“Kai? What is it?” came Kayla’s voice, small and quiet.
I answered her without looking at her, afraid he would disappear if I did, “Jude is here.”
Jude furrowed his brows together and glanced at them, stating in a calm whisper, “You told them.”
“Yes. They saw what you did. I didn’t have a choice.”
“Kai, is he mad?” Preston asked, but I didn’t answer him since I wasn’t sure.
Jude backed up a little, uncertainty clouding his face, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I answered quickly, scooting closer, “What’s wrong?”
He looked once more at the other two, “There’s no time to explain. Something’s coming for me.”
“What’s coming for you?”
“Something’s coming?” Preston asked, sounding fearful.
“Guys,” I said looking over at them, “Just hold on for a few please, okay?”
He nodded and I turned back to Jude who sighed before continuing, “I don’t know.”
His haunted eyes tore at me, pulling on my heartstrings and I wished I could hold him. I didn’t know how to comfort Jude. It was so dang frustrating to me. He looked so lost and I could do nothing to help, nothing to calm his fears. I felt so helpless. I can’t imagine how he was feeling.
“Okay, but you said you needed my help. How can I help?” My eyes searched his, looking for untold clues.
He paused, scrunching up his face in agitation, saying more firmly, “I don’t know.”
I didn’t know what to say to him, nothing seemed adequate, I saw Kayla and Preston exchange a glance as I spoke, “Oh. Just breathe and tell me what you do know. We’ll go from there.”
His haunted eyes lit up briefly with humor at that and he smiled a little, “I don’t breathe, you goof.”
I chuckled, “Oh right.”
“What’s so funny?” Kayla asked, then clapped a hand over her mouth, “Oops, sorry. I know I wasn’t supposed to speak. It just came out.”
“He was pointing out that he doesn’t breathe,” I answered her quickly.
“Oh,” she giggled, “Okay.”
Jude smiled, “She’s delightful,” then his gaze turned more serious, “It’s coming. I have to hide. I have to go.”
“Wait!” I called, “You haven’t explained anything yet. What’s coming?”
“There’s no time. I have to go. It can’t find me. I’m sorry. I’ll come back as soon as the coast is clear,” he said before zooming through a wall, leaving behind only a shimmering foggy trail that disappeared as quick as he had.
“Is he gone?” Preston stood up, looking around as if he could locate him.
“What’s going on?” Kayla asked with a worried frown on her pixie-like face.
I sighed and looked around for a trace of whatever was to come, “I don’t know. He said something was coming. An ‘it’ is coming. He didn’t have time to explain.”
The lights went out plunging us into darkness. A creepy nails on the chalkboard sound rumbled through the house. It was a scream, a banshee-like screech.
“Dude! What was that? Do you see anything?” Preston cried out.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Kayla repeated, her voice shaking and her voice thick with fright.
“No, not yet. Stay calm,” I said in a firm voice, considering my whole body was shaking from anxiety.
Wriggling shadows crept along the walls like tentacles, searching for its prey. I inhaled deeply, holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. My eyes scanned the room, looking for anything that could be a clue. The cat was sitting in the middle of the hallway staring at us, it’s eyes glowing in the dark. Like that thing wasn’t already creepy to begin with. What the heck?
“What’s happening with the walls? Are they...like...breathing?”
“I-I think so,” I said, stumbling over my words.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Kayla kept repeating, in some sort of shocked trance.
“Preston, can you please help calm her down or something? She’s scared out of her mind.”
“Man, I don’t know if I can move. I’m paralyzed!” Preston said, sounding frantic, “Also, that cat is creeping me out, Kai!”
“Okay, don’t panic. I’m coming,” I said, leading them both by the hand to the couch, “Just sit together. I’m trying to see what’s going on.”
As we watched, the cat stretched, raising up on its hind legs. The shadows formed two bat-like wings on the wall that spread out across the majority of the ceiling. I let out a strange gurgling sound from the back of my throat and fell backwards in my feeble attempt to get away. It seemed to smile at me while it continued to grow, morphing into a humanoid shape. The cat collar became a choker with a glowing green charm in the shape of a crescent moon. I scooted on the floor until my back was against the wall and I rose to my feet, eyes wide with fear.
“What. Is. That?” Preston gasped, then whimpered a little.
I couldn’t speak. I shook my head with my mouth open. Shadows surrounded the figure. It was dressed all in black and wearing a long cloak that hid their face. In one hand they had a staff of some sort with what looked like a white crystal on top. The shadows oozed around the dark figure, pooling at their feet like some weird inky puddle. The only light came from the half-moon necklace, pulsating like a heartbeat and the glowing white staff-head.
