Marcus didn’t come home tonight. I’m a little worried – he hadn’t said anything to me. Sometimes he goes out with friends, to the pub or some such, but he never liked to leave me on my own for long. Not since Mum and Dad had died …
He would have called. Or just dropped a text. Why hadn’t he contacted me to say where he was going? Was he out of his mind?
Yes. I shrieked with laughter.
I looked down at my silent phone for the billionth time, to see the same blank screen. No calls. No messages. Come on, Marcus! It was nine o’clock, and he hadn’t answered any of my calls. Where was he?
My dear, I have your precious Marcus. He doesn’t belong to you anymore, Emma, he belongs to me.
He had been so pale recently. He’d been complaining of headaches. The other night, the one before last, I think, he said he had ‘too much to think about’, though he said it strangely, as though this wasn’t entirely true, but an excuse. I frowned. And yesterday … well yesterday he was definitely not himself. He came home and barely looked at me in greeting. He went straight up to his bedroom and closed the door. He wouldn’t eat. I had to make my own dinner. He would never usually have made me do that – but I put it down to a bad day at work. I had to give him some space, didn’t I? His parents were dead. He had to babysit his little sister every night. He was still a teenager. Still a boy with hormones … I left him alone. Was it the wrong thing to do?
My contemplation wasn’t getting me anywhere. Should I ring the police? Should I ring his friends? What would Mum do in this situation?
Oh, Mum … how I miss her. I looked back down at my phone and considered for a moment before picking it up from my lap and dialing Lloyd.
He answered after three rings.
‘’Ello?’ he answered cheerfully. There was an awful amount of noise in the background. Laughter and shouting. Perhaps he was at the pub.
‘Its Emma.’ I said quickly, feeling a little nervous, as I always did when I spoke to my brother’s friends. ‘Sorry to bother you, Lloyd.’
‘Nah, nah, it’s perfectly alrigh’, love.’ he assured me. ‘You after Marcus?’
‘Yeah.’ I said, feeling a little hopeful. ‘It’s just, he’s not answering his phone, or …’
‘Well, sorry Emma, he’s not ‘ere with me.’ my stomach dropped. ‘I did ring ‘im, but he weren’t answerin’ so I thought I’d leave it. He never likes to leave y’for long, though, does he?’ he shouted over the clamorous noise in the pub.
‘No … no, he usually texts me, at least …’
‘Well, I dunno, Emma.’ I could hear the anxiety in his voice. Perhaps he was worried about him too. ‘Maybe he’s with a girl.’
I thought for a moment. That was perfectly plausible. He was good looking, and probably had tons of girls after him. And I suppose he wouldn’t really want to ring his little sister …
You aren’t even in his mind, little girl. Mm, yes, he’s picked himself a perfect little girlfriend – driving you right out of his mind. I’m his girl now.
‘Listen, Emma, I’m gonna ‘ave to go. I’m playin’ at the pub tonigh’ and it’s nearly time f’me to go up. You’ll give us a ring when you find ‘im, will y’?’
‘Sure, Lloyd.’ I smiled, forgetting he couldn’t see me. ‘Thanks.’
‘Wish me luck, I’ll be surprised if my voice even carries over these noisy buggers.’ he grumbled. ‘See y’Emma.’
‘Good luck.’ I managed the slip in before the line went dead. I looked down at my phone, my anxiety quenched. The conversation with Lloyd certainly reassured me somewhat, but I still had a nauseating feeling at the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why – but I knew it meant something bad.
I got up and put the phone back in my pocket.
‘Do not look at her, Emma.’
I gasped and jumped around to look about me. Who had said that? A voice … like music, echoed through my mind. My heart started thudding dramatically against my ribs, trying to escape. I knew it meant something bad.
She just can’t mind her own business, can she, Emma, my dear?
‘Marcus, sweetheart, I have some clothes for you hanging on the door of the dressing room. Get out of that hideous shirt.’
