Jimmy speaks first.
“Where were you?” he demands, anger in his voice. The vehicle jerks from side to side, dodging between cars. I fear we were going to have a collision.
“In the London Eye, Jimmy, where else?” My mind flashes back to Lightning and our conversation. “The line was long.” I start breathing heavily with fear, wondering what had happened to make time speed up so quickly. It was impossible for it to be so late. When I had last checked the time, with the Lotus’s, it was only five o’ clock! How could have an hour and thirty minutes passed in what I believed to be a five minute gap?
There was only one person on my mind who could have been responsible for this. Lightning. That little twerp must have been behind this. She was the only one could manipulate time from what I could tell. If she could stop it then she must be able to speed it up and slow it down too.
“Didn’t you even check your watch?” he asks, swerving the limo to the right to avoid hitting a white car, stopping suddenly to switch lanes. Offended, I answer without thinking.
“Of course I checked it, and get this. It read five o’clock just a few minutes ago!” I cringe at the insanity that seems to edge into my voice. Definitely not the most believable excuse to use.
“You probably had the time all screwed up,” he replies, disappointed. Another hard turn, we were exiting the highway. The seatbelt pushes into my side harshly, causing me to grunt as a puff of air escapes from me.
“Hey, take it easy on the turns, I’m already screwed. “ I double check the time on my wrist, hoping I had only hallucinated the dreadful hour it had read before. Sadly, it mocks me with a now even later time of six thirty-five. “I swear I didn’t have the time messed up. Last time I looked it said five o’clock, how could I get that confused with six thirty?!” Jimmy only shakes his head. In the front mirror, he struggles with emotions I couldn’t interpret. A need to tell him about my experience at the attraction comes over me, my hands tapping at the side of the door with a hidden anticipation. Jimmy notices my odd little rhythm taking place in the backseat, suspecting it to be something about Henry.
“It’s alright, Alia,” his voice sounds soothing now, trying to act in a calmly matter, “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just tell him it’s all my fault, and you’ll be fine.” The setting from outside my window appears to slow down now, our speed finally matching up to the law’s limit. To myself, I think back to Beatty and her actions she took in order to protect me. No, I couldn’t get Jimmy fired today either because of me. Harsher than what I’d intended, I decline his offer. Feeling a debate coming up, I reach for the button that would close the space, separating the two of us. As the dark tinted window closes, Jimmy’s eyes take one last sad look at me, and then disappear behind the closing glass.
When it’s securely closed and locked, I gaze back out into the dim, outdoor world. It’s a bit too dark for this time of day, as little streams of golden rays reached lazily across the lightly lit sky. It looks to be trying to grab onto the other side of the atmosphere in a pathetic attempt to remain in existence, the dark black night sky steadily consuming the little light there was. The sight makes me think of a certain book I had once read some of in one of the hotels Henry and I stayed at. Bits and pieces of the pages inside it come into focus. The world was created out of nothing, created by a God, a balance of light, and darkness. My mind thinks of the early dawn every morning, the entering light attacking away at the surrendering darkness. And then now, where just the opposite happens, darkness chases away the retreating light to keep in control for half the day. Both evenly balanced.
I try applying the same rules towards humanity. People on the news, police saving lives, chasing criminals, firefighters putting out harmful fires to aid victims to their safety, and from what I learned from Beatty, people in history who risked their lives to provide freedom for their fellow citizens. These were considered the good people weren’t they? Now, thinking on the other side, the darker hearts. Murderers killing for fun, terrorists sacrificing themselves in the most terrible ways, taking their own lives as well as any who surrounded them, and there are those like Henry, greedy for money, uncaring for the ones with no past or any existing happiness.
These scenarios don’t sound at all similar to the night and day sky. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve only been exposed to the evil side of life, but whatever the case, I felt like evil was the more dominant side, easily conquering over good. Perhaps it’s just Henry’s influence making me feel no hope for something to come to make my life more meaningful in the future. Perhaps it’s just my parent’s mysterious death lying heavily on my shoulders, sapping away my desire to fight for a better insight of life itself.
