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Blackness and Silence

Chapter Text

“I was born with a strange gift. The ability to see what no human being has ever seen before. It’s all mixed up in my head. The images, the sounds, the smell. I need to remember. Put things in order right up to this moment. Remember who I am. If I had to say how it all began, I might just as well start here.”

It all begins to snowball around my eighth Christmas. Each night progressively gets worse. They’re always around me anymore, even when I can’t see them. They flicker around my lamp, tug on my drapes, and make my room feel as if it has traded places with the most barren place in Antarctica. They even go so far as to possess one of my toys, making him clang his cymbals and his eyes glow. He clashes them faster and faster, the symphony of tinkling and crashing growing louder until I can’t stand it. I break free of my sheets and scream for Mommy.

The daytime is not much better. The snow has piled up to the window, drifting aimlessly with the wind. Boredom has encompassed my mind. I don’t want to do anything because there’s nothing to do. I’ve tried everything, but Aiden is always somehow involved and he ends up ruining my fun. So staring listlessly out the window is the only safe thing that can be done.

Mommy is worried. She suggests sympathetically that I find something to do. When I don’t respond, she sighs and proposes for a venture outside, that she’d call me when dinner was ready. I don’t want to go outside. But I cave in, since she wants me out of the house.

I pull on my heavy coat and boots, drawing my cap over my ears. As I tread down the hall, I can feel a whoosh as Aiden yanks my cap off of my head, a burst of static making my hair stick up. He waves it teasingly out of reach.

“Stop it, Aiden! I told you I don’t want to play with you anymore!” I shout.

Aiden recoils and drops my hat to the floor, retreating to the back of the hallway. Not that he’ll stay there long. He’ll just follow me outside, as he has no other choice.

I adjust my cap back on my head and slowly pull open the back door. “Okay, I’m going.”

Mommy calls her acknowledgement and I pull the door shut behind me. The bitter air assaults my face. I hate wintertime. The only good thing about it is Christmas, but as of late, I haven’t really felt much holiday spirit.

The snow crunches under my feet and I make my way down from the deck to the yard, wandering. I’m not only bored now, but freezing. Aiden, however, is just the opposite. He loves the outdoors, mostly because he can’t feel anything. He never gets cold. He kicks around my soccer ball to his heart’s content while I sit on the swing set, shivering and miserable. Does he not realize how much I hate being like this? He must. He hates being tied to me just as much as I do. Maybe that’s why he likes the outside. He can get away from me for a change.

I glance over at the fence. I can hear some commotion coming from the street. Curious, I plod my way to one of the knots in the fence, peeking through at a group of kids pelting each other with snowballs.

“I think I just found a way to have some fun.” I grin.

Aiden voices his objection, reminding me that we were never to leave the yard.

“Okay, I know we’re not supposed to. Come on, we’ll just leave for five minutes and come back. Mom will never know.”

Aiden mumbles out something about how Mommy is not the one we should be worried about, but nonetheless, pops out a board and creates a gap big enough for me to crawl through. Sometimes, Aiden wasn’t so bad after all.

“Hey Jodie, wanna play with us?” A young kid offers when I emerge on the other side. He’s a little older than me. I’ve seen him around school before.

Before I can even accept, he says, “Hurry up and hide then. You’re gonna get creamed.”

He runs off and I pick up some snow, mushing it into a thick ball and throwing it at the back of the boy’s head. I heard him grunt and fall. I hide behind one of the cars, arming myself and assailing the other kids on the opposite side of the road. I am giggling and laughing as I seem to hit each and every one of them without fail. Just call me the snow princess.

As I run out in the open, I can hear the boy I had hit earlier advancing behind me. He tackles me to the ground and immediately mashes some snow in my face. I can’t breathe. I hit him on the knee to let him know he has gone too far, to let me up, but he only sees it as a playful gesture. He won't stop and I struggle for air, but the boy doesn't seem to notice.

I hear Aiden growl and suddenly, the pressure is gone from my face. I scramble around to see the boy clutching his throat. Through Aiden’s eyes, I can see the boy’s life force gleaming red, floating away in little sparks.

“No, Aiden! No!”

Aiden, at my command, releases the boy and he falls to his knees, coughing and gagging. When he finds his voice, he turns to the others.

“Did you see that?! She nearly killed me!”

A bubble of dread floats in my stomach. I am going to be in huge trouble.

“She’s a witch! A dirty, rotten witch!” He screams, backing away to the safety of his group. The words sting and I grimace. There is no way to protect or justify what Aiden has done.

“What’s going on here?” I hear my father demand, coming up beside me.

“She’s a witch!” The boy shrieks, repeating his chant, like he was intending to curse me, “I’m telling you! Jodie Holmes is a witch!”

Struggling not to lose his temper in front of the kids, my father grabs my hand and tows me hastily to the house. God forbid that everyone in the neighborhood find out what he was truly like. Everyone already avoids us, thanks to Aiden. He slams the door, letting loose his carefully composed fury.

“What were you doing in the street?! You know you’re not allowed to leave the yard!”

“What happened?” Mommy is at his side.

I struggle to hold myself together. “ I saw the other kids playing. I just wanted to have some fun –“

“What did you do to that boy?!” My father’s voice is rising to a shout, his vehement eyes glued to me. Mommy is trying to calm him down, but it’s not working.

“I didn’t do anything! Aiden did it. He was trying to defend me – “ I can't get my explanation out fast enough for his liking.

“I’m sick and tired of your stories! Jodie, this time, you’re really gonna get it!” He advances and seizes my arm, raising his hand to strike. I shield my face with my hands, but Aiden is quicker. The lights go out and the lamp is thrown to the wall with a piercing shatter. My father lets go and backs away, looking around him in fear of the forces at work surrounding his child.

“Go to your room,” he orders, trying to hide the tremor in his voice, “now!”

I scurry upstairs and hide under the covers, afraid to peek out from under my cave of darkness.

Later that night, Mommy brings me dinner and tucks me in.

“Try to get some sleep, sweetheart. Everything will be better in the morning, okay?” She kisses my forehead and I just watch her with skeptical eyes. “Night, night.” She whispers.

She rises from the bed and turns out the light. The unfamiliar blue light of the moon and shadows of the branches outside invade my room. They’ll be here soon.

“Mommy!” She turns around, “I’m afraid of the monsters, Mommy. They’re gonna get me.”

She smiles reassuringly. “Honey, you know monsters don’t exist. I’ll leave the light on and the door open, okay? Get some sleep, sweetie.”

She pads out of my room, the yellow sliver of light coming from the hall a small comfort. I settle back down into the warm bed only to be startled when the lamp flickers on. It’s only Aiden, but my anger from today bursts out of its seams, “Go away! I hate you! It’s your fault my parents don’t love me. You hear me?! Go away!”

Aiden, hurt by my words, melts away downstairs and I watch through his eyes as Mommy enters from upstairs to confront my father.

“You shouldn’t get so angry with her, Phillip. She’s just a little girl.”

His head snaps up. “Little girl?” He sneers, “You’ve seen what she can do, right? Susan, that’s no little girl. That’s – Susan, that’s a monster.”

Mommy whirls around to face him. “Don’t you dare talk about her like that!”

He rises from the table. “The things that are happening around her, they’re not normal, and they’re getting stronger. For the love of God, Susan, what’s to stop her from turning on us?!”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous!”

