The girl told me to lay down on the floor and to lift up my top. Her long, dark brown hair was in two braids. They were both tied by yellow ribbons. She had big, honey-coloured eyes and several birthmarks on her face. Her clothes were the same as mine. She was short in height and seemed timid. Her small hands were holding an empty, chipped ceramic bowl. It had yellow and brown flower patterns all over it.
“Grizenx. Healeth those who are hurt.”
The bowl emitted a yellow light and filled up with water. I had to some extent grasped the pattern of how to activate an attribute. You had to say a name first, followed by a weird sentence. The water was poured over my wound. It was strangely warm.
I sat up and the deep cut near my stomach was gone. Not even a scar was left. I pulled down my top and thanked her.
“Sayuri, well done. You can go back now.”
The woman was laying on her side and was eating a pack of crisps while scrolling on her phone. The girl nodded.
Her voice was soft as she whispered to me and left. I tried to escape but the woman was too fast and captured me. I was put in a headlock and dragged back. The door was closed, and I was trapped again. I was annoyed and tired. A green futon had been laid out in the middle of the room. It was meant for me. How could they expect me to fall asleep in this kind of situation? All I wanted was to go home and see Charlotte. The whole concept of people having special attributes still felt alien to me. Why was it kept a secret? And how was it possible for people not to realise that these types of people exist around us? I couldn’t think properly. Everything was overwhelming.
I was lost in my thoughts that I didn’t realise that the woman had slid inside of my futon. My back was turned towards her. I didn’t know if she was sleeping or was pretending to be asleep. Whichever it was, I couldn’t let my guard down.
“Don’t worry. I won’t stab you in your sleep. That wouldn’t be any fun.”
I turned around to argue with her but the close proximity of her face to mine surprised me. Her eyes were closed.
“Do I have to tell you a bedtime story for you to fall asleep?”
“No, thank you. But can you please get your own futon?”
“No, can’t do. They only gave us one futon and I’m too lazy to get another one. Do you want me to sleep on the cold floor?”
She opened her eyes and had a smirk on her face. My cheeks felt hot. Her hand was on my head. I felt embarrassed. She was playing around with my hair. I was at a loss for words and just closed my eyes. She was a strange woman. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
“You know, attributes are usually brought into our world from emotional traumas and equally from emotional contentment. Like a mother giving birth to a child. The child never asked to be born but is given the chance to live. And the parents have to carry their responsibility of raising the child. The same concept applies to our attributes. It’s a responsibility that we have to carry out if we want to or not. It can happen at any age. But of course, with every fixed regularity come outliers that don’t really fit the pattern. We know the cause but are still unsure of the proper explanation behind it.”
“Is fighting against my attribute part of my responsibility?”
She laughed out loud.
“That’s a good question. Don’t think that you’re the only one. There were several others before you that had to go through the same trial.”
“Even you? And the girl who fixed me?”
My eyes were still closed.
“Of course. Depending on the kind and strength of the attribute, some had to stay in this room for several month. And others managed to do it within minutes.”
“And what exactly did they have to do? What am I supposed to do? Kill it?”
I felt her hand go through my hair. It reminded me of my mom who would do it too whenever I slept in her bed.
“No. Understand it. Devour it if you need to. Make it yours again. Like I said before, it’s a part of you. A broken piece that has come loose. You’re its host. Some attributes try to take over the host. Your job is to make it obey you and not the other way around. Face it without fear in your heart. Every attribute has a given name. If you can figure it out, you win.”
“What if I fail?”
She took her hand out of my hair. I opened my eyes and saw her turn sides.
“You won’t. I’m here.”
The woman had disappeared. The sun was directly shining down on me. No clouds could be seen in the blue sky. The glass ceiling was amplifying the sunrays and I was burning up. My top still had the blood stain from yesterday. The door to the bathroom was open and the water was running.
“Want to join me?”
She was taking a shower.
“Just a quick question. Why the hell is the door open?”
Her body was covered in soap suds, and she was shampooing her long hair.
