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Possess Me If You Can
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness.
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate.
Only love can do that."
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Maggie held her breath as she crossed the cluttered living room, ignoring the awful odor that stung her unusually bright colored eyes. The house smelled like a toxic waste dump; rotten food, spilled beers, and a never ending haze of smoke at every turn. It was no wonder people at school thought she was a druggie. She always carried a fair stench of mold to her clothes and hair, which added to her lack of friends, but it wasn't the main reason everyone avoided her, and she knew it.
Her father sat on his favorite recliner, a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other. His face was masked in his usual malevolent expression, yelling at the men on TV as if they were right beside him rather than hundreds of miles away on a crowded football field. The hours spent in front of the television had not been kind to him. He had developed a beer gut over the years and his dark hair was thinning on top. In a desperate attempt the man had done a comb over, which only made his bald spot that much more noticeable.
Maggie did her best as she shifted passed his chair. Okay, Maggie, just one foot in front of the other. Have to be careful about that squeaky–
The floorboard under her foot creaked and she shut her eyes, repressing a groan.
“Maggie? Is that you? Are you trying to avoid me again?” Her father grumbled without taking his eyes off the screen. “Go get me another beer. And while you’re at it, fix me up some dinner. If you’re going to be living under my roof, you have to be good for something.”
Maggie said nothing as her three year old converse smacked against discolored kitchen tile. She scavenged the wooden shelves for something she could possibly make. The egg carton was empty, expired ham was shoved to one corner, and a broken bottle of ketchup lay pathetically on its side. It explained why Maggie was closer to being underweight than average. Her entire life she struggled with weight issues, but never for the reasons people claimed.
Her father cussed as she walked back into the living room, handing him a beer.
“Where’s my food?” he demanded, only taking his eyes off the game long enough to glare at her.
Her voice was flat, monotone, after several years of practice. “There isn’t any food.”
“What? I told you to buy some!”
“I used up the last of my money to pay off your speeding ticket.”
The man grunted, but otherwise ignored her. Maggie was thankful he was preoccupied enough to leave her alone. She made it to the stairs in a rush, this time jumping over that creaky floorboard, and ran into her room.
Once the door shut behind her, Maggie’s knees buckled and she soundlessly fell to the floor. Her father scared her more than anything else in the world, but she couldn’t show the effect he had on her. Tears meant weakness and Mr. Leir was not known for his merciful nature. Most teenage girls had nightmares about getting fat or Hollister closing down. Maggie feared her own father.
Her bedroom was plunged in darkness, leaving a jittery feeling in her bones. There was always something about the night that drew Maggie toward it. As much as she was scared, a part of her entertained the thought of basking in the darkness. It was for reasons like this that Maggie kept her emotions under control. She appeared shy, often submissive to people that didn’t know any better. Hiding under her innocent façade was something truly frightening.
Maggie shuddered. Just thinking about those threatening emotions had stomach bile crawling up her throat. She refused to be like her father or any sort of sinister being for that matter. If anyone understood what it meant to be a victim, it was Maggie. So why was there always a predatory edge to her thoughts?
She had to leave home. Not because she was afraid of her father, but because she was afraid of what she would do to him if she stayed. One more order, one more beating and she would crack. The delightful image of snapping his neck turned her mouth into a twisted smile. It was a violent picture and she had enjoyed it.
It made her sick.
With a shallow breath, she forced herself up and across the jumbled mess. Dust gathered around her baggy sweatpants and oversized sweater. They covered her small frame like snow, popping against the dark shade of clothing.
Underneath a loose floorboard was a stash of crumpled hundred dollar bills. Maggie had long since learned her hiding places had to be more creative. Last week, when she forgot to put the laundry away, her father blew up. He destroyed every piece of furniture she owned. She considered herself lucky when she got home that night. Had she been there at the time, the shattered picture frame could have been her face.
A travel sized backpack was stuffed behind the toilet. With shaky fingers, Maggie unzipped the bag. There were a few water bottles, some chips, and a change of clothes for her inside. She set that on the ripped comforter and counted the money. Seven hundred dollars. Enough to get her the hell away from here.
