Sleep paralysis, it's been years since I've felt this cold stiffness encasing me. Embracing what comes next never came easy. Still, I try and remember the evenings doing sleep studies with Mrs. Glitz.
First I breathe deeply and slowly, hoping to bring the rapid beating in my chest to a steady hum. Next I focus my mind to send signals to my fingers and toes. If I could just feel them—at least I'm with Amaranth. Once I feel my fingers twitch I know I can weep weakly, and Amaranth can help pull me back into my body.
"Shhh," the hush actually increases panic.
I feel my wrists lock up. I can feel her hands tightening. My shallow breaths turn into heavy panting. I need to open my mouth.
"Amaranth you're hurting me," only more moans escape me.
This time I scream her name loud enough to startle my eyes so far apart I feared blindness. My wrists still locked, I look up to see the hands of a gardener binding me.
"Where is Michael?" He sounds like Mr. May but— older, more of a drunken angry."
He cuts me off with righteous indignation.
"Don't play with me boy"
I can't help but find a little humor in seeing myself in this situation. Shaman said be ready for anything. Self Control is the most important tool one owns, and the moment we lose it, our worlds begin to disintegrate.
"No," I try to laugh, but I can barely breathe. It feels like I've had my ass kicked.
"Who the hell are you?"
He cuts me a glance and the bulging black bug eyes I overlooked before turned into a soft brown normal human tissue.
"I... I recognize you. From the photo near Amaranth's half of the stone. Pop pop—"
"You know me very well..."
His eyes snap back to those bulging black eyes, but his body begins to morph smaller, both in height and build.
Long black hair.
There's no face!
"You—where is she!" I fear I've failed you all.
He laughs with her voice. The knots in my stomach tighten.
"What's wrong Adrien, you don't recognize the girl of your dreams?"
"I couldn't picture her full Astral form properly. You very much have to see to envision."
"But I felt it, she's the girl—"
"Whose identity I stole to trick you. Truth is. Amaranth has never projected in her life. Well, until you showed up. And i'm so glad you did because I finally got the face right."
He opens up a third eye, but there's something wrong with his. It appears dry.
"Well this one isn't functional, but bossman is going to figure it out."
"Where is she?!"
"She's in hell. Alive, but most certainly not well."
But we— "We escaped. She escaped."
"Yes. We did escape."
He smirks with her smile. The knots tighten
"Come on, Adrien, we've got to go!" He cups his mouth as if to be cute before going further into his reenactment, "Mom?!"
He sounds genuine.
Shit! No! Lilith!
"Your adrenaline must have been so high you didn't even realize what you did!"
"Did I—kill Lilith?"
He erupts into laughter. "No! But that would have been a treat. Why didn't I think of that one?"
He wipes a tear from her cheek
The knots in my stomach.
"No genius. You wanna know why you're being tied like this?"
I realize I'm holding something. Shit. I remember now. I projected to the stone first to keep it from Dante.
He plucks it from my palm.
"Thank you. Now with the key complete, Dante will be free to achieve his dominion."
He morphs back into Pop Evans. I can hear every one of his bones growing, shifting.
Then before I really notice he's gone. His laugh still filling the air.
Her laugh still filling the air. I can't believe I've failed. Shaman please forgive me...