Content Warning: Substance Abuse
I sat back on my heels, my bloodied knees buried deep in the black rock. Her lifeless body was cradled in my arms. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. The sticky blood coating her jet-black hair was already drying. How long had I been sitting here? I gently tucked a strand behind her ear. Her face was so pale and gaunt. I’d closed her eyes some time ago, unable to bear the lack of life in them. Her lip had been cut, and dried blood formed at the corner of her mouth. The straps from her black dress were torn from her shoulders, and dark purple bruises covered her collarbone. Dark brown and green bruises circled her neck like a choker.
She had put up a good fight, despite her appearances. I squeezed her cold body against mine, giving her one last embrace. She didn’t deserve to die like this. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer. My breathing quickened, and my heart started to accelerate, as it does every time the switch happens. I knew he was taking over again. He only let me out long enough to remind me he was in control.
I was surprised by the wetness on my cheek. What the fuck was this? I didn’t cry. I opened my eyes, cringing at the very thought of someone possibly witnessing this display of affection. The little baby inside was a cowering weenie. He was going to make me look bad. I puffed out my chest and rolled my shoulders back, cracking my neck from side to side. I stood, casting the girl aside into the cold dirt where she belonged. Looking down at myself, I was reminded of the fight she’d put up. I liked a good spar every now and again. I was only mildly irritated that I’d require a wardrobe change. Still… I looked down at her lifeless body and spat. Humans were filthy, fragile creatures and needed to be dealt with as such.
I heard a sharp gasp behind me. “Nic, what have you done?”
Tilting my head from side to side, I pulled at the cuffs of my jacket, straightening myself out.
“Nothing.” I turn around to face Bethany. “I did what had to be done. Is the jet ready?”
Bethany looked nervously over my shoulder. She was probably wondering if she would be next. I answered her silent question. “She got in the way and asked too many questions.” I raised my brow at her.
Catch my drift?
Bethany cleared her throat and looked me directly in the eye, forgetting the scene behind me. “Yes, sir. All gassed up and ready to go. The weather looks clear, so that shouldn’t be a problem for you.”
I smiled ever so generously. Bethany was a good servant. Human, albeit, but she had her purposes. I stepped away from the woman’s body and in the direction of my large black suburban, flipping up the collar of my jacket. “Good, I want to get into Darfur before sunup.”
I leaned back into the white leather seat of the jet, stretching out and holding a glass of bourbon up to my lip. I didn’t have to look out the window to know that the sands of Egypt were below us. We would be in Darfur soon. I knocked back my glass, the warm brown liquid sliding down my throat and coating my belly.
It was hard to believe how much time had passed since I woke up on the beach with no memory. Just the clothes on my back, no identification, a wad of cash, and a throbbing headache that I haven’t been able to shake since.
Probably has to do with the nagging bugger I’ve trapped inside my head.
At first, I wandered up and down the beach, looking for someone who might have an idea of who I was. But it had been in the early hours of the morning, and only joggers and the homeless were out. I must have looked like a wreck because people didn’t want to speak with me. Everywhere I went, people seemed to fear me.
It had taken a couple of hours before I realized I had special powers. I didn’t even know how to describe them. At first, the dark swirling clouds would appear whenever I grew angry or frustrated, which happened a lot. I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t just be a regular joe. Humans didn’t have special powers.
Special talents, maybe.
I smirked to myself. Most definitely. There was this one girl in Lebanon that could do this thing with her tongue… But that was another story.
It had been a month before I realized I could control the shadows, using them like ropes to restrain people. They were an extension of my hands. Who knew shadows could have such strength? It made choking someone that much easier, and I didn’t have to get my hands dirty.
Then I discovered I was able to send people screaming with just a minor thought. I could sense the fear in humans and play off of their paranoia, manipulating their darkest fear and making them believe it was real.
I could also manipulate light. Someone needed a city-wide blackout? I could do it. I discovered that one in a fit of rage. The hotel I was living in was trying to charge me for something I didn’t do. They were blaming me for some damage to a vending machine. When I didn’t believe them, they said they had it all on camera. I pounded my fists on the desk in anger, and the entire building went dark. That was, of course, when I discovered him. The other guy. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with a temper. I hadn’t even realized I was blacking out until I saw the footage. Since then, I’d found a way to keep him in check.
It probably seemed as if I were some mental patient who escaped from the nuthouse, believing I had special powers and multiple personalities. Fuck that. I was something from a comic book, but I was no superhero.
Bethany’s soft voice came through the speaker in the cabin. Ever since the incident with the last flight attendant, she didn’t feel safe sitting in the cabin with me. Instead, she opted to sit in the cockpit on the jumpseat.
I picked up the phone beside my chair, connecting directly with the cockpit. “Yes, Bethany?”
“The pilot said they’re experiencing a little bit of weather in the Darfur region, and we will need to circle back to—”
I didn’t let her finish her sentence. My shadows had already made their way up front and into the cabin. I could hear the hurried conversation of the pilots in Arabic. Bethany abruptly stopped speaking. “I want to land in Darfur.”
“Sir… If I may?” Her voice was a bit shaky. “Killing the pilots won’t get us there any faster. They say we need to land at the Sharq El Owainat airport. It’s located in the western desert of Egypt. It’s not an international airport, so you won’t be seen.”