“Susan, that thing is like an uncontrollable animal. We have no idea what it’s capable of!”

Mommy is at the table and he has followed her, tainting her with his words. “We have a demon living with us right under our own roof,” He looks up, as if he is regarding Aiden, before turning back to her, “Susan, this is gonna stop, and it’s going to stop now, before we end up crazy or dead.”

A beat passes. She doesn’t want to accept it. “We agreed to look after a little girl, Susan, but not this. Not this.”

No wonder they hate me.

The monsters zip under my bed and I sit up, turning the lamp on in the hopes it might scare them away. Aiden huddles close, watching out at the intimidating darkness.

“There’s no reason to be scared, Aiden. We’re going to sleep, and nothing is gonna happen.”

The words don’t do any good, as the monsters can hear me. They take over my toy, which smashes his cymbals feverishly. I shrivel away, but they see me and grab at me with their inky tendrils. I scream as I’m pulled off of the bed and to the floor. I scream bloody murder, terrified of what they will do. Aiden is horrified, helpless as to how to assist me.

I hear Mommy calling, the door rattling and pounding. Only when it falls victim to Phillip’s kicking does she enter and envelope me in her arms. The monsters growl and fade away, promising of a speedy return.

“Are you alright?! What happened, sweetheart?!” She looks at me with worried, frightened eyes.

“You told me monsters didn’t exist. You were wrong, Mommy. You were wrong!”

She hugs me tightly to her and I look up to see Phillip looking at me like I am one of them, the monsters. He shakes his head in disbelief. He’ll put a stop to this. Oh, that was for sure. Not that it will be in my favor.

Chapter Text

I don’t understand why I have to be here. I don’t understand why my mother has agreed to send me in to do this stupid interview. I am so nervous; my heart is in my throat. I hate talking to people, especially those that I don’t know.

Aiden senses my unease and knocks over a chair, either for my amusement or to satisfy his appetite for something to do. Either way, it irritates me.

“Stop it, Aiden! It’s your fault we’re in trouble, so cut it out!”

He groans and backs off. He’s bored. But it’s not my fault. He can go complain to someone else about his punishment. I don’t want to hear it. I was pulled into this.

My mother comes in, sitting down next to me. “He’s replaced Dr. Matthews, so he’ll be taking care of you. He seems really nice. Go on, he wants to meet you,” She nods toward the door, an encouraging smile forced onto her face. “Go on, hurry up. I’ll be right here, sweetheart.”

I have no other option. Grudgingly, I slide out of my chair and take small steps to the imposing office door. When I enter, I come to see a man sitting behind his desk, filing through paperwork. He introduces himself as Nathan Dawkins. He is all sharp angles, with wide rimmed glasses across his nose and tired, but bright eyes.

I sit awkwardly across from him, avoiding eye contact.

“Jodie, my job is to study… strange events, and then try to explain them.”

I look up at him and stare.

“Like… the things that happen around you. Right, Jodie?” I shrug, unsure of what there is to be said. Aiden tenses up behind me. No one is to know about him. Phillip has made that explicitly clear.

“Your mother tells me you have an invisible friend.”

Well… apparently, Phillip has retracted his statements. But I still don’t say a word. I will not be punished. Mr. Dawkins leans back in his chair, quiet now, dissatisfied.

“I can understand if you don’t want to talk about it, but if you did, I could help you figure it all out.”

I can’t bring myself to trust him, a stranger. Phillip will find some way to punish me if I open up. I won’t be caught in a trap like this.

Mr. Dawkins, pursing his lips, senses the tension, and begins to question me rather than make me tell him. “This friend… has he been with you a long time?”

I nod.

“Since you were born?”

I nod again.

“Is he a ghost,” he pries, “or a spirit of someone who passed away?”

I don’t know that, and neither does Aiden. I only know his name. Nothing else.

Mr. Dawkins has hit a roadblock with my lack of a response. He tries another approach. “Can you… draw him for me?” He places a piece of paper and a pencil in front of me, expectant.

Swallowing a sigh, I reach forward and attempt to draw Aiden and I the best I could. Aiden was not a subject I liked to put down on paper. In a way, it makes him more real and I don’t want him to be real. He’s a nightmare I wish would go away. The drawing amounts to little more than a stick figure and a patch of dark scribbles. I turn it over to Mr. Dawkins and await his reaction.

He eagerly begins to study the picture, devouring and interpreting the only physical representation I have ever done of Aiden.

“So… this thing is your friend… and he’s connected to you with some kind of … cord?” He looks up, waiting for me to verify the work. I say nothing. He can make it out to be whatever he wants.

He looks around. “Is he here right now?”

I nodded. He is always here…

Tentative now, Mr. Dawkins asks, “Can you tell him to do something?”

I don’t even have to ask Aiden. He immediately knocks over the snow globe on the corner of the desk that he has been eyeing for the past few minutes now. Aiden watches the flecks of white whiz around as if in a blender in fascination, kicking it around on the floor.

Mr. Dawkins is clearly startled, try as he might to compose it. I keep my eyes averted strictly on my drawing, the nightmare that had come to life from a fairy tale…

“You…tell him what to do… and it happens?” The mixture of fear and captivation is tangible in his voice.

I can feel Aiden glaring at Mr. Dawkins. He was no simple pet to be ordered around. “I don’t tell Aiden what to do. No one does. He’s like a lion in a cage. We’re tied together. He can’t go away. It makes him really angry,” I pause, watching Mr. Dawkins take in my words with complete fixation, “It’s not my fault. I want him to leave, too. He can be really scary sometimes.”

“Di-Did he do that to you?” I don’t miss the tremor in his voice as he regards the numerous scratches down my arms. He knows he’s walking on thin ice. Aiden could kill him if he asked the wrong question, could smash his skull like he wanted to smash the snow globe.

“No,” I answer calmly, “That was the monsters.”

The color drains from his face as he takes in the sight before him. An innocent little girl tied to a poltergeist and haunted by demons. The innocent part could be a little far-fetched.

As I leave the office, Mommy takes my hand after a few words with Mr. Dawkins. Aiden takes off down the hallway and I watch through his eyes, tuning out the conversation. I don’t know where he is at in the building, but he has gone into one of the rooms, an apartment where a pair of children sits dazedly watching a TV. Well, one is. A little girl is asleep on the boy’s shoulder. Aiden perches above the TV like a gargoyle, near the ceiling.

They can’t see Aiden. They don’t know he’s there. It’s impossible. So that’s why I am startled when the boy’s head snaps up, staring straight at Aiden, as if he were possessed. But he’s not. Ice blue eyes drill into Aiden, traveling through our tie and into me.

That boy doesn’t know I exist. But he… does. He knows of the paranormal. His gaze doesn’t break as Aiden melts into the ceiling and retreats to me. The boy continues to stare at the spot long after Aiden is gone.

Even as we drive away, I can still feel him watching me intently. It’s a feeling I’ve never been able to shake. It haunts me still, like the demons that hide under my bed. Perhaps… he is one of them. His eyes are theirs, supernatural, a ghost. Something that shouldn’t belong here in this world.

Chapter Text

She’s here. A new one. I watch through the door frame as she is introduced to the room across from me. She’s not alone.

