Persephone still felt cold even though she was now inside, having taken a hot bath. She wore what she had been wearing earlier—her grey hoodie and black leggings. She was by the fire now, watching the rain through the window. Her eyes felt dry from crying so much, and even though she had stopped, she was sniffling quietly, rubbing at her face with her sleeve until it felt raw. She still felt so ashamed of herself for crying in front of her grandmother, the only person who even still respected her at all. What would she think? Would her parents find out what really happened?
Persephone’s grandmother came in, a plate of tea biscuits in her hands. The dancing firelight emphasized her wrinkles and made her look older, but she was in fantastic shape for a woman her age, anyone could see. She wore her usual turquoise scarf around her neck, paired with a pink woolen sweater. She spoke as she set the plate down on the coffee table, sitting down on the couch.
“I thought you might want these,” She spoke gently, as though there was someone asleep in the room that she didn’t want to wake up. Someone who would be mad if you woke them. “You look like you haven’t been eating very much.”
Persephone murmured a soft thanks, though she honestly had no intention of touching the biscuits. She hadn’t even finished half of her tea, and was thinking to just dump it out into the nearest potted plant. She felt like vomiting.
“Sephie…your parents told me about….your condition.” The older woman spoke slowly. Persephone looked up, feeling shocked. Setting her tea down, she made as if to stand up.
“No, no—sit down. You need rest.”
Persephone gave her a steely look as she allowed her body to relax. “You can’t tell anyone else this. I don’t want more people to know.” Hatred seeped into her shaky voice. She honestly didn’t hate the old woman…but she wanted to get her point across. Enough people knew about her ‘condition’ as it was.
“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of anyhow. Your friends are stupid.”
Her use of the word ‘stupid’ surprised Persephone somewhat, since her grandmother wasn’t usually someone who used those kinds of words—despite being grouchy, she never used words that were even somewhat insulting or offensive—not even ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’.
“They aren’t my friends anymore. Cecelia pushed me into a mud puddle, didn’t you see!?” Persephone felt more tears prick her eyes, and her voice rose more and more as she spoke. Surprisingly, her grandmother remained calm.
“Persephone…what you have isn’t a mental illness. It’s all real.”
The young girl almost dropped the teacup in shock. The cat in her lap opened its eyes and looked at the old woman as though it understood what she had said. Persephone merely gave it a glance, then the lifted it up off her lap and placed it on the couch.
“I’m sorry, I’m not staying. I’m not gonna sit here and take this. I’m not. I don’t know who put you up to this, but I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” Persephone was standing now, hands on hips. The older woman placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders and shook her gently. Glaring at the older woman, Persephone slapped her hands off her shoulders.
“Persephone. Look at me.”
Persephone did so, raising an eyebrow. “What?” She snapped, her voice stony and harsh.
“I have seen,” The old woman began. “everything you have. I know exactly what’s going on. What you have is a gift that’s run in the family for generations. Your great grandmother—my grandmother—had it as well, she would tell me everything when I was a little girl. I see them too.” She sighed, sounding sad. “They come out when it’s nighttime, when all the lights are out. Leaving the lights on is the best thing to do. Have you ever felt afraid of the dark without knowing why?”
Persephone remembered how she needed a night light every night as a child, and how she believed all sorts of things were there, but couldn’t even begin to explain what kinds of monsters there were. All she had known was that she was afraid of something…but even she couldn’t exactly understand what.
“It’s dangerous, you never know when you’re safe or not. You need a flashlight, have you got one?”
“What exactly is going on? How did everything in there…?” Persephone had sat down once again, her grandmother next to her.
“Persephone…do you ever think about where thoughts go when you stop thinking them? Or where memories go when you die? Why you can’t quite remember a nightmare in the morning?”
“Your subconscious or something…I think…?” Persephone wasn’t sure what this had to do with what they were talking about, but she just went ahead and listened to it. The cat had padded over to the coat closet, staring at the mirror that was hanging up next to it. Neither of the two women paid it any attention.
Her grandmother laughed. “That might be true…but there’s another place.”
“Your…unconscious?” Persephone tried to remember stuff she had read before about Sigmund Freud.
Persephone’s grandmother laughed and shook her head. “Why are we talking about this, Grandma?”
“No. There’s a special place where thoughts and memories go to be safeguarded forever, since the beginning of time. More discarded thoughts than you can count. Thoughts of people, or creatures, music, smells…pretty much everything imaginable.
“The people in there are merely the ideas of people. Think of a cemetery. Everyone has either a single grave or else a family crypt. The family crypt for our family is one of the largest there is. The only way to come and go…is through there,” She gestured to the mirror in the room. There was a purple smoke forming in it, and the cat was meowing at it.
“You have a true gift, Persephone. One that’s run in the family for centuries. But every gift comes with a price. You need to respect what’s in there, and make sure you don’t end up in there yourself. It could very well happen, with all your friends gone, and your parents…” She sighed, cutting herself off, looking at the younger girl. “Please don’t do anything dangerous.”
“I’m not going to do anything dangerous…all I’m gonna do is throw away my medication.” She stood up to grab her boots, then quickly sat down so she could yank them onto her feet, not bothering to mess with the laces this time. Tonight, she would try and keep the light on. She wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. Not if she could help it.