Saturday, 31 October

I am writing this on my laptop on the floor of my front room where I have been sat all afternoon in an inconsolable flood of tears. The world around me is descending into madness and it is rapidly dragging me down with it. I don’t know who to go to for help and I feel painfully alone, terribly confused and very, very scared.

I agreed to meet Amber for lunch at midday today. To be honest, the last thing that I feel like doing at the moment is eating or engaging in polite conversation, but she has been pestering me with inquisitive text messages and phone calls and I thought that if I could satisfy her concern - or more likely her curiosity - then she would be one less thing to worry about. I think she got the message that I wasn’t feeling particularly sociable from my distant behaviour over lunch. She fawned over me and made a series of pathetic noises until our food arrived and then she took to questioning me incessantly about how I was feeling. Eventually I snapped “I’m fine!” and we sat in silence as she watched me nervously twist my salad leaves around my fork. Very few people have ever dared to lose their temper with Amber so she looked quite shocked and didn't know what to say for once, but fortunately rather than fly into an angry strop or a childish sulk she simply adopted her concerned voice and calmly asked how I was coping without Alex. I reassured her that Alex was the least of my troubles, which prompted her to enquire if anything else was bothering me. How are the preparations for the start of my postgraduate course progressing? Am I up-to-date with my bills? When did I last speak to my family? She persisted with every conceivable question until I eventually gave in to her prying, however rather than reveal the true cause of my malaise, I spat out “it’s just a silly disagreement that I had with Leonard about working hours, that’s all.”

Leonard rarely enters into my conversations with Amber and she deliberately avoids any mention of him or our work together. At first I assumed that she was jealous of our friendship and she was worried that Leonard might replace her as my closest friend and confidant, but it has become apparent over time that her jealousy is founded on her all-consuming desire for attention; she would desperately love to sit for an artist and adorn the walls of a public gallery for all to see, although I doubt that she would ever be truly satisfied until she was the main attraction at the Louvre. However on this particular occasion she was keen to engage in a serious discussion about Leonard, leaning forwards in her chair, furrowing her brow and nodding furiously. I realised that she was only interested to hear my criticisms of him and she would probably seek to manipulate the situation in order to sour my friendship with Leonard, but I needed someone to talk to and Amber’s ear was as good as any.

“So what’s the problem with the hours that you’re working?” she asked.
“Well, to be honest, it’s not just the hours…”
“Then what else?”
I paused and rested my fork on the plate. I had lost my appetite.
“He trusted me with a secret...something very precious that no-one should know...and I’ve told someone.”
“Can you tell me?”
“No, but I think I might already have...”

I was reluctant to pursue this line of questioning any further and so I dismissed my comment and told her that I missed the enjoyable conversations that I had with Leonard and I did not want our friendship to come to an end over such a silly misunderstanding, to which she looked a little hurt and I could see the whiny protest on the tip of her tongue - ‘but what about our conversations? Are they not enjoyable enough?’. We finished our meals in silence and then Amber did something extremely out of character; she made a genuine and heartfelt attempt to find out more about Leonard and to resolve our disagreement.

“So when did you last speak with him?”
“About three weeks ago now...”
“Oh right. I’m sure everything will be ok and he will be back in touch soon.’”
“I hope so…”
“I’m sure of it,” she smiled, then asked “how did the two of you end up working together anyway?”
“It just kind of happened,” I answered, “we met at a funeral back in December last was a young man who had died suddenly…a friend of his…I can’t remember his name or cause of death…”

Suddenly I was silenced mid-sentence as though God Himself had held my tongue. I froze in my seat and the sickening nausea that swept over me was akin to the dizzying shock of witnessing a horrific accident. Amber looked puzzled and she asked a question, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. And neither did I hear my response. Nothing in the world was more important than my thought processes at that very moment. Not even breathing. A myriad of thoughts were slowly crystallising in my mind and causing my chest to tighten and my throat to constrict. Everything around me felt unreal, like the fracturing of reality upon hearing of the death of a loved one, and then a tidal wave of memories flooded through me and everything began to fall into place…

