Part 5

(silliness, supernatural, flirtation?)

“The word is Papillon.” Nikolai said pushing Dak’kon backwards through the mirror.

Dak’kon spilled into his bedroom, a little unstable on account of the trance. It was like walking through an archway, unremarkable in every respect except that it was in all respects remarkable. He could still see Nikolai standing there on the other side, motioning for him to speak the code word. “Papillon.” Dak’kon said feeling as a child during a game of make believe. The mirror returned to its natural/inconspicuous state. Dak’kon immediately regretted his decision. The store was a 30 minute drive one-way. Would Nikolai really be alright? The demon was still in the house presumably dormant inside the statue if the schedule held. The gardener had managed to survive here, though at what cost he could not say.

The charger to his cell had been disconnected, the phone was still completely dead. He’d have to charge it in the car on the way to the store. In the meantime he headed toward the kitchen, he could deposit the leftovers while he was out it was the best way to ensure that Xyven did not find them. Was this really enough to deceive the demon, to keep up the pretense of civility? If Xyven had drugged him merely as a diversion than his disappearance was inconsequential and easily overlooked. If he was Xyven’s intended target than it went without saying that the demon noted his mysterious absence.

The kitchen was empty. The pots and pans had all been cleaned and were piled in the dish rack in a relatively orderly fashion. Opening the fridge it was full of plastic containers, the contents specified on labels in tidy black script. Dak’kon laughed out loud, it was just so fucking absurd. Was he really to believe that a demon was preparing his meals in such a motherly fashion? Was the habitual cooking evidence that Xyven still existed? Had he really just stepped out of a mirror? Should he even be driving in this state? Was he crazy? Why now? Was there some kind of gas leak? If the residents of the manor were fucking with him they were putting on one hell of a good show.

After a bitter internal debate on the state of his mental health, he decided it was better to just go with it. Crazy was relative and he was kinda of curious to see how everything played out. Some kind of repressed death wish maybe.

The trip to the store was surprisingly normal. He was still passable, functioning, coherent. His head was remarkably clear for someone on the cusp of clinical insanity. Was this really what crazy felt like? Was it moments of acute stress and then deceptive normalcy? Loading the car up with nonperishables he decided to make a quick trip to the liquor store and another for pizza. In order to travel through the mirrors he needed to be in an altered state of consciousness and he couldn’t depend on the fact that Nikolai would just appear as needed. It would have taken too much beer to get a sufficient buzz so he went with vodka. Vodka could be concealed in a plain water bottle if need be.

He pushed the speed limit the whole way back. According to his car radio it was only 3:56 Xyven should still be dormant. What about his body though? When the demon returned to the statue where did Xyven go? Was the man slumped over in a closest somewhere like a discarded carapace. That was an unsettling, albeit marginally humorous thought. Was the man simply absorbed into the statue body and all? Or was there some weird Xyven-shaped puppet roaming the house?

Pulling into the driveway he took a deep breath before exiting the vehicle. He could just leave and never return, go back to his everyday life, to the band, and to the relentless parade of one-night stands. That was the life he’d created for himself and as a young, single man it was pretty enviable. So what if he was still technically a struggling musician, music was his passion. As for the one-night stands that was a consequence of his voracious sexual appetite. A condition that had severely complicated his adolescence but not one he’d ever conscientiously addressed. He knew it had the potential to ruin his music career, just as Trent’s (the lead singer of his band) drug addiction was constantly putting their plans on hold. In coming all the way out here he’d hoped to reevaluate some aspects of his life instead he’d gotten swept up into a different sort of drama. A drama he could not really define but one that put him at considerable risk (provided the house staff weren’t totally fucking with him). He wasn’t the kind of man that walked away when shit got complicated, something that could easily be chalked up to a healthy (and perhaps foolhardy) dose of curiosity. Though he did avoid certain complications like relationships. At 23 he’d slept with a lot of women but he’d never once been on a date. That was probably fucked up but he’d always been upfront about his intentions. No strings. Just sex. There were plenty of women who were into that sort of thing despite what the magazines said. Anyway now wasn’t really the time to delve into his sex life or the dream kiss. He couldn’t remember having homoerotic dreams before but that was probably normal. Normal if you omitted the part about having another person inside your head. He wasn’t prepared to acknowledge how the kiss had made him feel.

He’d left the house through a side door in the kitchen but he entered through the front door. Immediately his eyes went to the statue in the foyer. It hadn’t moved. The eyes did not appear to follow him and yet he felt something emanating from the statue, some sort of presence. Could the demon see him now?

It’s only a statue for fuck’s sake. Nikolai might actually be Schizophrenic. Then what about the mirror?

