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The Eccentric Shadow People

Summary

Josephine doesn't really want to stay with the Shadow people- they're creepy, eccentric, and maybe even evil. But since she's technically one herself, and there are nosy researchers roaming about the city trying to catch at least one, she's staying in a house full of them. The leader might be a psychopath, unless it's all in her imagination. Who does she trust when she's not fond of either side?

Off The Streets

Damien’s POV:

 

I watched the girl under the bridge, noting how filthy she looked. Even with her lemon blonde hair, she could practically pass for a brunette now, given the amount of dirt and dust caught up in it. Her skin had dark spots, bruises from what I could tell, possibly from fighting with the occasional drunk on the streets. The child huddled into one of the corners of the bridge’s structure, trying to protect herself from the incoming cold of the evening. I wanted to pity her, but at the same time, she simply wouldn’t accept my help. So in a way, it was partially her fault.

 

The girl was practically dictated by her emotions. It made reasoning with her so much harder than it should be. Her feelings ruled over her like tyrants, forcing her to turn a blind eye to logic. Yes, we’ve had our fair share of fights before, but that was so long ago. Too long ago to matter anymore. I was only trying to help her.

 

I crept closer to the bridge, careful to not make my presence known just yet. My shoes were prevented from making a sound due to my nimble steps, even though the ground was covered in loose gravel. My red coat fluttered in the breeze, and I clutched against my waist. Granted, bright colors aren’t the best thing to wear when stalking someone, but it didn’t matter. I planned to reveal myself anyway. 

 

A few moments later, there was only a thin stone wall that separated the girl from me. I could easily reach right around it, grasp onto her shoulder, and drag her away, but this wasn’t the time for that. I needed to know how she had fared on the streets, specifically the state of her mind. I could easily kidnap her, but when a child comes to you willingly, it’s much more satisfying. 

 

I could hear her soft breathing, and soon, I began to hear strange mumbles mixed in with it as well. Were they words? I leaned my head closer against the wall, and affirmed my suspicions. She seemed to be counting, and I could hear the distinct clinking of coins. I smiled, and shook my head. How did she expect to live life off of street change? 

 

The girl suddenly became quiet, and my breath hitched. Did she know I was there? I stood as still as a statue. Leaving quickly would only alert her about my snooping, What with the noisy ground and all. If she made the effort to simply crane her neck from behind the wall, I would be right in plain sight. Though to be honest, the thought didn’t really bother me much. She was wasn’t much against me in terms of physical power, after all.

 

I let out a breath in a mixture of relief and disappointment as I began to hear her resume her counting the money she’d most likely picked off of sidewalks, as I’d seen many of the homeless do. Yes, I didn’t want to make myself known just yet, but it was also quite a let down. Being aware of the subtle things about the environment was a sign of intelligence. Oh, well. I supposed I’d have to teach her survival skills later. 

 

“I know you’re there,” she spoke softly from behind the wall. 

 

It seems I may have misjudged her. 

 

Believing it useless to stay in my position any longer, I stood up and walked right around the wall. My back was  straight and and I exuded an aura of confidence as best as I could. Confidence and a firm tone is key when dealing with adolescents.

 

“Go away,” she groaned at me. I grinned internally. Even with all the grueling time on the streets, she still finds the nerve to hate me. It was wonderful energy, but it just wasn’t adjusted in the right direction.

 

“And leave you here, all alone?” I asked. “Josephine, be reasonable. You’re counting on coins to keep you alive. Coins that-“ I glanced at the small amount of change “-are barely enough to do the job.”

 

I saw something that looked like utter despair  quickly cloud her grey eyes, but I wasn’t so sure if it really was. It just wasn’t like her. She’d always find a way to retaliate. 

 

“I’m fine,” she insisted, the brief flash of sadness in her eyes suddenly gone. “I’m doing great. Fuck off.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at her, annoyed by her attitude. She’d treated someone with good intentions like just another beggar, and I wouldn’t stand for it. It was unreasonable that she only wanted me to leave. 

 

Her language rubbed me the wrong way as well, as I’m sure it was intended to do. As an adult far older than her, I could swear her under the table and leave her absolutely speechless, but it was unnecessary. It would only push her further away from me, an outcome I certainly didn’t want. 

 

“Are you really doing well?” I asked her, raising a brow. “You look terrible.”

 

“Yeah well, you always look terrible.”

 

“This isn’t the time, Josephine.”

 

She collected the coins off the ground and stuffed them into the side pocket of the mud stained backpack that lay by her side. I lowered my brow, but remained intrigued. Was she actually coming with me?

 

“What are you doing?” I asked her, watching her sling the backpack over her shoulder and stand up. Josephine brushed her filthy hair to the side and reached into it, seemingly fishing around for something. I watched, but mentally prepared myself for an attack. She could be a very unpredictable girl at times. 

 

Then, as if someone hit a switch in her mind, Josephine stopped doing...whatever it was. She gave me a wary glance, and closed the backpack. I frowned. Not only was she not answering my questions, but she was acting like someone had erased her thoughts on whim. I snatched the backpack from her, not taking silence for an answer.

 

“Hey!” she yelped, trying to yank it back from me. After pushing her away, I stuffed my hand into the backpack and shifted my hands to find whatever she had been searching for. Amidst what felt like papers, plastic bags, and God knows what else, I gripped the plastic handle of a familiar object. Familiar and dangerous, if I wasn’t wrong. 

 

I lifted my hand out of the darkness of the backpack and found myself holding a serrated knife with a five inch blade. It didn’t look like anything special; it resembled an ordinary kitchen knife. Still, her hidden intentions came into light. Apparently, stabbing me was a supposed solution to her problems.

 

Unacceptable.

 

“Is this what you were reaching for?” I asked Josephine, seeing her back away. Her back touched the wall, and had no more room to move. “You thought a sneak attack would get rid of me?”

 

“I didn’t actually hurt you,” she quickly replied. I could hear her voice quiver in what I hoped was fear. Good. It would teach her a lesson.

 

“Nonetheless, you thought it would actually work.” I chided her. “Even under the impossible circumstances that you would have killed me, what would you do then? You’d have blood on your hands, and have every judge in the country after you. You’d live in jail for the rest of your life, and all for one bad decision. Not to mention, you don’t even know HOW to kill someone properly.”

 

My speech made her skin pale, but confusion spread upon her face at my last sentence. I dropped the backpack to the floor and continued nonetheless.

 

“You don’t know how to go through with it.” I explained, still irritated by her subtle plot against me. Who was she to go against someone like me? “Stabbing people isn’t the easiest way to kill a person, no matter what any book or movie might show you. Whatever you might have watched or read might make murder seem easy, but I assure you, it’s not. You need a strong body and psyche to get through it without damaging yourself. And what about the forensic evidence? You’re just going to get yourself caught? Why won’t you think ahead? Have some planning skills, for God’s sake.”

