Shadow of the Phantom Curse

When Unconsciousness Calls*

Sugar, its quite addictive, no?

Its the victim of any grubby kids hands prying to get a taste of that irresistible sweetness.

But what happens if a child is denied that sugary goodness, what will happen? Denial of something makes the idea of it more desirable.

The grown-up-sugar-denied child will overdose on sugar to compensate for the pleasure they were denied as a child. An endless craving, unable to be satiated as it had been built over years and years.

Of course Catheris had never been in that situation. However, from how sleep deprived he always was; hed probably pass out randomly some day if he kept denying himself a decent rest. But said decent rest he was only treating himself to now was being interrupted.

What was it now? No matter how much Catheris tried to ignore the phone across from him, no matter how much he did not want to get up from lying down, it buzzed incessantly even after dozens of calls with no response. He could ignore it the first time, but not after a few more, it was the middle of the night and dead silent.

”Hnnn…. ”

It was irritating- the only noise currently echoed throughout the living room and rang in his ears. He buried his head down into his pillow, gripping and curling the ends to press them against his ears to block out the sound while his body writhed uncomfortably on the leather covered cushions of the couch.

Calls came and came once the previous one had ended, and Catheris couldn do anything about it. Albeit he couldve silenced the calls, but at this rate it seemed like an emergency.

Reluctantly, Catheris decided to look over and see who the caller was, he couldn go back to sleep anymore. Depending on the person, hanging up would just show that he was able to see the calls. Thatd just cause a mess for him to clean up.

Catheriss eyes felt strained enough already. When he glanced over at the screen, the subtle light emitting from it made him feel like a migraine was starting already.

Upon inputting the passcode, Catheris was bombarded by the utterly shocking amount of notifications seen from the red circles on the apps against a default bland gray background- the noise of pings from messages still ongoing. He dismissed the ringing call while scrolling through the multitude of people thatd messaged him, almost every one of his social media apps were affected besides the ones hed only use for himself. In fact- looking through his call history, Catheris noticed every single attempted call was from someone different each time, in particular, only people from his fathers side. Catheris disliked his aunts and uncles quite a bit, so no need to deal with the situation, just ignore it- thats what hed thought, until messages started pouring in from his cousins.

The situation definitely did not seem good, nor was getting involved with them.

He readied himself for whatever the call entailed while hovering over the green sideway phone icon, turning the volume down a bit so he wouldn shock himself from the oncoming earful. Catheris sat himself down on the couch to get himself settled. After finally relaxing, he could notice the untidy ruffled bed head of his long hair from the brightness of his phone illuminating it. How long had it been since hed slept this hard?

After feeling adjusted a bit, he moved the index finger of his right hand to press on the button to pick up the call, this time it was from one of his aunts. From the speakers, came a distressed middle aged womans voice with slight posh to it, ”-Oh gods, you finally picked up. Everyones been trying to call you for ages. Your grandmother is currently in the hospital right now, shes been admitted after she was rushed from a car accident- ”

What the **.

The woman paused in between for gasps of air, choking on her breaths ”-The doctors say it might be detrimental to her quality of life, even if she does come out fine from the whole ordeal- ”

What.

Catheriss hand flung to cover his mouth, not really in horror but more shocked confusion.

…How, when, and where did things occur?

Catheris definitely got the emergency aspect of the whole ordeal by now. Maybe he shouldn have thought it was way too soon to announce the car accident part, but he did.

He didn even have the time to think properly to be upset since he struck with awe, missing the finer details as his racing mind could only pick up a few sentences.

”And we
e all trying to pitch in. ”

Ohh. Usually, one would not be suspicious of the situation. But the next thing she said was expected.

”-After calling everyone, we don have enough. Please!- Weve been calling around asking, and after a while weve accumulated almost enough, but if you cover a small portion well be set. I don know how long well have to find another person before its too late- ”

It was odd, now the hand that was flung over his mouth was holding his chin. His gaze drifted to the corner of the room while he questioned the situation. Why hadnt they called one of his rich aunts?

Pitch in for what exactly?

Hell, why didn they even call his mom? No matter the amount, she shouldve been able to pay the portion easily, …so why him? Catheris couldn help to pry further, after thinking about it a bit no hospital ever required payment that quickly. But they couldn fake a car crash.

”Please, Catheris, just please- ” The woman begged in desperation, voice cracking somewhere.

