03/19/2010 RL – 07/03/2009 IC

She’s worse than one of the Keepers. Not with the kidnapping and alterations and torments and the like, not like that. No, I’m thinking of something deeper. The Keepers are narcissists. It is their nature, and they’re blind to it. It’s only we who are not narcissists who can really and clearly see what’s going on. But even at their self absorbed worst, even when they were tormenting us, we were at least there. We existed.

Not so with her. I don’t exist at all, and nor do any others, not even as stage dressing. Its as if we are bits and pieces of her imagination, as if we are dreams, forming and melting again without any cause but ego. Let there be latte. Let there be clothes. Let there be warm comfort. There are no people, only things desired. I should have talked Arieanne into trading with me. I get gopher work and a slowly diminishing sense of the value of a specific human life. She gets new clothes and dropped off in a limo.

The Fourth is this weekend, and I can’t see how we’re even close to ready. Oh, the family has been doing what it can. Niobe and I have been trying to kill each other every day for weeks now. Cole has been cranking out bullets every night. Lacy Anne has been developing her tolerance for strangeness and subtle actions. Even Ari has adjusted her schedule for what we’ll need, but still… so many of the Summer gone this time around, it is either going to be extremely bloody or the forcing of the magicians and crafters to the forefront will be so effective we’ll wonder why it wasn’t done years ago.

You know, I think I understand why I loathe her so much now: she’s an oathbreaker. When one takes to the stage, you are making a pledge to the audience. You will need them as they need you. You will entertain them. You will distract them. You will transport them. She… does not. She is a thief. She takes and gives nothing, not even by accident. She has broken her oath to them, to the very idea of entertainment. If I live through the weekend, she will need to be educated or punished. Perhaps both. Punishment can be so very educational, after all.

Rambling. Odd. I don’t ramble. Perhaps I really should try sleeping some this week, but She’ll be there. And I don’t need to see Her before tomorrow starts. Not when there is a chance I might see Her tomorrow anyway.

  Will you come with ink black night,
Will you ride on obsidian steed?
Will you dazzle with jet sight,
Will you feel my hate and need?

Will you come on shining road,
Will you raise your moonlight spear,
Will you sully my abode,
Will you seek my lust or fear?

Will you look upon what you have made?
Will you see your child and no other?
Will you feel the cold sting of my blade?
Will you crumple for me, my Mother?

Upon this evening of July 3, 2009 I make this as my last will should I fall during the battle of the Fourth;
To my beloved Cole, I leave my social networks. Scoff if you will, but I know that if you turn your sights to them you can forge your masterpiece. I also leave you any bits of my body which may have use in your craft.
To my beloved Gabriel, I leave Jeanne, Jennifer, Jo, Jessica, Jenny, Jenni, and Jordan. May you have exactly what you need when you get out.
To my beloved Arienne, I leave my room. I imagine it will make a lovely storage space.
To my beloved Lacy Anne, I leave my wardrobe, my furniture, and my photo collection.
To my beloved Niobe, I leave my lamps. I also bequeath the balance of my bank accounts and my investments, to be held in trust until her twenty-fifth birthday on the condition that she has no criminal record, juvenile or otherwise, by that time. In the event that she does, this trust will revert to The Georgetown Retirement Community as an anonymous gift for the benefit of programs combating dementia and Alzheimer’s.

If I shall die this year, thus I swear it will be, or cursed be those who obstruct my final wishes with the full wrath of my heart.

03/05/2010 RL – 06/26/2009 IC

Touch the screen, the glowing arrow, and the sounds of fingers dancing across the keys start, Geshwin sliding like a dream from the small speakers tucked around the brightly lit room. Times change, but seeing the Walkman brand out there is somehow comforting. I’d gotten a Walkman just a few months before going. A gift for the end of the school year, for being elected to be our class head the next year. Father was proud, I could tell, even though mom was the one who gave it to me. Or perhaps it was a going away gift? Both? It’s so strange, is this what age feels like? Memories, little details from before are growing fuzzier, less certain the longer I am back. The deeper I settle into this life, the stronger I build my ties to Sid Stella, the less I remember the boy who was. I remember they went to Europe for some reason a week later, in the middle of June. That Maunela took care of me for the summer, got me started in school in the autumn. A substitute, a caretaker, but for the parents who birthed me or for the one who would claim me?

