Song for the Dead – Karina Halle

IT’S the middle of the night when I wake up, unable to breathe. I sit straight up in bed, hand at my chest, wondering why I’m suddenly underwater. I know I’m not. I’m in my bedroom, it’s quiet and dark. I should be safe. But inside it feels like I’m coming apart at the seams, my chest heavy, waterlogged, like I’ve just lost everything I care about. I bring my knees up to my chest, hugging them, holding tight, like I’m about to float away. What’s happening? No, that’s not quite right. What’s going to happen? Suddenly the air in my room begins to warp and shimmer and I feel Jay’s presence before he steps through. It should make me feel rooted, grounded, but it doesn’t. Then he appears. Looking beautiful. As always. Though, surprisingly, he’s wearing jeans and a hoodie. Usually when he visits me in the middle of the night, he’s wearing his boxers and a Tshirt or sometimes nothing at all.

“Where have you been?” I ask him, eying his clothes, as the Veil behind him fades away. He doesn’t move. Stands where he is. The sick feeling in my chest gets worse. What’s happening? Why does this feel weird? “I was out,” he says. Jaw stern, clenched. Like he’s holding something back. Is that why I’m feeling so much? Is there something wrong with him? “Are you okay? Why are you out in the middle of the night?” “I had some business to attend to.” “Demon business?” He shakes his head. Why are his eyes so cold? “Jacob,” he says.

“Ah,” I say with a nod. “And what did the All-Powerful Oz say?” A pained look comes across his face for a moment. Jay doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He doesn’t really have a lot of emotion, to be honest. So this crack in his façade has my chest feeling tighter. I sit up straighter and swing my legs over the side of the bed, walking over to him. “Stay right there,” he says, holding out his palm. “What? Why?” “You’re going to make this more difficult.” I stare at him, so fucking tired and not understanding any of this. “What the hell are you talking about? Make what more difficult?” You know, something whispers inside me.

You know that lately he’s been distant. That he’s not over much. That he never invites you over anymore. That he hasn’t said he loves you in a while. You know all this. Stop pretending. I nearly choke on those thoughts, shoving them into the back of my brain. He runs his hand over his jaw, and in the dim light I can see his fingers are trembling. Jay, usually as steady as anything, nothing ever gets to him. And yet… “I had a talk with Jacob,” he goes on.

“He thinks it’s best if I move on. Stop training you. Go help someone else.” His words fall in the room like lead. I open my mouth, but no words come out. This isn’t happening. He didn’t really say that. He’s talking shit. “I don’t understand,” I tell him. “You can’t just…stop.

” “I can,” he says. “I have to. It’s the only way.” “The only way?!” I explode. “What the fuck Jay? You’re not considering this, are you? You’re supposed to be with me until I’m ready, and all I hear from you and Jacob is that I’m not ready.” “I know,” he says, running his hand down his face. “And I know you’re not ready. But I don’t have a choice, Ada. He wants me to move on.” “Well, why?!” I yell, hoping my dad doesn’t hear me.

“Why do you have to move on?” “We’re no good together.” I blink at him. Feels like I’m dying inside. “No good…that’s…well, that’s a lie for one, and what the fuck does our relationship have to do with this?” “Everything.” He shakes his head, looking disappointed. “It’s everything. It’s clouding things. It’s making things complicated between us, and between what we do. I’m having…I’m having a hard time here separating you from the job. I worry about you too much.

I worry…I worry you’re going to hurt yourself. Or worse. And I can’t shake that. I don’t know how.” I walk over to him, grabbing his arm, digging my nails into his hoodie. Fuck staying away from him. “Jay,” I hiss at him, trying to keep myself from exploding. In anger or pain, I don’t know, it all feels the same. “You don’t have to worry about me. Okay? And don’t fucking move on to someone else because of that.

We can work through this. The better I get, the more you’ll trust me. The more you’ll believe in me. I’m a badass, Jay. You know this. You know what I can do, you just have to have a little faith in me.” “It’s not so simple,” he says, averting his eyes. “Even if that were all true, what’s done is done.” “What’s done is done?!” I exclaim. I tug on his arm, hard.

“Hey, look at me!” He reluctantly meets my eyes. The blue in them seems glacier cold, enough to make me freeze. There’s no fire in him, only ice. Won’t even melt a little. “I have to go,” Jay says, wiggling his jaw. “I was given my orders. I’m to leave you. I’m moving away, I’m helping someone else that I’m of more use to. I’d never let you reach your full potential, Ada. My feelings…my feelings for you have complicated everything.

I have failed.” “No. No, no, no.” I shake my head, trying not to cry, trying not to scream. “Don’t say that. We’ll talk to Jacob. He’ll understand.” “I report to him. There is no undoing this. He said maybe down the line I can return, after he’s trained you, but I have to go.

” “Jacob training me?! Fuck that!” Then I smack him across the arm. “And fuck you! Fuck you for just giving up. How about you just not go and stay with me? Is that so hard?” He’s getting angry now, nostrils wide. “It is hard, Ada. It’s hard because I have to go. I can’t stay with you, and there’s nothing you can do or say that will make me stay.” My mouth drops open, like I’ve been slapped. “Ouch,” I say softly, trying to blink back tears. “Not even that I love you? That you supposedly love me?” “I do love you,” he says, grabbing my arms, eyes searching mine. “I love you Ada.

But I am what I am, and we knew this. I have a job to do and I answer to that job. I don’t answer to you.” I rip out of his grasp, turning my back to him, covering my face with my hands. “Oh no. No please, please, let this be a bad dream.” Silence passes between us. So heavy I don’t think I’ll ever feel light again. “It’s not a dream, Ada,” Jay says softly. “It’s what’s real.

And believe me, I am so fucking sorry that I have to do this, you have to understand that this is tearing me apart, I feel so much for you, I love you, I—” “Lies!” I roar, turning around, my heart vicious. “You are a fucking liar! You don’t love me! If you loved me, you would choose me. You would stay. You would stay for me. But you’re not. You’re not.” He reaches out for me, but I smack his hand away. “Get the fuck out of here!” I scream. “You’ve made your choice!” He blinks at me, mouth gaping. “Ada!” my father’s anxious voice carries from down the hall.

Shit. “Go!” I yell at Jay. “Go have fun with someone else. Hope you get your memory wiped so it makes things a little easier for you. Wish someone could do the same for me.” “Ada…” “Now!” I yell. My father barges in through the door just as Jay shimmers away into the air, disappearing, though I know he’s only right next door. But not for long. “Ada,” my father says to me, flicking on the lights, trying to put on his glasses. “What’s happening?” I’m trying so hard to hide the fact that I’m shaking, that my heart was just ripped in half.

“I had a bad dream,” I tell him. “Are you sure?” he says, looking around the room. “You were screaming. Are you dreaming about clowns again?” I nod. “Yeah. Clowns. Could you get me a glass of water?” He frowns. “Sure, of course. Coming right up.” He turns and leaves the room, and it takes everything in me not to collapse to my knees.

I press my hand into my chest, trying to will myself to breathe, to just get through this with my father so he doesn’t think anything is amiss. But everything is amiss. And it will never be right again. My father comes back from the washroom with the glass of water and I take it, telling him I’m going back to sleep, that he shouldn’t worry. He looks so harried that I have no doubt he won’t be sleeping for a while either. Then, when he leaves, and I’m alone in the dark again, that’s when I let go. Fall to my knees. Curled over. Heart scooped out. And I’m drowning.

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