(A/N: This is a strange little story that I've been writing on and off for a few years now. It's not nearly as refined as Avenari, but there are connections between the two, and this is special in that I wanted to try something that I'd never seen done before. The theme is a bit like a supernatural horror, but there are some romantic elements, too. We'll see how this goes.)


NOCTIS - PROLOGUE

It wasn't my fault.

I don't know what happened.

I tried to stop myself,

To control what was happening,

But it's like I'm broken,

Like there are bits being stolen from my head,

(Little by little)

And no matter how hard I work to keep myself in one piece,

There are always the voices.

They tell me things,

(Horrible things.)

And I can feel him watching

From the corners of the darkness

And I don't want to do it,

But nothing else will make it stop.

I have to end it.

(Good bye.)

~From the Diary of Dinah Truellen, Final Entry


I was so tired when I woke up. They used to say that there was something wrong with your bed if you woke up tired—or maybe you just had some sort of spinal irregularity. Those ads were always so...uninteresting. I normally didn't mind advertising, but I couldn't stand boring ads. Oddly enough, I loved funny things. In a way it was sad, considering all the things I had done, that I found so much to be funny.

Despite my lethargic awakening, I actually felt fine. In fact, it was early enough to drag myself out of my bed and take a shower before going to lecture. Maybe today would be a little okay.

You know that is a delusion, Chase whispered, his voice echoing through my mind. It sounded like the dead of winter, when the world is silent, and the even the slightest breeze chills to the bone.

I groaned and rolled over, and my long black hair wrapped around my head like a shroud for the dead.

Chase. He was the one I was the least comfortable with. He always managed to make me feel bad. At least one of the voices could be left at home, but Ric hated being apart from Vic, and made that completely clear. Phobos was simply evil. Trivia was the only female voice, and she seemed the least interested in a total meltdown of my mental being. It was probably because we were both girls, but I was still a little bit leery of applying gender norms to psychological disorders.

Not thinking at all seemed to be the key to ignoring Chase. I had once tried using reason, but he was persistent, even if he didn't talk nonstop. I wasn't going to let him ruin me, though, and especially not today. Waking up had been fine, and I fully intended to go to class and attempt to be normal.

"Sorry, guys, but I'm not letting you bother me right now," I mumbled through my hair. My body felt like an anvil. It just didn't want to move.

Oh, my. Someone seems happy, Ric commented wryly.

"Shut up," I said, forcing myself over the edge of the bed and landing hard on my butt. Painful, but effective. "I have to take a shower."

Why do you bother? asked Vic from the bonsai on the shelf. Why don't you go to the zoo?

"I don't want to. Besides, there's a test in organic chemistry that I've been studying for, and I don't want all that work to go to waste." As I discussed it with them, I rummaged through several drawers before finding enough clean clothing to cover myself. I needed to go to the Laundromat. Thank goodness, I had made it to Friday, but washing my own clothes was beginning to irritate me. Mom thought I was finally growing up, but really I just didn't feel like getting in trouble.

Vic sounded disappointed. But there are so many other things that are so much more fun than a test, he pouted in my head. He was like a little kid. Sometimes I wondered why he was in there with the rest of them. No wonder he stayed at home.

"I can't miss today or I'll fail that class. Mom still knows nothing, and I'm tired of moving. I'm just glad I don't have to live in a dorm. My roommate would wring my neck after the first week."

There was a quick tapping at my door and I shut up. "Are you awake?" Mom asked. "There's a bagel on the table if you have time to eat."

"Yeah, I'm awake. What kind of bagel?" I had a sort of odd love for bagels. They were crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside. I loved blueberry best.

"It's cinnamon and sugar. We're out of the ones you like."

Oh. "Cinnamon and sugar is fine." It was second to blueberry, but that wasn't something to complain about.

I rewound my alarm clock so that it didn't stop during the day. It was one of those old ones that didn't need batteries or a plug—the other kinds never woke me up, and paying for batteries when this thing worked on its own seemed a little redundant.

Well, it used to wake me, but then everything started to go downhill and I had ended up abandoning a normal sleep schedule. Nowadays, my body was used to four hours of rest and rose from unconsciousness on its own biorhythm.

I took my clothes with me and headed to the bathroom for my shower.

When I opened my door I checked the hallway, but Mom was already downstairs. What a relief.

The fact that she hasn't discovered anything yet says a lot about her parenting skills, Trivia muttered in mild disdain. You share a house and she's still oblivious.

"Yeah, you'd think she'd catch on," I said, darting across the hall to the bathroom and locking the door behind me.

Ah, safety.

I put the clothes on the toilet seat and ran the faucet in the tub, setting the temperature to as hot as I could stand before I turned the shower head on.

As I stripped down to my skin, I caught a glimpse of myself in the fogging mirror. My long, straight hair was in desperate need of washing, and there were dark splotches under my eyes that had nothing to do with insomnia and everything to do with my downward plunge into the depths of insanity. They would come off in soap and water, but it still sort of depressed me as I stepped through the curtains and into my steamy haven.

Soon my hair was slick and clean, and the dark spots on my face had washed away. It was a fresh start to the day in so many ways.

I stood for a while in the downpour and just relaxed, hugging myself loosely. The sound of water seemed to be the only thing that could drown out the voices, and I loved showers and rain all the more for it. It was nice to have company at times, but after a while the running commentary and constant invasion of privacy had become an issue. Every so often it was nice to have a little bit of silence.

Once I had dried myself thoroughly I pulled my clothes on, taking care not to disturb the deep cut on my upper right arm. It ached, but it was nothing some gauze, tape, and Bactine couldn't cure. I just needed to wrap it.

Before putting on the right sleeve, I dug the first aid kit out from beneath the sink and fixed the six-inch cut so that nothing short of a car accident could reopen it. I was getting disturbingly good at doing this one-handed.

That was a nasty gash, Trivia commented. Are you losing your touch?

"Are you nuts? I'm better than ever." Sometimes they asked such silly questions.

I pulled on my black, long-sleeved shirt and toweled off my hair. Once I finished brushing it out, I escaped the oppressive humidity of the bathroom. All my dirty clothes got stuffed into a trash bag under my bed with the rest, and I headed downstairs after grabbing my school bag.

As Mom had advertised, it was a cinnamon and brown sugar bagel, toasted and smothered in strawberry cream cheese. I sighed. Things like that always sent a pang of guilt through me. I felt sorry for my mom's ignorance, although it was probably so much better for her peace of mind to be unaware. I couldn't imagine her reaction, and I didn't want to.

I wolfed down my bagel and gulped a small glass of chocolate milk, then bolted out the door, snatching up my bag and coat along the way. I decided that would walk to class this time, since it was nice out and I had gotten up plenty early. It was going to be a quiet, normal, happy day.

Chase just laughed.