I close my eyes, listening to my heartbeat take flight, every passing second increasing the rate. Hands shaking, and sweating profusely, I feel a million butterflies stir around in my stomach, my legs shaking terribly.
All these insecure feelings were Henry’s fault. Ever since the day he took me in.
It was around the time when I was trapped in my endless nightmare, when I had received the tragic news of my parent’s death. Still no memory of anything before that day comes into focus. Everything is blurry at that point. Everything that occurred afterwards although, was as clear as day, the faint voices trying desperately to reach the young girl who had shrouded herself in darkness, pushing away those who wished to pity her, to get her to speak her mind. All of those voices had been so distant, drowned out, meaningless, foreign to me. All but a single voice that had caught my attention, a voice belonging to the man I would one day know as Henry Johns.
He was a role model to me back then, ever since I had lost my mother and father. Whenever I’d lock myself up into a tight ball, in a dark corner, he’d always give me a gentle tap on my shoulder, a kind smile, and extend an inviting hand to me. What a fool I was always trusting him, placing my hand into his, following him to whatever lie of a fairy tale he would take me next. Carnivals, fairs, the park, the movies, any child’s dream place, he’d take me there, gaining my love, bit by bit. A play was what it was, a childish play filled with fun and games, no troubles no regrets, and sometimes I’d forget about death being a part of reality. This happened for months, until my happiness had finally soared sky high. Until I knew how to smile and mean it.
Until he asked to adopt me.
He promised we would do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, and just be happy forever, together, as daughter and father. I was hesitant at first, something inside me trying to warn of his fake mask, of his lies. Something that wasn’t so easily willing to let go of my parents just yet. Something saying that there was no way he could fill in the position and actually be the caring father I had wanted so badly then. But I was blind by his non-existent glow, his forced smile, his patience to claim me. I ignored the feeling and said yes.
The play was over. His voice felt less and less kind-hearted, and more sinister and dark. It got louder and louder, harsher and harsher, until he was practically screaming at me day by day. Things as simple as being late or forgetting to do something would drive him into a blind, raging state. Punishment became a daily basis as I grew older, Jimmy and Beatty noticing the bruises and cuts becoming more numerous and worse as the performances I gave came and went. Sometimes he would strike in such a strong fury, that I would have the inability to walk for several days. His soothing, kind words became hurtful, targeting at my passed away family.
I hated him with a passion, but more than anything else, I hated myself. I hated myself for letting him abuse me in this way, I let him get to me, and I let him get away with everything terrible he’s done in his life. I let him run my life because I’m too foolish to let him go, because I don’t want to go back to being abandoned and alone anymore. He was the only one who took me in, and despite his uncaringness toward me, I felt like I was needed. This is my only purpose I can think of in life, without Henry, I wouldn’t know what to do or where to go. I longed for the day when I’d get over that foolish fear.
The limousine slows to a stop, bringing me back to reality. Out the window, darkness has taken over, the hotel waiting eerily in the hungry night. I listen as Jimmy makes his way over to my side, and opens the door for me, letting out dying slivers of light from the vehicle. The only other visible lights glow softly from a few rooms, the smallest murmur of televisions broadcasting nightly shows. My still shaky legs swing over out the side of the door, touching the wet, slushy ground. It had rained recently, the atmosphere feels damp on my face, and the nightly breeze is terribly cold. As if shaking from fear itself wasn’t enough, I begin to shiver from the low temperature, feeling icy daggers hitting me full force at my eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. My breathing becomes heavy, a puff of air visible due to the severe cold. Jimmy watches me pitifully, taking off his own coat to wrap around my violently shaking body.
