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You're not called Norbert
I hadn't seen her go out. Nor had I heard the click of the door shutting behind her; but sometime within the last few seconds, she'd run for it. Maybe I just hadn't noticed. I knew she wasn't a chicken ' there had to be a good reason for all this. She would explain, in her own time. I tried convincing myself of this lie, but it was hard when my gut instincts were telling me the exact opposite. I even tried scolding myself for having such little faith in my sister, but it just wasn't working.
I'm right! I'm right! They screamed at me and I weakly refused to hear. You're wrong, I retorted but it was no use; the thoughts still came like a tidal wave. Some of them were worse than others; I ended up visualizing Cydney with fangs and claws locking me in and burning the house down with everyone else in it, torturing the rest of the town to their bleeding knee-caps and swimming off into a dark wide abyss gaping from the sky and hearing the deafening screams of the living dead' Ok, maybe that went a bit too far.
Half of me wanted to get up, but I actually couldn't; I was in a kind of daze that made me slightly light-headed. It felt great. The whole world was slow like the rippling of silk shawls, right in the height of summer. I was fine with just sitting and staring blankly at the door that stared blankly back at me. My thoughts were numb and my blinks were scarce and dragging, although I didn't even feel the least bit tired.
Then I heard a couple of birds singing outside. The sound pierced through my soft, protective shell. It was a shock ' not a nasty one, just a slight shock of awareness, but brought me back to my senses. Slightly.
I lifted my head curiously, turned and pulled myself up onto the window ledge. The ledge was thin ' about 20cm ' but I only vaguely noticed it; I was staring out of the window at the birds. I suppose it was a stupid thing to be interested in but there wasn't anything else to really be interested in, so I stared. They were both a brilliant, electric blue and had yellow fronts. Their tails were like a shot of the purest cloud amongst sky. They were stunning.
Their song was just plain sweet. The more I listened, the more I understood of their tune ' it was love. Their voices, though before just a shock, were now the most beautiful sound on the earth to me. The melody was pure, spontaneous. It was lapped thickly with hope and joy, of a brighter future with each other.
It would have been such a thrill to join them but I knew I would ruin the song if I did. A stab of sadness hit me with an unnatural amount of force. Almost to mirror my own heart, the song took a slightly lower tone, of a separation, of leaving. How unavoidable the song made this seem ' almost for it to be expected. This only made me sink lower into my skin. Why did this have to be? I wished so badly that I could change it for them, but I knew that I'd never be able to do that.
My stubborn mind frowned in a humpf and I twisted on the ledge to make myself as comfortable as I could. It wasn't easy; the gloss on the paint made it slippery so I could never quite get a grip with my feet like I would have liked. I tried pushing my feet onto the other end and leaning back but that just squished my head up. I settled, eventually, for a curled up position against the window.
I closed my eyes to rest, although I still wasn't tired. This wasn't the best way to spend my time but I was convinced that Cydney had locked me in so I decided not to waste it in an even more pointless way than I was now. It wouldn't be good if I went round the rest of the house and told everyone that I knew the 'big secret' they'd kept from me all these years ' Cydney would literally be murdered by Mother. My Mother had a temper to match an enraged sea Goddess.
I shivered. The glass was freezing cold ' colder than the wall. I could feel the beams where the glass joined together press against my ribs, but I ignored them; I was too peaceful (and stubborn) to let them ruin this.
I soon got bored of the tranquillity, though, and listened out for the birds again. I found nothing where I thought they'd be, so I leaned my ear against the glass harder to see if I could hear them any better. There was still nothing.
I grew agitated with this and my already closed eyes scrunched together tighter. I kept pushing with my ears but I didn't have any luck. I could get a few squeaks and squawks but that was all. I heard a few trees rustling as well and the muffled chatter of people talking within their houses, but still no birds. This made me doubly annoyed and this time my hands curled into tense fists. My eyes stayed closed tight.
I pushed harder, not only with my ears now but with something else I couldn't quite identify; a small roll-able blob in the corner of my mind. It made me feel stronger somehow and a little voice in me wondered if this was a good thing, or a very bad one. I ignored it; I wanted to hear the birds, and no little voice in my head was ever going to dominate that.
