Chapter 36: An overwhelming presence, what a man. No? Too soon?
A knot swells in my esophagus as I remember Etriyenne’s words:
“There is no recovering from devouring human souls.”
I really messed up… Stupid… Stupid… Stupid… I stumble toward the steps adjusting to my weight.
“We will await your return, Young Emery,” Kanti whimpers as I get closer to the top step.
How did I go astral? I thought astral projection was when a person’s soul… I mean, I guess, the spirit leaves their body. How is this happening? I don’t understand anything!
Eliza sits alone, staring out into her backyard from the window closest to the table. She leers at me. “Emery!”
Oh man, she’s angry. “… what’s up…?”
“Didn’t you just go upstairs? Didn’t you hear me—Aye! Never mind! What’s wrong?” Eliza asks firmly. She adjusts herself in her seat and sips wine from a glass goblet with a gold stand.
Sigh. “…nothing, just moving my clothes to the dryer.” I sit at the table and unravel the silverware. “The steak looks good. So, does the salad…” Strawberries, pecans, onions, and bits of cheese and bacon: Eliza went all out to have this dinner with me.
“Thanks,” Eliza responds flashing her purple teeth with a lazy smile.
“So,” Eliza begins, “I was…”
Why is it necessary for people to talk while they eat? I have enough on my plate. I can’t even talk to anyone about it. I just want to eat in peace.
“—bly for dinner to—” Eliza rambles on, smiling like a smitten schoolgirl. I wonder who she thinks she’s in love with this time.
On second thought, not really.
“So,” I begin.
“I can read it on your face, Em. The Christmas Eve party, huh? Hmmph.” Eliza giggles and takes a sip.
“Yea. What did you mean about betting? Do you—Do you think that Roslyn and me… are soulmates?” It’s been bugging me. Why would she say that her and Roslyn’s mom are betting on us having a relationship and stuff? I stare at the scraps of steak on my plate, avoiding eye contact with Eliza.
“Hmph.” Eliza sits back in her chair and crosses her arms under her oversized breasts. God, why am I staring? She’s my mom! There’s something wrong with me. “Well.”
“Well, what?” I ask, demanding a response. Come on, tell me! “What? Well, what?”
Eliza giggles. “Well, I’ll give you an answer when you’re ready to hear it. Do you mind doing the dishes?”
“What do you mean, ready to hear it? I think I’m ready now. I wouldn’t have asked.”
“I asked you a question, Emery. Don’t make me ask again,” Eliza says sternly.
“I asked you one too. Are you allowed to ignore me because I’m a kid? What did you mean by bet? Tell me. I can’t let that go!”
“Aye… tsk. Never mind, I’ll do them. So stubborn, Em’,” Eliza says nonchalantly. She finishes her meal and delicately wipes her mouth. “Why would it matter anyway? If you and Roslyn go out of your own volition, who cares if others benefit from your success? Only the loser has something to worry about.” She giggles, grabbing her plate from the table. “Finished?”
It’s hard to disagree with that logic, but it seems so… “Yea. I’m finished. Sigh.” There’s some principle that says that isn’t right, right? Ugh, why does this bother me so much?
“Awww, I can tell by that face it annoys you. Em, the world isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Sometimes the fun in life is just observing what happens around you; why not profit off of it, if you can, innocently?”
“Really, well mo—”
“I don’t mean monetarily, Pendejo. If you put money first, you’ll never have it. Like the virgin who idolizes sex, or the lonely men and women who fantasize about the perfect mate and turn everyone down. You don’t need to make a stupid choice to live, but you don’t always need to make the best one. Sometimes doing nothing is everything.” Eliza strokes my hair. “Nothing is perfect, Em.”
“I know…” Maybe I have a flawed view of what should be perfect. In a perfect world, would the cloak exist? Would I?
Eliza’s phone buzzes. Her eyes light up. “So, I’m probably going to have a guest over this evening, if that’s okay with you.”
“It’s your house, Tia. Why do I care? I’ll stay out of your way if you want me to.”
“Damn right it’s my house, Turd, but you’re my guest, y no sommos locos. I wanna’ give you a heads up. He makes me a little anxious sometimes, so I like to mellow out before he comes. He can have a strong presence despite how much of a bitch he is.”
“Oooh… kay?” I shrug. I can’t begin to imagine what the hell that means.
“I’ll be in my room, if you need anything. Don’t feel weird; it isn’t a booty call or anything. I respect myself.”
God! Why are you telling me this? “Alright.”
I walk over to the living room, admiring its elegant simplicity. It’s almost identical to the one upstairs, except there’s a projector and a projector screen that unravels from the ceiling. The unlit fireplace is pretty soothing, especially when I don’t need it to feel warm.
I plop down on the small couch and try to relax. I need a minute before going back to Raunch and Kanti. That voice… Could it have come from the cloak itself? If Aemon lives inside of living people, and he’s pure energy like all of the gods… It would make sense that energy is alive in things like the cloak. If the cloak has its own entity, what would that mean for me? Would it fight Aemon, or alongside him?
Well, whatever, just because I’m not down there with Raunch and Kanti, I can still kind of see what they’re doing. My second sight detects them below me, Eliza above me, but unable to focus completely on either of them. It’s annoying: I can hear everything, except dialogue and thoughts. Kanti did say, with time, I’d be able to see more than just blobs of color and waves.
Maybe if I… My mind’s eye tingles when I sharpen my focus, and a warm bubble expands in the center of my forehead. I picture Eliza and quickly redirect my focus to Kanti’s energy before I can make any words out. She can’t read my mind or scan me; it wouldn’t be right to intrude on Eliza.
The basement comes into focus: Kanti’s sprawled out on the smooth concrete floor, while Raunch levitates on his back like he’s in a recliner; his hands are behind his frizzy, unkempt hair.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next chapter!
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