A Spark Can Start a Great Fire
Sometimes, when I really think about it, listening to my mom would be the best course of action in most, if not all, situations in my life. She told me, that morning even, not to wear the blue heels. She had a bad feeling, she said, and didn't want anything to happen to me. So she pulled out the black heels. "They're more sensible" she had insisted, all but shoving them into my hands while trying to discreetly pull the blue ones away from sight. However, I didn't want to wear the black heels. The blue ones matched my dress much better! In a show of childishness, I wore the blue heels anyway, ignoring her tutting protests as the three of us -- myself, mom, and dad -- loaded into the car and headed off to church.
Church goings were not the norm in our small family, as it was not the norm in many families. Majority of church goers were older people who had grown up going to church during hard times, in search of faith and something to put all their hope into. Couldn't go wrong with God right? Mom had just recently started going back, claiming she missed the feeling of community she got from the people there, and of course she dragged dad along, though from the looks of it, he couldn't have cared less. Today was my day off from work, and that was my reason behind being dragged off that morning, dressed modestly and wearing those damned blue heels.
The sermon was fine, though I hadn't been to church in so long that I wasn't sure if it was really good or not. He went on about having faith to expand on who we are and what we can do while fear will take away from that. It was hard to pay attention, really, because he seemed to be quoting the King James version of the Bible almost perfectly, which was hard to understand even if one was reading it, let alone having to pay attention to it audibly. I may have nodded off once or twice, not to the point that I fell asleep, but enough so that I zoned out and missed quite a bit of what was being said. I rose when we were asked, sang the songs that had stayed with me since those times we went to church when I was a kid, and followed along with the prayers that we had once recited daily in our household.
Really, I didn't miss church at all.
He closed off the sermon with a message so powerful that many of those around me were reduced to tears, a feat that made both myself and my dad slightly uncomfortable as we shifted around and looked at one another uneasily.
"My prayer for you this morning is that in time of trouble and in times of worry that you will not fall under the power and the grip of fear."
By the time everything was over, it was lunch. Mom stayed for about an hour after the sermon, speaking with the pastor and other members of the church while dad and I stayed slightly apart from the group, only taking part in conversations if they were brought to us. It didn't happen often while we waited. The family vibe continued as mom decided going to lunch was in order, and rather than just going home and making sandwiches or taquitos, she brought us to the restaurant that was only a few blocks away from the church itself. We sat about, ate lunch, and stayed for a while just talking.
School was a topic brought up more than once. Dad insisted I went back while mom assured me that I was fine to go back whenever I felt like it, though she also wanted me to go back soon. We all spoke of work. Mom was doing fine at the clinic, dad was doing great at the station, and I was the same as always at the bustling restaurant Chabner's that was on the other side of town. Honestly, being a server couldn't get any better than what it was, and the only option was for it to get worse.
Halfway through our time at the restaurant, my phone rang from my purse. I pulled it out and the name of my coworker flashed across the screen. Perhaps I was getting called into work? I didn't want to, but anything beat the conversation that had suddenly turned into something more religious, so I excused myself from the table and headed out onto the sidewalk to speak to her.
It was nothing important, it turns out. Someone misplaced the larger tray that was usually used to carry out the plates for larger parties, and nobody could find it. Being the last one to use it, I felt a slight twinge of guilt when I couldn't think of where in the world I had placed it last, beginning to pace on the sidewalk while I tried to think of what I could have done with it. I vaguely remembered one of the cooks asking me to move a cart out of his way while he carried a burning pan in his hand when I came back into the kitchen from serving that party. And then...
My exclamation began as one of remembering, and quickly turned into one of fear when I turned sharply on my heel and slammed into the front of a man who had been rushing down the sidewalk. Our collision, though not very violent, sent all of our possessions scattering on the ground, including my cell phone and his stacks upon stacks of papers. My knees slammed painfully onto the sidewalk, and more of me would have hit if he hadn't grabbed me by my elbows and kept me the majority upright.
Immediately, the both of us scrambled to gather up his papers before the wind carried them away. Apologies were muttered as we gathered, and I kept looking to my bloodied knees while wincing and cursing the fact that I never paid attention when I was in deep thought. Quickly and efficiently, all of the papers were gathered and I was shoving them into his arms.
"Ah, sorry about that." I sheepishly rubbed the back of his head while his bespectacled gaze simply held my own. He appeared indifferent about everything. "Uh, do you have everything?" His gaze went to the stack, thumbing through it once. Then twice. Then the look of panic took over as he gazed around frantically, tucking what he had into his bag. Ah shit, now I felt really bad. He was missing something important!
