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Everbound : Chapter One Demons And Books Oh My! Part 2.2

by Moonlily


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

Hello Hello I want to thank everyone for having  so much  patience as I edited this as you can tell it's a long one. Also, this will be a bit on the rough side thanks to the length but do know I am trying to fix the grammar and tense issues. Oh, and no indents as this is my second time posting this If anything gets cut off oddly let me know!

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What had just happened? Had she gotten hit by lightning and casually had tea with an odd lady? More importantly, why had she bought a book that spoke in tongues? Nice Lilian, she might have gone insane.

The mundanity seemed to clash against this, as the grocery store’s doors opened and slammed shut. Fluorescent lights flickered, casting a dingy air over the aisle, and a few strangers mulled around like lifeless zombies. Wheels squealed and dragged over the dated tiles, pushing forward lacking carts. Lilian had found a strange comfort in ground zero of the world's most boring dystopia. Eyes stayed fixed forward or lost in their own worlds. There would be neither peering shopkeepers nor static voices delivering nonsense between her ears. 

At least it had been normal here; perhaps she had woken up from her dream.

Even then, the book seemed to burn through the bag, trying to taunt her like a threat resting on her hip with every soggy lifeless step. Her eyes glossed over the lined-up products, like a soulless army, The memory of on-end hairs and spools of lightning remained wedged in her brain, buried by the crackling murmur of music overhead.

Voices, fallen books... empty rooms, appearing strangers.

The events had played on like rewinding tapes. As she turned the corner, rain trailed her like blood drops from a wound. Long and weary, a sigh had fallen from her lips, as if that would excommunicate the growing exhaustion washing over her. Her shoulders rolled into a tense bunch of knots as she strolled between flowery named shampoos and smoothie-like body washes. One promoted cinnamon and pomegranate, others lilies, and citrus. She waited for that stomach-turning mix of earthy tones and florals to assault her nose.

Snapping light bulbs, thick smoke covering incense, breaking glass against the ground.

No matter how often it ran through her head, it still held a haze of surrealism. The moment she stepped out of was a bubbling mix of a nightmare and fever dream. Her hand aimlessly knocked over hair oils and deep conditioning masks packaged in pastels. Any other thought had been carefully tucked away in the corners of her mind, making her akin to a self-driving car. 

Chipped bricks and that growing void of white couldn't have been real...

“Are you sure this brand is good for sensitive scalp?” came a stranger's voice as they crouched around a low shelf, a phone shoved between her ear and shoulder.

Lilian's strides had frozen, the autopilot seemed to ebb away, leaving her to grasp at thinning thoughts. She stared blankly for a second, trying to refresh her world through thick, forceful blinks. Her gaze had snapped back into focus, letting the present wash away the past for an instant.

Just move on, there is no need to go into full work mode. She didn't need two creepy interactions, especially one where she was the creep.

Her gaze had fallen onto the thousand boxes lined up on either side of her, darting around the brands and styles. She locked eyes with the models staring back at her, their wig-like hair blowing in a non-existent wind. All in the search for a familiar name that might have come across her desk once upon a time. Even if it had been lost in the sea of boxes promising long-lasting colors and silky smooth hair.

“Do you want a picture for proof because I swear it's the same?”

Lilian, with an attempted confidence that if anyone had looked, would have mistaken for constipation, had taken a step forward. She stooped down to look at the dirty blondes, trying to capture the picture of a woman lost in thought over a hair change. There had been a hiss from the stranger before the phone was taken from its nook and with a flair belonging to an angered peacock, hung up. A few murmured swears slipped into a level of audibility, making the others seem like echoes.

Now would have been the time to step in.

“Um … Excuse me, Ma’am,” said Lilian, trying to peer over her shoulder in a relaxed way. The stranger blinked and shuffled aside. "Sorry, am I in your way? I can move over.”

“No, no, I just overheard you and if you don't mind you could try a lighter color, they're lower in PDD or there's a natural dye down the aisle over...” “You seem to know a lot. Are you a hair stylist or something?”

The croak turned into an amused, perhaps awkward, giggle.

“Do you think a hair stylist would one, go out like this and two, recommend box dye? I just do toxicology reports. It’s less dead bodies and more cosmetics as lame as that sounds.”

“Lame or not, shopping for stuff is a breeze, I imagine. After a chance to freshen up, however, I am sure you would look just fine.” The stranger had taken a second to scan over Lilian with her falling apart braid and what little eyeliner hugged her eyes. She slid a box into Lilian’s hand with a grin. “If you’re having a hellish day, remember blondes have more fun.”

The stranger nodded and walked away, her heels clicking as she went. The light watery notes of lilies of the valley followed suit. A shiver fell upon Lilian as it faded, awaiting the rumble of thunder, or the floor to shake. Instead, the intercom spat a deadpan announcement for a cleanup in some part of aisle six. Her hands seemed to sag under a box so light. A platinum blonde with a pair of braids stared back at her, acting like a ghostly warning.

So people kept saying it wasn’t like she had to do it immediately. Who knew, she could even pawn it off to a co-worker or Libby if she had to. Regardless of what choice she made, she wouldn't be sober for it.

After her small unwinnable staring contest with a box of Volume thirty bleach, she dropped it into her brown bag of questionable goodies. Her feet found the booze with a worrying level of ease as her thoughts returned to a sense of shallowness.

Colorful labels and fancy shining decals awaited to be pondered and mused over, with thought carefully put into what meal would be paired with the wine inside. Instead, they met Lilian's outstretched and mostly impartial hand, without care for the subtleties or years waited.

Right now it just had to be red and not plummet her deeper into half-paid debts.

