Devil You Know

Kodi and Nyx. Nyx and Kodi.

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5. f i v e

 

         I threw my bag at the hand mirror that I’d blue-tacked to the wall. It shattered, sprinkling vicious stardust over the floor. I let out a yell of frustration, knowing that there would be no investigation from my father. Headphones in, world out.

         No creature appeared in the mirror, but my room cooled around my until the hairs on the back on my neck stood up and sent tiny fingers tracing my spine. I let out another yell and slammed my fist onto the glass. A smear of blood followed it off.

         “Come on! You too coward? Too scared? Come on!” My own rabid expression was the only thing that I could see. I quieted slightly, walking over to the mirror and grasping it between shaking hands, and for a millisecond I could have sworn that my eyes flickered yellow and my teeth bared in a monstrous grin.

         I jerked back from the mirror as though it had burned me. I’d confirmed it—whatever had happened to me in that hour, wherever I had gone, something had come back with me and it delighted from my torment.

         I slid my phone from my desk with fingers that could barely grip it. Tom’s number wasn’t my last dialled, but that barely even surprised me. The anonymous tip about Mr Williamson wasn’t so mysterious to me—I wondered what he had thought when he realised his favourite student had set him up for arrest.

         Tom’s voice filled the silence of my room for the second time in so many days.

         “Shit Kodi, what is it this time? Hallucinations? My aunt works in a loony bin, you know. I could give her a call if you like—”

         “Tom, there’s something really wrong with me.” Hallucinations? My rational mind latched onto the conclusion, but something deeper inside of me rejected it with a mocking laugh. Nothing so iniquitous as what I was seeing could be a mere hallucination.

         “Seriously? Jeez, I thought you were just kidding. Are you sick?”

         My voice caught in my throat. I couldn’t explain what I was feeling—what I was seeing—without sounding paranoid or delusional. “Can you…can you come over here?”

         “Dude, you’re freaking me out.”

         “Please?”

         Tom sighed audibly. “Okay, I’ll be five minutes.” There was a click, and he was gone. I laid the phone on my desk and pushed it away from me with a finger. The sound of the plastic against the wood grated against my ears. I curled into a ball by my bed and rocked backwards and forwards, the rhythm calming me.

         It was slightly over the promised five minutes until Tom arrived at my window, breath coming in shallow gasps. “Kodi?”

         “Just climb though.”

         I heard a groan, a mumble about doors being too mainstream, and then a thump as his body landed on my wearing carpet. I raised my head from my arms to survey him. For seemingly the first time since we had met I looked properly at his face without being distracted by his neon orange hair. His forehead was creased in a worried frown, and his eyes glimmered dully from the fading light. I wondered briefly what I had done to deserve a friend like him.

         “This better be fucking good, Kodi. If you called me to squash a spider I’ll take it home, breed it, and free its children in your—”

         “I’m seeing things.” There was a slight silence. The lightness left by his jibe at me evaporated, until I felt like we were swimming through a thickening sea of negativity in which I was drowning, waving for help but as invisible and heavy as emotion. Tom gave me a strange look and stood, leaning against my wall.

         “What kind of things?”

         That was it—no doubt, no mocking, no fear. I felt like crying from relief but instead scrabbled in my wastebasket. The paper from the previous night was still there, half-covered with my handwriting, half with the creature’s. Nyx’s. I held it out to Tom pinched between my fingers as though it was covered with poison. “I woke up after the party and found this on my desk. I swear to God, it was just sitting there. There was no way anyone could have written this.”

         Tom took the paper and scanned it with a deepening frown. As his eyes finished the last few lines his face paled, throat bulging as he gulped. Half of me felt bad for doing this to him, but the rest felt only sweet, gentle relief in confiding in someone, that they too could see the savagely scrawled words and that they were not a delusion of some paranoid, schizophrenic mind.

         “This has got to be a fucking joke.”

         I gave a wan smile, throat tightening. “I was the one who called the police on Mr Williamson. I was the one he had the pictures of.”

         Tom’s body tensed. “You’ve—but—why? How? I thought—”

         I got to my feet, turning my palms towards him in an effort to appease him. “But it wasn’t me.”

         “But you just said—“

         “I know, but it wasn’t me. It was this thing…Tom, I’m fucking terrified. I just blacked out, and I had the police number on my phone, and then in English I saw this face—“ Unwanted tears poured over cheeks that were already damp with cold sweat. Tom stood like a pole by my window, expression torn between fear and worry.

         “Kodi…dude…I think you’d better tell someone about this.”

         “I’m telling you.” I moved nearer him. His body tensed even more.

         “It’s not normal to see things, dude. And Mr Williamson…blackouts—they’re not normal.”

         I ran my hands over my face. “I know, that’s why…” I trailed off. My head felt suddenly as though it were blocked. Behind Tom was my shattered mirror, and the last thing I saw before darkness and muffled silence pulled themselves across my brain was the viciously gleeful grin of Nyx reflected a thousand times in the mirror, waving at me with fingers that danced like the souls of the dead.

 

* * *

 

         Sleep paralysis was one of the most commonly occurring things to me. My mind would wake, but my body would still be embedded in blackness, until I realised that the two would not respond to each other. At times like those, as my mind screamed at my eyes to open and my legs to move, yet heralding no response, I felt that I was simply a spectator in my own body. That I—the essence of what made me myself—was curled in a corner of my head watching my body and my mind fighting with each other.

         That was what I felt as I looked in the mirror and saw Nyx’s face grinning back at me. I didn’t feel the sting as my fingers curled around a shard of my shattered mirror, didn’t hear Tom’s yelling as I raised it over my head like a sacrificial knife and drove it down towards him. But I could see it all—the crimson blood that dripped over Tom’s arm when he rose it to defend himself, the fear so raw and so palpable on his face. A voice spoke from my mouth and the violation tore pain from my consciousness that shivered like music in the jarring equilibrium of my mind. I could only watch helplessly as Tom writhed on the floor, trying to defend himself but always pulling back at the last moment. I wondered what he was seeing—my face, the one he had known since kindergarten, or Nyx’s, the dark leathery skin that made me itch like my body was crawling with a thousand ants.

         With a jolt, the pain of the stinging glass jabbed at my fingers. I stumbled backwards, in control of my legs far too suddenly, causing me to lose my balance. Tom was crouched at my feet, arm dripping with blood. His face was that of a stranger—hardened with fear and confusion.

         “You’re fucking insane! You’re fucking insane! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

         I stuttered, glass hanging from my fingers. I tried to drop it, to hold my hands out to him, but he backed away as I moved, body against the open window. His face was contorted. “There’s something fucking wrong with you, man. You need help.” He swung his leg out the window.

         “No—no, Tom, that wasn’t me, that was him! That’s the one—that was—”

         “No, that was you and you’re crazy. Stay away from me.”  Each syllable was a stab in the heart. He glanced at me from the outside, face further distorted by the glass, before turning and running into the dimming twilight.

         I dropped to my knees on the shattered glass and sobbed until my tears dripped onto my hands and diluted Tom’s blood to a sickly rose.

 

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