The Strange, A Continuation
Shadows In The Dusk
I looked over at his mother and grimaced. She pulled me into and embrace and I let her sob a short moment before I got closer to her. I clenched my teeth and sighed against the sin I was about to committ against her. "I hope what you've done to my best friend haunts you until your dying days," I whispered into her ear. "You are a two faced coward and you don't deserve the right to call yourself a Christian," I said and pulled away from her grasp. I watched her face fall as she stood there in utter disbelief. I strutted away shamelessly. I have no sympathy for anyone who dares to fuck with me or my friends, especially when it comes to Zee. What kind of person threatens their deceased son's fiancée with not being allowed to come to the funeral if she doesn't stop acting hysterical? And then thinks it's okay to invite his ex girlfriend to sit in the front row while Zee has to sit in the very back, treated like a nuisance? I hope you suffer for your sins you heartless bitch.
I went outside to find Zee trying to light a cigarette and failing miserably. "This fucking wind!" she shouted out to no one in particular. Before she could make any more of a fuss I pulled a cigarette from my pack, quickly lit it, and smoothly handed it to her.
"Thank you," she said sniffling.
"Eh," I began, shrugging, "what are friends for?" I lit another cigarette and inhaled.
"When did you start smoking?" She asked, looking a little surprised.
"I don't," I said cooly. "When are you gonna quit?" I retorted.
She exhaled. "Probably never now." Her face was still stained with tears and I found myself wanting to reach out to her but restrained myself. She will probably have people prodding at her all day, better not add to it. I took another drag from my cigarette and let the silence hang there between us for a moment. Poor Zee's tiny frame looked as though it could crumble against the weight of all of this.
"Are you ready to head out there?" I asked.
"I wasn't ready for any of this," she said sullenly.
I sighed and flicked my cigarette away from me. "None of us expected this to happen hun. Logan's favorite counter to being told something was dangerous was always, 'Well, it hasn't killed me yet,' and then he'd laugh that crazy laugh of his. Shit, he's probably watching us right now thinking the 2 of us are being a couple of pussies for crying as much as we have," I said smiling sadly.
"Oh, I know," she said laughing somewhat.
"Alright, I guess I'll just meet you over there?"
"Yeah, I'm gonna ride over with his grandma."
"Okay," I said, "I'll see you over there." I walked away from her and got into my car and started up the engine. I kicked it into gear and was out of the parking lot within seconds. I wonder if Lesley will have the audacity to confront me about what I said to her once we all get to the burial sight. Go ahead, I thought. I'm sure everyone already know what you've done anyway. In a small town like Ava there was no way word wasn't going to get around, and get around fast. The pastor did say this was the biggest turnout he'd ever seen for a funeral. That guy needs a different profession. He said our heavenly father every other word and made it seem like it was just another Sunday morning at church. The hymn was terrible and sounded like it was being sung by Julia Child. No one even went up to talk about how great of a guy Logan was, or told a single story for him to be remembered by. "No wonder I don't go to church anymore."
I turned off of the road and made my way behind the long line of cars that were all pooling into the graveyard. I pulled into a spot and watched as the pallbearers lowered the casket onto a base under a small canopy. I put my car in park, got out, and made my way up the grassy slope. I found Zee in the crowd and soon I found myself standing beside her, holding her hand.
"And now we pray for the family, may us all, as neighbors, come together and offer ourselves up to help them in their time of need. May we unify as one in order to strengthen one another through this time. May we remember that Logan was a young man that brought joy to anyone who knew him, and even those who didn't," I looked up from praying for a moment. Tears stained my face with sorrow as I looked toward the sky and shook my head softly. How could you let this happen? I looked off into the distance and shook my head once more and softly squeezed Zee's hand.
