Blood. It’s all I can smell. Its warm, coppery scent fills me with curiosity. Slowly, it becomes suffocating.
Snow. It’s all I can feel. It numbs me; my arms, fingers, toes, back. It sedates my senses and leaves me staring at the sky as snowflakes catch in my hair and weigh my eyelids, lost. The snow embraces me in its coldness, freezing me from the outside in but somehow, it doesn’t feel like that. I see the snow. I see my fingers turning white. I can feel the cold wrap its haunting arms around me. Beckoning me to close my eyes.
Relax, dear. It will all be over soon. Close your eyes.
A voice that seems familiar tells me, and I know because of the familiarity how dangerous it is to listen to it.
“Maria.” The sound of another familiar voice calls out to me. I know the voice is calling out to me because I’m the only one who’s sitting on the concrete bench. I turn my head to the direction of the voice. A man stands there looking at me curiously, his blood red eyes look more like rubies than real eyes. His brown hair is slicked back with a few strands falling forward. He’s wearing a thick coat, protecting himself from the cold.
All my insides scream for contact with him. I know his name. I know him. I stand up and walk towards him. I then proceed to let my fingers trace his well defined jaw, “How am I able to touch you? How are you real?” I whisper.
His hand slowly rises, touching my fingers that is still on his jaw, “That’s because I am.” He whispers back.
I pull my hand back, “You aren’t real. I know you aren’t.” I say out-loud as if saying that out-loud would make this man disappear but it doesn’t.
Frost doesn’t let go of my hand, instead he walks closer, “You know I’m real, Mary.”
All at once, I feel a surge of memories rush back. Each one unique on it’s own, each one fighting for a place in my already foggy consciousness. I scream in agony the only word that comes to mind, “No!”
My eyes snap open and I look around, breathing heavily. My heart is pounding against my chest as if ready to jump out of my ribcage. Not again. I glance at the clock I have by my bedside. Seven in the morning.
My head pounds away like the rhythm for a song I don’t know the words to yet. Every time after a nightmare like that I always wake up with my head hurting.
I move my legs from under the covers. “They’ve started again.” I mutter. My heart sinks at the possibility of what this could mean. Why? I don’t stay to wallow in my own lack of control over my own body.
After I take my bath and get myself ready, I walk down the stairs. “She did it again.” I hear my mother whisper to my father in the kitchen. I stop halfway down.
“What do you mean?” my father asks.
“She was talking in her sleep. I heard her last night. She screamed. I panicked, checked in on her, she was quiet. So I walked closer and all of a sudden her mouth started moving, I could hear her voice and she was speaking some foreign language.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“I scheduled a therapy session with Ms. Camel after school for it. I think the therapy helped her deal with whatever is happening with her before.”
“That’s the problem, Lillian. We don’t know what’s happening to her.”
My mother sighs, running a hand through her greying brown hair. “When did it start becoming like this? I thought we were finally able to put everything in the past. Now I have to live my life in fear of my daughter again. It’s like she’s a damn demon, Henry. I’m surprised she hasn’t murdered Matt and Isabelle what with all the time they like to spend with her.”
My heart wrenches in pain hearing my mother’s words. I decide to walk downstairs and interrupt their conversation because today, I’m not in the mood to listen to their ramblings on how they fear their child and how my mother thinks I’m an abomination.
As if I hadn’t already heard enough of it as I was growing up.
“Morning, Mom! Dad!” I chirp walking towards the kitchen as if I hadn’t heard anything.
My mother looks at my father guilty, “Good morning...Sweetie.” She says. I grab an apple from the fridge and rinse it in the sink. “Will that be your breakfast?” She asks. I nod in response, “Honey, you know you need more than that. I’ll make scrambled eggs for you if you’d like.”
I shake my head, “Nah, I’m fine with the apple.” I lie with a big smile plastered across my face so they don’t realize I know what’s going on.
