“Would you believe me if I said yes?
“You’re just supposed to watch over me?” The woman nodded, indifferent to my confusion and trouble with the whole thing. “Protect me from harm? Make sure I don’t get myself killed or involved with the wrong people?” Receiving another nod, I sat back down, my head reeling.
I didn’t believe in things like religion or fate, and definitely not things like the supernatural. Witches, angels, magic, it wasn’t real, and yet, there was a woman standing in my bedroom who tested my grasp on reality. A woman who I couldn’t bring myself to ask about, not even for a name. Each attempt only led to my tongue sticking to the dry roof of my mouth. She was a stranger and I, apparently, was not normal. “Okay.” I sighed in resignation. “I can deal with all of that.”
“Then why are your hands shaking?”
“Are they?” I lifted my head out of hands and with a self-deprecating laugh, I looked up at her. “Any chance this is some government prank?”
“Your government lacks the intelligence to concoct something so trivial. No.” She snapped my barely used notebook close and held up her wrist. “I am here to watch over you, or rather, to watch over your soul.”
As she tried to explain things again, I stared at the sigil that wrapped around her wrist and most of her forearm. It seemed to glow as she stepped closer, both warning and calling to me in a strangely familiar way. Snapping to my senses, I shot up from my spot on the bed to fix a crazed glare on her all too bored expression.”No. I don’t want some weird guardian angel stalking me. Why do I even need one?” Why me? Why you? I asked the questions silently, scared of the answers they might get if I pushed the delicate reality I had left.
Seeing my rapid unraveling, she crossed the room to place both her hands on my shoulders. I expected some reassurance but that wasn’t what came out as she trapped me within her piercing black gaze. “Your life wasn’t worth one. But your soul, that deserves protection.” I wanted to ask why she referred to me as if I were dead but her fingers dug into my shoulders and forced me to reconsider. “Find solace in this: when you meet your end, you won’t be alone” Her lips curled into a cold smile. We stood there awhile, her eyes challenging me and my own slowly resigning once more. Once she saw the small flicker of stubbornness fade, she released me.
My body was too shocked to move but I needed more than secrets and hints at my death. “Why are you doing any of this?” I used the pain in my shoulders to ground me. I didn’t know why I gave in so easily but I did know that I couldn’t follow behind her blindly. “You don’t want to be here, right? You can leave the same way you came and trade places or something with someone. Why stay?”
She had moved onto exploring my room, starting with my closet, but she didn’t hesitate to answer. “Because I’m bored, and tired of waiting. Because it’s fun.” She scrunched her nose at my closet and moved onto the empty bags of chips still on my desk, all the while ticking off the reasons she wasn’t going to disappear like I wanted. When she was done, or perhaps bored with her own list, she looked at me. “I’m not here to save you, Cole. I’m here to collect you.”
“Collect me?” Floored, I found my seat again. Collecting sounded less like protection and more like a broker of souls, if there were such a thing. At a loss, I finally asked the question that should have led this whole conversation.”Who are you?”
The smile that sunk my hopes of another tomorrow returned. “Pride, but you may call me Asmita, little brother.”
My mouth was dry but I was able to look at her, really look at her. At the tight brown curls of her long hair, her refined yet delicate features from her straight nose to her defined cheek bones and jaw line. I wanted to call her bluff, ask why such a stupid nickname, but the more I stared at her and her imposing figure, the more I believed it. And if it was really Pride personified, then she was right. I wasn’t facing my guardian angel. No, the woman in front of me was sent from a much darker place. A place I wasn’t ready to accept.