The Leviathan roared and screamed from within its cage, rattling the rusted metal bars. Its howl sounded like a cross between a dying, tortured wolf and the call of a vengeful spirit. Deep claw and teeth marks riddled its steel prison from the many times of trying to escape. The little girl could only watch in horror as the Leviathan relentlessly continued its fight for freedom, only stopping to cry in defeat.
Sometimes she thought the beast was in agony, feeling some sense of sorrow when she looked in its ghostly eyes. She could provide no comfort for the monster as it paced the perimeter of its old prison. At only twelve years old however, she knew that the monster before her was her fear of the dark personified. Even more, her fear of what the darkness hid from others, the demons that should only exist in stories and legends. What scared her even more was that they were animals in human disguise, holding the strings to their hosts and causing them to do bad things.
She learned very quickly that her terrors began when she tried to help people, when she heard and felt their pains and troubles and was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. She learned that simply by touch she could ease their suffering and take it as her own. Having the power to lift their heavy burdens, the little girl was granted with a sense of peace and joy knowing she could make a difference in the lives of others.
There is always a price for such a gift.
The collected suffering of others gave the girl a darker perspective on the world and granted her the ability to see the horrifying truth of what people really were beneath their flesh. She could see the embodiment of evil born in the minds of those who were in pain or the very ones who caused it. Terrified of losing her mind to the madness of others, the girl contained the pain and sin of others in the form of a creature. She named this creature Leviathan.
Leviathan was a wolf being, competing with the size of a full-grown horse. Its large eyes softly glowed in a milky white and shone even brighter against its shadowy body so dark that light was never reflected from it. Its teeth were razor sharp and often dripped some strange liquid that hissed when it touched the ground. Leviathan's claws shone like polished metal, and the creature radiated immense strength and ancient demonic power with each step. How it was still contained within its shabby metal prison remained a mystery to the small child. Even still, she could not fathom how her tiny, fragile body and soul held back the power of the beast.
It would call to her every night she dreamed, whispering in her ear the language of the dead and the secrets of human sin. The child did not understand the foreign tongue at first, but in time she would. One night, the Leviathan ceased its musings to her on the nature of humans. Instead, it spoke of being set free when the child learned not to fear the dark, to embrace that part of her that was not human and to carry out redemption and revenge on those who suffered as much as she did.
That time was not now, but one day the creature and the girl would be one and the same. For now, she will dream of watching Leviathan struggle in its cage and of the demons and monsters that chase her and drag her down into blinding, choking darkness.I. The Whisper
The dark is a horrifying place to be. No, not quite a place, a being perhaps. The dark is a being without a form that surrounds you in fear and plays with your head like a cat to a ball of yarn. The dark twists what is familiar to you and creates a horror only you could imagine, forever changing what you thought you once knew about everything and anything.
The dark makes you paranoid; a creak on the stairs is a creature coming to eat you alive. A whisper of wind is a spirit crying out for your torment. A shadow is your doppelganger trying to steal you away.
The dark and I share a love-hate relationship; I know what lies in the darkness and It knows what lies in me, one and the same even. Maybe if I wasn't human, if that's what I am, I would be a monster of darkness like the one inside my head. Yet as similar as we are, I am forced to visit this nightmare world of shadows and monsters wearing the skin of humans while my Leviathan beast attempts to destroy its rusted prison.
It all started with a whisper.
I was startled awake by the remnants of my nightmare, gasping for breath. I could still almost hear the faint growling of the Leviathan, feel the scratches from the sharp nails of the monsters that chased me. Untangling myself from the dark bed sheets, I checked the clock on my bedside table, pushing aside the numerous bottles of sleeping medications only to read 3 AM on the neon blue numbers of the clock.
This was a normal routine, ever since I was twelve years old. The waking nightmare would begin just as I was drifting off into my subconscious, and I wouldn't be able to escape from it until the early hours of morning before dawn had the slightest chance to break. I always knew when the nightmare would hit because the walls would bleed an inky black slime and the shadow-things would be given form.
Was this nightmare the result of a repressed childhood trauma? Or something else entirely?