Alone. I was. No. I had Dana. She still clings to me like she did that first day. The doorstep sticks to my feet. The cold. Incapacitating. Too much for Dana, my little sister. Big, round eyes nearly frozen open. The sky threatens to eat us alive.

The little girl is lost. Crying. Her parents, her mother I should say, hugs her. I have never seen eyes that haunted before. Only when they were plastered to my sister’s face. She’s asleep, and I know I should be. But I continue to stare through the crack, watching. Mom and Dad leave. Nathan kneels down next to her, speaks softly.

I am frigid. I rub my arms. Why am I cold?

Someone’s here.

I look around and the presence is gone. It knows when I question my solitude. Unnerved, I turn back to the door. Nathan is closing the door and I don’t see the girl anymore. I yawn. Maybe another day.

I saunter back to bed. Dana is curled up around her teddy bear. I climb in beside her and brush her hair away. Innocent. Why can’t we all be that innocent?

I turn over and face the wall. Dozing. Peace is close, so close…

The screaming begins.

I am rigid. I can’t move. Mother is coming. She’s coming to hurt Dana. I roll over and on top of her. Must protect her. She didn’t deserve it. I did it. It was my fault. It won’t happen again. But Mother doesn’t listen. The screaming continues. Glass shatters. Wood snaps. The walls cave in. The screaming… It never stops it is never-ending.

Why are you screaming?! YOU STUPID BRAT! What have you done?! Do you know how much pain you have caused me, you good for nothing piece of shit?!

Alex. She speaks. Dana. Alex, are you okay? I can’t respond. I’m shaking. Mother could still be here.

The screaming has stopped. It’s over. Dana Hugs me. It’s okay. I Love you. You can have Buster tonight.

Dana. She’s okay. Mother is gone. It’s all gone. It’s over with. We’re safe. The darkness is safe…

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Months pass. I don’t speak to the new girl. I don’t have the nerve or the will. She doesn’t notice me. Not that I need the attention.

I watch through the door crack. Her parents have returned. The girl is lifeless. Dead inside. She doesn’t respond to the words that should have sliced her open. The words I wish I could hear. The tears that I wish were about me.

They walk away. Only then does she show any emotion and begins to bawl.

I envy her. We never got a goodbye. We don’t have anyone missing us. We don’t have anyone at all.

Chapter Text

My new life is, oddly enough, not too bad. Philip is gone. I don’t have to deal with the constant bombardments of demolishing my self-worth and esteem. Mr. Dawkins and Mr. Freeman are really nice people. They seem to care, despite the long hours spent experimenting on me. I don’t mean picking away at my skin. I just mean running simple tests, like questionnaires and moving objects while monitoring my head. It’s complicated stuff to explain.

I work with my own teacher, so no more school. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t have to deal with Aiden and his inability to restrain himself from misbehaving when he’s bored. But it’s lonely. I don’t have any real friends. Only Aiden.

But it’s a step up from where I was, so perhaps I should be grateful. At least here they have a chance of figuring out what’s wrong with me and how, if I’m lucky, to get rid Aiden once and for all.

I’m playing with my toys when Aiden, out of sheer boredom, looks up to see a pair of dark eyes looking at me. I start.

A little girl stands in the middle of my room. She clutches a teddy bear to her chest, apprehensive. Her short, pixie cut spikes in every direction.

“Hi.” She says in a small voice. I smile at her, unsure of my voice or why she was here in the middle of my room.

“I’m Dana. What’s your name?”

“Jodie.” I say, my voice rough. I don’t use it that much.

“Cool. I live across the hall with my brother, Alex. I’m happy I finally got to meet you.”

I nod my head, still uncertain about what to say. She notices my bunny on the bed. “I like you bunny.”

“That’s Bunny Gruff.” I replied.

“He’s really cute. Can I hold him?”

I get up and hand him to her and she squeezed him to her chest, mushing him together with her bear. “Ohh, I think Buster likes him very much.”

“They’d make a cute couple.” I state.

“Yes, they would, How about we have a wedding for them?”

I shrug. “Why not?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. Standing there, like a ghost, was a boy, no older than I. He is clad in dark clothing, with brown, lazy curls and blue eyes that bored right through me. He was…

“Oh, there’s Alex. Alex, this is Jodie. Jodie, Alex.” Dana pulls me to my feet and forces me to meet him.

His mouth twitches in what I think is a smile, but he says nothing. Neither do I. We just stand there, facing each other down for no real reason.

He was the one that acted possessed when Aiden found him after the interview with Mr. Dawkins… He knew something about me. I could see it in the way that he looked at me.

Does he… Is there a ghost attached to him? Aiden inspects him. No. He’s normal. But he can’t be normal. I feel like he’s peering right through me. I don’t know how. Those eyes… an electric, cold shade of blue, almost alien-like… It scared me.

“Ah, there you are!” Mr. Freeman’s voice is loud in the pained silence. He crouches down next to us. “How are we all doing today? Good?” he laughs to himself and continues, “I hate to bother you all when you’re playing, but Miss Jodie has to come with me right now. Maybe you can all play later? How does that sound?”

No one says a thing. Alex still stands and stares. I’m not sure what to say to them, so I follow Mr. Freeman outside. Dana waves goodbye as I turn back and Alex regards me with a sterile gaze.

He frightens me. The way he looks at me, like he’s trying to piece me together like a lab experiment. I hate experiments. But I don’t get to dwell on the thought much longer as I’m led into a mirrored room, filled with only a table with some cards atop it and a chair.

“Hey Jodie. How’s your day going so far?” Mr. Dawkins asks cheerily.

“Pretty good.” I answer. I take my place at the table and Mr. Freeman comes up beside me.

“Okay, we’re gonna put this on now. Remember, it’s just like a crown.” He places the odd piece of head equipment on me and reacts, “Ooohh yeah, now you look like a little princess!” I smile, though it doesn’t put me at ease. I hate this so much…

I look up at Mr. Dawkins. “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine. I’ll be right next door if you need me.” He places a reassuring hand on my shoulder before leaving. It’s just me and Aiden now. My heart is pounding and my palms are sweaty. What could possibly go wrong?

Mr. Freeman’s voice echoes through an intercom, directing instructions to me. He asks me to choose the same card as the woman in the room across from me. Simple enough.

Aiden relays the information to me and I, in turn, choose the correct card. But it’s not enough. They ask me to knock over some building blocks over in the other room. Aiden, begrudgingly, does so. He’s as sick of these tests as I am, if not more.

They continue to ask for more and more proof. Aiden is losing his patience and I’m losing my grip on him.

And just like that, something in Aiden snaps and he goes haywire. He knocks over everything in the room, destroying everything in his path until it looks as though a bomb has gone off in the room across from me. I can see the walls shake from the force of his blows in my own vision.

Aiden spares nothing or no one. The poor woman doesn’t stand a chance of escaping. The door is locked. She begins to glow red and Aiden seizes the opportunity, choking her. I can do nothing but scream at Aiden to stop. When he doesn’t stop, I scream for help. When help doesn’t come, I scream because I’m helpless.

A hand shakes me violently. Aiden, in fear for my well-being, let’s go of the woman and rushes to my aid. It’s only when he discovers that I’m not in trouble that he realizes what he’s done.

“It’s over, Jodie. It’s over.” Mr. Dawkins whispers, pulling back to observe the effect that this has all had on me.