I swooped down once more and continued to help him look. Nothing. We found nothing. And after ten minutes, my parents were coming out of the restaurant and urging me along. Mom was needed at the clinic. Dad was needed at the station. Bad things were happening, and my thoughts went back to the heels on my feet as I strode away from the man on the sidewalk and hoped that he found what he was looking for.
Tucking myself into the backseat, I gingerly wiped at my knees with a napkin my mom handed me, and explained what happened while I was outside. It also explained the crack in my phone screen, which earned me hard looks from both of my parents like I was a child that didn't pay her own phone bill. It was as I was wiping my knees that I found the small scrap of paper, the same thickness as a business card, sticking to the skin due to the blood. I peeled it away with a grimace and frowned at the two words that were written in horrible, scraggly handwriting on the one side.
Flipping the card over, I studied the scribbles that were drawn on the side that had my blood on it. There was really nothing memorable about the scribbles, so I didn't think much about them, but I did pay attention to the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach at the sight of my blood covering them. And maybe I felt a slight twinge of pain in my chest when I whispered the words to myself.
"What did you say?" Mom turned to look at me from her seat, and I quickly shook my head and shoved the card into the pocket on the back of her seat along with the rest of the trash that was there.
Once home, I trudged upstairs, stripped out of my dress and into a large t-shirt that I stole from Taj about four weeks ago when I slept over at his house. I placed some band-aids on my knees and laid down in bed for a nice, long, very deserved nap.
When I woke up, the first thing I became aware of was the feeling that someone was staring at me while I slept. Secondly, there was the constant growling coming from the corner of my room. Near the door. A cold sweat broke out over my body at the sound and the crawling feeling across my skin, and I really was debating on pretending to be asleep still. I readjusted myself slightly, tucking my face under the blanket and wished I had taken a pointer or two from Ingrid and slept with a knife under my pillow or something. Unfortunately, I was defenseless and probably about to be mauled by some sort of animal sitting in my room.
Then it spoke.
"I know you are awake, girl." The deep voice resonated through the bedroom, almost as if it was all too powerful to be held in this small of a space. I shivered at the sound and still tried to pretend to sleep, but there were several painstakingly loud footsteps coming towards me and I panicked, sitting up fully in bed and grabbing my phone from the nightstand.
Standing at the foot of my bed now was a half naked man. Any other time, I would have commented on his otherworldly handsomeness, but now seemed slightly inappropriate. Especially since he was still growling deep in his chest and, from what I could tell from the slit pupils, he most certainly was not human. And it may have been paranoia, but I had a feeling that my collision earlier and the paper with weird words on it had something to do with the sudden appearance of the large blond man at the foot of my bed.
Large, blond, angry, and pretty naked. He wore a loincloth around his hips, barely reaching halfway down his thighs, and from the looks of it, no underwear. Thankfully, it was the kind that had a little more fabric on the sides, so almost everything was covered. Almost. I diverted my attention to his chest, free of hair or a shirt, and decorated with scribbles that looked awfully familiar to the ones I had gotten my blood on earlier.
Despite my fear of being killed at any given moment by the man, or creature, I gulped down a breath and asked, in a very shaky voice, "Who are you?" He did not respond. If anything, he got even angrier at the question, his slit pupils contracting into even thinner slits, the unearthly blue of his eyes becoming more prominent against his tanned skin. I scrambled back in my bed, phone still in hand, and raised it slightly, hoping to come across as threatening. "I-I'll call the cops."
Amusement splashed across his face and I felt even more fear from this expression. He seemed almost intrigued by my words. "Is this to be perceived as a threat, woman?" There was that very small feminist part of me that was offended by being addressed as 'woman', but obviously I said nothing. Mainly because he chose to answer my threat by striding around the side of the bed and closing his hand over mine, plucking my phone from my grasp and crushing it with nothing but brute force. My face heated and tears welled up in my eyes. Now I was very scared. "Are you the one who summoned me, woman?"
My face fell and the events of the day replayed in my head. The collision, the card, the words, and the scribbles. And those damn shoes. He was still leaning over me when I looked to the heels sitting in the corner of my room where I left them. The same corner I had heard him growling earlier. The wish to go back in time and wear the black shoes was more prominent than ever as I tried to control my breathing.
"No." I tried to sound convincing, but the man did not buy it. His growl rose in volume and I shrank back against the headboard as he leaned closer, long sharp nails catching my chin hard enough to do damage if I tried to escape his hold.
His voice rang through the too-small room once again. "Listen well, woman. Tell me the reason you linked your soul to mine so I may fulfill my contract and be on my way." At my confused look, he spoke slower, as if I wasn't able to hear him. "Am I to kill someone for you? Perhaps scare off a man with untoward intentions?"
