The other had decided to stay. The aura surrounding the stranger had flared when herself, Maddie, had copied Splitface. The dialogue the people spoke was still a mystery but when Splitface spoke to her, in his nonsense, she was able to infer meaning from it.
She. When had she assigned herself a gender? She. Her. Maddie. Was that her name? Had she always resided here? Within Splitface? She tried to think hard, before she found herself here. Who was she? There were too many questions, and it was getting harder to remain inside Splitface. In fact, she yearned to be outside. With him.
As what was becoming a habit, Ash couldn't sleep. Even with the comfort that Molly was slumbering on the couch in the living room, he found himself staring at the ceiling, lost in thought.
He thought of Maddie, as he so often did. So it seemed she could understand him. They were making progress. And he had understood her, even if it was over a chasm of something so unfathomable his brain had trouble remembering it whenever he tried to process it. Like his brain was trying to purge any memory of the event.
He realized as he watched the occasional lights from a car go past his window, that there was a stubborn, immovable part of him that simply could not admit to Molly how terrified he'd been when facing what looked like death. Memories of lying on the floor in his own heated blood as it poured from his head, his arms. Broken limbs at awkward angles. And the pain. That heady cocktail of pain and utter dread as his life had eked out of him. That was his first taste of his own mortality.
He gasped and instinctively pulled the covers up to his chin as Maddie materialized beside him, under the covers and a face that appeared with perfect clarity. His only evidence of which was on paper now seemed utterly crude in comparison.
There was color in her cheeks and lips. Her hair was spooled out on the pillow in rivulets of blonde tresses and her scar that mirrored his own almost shone in a frightening contrast to his own, dull, scabby one.
"Splitface?" he whispered.
A perfectly formed hand reached forward and touched his cheek. So cold. Electric buzzed through him and her eyes gleamed.
"Am I Splitface?"
She didn't answer, but her hand travelled down to his neck, cupping it slightly and stroking with her thumb. Ash's breath caught in his throat and his heart was crashing against his chest. "Maddie..." he started, but she stopped him, resting her hand against his thumping heart and looking deep into his eyes.
Her scar began to glow and open, the ends growing and spreading from her ear to her hairline. It was the same chasm. Ash tried to speak but Maddie's hand was back at his neck, her grip firmer than before and keeping him still. His own face began to burn.
The fear began as a low churning deep in his stomach, but it quickly spread like fire. The growing crack in Maddie's face as her features slowly disappeared only fuelling the cold terror as it buried into him, relentless in its path, drenching him with a burning hot chill that crackled right down his body. A horrible clarity caught up with him as the gaping bright hole where Maddie's head had been closed over him.
This is where he would die.
And yet, he was alive. Of sorts. Ash spluttered and gasped and became aware of the tightness of the air he was forced to inhale. His lungs ached for the oxygen they were being denied. He opened his eyes and immediately shut them with the incandescent glow that pierced his vision.
"I had forgotten about this place."
Warm fingers traced down his neck in a comforting gesture, but Ash struggled to feel it. Maddie, who must have been standing by him, continued.
"This is a vision of where I should belong. This is the first time I've had the ability to show you this, and tell you what you have to do to save yourself."
Save himself? Where was he? The light was indiscriminate as it bled through his scrunched up eyelids, and an orangey-red glow was all he could see. He tried to concentrate on something else, pressing the heels of his palms in his eyes.
"Don't try to speak. You are unable. You must take yourself to the rift, an opening between worlds. Only there can we split, else we will fuse and disappear into each other. The rift is in the dust and the black blood, by the roaring chanting."
Her words were disappearing, fading like shadows into the gloom. He tried to breathe but their lungs pulled nothing in. Whose lungs? What was their name?
They jumped awake, back in his bed. Ash - Ashley James Everson, his name - gasped and wheezed as fresh air filled his lungs. It was as if he'd been holding his breath for an indeterminate amount of time and his chest burned.
As he spluttered, the image of Maddie watching him quietly from under the covers began to fade, and a recollection of where he was grabbed him.
"Maddie," he uttered, but she was already gone as he reached out to grab her. Gone again. He was alone, only left with the searing ache cutting through his face. He gingerly went to soothe the pain with his hand, but it was warm and wet, and Ash could feel heavy tears eking out a path down his face to drip onto his pillow. He pulled back his palm to look at it, and a smear of blood met him.
The scar had opened, and bleeding quite heavily. Ash struggled out of his sheets as it dripped all over the laminate floor, running off his chin and weeping into his left eye. He grunted and shoved open the door, where Molly was sitting up.
"Ash? Are you okay?"
He could only see her silhouette in the darkness of the apartment and the limited vision of one eye, but chose not to answer as he scrabbled to the bathroom to find the nearest towel. The bleeding wasn't staunching and continued to drip off his face. The ache was pulsing, hurting so very much. It was tearing his face apart.
He flicked on the light, but he could barely see it. The gray, stark light flickered and buzzed on as Ash staggered to his pale, translucent reflection in the mirror. The bleeding was a lot worse than he anticipated: it was dripping off the end of his nose and several rivers were meeting at his chin to run off. It looked utterly ghastly.
As he pushed a towel against the wound, then rang out in a jolt of pain and he winced, barely hearing Molly who had opened the door behind him.
"Jesus, Ash, there's blood all over the floor! What the hell happened?" She ran over to him and held his shoulders as he pressed the towel harder to his face, the other hand bracing himself on the sink. The blood began to blot through the rough cotton of the towel. It wasn't about to stop anytime soon.
YOU ARE READING
Following a miraculous recovery from a deadly crash, Ashley Everson discovers there's something else now inhabiting his body with him, only there's a small problem: neither of them can understand a word the other says. So Ash is stuck playing host u...