August quickly rolled into the beginning of my freshman year of high school. Grateful to be back in school and away from the house, I joined the drill team for the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) and found a part-time job to keep me out of the house until after dinner. But in my downtime, sitting in class, or while walking to and from school and work, my mind would wander back to the underworld. No matter what was happening in my life, I was pulled back to the underworld. Constantly working on my task to talk with the spirits and demons that passed through the vast plain in the strange moonlight.
How do I slow them down so I can talk with them? Destiny did it the first time, how do I do it?
One afternoon, as the teacher droned on I felt myself spacing out into my now clear path to the underworld. This class is pointless. Staring at the teacher to look like I was paying attention.
“Then why stay here?”
Watching the teacher walk across the room I see the long-tailed demon in my peripheral. “Because I’ll get in trouble if I don’t.” Careful not to move my lips.
“I thought you were going to put trees here?” Smirking.
“Still working on it.” Hiding my annoyance by copying down what was on the board. “You’re here. I must be doing something right.” Looking back up at the teacher.
“Pfft, I’m here because I want to be. It has nothing to do with you.” Curling his tail closer around his feet.
“So … they have to want to talk to me?” Letting that idea sink in. “How do I do that?” But, he was gone and everyone in the class was starting to pack up as the homework assignment was being passed out. Frustrated, I chewed on what I just found out for the rest of the day.
A few days later, I wish I had someone to talk to. Sobbing after another emotionally decimating dinner. No one understands me. They think it’s all my fault that my step-mom treats me this way. Pulling away to get a deep breath, She told me I should be grateful for the oxygen her house provides. Silently screaming into my pillow. I can’t believe I had to apologize to her for being me! Slamming my fist against the bed.
“I don’t feel that way about you.” Came a familiar husky thought.
“I know.” Not feeling any better.
“I listen to you.”
“I know.” Feeling her essence surround me like a cool sheet. “It’s not the same with you, Nemesis. You’re not a person.”
“What does that matter?” Sounding offended.
“Nevermind.” Pushing myself up to grab a tissue. “Where have you been, Neme? A lot has been going on and you haven’t been around.”
“You’re running out of time.” Ignoring my question.
“What are you talking about?” Grabbing my backpack.
“You have to see the Devil. Remember?” Moving away from me, “Unless you’ve given up.” Settling in front of me.
“I haven’t given up. I’m just … busy.” Grabbing my easiest assignment to start on.
“You’re running out of time.” Her words sending a cold jolt up my spine and into my shoulder blades.
“Running out of time — what are you talking about? There’s no time limit.”
“Yes, there is.” Nearly pleading, “You have to get to the Devil soon or else everything will be ruined.”
“What will be ruined?” Sitting up, “You’re not making any sense.” Tilting my head as if I was thinking about my assignment.
“Stop doing this,” Fluttering my papers, “And, get to the underworld!”
“It doesn’t always work that way.” Straightening my papers.
“Make it work that way.” Sounding fierce. “He’s coming,” she whispered.
“Who’s coming? What just — ” Feeling a blanket of calm come over me, “Oh. You’re coming.” Smiling, “Hi, Chaos.” Feeling better without Nemesis. “I didn’t know Nemesis was afraid of you.” Hoping for an inside scoop.
“What did she want?” Sitting in the spot Nemesis just vacated.
“I can’t see you here.” Staring at where I think he is, “Anyway, she was saying that I am running out time to see the Devil. I’m not sure what that means.” Trying to will him to appear, “Do I have a time limit?”
“No Child, you do not. However, she does.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Giving up on doing my assignment, I wrote my name and class in the top right corner and closed the book on my paper.
“I want you to help her.” Still exuding calmness.
“Something doesn’t feel right about that, Chaos.”
“Good.” Feeling warmth spread from my knee. “That means you’re listening to your intuition. But … I need you to do it anyway.”
“Why?” Feeling a seed of dread land in my chest. “What’s going to happen if I help her?”
“More of what is happening to you now.”
Groaning, “I want out of this.” Feeling the seed deepen in my heart. “I don’t want to live through this now and, I definitely don’t want to live through it again when I’m older.” Tears springing into my eyes.
