It was 5:30 in the morning when Diane woke up.
She was cold. Her heater abruptly died a few days ago; so, she bundled up on blankets, hoping soon that this will pass. Nothing was looking better, she considered. She fought off the hugging blankets and quilts, and turned on the light in her “kitchen” area. On the counter, she poured a bowl of dry cereal, only to stare at it in depth in front of her.
Sighing, she moved the bowl away from herself, and rested her countenance upon her crossed arms, strewn across the table. The room had gotten a touch lighter, but was still as dark as the dryads in the groves…
Well, not at all, but her patience was thin, and all she wanted to do was wake up, but the lighting remained consistent until a quarter to 7:00.
She did her morning chores, such as feeding her cat and scooping a dreadful litterbox. In all things considered, it was the facet of normalcy that rang profound—and by all means, she wanted it back. She no longer wanted to have nightmares, to have visions, to have stresses…
And most of all, she no longer wanted to have fear.
But, how was that turning out? Not too well. The days have been vaguely kind to her, but the consistency, while still there, lessened a little. There really wasn’t anything she could do right now, but tomorrow, she made arrangements to stay at Linda’s apartment in the meantime. She was making a mistake, wasn’t she? She knew, internally, that she shouldn’t have done this, but the options weren’t remarkable in comparison.
Diane lowered her gaze to her bleached hands; almost the color of the tip of her finger-nail. Another wash of the cool followed her, and there was a slight pang in her chest.
There was a tap on the window, and glancing out, there was nothing to be seen from where she was standing. Another tap. Walking over, she glanced furtively before closing the curtains. She went back to the table, her face resting on a barren surface, and she fell back asleep.
She opened her pallid eyelids. It’d seem that it had passed an hour or two. The room now shown all of its decaying matter that no longer covered itself from the darkness. Diane yawned as she looked around, disorientated, and stumbled in her haste steps; she crouched as she ambled to her bedroom. Though all at once, there was a knock on her door.
“Just a second!” She called back, “I’ll be right over!” What answered back was the march of persistence, beating in on her front door.
Hold your horses! “Hang on, will you!? Give me a chance, at least!” She hobbled over to the table to rub a lower part of her back; and as she straightened it out, she fumbled toward the door. Her eyes gaped in surprise.
It was certainly not UPS. “What–what are you doing here?”
The door opened a little wider where Linda chuckled, “What, you’re uninviting me this late? C’mon, let’s get out of here!” Linda walked inside, briskly as her steps trailed with an exuberance that was hard to muster. “Wow, this place still looks like garbage. How could you even breathe in here?”
Diane really didn’t know what to say to that one. After all, it was her home for the past few months.
“I don’t know. You just get used to it, I guess.”
“I was just thinking aloud…” They had continued their walk further inside the apartment, “How are we going to do this? You have the suit cases all settled?”
“No. I was going to set them up today, but you showed up a day earlier than planned.”
“No, I didn’t. Check your calendar because we agreed on today. I have all my things taken care of since coming back a couple of days ago. It shouldn’t be much of a problem even if you’re not prepared. I got time,” she shrugged, only now noticing the state of Diane’s bedroom. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” but quickly she added, “Why?”
“No reason, I guess. It’s just that… have you wondered about the sanitary here? I don’t know, but this seems gross.” Linda grimaced to her left where the bathroom door was opened a jar. “Eww, is that mold?”
“…You’re one to talk about cleanliness, don’t you think?”
Linda rolled her eyes upward, removing her glasses, “Yeah, but I never had mold. This is probably why you’ve been having issues in the first place, huh?”
“Listen, I’d rather not argue.”
“Oh, but I bet it’s true. You probably need to get checked out or something–”
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Diane sneered. “But, hey, thanks for the abrupt concern. Something changed?”
Linda mumbled something in return, but then shrugged back, opening up a closet door. “Where are the suit cases, anyway?”
“On the bottom. Lift open the little shelf compartment, and they’re all flattened out.”
“Ah, here we go.”
“So, we can probably just load these in back, get things in a group…”
“It’s your stuff,” Linda began to assort the cases, each one, she opened on the bed, and… “Diane.”
“Can I ask you something, I don’t know, a little weird?”
Diane noticed the solemn tone within her voice. “Go for it.”
“You think you have more problems in this place than you already have?” She lowered her eyebrows, and stayed still. “I think the manager lied to you about some stuff, or at least, neglected some of it.”
“Listen, I don’t wanna talk about it. Here, I’ll start packing and I’ll give you the cases to load up in the car–”
Linda only continued, looking down at the assortments, “Guy seems sleazy. Why the heck did you not leave sooner? If I were you, I’d just stay away from this place and never turn back.”
“I’m really not up for this discussion, and it’s none of your business, if I’m being honest.”
With that, Linda complied for the time being, and stolidly collected each case as it was finished. When they were done, Linda followed Diane out the door and into her car.