“It will never be over.” I utter. This has hit me like a bombshell. I can’t control Aiden. I can’t control a part of myself, the most dangerous part. I can’t control this animal I am becoming.

Chapter Text

Several months have passed since the experiments. Dana and I are rather close, while Alex keeps a safe distance. He remains aloof, keeping to himself. Our relationship is no more than a few words uttered barely above a breath. I suppose that’s a good start.

One night, Cole and Nathan are working late. Dana and I stayed up with them, watching whatever random cartoons we could find at such a late hour. Alex is off in a corner, reading a book. Judging from the cover, it looks to be something about monsters. Vampires, werewolves, witches and the like. Not sure why he is into such a thing of that nature, but then again, Alex isn’t exactly someone who is normal.

But who am I to judge? I have a ghost tied to me.

Anyway, I’m about to fall asleep. Dana is actively shoving some pizza down her throat, so engrossed in the TV that she doesn’t notice when I get up to complain to Nathan about how tired I am.

He checks his watch. “Oh geez. Is that what time it is?!” He laughs in disbelief and then continues, “I’m sorry, I was concentrating on my work. I know you’ve had a long day. Hey, this morning, I got you a book. What do you say I get you tucked in and I read to you?”

The suggestion excites me. “Yes please!”

Nathan laughs and then searches his desk. “I must have left it in the other room. Why don’t you go in there and get it? I’ll finish up here and then we can go.”

“Sure I’m on it.” I head off to the adjoining room, pausing only to turn on the lights nervously. As I go in further, Aiden, to his everlasting credit, tampers with the lights.

“Stop it, Aiden! That’s not funny!” I scold him. The flickering overheads aren’t doing much to soothe my frayed nerves, as this room scares me enough as it is.

I move around a long table and spot the book. With its bright pink cover, it’s hard to miss. A book full of fairy tales, it looks to be. This ought to be good. I reach for it eagerly when it suddenly flips open and slams shut in my face. I back away.

“Aiden?” My voice shakes, “Are you doing that, Aiden?”

He can’t be doing that. He’s on the other side of the room, preoccupied with messing up some of the equations on a whiteboard.

I pick up the book and clutch it to my chest like a shield. The hairs on my arms are standing on end and the room has gotten colder. There is something…off. As I am about to leave the room, the lights go out. I can't see anything.

At least, not until they flash back on and a figure is standing not a foot away from me. A young girl, with wide eyes and covered in a dark liquid that runs down the side of her face.

I turn to run, but there is another figure, standing right behind me. A woman, this time, clearly shaken, an abnormal dent in the side of her skull with the same dark substance rushing from the wound.

Then they vanish, as if they’d never been there. Am I dreaming? Where had they come from?! Were they monsters given human form?...

Aiden didn’t offer any explanation, only watched me. I tremble, walking on unsteady feet back to the office where everyone sat, unperturbed by the disturbance.

I hand the book to Nathan, hoping he doesn’t notice my shaking hand.

“Ah, you found it! Now we can get down to the serious business of bedtime stories.” His enthusiasm cleaned my mind of the previous events. Maybe it would be alright. I just wanted to get to bed. I glanced over behind him and blanched.

There they are. Only they are looking at Nathan longingly. Their eyes are frozen, dead set on their target. Then they vanish the moment I look away. If these were monsters, then why weren’t they haunting me again? Why haunt Nathan? It doesn’t make sense…

“Jodie, are you okay?” Nathan is instantly concerned, the father in him coming out, “You look pale.” He knows something is wrong, with my lack of a response.

“She looks dead tired is how she looks!” Cole interjects, “Come on, Nathan. Let’s get her off to bed.”

“Let me finish this last episode!” Dana begs from the TV.

“You can finish it tomorrow after school, Dana.” Cole says. Dana mumbles her disapproval.

Nathan rises from his chair, guiding my rattled frame to the door. The phone rings and Cole answered. “Oh, Nathan. It’s for you.” He hands the phone innocently to him.

Somehow, I don’t want him to take the call.

Nathan replies tiredly and as the call progressed, his entire demeanor shifts. The phone falls from his hand and he leans on the table. It was alarming how quickly he'd gone from upbeat to utter shock in a matter of minutes. Cole puts a hand to his shoulder, trying to comfort him and figure out what was going on. The cartoons go silent and Dana’s protest could be heard. I turn to see Alex holding the remote out of Dana’s reach, watching Nathan intently.

Nathan’s voice is barely audible. “My wife… Daughter… They were coming back from my mother’s... Truck… Drunk driver.. Wrong side of the road!” The story comes out in garbled bits and pieces, but they all add together when he turns around, the look in his eye the equivalent of a man being burned at the stake.

“They’re dead.”

Those two words, much like the two spirits I saw, are full of denial, unable and unwilling to comprehend what had happened. The words are spoken, but not understood, the definitions forgotten.

Cole is clearly taken aback and unsure of what to do, as Nathan’s wide, blue eyes looked to him for an explanation, for a second chance, a way out, a way to fix what had been wronged.

“Um…Kids, let’s get you off to bed. Nathan, you stay right here. I’ll be right back.”

Cole herds us off like lost sheep and Nathan remains, staring after us, seeing us, but not perceiving us as real.

Dana doesn't understand. Alex is unmoved. Maybe he doesn’t care. Or maybe he hides his emotions well. But I know. I think I’ve known from the moment those specters looked at Nathan.

His wife and daughter had been trying to communicate with him through me. I am their vessel.

Chapter Text

I lie awake. Sleep does not come. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I have a heart. But that’s dangerous. Having a heart means having feelings. Feelings mean pain. Pain means…

No. Pain doesn’t mean anything. She’s not here. Not here. Never will be here. Have to stop thinking like that.

I look over. Dana is asleep. I envy her that. Wish I could fall asleep that fast. I also wish she didn't have to see all that went down today... But that was out of my control.

Something brushes my cheek. I jerk my head. No one there. I stiffen. Jodie acted strange today. Very strange. Like she saw something we couldn’t.

And then Mr. Dawkins and that whole debacle. Poor man. Losing his family. I don’t know what I would do. Of course, Dana is my only family. I don’t have a wife or kids, nor do I want them. But it must still be hard nonetheless.

I shift again. Someone vies for my attention, be it the living or otherwise. I get out of bed. The floor is cold. In fact, the entire room is cold. This is getting to be a routine thing.

I go to the door and pull it open, peering out into the hallway. The lights spark to my left.

Jodie.

She walks down the corridor, entering into the light. The one spot of light would then vanish and reappear further down the hall. She follows these lights like a puppet pulled by strings. I’m not sure what to think.

Don’t think. Follow. Then you’ll find out what’s going on. Figure it out. Calculate. Experiment. Then you’ll know.

She turns and I am after her. I am a shadow. I can’t be discovered. They don’t know I exist anyhow.

Jodie lets herself into…Mr. Dawkin’s office? What is she doing? He’s not there… Is he? Why would he still be in his office at this hour?...

She disappears. I catch the door, slipping inside. She’s gone inside the second door. I can hear weeping through the opening. I freeze. I don’t dare venture further. I can hear perfectly well.

“Jodie…What are you doing here?! It’s late!” Mr. Dawkins growls, “Go back to bed.” Tired. Broken. Defeated. Mr. Dawkins. Then silence.