 

She seemed dazed while listening to my speech, so to bring her attention back, I snapped my fingers. She perked up immediately. 

 

“Don’t zone out!” I chided her. 

 

I realized that talking wouldn’t do much of anything at this point, and that it was also getting much darker outside. The evening had already arrived, and if I wasted any more time, it would be nightfall. I sighed, and gripped the knife in my hand a little tighter. 

 

Josephine’s eyes widened as I advanced towards her. Before she could let out a scream, I clamped a hand over her mouth, pressing her head against the wall. She punched and kicked me, but the pain didn’t register much. For someone who’d lived in the streets for a while, it wasn’t surprising that she was weak. She was all bite and no bark. 

 

I raised my fist and dropped the knife to the floor, letting it clatter on the ground. Then, as fast as I could, I swung my fist into her jaw, knocking her out instantly. She immediately slumped forward, and I caught her in my arms against my chest. I bent down to scoop her other half up by sliding my arm under her legs. She seemed so light, and I didn’t know whether to attribute it to the fact that she was small, or the fact that I was blessed with inhuman strength. In all likelihood, it was probably both. I carried the unconscious Josephine out from under the bridge, and felt a small sense of dismay. It didn’t need to come to this, but the girl just didn’t know what was good for her sometimes. 

 

Living alone on the streets would eventually kill her, and its about time sometime helped her make smarter decisions.

 

 

Josie’s POV

 

I sighed and sat under the bridge, feeling like an idiot as I counted the coins I had picked off of the sidewalk. Who was I kidding? They were just dimes and pennies, and maybe a quarter or two. Honestly, I was just rambling numbers at this point. I didn’t even think they could buy ANYTHING useful. I huddled into the corner of the bridge, and brushed my matted hair to the side. Feeling the air becoming colder, I looked out from underneath the bridge, glancing towards the sky. It was getting late, and I supposed I would have to sleep under the bridge again, on the cold, rocky floor.

 

Being homeless was the worst.

 

While I was counting, I heard a crunch from behind me, just on the other side of the stone wall. I froze, wondering if I was being watched. The sun was on the other side of the bridge, and anyone and anything cast a really long shadow this time of day. But who could possibly avoid casting a-

 

Oh. Damien.

 

I sighed, and furrowed my eyebrows. I picked up the coins and dropped them onto the floor in frustration. It wasn’t enough that I was trying to stay alive, but now I’m being followed by a supernatural stalker?

 

C’mon, Damien, this is the fifth time!

 

“I know you’re there,” I said, not daring to look behind the bridge. My voice came out low and husky, surprising me. I guessed it was because I hadn’t spoken for a long time. My voice was weird like that, I guess. I hoped it made me sound scarier.

 

Just as I was about to call him out again, Damien emerged from behind the wall. He had on that stupid red coat thing on too, and it was the color of the fresh blood of all his enemies. At least, I imagined it was. I really didn’t feel like dealing with him at the moment.

 

“Go away,” I told him, tired of his existence already. Why couldn’t the man just take a hint? 

 

“And leave you all alone?” Damien responded, further annoying me. “Josephine, be reasonable.”

 

I WAS  being reasonable.

 

“You’re counting on coins to keep you alive,” he continued. “Coins that are barely enough to do the job.”

 

I felt terrible when he finished those words. I mean, he was right. What he didn’t know was that I wasn’t JUST picking up money off the streets. I had actually been mugging people for extra cash that I had stuffed in my backpack, but HE didn’t even HAVE to know that to be right. I knew I couldn’t keep this lifestyle up anymore. 

 

Well, maybe just a little longer. 

 

“I’m fine.” I shot back. “I’m doing great. Fuck off.”

 

Damien gave me a creepy look, and I began to regret what I just said. I didn’t know how he would react to cussing, but I hoped he didn’t take TOO much offense. Some adults were just like that, unfortunately. 

 

“Are you really doing well?” he asked. 

 

I stared at him. He didn’t explode on me?

 

“You look terrible,” he added. 

 

I rolled my eyes internally. The man walking around in the big, red, clown looking jacket had the nerve to tell me that I looked bad? I looked him right in his yellow eyes, past the pitch black locks that framed his face. 

 

“Yeah, well, you always look terrible,” I weakly insulted. It came out much better in my head, but not so well out loud, apparently. 

 

“This isn’t the time, Josephine,” Damien replied seriously. 

 

I knew this wasn’t the time for any of my lame comebacks, so I resolved to knock him out instead. Then, I realized that making him blackout would be a lot tougher than I thought. Besides, his species didn’t exactly stay unconscious for long. Just barely a few minutes, from what I know. I decided to make his blood flow just enough to disorient him. It was the least I could do.

 

I scooped the coins up and put them in my backpack pocket. Then, I slipped my arm under it to lift it. I stood up, ready to make him bleed out just enough.

 

“What are you doing?” Damien asked. I ignored him. I just had to get rid of him for now. 

 

I stuck my hand in my backpack and fished around for my knife, the knife I usually used on the people I mugged. It would be quick and easy. It-

 

Wait. 

 

I pursed my lips, and quit trying to reach for the knife. What was I thinking, trying to attack someone much stronger than I was? I wasn’t even being subtle about it! I grimaced and zipped the backpack up, attributing my temporary loss of sanity to my ever growing hunger and thirst. I prepared to turn tail and escape. It was my best option, really. 

 

Suddenly, Damien stole my backpack away from me. 

 

“Hey!” I yelled instinctively. I tried to grab it back, but he pushed me to the floor. I landed hard, and the gravel dug into my skin, no doubt the gravel leaving tiny red marks. I winced at the pain, but found myself too weak to jump back quickly. Instead, I staggered to my feet. 

 

To my horror, he had found the knife. 

 

“Is this what you were looking for?” Damien asked me. I heard the threatening edge in his voice, and began to back away. I definitely wasn’t going near him if he had a knife. Though, to be honest, his words could cut a lot more than any knife could.

 

“You thought a sneak attack would get rid of me?” he asked in a way I assumed was rhetorically. My back hit the wall, the wall that had I completely forgotten about. Fear does does crazy things to a person, including making people say the stupidly obvious words that were about to spill out of my mouth.

 

“I didn’t actually hurt you,” I argued. I mentally slapped myself. 

 

“Nonetheless, you thought it would actually work.” he continued, clearly angry at me. “Even under the impossible circumstances that you would have killed me, what would you do then?”

 

I had no idea.

 

“You’d have blood on your hands, and have every judge in the country after you. You’d live in jail for the rest of your life, and all for one bad decision. Not to mention, you don’t even know HOW to kill someone properly.”

 

I narrowed my eyes in confusion. Was he criticizing me because I COULDN’T kill? 

 

“You don’t know how to go through with it.” Damien lectured. “Stabbing people....”

 

He trailed off, but I wasn’t listening. I needed to figure out how to escape. Running to the left and right obviously wouldn’t work because he’d catch up to me faster than I could squeal, so what else? I couldn’t hurt him anymore, and it’s not like I could walk through walls. 

