Instinctively, I move towards her, but Adelaide transects my route with her elegant form. One hand finds my chest, freezing me in place, the other gestures to my frightened mother.
“What are you doing with her? That’s my mother. I-”
“I know you are confused, Mathias. This is not the gift I have for you, but it is an integral part of what I…what we are to become.” Her voice is a peaceful stream.
My head reels. It has become difficult to stand. I have become so numb that I do not experience pain as Adelaide holds my hand to her mouth and bites to break skin. I stare up at her from the floor. I must have fallen. Searing pain has replaced the numbness, and radiates from my hand. My dark angel crouches at my side.
Her lips brush my ear as she speaks. “This I share with you, my love. This will grant you the clarity you seek.”
I feel the floor beneath me shake and convulse violently. I labor to my knees and no longer see Adelaide’s apartment. A small, even more barren room surrounds me. The woman lying in the corner is undoubtedly dead. The strong odor of decay clouds the enclosed space. Adelaide sits next to the body, sobbing uncontrollably, her delicate face contorted in a manner I have not previously witnessed. She is much younger than I know her, yet her dark eyes betray her identity.
I am frozen in place, transfixed by the sobbing Adelaide. Abruptly the sobbing ceases. Without warning Adelaide thrusts her small body onto the decaying corpse. Terror surges through my body, but quickly ebbs into understanding. Adelaide’s eyes find mine. A tangible connection has been drawn and I feel eerily at peace.
I turn to face the older Adelaide at my side. Her eyes are silhouettes of another world. She smiles.
I have so many questions for my partner, but before I can open my mouth a noise seizes my concentration. From the chair in the middle of the room my mother is still struggling against her bonds. I look to Adelaide, who gives a nod. I know what I must do. A hunger is there now, an inexplicable force that now controls me. I climb to my feet, but before I can move in any direction a sharp rap at the door interrupts our dark scene.
“Binghamton Police Department.” The voice is male, assertive. “We received a noise complaint at this address.”
Without hesitation Adelaide opens the door, revealing a singular officer, clad in black. The officer begins to speak, but Adelaide shoots a hand out, grasping his neatly pressed uniform. With alien strength Adelaide pulls the surprised officer into the apartment. She turns and releases, sending her prey sprawling into the room. The door slams shut with her opposing hand. The officer covers half the room before colliding with the occupied chair in the middle of the room, sending both to the floor dazed.
The chair is now strewn splinters. My mother, unrestrained, claws feebly at the floor in an effort to swim away from Adelaide and I. The officer has regained his bearings and leaps to his feet, grasping at his side. Anguish fills his face as he fumbles with an empty holster.
“Did you forget something, officer?” Adelaide is holding a pistol in her hand.
Instinctively, the officer raises his hands above his head, his face a stark expression of angst. My mother has pulled her atrophied legs towards her chest, a shaking turtle sans shell. I feel as I should act in some way, but remain still, rudderless.
Adelaide shrugs and tosses the pistol toward the officer. His eyes widen as the weapon arcs gracefully through the air. Before the pistol can reach his outstretched hands Adelaide has covered the distance in an impossible fashion. Her hand finds the officers throat, and with fury she propels him into the wall. The force shakes the small room. Plaster falls as snow. Pinned against the wall, helpless, the officer squeezes his eyes shut.
“Adelaide, I don’t understand.” My voice trembles.
Still holding the large man in place she turns to me. Her eyes are oddly calm. Unwavering, her eyes stay fixed on mine as she clenches her hand with deliberate force. A faint gasp vacates the officer’s mouth as Adelaide crushes his throat. Her fingers pierce skin and flesh, like clay in a disappointed sculptor’s hand. Crimson drains down her arm, weaving a sinister path to her elbow where it collects and falls in silence. Adelaide releases the corpse and its slumps to the floor, still retching blood.
The scene should nauseate me, yet I stand entirely unfazed. In fact, I feel empowered by it. Adelaide crosses the room, stopping just inches from me. Her blood drenched hand softly cradles the edge of my jaw. Our eyes lock as they have many times before. I have never felt more secure, more purposed.
Gentle force pulls my head towards her. Our lips meet with grace unfitting to the surroundings. Energy surges through my body, and I feel as if Adelaide has become a part of me. Tongues entwined, I am transported to another place.
