Devil You Know

Kodi and Nyx. Nyx and Kodi.

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4. f o u r

 

         It was the whistling of the kettle that woke me. Not for four months had I heard a noise like that, and not for four months had I woken to a lit and alive house. I glanced around my room, the events of the last night still only a hazy memory. My foot slid on something as I tried to rise from my bed, and I reached down to it, plucking it off the floor as though it was a live wire.

                   Nyx watched as Kodi moved in the garden. His eyes were closed, and he didn’t see Nyx as he crawled to the window and dragged himself through it. He didn’t see Nyx—

         I crumpled the paper in my hand and threw it viciously into the bin. In the wavering light of morning the events of the previous night seemed nightmarish, fake—my face burned as I remembered the drunk phone call to Tom, the hallucinations that were no doubt caused by alcohol. What did it matter how I’d got home, where I’d been? Stupid.

         I gave the bin a kick for good measure before slipping my phone into my jeans pocket, shrugging on a t-shirt, and swinging my bag from the floor to my shoulder. I only dropped my story in as an afterthought. I could work on it before class.

         The corridors of the house were dotted with clean, pale squares. In the attic, I knew, a box filled with vivid pictures of success was gathering dust. Some of mine were in there too. I hadn’t bothered to remind my father that he still had one son.

         He was standing by the kettle. The usual confused mixture of love and hatred made me twitch, scratching at my head distractedly with one hand. My brother’s face, moulded into a doughy lump and topped with an expression of eternal torment glanced at me from behind the counter. A steaming mug sat with its handle towards me, distorting his face and blurring it, until all I could see were Oskar’s bright blue eyes, dulled as though he were a thousand years old.

         I slid the mug off the counter and took it to the table, lying my phone next to me to give myself something to do.

         “You want toast?”

         “I’m good.” There was a silence. I sipped my tea and turned my phone on. An unfamiliar number glowed on the screen. It flashed away before my brain had a chance to process it.

         “Want me to make you lunch or something?”

         “Cafeteria.”

         “Okay.” He made to move away but stopped by my elbow. I tensed.

         “You doing okay at school?”

         I twisted my head to see him. Against the dusty lights his face was cast in shadow: flickering, uncertain. “Yeah.”

         He nodded and left, door shutting behind him with a quiet click. I let out a breath and opened the window next to me, breathing in the cold morning air. The house pressed down on my back as I pushed open the door and escaped to the morning. It seemed to cleanse me, air pricking at my skin, removing the darkness and replacing it with polished glass. My feet hurried me along the pavement until I was running and everything behind me was meaningless and small. The hallucinations were hot air, the hour I hadn’t been in existence was simply sleep, the cryptic, toxic paper with my actions scrawled upon it was a juvenile trick.

         “Kodi?” Someone caught my arm, jerking me out of my thoughts. The blinding redness in the corners of my vision confirmed the identity of my assailant. I turned to face him, breathing heavily—perhaps not entirely because of the running.

         “Hey Tom.”

         He gave me an odd look, ginger eyebrows creasing. “You okay? You sounded weird last night.”

         “Nah, I was just drunk. Let’s go, okay? I’ve gotta finish something before class.”

         Tom shrugged and set off. I tailed behind him.

         “You sure you were just drunk? You sounded, like, seriously freaked.”

         “Just drop it, okay?”

         “Okay, whatever.” We walked in silence for a while. I had to half-jog to keep up with him. The silence made me itch.

         “So uh, Gretchen?”


         Tom gave a sigh. “Nah. Her mum called and made her come home.”

         “Shit.” I squashed down an instant jubilation. That was something I didn’t want to deal with.

         “Yeah.” A small trickle of students were already arriving, some rubbing their heads from hangovers. I glanced over to the car park and scanned it for Mr Williamson’s truck. He probably hadn’t arrived yet.

         “Shall we go to English early? I want to finish something off.”
    

         “Sure.” Tom straight-armed the doors. I followed in his wake, torn between apologising and swinging my bag in his face.

         “What is it you’ve got to finish?” Tom pushed his bag into his locker and tucked his books under his arm. I followed suit.

         “Just some story.”

         “One of your creepy ones?”

         The writing from the previous night danced in my head like a broken melody. “Creepy is my aesthetic.”

         He swatted me around the head with his pencil case. I snorted and ducked into the English classroom, sliding into my usual seat. There were only two other girls in the class, perched at the back, pouring over the newspaper. I recognised them vaguely from History, but their names had passed me by. Tom dumped his stuff on the desk next to mine and glanced at the front of the class. “Where’s Mr Williamson? He’s usually here.”

         “He’s been arrested.” I jumped and turned. From the back, the eyes of the two girls were wide and shocked. They bored into me like drills.

         Tom breathed a swearword. “How’d you know? What for? He’s a fucking English teacher.”

         The girls glanced at each other, then leaned slightly towards us as if to do so would lessen the blow.

         “He had pictures of students on his laptop.”

         “The police took him last night from an anonymous tip.” The blonde one passed me the paper. Mr Williamson’s mugshot covered the front of it like some macabre portrait. Out of the corner of my eye, something dark seemed to flicker.

         “Do they know who the tipper was?”

         The other girl tilted her head. I felt Tom sink onto a chair next to me. “Not officially, but my cousin’s friend’s wife works there, and she said the tip came from the student themselves.”

         Something bitter and icy gripped my heart. I doubled over the back of my seat and kneaded my scalp. Tom breathed another swearword, half-drowned out by the brash ringing of the school bell.

         The blonde girl shrugged. “Guess you can just never tell, huh?”

         Next to me, Tom sunk into his seat. Chattering pupils drifted through the doorway in their own personal universes, emitting their silent personal melodies of self. I watched them mutely.

         Somehow, I knew that everything that had occurred both today and yesterday was inextricably linked. Whatever darkness had attached to me was doing something, and although the thought seemed insane to my rational mind, the deepest reaches of my subconscious were roiling as though in agreement.

         At the front of he class, Mr Williamson’s ‘charisma mirror’ sat propped against a table. He would have us shout into it, yelling out our grievances and chiding ourselves for our problems. As I met the eyes of my reflection, I seemed to flicker. My skin darkened to the same shade of blue that the sky sometimes turned on cold autumn nights—an unfeeling colour. Yellow eyes glinted, and with the merciless mirth of someone who was slowly yet surely succeeding, the creature—Nyx, as I could no longer deny to myself—grinned at me.

 

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