Jul. 18th, 2012 07:26 pm
This is an impromptu sequel to Necklace and takes place around eighteen months later.

She backed up into the corner, pale blonde hair falling around her face, eyes wide and dark, mouth parted. She could feel the cool metal of the wall behind her, no place else to go.

"Let's play." Across the room in front of her the Nekocarna hissed, a woman almost more cat than human and pure predator. The Nekocarna crouched, circling slightly at the far end of the room, not yet closing the gap.

Almost, fear overwhelmed her, and with it came the first hints of anger. This wasn't fair, hadn't she been persecuted enough. Was she now going to die here, like this? Cornered by a wild animal, with no protection. They had taken her demon from her, and even though he had persecuted and tormented her endlessly, it wasn't until now, until he was gone, stolen, that she realised how much she needed him.

The Nekocarna flicked her tail, almost whipping the ground. "Come, let's play," she purred, "and then you will be free."

She stiffened slightly, back still pressed against the wall, eyes still wide with fear, but the word echoed through her mind. Free. A second word chased it. Mine. Possessive, dominant. Always persecuting, but sometimes oddly gentle, oddly true.

They had taken her demon from her, locked him away somehow, in a box from which even he could not escape. They had persecuted them both, separated them, and she knew, even though she could not feel him, that they had tortured him. And now this bitch of a cat was going to kill her, and she thought that would set her free.

Pieces of the puzzle fell together in her mind, and as she shifted she felt the familiar weight of the pendant around her neck move. The cage that lay nestled between her breasts. She heard the faerie's sudden dark laughter as it read her thoughts, and she knew that she was right.

Oh, you beautiful, brilliant, scheming son of a bitch. Her hand closed around the small sphere, pulling it. He'd planned for this, as he'd planned for everything. Somehow, he had known. She felt the thin chain snap and break as she pulled on it.

She wasn't free while she was apart from him. For all the darkness he had wrought in her, her freedom lay with him. The choice was hers, now as always. He had left it with her, his freedom was clasped tightly in her hand, bound to that of another.

"Of my own volition," she whispered, and flung the tiny cage down on the ground in front of her. The Nekocarna startled back, as the cage shattered like spun glass. There was a rush of air and the beating sound of dragonfly wings, as the faerie that had been imprisoned was released. There was a twisting sound, as of rending metal, as magic called on magic, and then she felt the familiar dark presence at her back.

Too late, far too late the Nekocarna responded to her actions and sprang forward, claws extended.

"My turn to play," it was always strange to hear his voice coming from her mouth. More strange to feel his metal sheathed gloves on her hands, blades sharp. She danced to his will, a marionette on a string, as they moved together, and the Nekocarna fell.

He didn't release her until bones were shattered and skin torn, blood pooling idly on the floor. She backed away against the wall again, this time in fear of what they had done, what she had done.

Looking up from the body, she saw the faerie in front of her. Full size, it was four foot eight, and it hovered over the body of the Nekocarna, gossamer wings bathed in blood.

"The debt is repaid," said the fae, "and now we are free." The faerie vanished, the slight sparkle of dust that presaged it soiled by fine droplets of blood. The dark presence of her demon recede, and once again she was alone, save for the lingering sound of the faerie's maddenning laughter.


Jul. 15th, 2012 01:58 pm

Normally, she avoided mirrors. It wasn't that she was ashamed of the way that she looked or her reflected image, but she felt awkward, uncomfortable. When she passed by them, she felt as if she could see things that normally hid in the corner of her eye, as if she looked too closely, she could see the shadow of someone standing behind her. The voice that whispered inside her head, her constant companion. So she avoided mirrors and reflections, where she could.

But today, she pasued in the half light of the room, and turned to face the mirror full on. Her brown eyes traced the line of her hair, blonde pale enough to almost be platinum, hanging straight down to almost conceal her face, her full lips. Lower, to where it brushed in unkempt ends across her shoulders, the dull robe she was wearing hanging slightly open, revealing the swell of her breasts.

Close your eyes, whispered the familiar voice in her mind, and she obeyed. No one stood behind her, yet she felt a hand brush through the air in front of her, pausing before her mouth as she slowly exhaled. She felt the solid weight of darkness behind her, malvolent, familiar, consuming, protective. Hands pulled at her hair, and she startled until he growled.

Light hands brushed across her neck, and she felt riven skin and cool metal. Almost, she opened her eyes, but the growl came again, with words, his words, weaving through her mind. But always before the words had been just that, a voice inside her head, that gnawed at the back of her mind, the presence had always been her own imagination, she'd never felt him so vividly before.

The hands finished at the back of her neck, and pulled away, but still she could feel him behind her, she felt his arm move around her, metal wreathed finger lightly touching her lips. Now.

