This was originally meant to be part of the same entry as II, but unfortunately I ran out of time yesterday. My apologies for the brevity of both.
This was, obviously, a weak plan. I had no idea how she operated or what the mechanics were of her reading of my thoughts. I didn’t know if she could pry deeply into my mind, or if she was constrained to only those thoughts that floated, fairly formed, across the surface. I shuddered as I thought about it, and then I wondered whether she detected those thoughts. She didn’t respond, and so I intentionally turned my mind to food, hoping that she hadn’t noticed.
In the kitchen, I found bread, onto which I smeared some of my mother’s homemade nut spread. My mother and sister were not inside, which meant they had probably gone to the market to do the day’s shopping. To be honest, I felt relief. My mother would notice if I acted even the least bit strange, which meant she would ask questions, which meant I would act even more suspicious. I didn’t know if I had the guile to hide what had happened last night.
You shouldn’t need to hide me.
I jumped. It had been long enough since she’d spoken that the ring of her voice inside of my came as a surprise. “Of course I should. You’re dangerous.”
I slipped on my boots, holding the bread between my teeth as I did, and exited the house. Our home sits at the bottom of a hill toward the edge of the most crowded part of the village. A stone path leads up the hill toward the main thoroughfare. Father had placed the yoke and two empty buckets next to the front door for me. I sighed and slung the yoke over my shoulder.
I am only dangerous to evil.
“You’re dangerous to me,” I said, my voice low. “If people find out about you, I’ll be in trouble.”
Anyone who would try to harm you because of my presence is evil.
“They’ll say I’m evil, for making a pact with you,” I explained. “How is anyone to know what’s evil, when both sides toss that word at the other?”
I began my trudge up the hill. I decided I would stop responding to her. I couldn’t afford to let anyone notice that I had begun talking to myself. Luckily, the well stood next to my own destination. I could walk almost all the way there without revealing my true course. I kept my mind focused on the well. Feeling silly, I played images of the well in my head — of where it stood in the middle of a square; of myself, lowering and raising the buckets; and of water sloshing out of the bucket as I carried it.
There were three communal wells in the village. Some of the houses had their own, as well. My father had not yet paid anyone to dig ours for us. He said that someday, he would, but I didn’t expect that to be true. He was a frugal man. So long as he had someone else to send to the well for water, I doubted he would spend money for what he could get for free.
Homes surrounded this well in a semicircle, with one end open to the packed dirt road that lead to the village proper. It was not a long walk, but I sometimes grew irritated that Father would never make it himself. Even Mother went to the well for water, sometimes, but never Father.
I walked directly toward the well and then passed it, quickening my pace. I dropped the buckets next to it on my way by. My nerves grew tense as I wondered how she would react to my sudden change in goal. I walked directly toward a stone house across the way.
Where are you going?
I ignored her. I had reached the door. I knocked upon it, hoping that the man I sought was home. He had little in the way of a devoted following, here, and so people rarely attended him outside of his morning services on Sun Day. He did not make many appearances about town. I got the feeling that he didn’t want to be here, but this was where the Church had stationed him. Like many of us, he had no choice about where he had ended up in life.
This place is evil.
The tone of her voice actually made me hesitate. “What?”
There is evil lurking behind that door. Do not enter unless you are prepared to destroy it.
I huffed out a confused breath. “This place isn’t evil. Trust me.”
I know evil when I feel it. It is you who must learn to place trust in me.
I had just opened my mouth to answer here when the door swung open, revealing the Priest. He blinked in the sunlight. The set of his hair and the cast of his face led me to believe he had not been long awake. He wore the white robes of the church, though, and like all true priests devoted to the Angel, a faint golden halo illuminated his head from above.
“Can I help you, son?” he asked. The phrase sounded on, coming from a man who was somewhere between myself and my father in age.
She screamed the word. The echo of it rebounded painfully inside my skull, shocking me with the strength of her hatred. I felt the hatred as I had never felt it before, from myself or another. It bubbled up inside me, invading my own emotions. It rose like heartburn in my chest.
