Devil You Know

Kodi and Nyx. Nyx and Kodi.

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9. n i n e

 

         “Run.”

         “I am running.”

         “Faster, then. Revenge is best in the dark, and the night won’t last much longer.”

         My feet pounded along the pavement. I didn’t know where Nyx was leading me, but he appeared along the path I followed, a blue figure that stood stationary as I ran past, only to appear again further ahead.

         “Where are you taking me?” My voice would usually have been strained from the running, but it didn’t seem to come from my mouth—rather, it echoed form my mind, mere vibrations in the dark of the night.

         “To lay waste to those who have wronged you. It’s what you deserve, Kodi. It’s what you want to do.”

         I sucked in a harsh breath. It felt like sandpaper against my throat. Beside me, houses flashed past, snow globes of families and thoughts and memories and happiness—

         “Stop thinking!” God, Kodi, I can see why you were so pathetic before I came along.”

         I let no expression cross my face as I glanced at Nyx, his eyes narrowing to slits. “I thought we were together now. Nyx and Kodi, Kodi and Nyx?”

         He let out an exasperated sigh. “Dark and light, chalk and cheese. I complete you. Without me, you’re nothing, so just do what I say. I know what’s best for you.”

         I paused for a moment to catch my breath, hands on my knees, chest heaving. “Doesn’t that mean that without me, you’re nothing?”

         For the first time since he’d appeared, spectral, in my room, Nyx looked unbalanced. He righted himself soon enough though with a flick of his hand, dismissing my words. “Of course. We need each other, Kodi, but I know better. Accept it. Now keep running, you’re almost there.”

         As my feet pounded against the pavement, I found my thoughts drifting. I wondered if Nyx noticed, but he was too caught up in his ambition to listen. He’d come about because of me—because of my own refusal to face my feelings. He was the personification of everything that I’d squashed down—anger at my father, confusion about what I felt for Tom, longing for my brother, misplaced guilt about his death. I wasn’t under any illusion that he’d sprung from my story—I may have named him, given him a shape and a face, but he was a result of something that I could never begin to understand.

         He halted me with a hand against my chest. Breath scratchy and uneven, I glanced up at the building we stood in front of. Flashbacks pounded against my head like moths trying to reach a light behind glass.

         “You’ll never be as good as Oskar. Even your dad knows that.”

         “I heard that he ignores you. Is that right? Does your daddy not love you anymore?”

         “Kodi the half-boy. Never as good, never as cool. God, you make me as sick as he did.”

         I doubled over and let out a sound that was halfway between a moan and a sob. The last time my feet had pressed down this grass I’d been crushed by emotion that I couldn’t feel, or chose to ignore. The last time I’d gazed up at this house it pulsated with life, and Nyx had been a distant shadow in another plane of consciousness. I felt a cool hand against my back.

         “You know what to do, Kodi.” Nyx leant close to my ear, breath soft on my skin, lips just brushing against my neck. “It’s really Marcus’ fault, after all. Such a bastard—he may as well have pushed your brother right into the road, because you know he hated him—just look at the way he treated you. It’s not revenge, Kodi. It’s retribution.”

         He spoke this to me as I was bent at the waist, eyes fixed on the grass beneath my feet, grey in the weak moonlight. When I next looked up, Marcus’ house swum before me in the fiery burning tears that lay like the River Styx at the bottom of my eyes. I stood with a new strength in my spine, and pushed through his unlocked front door with Nyx close at my shoulder.

         He led me up the stairs slowly, and my eyes saw his form from below as though in worship. A night light was plugged into the top of the stairs, and it surrounded him with a red halo of silently floating dust. I reached out a hand and brushed it against his. The touch was cool to my shaking fingers.

         Marcus’ door was covered with pictures and posters of the athletes he so wanted to be like. A picture of his dream sports academy, the one he was trying to win a scholarship for, was pinned on top of the mess of paper like a holy painting. I pulled out the pin and watched it fall to the ground. It slid slightly under the edge of the door, and Nyx pulled it back out with the tip of his shoe. I looked up at him with reverence, and tried to ignore with my whole being the slight nagging at the corner of my mind. That was irrelevant. Nyx was everything now.

         He smiled as he opened the door for me, admitting me entry into the seemingly-alive quietness inside Marcus’ room. We walked together, almost as one being, until we stood over his bed like gargoyles. I looked at Nyx again, and his face was that of an animal.

         “Do what you know is right, Kodi. Make me proud.” I nodded, and, reaching for Marcus’ shoulder, shook him.

         He awoke with bleary eyes, just in time to register the grasping of hands on his arms and legs that lifted from his bed and carried him towards his open window. Perhaps he thought he was still in some nightmare, because his struggles were silent—strong, admittedly, but nowhere near enough to shake of the combined power of both myself and Nyx.

         Kodi and Nyx. Nyx and Kodi.

         He fit through his window nicely, and only started to yell as gravity pulled him from our grasp and to the hard ground below. A silence beneath his travelling cries, a crack that pierced the night, and then a continuing moan like a wounded animal.

         “Exactly.”

         Nyx had placed his hands on the sides of my face and turned me so that we were sideways against the window. I looked into his eyes with something bordering on worship. He smiled, and spoke again with a voice that I wanted to touch, to stroke and keep.

         “His cries are exactly that of a wounded animal. Listen, Kodi. This is what we can do. Together we’re a force of nature. We can right those who have wronged you, lay waste to those who try to do you harm, claim what is dark and what is right. Oh Kodi—together we are holy.”

