10

Cold Touching

The question came up too often: Where are we going? Truth be told, I wasn't thinking about a destination as we walked. I could be thankful for the fact that Derek didn't bicker when I looked around and refused to give up an answer as quickly as he probably would've liked. But when I found the buildings around me, they became too familiar—those images that I had seen flash through my head only one time before to show me "her".

Again? I'm back here. Slowly, I turned and looked at Derek, who was staring upwards at the sky. Had he really lived so close to her this entire time?

Over the years, streets had only been cold pavement, curbs, cars, and brick. Those were things that I'd seen all around me and none of them ever became icons to memorize. Of course, I was a demon that could travel to the ends of the world in less than a mortal's breath; so, up until I was forced to stay here, I never took the time to pay attention to the signatures on signs or to the colors on them and what they meant.

A large building made of brick and wide stretches of glass windows was to the left side of the street beside the cemetery that I recalled coming out of once before. I didn't bother to note the name on the sign. The word "academy" was the only one that stuck, and I realized that that must've been the school that Niamh—

No.—tightly, I shut my eyes and shook my head—That's not her name.

The thought made me cringe as if I was lying to myself by saying that it wasn't.

"I'll have to go," Derek said as he rubbed his temple. "Tired. Headache."

I grinned, "I can sniff out those lies. Am I boring you?"

"Hardly," he laughed while combing his fingers through hair. "But it is late."

"Head off then. I'm not a babysitter."

"Thanks," he said, rolling his eyes as he did. "I guess that if I end up getting jumped and stabbed—"

"I'll be the first one there," I promised.

"That's comforting," he chuckled with a nod. "You know,"—he shrugged—"in a strange, twisted sort of way."

"Twisted,"—I could feel my smile match the word and the sound—"Yeah, that's a way to put it."

***

Back to that street and back to that building, switching my skin for black fur.

I had been staying on the other side of the street, pacing between the same two light posts for the past two hours now as I waited for the light in her room to turn off. I jumped onto a bench that sat by the sign for the bus stop and felt that stretch coming on where'd I'd arch my back and have my tail pointing to the sky. With a yawn, I plopped down and lay there lazily, taking short naps as I waited.

I didn't want to chance my time sleeping as something that could be gambled with since I wasn't sure if the devil would count that as me meddling or not. I was determined to have all my bases covered and decided to just stay with the girl since (after all) her closet seemed to be linked to my actual quarters.

After another yawn, I glanced back up at her window and saw that it was still glowing with dim light.

She stays up too late.

I suppose that I didn't have to wait until she fell asleep before I went inside, but at least this way, I wouldn't have to endure ridiculous questions by her when I just got done hearing them from Derek.

Demons continued to lurk about in alley ways that were close, but still distant enough to not be effected by the church. They hovered and chattered together in that tongue that I never took the time to learn; although, they (as well as the other eight) had gained the ancient language naturally. Being out of the loop most of the time didn't get to me in the least; I found the majority of conversations to be boring anyway.

Them being there, however, did start to make me itch a little though. It wasn't just the one that had followed her home, but a small group that kept close to one another and didn't allow their attention to sway from anywhere except that girl's window. One thought came after another of why they could or would be there, but as soon as a conclusion slipped in, I wondered why I was worrying at all. There should've never been a reason for me to have any concern about why these minions were nearby. People were everywhere, and even if they had wanted to linger nearer to my mark…

I grimaced when the idea came to me that they'd be here when I wasn't. And what if I wasn't here or if she wasn't this close to the church, what would happen then? What if another cleaved to her like it had before, would something happen that I had no control over? Despite how much I hated myself for even letting her have that much of my thoughts, I couldn't help but feel edgy, uneasy with the knowledge that I had no idea when her time was up—not even once had I laid eyes on her hourglass.

My head felt muddy as I stayed there and it was truly unbearable. It had it be. Otherwise, why did I get up at all?

I scampered across the street that had only had a few passersby that evening. But instead of heading straight over to her window, I went to the church that sat in the lot beside it. Brush was growing up the walls and filling the gaps between the neighboring buildings. It was a peculiar place for a church to be, with apartments and rundown townhouses bordering it here on a street that wasn't close to a main road. It was tucked away and blended evenly with the rough-edged homes around it (with the exception of the white cross that topped it).

