Chapter Three: Molly

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He hadn’t seen it again for three days, although it had been noisy inside his head. Ash was reluctant to tell his guest Molly about it as they sat at his table.

Molly was an old friend from college whose freckled cheeks were always slightly red and full of life. She had majored in Fine Arts, the same as him, and had actually found work in the field as a concept artist for an indie game studio. She circled her finger around the rim of her coffee mug and rested her chin on her hand.

“One good thing to come of this is you’ve been forced to stay put for now.” Molly grinned and took a sip. Ash shrugged and smiled softly.

“It’s been kinda nice, actually. Mom’s nearby and I’m getting better with every day. It’s a little dull, but not half as mind numbing as sitting in a truck for days being hauled across the country for shows and the like.” He hesitated for a second as the voice echoed softly in his head for a second. “Hey, have you ever -” He stopped himself, the noise in his head moaned softly again, perhaps coincidentally.

“Hmm?” Molly looked up.

“Nothing. You know, I can’t believe you’re still based here, I thought you’d have been long gone by now.”

Molly chuckled. “Come off it, Everson. I’m a hermit, always have been. Remember our first year at college? I can’t even count the number of times you had to drag me to house parties.”

Ash’s entire body was still taut, he stretched his legs under the table, resting his head on his arms. “I remember,” he mumbled atop his elbows. “You had your final portfolio in mind even back then.”

“And you pulled yours out of your ass after six months of constantly changing your mind.”

Ash rubbed his face with one hand, no argument to be had. His indecisiveness was something of legend, Derek had actually been his saviour by managing all of his decisions in his career: all he had to do was show up and do his job. The voice rang in his head. Less of a moan this time, more of a sighing sound.

*****

With a lot of effort, they could indeed tear through the consciousness temporarily and manifest a form for their host to see. Hopefully it would be worth it to try and establish some kind of dialogue.

Existing within Reality put a real strain on them, and retreating back to the cushion of the consciousness was utterly imperative: it was unbearably taxing to exist in Reality as something from Unreality. The logic of it all was a little mind bending.

Splitface - as he had now been dubbed - had looked terrified the first time they had manifested in the only way they could. The poor guy had pressed himself against the wall with the look of a cornered animal in his eye. Perhaps they should refrain from doing it again, but their time was borrowed: they had to find another fissure, or lead Splitface to one. How they hell were they going to pull something like that off if they couldn’t even speak with the person they were trapped inside?

*****

Out of the corner of his eye, there was a flicker in the huge mirror hanging above the dining table. Ash froze. It was here again. On instinct, he looked to where it should be in the room, but nothing stood in its place. Looking back in the mirror the ghostly presence stood behind him, unmoving.

“Ash? You okay?” He looked over to Molly whose brow was furrowed. He kept looking back at the mirror, but the shadow didn’t disappear. Molly looked in his eyeline and back to him. “Ash!”

Snapping him back, he scoffed and shrugged, pretending the spectre wasn’t in the mirror. “What?”

Molly looked like she was going to say something, but she just shrugged and grinned. “Nothing, just take care of yourself, and don’t return to training until you’re sure you’re ready to.”

“Okay, mom.” They shared a smile and Molly clipped the back of his ear.
   “Watch it, kid.”

*****

They stayed up late, chatting and sharing old stories from college. Ash offered his critique to Molly’s sketches for a new concept and even went to get a bundle of his old work out to have a laugh and spur up even more recollections and memories.

“Don’t get up, I can let myself out,” said Molly, wrapping her coat around her. “Don’t let that manager of yours boss you around too much.” The door slammed, leaving Ash in the soft glow of the city that bled through his windows. Molly was always good company for when it was a night of sitting on the couch and drinking beer. Fortunately the shadow had also decided to hide itself too and for now, Ash was alone.

The aches had all but dried up, and Ash didn’t even feel like he should be resting: if anything, his limbs were tingling, his heart pumping with alacrity. He wanted to do something daring, maybe even something stupid.

*****

He stood on the roof of his apartment building in the night sky, the cool air kissing his bare torso. He had stripped to nothing but sweatpants and the dirt pushed between his toes.

Testing his arms would be the first test. Without stopping to hesitate he turned upside down, legs straight up in the air and balancing on his hands. His muscles protested but relished being allowed to be used. One hand left the floor, a leg counterbalancing in the opposite direction as it turned into a one armed handstand. It was so good to stretch his body finally and he flexed his fingers.

Even the lowing from inside his head couldn’t bother him. He wanted to do more, he sensed he could do more.

An uncountable number of press ups, crunches and squats later, Ash had barely broken a sweat. He was panting though, and his breath blew out of his mouth in plumes like a dragon. He pursed his lips as he exhaled, as if he had just dragged on a cigarette. Should he question this? No way was he this fit before the crash. In the back of his head, he didn’t really have to think about it, it was something to do with that faceless figure hanging around in the reflection of the mirror. Or perhaps that was some kind of after effect from cracking his head open. He didn’t know: he wasn’t a doctor.

He didn’t dare tell Bernie though. The man meant well, but the first thing he would do is sign him off sick and demand he go to some psycho-babbling doctor and if that got out to the press his career would go straight down the toilet. Ash was desperate to know what he was seeing in the mirror, and what it was. Perhaps an experiment would be worthwhile.

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