Devil You Know

Kodi and Nyx. Nyx and Kodi.

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6. s i x

 

         “Come on. I know you’re there—you can stop pretending. I can feel you.” The bed springs creaked under my weight. My room was still, and the bloody glass lay on my floor like physical remnants of a bad dream. A little while ago I’d heard the whistle of the kettle in the kitchen as my father made tea, presumably so he could stay awake designing his latest project. Architecture helped distract him from both his dead son and his living one.

         I should have felt slightly crazy sitting in my room calling for my hallucination to come and meet me, but as I watched Tom’s blood drying on my hands I knew that I was not insane. Some supernatural force was stealing my body and haunting my mind and destroying the people I loved.

         By my mirror, there came a shuddering. I stood, facing it, and watched as the glass bubbled and dripped. A shape shifted behind the dancing crystal, approaching with the steady steps of a conqueror coming to claim his land. I stood stalwart, legs braced.

         Nyx was exactly the same height as me. He had the same features, and, I realised as he stepped through the mirror and stood on my worn carpet with feet bony and bare, the same posture. He was, in all respects, exactly the same as the tiny versions of my actual face that I saw reflected in the shards on the floor, save for the blue leathery skin that covered him like demon flesh. His eyes, too, made me want to twitch with their familiarity yet impossible difference—same lazy lids, same black eyelashes, but yellow irises that glinted with a light far more malicious than anything I could conjure.

         Seeing this grim parody of myself appear in my room should have sent me screaming, but instead I stood my ground. Nyx folded his arms, and I realised with an angry pang that he was wearing a hoodie and jeans that used to reside in my wardrobe. I glared at him as he came closer, seeming to pull the very air he moved through to himself and weaving it into a macabre blanket.

         “Kodi. Nice of you to call.” He stopped a little way from me, head tilted to the side. His voice sounded exactly like my own, but sweeter, and hearing it come from his mouth made me wince.

         “Leave me alone. I didn’t ask for this.”

         “Oh, my sweet innocent. Nobody ever does.” He flung himself down on my bed and leant against the wall, fingers rifling through my forgotten schoolbooks as though they were his own property.
    

         “I’ll kill you. I will. Mr Williamson, Tom—I won’t even hesitate.”

         Nyx gave a sigh. “Honestly, Kodi. I’d have though you’d have realised by now.” He let his hands rest palms-upwards on his lap and raised his eyebrows in an expression of defeat. “You can’t kill me, just like you can’t kill your emotions or your thoughts. You can squash me down, certainly—in the beginning you were quite good at it, but you’re getting slack if I’m honest—but you can’t kill me. I am you. Better, in fact—“

         I threw a lamp at his head and he chuckled as it passed though him and shattered against the wall, glass spilling like icy snow onto my sheets. He grinned, showing slightly pointed teeth. “You’re so funny, Kodi. I do so love to annoy you.”

         I felt the heat of frustration and ravaged loathing surging through my veins, but kept my voice calm. “Why me? Out of all the fucking people—”

         He tutted. “Language language, Kodi. And do you think that I’m not with everyone else too? They’re just better at keeping me tamed—” He broke off, inclining his head towards my door. I kept my eyes fixed on him, not trusting that he wouldn’t try something else.

         “Kodi?”

         I jumped at the sound of my door opening and my father’s voice drifting through, head jerking involuntarily towards him. When I looked back at my bed, Nyx had gone, and there was only my father’s shadow casting darkness on the shattered glass.

         I turned back towards him and tried to keep my expression neutral, though considering what had just happened I probably simply looked pained. “Yeah?”

         “I thought I hear something breaking.” He leant against the doorframe. Four months of silence, and now he decided to take an interest. I fought down the wave of irrational anger that threatened to spill over into my words and kept my voice neutral.

         “I just dropped my lamp.”

         He raised an eyebrow. “Against your wall, where it bounced over to your mirror and broke that too?”

         I flinched. I’d almost forgotten about the carpet of bloodstained glass that covered the floor by the window. I swallowed.

         My father gave a sigh and took a step into my room, stopping at the point where he was just silhouetted by the light from the corridor. I wondered briefly what would happen if I told him—how he would react if he knew his son was being inhabited by some unnatural force that got his teacher arrested for pedophilia and tried to kill his best friend. I almost laughed at the thought of the conversation. Family chats.

         “I just—I just got angry, sorry. I’ll clean it up.” I picked up one of the shards to make my point but dropped it back to the bed as it sliced my fingers. I let out a hiss.

         My father sighed and approached further, and the sight of him in the room he’d avoided for so long jarred me. He gathered up the edges of my duvet and folded it so that none of the glass could escape, then backed out of my room once more.

         I followed him down the corridor. In the four months that he’d been grieving for one son and forgetting the other, I’d grown until I was just a finger width taller than him. From this angle I could see a bald spot that was surrounded by silver-grey hair. In only those short months, our paths had crossed—I as still going upwards, but he was falling and flailing as the griefs and pains of old age taunted him with their tantalising fingers.

         He shook the glass carefully into a cardboard box in the laundry, and as the shards caught the light they seemed to glisten like a savage waterfall. He folded it again afterwards and placed it on top of the washing machine. “We’ll clean up that mirror in the morning. Sleep on the couch tonight.” He handed me a clean cover.

         I hesitated in the doorway for a moment, eyes fixed on the cloth in my hands.

         “Everything alright, Kodi?” He hesitated on my name as though it was foreign in his mouth. I so wanted to tell him—I wanted to yell at him for the four months I’d been invisible, I wanted to scream out my frustration that he only noticed me now because I broke something, and I wanted to tell him everything about Nyx—

         A dark shadow flickered in the corner of my eye. I dropped the blanket and backed out of the laundry, eyes squeezed shut. My father’s voice coloured red with worry.

         “Kodi? What’s wrong? Are you—Kodi!” He called after me as I ran down the corridor. The shadow flickered in front of me, mocking at the edges of doors, leading me back along the path we had just taken. It stopped at the door to my father’s study, and suddenly a far more corporeal face leered at me out of the centre of the fog. I slammed my fists against the door as it disappeared through.

         “Unlock it.”

         My father was breathing heavily. “What?”

         “Unlock it!”

         His hands shook as he fiddled with the handle. I stood back, shaking, impatient. Nyx was on the fast track to ruining something else, and as distant as my father had been, I couldn’t bear to see him wrecked again.

         The door opened a crack and I slammed it open, letting it bang against the wall. At my elbow, my father let out a moan.

         “Oh shit…oh shit shit shit…” He approached his desk with his hands pressed against the side of his head. Spread lovingly across the mahogany wood there was drawing of buildings that were covered with hours of detail. Tiny notes were written painstakingly in the margins, and a few watercolour brushes were perched on the windowsill. Spilled over it all was a pot of dark blue ink that, even as we watched, spread further through the paper and stained everything on it with its demonic hue.

         My father held a shaking hand just above the drawings. I stepped forwards a little, and happened to glance up at the window. Shrinking away with a malicious grin was Nyx’s face. He blew me a kiss with his ink-stained fingers as the darkness outside enveloped him like a second skin.

 

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