Stream of Consciousness. For Sister of the Pharaoh.

They all start the same way. She's 6 years old again, still living with her parents, though she doubts they want to be living with her after today. It's the day the mark first appeared on her left arm; the day her father called her a monster.

At 26 years old, Fudo Aki has everything she wouldn't have dreamed of having 10 years earlier: a working marriage with someone whom she loves dearly, a successful career as one of the few female doctors at the city's hospital, and a stable lifestyle that enables her to exist peacefully after her unarguably tumultuous adolescence. Still, as much as she wants to leave her past behind her and immerse herself in the new life she's created, the dreams keep coming.

It's just before bedtime, and every night—at least for the past several months—she engages in the same ritual of going through her domestic medicine cabinet and popping a few non-addictive sleeping pills. Yusei doesn't know about this habit yet, and she doubts he would approve, so she doesn't tell him. She's not concerned though. They're completely natural, and she justifies taking them under the excuse that she won't be able to sleep without them. She's too afraid otherwise.

The years of her childhood drift by like dust carried in the wind, and she and her parents grow more and more distant from each other until they don't know what they should do with her and she doesn't know what she should do with them. They exist in separate spheres of living. She angrily locks herself in her room after returning from school every day and cries. She can't get help; her parents have refused her therapy of any kind because they fear it could jeopardize her father's career. A senator can't have a crazy daughter, after all.

Her elementary classmates stare and point and call her awful names, which oft incites her anger and causes her monstrous powers to flare up. The first time this happens, she's suspended from school and her father hits her. The second, he and her mother begin keeping their distance entirely. Home is supposed to be a safe haven, but it has become another a place of uneasy stares and whispers.

Then, after years of seemingly having no other options (so they reasoned), her parents send her off to a private academy when she's 14.

It's both laughable and completely irresponsible when she thinks about it. She's made amends with her mother and father since then, but looking back, she realizes they were being very selfish and very stupid. She was unstable—she openly admits that now—and putting her in the academy only exacerbated her depression, thereby intensifying her powers and putting all her peers at risk. She can't help but think it's truly a miracle she never did kill anyone, including herself, even if by accident.

Aki unties the bun in her hair and lets her red, curling tresses fall past her shoulders. It's grown somewhat longer since her youth, but she still keeps it at a manageable length. She returns to her bedroom and settles herself on her side of the bed. Yusei's already there, and he looks up at her in acknowledgement before returning to his papers. He's a workaholic and has a terrible habit of bringing his job into their marriage bed. Who is she to criticize him for bad habits, though?

The darkest and most painful years follow. Her fellows students in elementary school were mean, but it's so much worse at the academy. She earns herself the new nickname "witch," though "monster" remains a term that's still thrown around, and the words' connotations send her spiraling into bouts of suicidal depression every time they're mentioned. Finally, she runs away—and the tears in her eyes blind her direction, so that when she runs into the arms of divinity, it's a complete accident. She finds God in her life, and He changes everything.

He teaches her to love Him and only Him. He is her master, and she is to obey without question. Her thoughts become His; her talents become His. He tells her to embrace the malignant—He never calls it that, but she never sees her power as anything else—magic within her. He tells her to trust no one but Him, that only He can give her what she needs.

Then she meets another god. A kinder, more merciful god who insists that she must love herself, too.

"It's late," Yusei says as he leans over and temperamentally presses his dry lips against her cheek, "you should get some sleep."

"R-right."

He sets his papers aside and flicks the lights off. They both settle under the covers, but she turns her back to him. The medication has started to take effect, yet her eyes are wide with apprehension for the world that awaits her when she goes under.

She abandons her old religion to walk a new, more righteous path. These become the happiest (though also some of the most trying) years of her life, and they're over before she can blink. By the time she's 18, her life has made a complete 180-degree turn. She's returned to school and has quickly climbed to the top of her class. She and her parents have mended their broken relationship (even though the scars will always remain). She has made friends for the first time. She has fallen in love.

It's difficult for her to leave it all behind and pursue her dreams, but she does.

The light in her life is impermanent though. She thinks that since her mark has disappeared, her black history is nothing but a mere memory. Eventually, however, she realizes it can't be erased. It bubbles up when she least expects it, during the most mundane moments. Once, while studying in the library, she becomes so frustrated and ... the bookcase behind her suddenly falls for no apparent reason, nearly crushing another student to death. Several bones are broken and he must go to the hospital. It's considered a freak accident by University staff, but she knows the truth: She's still dangerous.

Aki's eyelids grow heavy until she can no longer keep them raised. She drifts off.

The last part hasn't happened yet, but it's the most terrifying, and it's what forces her to take sleeping pills every night. Her legs are spread open and she's panting, crying, sweating, bleeding. She's vaguely aware of the fact that Yusei's with her, that they're at the hospital, that he's clutching her hand, that he's kissing her forehead and murmuring words of encouragement in her ear. Rather, she's more focused on the incomprehensible physical pain she's experiencing.

Finally, one of her colleagues pulls it out of her: a red, hellish demon that smirks at her when it opens its eyes. Yusei drops her hand and backs away from her. Her colleague looks at her in horror and, dropping the creature, curses her by the name bestowed upon her by her father 20 years before: a monster.

"Aki!"

She awakes with a start, and finds herself cradled in the arms of her husband. Her face is cold with tears, and her breathing is labored. Beads of perspiration have formed near her hair line, soaking her red roots.

"Are you all right?" he asks.

It's a stupid question, but she's in no position to point this out. She untangles herself from him and sits up. Her face falls into palm of her hand and she shakes her head.

"I..." She can't finish her sentence. She's still too distraught to construct language. Yusei moves behind her and takes her into his arms a second time. She doesn't try to escape this time and melts into his hold. She wants to enjoy it before he decides to let go.

"You've been restless in your sleep for a while now," he says. "Tonight was the worst, though. Is this a normal side effect?"

He's asking her because she's a medical professional and should know these things.

"Yes, it must be the hormones," she mumbles. His fingers lace with hers and, together, their hands move down to her lower abdomen.

He doesn't say anything else. She isn't expecting him to; he is not a man of words. They must communicate in other ways, and this is one of them.

Unfortunately, she can't communicate at all.