My Sister still Speaks

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They’d set camp on an esker; a long serpentine hillock of rock deposited by a glacier eons ago. Alaska kept first watch, and they slept during the day. The silent village far behind, they both now felt comfortable talking again, but it had been slow going. The horror of that place, and what the dead did there hadn’t fully left and conversation was slow to restart.

“Wake me in two hours,” Meridian said.

“That’s a short nap,” Alaska said.

“I don’t feel like sleeping.”

“You could take the first watch then.”

“Do you want me to?”

“Not really. I don’t feel like sleeping either. Bad dreams.”

Meridian didn’t expect to sleep at all. The ground was hard, and the meager supplies they’d gained from the village hadn’t included a pillow. Still, she was surprised to find herself in a dream.

There’s been a clan in New York, the Morningside family, who’d been rumored to have prophetic dreams, and Grandpa Jen’s grandpa had married a Morningside woman, but Meridian thought that such things were nonsense.

In the dream, she was standing on the esker with her sister. Hannah wore the same outfit she did. As twins, it could be expected they’d be dressed the same, but they actually hated matching, and so they had worn their hair different, their clothes different, even their weapons and fighting styles were different. But it was the same face, the same eyes, Meridian’s mirror.

“Prophetic dreams?” Hannah said, laughing. “Meridian, you know better than that.”

“You sound like yourself,” Meridian said.

“I’m safe from the Enemy here,” Hannah said. “Are you?”

Meridian shook off the question and surveyed the land. The dream esker was thousands of miles taller than the real one and her sight ranged out as far back as New York and as far ahead as the Great Slave Lake.

“How was everybody when you left?” Hannah asked. “I’ve missed so much.”

“Ha!” Meridian said. “You don’t know what it’s like without you.”

“I bet mama’s sad.”

“She’s dead,” Meridian said. “A stroke or something.”

“Then you’re the last of the Mott’s?”

Ian, Jenette, and Hazel,” Meridian said. “I should have stayed and taught Jenette. She doesn’t even have a weapon.”

“Motts are weapons,” Hannah said.

“Yes,” Meridian said, gazing at Manhattan. She could see far into its buildings. A pretty city sticking out of the water. It had been said it took four hundred years to build a city like that, and only a decade to flood it. It had endured because of the flooding. The Enemy came after the great fires. The ancients had done something to the weather, and the south had burned. The north’s cities multiplied and grew and then the Enemy had swallowed everybody up.

Manhattan gleamed. New York never looked prettier with its buildings rising from the ocean. Inside the crooked building on Mott Street, her cousin Hazel leaned against a window and looked down onto a rooftop, one of the highrises overlooking Central Park Lake. They looked back up at her, dead faces with white eyes and mouths twisted with fangs.

“Soon,” Hazel said, her voice like crystal-struck chimes. She ran her hands over the hilt of her sword. “Soon, you’ll all be liberated.”

Meridian found it strange, in that moment, that this fourteen year old girl should sound so bloodthirsty.

“It’s not as good a sword as yours,” Hannah said.

“She’ll do fine,” Meridian said. “It’s unfair. I should have been the one to die.”

“I made the choice,” Hannah said. “A world without you was too awful to think about. So, I took the easy way out.”

“It’s cruel,” Meridian said. “I feel hollow everyday. Revenge is all that gets me up, and they can hear my thoughts. How am I supposed to defeat them if they know my moves before I make them?”

Meridian turned away from Manhattan and looked toward the Slave Lake. It lay like a silver plate among the Canadian wilderness. It was created 8,300 years ago when the larger Lake McConnell split. It was the deepest lake in North America. It was the tenth largest lake in the world. On its shore was a gate.

Meridian focused on the gate. It looked like a circular mirror circled in goldleaf and fire. It shone like an ember and was open; darkness crawled out of it.

Things, not quite machine and not quite undead, but a mixture of both, guarded it. A horrible demon sat on its gilded top. The area around the gate was a blasted heath, for the nations of man had tried to nuke it. The demon spoke in tongues to the legions around the gate and they laughed as it laughed, they all being of one mind.

“You’ll have to fight them all,” Hannah said, “and then you’ll have to fight me.”

“I can’t fight you,” Meridian said. “That’s the only thing I ask.”

“That will be beyond the gate,” Hannah said.

“Beyond the gate?” Meridian said, straining her eyes to get a look into it.

The center swelled and the mirror bent and she found herself on a plain of wheat in front of a marvelous fortress. It looked almost like a gold version of Jefferson Market Library’s clocktower except a million stories taller.