“N-No, r-r-really, I-I’m f-f-f-fine,” my teeth chatter as I speak, each word requiring a huge effort for me to say. Jimmy only wraps the warm winter wear around me tighter, pulling me away from the door, and leading me toward the hotel entrance. He politely opens the front door, and leads me inside into the small lobby. I was hoping he would be able to come with me inside my room where Henry waited, but to my disappointment, he says he needs to get all the luggage I had packed earlier in the day to the airport to begin loading them. He tells me to be careful and he’d see me tomorrow in Paris. When he’s sure that I’ve been heated up properly, he takes back his jacket and gives me a friendly pat on my shoulder. Then he leaves me, standing there, walking back out into the black night.
Ready to get this thing over with, I step over to the waiting elevator. It stares at me hungrily, beckoning me to enter into its carnivorous mouth. Gulping the troublesome lump that had arisen inside my dry throat, my legs gradually lead themselves into the machine. To my right I find a series of buttons waiting to be pressed to determine the riders’ destination. Alone, after making contact, a single “12”th floor button is lit, sending the invisible signals to the beast’s inner brain. Like the human body, it reacts after the given information is passed, and closes the cold, hard doors. The low, growl of the shaft rising up to the designated floor is painful, cruel. Sounds like the cruel laughter of someone watching with a sick sense of amusement. Watching with bated breath, craving for the coming time of suffering. A shadow flickers from afar.
The humming ceases, the laugher pauses. A soft, high-pitched ding sounds the room, the doors open. An elegant carpet taunts me with the false sense of comfort and cleanliness. Two faces stare back at me, a couple just passing on through. With a few kind greetings, they move past me on to the space behind me. A fake smile is easily managed, due to frequent practices. As the elevator falls back down to the lobby, I began to envy those who could only grimace and show their true thoughts and feelings. Walking down the endless, blinding hallway, more people laugh, smile, talk past me. They all acknowledge my presence, giving me an occasional, I know you, Good evening Alia, Hello, all for my fame right?
After a few more meaningless conversations from passing fans, I lower my hollow stare to the floor, paying special attention to the moving shadows. For a moment, I am fascinated with the numerous black figures of moving people and flickering candles rising from everything. Thinking, I marvel the peculiar fact of how much darker the shadows were when exposed to a stronger intensity of light. The hallway still goes on forever, my pace decreases in speed, after all, I was late already, what did it matter?
You would think, the brighter a source is, the less likely chance there is of being a darkness lurking nearby. This doesn’t appear to be the case however, as there is a deeper meaning behind this odd little insight. Taking on a different perspective, the lights found inside a human heart, the representing kindness, generosity, and compassion, the more of these there are, the better the person correct? Perhaps, but if the same rules concerning the lights and shadows were to be applied, wouldn’t this mean the purer the heart, the higher the risk is of creating an alternative darkness to one day, if released, be just as foul as one who has a blacker heart? Or it would be even worse.
Look at me, I sound like I’m trying to finish a science report.
I continue anyways, thinking back to Beatty, Jimmy, and even more so, myself. My closest friends had been so heart-warming to me, but if what I thought were to be true, then could they emit such a dark, terrifying shadow? As for myself, I didn’t know whether I was actually as strong of a light compared to them, but I knew I was far better than Henry. This leads me to another strange implication. If the theory to be reversed, would that mean Henry had a good side maybe even better than mine?
Something moves suddenly from the corner of my eye. Jumping in alarm, I realize I had been spacing out in my complicated dimension yet again. Paranoid, I search for the thing that had startled me, but to no avail. I go back to viewing the dark figures, trailing my eyes to my own. The shape is quite large, stretching a distance to my left, the legs are slanted, and the shoulders are resting upon a wooden door. A wooden door marked with the rusted, golden numbers of 1237. Room 1237. Henry’s room.
A late reaction, my hand clutches the cool handle, my chest teeming with fear. It was unlocked. With a small force, I push it down, the door creaking into the pitch black room. A narrow stream of light falls before me, stopping only at a short distance allowing me only a couple feet of vision. Already I feel my pupils begin to dilate, adjusting to the emptiness calling from within.
It is then that I find the answer to one of my previous questions. No, Henry couldn’t possibly have such a thing as a pure heart. Light creates an opposing darkness, but light itself cannot be formed from this blackness, it’s something that is just born. What then, creates light?