 

He snapped his fingers, making me jerk my head up.

 

“Don’t zone out!” Damien snapped, interrupting my thoughts. Suddenly, he glanced outside. Why he decided to stare at the sky randomly, I wouldn’t know. And whatever he was smoking, I wanted some. 

 

Out of nowhere, he lunged at me. What happened to just talking? I panicked again as he grabbed my head and held it in place against the wall. It wasn’t enough to crush my bones, but it still hurt. With no other option, I wildly attacked him, slamming my fist and feet against his body. My heart rate sped up in terror as I realized that it wasn’t working, and that he began to hold the knife up in the air. It quivered menacingly in his grasp. I couldn’t scream, but if I could, I guarantee it would be heard from across town. My knees shook as my fear increased, and I heard the knife drop to the ground. Then, I felt his fish smash into my jaw. 

 

The world quickly faded away. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grey Room

Josie’s POV

 

I was too young to die. 

 

Well, in reality, no one’s too young to die. No one’s invincible enough, at least as far as I knew. But when I woke up in a grey room with people passed out around me, that’s all I could think about. My mortality.

 

Opening my eyes and letting them adjust to the rather dim lighting, I realized that I wasn’t under the bridge anymore. I didn’t exactly like the bridge, but at least it was somewhat familiar. The room was about the size of the average living room, but wasn’t at all decorated. The walls were covered with grey, metallic square plates, and the floor was smooth and grey as well. In various places around the room, bodies of people I didn’t know were strewn about, scaring me half to death. I felt my heartbeat begin to speed up, and I placed a steady hand on my ribcage. I didn’t know whether they were alive or not, but it chilled me to the core. 

 

One of the bodies, a woman I assumed was in her late 30’s, began to stir. I gasped in a mixture of shock and relief as she sat up, glad I wasn’t the only one conscious. She looked at me with curious blue eyes, and attempted to brush her messy white hair out of her eyes. The pale locks lay across her face in haphazard crisscrossed patterns, as if a spider had spun a web over her in her sleep.

 

“The final one?” she asked, breaking the silence. She stared right at me, and my relief quickly became discomfort. Why was she looking at me like that? It’s not like I chose to be here.

 

“The final what?” I replied, trailing my eyes down her body. She had quite the slender figure, and her pale skin all but blended with her creamy white blouse and skirt. It was like I was talking to an ice princess.

 

“Shadow.” The woman answered me. She stretched her skinny arms above her head, and I could almost hear her back crack under the pressure. “Like us.” 

 

Another body began to rouse from across the room, seemingly at the ice princess’s voice. It was an older man with mousy brown hair and striking black eyes. As soon as he sat up, he looked at me, then the ice princess, then back at me again.

 

“You’re probably the last one,” he drawled out in a light southern accent. His voice was as smooth and sweet as honey, including the sugar. “What’s your name?”

 

“Josie.” I answered. I stared at them both, trying to remember if I had seen them before. “Who are you guys?”

 

“I’m Paisley,” the ice princess said. “That’s Hector there.”

 

“Is everyone here...knocked out or something?” I asked them, waving my hand around to indicate the other bodies. “Who are you, anyway? WHERE are we, anyway? Why-“

 

“You talk too much,” Paisley stated, interrupting my barrage of questions. “Just breathe in the silence, and I’ll tell you what I know.”

 

Hector hummed in agreement. 

 

“So, Damien brought us together here.” Paisley began. She watched as my eyes widened in alarm. “For safety. Don’t look like that.”

 

“And because we’re Shadows, he banded us together,” Hector added. “Like a support group.”

 

“More like a mini army,” I mumbled. I wasn’t just going to believe Damien was that nice of a person. People who knocked other people out for fun weren’t nice people at all. 

 

I stood up, eager to leave. As soon as I balanced myself, however, Paisley’s body melted into the ground. I was shocked, but not as shocked as when I saw what began to happen on the floor. Or rather, IN the floor. Underneath where she sat, a dark shadow formed, seemingly in Paisley’s human shape. Before I could lift a foot to run, the shadow traveled to the floor I was standing on at lightning fast speed and grabbed my feet. I screamed, trying to kick it off. The black mass felt like nothing, but the pressure it forced on me was definitely real.

 

“Sit down!” I heard Paisley’s voice hiss from the shadow. When I didn’t comply, the shadow travelled up to my thighs and quickly yanked me down, anchoring itself on the ground all the while. I landed hard and yelled from the pain, trying to get the thing off me. I screamed and writhed around, hoping to get rid of the shadow that still clung to my feet. 

 

For something that wasn’t even supposed to have any real force, it sure broke that rule.

 

“Why don’t you just calm down?” Hector laughed from across the room. I glared at him when I could while I thrashed around, angry at his apathy. He just sat there, smiling the whole time. I dug my nails into the shadow, and to my frustration, I could feel nothing. It just wasn’t fair! I couldn’t touch it, but it could touch me? It was insane!

 

“Because she has issues calming down,” I heard a familiar voice announce from behind me.

 

Paisley’s shadow immediately let go of me, and crawled a few feet away from me. It began to rise above the grey floor, and materialized once again into the pale lady with the icy blue eyes. Icy blue eyes that were staring at me with a certain venom this time. 

 

I turned around to find Damien standing not one foot away from me, clearly thinking my panic was hilarious. He wore that stupid grin on his face, and he still had on that big red coat from our last fight.

 

“Where-WHO are these people?” I yelled at him, feeling ready to flip out if I didn’t get a good answer.

 

“People just like you, Josephine,” Damien answered me, his hazel eyes glowing with laughter, as if me having a mini heart attack was something funny.

 

“You know what? I don’t care who they are! I’m leaving!” I retorted, standing up quickly. Luckily, no shadow freak grabbed me this time. I ran around the room, jumping over the still sleeping bodies, and realized something horrifying in the few seconds I’d been up. I couldn’t find the exit.

 

I whipped around to face Damien from across the room. 

 

“Where’s the door?!” I yelled. My heart began to race again, the anxiety rolling over me in waves. “I’ll fight you for it if I have to!”

 

Damien simply walked toward me calmly, as if I hadn’t just spewed raw panic on him. 

 

“As if that worked for you last time,” he muttered as he made his way towards me. I don’t think he intended for me to hear it, but I did. What was he playing at?

 

“There is no door to this room, Josephine.” he explained as he stopped right in front of me. I darted my eyes around the room and began to take shallow breaths, hoping that he was lying, and that I just missed it because I was distracted. Unfortunately, I found none. My stomach lurched as I realized he was right. 

 

“It’s not all doom and gloom, though.” he told me. I redirected my gaze back at him. What could be happy about this? “See the cracks in the walls, between the metal plates? That’s how everyone in here got in, and when they want to, get out.”

 

I stared at him like he’d told me I was in a dungeon. It felt like it, anyways. I bit my lip until pain seared through it, and swallowed. It was all I could do to not scream for my life.