With a sigh of disappointment, I got out of bed and stretched, catching a glimpse of my tired self in the mirror across from me. I noticed that my eyes were still extremely dilated, almost blacking out the whites of them; a strange, temporary side effect from the nightmares. My mother offered to take me to a therapy session after one incident in which I woke with angry scratches adorning my chest, but I refused.
I hate doctors.
Knowing that I wouldn't be going back to sleep, I started pulling out clothes to wear for school in the next few hours, choosing an all-black ensemble with combat boots and my spiked collar. Even though I'm well-known in this small town, people tend to stay away from me as though I'm a criminal on exile. I promise, behind the strangely-colored eyes I'm just a normal human being with a monster locked inside her head.
After brushing out the tangles from my long black hair, I ran a few sweeps of eyeliner under my eyes. I don't really care much for my appearance, though I've been told before I've got a pretty face. I think people say that to avoid talking about my eyes; my left eye is this otherworldly blue, and the right is a steel-grey. Both have a ring of black surrounding the iris. Recalling a rare visit to the doctor reminded me it was supposed to be a genetic mutation. They're not human.
That girl has the eyes of a demon. Satan's child.
I would often hear the whispers of the townsfolk, whether I was out by myself or surrounded by peers at school. I couldn't bother to care anymore, hearing them say the same things over and over again under their breath as I brush by them. They didn't understand. They never would.
I headed downstairs to make coffee for my mother and find something edible for breakfast. She doesn't wake as early as I do, but I might as well do something for her. As I chose an apple from the fruit bowl on the counter, I mused over what today at school could be like or who would decide to try and cause trouble for me. Still, I dreaded the thought of even stepping onto school grounds.
My mother sometimes heard me screaming in my sleep, but thought nothing of it other than severe stress from high school life. And though she knew that I was still being picked on by most of the school girls and boys, she could do nothing about it. I don't want to upset her though or put her through any more trouble.
For a brief period of my life, I had considered suicide, but human stubbornness and fear prevented me from taking my thoughts seriously. I wouldn't let the bullies win and have them continue to mock me in my absence, to remember me as the silent devil girl who 'chickened out.' And besides, who would I be to leave Jacoby and shy Alyssa to fend for themselves?
They're the only two I ever really called friends. Everyone else, they're just people I happen to know and talk to. Jacoby would be fine on his own though. He's a tough guy on the outside, despite his compassionate inside that only few have seen. But Alyssa, she can't stand on her own.
I recall this instance where I stood in front of her as a boy tried to cut her with a pair of scissors. I still have the vertical scar on my palm from when I blocked one of the blades from Alyssa's face. While people were screaming about the blood, I hardly felt any pain. Perhaps I was in shock.
Schoolchildren are sadistic.
I heard the stairs creak above me as the gentle footsteps of my mother made their way to the kitchen area of the house. Her silence was a sign that she wasn't quite awake yet, and so she took a seat at the counter, rubbing her eyes and trying to wake. I quietly watched her, passing over a hot mug of coffee.
She didn't know how bad the waking nightmares could get, or the fact that I created a creature in my head to house all the pain I gathered from others over the years as a child. I do know that she's noticed my change from a happy child to a stoic teenager who acts well beyond her years. She used to worry about me, but she stopped once she realized that I'm fine and I've learned to cope with whatever it is that's going on in my head.
I look nothing like my mother, save for the same shade of black hair she has. I'm also paler, while she gives off a healthier glow. I like to think that maybe I look more like my father, but I wouldn't know.
I never met my father.
I don't have a tragic story to go along with that thought. I never met him, and it never bothered me to know that. From my mother's silence, I figured that he had done something to her, and the less I knew about it the better. She never kept any photos of him around the house. I remember asking once about him, but from my mother's abrupt change of subject, it was best not to ask any more.
"Hi mom. Did you sleep well?"
I gave her a weak smile, a rare occurrence that only my friends and my mother have witnessed lately. I've been so tired these past few weeks, even smiling takes an effort.
With her voice still groggy with sleep, she replied "Oh, yes, fine, Illie. And you?"
Expecting the usual answer, I still said "Yeah, just the insomnia, like always. I made coffee though."