“The grass is poisonous,” Hannah said, leaning close. Even in the dream Meridian could smell her sister’s sweat. A familiar smell, wrestling was part of their training, and the sour smell made her nearly choke with sadness. “A single cut from them will kill fifty grown men.”

They passed through the grass like ghosts and soon stood in the antechamber of the great clocktower. A mountain of corpses stirred uneasily on the floor. Meridian gasped in shock when she saw they some clearly were not human but collected from other planes of existence. Their alien physiognomies would have been enough to turn Meridian’s stomach had they been alive, and now dead and rotting, waiting their master’s call, they were too horrible to look at even filtered through a dream.

Meridian willed herself to the end of the chamber, and they ascended the final steps to a throne room. Like everything else in the building, it was overly decorated and carved with gold and hundreds of gems. The throne rose up on pyramidal steps, and on it was a woman pinned to the throne with a long dagger, what Meridian thought of as a dirk. It must have been driven into her with enormous force to go through both rib cage and spine and then penetrate far enough to keep the woman pinned.

Despite this, and the silver blood dried on her chemise, she appeared to only be sleeping. She was beautiful; long dark hair, the kind of upturned nose that gave the face a youthful quality, and soft full lips. Almost too perfect. Upon her head rested a rusting crown with a small lapis skull placed in the center.

Meridian approached cautiously. Her sister trailed. Just before the steps sat a woman clad in medieval armor. She was dead, but unlike the parlor of the undead, she had a kind of light about her.

“You’re Meridian?” this woman asked.

“Yes,” Meridian said. “Who are you?”

“The one who stabbed her,” the knightess said, gesturing to the undead queen. “It cost me my life, but she’d taken much from me. Alas, I could only stop her temporarily.”

“Why don’t we finish it?” Hannah said. “If we behead her while she sleeps, she’ll be done.”

Meridian reached for her sword, but the hilt that always rested comfortably on her hip was gone.

“Now she sleeps and dreams,” the knightess said sadly, “but still she causes much harm. She’s always seeking a way back into the world. And where her thoughts walk so do the dead. A necromancer brings a loved one back, and she finds that crack in the world and then she widens it and keeps pushing until all the dead in that world are hers, and then that world falls to her. It’s the only way she can interact outside this dream.”

“Then we should finish it,” Hannah said. “Meridian, your sword!”

“I don’t have it,” Meridian said.

“Unfortunately, I’ve lost my sword as well,” the knightess said.

“It’s still in the goddess,” Hannah said, pointing. “If you draw it out, you should be able to behead her before she can wake.”

Meridian stepped forward and ascended the dream stairs in a second. She stood before the woman. She looked young, yes. And very beautiful. The sort of beauty that makes men weep and the stars jealous. But this close Meridian could also see the cruel snarl of the lips, the restless way they would pull back revealing dainty fangs on both the top and bottom rows of teeth.

The woman also reeked of blood. The metallic taste of it saturated the air around the throne.

“Yes,” Meridian said, placing her hand on the dagger’s pommel. It would take less than a second. All she had to do was pull and slash. She could do it.

“Then why hesitate?” Hannah said. “Do it!”

“Wait,” Meridian said. She took another look at the sword. It had rusted over the centuries. If she pulled it out, it would crumble to dust. If she pulled it out--

“Why?” Meridian said, turning to her sister.

Hannah frowned at her. Still Meridian’s perfect mirror image, yet a cruel expression played in her eyes.

“Why?” Hannah said, sounding hotty and arrogant. “Why? Meridian, if you were smarter you wouldn’t have to ask such stupid questions.”

“You’re not Hannah at all,” Meridian said. “You’re her aren’t you?”

Meridian jabbed a finger at the sleeping queen.

“You’d like to think that,” Hannah said, “but it’s fully me in here. When you join us, you’ll understand.”

“I’d kill myself first.”

Hannah laughed. “You’d like to think that! But you were too cowardly to do it the first time. Instead of facing your death like a grown woman, you let me die.”

“Everything you say is a lie!”

“Then why does it hurt? I was your sister! Your twin sister. You consigned me to this hell and the hate I have for you is infinite.”

“I’m done here,” Meridian said, and she physically hauled herself out of the dream. She sped through the antechamber, out the gate, along the entirety of Canada, and finally landed on the esker at the speed of light.

She opened her eyes. The sun was directly above, and the bright light made her eyes water. She could hear Alaska shifting uncomfortably in her seat in the dirt.

Bad dream?” Alaska asked, looking over.

“One of the worst,” Meridian said, sitting up so she could wipe her eyes.

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My Sister still Speaks

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