”Ill send the money when I get the details of this. What happened, and what hospital- ”

”-Theyll be on the transferring details, just hurry. ” She briefly spoke in a quick manner as it was urgent, but it seemed to have an underlying commanding tone.

Such a stern tone at the end, it didn fit for the whole situation. But in the end Catheris paid, it was no use to argue with such people; he would have lost energy in trying anyways.

After a few calls with a few other older relatives he could somewhat decipher the outline of what the report probably looked like. It was late and there was difficulty managing the roads. With an old woman with deteriorated vision, one thing led to another and the other cars driver called the ambulance, right after she was promptly admitted.

One of the few things about the car crash was the hospitals name from the transferring details. Catheris didn even get that crucial bit from one of the calls, as if it were being withheld from him.

Something was odd something he couldn get to the bottom of,

-not by himself that was.

Raelina Derael, daughter of the aunt that just called him. She was the best pick to get the most information from a singular person, also no bullshit either.

Apparently shed been able to squander over the hospital in the middle of the night due to her apartment not being too far from it. She was the only one who didn leave him a plethora of messages either, She only left a simple ”yo im at the hospital bc grandma got into a car crash lmaooo ”.

Well, clearly the situation wasn as dire as he was set up to believe.

Then he saw a message bubble with three dots going up and down, and a few more texts from Raeliana popped up right before his eyes.

”Btw grandma wants you to bring those soft flower shaped honey cookies, also u better be coming bc ur the favorite grandchild smh ”

”..-Ah, how bothersome…

Catheris thought after waking up from a nap, prior he was exhausted from the sheer amount of energy it took moving things around. He was still unable to sleep in his room yet as brown cardboard boxes were sprawled across the floor of it. Maybe hed get pajamas after his room was okay to sleep in, even if the slightly too big grey hoodie and black shorts were comfy he could definitely do better.

A few days ago hed received the call about the car crash, and in a few days hed visit; nice to know that the old lady was still hanging on.

All things aside, the leather couch hed slept on felt like the best thing hed ever slept on; as if he were sinking into it, he had been sleeping harder recently. This was what- the second place he lived in by himself? Sure, it was a nice location that made getting to work far easier. Catheris was a bit regretful about the timing, the leaves were wilted, crunchy and brown in preparation to fall off for the winter season. Hed have to rush to settle everything in time, but he was grateful nonetheless.

Even though he was very content with it, Catheris couldn shake off the feeling that something was wrong about the place no matter what he tried to convince himself with. There was something that made him feel uncomfortable. No clue where the unease came from, perhaps itd be the unfamiliarity in the end.

Forget it, he was simply too tired to care. Catheris thought hed get some peace of mind after moving further away from his family, but he couldn predict theyd interfere with his life already via an unexpected car crash. Gosh, his dark circles were getting worse from the lack of sleep from over worrying.

With the current situation of the apartment and grandma being muddled together, Catheris was inevitably led to sleep deprivation. Maybe that was the reason why he was so on edge these days. Whenever he heard random creaks when it was silent, hed think they had an underlying reason. Oh gods, was it the paranoia getting to him? Hed been seeing figures in the corner of his eyes as well lately.

”I thought Id at least hold on for longer, to think Im getting superstitious at this age… ” He groaned, scratching the itch on his head with one hand and pulling on his blanket with the other after rolling himself on his side on the new, just placed couch.

Sure, take a minute. Catheris told himself, doubting hed have the willpower to get up without adjusting a bit to being awake first. He suddenly stretched his arm to the side and started frantically moving his arm back and forth on the glass on top of his coffee table trying to feel his phone on its surface before finding it. Just something hard in general needed to be felt, as it was probably under one of the multitude of scattered magazines.

After grabbing the black phone in a clear case off of some sort of magazine, he set his alarm after glancing a bit at the time, around 6:30pm. Then he promptly went back to lying down doing nothing but trying to relax. Catheris closed his eyes and snuggled himself into the blanket.

A mere minute was all he was getting, nothing less, it was all he could afford before he got his weak ass back to work.

Currently Catheriss mind could only fantasize of getting a proper rest while staring blankly into the wall. Did he ever get a proper nights rest? No, but at least he could nap whenever he wanted to anywhere.

Perhaps the unease will go away after everythings completely settled, -I could definitely use that as motivation. ” He thought, and he did use it as motivation. Besides, he didn feel too bad about the move, did he have any friends where he last lived?

