The Morning After the Night Before
This story takes place the day after “The Devil You Know,” on the second Sunday of Year 3 of the Addergoole School.
Callista woke in the dark, drenched in sweat, shivering. She was on the floor, the carpet under her hard and rough against her skin, still in her clothes.
As the fog of sleep lifted, she began to remember the night before. The darkness, the demons chasing her through the halls, the wicked blade the demon had held, and the black-skinned monster that had…
She shuddered. What had he done? What had she done? The words had seemed harmless enough (but then again, so had he), but the walk back to his room didn’t even exist in her memory; he had told her to come here, and she was here. Volition didn’t seem to play a part.
And she hurt, everywhere, not just an ache but, as she lay awake in the dark, pain that seemed to escalate. Breathing hurt. She could feel every bone in her back and hips grinding into the cement under the carpet. But moving seemed to be something she’d done a long time ago, back before the darkness of this stranger’s floor; her arms didn’t seem to bend properly to push herself up and, with the stabbing pain in her ribs and spine, sitting straight up didn’t seem like an option.
“Good, you’re awake.” The voice came from above her and to her right; she tried to look that way, and found that she could turn her head with only a small universe of pain exploding in her neck. There was a bed there; she could see under it, dim shapes that looked threatening and ghastly in the faint light. She hoped they would turn out to be mundane and prosaic with the lights on. If the lights ever came on.
Descending from the bed were two normal-looking bare feet. For a moment, she hoped, or feared, that it wasn't the black-skinned boy with wings, or that she'd imagined the wings, the glowing green eyes. Hallucinations. That was it. Something in the water. She certainly wouldn't put that past this place. And, indeed, as he leaned down to look at her - bare legs, lightly covered with fair hair, bare shoulders, bare chest, covered in shadow - his face looked like the normal, skinny teenage boy who had pulled her in to his hidey-hole the day before.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, smirking slightly as he did so.
I hurt all over and I don't know why, she didn't say. She didn't want to admit to this stranger how vague everything was right now. Instead, she focused on the one thing she could remember clearly.
"You tricked me," she accused him, glaring up at him, fully aware how non-threatening she looked but still angry.
He nodded, his grin looking ominous and creepy in the shadows. "Of course."
"You lied to me!" Her voice refused to be as loud as she wanted it to be, and her ribs ached with the effort. And all he did was shake his head slowly, side to side: no.
"No." There was no arguing with that tone of voice; even her heart and lungs seemed to want to stop. Somehow, she convinced them to keep going. “Two things you can be certain of with me. I will never lie to you, and I will protect you from all outside threats."
She didn’t want to think too hard about outside threats, so she focused on his lies, managing to rake her eyes over his so-harmless-looking human form, to convey doubt with her eyes even if she couldn't with words.
His lips curled back into something like a smile. “This form? It’s no more a lie than the other one. Did you like that one better?”
She found her voice again. “This makes you look harmless.”
He chuckled at her, a sound with sharp edges that stabbed her in every aching place in her body, sending new waves of pain through her. “That’s the idea. Would you rather deal with the demon-skin?”
She tried to nod, but even that was too much effort. She forced the words out, wondering why it was so hard to say. “Yes, please.” She’d rather deal with the demon she knew than let herself be lulled into thinking he was an ordinary human.
“I suppose I can do that for you.” He shook himself like a wet dog, and his wings seemed to splash out from him, spreading to fill the darkness behind him, while his skin grew darker and darker. Only his eyes truly stood out, luminescent green almonds over whitish teeth. “Since you asked so nicely.” He looked down at her, leering, and she wondered why she hadn’t been able to feel the faint breeze his wings were making before. “Anything else I can do for you?”
She stretched a little, trying to pry herself off the floor. It was painful, but she found she could actually move, a little bit. If he was offering, as cruel as he seemed, maybe she could get some answers from him. “What…?” She swallowed, tried to clear her head, and tried again. “What did you do to me?”
He frowned, an expression that was oddly comforting. “What do you mean by that?” He hopped down from the bed to crouch next to her, his wings blocking what little light there was, so that there was nothing at all but his oddly-glowing eyes.
“I…” it was only getting worse, and she was mortified to hear a moan escape her lips when she had meant to say something snarky and witty about the… “fuck. It hurts.” Yeah, witty.
“It hurts? Where?” There was something intense about his voice, either very worried or very eager. It was hard to tell, with no expression to go on and the strange reverberating echo that followed every word, like a purr, or a snarl.
Everywhere. But she took the time to categorize. “My ribs. My ass. Ow, fuck. My lungs. My… hips.” Close enough. “My neck.”
“Mmm.” The note of concern was gone, replaced by a low rumble. “Close your eyes, and don’t open them until I say so.”
She closed her eyes, then, as he stood, the air moving above her, tried to open them, only to find that she couldn’t. “Hey!” she cried out.
“Mm?” His voice was moving across the room; she turned her head to track it, trying to open her eyes and failing. “Oh. You tried to disobey. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“What did you do to me?” she wailed. The room went warm and light behind her eyelids, but she still could not open her eyes.
“Me?” The demon sounded creepier when she could only hear his voice, the low, evil chuckle seeming to bounce off the walls of the room. “Dear, you’re the one who said you belonged to me. You’re the one who sold yourself to me for a moment of safety.” He was closing the distance, his voice coming closer and closer.
She tried to respond: she had done no such thing, she’d never even thought of something like that, she’d never sell herself. Was he calling her a whore? But nothing came out except a choked noise of protest.
“Aaah, that explains the pain,” he said, and she could feel him leaning over her. “Hold still.”
She wanted to scream at him, but her lungs were having trouble pushing air. She wanted to slap him, but her already-taxed muscles wouldn’t move. She settled for crying, the tears rolling down her face, as his hands slid under her shirt and poked and prodded at her tender, bruised body. “Does this hurt?” She managed a choked whimper without moving. “Mm.. right.” She felt him tear her shirt as much as she heard it, pulling it off of her, and some of the pain seemed to subside. “There. You can move, if you want, but be careful.” His hands rested on her hips, preventing her from moving too far.
“What…?” she tried again, finding her breathing was beginning to come back.
“Not me, I’m afraid,” he laughs. “You’re going through your Change, my pretty spider girl.” He stroked one hand up and down her body while she sobbed quietly, tweaking and pinching her body, running his hands up and down skin she couldn’t see, couldn’t identify, but could feel in painful, confusing, detail.
Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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