The next morning, we sit scattered across the couches in the lounge.
Kieran suggests, “Why don’t we go to the aquarium in Bray today.” He nudges me playfully. “It should be fun; don’t you think?”
I lift my head from his shoulder to smile up at him lazily, feeling tired. I see Jayden scowl briefly and then he shrugs his shoulders indifferently when his eyes meet Kieran’s, just after he glances at me.
Dermot says apologetically, “I won’t be able to go. I have a football match this afternoon.”
Shannon confirms, “Yeah, and I have to be there, otherwise he would be totally useless.” Dermot smiles at her insulted, and she insists, “You know I am right. If I am not there to cheer you on, you have two left feet. Besides, I am shattered and I don’t think I’ll enjoy looking at fishes in a tank today.”
Candice, who is following Jayden around like a puppy, is obviously going without even having to be invited.
When we leave the house and we discuss the logistics of fitting all of us into Jayden’s car, Candice claims the front passenger seat as her own.
I end up sitting in the middle of the back seat, between Kieran and Dermot, while Shannon sits on Dermot’s lap.
In Balbriggan, Jayden drops Shannon and Dermot off at her house, and then I climb over Kieran’s lap so I am sitting behind Candice. Jayden has been glancing casually at me in his rear-view mirror all the way from Drogheda, and I am sure if I moved, he would not be able to see me behind Candice.
When we stop at the first traffic light, Jayden adjusts the rear-view mirror slightly and he smiles pleased when I glare at him infuriated.
In Bray, Jayden parks his car in the parking area in front of the National SeaLife Aquarium.
Kieran takes my hand as I get out of the car and then we walk into the building, where he buys four entrance tickets.
Letting go of his hand, I walk away from Kieran so I can read a poster on the opposite wall. I feel Jayden when he comes to stand behind me. He glances up at the poster, as if he is reading it, but I hear him murmur sarcastically, as he leans closer to me, so that only I can hear him, “Don’t go saying anything stupid today, like declare your undying love for Kieran. This is not the place.”
I look up at him over my shoulder annoyed. I see what he means though. The shadows are everywhere, they are dark and menacing, it is as if there is an atmosphere of eager anticipation in the air.
Smiling, Kieran walks toward me and I step toward him, pretending I did not even know Jayden was standing behind me. Kieran leads us into the aquarium. It is cleverly themed to look like realistic underwater caves.
We stop at the first tank and octopus occupies it. Kieran stands closely next to me as I look in on the eight-legged masterminds.
He puts his arm around my waist lightly and he asks, “Did you know the octopus is a great escape artist?”
I glance at him sideways sceptically.
He smiles as he continues, “An adult octopus can squeeze through a hole as big as a one Euro coin.”
“No?” I look back at the large creature.
Jayden says from behind me, “And they have three hearts, imagine the pain, when the one they love does not choose them.”
With irritation, I glimpse over my shoulder at him, and I see Candice pout. She says with concern, “Shame.”
He puts his arm across her shoulders and pulls her into him tightly as she beams up at him. He leans down and kisses her gently on the crown of her head.
We walk on and stop at each tank. We read the descriptive plaques and every now and again Kieran or Jayden will tell me and Candice interesting fishy facts, as they call it.
I am not sure if it is my imagination or just the effect of the cave-like surroundings, but it feels as if it is getting progressively darker and gloomier.
When we walk into an even darker cave, with less, dimmer lights, my eyes fleetingly look up at the roof and with utter distress, I see a swirling black mass of shadows there. It looks as thick as a cloud and it twirls around in a circle, like a brewing tornado.
As I am looking up fearfully, a shadow shoot from the swirling mass like a lightning bolt directly at me. I yell instinctively and curl down to the ground, balancing on my ankles and holding my arms over my head protectively.
I feel it knock into me and wildly I start to flail and wave my arms around my head, yelling and screaming, trying to keep it away from my face. I can feel it trying to squirm its way between my thrashing arms. I feel it brush past my face for a brief instant and I can feel it stealing a mouthful of air. I gulp another breath of air before it swoops past my face again. I can hear a cackle of laughter far away, in the distance and the sound fills me with terror.
From a distance, I hear Candice ask, with laughter in her voice, “What’s wrong with her?”
Although Kieran is standing close to me and Jayden is a few steps behind me with Candice, it is Jayden who scoops me up into his arms.
He has one arm under my knees and the other arm around my shoulders. He presses my head into his chest and I hear him hush me softly, soothingly, “Tell them to keep their distance. Perform a spell by announcing what you intend to do and then keep it strongly in your mind, until you begin to feel better.”
Kieran leans over me. He asks concerned, “Heather, are you okay?”
My eyes are closed and I am trying to calm my breathing, so I am unable to answer his question. I am chanting in my head repeatedly, “Darkness go away, shadows leave me alone.” I try to keep this thought in my head, but it just bounces around chaotically.
Jayden says gruffly, “She’ll be fine.”