Masked - The Morning After (14)
Hello Patrons and potential Patrons!  This week, I sent off a questionnaire to someone I am interviewing to make sure the perspective offered by the main character of my next Aum story, Topaz Bond, authentically represents the community of voice-hearers.  Hats off to the Hearing Voices Network for connecting me with my interview subject, and for being an awesome community in general!  Well, we still have about 3 posts left for Masked, so here's this week's installment!

He woke with his face mere inches from the bloodied lock and Ruby’s  tiny body, mashed against the top of his desk. No light glowed inside  the transparent beetle perched on top of the little corpse. No part of  the beetle moved, not even its antennae.   Dawn shone through the room’s  Venetian blinds. The old loneliness stabbed at him.

He picked up the beetle by one of its limbs. Inanimate, it dangled  awkwardly from between his thumb and forefinger. He traced its lines  with the index finger of his other hand. What had just happened? Could  he use any rubric to justify what he had done? He remembered how Amica  had looked and smelled. Then he remembered her response to his question  of jealousy: We’re in this together. John might not have  coerced her, but he had definitely deceived her.  Coercion-one-step-removed. He could not reconcile that with what he knew  of himself.

Making a strangled noise deep in his throat, he slammed the beetle  down on his desk, picked up the padlock again, and pressed it down  against the beetle’s back. Just like he had done to Ruby’s skull a few  hours before, in another life it seemed. The lock crushed the brittle  beetle instantly. He set it down next to Ruby and looked at the ruined  beetle fragments; making that same strangled noise, he tried to jam the  splinters back into place. He wanted to hold her again! He wanted Sean’s  life! Pieces of the beetle stuck in the skin of his fingers as he  pressed to no avail. The magic had gone. John wondered how this looked  to Bloodwater, lying on his pale cushion in Aum. Did it warm the old  man’s watery heart?

John lay down on his narrow bed, still wearing his work pants and the  T-shirt that stuck to his side. He felt like crying again but didn’t  want to give Bloodwater any sense of satisfaction. At some point in the  future, he might be able to shake the feeling of being watched, but  right now he felt on stage, a spotlight framing his every movement as a  crowd of Bloodwaters jeered. He decided to call in sick to work that day  despite the dire consequences that Lenny might bring down. He needed to  feel more normal before facing his little life again. A small voice  within told him that a frog that has seen the ocean will never  appreciate the bottom of a well again, but he needed to try.