ADC 2 Teaser Snippet!

Yar, there be major spoilers ahead if you haven’t read A Deathly Compromise. 

A little snippet I wrote some time ago and just polished up. Some changes will undoubtedly occur before the first draft is compiled, but this is just a taste of what’s to come. Enjoy!

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Summer. Heat.
Blech.

I downed another Scotch, watching fragments of human beings through the bottom of the glass and clouded windows walk to their homes, or at the very least, to distractions.  From left to right, they became long, ghastly figures, then scrunched stumps of flesh before becoming themselves again. If only it was so easy to change.

“Another?”

I exhaled, the heat from the liquor pleasantly burning my throat as I set the glass down with a thumb on the oak bar. I should really stop. “This time on the rocks, Bex. It’s too damn hot today.”

“I’ll say. It’s the 9th circle of hell out there,” the bartender replied.

I tapped a knuckle on the wood. “It’s cold.”

“Hmm?” He poured the Scotch in generously, sliding the tumbler back into my hands. My palms were actually sweaty.

“The 9th circle of hell- it’s not warm. It’s frozen in ice.” I should know.

Bex seemed annoyed at the correction but took it in anyway. “Well, then I’d happily welcome it on a day like today.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I whispered under a smile, gleaming teeth reflecting in the sides of the glass as I put it up to my lips and kissed the ice cubes amongst the gold elixir. The condensation from the glass trickled through my fingertips, dripping on the oak. I thought of copper and crimson and it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I looked over at Bex as he attended to another customer. Rare to have more than one messed up person in a bar this early. Between the smell of draft beers and darkened rum, Bex’s smell came through, tinged with decay. Soon for him, but not now.

A blast of wind erupted by my side, sending locks of hair into my eyes. I smelled him before I saw him. It took every ounce for me not to turn my head. Instead, I tapped my fingers on the glass, waiting for Bex’s acknowledging nod. “What do you want?”

“You can look at me for one,” Lux uttered, his hands folding together on the bar.

“You assume that I’d want to look at you.”

“Dee,” he began.

“No, stop it. Just…stop. I,” I let out a scoff. “I don’t think I can.”

He slowly reached out his hand towards me, gently touching my jaw. It burned, but not in the same way it used to. I closed my eyes, listening to the sound of Scotch and glass clinking once again. “Dee, you have a friend that needs you.”

“She doesn’t need me. She needs you. The less she sees of me, the better.”

“Things are not like they were before. You can do both, you can be both.” I finally dared to look up. His eyes were just as vibrant as they were when he was alive, not even I could change that. “There she is,” he whispered. He searched my eyes as if he could bring back what he left behind.

I shook my head. “Lest you forget, the last time I chose to be both, shit got real. All over. I’m not making the same mistake.” I grabbed the glass and downed it, the liquid nearly evaporating before it went down my esophagus. “If you know what’s good for you, Lux, you’ll stay out of my way.”

I slid off the stool, leaving some cash for Bex and turned to leave. Lux’s hand slipped on my waist, his thumb and index finger gently squeezing. “Dee, do you want to know why I came back?”

A low grumble came from my throat. “If I wanted to know, I would ask. It doesn’t matter now.” I motioned for my feet to step back from his hold but they didn’t move. Instead he stood, coming closer. I took a deep breath and exhaled. His hand went back up to my jaw, his fingertips holding my chin up. “Lux, I swear, I’m going to punch you if…”

His eyebrows furrowed then, his attention wavering to some unseen noise. His eyes darted back and forth and he backed away, listening. “Something’s wrong.”

“Lux…?”

“Get out of here, find your sisters.” In a blink, he was gone, the feeling of his hands still scorching my skin.

And then I heard it.
The screaming.
The gurgle of blood clotting in a throat.
A laugh, one that I knew but had hoped to never hear from for a long time.
It was too soon.

Then a whisper, soft but sharp as a knife, “Sweet, sweet girl, oh how I’ve missed you.”

“I notice autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”

—a little Dee short on an autumn day, you can read A Deathly Compromise here

The rain hadn’t stopped in sixteen days, not that I minded. Each drop that landed on my lips tasted like autumn. In between curtains of downpour, I sat on the knoll and waited for the next band to come in from the sea. Soon enough, as the calendar pages decreased, the rain would turn to sleet then to snow. The wind was already slicing with bitterness.

What was so swell about winter, anyway? Everything was already dead. My work would be  done and I would get bored waiting for life to pop through the cement cracks again. No, autumn was the present, the best of it, the climax of war. Autumn killed, twisted, dried up and metamorphosed everything. If it didn’t die, it hid, waiting patiently for my grip to loosen. Death was very much alive, thank you very much.

A leaf had blown into my lap, its crisp, maple edges landing perfectly between drops. I picked it up by its stem, examining the creases and small holes. The green had been fading, the majority of the leaf a light amber. Its cycle was near its end. A small spark left my fingers, sending a ribbon of light through the stem and upwards to the veins. For a moment, the amber seemed to glow a deep, warm gold before it faded into orange, then crimson, then a dusty brown before curling up its blades into a burnt fossil.

I smiled, hardly enjoying it. It had already been dead.

You ruined it, you know.

“Go away.” I clapped the ash of the leaf against the leg of my pants.

It may have liked how it looked once it parted from its home, did you ever think about that?