I tiptoe to the door. Peek through the crack. Can’t believe what I see.

Jodie grabs Mr. Dawkins’s hands and her head proceeds to snap back violently like an old guitar string. Her eyes open. Milky white. No iris. No pupil. Nothing. A sea of blank emptiness.

Dreaming. I must be.

The words leaving Jodie’s mouth are not in her voice. It’s that of an adolescent girl. Then it transforms to that of a grown woman. How… Not right. Not right in the head. I’m either insane or she is.

No. Possession. She’s possessed by something. I’m not one to put much stock in the supernatural. But this…

Mr. Dawkins cannot take it. He denies what is happening, then he’s begging the voices to stay. Jodie blinks. The innocent child has returned. Mr. Dawkins has not realized that they’ve left, whatever they were. He continues to beg. Jodie tells him that they’ve gone.

But they’re not. At least, not in his eyes. Those cold, sad eyes. Grieving. Nothing will bring back his family. Not even Jodie, who walks past me without a second glance. She’s too tired to notice. But I know she notices. She knows I’m there.

Or, at least, some part of her does.

Chapter Text

Years go by. I don’t know where they go. They’re hiding somewhere in the past. We grow old. Older. Towers fall. War rages. The world is changing. Yet, we don’t. We don’t age. Our minds stay the same. We don’t even leave the compound.

At least, she doesn’t. Why? She’s dangerous. She speaks with the dead. I don’t know how. There’s something wrong with her and I can’t put my finger on it. No one can. Not even the doctors, who experiment and test her daily.

If they can’t figure out what’s wrong with her, then she’s a lost cause, unable to be fixed.

Yet, though she can’t be pieced together, she still fascinates me. Maybe it’s the lure of the unknown. Maybe it’s all her dark secrets. It’s obvious that she has many. Many that she’s not willing to share with anyone.

Well, almost.

She and Dana seem to have grown close. I find it odd. Not because I’m her older brother. No, it’s the fact that they’re completely different. Dana is spunky and outgoing while Jodie is reserved and quiet. Not unlike me. I don’t understand the sudden connection.

The most basic scientific fact explains it. Opposites attract. Simple as that.

It’s not that I’m jealous. Why would I be? I don’t have the guts to strike up a conversation with Jodie. We’re too much alike. Too many similarities. It wouldn’t work. Clashing. No correlation.

Yet, I still observe her from afar, in the hopes of deciphering her. I thought that maybe the older we got, the more cracks would show. The more I would see inside the chinks of her armor.

No such luck. Maybe I’ll never figure her out. Why even try?

I don’t know.

Chapter Text

Birthday parties are my literal version of hell. I don't want to do this. I'd rather be shot dead than show my face here. Anxiety chokes me as Nathan drives me up to the house.

"Listen, I'm not sure. Maybe I shouldn't go."

Nathan, of course, doesn't understand. In fact, he's surprised. "Jodie, you've been begging me for weeks. You're not gonna back out now!"

I struggled to explain my reasoning. "I don't know anybody there. They might all hate me... and this dress is awful!" I pull on the blue fabric with the flowered print to prove my point.

"Listen, take a deep breath. There's no reason to panic. I'm sure everyone will love you. You'll have fun and maybe meet some new friends," he reassures me, "Go on."

Of course, to Nathan's ultimate credit, he won't give. I've got no choice but to go through with this.

I climb out of the car and grudgingly accept my birthday gift, a book of poetry by Poe, fifty years old and very rare. This might be something right up Alex's alley, but definitely not in a popular school girl’s taste, especially one I barely know. Why am I even thinking of the kid across the hall? How do I even know he likes Poe?

I shove that thought from my head. I don't know where that came from, but it doesn't need to be going through my brain. I have enough trouble with that anyway.

Aiden, surprise surprise, is looking forward to the party. I'm not sure if it's because he thinks he'll find things to break or people to mess around with, but he's in high spirits. This makes me dread the party furthermore.

I press the doorbell, and I’m greeted by Kirstin's mother, who seems a little too eager for me to come inside and she's a little too much in a rush to be out of the house. Kirstin bursts in, only to be disappointed when she realizes that it's only me. I wasn't supposed to be here. At least, she didn't want me here. She snatches her present from my hands and leads me into the living room.

There's a crowd of people gathered around the table. Two girls and two guys. I'm, of course, introduced as the kid that works in Unit Four with Kirstin's mom. The outcast.

One of them, a blond haired guy with an English accent, perks up. "Unit Four? The paranormal department?"

"Oooo, whatcha do there?" The other guy jokes, a deep voiced kid who looked like he gave little to no cares about life, "Bend spoons or speak to dead people?"

I don't even get a chance to deny this before Kirstin is already exclaiming that she has beer upstairs and then gives us chores to do. I'm in charge of the music. Great. That's at least something I can handle.

The lights are turned down and I carefully sift through the collections of CD's. I'm torn between Seether and Puddle of Mudd. I end up choosing the former as I hadn't listened to them in quite a while.

Almost immediately, one of the girls, Emma I think was her name, disses my taste and changes the tune, claiming my music was 'garbage.'

Dismayed, I go back and sit on the couch, turning down the beer and the weed that was offered to me and watch quietly from afar. I wish I had never begged Nathan to go. What was I thinking? That this would be a blast? It's been anything but so far. I feel so isolated and ostracized. I don't belong here. I'd rather be hanging out with Dana, and yes I daresay, Alex. Sullen as he is, he at least has the good decency to not insult me to my face. Alex, with his long curls and icy eyes, is dangerous, but he seems to be a far greater lot to hang with than these people.

The Englishman takes a seat beside me. I don't want to talk, but, again, it seems I have no choice. This is becoming a recurring theme.

"Hi, I'm Matt. Jodie, right?"

I nod slowly, offering a small smile. The awkwardness is so thick I can taste it...

"I've never see you at school before. You don't take classes on base?"

"I'm in a different program with my own teacher." I mutter.

"Right.. I'm sure I would have remembered seeing you around before." He smiles sweetly. The words are meant to be flirtatious, but why would he be saying that to me? I'm not anything worth flirting with, and I don't know how to navigate romantic waters anyhow.

"So, you work with Kirstin's mother?"

"I've never met Kirstin before," I state bluntly, "Her mom works in my unit and that's why I was invited."

He seems to be running out of questions to ask me that are considered normal and non- prying. So he asks one that seems to have been plaguing him all afternoon.

"Can I... can I ask you something?"

Uh oh.

"Why are you in Unit Four?"

How appropriate. Unit Four is the Paranormal Department. Why would a normal, quiet girl like me be involved with the DPA? Honestly, I wish I had a better answer, because I myself don't have a clue. And it's too hard to explain to someone I don't know.

"I'd... rather not talk about it."

Matt, having somehow guessed what a tricky question it was, becomes upset with himself.

"I'm sorry. Damn, I'm so stupid. I hope I haven't like, offended you or anything."

"No, no. It's okay." How was he to know that it was a challenging topic for me to explain? He couldn't possibly have.

Another awkward beat passes. Aiden is busy trying to figure out a way to consume the cake and when he realizes he can't, he begins to try and write obscenities in the frosting. I am derailing him from that when the song changes and Matt exclaims, "Oh, a slow dance! You up for it?"