She glared at the semi-chilled bottle in her grasp, then straight to the price. A little of the crimson liquid turned along with her hands, hovering over the bag for a second. However, the sound of clinking and crashing still held sway. She had enough of it. 

On top of that, bleach and a bottle of wine would be enough to get dirty looks, let alone a broken bottle.

The dirty looks still came as she stared at the floor, trying to drown the short beeps of the scanner. The judgment in the cashier's eyes was strikingly familiar: imaginary fingers seemed to reach for her wrist as she tucked her haul away. It lingered even as she neared the windows frosted from the overcast sky. However, as she stepped out into the world under the shade of her umbrella, it slipped away, leaving her and herself only.

It was time to numb all that and go crazy in the comfort of her own apartment.

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God had forsaken the fourth floor, or perhaps it was just the cleaner. She had her bets that one of them was drunk. 

Despite the bland pallet of champagne, the walls came alive because of the texture. Brush strokes rose from the paint, then melted into drips or spills. All of it raced to the once crisp, trim near the baseboards. However, those too needed some TLC as it overflowed into the carpet below. If anyone doubted a human did this, a few loose bristles peeled off, stuck in limbo. 

Then there was the carpet, a thin layer of rope-like fibers. It didn't give underfoot nor hold a sort of bounce; instead, it climbed up Lilian's ankle. The longer she fumbled for her keys, the more it seemed to become her leg. As if it was a parasite trying to take her over, maybe in revenge for not being cleaned. 

It was quite rude of it, to be honest. Wasn't she the one paying the rent and the actual tenant here?



Before she merged with the floor, she resolved her brief fight with the keys and opened the door with a creak. It no longer stood like a stoic redwood sentinel watching over a timeless tomb. Instead, it gave way with a sense of ease. Her living room greeted her with an open stillness that clung to the sights and sounds of those once dear. Whether it was the loud incoherent cheers from two tipsy party girls stumbling back home or the soft candlelight dinners.

 All of it put to rest like her sense of normality, as she flicked on the light, waiting for a second pair of footsteps that would never come. When the door clicked in place, she dusted off the old glass table in the center of the room. Cups and this morning's half-drunken but stone-cold coffee stood around a beat-up black laptop. Its fans let out a soft purr, still hanging on to what little battery life she had left it with. As tenderly as she could, she slipped the bags free from her shoulder to join the rest, gritting her teeth when the glass embraced the table.

Without an audience, the full experience, all at once, hit her. Her eyes threatened to flutter closed as her limbs grew as heavy as lead, leaving her to collapse onto the sofa. Even as the vinyl stuck to her legs, and a few stitches frayed, it was a welcomed embrace amidst the mess so far.

The waning smell of dried roses passed her by like a glimpse of what could have been. Urban growth and its noise fluttered in through the window. Cars kept rolling, the earth kept spinning. Yet something stalled within the room, echoing through the walls and floor. It was as if the place's heart had stopped beating, replacing it with loaded quiet. The type that grew fuzzy around the corners yet struck with a melancholy that remained un-whole. Words never bent to explain the missing presence. It just was. 

For a long time, it refused to settle, choosing to brush against Lilian like a fickle cat. Always there and watching as she rubbed her face in both hands, shoulders slumped until pixie-like spots danced in her vision. Before she could rub herself blind, however, the table shook with the high-pitched vibration of a phone. Small bursts of excitement exploded in her stomach despite the morose mood.

She shouldn't get her hopes up, that never went well. It might have just been work, a shift that had to be filled in, or a minor breakthrough. Whatever it was, it would not have been her, and she knew it.

On cue, her purse once again came alive, this time with the strong atmospheric opening chords of thunderstruck. With a sigh that bordered on bitterness, she divided the purse's contents into two cavernous sides. Until the well-loved rose gold phone peeked out from the bottom. That ringtone had to be changed at this point. 

The universe must have loved taunting her.



It continued in a second short round that played out in her hands, jostling them to the beat. When she flicked on the screen, a young black-haired girl stood next to an older man, age not yet having taken its toll. Although a little gray did pepper the curls matching hers, it seemed to aid him in a way. Adding a sense of wisdom to his gray eyes, much like the dark wood cards in his hands, the edges hinged in gold. A pleasant warmth and gentle smile grew on her for the first time that day. Not faltering when the simple phrase: “you have two new messages from MADDLIBBS" appeared.

Her hand moved on her own before she knew it. She typed 1313 with little thought before the phone slid open with a chipper camera-like click. 

Much like the start of the day, a memory stood there frozen in time, replacing neon splattered in blues and hot pinks with the dying sunlight of fall. It streamed from the twisting, snow-covered apple tree looming over herself and one other like an elder nymph or spirit. Despite the growing autumn and fat wispy snowflakes, its leaves were still a crisp emerald green, the branches hung with plump mahogany apples. A small trail of juice leaked from the apple in her younger self's open palm, a few drops caught in the scratchy fuzz of her black mitts. Next to her stood a girl about nineteen, her dirty blonde hair scooped into a lazy high ponytail, it fell over young Lilian's shoulder as they pressed together with over-excited grins.

Although Lilian's fake frames were slid askew, almost off her face as they posed close together, or as close as the huge puffer jackets would allow. In the end, they looked like two airbags with bundled-up heads and arms, taking a selfie. Faint hand-painted spider webs peaked from her large plum arms and chest, it was freshly done yet chipping off with every move. Underneath it was a single short and sweet text.

MADDLIBS: Look what I stumbled onto. Remember the Salem trip?

A flood of memories returned to her, the excited chatter and ticking of a key in the ignition. Miles of road stretched before them as inhumanly bright chips and drinks were passed around in the chilling air. The smell of a pine twenty-cent car freshener faded into the stinging chlorine of yellowish-lighted motel pools.