         I reached a hand out to his face, but something tiny in the corner of my eye stalled me. Behind Nyx, Marcus’ bed was pushed up against the wall, and plastered above it were countless pictures of athletes and sports teams he’d been in. One of them, the biggest, was a rugby team, Marcus grinning in the middle. Next to him, a boy with pale skin and black hair that surrounded a face that stuck out from the others around it. It was serious, no trace of a smile. My brother’s eyes gazed into mine with a ferocity that broke through the surface of Nyx’s spell, shattering his silence until everything was loud and crystal, and Marcus’ cries were rents in my skin and Nyx’s breath was poison on my face. I tensed up and pushed him savagely, not stopping to see if he fell. I ran from the room with my trainers skidding against the carpet. Nyx’s voice called after me, a harsh twang to it that I hadn’t heard before.

         “Kodi! Stop it! Stop running! You’ll ruin everything!” The cries faded as I ran, and it was only as the outside air hit my skin and the scent of living, breathing humans filled my lungs that I wondered why he hadn’t followed me. Nyx was in my mind—Nyx was my mind. Surely he must be somewhere near.

         I skidded to a stop in a place I had only a vague recollection of. Marcus’ house was on the richer side of town, the area with double-storey houses and fancy gardens. I thought at first that it was one of these gardens that I’d stopped by. Cherry trees surrounded the outside, so I darted through, hoping for some cover.

         I realised in that moment why this place was familiar. I came to a stand-still, breath making nearly-invisible spectral beings in the air. The last time I’d come here, my brother’s coffin had followed.

         I swallowed down my horror and snapped to my senses, darting through the maze of headstones and sinking down behind one of the larger ones, breath hitching in my throat. I could only just separate Nyx’s fast-approaching footsteps from my blood pounding in my head.

         “Kodi!” His voice sounded whiny, desperate, and in a jolt of realisation, I knew why. Nyx may have been made of my anger and resentment, but he was also my fear and my weakness. He’d condemned himself by merely existing.

         “Don’t listen to him.”

         I nearly jumped at the sudden voice so close to my ear. I turned, and with a shock of emotion that went straight to my heart, I recognised the person sitting next to me, knees drawn up to his chest.

         Oskar flicked his hair out of his eyes—my father’s eyes—and smiled a little, face achingly familiar. I reached out to touch him, expecting my hand to pass through him, but felt the scratchy denim of his jacket as though it was real. I felt questions welling up inside me like tears, and opened my mouth to speak, but he stalled me with a hand against my shoulder.

         “No time. Kodi, I need you to listen to me before he finds us. Can you do that?”


         I nodded mutely.


         “Good.” Oskar glanced out from behind the headstone for a moment, then swung back round. “We haven’t got long. Kodi, you know what Nyx is. You can’t allow yourself to give into him. It would be easier, I know, but what’s good is always harder.”

         “Harder than what?” I knew what. I just wanted to hear him say it.

         “Than weakness. Nyx is your weakness, Kodi. Remember that.” Oskar put his hands on my shoulders, thumbs on my neck, his eyes boring into mine. “I believe in you. You can do it.”

         “Oskar—” I put my hand out to him, unable to bear the thought of him leaving again, only to be yanked backwards by a savage jerk of my hood. The next time I looked, my brother had gone, replaced by a marble headstone topped with a benevolent angel.

         Nyx threw me on the ground, standing over me like some biblical conqueror. My back ached from the sudden shock, sending scuttling pain down my spine.

         His face twisted, and he spat his words at me as though each one was loaded with acid. “Weakling. I knew you couldn’t do it. Too pathetic to even look after yourself.”

         He stepped to the side, and for the first time that night, in my peripheral vision I saw not blue and yellow, but the black and white of my brother, flickering like a candle in my consciousness.

         I turned back to Nyx. “Funny, that’s almost exactly what Marcus said. Remember what we did to him?”

         “It’s called tough love, Kodi. I thought you understood that? I thought you understood what we were to each other?” His voice had taken on a honeyed tone again. It made my skin crawl.

         “You’re nothing to me. You’re not even anything to yourself. You’re just a shadow—weakness and sadness, that’s all.” I grinned maliciously as I spoke, hand scrabbling behind me for something to defend myself with. My fingers fastened on the top of a broken bottle and held it fast.

         Nyx roared with rage and lashed out with his foot, but I rolled away, gaining my feet just in time to dodge his fist.

         “You can’t do anything, Nyx. You don’t even exist.”

         “Stop it!” There were tears in his eyes, the yellow swimming. For the first time, I looked at him not with respect, reverence, or even disgust. As his fists clenched and his voice caught, I pitied him. He had nothing to hold on to. I didn’t have much, to be fair, but the memory of my brother was the only lifeline I needed. Small, but absolutely significant.

         “Nyx…” I let my voice trail off, and held out my hand, palm upwards. He glanced from it to my face warily. I approached him slowly as I spoke. “I’m sorry. I know you’ve been trying to help me—”

         “I am you.” His voice was that of a rejected child. I put my outstretched hand on his elbow, sliding it up his arm until it rested on his shoulder.

         “I know. I know. You’re right. I need you, remember? Kodi and Nyx?” I pulled him in closer, until his arms wrapped around my chest and his bony body pressed against my own. His neck was leathery against my face.

         His next words were whispered into the darkness of the graveyard as if speaking any louder would wake those sleeping beneath our feet. “Nyx and K—”

         His words cut off with a gargling sound. I dropped the bottle to the ground and held the back of his head, shushing him as he writhed in my grip. His knees buckled, and I lay him to the grass with the blood from his neck gushing over my sleeve, heating my skin. He jerked and gargled, hands clutching feebly at my clothing, eyes pulled wide. I bent down, pressing my lips to his forehead as though in benediction. “No. Just me.”

         His life blood watered the ground my brother was lying in—both my visions, my angel and my demon, lying side by side on the quiet earth.

 

 

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