Through my blurred vision I saw something appear beyond the trees across the open field. In the near off distance I spotted a faint black mist surrounding a dark figure. Even though it was the middle of the day it was too hard to make out the face and frame of the person standing under the shaded area. I blinked and wiped my eyes but when I looked back there was only a cloud of black mist left in it's place. Black mist? Could it be..? The same black mist that I had encountered the night I thought I was going to die? I blinked twice, unsure if what I just saw could be real. The black vapor had disappeared so fast that I couldn't be sure. I stood there frozen and unable to move. Is this what people mean when they talk about being paralyzed by fear? I clenched my teeth and attempted to brace myself for what might happen next. It's been 3 years and 7 months since that inauspicious morning, and until now I had thought I was starting to go crazy. I never told anyone about it because I was scared my dad would have me committed like my mother was 6 years ago. Am I just imaging things? I wanted to look over at Zee, who still had her head in prayer. I couldn't even move a centimeter. Why can't I move my body? Move! Move! I try to open my mouth to say something but I can't. I am unable to even utter a sound.
I begin to feel dizzy slightly and sweat begins to dew atop my forehead. "Amen," the priest said, ending his pray. Everyone begins to raise their heads, and there is complete silence for a moment. Then everyone looks over to me all at once. Their faces replaced by the same black mist from before. Two glowing blue embers slowly emerged from their faces. And stared into the eyes, both entranced and terrified over what I was seeing. I tried to open my mouth to cry out but no sound could be emanated. I heard a voice breath quietly into my ear. "Shhhhhh, the more you struggle against this the worse it will be for you." It was low and faint, but it was there. What is happening? I thought to myself. My breathing became rapid and my heart began beating out of control. "Be still now." I heard the voice breath as I began to fall to the ground in what seemed like slow motion. And then there was only blackness.
The Night After
My eyes fluttered open and I slowly sat up. The memories of what happened came rushing back and I gasped. What the fuck was that? I looked around and noticed I was on the couch in my living room. I could hear the sound of water running from the kitchen. "Hello?" I called out, my voice a little hoarse. "Who's there?" I looked over to find Zee walking over to me with a glass of water, and I let a sigh of relief escape me.
She handed me the glass. "Are you alright? You look a little shaken up." she stated.
Her concern for me was touching, but what could I tell her? Yeah sorry I passed out, I was seeing some pretty crazy shit back there. Not only would that cause her more concern, but she may even try to relate it to Logan's death somehow. I better just keep this to myself, at least for now.
"Thank you," I said welcoming the water and taking a drink. "But shouldn't I be asking you that question?" I said trying to deflect the situation. I put my hand to my head. "What happened?" I asked playing the fool.
"You fainted right after the funeral had ended. I asked if you were ready to leave and the next thing I knew you had collapsed on the ground."
"Shit.." I breathed, shaking my head. What exactly did happen back there?
"I'm sorry Cassidy," Zee said, her voice wavering slightly. I looked over at her somewhat confused. "I should have known," she began. "With everything going on right now I didn't fully consider what you must be going through too. You were there with me at the hospital.." Tears began to flow down her face. "I'm sorry," she choked out, crying freely now.
"Oh Zee, don't apologize," I said standing to comfort her. "I probably passed out because I've been so exhausted from everything that's been going on. But you don't have to worry about me or anyone else right now. You can't take care of anyone before you first take care of yourself anyway, so don't concern yourself like that. You just focus on yourself." I tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear and gave her the best smile I could manage. "Okay?" I asked.
"Okay," she breathed.
"Have you eaten already?" I asked, releasing her from my stare.
"Ya. After Benet helped carry you in and put you on the couch he offered to go get us all something to eat." She said wiping her face.
"Well that was nice of him. I'm surprised he didn't try to convince you to leave so he could take advantage of me like last time," I said rolling my eyes.
"Well he did offer to stay to watch over you."
"Of course he did," I said and rolled my eyes again.
"He's really not a bad guy Cass. I mean I know he's a pervert but he's really awesome once you get to know him. He was actually pretty worried when you collapsed at the graveyard. We all were," she said with that same concerned tone from before. "Plus, It's been 3 years since you've even been on a date. Don't you think it's time to put yourself back out there again?"
"I'm sure he's a great guy Zee. But it's kind of hard for me to trust someone who put his hand up my shirt the first time we met each other. And I'm not having that conversation again, especially right now. " I said letting out a sigh. "Still," I began, "I'm sure he's going through a tough time like the rest of us right now. Will he be alright by himself tonight?"