The deafening crack of a handgun shatters our perfect moment, shocking me back to the small apartment. Adelaide slowly turns toward the noise revealing a small hole torn through the back of her shirt. Propped up on the officer’s body is my mother, a pistol quivering in her weak grasp. Her eyes are wide. Adelaide stares at her a moment, then the pistol discharges a second time, violently twitching in feeble hands. The bullet tears into Adelaide’s torso creating a matching hole to the one in her back.
Instinctively, I grab my dark angel, expecting a cliché fall to the floor. Adelaide appears unaltered and gently repels my unneeded assistance with a subtle hand gesture. Another shot explodes from the pistol. The window to the right of us shatters beneath the dark blinds. A small shaft of light bores into the room.
“Why won’t you die? Monster!” My mother’s voice is shrill, fear drenched, and desperate.
A series of additional shots ring out, some find their target, most pepper the surrounding plaster. After the brief onslaught the gun’s clip has been emptied and, sobbing, my mother drops it to the floor. Her eyes find mine and silently plead for mercy. Staring back I can recognize her agony, yet I offer no remedy. I recognize her as my mother, yet I feel no emotional connection to her. The burning sensation in my hand returns and reminds me that I am no longer the man I once was. I am part of Adelaide now, in a way I have yet to understand. I find myself trusting her fully, yet comprehending little of our situation.
Adelaide’s hand brings comfort as it rests on my shoulder. Her voice never changes. “We do not have much time.” She nods towards my mother.
“Time for what?”
“The gunshots will undoubtedly attract unwanted attention; you must complete your transformation. Join me.”
Flashes of a young Adelaide scream through my mind. My heart races in an effort to keep pace with my whirling mind. Staring at my mother I begin to see the corpse of a different woman. Shaking my head disperses the image and I am once again in Adelaide’s apartment. Unwittingly, I find myself arriving at answers.
My voice is slow, hesitant. “She…was your mother?”
“Yes,” she answers and for a moment I sense a twinge in her voice.
Flashes of Adelaide’s past flood my mind. Her mother lies dead on a barren floor. Young Adelaide, eyes of evening sky, clouded with sorrow, weeps at her side. I feel trapped, every ounce of hope stripped from my being. I have no escape, no salvation, and no end. At once I realize it is Adelaide’s emotions that are infiltrating my core, not my own.
I am no longer watching Adelaide as a voyeur, but looking through her eyes. I am her. Lying before me is the void corpse of my mother. Tears sting my eyes. I know, without a doubt, that I will soon join her in the endless journey of death. A dark urge boils within me. It whispers in my ear. Shaking my head, I look away. Death seems the better option, but I am unable to shake the voice within. The whisper becomes a roar, splitting my head in two.
Feeling like a stranger in my own body, I lunge at the once motherly figure. My teeth find flesh and I tear a mouthful free from its host. Chewing ravenously, my vision clears, and I feel invigorated. A strange power flows through me. As I thrust my open mouth towards my mother once more I am transported to the present.
Adelaide appears before me. Her darkened eyes shine despite the lack of light. I had fallen to my knees.
My throat is dry. “You…?”
“I had to.”
Nodding, I say that I understand, and I do.
Adelaide takes a step to her right and extends an open hand in the direction of the writhing person huddled in the corner. Our eyes meet and she nods softly. I return the acknowledgment and find myself at my mother’s side without remembering the journey.
My mother whimpers softly, with her knees pulled tight toward her forehead. I stand above her and experience what Adelaide felt watching her own mother die. It is not fear or sadness. It is not love or hate. An unknown feeling has crept into my head. I would describe it as need. Looking at her frail figure I find myself needing her.
I am not entirely certain of what my dark angel did to me or what evil courses through my veins. I should be as petrified as my mother. I should be screaming. Dread and horror should fill my being. My heart should be a runaway train. But it is not. None of it is. I have never been calmer. I know it is wrong. I do not care. I am discovering solace.
A pounding at the door steals the moment, another ill-timed interruption. My eyes find Adelaide’s. Neither of us makes a move.
“Mathias? Are you in there? Adelaide?” Caroline pounds on the door again. Then silence.
Adelaide makes a move towards the door, but my hand on her shoulder stops her. Gazes locked, I wordlessly urge her to reconsider involving my sister in our current situation. I find myself still capable of caring for her, if not for our mother. Adelaide nods and shies away from the door.
