Will it hurt?
Yes. Iktomi's voice echoed through my mind. I could tell he wasn't joking this time. It was too late to turn back now; I had already started toward Kimberly with a type of ferocity not possible for a mere human, but I guess that would make sense wouldn't it? I was fading, fading back.
A dream catcher is an object charged with the energy of a novelty gift shop. A yard sale's wet dream item. How lucky I was that my new neighbors were moving away that fine Saturday evening. They had only been there for a month or so, but I couldn't blame them for such a sudden departure. Life here sucks.
I am a second hand child in the private school party of Saint Anselm Christian School. A girl of my word, right, responsibility, and a stock clerk at Haden's Market. It's a lot of heavy lifting for a girl of my size, but it's a job. That is the reason I have two dollars in my pocket. It is just coincidence that this raggedy dream catcher cost just that.
"I'll take this." I handed the thing to the daughter of the family.
"Thanks, Taylor. Every little bit helps." She removed the sticker.
"If you don't mind me asking why are you guys moving so soon after arriving here." She paused in her task of stashing away the whole two dollars the junk cost. It was like she was debating the reasoning herself.
"Honestly, something is just wrong with the house. We are going to start new. Starting over was the best thing we could have done. I don't really want to talk about it more."
"Oh sorry." I caught myself thinking how weird that was; even awkward to some extent. The house had been empty sometime up to when they moved in. The owners before this last set were real creeps my mom said. I didn't remember them though because I was about seven at the time, and didn't care to notice. Somehow it wasn't surprising to hear.
"Well thanks; I'm going to go home now." I was done with this. Too much yard selling for me, and I waved at her as I walked across the street and into my humble home.
My bedroom was the first door on the left down the hallway adjacent from the bathroom. My younger brother Eli sat in the living room staring at the Television as I walked past him to get there. He barely noticed me except to ridicule my new decoration. It was old and gaudy, it was true, but I didn't need to hear it from him. I marched on ignoring him which suited him just fine.
One nail, one hammer, and an ugly dream catcher made for an amusing ten seconds as I fought to keep my balance on my bed. Purple sheets and spotted pillows became more like snakes wrapped around my feet the higher I reached. When the deed was done it hung in place looking almost gallant upon the wall. Stepping down I admired it for a passing glance. Then I went about the normal nights routine before returning to bed.
When sleep finally came it was harsh. I knew the people, but the people had no faces. It was my mother, and father nestled up on the couch faceless beckoning me to join. I was intrigued instead of scared. I should have been scared. I sat beside them and felt their arms wrap around me. I counted eight of them.
My eyes were open in a second. There he was. He was glorious, hovering on top of me. My hands reached to cover my mouth incase I might scream, but I didn't. I wasn't scared. I cannot describe it accurately, overwhelmed and enlightened maybe. Eight mangled limbs of black and a smiling mouth full of teeth were his most awesome attributes. He seemed civilized though
"Are you Scared?" he asked.
"N-no." I faltered. He crawled back into the shadows sulking. I sat up wishing to keep an eye on the creature.
"You dare lie to Iktomi? Master manipulator and giver of wishes?" He sounded playful.
"No, I am overwhelmed." Explaining can only do so much when you are reasoning with a giant spider.
"You should be. Did you know that the Gods wield to Iktomi?"
"I know only of one god."
Appearing suddenly in my face he showboated. "Do you know of demons then?" He smiled. I couldn't help but smile back. It was as if I was dreaming, and I remembered the neighbors.
"You made the neighbors leave."
"They feared my power. They don't believe in good from magic," he traced one of his foremost legs against my cheek softly, "So I gave them the worst."
"I am not afraid of you." he purred pleasantly, which admittedly was the most frightening thing he had done yet.
"Then you may have a reward, and if you do not take it you may have the worst."
That is how this began. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I prayed that this magic would not damn my soul, but I didn't want to be my own damnation. Rather the hand of god at another's insistence then that of my own. I simply told my new friend Iktomi I didn't need a wish. At first he was angry with my wit, but he resolved this by following me around everywhere.
It turned out that Iktomi was a shape shifter, and when he didn't want to be ethereal he could fit any form he wanted. He was a giant arachnid only when he was trying to make an impression. The company was nice with all things in mind. It took about three weeks of following me everywhere before he lived up to his title.
I was at work on a Wednesday evening pulling fruit juices to the front of the shelves. I felt a presence over my shoulder. My heart pounded like it might explode. I knew who it was. Iktomi couldn't touch the aura of a true monster. She had been my best friend in grade school before the Christian Academy stole me away for a grueling six years.
A dark mantra, seemingly prefect pale skin on a slender frame with hair like night, and eyes fixed up just right to complement their blue hue is what she was. Her manner was quiet and polite, really beautiful. The thing that tore us apart I could hear in the isle over. Her boyfriend of almost six years was vile, abusive, loud, and he smelled like ass. He would rob and lie with any given chance, and I thought she could do so much better. I wished better for her. I knew on her finger rested a ring of insignificant value he had won from a vending machine, or worse. Maybe if he had a job or if he even cared for Kimberly he would satisfy my expectations, but he never did and he never would.