“Bethany,” I looked out the window and could see no signs of imminent weather, “are we sure these pilots aren’t part of the task force?” I gave her a second to mull it over before I continued. “I have put my trust in you to vet these pilots. Now that our fate is in their control, they insist on turning around to land… where was it you said?”
“Sharq El Owainat.” Her voice was just a whisper.
“Yes.” I held up my hand, inspecting my fingernails. “Sharq El OwainaTTTT,” I said, holding my t. “If by chance we are ambushed, would you say this is your fault or mine?”
“Very good. You know what happens when you’re at fault.” I hung up the phone, letting Bethany decide her own fate.
After several minutes, the plane began to turn back. Bethany had decided she was confident enough in her vetting process. But for good measure, my shadows remained in the cockpit. If it was an ambush, the pilots, along with my ever so obedient servant, would be the first to go.
The sun was rising by the time we landed at the small airport in Egypt. No police cars awaited us on the tarmac. I was delighted I wouldn’t have to find another servant. Bethany had called ahead and arranged for transport to our final destination in Sudan. Although my plans had been delayed, I relied on Bethany to make sure my business there would go unaffected.
I wanted to be in and out before anyone knew what I was doing.
My head began to throb as it always did when it became too long in between what I called my sessions. If I didn’t have a session soon, the little cry baby would try to poke his ugly head into my business. I’m not sure who needed the sessions more, him or me? I guess I am him, and he is me. I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together. Goo goo g’joob. The lyrics to a familiar Beatles song chimed irritably in my head. The other guy couldn’t have had a worse taste in music.
“Bethany,” I said restlessly.
Her blonde curly hair bounced as her head snapped up. She could tell by the tone in my voice that she needed to find me somewhere fast. She began searching frantically on her tablet, which was more of an anchor to the dark web. We were past the point where she would bombard me with silly preference questions regarding my dark habits. She’d learned fast that it only made my urges worse.
“There’s a place a few miles from here.” She tapped on the window that separated us from the driver and gave him the new coordinates. Then she slid as far away from me as she could.
“I don’t know what it is about confined spaces.” I licked my lips, teasing Bethany.
She averted her eyes quickly.
“Relax.” I chuckled softly. “I’m only half kidding.”
When I didn’t get my fix, it brought out a sexually deviant side in me. We pulled up to a worn-down two-story shack. I jumped out, leaving Bethany in the car. “I won’t be long.”
A few men sat outside wearing their robes. I must have looked out of place, pulling up in a decked-out humvee. My wardrobe probably cost more than the entire building. The men shuffled aside, allowing me access to the door. I tossed a couple of gold coins their way and received nods of thanks in return. Gold was transferable everywhere, and no one ever seemed to complain.
Inside, the house was dark but not dingy as one would think. The irritation I was experiencing was through the roof. A small petite woman with dark skin made her way out from behind a drape. Her eyes bulged at the very sight of me, not an uncommon reaction but probably more exaggerated considering the establishment I now found myself in.
“Aithnan thamani kurat,” I said in Arabic, holding up two fingers to show her I wanted two eight-balls.
She ushered me in, leading me to a room in the back of the building, where she showed me to a table and chair before scurrying off. It was a little unusual, but then we were in a whole different country than I was used to. I sat in the chair, holding my head in my hands, waiting. You are not in control anymore. I am. I closed my eyes and counted to twenty before the little woman shuffled back into the room with a tray. I was flooded with relief. On the tray was a small ceramic bowl that held what looked to be the finest white stuff I had seen ever. This was the only way I knew how to calm the other guy. This almost muted him into non-existence, and along with it, my headaches disappeared.
“Hal ladayk shay’ litaqtaeah?” I asked.
The little old lady scurried away as I dumped the contents of the bowl onto the tray. She returned a minute later with a blade so that I could cut a line.
I pulled out a pouch of gold this time and put it on the table. The woman snatched the pouch, looked inside it, and hurried out of the room before I had even had a taste. I wouldn’t need all of it this minute. Two lines should be enough to keep me functioning. The rest I would have packaged up. I had places to be, and this party would have to wait until I was back in Greece.
As I sat there waiting for the effects to kick in, I stared up at the ceiling. There was a large dark spot, and I wondered what had spilled on the floor above. I sent my shadows searching through the building while I relaxed. The other guy seemed sedated enough that I no longer felt his presence. My shadows returned when I stood to return to the humvee. Bethany could rest easy knowing she wouldn’t be trapped in an armored vehicle for the next hundred or so miles with a madman who had split personalities and a raging case of shadows that could kill.
I slid back in, cool as a cucumber. Bethany was the picture of peace.
“All better?” she asked.
“Yes.” I stretched back in my seat and looked out the window as the vehicle pulled away. Bethany rattled off the stats about where we were going and how long it would be before we came to our destination. Her voice became a murmur of noise.
As I closed my eyes, a memory that I can only assume belonged to him flickered through my mind. This was the only downside to sedating the internal beast. I watched the slide show of a life that was foreign to me. A high-scale beach house nestled into the side of rocks. Floor to ceiling windows looking out over the ocean. A grand life filled with friends, family, and maybe even a lover? He seemed happy.
I was nagged by the same questions that always filled my head. What happened to them? What happened to me? Who was I?