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That was not Maximus. It never had been. I was just a quick fuck to him. Never anything else.

Story of my life.

“I’m sorry it has to be this way, Perry,” he said, knowing better than to cal me darling again. “I real y like you. A lot. I mean an awful, ridiculous amount.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. Was he breaking up with me? We weren’t even in a relationship.

“But you need so much more than I can give you,” he went on, running his fingers down my arm. “You need help and I’m going to help you as much as I can, but you have to help yourself too. It’s a darn shame this had to happen. I think we could have real y had something. And, well , maybe someday we can. I think we’d make quite the team. You know, outside of all this. Especial y if you agree to doing the show with me. When you’re better, of course.”

That did it.

“Maximus,” I said.

He gave me an inquisitive look. “What?”

I spat in his face with all the nastiness I could muster. The bal of spit landed right on his nose.

I smiled viciously at the look of shock on his face. “That was from me, too. The real Perry.”

He gave me a mean little smile, then wiped his nose and got up. He put the chair back, saying “I’l be staying overnight here. I’l come see you later.”

He pul ed the door behind him until it was a few inches open. I was alone with my thoughts until the pil s kicked in and pul ed me into a haze.

Of course, I was never real y alone anymore.

I might never be alone again.


The rest of the day passed by in radical shifts. I was drugged and under for periods of time. Then I’d awake, squirming in the bed, almost rising above it, kept in place only by the ropes that kept me down. I was out of control, then in control, then out of control, then in control. The thing and I switched on and off but I didn’t get to cal the shots. I could only get him/her/it to leave when I concentrated hard enough. But it drained me and I’d fal back asleep again.

People came and went. Time slowed down. My mother came in and sat beside me for awhile. She couldn’t look me in the eyes. I didn’t know if it was because she was ashamed or hurt or because my eyes now belonged to someone else. She said, “This doesn’t get easier,” and patted my arm.

I never got any more out of it. My dad was even briefer. I could see the guilt in his face was eating him alive. I should have been happy about that, but it just made me feel sad.

Maximus offered to spoon feed me dinner. I told him I’d barf on him like Linda Blair in The Excorcist. He didn’t broach the topic of food after that.

But the one person I wanted to see, Ada, had stayed away. I knew she was aching and I knew I must have hurt her terribly when I attacked her. I stil didn’t know exactly what had gone down but I knew it must have been traumatizing to be attacked by your sister, even one as unpredictable as me. Stil , I figured she’d come by and visit.

Tel me something to cheer me up. Talking about fixing me and getting me out of there and how I wouldn’t have to go to a mental institute (because, let’s face it, that’s where I’d be going in the long run). But it would have just been talk anyway. She wouldn’t be able to help me. And that’s why she was staying away. It hurt too much to see me like this.

But it would hurt me less if I could see her.

I sighed and closed my eyes. It was night and stil raining steadily. Cold seeped in through the windows and sat thickly in the air. I had heard my parents talking earlier about how cold it was in the room, that the thermostat must be broken. They were so oblivious, I swear.

“How are you feeling?” Maximus asked.

He was back in the room with me, sitting at the desk and using my computer. He turned in his seat, watching me.

“How do you think I’m feeling?”

“Do you feel like kil ing anyone?”

“Aside from you?”

He got up and came over to me, towering high and mighty, his red coif almost reaching the ceiling.

“Are you scared?” he asked.

I shot him a testy look. “What do you think? I’m tied to my fucking bed.”

“It’s for your own safety. And everyone else’s. If we were to let you loose...”

“Loose? I’m not a fucking animal.”

“Part of you is. You know it.”

I did know it. I knew why I was tied down. I knew, and I was almost grateful because it meant I couldn’t hurt the ones I loved. I knew the minute I was free that’s exactly what the thing would make me do.

“Just get through tonight,” he said soothingly. “Things wil turn around tomorrow.”

“And what wil you do when the men in the white coats take me away? What wil you say then? Wil you stil ask me if I’m scared?” My voice started to tremble. I couldn’t help it.

I felt the thing entering part of my head and squatting, waiting for an opportunity. When I was scared, upset, when waiting for an opportunity. When I was scared, upset, when my guard was down, that’s when it would prey on me. I was starting to predict it. I wanted to warn Maximus, to tel him to step away from me. But part of me wanted to hurt him for hurting me and I didn’t know what part.

“Wherever you end up, Perry, it’l be for the best,” he said, as if he knew. “They’l make you new again. The doctors wil help you. They’l treat you. You’l be given medicine and it’l fix you. Those mental institutions have a bad rap, you know that. But they do more good than harm, especial y for people like you. It may be scary at first, but you’l be fixed. You’l be as good as new.”

“Are you sure about that, Max?” someone said.

The voice was shocking in its familiarity, the way it made the arms on my hair stand up. It was low, rich, deep.

And hardened.

