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They seemed pretty well-behaved for birds. They were just standing on her bed, preening themselves and walking around aimlessly. Their beady dark eyes looked back into my own as my ears were filled with rhythmic bustling of white noise. I felt like I needed to introduce myself to the birds or something. I didn't know even animals could make me feel social pressure.

Bunny turned around and went back to the entrance. "I'm going to go get Rose", she said. Before I had a chance to respond, she had already closed the door. I guess I'll stay here and wait for them.

I roamed out into the small living room and sat on the couch. It was firm, but not uncomfortable. It's anxious to be in someone else's house without them there. I don't even have one of those bead toys to take my mind off it. I close my eyes, listening to her AC run. God, she really has that thing cranked up. It's so loud that I think my ears will ring when I go back outside. It reminded me of the ocean. I went there once or twice as a child, family road trips. I always felt unbearably sandy on the way back. I cried when I got seaweed wrapped around my ankle. I think I still might. My beach towel was light yellow with bees on it. The smell, the sights, the taste in the air; it was all coming back to me. It was the sounds here that brought everything back, and yet it was the only aspect of the beach I wasn’t thinking about. It was because I didn’t need to, it’s right here. This third-story apartment sounds exactly like waves crashing on the shore at high tide. Is this why she does it, to transport herself to the beach?

LAMB

It might be worth the cold goosebumps on her skin all day.

LAMB

I’m glad I wore my hoodie, but I’m always glad I wore it; so I always do.

LAMB

LAMB LAMB

Okay. Introspective monologue on hold. I have no idea why I’m thinking about lamb. I’ve never touched one, never eaten one, and have only ever seen them with the most passing interest.

LAMB LAMB

BEEP

LAMB

I want to think about the beach. Let’s go back to the shore, please. I want to play volleyball and step into the water.

BEEP BEEP

LAMB

I opened my eyes.

BEEP

There were two doves standing on my lap.

BEEP

One standing on each thigh. They’re so light, I didn’t notice at all.

The left one was holding my left hoodie string in its beak.

BEEP

The right one was holding my right hoodie string in its beak.

LAMB

They were pulling on them, as birds tend to do with strings.

LAMB BEEP

I think they’re the source of the intrusive thoughts in my brain.

LAMB

When the left one pulled, I thought about beeping. When the right one pulled-

LAMB

-I thought about lambs.

BEEP

BEEP BEEP

LAMB BEEP

Yeah.

That’s what it is.

LA-

I gently pushed them off my body onto the couch cushions. They cooed a bit in protest, but ultimately seemed to respect my decision. I began to tug on my own hoodie strings, but nothing happened. I tried it harder, softer, in rhythm; yet no abstract sounds or farm animals are being invited onto my mind’s center stage.

I didn’t have much more time for extra experimentation before the front door slammed open. It was Bunny with Rose behind her. She must have actually found her somewhere. The short, seemingly disgruntled girl walked directly towards the back, while the tall apartment-owner closed and locked her front door.

“Hi Mina.”

“Hi.”

I didn’t know what else to say. Rose didn’t know what to say either; or if she did, she wasn’t saying it. Surprisingly, Bunny was the one to break the silence.

“Why are there birds?”

“Oh, these are my, uh, pets.”

We stared at her for a moment.

“My pet... sacrificial doves.”

Rose motioned around her apartment with her hands saying “I don’t own this place, I just rent it. A temporary contract. Same concept, but with animals.”

Bunny’s thick brows furrowed in a rare act of personality.

“You’re going to kill them?”

“Not kill, sacrifice. I’m just letting Choronzon do what he wants with them. Which, ya know, is probably killing them and bathing in their blood. Or something.”

I figured this was my cue to chime in.

“Is that what you’re going to do with me, too?”

“Hah, no. You’re not the offering. You’re more like the burning bush.”

“You’re going to light me on fire?”

“No, it was just a saying. And no one actually lit the burning bush, it was already- nevermind. Look, I get that you’re upset. I probably wouldn’t like it if someone forced satan into my brain either. It was just really, super, necessary.”

I wanted to ask for clarification, but I knew it wasn’t that easy.

“How much are you going to tell me?”

“How much do you actually want to know? I’m not trying to be coy. Think about it.”

 

If I say ‘I want to know everything’, I might really regret it. She’s burned me with her over-information before. I don’t know how much I can take, especially if it’s about myself. I thought about what exactly I wanted to know, or more specifically, what I didn’t want to know. Meanwhile, Bunny was busy playing with the doves or something.

 

“Okay, Rose. First question: I’ve been seeing weird things lately. A lot of text doesn’t look the same to me as it does to others. Is that related to all this?”

“Probably, if indirectly. It certainly wasn’t something I meant to do. It’s probably just some weird effect of being host to a demon.”

“A host? Like to a parasite?”

“Yeah. It’s mostly a spiritual thing, but it drips into the physical world in strange ways. Thinking of heaven and earth as being separate is convenient, but it’s not true. Same with body and mind. They’re different ways of looking at the same thing.”

 

“Okay… Uh, next question: How did you learn to make me a host? Why is that something you know how to do?”

“I’ve studied magick for a long time. Summoning angels and demons isn’t hard work, you do it all the time without realizing. Making them actually do things is the hard part. Firstly, they don’t really exist. They aren’t corporeal, not made of waves and particles like us. There’s no way for them to interact with physical objects by themselves. They have to be flashed into something. Something like a crystal pendulum, a mass-manufactured Ouija board, or a nerdy girl you met in class that wears the same hoodie everyday. Once the demon is inside of something, it can start to take effect. Real, tangible effects.”

I wiped the sweat off my clammy hands onto the inner sleeves of the same hoodie I wear every day. “W-what sort of effects are you hoping for?”

“That’s a question you don’t want the answer to. But I can promise, it is only to benefit you.”

Before I could ask, she continued.

 

“Summoning demons into an inanimate object or small animals isn’t that hard, but people are pretty difficult. Our minds are too dense, endless thoughts and words and feelings clouding any sort of potential entry point. You have to make them go blank, make them quit thinking. That’s the art of hypnotism. I’ve tried the classic ‘keep your eyes on my watch’ before. It’s unintrusive, but it’s too unreliable. The single most effective, efficient, and dependable form of hypnosis is trauma. It’s a scar in your mind, an off-switch that I can press at any time. That’s why I write so much for you. And you know, It’s not easy on me, either. The number of autopsies I’ve read, the gruesome images I’ve studied to pinpoint accuracy, the emotional labor required to devote so much time to you… It’s numbing. You might think I’m cruel, in the way that a caveman might think of a surgeon. Would he understand that a scalpel deep under the skin is healing? That blood on his hands is cause for joy? Does the caveman, hell, does even the patient understand the pain of a doctor? In the end, it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to understand. You don’t need to understand. You’re lying on my operating table, I’ve applied my anesthesia, and now your operation is underway. When you finally awake, you'll be- wait, where are you going?”

 

"I'm going outside."

“Don’t you want to hear the rest of my monologue first?”

“No.”

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