It feels so very odd to finish a school year, almost dreamlike. Was the thorn weilder at prom real? Are the Five Fairest now four? Did I truly get written up in the Post? The cold water of the report card helps solidify those other memories. I put the C’s and B’s up on the wall, right next to Cole. Looks of disapproval. More solid and real feeling than memories of soft, sweet lips that pressed to me last night. Was she real? Were her tears real when I revealed how old I am in the eyes of the law? Was the relief I felt when I saw the pain and self loathing rise in her eyes real? If real, then fleeting. If not real, than the tease of a dream, the promise of some kind of stillness that I can’t understand. Perhaps the summer will help though. After all, school is a stasis of its own kind, every day much like the one before, just as when I resided in Her house. No real changes day to day, no real changes night to night. C’s and B’s. Finality of a year done. Maybe I actually am awake.

The summer itself looks like it should be a fun one, and not just for me. Cole has projects stacking up fast, but he always seems happiest when he’s busy. The one collaboration we’re working on, the outfit to make his name in my circles came out as simply amazing. Step down one rung to the circles where millions are spoken instead of billions and women would be fighting to simply rent it for an event. Not good enough for my motley mate, though. No. I’m starting him at the very top, introducing him like a steel knife to a tribe of primitives; unstated, simple, effective, and it’s very presence screaming how it is the new standard. After that, he’s building a pool. I don’t think he sees how we mirror each other. In his hands steel and silk and stone change to his vision. I do the same. My materials just talk back, but what steel does not occasionally bite its smith?

Lacy Anne starts at the diner in a few days, and a part of me is happy, a part worried. She should never have the kind of education I went through, and yet there, at that time… Fred will not always be around. Will the starlight in her eyes dim and shade to something else? Arienne I worry less for. Jaded as she is, any kind of new experience should be good for her. I’m almost jealous of her for this summer work. Grant you, fetch and seek jobs aren’t what I’m after, but she’ll likely wind up associating with my kind of people more than me this summer. We’ll see, though. Hopefully she’ll pass along anything truly interesting sounding. I think she will, if for nothing else than some peace.

Niobe though… peace is not to be hers, even if she hides in the closet all day long. It’s odd, but I do understand those departing needs: to be alone and safe and yet to be lonely and ache for friends. Sadly such needs are like blood in the water, and Niobe has attracted sharks. I wonder if she sees it in Danita’s eyes? I wonder if she sees the light in Ricky’s eyes? That cool, considering light that used to shine in the gaze of Keepers. The gaze that looks you over and says you’re amusing for now, and when you cease to be amusing, you will be MADE amusing once more… She senses something, though she lacks the words for it yet. She only spoke of Danita’s bullying, such a natural action, but it’s enough. She wants away, and that can be worked with. Avoidance, cutting her off should help the interest wane. And come the new school year conversations with older brothers and sisters should get the right kinds of people steered towards her. My little motley mate will not be alone, even if I need to put the fear of the dark into a whole school.

Sadly fear won’t help with the Fourth. All the courts are in motion, though it seems rather… haphazard. I may just be missing what the more violent motleys are set up for, but “bring your good gear and be there” doesn’t seem like much of a plan. Still, we are as prepared as we reasonably can be. Light armor, weapons by Cole, snacks. Beyond that, and our daily practice, I don’t know what else we can do. We will be there. We will stick together. We survived the wolves, we will survive this. It is not our time and place to die yet. It’d make no sense to be casualty #28, not when we have had this much story in our lives.

Then again, dying before the Fourth seems like a definite possibility. Not through any outside violence or curse, but due to our own. The day Lacy Anne got her license, we went car shopping. We came home with a 2007 Suburban. I swear, I could hold an orgy in there. Or live in there. One of the two. Maybe both. My only worry is needing to get somewhere quickly in it with one of our drivers at the wheel. Oh, they obviously have more experience than me, but still, given the fast moving nature of things I have this wretched vision of us tumbling over the Key Bridge while they get distracted by flashing lights up ahead.

Perhaps I’ll just stick to the bike.