 

“Of course, you’re perfectly capable of leaving through those cracks,” Damien continued. “All you have to do convert to your shadow form, and you can slip through.”

 

Instantly, my anxiety dissipated. My heart beat slower, and I could easily take deep breaths again. But my anxiety was only replaced with frustration.

 

I dropped my head and rested my gaze on the floor. I couldn’t believe he was doing this to me. I couldn’t believe he was forcing me to go back to what I was. To REMEMBER what I was.

 

“You’ve always denied you’re one of us, and now, you have no choice but to remember what you are.” Damien said in a low voice. He placed a hand on my head and ruffled my hair. “Welcome home.”

 

I didn’t want to be home.

 

Damien’s POV

 

When a teenager runs away home, they’re often running away from their identity as well. They seek to make a new one, and that could end up either good or bad. But sometimes, there is a part of their identity that they simply can’t erase, no matter how far they run. And in those times, they have to be taken back to face reality.

 

And Josephine, like most of said escapees, resisted.

 

After having converted her to her shadow form six hours before, which was not easy, I might add, I placed her inside the grey room under my home. It was a room only accessible by our kind, a great hideaway from visiting humans. 

 

The others that had lived under my command vacated the room as well, and were eager to decorate the place. To their dismay, I had told them that the room couldn’t be modified until I had rounded all of the Shadows I knew, and that included the girl. Luckily for them, Josephine was finally with us, even though it wasn’t under the best of circumstances.

 

Oh well. Shadows heal fast, anyways.

 

Sitting in my study, I called my live-in assistant, Arthur. He, like all the others that lived with me, was a Shadow as well. Arthur was a particularly quick one too, his speed even surpassing mine. 

 

“Yes, Mr. Brown?” he responded, poking his head into my study. “Do you need anything?”

 

I pushed my laptop away for a moment and turned around in my swivel chair to face him.

 

“Yes, see how Josephine is doing.” I replied. “If she’s not awake yet, I may have to provide some medical intervention.”

 

Arthur’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

 

“Like an electric shock, maybe.” I said just to disturb him.

 

I watched as Arthur quickly dissipated into the floor, his shadow form darting around the cracks on the floor. Then, finally choosing one, he slipped right through it, entering the grey room. After a few moments, he finally rose from the cracks and switched back to his human form. 

 

“She’s awake,” Arthur informed me. “It looks like they’re going through introductions down there.”

 

I raised a brow in concern. 

 

“With who?” I asked, tapping my fingers on my wooden desk. “Some of the people down there aren’t exactly...good company.”

 

“Paisley and Hector, as far as I can tell.”

 

“Oh, yes. You have a thing for Paisley, don’t you?” I teased, saying it more like a statement than a question. I grinned, watching Arthur struggle to find words, and tried not to laugh when he failed to. I could see the intense blush forming under his dark skin, and it all but confirmed my suspicions. 

 

“I-no-friends! We’re just friends! I barely know her!” Arthur stammered. I rolled my eyes.

 

“You’re friends but you barely know her?” I chuckled. “Interesting. How does that work?”

 

“Well-“

 

Suddenly, a loud scream echoed from down below. We jumped in surprise, and I heard a few other muffled voices as well.

 

“What happened now?” I sighed, melting into my own shadow form. I seeped through the floor, hoping that Josephine hadn’t gotten herself killed. Some of the Shadows down there were dangerous, after all.

 

I entered the room through its ceiling, trailed down the walls, and eventually reached the floor where Josephine sat. She was yelling her head off while another Shadow had apparently latched onto her leg and pulled her down. 

 

“Sit down!” I heard the shadow command. It sounded an awful lot like Paisley. 

 

Josephine didn’t surprise me at all and continued to try to fight her way out of Paisley’s grasp, being the unreasonably foolish girl that she was. Hector, leaning on the wall on the opposite side of the room, grinned at the sight. 

 

What a sadistic-

 

My thoughts were quickly interrupted by Hector calling out to Josephine in his twisted amusement. 

 

“Why can’t you just calm down?” He laughed, his teeth shining brightly through his smile. Whatever possessed that man to think a panicking child was so hilarious, I did not know. He definitely wasn’t one of the saner ones in the room. 

 

I materialized into my human form just behind Josephine, ready to end the one sided scuffle. She was clearly losing, after all.

 

“Because she has issues calming down,” I informed him, loud enough for all of them to hear. Paisley immediately retracted from Josephine’s leg and materialized into her own human form a good distance away. She watched Josephine closely, and I could feel irritation radiate off of her. Paisley DID have quite a short temper. 

 

Josephine quickly turned around to face me, and took a moment to take in my presence. Her face was slightly red, I assumed from all of her thrashing. As a much more powerful Shadow, my senses were more finely tuned, and I could, in a sense, feel her heartbeat beating rapidly inside her chest. 

 

“Where- WHO are these people?” she yelled, tripping over her words. I would be afraid if I was in her situation too, I suppose. I smiled warmly, attempting to relax her.

 

“People just like you, Josephine.” I replied. Hopefully, this answer would make her seem less out of place. Maybe give her a sense of security too.

 

“You know what?” Josephine interjected. “I don’t care who they are! I’m leaving!”

 

She stood up and ran around the room like a chicken with its head chopped off. She was using as much sense as one, anyways. She looked around the room frantically, trying to find a door. I shook my head in disappointment, but remembered that she was quite an emotional girl. Hopefully, she would grow out of it someday.

 

After few moments later, she finally decided to acknowledge my presence and face me. 

 

“Where’s the door! I’ll fight you for it if I have to!” She hollered from across the room. I scoffed quietly at her implication of fighting me again.

 

“As if that worked for you last time,” I muttered to myself as I made my way towards her, stepping over the other Shadows in my path.

 

“There is no door to this room, Josephine.” I told her, raising my voice to a normal level. Her skin paled noticeably, so I attempted to cheer her up.

 

“It’s not all doom and gloom, though.” I assured her, stopping right in front of her. I looked into her pained eyes, the grey in her eyes exposing an inner emotional thunderstorm. “See the cracks in the walls, between the metal plates? That’s how everyone in here got in, and when they want to, get out.”

 

She stared at me like I’d grown a third head. Did she actually need me to spell it out for her?

 

“Of course, you’re perfectly capable of leaving through those cracks,” I continued. “All you have to do convert to your shadow form, and you can slip through.”

 

Josephine dropped her head in what I hoped was defeat. Of course, then I remembered that she only avoided becoming a shadow because she HATED being one. I let out a soft sigh. Of course she did. It’s why she was resisting in the first place. 

 

“You’ve always denied you’re one of us, and now, you have no choice but to remember what you are.” I informed her, gently but firmly. I placed a hand on her messy hair and ruffled it, letting my fingers get lost in her long locks. “Welcome home.”

