It appears beside her in bed like a dead lover. Its hair pools on the pillowcase. Its arm lies limp, the wrist draped across her waist. Its eyes are wide open. Bright blue eyes, cold void-window eyes that refuse to blink.
The first time Aura sees the demon, she screams and leaps out of bed, kneecap cracking open on the knob of the desk drawer. Thin lines of pus and blood run down her skin as she rocks back and forth in the corner, staring dully at the empty mattress.
Perhaps it was just a vivid dream. She’d ask for a second opinion, but her roommates haven’t come to check on the sound. Not a surprise. Living with four other people in a rat-infested apartment deadens you to most of life’s little shocks.
Two more nights go by – weekend nights, normally the worst for nightmares since Aura’s been forced into working last-shift barback for the pub down the road. Things start to clear up again. The image of the demon distorts in her mind, recedes into a blurry photo-negative of itself. Perhaps it was just a vivid dream.
Then, Monday morning rolls around, and there it is again, lying in bed beside her. Long hair, limp arms, bright eyes.
Aura can’t move. She’s paralyzed, whether from magic or manifest fear. She chances a glance down at the demon’s mouth, notes the bloody lips stretched over bone-spur-white teeth.
Vivid is still the first word that comes to mind, dream or no. It’s always raining this time of year, the outside world muffled beneath a blanket of grey. This apple-core contrast is the brightest thing she’s seen in weeks.
“Why are you here?” she asks the demon tightly. But it does not blink, and it does not move closer or further away. It does not embrace her, but it does not let her go.
Aura calls in sick to her first pub shift and stays in bed all day. Fear needles at her, gnaws her nerves till they fray and spark like power cables. But there’s a threshold beyond which the fear dies away, and numbness eventually slips into its place. Anything becomes comforting, if you stare at it long enough.
The demon remains in bed with her, unmoving, unblinking. When Aura finally drags herself up and slips a flannel over her pajamas, it leaves without so much as a sigh.
The week ticks by. The customers at the pub are stingy and sour. The rain beats a ceaseless waltz on the roof. The roommates are barely speaking to one another. There’s a joke to be made somewhere, about the last time that Aura had someone to share a bed with, but that’s a joke for another world, the world of hook-ups and dating and human interaction. And god knows Aura’s never had the guts for any of it.
Sometimes, that’s a source of pride. Other times, it’s just empty.
So she’s almost glad when the demon reappears on Friday morning. The company makes the thunderstorm feel cozy.
“Do you want to stay with me?” she asks it as it lies beside her. Dark clouds roil and crackle outside the window. Damp mold-rot fills the air.
It might just be Aura’s imagination, but she could swear that the limp wrist twitches and droops a little further down her hip, its bloodless fingers brushing the small of her back. A shiver runs up her spine on swift little feet.
The bright blue eyes of the demon are hypnotizing. Aura finds that she can put her face right in front of its face, and stare and stare without ever needing to blink.
Her stomach cramps with hunger. Her mouth feels like sandpaper, parched and starved. When she rips her gaze away from the demon, her hands have shifted and distorted, their edges blurring in midair. How long has she been lying in bed?
The blood-bone mouth moves, red liquid trickling from cracked and smiling skin. There is no sound, but Aura feels the words like they’re lodged in her own throat:
Why are you here?
Lightning scars open the sky, and Aura vaguely wonders if she left the window open, if her room will soon be soaked in rain. It doesn’t seem important, though. Perhaps nothing is important, except staying in this beautiful little bed. After all, it’s nice here. Comforting, companionable, and nice. Who would possibly tell her she ever has to leave?
“I think I want to stay with you,” she says to the demon, and drifts off to sleep with her eyes open wide.
C. C. Rayne is a writer, actor, and musician based on the East Coast of the USA. A lover of all things weird and discontented, C.C.’s work seeks to blend the magical with the mundane. You can find more of C.C’s work (current and upcoming) in Grim & Gilded, Soft Star Magazine, bloodbathhate magazine, Eye to the Telescope and Word West Revue.