The ride on Sunday morning was actually nice. The air was still cool, the sky clear, and DC on a Sunday morning is a biker’s perfect place. Anyone awake is parked at church. At least I had that. Father’s Day, but grandfather… I do not know if he even remembers that he had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren any more. I brought his card and gift and he just was there. No light in his eyes. No words. Just staring out the window for the whole hour. They are taking good care of his body, but as his mind goes, it seems to be taking his vitality with it. His skin was so thin. It felt so fragile, so delicate, like the page of a pocket Bible, like a slip of onionskin, a sudden slip would tear it. Is he even my grandfather any more? The only face to recognize me when I escaped, the only touch of family, the only hug, is he even still there? I came to understand my father being gone when I returned. I even accept my mother, that old woman she’s become, jaded and full of sorrows. But this is different. He’s dying by inches, the only person who recognizes me. And the ball in my chest squeezes tighter.

He squeezed my hand with his when I said it was time for me to go.

I have been drifting since Teresa, since the wolves, since the slaughter, the deal, the end of the year. It’s been getting harder to remember when I’m imagining things and when I’m actually doing them. Where can I anchor, though? With my motley, they’ve helped give me center. In the home, in the hollow, everything in place, everything according to it’s nature and I know what is and in not. Outside it though… I still am not even sure who I want to be, what I should be and I find myself drifting from moment to moment, always something new, shifting like a leaf and the leaf doesn’t know where it is or where it goes, only that it goes. The moments when I wonder if something is real or a dream are growing when I am outside the home. The feeling of expansion in the middle of my head, the vivid colors and unreal feeling to everything around and I am not sure: am I awake and hold to the guardrail, or do I dream and let go and fly? An anchor, an anchor or two or twenty. In court, in life, in myself. That is the one I need, the hunger for it as deep as the hold should be. I don’t know how to build it though.

Perhaps just continuing is the way to build it. Perhaps the best way to live is to throw oneself wholly into life. This summer will be wrapped in the theater, and it doesn’t seem a bad way to go at the moment. It’s something to do, though it will never be a career for the years after school. It should put me in touch with the right kinds of people though, the ones I need for the years to come. School is the same, when it starts again. No drifting any more. This is my place. This will be the life that I make of it. Here and now, I am alive. And this is no dream, no game, though full of pleasures it may be.

I hope it is enough.

01/01/2010 RL – 05/28/2009 IC

They came into my shelter. With all that’s happened, with the whispers in the darkness of acts performed and the step closer to Them that I’ve taken… all I can think about is that they came into my place, my haven, my tower. My place. My secrets. My tools to try and survive and they came in me.

I wonder if Teresa felt this in the end? Is this an echo of what she felt, even if she was the one who began the fire? Does the arsonist embrace the flames, or does she scream as she burns like anyone else?

I know she screamed. And screamed till I silenced her, but are they the same? Was I screaming with her? Does the flame scream with the burning one, or are those crackles and snaps the laughter of the flame as it serves it’s purpose and fulfills the measure of it’s creation.

She created me. For a few hours at least, she touched Them and created me. Cast me in her image and in Her image and I consumed her, child of my Keeper and took her darkness into myself and swallowed her utterly down, the darkness of tunnels and bowyers shattering against the darkness between the stars.

Does this make me more like Her? Did She plan this from the very start? Did She look and see the pieces upon the game board, did She send Her hunter to distract me so Teresa could strike that first time? I must consider, but down that path is the madness of Naomi, and I refuse to tie my well being to a puppet.

Cut off. I feel… shame in the loss of control, shame in being so weak that she could poison my mind, and yet… it is as if I watched a film of what happened. Like the chase through the Hedge was a bad TV show. As if the rape and destruction of Teresa were some snuff film in an illicit cinema. I remember the feel of her clenching about me in screams of panic and wailing loss with such clarity and such distance, all the sensations second hand. Pass downs. Not really mine.

Nothing really feels like my feelings right now. It’s been two weeks since I was up and around again. I have attended court, I have been fencing with shadows and thorns. I have tended to my beloveds where I can. And I feel it all through glass. The weight of what is beyond that glass is growing, an aquarium filling ever more full, the pressure pushing and I can feel it straining. But I cannot bring myself to open the valve, to let it out a little at a time. I can’t. I just… not now. Not yet.

I haven’t yet looked into any of my beloveds. I am not sure I want to. I don’t want to start hammering at that strained glass, do not need to risk that flood. Not when it will come soon enough on it’s own. As for me, they seem to be treating me almost gingerly. For the best. I feel brittle. The glass will spiderweb soon.