Dak’kon had bought groceries that didn’t have to be refrigerated, anything he left in the kitchen could be contaminated. Furthermore he didn’t want to have to explain the reason why he was shopping processed shit when he had a chef preparing all his meals.

There was no sign of anyone in the house and despite it still being relatively early the house was pitch black.

Dak’kon went strait to his bedroom and the first thing he did was place his hand on the mirror. The mirror was solid and slick beneath his palm. If there was a trick to the mirror he could not figure it out. “Alright Nikolai do I have to get drunk out here or are you going to open the fucking door?” He spoke directly to the mirror, for all he knew Nikolai could hear him.

“What are you doing?” Dak’kon wasn’t a skittish man but the sudden voice behind him definitely got his heart pumping.

“I thought you’d be, you know in there…” He said swinging around to face Nikolai. The red head was wearing nothing but a towel. It was instinct that caused him to look at the other’s exposed torso but interest that caused him to linger. There were definite signs of athleticism in the red head’s physique but also signs of deprivation. Nikolai’s complexion was healthy which suggested, that despite everything, the man probably did spend a sufficient amount of time outdoors. His complexion also suggested something else, the guy wasn’t a natural red head. Judging from the color of the man’s eyebrows he probably had brown hair. The towel wrapped around the other’s hips was tied sloppily and he got the feeling that any movement might shake it loose. “I brought food.” He said meeting the other’s gaze.

“I can’t stay in there all the time it’s not fully equipped.” Nikolai responded trying to peek into the bags Dak’kon had brought home. “I think it should be safe to eat out here but if you’d prefer we can always go back in there. Just let me get dressed okay?” With that the red head turned around and headed back to the bathroom.

While the other man dressed Dak’kon set up the food in the living room. There was an old stereo with a pile of records beside it. He didn’t recognize any of the bands which was strange considering that he was a musician well-versed in a plethora of genres. “He had terrible taste in music.” Nikolai offered apologetically. The red head had changed clothes but really the only difference from before was the graphic on his tee and that he was barefoot. “Lets eat.” Nikolai sat down in front of one of the boxes of pizza and started in, it didn’t seem to matter much to him what he was eating.

“Why do you stay?” Dak’kon asked taking a seat across from Nikolai. He was referring of course to the others continued occupancy in the house.

“Because I have unfinished business. You are a part of that.” Nikolai said pausing his eating only so long as it took to form his words. Unfinished business? That was the sort thing a ghost would say. What kind of unfinished business? Had his grandfather left him a guide? He got the feeling the other didn’t much want to discuss the topic.

He let subject drop and for a while they ate in silence.

“So here is the thing we keep playing 20 questions but I am always under the lamp. Who exactly are you?” Nikolai asked sitting back from the table now that he finished stuffing himself.

“I am a musician. I play lead guitar in a band called Psychophoria. We play mostly hard rock, alternative, a bit of punk.” Dak’kon fell off he wasn’t that great about talking about himself.

“Did you bring anything I can listen too?” Nikolai asked and it was quite clear that he was legitimately interested.

“I didn’t bring any of my stuff but I brought my guitar.” Dak’kon answered finishing off his soda. “I can play it for you if you like but first I thought we’d do some actual work.” He answered and Nikolai slumped in his chair as if to imply fatigue.

“Why are the windows painted black by the way?” He asked again directing the subject away from himself.

“Seriously?! Your grandfather’s mental health started to deteriorate, a consequence of living with the demon for so long. I have been affected too and if you stay here long enough he’ll poison you as well. Now Mr. Strait and Narrow do you have a girl back home?” Nikolai asked

“I am sensing some heterophobia in that last comment. No, I don’t have a girlfriend. Never have either.” Dak’kon answered closing his empty pizza box. Nikolai laughed nearly snorting coke out of his nose.

“Never? Not that I can really talk. The only sex I’ve had is when I was possessed by the demon and I am not sure if that counts.” As soon as the words left his mouth Nikolai seemed slightly embarrassed by them.

“How about we get to started before one of us confesses something embarrassing? I figured we’d start by clearing off the windows.” Dak’kon said rising from his chair.

For the next few hours they worked side by side, listening to bad music, and sometimes goofing off. The paint was caked on heavily, the work was slow-going but definitely worthwhile. At around 9 o’clock they called it quits.

“I’m going to take a shower and then I might hang out in the library for a bit, research. Take this if I don’t come back and it gets too late come and get me.” Dak’kon said passing Nikolai his phone which was an act of supreme trust given the circumstances. Then again his grandfather did have a telephone, he just hadn’t thought to check the line.

“I’ll play you something when I get back.” He offered and Nikolai waved his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, alright.” Nikolai took the groceries with him.

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