My footsteps echo rhythmically into the dark, trying to seek the demon waiting me out. My breathing quickens once my feet finally manage to part from the only source of light, falling helplessly into the swallowing dark sea. The door slams behind me. My vision goes black. My head spins frantically, searching for the hidden presence. A hand knocks me brutally to the uncomfortable, shaggy carpet.
The impact, whether it was the ground or the blunt force, releases a small cry of pain. My right cheek burns with a cold feeling, spreading across my entire face. Hands seeking for the stable support of the ground, I struggle to raise myself up to my knees. Footsteps that aren’t mine surround the area, circle around me. Frantically I search for the placement of the uneven rhythm, but my ears fail me, confusing me with different sound waves from the thin walls of neighboring customers listening to their nightly showings.
At last, the horrible pace comes to a stop. Before I can react, a blinding light penetrates my eyes. Squinting, I try to focus my sight upon the last remaining shadow standing next to the glowing lamp.
This certain shadow didn’t seem to fade away like the others. It doesn’t flee to the hidden corners, or cramped places to hide from the emitting light. It only stood there, glaring with such fierce eyes of a thousand storms and death and destruction. It didn’t flee from light.
It conquered it.
“I told you the time that you needed to be here didn’t I?” the shadow’s gruff voice spoke. With a lingering shakiness, I rise up to my useless feet at last, staring at it blankly. Awed by the appearance, I couldn’t bring myself to answer right away. In a blurred motion too fast to avoid, it grew in immense size and planted the next blow directly at that same spot that had taken a hit seconds ago. Another cry escapes me as I fall yet again onto the familiar surface. More force and anger appears to be applied to this attack, I feel a wet liquid trickle down from my mouth. It tastes of salt and a strong iron. I spit in disgust, picturing the look from Beatty’s once beaten face from earlier today. The expressionless, tearless face she had demonstrated for everyone who watched. I kept that close to heart.
“My apologizes, I wasn’t aware of the time,” my mouth stings with each word as I take another couple of seconds to spit out another wave of fresh blood. How hard had he punched me? A hand comes to my face to wipe away the warm wetness. Henry looked at me with such hatred; no regret could be seen about his previous actions.
“Well, I guess I could just let this all go. This was after all, a mistake right? An accident,” he emphasizes the last word, his deep sea eyes swirling into a dizzying pattern. I freeze was I’m doing. He was actually forgiving me? After only a few hits, he was giving me another chance? This wasn’t right, something seemed oddly off. “So then, why don’t you tell me the time, and we can head on out to find a different departure time shall we?” His tone is unreal so I am not easily fooled, so without taking my eyes at him, I roll up my sleeve…
And realize the stupid mistake I had just made.
The storm rages on, his veins bulge with a new burning passion. The now revealed golden watch hangs heavily on my arm, Henry’s attention set upon it. I try desperately to cover it back up with my sleeve, but the damage has already been done.
“Huh, so you do have a watch with you? You were perfectly aware of the time, yet you had the audacity to come in late and act like you haven’t had a clue.” My eyes widen at how furious he seems, I begin to find myself sinking lower and lower, feeling smaller and smaller. “You thought that I would actually let you get away with this? You actually set yourself to believe that I was the forgiving type for filthy trash like you?” He kept rambling, his volume getting louder and louder, my body becoming stiffer and stiffer. “Well, just look here, I most certainly am not one to let people like you off the hook that easily, and with things like these, good old fashion discipline is just the thing to get you on the right path.” The cracking of his knuckles shakes the room; my stomach does a million flips. Bile begins to build up at the base of my throat, making me feel the sudden urge to vomit.
My strong voice from before gives way, it becomes small and weak. “No,” I protest, climbing back to my unsteady feet. “Please, understand I really didn’t intend to be late, I must have forgotten to check the time.”