"So the sleeping pills haven't worked?"
I've tried a lot of different sleeping pills in attempts to put myself in a coma during the nightmare hours, hoping that I wouldn't be able to remember anything when I woke up. Even the strongest of sleeping pill doses won't help. My mother also trusts me enough not to completely overdose on purpose with the pills, despite past temptations.
"It's a shame. Still, at least you're awake now."
"Yeah I sort of don't want to go to school today."
I didn't meet my mother's eyes as I picked at what was left of the apple.
She asked "Why not? Is something wrong? Did something happen with with Taylor again?"
I tensed up at the mention of her. I knew who she was talking about. Taylor O'Donnell.
The Succubus was a more appropriate name for her. I held back the anger that name stirred in me as I answered "No, I just "
I wanted so much to tell her about all the things I went through on a daily basis at school. But then I thought better of it; I didn't want to burden my mother like that, to cause her any need to worry about things that will never change.
So I looked straight into her eyes, even gave her another smile, and said "Everything's fine at school. Promise."
I got out another coffee mug as she went about with the rest of her morning routine. It was going to be another long day. And it was only Monday.The hallways in Brookstone High were still empty when I arrived. Then again, it was still early in the morning and not even most of the teachers were there yet. I made a beeline for the library, my only sanctuary in the school, and was greeted with a smile by the two librarians who were there normally before anyone else. I nodded in response to their 'good mornings' and quickly dove into the fiction section.
Brookstone's library was a home away from home with bookshelves that stretched to high ceilings and d cor that was reminiscent of the Victorian Era. In the back of the library there was this large flag on the wall with the school's mascot, the head of a lion baring its teeth on a blue-gold background. It was supposed to represent pride and some other thing, which was severely lacking in our school. While immersed in a random book chosen from the shelf, I felt a familiar presence behind me. I smiled as a pair of strong arms wrapped around my waist.
He was one of the few people I knew that didn't have a shadow thing attached to them, the ones that floated around their 'hosts' and was the center of their pain or troubled pasts. I saw them tied to many students at Brookstone for whatever reasons. The creatures were their negative emotions and fears given form; they fed off of their host for any sort of pain that was given or caused to them. The absence of a shadow creature was one of the reasons why I had such a close bond to Jacoby, besides our shared fear of the dark.
We weren't together, though anyone who saw us would say we were dating. Truth be told, we would be a perfect match, but with my questionable sanity and the vicious schoolchildren constantly bothering me, I have enough to worry about. Regardless, Jacoby has been my best friend for years, a solid beam of support that I've confided in countless times. Where I normally find comfort in his hazel eyes, I find myself looking away in the hopes that he can't see what I'm hiding.
Jacoby lightly traced his fingertips under my eyes where the dark circles seemed to be getting worse; not even the thickest makeup could cover them, to my severe disappointment.
"You look tired."
The simple phrase sparked sadness in me; Jacoby knew that I had waking nightmares, though he never pressed for the details on them. Even if he did, I couldn't bring myself to actually talk about them, nor could I explain everything else the nightmares bring.
"No, you're not. You're never fine, Illia. Please just tell me what's wrong. You can tell me anything. You know that, right?"
The tone in his voice could have been enough for me to break down and tell him everything. It was like this every morning, but I refused to let my guard down. My nightmares were mine alone, and it would remain as such. Still, I wanted to trust Jacoby, I wanted to cry about all those years of sleeplessness, never knowing a peaceful dream or nightmare without the wolf beast and the creature things.
It wasn't just my fear of what he would think that kept me silent. There was something in me that made me keep the nightmares and visions of shadow things, even if I truly wanted to confess. Though I trusted my intuition, sometimes I wondered if it was a desire of the Leviathan to keep me quiet, but that was impossible. The beast was imprisoned in my mind, and it had never spoken to me outside of the dreams or shown that it could in the many years I had known it.
The Leviathan was meant to keep the pain I knew from myself and others in check, to prevent it all from eating away at my soul. I found though that even if I had no physical contact with people, I could still feel the stings of pain resonating from the shadows attached to them. Yet with Jacoby, that pain was numb at least for a while in his presence.
