Where did the air go? It was the first thought that came when I was pulled under. There was water weighing heavily on me, dragging me down. I thought I was going to be dragged through the abyss and straight to Tartarus. Flames caught the corner of my eye, and I watched a mysterious male that seemed to be swimming away from me, completely enveloped in what looked to be a cloak of fire. No, it seemed to hug and kiss his skin too closely and completely to be a cloak, but it was pure rage that seemed to emanate from him.
A lungful of water was my painful reward as I tried to gasp. The man’s cloak of flames had reached out and snapped at me as though there was ire reserved just for me in it. When he turned, though his face was still obscured by the angry tendrils of fire that had wanted to do me harm, he reached out to me. I felt no malice from the man beneath the embers. Was he trying to help me?
My question was not to be answered, his form dissipating as though it was just smoke as another more feminine figure approached. I struggled to stay conscious as she seemed to walk through the water toward me. It took a moment for my eyes to focus on her face…no, it was my face. Her face was one I had worn long ago and one I had avoided donning since.
This was not what I had thought to find when I went on this journey—dream—thing. Those azure eyes felt almost accusatory, but that face seemed so warm and open as she reached for me, offering a hand. She wanted to help me. But did she really? There wasn’t time to figure it out. I did the only thing that I could and took her hand.
The moment our fingers touched, the dream shifted. Suddenly, I was back in the office I had abandoned to go on my journey. My hand tightened on hers as I saw just who was seated on that cursed sofa. A pain in my chest and a burning behind my eyes made me look away. Would that other me be merciful and move us on? One glance at her face told me that it wasn’t a likely outcome.
“Enough. I know how this ends. I must truly be as cruel and self-destructive as I had thought to begin this here. Move this on, or I will end it.”
We both knew my threat was empty. I wasn’t sure that I could end whatever this was on my own. But I really did not want to watch what unfolded, the pain of the three people sitting in that office. I did not want to go back to that place, to let myself fall back into bad habits because I didn’t want to face my own pain.
Still, I couldn’t help stealing a glance over at the couple sitting on my sofa, releasing the other’s hand as I took a few steps forward. My throat tightened as that burning behind my eyes became even worse. I could feel my eyes water, and I wanted to scream my frustrations. This wasn’t a dream. I knew that because this dream always went ways that left me waking in a cold sweat. I returned to the other version of me, stubbornly turning my back to the scene she’d obviously wanted me to witness.
“Fine.” That was all she said before the world shifted and images flashed past us, standing in a swirling storm of my memories. I watched myself leave notes on my desk and on the door to my living quarters. Then I was drowning in one bottle after another, popping to different parts of the world to lose myself in one group of strangers and then another. I lost count of the bodies and tangled limbs filling beds and hotel rooms. Was that why my powers were acting up? Had I abused what I had left? No, I think this was just the natural desire that humans had to be close to divinity and beauty, even unknowingly.
Whatever it was, I had to look away at the lows I had let myself get back to. This might not have been the first time that I had done something like this, drunkenly popping from one orgy to another, but it was more disgusting to me this time. Perhaps it was because I thought I would have grown up after so many millennia, but I had the same pathetic excuses for coping mechanisms that I always did. Though that was giving me too much credit. This wasn’t coping.
“I never was able to face what I needed to. Why now?” How was it I had finally found the strength to do so? Was it my therapist? Or was it the humans that I had surrounded myself with to make my life easier? Maybe it was just that I hadn’t done this form of running from my problems in so long that I realized it was finally time to find a new way.
I remembered the last time I had done something like this. I knew that this time, I had woken up feeling worse and like I had made my life even more difficult. My gaze went to hers, a face that felt like a stranger to me after so long. Her knowing eyes made me sigh and feel worse. While I was grateful to know why I was making progress and facing how I ended up there, I wanted to know why my powers were failing me.
My attention was pulled as the end of my latest bender surrounded us. It showed my disheveled self nearly falling through the glass door of the office that would end up being my weekly haven. On some level, I must have known that I needed to be there, that I needed someone to hold a mirror up to me and call me on my bullshit. She’d been someone that could make me be truly honest for the first time in so long.
“I loved her. Not like I loved before, but in a way that made me want to save her, and I felt helpless to do so.” Here, in the prison of my mind, I was able to admit what I couldn’t say aloud. Was that it? I wasn’t honest with myself or with anyone else. Was I still holding back and preventing myself from being able to utilize my powers? If I was, that was probably a breakthrough. I’m sure my therapist would’ve been proud.
My tear-stained face turned to look at the stranger I once was. “I saw what I had always wanted to be within her. What I was meant to be, what we should have been. While I did not wish to possess her, I longed to—” Even though I was finally talking about it, I didn’t know how to finish that sentence, but I didn’t need to. I knew that the other me understood, and it felt just as freeing.
I had turned to speak to that long-forgotten version of myself, but she suddenly hit me in the chest. My body seemed to fly backward, time moving slowly. It felt like I was back in the water that had crushed me only moments before. This time, it felt like loving and comforting caresses, guiding me away from memories that I no longer needed to see the truth. I took a gasping breath as my body floated.
The darkness that momentarily surrounded me lightened until I was able to see that I was above the water now, a giant heart frozen and suspended before me. There was a chill in the air as I neared it. I could feel my own warmth being sapped by the frozen block and yet I couldn’t resist reaching out to it. My fingers barely grazed the hardened surface before I was falling. A scream escaped my lips as the heart began to melt, returning to the water beneath me. That cloak of flames and anger was back as strong arms stopped my fall. Before I could look at his face, I awoke panting on my bed.
Longing ached within me as I slid off the cover, sitting on the dark carpet with my knees drawn to my chest. I had destroyed everything, and it had taken me far too long to want to fix it. I cursed myself, wiping my face off and stood, moving through my house with purpose.
“Tori, book an emergency session this afternoon,” I quickly panted out as I found my assistant in the small library. She looked up from whatever she was doing to make my life easier. “I will also need you to make arrangements to pack and move my belongings. We are going home,” I added to her surprise. The mortal could choose not to move with me, but it would be most unfortunate to have to find a new human that did such a good job. “With a bonus, of course. Your services are really most invaluable.”
Her face showed me that was indeed the nicest thing I had ever said to her. While it’d been uncomfortable to say, I enjoyed the feeling in my chest at making her feel appreciated. It’d be a long road to where I needed to be, but it was time to go home and face my family, my issues, and them.
“R-right. I’ll get working on that. And I’ll get you an appointment for today. But where is it we’re going?” she asked, quickly jotting down what I wanted. Tori was always quick to do what I needed, going above and beyond what was asked of her. Her question made a smile creep over my lips as I watched emotions flit across her young features.