Why does he always do this to us? a stray voice said.
Marianna shook her head again, trying to dispel that voice. It kept popping up out of nowhere, muttering a cryptic phrase or sentence here and there, sometimes speaking in what sounded like French. She was beginning to worry about her mental state. Or worse, her fate. As much as it pained her to admit it, something was up.
Why can’t you just go away? she told the voice. For once in my life things are good, and you just have to come and ruin it for me! For us!
He walks with you, waiting to cross over. The king in the shadows is here!
Marianna let out a sigh. It was never going to stop. The constant death threats, the harassment, the need to move from town to town . . . The blanks. She shuddered. You just got a draft of air in your face–air conditioners and drafts don’t like to play nice! she reminded herself.
Something had to stop.
Sooner or later someone would snap. Marianna swore that she wouldn’t be the one. Never!
The king in the shadows is here! He creeps along the secret places. He has eyes on you always!
Marianna ignored the voice. Not again, she told herself as she reached for a package of tin foil. “I am so sick of this,” she muttered to herself, thankful that no one was in the aisle to hear her conversing with herself.
Allow me to clarify, my dear: HE is watching you!
That voice sounded like an older version of herself, she mused; at this rate it was possible for her to become a paranoid mystic of some sorts. She was going on into her late twenties though. That’s probably what I’ll be like in my thirties then, she concluded. Marianna shook her head again. “Please don’t let yourself go down that dark road!” she muttered, comparing the prices of two different toilet paper brands, but to no avail.
Am I a joke? she questioned herself.
No my dear. You are just old like me.
Like us, Marianna added.
Yes, I am the old realization of the self, but essentially we are the same.
Marianna just tossed a package of toilet paper into her cart. Shopping was something she found little to no joy in–at least when it was a chore. Stick her in a chocolate shop, or a pet supplies store, and she’d be in heaven until she became bored.
Lately life had been just that: boring. Well, a mixture of boring and harrowing, if one accounted for all the mysterious harassment she had received.
Marianna never told anyone the complete truth when the topic of her moving came up. She just couldn’t. Not only would they worry but they would think that she was crazy. Nothing hurt her more than being labelled a lunatic. She loathed the thought of someone deciding herself incompetent and then stripping her of all personal agency. No one would go to that extreme. Still . . . Marianna found herself in a cold fury at the mere suggestion.
The checkout line went by in a blur. Before Marianna could blink she found herself waiting at the bus stop. What the hell? Where had she been in between?
Oh well, you’re fine. Maybe it wasn’t that interesting, she told herself. It was cold outside, with a light breeze that smelled strongly of cut grass. It was a normal, comfortable smell. Despite the chill the sun was still out. Marianna had made sure that it would be when she first left her apartment. You need a car, she told herself. Then: you need another job to do that.
Sometimes it was hard to be happy. Money and the lack thereof had a way of making one miserable. When you had a voice in your head claiming to be you from a more privileged past life things were much worse. Or wrong?
The thirty-year old within her meant well but it was such a damn killjoy at times.
And damn frightening.
At times that voice would allude to the occult, otherworldly creatures, and a daemon lover, without ever going into detail. It just happened without conscious volition; Marianna had tried willing the voice to say something–anything–and found nothing. There was no one serious to talk to, except for her counsellor; more than anything she wished she could speak frankly with her parents about it. Her parents were both very religious people. Speaking with them would not end well, she feared; they already thought there was something wrong with her to begin with. Trying to explain this would result in nothing. You don’t need any of that.
As for herself Marianna was not religious; she didn’t believe in the supernatural, and preferred a logical explanation for everything. She had been raised to fear the lord, among other things. Sometimes it was hard to do anything. Anxiety and sometimes fear would take over, or try. In a way the constant moving also served as her own form of therapy. Marianna was building her confidence back up.
Marianna blinked once and found herself staring down at a woman laid out on her back. Her hands rested on her chest. She looked like she was dead.
He was standing over the woman’s body, looking down at her. Chrystopher, she thought to herself. What is he doing here? Chrystopher was the daemon that haunted her. She had also known a Chrystopher in life; she would always run into him at odd times, in every area she had moved to. Sometimes she couldn’t separate one from the other.
Chrystopher the daemon looked at the woman with an unreadable look on his face; his ears twitched, and his tail flicked back and forth. That was it. Other than that. He was standing still over the woman. Marianna, wake up, he said softly. Wake up, my sleeping beauty. He was speaking in an older French dialect.
The older version of herself whispered: the king in shadows watches and waits.
Chrystopher looked up, directly at the current Marianna.
The real one.
You’ve changed. He began walking towards her. The Marianna who had been dead had disappeared.
You don’t make any sense, the real Marianna said, feeling angry.
My daemoness, he mocked, you still have your signature temper!
Marianna frowned at him. This wasn’t even happening; was she speaking out loud to herself? Were people watching her, giving her a wide berth of space at the bus stop? You love to hear yourself talk, don’t you? Da’Kiri you’re still the same!
The daemon stopped. He appeared hurt. He also appeared to be older now, more opposing– if that was a possibility. I can see you. He said. I’ll be coming for you soon.
Marianna kept her silence. She looked behind the daemon, whoever he was, and saw that the dead Marianna was back. There were bite marks on her neck, as if she were mauled. But no blood. That Marianna opened her eyes; they were cold black pools which sucked up the light.
The real Marianna blinked and found herself lying on her bed. Her hands were clasped on her chest. On checking her kitchen she found that everything was put away in its proper place. When she returned to her room she crawled back into bed. “When will this end?” she whispered, closing her eyes.
When you die.