His enthusiasm makes me slightly anxious. I've never been able to dance, let alone with someone else.

"I don't... I don't really know how."

"Oh, that's alright," he interjects, "I don't really know how to, either."

Oh, great. I know he's lying, given that smug look on his face. I’m immediately uncomfortable as he ushers me out into the middle of the room, guiding my hands to his neck and placing his own on my hips. I hate this because I feel very vulnerable and I don't know where to look, so I just glance off to the side, hoping the song will end soon.

"You know, I'm sure you hear this all the time, but you're really pretty."

I can feel Aiden's gaze snap up and rage oozes out of him as he takes in the sight. My head is jumbled, trying to figure out what to say, how to keep Aiden at bay, and what this guy's intentions were.

"Thanks."

It’s the only safe thing to say. It brushed off the comment without seeming too rude and it showed Aiden that I wasn't trying to fuel the fire. But Matt isn't satisfied with my answer.

"You're not like other girls. There's something... special about you."

I snort. "I guess you could say that." Aiden watches on carefully.

The music is building and the room is smoky from the candlelights and the secondhand smoke from the weed. But it's not enough to hide the fact that Matt is sliding his hands lower, past the safe zone of my hips...

I yank them back up, but it's not enough. He keeps leaning into me, asking for a kiss, and I finally have to push him away.

"Thanks for the dance Matt, but I think I'll pass."

He seems slightly stunned that I turned him down, but I know Aiden is about to skyrocket out of the roof because he's so pleased that I shot him down. I smirk.

The music is turned down low, and I hear the asian girl, Jen, shout, "Guys, guys! Why doesn't Jodie give us a demonstration of her super mega powers?!"

They're on me like bees to honey. A seed of panic grows. They can't possibly know I have Aiden, or any sort of powers... Just because I live and work in the DPA doesn't mean anything to that degree... Of course, once Jen has addressed the elephant in the room, they all believe her.

"Great idea! I'd pay to see that!"

"Oh forget it. It's just a load of bull."

"Yeah, come on Jodie. Show us what you can do."

"Alright Jodie, you up for a demonstration?"

They're all urging me, pushing me, despite my protests. Aiden is even in on it, all but unwilling to show off. As tempting as that sounds, I know it would end in disaster.

"No, no... I don't have anything to sh-show." I shrug, hoping they don't notice my voice is shaking.

"I told you guys. It's all bullshit." Emma sneers.

But I'm not bothered that much. In fact, I'm relieved when Kirstin has become distracted by the cake and presents. They all flood over to the table, following her like mice do the Pied Piper. At least the attention is off of me right now.

Kirstin rips open one gift, her day made when she finds it to be a racy thong. After a few jokes about using her mom's underwear and her future lovers being grateful, she moves on to the next present, which just happens to be mine. My stomach drops. Her reaction, as I feared, wasn't so enthusiastic.

"What is that?" Someone asks in revulsion, as if they were looking at a dead animal.

"An old book. It smells funky." Kirstin wrinkles her nose.

"It’s a... really rare collection. Poems by Edgar Allen Poe." I try to explain, hoping that maybe offering the name would make her a bit more keen on accepting the book.

"Edgar Allen who?"

Nevermind...

"What, did you steal this from your grandpa's library?"

It stung that they were making fun of my gift. Nathan probably went through a lot of trouble to get his hands on this. I try to defend it.

"No, it's really rare-"

"Yeah," Emma laughs, "just like your dress."

Ouch. Another diss not only toward me, but toward Nathan, who insisted I wear something nice rather than something casual, making me look like I missed a memo. My cheeks turn bright red.

"No, seriously. Is this a joke?! I can't believe you came all the way to my birthday party just to give me this old crap!" Kirstin snarled, throwing the book on the table. And just like that, the mood in the room grew darker.

"And she thinks she's so clever, but she's just a little lab rat." Emma jeers, taking a puff off of her cigarette.

"A freaky little lab rat." Jen adds.

"Yeah, she's been following me around like a puppy all evening," Matt stood up, his voice taking on a nasty edge, "begging for it."

It's a slap in the face, not because of what he insinuating, but because of the hypocrisy. He, if anyone, was the one harassing me. But no one would believe that now.

"Oh, and she's a slut too?"

"Yeah, she's a slut. A slut and a witch. We should... do something to her."

"What do you do with witches? You burn them."

Emma snags my arm and jams the burning end of her cigarette into my skin. I scream, pain flying throughout my limb as I try to fight. That's all it takes.

They seize me, a tangle of arms and legs. I'm struggling and yelling for all my worth, but it's no use. They are many and strong. They carry me out of the living room and throw me into the small storage closet by the stairs, locking the door behind me.

I cry and beg for them to release me, but the music was cranked up to drown me out. They had no hope of hearing me, even if they wanted to. The door won't budge, no matter how many times I pound on it. I give up, curling up in a ball and letting my tears take a hold of me, a helpless animal in a cage.

I knew I had been right to not want to come to the party. I was asking for trouble, and as much as I hated the horrible comments indirectly aimed at Nathan, I couldn't help my anger at him. If he hadn't made me go, if he hadn't forced me to wear this dress, if he hadn't made me give Kirstin an antique present I knew she would hate, perhaps this party might have been a bit more enjoyable.

But I know none of that matters. Their hatred runs deeper than what is on the outside. They picked on me because I am different. Because I am the unknown. And nobody likes the unknown.

I'm so lost in my anger and self-pity that I don't realize that the door has been slammed open until the light assaults my eyes. At first, I'm afraid they've come back to get me and continue their awful torture, but there was no one there.

Aiden. He's saved me. I crawl out on my hands and knees, barely able to stand without falling. I need to leave before they find me... But not without them knowing what they did to me was cruel.

Oh, yes. They would learn the true meaning of cruelty.

"Go, Aiden." I whisper.

With a ghostly hiss, Aiden disappears into the living room. All I hear next are terrified screams and then agonized cries.

When they silence, I stumble my way outside.

A car pulls up and Kirstin's mother rushes to me, frantically asking where her daughter is. When I don't reply, she bolts inside.

Shortly afterward, Nathan arrives. I'm so fixated on the mother's pleas for her daughter to wake up that when Nathan grabs my shoulders, I jump, startled back to reality. A cold shudder runs up my spine.

"Let's go home." His voice is soft, but knowing. He knows it was a mistake, this whole party.

As I climb in the back, I'm surprised to see Alex sitting there, staring out the window at the chaos ensuing in the house with wide, concerned eyes. He's wearing all black, his shaggy curls tumbling down over his forehead. He's too tall to fit comfortably in the back, but he's too preoccupied to complain.

I don't say anything to anyone, nor are any questions asked. The gravity of the situation has sunk in on me. I will be in deep trouble. I've assaulted, if not killed, every one of those kids. Well, Aiden did. But that's a moot point.

I am guilty because I not only let him do it, but I told him to. Not that anyone needs to know that, but just as well. It's not looking good for me.

I feel a hand come over mine and I look over to see Alex, still staring out the window, but his long, pale fingers encompassing my hand. The boy with the icy eyes is trying to what I think is comfort me. This is news. The boy that used to not –and still doesn't- show any expression is now trying to ease my pain.