"Actually him and Brian are hanging out at his place, probably drinking and sharing stories and memories about Logan." she said with a whimper.
I frowned at the sight of her. I couldn't help feeling bad for what she could possibly be going through right now. They had been together for the past 4 years, and from what Zee told me about Logan they were getting pretty serious. I regret not knowing him the same way all his closet friends knew him best
I let the room go silent and remembered back when I told Zee that he was a loser and she deserved better than a man who often chose his friends over her. That was back when they had been together for only a short time. Not long after that I broke up with my then boyfriend Aaron. Logan was nice enough to let me come and live with him while I got back on my feet. He even talked to the tree trimming company he worked for to see if he could get me a job working for them, but I turned it down because of my obvious lack of equipment and my overwhelming fear of heights. I mentally kicked myself for being such an asshole to him when he was so nice to me. He would have done anything for anyone who needed help, because he was just that kind of a guy. He was a good guy and I know it's going to take Zee a long time to get over this, but I don't have to worry as much knowing she has so many people looking out for her.
"Do you have somewhere to go tonight?" I said thinking back to Zee who was sitting there quietly sobbing to herself. "If you can help it you probably shouldn't be alone tonight." I said placing my hand on her shoulder.
"Ya," she sniffled, "I think I'm just going to go stay with my mom tonight. My dads home from a job right now and I think it would be better if I didn't go back out to the house.."
"Ya, that sounds like a good plan. If you need to stay here with me you're more than welcome to. I have an extra bed and everything so don't feel like you would be a bother or anything like that, okay? Do you need me to drive you over to your moms?" I asked
"No she is on her way to come pick me up actually. And thanks for offering, I really shouldn't be alone with myself right now, but I do feel better now that he's actually been laid to rest." She let out a sigh. "Are you going to be alright here by yourself? I can call Benet and see if he could come over and keep you company if you need?"
I could tell she was still a little concerned because I passed out at the funeral. I gave her my signature Really? look. "No that's not necessary. I'll be alright. I think I need a little time to myself to help catch my equilibrium again. I'm sure once I get a little food in me I'll be alright. So stop worrying so much."
"Alright, I just didn't want you to be alone right now if you didn't have to be." and for a moment there was silence. Then Zee's phone dinged. "Well that's my mom. She just pulled up."
I gave a sigh of relief. Leave it to Zee's mom to save me from yet another lecture. "Okay hun," I said pulling her into an embrace. "Remember to take care of yourself and try to stay positive."
"I know," she said.
"And don't be a stranger."
"Alright, I won't. I'll text you."
"Okay bye," I said as she walked out the door. Once the door clicked shut I collapsed down onto the couch and let out a sigh. There were so many thoughts going through my head all at once. Was what I saw and felt at the funeral actually real? What even was it? Why did everyone's face look like that? Why couldn't I moved or say anything? I placed my face in my hands and let out another heavy sigh. What if I really am loosing my shit? I can't fall apart right now, not when I'm supposed to be there for Zee!
I got up from the couch and went to the fridge. I pulled out a bottle of whine and made myself a bowl cereal. After I poured myself a glass of sweet rose whine I went into my bedroom and flipped on my stereo. I let the sweet melodies wash over me as I took a sip from my whine glass. I walked into the bathroom and began lighting candles. I grabbed my lavender, lemon grass, and rosemary peppermint oils and dripped them into my bathtub. I turned the water on hot and downed the rest of my whine. I put the glass down on the edge of the tub and walked back into the kitchen. I grabbed my bowl of Special K and the bottle of whine and headed back into the bathroom. I placed my food and the bottle of wine on the edge of the tub and began undressing. I turned the music up slightly, turned the bathroom light off, and eased myself into the bath.
I let the smell of the essential oils assault my senses and I took another swig from the wine bottle. I set the bottle back down and began to dig into my Cereal. "Why did I black out like that back at the funeral?" The image of all those faces I saw right before I passed out came to mind. "Their faces were all misty, just like the black mist I saw at the funeral, and the man that disappeared into the same black mist 3 years ago in my kitchen. And the color of their eyes glowing that haunting blue. They were so mesmerizing that I couldn't look away. It was almost as if I were being hypnotized by them somehow. And who's voice was that right before I blacked out? Non of this makes any fucking sense!" I shouted slightly, feeling like a fool for wondering if what had happened to me was actually real or not.