 

She really needed a haircut. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reluctant Introduction

 Josie's POV

 

As I lay in bed, my eyes watered, and tears rolled down my cheeks. My nose was runny from crying, and I'm sure my face was darkened from the blood rushing underneath my skin. I sniffled and reached for another tissue, yanking it from the pile on the nightstand right next to me. I hastily wiped the tears, trying to remove the excess, salty wetness from my skin. The tears couldn't care any less, however, and kept replenishing the moisture.

 

But it was worth it.

 

"Josephine, you really shouldn't have eaten so many raw peppers," Damien commented, typing God knows what into the laptop on the desk next to the bed. He was only a couple of feet away, and I could hear every tap of his fingers on the keyboard. I watched him from what I assumed was my bed, resting comfortably underneath the crisp, white sheets. Seeing his reaction to my current state, I smiled despite the welcome pain.

 

"I live for the sting," I told him, sarcasm dripping from my words. "I like to think peppers rejuvenate my soul."

 

Damien glanced at me and shook his head.

 

"That's senseless," he sighed, turning his head back to the glowing screen of the laptop. "Haven't you ever heard of acid reflux?"

 

My smile quickly faded away. Acid reflux and I happened to be well acquainted enemies.

 

"What are you doing on there?" I asked him, sloppily switching the subject. "Is it work?"

 

"It is," he replied. "I'm surprised you know what that is."

 

I flipped him off from underneath the sheets. Childish, but it let some tension out, so it wasn't all that bad.

 

"If you really want to know, I'm looking through your bodily composition." Damien told me. I sat up, letting the sheets slide off of my torso. "You have a very strange profile showing up here."

 

I swallowed and wrung my fingers together, feeling tension clutch at my stomach. I hoped all the trash I'd eaten for a month didn't show up as anything particularly dangerous.

 

"How strange?" I asked. I must have made it sound weird, however, because he gave me a strange look. 

 

"Strange enough." Damien replied. That wasn't a very good answer. "It's like you've eaten something unusual, but it's still organic and edible apparently."

 

I blinked. 

 

"Yeah, just dumpster trash," I said. "The best scraps I could find." 

 

Damien made a retching sound into his elbow. I didn't know he could be grossed out that easily. 

 

"That's disgusting," he groaned. "Eat what I let you have, it'll be much better than whatever garbage you're running on."

 

I laid back down on the bed, nestling my head into the surprisingly soft pillow. 

 

"What you want to give me is prison food," I stated. He stretched a hand over me and pinched my roughly on the arm.

 

"This isn't a prison." he argued, after I yelped and retracted my arm as quickly as I could. It hurt, and left a small red mark on my skin. "And if it is, it's the best prison you'll ever be in."

 

I scowled at him. Damn right it was a prison, but it definitely wasn't a good one. Why did he have to force me to be here?

 

"Why don't we talk about where you are?" He said to me, his demeanor completely changed. The scowl on his face had completely vanished, much to my surprise. "You don't really seem to be curious about it."

 

"I plan to leave, that's why," I replied, making it clear that I didn't want to stay. He's got other goons, so it's not like he needed me anyway.

 

"Well, to start off, you're in the town of Goldcrest." Damien began, completely ignoring me. His arrogance was baffling. "It's a nice suburban area. We live in a two story house-"

 

"I told you, I'm not staying here! I-" 

 

He raised his hand into a claw like pincer grasp, threatening to pinch me again. I immediately shut up. 

 

"A four story house, really, including this floor, and the room below it." He continued. "Now, let's learn about the people here, hmm?"

 

"Are they trash like you?" I mumbled under my breath. He gave me a sharp glare, but I still wasn't sure if he heard me or not.

 

"No, some of them are trash like you." He insulted. Apparently, he DID hear me. "As I was saying, there's me, Arthur, my assistant, and five other Shadows. You've met two of them."

 

"I FOUGHT one of them." I pointed out, pointing at my foot. "This place is DANGEROUS!"

 

"No, the people are," Damien chuckled resting his cheek on his palm. "Me included."

 

I was about to yell back something inflammatory, but he raised a finger to my lips to silence me. 

 

"Oh, we're not THAT bad," he tried to assure me. "You're not going to get hurt if you just do what I say." 

 

That wasn't wonderfully calming.

 

Two seconds later, a medium sized man abruptly walked in the room, dressed in a loose t-shirt and jeans. He coughed into his fist, and looked at Damien. 

 

"Mr. Brown, I just wanted to let you know that dinner is re-" 

 

The man suddenly realized I was there, and let out a little gasp. 

 

"Oh, I'm sorr-I just-"

 

"My god, can't you even finish a damn sentence?" Damien interrupted, surprising the both of us. I stared at him in shock, rehearsing his words in my head. And he thought I was moody?

 

Damien ran a hand through his hair and sighed, turning back to the laptop. He flipped it back up and typed in the password.

 

"I don't mean to snap at you, Arthur." he grumbled. "It's just that SOMEONE-" he shifted his eyes in my direction "- is getting on my nerves."

 

I balked at his words, my mouth gaping wide open. He was perfectly fine just a minute ago! 

 

"Oh." Arthur said in a quiet voice. He was probably just as disturbed as I was. "I'll just leave then."

 

Arthur left, leaving me with the mood swinging maniac to my left. I sat quietly, hoping I didn't trigger him any further. Damien just stared at the computer screen blankly, the light reflected in his yellow eyes. The man was either a glitching robot, or bipolar.

 

Was there an in-between? 

 

Damien's POV

 

I scanned the results for Josephine's labs, trying to get some sense of what she'd survived on in the streets. I didn't have any first guesses, but hopefully it wasn't anything dangerous. She mentioned mugging for money, didn't she? I hoped she'd bought some fruits or other healthy foods once in a while with...whatever she had eaten. 

 

As I typed up searches for different sections of the lab results I'd obtained from her previously unconscious body, I could hear her sniffling. I pursed my lips in annoyance, and watched her reach for yet ANOTHER tissue in the corner of my eye. Her face was shiny from the waterfall of tears she was letting loose. 

 

"Josephine, you really shouldn't have eaten so many raw peppers," I chided her, wondering how she could handle the raw, piercing flavor. I'd only let her eat so many because it was a fruit she certainly needed nutrients from, but like the little demon that she was, she had gobbled up more than she needed. Xander certainly wouldn't be pleased to know she'd eaten some of his food, as his was quite limited. He was a vegetarian, after all. 

 

"I live for the sting." she told me. I believed it; she seemed crazy enough to be powered by such a strange rush. As long as she hadn't  blacked out too much, I was fine. "I like to think peppers rejuvenate my soul."

 

And what a useless soul it was turning out to be. Until I pushed in the right direction, at least. 

 

I turned to her and shook my head, wondering why she exaggerated so much. 

 

"That's senseless." I sighed, turning my head back to my laptop. Also, didn't she ever care about her health? I shouldn't have to be responsible for EVERYTHING. "Haven't you ever heard of acid reflux?"

