– Yesod. The Frontier of the Abyss. 1 –
“And the prince leaned over the princess, awaking her from her eternal sleep, with a sweet kiss.
But the lips that touch my skin burn me, leaving eternal marks.
And although my sleep was cold, empty and cruelly lonely, the world to which I wake up is drowning in chaos.
And so, unlike all those magic fairy tales, the first thing I feel is a deep pain for being forced to wake up."
The piercing blast that roused me left me sitting on my bed, my breath labored and heavy. Still trembling, I ran a hand over my damp face and tried to calm down. Again, the same dream, the same that had tortured me night after night since he’d left.
I placed a hand over my jumping heart as if that could silence the pain pulsing inside my chest and took a deep breath. I looked at my alarm clock. I’d woken even earlier than the nights before, which meant the following sleepless hours would seem even longer.
Every night the same dream and, if that wasn’t enough, the way I lived through it was getting more intense every day. I followed the nonexistent cut on my torso and winced, my skin, under the cotton fabric, hurting and burning in a way that I almost expected to see blood seeping through my pajamas' top.
The sound of something breaking made me jump, my mind suddenly alert, and I felt around the bedside table searching for the light switch. The sound seemed to have come from downstairs, maybe the kitchen. I kept quiet for a moment, trying to hear anything else, but nothing. Maybe I’d left one of the glasses badly placed on the drainer and it’d fell. And maybe I should go downstairs and check it, but I just didn’t have the will to move. I recalled locking all the windows and doors like I always did. Unless a burglar had managed to get in the house!
Unthinking, I reached for the cell phone and quickly found Michael’s number. Right now he was the only one I could depend on. I was about to press the button when the air around me changed and, inexplicably, my hands started shaking. Suddenly it was as if someone had grabbed me from my hair and pulled me up, and up, and up across all those layers of darkness, violently throwing me over a floating board. I gasped for air and pain exploded in my head as all the emotions I had lost came back to me at once. I tried to breathe once, twice, but the air just wouldn’t go down into my lungs and the anarchic, chaotic energy that filled the air made it even more difficult to breathe. Cold, hard fear washed over me and still I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I was feeling again, that I was able to be afraid, terrified even.
I dropped the cell phone immediately, clenching my hands together, trying to stop them from shaking. I couldn’t recall feeling anything like this, not even when Alexander had unexpectedly shown up, angering Gabriel. But, even so, I knew exactly what was happening. I’d already wondered when something would get past his barrier and come looking for him hoping to eliminate him, only to find me in his place. It was probably another Deiwos and this one would most certainly kill me.
I smiled sarcastically, unable to stop my lips from trembling. There was no escape. Neither could I call Michael. There was nothing he could do against the power of a Deiwos and I’d just be putting him in danger as well. In the end, even when dying, I’d be alone.
I breathed in deeply, trying to control my own body, and prepared myself for the inevitable. Ironically, I remembered that for a long time I’d been ready to die at any moment. Gabriel’s presence had terrified me so that I was sure I’d end up being his victim sooner or later. But now ... now I couldn’t stop myself from lamenting that my life was about to end at the hands of someone else, and wished that if I had to die, at least he’d be the one to do it!
“Mari!” The cry, although muffled by all the walls between us, was enough to break through my fear.
“Lea?” I murmured in disbelief, immediately recognizing his child-like voice, and a smile of contentment touched my lips.
Over the last few days, how many times had I heard his voice or the sound of his bell echoing in the house? How many times had I run downstairs searching for him only to come back up alone? Over time I’d learned to ignore my desperate illusions and, now that everything was about to end, being able to hear him again made me smile. I didn’t feel alone anymore and the idea of dying didn’t seem as frightening as before.
“Mari!” The urgency and despair in his voice made my heart jump and my eyes shot towards the door. What if ... what if Lea had really returned? What if he was in danger from that other Deiwos whose chaotic presence still filled the air?
And then I was immediately on the move. Who cared if it was another illusion? Who cared if I was now running towards my death? Nothing like that mattered at all if there was a possibility, even as small as I knew it was, that Lea was really there and that he’d be in danger!
“Lea!” I called back, stumbling down the stairs, trying to see where I was going since I hadn’t even taken the time to turn on the light.
“Mari! Help me, please!” I’d never heard such despair in his voice and my heart responded immediately to his pain.
I stopped by the living room door, urgently feeling the wall in search of the light switch, and I just couldn’t give another step. The room swirled and danced around me, the walls dangerously closing in as I forgot to breathe. My hands urgently grabbed the door frame, knowing what to do better than I did, making sure I wouldn’t fall or faint, or throw up. I gasped for air, trying as hard as I could to keep standing on my two shaking legs.
Lea had returned, yes, but he wasn’t alone. And there was blood everywhere, blood so red that it seemed to glow under the yellowish light above our heads.
Gabriel was lying on the coach, the same one where I recalled seeing him sleep. But now, his perfect face was far from peaceful, writhing in a terrifying expression of pain, his immaculate white skin stained with red, making him look like he was already dead.
