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Anamnesis

A demon has taken over Lucy's imagination and now wants her soul.

Alone.

My naked feet curled away from the biting gravel. I hugged my knees on the beheaded mountaintop as the wind ripped shawls of warmth from my back again and again. I cupped my hands over my chest, around the flickering light protected by my sternum: my heart. It’s weary pulses threaded underneath my skin, shivering like a candle in the wind.

Leave me be. Let me die.

I couldn’t remember how long I’d been trapped there. I didn’t know the measure of my hopelessness. I knew only that word, that cold, hollow word that plunged into a chasm at the end into echoing silence.

Alone.

Alone by myself. No. Alone in myself.

I recognized the waxy pastel stick figures scratched into the boulder to my left. I had shaped the clouds into those penguins sporting top hats. And I remembered the vibrant butterfly trees, rivers of diamonds, and life-sized sandcastles stretching in the expanse below my position at the summit. I had imagined them, brought them to life with the ridiculousness of childlike faith.

They smoldered now, ash carried on the wind instead of glitter.

Alone in myself. With myself—a heart drowning in the darkness of it’s own soul.

“How does it feel?” His voice slit the air.

My head jerked as if turned by jammed gears. I knew he was there. He was always there, the infernal. But every reminder wound my body into knots. His fitted tuxedo contrasted my shredded lace dress; where he rippled in the wind, I whipped. A metal talon fit over his right index finger and golden hair arrayed his head like a crown.

Colorless, void, his eyes pierced me. “To die?”

With the flick of a smile, he inclined his head, driving the stare deeper into me until I was sure he had penetrated me through.

I vomited a sob and wrenched myself away his perfect stance, his curled lips, his dark beauty. As I crawled, the rocks ripped open my knees with sharp fingernails. Whimpering, I closed my eyes.

My fingertips grazed the edge of the peak’s drop off. It would be so easy to be free of him.

And easier to still to think freedom was honest.

A soul that dies before it is reconnected with its mind and body is forfeit.

I closed my eyes, letting the gusts cut the illusion of liberty into my skin. But even the shrieking of the wind couldn’t strangle his words. He was in my mind. I could not escape him. “You know why I chose you.” The gravel ground like bones beneath his prowl. “Sweet Lucy. Shy Lucy. Innocent Lucy. You thought no one noticed you. But they did. Oh, they did. Those malodorous humans fed on you like leprosy on flesh. Chaste little Lucy, saving the world. With what?”

My paper skin shuddered again his ferocity, crumpling, caving with my resolve. As he neared, the shadows grew and darkened. Instead of sheets covering surfaces, they eroded craters in the mountains and valleys of my imagination, carving out my thoughts. The harmony of refugee imaginings’ screams laced the churning storm.

“Did you think a field trip to a land of dreams would be fun? Where’s the guardian angel that swore to protect you? Did you think you could change the world from in here?”

The Infernal crouched and dragged his thumb over my cracked lips. With each pass, he raked harder until my neck creaked against the force. “Look at little Lucy now,” he spat. “Locked in her precious imagination . . . with a nightmare.”

His fist slammed into my forehead, snapping my neck back. The rocks beneath me tried to crack my head open. I writhed, death like a leech in my every vein.

His brow twitched with vicious amusement. “You think no one will miss you. You’d never be accepted into a big university. You’ll never have a name worth repeating. Not a name like Lucy. You’re right. They’ll forget you. Like they’ve forgotten every other soul I’ve sucked.”

The Infernal’s lust was heavy on his ragged breath. It tasted like blood. Goosebumps tiptoed after the metallic tip of his metal as it traced my sternum. I eyed him—paralyzed.

Then his lazy smile spasmed. He plunged his finger into my chest. The bone there, shielding my glowing heart, split in half. The crack whipped the dullness, creating sparks between the clouds.

Staring into his twisted grin, I felt inky darkness finger my vision. Color bled from the world. Light festered as the shadows boiled over the ground.

Sleep. Please, let me sleep—alone.

My parent’s faces melted like clay left out in the rain. I couldn’t remember the street I’d grown up on or what “growing up” even meant. And what was “future” for me to want it?

No. Sleep, little thing. You’re body is dying in reality; your soul is safe in your mind. Be still. Be at peace.

“Your soul is mine.” His grating, metallic voice crushed me into further helplessness. I contorted in oily waves; they coiled around my arms and legs dragging me down . . . down . . . down.

Deep.

Alone . . . Alone . . . Lucy, you’re alone.

I felt his hand groping my chest, ripping back the paper skin. Next, he would extinguish my light—my heart. And I would be a space for him to fill—another shadow to darken the world.

“How do we extinguish darkness, Lucy?” A voice, a bodiless voice. Not sharp like razors but inviting, like a daddy’s hug. My ears strained, reaching for the words.

That ghost of a memory wisped just out of reach. The memory of a growling furnace, salivating pipes, and endless darkness. And a hand guiding mine to the tiny switch embedded in the wall . . .

My faded, limp body jerked. Something pricked in my chest, building, tugging towards the surface, bobbing in the murk. I fought to keep my eyes shut, but the light was stirring, leaping, shouting within me. My eyelids flew open to release the pure pressure pouring from me.

A wretched scream shredded the air raw as the man scuttled back, his hand smoking. The curled talon melted from his hand, revealing black glass where his hand should have been. I glanced down at my body as lovely white light seeped from my open chest, tying the spider web of lace back together and licking my cuts smooth. It caressed the mountain stone, flooding its sides as the glow, like a liquid sunrise, poured over the world, washing it in life.

Colors awakened in the realms as the radiant river gathered the pieces of my degenerated imagination and churned them back into shape. Trees erected in the forests of memories. Birds spiraled up from the water walls in the place of dreams. The buildings and people I belonged to were freed in the city of reality.

My mountain grew in the center of mysterious and impossible beauty. And the shadows it cast were surrounded and guarded by unadulterated light. The luminance spread up the cliff side and petted my feet with warmth, tickling a smile from my lips.

I turned to watch it crest the peak in a crown of sunshine but froze. The Infernal scuttled back from the gold in terror instead of greed. He clawed up a rickety twig of a tree, eyes black with horror.

I reached for him. “It’s okay. It feels good. See?” I jumped and the light on the ground splashed up in a spray of rainbow. I laughed spinning in the dry, silky puddle. One of the priceless droplets kissed his cheek. A scream gutted his body. He lost hold of his branch and teetered backwards. Shiny oynx frosted his face in a silent screech as it encased the rest of his body. He shattered on the ground like a crystal vase, his ruins worthless dust.

A tear traced my cheek as the light lapped up his fragments, washing them into diamonds. The clouds, no longer boiling pollution, framed the sky. Below, the orchestra of possibility readied itself, humming the first notes to a crescendo. I smiled and breathed in.

This time, I thought of a different word: home.

The light washed over me like water and I sunk into the mountain, wrapped in sleep. I surfaced with sensations of life.

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