I’m not even hungry actually and if I could, I’d just leave for school but I know if I did that, they’d start getting suspicious and I didn’t want them hounding me right now. “I scheduled a session with Ms. Camel today.” She states nonchalantly as if this were something as simple as a dentist’s appointment and not a psychological evaluation of her daughter’s mental health.
I stop at the threshold of the kitchen, turning back, I look at her confused, “What for?” I ask, acting oblivious to her reasons for doing so.
“It happened again last night. I didn’t want it to get worse. Therapy seemed to wor-”
“Mother.” I say stopping her, “You know the therapy didn’t do squat. The reason everything has been normal this past year is because it all stopped. You’re terrified about it returning and somehow you’ve convinced yourself that if I go to therapy, everything will be okay.”
I don’t wait for my mother to reply. I just walk out of the kitchen and grab my school bag and leave the house.
When I arrive in front of my car, I get in, start it and drive away from home to the second worst place on earth--School.
“What are you drawing?” Isabelle asks, turning from her seat to face me.
I snap out of my daydream, “Huh? What?” I turn to look at the paper I’d been scribbling on for the past half hour. It was weird, I was just driven by instinct to draw and now that my eyes are staring at the image on the paper, I have to stifle a gasp of surprise. It’s the face of the man from my dream last night. “How did-”
Isabelle cuts me off. “Ooo, he’s cute.” She says grabbing the paper off from my table. “Really cute.” she says smiling at the face on the paper.
Matt who is sitting right next to Isabelle grabs the paper away from her. Our History teacher is absent today and the substitute doesn’t seem to give a shit about what we do in class as long as we don’t have sex in front of her or talk too loudly. So, she’s currently being occupied with her phone while everyone else is chatting away. “He doesn’t look that cute.” Matt comments.
Isabelle snatches the paper back, “How would you know? You’re straight not gay.”
Matt rolls his eyes, “I know a good looking person when I see one, Isabelle. I don’t have to be gay to know if someone looks good or not.”
“Who is he?” She asks turning back at me, completely ignoring Matt’s statement.
I shrug, “That’s the thing. I don’t really know.”
Isabelle raises her eyebrow, “But you were drawing him, you should know who he is.”
Once more, I shrug, “The dreams started again and I’m guessing so will my panic attacks and the takeovers.”
The takeovers is a simple term Isabelle, Matt and I use for when I’m not checked into my own body. What I mean by checked into my own body is that sometimes I black out and when I wake up, I’m surrounded by my teachers or fellow students who seem to be shaking at the very sound of my voice or the very touch of my skin.
When I ask what happens when I blackout, I’m always answered the same. Sometimes, I will mutter things in either French or Italian, sometimes even Russian and these things would comprise of various threats but of course when asked to explain further, nobody would really say.
I would rarely speak in English and even if I did, they would be the same things. Apparently when these takeovers happen, my eyes would glow a bright yellow or a light green. Sometimes I would even mutter strange words. Words not belonging to any language anyone at school knew, at least.
Isabelle once told me it was in Latin but I never really heard myself so I wouldn’t know. Someone tried videotaping one of my takeovers but as soon as I came to it and it was played back, the entire footage consisted of an empty chair and people gawking at it. I suppose whatever that takes over me can’t be seen on video or something.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t spooked by what I become when I pass out but it’s not like anything can really cure it. By now, a sensible person would question why Isabelle or Matt would be friends with a weirdo like me and honestly I don’t know either. Matt and I have been friends since we were kids, so he had his whole life to get used to my weird tendencies, as he would call it.
Isabelle on the other hand, I met during middle school. We were paired up for an art project because she was the new kid and the other kids wanted nothing to do with ‘Crazy Mary’ as they called me.
I was deemed the school lunatic when my tendencies emerged at eleven. At first it wasn’t as bad but as I grew older, the tendencies grew stronger. When they first emerged, they were only nightmares. The takeovers didn’t happen till a few months before I met Isabelle and even then, I would just mutter words in foreign languages.
Children that young fear anything that seem too demonic and a girl whose eyes glow a different colour from her usually hazel eyes and speaking in weird languages would most definitely scare them. I guess the reason why Isabelle stayed with me even after we completed our art project was because of the fact she was similar to me. She had nightmares too and sometimes they coincided with the details of mine.