“Please,” I gasped. “I hope… Yes. I need your help.”
His brow furrowed with concern. The Priest ushered me inside, shutting the door behind us. His hand found my shoulder, gripping it tightly. “Are you alright?”
“No,” I said, hardly able to speak the word. The pain of her hate still throbbed in my chest. His hand, which should have lent me comfort, burned.
“You…” he began, stepping back suddenly and grasping at the wrist of the hand which had touched me. He flexed his fingers as though I had brought pain upon him in return.
“I was tricked,” I said. “I was tricked into a pact with an entity. I need your help to rid myself of it. Please.”
EVIL. WE MUST DESTROY HIM.
“I see,” he said.
“She wants me to destroy you,” I said. I began to shake, resisting a pull upon my muscles. Every one of them wanted to move of its own accord, outside of my direction.
I DON’T WANT TO DESTROY HIM. I MUST. YOU MUST. YOU PROMISED.
“What sort of entity is she?” he demanded. All hit of his sleepiness had vanished. He stood apart from me, body tense and ready. He looked ready to fight.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I… She called me to the pond. That’s where I met her. She was white all over, like porcelain, or polished bones.”
YOU ARE GOOD, YES? YOU MUST DESTROY HIM. WE WILL DO IT TOGETHER.
He paled, and his look of determination subsided into one of fear. “A pale lady? You met her in the water?”
“Yes,” I said.
YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING GOOD. I WILL FORGIVE YOU FOR THAT. FOR NOW, THOUGH, YOU MUST FOLLOW OUR PACT.
The sword from last night appeared in my hand. I gasped at its weight as my fingers folded, unbidden, around its hilt. It was not like the swords I had seen from the King’s Guards. The guard was rounded and ornately curled. The whole of it was white and gleaming.
“Put that away,” he said, holding up a hand.
The following moments passed by so quickly I could not process them fast enough to form full memories. I remember a golden light in the Priest’s hand, the same quality as that of his halo. I remember the way his eyes widened as my hand thrust forward, propelling the sword toward his chest. I remember the way he brought his other hand up to block, and the way my sword — her sword — piercing through his forearm and into his chest.
I don’t remember closing the distance between us, but I remember the way the blood sprayed across me. I remember the sound of his body hitting the floor, and the choking gasps he made as he stared up at me, dying. His halo faded away as the blood poured from the wound. When I withdrew the sword, no blood stained its white surface. I looked down at my own body. I had felt his blood spray across me, but I was clean.
In sheer horror, I bolted from the Priest’s house. I closed the door behind me, carefully, looking around wildly to see whether anyone had noticed me. The square was empty. Everyone from this side of the village was already off going about their day. I ran back to the well and, as quickly as I could, filled my buckets.
You are bothered by what we have done.
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. If I had tried to speak, I would have vomited.
This is what you promised me. You promised we would destroy evil.
I thought she had meant murders and thieves and rapists, not the Priest. Not a servant of the Angel.
The Angel is like me, you know. But he is not good. I am good.
“The Angel is good,” I whispered. What did she mean, he was like her?
You’ve never thought about it before, have you? The Angel is an entity. The Priests make pacts with him. They are evil. Their scriptures lie, and say the Angel is different. But he is not.
“You’re lying.” The words barely left my lips.
You know I am not.
I made my way back to my house as fast as my fear-weakened legs would carry me. I nearly collapsed on my way down the hill. I could not do this. I could not lead the life I had somehow inflicted upon myself. I should never have gone to the pond. I should never have left my house that night.
Things will grow easier. You are good. I will help you be strong.
I didn’t want to listen to her, then. I didn’t want to hear her voice. I wished I could cover my ears to keep her out, but that wasn’t an option. Some part of her lived inside of me. There was no escaping her, now. I did the only thing I could think of. I retreated back to my bedroom and laid down, covering my head with my pillow and my sheets, until the fatigue of my fear descended fully and I passed into something like sleep.