The nightmares started up again that night.
There was a saying in her line of work – "You have to be crazy to work with the crazy." - or something along those lines. One of the questions most commonly asked to her (or any other psychologist, really) was 'why'. Why did they pick this field, why did they decide on this line of work? It couldn't possibly be easy to try to help balance out the 'dysfunctions' in other's lives… and it wasn't, it really wasn't. And while every professional would respond automatically with 'it's because I just want to help people', the truth was far bleaker.
The truth was that they were just as damaged themselves, and the only thing that separated them from the rest was that they had some way of 'dealing' with it that wasn't completely self-destructive.
One of the requirements at Rebecca's grad school was to attend six months of therapy and those were six of the worst months of Rebecca's life. There was a huge difference between being the note-taker and the note-takee and she hated feeling like she was being pinned under a microscope. Nothing exciting or earthshaking was ever brought up during any of the sessions and when they were finished she had walked away feeling annoyed by the time and money that had been wasted.
Just because nothing came up, though, didn't mean that there was nothing buried in the back of Rebecca's mind.
The dream – nightmare – was always the same and it the taste of reality, not of fiction. It played out like a memory warped and distorted with time but a memory all the same, one that made her shudder and cringe just like The Voice. Sometimes she even thought she heard The Voice in her dreams, but they were terrifying enough without hearing that.
There was a barn and it looked like it had seen better days or months or years. The pain had been long since worn away and the wood was battered and beaten to an ugly shade of grey. One of the doors hung crookedly off one hinge and was kept tied shut. Even with that measure in place it still swung about wildly in the wind and there was more than enough space for a small child to crawl through.
Now Becky, The Voice said, only now she just respected the voice instead of fearing it. Never go into The Barn. It's old and falling apart and it's not safe for a little girl. And plus, there's nothing in there that would interest you.
True enough and she tried to obey (she was such a Good Girl then) but on this one day at this particular time she had heard a weak whinny coming from the battered building.
Most girls, and boys, love horses and a good number of that 'most' even adored them. From a young age Rebecca had kept herself apart from the crowd by hating the animals, viewing them as dirty beasts of burden. They smelled bad, they were loud and dangerous, and even as an adult she still refused to be around them. In the dream, though, and most likely during this stage of her life she felt no fear toward the animals. Hearing the pained noise made her step forward, determined to investigate.
The barn door swayed back and force in the wind, slamming shut rather loudly every few minutes. Rebecca reached out to steady it as she peered inside. There were no lights and most of the windows were grimed over with dirt, making the space inside appear to be a rather hazy shade of grey. As she continued to stare she blinked as her eyes started to slowly adjust. It had the effect of making her vision swim and for a moment the girl almost backed up, giving up on her crazy impulsive. But before she could there was another whiny, this one even weaker than before.
She slipped inside easily and wrinkled her nose at the smell, thick and heavy of dirt and decay. There was another moment of pause and unease and she was right there at the door – turning around and leaving would take just a moment and then The Voice would never have to know she was in here and she would still be a Good Girl. Just step back outside… but there was a horse in here (and right now she didn't hate horses, right now she loved them) and it needed help.
As Rebecca slowly stepped forward she began to make out a large shape in the middle of the barn. The hazy gray light cleared up enough to allow her to see definition and she gasped at the sight. There was a horse – a mare, she just knew it was a mare – standing there. She wore a too-tight halter, the leather straps digging into the skin of the poor beast, and taunt chains extended from either side to effectively hold the animal in place. Her front hooves shifted and pawed at the floor boards in front of her. Even from so far away the girl could see how torn up the wood was and just how badly chipped the horse's hooves were. Poor girl…
That wasn't even close to the worst of it. Rebecca stepped closer and cringed when she saw just what the mare was standing in. The chains held her in place and so the horse was standing more than hock-deep in her own waste. Even in the poor light she could also see just how thin she was – nothing more than skin and bones – and in several places her fur had been ripped out. The mare's back was also horribly swayed and even simply standing looked to be painful.
The voice (it was no longer a whiny but a voice but just not The Voice) was desperate and pain-laced and Rebecca almost broke down just at that. Of course, of course! she wanted to scream, but her voice had abandoned her. Instead she just tottered to the wall and pulled down one of the too-large shovels. It was awkward going but she dragged it over to the mare's side where she started to scoop up a pile of filth.
