In the first few groggy moments of the next morning, as my tired brain crawled up into waking, I knew that the night before had been nothing but a dream. The events were just too far removed from what I generally experienced as reality. There was no way that what I remembered had actually happened to me.
I sat up in bed, rubbing my face. I needed to be up and helping with the morning chores. The sunlight streamed down from my window, across my face, which meant that I had woken up later than normal. I was surprised my mother or father hadn’t come in to rouse me, or at least sent my sister to do it.
I sat up in bed and realized, belatedly, that I was not wearing the clothes in which I had gone to sleep. I remembered changing into this shirt and these trousers, but that was part of the dream, was it not? I blinked, confused. These were the pants I remembered putting on, but the bottoms were clean. If last night had really happened, they should have been stained by the filthy water of the pond.
I cleaned them.
Her voice, as clear as a bell, rang through my mind. I shook my head, not wanting to believe. It helped that, in the light of morning, something about the quality of her voice seemed less real than it had the night before. I needed the events to be a dream. I didn’t want to have made a pact with an entity. I denied to myself that it was possible for me to have done that.
I looked around my room for the sword, the odd, gleaming white blade she had left in my hand. If it was here, she was real. If it wasn’t, I had imagined the whole ordeal, and I could go back to living my peaceful, boring life. I wanted that. I had never wanted it so badly before as I did in that moment.
You won’t see it. You have to draw on my power to bring it forth. You dismissed it when you slept.
“Get out of my head,” I whispered, not wanting my family to hear me talking. They would either think I was mad or, worse, know that I was speaking to an entity.
I can’t and I won’t do that. We have an agreement.
Destroy evil. That was what she said. “Last night was… real?”
Of course it was. Don’t you feel my power within you?
What I felt was an overwhelming urge to vomit. I clamped my hand over my mouth as I frantically slid my window open. I had only just thrust my head through when the contents of my stomach came pouring out of me. My stomach convulsed, giving up everything it had to give. When it was done, there were tears leaking from my eyes. I wiped them away to reveal my father staring at me from the yard.
“Not feeling well today, son?” he said. From another man, the words might have been ones of concern, but to hear him say it, they sounded like a judgment. He was the sort of man who only respected strength. To see anything else from another person, even when it was outside of their control, brought scorn from him.
I shook my head and shrugged. “I’ll be fine, dad. I just need a bit more time.”
“Do we need to call the doctor?” His tone made it clear that he did not want to do that.
“No,” I said, quickly. That was the last thing I wanted, too. “No, I’ll be fine. I just… I had a nightmare.”
Father scoffed. “Get over it and get around. I need you to go fetch some water.”
I shut my window perhaps harder than I should have. My mouth felt disgusting now, and my stomach hadn’t settled entirely, and my mind was reeling with the implications of what I had done in the night. This was, quite possibly, the worst morning of my life.
Should we destroy him? He seems evil.
That man. Your father. He seems like he might be evil. Should we destroy him?
“Are you joking? That’s my father. You’re crazy,” I said.
I don’t jest. It’s not in my nature.
“My father is not evil,” I said. I sat back down on my bed. My legs felt weak. “He’s a fine person. He’s just a bit… gruff.”
I see. It seemed like you didn’t like him.
“It’s more complicated than that,” I said. “We just don’t get along very well. I wouldn’t call him evil. We’re just different.”
You are good.
“Well, I’d like to think so.” I still spoke quietly, but even so, I worried that my sister would come up to my door and hear me, and tell my parents I was talking to myself.
If you are good, and your father is different from you, he might be evil.
“No!” I insisted. “That’s not how it works. Just because you don’t get along with someone doesn’t make them evil. Good and evil are way more nuanced than that.”
I suppose that might be true.
I left it at that. I rose from the bed, still feeling shaking from having vomited. Somehow, though, the disgusting feeling and taste in my mouth had cleared itself away. In fact, my mouth felt incredibly clean. I grabbed the small metal mirror I kept next to my bed and brought it up to look at myself. I smiled, baring my teeth. They were perfectly white, like the teeth of a rich man. I tilted the mirror up. My hair fell in smooth, shining waves.
“Did you do this?” I asked. “Did you… clean me?”
The thought of her working her power over me without my permission disturbed me, but in a way, the idea that she had cleaned my body so masterfully was liberating. “Does this mean I don’t have to bathe anymore?”
I will maintain the purity of your body for you.
“Huh,” I said. “Let me think about that, I guess.”
I will not allow you to remain impure.
“But you live in the pond,” I said. “The pond is filthy.”
The pond is only what it is supposed to be. It is pure. You are pure when dirt and filth do not contaminate you.
Her views were not the easiest to comprehend. I decided to let them lie for now. My father wanted me to go get water. That gave me an idea of something to try. I tried to avoid thinking about it too clearly, though. It seemed that she existed somewhere within my mind. She could respond to my thoughts before I spoke them aloud. I could only hope that, if I tried not to think things in clear sentences, that she wouldn’t catch wind of my plan.