Engelsk Stil – Short Story
By: Katrine Strøm
I woke up after the usual nightmare. The one I’d had since my fourteenth birthday few months ago. It was around midnight, I guessed, since mum was still up, but I didn’t have a clock, so I couldn’t be sure. I went for a walk, trying to exhaust myself enough to sleep.
I walked down the street as quietly as possible, so as not to wake up any dogs. It’d look good, a teenager out on his own at midnight. No thanks, I preferred to stay alone and undiscovered, that was easiest.
Walking past an abandoned manor a few blocks from my house, I heard a sound. I sounded like someone sitting or kneeling on a floor, and two people speaking. I walked closer, attempting not to be heard. I could hear two men talking. Peeping through a hole in the wall, I could also see them. One of them looked young, not much older than twenty. He had black hair, black eyes and dark skin, and in the dim light, he looked almost invisible. The other man looked very different. He was middle-aged, at least forty, light blond hair, icy, clear, blue eyes and very pale skin. He seemed uncomfortably familiar. He was kneeling in front of the younger man. They were talking, but it didn’t sound as though they liked each other much. The older man seemed to be asking a favor of the younger. I didn’t hear what, but I did hear the reply.
“But why, Cassia?” the younger man said. I figured the older man’s name was Cassia, weird as it sounded. I wasn’t one to talk.
Cassia appeared to smile, though it was hard to see when he was kneeling like that. “I have my reasons Akuma,” he said. So the youth must be named Akuma then. Again, I wasn’t one to talk when it came to names.
“But for who? Who are you doing this for?” Akuma taunted Cassia, that much was obvious. He wanted him to admit something, something he already knew, or guessed.
“For Kiash,” Cassia said, as though it pained him. I feel out of the conversation for a moment. Kiash! Had he just said my name? I didn’t even know him. Of course, it could be that he spoke of someone else, but Kiash was such a rare name, it was rather unlikely. He had to speak about me. He was doing something for me. But what? And why?
“So if he’s not Iris’ brother, how come he’s your son?” Akuma asked. OK, not talking about me, however slim the chances that another person had the same name.
“He’s not my son, I told you already.” Or maybe me anyway.
Akuma appeared amused, if also a little confused. He started talking, almost to himself, asking Cassia how it could be that Kiash was his son when he wasn’t.
“You know as well as I, no matter who I did this for, I would still need your help. Tell me Akuma, who else, of everyone you know, would help me with this?” Cassia said, interrupting him after a while.
“No one,” Akuma admitted. I found the conversation weirder and weirder. “But you didn’t answer my question. Who is this Kiash to you? What does he mean?”
“He’s… He’s Anita’s son,” Cassia said. I got more and more sure about them talking about me. Anita was my mother’s name, and it wasn’t exactly a common one. Kiash was even more rare. No, they had to be talking about me. But who were they?
“Anita’s son… Anita is your subject, right?” Cassia nodded. “Now I see why you might protect him. Does Anita know?” Akuma sounded almost sympathetic, though, judging by the cruelness in his eyes, and his previously derisive voice, he wasn’t as sympathetic as he sounded.
“I don’t know! Maybe. I hope so, for her sake. Maybe she’s even told Kiash, I don’t know. All I know is that something’s not right. Kiash is fourteen now, and he ought to have been chosen.” Definitely me. My uncommon name, my mother’s name, my age… It couldn’t really be anyone else, there was too little chance.
“I see. Yes, I will help you. But I might change Kiash’s as well, I can’t know,” Akuma said. His voice scared me, sort of. He sounded cruel and indifferent.
“Thank you,” Cassia said. He got up from the ground, but Akuma pushed him back down on his knees with a violent gesture.
“Not yet,” he hissed. “There’s someone outside. If we wait long enough, they might go away.” That was my cue. Akuma scared me, and they were only waiting for me to leave. So I left. When I had come about twenty feet away, I heard the door to the manor open. I looked back. A weird light came out, but I decided it was probably just Cassia or Akuma – or someone else in there with them – who’d turned on a candle or a torch. Nothing that should matter, at least. But the light appeared very unnatural, shining out from every crack in the walls, not just those close as a torch or a candle would.