Hell no.

They only lived near the busy parts of Virosiad. He couldve gone directly into the more livelier areas to be a bit closer, but that was far too crowded, Virosiad was essentially a business hub.

The rustling of the blue and white poofy striped blanket stripped from his bed stopped after Catheris deeply huffed in a sigh the moment his alarm went off. He reluctantly got off from the couch still wrapped in the blanket, and clearly still groggy. The certain way the blanket was stuck in the couch dragging him back made it so tempting to lay down for a few more minutes of sleep. But alas, Catheris begrudgingly left the couch in the end. Midway through rubbing his closed eyes to rid his bleariness, he could hear a faint knock coming from the front door.

Catheris hadn even told his friends living in the city that he had moved yet, so it couldn be any one of them. He started picking up the blanket off the ground slightly to prevent it from getting dirty before trudging painfully slowly to the entrance of the apartment; he knew what to expect by this point.

…I love this nice ass wood floor.

Just a simple, sleek black hardwood floor. He suspected it was another door to door salesman waiting outside to pester him once again like last time, no clue on how they kept getting in but they did in the end anyways.

Once hed reached his door he hovered his hand over the gold doorknob. Truthfully, Catheris was anticipating what kind of shitty product the alluded door-to-door salesman would try and sell him. It was the fun of having a scam call, but in real life.

Gods, he was already trying to rid of the faint mischievous smile forming on his lips hidden by his hand covering his mouth. Perhaps an overpriced kitchen equipment set of poor quality he could agree to buying, then at the last moment hed back out and say his nonexistent wife said no-

Upon opening the door, a click from the door lock opening came.

Slowly but carefully Catheris opened the door, but only slightly. Before he was about to mindlessly begin with a coy, sly, innocent sounding ”yes? ” to the person he was about to meet face to face with, it struck him. Catheris eyes widened once he recognized that familiar look.

Oh shit.

-Would it be too awkward to slam the door? But theyd known each other for too long. Catheris was left speechless, his eyes wide open. He stared at the back of the door, blinking every once in a while as to not let them go dry. What if he suspected Catheris was doing some weird ass shit behind the door from the sudden door slamming. Hold on, howd he even get his address anyways-

”Hm? Are you gonna let me in? ”

The tall man brown haired man looked stupid standing there alone in the hallway. The mans appearance was also pristine- as if hed just gotten off of work, but slightly ruffled up with slight beads of sweat formed on his forehead and pinstriped suit wrinkled a bit. The suit was a royal blue with a white collared shirt underneath, the trousers were the same shade of royal blue. His hair was the same style itd been all those years ago, neatly done short brown hair with a side part on the left, with bangs only on the right.

Oh dear, Catheris had avoided him for a reason, an overwhelming wave of confusion hit him.

First off, why on earth was he here? Truth be told, Catheris didn even think hed meet Joshua again after college.

He was not about to get into that whole mess ever again, too many ladies the guy would date and too much drama, whod even date someone named Joshua?? It was shocking to even know he was back, even more shocking that he came to his doorstop, unannounced, after years of no contact since high school. Perhaps he got booted out by a recently made ex-girlfriend. On top of that the only person he told that he was moving was his best friend, so howd he know?

”…Fine. ” Catheris reluctantly agreed after opening his mouth, saying nothing while thinking what he should do; before closing his eyes to heave a deep sigh. ”-Just give me a minute though, I have to put away a few things. ”

After a few seconds hed come back after placing his blanket down on his bed. Catheris began to tidy up his bangs before waving his hand towards himself to signify that Joshua could come inside. The man began taking off his suits jacket to reveal the full white collared shirt.

Catheris planned on sitting the brown haired man down on the couch, however slight panic arose in him once he realized what hed had left on his coffee table.

It was apparent that he had forgotten about the sheer amount of magazines he had in his collection, it was truly.. something.

Joshua walked over, hunching over the coffee table to get a closer look ”Ah, shouldn we clean this up? Focusing on work so much when you haven even gotten your office set up yet is something, you could have done things online on your personal computer.. ” .

We?. He was already sweeping up everything on the table and arranging them into a neat pile, Joshua placed the magazines in a corner of the table before jumping backwards onto the leather seat of the couch.