I rolled the little bundle from the corner of my mind and pulled it up and turned it around, trying to find a weak spot in it. It wasn't hard to get at; I merely picked at the top like it was held together by badly sewn stitching. I wrenched the top open and, what felt like, a warm luxurious liquid erupted from its mouth. I channelled it through my mind, not really sure what to do with it. It was hard keeping it in one place for any amount of time, as it was always longing to move or go somewhere else in my mind, so eventually I just let it go where it pleased.
I then wondered, what if this wasn't just a liquid I was feeling in my mind, what if it was a person. Could that mean it could manipulate me somehow? Or possess me? What if'
My thoughts were stopped by a sharp, searing pain in my head ' just where the cool, thick liquid had been. I felt the rest of the tranquil transform into fire a few seconds after. It was too hard to bear. I tossed relentlessly on the windowsill to try and escape the pain, but it wasn't working.
This is impossible! I screamed out in my head, as I knew no-one outside my mind could help me. Stop ' please! What have I done wrong? What do you want me to do?
It must have heard me ' God knows how ' as a moment later, the white fire eased off just enough for me to get my bearings back. I took a deep breath, becoming slightly more aware of my body again, and spoke to it. The fire was still throbbing wearingly, caged inside my head.
Who are you? I asked; I was curious. But the pain deepened, turning from red to black. I flinched away again ' I already knew the next part and wasn't planning on repeating it.
What are you? I tried. This thing wasn't giving me chance!
It swayed in my head, lulling from either side and wrapping itself around me. The pain wasn't there anymore, but neither was the milky liquid; there was just dull recognition in the place of those.
I tried to figure out what it was saying to me but there was a slight problem in that there weren't any words. I could feel it changing it's pattern and altering it's pace for me to keep up. There were swirls and dips in it's story but I still couldn't quite grasp it fully. I got a few things from it though: yes, no, happy, sad, angry, confused, jealous' The last one's created thousands of small pains the size of pin pricks on me ' they weren't particularly pleasant.
The 'yes' and 'happy' were my tranquil water and the next was something I hadn't had before. If you've ever stayed too long underwater then you'll know how this feels; the moment before you reach the top, when you're chest is slowly pulling itself apart to get to the air and the rest of you is dully considering just giving up the fight ' that's how 'no' feels. When it was being shown, I had to draw a gasping breath in just to make sure I actually wasn't under water after-all.
I realised then I didn't want this thing in my head 24/7. It would be torture ' always reading my mind, distracting me with it's presence. There had to be a way to get it out somehow, even if not forever but until I called on it again'
Suddenly, an odd pain ripped through my mind ' it was odd because it felt quite nice ' and, if it had been a child, I could imagine it stamping its feet. My thoughts flew back to not offending the' thing. It seemed to have human enough reactions even if it wasn't one, so I gently pushed it aside, being careful not to jolt it too much. I fit stayed there I would be fine with it.
But it writhed in the corner I'd put it in and when I sensed it attempting escape, I blocked it up with a few worthless memories of when I jumped over Mr. Riley's fence. That seemed to work as much as his fence had with me but on the positive side, it enjoyed my playful nature in the memory and seemed to dote over it a little. I left it be and tried to remember what I'd been doing before I was interrupted.
Birds' I was reminded. I strained my ears once more, like before. And like before I had no luck. This annoyed me a little bit more than before and I let out a small cry of frustration, through my mouth this time and not just my mind.
I felt whirlpool in the back of my mind stir questioningly but I couldn't be bothered with it anymore. I just wanted to be alone in my own head! Was that really too much to ask? I didn't get a reply and I thought, good riddance, although I did feel slightly guilty for thinking it.
I squashed it further into the sides of my head, letting it know it wasn't wanted, and listened much harder this time, but still got the same result. I squirmed and gave out an exasperated breath. I felt the liquid squeeze through my hollow barrier as if it were milk in a cotton bottle. I tried to push it back but my resistance just fell to pieces as it washed past like a tidal wave.