 

I must have struck a nerve, because she closed her mouth immediately. Did she have a history of stomach problems? I'd have to look into that.

 

"What are you doing on there?" she suddenly asked me. I'll admit, it threw me off a bit. I didn't expect her to be interested in my labs. "Is it work?"

 

"It is," I replied. "I'm surprised you know what that is."

 

I was being petty, but to be honest, the labs weren't showing me otherwise. She had strange things showing up in her systems, and it looked to me like she didn't bother to work harder for good foods, and was eating some very...questionable things. A lack of labor will do that to you.

 

"If you really want to know, I'm looking through your bodily composition." I informed  her, partially revealing my thoughts. "You have a very strange profile showing up here."

 

At this point she had sat up, I was guessing in confusion. Or, maybe in concern.

 

"How strange?" She asked slowly, as if every word was a potential bomb set off. I raised my brow at her. What was she thinking?

 

"Strange enough." I replied, merely reiterating. "It's like you've eaten something unusual, but it's still organic and edible apparently."

 

I hoped it was maybe fresh food that was stolen, as I wasn't opposed to any crime borne from necessity, but what she said next quickly dashed those optimistic guesses away, like a gunshot in a field of rabbits. 

 

"Yeah, just dumpster trash," she explained. "The best scraps I could find."

 

I fought the urge to vomit, and reduced it to merely retching. If I didn't get more clean food into this girl, she'd become as filthy as the dumpster inside and out. I was just so unaccustomed to eating high quality food; the notion was strange to me. I'd always been raised to only seek the best.

 

"That's disgusting," I groaned. "Eat what I let you have, it'll be much better than whatever garbage you're running on."

 

And who knows what kind of garbage it was?

 

"What you want to give me is prison food," Josephine whined, interrupting my thoughts. My blood began to boil at the insinuation. How could she be so ungrateful? I reached over to her and pinched her, letting my nails leave a red indentation in her skin, as deep as the insult she'd forced into my eardrums. I felt quite satisfied when she gave a small squeal and swiftly moved her hand away.

 

"This isn't a prison." I shot back, making sure she knew such slander wouldn't be tolerated well. "And if it is, it's the best prison you'll ever be in."

 

It occurred to me that perhaps she still felt animosity towards the house because she was, well, extremely unfamiliar with it. Her only thoughts were probably to escape. Maybe this could be fixed by telling her about her surroundings, and a bit about the other Shadows that lived with us too. Then, we might not feel like aliens to her.

 

"Why don't we talk about where you are?" I suggested, changing my tone to a more gentle one. I even put on a little smile for her sake. "You don't really seem to be curious about it."

 

"I plan to leave, that's why," she explained, giving me quite the sour look. I'd have to try harder to convince her, I suppose.

 

"Well, to start off, you're in the town of Goldcrest." I began, hoping she'd be open to having the decency to listen. My smile was forced, but my good intentions? Not so. "It's a nice suburban area. We live in a two story house-"

 

"I told you, I'm not staying here! I-"

 

I raised my hand again and curled my fingers, using body language to ask her if she wanted another red mark in her normally olive toned skin. Thankfully, she took the hint.

 

"A four story house, really, including this floor, and the room below it." I continued. This wasn't the best time to tell her about the forbidden fifth floor. "Now, let's learn about the people here, hmm?"

 

"Are they trash like you?" she whispered under her breath. She most likely wasn't aware that my inhuman senses picked up on it, and apparently felt free to make questionable comments . For someone who thought she was sly, she really, REALLY wasn't.

 

I gave her a piecing glare, making sure she caught the irritated look in my eye.

 

"No, some of them are trash like you," I said, exposing her horribly hidden backtalk.  "As I was saying, there's me, Arthur, my assistant, and five other Shadows. You've met two of them."

 

"I FOUGHT one of them." Josephine complained, pointing at her foot. My smile suddenly became a little less forced. "This place is DANGEROUS!"

 

"No, the people are," I chuckled, laying my cheek on palm. "Me included."

 

It was funny to see her become so riled up at the veiled, yet imaginary threat. Then, I saw her mouth open to spill a torrential amount of arguments-mostly vulgarities, I assumed- and put a finger up to her lips. 

 

"Oh, we're not THAT bad," I assured her. "You're not going to get hurt if you just do what I say." 

 

It was true, really. All she needed was to put in the bare minimum, and I'd take care of the rest. 

 

But I slowly felt myself get angrier anyways. What she'd put me through in this short conversation with her was extraordinarily burdensome. I had been accused of being a prison warden by someone in my merciful refuge. She'd been eating trash, and had the nerve to insult me after I'd fed her. 

 

Perhaps I was being too nice with her. Maybe, it was best to now scare the girl. After all, if she had a bit of fear, she'd learn to respect authority. Just as I was about to inflict it, however, Arthur came bumbling in.

 

"Mr. Brown, I just wanted to let you know that dinner is re-" 

 

He turned his head quickly towards Josephine, and his breath hitched in surprise. She must have looked quite scary in a white bed with matted hair and fading bruises along her skin, like a zombie.

 

"Oh, I'm sorr-I just-"

 

"My god, can't you even finish a damn sentence?" I interjected, misplacing the aggression meant for Josephine. This was really a very inopportune moment to interrupt me. But I supposed that while I was at it, I might as well continue acting the whole way. 

 

Josephine stared at me, and most likely assumed I was a hypocrite. Really though, I don't consider "damn" to be swearing. And I wouldn't have to resort to this is she'd kept her attitude on a leash.

 

I turned around, flipped the laptop open, and typed in the password, though I didn't really care to do anything with it.

 

"I don't mean to snap at you, Arthur." I said in a low voice. "It's just that SOMEONE-" I gave Josephine an accusatory glare "- is getting on my nerves."

 

Maybe I was being a bit too dramatic, judging by Josephine's gaping mouth. It would attract flies if she didn't shut it soon.

 

"Oh." Arthur said quietly. I didn't mean to scare him too much. I'd have to explain to him that I was acting later. "I'll just leave then." 

 

The poor man left me with Josephine, who was no doubt still fazed from my dramatic act. I prided myself in my acting skills, really. I hadn't done much, but I used to be in theatre class in high school. I stared at the screen for a creepy trance-like effect, wondering if I'd give her nightmares sometime in the future. 

 

On second thought, maybe it's best not to scare her too much.

Settling In

Josie's POV

 

I woke up in the morning, and the events from the previous night flooded my memory, blackening my usual crack-of-dawn optimism. I frowned, remembering how Arthur flipped Damien's bitch switch, and how Damien yelled for absolutely no reason as a result. Maybe he was had a mood disorder. I wouldn't put it past him.

 

I stretched, and eased myself out of bed carefully. My feet hit the floor and made me gasp; the floor felt like ice. I shivered and slowly stood up, observing the room. The laptop had been switched off, and the desk looked neat and orderly. My bed, of course, was unmade, but I didn't care. I needed to go. 