Nevertheless, it was kept well enough and didn't look like a place where kids came to vandalize or do whatever other kind of misdeed had come to mind. No—this one seemed almost protected in the aspect that it couldn't be dirtied by anyone (human at the very least). There was a common amount of leaves and trash cluttered at the corners of the front double doors that were etched with crosses and filled with foggy crimson glass.

This was a far cry from the cathedrals that I'd seen throughout Europe. Even still, it was holy ground.

And yet I wonder…

The foreign flavor of my own curiosity lingered on my pallet as I journeyed up the short stairway up to the front doors. The light of the overhead streetlight flickered high above me and at an angle, hitting my eyes making every object more detailed in my eyes. My fur teased the wood and I anticipated a singe with my eyes screwed shut (looking back, it was so human of me), but the burn never came.

Opening my eyes again, I gazed up at the glass crosses that marked the door and found myself still waiting for something—anything—to happen. Even for something as ludicrous as lightning striking me out of my skin and back to that underworld.

Aw… perhaps that was why. I stared down at my paws and over my shoulder at the twitching tail behind me. This is, too, a body. So, what if—

Was I on some kind of suicide mission? All of the bewilderment that danced around in my head at all hours now was getting the best of me. I was spending too much time in the mortal realm and it was starting to effect my way of thinking, making me wonder about things that I'd never give a second thought too.

However, somehow being so close to this holy unit felt right to me. It didn't feel strange or had me drawing back as the others had. Instead—always—I wanted an inch closer, only my hunger was clouding every desire and weighed me down enough so that I couldn't even dream of thinking about anything other than taking in another delectable soul that faded too fast.

The darkness was beyond me as demons kept as close as possible in their waiting. Even in our distance, I could feel Ammar's heaviness being embedded in a tree a few houses down the street. The air was too thick with them all around and made the street look as if a dense mist of smog had waded right by this church and this girl's home.

Again, I set my side to the cool wood and let the lids of feline eyes slide to a close and settled into calm breaths—the air smelled cleaner there in that specific spot, at that specific moment. There was something frightening about that relief. Perhaps it was the fact that I shouldn't have been so comfortable. Yet despite the wavering anxiety, I pressed myself to stay there a bit longer.

After awhile, I decided that she must've passed out by now, and hesitantly, I turned from church doors and jumped from the stair rail to the edge of the roof, trotting along until I came to the area just below that still lit window.

Surely, she wouldn't have waited up for me. I wasn't sure what had caused me to shiver with that initial thought or why a flare of heat had shot through me from end-to-end. But I stood there in a daze for a few seconds that seemed like another kind of eternity as I continued to stare up at the panes glass that still kept the marks of meaningless drawing of jagged hearts that her lazy fingers scribbled when she lay in bed.

I suppose that I had to climb up there at some point and putting it off for another hour wouldn't make a difference.

And so, I jumped.

Even for a cat, I'll admit that I brought "agile" to a higher level by having to go from a lower sill to broken pipes and branches ready to snap under a feather's weight. Simply crashing back to the ground seemed like a better idea than putting up all the effort to get up there. But eventually (seconds really) I was back up to that girl's cracked window, staying on the wood covered in chipped paint as my front paws bathed in the light casted out from a single lamp that she placed thoughtfully on the floor.

The shadows moved like phantoms with ever shift of the curtain or branch outside. Meanwhile, she lay on her side curled in somewhat of a fetal position with her bottom leg pulled closer to her chest while the other dangled off the edge of the tiny mattress to mimic were lower arm. The other curled over to act as a pillow for her head.

Her lips were slightly parted in her soft breathing that (along with the help of the constant breeze) were beginning to dry them out. The light was playing games on her face, painting and highlighting every feature in a different way to mask her in a more than human visage. It was something dreamy and old-world, a loveliness that was oozed of celestial unnaturalness in everything that was, in fact, natural. No, the phrase didn't make sense to me either, but I guess it was what mortal's better called "Heaven on Earth" or "from heaven on earth" rather. Just below where her hand hung off the bed was the book from the bookstore and I didn't give it another look or wonder after I saw it.

I hopped down to the floor and squirmed around the bulky lamp shade, trotting lazily over to the closed closet door and settled in. Floorboards and the cover of my tomb weren't that different when it came to comfort, but I have to say the air here smelled better than must and death. And in replacement of wraiths was breathing and distant, slow traffic. It was a peace that made my eyes heavy the moment I relaxed against the door that parted me from tombs, my brethren thieves, and a wall of time running out.