I don’t want to use the freezer any more.

Despite Arianne and the MechaRoomba’s efforts I still want to douse myself in bleach when I go into the bathroom.

Maybe honest blood will help. Summer is calling for a hunt, and I have put myself forward. Honest blood for blood shed in madness. Honest blood for tainted blood. My blood, their blood, it doesn’t matter so much now.

Besides, my beloveds came into the Hedge and braved the wolves for me. The least I can do is bring home for them trophies and revenge for the prices they paid.

12/04/2009 RL – 05/01/2009 IC

Press to the Thorn. Tear the picture. Not too much. Thumb pad pressing to the tip of the Thorn. Press. Pre- ahhhhh, sting, sting, warm trickle down the skin. Here. Here I am and you can’t see me. Can’t see me, no dreams for you to sniff out, no numb screams for you to savor. I feel. I FEEL and you cannot. I am more than you.

Lights all turned on bright, no darkness, no sleep. Thoughts of the day past to warm me. Beltane a success, fun had, warmth embraced. Even the shadows and quiet getting involved, though sadly not a single Winter would dance for the King of Spring. Darkness fell and the fires were lit and for all their disdain for the dramatic and wild the Summers do have a flair for some things. Like fire. Burning arches, the burning Hedge? Do they dream of burning the Hedge, of storming our prison and tearing down its gates once the thorny walls have fallen? Burning arches and passing through and letting go of the clinging smog and suffocating worries of seasons past. A welcome cleansing, but what does it mean that when the eldest of us shuffled off his burdens that prophecy came rolling forth? Do the thoughts and worries, old guilts and new needs cloud the Wyrd from shouting into his waking dreams? “Whether the legacy of the peaceful ruler or the dark one is ascendant – his inaction shall damn this land.” It matters not who holds the crown, nor what season, our inaction will cost us dearly. Patience is no reasonable excuse for stillness and the appearance of wise waiting may cover a heart that fears to act. Life moves and grows, twists and thrusts and hungers and demands and stillness is death.

Spring… the world shudders and pushes and I feel it shivering in asphalt and trees and bricks and bodies. Everyone young still remembers. Contests of fleetness and long trips to lapping waters and music and dance, we still remember. Prom. Prom and not difficult to find friends to invite me, to slip me past their antiquitated rules to my court, my gathering, the place I should be. After all, these are my friends, the whole of the school will be my people, I have to be there on the finest of nights, in the company of those who already realize the truth. Three for me, and my dears from the motley with me, all in the style that befits lords of the seasons. The Prom itself was as to be expected, dancing, the social interactions, the bumping and jousting of the different cliques about the floor. Till court time came and then… Life twists and grows. Life is change. And change came to me, to try and shake my hands as I spin my clay.

A shouting rival, a subtle trap, those I have been wondering about, waiting for. The… immediate, I have not been and She would laugh in tones of beautiful blades at the thought. A doorway opening and one of her pets ripped himself from the Hedge, weeping blood and soul as he came, shouting for me. She has found me, and her hunter bore chains meant for me. Thankfully She sent a direct hunter, perhaps one aching for Her touch again, aching to be petted, to feel the caress of Her for just one more breath, that cool hand, the way She brushes skin, the way…. I am not sure what happened, but I know, I know that our principal has abilities beyond what we have witnessed before. The others may ignore me, even as they ignored my warnings about the homeless army that spies upon us, but I felt it, the subtle twist, the tang on my tongue as he did… something. And suddenly the hunter was calmed and placid, a beast brought to heel, following meekly at a new master’s side. I need to find him and soon. I need to question him, to bind him in place and wear my diadem and learn what the beast knows.