“I have to keep an eye on you at all times. I can’t risk you summoning your attribute on accident.”
I sighed out loud and sat down on the floor. My body was still exhausted. I was not good at sports, even though this doesn’t necessarily count as being active. It was my turn to shower but before that the woman handed me a mobile phone. It was ringing.
It was my mom’s voice. We talked for a bit. I could tell by her voice that she was stressed out and worried about me. I tried my best to calm her down. The call only lasted for a couple of minutes. I promised her that I would get home as soon as possible. She told me to take care of myself and the call was cut off after that. The woman took the mobile phone back and told me to quickly take a shower and change my top for a new one that she had left inside the bathroom.
“The plan for today will be a bit different than from yesterdays. I don’t want to keep stabbing you.”
“I would appreciate that a lot.”
“But then you don’t know its name yet. Tell me what you know about it. When was the first time you saw it or felt it?”
My hands twitched.
“It would occasionally appear in my dreams. I would be falling from a red sky and it would be above me, falling as well. Whenever it was about to touch me, I would wake up.”
She tilted her head back and put her hair into a high ponytail.
“Then go to sleep again. Dream about it and maybe that way you’ll figure out what its name is.”
“I’m not feeling sleepy and it’s not like I can choose what I want to dream about.”
“Then close your eyes and imagine it. How it looks and feels. Maybe that might trigger it. And as a precaution I’ll activate my attribute.”
I sat down on the floor with my legs crossed. My eyes were closed. I didn’t have to think hard to know how it felt like every time that thing appeared. My temperature drops. It’s hard to breathe. I feel nauseous and my heart beats fast. It was a big, black mass that I was scared of. I placed my hand over my mouth. The signs had started. I was getting more and more nervous. If you experience multiple traumas, is it possible to get multiple attributes? This was not the right time to be thinking about these questions and I was proved right. It was here. I could feel its presence behind me. Why was it always behind me? Even when it helped me during the fight against the giant caterpillar. Oh, wait. It helped me out. I never realised that until now.
“I think I know what I’m doing wrong.”
I never really faced it. All it ever saw was my back. Its presence was strong. It felt like it was crushing my body, but I knew that there was no point in avoiding it. That meant I had to challenge it. I stood up and turned around. It immediately howled at me. My legs were shaky. I could barely stand upright, but I was done running away. All I saw was a tall black wall in front of me and two, sharp eyes. It rammed its claws into the ground and howled again. Louder and stronger this time. I had no plan. I could only bet on my instincts. And they were telling me to become one with it again. Every second counted. My body and mind would not hold out for much longer. I crouched down and sprinted towards it. The floor underneath me rumbled and cracked. I jumped away in time but did not stop approaching it. Somehow, I needed to make contact with it but not just anywhere. A claw came out of the ground behind me and grabbed me by my back. I quickly unzipped my bomber jacket and took it off. Another claw came from the front and managed to grab me by my arm. The grip was getting stronger, and it felt like my arm would break in two.
“Go! Help her.”
The two Dobermans were back. One dog jumped up and bit its arm. It released me from its grip. I stumbled back but didn’t lose my balance. The other dog was distracting it. My body was sweating. I only had a little more to go before I would reach its body. I held out my hand and tried to touch it, but it moved away. The pressure on my body kept increasing. I pushed myself off the ground and leaped through the air towards it. This time, I managed to touch it but in return got sucked into its body. A heaviness had surrounded me. Sounds were being drowned out. I felt like I was suffocating and losing consciousness. My body was not cold anymore. It was burning up. I can’t die here. I have a mother and brother that I can’t leave behind. I need to see Charlotte again. My hand went into my cargo trousers’ pocket. I took out the tactical knife that I had borrowed from the woman and stabbed myself in the thigh to get my senses back. In that moment, I heard its voice. It resonated loud and clear in my mind. The shadow let out a cry. It was in pain too. I opened my mouth and screamed.
“Xykoss. Devour those who stand in thy way.”
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