The mare screamed and Rebecca jerked back, horrified. Along with the muck that was being pulled away was the fur and skin of the horse's legs, leaving bare muscle and bone behind. Red blood seeped slowly from the wound, staining the remaining fur red, but the bone remained a distressingly bleached white color.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" The young child was too shocked to cry and she found her voice as she shouted out her apology at the mare. Rebecca allowed the shovel to clatter to the floor and she looked around desperately for something else to help the horse. Along the wall were several sets of grooming brushes and she stumbled over to them, thankful to see something she could use. Something as soft and gentle as a brush couldn't possibly cause any damage.
She grabbed one and held it tightly against her chest as she tottered back to the mare. Rebecca looked up at the panicky and pained animal. "I'm going to help you," she whispered before placing the brush against her neck. The mare snorted and tried to step away, tried to toss her head, but the chains kept her in place. "I'm going to help you," the girl repeated as she pulled the brush down along the mare's fur.
The soft bristles tore bloodied lines and now the mare did rear. The chains kept her head down as her front legs pulled up, and after a moment she came crashing down hard. The force caused her hooves to splinter and crack further and Rebecca stared at the bloodied brush, stared at her hooves, and just screamed and screamed before turning to run from the barn. Pain and tortured neighs followed her and the sound of the mare's agony bounced around in her head as she pushed the broken door open to bolt out into the sunlight.
Help me. Help me. Help me.
The dream was still echoing in her mind when Rebecca's eyes snapped open, but the first thought was-
The librarian had mentioned Lord Death's family.
A silly and, frankly, inconsequential statement that had been bounding about furiously, knock all other thoughts out of her mind. It wasn't even something that concerned her and yet she found herself worrying at it again and again. His family? What family. There was only Lord Death. And Kid.
The brunette groaned as she forced herself up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Wake up, get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth – every action was done mechanically and Rebecca just stared out at the world through bleary eyes.
The librarian had mentioned Lord Death's family.
Why would he mention Lord Death's family?
Their last appointment had been cancelled, not by Kid but by Rebecca herself. The thought of having to see him again made her stomach clench up and an overwhelming sense of guilt washed over her, both at what she had done and at how she felt. On top of all of that was a feeling of unease, like she was blindfolded on the edge of a precipice. The wrong step would send her plummeting to the ground and she wasn't even allowed to see what was in front of her.
The librarian had mentioned Lord Death's family.
I wonder if he had asked his father.
And instantly Rebecca began to hope fervently that the young reaper had not. If Kid had then Rebecca was certain that he would tell Lord Death just where he had heard the rumor from, and if he did that then she was certain that the academy would be in need of a new librarian.
She was late getting to the office and her first client was already there, wide-eyed and eager to begin. All Rebecca could muster up was a smile that looked more like a pained sneer and the young girl's smile faded. Julia Halloway, nine years old, and suffering from separation anxiety brought on by the fact that she was adopted only a year ago. Adorable but oh so frail and Rebecca knew that smile had just set her back weeks in progress.
She couldn't quite bring herself to care.
The rest of the day wore on like that and the brunette found her focus drifting and her attention wandering as she struggled to pay attention to her clients. It was funny – just a few weeks ago their concerns and troubles had seemed worth delving into. Now they just felt… insipid and tiresome. Weak. There was absolutely no substance to them and she just wanted to scream at them until they just got over it.
There was a small knock on the door and Rebecca glanced over to see it open. A wan female face glanced in and offered up a watery smile when she spotted the therapist and her client, a twelve-year-old boy who had an extremely difficult time following authority. Oppositional defiance, though the brunette thought he really was just angry over the fact that he had become an older brother at such an old age. "Am I interrupting?"
In truth she was but Rebecca was looking for any excuse to wrap the appointment up. "No, Trevor and I were just finishing up," she said, forcing a smile. The boy knew that wasn't true and he looked up at her uneasily, but said nothing. "Same time next week?"
The woman and the child stood up together and they walked out, Trevor in front of Rebecca. Trevor's mother smiled warmly as she took the therapist aside. "I can't possibly thank you enough for everything you've done Miss Braswell. Before you Trevor was-"
"Same time next week," Rebecca said, cutting her off. "… I'll see you same time, next week."