Caroline’s voice reaches us again. It is muffled now, difficult to decipher. Other voices join hers, barely audible, but present nonetheless. Numerous feet can be heard shuffling about on the hallway’s hardwood. Anxiety reintroduces itself, freezing my lungs and halting my heart. I stare urgently at Adelaide, looking for guidance.
Adelaide starts to mouth something, but the exploding front door fractures my concentration. Wood splinters spin into our space, arcing in a wide pattern from around the knob. Heavy boots, matching the print on the door, storm into the room.
Adelaide and I retreat to the far corner. A trio of gun barrels point at us, along with furled brows. Additional officers can be seen in the hallway, waiting to enter the crowded apartment, should the first three fall. The invaders take quick stock of the situation, their eyes coming to rest on their fallen comrade.
“On the ground! Now!” They all seem to be yelling in concert. I cannot distinguish a unique source.
I slowly lower myself towards the ground, but stop as Adelaide’s hand finds my arm and erects me with her inescapable strength. I am powerless to resist and stand terrified at her side, knowing I am going to die. We are going to die.
The first shot pierces my chest, through what must be my heart. Another finds my fearless partner, transecting her shoulder. The force spins her in my direction. She is smiling. She falls toward me, our bodies briefly entwining before coming to a rest on top of my mother. Reality fades and flickers. This must be my life flashing before my eyes. What a disappointment.
“Eat.” Adelaide’s soft voice plunges through my darkness.
Without commanding it, my teeth find purchase on my mother’s flesh. I neatly cleave meat from bone, swallowing a mouthful without chewing. It taste acrid, but I find it exhilarating. She is thrashing. I hardly notice. Something is growing within me. It is reminiscent of Adelaide’s bite, yet stronger, fiercer. Before I can continue, foreign hands wretch me from my feast and send me sprawling across the smooth floor.
“He bit her!”
Two officers make a move to secure me in handcuffs, but Adelaide’s power now flows fully through my veins, through my soul. The force with which I spring to my feet sends the grown men reeling in different directions. I adopt a menacing crouch, hands spread out to each side. Instinct has full reign over my actions. It feels predatory. It feels natural.
Six officers now occupy the small apartment in downtown Binghamton. Again I am faced with drawn firearms. They stand loosely clustered near the corner I previously occupied. Adelaide still lies face down. To my rear a lone female whimpers in the hallway. My eyes dart aggressively between each of the men facing me, all with the same dazed look. Six hearts race unrestrained. I can feel them. I can no longer feel my own.
Tendrils of strange energy weave about the room, rooting the men in place. Each is clearly unwilling to make a move. A hunger builds within me. Movement in the corner delays my attack. Dark eyes lock on mine and a smile curls the edges of my mouth. My dark angel. My Adelaide.
Adelaide’s fingers plunge into the first neck as if it were smoke. The body hits the floor before the other five take notice of the risen force behind them. It is my moment. I am upon my prey in an instant. Gunfire erupts. Bodies thrash. My hands crush bone, my teeth rend flesh. Adelaide and I are a spinning fury of rage. The taste of muscle and sinew flood my palate, and I grow more voracious.
Strong hands grasp my shoulders, halting the onslaught. Breathing heavily, almost gasping, my eyes focus on the figure in front of me. Adelaide’s face is inches from mine.
“We are done here, my love.” Her voice is unwavering, her breath calm.
I stare back for a moment, feeling the bloodlust fade. Carnage litters the room. Indecipherable mounds of dead flesh create a dark carpet. I cannot pick out a single individual in the wasteland we created. Crimson coats the scene. My dark angel and I drip with the life force of our prey.
“What are we?” My voice is calm, but I am exhilarated.
Adelaide smiles, and silhouettes my face with blood soaked hands. “We are gods.”
“Gods?! You’re not gods! You’re fucking monsters!” The distraught challenge comes from the hallway and ruins the moment.
Adelaide and I face the callous individual in the hallway. We both take a step towards her. Her eyes dart between us. She scrambles to her feet, pressing hard against the wall as if it were a sanctuary from our wrath. It is not.
Adelaide’s hand finds mine and our fingers entwine. They are tacky with blood. We are bound as one. We are a singular dark force.
Without turning she says, “Shall we split the brain?” Her voice is an endless opportunity.
A look of unadulterated horror masks the young girls face. The hand in mine squeezes tight.
Her name is Adelaide.
She is my dark angel.
She is my savior.
I am hers.