“What is happening?” Preston squeaked out, holding Kayla, who had long since closed her eyes and continued muttering under her breath like she was saying some sort of protective chant.
The hooded figure moved towards me, followed by shadows that, by now, filled the walls, alive and seeking to destroy any light that they found. We were blanketed in complete darkness, aside from the bright glow of the crystal on the staff. I swallowed, my breathing shaky and shallow as I flattened my back against the wall. My eyes opened as wide as I could make them as I looked towards the front door, determining it was too far.
“Stop,” hissed a familiar voice, halting me in my tracks, “Where is he?”
I swallowed again, the large lump hurting as my Adams’s apple bobbed. I heard an odd strangling sound and realized that I was the one making it. I stared at the dark figure, the light bathing the face in its bright white unearthly glow, unable to speak. I shook my head back and forth, trying to clear the cobwebs, but every time I opened my mouth, nothing came out but air. I looked over at Preston and Kayla to find them staring at the cloaked dark figure as well.
I finally found my voice, “You can see her?” It sounded so small and frightened, but it was definitely mine.
They blankly stared, open mouthed and wide eyes, nodding in response to my question.
“Pay attention fool!” the figure boomed, pounding their staff on the ground once.
Kayla and Preston jumped, Kayla covering her ears and yelling, “What is that awful sound?!” “Yeah dude, what gives? Stop screeching at us!” Preston shouted back loudly.
I narrowed my eyes and looked back at the figure, “What’s going on? What are you doing to them?”
“I am doing nothing to them. They cannot hear my true voice like you can,” she answered, dropping the hood that covered her face to reveal white pupils that stared vacantly at me. “Is that better? Can you hear me now?”
“Delia?” Kayla asked, her hands shaking over her mouth and her eyeliner running down her face along with her tears.
Delia threw her head back and laughed wildly, “Humans. You don’t understand anything. It’s a wonder you’re still alive really.”
“Whoa...what’s your sister doing here? Is she a witch or something?” Preston asked nervously, but my tongue was as dry as cotton.
“I’m just borrowing the body, you idiot,” she responded gleefully, pounding her staff on the ground three times. “Watch this. It’s a hoot.”
The staff’s crystal glowed brighter and Delia’s body dropped like a ton of bricks, thudding hard onto the ground. Kayla shrieked as the figure behind Delia was revealed.
“H-how…?” Preston stuttered.
“Well, you see dum dums, I used my cat form until my amulet showed me when a certain spirit was near. Then I needed a human host to mingle among you. I couldn’t very well spy on you if I remained a feline, now could I?” I couldn’t stop staring.
“What the-?” I said, hearing Kayla gasp as I covered my mouth in horror. It smiled at me, the top half of her face human-like and the other half a skull, “What are you? What’s going on?”
“I don’t have time for your questions, you insolent human. I do not bend to your demands, you will bend to mine! Now where is he?” Her white eyes flashed red as she gritted her teeth. Her mouth now closed and no longer revealing her rotting teeth, which made me thankful.
“Jude? I don’t know. He didn’t say,” I narrowed my eyes, feeling protective.
“Don’t toy with me. Where did he go?” She was instantly in my face, smelling of burning flesh and graveyard dirt. Her long silver-blonde hair flowed around her shoulders like a horse’s mane.
“I honestly don’t know. He said he had to go and then he was gone.” I furrowed my brows and crossed my arms, not sure if I should be talking to her about Jude or not.
She sniffed me, like she was some kind of animal, then she stepped back, “I believe you. You don’t smell of dishonesty. You’re lucky.”
“You can smell lies? Seriously, what exactly are you? And why am I lucky?” I blurted, then looked down when her eyes narrowed, “I’m sorry. I’ve got lots of questions and no one is answering them.”
“You’re spunky. I like you,” She clicked her tongue and smirked, skin hanging off the remnants of her face as I peeked up at her, “Ah I see. That’s understandable then. You’re lucky, all three of you, because I normally don’t reveal myself to humans unless I plan on reaping them.”
“R-r-reaping?” Kayla stuttered before swaying on her feet, going limp in Preston’s arms.
“Geez,” Preston grunted, muttering under his breath as he leaned over to lay Kayla on the couch.
The ghoulish woman cackled, throwing her head back, “Oh my. They’re so delightful. You humans can be so entertaining.”
“So, you’re a reaper?” I asked, drawing closer as curiosity got the better of me once more, even as I was shivering against the fear creeping up on me.