Lilian: Well, of course, how can I forget it, and the hot mess after?

MADDLIBS: Oh, I don't think I'll forget the aftermath. Your parents were pissed... After all, you took their car on an unauthorized trip.

Lilian: And you were the one who agreed to it, weren't you? Plus, it wasn't all bad. It helped my cough mellow out.

MADDLIBS: Still doesn't mean dating you didn't take like twenty years off my life. Maybe if we go back, it will give me twenty more now that we're friends.

Thin ice Libby, she was on very thin ice

Lilian: Or you could disappear like my other exes.

The three small bubbles popped up, then went away, before reappearing and bouncing around like their texts were in a playhouse at a birthday party. Her gaze shifted to the brown bag where the book stood on its side, digging lines into it. An energy filled the air like a foreign dread trying to be expressed.

MADDLIBS: Hey! Hey! That's not on you. She was an asshole, and you will be better even if it takes a while. For now, just take care of yourself and if you need anything, let me know... Okay, it could be a meal or a night out.

Lilian: I know, and I AM, I promise you don't have to drop everything or baby me. You have a life and a partner.

MADDLIBS: I don't baby you; I just care for people I love and I just so happen to love you. Now, Lilian Josephine Edenbrough, we will go back to Salem and it will be with a smarter partner because they are dumb to leave you.

MADDLIBS: And when we don't have five million things to do first. Until then, promise me you won’t do something rash like steal a car or melt off your hair.

Lilian: I make no guarantees. I promise you nothing too dumb from now on

MADDLIBS: Lil- what did you do?

Lilian: Firstly, this is why you're called MaddLibs. Secondly, please and I mean please, please, please don't freak out. Thirdly, I had a close call with some lightning. It's fine...

MADDLIBS: OH MY GOD YOU GOT HIT BY LIGHTNING, ARE YOU HURT OR BURNT? DO YOU NEED A DRIVE TO THE HOSPITAL? DO I NEED TO COME OVER?

Lilian: Look I know you don't believe me, but I’m fine, I was in a building hence the close call. I’m just shaken up. No need to come over.

MADDLIBS: A close call is still a close call and I will make sure you're okay later. There's no getting out of it. Go take care of yourself.

Lilian: I will, I promise and thank you for the blast to the past. It was so simple then.

Those bubbles seemed to twitch like unfinished punctuation, with more left to say in a simple set of symbols. However, they dipped back into the white of the messaging app, another conversation put to an end. As her phone flicked off, her gaze again fell to the bag. This time she pushed herself to the edge, trying to scoot it closer. She grabbed the bottle inside like a gift in a cereal box.

Should she get a glass or go full heathen tonight? If she went straight for the bottle that would be a bit too low; she needed some self-respect.

Although lifting herself from the couch felt like a daunting trial, she managed it with a few overdramatic sighs. Otherwise, the journey to the medium-sized open kitchen was anticlimactic.

Cabinets opened with a squeal, and a semi-spotted glass met her hand in seconds. However, the wine corker was a different beast entirely. She tore through drawers, just closed cabinets, and even the fridge asunder in the search for the alcoholic-based torture device. In a final desperate attempt, she turned around to the steel and white stone island that hadn't been touched. Yet there it sat, as if an absent mind had placed it down, to be forgotten by time.

It was a touch creepy; she might be haunted or jinxed. Maybe she shouldn't have grabbed the possibly cursed pointy thing that had just appeared, but she was that close to losing it.

Something else had taken up a paranormal habit in the time it took for her to return. Instead of staying put like bleach should, it appeared out of the sagging bag. Now, with every frightened blink, it seemed to pop up closer and closer, before resting on the edge. Lilian's nerves screamed as she pulled back, her wine cresting over the glass for a few tedious seconds.

She should run for real, to a therapist or exorcist. It seemed like she needed both.

A fog rolled over her brain, slamming sparks of fear down like a pickaxe taking blind swings, her mouth running dry. Her eyes refused to look away, locked to the ordinary oddity before her. An itch to lash out formed like the sweat oozing from her pores. Her being was almost consumed with the need to prove that this box was indeed just a box, through kicking or hitting as if it were a person. No matter how many deep breaths she took or how hard she bit her now-white lips, reality refused to come back. In its absence was a young woman verging on the fetal position, wine held high like some heirloom not to be damaged. In between, the paralyzing fear of a bleaching kit was a growing blanket of embarrassment.

It might have moved in some odd, unnerving way, but that didn't mean it was alive. 

The worrying thing was she hadn't had a drop. While trying to curb the urge to have drop-kicked a box across the room, through thick breathless prayers, she eased back onto her feet. Her hand trembled as she placed down the glass and held the box in a killer stare before giving it a thorough shake. In the end, it was a vain attempt to shed her fear and whatever clung to the box. There were no hissing or chilling offers to play with it. All it did was throw around the many small packages, tubes, and bottles like a depressing maraca.

She had either lost her mind or needed a nap because it was just harmless dye, but if she wanted to be a hundred percent sure, she could always test it.

Twenty minutes later, she sat surrounded by wine, unbraiding her hair with thin gloves while she studied the instructions. Every inch of her body tried to keep her mind off of the bleach that burnt her nose or the crumpled garbage bag that would soon be on her head like a demeaning crown.

She should do the ends. Nothing too crazy in case she looked like a carrot.

Something that could be so harmful looked so much like a bottle of plain yogurt. Perhaps she could close her eyes while the brush ran through her hair, so she didn't have to face the feeling of being a dumb, impulsive teen again. With a few slight curses under her breath, she shook the bottle and set a timer.

Here's to hoping by the time that chimed off she wouldn't be regretting this to her core...