Making my excuses, I snatched my coat from the back of the chair and stood to leave. Amber grabbed at my arm and asked if I was ok and I remember promising to call her, handing her a note from my purse to cover the cost of our lunch and quickly running out of the cafĂ© before she could question me any further. My head was buzzing as I hurried through the busy high street in the centre of town and I was in an absolute daze, tripping over myself and repeatedly bumping into people. I turned a sharp corner and let out a loud shriek as I collided with a tall man who was dressed from head-to-toe in a skeleton outfit. I apologised for almost knocking him over, to which he smiled, apologised in return and handed me a flier for a club night and as I read the words ‘’Trick or Treat’ on the flier in my hand I realised that today is 31st October. All Hallow's Eve. And when I looked around myself I saw that the main street was full of Halloween festivities; the shop window of the large department store was dressed with cotton wool spider webs and mannequin ghosts and witches, the pavement was heaving with stalls from a Psychic Fair and devils with red painted faces and sequin horns weaved through the crowds offering to paint children’s faces to resemble all kinds of monsters, complete with white face paint, ugly scars and blood-stained lips.

I’m normally resilient to most shocks and scares but – although I am embarrassed to admit it - I confess that I was slightly disturbed by the ghoulish activity that was taking place around me and I found myself hurrying through the city centre while staring down at the pavement like a scared little girl. The line between fantasy and reality was blurring in my mind and the costumes and make-up didn’t feel like fakery. Each spook and monster that I encountered seemed very real indeed. I tried to cut myself off visually from my surroundings but when I succeeded in doing so I only descended further into my mental torments and as my body wound unconsciously through the crowds I began dredging up every forgotten memory of my afternoons spent at Elmfield House and desperately searching for clues, any indications that my suspicions were real. My mind was racing and I couldn't stop it. I was remembering half sentences and throwaway comments that Luke and Leonard had made to me or to each other and they seemed to take on a whole new meaning. And the more memories that I evoked, the more my fears fell squarely into place. Leonard’s obsession with the body after death. Luke's lessons on deification and magical resurrection. Their mutual obsession with immortality. Luke's physical state and our co-dependent relationship…

People passed by in a haze and the bus ride home felt by far the longest journey that I have ever taken. In fact I cannot recall getting off the bus or walking the short distance to the flat. Arriving home, I burst through the door, threw my keys onto the table in the hallway and ran into the front room. Tipping my black leather music bag onto the floor, I searched frantically through the papers for the yellow funeral service booklet that Leonard had written his phone number on when we first met. And there it was. Thank God I hadn’t thrown it away. ‘A Service of Remembrance for Lucas James -------.’ I felt numb when I saw the first name but the surname was unfamiliar. What was Luke’s surname? Did Leonard ever mention it? I sat cross-legged amongst the music books that were strewn across the floor and thumbed through the booklet desperately searching for photographs, poems or readings. Anything that was related to the deceased. But, aside from the words to Amazing Grace and All Things Bright and Beautiful, it was a blank service sheet.

I have experienced every stage of insanity while sitting on the floor of my front room this afternoon. I’m clutching the funeral service sheet as if it is the centre of my world and reading it over and over as though it contains the meaning of life written in minuscule print. The awful feelings of confusion and disbelief that I am experiencing are similar, I expect, to discovering that a close friend, neighbour or family member has committed a serious crime; it is a fresh doubt of everyone that I hold dear and a suspicion that everyone I trust is somehow deceiving me and laughing behind my back. And I am filled with sickening disgust each time I wonder whether my suspicions are correct. I cannot believe that I am seriously considering the possibility. It honestly feels as though I am sat here beside myself, looking at my physical body and watching the madness that is growing inside me. And the thought that I am losing my mind is what causes me to cry the hardest. After all, what kind of sick, mental state do I find myself in when I believe that I have known a man for almost twelve months after attending his funeral?

The homecoming

Monday, 25 October

I woke around 7am on Saturday morning to the roar of traffic outside the bedroom window and the sound of Amber preparing breakfast in the kitchen. It was my last morning in Amber’s spare room and I was extremely tired as I had spent most of the night lying awake and worrying about returning home, so I closed my eyes again to salvage a few extra minutes of sleep and conserve my energy for the confrontation that no doubt awaited me back at the flat. I drifted in and out of consciousness for a while and eventually fell asleep, but when I woke again the transitory moment between waking and sleeping was extended sufficiently for me to realise that I was not alone in my bed. I could feel a weight beside me and the eyes of someone watching me. At first I thought that Amber had come to wake me, but as I opened my eyes and focused fully I saw that Amber was nowhere to be seen and instead there was a strange figure lying by my side. I was not alarmed at first because the figure resembled a mannequin: it was recognisably human but it had no hair or facial features and its entire body was as smooth as marble and the purest shade of white. It lay on my right side, slightly bent over me and supporting itself on its left arm that rested underneath my head, but I could not feel the arm beneath me. At first I thought that Amber was playing a trick on me, but when I saw its chest move and the energy of a human presence began to emanate from it I realised that the figure was very much alive. 