But that’s where our similarities stopped. She just had the nightmares and she’s learned to live with them.
I not only have the nightmares, I also have panic attacks and the takeovers. “Again? What?” Isabelle seemed truly surprised by my confession.
I nod. “Yes and I finally thought I would be free forever.” I drawl out bored.
All this stopped suddenly when I was a junior and I managed to have a normal life during the entire one year I’ve been liberated. Hell, I thought it was a divine act of providence and the the big guy upstairs thought it was finally getting tiring messing around with me.
Evidently, I was wrong.
People don’t fear me like they used to. I joined the drama club and managed to make my parents proud of me but I fear that has all come to an end.
“Well, I guess we should say au revoir to you having a normal life, huh?” Isabelle asks.
“I’m meeting my therapist again, so pretty much.”
“Ms.Camel? Again? Well, good luck.” Matt says giving me two thumbs up.
I sigh, “Thanks, I guess.”
I find it really weird that they can act so nonchalant with my mental instability sometimes but I guess I shouldn’t really bite the hand that feeds me. They love me and that’s all that matters.
“We still up for tomorrow’s movie?” Matt asks.
Isabelle cuts me off just as I’m about to answer him, “Hell yes! It’s Mary’s birthday tomorrow! We are not going to forsake our birthday traditions cause Mary’s tendencies have returned.”
Scratch that, Isabelle calls them tendencies too.
I shrug, “Do whatever you guys want. You know I’ll never turn down free snacks and a movie with two of my bestest buddies in the world.” I say humoring them.
“I don’t care that you’re just humoring us, I’ll take it seriously and we’re going to have a blast tomorrow.” Isabelle tells me.
“What movie will it be this time?”Ahh, the age old question that always causes a fight between Isabelle and Matt. They could never agree on a movie to watch ever since they’ve met. According to Isabelle, Matt’s movie choices are too boyish and according to Matt, Isabelle’s movie choices are too chick-flickish.
“Hello, Mary. How are you today?” Ms. Camel, my therapist asks.
I get myself comfy on the bed-like couch. I say bed-like because the couch is incredibly soft and comfortable. I’ve fallen asleep on this couch during my sessions with Ms.Camel on more than one occasion.
Ms. Camel is a rather young woman. Maybe around her late twenties? She has dark brown hair with blonde tips. You could say she liked her hair in that ombre-like fashion. I think her hair styling choice makes her look quite younger than she really is.
I shrug, “I’m fine, I guess. They’ve returned, I mean, that’s the only reason I would be sitting here talking to you. My parents like to pretend your sessions are helping when in truth, they really aren’t.” I say bluntly.
My comment doesn’t offend Ms.Camel like I thought it would, instead it makes her grin from ear to ear.
Maybe you need therapy, Ms. Camel. Not me.
“What’s so funny?”
“Mary, I know my therapy sessions don’t help you with your...unique abilities.”
“You mean mental deformities, Ms. Camel.”
“I say unique abilities because I want to be nice but it’s as you say, I know my sessions don’t help you control your abilities but I do believe I help you even a little to feel better.”
“Questions like, How do you feel today? or anything of the sort do not help me feel better, I hope you’re aware of that.” I say, letting my eyes scan the room. It’s as bare as it was the first time I stepped in here. Ms.Camel’s various certificates hang on the wall, I suppose it’s some sort of authentication of her being a therapist. “Don’t you ever decorate this place? I mean you are a female, if I didn’t know you and I came in here, I’d think Doctor Elliot Camel was a guy.”
Her eyes scans her surroundings, “I couldn’t care less about how this office looks like, Mary. I have patients like you to take care of. The more bare this place is, the less distractions there are.” She then turns to me, “Besides, some patients aren’t as calm as you. Some like to get physical when they’re angry and I’m glad there’s nothing sharp in here-”
“Except your pen knife you store in the second drawer to the left of your desk.” I cut her off.