I looked up at the ceiling and let myself sink down into the tub a little bit, unable to shake the lack of control I was feeling over this situation I was in. My friend was just laid to rest and I couldn't even get myself together enough to grieve because I was worrying about whether or not I was going insane. Maybe I should tell someone? What could I possibly say? I've been seeing things that I can't explain and they are scary but also somewhat bemusing.
I took another long swig off of my wine bottle and rested my chin on the edge of the tub. I was a little passed buzzed at this point, but if there was ever a time to drink, it was now. I closed my eyes for a moment and let the feeling wash over me. Were things going to get back to normal?
"You better slow down on that wine before you start seeing things."
I jumped up, the voice came out of nowhere and startled me so badly that the wine bottle flew out of my hand and shattered onto the floor. I looked over to find a black misty figure leaning against my bathroom sink. My mouth fell open in disbelief and I instinctually submerged lower into the bath, trying to cover myself.
"Is that any way to treat a guest?" He said pointing to the mess I made on the floor.
I looked over to the wine bottle and stupidly shook my head no, unsure of what I should do. Maybe I can scream for help? But who will hear me? My nearest neighbor lives 3 miles away. I hugged myself and sunk down even lower into the bath feeling scared.
"Oh come now, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Besides, you have nothing to be embarrassed about," he said smirking. Then he waved his hand and a cloud of black smoke floated over to where the wine bottle was sprawled all over the floor. The smoke began to cover the floor and the man snapped his fingers. Within moments the black smoke receded and the bottle materialized there, restored to its whole form. I stared at it with my mouth open. He picked it up and wagged the bottle at me. "Do you recycle or should I pitch this for you?"
My face caught on fire with chagrin and I blinked once. How is that possible? I opened my mouth to say something but then immediately closed it again, unable to say anything.
He laughed at my reaction. "Sorry was that too much? I can get a little carried away sometimes" he said and with a wave of his hand the bottle disappeared. "I'm sure you must have a lot of different questions running through your head right now so lets get to it shall we?" I opened my mouth to speak and he wagged his finger at me and my mouth shut at once. "But first," he began. "Should I get you a towel or would you like me to join you in your nice looking bath there?" he said and gave me a wink.
I could feel that same heat of discomfort run across my face again as I hugged myself a little tighter. What the fuck is going on right now? Is this guy for real!?
"Towel it is then," he said chuckling. The sound was low and subtle, unlike his behavior. He strided across the floor, grabbed a towel from my bathroom closet and stood in front of the tub holding the towel outstretched before me. I looked up at him not sure what he thought I was going to do, still somewhat dumbfounded that this foreign being was here, in my bathroom watching me while I was naked in the bath. "Well don't make me stand here all day Cassidy," he said slightly annoyed. How do you know my name?
I blushed again and tried to think of a way to escape, but also wondered if I could get some answers to all these questions I've been asking myself. "Look away," I said suddenly without thinking.
He frowned but did so. I stood up out of the bath water and went to reach for the towel. Before I could grab it he wrapped the towel around me and lifted me up out of the bathtub and swooped me up into his arms. I squealed in surprise, not knowing what he was doing. Suddenly he was pressing his lips against mine and I felt myself wanting to protest but instead relaxed into the kiss. It felt almost as if my face was melting into his. His lips were soft and warm and he tasted like honey and I found myself not wanting it to end. He pulled away from me and I moaned involuntarily, and blushed the color scarlet. "I take it it's been a while since you've been kissed?" He asked grinning at me. An unknown sense of calm swept over my body and I felt somewhat inebriated there in his arms as my limbs began to feel all numb and tingly. He leaned in closer and inhaled before breathing the words, "Do you feel more relaxed now? Or do you need me to kiss you again?" He said smiling devilishly at me. I nodded my head yes in reply and my blush deepened. "Yes you need me to kiss you again? Or yes you are feeling a little better?" He asked laughing.