After everything was sorted, she grabbed the shattered picture frame and stared at it longingly. It was a picture of her birth. Her mother was holding a pasty newborn in her arms and her father was clutching his wife’s hand. They looked like the perfect family at the time.
Maggie touched the frame and winced, pulling back. Blood flowed from her finger. She examined the small cut before sticking it in her mouth, waiting for the bleeding to stop.
Maggie found her father passed out on the couch. There was a charcoal colored spot on the rug, engraving her father’s attempt at stomping out a fire. It sparked a memory somewhere in her core.
Cigarettes were piled in the corner of her living room like a Jenga tower. She had stacked them after a hard day at school. As a child, there weren’t many toys for her to play with, so she made makeshift dolls. Home should have been a sanctuary from all the taunting classmates. Instead, Maggie found herself kicked and beaten, taken to the ground and whipped with a thick leather belt. She could feel the sting now; hear her own cries as she begged him to stop.
Maggie shook her head and sighed. She would have loved to blame his aggressive behavior on drugs or alcohol, but deep down she knew that wasn’t the case. The anger her father felt was an evil of its own kind, sprouting from the roots. Something about the evening brought out the worst in him and, as of recently, the crazy in her.
She shifted her stance on the staircase and listened to the stillness of silence. It was near midnight, turning the house an eerie black. The darkness swallowed her whole, sending a thrill through her body that excited every nerve. It was like the rush from a caffeinated drink once the sugar kicked in. Everything was suddenly bursting with life.
With cat like movements, the seventeen year old made her way out the door and into the cloudy night. A full moon was cloaked by some passing storm clouds. Maggie scowled up at the sky. If there was a thunderstorm, her father might wake up. She didn’t want to jinx it though, so she continued walking in search of the perfect vehicle.
She recognized Mr. Johnson’s Buick by the neon tinted rims and gaudy paint job. He was a man with too much money and not enough time. What a successful business owner would be doing in a shady neighborhood like Horton was beyond her. He certainly wouldn’t miss car number thirty.
A heavy breeze whipped at her platinum colored hair as she crossed the empty street. The heat hinted at the approaching weather. She pulled out the spare keys she pocketed from Mr. Johnson this morning. It opened the doors, but it wouldn’t start the car. Mr. Johnson was more cautious than she gave him credit for.
Maggie unscrewed the dashboard and grabbed two red wires, working to create a spark. If there was one useful thing her father taught her it was how to hot-wire a car. Within moments the vehicle came to life and she smiled in triumph, closing the door.
A shadow moved on the street, causing Maggie’s stomach to squeeze, flip, and churn. Could it be paranoid Mr. Johnson? A neighbor? She scanned the quiet streets, accompanied by the relentless call of cicadas. Only a lonely lamppost greeted her, a spotlight shining in the night. With a new urgency, she put the car in drive and eased off the curb.
She didn’t see anyone as she continued down the dark road. Maybe she had imagined it. Work at the restaurant tired her out. She was constantly on her feet, taking someone's order or handing them their food. Her body and mind were exhausted, but she forced herself to keep driving. The more distance she had, the better.
Just as she made it to the outskirts of town, she saw it again. The shadow. This time it flickered at the boundaries of the woods. Startled, she stepped on the brake and pulled the car to a complete stop. She was right over the bridge now, separating her from a life of freedom to a death in prison.
The road was dark from this point on. Forest preserve lined either side of the narrow street, giving the trees a menacing appeal. There were no lights, no houses to assure her those frightening shadows were nothing, but a trick of the mind. She had driven down this path millions of times, but never had she been so aware of the darkness.
The sound of bending metal filled her ears. There was a deafening pop when the driver’s side door was viciously ripped off the vehicle, sending screeching metal onto the dark asphalt several feet away. Her eyes widened as the discarded door scraped against pavement, creating white sparks of light.