She raises her eyebrow, “How do you remember that? and yes, except that penknife.”
I cross my arms. “Please. I’ve been coming here since I was thirteen. One year of not seeing you doesn’t mean I don’t remember where you keep what and speaking of your penknife, you better keep that somewhere else because if I’ve had that memorised who knows what your other crazier patients have memorised.”
Ms. Camel scoffs.“Believe me, Mary. None of my patients are as observant as you.”
“Which make my mental deformities more dangerous to you. I’m sure you haven’t seen any of my takeovers first hand and as you know by now, my takeovers happen randomly, so you might just want to keep yourself safe, Elliot.” I say.
“Are we going to speak about you or me?” She asks.
I shrug, “Like I said, your sessions don’t help so I don’t know. Whatever you want, I guess.”
She sighs, “Fine, speak to me about your dream from last night, your mother told me you had a dream last night.”
I roll my eyes, “Yes, count on dear old mother to be oh so nosy.”
“You know she’s just worried about you, Mary. Don’t blame her.”
I glare at Ms.Camel, “Worried about me? Please, she fears me.”
“She does. I overheard her saying so to my dad earlier today.”
“Wouldn’t you be if your daughter were in the same position?” Ms. Camel asks me.
Tears threaten to sting my eyes as memories of the fear etched in my parents eyes when my first takeover began fill me.
“What in god’s name was that?”
“She looked like the devil himself. Is she even human?”
I blink back my tears, “No.” I croak. “I wouldn’t look at her like they do at me. With fear and disappointment. I wouldn’t start whispering conversations that stop when she enters a room. I wouldn’t make her feel like she’s an outcast, a defect of human society. No. If I were a mother and my child was in my position, I would be there to support her, help her!” I pause, trying to regain my composure as I was shouting in anger now, “Because I know how hard it is to go through all this. I know the pain and how mind scarring the nightmares are.” I purse my lips, deciding against saying more than I already have.“Go on.” Ms.Camel urges, “We’re making progress.”
“No. I’ve said too much already.” I mutter.
“You really should stop trying to close people off, Mary. It’s not a very good habit.”
“I don’t close people off, Ms.Camel. They close me off and I don’t react well when I’m faced with people who look at me like they’d rather send me off to scientists to get tested than take me in and treat me as one of their own. In other words, people who view me as a defect of human society, in this case are my parents and everyone I know except for Isabelle and Matt, do not deserve to know me.”
The rest of the session then comprised of Ms.Camel trying to break through my so called walls and, let me tell you, she didn’t get a word out of me after my outburst. Not that I minded, every therapy session with Ms.Camel always ended with me telling her there’s nothing in me to fix. I believe I am perfectly fine.
“Pass the popcorn.” Matt commands.
“No. This popcorn is covered fully in caramel, my mouth is having an orgasm right now. Nobody is getting this popcorn.” I whine.
“We’re watching Catching Fire. Nobody is allowed to object.” Isabelle says popping the CD inside the CD player.
“Wasn’t going to, I love Catching Fire.” Matt says, snatching the popcorn bowl from my grasp.
“Give me back that!” I shout grabbing a handful of the popcorn and stuffing it in my mouth.
“It’s not yours, Isabelle made this, so if we’re talking ownership of the popcorn, this technically belongs to her.” As Matt says this, Isabelle grabs a handful of the popcorn and pops them in her mouth 2-3 kernels at a time.I cross my arms, “She made it with my popcorn maker, so I’m also the owner of the popcorn!” I say grabbing the bowl back but Matt’s grip on it tightens.
“Yeah, we still talking about the same popcorn maker your parents bought for you?” Matt asks quirking an eyebrow.
“Like, uh... what’s your favorite color?” Peeta asks Katniss.
“Mary!” I hear my mother call out for me just as Katniss is about to answer Peeta. “Mary, come down now!” She calls out again.
I sigh and give both Isabelle and Matt an apologetic look and leave the room. I walk down the stairs. “Yes, mother?”