"Hi Taylor." She spoke softly. Her icy eyes watched me cautiously rise and wipe my dusty hands on my khaki slacks. I sighed, waiting for the nice moment to end and the beast to arrive. My demon watched eagerly among the Sunny-D and Orange juices.
"Hey Kim. It's good to see you." I flashed her a smile which lit her face up in acknowledgement of human kindness. I missed her. Even though she looked much different than she did in fifth grade I could still see her climbing up the monkey bars and resting her back along the hard metal in the warm gleam of the sun. She followed the hem of her black skirt with her fingers. Her chest lifted comfortably.
"Kim baby! Where are you?" he swaggered over to the juice isle carrying a half drank soda in one hand and his flatbill hat in the other. He looked stupid. He was stupid, and cruel.
"Why are you talking to this dyke? Nice slacks bitch." He laughed an annoying guttural mule-like guffaw. He was like cotton in my mouth. He handed me his pop, grabbed Kim, and forced her out of the store. Instantly she was gone, without even a goodbye, just like it always had been. Discouraged I paid for the soda and finished my shift in silence.
Later that night I was playing around on my computer when Iktomi spoke up. "Would you like to save her?"
"What do you mean save her?"
"He is going to kill her. I've seen it, and I saw your interest in her friendship. She is one you idolize. Are you willing to forsake her?" I couldn't help but be shocked. How dare he speak such things, even as the master of trickery? Then again Derek was awful, but he wasn't that awful. Was he?
"If he was going to kill her yes, but I have no reason to believe that he will. Besides what could I do anyway? Even with your help I wouldn't know a specific thing to wish for. So you can just forget about it." My demon cackled before regressing into the dark of my room. He was watching me, though, and he conveyed the message clear. He was not going to let it go. I had no idea my demise lay before me.
Sleep came so easily this night. The body was hers but the face was faceless. She beckoned me to the blanket beside her, and I chatted while she listened. We enjoy the meadow of my dreams fully, and I was at peace. It was the most tantalizing of feeling, warm and floral like a scent. Her dress was covered in black lace and complimented the natural couture of her body. She motioned me closer as if she would whisper a secret to me. I got nervous, but slide in beside her regardless. I could feel warm breath on my cheek and lips that belonged to a faceless bride parted slightly, and I turned, and she kissed me. It was soft, unlike any kiss I had received from the countless boyfriends I had had in the past. My shameful friendship had developed into an unorthodox crush. This could be the work of only one.
I woke with a jump. The room was dark and the shadow of Iktomi sat on the corner of my bed. He placed a well developed finger to his gapping mouth and hushed me. He whispered calmly.
"I have fixed everything," he said, "please look." The lights flickered at his command. Blind I squinted to make sense of everything. My room had changed, looking chillingly similar to my brothers. Gray hues accented with dark blues. The basic concept of the things in it was the same, same computer, same small bed, but other small things had been completely altered such as my perfumes.
I looked at my hands thick and vein lined. The fat content of my body had been altered. As stick thin as I was before I was much more lanky now, and taller. My little breasts were no more, which honestly was not much of a loss in the first place.
"Oh my god." I couldn't even comprehend my new voice. He had done something to me that could not be understood by my mortal mind. I had transcended. I was something completely different then I had been. I stood on shaky knees, and took my first steps to the mirror upon my newly redecorated desk. A baby face was still a bit more stern then my normally feminine features. Only my hair remained similar being short enough that it could not be tied back, but long enough to be unisex. "I'm a guy." Suddenly I was angry. "Why the hell would you do this?"
"Only you can save her. This is the best way, I've seen it."
"Change me back!"
"You do not get two wishes just one. I even fixed it to where everyone in your day to day life only remembers you as male. I went to all the trouble, but if you are that upset I will make you a deal." The attention to detail was impressive but I didn't care at the moment.
"If you try this for a week and do not like it I'll change you back and leave you alone."
"Deal, I better not get damned for this. Fuck you Iktomi." I crawled back into bed with my new identity. I couldn't sleep when the lights flickered out so I cried until the tears ran out. When that happened resigned myself for a week of maledom and hoped it wouldn't be horrible.
When morning came the routine was actually quite similar. My family didn't think it was weird that I came down out of the left door a boy. In fact they commented on my oddly careful behavior as if I had always been okay with being of the wrong gender. I went to school and sat through seven hours of painfully boring junior level classes. No one thought I was any different then usually. The other kids even talked to me calling me Taylor just like any other day.
After school I drove to work to pick up some mix to make a chocolate cake. Today had been much too weird for a healthy diet. I slipped inside trying not to call attention to myself even though it would not have mattered. My demon followed behind as we were not on talking terms yet. He observed with a smile as I removed the powdered pleasure from the shelf.
"What are you smiling at?" I rolled my eyes, still unsure of the deeper voice that escaped my vocal cords.
"Oh I'm sorry. I didn't know I was smiling. I'm sorry. I just…" My stomach sank. The new strong fingers became weak releasing the mix into gravity's care. Iktomi had known all along. Kim stood babbling apologetically for something she had not done. She was just here last night, my worried mind raced, why was she back?