“Oh, all the time.” I rolled my eyes and curled my legs up, my chin resting on the tops of my knees. The silence that followed was deafening. The wind picked up from the west and the voice followed.

Do you like it, Death? Ruining it all? Playing with your food?

I didn’t answer. Acid pooled in my mouth. I stared ahead and thought of the last time I was on this knoll – breaths catching and the early autumn sun. I thought I was a mess then. He didn’t.

Ignoring me, then. Ignoring the inevitable. Do you remember, Death? Do you remember how I led you across the world with your hand in mine, our smiles matching as you ate it all away?  

My knuckles were bruising black, flakes of ash flying away from them. I kept my fingers tight to my palm, the nails cutting away into the creases of skin.

What woke you, puppet? You’re back in your disguise now. This skin is not what it used to be. It’s used up. It’s ruined. I’d much rather have you in your natural state, a shadow. My shadow.

“Enough,” I growled, extra teeth breaking through. The wind had ceased, the flow of life hanging in midair as if the winter had come early to freeze it. My hand had made its way to my side, the tip of my finger touching an upturned root of a nearby tree.  Slowly, as if gravity were taking a holiday, the leaves of the tree had begun to fall. They were floating down like a soft snow, suspended and taking their time to meet the ground, as if they wanted nothing to do with me. As they fell, they changed their colors, the small bit of sunlight shining on them like corners of a prism.
Amber to gold to orange to red to crimson.
Then brown.

As they reached the crown of my head, they all began to wither, the blades folding tightly  inward, mimicking my fingers from seconds before. I opened up my palm, letting one fall in between my fortune lines. The moment it touched my skin, all of the leaves turned to ash, blowing away in a western gust.

It was quiet but my ears were still ringing.

A small nudge poked my shoulder and my black beast pushed his nose between my arm and side. “It’s alright, Cerb. Just the wind.” His eyes gave the softest glow of a cerulean blue before fading back to black. He sat on his belly, his paws facing forward, his ears swiveling to catch any disturbance. He let out a loud sigh. It was merely for show. He was more energy than life, more dead than alive.

He was both. I was both (well, perhaps more with one than the other). While the promise of winter was on the horizon, while the whispers hung dangerously over my shoulders, I relished in the autumn. Autumn was the picturesque landscape of limbo, both alive and dead at the same time, waiting for my instructions.

It wouldn’t all be ash.

Most would cover up, hide, attempt to keep warmth in their bones, wait it all out until the nuisance of spring. I wouldn’t ruin it. No, I would set it all free, it was just a matter of waiting.  

my songs know what you did in the dark.

A little A Deathly Compromise sequel drabble, featuring Dark Dee. 🙂
Recommended listening

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His voice whispered in and out and all around me as if his body were smoke, small clouds of horrific interference that permeated through the notes in my headphones.

“It feels good, doesn’t it? Imagine how much more you can consume. Imagine the taste of them.” The end notes were hisses in the jungles of Eden.

My chest heaved, my fingertips fiddling with the item in my palm. It felt heavy despite its size. The staccato release of my breath was all it took to convince him. I felt his hands plant themselves on my shoulders, the bony phalanges scraping against skin. The rest of him hid in the dark.  My eyes focused in front of me at the building ahead. Smoke rose in pillars escaping to the stars. The dim light of fire came in through some of the windows, shadows of hands and heads and torsos reaching out for help and trying to escape. My lips twitched. What would they think of me, now? What would Lux think?

“They’re waiting for you. They can’t wait for you to take them home. Don’t make them suffer, darling.”

“Don’t want them to suffer,” I rasped, my voice not entirely my own. I flinched, my ear leaning down into my shoulder at the wrong sound of it all. His fingers closed even tighter on my frame. “I–I don’t know if I can anymore.”

I could feel a finger pull out an earbud. “Tsk tsk, my dear. Don’t you know that you are the one that they want? They adore you. They want to be with you. It’s much more than some, more than anyone really, except me of course. I’ve always appreciated you.”

“I want–”

“Yes?” His head leaned in, his breath toxic and addicting and everything in between. It wove tales of giants and gladiators and lightning in the dark.

“I want–” I was struggling to find breath, to find the muscles to unplug the hold he had. I closed my eyes, listening to the screams that seemed to be miles away. It mixed in with my own rationale,  tucked away in that burning building. I reached out a hand to her, to this past, rational self, stretching every line of skin to make it to the door. Her eyes were pleading with this new creature that stood in front of her, this thing that used to be me and was slowly dissolving. I smiled at her begging and slammed the door to that thought, creating darkness once more. I opened my eyes and opened my hand.

It was a small switch, with two solitary buttons. The red one was inviting and warm. I pressed it, watching the fire envelope all around in a blast. I felt suspended there, the pressure of the explosion and the extreme heat not touching a hair on my head. The fire cried out in ecstasy, releasing plumes of black and gray into the atmosphere. A loud groaning echoed through the street. The building had endured enough. It began to collapse into itself, the brick and mortar and concrete finally becoming victims of gravity.

The screams stopped a few seconds after. I tasted copper and iron on my lips.

I flinched again, realizing that the bony hands were gone. A whisper still lingered asking, in a deceivingly sanguine tone, “What do you want?”

The headphones dropped to the floor,  my boot crunching them as I turned away.  “I want them all.”