“Tell Isabelle and Matt to leave.” My mother says while flipping through the book she’s reading. She’s wearing her reading glasses as she does so. Apparently, she’s long-sighted and she can’t read anything without them. Honestly, her circular glasses makes her look like a middle aged female version of Harry Potter. All she needs is the scar and she’s good to go.
I lean against the door frame of the living room, my eyes on her as she flips to another page again.“What? No. They’re here for my birthday, can’t I even enjoy my birthday with my friends?”
“No, you can’t, Mary. Your takeovers are sudden and today is your birthday. You know as well as I do, your takeovers are much frequent on your birthdays.”
“Isabelle and Matt wouldn’t be here if not for the fact that you and dad would actually celebrate my birthdays with me.”
“You know we cannot do that. The last time we did was on your eleventh birthday, when it first started.” I wince at the recollection of the memory, “You almost killed us, Mary. You hid the knife behind you and you almost stabbed your father from the back! And even then, when you failed, you threatened to set the house on fire!”
“You know that wasn’t really me!” I retort. We’re shouting at each other now, my anger is boiling in my chest, my tears are brimming, ready to spill.
Why must everyone hate me? Why must everyone fear me?
“Precisely. It’s because it wasn’t you that day Mary that I need to make sure nothing of the sort happens again. They’re starting again and I don’t know how many people are safe in your presence!”
Her words hit me to my core, my tears are already spilling and rolling off my cheeks, “Why do you always see me as a monster? Am I not your daughter anymore? Since when did I stop being the daughter you love and become the monster you fear?” I whisper, my voice sounds far too shaky for my liking.
“Since your eleventh birthday, Mary. Since your eleventh birthday.” she whispers back.
My face is red, probably both from my anger and from the pain I feel. “Well, I hope today, I die! So you won’t have to worry about your demon daughter killing you!” I scream at her in anger and leave the living room.
I’m fairly aware that I’m acting like a child right now but I don’t care. All I know is the burning anger that’s heating up my chest and clouding my mind. That’s enough for me.
When I reach my bedroom and both Isabelle and Matt see my tears falling like raindrops, they know my mother had something to do with it. “Are you okay, Mary? We heard you and your mother shouting.” Matt asks, worried.
“Yeah, are you okay?” Isabelle asks.
I nod, wiping my tears, “I am. Guys, I think we should continue this next time, my mom asked me to tell you guys to leave. She’s worried a takeover might happen today and I would hurt you and right now, I think I need to be left alone.”
Isabelle walks closer to me and hugs me tightly. She then kisses my cheek and pulls away, “Call us if you need anything, alright?” She says taking Matt’s hand, “Don’t worry about her, Matty. She’ll be fine.”
I look at her apologetically, “Sorry guys.”
She gives me a reassuring smile, “Don’t worry.”
The only thing that they leave behind is the quiet emptiness that fills the room almost as soon as the doors close behind the both of them. My heart feels very heavy.
“This is the worst birthday in the history of birthdays.” I mutter under my breath, cleaning up the the CDs lying on the ground as I let my brain shift through my memory files. Various memories pop up, most of them are memories of my previous birthdays.
“What is that?” I ask, looking curiously at the box he held in his hand.
He’s grinning from ear to ear now, “It’s your birthday present, Maria.” he says, handing me it, “Open it.”
I do. I tug at the ribbons slowly, careful not to tear it apart, once I untangle the ribbon, I wrap my left hand around the top part of the box, lifting the lid and looking curiously into the box. I gasp as my eyes scan the beautiful silver object inside the box.
He lifts it out from the box, “Turn around.”
I smile and do, I feel the cold material wrap itself around my neck, when I feel it being fastened around my neck. I turn to face him, my fingers unconsciously moving towards the pendant and touching it slowly.
The pendant is that of a crown, with three red diamonds resembling rubies, “A crown for my future queen.” he says, as I muse the idea of me being queen to myself.
I gasp and drop the CDs, letting the sound of the fallen CDs fill my ears. My heart is pounding furiously against my chest. I try to steady my breathing but it’s as if my body is working against my will power.
