Sophia yet?”
“Yes, I just saw her.” I stand still as he walks towards me. I don’t understand what he’s doing, until I see the blade in his hand. “What are you-”
“Shush.” He places his finger against my lips. “You’re a threat, Theresa, and I honestly don’t know how I’ve let you live for so long. You’re a witch. My enemy. But with you, something is different. I feel different with you.”
“Back off, Sam. I’m warning you.”
“Warning me?” he laughs. He lifts the blade higher while he strokes my face. “What are you going to do, Theresa?”
As I move to run towards the door, he grabs at my hair and swings me backwards, twisting me through the air and onto his bed. His legs fall astride me, trapping me with his body weight, and I can’t move.
“Are you even surprised?” he says. “I’m half-demon. I’m evil. This is what we do, we like control. And there’s nothing more satisfying than having full control of a witch.”
He looks directly into my eyes as he grabs at my throat and plunges the blade into my chest. I do everything in my power to fight him, but it’s no use. The moment the blade crunches against my chest bone, I scream.
“What in the bloody hell is this? I think I just drank vomit.”
I look around the room in a daze. It doesn’t make sense. I’m standing in the middle of the recovery chamber, and Sam is staring at me from a distant couch. Megan and Clara are at the bar, staring at me also.
“Theresa?” Megan says. “Do you want a drink of vomit?”
“I thought she wasn’t allowed alcohol?” Clara says.
“I think we can scrap that rule for one night,” Megan says.
I can’t speak. Sweat drips from every inch of my skin, soaking my clothes. My heart is beating so fast that I cannot breathe. I look at Sam, suddenly fearful of him. I need to get out of here.
“W-where is Curtis?” I say.
“Library.” Megan points towards the archway, becoming disinterested in me.
I rush towards the archway; my whole head is spinning with fear and paranoia. As I enter the library, I find Curtis reaching for a book on a high shelf. How do I know if that’s really him? How do I know if I really am in the library? I glance around as I walk towards an armchair.
“Curtis,” I say. “I need your help.”
“Theresa, hey, just one moment.”
“I think something is wrong with me. I keep. . . seeing things. I keep dying, and I know that makes no sense, but it’s real, I can feel it. They’re tormenting me, they’re trying to make me kill. . . Curtis?”
I stand from the armchair as the hustling from Curtis’ reaching becomes silent. The shelves are covered in darkness and I stare at that darkness with tears in my eyes.
“Curtis?” I repeat.
I see the figure of Curtis in a small hallway between the shelves, but the figure doesn’t move, he stands still with his hands at his side. My hand and lips tremble as I think of something to say.
“Please,” I beg. “Leave me alone.”
The figure’s head begins snapping side-to-side. The arms lift up robotically, and then it runs at me. I fall backwards as a creature with Curtis’ face but the body of a scorpion emerges into the light. Giant claws snap towards my face. I scream so loud that the room shakes. My power releases from my fear, flooding the room with protection. I open my eyes, seeing Curtis standing above me, his eyes wide with shock.
“Get away from me,” I say, kicking myself along the floor.
“Amara,” he whispers. “What did she do to you?”
“This isn’t Amara! You’re not Curtis. You’re not real.”
“I am Curtis.”
“You’re tricking me!” I cry.
“Theresa, you’re worrying me,” he says. “You need to calm down before you do something you’ll regret. Just breathe.”
I take deep breaths, focusing on his face as I try to calm myself. Somehow, things begin to clear up, and my fear temporarily subsides.
“You’re Curtis?” I say.
“Yes,” he says.
“I trust you. The. . . it’s gone.”
“What’s gone?” he says. “Come off of the floor and tell me about it.”
I stand uneasily, letting him guide me to a couch. I don’t even know where to begin, I can’t tell him the truth and I can’t tell him a lie because he’s just witnessed it. It sounds insane, I don’t even understand it, so how can I possibly explain it?
“I think I’m just having a paranoid day,” I say. “After the attack and with what happened to Sophia, I’m starting to go crazy.”
“Are you sure it’s just that? You were on the floor crying.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Maybe my power is messing me up somehow.”
“Maybe,” he says. “What did you see?”
“I saw my mother, and then Sam, he. . . I know it’s not real but it feels real.”
“Like a dream?”
I shake my head. “No, not like a dream. Like being sat here with you right now, as real as that.”
“I have a confession to make,” he whispers. “When we found you, you weren’t just unconscious, you were badly hurt. I used Crasuel on you because you were closer to death than anyone wanted to admit. Crasuel was developed to bond with demon tissue, it’s never been used before on a witch, I knew there’d be a chance it’d kill you rather than save you, but you were. . . you were not going to wake up without it, Theresa. I know I should have told you but there wasn’t a right moment and-”
“Wait,” I say. “What does this have to do with what I’m seeing?”
“It can have side effects.” He shrugs. “In high doses, it can cause severe delusions. But your body should have removed that from your system while you slept, like it did with Sophia. Then again, you’re a witch with a completely different immune system. The side effects shouldn’t last long.”
“So, you’re saying that what I’m experiencing is just a side effect from a drug?”
I take a breath of relief. I’ve spent the entire afternoon terrified that I had actually been summoned before a council of dead Elders, when this could all be a delusion of a drug used to save me. Even though the delusions were horrific, and may continue to taunt me, at least they’ll pass.
But what if Curtis is wrong? What if it’s just a coincidence? What if I was summoned to the Elders and I am cursed to be tortured until I fulfil their orders?
How much more can I take before I do in fact kill Sam, even by accident? And if that happens, the Slayers will unleash hell onto me. I hope for everyone’s sake that it’s the drug, but I know better than anyone that magic shouldn’t be underestimated. And neither should the dead.