"I -- Wait, what?" I jerked back from his hold, surprised that he allowed me to do so, and stared at him incredulously. "You think I meant to do this?"
"The actions to link the soul or a demon to a human are usually done for a reason. You did this on purpose, correct?" He sounded like if I hadn't done this on purpose, there would be hell to pay. And no, it didn't slip my mind that he referred to himself as a demon. That small detail actually made my heart skip a beat and I forgot how to breathe momentarily. I was, however, too hung up on being accused of doing this knowingly.
And I snapped. "Did I do this on purpose? How... Why the fuck would I purposely link my soul to a demon's?! I mean, do you even have a soul to begin with?" His eyes narrowed and I held up my hands in surrender, my brain finally catching up with my mouth. "No offense, of course...please tell me you're not going to kill me now..." I hung my head, accepting my fate if that was the case because really, how would I escape a demon?
He surprised me once again by not going in for the kill I had assumed was coming. The demon instead tilted his head down, appearing to be in deep thought and not paying attention to the fact that I was literally shaking not two feet from him. "This situation is quite unsettling."
"Yeah, says the guy that actually knows whats going on." He looked up quickly at my words, as if he forgot I was even there, and frowned deeply. Fear was still present in every fiber of my being, don't get me wrong, but there was also the crippling exhaustion over the whole thing that came over me all too suddenly that left me lying back against my pillow without even really caring that there was an actual demon standing at my bedside and my phone lay crushing on the top of my blanket. "I mean really, why aren't you killing me? Why is this happening? Who the hell are you?" I paused, and frowned. "Is saying hell offensive to you in any way?"
He laughed, or at least I'm assuming that's what the loud, sudden, guttural noise was. "If you are truly worried for your life, as a sensible human would be I suppose, then you have nothing to fear. No one shall bring harm to you while we are linked."
"Uh...is that because you care about my wellbeing?" I already knew the answer, so I hadn't needed to ask, but it came out before I could stop myself.
He answered without hesitation. "Hardly. Being linked means our souls are one. If you die, so shall I."
"And vice-versa? If you die, I die?" He made a comment about how it's very hard to kill a demon, but yes, that was true as well. I nodded, the fact that he wouldn't let me die calming my nerves only a little as I rubbed my face with my hands. "Okay, so we're linked. How do we...un-link?"
For the first time, I saw hesitation on his face, and that brought me more worry than I was willing to admit. "That is an answer I do not have. The nature of a contract usually entails that I do your sinful bidding and, once I had fulfilled my duty, I return to Hell. The linking of souls ensures that I am unable to kill my contract holder, and they are unable to use underhanded methods to keep me by their side without bringing harm unto themselves." His voice was much quieter than it had been when he first began to talk, and I found it had a rhythmic quality to it. Almost like it could put me to sleep if he just kept talking about anything and everything.
But it didn't. Because he was basically saying that we were stuck with one another and had foreseeable way out of this.
"Can you think of anyone who might know something?" I realized I was potentially inviting more demons into my life with this question, but hey, I didn't want to be linked to a demon anymore than the next girl. "Like any, uh, friends?" The word itself was more of a question than anything. Did he have friends? Did demons have friends?
He made himself comfortable on the edge of my bed, bringing his legs up and sitting Indian style on the blanket, hand under his chin and in deep thought once again. "I will contact someone when I am able. The forced journey from Hell drained me, and I require a few days to recuperate." He then stood and made his way around the bed, settling down in the same position he had been on the bed and leaning his head against the side of it. He was sat in the space that, if someone were to come in, they wouldn't see him at all.
I blinked down at him.
"You're staying here?"
He didn't even dignify me with a glance in my direction as he nodded his head deeply. "I must stay at your side, as you must stay by mine."
"Like, right by my side? All the time?"
"Until we are un-linked. It is safest this way, to ensure that you do not befall some terrible fate and die before we fix this." I made a face at that. How was he so sure that I was the one that would be likely to fuck up and die? I opened my mouth to say this, but he cut me off with an irritated sigh. "Now, please keep quiet while I rest, woman."
I sighed heavily and did as he asked. Only because he asked nicely, not because I could hear how terribly exhausted he was. Definitely not for that reason. I laid back against my pillows, wide awake after my demonic wake-up call, and simply stared at the ceiling.
"My name is Katherine. Katherine Murano." He was bound to find out my name sooner or later, right? So really, what harm could it do? Besides, he already shared my soul with me, so what could telling him my name really change?
I didn't expect an answer. He was breathing deeply now, and I was led to believe he was asleep on the floor. But then he spoke, his voice laden with sleep and echoing off the walls of the room in a way that sent a bout of shivers down my spine.
"And I am called Agro."