Lilian's jaw ached from cringing while she slathered the ends of her hair with a cold pearly paste. Her arms grew tired of all the clipping and parting, save for the sips of deep red wine in between. The taste of florals mixed with a hint of pomegranate as she tied her hair into a lumpy updo, hopefully, to be contained in the flimsy bag. Obnoxious crinkling filled her ears every time she dared to move her head.

It was a bleach-your-hair type of night. Blondes had more fun, they said... she was calling BS.

Her bleach-soaked gloves refused to peel off for a few long minutes before resigning. She slouched back, letting the couch take her. Even as her computer screen twitched back to life, her eyes felt heavy, her shoulders slumped as she swayed a bit, head cocked to the side. The crinkling acted as a cry to keep her awake. 

Resting her eyes sounded like bliss. It had been a long day and she wouldn't oversleep...

Darkness came calling, and Lilian was quick to answer. Her mind slowed as her eyes closed, snippets of thunder and odd figures were stuck on the edges of her lost dreams. Bouts of snow and falling leaves broke up the muddied stream of events while they twisted in bizarre ways. It felt like an elaborate lie, or as if time was a lump of clay on a potter's wheel.

Once again, she walked through the snow, although it was more like floating in a soundless landscape. The air was thick with a peace that came in baited breaths. However, when she looked at the horizon, there were no shadowy figures or broken bookstores. Instead, a loud bell-like beep rang in her ears, unstoppable and daunting compared to the soft tones meant to lull her. 

With a slight startle, Lilian jerked back into awareness, her breathing coming out more like a snort. The smell of bleach hit her first, shattering the landscape as her eyes flew open. Her hand jetted towards the phone at her side, prying off the vinyl that latched onto her arms and legs.

Shit, shit, shit...

Instead of the timer that should have been happily ticking down, she was confronted with an almost humorous wake-up call. The simple black and white text stated in a dry, matter-of-fact way: Lilian! Keep an eye on your cycle; it might start soon. A sense of urgency in these words and the actual worry of melting her hair off formed a strange contrast. That was until a frozen timer stared back at her.

Oh…Oh no, no, no.

Her hands had almost emptied the hair conditioner at how strong her grip was. The tube collapsed inwards as she slammed doors and was on the edge of pole vaulting over the bed like an action hero. The garbage bag slid as she ran, before flopping loose around her neck by the time she got to the bathroom. If anyone else had been there to witness this showcase, she would have been the perfect visage of a slasher movie madman. Or that's at least what the mirror drove home as she released her hair with a feverish speed.

She had better enjoy looking like Chucky because there was no way this would look good.

The ends were as rough as wires against her skin as she slipped out of her outfit. A chill filled the air as she stepped into the black-tiled shower. She allowed the growing heat to melt both the dye and her worries away. For now, the pearlescent goop that swirled down her drain and the knots in her hair defined her world. Unlike the rain, this was soothing or as soothing as trying to save one's hair from doom could be. It filled her body with a pleasant heat while the steam invaded her mind, putting a distance between herself and the day at hand. Her deep breaths cast a fog on the doors as she raked a conditioner-lathered hand through the tips of her hair. She pulled a few loose strands from their roots, causing black hair to subside into gray.

Strange, but not an orange-brown or on the floor. Small wins, Lilian.

Soon the water tipped towards frigid and with no stream of bleach in sight, her excuses to doddle seemed to lessen. Perhaps as a final push, a dull pain came to the surface that wasn't keen on leaving like the hot water. It laced her back and scratched at her insides like an omen was set upon her. Something warm trailed down her legs, and the water ran from clear to red.

That app seemed like an Oracle, or perhaps even her ovaries were ganging up on her. 

With one more rinse, she shut off the water as the pipes groaned with disappointment. Phantom drops tickled her skin, leaving a sense of numbness under her shoulder, while a chill had rested in the room. Although the cramps seemed to have beaten out the shivers, pain stabbed at her like an unneeded prompt to move. Well after she had left a red trail across her bedroom to get dressed. 

Eventually, she would have to face the mirror. It would be better to do it and not get a nasty surprise. Or anymore, at least.

 Her still-wet hair hugged the white towel as she attempted to win the fight that was drying it. Even her reflection seemed to be over it by the second pass-through, although she could at least skip one step now. As her ends had been tangled and somewhat damaged but they were lifted past a carrot top color into a smoky grayish brown. Creating a stark contrast between the softer tones and the dark mass of ambiguously dried hair. Something between a laugh and a gasp of utter disbelief filled the room as she pawed at itHoly… she had done it. She had beaten the cosmetic odds in one lucky fluke. 

Maybe karma was real after all...

The hair, despite this minor miracle, felt odd and harsh in her hands as she twisted it around her fingers. Her hands had been set to work weaving it back into her braid, a sense of relief coming over her as she stared at her reflection. This time there had been no dripping mascara or waving trash bags. She had almost looked like herself. If it hadn't been for her thin, pale skin and the dark purple bags that made her eyes appear sunken.

Destiny might have been right. She looked like crap, but it wouldn't last forever. She needed her answers, that's all she had been asking for.

Another stabbing pain had broken her from her thoughts. Her hair had been finished in what felt like the blink of an eye. Taking one more look, she ventured into the neat sanctuary of her room. No clothes littered the floor, everything that her brain could never be. Her teal sheets wrinkled under her weight as she pulled at her blankets, her eyes searching for the red heating pad left there months ago. Yet it had appeared to have vanished without a trace. Even her wardrobe or foldable storage tucked away in her closet held no answers.

A beep had once again sounded, this time a single high-pitched note that echoed from her kitchen of all places.

There was a mechanical clunk before the sound of the plate rotating took the place of a beep, like a hint to guide her further. A slight yellow light came from where the room met the kitchen, ending at her feet. Lilian's brows furrowed in voiceless confusion as the old hoodies slipped from her grasp. Before her voice could make any sound, the clunk started up again, sputtering like an impatient child.