Strange. He was my morphine.
Jacoby stared into my mismatched colored eyes for a few moments until he sighed in defeat. We've had several arguments before about my secret keeping, but at the end of the day he was and still is my best friend before I realized that I loved him more than anything else, even my frayed sanity.
"Eventually, you'll have to tell me what's up. I won't leave you alone until you do."
"I know. Just give me time."
"I'm giving you all the time in the world. But when you're ready, I'm here."
The thought was from a whisper near my left ear and not from a human voice either. It sounded more beastly. I quickly turned at the sound, but there wasn't anything close by, not even a shadow thing to give me a clue as to what had spoken.
"Illia? You okay? What is it?"
The moment he learned of my visions, he wouldn't be my friend anymore. I was sure of it. Despite the promises of staying by my side no matter what, as shown by the black and silver band on my ring finger, I still believed that the few I loved would abandon me should they discover what I could see. I didn't know why, but something in my gut told me so.
"It's nothing. Just the wind or something, I guess."The hallways between classes were dangerous places for those who don't know how to travel in them, and even more so for those who know the halls all too well. Smaller children, mostly freshmen, are pushed to the sides of the walls while the bigger upperclassmen dominate the middle. I skimmed in between the wall and the outside of the packs of students, avoiding their eyes and the traces of their shadow things transparent in the fluorescent lighting.
I didn't have to look up to know how the crowd parted for me as if I was Moses in the Red Sea; I was that girl, the person no one wanted to be seen with or even know for that matter. Someone cringed and tensed up as I brushed by them. Sometimes I wondered if it was because instinctively they knew I was different, gifted or cursed with a sight for what many tried to hide, or maybe I was just playing human and I'm something else. Most of the student body showed that through the silent treatment, but there are those who choose to be more vocal.
For instance, the shadow things. They didn't speak like you and I do, but they had their ways of communication. From what I've seen, they aren't aware of their surroundings, only the person they're attached to. They make groaning noises and whimpers, depending on how bad their pain is. Sometimes people act according to their shadowy parasites, whether it be in the form of deep depression or sometimes, just plain cruelty to others.
There are some kids, a rare few, who don't have shadows, who don't have demons that torment them. Living in a small town, I've noticed shadows attached to people that normally didn't have them, and never have I seen someone's disappear. I often think that their demons came from others, but there is one I know whose demon came from herself.
Like the Succubus.
Taylor's shadow for instance, is a thing that craves for the suffering of others, which makes her act like an outright bitch to most people. Yet somehow, there are still so many who believe in her fake innocence, that the silver cross around her neck is a reason to trust anything she says. Though her shadow thing is a creation of her own mind, it makes her already demonic nature even worse at times. I just wish I wasn't the only one who knew.
I lived in a generally religious community; people were not afraid to tell me I had 'demon eyes' and that 'my soul will burn in hell for denying the Lord.' The things people said used to bother me, but I learned quickly that they were all just sheep protecting their herd from the sick; I was the diseased one, and what I had was contagious. Madness is a nuisance, a sickness that can only be cured by separating the weak from the herd.
What they probably didn't know was that once madness was in the air, it can't be stopped. Once madness takes its hold on you, it never lets go. And even when you think you're perfectly sane, that just means insanity hasn't shown up yet.
Yet there was still one person who knew how to cripple me into the weak little girl I refused to believe I once was, the child that believed in the good of others and laughed in the face of monsters that hid under her bed. Only now, I live with those monsters and the only good that can come from others is selflessness. But where was that in a place where every man was for himself?
I crossed paths with her at least every day, if not in the English class we shared together. Though her real name was Taylor O'Donnel, I thought that the Succubus was best matched to her true nature. We had been friends once, I regret to know, but that changed when I witnessed a real demon's transformation.
As I was reaching my class, Latin IV, The Succubus's flawless green eyes found my imperfect ones. Time stopped still as Demon and Leviathan-Human faced each other down.
"Hello, Illia. Nice to see you today."
