It’s that little hand again, warm in mine. I let go of it again, and watch it dwindle from my sight as I drift further and further away. It’s this feeling again, this giving in, surrendering feeling that takes over me. I close my eyes again. Behind my eyelids, I am going to feel a bright light approaching me again, then I am going to wake up.
But the light never comes.
Instead, I feel something cold grab desperately onto my stretched-out hand. It pulls me back, and I don’t resist its gravity. I open my eye. Beneath my swaying hair, I can see two hopeless seafoam green eyes, staring at me with fury and hurt. Tear droplets glistened by their edges, threatening to come out.
“Get the fuck away from me!”
Lethe woke up with a startled gasp. The shout that had woken her up from her otherwise usual dream was coming from her left. Turning her head towards that direction, she found Saveus fighting with a Perditus. Quickly, she glanced at the looming Hourglass and saw that its upper half was completely empty. It was dawn, the few hours before the dreadful turning of the Hourglass and starting of a newly bland and unchanging day. It was the optimal time for Perditus to attack; since people right now would either be sleeping and dreaming, or would have just woken up from said dreams. People at dawn are at their weakest.
Standing up hastily, she turned her eye towards Saevus’ Perditus. Just like the other one she had seen, its most remarkable feature was a toothy grin that seemed to spread itself across all of its face. It was taunting the enraged Saevus with its eerie chuckles and snickers, while trying to land a hit across his chest. Saevus, who was barely evading its attacks, was a shouting mess of pure anger and frustration. No wonder the Perditus seemed faster and stronger than hers; Saevus was feeding it with a spoon to its lips.
Another unspoken rule in Inanis: never interfere in other people’s Perditus fights. Lethe did not understand why that rule existed, nor the reasoning behind it; but, as she stood in alarm watching Saevus struggle against the Perditus, she felt physically incapable of interfering, even if she wished to. It was as though her body had suddenly frozen in place. She could only watch from afar as the overbearingly loud man exchanged blows with the grinning shadow. It was a situation Lethe had never been in before. Indeed, she had seen countless Perditus fights take place in her presence; everyone had. What was strange and uncomfortable about it was, first, Saevus’ incessant screaming, and second, the fact that she disliked her inability to interfere and shut him up with a punch or two.
Consequently, Lethe stayed still, deep in thought as she watched this disturbing fight occur. When she promised to help him with his Perditus, what did she have in mind? How would she have helped him? These questions were now running through her head as she recalled her promise to Saevus. He had said he did not want her help though. So maybe it’s all for the best that she stayed out of this whole thing. Seeing a second grinning Perditus appear behind Saevus snapped her out of her reflections. It took Saevus by surprise, and forming what appeared to be a sharp object in its arm, plunged it into the man’s side. Saevus fell to the ground, groaning in pain. Lethe felt something inside her; she had no name for it, but it was extremely discomforting. The perditus laughed in its shrieking and skin-crawling voice.
“HAhaHAAha. Youuuuuuu..HaHAAAAhaHa reeeEEEally bEliEEEEEved mEEEe!”
The other Perditus kicked Saevus so that he had his back on the ground and his chest exposed, then joined in:
“ HAhaHAAha! HoooOOOw NAAIIiiive! SaaAAAAAeEEEEVUS!”
Lethe gulped, the unknown emotion swelling inside her, gradually suffocating her. She placed her hand on her chest, clutching at her top. Her lips shivered as they separated. She needed to let this thing out of her. She hated it. Saevus, who had just managed to strike one of the Perditus away from his chest, struggled to get back to his feet, with one arm on his wounded side, and the other holding his club. The second perditus hit him from the back, making him fall back on the hard pale ground.
“Saevus!” Lethe shouted, almost desperately, and stumbled back at the sound of her own voice. “Don’t listen to them! Focus on my voice only!” His intense eyes briefly glanced at her, before they turned their full focus towards their foe.
“HoooOOOw NAAIIiiive!” Both Perditus chanted victoriously, as though celebrating their incoming meal. Saevus was tired. He was exhausted. He had been fighting with them for the last hour. Whenever he managed to kill one, another would appear, always with that haunting and provoking grin.
“Focus only on my voice and dodging their attacks! Don’t try to hit them back for now! Just dodge it. Save your energy!” Lethe could not stop the thing from seeping out of her. “Calm yourself down! Pretend they aren’t there. Pretend they aren’t grinning. Think of something calm, something relaxed. Don’t think of your dream.”
Again, those vibrant eyes glanced at her, exhausted and barely open. In the meantime, his equally burnt-out body was relying solely on its muscle memory to evade the ruthless Perditus and protect his chest. Lethe gulped and balled her trembling hands into fists.
“Think of something calm…” she repeated, softer this time. “Close your eyes. Don’t look at them. Your body has good reflexes; rely on it, and use both your arms to cover your chest just in case they managed to strike you.”
Saevus did not close his eyes, he kept them fixated on Lethe. Dropping the club, he crossed his arms at his chest and relaxed his body. Lethe glanced at the Perditus. Their movement was slowing down, making it easier for Saevus to dodge their strikes.
“Good! Good! Whatever you’re thinking of, keep at it.” She added, not knowing why she felt short of breath. “Just keep yourself calm, and don’t look at them.” Such intense and absorbing eyes, she thought unconsciously as she locked her gaze with his. “Yes, just… keep your eyes on me.”
As Saevus gradually composed himself; he felt his rage being appeased as well. The perditus were getting slower and slower; they had stopped snickering and making those disturbing sounds too. Saevus finally managed to get back up on his feet. With his eyes focused entirely on Lethe, he finally released his chest to pick his club, and easily hit both Perditus with one swing. The two watched as the shadows evaporated into non-existence, as though they were never there.
And suddenly, it was quiet again but for Saevus and Lethe’s panting. They stared quietly at each other, consumed and out of breath, while the Reses lingered motionlessly behind them.