“Oh my God!” I gasped, my fingers hurting from the strength with which I squeezed the wood under my palms, and I urgently tried to ascertain just how badly he’d been hurt. My stomach quivered when all my eyes could see was a torn black shirt, now completely drenched, and more blood, blood dripping unstopping on the ground, forming a bright red poodle.
“Mari!” Lea left his side at the sound of my voice and ran to me. “Please! Please help him! Please! You have to save my Master!” he begged in one breath, tugging desperately at my pants, his small bloodied hands leaving palm prints on the yellow cotton. But what really got my attention were the tears streaming down his childish face. Tears as bright as silver, which left luminous trails over his skin as his eyes grew darker by the second, almost as if they were melting away. “He’s not getting better. I wanted to bring him, but he wouldn’t let me. And told me he’d be fine. But he isn’t! He’s not getting fine at all. The blood won’t stop! And I don’t understand why. He’s so strong. I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do! I don’t want him to disappear!” he went on without taking a single breath, the tears falling from his eyes one after another, and I commanded my hands to release my only support, so that I could kneel in front of him and hold him by his small shaking shoulders. His tears were impossible to bear, but, above all, were very dangerous. I still remembered all too well what Gabriel had told me about his silver eyes.
“Stop crying, Lea.” I commanded, my voice trembling, but he didn’t even hear me,
“You have to help him! Like you helped me! No one else can do it! Please!”
“Stop!” I insisted, raising my voice as I shook him. “Suileabhan!” His sobs were immediately silenced and he stared at me, his expression too serious, even cold, as if I’d just hit him. It was the first time I called his real name and I felt it immediately; the weight of the word on my lips and the power it held over him. I took a deep breath, trying to sort through all that as quickly as possible, and put a smile on my face to reassure him. “I understand. But if you lose control, you won’t be able to help him, right?” I told him in the softest way I could manage, taking the situation into account. “Despairing like that won’t lead us anywhere. We have to remain calm.”
I wondered immediately how I’d been able to say something like that because, in that precise moment, I was anything but calm. But Lea nodded, as if he’d completely absorbed every single word that had fell from my mouth and, with a few more sobs, dried his tears away.
“If he disappears I ...”
I placed a hand on his head, interrupting his dark thoughts, and looked at Gabriel, still lying on that couch. It looked like he was delirious and Lea was right, the blood kept trickling over his pale skin, the pool on the ground slowly growing. The threads around my heart, which I’d all but forgotten, cut deep this time.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” I muttered to myself and stood up to take a closer look. Now I could easily understand that the chaotic presence I’d felt was actually emanating from him and not some other Dewios. Gabriel was suffering.
I stopped beside him and the room wobbled again. So much blood ... I couldn’t see anything beside all that blood.
Lea went back to his side, his cheeks still glowing from the tears he’d shed, and gently brushed back a long strand of Gabriel's hair that had stuck to his distorted face. From time to time, strange and unintelligent words would leave his lips and his forehead was moist with small droplets of sweat.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that he’d never looked as real as he did now. In that moment all I could see was him, not the mythic magical creature, but just another living being, different from me but definitely alive.
Lea’s restrained sobs brought me back to reality and I knelt on the floor beside the couch, rolling up my sleeves.
“Don’t cry, Lea. Think you can help me?” I asked and he nodded urgently. His eyes had lost its silvery color and were almost black, and something inside me told me it was best to keep him busy. “Think you can get me what I need? Even from far away?”
“I can see in your mind if you think about the place where those things are. After that, I can bring them here if you want,” he explained, his voice drowning in anguish, and I nodded, immediately forming the images in my mind.
The next thing I knew there were two bottles of distilled water, a role of sterilized gauze, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a bag of cotton pads right beside me.
The truth was I hadn’t the slightest idea of what I was doing. My mind still felt half numb, part of me doubting that what I saw now was actually real. After all, not a few minutes ago, my world had been filled with shadows and misty landscapes. Certainly things couldn’t change that abruptly in such a small amount of time.
Still unsure, I decided to forget all my doubts and focus on the task at hand. I could easily see by the quantity of blood he’d already lost that his injury wasn’t something that could be cared for at home, much less by someone as inexperienced as me. It was far from being some small scratch that needed some disinfecting and a patching up. And yet, I had to do something.
I started by getting rid of his blood-drenched shirt. As soon as the thought of a pair of scissors crossed my mind, it appeared next to the gauze. I didn’t question it, nor allowed myself the time to be impressed, and, picking it up, started carefully cutting his clothes, uncovering more of his bloodied skin. I grabbed one of the water bottles and slowly poured it over his naked chest. Crimson water washed over him, soaking the couch and dripping on the floor, slowly making clear just how serious his injury was. I didn’t even have to complete the process to know exactly where the cut started and how far it crossed over his chest. I, myself, had felt its burning pain time and time again. But still, dreaming about it and seeing it in real life were two completely different things. And I couldn’t help noticing that the zone where I’d kissed him, sealing our Contract, had also been cut, and that nothing was left from his mark besides that deep, raw gash on his white skin.