 

I walked to the giant black door across the room to leave, and hesitantly placed my hand on the knob. I turned it, and it took me effort to pull the door itself. It was surprisingly heavy, which was strange. The room wasn't even that important. Maybe it was just a construction issue.

 

The exit opened up to a pristine white hallway, a nice contrast from the dark blue room I'd just left. Damien had a thing for dark and depressing rooms, apparently. I walked along the hallway, feeling slightly claustrophobic due to the low ceiling and narrow walls. It made me feel cramped, and that much more eager to leave. Damien had told me there were three floors, and that one was underground, so I suppose the only way was up. 

 

After walking at least twenty feet, my hands, absentmindedly trailing along the walls, brushed against a doorknob to my left. I hadn't even noticed it because I was only looking forward. I looked to my left and stared at the door I'd stumbled upon. It was just as white as the wall itself.

 

Huh. No wonder I missed it.

 

I turned the knob and pushed, but it didn't budge. A small keyhole lied underneath the knob, and I considered picking it. Never mind the fact that I had never picked a lock before, I just had the sudden urge to pick it. The blindingly white walls were putting strange thoughts inside my head. I needed to get out of there.

 

In the distance, about twenty more feet ahead, I spotted a bright green metallic door. As I stared more at it, I realized it looked like two doors, judging by a sharp divide that seemed to cut right in the middle. An elevator!

 

I ran towards it, not wanting to spend anymore time in this tube like hallway. I felt like a mouse in a maze, and it wasn't the best of feelings, though it was only one hallway. The grey tiles underneath my quick feet became a blur as I neared the elevator. A few moments later, I reached the emerald door, the vibrant color giving me new energy. At least, it seemed that way. 

 

I spied a big green button just next to the doors, and pressed it hastily. I heard a whirring sound from above, and stepped back as it came nearer. The door opened a few seconds later, and my excitement was quickly replaced with shock. 

 

Paisley stood right in the center.

 

She looked at me as if I was the most boring insignificant thing in the world, and I held my breath, hoping she wouldn't randomly attack me. Her white-blonde hair was bone straight and much cleaner than before, and her pale blue eyes held a tone of annoyance. But aside from the better-than-you look she was giving me, her overall appearance looked quite neat. She looked pretty well dressed for someone in the morning, with white business pants and a pastel pink blouse. Maybe she was going somewhere?

 

She stepped aside, and curled her fingers, pulling them back and forth towards her direction.

 

"Get in," she stated bluntly. I cautiously stepped inside, still on edge.

 

"Why are you here?" I asked, feeling the soft yellow carpet of the elevator under my bare feet. It was an odd place for one, but it was welcome. My toes warmed up, at least.

 

"You weren't coming, so Damien told me to come get you," she explained, pressing a button to what I hoped was the second floor. "He said you wake up too late."

 

"He says a lot of things," I muttered, watching the doors close me in with her. Paisley leaned against the wall opposite of me, clearly wanting nothing to do with me. As if I was the one who attacked her yesterday.

 

"Okay, empress." she said, breaking the silence. I felt the elevator move upwards, and became slightly queasy. "We're going to the first floor."

 

It only took a few seconds to reach the first floor, thankfully. I didn't like being stuck in a box with someone I'm pretty sure hated me. It's not like I wanted her to hate me, but I couldn't really do anything about it. Besides, there were other people in the house, right? Maybe I'd meet someone who didn't think I was lower than the gum stuck to someone's shoe.

 

As soon as the doors opened , I jumped out, ready to explore. I wasn't exactly a people person, but being lonely was pretty toxic too. I spun around on my heel, only to find that Paisley hadn't budged from her spot. She still leaned against the wall casually, her arms and everything.

 

"Aren't you coming?" I asked quickly before the doors could move, hoping that she'd bother to answer. I didn't really want her around, but I was still curious. 

 

"No," she answered, a small smile growing on her face as the doors began to close. "I have to get someone."

 

With that, the doors fully shut, and the elevator's familiar whirring came back again, this time descending. I guess that sound goes whatever direction the elevator goes. I was still weirded out by the fact that Paisley could smile to care much about the noise, however. It was just...unnatural.

 

I turned back around, and saw what FINALLY looked like a normal house. I was in a carpeted hallway, and the halls were a lovely, mellow cream color. Paintings were hung sparsely along the walls, depicting various naturalistic scenes. Particularly waterfalls, for some reason.

 

I walked along the hallway, and found a set of winding stairs. I grasped the handrails, observing their intricate design of gold and silver swirls, with dark brown orbs placed between the designs. I climbed up the stairs slowly, letting the warm air absorb into my clothing. It was a great change from the cold air and ground on the third floor below. I'd rather stay above ground. 

 

I reached the stop of the stairs, and to my surprise, I began to hear faint music. I wandered around the new hallway I'd gotten into, and the music began to get louder, more distinct. I peered around and saw various doors, each one no doubt leading into its own room. I pressed my ears against the doors I saw, trying to obtain an audial glimpse of what was inside. From some rooms, I heard only snoring. In others, I heard absolutely nothing.

 

But all the while, the music was still playing.

 

By now, I deduced it was probably classical, since I heard piano, and pretty nice piano too. The notes flowed well, and they seemed to be coming from the door that a few moments later, I had reached. At this point, loneliness was taking big bites out of my patience, and ignoring the fact that it was rude, I quickly reached for the knob and opened the door. It was about time I'd see another sane human being.

 

"Wh- I'm sorry, Paisley, I'm coming!" I heard a voice yelp. The music quickly disappeared, and I assumed it was just turned off. I peeked inside, and looked around the room. Sitting on the center of a medium sized red and black bed, I saw a boy.

 

His red hair was like a bright, spiky red mane against his pale skin, and his eyes were blue. Not a light blue like Paisley's, but a deep, dark blue, the kind that divers submerged themselves into for hours on end. What were equally intriguing was his sharp Asian features displaying such bright colors. Was he Japanese? Korean, maybe? I didn't know.

 

"Uh, who are you?" He asked tentatively. I must have creeped him out by just staring at him. "Did Paisley send you?"

 

"No," I said as I opened the door fully to get a better view of the room. "I'm Josie."

 

"Oh." 

 

His room was littered with yellowed magazines, paints, and...cookbooks? The desk, on the right side of his room, held a phone and charger, but no computer. The walls were decorated with pictures of old art, ranging from what I guessed was Michelangelo's to Da Vinci's, and maybe a few from ancient Asian empires. He seemed like one of those hipsters, I suppose. 

 

A pretty decent looking one too.

 

"I'm Xander." he said, climbing off the bed. He straightened his grey jacket out and rolled his arms up his sleeves, revealing hieroglyph tattoos along his forearm. "I'm just gonna clean up this mess and come down. Tell Paisley I'm coming, if she sent you."

 

"Paisley didn't send me." I informed him, stepping into the room. It might have been rude to just walk in like that, but it was too late to care now. "I'm just exploring."