…Right, Catheris was an adult with adult duties. Thankfully he was understanding now, such gentleness in how he picked up Catheriss prized collection.. not that immature childish kid jumping to tease him at any given moment anymore. Besides they all focused on mens fashion anyways. Catheris was now wondering why he thought the magazines would be mistaken for some other sort of intent, but some sort of magazines are associated with that.

Without missing a beat, Joshua was making himself too comfortable, ”Mmmn, have there been any good shows lately ”.

Watch the news, and get the ** out.

Of course, Catheris never would have said that out loud, but shoo shoo, leave already you bastard. But of course, he gave the remote control to Joshua, and Catheris could finally go and fix something up for the guest while said guest was distracted by the TV.

”Theres so many stories like Portrait of the Lady with Blue Eyes these days on the news. ” groaned in a monotone voice with a subtle complaining tone, despite that, it looked like Joshua was invested. The brown haired mans eyes could be observed glued onto the screen when Catheris whipped his head to see what he was doing.

In the kitchen area, was Catheris about to pour water from the water boiler into the loose leaf tea maker with a slight layer of sweetly scented tea leaves inside when he heard that. Certainly more stories have become more prevalent over the years. Before, it was unheard of but it surely was considered the norm; undisputed by whether one believed the cases or not.

About the Portrait of the Lady with Blue Eyes- It was a case that was a contender for being the strongest incident to support the claim that something supernatural actually exists.

The questions piled up about all the victims of the phenomenon and about the root of the incidents, as the incidents are executed in a flawless manner, perhaps due to subconscious thoughts.

Thats what the police suspected, that it was a mental thing coming with new times as there have been actual injuries with the reports, leaving the victim with no memories of before the incidents were committed. Before the incident that sparked the report, the victims overall state declined, such as an average drinker turning into an overindulgent drunk. All reports had something in common decline, the victims mental health.

All things considered, the happenings are under the label of a false alarm, because you cannot correlate possession reports with sudden death by demons without it sounding like utter bullshit.

They may have gotten a bit of possession reports in the past before, but only recently have they skyrocketed. Besides the fact it did sound like a joke at first, the worldwide phenomenon had consequences and could not be taken lightly. The contents of the reports even varied depending on what region they took place in, and Virosiad in particular had Shadow Demons. In fact all regions had slight activity of ”Shadow Demons but it was Virosiads specialty.

Catheris complained, ”Its like a story about becoming a trendsetter, all Reena complains about these days is of comics being shitty copies and pasted versions of each other. ”

”Reena is the one you talked about with a Paranormal Investigation service, no? Seems like an utter scam to me. ” Joshua scoffed, eyes still glued onto the screen.

And who was he to talk about Reena in that manner?

If it was a scam to the clients, itd also be a scam of Reenas time; Catheris thought she genuinely believed in the stories at this point.

Now, he didn know much of the industry, if you could even call it that. But the whole thing was pretty normalized, for whatever reason it was normalized was also the reason why women were mainly in charge on Virosiad. Except Joshua didn know anything about the place unfortunately.

After a bit of silence between the two, Catheris pathetically mustered up something to keep the conversation from drying out, ”-Still though, there must be a bit of truth to the cases. ”

Ah- it seemed like that had struck a nerve of Joshuas. He leaned over the couch; slumping his arms over it to whine at Catheris.

”Oi, a case? Theres nothing to even investigate, they
e just worthless reports. Don tell me shes brainwashing you too. Look I know shes been your friend for a while, but thats like how the stories of people selling essential oils to their friends go- Before the sentence cut off in Catheriss mind, he spaced out while Joshua dragged on with the ranting.

It sounded like mumbled background noise to Catheris, who was rolling his eyes out of Joshuas view.

-Shouldn have Joshua heard all the weird Virosiad folktales from his father by now? Then again it mustve been hard to even get him to listen, what a hectic stay at home dad life it mustve been.

The smell of black tea had dispersed throughout the apartment, the scent that wafted through gone as the slightly translucent white of steam was trapped under the lid of the tea maker, making the glass it was made of appear fogged up. And Catheris unwillingly had to pick up a bit of what the other man was speaking of.

Aiyah, randomly showing up to his place uninvited spewing bullshit. Never mind that, Catheris had some questions for the uninvited guest after he set down the singular teacup filled with hot tea next to the fancy sugar cube jar. It was the most convenient spot, alright?