“And yet you remembered just fine to check it when I asked for it hmm?” he accuses coldly, taking a few steps toward my fearful body. The taste of blood becomes sickening, and I spew out even more at the floor, hitting one of Henry’s now uncomfortably close feet. Looking up, I see that same dark shadow that had made even light cower in fear, which was prepared to consume it whole, to finish the job. The face of a demon, he makes his next strike. On instinct, I dodge. This action infuriates him as he lunges yet again. He is immensely strong and insane with rage, whereas I am powerless and vulnerable to his abuse. Slap!
The impact of the ground the third time is still unpleasant and leaves me struggling to catch my breath on my numbing back. I try desperately to get up, but am paralyzed with the stabbing pain of losing a large supply of air. Once I finally recover enough to move, a harsh force is pressed onto my chest making me groan with a newly found pain. My head rises up briefly to catch a glimpse of the shoe I had spit some of my blood onto, glistening with a strange look of beauty. Weak from the lack of oxygen, I slam my head back onto the floor with exhaustion and shut my eyes in defeat. I began to pray for an opportunity to be relieved with some time to recover. My prayers seem to have been answered as the pressure on my body slowly disappears. I jerk my eyes open to the foot rising up and make the most of the moment, gasping for air with deep, rapid breaths. Then without warning, it fell back down with a force so strong, I didn’t just cry with pain, I screamed.
My hoarse scream terrifies even me. The sound of a crazed animal, it wasn’t human, such a horrible sound. Now, it began to dull from a solid scream to a grotesque gargling sound, thick with the heavy essence of blood.
The foot moves to the side and lands on the ground beside my shaking head. With a hard, straining push, I get to a sitting position, hugging my hard stomach, coughing uncontrollably. The pain was so great, I broke into shameful tears. The inhuman sound has finally been replaced with uneven sobs and even more ragged coughs. As my coughing fit was drawing to a close, I look back up to Henry, thrusting his head back and howling with laughter.
His eyes gleam with a terrible sense of admiration of what he had just done. He looks at me as one would look at a scientific experiment, a simple rat testing procedure. No hint of guilt is detected in his joyous moment of laughter. In his madman state, he cares for no one but himself, eager to spread along suffering and misery to his distasteful need to feel as the higher being. Regaining control of himself, he speaks in a smug whisper.
“Well then, you think that’s enough punishment as it is? Or… shall we continue on this night of hell?”
The tears continue to flow down my face along with the foul blood dripping off my chin. Dazed, I watch as the two salty liquids fall onto my shaking legs, leaving several dark, wet spots. My stomach is unable to support itself in the weak state it was in, my coughing turning into severe gagging. The blood supply never ends, hitting the carpet, staining it with a blackening red.
Henry wanted me to give in, to admit I was weak, and admit he was the stronger one, the one in charge. He only wanted to beat me enough into a fearful state, a point where I would be sure not to disobey again. He had the string tied loosely around me. All he now needed to do was pull and ensnare me in his trap.
Today is different though. My usual thoughts of surrender, I feel none. My head pulses with the rising mixture of anger and frustration, but even more so, self-pity. Being beat up to a pulp, this was normal to me, and it was normal to Henry. Just thinking this, the fact I thought being hurt physically and occasionally mentally was normal drives me insane with rage. Out of a million ways to live his life, he chose perhaps the most shameful, most pathetic path. I didn’t deserve any of this, and I sure wasn’t going to just sit down and let it happen to me.
In a slow motion, I drag away my hands from my unstable stomach. They clench into a tight fist, ready to cut the string.
Beatty would have told me to cease everything, give in. She wouldn’t want me to delve deeper into the path of pain, but taking in consideration of what she would have done being placed in my shoes, I knew she wouldn’t have let him win. No, she’d fight back if I wasn’t anywhere on the line. Isn’t this what Mama and Papa would want me to do? Would they have just simply admitted defeat now, only to have it happen to them again some other time?
“Coward,” I spat out with great difficulty, trying take in bigger gulps of air. Henry’s reaction is slightly delayed as he processes what I have just said. Another coughing fit overcomes me as a bewildered look crosses his face, then melts into an infuriated look not too long after. A sharp pain cuts into my side, pushing me over to roll across the wet ground.
