Gathering himself, Mark turned down the hallway and walked to Jeromy’s room. It had been all afternoon he had been locked in his room, and though Mark did not think he was hungry or bored, he did fear that Jeromy’s powers had continued hurting him and no one had come for him all day. Mark had little fear in his mind but still it was there and as he entered the room slowly, and cautiously looked around for the boy.
Jeromy was not in bed, Mark could see from the door that he was not under his bed to be thankful, but he couldn’t be seen anywhere else. It was not until Mark was in the middle of the room that he found Jeromy curled up in the corner under his desk covering his ears as tightly as he could. “Jeromy?” Mark addressed him worried as he crept closer and knelt down to him where he hid.
The bands on Jeromy’s arms were glowing brightly under the darkened desk, and eyes were wide in fear, refusing to fall asleep even though he was exhausted. His eyes jumped to Mark without turning up his face eerily. “Are you alright?” Mark asked him concerned but in a kind tone. Jeromy shook his head slowly denying him altogether. Slowly Mark tried to help him up, “Do you what me to—”
“—Stay away!” Jeromy screamed suddenly from the back of his throat with all his breath in fear. He pressed himself up against the wall crying and gritting his teeth. Mark could see it in Jeromy’s eyes, he was hallucinating and for all he knew from Jeromy’s perspective he was in Hell.
Slowly, to not make any sudden movements, Mark laid his hand on Jeromy’s wrist causing the child to scream at him again, “Stay away from me!” at the top of his lungs. When he tried to pull away Mark grabbed his wrist tightly to hold him still as gently he pressed his hand over Jeromy’s eyes.
Mark didn’t bother telling him to calm down, it wouldn’t work instead he waited until Jeromy stopped struggling and screaming long enough for him to listen. Mark shushed him benevolently watching as Jeromy’s breathing slowed as he calmed down on his own. “What you see is not real,” he assured, “it’s not real!”
Mark could feel Jeromy’s tears in his palm as he whimpered weakly, uttering nearly inaudibly, “Blood…” his strength to fight Mark relinquished, “there’s blood everywhere…”
“No there isn’t,” Mark insisted, “You’re hallucinating, it’s not real, I promise!” holding his hands over Jeromy’s eyes and releasing his hand to draw him out of the corner.
Jeromy’s arms ignited into bright bands of light as he shrieked, “NO!!!” his hand flew on its own striking Mark as hard as his small body could. Light burst between Mark and Jeromy in a combination of Shadow Fires, and Jeromy tensed pressing himself up against the wall as his hand turned black as ash.
The brightness on Mark’s neck where he had been struck faded gradually, now he hated Combinations because he didn’t have Shadow Feather to negate it. “Jeromy!” he addressed firmly, “you have to stop this, if you have to bury your fear inside you or fake it, you can’t act like this!” he shouted at the child pressing his hand over the boy’s eyes again.
Jeromy sobbed audibly crying as he sank to the floor curling up on his side. Mark released his eyes considerately to help him calm down and reverted to stroking his shoulder as he kept his eyes pinned shut knowing now it helped. “It’s not real!” Mark insisted in a calm, caring voice, “You’re afraid of nothing…”
Suddenly, Jeromy’s eyes opened quickly hearing that phrase and he stopped crying even though his tears kept flowing. What he was afraid of… was nothing? Nothing in him understood how Mark could imply that. What physical thing was he afraid of? Nothing? It couldn’t be. Jeromy’s thoughts spiraled, unable to formulate and full thought or understanding.
Mark forced him to sit up and gazed deeply into his eyes, “I want you to get up and walk around. I want you to go to the other Shadows and talk to them. They’re on your side. We all are! If you’re afraid of something real to you, help them understand what it is, and know that they can protect you from it!”
Jeromy cringed, gritting his teeth as the tears welled, “You don’t understand!” he cried bitterly, “this is bigger than all of us, and it’s inside me, it’s going to hurt the Shadows and I don’t know how to stop it!”
Mark sat down against the wall with him, “I’ve dealt with a lot of big things in the Shadows, I’m the Overseer after all. I have no doubt in my mind that I can help you.”
Jeromy covered his ears adamantly not listening to him, “that’s why you can’t you’re the Overseer, this isn’t your problem!”
Holding Jeromy in his arms tenderly, Mark gripped him tightly to give him a sense of security, “Then you need to tell us how to find Jethro and go find him!” he instructed firmly.
Jeromy shook his head pulling on his hair, “I can’t!” he bawled, “My siblings knew what’s inside me, that’s why they’re gone, they know how dangerous I am and what my purpose is!”
Mark tried to get him to stand up, carrying him to sit on his bed because Jeromy refused to walk, “All the more reason you should tell us how to find them.” Mark took his shoulders and looked him in the face, “But still, I want you to walk out of this room by yourself, bury your fear inside you and go talk to the Shadows. You’ll feel better if you let some of this out!”
After this, Mark stood up straight and grinned slightly, “I can’t force you to do anything, you’re just going to have to pull yourself up on your two feet,” he stated and proceed to walk out of Jeromy’s room, leaving the door unlocked.
Jeromy’s eyes remained wide open, before him he saw several inches of blood covering the floor, blood on his clothes, blood on his hands, blood in his eyes. Still he had to convince himself it wasn’t real. Slowly, and shakily he stood up from bed and took a step forward. His mind played tricks on him giving him visions of all the Shadows around him, dead on the floors at his hand.
He closed his eyes because not seeing it calmed him slightly, with his eyes closed he took a step forward and to his surprise he did not feel the splash of the thick blood between his toes, just the bare floor. Gulped he confirmed in his heart, the terrifying things he was seeing were not real.
THE SHADOWS: Purification
Chapter 10 “Self Destructiveness”