I can help, it told me, in many pin-pricks and fires. Relax, it cooed.
I could have fought it, I could have just pushed it back to the corner of my mind again, but I was hooked by the passion between these unusual birds (even if the plot-line wasn't exactly enthralling). It seemed to understand me, even though I still didn't. There was a buzzing sensation within my ears and suddenly, my breathing sounded more like a giant's than like my own.
What' ? I started but it silenced me before I could go any further.
The 'thing' (that I decided to call Norbert, even up against it's infinite pins or lit matches) did all the searching for me. It manoeuvred my hearing far from where I had taken it on my own. My attempts seemed pathetic up against Norbert's ' ouch! ' skilful tactics.
I caught snippets of conversation as we moved out through the town and continued along through the woods (on the complete other side of where I was physically) until I could no longer hear the muffled chatter of people, only the scuttles of small creatures and the writhing of even smaller ones.
For a short moment, I heard a flap of wings, but then we steered clear of it. I shot a questioning thought at Norbert who instantly shot another one back angrily. I didn't think I'd bother with words anymore so I pushed a silent apology across to him. He pushed one back, although it was heavily tainted with annoyance ' he didn't like the name Norbert.
Polly, Tam, Edward, Millie, Mike, Emmer, Calico, Thomas, Sally, Gill, Parr, Cassie, Lassie(?), Callum, Edgar, Kite, Cedar, sticky-tape' ?
What!?! It roared at me, somewhat unimpressed by my creativity.
Ooooh, and it can speak, too! What else is it hiding? What other secrets does it have' ? I was part way through my fleet of thinking when yet another warning bolt of lightning hit me.
I only hide things you don't need to know.
This didn't seem like a proper reply to me ' it felt rushed. It was obviously more useful for me speak to him rather than having to learn a very complicated 'emotional' language; I did need to know that and he had no reason to hide it from me.
A turmoil of bitterness wailed up to surround and cloud my thoughts. A sharp moan rose up from the centre of it.
No! You need to know how to use that language or else you'll never be able to do anything! He screeched at me. And stop calling me a 'he' ' it's offensive.
I was about to ask why it was offensive but I withheld the thought and asked instead: What will I be doing? Why will I need the language for anything other than talking to you? And there isn't much point in that, is there?
The turmoil took form and became a tornado. There is a point ' there's always a point! It paused, thinking without words again. Do you want my help or not?
I considered this for a moment. Yes.
It settled smugly. Then you're going to have to play nice and by my rules, Ok?
For a second I was going to agree ' it was so convincing ' but I changed my mind sharply, I wasn't giving in quite yet.
You're in my head, you go by my rules.
It didn't like that.
Ok, ok, let's scrap the rules. It said hastily; it seemed I had more power over it than I'd thought.
I felt it's presence in my mind get angrier again but I ignored it and focused on hearing, willing it to follow. It did follow and soon the vividness of the world's noise was restored. I wondered silently if the thing was there to serve me but I tried not to think about it, just in case it got mad. It must have heard me but I was confused with it's sudden tranquillity ' did that mean I was right?
I didn't have much time to think about it as, very soon, a new sound broke into our radar. A sweet and soulful sound that I'd heard not so long ago. Yes ' it was the birds.
They were still together ' thank goodness. Tides of well-needed relief washed over me (quite a strange reaction to such a simple thing) and I felt the tight strings of anxiousness loosen in my shoulders. The thing in my head seemed equally as vexed with my obsession as I was, but it still moved closer for me, knowing that that was what I wanted. I was beginning to like this thing and was growing more and more comfortable with it by the second.
The birds sang on tunefully with a strange happiness but even though the sound was as sweet as ever, it was lacking something ' was it' sunlight? I didn't really think it could be dark already but I also couldn't begin to doubt the bird's song. It filled me up with immense joy and warmth that even the thing inside my head was trying to get at it; I pushed it off selfishly. This was my treat, not theirs.
I felt a stubborn streak vacate through the thing and the bird's song begin to evaporate slowly, moving further away from me. I tried to fight it, I even shared some of the warmth with the thing but nothing would stop it.