“What the hell did you just say you little brat?!” his insane voice screams from beside me. My clenched hands find the stable surface of the warm ground. With a few quick breaths I find the strength I’ve been searching for, and use it to aid me to my feet at last. Clutching my now swelling side, I clear my full throat and face toward the stiff Henry staring with his menacing death stare.
“I said you were a coward,” my mouth runs off on its’ own accord, unstoppable and uncontrollable. Henry takes a threatening step towards me.
“Just who do you think you’re dealing with?”
A harsh, bitter smile makes its’ way across my lips, stinging with soreness of Henry’s previous hits. He stops in his tracks, confusion at the new attitude I had taken up on. “A coward. One who is fearful of how people will really figure out how weak he is. One who uses violence to try to strike fear into someone in order to feel like he has power. Yes Henry, you are in fact a simple, weak coward, trying to control me. Well I can say that I am not fooled, and never will I be. So go on, didn’t you say you wished to continue this night of hell?”
Baffled, the being before me freezes in place, wordless with a darkening expression looming over his mask of hatred and fury. I began to wonder if he was too puzzled to determine what action to take on next, until he finally seems to regain his composure. With one foot in front of the other, he staggers closer and closer to my weak self. Zombie like rhythm, a strange beat he stumbles to, his walk appears to be different, as if Henry himself were trying to work with a completely new host. The courage I had so recently experienced coursing through my very soul seems to drain with every dragging of Henry’s body. My body feels so terribly weak, as I have the sudden urge to drop unconscious upon the ground and let this nightmarish night pass away into the deep abyss.
The lights flicker once, then twice. Pressure is applied upon my scalp, soon pain is added. A grimace and a shout and I am suddenly lifted off my feet, hot heavy breathing burns my stinging face, tears escape and fall from my open, and wordless mouth with its silent screams. For the longest time, I hang there, slivers of my hair being torn away from the stress of the weight which Henry didn’t seem to wish to let go anytime soon. When I couldn’t think of anything becoming worse in this situation, the dragging begins.
For only a moment, I feel nothing, until gradually, the pain starts to spread and become overwhelming. In a matter of seconds, I fully recognize the harsh extent of the harm he was causing toward my very head. He was holding me by my own hair.
Screaming sounds of panic and desperation, I thrash my body, begging to be released. Henry pays no attention as he continues on to the next room, something dreadful planned in his lunatic mind. My mind too, no longer feels sane, as I continue spewing out meaningless noises unaware of what they were intended to be. A war goes on throughout my occupied mind, a war between two personalities debating of whether to fight back or surrender. To be a coward like my very enemy, or to fight back knowing I would probably lose anyways.
My eyes snap wide open. “Mama, Papa…” I mutter to myself, like a ritual, a traditional chant. Henry stops in his tracks, the pain numbs. “Mama…Papa,” I say once again, a stifled cry arouses from my lips. What do you want me to do? “Mama…Papa…” Henry stares at me, amused, and then breaks into a crazed cackle.
“You’ve finally done it Alia! You’ve gone mad haven’t you?!” He barks with laughter, not releasing me from his grip. “Oh, you poor dear… You want your mommy and your daddy little girl? Oh, well be my guest and tell them I said hi, oh wait, they’re dead!” His laugh is cold. “Oh, come on now, don’t cry. Perhaps if you say their name enough times then they’ll come on back to tell you just how worthless you are, maybe give you decent discipline themselves. Then I can save the trouble of having to lay a single finger on your filthy self.” A yank of my hair in an upward direction is inflicted as he chuckles once more. “Oh, now you’ve got me curious. I’m really starting to think your parents never died.” My eyes widen at this remark, my body going stiff yet again. “Perhaps they faked their death to get away from the likes of you. Oh, what a funny thought.” The room becomes blurry once again. My mind torturing me with consideration of what Henry was suggesting. “I bet you that’s what it is! I mean you just have to be some idiot to die in a car accident. So what was it? So, were they idiots in an accident or geniuses that were escaping their burden of a child? What do you think my little child?”