 

"Oh yeah, you're the new one, right?" He asked, gathering the scattered materials off the floor. "The new, uh, roommate?"

 

"Yeah, a Shadow," I stated, recalling what Paisley had called us. It was probably what "roommate" meant anyway. At my words, he perked up and smiled.

 

"Oh, ok!" he chirped, suddenly much less shyer than before. "I don't have to avoid you as much now!"

 

"You avoid normal people?" I asked, raising a brow. "That's pretty mean."

 

"Well, no," he tried to explain, dumping the materials onto his desk. "Damien just tells us to keep a safe distance so we don't get captured and all that."

 

"Is there anyone else here besides you, Paisley, Damien, and Hector?" I asked, though not really sure if I wanted there to be more people. Damien was already a handful by himself.

 

"Ew, you met Hector already?" Xander replied, sticking his tongue out. "I feel sorry for you."

 

"Why?"

 

"Oh, he's just one of those people who have...weird obsessions."

 

"Ok, but is there anyone else besides the people I just mentioned?" I reiterated, not caring to mention that HIS interests looked pretty haphazardly him to be judging.

 

"Yeah, Paige," he replied. 

 

I watched him as he tidied up his room, and stood to the side to let him leave when he approached the doorway.  

 

"Who's Paige?" I asked him as he walked past me into the hallway.

 

"She's the girl right across the hallway," he said, pointing to the door five feet away from him. "I'm gonna go downstairs and eat something. Later."

 

I watched as he left, and stood right on the spot, bored again. I hated being bored, but it was such an easy feeling to get; I feel like its part of my genes to be bored so often. They say boredom is a trait among unintelligent people, but fuck that. I'm not dumb.

 

I headed downstairs to breakfast.

 

Damien's POV

 

I sat on a newly installed bed in the Grey Room, having watched video lectures for about an hour on advising patients to follow directions. Really, it was about convincing them to listen to me. Patients tended to think they know what's best and override their doctor's orders, which frustrated me to no end. Orders are important, and if they didn't listen, they'd only hurt themselves. At least in the sanctity of the Internet, someone understood my pain. 

 

From the corner of my eye, I saw Paisley's shadow form ooze from above through the cracks in the ceiling. It materialized into her human form on the floor a few feet away from me. Her pale face had a slight blush to it, though from yelling at my residents or exercising, I didn't know. She smiled at me, and parted her soft pink lips to speak.

 

"Hector prepared breakfast, and I came to tell you it's ready." She paused. "I'm just here to let you know."

 

I said nothing, but stared at her. She knew I wasn't a fan of breakfast, however healthy it might be.

 

"Having meals together is IMPORTANT." she insisted, as she had done thousands of times before. It would be great if I could eat a meal in peace, but that wouldn't go well in her book. "It helps us bond, and feel comfortable with one another. You know that."

 

I sighed. Then, I remembered our newest guest. 

 

"What about Josephine?" I asked her. I watched as a nearly unnoticeable frown tugged at the corners of her mouth. "If she's not up by now, she wakes up too late."

 

"Oh, I forgot her," she replied, her voice having lost its enthusiasm. "I'll go get her, then."

 

She melted back into a shadow, but before she fizzled through a crack, she gave me one final word.

 

"You WILL be at breakfast," she told me. "Don't live in isolation."

 

With that, I watched her exit the room. I shut my laptop and placed it on the soft, green blanket I was sitting on. I ran a finger through my hair, and to my dismay, felt how coarse it was. On a normal Saturday morning I would have oiled it and added the right conditioner pretty thoroughly, but my internet addiction had taken me away to watch videos. 

 

What a shame. I usually looked fabulous.

 

I sat up and stretched, feeling my bones "crack" all through my body. It made me feel very alive. Today, because my red coat was in the laundry, I was wearing a rather boring checkered jacket on my white polo shirt and black business pants. Oh, well. It was a casual day anyway. 

 

I paced around the room for about ten minutes, as I usually did when I was in thought. I recalled our dwindling supply of food, and made a mental note to send someone to buy food. And none of that starchy stuff; whole wheat is better replacement. Though for sweets, they could use mango ice cream. I am very biased towards that particular flavor. And as for hygienics, we could use paper towels, soap, and the like. Also, I recalled that someone's phone charger broke; they'd need money for a new one. Now that I thought about it-

 

"Damien?" came a sudden voice from above the ceiling. I looked up to find Paisley's shadow form melted into it. "Aren't you coming for breakfast?" 

 

"Yes, I will be," I answered, though I really didn't want to go. "I'm just making mental shopping lists."

 

"Oh I told everyone what they needed to buy already," Paisley told me. I balked at her words.

 

"You did?" I asked, dumbfounded she'd done such a thing without letting me know. I was usually in charge of these things! "Food and ice cream-"

 

"Yes, everything," she cut me off. "And Arthur's going to go on one of his walks. It'll just be me and you in the house."

 

Oh, no. Not this again.

 

"Paisley, why don't you, erm, buy some chocolate or something?" I suggested, hoping she would leave. "It was Halloween recently, so they might have a sale or something."

 

That was a terrible excuse to get her to leave that just popped out of my mind.

 

"I know this is cheesy, but chocolate is pretty romantic," Paisley joked. At least, I hoped she was joking. 

 

But deep down in my mind, I knew she wasn't.

 

"Well it's great for antioxidants and such, right?" I rambled, attempting to crack a smile. "That's good stuff too."

 

"It doesn't replace true affection," she informed me, still a black stain on the wall. A black stain that I'm sure was scrutinizing my every move.

 

"Well no, I guess it doesn't." I admitted. I really had no way around that little gold nugget of wisdom. Curse her psychologist- like ways. 

 

"By the way, Halloween was a month ago," she informed me. "So I don't think the chocolate is on sale anymore."

 

"Oh."

 

"But there are other, less materialistic ways to bond," she twittered. "Like a walk? Cooking? Or we could-"

 

"Wait, what about breakfast?" I asked quickly, afraid of what she was going to say next. "I don't want the food to get cold before I- WE get there."

 

Her shadow form sizzled, indicating a buzz of happiness. It was probably due to the fact that I said the word "we". Paisley LOVED "we."

 

"I made vegetable omelettes." she informed me happily, as if it was the best accomplishment in the world. "Bell peppers of all three colors, some spinach leaves, and of course, in large eggs. Milk on the side."

 

Would it kill her to let me eat ice cream for breakfast once in a while? Vegetables were important and all, but still.... ice cream. 

 

"That sounds delicious." I said, forming a smile to assure her she'd done a good job. In all honesty, she was quite the backbone for this household. "Let's go together, then."

 

I dissipated into my shadow form and joined hers, oozing together through the ceiling. Breakfast was only a few minutes away. Unbeknownst to her, she'd provided the escape from her conversation, much to my relief. It's not that I hated her, but she just wasn't my type. 

 

Oh, and I hated to break Arthur's heart.