Linda glanced up as she buckled herself in the passenger seat, “Ah, better look out for that, huh?”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Diane adjusted herself and massaged the back of her head lightly.
She pulled out of the parking lot; the apartment building fading as a distant memory in the past. The rest of the drive maintained its silence as Diane carefully recollected upon these recent events.
I was dying… She glanced over at Linda, who seemed to not occupy the moment. She was there. Something is up with the book– and it may not be what I thought it was originally. It is something more dire, something that I did not consider...
This broke Diane out of her thought. “What’s up?”
“I just want to know. Be honest, though. Have you been well these days? Well, scratch that. That’s probably a stupid thing to ask–Has anything got better?” She glanced away from Diane, a hand resting on the ledge of the car door. “Like, anything? I just want to know.”
“I…” Well, I’m not exactly a liar, but… “I’ve been a little better, but it’s hard to tell. Why’d you ask? Curious.”
“I felt bad,” She muttered, and she rested her knees on the edge of the seat, stretching the fabric, “That’s all, and you know, I do care, but I–I got really stupid, and wasn’t thinking. I hope you know that.”
“Oh. Uh, well, thanks, I guess.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry for… everything.”
“Noted,” Diane put on her turn signal, and made a smooth right turn. She tapped once on the steering wheel out of habit, signifying that the conversation came to a natural end.
It was days later when an object had found its way to an elongated, darkened table, standing upon one balanced leg in the center. At a distance, Diane stood indefinitely. It was awhile since she last read it, but at the time, she didn’t understand the fear she was experiencing. The visions only exacerbated from the influence, though that could probably be said about anything.
What could she find other than a maniac’s ramblings in there?
Eh… I probably shouldn’t go there.
Dubious, she looked away from the book. There has to be a correlation that makes sense. If not, then why was it a possibility to think over? Diane internally paced, being still as the room’s ambience. This started this conflict with Linda…And it led me to where I am now. What, if anything, do I take from this as? This doesn’t make any sense.
On the other hand, I shouldn’t be that willing to believe in something that may not even be real. After all, I could have something going on…
It felt real, though. She frowned, backing her mental steps. That’s what… That’s how I felt with that. If there is a connection to either the visions or this book, which one should I follow as a trail? The visions never proved anything, but the book seems to be my only lead—since it does connect to my problems.
The visions? I could just be insane. It’s all possibility, but what connection is there?
She was at a loss. There could not be a connection.
But, there might be, since–
“What are you doing?” Linda walked in, carrying a glass of water.
Diane quickly took a step back, “Nothing, nothing.”
“Okay… Everything all right?”
“Uh, yeah, everything is fine. All cool here.”
Indicating with her free hand, she casually replied, “You were looking at the book? And for quite some time, too.”
“I… I um… Yeah, I was.” Tilting her head, Diane asked intriguingly, “How did you know that?”
“Believe it or not, I was watching by the corner for about five minutes, wondering what was going on. You were quiet… and just doing nothing, so I figured ‘Eh, might as well see what’s up from a distance.’ And here I am, ’cause I just couldn’t wait anymore.” She put down her glass on a petite coaster. “…More visions?”
“Um… No, not quite.”
Linda quirked an eyebrow, “Really?”
“Yeah, really. I’d rather not get into it.”
“So, why are you staring at the book? You told me you wanted nothing to do with it, and here I find you about to grab it. What’s going on?”
I was about to grab it? Diane wasn’t too sure, but instead, spoke, “Nothing’s going on. I was just staring at it. What’s the problem with that?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Linda eased, cautioned with her hands up, “It’s just weird,” a shrug, “That’s all. No harm done… I guess. Just–You know what, never mind. I’m not going to say.”
“What? Say what?”
“Just…” Linda hesitated, straining for words, “be… be very, very careful with it, if you do plan on reading it again.”
“I’m always careful! I apologize for the microscopic tears I’ve created when I last handled the book then.”
“I hate when you do this, god dammit.” Linda muttered and brushed her leg once by the table. “Shut up and listen for once.” Something that you can’t even do half the time…
“Hey! You’re being ridiculous yourself. You know me by now, have I ever returned anything in poor condition?”
“No, but that’s not it. This book is very important to me, okay? I may have acted careless in the past with it, but I don’t want anything done to this book. Nothing, okay? Just be careful with it.”
The room was cold, and a slip of a chill passed by. Diane aghast, was only inching away from the book.
Linda made a face. “Okay. So… I have to know for real, what has been up with you?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“C’mon, you can tell me.”
“No, just… just stop. Please. Can’t we talk about something else?”
“Like, what?” She shrugged carelessly. “There really is nothing else interesting in either of our lives.”
She peered over, “Listen, I’d rather be left alone right now.” The book was calling. She should just grab it–yes, grab it!
“Is that really, um, the best option? You’re not…” how do I even say this? “uh, well?”
“I know that. It’s especially why I want to be alone. I need to think about some things right now.”