I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping that it was my imagination. Nobody had broken in. Nobody was here.
But then, was I mad? Was I hearing things? Was it just my nerves, playing up on me?
Who could’ve gotten in? I locked the door after I got home, like always … did I lock the door? I got home … but Rebecca rang me. Rebecca rang me, and my hands were full … oh no, I didn’t lock the door …
‘Emma, she will come … she is coming. Do not look into her eyes. Do not listen to her voice. Do not so much as breathe her air. Emma, hide yourself.’
I screamed. The voice was whispering into my ear. I turned around in despair.
‘Who’s there?’ I yelled. ‘Leave me alone … g-get out!’
I couldn’t help but laugh. As though she was a match for me. Silly girl.
I backed towards the door but tripped and fell over a stray book. Marcus’s room was filled with voices. With a shrill, cold laughter.
‘Nice to finally meet you, Aliana.’ the laughing voice declared. ‘But this girl is mine.’
The final word scent me flying across the room, into the wardrobe. I felt the doorknob punch my back and I groaned in pain. I heard the wood splinter and crash as the force of my body broke the door and sent it falling to the floor behind me as I fell against the clothes crashing down from their hangers.
‘Niloreau fa firmale, Tamesis!’ another voice exclaimed - a strong voice. It filled the insides of my eyes with blinding light and my head with heat – the power the voice shook at my very core. I stumbled from the wreckage of the wardrobe and ran for the door.
As I sent one foot in front of the other, reaching the top of the stairs, my knees buckled under the battle raging inside my mind and I tumbled down, head first.
‘Why, Aliana, how rude! Our little friend does not understand the language you speak. Wasn’t that rude, Emma, dear?’ the cold voice suddenly softened and spoke with care and kindness, though there was a madness behind the words. Something I couldn’t really distinguish. Something terrifying. Something demonic.
I lay on my side at the bottom of the stairs, barely conscious. I could not move my body – or so I thought. Perhaps I hadn’t tried hard enough. My joints throbbed from the fall, my head spun and I felt something warm leaking down the side of my head. I had hit it against the corner of the hallstand …
‘Marcus,’ I whispered, smiling broadly as he came towards me, admiration in his eyes, wearing the expensive white shirt I had left out for him, the black trousers, the braces, the shining black shoes. He’s buttoned up the entire shirt, silly boy. ‘Come here.’ I ordered.
I undid several buttons from the top and stroked his neck with a finger. ‘How is your headache?’
‘I feel much better.’ he smiled, sitting down beside me on the bed without taking his eyes from mine for a second. I could see myself in his pupils. Beautiful. Extraordinary. My mouth stretched out into a wide smirk, running my fingers through his hair.
‘That is very good.’
‘Leave him alone, Demonia.’ the forceful voice demanded. She did not shout, but it sounded five times as loud as the cold laughter of the other voice.
‘Demonia?’ that voice shrieked again, in hysterics. ‘Oh, yes, that is what you Gods call me, is it not?! Demonia, how … creative, indeed. Oh, it is amusing how you relate me to a demon, when I was the greatest goddess of the heavens. You are barely a hundredth of my age, dear Aliana Evera Neumair. You are still but a baby… and possess just a fraction of my power.’
I stared up at my hand, stretched out in front of me. Pain ran through my entire arm, my forearm burning with it – the aching pain of a broken bone. I twitched my fingers. I sat up slowly; allowing time for my brain to settle a little before I got clumsily to my feet, stumbling over again on my weak legs but catching the banister with my broken arm … at least, I thought it was broken. I felt a terrible stab of agony and I let go, breathing quickly. I used my left hand, instead, to hold onto the wall and guide me into the kitchen, where I reached the doorway and stood, panting, holding onto the door handle. Suddenly, I remembered my phone. I fell to my aching knees on the cold linoleum and reached my left hand into my right skirt pocket and fumbled one-handedly. It was awfully difficult to manage with just my left hand.
