hung sick and pallid in the stale night
, a sliver, giving off no light. I was leaning against the wall of some monolith
of a building, trying not to breathe the thick, rotting air. Another night in this hole
I was considering going back home, but thought better of it. I had left her there, and I didn't need to go back to her. She was fine on her own. Or so I thought. But that didn't matter. I wasn't going to think about it anymore, I was past it. It was about time that I realized that nothing is real here. It doesn't matter what I do, because none of it adds up at all. Whatever I say, people I know, things I believe, it's nothing. Doesn't bother me in the least.
Right about then was the second time it started dragging me toward that place uptown. An itch in an unreachable place, nagging. An odd sensation, in this place of numbness. I ignored it for the time being. I had better things to do.
So, I trudged my way up the street, slowly. The streetlights were bright white, stinging my eyes, leading my thoughts away from the maddening itch. I was glad for the distraction, the itch was starting to get to me. I didn't know the half of it.
When I got to the next corner, the pain from the streetlights took backseat to something worse. The itch intensified, and slowly turned into blinding-hot agony. It crawled into my brain and started clawing at the sides. I fell to my knees, clutching my head. I had to go where it wanted, I guess.
So I got up, and went to Her. I realized what She was, and what She wanted. And I realized I had no choice.
That didn't stop me from being happy about it.
I still remember the smell of it. That's really the one thing that stays with me.
It was in a place uptown, a few days ago. The door was ajar, and most of the lights were on the floor in piles of broken glass. I saw people on the floor, dead from whatever struck them as a good idea. I could hear the soft scream of a man setting himself on fire, all the while facing the darkest corner of the room, with a huge smile on his face. Like he was doing something magnificent, something to be praised.
Another person, I think it was a woman, had cut her face so that the lines of blood formed a mask around her eyes and mouth. She had her hands raised, as if giving this carnal sacrifice to God or Whatever. She staggered to the corner the flaming man was facing, hands raised, mouthing a prayer, or a curse, or maybe a plea. She fell before she got too far.
The smell reached me then. Sweet-rot, like corpses buried under fall leaves. Something you smell when you’re walking through a forest and you know something is after you. The smell of the fanged thing under the latticed porch.
And then, I saw Her.
She was the One sitting in the corner. Her hand slithered out of the dark to wrap two fingers around the stem of a glass of absinthe, garnished with a lily. That hand was covered with swirling blue tattoos, and it was glorious, that hand.
Her name was Lily, and we were Hers. We always were.
She was perfect.
And I wanted Her.
She knew me, and I knew Her. She was calling again, and I had to answer the call. So I did.
This time, She didn’t have her followers with her. I thanked her for that, but I don’t think She heard. Sometimes, She chooses to ignore things. Or maybe she just stores them away somewhere, for later. I don’t know.
It was in the middle of the city, in the park. Sort of a nice place, lots of trees, not much open space. Not exactly a place you’d let your children run around in, and for good reason. Things lived in those woods, things with no eyes. But in the middle of the park itself was a fountain, and I was sure She was there. She was.
It was...beyond anything I could describe. There used to be an old fountain there, but She turned it into something else. I think it was made of glass, or ice. It was black and red and blue, and it moved, slowly. The colors slid along its smooth surface. It had no particular shape. It looked like what happens when a star dies. Not what the scientists tell you about, a supernova. No, this wasn’t forceful or bright. It was what happened when a star finally decides to die, after billions of years of burning. Whatever it was, it was exquisite. I almost didn’t notice Her, standing to the side, still in the shadows.
“Lily.” I ventured.
“Yeah.” Her voice was seawater over obsidian. I almost knelt.
“I guess...you wanted something?”
“Yeah, I did. I think you know why I called you here.” Waves washing over black glass. It was getting harder and harder not to prostrate myself in front of Her shadow.
I did. Deep in the recesses of my mind, I did. And now I was afraid. So afraid.
“Look, I could do anything for you. Get you anything, take you anywhere –"
“You know I don’t want anything. And,” she chuckled. Silver and void, dancing over flames. “I can go anywhere I want. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. You know I chose you. It’s either that, or I take your heart. That hurts a lot, if you hadn’t figured.”
I sighed. I knew that from the beginning. I had to do it. I was going with Her.
“Why aren’t I happy about this? I’ve wanted you for so long.” I muttered. I knew She wasn’t going to answer that.
“Because you are who you are. Nothing more.”
But that doesn’t explain anything, I thought. I’m still frightened.
“We have to go now. Make up your mind.”
I already had.
“I’ll go. There’s nothing for me here.”
“Good.” I could hear Her smile, and I felt a surge of bliss. I had made Her smile.
She reached a hand out of the darkness, that blue-tattooed hand, and motioned me toward the woods, into the darkness. Her hand reminded me of the dead. The ones who weren’t chosen. She felt no remorse for them, and neither did I. Not anymore. They weren’t real, anyway.
She turned and started walking back to wherever we were going. The smell wasn’t of sweet-rot anymore. It was the smell of a rocky shore no one had been to. It was the smell of pine needles and an open grey sky. It was the smell of being alone.
I walked behind Her. As I got closer, She looked over Her shoulder. I could finally see Her face. She smiled again.
“You made a good choice. I wouldn’t have wanted to take your heart. I like you.”
I didn’t think that needed a response, so I kept walking. She knew what I would have said. And it didn’t matter.
The smell of loneliness got stronger.
She smiled, for the last time. “You’re welcome.”
A continuation of my Prosenoder's Cup entry