“I’ll check on you in a few hours then. I don’t know what’s going on, but something feels off with you–more than usual, actually.” Linda’s expression softened, “…I’m–I’m sorry about what I did.”
“I promise it’s nothing to do with you right now… I just have to think about what’s going on and evaluate everything–what should I do, among other things that come to mind. This is not healthy and I know that.”
“Okay…” Linda turned around, but glanced at Diane one final time. “You’re okay, right?”
Diane attempted a smile, “I’m fine. Now go,” a whoosh, a whoosh, “you have better things to do probably, like studying I imagine?”
“I hate you.” She walked by the edge of the wall; it was a turn and then down to the rest of the apartment. “Look, if you’re still here… I’ll check on you.”
Diane nodded, though the sentiment didn’t quite reach her understanding. Now alone, the A/C turned on again, and she just had to wonder what allured her to this room. She didn’t even know the book was here at first, but she felt a compelling desire to visit this room.
Perhaps, this was the bit of closure. Maybe this was a sign to read it again. Ah, but the human thought does not always equate to our feelings. At least that’s what Diane could summarize. She touched the patchy spine of the book and skimmed through it, albeit gentle, but it was more than anything; a darkening thought became, however.
Something else compelled her, too. She wasn’t entirely sure why, but something within her pleaded to burn the book into the ash it deserved to be; and laid upon the ground, the wind can breathe it away with all its fabric in the hands of a passing cold.
Her hands covered the center of the book. Where would a lighter be?
This ‘recent’ arrangement had turned from weeks to now months. There were only more delays with the renovations, and at this point, Diane considered herself apartment-less. Whatever had been really going on, she had no clue, but was only less determined to pursue in the matter further after factoring in the costs.
Everything was in a repetitive cycle, a routine, if you will, but only faltered slightly. It all had gotten worse, and the tremors that brushed by her, were no longer murmurs in the tranquil day, but now throughout both day and night as the grounds of trauma; silence crept as faces flooded throughout her mind, blankly, all those she cared for; and in the eye of the pitfall, soon evening, she awaited by her bed and counted each experience more and yet, each was just prolonged as the apex of a pendulum.
Things were just now making a little sense, at least when compared to those in past. All she does is wait for them to pass, so each day to avoid them, she secluded herself in a stolid bedroom, and slept for hours. She barely left that room.
But, she didn’t want to see them ever again. While some were in her dreams, they were now more often in her waking life. She would be thinking of something, and then it begins the trail, that recollection, that reminder:
They will never go away.
Diane was still in bed when the door knocked a few times. She grumbled with each turn, and half-asleep, hoped that it would leave her alone. “Go away…”
The door spoke, “Yeah, you should really get up. It’s the afternoon!”
“Go away. I want sleep.”
Linda stepped inside, and the door slammed into the wall. A small oops passed through her lips. “It’s 2:00 PM. Who knew you slept in late?” Rolling her eyes, Linda walked over to the window.
“Thank god for Saturdays.” Diane turned over, pulling the blanket over her face; and she turned away from her concerned friend.
More like every day…“And? You’re gonna waste the day? That’s not fun. C’mon, we can do something, maybe check out some places.”
“No, leave me alone. Sleep… I just want sleep.”
Linda opened the curtains, “Get up, and get out of bed. I’m not having this.”
“Go away. You’ve been intrusive enough, haven’t you?” Diane slid her head against her pillow, positioning her back. “I’ll sleep until the evening, who cares?”
“That’s why I’m doing this. Ever since you came here, you’ve been nothing but depressed and reclusive–”
“Oh, and an outing really does the trick, huh.”
“No,” Linda shook her head, “No, it does not, but you know what? It gets you out of here once in a while, and it gets you away from your own stuff.”
“Leave me alone.”
“And, you’ve been so into your own stuff, you can’t think about anything else, right? How about that?” Linda took a step closer and sinisterly, “Look at you. Look at yourself, and look at what you’ve done to yourself.”
When Linda spoke those final words, all was still, except the door. Diane opened her eyes in the midst of tears; she wasn’t crying, no, she couldn’t be crying. Not again. She went back to her pillow, and this time, did not fall back asleep.
Outside the door, Linda huffed loudly, and she shook her head again. These past few weeks have been worse for everyone, including the on and off sleeping schedule with Diane. There were times where she’d be up until five in the morning, times where she would not get any sleep at all, and as of late, she has been sleeping the day away, barely visible to the clings upon life; the burden showed under her eyes.
Because of this, she had been skipping classes, and she would probably be thrown out soon. If lucky, maybe she’d get the option to re-enroll next year, but that was just chance.
“What am I going to do with her?” She looked to the door one last time and walked away, disappointedly.
Little did she know, it all began a few days after Diane’s arrival.
A/N: Chapter 8 might (keyword: might) be more promising than this one. 😁
Links to existing and future chapters:
Among the Arisen. Chapter VI.