SKIN (The Nayjeed)

My people are called the Nayjeed.

There are many names, but this is the one that best describes us. A word from a forgotten language, it best suits beings that were not only forgotten, but never really acknowledged as real.

You might say the word means nomad.

Literally it means: that which is lost to roam forever.

We are not angels, or demons. Though for humans that would be the closest description you have of us. Your race has not learned to define life outside the thin spectrum of carbon and oxygen. You have no scientific measurement of us.

We are creatures of the spirit. We don’t fear that you’ll know us, because you believe that we are you.

There is a moment, between life and death, a time window, when the body of a human functions just as the soul leaves it. Like a radio that plays for a second after the plug is pulled, the body can sustain for a moment after its occupant has left.

And this is the moment when the Nayjeed can enter.

We cannot stay inside the body with the spirit of a living occupant. But we can move in at the moment the human relinquishes, and take hold before the body begins to deteriorate.

Nayjeed are very jealous of humans, as we have no bodies of our own. We roam Earth. We don’t know the realms of underworld or overworld as angels do. So we wait. And we take the cloaks as the humans cast them off. We inhabit them.

We live inside their skins.

I don’t know when we as a people began, but I can tell you of the many times that I have been here. The time Nayjeed spend in their primal form moves differently. Once inside a skin, time is fast, speeding past like nothing. Your lives are brief, hectic, stifling at times.

But the skin itself is a house of pleasure, and this is what Nayjeed enjoy possessing.

Humans are built to live and die, but Nayjeed do not know an end. Unless they chose one.

And some of us have made that choice, to die and go into nothingness than willingly relinquish the flesh. Skin is so intoxicating. It makes you think that you are so much more than you really are.

I have passed through many skins, many lives. And I remember each one. Unlike a human I cannot forget. Each leaves its own impression, a groove into parts of my being.

At night, I dream of my other lives, my other skins.

The most vivid dream is about the night I entered the skin of the young woman that I dwell within now. I possessed her as she lay dying, and I felt her soul pass me as I entered. She died screaming, and the scream filled me in the breadth of her body and my soul. The light ahead awaited her, and in that moment I would have given anything to follow.

But it was not for me. That light, was hers alone, and it was the only thing that stopped her screaming.

I was not so lucky, because the body knew pain. If flooded into me like a wave, wiping away any thought or reasoning. Animal pain wrenched through my limbs and made them toss about.

The body – I – lay bleeding beneath a loose cover of dirt and leaves. And I screamed. Or tried to. Dirty water sloshed down my throat, nearly choking me. The sounds died within my chest.

That one dream I have, every night. I don’t ever see the face of the person who drove the owner from this body, but I could feel him watching. Blinded by the mud and the rain and debris, it was only a sense of a presence, not a form I could define.

***

Weeks later, I slept fitfully in the house that belonged to the skin I inhabited.

Headlights rolled past my bedroom window.

The first time those lights moved across my curtains, it was enough to shake me from the edge of an unpleasant dream.

The same dream that I had every night; cold air. Darkness. The sound of rain. The smell of wet soil and dead leaves.

And the screaming….

I sat up in bed, and took a deep breath. I waited a moment before going to the window.

My fingers skimmed the edge of the curtain.

On the street below, a car is parked on the empty cul-de-sac. The headlights are out.

I stood there for a moment, waiting.

The car does not belong here; along a street lined with BMW’s and luxury SUV’s . It was a dark sedan of American make. So ordinary that it stuck out like a sore thumb, like the cars plain clothes policemen drove.

I watched as the driver’s side window came down.

I waited.

A second later I saw the flicker of a lighter. It wasn’t enough for me to distinguish a face or form, but I knew who it was.

***

I didn’t bother turning on lights.

In the bathroom, I started pulling things out from the cabinet beneath the sink. Toiletries, boxes, bottles of shampoo got tossed on the floor as my fingers searched for one object. Panic started rising up in my throat until I found it.

The little box was cool and dry in my hands. The gun laid undisturbed inside.

I pulled a box of bullets from their hiding place in a bedroom drawer and loaded the gun.

While I handled the weapon I felt calm. But my hands shook as I dressed.

I had the sense of time running down. I should have known it was no use.

I’d just passed the den when I heard a sound behind me.

I turn slowly, aware of the gun’s heft on the inside of my jacket.

His cigarette made a little dot of red light in the darkness. He exhaled, and stepped forward, closing the few yards between us.

“Evangeline,” he said. “You’re not going to even say hello?”

Caleb smiled, moving the muscles around the sharp bones of his new face.

I had never seen him in this form, but it didn’t matter. We knew each other well enough that I’d know him anywhere, within any body that he chose to take.

This man was young and lanky. A blonde. Not his usual style. He backed me into the living room. I stopped when I felt the edge of the fireplace’s mantle pinch into my back.

Caleb sat down on the sofa, looking serene. I pretended that I wasn‘t scared. I gripped the gun a little tighter.

I wondered how long he’d been watching me. Maybe he even came into the house when I was absent.

He seemed to know his way around in the darkness very well.

For the better part of the millennia that Caleb and I had known each other, we’d never used violence against each other.

He’d broken into my house, which meant all bets were off.

“Get your feet off my couch.”

That made him laugh. “Awfully possessive, aren’t you? Like any of this belongs to you anyway?”

“For now, this is the space I occupy. So. Put your feet down.”

He did so, with a grudging sigh. “Are you going to make this difficult, or are you just going to come? I’d prefer easy. But we can do things, complicated, if we have to.”

“I don’t understand,” I sighed. “Why are you here? I’ve only had possession for a few weeks. It’s not time for me to move on .”

“Under normal circumstances, no. But as it turns out, someone else has sway over this body you possessed. There is a contract. You must have wondered what all the nightmares were really about. Didn’t you feel a pull? This body was already willed when she died. If you stay tied to it, you don’t even want to know the consequences. So, Evangeline. We need to make another choice for you. And soon.”

“A demonic contract? How is that even valid?”

“It is, according to the people I work for.”

“What about our people?” I reminded him. “Nayjeed aren’t bound demonic or human rule..”

This was an old argument. Caleb shrugged.

“You’re working for him again…?” I asked. “Ramshead?”

“Yes. A mortal body cannot subsist on just air. You’ve got bigger concerns than who I work for. I don’t want to force you to come out but…. I will.”

“Please, don’t,” I said.

He stood and was inches from me in seconds, moving with feline grace. I could feel his breath on my face. His hand was heavy on my shoulder.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Maybe we can work something else out? I will always prefer pleasure to violence.”

He grinned.

He never saw me pull the gun. I leaned forward and pressed it against his rib.

Caleb flew backwards from the impact.

I heard a sound like a rattle, a scream as Caleb’s primal form left the skin of the human. It was sad to destroy that body. He was beautiful.

But I didn’t have a choice.

I ran from the house, and didn’t look behind me.

There wasn’t much time.

As soon as he found another body to reanimate, Caleb would be behind me again.

________________

 ©2009 Lori Titus

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