The pressure drops and I land harshly on my feet. Henry stares at me amused, waiting for my reply. All I can do is drown in my feelings of rage. Fury and rage and anger and fury and rage and anger and red and red and fire and fire and want and need and fury and rage and anger, but more than anything. Longing.
“You want to know what I think?” I huff, watching him stare at me blankly. “What I think is you should do us all a favor.” My fists clench into a numbing ball. “Screw off and die.” And without any warning, I tackle him.
Luck was on my side as even my frail, small body, knocks him down awkwardly to the very floor. Fists went soaring, talons flew out and skin was peeled open. I went straight for his eyes, missing once then twice to my distaste, beginning to see stars as he successfully punches me in my exposed stomach. To my advantage, blood flies from my mouth and lands right on my designated target, blinding him enough to allow me a chance to swipe at his features. The third attempt, I was victorious as he screams and kicks me off of his downed body. He casts such a strong force as I flew back several feet and hit my back against a lone side table. I was in the main bedroom of the suite, looking to the side to find a handsome looking bed. Henry was writhing around before me, holding his right eye, still screaming a terrible sound. Cursing many words, even some I was unfamiliar with, he was busy, and I had time.
I tried to calm myself down enough to think, trailing my eyes left to right, right to left, when I remember the front door, my key to freedom. Straining to get up, I grab onto the bed, pulling up to a standing position, keeping my eyes glued to the still writhing mass. My back used the wall for support as I backtracked the way I had been pulled into the room. The more progress I make, the faster my heart rate became as each second became beneficial to Henry’s recovery time. When it feels as though it might explode, I finally make out the hard knob against my wet back rich with sweat.
I take one last hard glance at screaming Henry, and spin around to the door. This is it! Just beyond this door is my ticket to a new life! I begin to wonder why I hadn’t done this before, when my heart stops at the terrible silence that penetrates the room. Henry has become silent, and looking back, he was attempting to get up. Time was up.
My hand almost misses the handle as I jerk it to the right, but it doesn’t budge. Adrenaline courses through me as I try throwing it to the left. Nothing happens. It was then that I heard a soft click. Looking up, I found to my dismay, the lock was hanging limply to the side. The door was unlocked. I found myself speaking to it with frustration. “No! Damn it! No! Open, please god, open!” I jiggle the handle side to the side but to no avail. Nothing was working, the door was stuck. I give up on the handle and began to bang on it with my pulsing fists. “Help!” I scream frantically. “Oh my god, please someone help me!!!” BANG! BANG! THRASH! THRASH! The door shakes slightly with the first two hits from my fists, then the impact of my entire body slamming against it. The pain was unbelievable, but I continue anyway. BANG! BANG! THRASH! THRASH! Bloody fists and an aching body, but no open door or any sign it was going to budge.
Tears stream down my face as I risk looking back at Henry, now on his knees, holding the bed for support. I slump to my knees, still attacking the door with my burning hands. “Please… just someone… please someone help me…”
A flicker. My eyes flew wide open to the small crack just below the door. Light was visible, but what interested me was the three shadows that seemed to pass by. That, and the tiniest sound of nearby laughter. My heart lifting with a new hope, I scream once more. “Hey! Wait! Please, I know you’re there, please help me! I’m being attacked!” The shadows freeze in place. All is silent for a bit, until the smallest shadow shakes slightly, a girl’s laugh was heard through the door. Soon, a chorus of laughter surrounds the room; my chest seems to drop with dread at the insanity of the voices I depict.
A wave of nausea hits me as the shadows began to shift. I feel the lights in the room dimming, the shadows increasing in size. To my horror, the darkening figures not only darken with a rich sort of power, but begin to grow, climbing up the hard wooden surface of the still unopened door. They grew up into a clearer image of a small girl, the very same one who was still shaking with laughter. Uneasiness envelopes me as two other figures continue to grow in immense size. They too shook with a seemingly sickening sense of humor.