"What did you do to me you fiend?" I asked in a hushed tone.
"Fiend? And to think I went through the trouble of saving your life 3 years and some odd months ago," he said pretending to be wounded.
"What?" I asked. "What are you talking about saved me?"
"Alright before we get any further into this let's take you to bed." I looked up at him with fear and an obvious question in my eyes. He laughed and reassured me. "Don't worry, I'm not in the business of taking advantage of woman unless it's consensual," he said and winked at me.
"So you just go around surprising women with kisses all day long then?" I asked, slurring my words slightly. Was I this drunk before or is it just me?
"Whoa, hold on there drunkie," he began, smirking at me. "I was trying to help you by sending a message to your brain to release a little extra serotonin so that you could calm down. It also works through touch alone but I kissed you so it would work a little better. Plus," he said blushing slightly, "You smelled so delicious from your bath that I just couldn't help myself."
I couldn't help the blush that rose to my cheeks. Who the hell does this guy think he is? Kissing me, telling me I smell delicious. And what was all that nonsense about communicating to my brain?
"If you keep blushing and making faces like that I may just have to have my way with you," he said with a smile.
My mouth fell open and he laughed and effortlessly kicked the door to my bedroom open. He gently laid me down on the bed and I remembered that I wasn't wearing anything other than a towel and blushed again, feeling somewhat dizzy.
"Go ahead and get under the covers and make yourself comfortable," he said and looked away from me.
"Thanks," I mumbled and quickly threw off my towel and got under the warm shelter of my blankets. The bed was chilly from all the windows being open all day and I shivered slightly.
"Are you cold?" He asked, looking at me. I nodded my head in agreement. Suddenly the 3 windows in my room shut up all at once and the fire place in my bedroom roared to life. I pulled the covers up closer around me and shivered again, and I began to burn with fear and curiosity.
"Better?" he asked.
"What are you?" I uttered quietly.
"Has anyone ever told you how rude you are?" He asked in a somewhat playful manner.
"This coming from a guy who magically broke into my house while I was in the bath, naked, and started doing a bunch of fucked up magic tricks in front of me? That's really fucking rich, Mr.? I don't even know your name!" I said, finally finding my courage.
"Well, I suppose you have waited long enough. And no you're not crazy. I am real and my name is Alpheaus, and I am an immortal demon who has recently run away from the Underworld," he said soberly.
I laughed out loud. A demon? That's ridiculous. I looked back at him and for some reason that only made me laugh harder. He grabbed my wrist and looked me in the eyes. His eyes burned a fierce blue and I became silent and couldn't look away from him. Black mist began to gather in a large cloud around us. He grabbed my face in both of his hands and the room began to get very hot and fierce winds began whipping around the room. Suddenly the walls melted into the floor and I was surrounded by red. There was a river of lava below where we materialized and in the distance I could hear faint moans and shrill screaming. The air was so hot my mouth dried up and I broke out in a sweat. "Where are we?" I choked out over a whirlwind of infernos.
"We're in the Underworld," he said.
I tried to reply but instead I began choking and struggled to try and get air back to my lungs. Alpheaus removed his hands from my face and within an instant we were back in my bedroom. I hunched over on my bed and coughed vigorously, trying to catch my breath.
"Do you believe me now?" He asked somewhat smugly.
"Are you trying to kill me?!" I asked in outrage. "What the hell are you trying to do to me?"
"If I wanted you dead I would have already killed you by now. In fact, I was the one who saved your life when your were almost dinner for that hell hound you encountered in your kitchen so long ago."
I instantly shut up. "You, saved my life?" I asked, a little confused.
"Yes, may I sit?" He said pointing to a chair beside my bed.
"Thank you," he said and sat down on the chair. "I'm sure you have quite a few questions for me in regards to who and what I am and why I'm here and so on and so forth. Let me start out by abolishing any fears or preconceived notions you may have of me by stating simply, if I wanted to harm you in any way, I would have already done so. In fact the reason I'm here was to make sure you are alright, but it seems like the protection spell I cast around your house is more powerful than I thought."