Against all of her better judgment, she sneaked back into the kitchen. The microwave was spinning in a vain attempt to heat nothing, however, as she drew as close as she would dare to something caught her eye. Next to it sat a half-slumped package of fabric, its red popping against the plain appliances surrounding it. She drew in a harsh breath as she grabbed onto the heating pad, its weight shifting with the beads in her hands. In the corner of her eye, the spinning stopped halfway in its rotation, followed by one beep. A lump formed in her throat as her gaze switched between the heating pad and the microwave, her words being blocked completely.

Was someone in her house, because a misplaced object was one thing, but them, coming alive, was a scarier thought. Did she need to call someone? If so, who? 

Pain surged through her, nearly taking her breath away and filling her mind with panic. Her hands shook as she reached for the small handle and pried it open, giving the microwave what it wanted. 

A low droning hum took over the silence, even that shifted into white noise by the time she sat down. As if no time had passed, her wine, an even deeper red, sat right next to an open computer screen. She clasped the glass in one trembling hand. With a slight flourish, she drained it in a second, as the taste fell upon her deaf tongue and burned her throat.

It was crazy; she had completely lost control, and things appeared as if they were haunted, but she was supposed to be fine with it. What was she even meant to do here? No, no, she had to stop thinking like this; she was the only sentient being here; she wasn't playing these games. There had to be an answer, something right in front of her.

Her eyes swept the table and ended up on the start of today's trouble, that damned book. The wine threatened to come back up as she dragged it closer. Her coffee mug was almost tipped onto the ground, and her computer was inches away from the same fate. Even as it bumped across the table, she left it a healthy distance away, perhaps afraid it would lunge at her like a bloodthirsty animal going for the throat.

She lifted it out of the bag like one might a severed limb, trying to avoid locking eyes with it. The hairs on her neck and arms stood on end as if something passed through her in a gust of cool dry wind. A knot formed in her stomach as her hands traced the cover, following the swirls of scarlet thread embedded in the old leather. 

Energy crackled at her fingertips, it raced up her nerves, filling her with a sense of arcane weariness. Something born from decades turning into millennia that turned into an eon. It was like sand unable to leave the hourglass. Like the rain, it had a pulse-raising and falling throughout her muscles; it seemed to copy her short sucked-in breaths.

That was wrong. It didn't feel right; it didn't feel real. She shouldn't have picked that thing up, let alone entertained ideas of using it.

Her fingers slipped away, and the pulse started after them. It continued to ebb along her arm in a sharp, hot pain. She tried to swallow, but her throat closed up, only allowing a strangled choke to come out. The tips of her fingers burned as if she was back getting lashed by lightning.

It was meant to be comfortable. After all, it was her home; it was safe… why wasn't it?

There was no white void to hide in where, for a second, reality ceased, this was real. She could smell the wilting roses and felt the vinyl against her back. Every part of her knew the walls and all that had been planned to hang on them. No glasses broke into shards coming to slice her skin, this wasn't some grand spectacle. It was a quiet early evening as a sense of terror sat with her until that pain took its sweet time leaving. The book fell from her hands the second it did; it tipped over and tumbled in a series of spins she dared not interfere with.

Although it was a short descent, the seconds before the clattering thud grew longer, forming odd pockets of soundless time. Once it landed, the table shook, and the covers were slightly twisted as pages splayed out in a random array. They were bent and cracked, looking like one wrong move would turn the brown pages into fine yellow dust. Lilian inched closer and gave the hefty book a nudge with her foot. It slid, losing what little balance it had and fell limp onto the back cover. Her body drew back, pulling her knees into her chest, attempting to shake the heat from her arms.

She wasn't touching or doing anything with it, she would return it tomorrow no matter what.

Even the voice in her head was shaky as she forced soft breaths into her lungs. The knots in her stomach refused to settle, as if they held her together like a ball-jointed doll. Reality refused to register past her eyes. Instead, things melted into a vague liminal space, seeming more like a mockery of the home. Lilian’s skin pricked with waves of sweat, while the bitter taste of salt threatened to choke her. It grounded her to the world, which kept shifting, unlike her heart's steady pounding. Underneath it was a hissing static, like an oddly jumbled choir yelling at her from the inside. It pressed against her eyes and skull, echoing as it filled the air with an angered haste. The sounds twisted into thick, unintelligible scolding, that consumed what little comfort remained.

Her chilled hands dug into her ear, desperation made real through beads of blood. No one answered the cries that escaped as the skin turned bright pink. Every mark she left sent a tender spark of pain as she retraced them over and over. As if clawing off her skin would give them a chance to escape, instead, tears clung to her lashes. Perhaps they were trying to soothe the loud, furious voices within her. In the end, all she could do with tired hands and raw skin was cover her ears, doubling over while the night came in like a whisper.

For a second, the oranges, and yellows of a sunset filled the room. The whole place glowed with a light that broke through the clouds of fear, soft and motherly. It was as if a goddess had touched down to show her mercy. Before she could reach out to hold this hope, the sun dipped into the horizon, leaving only the voices. The glow evaporated back into the cool tones of the night and abandoned her to bear the weight of her shaking legs. Vomit slipped into her mouth, eager to join the dark puddles soaked into the floorboards, while a warmth churned in her stomach and coated her nerves. A Teeth gritting anger had overtaken her as fear morphed into power. Leather and twine cried out from under her heel.

