For months, I caught glimpses of Claira from the safety of my cubical. So beautiful, faultless. Through innocent eavesdropping and pattern recall, I unknowingly learned almost every detail of her life; when she had lunch, who her friends were, and where she would be at any given moment of the work day. I even knew where she lived, as we both took the same bus to work. On the long commutes, she never so much as batted an eye in my direction, unfazed by my existence. Admiring from afar was all I ever did, but on this day, I felt an inexplicable urge to connect with her.
After settling in at my workstation, I became aware of a grouping of words that made up an ominous, internal dialogue.
This is the day. She will be yours.
My blood ran cold. The choice of words, and the cadence with which they were spoken – this voice was not my own.
“…Hello?” I asked quietly, unsure if what I had heard was even really there. A reply confirmed its presence.
You need her.
I stood upright, officially rattled.
By this point, everyone was staring at me, including her. I smiled, awkwardly. She made a perturbed look and walked away, seemingly frightened. A wonderful first exchange. Everyone else averted their eyes and returned to work. I sat down and attempted to do the same, chalking up my bizarre experience to a lack of sleep. I sugarcoated the denial further with an internet search that backed up this theory and confirmed that audible hallucinations were also a [very rare] side effect of the new allergy medicine I was taking.
Satisfied with my haphazard research, I craned my neck around the confines of my cubical and noticed that Claira was shuffling some papers around at the copy machine. A strange feeling overcame me in this moment. For whatever reason, I felt I could bear the distance between us no longer. My legs began moving, opposite the signals my brain tried sending them to stop. I couldn’t believe what I was doing, but infatuation seemed to outweigh my fear. I felt such a strong need to reach out and touch her. Just as I was about to take my final step in her direction, our boss came over and pulled her aside to discuss some work-related matters. I sighed in relief, shaken by my own actions.
Another internet searched turned up [very little] evidence that sleep deprivation coupled with certain antihistamines could translate to a hormone imbalance, potentially leading to an increased libido. That must have been it, I thought. Despite its many holes, this explanation sat well with me – at least for a few moments.
Chase her down. Demand her attention.
The voice was back. Panic set in as I dove into my work and did my absolute best to ignore the taunting, as well as my new urges. This was easier said than done, especially with how often Claira walked by my cubical to get to and from her various workplace destinations. At one point, I almost grabbed her leg as she strolled past. I was able to pull my arm back with the other. Luckily, she hadn’t noticed. I tempered my outbursts and went about business as usual.
Although we went to work at the same time, Claira always left an hour before I did, just in time to catch the last bus. My projects ran late, so I would usually have a willing co-worker bring me home. On this day, however, it was the middle of winter, and there was a storm coming. Most of the staff had left early to beat the snow. I would have been smart to do the same, but focusing on my work was the only thing keeping my mind off of Claira, which in turn, kept the disembodied voice at bay. Closing time snuck up on me faster than expected.
I stopped at the elevator.
“Please. Just leave me alone.” I begged in a hushed tone. The voice repeated its demand, louder this time.
“NO!!!” I shouted, fed up, but still scared. The voice responded in kind.
All at once, I stopped breathing. I felt my chest begin to cave in as the oxygen within dissipated. I fell to the floor before I could reach for the phone at my station and call for help. Just as quickly as it started, the episode ended, and air once again filled my lungs.
Do not disobey.
This warning was enough to render me terrified. From this point forward, I had no choice but to give in to the voice’s commands. Someway, somehow, I would have to go to Claira.
I pulled out my phone. As expected, there were no ride-sharing services available. A driving ban had just been issued due to the coming weather. Fantastic.
Upon exiting the building without so much as a long-sleeved shirt to keep me warm, I headed off in the direction of Claira’s home, back-tracking over the route taken by our bus. It would take me roughly four hours to get to her by foot. Knowing this, I made long and firm strides in the hopes of minimizing the amount of time it would take me to reach her. While walking down main street in this fashion, I noticed a lot of the businesses closing up for the night due to the approaching blizzard. One of these shops was the local florist.
Knowing what the voice had in mind, I pushed the door open just as the florist was about to lock up, startling the hell out of her. I grabbed the nearest rose I could find, threw some money down on the counter, and left in haste. I did not wish to feel my lungs collapse again.