She nodded with a grin, saying proudly, “I sure am.”
“And you reap souls?” Preston jumped in to ask a question, feeling brave.
“Yes I do,” she said tapping the top of her staff, “I suck them into here.”
“Wow. What happens after that?” Preston questioned, leaning in towards her.
“Would you like to find out?” She countered, grinning widely once more as she beckoned him with a bony finger.
Preston gulped and shook his head quickly, “N-n-no.”
She paused, cocking her head to the side as if she was listening for something, “I have appointments to keep. I don’t have any more time for questions.”
I nodded, having been prepared for her to go all split personality disorder on us again, her moods giving me a mental beat down as I tried to keep up with her.
“Well, it’s been fun,” she said quirking up her brows, growing serious once more and leaned in towards me. “When you see the cowardly ghost again, tell him Nyx is looking for him. He’ll know who you mean.”
“Okay,” I said, not sure what else to say in this situation. I was torn between protecting him from her and being selfish by keeping him with me.
“Oh,” she started, looking over her shoulder as the shadows and her cloaked form began to recede. “And tell Jude that he cannot run from me forever. I will find him. No matter where he goes. It’s only a matter of time.”
I stood up straighter, watching as the darkness folded in on her, flowing through the walls and into the night air outside. I blinked and sat down, exhaling a long held breath and rubbing my face with my hands. Crisis averted. For now. So, Jude was trying to outrun the inevitable. He was being hunted and there was nothing I could think to do, nothing that would stop this insanity. Like she said, she would find him and she would reap him, sooner or later. It was only a matter of time.
“Whoa man,” Preston began, sitting down on the ottoman since Kayla currently occupied the couch, her whole body taking up the small love seat. “That was intense. I might have pooed a little.”
“Yep,” I said, leaning against the back of the recliner, seeking to comfort myself. I wrinkled my nose as his words finally registered with me, “Wait, what? Eww gross, dude.”
“Whatever bro. Like it’s never happened to you before,” Preston scoffed, “What was that chick’s name again?”
“Nyx,” I mumbled, trying to remember why her voice sounded so familiar, “Where do I know that from?”
“I don’t know.”
“Nyx. Goddess of Night. Daughter of Chaos,” Kayla mumbled in her sleep, her eyes squeezed tight and her lower lip stuck out. “Meanie head.”
“Right. Thanks Kayla,” Kayla snored softly in response and I turned to Preston, “They called her the Subduer of Men. Even Zeus himself stood in awe of her. According to the stories, she created the three Fates.”
“Geez, dude. Didn’t know you were such a history buff.”
“Mythology,” I corrected, but he just scrunched up his face at me in confusion until I waved my hand to dismiss whatever else I was going to say.
“Poor Kayla,” he said, looking down at her and shaking his head.
I snorted, “Oh yeah, I know. I don’t blame her though, I wanted to pass out or run away or something myself.”
“What? You seemed so cool though.”
I shrugged, “Fake it until you make it, right?”
“I suppose so,” he looked back at Delia as she rolled over on the floor, “What do we do about her?”
I shrugged, “I dunno. Put her on the other couch?”
“I’m not touching her. What if she’s contagious?”
I laughed, “Just throw a blanket on her then. She’ll be okay. I think.”
Preston rolled his eyes and covered her carefully, so as not to touch or disturb her. I think he still half expected Delia to turn back into Nyx.
“Psst,” a soft voice said from beside me, causing me to jump slightly and emit a very unmanly sound.
“You’ve got to stop sneaking up on me. You’re like an assassin or something,” I rushed out, rubbing my temples to relieve the anxiety.
“Wait, what?” Preston began, staring at me strangely, “Oh. Jude’s here?”
I nodded, not wanting to take my eyes off of him ever again.
“Okay, well I’ll be over here. Listening to a one sided conversation if you need me,” Preston muttered, blowing his hair out of his eyes.
Jude’s icy blue eyes mirrored my concern, “Sorry I bolted like that. She really freaks me out.”
“I get it, I do, but maybe you should go with her. I mean, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?”
“It feels wrong. It all just feels wrong,” he muttered, shaking his head back and forth.
“Leaving. Letting her take me. I feel it in my gut. There’s something wrong. I can’t go with her, at least not yet. It’s not my time. I just know it. I can’t explain it.”
“You’re sure you’re not just scared?”
“Definitely not,” he paused, floating a second, “Kai?”
“I need to ask you favor.”
“Oh...kay, what is it?” I said warily.
“I need you to help me find my body.”
How did I not see that coming?