Chapter Text

Jodie has changed just a bit. Fishnet stockings, plaid skirt, a lacy, black shirt and short black hair with deep blue bangs. It’s a look that shouldn’t work on Jodie, but oddly enough, it does. I don’t know how I should feel about that. She’s certainly grown. On the outside, at least.

She’s currently throwing a tantrum of massive proportions. She stomps her foot and flails her hands. I’m surprised she’s not rolling around on the floor.

“I didn’t ask to be different!” She yells in Nathan’s face, “I just wanna go out and have friends and be like other girls my age!”

“You’ll never be like them. You need to get used to that.” Mr. Dawkins shuts down the argument that has been going on for a full ten minutes. Jodie is defeated, a pitiful sight, really. She gives a vehement cry as he leaves. Mr. Freeman attempts to comfort her as she slouches down in her chair, but all he gets is a passive snarl in response.

She just wanted to go to a party with some friends of hers. Guess she forgot what happened at the last party she attended. I should feel sorry for her, but I don’t. She needs to know what it’s like to grow up. That was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

Mr. Freeman sees me peering in through the outside doorway and narrows his eyebrows, shooing me away. Asshole…

As I leave, I steal a glimpse back into the room. Jodie has moved over to the couch and is beating it’s cushions in with her fists. What a pathetic creature…

I stride across the dim hallway to my room, cringing as Jodie plugs her guitar into her amp and proceeds to peel the paint off the walls with the abhorrent solo she’s attempting to play. It’d be a lot nicer if they gave her an instrument that was a little more pleasing to the ears like, say, a flute?

When I enter my room, or rather my section of the room, as Dana has rearranged the furniture so that we each have our own place to sleep, I find my sister sitting on the futon, legs crossed and flipping through the channels on the tube.

She’s trying to be like Jodie, with her gel-spiked hair and her dark makeup. Or maybe she’s going through that same punk phase with no influence from Jodie whatsoever. It still annoys me. She looks trashy, and besides that, she does idolize Jodie to a certain degree. The girl can kill her for fuck’s sake! The way she was tearing her couch apart alone speaks volumes. I don’t want Dana close to anyone with such a dangerous aura.

God, my sister is an idiot… Looking is okay, but never get too close. Confined animals bite back at curious bystanders.

I go to my computer, which is barely visible in the stacks of books and papers that surround it. I shuffle through them as I sit down. College applications, resumes, brochures… I was even offered a spot at Columbia University. I hear they have a great genetics program…

Fuck me… I’m about the most interesting person you’ll meet. Who sits around, does their homework, and actually tries to figure out what they want to do with their life on a Saturday night while everyone else is out partying?

Me. This guy right here.

On the bright side, while they’re all wasting away on their friend’s couches feeling sorry for themselves, I’ll be on top of the world, living the high life. I’ll be the most envied scientist and engineer they’ll ever have the privilege of seeing on TV. Those guys can all rot. I’ll be their king and they can scuttle about like the cockroaches they are.

You’ll be nothing, you hear me?! Nothing! You won’t add up to anything, you worthless piece of shit. You or that wretched brat. You-

Yeah… King of the world, alright. Mother always assured me of that. I’d never be anything less.

I wonder how being a slave might treat her. Probably not too well would be my guess, considering she’s dead.

There’s a rapping at the door. The springs in the couch squawk as Dana gets up to answer it.

“Heeey, Jodie! I thought you were going to the party!”

“Change of plans. Where’s Alex?”

“In there. Why? What’s- Oh hey, Cole.”

“Just stay there, Dana.”

Oh great, looks like this application will have to wait. Have to deal with Miss Temper Tantrum. I’m about to spit out a remark to her when I spin around and get a good look at her. Her smoky eyes are fiery, burned by a determination that made me sit back and revere her. With her bratty outfit and angered expression, she looked exactly like any rockstar should.

“Come on, we’re going.”

Going? I hadn’t planned on attending any event this fine, rainy evening. I told her as such.

“You have to go. I’m kinda outta options now.” Her eyes flash to Mr. Freeman, who has been notably silent about this whole affair. He stands stick straight next to her. Rigid, unmoving. A soldier obeying his commanding officer.

Jodie… officer….

His eyes are milky white. Nothing else. No pupils, iris, nothing…

Jodie. Little girl. Head snapped back. Violin string. Nathan. Woman. Teenager. voices. Voices VOICES!!

She did this. What is it? Possession?! But how?! She’s inhabited in her body. She’s still herself. Her eyes are normal.

No. There’s something else. There’s other forces at work here. I’ve seen them, felt them… I feel them now.

Now she wants to get me in trouble too?

“No. I just need someone else to go with me.”

Why me?
“Dana is too loud. She’ll get us in trouble”

As if I need anymore reason for Mr. Dawkins to hate me.

“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll be back before he even knows we’re gone.” She assures me.

Right… I think this is the peer pressure I’ve always been warned about.

“Please, Alex? You’re the only one I can trust.”

She doesn’t have good tastes in trust…

“I know. But besides, you need to get out more. Living like a hermit cannot possibly be good for your health.”

She’s not one to judge lifestyle choices.

She throws me back a coy smile, her glistening lips curling up. However, her dark eyes show none of that confidence. She’s steadfast, but she’s nervous. That’s never a good combination.

I get up and follow her and Mr. Freeman back through the room. Jodie checks the hallway for possible sentries, then mutters, “Yeah, I know. But it’s too late to turn back now.”

Who the hell is she talking to? I didn’t say anything.

“Alex, where are you going?” Dana asks, grabbing my arm.

I’ll be right back, I tell her

She murmurs okay, but her eyes tell me she’s not convinced of my answer.

I don’t dwell on that as we move through the dark hallways. Mr. Freeman still hasn’t said one word or even acknowledged me since Jodie’s fit. Something is very wrong. Mr. Freeman is the most outgoing person here, save for my little sister. Why is he just following Jodie around like a puppy on a leash? He cannot be possessed. There’s no such thing. I wish I can convince myself it’s all a joke, but his eyes are no laughing matter.

Suddenly, he stops in front of me.

“Evening, Cole. Jodie.”

Oh shit. The night watchman. God damn it, Jodie.

I back up into the darker portion of the hallway, which hid me from sight. Maybe it’s a good thing I wear black all the time.

“Little late for a daytrip, isn’t it?”

From my view, Jodie is visibly scrambling for an excuse as to why she was out so late.

“I’m um… I’m actually sick,” She looks down and hugs her stomach, “I’m feeling sick. So we were gonna go out and uh, get some fresh air.”

Concerned, the watchman asks, “You okay? You want me to call the infirmary?”

“No! No, there’s no need. Uh, Cole’s looking after me. Right, Cole?”

He doesn’t respond, as expected. Slow clap for Jodie for great planning skills.

“Yeah, so….” She trails off, turning to leave.

I’m ready to bail. With any luck, I can sneak back into my room and act as though I knew nothing about this whole scheme.

But I’m committed now. What will Jodie do if I don’t follow through? Kill me? Her couch sure suffered, and it wasn’t the one that told her that she couldn’t go to this stupid party in the first place.

“What’s up, Cole? Cat got your tongue?”

Jodie freezes, flipping around, terrified.

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..” Mr. Freeman grunts. So the man can still make use of his voicebox. But did she make him do that? Or is it Mr. Freeman actively struggling to break free of whatever supernatural grip Jodie has on him?