The voices stuttered. Their confusion betrayed their own anger as the book buckled beneath Lilian’s feet. Her breath took the voices' place. It sounded more rattled than victorious. However, the feeling of sweat-soaked cotton dragged her back down to earth, the slight chill bringing a sense of clarity. In the gaps of silence came the high-pitched beep of her microwave, waiting to be relieved of its task. Perhaps scared, the voices faded. They left her with limp arms and aching ears while her feet stumbled into the kitchen. Her surroundings felt like cardboard set pieces on a stage while she forced the microwave open. Beads shifted in a pleasant murmur, while heat tickled her palms, not scorching or pulsing. Instead, it rested on her skin, holding her in an embrace. No matter the cold, it had her here and now. She pressed it against her heaving chest as if to covet the warmth. A few rough tears made their way down her cheeks as she let out a long sob, filling the room with that broken sound.

The next few moments came together in short snapshots—the smell of old takeout possibly gone bad, the weight of the heating pad against her skin, and the newly poured glass of wine. Her computer screen washed her in bright lights while thousands of posts attempted to bury the horror of mere moments before. Wine and cold noodles passed her lips, but the flavors never hit her tongue. Her eyes stared ahead, not reading or reacting, while she kept scrolling further down the page. All of it blurred into sights and sounds as if she was looking into a window display of life.

She deserted the remnants of her pitiful feast, leaving them for her future self to deal with. As the ever-numbing pit of social media grew deeper. Her body, perhaps out of forming muscle memory, curled into a lump on the couch. Her cursor blinked as if trying to snap her out of it.

Sleep dragged down Lilian’s eyes, giving in to the shadow's lullaby. The silence softened the dark into a dream rendered in monochrome. Her body sank further into the couch, as if the day was a nasty flu that had run its course. With every lightened breath, she fell deeper into her mind. The world was lost in gray pastels.

The cool, rain-filled air flooded her lungs and leaked into her chest in what should have been a wake-up call. Instead, it seemed to act like a swirling vortex of life, chilling and reliable. The movement created something oddly human as her TV flashed bright technicolor lights in her drooping face. It accompanied the moon in a lazy waltz from her window.

Her arm made a sluggish reach across the table, at first fumbling like a blind man in the dark. The poor, unassuming table underwent a siege. Her hand crashed into a cheap cardboard takeout container and sent her glass into a spin. All of it to the tune of half-hazard thuds and slaps as her hand found the computer. Its screen showed an old page crammed to the brim with photo after photo. Memories blurred as her eyes narrowed into slits.

Without her likeness, they would have appeared as moments in someone else's life. Maybe they were.

While her brain dipped into the same thoughts that lingered there in her waking days, she took one last shrinking look before slamming the computer shut. The light died in one fizzling batch. Her eyes closed, giving into the chaos as her body returned to the snow-covered apple tree of her short, fitful sleep. However, a dark shade hung over it, like an inky wash over the scene.

Her feet could feel no cold as she stomped over mounds of snow, no puffs of breath formed in the air. The dark sky reached the horizon and moved towards her, fraying the dream at its seams until she was back staring at her eyelids. Shapes broke apart in the dark as the world seemed to bend, figures moving just out of sight. Although her eyes could open, her body felt like it was cast from stone as beings stalked the corners of her room.

The air wrapped around her in visible waves as the shadows moved in, creeping over the arm of her couch. All she could do was stare, eyes widened, willing her heavy arms to twitch or her legs to kick as they swirled around her foot. Dreams blended into reality, as the breath caught in her chest and the voices reemerged softly.

Oh god, she was going to die, move ple-

They weren't fond of that as the voices went from a tremble into a wildfire of screaming voices, a raw anger worse than before. The sickly sweetness of lilies of the valley filled the air she could barely breathe before pitiful wretches overcame her throat. Even as her chest heaved and the coughs came, no shivers or twitches could free her as the shadows, like dark claws, scraped up her legs and stopped at her heavy chest. Her heart slammed against it, strong and rash, as she tried to thrash her head or cry out in violent throws. Fear was overtaken by the voices as they yelled words not quite human.

“What do you want from me? What did I ever do? Answer me before I die.” Lilian's voice, although a painful scream, sounded like a whisper.

Her head cleared for a second, the voices receding into a low murmurer like a table of unsure executives. The shadows seemed taken aback as they drew away a few mere inches, leaving her with her labored breathing. She shut her eyes like a scared child in the dark, sending all she had to her limp arm. 

Come on anything she'd even take the tapping of fingers.

The voices spoke again, tones emerging in their nonsense. Most were deep and coarse, others were polished on the edge of elegance. Different voices rose from the mess of words flying between her thoughts. Odd noises close to letters form in stilted tongues.

“Lil-i-an, De-mon- De-mon. “The voices paused, “Lili-an Ca-ll-um, Demon!”


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Mon Jun 17, 2024 1:36 pm
goodolnoah wrote a review...



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Hello there, one of King Koopa’s loyal henchmen, here!

Hello again! ~ Writing Commentary

Lilian's strides had frozen, the autopilot seemed to ebb away, leaving her to grasp at thinning thoughts. She stared blankly for a second, trying to refresh her world through thick, forceful blinks. Her gaze had snapped back into focus, letting the present wash away the past for an instant.


This whole intro scene is really gripping! The mundane nature of a grocery store (I imagine much of the color being washed out when visualizing in my head) really helps to affirm to the reader how bizarre of an experience what happened to Lillian in the bookstore. There is also something about her browsing the bookstore that makes her a little more relatable in my book!

The scene after this too with her helping out the stranger with hair dye also helps for her likability as a character!

The waning smell of dried roses passed her by like a glimpse of what could have been. Urban growth and its noise fluttered in through the window. Cars kept rolling, the earth kept spinning. Yet something stalled within the room, echoing through the walls and floor. It was as if the place's heart had stopped beating, replacing it with loaded quiet. The type that grew fuzzy around the corners yet struck with a melancholy that remained un-whole. Words never bent to explain the missing presence. It just was.