The next day, someone knocked the door at nine in the morning. I went to open. The man named Cassia I’d seen last night stood outside. Suddenly, I realized why he’d looked familiar. It was the man from my nightmare. I resisted the urge to slam the door in his face, although the scene was the exact same as in the nightmare I had just woken from. Cassia standing outside the door, the sun half blinding me, standing in my pajamas on the doorstep.
“Hello Kiash. My name’s Cassia. May I come in?” Cassia asked. This didn’t happen in my nightmare, so I figured it was safe to let him in. Why I suddenly trusted my dream, I didn’t know, but it felt somewhat safe.
“Sure…” I said, stepping aside so he could come through the door.
“Listen, I know it was you last night. You saw me and Akuma in that house,” he said.
“Yeah, I… I saw you. What was all that about?” I asked, throwing caution to the winds. Maybe this guy was dangerous, maybe he was not. Either way, it appeared as though he’d tried to protect me in that house, so I thought it couldn’t be that dangerous to ask.
“I changed some… Things. Let me see… You turned fourteen a few months ago, right?” Cassia looked briefly at me, then stared at the ceiling. I nodded. “And since then you’ve been having… Dreams? Nightmares? Visions? Anything like that?”
I nodded again. “Nightmares,” I said. “Always the same. You, knocking on the door on a bright sunny day like this. I stand there in my pajamas, and then suddenly I’m lying on the floor, you’re gone, and that other guy, Akuma is there.” I only realized now that it was Akuma. He hadn’t even seemed familiar to me last night the way Cassia had. But I was absolutely certain that it was him. It couldn’t be anyone else. The eyes were too black, sort of.
“Yes, well. Akuma is most likely trying to kill you, now that he knows you exist. He’s the Devil, what you’d call Satan. Now he knows about you. He helped me protect you – for some reason you’ve had my choosings up until now. By changing them, I gave you your own, and entitled you to protection. But Anita is not entitled to protection, she’s just a subject, so she’s still in danger. Akuma can’t kill you, but he can kill her. And he will, if it can hurt you, and through you, me. He hates me, hates my entire family., and my subjects. Especially Anita, as she was my first. That’s why he didn’t want to change it at first. He’s the only one who has the power, but he dislikes helping us. Now, long story short, he’s not human. Nor am I, nor are you. Akuma’s the Devil, as I said before. I’m an angel – don’t ask, I have tons of time to explain later – and you’re some sort of half-angel that, somehow impossibly, is tied to me. That’s what made Akuma call you my son. You’re not. What you are then, I do not know.” Cassia spoke way too quickly for me to quite grasp what he was talking about.
“Wait a second… You’re an angel?”
“Yes. I told you not to ask questions. Wake up your mother; I need to get you out of here. Akuma will be here within the hour.”
“Does my mother know about all this?” I asked. I knew he’d said no questions, but that was somewhat impossible with the revelation he’d just given me. Was I an angel or what?
“She knows me, and she knows what I am. Whether or not she knows about you, I can’t tell. Now go get her, we’re busy.”
I ran up the stairs and into my mother’s room.
“Mum, there’s a man out there, his name’s Cassia, he says he’s an angel, and that he knows you. Mum, wake up!”
“She won’t wake,” a cold voice behind me said. It was Akuma.
“Cassia!” I started to shout, but before I finished the word, Akuma did something to make me go silent. It didn’t hurt, but I felt something at my neck. Then I watched as he slit my mother’s throat.
“No!” I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. All I could do was watch.
A few seconds after Akuma had killed my mother, Cassia came through the door, running. White wings was stretched out behind him, emitting the unnatural light I’d seen last night. I watched as black wings spread out behind Akuma, lighting up like Cassia’s, but with darkness. Cassia wasn’t looking at him. He threw one look at my mother, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. He closed her eyes.
Then he turned towards me, and the sad look on his face was replaced with horror. “You can’t…” he turned towards Akuma, who smiled.
“Yes I can.” Then he jumped out the window. We were on second floor, but I figured, if he had wings, he must be able to fly. And besides, even if he hadn’t, he’d killed my mother. I wouldn’t care too much if he died. I’d almost be happy.
Cassia’s shout pulled me abruptly away from my thoughts. “No no no! You can’t die, you shouldn’t be able to die! Not now! I just fixed it! This shouldn’t happen…” he trailed off.
“You’re not dead,” he said, very coldly “Not yet, at least.” Then he picked me up, and jumped out the window after Akuma. I felt cold, and fainted before I could find out if he could fly.