I began power walking towards Claira’s house, hoping I would beat the storm there. Before making it too far, I felt a sharp pain in my hand. I looked down and saw droplets of blood spattered across the ground. It was the rose. I had grabbed an uncut one, thorns and all. My palm was now bleeding profusely, but I kept walking. The voice returned to encourage me, but this time, it was faint. Barely a whisper.
She’s waiting for you.
I trudged through harsh winds, my pace never wavering. The storm was closing in. At about the halfway point, I felt snow. It began falling at a swift and steady rate, making it almost impossible to see in front of me. I stood still with my back to the current in an attempt to catch my breath, but another whispered incentive kept me going.
I pressed on, feeling the sting of the snow on my bare face. After an hour or so, a mark formed on my arm. It was beginning to turn black. This was the onset of frostbite, I guessed. It only grew darker as time went on. The other soon followed suit. I could only assume the rest of my skin was turning as well. I was concerned, but not enough to falter and face the deadly consequences.
After another long and treacherous hour, I finally arrived at her street.
Be with her.
The lawn was covered in snow, but I could still see the stone walkway leading the way to the front door. I took a step onto it, but quickly fell to the ground, slipping on a sheet of ice. My arm met the unforgiving ground below. It was more than likely broken, but I couldn’t feel a thing. I stood up and kept walking.
Having more than likely heard the sound of my fall, Claira opened the front door and walked out to meet me. She said nothing. She simply looked at my frostbitten and disfigured form with a horrified expression. She raised her hands over her mouth in shock. I reached up and presented her the rose. I had little energy left to speak, but I managed to offer her a couple of words.
She stared at me, just as she had earlier. Those eyes of disgust. That look of confusion. It was now turning into sheer terror. Before I could offer an explanation, she began to scream. She screamed so loudly that a splitting pain consumed my ears. My feelings for her would not be reciprocated.
Without warning, a swirling vortex of red energy burst from my frozen skin and hung above us. We both cowered in its presence. Before we could escape, the entity rushed to Claira and wrapped itself around her arms and legs, pinning her in place. An all too familiar sound rang through the stormy night and I understood what was happening. The voice was no longer in my head, and it was not happy with Claira.
Just as it had earlier in the day, my body moved without me. My arm was raised, and I noticed a red glow emanating from the rose; similar in color to the entity. I was compelled to strike Claira – to slash her open with its thorns. I did my best to resist, but my possessed legs quickly closed the gap between us.
As my arm wound up for the attack, I cried out.
“NO!!!” I yelled, to which the entity responded.
Do as you are told.
I can’t quite explain it, but in this bleak moment, an idea sprung to mind. Less a thought than it was a feeling. A last-ditch effort to fight back.
“Okay! Okay! I’ll do it. Just please, release me.”
Very well. Make it quick.
My restraints were lifted. I was surprised it had complied, but did my best not to show it. I then looked at Claira with saddened eyes.
I swung the rose and struck skin. Blood poured onto the snowy ground. My blood.
What are you doing?
I sliced open every inch of my skin I could see. In a low whisper, the voice pleaded with me.
No! Stop this at once! I beg of you!
Claira was freed of her binding and ran back into the house. I kept cutting until there was a pool of red surrounding me. I fell into it and lost consciousness.
When I awoke, I was in a hospital bed. To my left was Claira, asleep in a chair. I was in a great deal of pain, but it seemed my wounds had been attended to. Better yet, I no longer felt the darkness within. I guess my plan worked.
I tried to get up, knocking over my IV in the process. The noise woke Claira.
“You’re awake! Please, lie back. You need your rest.”
Her eyes were just as beautiful as I remembered.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m fine. Just a little frazzled and confused is all.”
She picked up the IV and handed me a glass of water.
“What was that thing? How did you know how to stop it?”
I had to dwell on it for a second to recollect all the details.
“I don’t know. It was a strange sensation I became aware of. I felt as though it was tied to my veins in some way. A blood demon, of sorts. Without my blood, it couldn’t survive.”
She stared at me, silent.
“You probably think I’m crazy, don’t you?”
She shot me an infectious smile.
“I was there too. I heard it – saw it, even. If you’re crazy, we both are.”
We laughed. A far better exchange than my first, if I was keeping score.
The rest of the day was nice. We talked for hours and really got to know each other. Before she left, Claira promised she would visit the following day. For a brief window, things were looking really good. But then, a familiar voice broke through, shattering the illusion.
I told you she would be yours.
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