I tried to sit up but I quickly discovered that I was frozen to the bed in my usual cataleptic state. However I was not alarmed. Although my heart was thundering in my chest and I was tingling from head to foot from the shock of being in such close proximity to something entirely supernatural, I felt safe and secure as I lay cradled in its arms and there was an unspoken understanding between us that assured me that I would come to no harm. And then, as I considered the reasons for why the figure had appeared to me and why I felt such a strong connection with it, I was suddenly seized by a familiar presence that made me dizzyingly euphoric and simultaneously sick to my stomach. My body was released from its frozen state and I shot upright in bed and called out ‘Daniel! Daniel!’, but the figure had gone. I was extremely distressed by its sudden disappearance and I almost broke down into tears, but at the same time I was filled with absolute exhilaration and the widest smile stretched across my face. Of all the disturbing creatures that I have encountered over the last eight months, this is the first time that I have been grateful for such a visit and even now, as I recall the sight of the apparition and the feelings of warm affection that radiated from it, I am filled with the most comforting sense of reassurance. 

Unfortunately my good mood did not last for long as I returned to the flat later that day to discover that Alex had left; his bags had gone, his wardrobe was empty and all his belongings were missing from around the flat. I can’t blame him for leaving because I expect that he is as scared and confused as I am. But something far more upsetting was awaiting my arrival. 

On the mat behind the front door was a large envelope. It had been hand delivered as there was no address on the front, just four words that were written in a familiar calligraphic script: ’To my dear muse'. It was from Leonard. Ripping open the envelope I was both relieved and horrified to see the corner of my notebook. Without doubt, he had read it. I took out the notebook and opened it to find one simple word written in the margin of the first page:

The sick feeling that I have carried with me since making this discovery could be compared to the crippling guilt of being caught cheating by a lover. I desperately need to speak to Leonard and explain my actions but I am afraid that he will chastise me terribly for disobeying everything that he has taught me. Not knowing what he is thinking right now is absolute torture. I can only wait and pray that he will forgive me.

False to faith, or strange to you

Friday 22 October

I could not completely shake the feelings of nausea and the dull ache in my neck and shoulder as I walked along the street and I was certainly not in the right frame of mind to make my apologies to Leonard, so I abandoned my journey to Elmfield House and returned home. When I arrived back at the flat I found Alex busily packing his bags and, as I stood in the bedroom door watching him stuff his clothes and belongings into his rucksack, I was possessed by a liberating sense of indifference. I no longer wanted to fight to keep us together. I really didn't give a damn.

“I’ll need your keys if you’re leaving.”
Alex stopped emptying the drawers and answered sharply, “babe, I’m not in the mood for an argument..."
“Who’s arguing?” I countered.
“I can see it in your face…”
I sighed. “You just don’t understand, do you?”
“Don’t even try and make excuses…” he replied as he zipped up his bag.
“Then don’t be such a f*****g idiot.”
There it was again. The uncharacteristically aggressive lack of control over myself. I had never felt so unashamedly self-confident and deliberately provocative in my entire life. Alex threw his bag down onto the floor upon hearing my insulting comment and he turned to face me with his fists gripped tightly either side of him. We came toe to toe, staring threateningly into each other’s eyes.
“I’m sorry…what?” he asked, cocking his ear towards me.
“I said…don’t be such a f *****g idiot.” This time I said it with a grin.

As I stared deeply into Alex’s eyes I felt my cheeks flush and my stomach begin to churn violently - all perfectly normal reactions in such an emotionally charged situation - but I also felt myself bristle defensively against an unfamiliar and extremely menacing air that was building in the room. Maybe it was the close proximity between us or it was a trick of the light but Alex’s face looked different somehow and there was a venomous malice in his words and demeanour that was completely unlike him. He looked at me with pure contempt as though he had no shred of respect for me whatsoever. This is not Alex standing before me, I thought, but a complete stranger. 

Realising that I was in serious danger, I slowly stepped away from him for fear that any sudden movement might trigger a violent reaction, however as desperately as I tried to retreat from him I found myself equally compelled towards him. Something wicked was stirring inside me that wanted to provoke him and to deliberately spark a confrontation and it was driven by the same swell of aggression that I experience when my body is preparing to counter Luke’s advances, only this time Luke was not there to quell it and before I knew it the fire had consumed me to the point that I was rapidly losing control of my restraint.