I wonder if the very lonely descriptions here are eluding to Lillian’s previous romantic relationship with this Pandora. Either way, the descriptions of her apartment are beautiful! The descriptions all come off as a bit drab in a way that enhances Lillian’s life as a relatively “normal” person.

Much like the start of the day, a memory stood there frozen in time, replacing neon splattered in blues and hot pinks with the dying sunlight of fall. It streamed from the twisting, snow-covered apple tree looming over herself and one other like an elder nymph or spirit. Despite the growing autumn and fat wispy snowflakes, its leaves were still a crisp emerald green, the branches hung with plump mahogany apples. A small trail of juice leaked from the apple in her younger self's open palm, a few drops caught in the scratchy fuzz of her black mitts. Next to her stood a girl about nineteen, her dirty blonde hair scooped into a lazy high ponytail, it fell over young Lilian's shoulder as they pressed together with over-excited grins.


This is a really cool description introducing Libby! It really takes the shape of a memory in the way that the image that is painted feels almost “incomplete” (this feels quite purposeful). In the way that we remember weird things about our pasts, little details like small trails of juice or the like.

Those bubbles seemed to twitch like unfinished punctuation, with more left to say in a simple set of symbols. However, they dipped back into the white of the messaging app, another conversation put to an end. As her phone flicked off, her gaze again fell to the bag. This time she pushed herself to the edge, trying to scoot it closer. She grabbed the bottle inside like a gift in a cereal box.


It’s nice to see a more personable relationship that Lillian has. Libby seems like a really supportive friend, and it’s awesome that they still have a close relationship despite being exes. It’s a common trope for relationships to end in troublesome ways, so it’s refreshing that there is somebody who stayed around for Lillian.

Her bleach-soaked gloves refused to peel off for a few long minutes before resigning. She slouched back, letting the couch take her. Even as her computer screen twitched back to life, her eyes felt heavy, her shoulders slumped as she swayed a bit, head cocked to the side. The crinkling acted as a cry to keep her awake.


Lillian dying her hair reminds me of something that Destiny said long ago, about “bleach-your-hair type of breakup”. I think the text suggests that she’s regressing in a way, and impulsive things like this may be a common type of activity, especially since she seemingly has dyed her hair before.

Energy crackled at her fingertips, it raced up her nerves, filling her with a sense of arcane weariness. Something born from decades turning into millennia that turned into an eon. It was like sand unable to leave the hourglass. Like the rain, it had a pulse-raising and falling throughout her muscles; it seemed to copy her short sucked-in breaths.


Wow…this is the first more notable description of the book. It’s age leads me to wonder about the worldbuilding you’ve done for your world…What is the book’s history? How does it tie in?

The voices stuttered. Their confusion betrayed their own anger as the book buckled beneath Lilian’s feet. Her breath took the voices' place. It sounded more rattled than victorious. However, the feeling of sweat-soaked cotton dragged her back down to earth, the slight chill bringing a sense of clarity.


Her reaction to just holding the book for a short amount of time is heartbreaking and breathtaking at the same time. What evils could such an object hold?

Some recommendations…

“No, no, I just overheard you and if you don't mind you could try a lighter color, they're lower in PDD or there's a natural dye down the aisle over...” “You seem to know a lot. Are you a hair stylist or something?”


It might be a good idea to put the like from the stranger on another line. I think it’s usually customary to put some description in between, if not, a new line/indentation is fine!

MADDLIBS: Hey! Hey! That's not on you. She was an asshole, and you will be better even if it takes a while. For now, just take care of yourself and if you need anything, let me know... Okay, it could be a meal or a night out.


Looks like you would want to bold this, since all the other texting segments are also bolded.


Lost Verses and Red Sky ~ Closer

Overall, this was a great chapter! It delved a bit more into Lillian’s character, and it gave us more insight to the horrors that lie in this book, which I can imagine Lillian will face, perhaps along with her demons from the past? We will have to see!




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Mon Jun 10, 2024 1:34 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...



Hello there, human! I'm reviewing using the YWS S'more Method today!

Shalt we commence with the possessed S’more?

Top Graham Cracker - Lilian dyes her hair and instantly regrets it, she simply wants to sleep and shut herself down from life, but life itself has other ideas.

Slightly Burnt Marshmallow - In the text where Libby is trying to tell Lilian to take care of herself, it isn’t bolded, but that’s just one little thing.

Chocolate Bar - I love how even though Lilian was trying her best to have a mundane day, they still came for her, in the end. My favorite part was when the voices spoke, saying her name and “demon”. But why? I wonder…

Closing Graham Cracker - It seems that it’s inevitable for Lilian to face the demons of her past and the demons she had not yet met, but where, exactly, does that leave her in life?

I wish you a beautiful day/night! ^v^




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Fri Jun 07, 2024 8:26 pm
RavenAkuma wrote a review...



Hello Again, My Friend!

Sheesh, it took me long enough to get here lol, sorry about that. It's me, Raven, and I'd like to review the next chapter in this great story using my Familiar method! Let's dive in, shall we? Heh heh heh...

What The Black Eyes See...

Ah, so many developments! More of the typical motions of life, more reflections of Lillian's past, an intriguing conversation with an ex, and more baffling events -only now, in her very own home, with that dang book at the center! Let's get into the details though.

Where The Dagger Points...

Not much to complain about here! While sometimes sections felt a little longer than necessary, like very simple actions being stretched into paragraphs, your descriptions were lovely and the pacing does make sense. In a state of mind like Lillian's, weighed down by so many troubles and burdens, it's easy to infer that even the smallest actions would feel infinitely harder than they would in a more "normal" state of mind. I just wonder if there's a good compromise between these incredible amounts of detail, and a more catchy pace.

