The lights flicker overhead. I have nothing to defend myself with until I see a boxcutter that someone carelessly left behind. I rub my thumb over it like a fidget toy. The door clicks open, just out of sight. I hold the boxcutter ahead of me as my palms shake.
“I thought you’d be a crying mess at this point. Color me impressed.”
“Tom?!” He’s the last person I expect to see.
“Insecurity to the rescue again. What would you do without me?” I want to slap and hug him at the same time.
“Where’s everyone else,” I ask as I get on my feet. Tom scans my body curiously and shrugs.
“I have no idea.” He gives me a look that conveys that I’m boring him, but honestly, the familiarity is comforting. I pocket my weapon. I have no idea if that thing is waiting outside or if it’s left me to stew in my fear. At this rate, the anticipation is going to kill me before it does. Be brave Katy. I take a deep breath and grab the handle, and miss the utterly depraved look Tom shoots at my back. I turn back to see him waiting, patient, and confident as always.
“Lead the way.”
I open my eyes and the sound of squeaky wheels, instructions via intercom, and a screaming baby fill my ears. I turn towards the sliding door and spot the Racist struggling to grab a cart from the corral at the front of the store. Shame slides over my cheeks. My instinct is to run away, but I feel a hand on my shoulder. My flinch causes Hate to let go, but he nudges me forward.
“I don’t know what to say,” I respond in my mind. I finally look at Hate, no, Guy, with panic. His appearance is different than it was in the Darkness. He’s no longer a smoky thing of nightmares, but dressed in a black t-shirt and blue jeans, with short black hair. Nothing about his appearance is attractive or remarkable, in fact, his look is beyond boring. The only feature that stands out, and the most disturbing, is his shifting facial appearance. Like trying to remember someone’s face, his face is hazy at best. He reminds me of the time I sketched a portrait of my father, then smudged the pencil markings with my hand by accident.
“You should ram your cart into him.” My musings are cut short.
“Uh, no, that’s assault and I’ll probably get fired.” I look around, but no one seems to notice the man with almost no face standing next to me. My eyes go wide when a family walks right through him with their grocery cart. “I already told you, there’s nothing to do. I’m just gonna suck it up, sticks and stones and all that.”
“You’re in pain,” Guy scoffs, “you can lie to yourself, but not to me. On second thought, you’re not allowed to lie to yourself anymore. Terms of our agreement and all that.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do.” An older woman going into the store on my right gives me a wary look, and I realize that my facial expressions are probably shifting at an alarming rate.
“Fine.” Guy crosses his arms and looks down at me in disappointment. I hurry to my car, load the groceries, and head back to the apartment. Guy sits next to me, fuming in silence. After putting everything up, I sit at my kitchen table with a glass of ice water. What a day.
“You’re telling me,” someone replies from across the apartment. I squeak and almost fall out of my chair. I stand up, dart my eyes around the room, and blink a few times. There’s two, no, five humanoid figures in the living room. What would be a beautiful woman if she had an actual face walks forward and shakes my hand. “Nice to finally meet you in person.” I should be afraid, but her voice is soothing and warm, like standing in the sand at Rockport beach as the sun begins to set, and the waves clear the footprints from the day’s frivolities.
“You’re Regina, right?” I relax and speak out loud since no one’s here to call me a basketcase. Regina, who I called Happiness when I was little, laughs and nods. Her yellow dress makes her look like a marigold. I don’t see her often these days, but she usually shows up when I need her the most, so I’m grateful all the same. The person behind Regina clears their throat, and tilt my head over to get a better look. Clinging to the back of Happiness’s dress is a short, nervous-looking woman. I give her a wave and she gives me a small smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. Her hoody is rumpled and her jeans are fraying at the ends. Regina pushes her gently forward. For the life of me I can’t place which Voice she could be, for all I know, she could be a new addition.
“This is Rain. She doesn’t speak much.” Regina’s smile falters as I stiffen. Rain is a constant companion during bad days, when I don’t want to get out of bed, wash dishes, or take a bath. On nights where I sob into my pillow or sleep all day. Sadness hugs herself and looks at the floor. I know any moment now she’ll burst into tears so I give her a fake smile and shake her hand quickly. They both take a seat at the table along with Hate, Anger, and Insecurity. I slowly drop into my chair.
“Katy.” I look over to the right at Guy, the apparent leader of the pack. “You know why we’re here.” So we’re really doing this.
“Ya, I think so. You’re my guardian angels.” Tom scoffs at me like I’m an idiot. “Just kidding. Actually, wait, what are you guys exactly?” Arnold and Tom, Anger and Insecurity, look exactly like I thought they would. Arnold is wearing a wifebeater and sports a skull tattoo, and his blonde hair is wild and unkempt. He scowls and avoids my eyes. Tom looks at me smugly. He’s handsome and wears a crisp white button-up long sleeve shirt. His hair is neat, and I know the moment he talks I’ll see a shiny row of perfect teeth. Guy leans forward and answers my question.
“I told you, we’re from your mind.” Seeing the question on my face, he continues. “We really don’t know. One moment we don’t exist and the next, we’re rattling inside your head.” Guy’s eyebrows come together in frustration.
“Are you aliens? Ghosts? Maybe you’re from another dimension or something.”
“Maybe,” Regina chimes in, “but I don’t remember living on a distant planet or haunting anyone.”
“As far as I can tell, other people can’t see, hear, or touch us, besides Katy,” Guy ponders. Arnold tries to grab the mug in front of him and his hand goes straight through. “And it looks like we can’t touch objects either.”
“Maybe I made you with superpowers?” Tom leans back in his chair and chuckles. How are they even able to sit? I rub my temples as if they have an answer.
“Guys, come on, what’s more believable? That Katy has powers, or that we’re very, very realistic imaginary friends she’s created so she won’t be alone?” The condescension drips from his words. Arnold looks like he wants to strangle him and they start to shout at each other, but I’m sinking into my chair. Taking my phone out of my pocket, I google my situation for the next five minutes. Articles about ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder,’ ‘schizophrenia,’ and ‘hallucinations’ pop up, but it just confuses me, so I turn off my phone.
“Hey.” They ignore me.
“Hey, guys.” Arnold points a finger in Tom’s face.
“HEY!” I slam my fist on the table and the Voices are finally silent. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and honestly, I don’t want to know. I just need to be ok. Does that make sense?” My voice quivers. Each of them nods in agreement: ignorance is bliss.
“Personally, I think it would be cool if you had superpowers. Like Scarlet Witch or Martian Manhunter.” Regina smiles at everyone and the tension leaves the room.
“We’re not B-team superhero sidekicks,” Arnold scoffs. He sits up suddenly. “I got it: we’re like Venom from the Spiderman comics. Much more badass.” Laughter bursts from my mouth against my will.
“I’m not eating anyone.”
“Cannibalism might solve our Racist Guy problem.” I stare at Guy who looks at me in complete seriousness. A quick grin graces his face before he frowns and looks at the other voices. “Back to business. As we all know, Katy is up for a promotion-”
“What, another twenty-five cent raise?” Arnold grumbles. Guy glares before he continues.
“As I was saying: the cashier job. We, she, needs this,” he says with fervor. I gulp down my ice water and dismiss the chill permeating my body.
↪️ Chapter Five