Maximus flinched and whipped his head toward the door. His burly frame was blocking my view and I could only crane my neck so far to see who else was in the room.

I saw Ada walk past the foot of the bed, her eyes locked to mine, warning me about something.

Then Maximus, in his most disbelieving drawl, said, “What in God’s name are you doing here?” and moved over just enough so that I could see Dex standing in the doorway.

The room swirled in slow motion. I couldn’t breathe. My eyes widened and froze that way. My body tensed up. My heart lurched around from a mil ion emotions I couldn’t even name.

Dex. My Dex. My Dex who broke up my heart. My Dex was in my bedroom.

He looked older somehow. My mind was barely processing thought but somehow I was able to fixate on the little details of him. Time stood stil .

His shoulders seemed a bit wider and there was a bit more beef to his arms, which poked out of black t-shirt, his damp cargo jacket flung over one forearm. I don’t know why I thought he would have gone skinnier with grief or something. Wishful thinking. His face was different too. The eyebrow ring was gone and he had a thin layer of scruffy facial hair like he only shaved every couple of days. It suited him. His eyes were the same. Deep brown, shiny and a mil ion degrees of intensity.

He wasn’t moving, just standing there. His expression went from surprise to indignation to rage as he looked me over, taking in the sorry sight that I was.

Then he sprang into action. He stormed into the room, his arms gesturing wildly to me, and marched right up to Maximus and got in his face. Or almost his face, since Maximus was tal er.

“What the fuck is this?” Dex yel ed waving his arms wildly. “What are you doing to her?”

“What the fuck is this? What the fuck are you? Why are you here? You shouldn’t be here!” Maximus said right back to him, not backing down.

“You should thank your freckled ass that I’m here,” he shot back, closing the space between them.

“Guys!” Ada yel ed from the other side of me. “It’s OK, I invited him.”

I looked at her incredulously. She mouthed “sorry” to me.

“Why would you do a stupid thing like that?” Maximus said to her across the bed.

“Stupid?” she squawked. “I’m not going to sit back and let you tie my sister to her own bed, pretend you know what the hel is going on with her and then cart her off to a hospital tomorrow when we all know she’s probably not going to be coming back!”

I was touched by my sister’s loyalty and her built-in ferocity. I felt the tears creeping up in my eyes, all too overwhelmed by the situation, what was going to happen to me, and the fact that the man who had broken my soul and made my last few months a living hel , was standing a few feet away from me.

And then I felt that little twitch in my brain, like bugs were crawling in underneath a door. Something was choosing this time, of all times, to take over. I tried to force the blackness out, the suffocating cloak or pure evil. My eyes rolled back in my head and fluttered involuntarily as I concentrated.

“What’s wrong with her?” Dex asked gently, his voice strained. He came closer.

“I’d stay away if I were you, son,” Maximus said, putting his arm out to stop him.

Dex shot him a dirty look and threw his arm off of him.

He stopped right by the bed and crouched down so that his face was at my level. I wanted to look at him but I couldn’t. I had to fight and fight harder because I was losing.

“She’s not well ,” he said absently.

“No shit, Sherlock,” said Maximus.

“Did you notice her eyes are a different color?”

“What are you talking about? No, they aren’t, they’re just dilated.”

Dex shook his head vigorously. “Dilated but the color around them is brown now. Perry’s eyes have always been blue. Like the ocean on an overcast day.”

Ada gasped. “Dex is right.”

I felt him starting to untie the ropes from my arms. This was not the time to do that!

“Dex, don’t do that,” Maximus said for me. “She’s tied up for a reason, not for sport.”

“She’s not a fucking animal,” he grunted, and kept untying them.

I gave up. The thing was too strong. I wasn’t going to win this time.

I raised my head sharply. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

He raised his head just as the last knot came undone and our eyes met, burning into each other. “It’s me, Perry.

It’s Dex.”

I smiled an ugly smile, dripping venom.


The thing took over completely, more powerful than ever before. It lunged forward, grabbed Dex by his shirt and then flung him like a ragdol clear across the room so he hit the ground beside Ada. She cried out and helped Dex to his feet.

But the thing had me coming. My legs yanked at the ropes and they snapped. I jumped over the back of the bed and landed on Dex just as he was almost upright, my nails going after his eyes and just catching the edges of them, leaving bloody trails. He and Ada flew to the ground, but it was just him that I was going to kil . There was no getting around it. He was what the thing wanted. The thing wanted him dead. And somewhere, deep down inside, I think I did too.

I wrapped my fingers around his throat as I held him down, feeling how easy it was to just squeeze and squeeze until his windpipe broke. His scruffy face turned purple and his eyes were shut hard as he tried to pry my hands off of him. He couldn’t. He was fading fast, unable to breathe. I was actual y going to do this. I was going to kil him and I’d not only see it happen, it was my body that would inflict it.