To others, her tone was light and friendly with a smile to die for on a tanned, pretty face with a head of shoulder-length blonde hair. Disgusting. But to me, it was just a plastic covering for the shell that encased an icy heart. If people looked into her eyes long enough, they could probably see it too. But these days, people tend to value a body more than what was on the inside of someone, hence her name the Succubus to match her deceitfulness.
If they only knew the horrors within. If they could only see what I saw. When I see her, I see her in a yellow blood-stained summer dress holding an empty shell of an animal's body with a knife glinting in the sun. She brings a memory that is nearly worse than the nightmares I face each night.
Do people really see what others try to hide, but refuse to acknowledge it? Is it really such a bad thing to know that ugly things crawl around our insides each day? It's only a fact; everyone has done things that they're not proud of. But is it better to hide, or to leave your sins on your sleeve for everyone to see?
I serve as a living example of the latter. I've never done anything wrong, but everyone knows there's something about me that isn't right, not normal. I won't hide it though; there's something dark inside of me, I just don't know what it's capable of, what I'm capable of. It's easier to just let people see me for what I am on the outside than to hide whatever's going on inside.
And frankly, that almost scares the hell out of me, to not know just what I can do.
"What's the matter? Do you choose to be deaf or mute today?"
She had that smug look on her face as I refused to speak to her. What I wouldn't give to smash her perfect white teeth in though. Why couldn't I just walk away?
Devour her insides.
I flinched slightly at the thought that wasn't my own; again with the bestial voice whispering near my ear, making my skin crawl.
"Hey Illie cat got your tongue?"
She laughed like the murderer she was as she walked away to her next class. Anger gave way to the smallest hint of sorrow as I went into my morning class. Maybe somewhere in between the sadness and anger, there was a touch of guilt.
Taylor O'Donnel, at just twelve years old, murdered my cat Lenore. I still have the letter opener she murdered Lenore with, complete with the stains on the silver blade from the dried up blood. I'm not sure why I've kept it for so long or why Taylor had it. She must have stolen it from her father's study when he was busy being inside a bottle of scotch.
Taylor was obviously angry at her abusive father for hitting her poor, defenseless mother, and so she took her anger out on my poor, defenseless cat I raised from a kitten. It was strange for her to commit such an act of violence. For a family who treasured their belief in a God so much, their lives were falling apart faster than the crumbling earth they stood upon. It's unfortunate it took the life of my cat.
Lenore's death was my first up-close encounter of a shadow thing, or at least the formation of one inside a person. The moment that letter opener was lodged inside of Lenore's soft stomach and her blood spilled onto Taylor's yellow summer dress, her aura greyed and took shape to a flimsy shadow the same size as her. I heard it making strange sounds and felt the anger rise from it as it took pleasure in Lenore's murder, just like its host did. I had never been so terrified before in my life.
She never apologized. Despite her beliefs and religious background, she probably thought that her murder was nothing, that an animal life wasn't as valuable as a human one. While she sang her songs about Jesus in church on Sunday morning, I buried Lenore underneath the oak tree outside my bedroom window. I think I told my mother what I had seen that day, but I don't remember her reaction.
I didn't understand at all at the time; Taylor was a nice Christian girl and we played together in elementary school. I knew about her abusive, alcoholic father, but would she really be driven to murder him had it not been Lenore?
I was pulled out of my thoughts as I tuned back into the Latin teacher's voice calling out my name.
"Illia? Can you please translate this into Latin for us?"
Mrs. Luce pointed to some phrase on the board, and I rolled my eyes at the obvious biblical text. It was typical for our classes to be slightly themed around religion; the whole 'separation of church and state' thing at Brookstone High was mostly ignored. I quickly translated the phrase into Latin, pausing for just a moment to take a breath. The voice in my head synchronized its speech with mine, though I kept going.
*"Os iusti meditabitur sapientiam
Et lingua eius loquetur indicium.
Beatus vir qui suffert tentationem,
Quoniqm cum probates fuerit accipient coronam vitae."
By the flow and grace of the words, the beast was a female; she sounded much older than me, wiser even. I couldn't tell if this was a sign that my sanity was going to snap in two or that the Leviathan could truly communicate through me. The thought that all the personified pain collected over the years could possibly leak out of my brain made me shudder.
