An excerpt from chapter six of my current work in progress, Nothing and Everything. This is the first half of chapter 6. I’m choosing this excerpt because I was particularly happy with it. From the feverish panic that Damen is in, to the second-person nightmare he has from the perspective of his nightmare doppleganger. It was fun to write, and wonderfully disturbing. Please enjoy.
(Note: This is a rough, unedited draft)
Damen woke in a cold sweat and ripped the covers away from himself. His breath came out in heavy gulps, and there was an awful salty taste in his mouth from sweat collecting around his lips. That sweat coated his body, making him feel feverish.
He stood from his bed, feeling dizzy and unbalanced on his feet, and stumbled toward the bathroom. He flipped on the light switch, cringing against the brightness turning on the faucet until the water was cold. He soaked a washcloth in the cold water and pressed it over his face, running it down over his neck and chest, trying to cool himself and get rid of the sticky feeling of sweat.
Another nightmare. Another damn nightmare. Why is this happening now? Why again? He’s been gone since…
Damen let out a shaky sigh, gazing down at the wet washcloth in his hands, now warm with his sweat and gooped up in places with traces of mucus. He took a deep, hot breath, then rinsed the cloth out and squeezed it before hanging it up. He felt less dizzy now, but still not completely balanced. He had to lean against the wall as he left the bathroom, breathing slow and deep breaths. His lungs and throat felt hot, and the air coming out of him felt almost like hot steam.
He forced himself to stand upright and walked to Eryn’s room, peering in to make sure she was still all right. The little girl was curled up tightly under her covers and seemed to be sleeping soundly. Good, Damen thought, I don’t want her to go through a sleepless night like I am.
He went down to the kitchen and got himself a glass of ice water, the cool liquid soothing his burning insides. He settled down on the couch and turned on the TV, keeping it low enough so the sound wouldn’t travel upstairs and disturb his sleeping daughter. This was the best way to get back to sleep, he thought, just letting the TV lull him into rest. It would keep his mind off of him at the very least. There was no way he could get back to sleep if he wasn’t distracting his mind with something else.
Of course it would have to happen this way. He’s been gone for so long that I lowered my guard. He was probably waiting for a moment like this. I don’t even have any medication to hold him back, now…
Damen laid his head back against a pillow on the couch and half closed his eyes as he watched the moving pictures on the screen, the audio barely registering with his addled mind. The faint flicker of an old face flashed through his mind for an instant. He swallowed, his heart filling with dread. Don’t think about him, don’t think about him, don’t think about him.
In trying not to think about him, he just ended up thinking about him even more. He knew that’s how it worked: the harder you tried not to think about something, the more you ended up thinking of it, and the stronger the fear of that thing, the paranoia of it coming to claw at your mind and soul became. Damen knew this, but there was no way to stop once it had begun. The panic had set in and his mind was racing on its own.
Damen forced his eyes open and gazed at the TV, trying to focus on that rather than the dark shadows lurking in his head. His heart pounded noticeably in his chest and he couldn’t stand the feeling. He felt like he was burning up and freezing all at once.
“Please, just go away,” he whispered, pressing his hands over his face, exhaling shakily. “Just let me sleep.”
Then sleep, the voice in his head whispered. I’m waiting for you with open arms.
* * *
Do you know how pathetic it is to see a grown man cry? Why don’t you take a look in the mirror and see just what a terrible wrecked shell you’ve become. It’s disgusting. You look like death. Do you want to die? Do you want to do what she did and leave your daughter all alone? Well, if you did, I could always take care of her for you. She probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference anyway. Her daddy would just be a nightmare, that’s all.
Look at you. You’re so weak right now. Your body is so frail. I could come in there and kill you silently right now if I wished and replace you, and no one would be the wiser. But of course I’m not going to do that. I live for you. I have no wish to see you die, at least not at the moment.
Do you know what it is I truly want from you, Damen? I want to break you, break your mind. Chisel away until you’re no longer able to stand it. I want to see you fall on your knees in front of me and beg for it to end. Then I’ll take your frail body, lay you down and bite into you, sucking away at your old wounds. I want to feel you writhe under my touch and submit to my will. I want you to be mine and mine alone.
Your family? You’re worried about what will happen to them? To your little daughter? Don’t be; when I break you, I can take her with me as well. We can be… a family together. I’ll care for her as if she was my own. You can watch as I put her to bed and sing her a lullaby. I can watch over her dreams. I can be her dreams. I can be her everything.
Why do you resist me, Damen? Don’t you realize it only hurts more when you do? We used to live in peace together, so long ago. Why can’t we just go back to that time? Stop resisting. Stop fighting me. Let me in. I can make the pain go away. You’ll be able to rest and be at peace. Just let me in.
Let. Me. In.
If you want to continue this little game of ours, I have no problems with it. I’m just giving you the choice to end it quickly, to end all the pain. Think about it. I’m always here, always listening. Just tell me and I’ll accept your decision.
* * *