“I know, Child. But, even this will help you later in life,” he said assuredly.
“It doesn’t feel that way, Chaos.” Hot tears spilling down my cheeks.
“No, it doesn’t. Because when you go through it again, everything will be different.” Feeling him shift near my feet. “But, will you remember what you learned before?”
“I hope I remember.” Feeling my chest cave in. Wait, “Chaos, that would be unfair.” Pushing my fists against the bed, “Make me lose my memory of what I already went through so I have to relearn it. I’ll always be starting at zero. No way.” Crossing my arms over my chest. “I don’t lose my memory Chaos. Whatever it is you want me to do, I keep my memories.”
“I’m not sure you can.”
“There has to be a way. You’re Chaos, remember?”
“It’s not that simple.” Feeling him move closer to my legs before settling back at my feet. We’re in a different part of the mind than the one you use to live your physical life and the memories don’t translate the same.”
“No,” feeling the weight of my request, “I guess they don’t.” Without thinking, “Even without the memories, this feels like I’m about to make another big mistake?”
“Just another challenge.” Patting my knee, “You’ll be going against the Fates.” Saying it like I have a weekly lunch with them.
“Next, you’ll tell me I’ll challenge my destiny too.” Half-laughing, half-sobbing as I wiped my cheeks with my sleeve. After a long pause, “Chaos?”
“Yes, Child, you’ll also change your destiny by helping Nemesis.”
“Is that it?” Indignant. “I don’t even get to keep my memories and I’m going to challenge my fate and destiny to help Nemesis? You’re crazy, Chaos. I’m not doing that.”
We sat there in silence until he slowly left my room. Resting my head against the wall with my eyes closed, I let the past twenty minutes sink in. What am I going to do? … What should I do?
“Tell ‘em to fuck off.”
Turning my head to the right, I open my eyes to see the long-tailed demon comfortably sitting on my dresser. “Not now.” Wary from the day, “I just want to get my homework done and go to bed.”
“I can help you with that.”
“Right, you can help me with my homework?”
“No.” Jumping off the dresser to stand next to me, “I can take some of the energy that’s wearing you down.”
“What’s in it for you?”
Grinning, “I get to eat.”
“That’s disgusting.” Grabbing my assignment.
Shrugging as he jumped back on my dresser, “How did you feel when I did it last time?” Not giving up.
“Then what’s the problem?” Leaning forward, ready to jump.
“I don’t know. This is all … this is all so much to deal with.” Throwing my pencil across the room.
“I’ll give you the answer you want.” Sweetening the pot.
“And, that helps you how?”
“You’ll piss off a lot of the gods.”
“Because you’re — “
“ — A demon?” Unashamed. “So, what do you say?”
Thinking to my conversations with Nemesis and Chaos, I hear myself saying “Fine. What do I have to do?”
“Stand up.” Moving towards the end of my bed.
Standing up, I walk over to him, never breaking eye contact. “I have to remember all this.” Whispering to myself. Feeling like a piece of yarn was being pulled out of my chest, I looked down to see a strand of dijon mustard being pulled from me. I followed the yarn to the demon standing in front of me as it spread into him before being hidden under his dark skin. Watching the yarn grow thicker with each breath, I looked into eyes mesmerized as the black marble changed to pure green human eyes. Looking back down in time to see the mustard energy change to pure yellow, he broke the connection. Feeling slightly raw, I sat at the end of my bed and looked up at him. Looking human except for his tail, we stared at each other.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I don’t have a name.” Shrugging with a knowing smile.
“How do people call for you?”
Laughing, “I’m not usually called for.”
“Then how — “
“I follow the dark emotions I pulled from you.” Watching me as he spoke, “People don’t realize what’s happening … they just know they feel better for whatever reason they tell themselves.”
Not wanting to get into what he just told me, I asked: “What’s the answer?”
Annoyed by my dismissal. “Listen,” he said. As he quickly vanished from my room.
Listen? Listen for what? Ugh! Hitting the bed with my fist before opening the book I had closed earlier. I should have known it wouldn’t have been a clear answer. Resentment filling the void the demon just created.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, a thought whispered through my mind: listen to the souls and spirits flickering throughout the underworld. Sighing with understanding, I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
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