Reluctantly, fearfully, she opened her eyes, her gaze still downcast. The first thing she noticed was the light, a small point nestled between her breasts. It was suspended from a fine silver chain that hung around her neck. She hadn't felt the chain as he'd fastened it on her, it was light and comfortable.

She focussed on the source of the light, it was a round ball of finely woven filigree silver, the size of her thumbnail, the silver fine as wire, creating a perfect sphere, hanging between her breasts and glowing with an inner light.

She looked closer, and realised that it wasn't a ball at all, but an exquisite silver cage. The source of the light came from inside the cage, where a tiny faerie knelt, trapped. The faerie's tears shimmered, casting the light that caused the cage to glow. The faerie's wings, like those of a dragonfly, brushed against the edges of the cage.

Her gaze was drawn up. In front of her face there was nothing, she could see nothing, feel nothing with her eyes open. But in her reflection in the mirror, bathed in the faerie's light, a metal wrapped hand was held in front of her face.

She looked up, and for the first time she saw his face, reflected in the light of the faerie's tears, the voice that forever whispered in his mind.

Don't. The word wrapped around her, before she could turn to look over her shoulder. But even as she watched his lips shape the words she knew that she wouldn't have seen him there. She would only ever see him as he held her reflection in the mirror, his voice in her mind, whispering, tormenting, caressing.

His hand reached down, one silver claw lightly rocking the faerie's cage. Her debt is now to you. She is yours, as you are mine.

Unbidden her hand moved, as his hand closed around it. She clasped her hand around the faerie's cage, dimming the light that only showed reflected in the glass, moving the world to darkness. She felt the demon's gift in her hand solid and real, his last word echoed in her mind. Mine. Then she was alone, and only the laughter remained.

Everybody looked at the trees as they climbed the steps, but nobody saw the wood. They noticed the slender birches and the ash, the way in which they shared the light. Some noticed the fallen trees, dead wood lying amongst the undergrowth.

But they didn't see the wood. Even in the rainy season when mud made the path treacherous, they didn't see the planks underfoot. Even when it snowed, and children scooped piles of snow from the hand rails, hurling it at each other and scattering the sprites when they missed.

Planks of wood, bolted together with cold iron, supports driven back into the cold earth, with no roots to provide nourishment. Flattened boards laid down to provide footing, as if to provide a comically natural effect, as out of place as chattering sounds of children's voices.

The Dryad saw the wood. She remembered the great oak, how tall and proud it had been, before it was shattered, split by lightning, driven mad by pain. Tainted and corrupted, it had threatened the forest. She had watched it, hidden within the bark of her beech tree, pale skinned and trembling.

For the first time, when the loggers came, the forest wasn't afraid. She had listened to the screams of the oak as it was torn apart, shaped and reshaped, and she had laughed as it was pressed back into service, it's body made to serve the forest, even if at human whims.

Each day, she saw the wood, the splintered bones of the old oak tree, and she laughed.

The beginning is fear

That isn't what the spray paint on the wall said, but that's what it meant. He knew, because he'd put it there. A reminder, and a promise.

The wall itself was ramshackle and non-descript, in a run down and neglected part of the city, boarded up windows and the detritus of other lives stacked up outside. But the wall wasn't important, what was important was what lay inside, universes of possibility unfolded behind it.

In that regard, it was like the skulls that he treasured. The skulls were only the containers, white and drab out of context, like the wall, sometimes chipped and scarred if he couldn't get to them early enough. But what lay inside them was truly magical, limitless possibilities, swirling galaxies and planets, almost as if the reflections of the stars against the retinas were held inside that cavity. Entire star clusters caught and reflected for all eternity.

Those were the ones that he treasured. The ones that, even in this city, still looked up beyond the glare and the lights, to see the stars. The ones who carried those stars within them.

He could already feel this one, he knew. It would sparkle and shine inside that drab facade, the sparkling beauty of a nebula, and he would capture it there. Plain, pure white bone, filligreed with gold and set with tiny gems. Diamonds, this time, with a hint of sapphire remembering the luminescence of the eyes. The gold wire was threaded through the skull before the flesh was stripped away. The diamonds placed to captured the light of the eyes before it faded. The skulls were woven and decorated before they could be seen, so that the stars were captured inside them.

It wasn't until the flesh was stripped away that he would know whether the stars remained. But this one, he could already see it in his mind. Swirling nebulas, captured deep within the hollows of the skull, this would become a prize in his collection.

It would take time, the weaving, but the stars would burn so brightly as he gave them birth. Like any birth, one wreathed with blood and pain. But first, the skull had to be tempered. Seasoned and purified.

The beginning is fear.


Gabriel John Utterson

July 2012

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