“He, uh, he lost his voice. I think it’s like uh, a virus or something. That’s- that’s more than I’ve gotten out of him all- all day long, so…” She clenches her hands together.

Great Jodie. No one is going to believe that horseshit. Not even my sister. God himself must be groaning.

“Hope it’s not contagious, buddy. You should be in bed if you ask me. Safer for all of us. Go on now.” He waves the pair on.

What in the actual fucking name of Christ….? The DPA needs to seriously work harder on finding people with actual brains...

Even Jodie’s disbelief can be seen on the back of her head as she walks away. Only when she’s passed through the sliding glass doors does she turn around, a panicked look on her face.

Now it’s my turn… I don’t imagine that the guard will think I’m sick too. I’m worse at acting than Jodie, if that can even be believed.

As casually as I can muster, I stroll out into the lobby. I’m not sure how to go about making the guard think that I’m going for a walk, but I figured the best way is to ask him.

“Evening, Alex? You need something?”

Or he can ask me…

I struggle to find my voice. Uhhh… I can see Jodie and Mr. Freeman out of the corner of my eye, headed for the parking lot, walking as slow as they can manage without looking conspicuous.

Wondering if I could walk outside.

“I’d be happy to fetch an escort for you.”

Escort?

“Sorry, kid. Department policy. Can’t have you walking around outside the premises without an escort if you’re underage.”

But I’m not a subject that needs one. Hell, I’m not even a subject!

“Kid, it’s policy. I don’t care who you are or what you are. Orders from Nathan. I want my ass covered.”

I don’t give a damn what Mr. Dawkins says.

“I’ll arrange an escort back to your room if you keep up that tone.”

You can’t do that.

“Oh yes, I can.” He reaches for the phone. Jodie is standing outside of Mr. Freeman’ss car. He is in the driver’s seat waiting. Fuck. What do I do?

Split second. I yank the receiver from the guy’s hand and grab the first available item that can be used as a weapon. A coffee cup, unfortunately. I sling the cup and its hot contents toward the guard’s face.

He yelps and covers his face. I run for the door, and alarms are instantly going off. Jesus fucking Christ, what the fuck am I doing?

I don’t stop to answer that question as I bold out into the icy rain. Jodie frantically waves to the trunk and I dive in. She hurdles herself in after me, suddenly in very close quarters with me, and slams the trunk shut.

“Go, Aiden, go!”

Aiden? Who the hell is Aiden-

The car zooms forward at full velocity and I’m rolling onto Jodie and then over her as the forces slam into us at full effect.

Wherever we were headed, it wasn’t worth this amount of work. I should’ve stayed home and finished that application…

 

Who the fuck is Aiden?!

A coldness comes over me with the sound of silence.

“Stop the car.” Jodie orders.

The vehicle comes to a gentle halt. I can feel it shake as a door is shut and than an assault of rain as the lid to the trunk is opened. Mr. Freeman’s dead eyes show no expression as we climb out.

What the fuck are we doing here?!

“You’ll forgive me, right, Cole? I’ll be back soon. And don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

What the fuck-Who the hell is Aiden?!

“Aiden, take him out into the forest. Make sure he’s safe.”

Mr. Freeman turns around and marches into the woods alongside the road, disappearing into the mist.

What the fuck is going on? Where is he going? Why is he following you around like this?

“He’s a ghost.”

Who? What? Mr. Freeman?

“Aiden. He’s a spirit. He’s tied to me. We can’t be apart.”

This is what the doctors can’t cure you of? A spirit tied to you! I don’t believe this! You mean to tell me that he’s been the cause of all the bizarre phenomenon’s that have been plaguing you?!

“He can do a lot of things. That’s all you need to know.”

She has a ghost tied to her, and she tells me I can’t know more?! That’s not fair!

“I don’t have time to explain.”

Yes, you do! I deserve an explanation right now!

“I will tell you later.”

Later…right…

“Look Alex, I wanted to come to this party and I want to enjoy it as much as I can without-“

Without what? Worrying that Mr. Freeman won’t find his way back? That we won’t suffer too much from the beating Mr. Dawkins will give us when he finds out about this? That I won’t be arrested for hurling coffee in that guard’s face because you dragged me into this shit?!

“You could have chosen not to go.”

What other choice did I have? You didn’t let me stay. Why you came to me in the first place, I’ll never know!

“Guess I won’t either.” She’s looking past me now and there’s a frigid wind blowing past me. The rain comes down harder. We’re not alone anymore.

I look around at the darkened woods. Something’s out there. Let’s get to this damned party. I’m soaked and freezing.

She turns and glides down the road, holding her hands to her arms. She can feel it, too. She knows.

Shitty place to have a party. Some bar out in the middle of nowhere. The red lights of the dimly lit sign are my first hint of danger. Red isn’t a good color choice.

Jodie’s blue bangs fall in her face. “This is the place. The girls must be inside already.”

I don’t miss that shaky dip in her voice. We’re doomed.

She begins to walk forward and I grab her hand. She turns back and her eyes ask why. I shake my head. This isn’t a good idea.

She turns around and pulls from my grasp. Stubborn. How typical.

What other choice do I have? Can’t leave Jodie. She’ll get hurt. But the road…. It’s tempting.

But what will I say? I’m sorry, Mr. Dawkins. I didn’t mean to throw coffee into that watchman’s face. I had what they call a knee-jerk reaction. I couldn’t resist the temptation. It was too much. I’m sorry. Temptation was too much to handle. I couldn’t resist.

I just wanted it. I wanted one. One cookie! Was it too much to ask for?!

The remains of the treat are knocked from my hand. They crash to the ground in a million shards. All I wanted was a cookie. I don’t get many that often, if at all. Now, I don’t even get one. I get a million. A million cookies all in bits. They should taste good, but they don’t.

Eat it, then! You wanted that cookie! Fucking eat it, you piece of trash! Save me the effort of cleaning it up!

I’m sorry. I just wanted one. Dust gathers in my mouth and the cookie is too hard to bite down onto. I can’t do it Mommy. I can’t.

Now I’m facing the ceiling. The cookies taste like iron now. There’s a loud crash beside me. Sparkly triangles and brown morsels fly across my vision and smash into my cheek.

Oh yes, you will. You’ll eat every fucking one of them. Now! You little monster!

I wish cookies tasted better. But they don’t… they all taste like iron now…

I’m sorry. Maybe if I say it enough, she’ll love me. Maybe she won’t punish me. Maybe…. Maybe….

So many maybe’s. So many cookies…

She starts screaming when I can’t eat them fast enough. I’m trying, but she won’t stop screaming… I can’t make her stop. So I start screaming too. If I’m louder, maybe it’ll shut her up. Maybe, she might love me enough to notice me then.

Alex?!

Get him up! Get that out of his mouth before he chokes on it!

Where’s Jodie?!

She’s inside. Get her quickly.

Alex it’s okay. Calm down. You’re gonna be fine.

Oh my God, Jodie! Good god Jodie what’s happened?!

I just wanted to go out and be like everyone else for once….

How many dead?

Three dead men. Girl was raped, or there was at least an attempt of rape.

Make her stop…

She’s fine Alex. She’ll be okay.

Make her stop screaming.

She’s not screaming, Alex. Jodie is fine.

She won’t stop.

What?

She won’t stop screaming. Therefore, neither do I.