Not the first time that happened.
That memory was painfully vivid. I decide to pick up the CDs and leave them on my CD rack placed near the TV in my room. I then walk towards my bed, laying myself on top of it. “Just fall asleep, Mary. That was just some random daydream.” I try to convince myself I didn’t just see that but I fail, thankfully I drift off into slumber before any negative thoughts fill my mind.
“What the hell is she?!” I hear a gruff voice shout.
I decide to ignore it because it’s probably just another one of my dreams.
I turn to my side and feel hard rocks digging into my skin. My eyes snap open, I sit up and rub my eyes. I look around confused, sleep still heavy on my eyelids but when I come to it, I realize I’m being gawked at by women, men, children and old people. It’s as if I’m a freaking circus animal. I want to curse them out but I decide against it.
“Where am I?” I ask instead, “This isn’t my room.”
Great thinking, Mary! Of course you’re not in your room! Your room isn’t situated on a road. That cynical voice in my head tells me.
“The girl must have been pretty drunk if she doesn’t remember where she is”, I hear a woman’s voice whisper to another woman.
Once again, I decide against my better judgement to curse them all out. I’m not in the best of moods right now.
I stand up and look around. It looks like a place straight out of a storybook. The fairy tale ones about medieval characters. There are people dressed in clothes I thought people in 18th century Europe would wear but apparently not. Am I in some medieval cosplay convention or something?
“What the devil is she wearing? Is she human?“, this time a man’s voice whispers, I hear him intake a sharp breath, “Goodness, she is a human.”
Human? Wait. Are these people not humans? I don’t have time to ponder on the thought more due to the fact that a voice interrupts me.
“You! There! What is going on?!” I hear a voice boom through the streets as a man dressed in armor rides through with a dark horse.
It’s nighttime and the horse would be invisible if not for the bright coloured saddle on it’s back.
He takes one look at me and hisses, “Human. Who brought this creature here?”. Nobody answers him. They’re all silent.
He mutters something under his breath and then turns to the men trailing behind him, “Arrest her! and take her to the king!”
King? What? Are these people high on drugs? We don’t live in England or Scotland or whatever country that has a king. This is America and the last time I checked, Shadow Valley didn’t have a freaking king. A pair of guards grab my arms from behind me and force me up a separate horse, tying both my wrists together as if I were a slave.”
“What are you doing?!” I yell at one of them as they tighten the rope around my wrist.
The man from before looks at me in disdain, “Quiet, Wench!”
What? Ugh. This better not be some Shakespearean play reenactment because if it is, I’ll kill the moron who set me up for this. I swear to god. I will. Before I can make a snappy comeback, some idiot covers my mouth with a brown cloth and ties it behind my head.
I try to shout but my voice is muffled by the cloth over my mouth. When I escape from this situation, I promise, I will make these men sorry for what they’re doing to me. I swear to god, I will.
In a matter of minutes, I’m thrown on the floor like a washed up rag bowing before the so called king. I look up as the guards untie the rope around my wrist and untie the cloth over my mouth. I look up at the king half expecting a chubby man with a white beard but when I get a good look at the person in front of me, my heart stops. This man.
He’s the man I’ve seen in my dreams. Wait. Does that mean, he’s real? Does that mean all my crazy dreams are real?Of course they are! My inner voice scoffs. He did admit to being real.
“Who is this?“, his smooth voice booms and fills the whole room with authority.
“A human we found in the town square.“, the leader of the guards say, hissing the word human again. I turn around and glare at the ignoramus.
I then look around and realize I’m in a 18th century castle-like building. Wait. I think this is a castle.
I look back at him, the man I see in my dreams. His blood red orbs inspecting me, it takes him a minute but a look of realization registers on his features as soon as he does. “You’re real…” I blurt out, still unable to believe he’s real.
He stands up from his throne and gives me a look of urgency and with one swift step, he stands before me. He kneels down and looks at me, “Maria? It’s you, Maria.”