I was not alone. Not alone in my head, and not alone in the real world. Consciousness was swimming in front of me, taunting me, but I couldn’t reach it yet. I’d had a lot of time to think about what was consuming my mind, and my soul. I didn’t know where I was but I found I could remember if I tried. Kyoshiro had said that my death would come when I could no longer fight the freed souls that were tormenting me. Their rage would eat away at me, drive me to insanity, kill me. At least I had skipped over the insanity part.
A new face was forming in the darkness. They appeared every few minutes now, twisting out of the heavy air and colliding with each other, desperate to get a piece of my soul. As far as they were concerned, the one that had freed them all must have been the one who captured them. But this form… she was different. She was a she, for one. All the rest were too deformed for me to tell what they had once been, but she, she was fresh. She was young and seemingly sweet. She seemed to me an angel amongst these demons. Catching my eye she came over to where I was, half buried under broken limbs and torn faces.
“Why are you doing this Cheshire, it's not like you!”
“Nasty Sylvester stole Aria. Now Aria doesn't love Cheshire anymore.”
It was strange to hear my memories, to hear my name. The girl still advanced. I wanted to know why she was here, and whether she had come to rescue me, but I couldn’t find the words. It was torture being lost in my own mind, with only my thoughts and rotting bodies for company. It was my own personal hell, tailored to suit by the devil himself, I was sure. I’d signed myself over to him years ago…
“Whatever you are you are NOT Cheshire!” Take your true form. Leave your host and face your enemies, instead of cowering like a common wil o' the wisp.
These memories were foreign to me. Was I being forced to relive the worst moments of my life here? If so, then where was she? Where was Clara?
Suddenly my thoughts were racing and echoing around me – these were not my memories. And if they’re not mine, then what are they? A thought occurred, and rebounded off the air itself - maybe this was the part of the story where the souls drove me to insanity? It seemed to make sense all of a sudden, everything made sense. What if I was still alive, but weak, and they wanted to kill me? At that the bodies surrounding me started howling and writhing again and the girl had to wade through them to get to me. She had a hungry look in her eyes… a look I was sure I’d seen before.
A loud scream and a crash... Jay... It hurts... don't leave me... she wants me to give in... don't let me give in...
Everything was coming together and with terror I felt hands pulling me deeper into the pit of death that my mind was becoming. The girl opened her mouth as if to suck all the remaining, filthy air from my lungs. I tried to raise an arm to protect myself but they held me back and parted for her. A hand closed over my mouth, its long fingernails digging deep into my skin.
“Sabrié… Let her go.” Aria’s voice was clear and brave. “It's me you want.”
Sabrié. She screamed as I recognised her – she was only feet from me. Fury and bitterness devoured her pretty features. I began to fight the demons holding me from consciousness. It was within reach. I felt something warm in my hand, something glowing from beneath the scum, something which burned everything around me. Just as Sabrié reached my throat I wrenched my arm from the mass below and forced the Soulsphere into her face.
I woke with a start and, ignoring the earthly pains, I found the jewel still in the palm of my hand, stained with blood but pulsing and eager to capture her soul.
“You won’t have anyone else, Sabrié.” I called out and embracing my recovered strength, I hurled the Soulsphere over to Aria, who was being cornered by the demon girl from my mind.
She snatched it out of the air and it grew blindingly white. Sabrié screeched in horror but Aria was too quick, and thrust it into the vision before her.