As soon as I stopped pouring water, the blood covered everything again, and I felt despair take over when I had to wash him again.
“This wound, it’s too deep ... I don’t know what to do,” I muttered, carefully drying his skin, and Lea looked at me in a panic.
“Why? You did it to me!” he demanded.
“It’s not that simple, Lea. Even with you I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought for sure you had to get stitches. And it wasn’t me who saved your life, but your ability to heal faster than anything I’d ever seen. Doesn’t he have the same ability as you?”
“He should have, faster even, but it’s not working!” he sobbed.
“We have to stop the bleeding,” I said and Lea made a surgical needle and thread appear out of nowhere. “No! No way! I can’t do that!” I refused immediately. I could hardly look at that terrible gash and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
“I’d probably only make things worse! Maybe we can take him to a hospital and ...”
Gabriel’s restlessness interrupted me and Lea held his face between his small hands, delicately unsticking a few more strands of hair from his deadly pale face. My eyes were lost in his pained expression, in the way his discolored lips trembled. Who was I kidding? How could I take him to a hospital? His agitation made his wound bleed even more. What if he really died? What if he really disappeared forever? Not now, my other voice countered immediately. Not now that he’d just returned! How could I watch him leave again?
“I’ll do my best, Lea. I’m really sorry.”
He didn’t answer and I caught hold of the rubbing alcohol, opening it. I didn’t know what else to do, if what I was doing was right or wrong. If that terrible gash needed disinfecting, or even if his body could suffer from an infection. I ordered myself to stop questioning my every single action and to do what I had just decided — my best! There was nothing else I could do.
As soon as I spilled a drop of alcohol over his skin a scream of pain left his lips, ringing in my ears, leaving me deaf. I hit against something that stole the breath out of my chest and pain shot through my ribs. I fought to breathe again, coughing violently, and had to press my right side to be able to do it. I could hear Lea’s voice coming from far away and tried to reassure him, afraid he might start crying again. When I finally opened my eyes, I couldn’t help feeling perplexed since I had no memory of how I’d gotten where I now sat, against the wall right across the couch, as if I’d been thrown against it by a massive strength.
“Mari! Are you all right?!” he asked once again, his voice tense with fear and despair as he held Gabriel’s tussling body down, trying to stop him from moving too much which only made him bleed even more.
It was hard to drag myself away from the wall, my ribs cringing in pain every time I moved, but still I managed to crawl on my knees and return to my place beside him.
He seemed calmer now, but his white skin was covered in blood again.
“Lea,” I tried and coughed again, which sent waves of pain through my chest, making me press my right side to take a deep breath. “Can you put him to sleep?”
“Put Master to sleep?” he repeated, almost afraid, and I nodded. “Master does not allow me to use my powers on him.”
“Do it!” I simply commanded. “If you don’t he’ll end up killing me before I can even finish.”
Lea sighed and placed both his hands over his forehead, closing his eyes to concentrate. His young face distorted into a grimace of pain, as if he were fighting against some invisible foe, and his forehead was rapidly covered with small, shiny droplets of sweat. Even so, Gabriel’s agitation started to dwindle until he seemed to finally have fallen asleep, his perfect face released from that frightening expression of pain. Lea fell back, sitting on the floor, his breath heavy and labored.
“This was really hard. Master's mind is very well protected,” he complained in between gasps, and I cleaned his wound once again so that I’d be able to, at least, see what I was doing. The lack of reaction from his now unmoving body told me that even if it had been difficult, it had worked, and he was deep asleep. Threading the needle was the hardest, my hands shaking nonstop, and I prayed he’d remain a sleep for a long time.
My stomach cringed the instant I gave the first stitch, but I made myself go on, trying to eliminate from my mind the idea that I was stitching someone else’s body, focusing only on uniting his pale, now purplish skin over that bright red gash. I allowed my mind to lose itself in that repetitive rhythm and erased all other thoughts, certain that they’d only make me even more nervous.
When I finally finished, I too was sweating, tension making my body stiffen to the point my muscles had started to ache. I managed to grab the bag of gauze and covered his long, dark suture with the soft white pads. I held them in place using the rolls of bandages Lea had provided for me, wrapping them as best as I could around his torso while trying to keep him as still as possible. At least the bleeding had stopped, I thought, my hands still shaking. But now that he was just lying there, motionless, his face so pale that his skin almost seemed transparent, it was even harder to believe he was alive.
Lea produced a small cloth and drenched it in water to delicately clean his face and neck, his pained expression as he did so making me even sadder.
I felt exhausted now that I’d done all that I could and the adrenaline started to wash away from my system. I didn’t even bother with cleaning or putting anything back to its place. I just sat there, beside him, watching intently the small, ever so slow movements of his naked chest that guaranteed me that he was still breathing and, without even noticing it, ended up falling asleep.