I paused as Mrs. Lucille asked me "Can you please repeat the phrase in English now?"
"The mouth of the Just shall meditate wisdom, and His tongue shall declare judgment. Blessed is he who endureth temptation, for once he hath been tested, he shall receive the crown of life."
There was absolute silence, as usual whenever I did something in front of the class. The students weren't afraid of me, but they didn't really respect me either. Mrs. Lucille made a few positive comments and I went back to my seat in the back row.I had told Alyssa and Jacoby about the Latin class incident and the encounter with Taylor over lunch. Alyssa sat there quietly as Jacoby silently fumed. He wouldn't hit another girl though, not because she's a girl, but because she probably couldn't defend herself.
"She treats you like crap, and you still put up with that?"
"Yeah, I do. She doesn't leave me alone though, never has."
"What happened to you guys anyway? Weren't you friends with her?"
I pushed around the leaves of my salad on the plate in front of me before I answered.
"We had a disagreement once."
Alyssa looked up and said "You should stick up for yourself, you know. You can't let her make you feel like that."
I almost laughed at what I heard. Alyssa was a shy, gentle girl who tried avoiding people if she could, sort of like how Jacoby and I did. She hated conflict with others. I found it ironic that she was advising me like that.
"I know I shouldn't. I just don't want to deal with her."
SHOW HER HOW MUCH SHE'S MADE YOU SUFFER.
The anger in the voice startled me, making me drop the fork I was holding. Alyssa and Jacoby watched me as I continued to listen to her, it.
Jacoby put his hand on top of my shaking one closed into a fist and said "Illia hey. Look at me."
SHE DESERVES TO DIE. SHE IS TAINTED WITH SIN.
He put his hands on my face to turn me to him. I felt him tense as he saw something I couldn't. I was having difficulty breathing; it felt like there was a weight on my chest. Alyssa's voice shook as she said "Illia your eyes "
It had been a while since I last had a panic attack. I didn't get them regularly, so I could never figure out what triggered them. In this moment however, it was the voice that did it for me. It didn't unnerve me this much, until now, where I had increasing thoughts of my skin tearing open to reveal the monster inside.
"I have to go! I'll see you guys next period."
Something was telling me to run. Instead, I was making my way to the girl's restroom to see what Alyssa had seen in my eyes. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone in the cafeteria, but I felt their stares. The shadow-things attatched to their hosts, the students, I could hear them. They were quietly moaning in pain, reacting to my panic in their own ways. I heard a teacher yell at me to slow down or something, but I barely noticed.
As soon as I got to the bathroom I splashed cold water on my face, looking up into the mirror to see what made my friends so uneasy. My skin was gone a dull white, the blue veins nearly translucent in my hands and face. My eyes had turned black, the glossy shine in my hair completely gone. Soon I bent over in pain as a burning sensation coursed through my veins to the beat of my panic. My skin itched like something needed to be let out.
I was afraid that this was it, where my worst fear comes alive and the Leviathan rips my body to shreds and becomes living flesh. Through the pain and fear I willed myself to keep the monster locked within its cage, as though my thoughts alone prevented it from opening the door.
Struggling will only cause more pain. Accept what you really are, and I can make the pain go away.
"No. I don't want this. I don't want this."
DO NOT BE AFRAID WE ARE THE SAME.
The voice of the lady-beast was almost soothing, had I not known it was the Leviathan creature. Underneath its velvety tone was the growl of the monster I had been afraid of since I was a child.
I kneeled to the ground, growing weaker as I fought for control.
"Not now. Please. I don't want this. I don't. Want. This."
When I thought I couldn't stand the burning or the itching anymore, she whispered something in my mind that I never wanted to hear again.
You are the Harbor of the Suffering.
The pain left my body as did the weakness. Using the sink as support, I lifted myself up off the ground and splashed more water on my face. When I looked in the mirror again, my eyes were still dilated, and they were met with three frightened girls standing at the bathroom door. They looked at me through the mirror long enough to scream at me and then run out.
I don't care that they saw. As my breathing returned to normal, so did my eyes and complexion. I choked out a sigh of relief, and then remembered that one of my worst fears may be coming true.
Leviathan is alive.