It had been minutes. It had been lots and lots of minutes, all stacked up on top of each other so that they eventually made hours. It might even have been days.
Cassandra was once more lying flat on the steel table: not because she still couldn't move, but because she didn't want to. Someone knocked on the door and she heard them, but even if she hadn't it wouldn't have made any difference for all the reaction she gave. The knocking sounded again, harsh and unrefined against the door. Shutting her ears, she screamed with silent lips until her lungs burst and fear and rage spilled out and made a nasty mess on the wooden floor.
The person who had been knocking gave up on knocking and walked into the room, their footsteps echoing in all the caverns of Cassandra's heart.
She turned away before she had to see them.
"Cassandra," said the person, and she recognised their voice with a flat sense of despair. "Cassandra."
She could hear them grinning as they spoke, their non-descript face splitting into a non-descript smile, and if she had watched her life play out as a TV show, she would have laughed at the unlikelihood of the situation. Then she'd do something utterly dull (for only humans seemed to waste their lives on TV shows) like point out that she was laughing, or ask why everyone else wasn't.
Cassandra didn't laugh, so the person took the liberty of laughing for her. Their laugh was cold. It seemed to leave its lingering stain on the room when it sputtered to a halt, making way for words that sliced through her body like the stars of the sky had been stolen and thrown at her. She shivered involuntarily, willing herself void of emotion.
"You don't seem so...particularly angelic now. I wonder why?" said the person, and then their footsteps quickened and Cassandra's face was clenched between the person's sweating, clammy fingers. The gears in her head shifted to horror at the indignity done to her and she squirmed, curling back her lips in anger. The person gripped tighter, turning Cassandra's head to look at them - and the siren saw the boy she'd fed upon back at the party. It seemed like so long ago now it might have been a dream.
The boy laughed, perhaps at the stupid expression she had when her face was trapped in his hand.
Cassandra spat, the saliva falling onto her own face and tracing dripping patterns down it like a snail had grabbed a paintbrush and taken it upon himself to make art. A little touched the boy's hand, and he winced at it in distaste before wiping it on her dress. She coloured red at his action, remembering the loss of her song and the loss of Marianne's heart, and letting her rage consume her in great heaving gasps. "Ithortyoured," mumbled Cassandra, her eyes bulging and choking on the boy she saw in front of her. "Itortikidyou!"
"Pardon?" said the boy, his own eyes dancing and waltzing with mirth, occasionally dipping mockery in an offhanded twirl. "I'm sorry, you're going to have to speak up. I can't hear you. You know, you really must learn to enunciate."
"Ithortyoured!" Cassandra tried again, before shaking herself free of his hand, gasping and spluttering for breath. "I- I thought you were dead! I killed you. I killed you!" She licked her lips, sitting upright and rocking her body backwards, forwards, backwards. "I'm hallucinating. I'm hallucinating and this isn't real because I killed you and it can't be real. You. Were. Dead. You should be dead! Why aren't you dead? I'm hallucinating and- and-" She stopped, rubbing her eyes, suddenly weary with every part of the world. "Why aren't you dead?"
He sighed. "Ah, what a question." His hand moved like speed itself, cracking down on her cheek like a whip on a horse's back. "Maybe because I'm not human, you idiot!"
Cassandra shook her head stubbornly, refusing to believe what she knew to be true, a blotchy shape growing where the boy's hand had hit.
Answers. She had to focus. This boy could give her answers, and she had to get answers. "Why am I here? Where's Marianne? Am I home? Marianne said that she was taking me home." The questions flooded from her lips like a barricade of water, building up the defence of words and their power around her. "Who are you? How come you're not human? When I killed you, you tasted like a human should, so...How come you're not...How come you're not dead?"
The boy assured her, "You're home. I'm meant to tell you that Marianne is coming to speak with you. So are the Officials," and the bricks of Cassandra's castle crumbled to dust. "I thought it would be a bit more fun to hit you first, though. I was wondering whether to hit you or kiss you." He leered at her, his hair falling into his milky blue eyes. "I never really got to kiss you before, Cassandra. Angel. Why don't we...Why don't we make up for that now?"
He began to lean towards her, and she scrambled up from the table, her arms raised in defence. Without her song she had no killing blow, but she was still blessed with the commonplace magic even mortals could learn if they tried. Using normal magic tired her quickly, but it was easily better than nothing at all. It was crucial not to waste it. She sliced a hand through the air, and a jagged line of torn skin and wet blood split through the boy's arm.
"Don't come any closer!" she warned, but secretly she wanted him to. She wanted an excuse to hunt again, the way she was so used to hunting humans for food. She wouldn't be able to feed - not without singing, which she couldn't do - but she'd get damn well close, which was almost enough. The difficulty made it even more appealing.
The boy's mouth opened in a round 'o' of confusion, and for a second he blinked as if forgetting himself, forgetting who he was. Then his eyes narrowed, slanted and feral. "I don't think you know my name," he said. "I told you, of course. I told you right at the beginning, but you just weren't listening." He laughed again, the chimes ringing with a growing mania. "My name's Hugo."
He stepped closer, still smiling.
"I told you," said Cassandra. "I told you not to come any closer. But I guess you just didn't take any notice." She threw back her head, and her own laugh echoed his. "It's a pity," she said, and then her hands returned to the air, spiralling away from the staircase of reason with an uncaring abandon. She wasn't bothered anymore what happened to her, as long as the hunt ended. As long as she could kill the boy - Hugo - and he would stay dead.
She'd felt dead herself the second Daria had begun to sing. This was just a brief reprise - and she was going to make the most of it.
The boy screamed, and the sound was startlingly child-like, waving like a banner in the stagnated air. His hair was falling from his head in chunks like breakfast cereal, and when his hair touched the ground, flakes of the skin covering his skull followed.
She was less beautiful, now - more terribly grotesque than anything else - and to her, in her madness, she was sure he deserved it.
Cassandra stopped, panting, her hands falling to the side. The boy still stood, swaying on his feet, glaring at her with a concentrated fury.
She began to stalk towards him, ready to kill him once and for all - not to feed, for she couldn't, but just for the sake of killing the boy.
The door swung open, but this time no one knocked.
Officials crowded into the room yelling and shouting orders to each other. Cassandra stepped backwards, feeling herself collide with the table, her legs crumpling beneath her. The boy was yelling something at her, but they quieted him swiftly, escorting him out of the room - supposedly to the hospital. As she remembered, the medics on the island could restore almost anything back to full health.
She was home.
She repeated the words to herself silently, no longer in any mood to speak.
She was home, though she'd been banished. She was home, though she'd sworn that she'd never come back.
Cassandra was home and she hated it already.