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The world becomes encased in an impenetrable darkness with an ear-splitting noise ricocheting near the crown of my head. Beneath it I can just barely hear the voices of Will and the older intruder, an occasional cry of pain, whimpering, sobbing, yelling... I can't make out any of what is said around the persistent, high-pitch ringing in my ears, but I easily understand. It's not hard to recognize torment, even if, for the most part, it's not exactly physical.
After the interrogation, I feel coarse hands tenderly wiping a warm liquid down the sides of my face. The result is stiff layer of dried blood, suffocating my skin, etching the scent of iron into my nose. He tilts my head back and forth with his thumb, causing it to bob from side to side limply with each movement as I feel his eyes, examining me with scrutiny.
I can just hear his baritone voice under the noise, saying something that sounds a lot like: Thank you.
I must be mistaken.
Will relocates me, lifting me and placing me in my usual spot in the bed... and leaving me to listen to the constant, maddening noise.
The ringing fades out just in time for me to catch the last minute or so of Will's mid-morning music session. The first words I hear are from yet another deep-voiced woman.
Now, a man is born to go a-lovin,
A woman's born to weep and fret...
If I could spit, I would.
Unfortunately, the darkness doesn't fade. I open my eyes wide and blink them and still see nothing, but am still glad my head has stopped hurting.
I have a sudden and strange feeling that an important part of me is returning to me, getting very close.
“Good morning, Kalani.”
It's just Will. I try to tell him to fuck off but my lips don't move. Instead, I make a sound blubbery spitting sound, air fills my cheeks and rushes out through vibrating lips.
“So you can hear me now! That's good, you're healing quickly.”
I flick a bird that he can't see under the sheets I've been wrapped in. I feel as if I've been made with the bed.
“I want to apologize. I know there are more, ethical ways to deal with these kind of situations and what I did to you wasn't fair, at all. And I would really like for us to work together in the future.”
If I could laugh, I'd be rolling right out of this sheet cocoon. How can he really think that I would be willing to be his 'partner' after all of this?
“There are a lot of people who would do worse if they could. You've seen it first hand: Those men who had you last time believed that you would 'bless them with immortality' if they killed you. There's a rumor that if all of the bones are broken at once, your kind can't regenerate. Obviously, either that's not true or they didn't do it right. If I was them, I would've just thrown you in the back of a garbage truck, the new kind that smash...”
I don't want to hear how he would've done it.
I tune out the details of all the way's my attackers were inefficient and 'collectively dumb-assed' and focus instead on the peculiar feeling that followed Will into the room. It's as if I have second pulse, beating to an entirely different rhythm. I listen to this rhythm and wonder if he is ever going to close his mouth.
He continues his speech.“They were nobodies who didn't know what they were doing. Not everyone you encounter is going to be like that. People will hunt you Kalani. There are myths about your immortality and desperate people will believe anything... They'll come for you first because you're new and easy to pray on.”
I wonder for a moment what he means by 'new,' then let it go. I've already accepted the fact that I've always been this way, I just wish I knew how. And why. And what exactly is this other me that I'm feeling in Wills direction.
“I can help you.”
By shooting me in the face?
“And I need you.”
And why should I care about that?
“ I hunt supernaturals and humans who affiliate themselves with them, which the witch hunters call anomalies. That's how I make my living and how I stay alive. But, here lately, I've been off doing my own thing, ignoring my obligations. It's entirely my own fault, I know, but if I don't kill twelve of them by the end of this year, I'll be branded anomaly and hunted my damn self. It's September.”
I notice the intense desperation in his voice as he say's the word 'September.' He pauses, letting his words sink in as he regains his composure and his pleasant tone.
“Kalani, where ever you go, they will come for you. They'll try to kill you. No matter where you are. If you stay with me, I will protect you. In the process, I save my own skin. It's a symbiotic relationship, everybody wins.”
He pauses, as if waiting for a response. I give him nothing.
“I don't want you to answer right now. I know it's hard to trust someone who shot you twice. And I know you feel manipulated. But try to put your feelings to the side for a moment and just think about it. Be practical.”
I hear his footstep as he walks towards the bathroom taking my second self with him, then a soft thud in the bathtub.
“I'll be downstairs if you need me,” he says before exiting the room. I wonder what he expects me to do with that information, being temporarily blind, mute, paralyzed, and strapped to a bed with aggressive tucking.
He closes the door behind me, leaving me alone with the heartbeat in the tub.
I don't see him for two days. In that time I regain sight to my right eye, and my movement returns completely... on the left side of my body.
My nights are sleepless. My thoughts are overtaken by the sounds of another pulse in the bathroom and the occasional bump in the bathtub ringing like a porcelain gong.
I stare at the ceiling, desperate to get my mind off of the noises, and watch a spider weave a thick, stringy web in the creases between several decorative tiles. It works busily until the room becomes orange with the sunset, and sits on its throne proudly, meaty black legs hanging free, as the room darkens into a deep blue. By nightfall I can no longer see him at all, but I have the feeling that he's not sitting like a king in his web anymore.
He is the least of my worries.
I learn to ignore my fear of the thing in the tub, just like I ignore Will in my thoughts, or the fact that there is a large, possibly poisonous, arachnid crawling around this room somewhere. I worry instead about my irrational attachment to the other pulse. How even now I want to be close to it. How at this very moment I want it, right here, beside me, comforting me.
The porcelain gong rings three times in succession, followed by the sloppy sound of skin slapping tile. My heart jumps. That's never happened before.