Especially for when the odd phenomena start happening, because I feel like a series of short lines and paragraphs, each one eerier than the last, work better for these spooky moments than one big chunk of events. But, that's neither here nor there, it's just my opinion on a very subjective matter.

As far as the more technical stuff, incredibly in that whole piece, I only caught on to three very minor things!

MADDLIBS: Hey! Hey! That's not on you. She was an asshole, and you will be better even if it takes a while. For now, just take care of yourself and if you need anything, let me know... Okay, it could be a meal or a night out.


This is especially minor, but it's a structural thing. This text just wasn't bold-typed like the rest. It didn't even bother me at all, I just thought I would put it here. Then...

Something between a laugh and a gasp of utter disbelief filled the room as she pawed at itHoly… she had done it. She had beaten the cosmetic odds in one lucky fluke.


These sentences feel a bit odd. Perhaps putting a period and forming a paragraph break after "pawed at it" would help?

Yet it had appeared to have vanished without a trace.


I felt like this sentence could have been made a little snappier. Perhaps, "Yet it had vanished without a trace," or even just dropping the "had," e.g., "Yet it appeared to have vanished without a trace."

Now, then! To reiterate, this is just my opinion and I am not a professional, so please always take my advice with a grain of salt. This chapter was amazing regardless ~

Why The Grin Widened...

To start, I'll say it again. Beautiful descriptions, such vivid details, and incredible sensory notes that brought each scene to life. Lillian's internal dialogue is very appropriate and gives us a constant understanding of her character.

I love how you interwove Lillian reflecting on her odd experience with the very normal trip through the store. I thought it was a good way to "keep things moving" while tying together the clues, so to speak, and also showed a bit of her familiarity with this town.

“Do you think a hair stylist would one, go out like this and two, recommend box dye? I just do toxicology reports. It’s less dead bodies and more cosmetics as lame as that sounds.”


I enjoyed the bit of sass in this line, and it is interesting to hear a bit more about her work, and how her profession helped here.

The dirty looks still came as she stared at the floor, trying to drown the short beeps of the scanner. The judgment in the cashier's eyes was strikingly familiar: imaginary fingers seemed to reach for her wrist as she tucked her haul away. It lingered even as she neared the windows frosted from the overcast sky. However, as she stepped out into the world under the shade of her umbrella, it slipped away, leaving her and herself only.

It was time to numb all that and go crazy in the comfort of her own apartment.


I was mildly surprised by the dirty looks. It really put an emphasis on Lillian's bad habits, while also giving the impression that she doesn't have a great image around the town.

Her living room greeted her with an open stillness that clung to the sights and sounds of those once dear. Whether it was the loud incoherent cheers from two tipsy party girls stumbling back home or the soft candlelight dinners.

All of it put to rest like her sense of normality, as she flicked on the light, waiting for a second pair of footsteps that would never come.


I loved the very grim, very lightless ambiance that Lillian returned to, again putting an emphasis on the gloom in her current life. Likewise, when seeing the reminders of much happier, much simpler times...

A flood of memories returned to her, the excited chatter and ticking of a key in the ignition. Miles of road stretched before them as inhumanly bright chips and drinks were passed around in the chilling air. The smell of a pine twenty-cent car freshener faded into the stinging chlorine of yellowish-lighted motel pools.


That was a lovely narration of the memory she's been faced with. Though the following conversation with Libby felt unexpectedly gritty. The "thin ice" moment had me wondering if Lillian would lash out, but when seeing Libby's concern -especially at the mention of a lightning strike- it becomes more clear that despite being an ex, she doesn't seem to have any ill will or the stereotypical passive-aggressive tendencies. As a matter of fact, her mentioning that she's going to confront her about it later has me curious about the introduction of her character.

And on a side note...

If anyone else had been there to witness this showcase, she would have been the perfect visage of a slasher movie madman.


That little quip made me chuckle ~

I like how the new hair -an act of self care with a bit of confidence- seems to have given Lillian a boost in her mood. It was a nice speck of hope that her character really needed, especially when paired with this line:

Destiny might have been right. She looked like crap, but it wouldn't last forever. She needed her answers, that's all she had been asking for.


Yes! It's nice that she's looking ahead, and has a drive to find answers!

Things moving around the house, Lillian's own senses deceiving her; I enjoyed the hints of madness speckled about this chapter a lot, and I would love to know how that dang book is involved. Likewise, Lillian's attempts to rationalize everything despite it happening right before her eyes, just to avoid piling on to all of her existing burdens...

It was crazy; she had completely lost control, and things appeared as if they were haunted, but she was supposed to be fine with it. What was she even meant to do here? No, no, she had to stop thinking like this; she was the only sentient being here; she wasn't playing these games. There had to be an answer, something right in front of her.


This felt like a relatable and very understandable moment for her character, and the idea of an answer being "right in front of her" has me thinking. First of all, once again, the book -I want to know what's in that book really bad as of now, haha! Second, if there's an existing clue here besides that obvious one.

“Lil-i-an, De-mon- De-mon. “The voices paused, “Lili-an Ca-ll-um, Demon!”


More allusions to demons, this time directly involving Lillian!! Ah!! What is going on here?!

Our Mad Thoughts...

Overall, that was an awesome chapter and I enjoyed it a lot, nicely done! :D

Image




Moonlily says...


Thank you for the feedback the next few chapters were written in Namowrimo so there might be some fat to trim on my side of things but I will keep it in mind! ( It is one of my weak areas so don't worry I am keeping an eye on it) I am so glad your interest is piqued as things are just warming up.




A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
— Jean Cocteau