Yet for all the disturbance, it was shortly lived and connected to me not at all by those without eyes to see. The worries set aside, I must smile, I must laugh, I must soothe and excite, and now home still set aside, Thorns granting me surcease every time I press the tip of a finger into their embrace. They ask me for nothing and give me so much. And rage burns away the rest. Not rage at Her or Her hunter. She is looking for me now, or has been and now knows… I do not know what to do, but something, something needs to cloak me, to obscure me, to drive back the hunters. I must find something soon. But tonight…

For the first time I believe I understand the Summers and such purity, such… single mindedness here inside the seething fire that makes me want to gnash and tear. Is it like this for them? Do they feel the hot iron in their bones? Does cold to chill the very stars crackle beneath their skin when thoughts brush against the seed of their fury? I feel it. I feel it all tonight, and as I think on her I look to the mirror and see the Prince looking back. And I do not fear. She had to have something to do with my election to the Prom court. It is the only explanation. The lunatic Teresa, my cousin in darkness and moonlight, she of the EZBake Oven snatch. I am… it was an echo if my captivity, my mind reeling as soon as she touched me on the dance floor, all order falling out of place in my mind. I could feel her, smell her, the darkness of her eyes, the fair skin like my own, the sweet perfume. The way our bodies moved with music in such perfect time… and I know these games, I KNOW them and She to whom Teresa cannot compare schooled me in them and I struck out at her with that skill, locking her to me in need in a slide of a knee against thigh and hand in hair and furious eyes… and aching for her as well, to meet night with night and darkness swallow us both.

Thankfully my courtiers broke the spell of the moment, two of them attacking her as a third drew me back. I can still feel her hooks, even now and they taint me. Even now as dawn slowly rises, the needs of the flesh sated for the moment, my courtiers giving their all and rewarded for it and taken home again. I look into the mirror as bloody thumb smears my life across Teresa’s lips and brow, dabbing to her eyes, and the Prince looks back at me. And I embrace him. Let her see only the beauty of the night. Let her thoughts turn only to the beauty of the night. Let her speak not a word till the embrace of the beauty of the night. I learned well from Her, and Teresa will receive those lessons soon…

I can hear Her, even now, slippered feet soft in the halls behind me. The mansion still in my dreams and I hear Her, even awake. Bandages for my fingers and then I will cook. I will… focus. Focus. My motley. My family. I will focus and give to them, I will wear big brother and… this is real, that is dream. I will make them waffles and they were look at me disdainfully, distastefully, and everything will be normal. Till it is time to teach Teresa lessons I know in my bones.

11/06/2009 RL – 05/01/2009 IC

Careful. Careful. Let the Thorn pierce the paper. Let the Thorn tear the paper. But not too much.

Stepping back, a nod to myself in satisfaction, long hands reaching for the next. Odd how crisis brings quiet. So different then the years in durance. Was that my real life? So much time spent there, and lessons so sharp still that I bleed in the night, was She real and my mother the dream?

The soft hiss of a Thorn sliding through another piece of stiff paper, fingers delicately impaling it, positioning it just into place. Head tilting as I listen… but no, even with Ms. Stewart in the house, everyone sounds asleep. Dark times, but oddly soothing in the quiet. The dark was never quiet there, never without the scuttling of servants, never without Her voice. Here… here the dark has a different quality, one I am learning to enjoy. And quiet defines our house this week. With Gabriel slowly grinding through the wheels of law, the only comforts we can take is that he may go to juvie and that his fetch was declared mad. Not that it may seem as such a blessing when Gabriel is fighting for his life in the dorms and the fetch is transferred to a soft and caring private hospital, but madness… a shake of my head to banish the whispers in the corners, madness is something none of us want to be labeled with.

Strange how the Courtier’s mask felt the best this week. Even when Lacy Anne drove us home, that was the face that felt best. Perhaps it was because I no longer had to wear Big Brother, nor was the Prince of Following Darkness needed. Cole and Arianne were awake and functioning, Ms. Stewart was able to grump along, and… no need for me to put myself forward like that. Hmph. She must be doing better than grumping along. The ball gag Ms. Stewart asked for is gone. I’m not sure whether I pity or am jealous of her lovers. It does make me wonder if passions always run strong in her seeming. Ruthie was certainly the most vigorous playmate I’ve had…

It is strange, it is comforting, how quickly new routines establish themselves. Get up for school, get through the day, head to rehearsal. Make a call during a break to check in on Gabriel’s legal situation. No change. No change. And perhaps that’s best. No change can be held on to. No change can be solid. Get home, dinner, homework, play time, and then the quiet of the night as everyone settles in for sleep. Wandering the night time Hollow, shadow duels in the yard, plays unwinding in my mind as the slow hours tick on.

Yarn, yarn… yarn. Red yarn first, knot the end around the Thorn and draw it over.