"I'm sorry, did you say protection spell? Does that mean you're also witch, or a warlock or something?" I asked, unsure what he meant.
"No," he said with a smile. "Witches and Warlocks reside within Terra Nullius, which is a sort of limbo for fictional characters," he said using air quotes around the term fictional characters.
"So you're saying witches and warlocks," I began, imitating his air quotes, "do exist, but only within this limbo? Terra Nullius was it?" I asked
"That is correct," he said simply.
"Does that mean there are other magical creatures that reside there? Like fairies, and werewolves, or druids?"
"Something like that. But they aren't as similar to the human folklore they're perceived by. For instance, werewolves can transform during more than a full moon in Terra Nullius, unless they are here on earth. Here they aren't as free to do as they want because a very long time ago there was a feud between one of the changling families and a lordship that carried the name Luna. Lord Luna had a beautiful daughter who fell in love with a changling. Lord Luna opened his home to the changling family until one night he discovered what they were. He became scared and banished them from the land, but his daughter, Juniper, was going to run away with the changling, Maximus, to Terra Nullius, so they could get married and be together. But Lord Luna hired a witch that cursed his own daughter from being able to leave the realm and he cursed all changlings to suffer every full moon, to ensure that non would stay here on earth, for fear his daughter would leave the kingdom."
"That's fucked up," I said, not understanding Lord Luna's logic.
"Yes it's very sad, you get my point though?" he asked
"Ya I get your point. But you aren't actually from Terra Nullius? You were born in the underworld?" I asked feeling a little overwhelmed and somewhat confused.
"Two very good questions," he began. "I'm not technically associated with Terra Nullius because I was born in Inferos, in other words, the Underworld. You see the night we first met was quite an unfortunate circumstance, and I'm sorry we couldn't meet under better terms. But at the time I had been fleeing from hell hounds that my father sent after me once he discovered that I had escaped the depths of hell." He said looking me square in the face.
"Yes?" I said, I was one hundred percent engaged in what he was saying.
"So the beast you encountered in your kitchen that night was actually a demon wolf sent to kill me, but found you instead." I shivered again recounting the memory. The image of the dog foaming at the mouth right before it hunched down and was about to spring on me came to mind.
"Don't be afraid," he said while brushing his fingers against my cheek. Another wave of calm washed over me and my fear subsided once more. "There there," he said pulling his hand away from me. "Luckily I was there right before the beast could rip you to pieces and send bits of your soul to float on in an empty void for all eternity."
"Bits of my soul?" I asked clutching my chest.
"Yes, if a person even gets scratched by a hell hound it could mean serious trouble for you and your soul. People who are killed by hell hounds wonder the plains searching for lost fragments of their soul for all eternity. Never able to rest and are constantly tortured by their own sins," he said with a grim expression. "And I'm sorry to have nearly put you in death's path like that. I shouldn't have been so careless in my escape from hell."
'Why were you running away from hell in the first place? Well, aside from the fact that it's, you know, hell?" I asked
He laughed for a moment and answered simply, "I'm the son of Satan," he said still smiling.
I looked at him and gave him a once over. He had a black aura, his hair was ashen black, he was tall and muscular and he had horns atop his head and he smelled of cinnamon and..? Fresh cut grass? I touched my lips remembering that he tasted like honey when he kissed me. This guy definitely wasn't human, but the sun of Satan? He seemed like such a nice guy, really weird, and kind of perverted, but he did save my life from being condemned to what literally sounded like hell. "So you're saying..?
"I am the sun of Lucifer and the only immortal heir to the underworld."
I gasped and put my hands over my mouth. Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit, holy shit! I'm sitting next to the son of Lucifer?! As in Satin? What the fuck am I supposed to do with that information? I definitely can't tell anyone about this now. They would throw me in a nut house for sure!
"Alright I think that's enough for one evening. I don't want you becoming too overwhelmed with all this information being thrown at you."
"But I still have so many questions, and now that you told me who you are I have even more questions," I said fervently.
"We have more than enough time to go over everything once you've had some rest," he said with a slight smile. And before I could utter my protest he waved his hand and I fell onto the bed, dead asleep.
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