‘Emma,’ spoke the demonic voice gently, I felt a breeze sigh over my face, stroking my hair from my face. ‘I will come for you, don’t you fret. We will mend your poor arm.’
I felt a burning in my brain and I sensed the reaction building from the other voice.
‘No.’ I managed to breathe. ‘No.’
With panting breaths, I pressed the green button on my phone. Lloyds name flashed up. Without stopping to think, I dialed the number, hoping against hope that he had finished his first couple of songs. That he would feel his phone in his pocket and he would answer … that he would answer …
It rang, and it rang, and suddenly the phone dropped out of my hand.
‘What did you say?’ I snapped, peering right into her muddy human eyes, that were avoiding my stare.
‘I said,’ pathetically she gasped. ‘No.’
My blood boiled within my veins. I filled with rage. No? How could she resist me?
‘I said I would come, and you said ‘no’?!’ I shrieked in disbelief – then I let out a cackle of laughter.
The girl didn’t answer this time. She simply looked down at her phone, lying screen-down on the kitchen floor.
Had he answered? I needed to get to the phone … I needed to get it –
I laughed again, higher, louder. ‘SIT DOWN.’ I ordered, and she fell to her knees, a trickle of blood slid down her pale cheek.
My brain started to burn. Something was burning me … I was burning from the inside … I had a flame in my mind. I screamed in agony and raised a hand to my hair, pulling at it, trying to quench the fire within me.
‘LEAVE HER, DEMONIA. INSANITY WILL REACH YOU. I SEE IT CLEARLY IN MY MIND. YOU MUST KNOW IT, DEMONIA; YOU MUST SEE IT, TOO. THE TIME WILL COME FOR YOU TO REACH SAME END AS YOUR FATHER…’ the voice bellowed into my ears, my brain felt fit to explode. It deafened my senses … my breathing increased, outnumbering my flailing heartbeats. ‘GO BACK TO THAT FUTILE WORLD. GO BACK TO YOUR DEATH.’ I realized, with gasping terror, that it was my mouth shouting those words, though it was not my voice …
I screamed again as I fell back into the counter with a crash, hitting my head on the edge of the worktop, but Demonia found me. She raised me up by my throat, her nails digging into my skin. I could feel her glaring at me; I could feel her eyes searching mine.
‘Look at me, Emma.’ the witch demanded in what was trying to be an affectionate voice, but sounded instead like an order from the depths of hell.
I remembered the first voice, and closed my eyes tightly. After a moment she screamed out and dropped me to the floor. I fell onto my back, crashing against the broken wooden cabinet doors … Suddenly I remembered the phone …
‘Lloyd!’ I screamed for the last time. ‘Lloyd!’
Then consciousness evaded me.
Emma looked up at me from the floor, and I stared back into her eyes. I roared with laughter. ‘Oh, Emma!’
I knelt down beside her and took her face in my hands, turning her eyes towards mine. She stared back at me … but a flame was dancing in her eyes.
‘Oh …’ I gasped, letting go as though I had just touched something red-hot – not that that would have usually affected me.
‘LEAVE HER, DEMONIA!’ Emma screamed.
For around half an hour Emma laid upon the kitchen floor, the wreckage of wood her biggest comfort. Her mind was blank, or should I say unoccupied.
At twenty-five past ten, there was a loud banging at the front door, partnered with the continuous shouts of Emma’s name. Lloyd did not rest until he had broken down the door, his shoulder aching in the effort, his head throbbing with, well, me.
‘Emma …’ he muttered, his heart accelerating as he saw her through the open doorway to the kitchen ahead. He sprinted towards her. She lay still, unconscious. He looked around the room, terrified for the young girl lying before him. His best friends little sister, who he had seen grow up. She was almost a sister to him. He scooped her into his arms and, almost making it to the hallway, stopped dead. He stopped. Dead.