I still struggled as we reversed backwards into my physical shell. It felt so limiting and helpless to be pulled anywhere by something you don't know properly ' almost as limiting as being back in my body again; there was a distinct change. Before, when I'd left body, I hadn't noticed it as the transition had been smooth (like pushing out from inside a stretchy bubble); getting back in was harder as I had to nudge and prod at it for a while before I could find any gap at all. The bubble was also more delicate this time and I didn't want to push it too hard and break it beyond repair ' I couldn't think what would happen if I had.
Anyway, I managed to get back in and no sooner had I done that, I felt the thing probing up against me.
I'm going to put you back. I told it.
I felt an odd misbalance of movement that I took for chuckling. I was not impressed. And how are you going to do that? It taunted, displeasing me more.
I'm going to tell you to. I bossed decidedly, searching for the little sack it had come from.
It chuckled again, though slightly more tense this time. Try. It challenged.
I continued looking for the sack while it's thoughts grew more and more worried. I could sense it attempting to throw memories in my way but it didn't quite work like that; it wasn't their memories and I think that it knew that it couldn't touch them. It tried anyway.
There was a lot of pleasure in the fact it could do nothing about this and, when I did find the sack, I also discovered that the thing couldn't separate itself, which was surprising given it's liquid-like texture. It could still twist, but the attempts were pretty useless when it was giving out unconscious hints to me every time it made a choice ' all of a sudden it became very easy to tackle.
When I'd got it in the sack and was about to close it up it screeched out to me: Please! Let me stay! I'll be good, I promise. I won't distract you or anything!
But that was a lie; or course it was going to distract me. Until it learned to control it's emotions and I learned to ignore it, it couldn't be loose in my head. It would be impossible to talk to anyone with a huge storm brewing everywhere, and it also made me far too tired ' it'd left me completely drained.
I'll take you out later ' please understand. I didn't want to hurt it's feelings too much, but it was so unpredictable and it had to be done. To my relief it sent a deep feeling of understanding to me and stopped struggling as I closed the bag. I briefly wondered what it was like to have the whole world sealed over you're head, with only a stranger's small guarantee that you'd ever see your way out again. I didn't dwell on it for long. I pushed the bundle into the corner of my mind where I first found it; it fit snugly in there, and then I tried to forget about it.
I liked having my head space to myself ' it didn't feel cold and empty at all.
The wind howled against the window with a sudden force that made me open my eyes. I looked out the window and saw that the sky outside was totally dark. For a moment I considered the possibility that empty abyss I'd imagined before had actually turned up after all, but I rejected that idea ' where were the screams? ' and decided that maybe it wasn't a half bad idea to get out of Cydney's room now.
I felt for my limbs; they were stiff and uncomfortable. I glanced at them in inspection but after a moment, I just stared at them with my mouth gawping open ' or more like I stared at the colour of them with my mouth wrenched open. My veins were glowing at the top of my skin with a purple-ish blue colour, giving my arms an unnatural cob-web effect.
I looked at my dress; it was salmon pink with short sleeves and had been my worst suited dress by far - now it definitely didn't suit me. The sickly vibrancy of the material clashed terribly with the deeper and more threatening shade of my match-stick arms. I felt thinner and weaker, like a drained battery. The cold was overwhelming as well and I clung to what part of the ledge I could get my grip on.
This has to have something to do with the bundle, I thought. I'll decide what to do with it later.
I pushed the whole few' events out of my head and tried to move myself away from the cold window and over to Cydney's bed, to my left. My arms felt that they were going to snap from my weight, but the slippery surface was quite useful now and it was much easier to slide myself along it. I stumbled towards the bed; I would get out of Cydney's room when I was warm enough.
I heard the floor-boards bend as I rambled across it, probably with out any grace at all, but I noticed how they were subtly quieter than before. I didn't take much notice as a second later I was sprawled out even less gracefully on her bed. I fumbled around blindly for a bit until I was comfortably locked amongst the covers. At first it was colder, but it gradually heated up. I shivered in delight as I drifted off into a deep, but unnatural, sleep.