Too terrified to speak, I only watch in awe as the forms suddenly became gravely stiff and silent. Their hands move in a slow like trance, pointing at me, one by one. A new wave of pain pierces through my heaving chest, sending out an animal like howl from my newly soaked lips. I jump away from the door in shock, clutching heavily to my burning chest. Soon after, I feel a wet substance on the surface of my skin, sliding down along the outline of my shaking hand. To my dismay, I find a dark wet spot forming at the base of where I had the unexpected attack.
Breathing harshly, I glance back up toward the door to see the three figures laughing yet again, clutching their sides from lack of oxygen of their crazed fit. Cold sweat forming at my forehead, I wince, trying desperately to crawl away from my hallucination. Impossible, this is impossible.
Henry could be heard groaning in the back, recovering more energy than ever, sending me into another panic state. My crawling process grew as did my speed, still cradling my mysteriously wounded chest. I proceed onward to my unknown destination as far away as possible from the looming door and the recovering Henry.
The cool wall feels hard against my soaked back now, the shadows still visible. Then to my relief they start to fade. Huffing out a puff of air, I sigh, thankful for the disappearing act, making sure to wait until the entire family vanished. When all was clear, I did a check up on Henry now standing with great difficulty, still clutching his oozing eye. He is almost at the point of full recovery. Then my eyes glide past him to a lone window tempting me graciously right next to the bedroom in the darkened washroom. Perhaps there’s a ledge I can use to climb to the next window!
My eyes gleaming with a new sense of hope, I struggle to my feet, groaning with the still lingering pain of the previous infliction by the deadly pointing of the delusional Alia and her fellow shadow friends. I shake my head furiously. No, no time for nonsense, Alia. Keep your head together!
One step forward and a drag, and another step forward and a limp. The pattern repeats with a step, a drag, a step, and a limp. A step, a drag, a step, and a limp. Step, drag, step, limp. Step. Drag. Step. Limp.
Continuing the rhythm, the washroom grew larger in size. I was about halfway there when the beat of my walk is disturbed. Step, and drag, and step and…trip. No time to scream as something wraps around my ankle, pulling me back to where I had started. Dragged for the umpteenth time, I dare myself to take a quick glance to see not Henry, but in fact another’s hand. A black hand. A hand shrouded in darkness. The size of a little girl, and not too far from that, two other hands reaching for my other free leg.
My blood curling scream echoes the room.
Trying desperately to claw away from my assailants, I continue my deafening screams. My mind is torn between trying to compose myself back to tactful thinking, and letting myself go insane. The wound in my chest makes me exhausted as I soon find myself giving way. My arms begin to feel like jelly, my legs slowly refusing to move another inch. The shadow’s hands are now pulling me even further from my way to freedom, directing me towards somewhere new. Just when I come to wonder where I am being taken, a swapping of my ankle seems to take place.
This new grip feels tighter and more personal. When I slowly turn my weak self to see just who was getting ready to put me out of my misery, I find the shadows gone. Instead, it’s an injured Henry, getting closer and closer to bringing me into a new world of pain.
I should have tried to struggle more, and then maybe I could have really had the chance to leave him forever. But I have no remaining energy, and the pain is too great. So I just quit moving and stay motionless, letting the conditions of my failure lead to a long and sleepless night.
“Oh yes, before I forget, Alia,” he says to me at one point, wiping away the dried blood from his knuckles, “I’m going to need to ask you to prepare a new piece for our next performance. I want it to be something the fans see as… unforgettable.”
I can’t help but find myself sneer at that point. Talking to a girl with changing eye colors and personalities? Witnessing a girl freeze time? Creepy shadows waving at me and dragging me across the floor? I was long past the crazy phase.
He wants an unforgettable presentation? Well I couldn’t just say no. I’ll make sure it’ll be the most unforgettable thing anyone’s ever seen. The most unforgettable thing he’s ever seen.
One he’s dying to watch.