Maggie screamed, but a hand muffled her voice and pushed her until she was sitting awkwardly over the passenger’s seat. The stranger took her original place and pushed on the accelerator.
The car zoomed forward. Maggie’s body lurched sideways until she knocked her head against the dashboard. She struggled to right herself, breathing heavily. The hole from the driver’s seat seemed to suck everything toward it like a vacuum. She watched as the pair of fuzzy green dice hanging over the rear-view mirror disappeared out the opening.
Maggie waited until she heard the click of her seat-belt before peering at her companion. It was a man. She could tell by the bulging bicep that rested along the gear lever. His other hand gripped the top of the steering wheel, oddly relaxed. His face was covered in the shadows of the darkened road so she brought her gaze lower to the six pack that faded into a V shape at his waist. Gasping, she turned, realizing her new buddy here was completely naked.
Her face turned hot like molten lava, making it difficult to breathe. So this was her punishment for running away; stolen by some naked lunatic to most likely be buried off in the woods. The reflection in the car window changed from a disturbed cry for help to a wicked grin. She shut her eyes and forced herself to speak.
“You...you can drop me off now.”
Actually, she was surprised he hadn’t just picked her out of the car and dropped her on the side of the road. It probably would have been easier than tossing her to the next available seat. Now they were forced in close proximity. He smelled heavily of smoke, but not the kind her father frequently lit. He held more of a campfire quality, reminding her of a camp she attended in the eighth grade. It had possibly been the best, and worst, six weeks of her life.
The man didn’t respond to her statement. She wasn’t sure if he heard her or not, but she didn’t ask him again. She learned from her father that men didn’t like it when you repeated yourself.
“What’s your name?” The stranger demanded in a low voice.
Maggie was silent. Could he be talking to her? There was obviously no one else in the car to answer him, but why would he want to know that? Of all things?
“Your name.” He all, but growled. She flinched, keeping her gaze steadily on the windshield.
“M-Maggie,” she managed, her voice much too high. Then, out of routine, she asked, “What’s yours?”
He didn’t sound violent, she reasoned, but those muscles could prove her wrong. Her body recoiled at the thought of his fist coming in contact with her face, over and over again.
“You can have the car. Just please let me go,” Maggie begged.
Still no reply. The ongoing silence scared her. It was like the building tension before a big fight. Her muscles tensed at the notion, but her mind jumped at the chance to hurt someone.
She slammed the violent sensations down with a mental fist. Instead, she listened to the sound of tires against wet pavement. It had finally started to rain.
Nathan clicked on the windshield wipers. For the second time Maggie directed her gaze to his seat. Raindrops poured in through the doorless side, drenching Nathan’s muscular frame in water. She felt the heat of his stare and flushed, embarrassed at having been caught staring there again.
She really wanted to get out of the car now. Glancing out the window, she figured she couldn’t make a run for it without getting some serious road burn. The trees blurred passed them. Somewhere in the distance lampposts shun. She took the opportunity to examine his face in the light.
He had such rugged features. Nathan’s tan face had a magnificent broad chin and full lips. His nose was straight, eyebrows bushy, and hair a silky raven. Despite looking so smooth, his hair was completely disheveled. Maggie wondered how he had accomplished such a look. She hardly took him for the type to stare at himself in the mirror. He had other afternoon activities judging by the size of his muscles.
Every part of this strange male screamed man. It reminded Maggie how fragile she must have looked beside him; the underweight seventeen year old. People often mistook her for a middle schooler because of that. There was no chest and no bum to compare to. She didn’t wear any makeup and her sense of fashion ranged from large sweatshirts to comfy jogging pants. She was thankful she was a decent five foot six, but even that wasn’t enough to convince anyone she was older than fourteen.
They continued to sit in silence; the windows fogging up with condensation. Her unsteady breaths fell over the glass, turning it a cloudy white. With semi-interest, she raised her hand and traced a random design with her pinky finger. A circle was deformed due to her trembling body.
Let me take over. The predatory part of her brain screamed, bouncing off the walls of Maggie’s skull. Her temples throbbed. She clenched her jaw, barely regaining control of herself. It was that loud mouth that got her a broken arm, sprained wrist, and black eye.
