With those glowing eyes still fixed on me, the boy begins to speak again. This time, the words translate themselves almost as soon as they leave his lips.
“What are you doing here, young Angelus?”
In spite of my situation, I bristle with anger. “Young? I’m not young, thanks very much--”
But those are not the words that escape my mouth. Instead, against my will, I say in Latin, “I came to stop you. Why must you create such a terrible thing?”
Seraphim laughs a light, mirthless, unpleasant laugh. “Oh, you don’t understand, do you? The horrors I previously unleashed can only be kept in check with this prison of evil.”
A second thought pops into my head. Why is he calling me “Angelus?” And why can’t I say what I intend to say?
But again the words warp as I try to get them out. “You shouldn’t do this, Seraphim. You’ll only damage yourself further.”
He replies, but by now I’m no longer listening. I ponder my situation: where am I? Who, exactly, is Seraphim Mortis? And who am I?
Experimentally, I try to take a few steps forward, but my feet refuse to move. It feels as if all of my motor neurons have been disconnected and all that’s left is my mind.
But then, how is it that I have been able to speak?
I come to the only conclusion possible: I’ve somehow possessed someone from the past -- the name Angelus suggests a girl, and the Latin suggests an ancient time -- and I’m seeing through her eyes and hearing through her ears.
With that thought, I focus my attention back on Seraphim. He opens his mouth to speak again, but to my surprise, the voice that comes out isn’t his, and the words are not in Latin. Instead, Leo’s voice shouts, “Alisha! Alisha, you have to wake up!”
The vision fades and once more, I’m floating in empty space. No, not floating -- this time I’m hurtling downwards, headfirst, at an impossible speed. I squeeze my eyes shut, sure that I’m about to die.
But I don’t. After several seconds of the free-fall, I tentatively open my eyes. In the distance, a pinprick of light emerges. That pinprick enlarges into a dot, then into a window... and before I know it, I’ve hurtled right into it.
I blink against the sudden brightness. When my pupils finish adjusting, I notice that I’m looking down at Town Hall from a hawk’s view. I pass straight through the roof without any disturbance, accelerating as I go, and find myself looking down at a group of people in Town Hall, huddled tightly around something on the floor. As I fly towards it, faster and faster, I realize that it’s a small figure lying spread-eagled on the white tiles. And that figure is... me?
Again Leo’s voice rings out, except this time it seems to emanate from all around me. “Can you hear me, Alisha? Wake up!”
I keep accelerating as if I’m about to crash into the white-tiled floor -- which, seeing as how fast I’m going, is actually a very possible upcoming disaster -- straight towards the other me lying on the ground. Now I’m so close that I can see every detail of my own face, and I’m not showing any signs of stopping.
As I accelerate to an almost unbearable speed, Leo speaks again, his voice coming from his own mouth now. “Look, she’s moving, I swear I saw her eyelids move--”
I crash headfirst into my own body with the impact of a battering ram slamming into a brick wall. Every inch of my body screams in pain, as if all of my bones have been shattered.
I let out a low moan and open my eyes. I’m not looking at the floor anymore; instead, a circle of faces peer down at me. It takes a moment for my eyes to focus. As soon as I regain the ability to move, I roll over and regurgitate my dinner.
“Alisha!” Leo exclaims. “Are you okay?”
“Never felt better,” I groan.
“SAKET!” I wail, flinging myself towards the quicksand, which is already starting to solidify. My hands rake the glassy substance as I scream in a crazed voice, as if digging him out might somehow bring him back.
Dean crouches by my side and grasps my wrists. “Stop, Sophie. He’s gone.”
I shake my head vigorously, my tears splattering the dark glass. “He wouldn’t do that -- I didn’t choose -- why did he-- it’s not my fault, is it?”
I look up at Dean, desperate for his reassurance, but he doesn’t give it.
“I’m sorry about this, Sophie. Really, I am. But we have to move -- I don’t know how long the quicksand will stay like this...”
“I can’t leave him. I treated him horribly, and now--” I choke on my words. “You understand, don’t you? I can’t do him any further injustice.”
Dean is silent for such a long time that I can’t help but turn to look at him. He’s watching me with an expression I’ve seen only once before, when Saket had volunteered for the mission, and grabbed my hand.
His next words are so quiet, I have to lean in to hear them. “Sophie... tell me this, and be truthful. Do you love him?”
I stare at my reflection in the quicksand, seeing Saket in my mind’s eye. The way he smiled, almost shyly, as if he was afraid to disturb the world with his clumsy charm, and the intensity of his gaze as our fingers met, intertwining for the first time.
Do you love him?
The way he stepped back into the quicksand, willingly relinquishing his own life so that I might have a chance to fix things with Dean. How he let himself sink without a struggle.
Do you love him?
I turn back to Dean. The struggle is written clearly on his face: he is jealous, but he is trying to be fair.
Do I love Saket?
I know the answer, but saying it out loud will inflict unbearable pain upon both of us.
Be truthful, he’d said. Doesn’t he know that the truth is impossible for me to tell?
I’m sorry, Dean, for the lie I am about to tell you, I say silently.
As if he can hear my apology, I think, bitter at my own incompetence.
Swallowing my sobs, I raise my head and look Dean in the eye.“No. No, I do not love him.”