This story is by Amanda Llewellyn and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
There was blood, so much blood.
The young man’s hands shook uncontrollably as he pulled them away from the hole in his stomach. Looking down to examine his dripping fingers as though they were foreign objects, completely new to him, he realized his vision was beginning to blur. The metallic, sanguine scent was nauseating and hung heavy in the air now. He could hardly believe what was happening.
He stood right in front of me, his lost eyes searching the room for someone, anyone, who might be able to help him. If I were to lean forward, I could reach out and wipe the blood from his temple. I knew intuitively that these thoughts, these terrible, horrific things, were not coming from me, but him.
I could feel the frantic, pulsing of undiluted fear as it pumped without mercy through every constricting vein in his body. He was going to die, and a part of me didn’t care. That dark part of me, that sliver that sought solace at all costs. That part of me longed to watch him die.
I tilted my head and watched him as he looked down to see the tears in his ornately adorned tunic, and then straight at me. His name was Lex, like me. He was me.
“Die. Please just die so this can be over,” I heard him say. I looked down at the scissors in my hand.
“It won’t change anything,” I said out loud.
“We have to try,” he said. “She’s already here. She won’t stop. She will always come for us.”
A single tear streamed down his chin and onto the floor. The cool sapphire cloth covering his ravaged torso dimmed into deeper shades of violet, crimson and finally, black. His clammy skin grew hot and sticky as the fluid steadily seeped through the material. He looked up at me with horrified eyes.
“End this, Lex. For the love of God, end this!’” he screamed.
I slid down onto the linoleum floor with my back against the wall. I knew this was the one way, the only way, I could ever be free.
I began to make small cuts along the sensitive flesh on my left wrist, nothing too deep. Just flesh wounds really. Vertical cuts. Shallow at first. Now deeper. There it is. My blood. I was rocking back and forth like some common loony–a shattered man., broken to the point of fragility. How did I let this happen?
I was singing softly, some Sex Pistols song I’d loved as a kid. I looked up and away from the mess I’d made of my arms when I felt him staring at me again.
The onset of panic and relief were simultaneous, the realization hitting him all at once: he was going to die. There were shadows everywhere, skittering into my peripheral vision, just beyond my line of sight. I could hear a faint whispering, nonsensical and repetitive.
“Born to die. Not to live. Lex is already dead.”
I couldn’t block out the voices anymore. A chorus of raucous laughter punctuated the taunt. I covered my ears.
His breaths were soon coming in shallow gasps. Mine followed suit. The voices grew louder until everything around me melted away. The walls were pulsing as though they had become enchanted with some mystical heartbeat and the room seemed to shrink by the second.
I was ready: ready for the voices to stop. Ready for the visions to end. Ready to be at peace. Finally, yes, I wanted to die. We want to die. I am him. He is me. We are linked as we always have been. I closed my eyes against the pain of my mutilated wrists, and waited for death to claim me. I prayed it would come quickly.
It’s too late, the other me whispered in my head.
“Leaving so soon, darling Lex?” a strong, very real voice demanded without warning.
Startled, I opened my eyes, and saw a woman standing before me, dressed in black. She looked something like a superhero in leather and thigh high stiletto boots. Her long black hair was swept to one side, and her violet eyes peeked from beneath rogue strands covering her face.
There was silence. Utter quiet. We regarded one another for a long moment. Ryrlyn. That was her name. I wasn’t sure how I knew, but without her speaking at all, I knew that name as well as my own.
“You’re not crazy, you know.”
“Really? That’s interesting. The fact that I’m speaking to someone who isn’t here is evidence to the contrary. Not many sane people end up in a straitjacket.”
“Wish you could go back to your old life? Power meetings and long hours at the office?” she sneered.
“What do you think?”
With that, she smiled. “I think you have no idea what you want. I think that has always been your problem.”
“I don’t know what is happening to me.”
“Oh, I think you do. You just don’t want to admit it. But you will. Sooner or later, you’ll have to.”
I decided to ignore her. She was obviously not going to be a good little ghost and disappear.
“You will never learn, will you?” Her voice seemed to be fading, growing farther away.
I shook my head and opened my eyes to see if she’d gone. She was kneeling before me, reaching toward me. They’d never tried to touch me before.
“Don’t touch me,” I muttered. “I’ll scream.”
Ryrlyn laughed as she stood and walked to lounge on my bed.
“Please do. They’ll sedate you, and then they’ll patch up your wrists, and you’ll have failed yet again.”
“Go away,” I whispered again, a silent tear sliding down my cheek. “You’re not real.”
“I’m not?” she said, her brow arching. “Then why are you afraid?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you,” I said without really thinking.
She closed the distance between us and whispered in my ear, her lips brushing the skin just below. I felt her tongue and teeth graze my neck. “I can taste it, handsome. I may not be human, but I am very real.”
She pulled away, looking in to my eyes. I hated that she could see the horror.
I was beginning to get woozy. Everything was turning black.
“No, you don’t, pretty boy!” she yelled as my head hit the linoleum, the world around me falling away. The visions, the voices, Ryrlyn and all the other demons, they were all going to be gone. My last thought before the darkness would consume me was thank God.
But before I could cross the threshold into that blissful abyss, the room became engulfed by a dark, whirling aura. It was Ryrlyn. She glowed, and I watched those lavender eyes change to a deep, electric purple. Her head tilted back, and an otherworldly voice muttered a string of words in another language. Her breathing was ragged, charged with something familiar I couldn’t name.
Suddenly, my wrists no longer ached. I looked down to see I’d completely healed.
Then I heard voices just outside the door.
“Get the door open now!” I heard an orderly fumble with keys, and then drop them.
Ryrlyn, her hair now streaked with streams of silver, kneeled before me.
“You don’t get to do that. You die when I say. And not before.”
The door swung open, and Dr. Kennedy glowered my direction. He looked around frantically, a confused expression on his sweaty face, his white coat swinging in time with his hefty frame.
“It’s over 100 degrees in here. Fix it,” he barked at the orderly.
I stared up at him as though it were completely normal for me to be sitting on the floor, dripping with sweat and disoriented to the point of vomiting.
Ryrlyn chuckled behind him. My eyes widened as she leaned up against him, blowing cool air into his face.
“You look like you’re gonna pass out, doc,” she said.
He couldn’t see or hear her. Part of me was relieved. The other part was just plain pissed. I wanted to scream.
“Just get out of here,” I yelled.
Dr. Kennedy sighed. “I most certainly will not.”
“We’ll see each other again real soon, Alexandros,” she said, disappearing with an evanescent shimmer.
“My name is Lex,” I said through clenched teeth.
“You are lucid enough to know your name. That’s a good sign.” Kennedy said, clueless. “Can you tell me what happened in here?”
I shrugged, lacking the energy to do anything else.
“I’m going to up your dosage of lithium. We can re-evaluate in a few weeks.”
I heard Ryrlyn laugh inside my head.
I shook it off. She wasn’t real. She wasn’t. I crawled into my bed, covering my face with the pillow. Getting to sleep would be impossible. I closed my eyes, still fearful that when I opened them again Ryrlyn or the other me would be there; more spectral captors sent to break me.