”And why are you here suddenly? Don tell me you
e running away from an ex again. ” Catheris sighed.

”…Come on, don be like that. Mrs. Orial told me to come back and help you of course. ” Joshua clarified in a buddy-buddy tone, Catheris could tell Joshua was masking the fact that he did not want to get kicked out. Unfortunately, whether or not Joshua was going to be kicked out or not depended on Catheriss thoughts.

But.. Catheris hadn even told his mother he was moving.

Catheris nodded, somewhat grasping the situation from what he assumed, ”..Did Reena say anything about me to my mom? ”

”How you were too weak to move stuff, something like that. But it seems I came too late- ” Joshua replied. ”-or that you
e not as weak as Reena thought. ”

wow.

Catheris really wanted him gone with that last remark. He shook the sugar cube tongs, to ask if Joshua wanted sugar in his tea or not. Joshuas palm facing towards him shook side to side, Catheris promptly put the sugar cube back.

Catheris leaned into the back of the black leather couch, placing his elbow on the armrest before crossing his legs, ”Mn, I only have a few small things I need to put in my room. Why don you leave now? I can handle things here by myself..

Hed only need to organize a few things and finish up decorating his room. Then throw out all the boxes and hed finally be all set, sleeping on a sweet comfy bed instead of a couch-

”But I can go back after coming all the way here… ” Joshua protested in an obviously fake dramatic saddened, desperate voice.

-And this guy was still here, the only obstacle blocking Catheris from the path of lazing about peacefully.

Shut up- and get out of my house too.

What to do, what to do… Of course he should have expected this from how much Joshua respected his mom but still- it was rather pitiful.

Catheris pleaded, ”Im telling this for your own good, please get out. ” in a low, slightly shaky voice due to the obvious lack of sleep.

”And whats gonna be for my own good? And isn it also for your own good that Im willing to help you out? ”

Joshua stood up to wave towards himself for Catheris to follow him. Catheris knew he was gonna get caught, but damn.

Joshua noticed Catheris rubbing his eyes with a bit of water coming out from them, able to tell he was still cranky from the dragged out sounds he let out while doing so, ”I know you
e tired, but itll be quicker than having to do it yourself. Besides I can handle everything while you just watch, now where are those boxes- ”

”Alright.. The boxes are in my room already. ” Catheris awkwardly admitted while moping around with his hands over his eyes, fingers entwined, taking in all the darkness to soothe his eyes that stung from the light.

In the end, Catheris slowly- but surely dragged his feet to his own room while Joshua impatiently waited, increasingly getting closer to just grabbing him every second Catheris painstakingly dragged the whole ordeal on. Joshua even had to state that he couldn even do anything, unless Catheris told him where things went to motivate him to move.

”-My sketches go on that shelf, no- that ones for plants. I meant the one above you- ”

”-Can you even reach here? ” Joshua replied, shocked from the utter amount of shelves in the room, ”..Gods, why do you store everything in your room anyways, don you have more space?? ”

”I do my work in that one, I also have my clothes there. ”

”Ah… ”

The storing clothes part explained enough.

”I think thats all, are you finally satisfied now after doing what my mom told you to do? ”

”..Yes sir. ” Joshua awkwardly replied, freezing up at the door leading into the hallway.

Catheris supposed Joshua could have something in return for the help. His long hair dangled off of his chest while he leaned over the short, well crafted bedside table to look inside the top drawer out of two. After skimming the cluttered contents the shininess of a gold colored key caught his eye, Catheris made quick work of his long slender fingers to pick it up and hide it behind himself.

Hed silently walked over to Joshua, who was putting on his brown leather dress shoes, before tapping him on his lower back suddenly.

”Hm..? ”

”Its a key to this place, I was going to give you this once if you were in the area, -until you suddenly showed up. Put this to good use if a girlfriend ever kicks you out onto the streets. ”

”What do you take me for..? ”

Catheris scoffed, he was obviously feigning ignorance, ”..Just take it. ”

After he heard the loud slamming of his door from Joshua exiting, Catheris finally felt relief, he could finally sleep in his room after all that damn time.

Catheris began to walk over to his finally fully decorated room before he caught something in the corner of his eye while he exited the hallway into his living room.

A large, inhumanly tall humanoid shadow was on his wall. He rubbed his eyes to see if he was seeing things clearly, probably from the lack of sleep.

Yes, that was it, probably.

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