You’d think that I would be used to seeing dead people, considering I literally see dead people every day. But it’s different when its someone you know and devastating when its someone you love. Seeing Maria’s lifeless body is devastating. I feel like my chest is on fire. Like every bone in my body is breaking. I fall down next to her. Someone is screaming… oh. Me.
I carefully untie her from the tree and her body slumps to the ground. I let out a sob and gather her into my arms. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I’m so sorry.” My hand shakes as I try to brush her hair away from her face. I accidentally smear blood on her cheek.
I don’t know how long I sit with her before I come to my senses. If you can call it coming to my senses… I just become suddenly aware that someone did this to her. Someone killed her. And I want to kill them.
I look around at all the faces, but the tears in my eyes are blurring everything. But then I see a face that I would know anywhere. No matter how blurry. Haylee.
“You!” I scream. “How could you do this to me? I loved her…” I barely choke out the last part before breaking down again.
“I… I didn’t…” She starts to try to make excuses, but nothing she says could ever fix this.
A man holds up his hand as if to stop her. I notice that the other hand is holding a knife. The knife. “Do not respond! You have done nothing wrong in the eyes of Inus! That is all that matters!” He turns and looks down at me. I want to kill him. “And who might you be, young man?”
“Fuck you!” I shout.
“That is an odd name…”
Then an older woman steps forward. She had been partially hidden behind the man, but now I see her face. My mom. And suddenly, I want to kill her even more than the man. Not only did she make my life miserable, but she also killed the woman I loved. If anyone in this world deserves death, it’s her.
“He is a gift! I know who this young man is!” Of course you do you stupid bitch! I’m you’re son! The man turns to her for explanation. “This young man is my son,” she says warmly. “He has great spiritual power. His body may even be strong enough to contain Inus himself!”
The man looks back at me, seemingly surprised. “This young man… is Jude? Are you positive?” My eyes dart between my mom and the man, and I try to find the best time to attack. I don’t have a plan, but I do have a weapon, and that will have to do.
“I think I would recognize my own son. Plus, look at his wrists. He still has the scars.”
His eyes land on the thick scars on my wrists. “Incredible! What are the odds!”
Finally, I see my chance. The man turns away from me, like he is going to address the group. I gently lower Maria’s body to the ground and pull out the knife that I’ve been hiding. I knew that Toby kept one in the van and had grabbed it before leaving just in case. I hold the knife forward and run toward my mom. I don’t get far before the knife is ripped from my hand backwards and flies off into oblivion. I barely have time to process the fact that my hand is cut before I slam into nothing and then the same nothing sends me sprawling to the ground, knocking the wind out of me.
The man looks down at me, a smile playing across his lips. He seems amused at my gasping for air.
“Careful everyone. We can’t have our vessel damaged when Inus comes.” He chuckles and looks at my mom. “Are you sure he’s as strong as you say? He didn’t stand a chance against even the weakest of us.”
I’ll show them who’s weak! I jump up again. I swing once, but the man steps to the side. As he does, he whispers, “Always too slow. If you had come just a moment sooner, you could have saved her.”
My heart pounds and the edges of my vision turn red as I roar and swing again. I’m not even close enough to hit him, but I don’t care. I will myself to hit him and put all my force behind it. And somehow, it connects. I don’t feel the impact on my fist, but the man staggers back and touches his face as though I hit him. There’s even blood on his lip.
I look at my fist, confused, and the man smiles. “There it is. You didn’t even know you had it in you, did you? I bet you have no idea how to control your powers.” He laughs and wipes the blood from his lip. “I’d say I could teach you, but you won’t be around much longer. Restrain him.”
The witches start chanting, and I’m dragged back down to the ground. My arms and legs are forced to the ground, as though bound to something. And suddenly, I’m five years old again, tied to a wooden table, with my mom standing over me with a knife. I scream and struggle, panicking, but I’m once again helpless.
The man stands over me. “Oh, shut up, you fool. Even your girlfriend didn’t scream this much. Be a man.” He walks away for a minute. I try to turn my head to see what’s happening, but my head is restrained as well. All I can see is the stars. For a moment, I remember the night me and Maria watched the stars. It was the first night I realized I was in love with her.
Out of the corner of my eye, I think I see her. Or rather, her spirit. But then the man is standing over me again, this time with several small objects, and a bowl. He drops the objects into the bowl, then chants random nonsense over it. Then he leans down and grabs the back of my head. My head is temporarily freed, and he raises my head up, holding the bowl in front of me.
“You loved that girl a lot. Now you can be closer to her by drinking her blood,” he says wickedly. “It may be a bit cold and sticky now, but it will still do its job.” I jerk my head back when he touches the bowl to my lips, but his grip is strong. “Now, now, don’t spill it. I don’t want to have to go drain more blood from her dead body.” He forces the bowl into my mouth and tips it back. I choke on the thick blood. I try not to swallow it, but he holds it there until I have no other choice. When I finally swallow, he lets my head drop back to the ground, and I inhale some of it. I cough and gag at the iron taste in my mouth.
As the chanting gets louder, my head starts to feel fuzzy. I think I can move again, but I’m too tired. I know I should be scared, but I’m not. I wonder if Hazel is nearby, helping me in the only way she possibly could at this point. She’s always been there for me. I just wish I could have been there for her. I know things are going to get harder for her and Toby after this, and I won’t be there to help them through it. Not that I was ever good at that anyways.
The stars fade in and out of focus. I feel something brush my hand and I let my head loll to the side.
“Shit, it’s beautiful.” Maria is lying next to me, staring at the night sky and holding my hand. She doesn’t look lifeless anymore. Her eyes are shining brighter than any star I’ve ever seen. I smile and she turns to look at me. “What?”
“Nothing. Just admiring everything beautiful,” I say. She smiles. Then everything fades to black.