"No no! I'm sorry," I tried to convey erratically with my hands, "I was talking to myself." I sounded like an idiot. "You know, why are you doing that me, I don't know me what's it to you?" I panted like a dog tortured by the inability to forget the vivid dream I had had just the night before. She giggled lit up by my attention as lame as it was.
"Yeah I get it. I always argue with myself. You dropped your cake mix." She pointed to the floor.
"Oh shit! I mean oops. Gah, I am messing this up." comfortingly I rubbed the back of my own neck while finally picking up the item of my fancy from the ground.
"I don't think so." She reached her hand out to be shaken. "I'm Kim. It's nice to meet you." I touched her, and instantly her electricity pulsed through me. I was unnerved with sweaty hands and chills.
"Huh, I know a girl named Taylor. She's sweet just like you." I can't remember which stood out more the fact she remembered me as a girl, or that she called me sweet. I'm going to explode with adoration. We talked for a while as if she had always known me. She had always known me, but not like this. She told me about herself and I responded in kind. After what seemed like hours I knew everything I already knew, except Derek. She hadn't even mentioned him.
"Well it's getting late we probably should go." She finished.
"Yeah," I agreed but as she began to say goodbye I shouted out, "Wait, could I maybe get your number. Like it would be nice to chat more you are very interesting, and I am so so awkward." We both laugh anxiously.
"Sure I'd like that." The numbers rolled off of her tongue fast. This is a step more than the friendship we had had yesterday. It would be nice to be able to talk to her. She disappeared to the checkout counter and eventually out the doors, but we talked all night on the phone.
She liked the way I listened. She said I was unlike any other boy she had ever met, and after a couple of weeks she told me I made her feel better than Derek could. She told me how terrible he really was, and I truly had no idea. So we started to meet and watch movies or other things to that extent.
One night she snuck over to my house. She knocked on my window beaten and crying. She didn't even have to tell me what happened. I asked to leave him, to which she disclosed in me her fear of being alone. Even if it wasn't a hint I took it that way. I asked her to be with me. I promised her that I would never let anything happen to her. Then she kissed me. It was soft like in the dream so many nights ago. I held her until she fell asleep. She had no idea of Iktomi's existence, but I was thankful in this moment, to his magic and his watchful eye. He sat smiling in the corner of my room as always never actually leaving my alone.
In the morning she snuck out the window once more, and later I received a call from her. She was done with Derek and at this point was all mine. I welled with happiness, later that day we made love. Even in eternity I will not forget those days. I will retain those memories past the blackness of the current situation.
It had been almost a month since she left Derek, but he plagued us threateningly. By this point he had figured out where I went to school and worked and made a point to take out his frustrations at me stealing his possession. He tried the same with Kim. I refreshed my promise almost daily.
One day she did not return my calls. I could feel the ominous air surround me. Iktomi sat still in the entry way of my house solemn.
"Something is wrong, "I said not caring if anyone heard me, "help me find her. Please."
"Mortal, do you wish to save her?" I could remember his words on my last night as a girl. He will kill her. This had stopped nothing. This had not been my wish just a kind spirits way of relieving my aching life. I didn't wait to answer I dropped my phone on the carpet and bolted out of the door. It was rain outside which seemed fitting. I let the Demon control my body as I entered the car. Before I could blink I was careening down unmarked roads getting terribly lost, but trusting in a feeling. I trusted in my wish and my promise.
Derek was there with either tears or rain running down his dirt face. He was obviously high on something. Below him covered in mud with her ripped clothing barely hanging on was my beloved. She begged for her life while staring down the barrel of a gun at point blank range. I shouted for mercy.
"Good, now prince charming is here to watch is slut gets her mother fucking brains blown onto the ground."
"Derek this is insane." You can't reason with evil. He looked at me with furry in his eyes. She slipped while rising to run. Turning her back to him so fled but to no avail she didn't make it far before the shot rang out.
Iktomi please, give me my wish.
My feet ran impossibly fast and I could feel the wings at my back. My transcendence, I had always been her guardian angel. Fiery bullets shot into the air, and I was not meant to interfere. I was a simple human, a simple girl of forgotten lives and misunderstandings of my purpose. It took a demon to release my full potential. I preferred being her lover, her knight in shining armor, but even the best things come to an end.
Will it hurt?
Yes. Iktomi's voice echoed through my mind.
What will become of me?
Nothing. You will become nothing, are you prepared to do this?
I am. I launched my body onto hers, grabbing her from behind and holding her still. I whispered that I loved her as much as anything can love. All my voices came out as one and she responded knowing me as only 'Taylor' both her young best friend and lover of her life. The golden gleam of the sun released in me encasing her, but leaving her with a single black feather, the remnants of a soul decreased from existence. Derek lay dead on the ground, a bullet to the jealous heart.
Kimberly said I jumped off a bridge into water. They couldn't find a body so it remained a mystery to all but her. Iktomi followed her devotedly no longer under the guise of the dream catcher. I became devoid and the best I can describe it is an instant of being everything, and an eternity of being nothing both stretching into infinity at the same time. No heaven, no hell, and no more dreams.