I was not entirely aware of the combination of words and images that whipped through my mind and came spilling out of my mouth at that pinnacle point of my rage. Many of the visions I recognised as diagrams and words from The Omega Course but they were interspersed with flashbacks to my many conversations with Luke and my ordeal in the church only an hour or so earlier. And underpinning each of my words was an unshakable belief that every word that I spoke and every demand that I made would instantly come to fruition. I knew this with absolute certainty and without question.

As I spoke I felt an intense swell of emotions building up inside me and I began shaking uncontrollably and then, when the pressure inside my chest had reached an almost unbearable point, a surge of adrenalin rushed up my legs and filled my stomach and an explosion of energy burst outwards from the centre of my chest. I let out a loud and strangled cry and the power of the release knocked me off my feet and flung me into a sprawling heap on the floor, clearing everything off a nearby shelf in the process and smashing one of my framed pictures into pieces.  No sooner had I hit the floor when I heard Alex cry out and I saw him recoil violently to the side as though someone had slapped him hard across the face. I shouted his name and watched as he staggered away from me and fell backwards onto the bed, clutching at his chest, gasping desperately for air and making the most horrific gurgling noises. I dragged myself to my feet and called his name repeatedly from the corner of the room, but he was unable to answer. His breathing seemed to regulate and he was quiet for a moment, but then he let out the loudest scream that I have ever heard and he began writhing in pain and wailing like an injured animal, rolling onto his side and bringing his knees tightly up to his chest, all the while shrieking hysterically and staring straight at me, his eyes filled with terror. Then he took a sudden, sharp intake of breath and fell silent, his eyes closed and he rolled limply onto his back. I was shaking violently (and I tremble even now when recalling the sight of him) but as I stepped towards the bed I was relieved to see that he was still breathing and he had simply passed out. Nevertheless I broke down into floods of tears, partly due to the sight of him passed out on the bed and partly because our confrontation had frightened me beyond belief.

I was shaking from head to foot and my body felt unnaturally heavy as though every last drop of energy had been wrung out of my limbs but, although I desperately wanted to lie down on the floor and fall asleep, I realised that I needed to get away from the flat as soon as possible. I can’t explain why, I just sensed that I wasn’t alone, like there was someone else - or even several people - in the flat with me. I grabbed my keys from the table in the hallway and ran out of the front door, but I had no idea where I was heading. To the church? To the university? To Elmfield House? I knew that I had to make a quick decision. But it was not just an escape that I needed; more importantly, I needed answers. I needed to know what was happening to me. 

I decided to go to Amber’s apartment because, although I could not tell her what had happened and she could do little to help me, she could at least provide a safe haven for a short while and Alex would not find me there. My heart was pounding and my eyes were watering as I ran along the street, but I tried desperately to maintain my composure and began busily inventing an excuse to explain why I had arrived at Amber’s apartment unannounced: a typical argument scenario would suffice to gain her sympathy - Alex and I had argued and he had attempted to hit me and so I hit him back in defence. I would ask to stay with her for a while and return to the flat later when I had fully recovered. It was as simple as that. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I ran along the street, but as I replayed the scene that I had witnessed my tears of horror became tears of joy. Had I really done that to Alex? Or had someone or something else done it on my behalf? Was this proof that my demands in the church earlier that morning had been met? Maybe I am more powerful than I had imagined. Maybe the gods do listen to me after all. Luke would be proud.

So here I am in the familiar surroundings of Amber’s spare room, looking like a complete wreck and hiding like a scared little girl. I have spent many a hung-over morning recovering in this room after one of my drunken nights out with Amber and it certainly feels more like home than my own flat right now. These last few days have been the most emotionally tumultuous days of my life and I feel like I am living in a dream right now. Nothing seems real. On the one hand I am frightened to the very core of my being and I want to hide away in this room forever, but on the other hand I feel by far the most confident and empowered that I have felt in a long time. I have also had the best undisturbed sleep in months over these past two nights and there have been no terrifying visions, no nightmares and no nightly visitors that I have grown so accustomed to. I hope that I have finally found peace. But this is my last night here as I will return to the flat in the morning to confront Alex. I'm not sure what to expect when I see him, but I've had plenty of time to calm down, think rationally about what has happened and formulate a series of credible excuses to account for what took place between us.