There were a few more awkward moments, a few awkward pauses, and then she was alone. She let out a sigh of relief and walked back to her office, or at least started to. Rebecca paused and then ungracefully sank down into one of the chairs, back facing the door, and just sighed again.
Her appointment with Trevor ended before three PM and she had no other appointments, no scheduled appointments, for the rest of the evening. Still, the brunette found herself stuck sitting in the chair for hours on end, staring rather blandly at a ratty old golden clock as its hands ticked determinedly on and on. Tick… tick… tick… There was so much paperwork she needed to start working on, not to mention maybe going and getting something to eat for dinner and perhaps even going home, but she just sat there and stared.
Four. Five. Six. Seven. And when the needle ticked onto the eight there was a knock on her door. Rebecca blinked and that was the only sign that she was at all surprised as she heard the door creak open. Footsteps padded softly inside, the door clicked back shut, and she glanced up to see Kid walking by her. Seeing her sitting there in the seat he normally occupied gave him pause for a moment, but without saying anything he walked over to her seat and sat down.
"… I looked into it more."
"You look into what more?"
"My family. I looked into my family."
"What did you find?"
Kid sighed and frowned and glanced to the side. "I don't know what I've found. There are mentions and rumors but-…" His voice trailed off and Rebecca let him just sit in silence for a moment, finding absolutely no reason to push him. "… why would the first child of the Grim Reaper be born so… late?"
"I don't know." The therapist's tiredness seeped into her tone. "You're right. That doesn't make any sense."
"Right, it doesn't." He leaned forward, eyes wide and voice suddenly eager. "No. It doesn't at all. And I asked, I did ask him- not about what the librarian said," Kid said idly, and that frightened Rebecca more than the thought that the librarian was dead (how did he know how did he know?). "I asked him about something different. I asked him about my mother. I should have one, shouldn't I?"
She blinked and immediately remembered the cold and confused expression he had when that topic had been broached in their second appointment together. I don't have a mother. But everyone has a mother. "You did?" Rebecca said slowly, unsure just how the reaper wanted her to approach this subject. "What… did he say?"
"He said that I didn't have one." But Kid made a dismissive hand gesture and shook his head. "It's what he says every time but I don't believe it. So I told him what you said. That I had to have one. I mean, I had to come from somewhere, didn't I?"
The brunette nodded and struggled to ignore the cold creeping feeling in her stomach. Please say you didn't bring me up in this conversation. Please tell me you didn't tell Lord Death oh please, please… "Matter cannot be created or destroyed," she said and then just stopped. That was something from an old physics or chemistry class and that was all Rebecca could think to say to Kid now.
It didn't matter; she doubted he even heard her. "I asked him this and he… he told me that when I needed to know and when it was actually important I would know just where I came from." And Kid smiled triumphantly at Rebecca. "This means that I didn't just appear. There is an answer to all of this. I just have to keep on digging until I find it."
"Kid…" Rebecca became aware that she didn't have her paper or pen and maybe that was for the best. If she did then she would have to chart everything the young reaper was saying right now and what he was saying felt close to blasphemy. It was better that it all stayed off the record and, if she could, it would be best if he was dissuaded from this line of thought. "Kid, has your father ever done anything to deliberately to hurt you?"
"Deliberately?" Kid smiled humorlessly. "No." A small pause and then, as she was opening her mouth to speak again: "Not that I know of."
"… if your father wouldn't consciously hurt you, then why would he keep information from you that you would need to know? Wouldn't you think that maybe he's keeping this a secret for a reason?"
"Did you parents always keep secrets from you for only pure reasons?"
It was a simple and, most likely, innocent question, but for a moment Rebecca thought she saw something crawl behind Kid's face and his voice wasn't his but it was The Voice and there had been secrets kept (like the horse), so many secrets, and only because everyone was so afraid…
"There was a witch at the school recently. She used her own child as an experiment to try to awake the kishin." His voice was soft and the reaper looked down. "Parents can do horrible things to their children if they think it's better for them."
Yes. Of course they can. "… We can talk about this more next week Kid." It was the only thing Rebecca could think to say in response and as she spoke she could feel the beginnings of a headache clawing at the edges of her consciousness. "When you actually have an appointment we can talk about this as much as you want."
Kid nodded and lifted his head to stare rather quizzically at her. "Why were you even here so late?" he asked, and she just smiled blandly as a response.
I might just be going crazy. That's all.