For a moment everything is silent. I fix my eyes towards the bathroom door, though it's entirely too dark to see that far.
After several minutes, I hear the door knob twist.
I frantically struggle to prop myself up with my left arm, but it benefits me nothing. Conceding defeat, I lay there in the darkness with my pulse throbbing in my ears, staring out into nothing, and waiting for something.
The seconds creep by as I hear the door slowly creak open.
I feel its eyes.
It comes, bursting through the doorway in an explosion of insanely fast-moving limbs. Before I realize it, its hand is gripping my sheets, pulling itself up. Mentally, I curse Will for tucking the sheets so tightly that they could be used this way. As it reveals it bald head I let out a terrified shriek that is instantly muffled by the creature's other hand.
“Shh-shh-shh-shh,” it whispers, as if coddling a crying baby.
I jerk my arm as the beginnings of my struggle to freedom but it expertly throws one of its short, lower limbs over it, easily cutting all of that short. I look down and notice that the creature has no feet, instead, its legs stop at rounded knee-like figures where a humans thigh would be.
“You're injured.” it says, touching my forehead at the place where the bullet entered with the hand it used to climb. “Head wounds are difficult to heal, but not so much that you should be in this state.” It's tone is soft and soothing, yet firm. It has the voice of a woman.
I kick my left leg against the bed, attempting to scoot myself up.
“No. Direct your energy to the point of affliction. Do the same for your thoughts. There is no reason you shouldn't be able to heal an injury like this within six hours, with minimal effort.”
I try to free my arm. She stops me with her thigh and presses her index finger into my forehead with added force.
“No. Focus,” she twists her finger from side to side. “All your energy goes here.”
I take a deep breathe and take her advice. I start at the place where her fingertip meet my skin and read the rocking motion. I go deeper, reading the tissue, the nerves, the disfigurement of the skull. I follow the path of the bullet and study the disordered brain matter. Everything is just slightly damaged and set out of place, as if forced into the nearest opening rather than set into its proper home. I go deeper, into the cells and force mitosis in order to replace the damaged cells, which I age until death. I continue this, as I listen to the being.
“We are spiritual beings. Our bodies are our vessels and our homes, and most peoples homes don't fix themselves. Yours does, but it does so mindlessly. It can make errors. It needs your mind. If you want your vessel to run properly, you must guide it's maintenance. If you want your home to be hospitable to you, you must make it so.”
I correct the damage to the optic nerve that had healed twisted, blocking the blood flow from my central retinal artery and forming a tumor-like bubble in the left side of my brain. Soon my sight and my mobility returns.
“See, that didn't take you but forty-five minutes.” She rolls from over me and lays peacefully beside me, propping her head up with her hand.
“Thank you,” I say as I rise, sliding out of the top of the tucked sheets, to cut on the lamp. It had never occurred to me that I should make an effort to heal myself. I just assumed that with time, my body would heal.
“I'm happy to be a help to you.” I can hear the smile in her voice as she speaks.
The connected feeling that I had before returns, and I know that this person is what I've been feeling for the past two days. As I click on the light and turn to face my company, I see exactly why.
There in the bed next to me is a naked, bald-headed me, smiling a toothy, dimply grin. We gasp in unison at the sight of each other. Hers comes with an expression of excitement. I don't know what my face is doing but I know it probably shows how confused I am.
“You're so beautiful!” she beams. “Do I really look like that too?”
I nod. “Yes, except for your dimples.”
She grins harder and put's a hand over her mouth to hide her over-enthusiasm. Still, it shines in her dark brown eyes.
“Who are you?” I ask.
For a moment her eyes widen and she waves her hands as if unsure what to do with them, before deciding to sit up, place both hands in her lap, and dipping her head as if addressing loyalty.
“ I am the daughter of your left ring finger.” Her goofy grin returns “I am so happy to be your first witi!”
I can't help but to grin right along with her, even though I don't know what she's talking about.
She nods. “Yes, I am your child, your nurturer, your servant and I am you. But I am also different than you, because I will only regenerate once, and because I wasn't born from a womb like you were. When you are first born you grow into adult-like forms within the first day, but are unable to reproduce for many years later. I take several days to finish, but once I'm done, I'm done.”
I look down at her legs and notice that they both stop at the knee.
“You don't look done,” I say. She presses her lips together for a moment before responding.
“Yes. I came because you called me. No matter the circumstances, a witi must come when their wo'at mother calls.”
I think I give her a confused look. She responds by going into greater detail.
“You are wo'at, a very different people than all others on this planet because of your trans-generational memory. Unlike most species, your memory is encoded with your DNA, which is why you are born with language and other basic skills needed to survive. You are born with a block on several parts of this memory so that you can develop a strong sense of self. Once you decide that you are ready to know who and what you are, instinct will lead you to do things that may cause the loss off a limb or appendage. From these detached segments of the body, a witi will form, that's me. The witi has the ability to remove the blocks by telling them what they need to know to remember. We are separate beings from you, but barely.”
“So what do I need to hear to remember?” I ask, only half believing what I've just heard.
She lays there without answering for a while, popping her brows and twisting her lips with her tongue.“Before I tell you, I want you to name me,” she says finally.
“Enitan.” I say instantly.
A slow creeping smile spreads across her face. “Do you know what that means?”
I shake my head no.
“Yes, you do. You remember more than you think.” She folds her hands in her lap. “Get comfortable. Yours is an old, and very long story.”