Something snarled outside the car, making Nathan’s stance rigid. The shadow reappeared and shattered the windshield. Maggie’s scream stuck in her throat as Nathan slammed on the brakes. Tires screeched like nails on a chalk board.
Time seemed non-existent. One moment she was sitting beside Nathan and the next she was being dragged out of the car by the collar of her shirt. Rain pelted her body until she was drenched in water. Rubble from the road poked at her arms and legs. She cried out in pain.
Nathan wrestled the figure to the ground like a linebacker. The man he was fighting was smaller than him, with only a lean build to show. Long, pasty limbs clawed at Nathan’s tan skin, the figure glowing beneath the moon’s harsh glare.
Maggie stared at the scene, frozen, and glanced down the road. She could make a run for it now, without the worry of being followed. Her backpack was still nestled under the passenger’s seat. She had the path mesmerized. Down the street was a gas station. She could rent a car and be several paces away by morning.
It had been the plan all along; to run from her terrible past, from those horrible urges she got toward her father. If she escaped maybe the sadistic thoughts would cease to exist as well.
She stood against the powerful storm, running through the rain. Her vision was tinged in red when she got to the fight and knocked the pale figure over. The man roared, his teeth sharp and jagged in a way that should have raised flags, but her thoughts were far from practical. Maggie growled in retort, dug her nails into his pale flesh, and bit his neck. Choking, the form underneath her flailed and then went limp.
Her body sung with the pleasure of tearing this man apart. A warped, hysterical giggle bubbled in the back of her throat. The childish tone it took filled the air with nightmarish images. Maggie breathed deeply, her hands warm with a sticky, blue substance. She stared at it, perplexed, before growling at the sound behind her.
Nathan approached her in careful steps. Three scratches ran across his chest, laced in red. Her eyes zoned in on the factor. She ran toward him with her hands outstretched.
He caught her shoulders, keeping the monster at bay. Maggie snarled like a wild animal eager to catch its prey. Like the other man, she dug her nails into his skin, smiling when he winced. Nathan took hold of her long hair and pulled so she was forced to look up. Her shriek was ear shattering. Then he bent over and met her gaze.
Maggie gasped. His eyes shun like emeralds, captivating her with sudden greed. She reached out toward his face, as if to steal them, but Nathan caught her wrist. She felt such a magnetic pull to him, something she didn’t entirely understand, and it scared her. He looked at her, but not in the way everyone else did. Curiosity poured from those green jeweled eyes of his, but there was no sign of fear or repulsion. It was refreshing to have someone meet her gaze and not cringe.
Her wild red eyes blinked, dulling, along with the hyperactive mood. Everything slammed into her at once. She killed a man and liked it. The truth sunk in with great despair.
She was a monster. Something worse than a horror movie villain; worse than her father who hit his own daughter. She was slipping deeper into the darkness and wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to be rescued.
As fast as she was in his arms he was walking away from her. Nathan turned to the body, nudging him with the toe of his bare foot. He cleared the man’s pockets, pulling out a leather wallet, before stripping him. Nathan shrugged on blue jeans and then tugged a button down shirt over his head. He could easily be mistaken for an average, everyday college student, if he weren’t drenched in rainwater.
“Is he dead?” Maggie whispered. She still couldn’t bring herself to look directly at the body. Her face was hot with guilt, embarrassment, fear, and emptiness. She felt terrible, but at the same time, she felt nothing. She didn’t even apologize for killing a man.
Was she sick or what?
“It takes more than a simple Siren bite to kill one of these despicable creatures,” Nathan answered, shoving his feet into a pair of black hiking boots. When he realized the shoes wouldn’t fit, he kicked them aside.
“Siren?” Maggie repeated the word. “What are you talking about?”
For a moment he just stared at her. This strange, intense, terrifying man watched her with calculating green eyes and then took off toward the woods.
Maggie heard the distant howl of a wolf nearby and shivered.