Strange, because it is so soothing, and yet in ways so unsatisfying, that routine. Routine excitement seems like a contradiction and yet that yearning is there. I spent every night the same for decades and now… I crave it. I hate Her. It. It. Not Her. It. Focus. Draw the slack out of the yarn, knot off the end.

Beltane this week and all is as ready as I can get it. Thankfully I’m just the events guy this year, not the one in charge of the whole thing. Though that could be fun, in a year or two. I wonder what its like to stand at the point of that wedge, encouraging their longing with one hand, feeding it with the other, standing at the meeting of all that desire. I can’t wait to find out. A pity I couldn’t talk Cole and Arianne into manning the Kissing Booth, it would have been good for everyone, but such is life. Maybe I can sneak it into an oath sometime in the next year. As for Lacy Anne… its almost too easy, a mirror of her job at the diner, taking care of the Salon. Perhaps all for the best, though. Get her established as the respectable one, the kind and sweet one, the one to inspire, the one who’s worth fighting for and her cloak may cover the rest of us. We’re certainly not the types to inspire charity or protection.

Tomorrow, its tomorrow and always tomorrow… No, no poetry, not now, not now. Focus. Snip the yarn, knot the end about the Thorn, draw it tight, tie it off. Tomorrow is Beltane, tomorrow is the opening of the play. A pity I didn’t get to be Bottom, but maybe someday. An excuse to be masked, yet be the beloved… No. No, not Bottom, even with Will’s changes. I had forgotten how that goes. Not the beloved of the Queen. Not now, no need to worry over that. Finish this and then play through the night till dawn. Slip out to the grounds to get the celebration started, back to the city for the four o’clock call, back to the grounds before midnight… I really need a blow.

Step back and look… A self portrait in the center of the wall, snapped after the musical, speared upon a Thorn. Red yarn stretching to a photo of Cole working in his shop, of Arianne cleaning, to one of Lacy Anne turning her charms on a class mate, of Niobe as she slouches off to school, to a photo of Gabriel laying in the hospital bed. Pictures caught on the camera phone of friends and acquaintances speared upon Thorns all around the circle of the motley, yarn stretching from me to them, from my family to them, from friend to friend, acquaintance to acquaintance, stretching the web of relationships between the people in my world. Outlining their lives together. The strings I tug and supports I build.

Maybe seeing it laid out like this will make it all feel more real.

10/23/2009 RL

It is still happening, just out of the corner of my eye.

The faces seem to be helping some, though I have to keep swapping them faster and faster. Perhaps they will just blur together someday. Or maybe I’ll find my real face. If I have one. I don’t know any more.

The Actor is being worn regularly, something I thought would just be put on now and again. But debts need to be paid, and I will not be beholden. On the upside it is… fun. Fun? I think that’s a close word for it. I enjoy doing it. I enjoy being around these soothing, intense, cracked people. They remind me so much of other times and I hate them all and look forward to more. The Actor is getting to be a comfortable face, the edges smoothing the more I wear it. Perhaps I’ll wear it more, even after the debt is paid. It never hurts to have friends and ties to those of power, after all.

I dreamed that night. My guard let down, weariness overtaking the lights, and I was there once more. Padding the nearly silent halls, lighting candles every few paces. Flickering, dancing light to drive back the darkness. Trying to stay ahead of the falls of delicate feet clad in silk slippers. Trying to stay ahead, to fill of a pool of light for myself, even as breath sweet as surrender passed such soft lips and blew out the candles She passed behind me. Light to keep her at bay. Light to help me find my lost treasure.

Cole was ill for the day of Gabe’s final meet. I had to be Big Brother, and the edges are still rough. His skin and mine are close, but the scars can be seen when I look closely, trailing beneath my jaw and along the hairline. It covers up the moon glow and starlight skin in something warmer and pinker. It makes my Family look at me in puzzlement and consternation and then unfamiliar smiles. It is still ill fitting though, and the shouts of outrage when I give honest counsel attest to that.

Still, it stayed in place well enough to get people going to the meet, including Niobe, even when she was in the midst of indulging her fears. I have to wonder at times if she doesn’t get some sort of pleasure from making herself so afraid. I wonder if she likes being that afraid, does she yearn for even more terror in her heart. Maybe for her birthday I can feed that desire and scare her hair white. I do love giving people what they truly desire. Ms. Stewart was kind enough to drive, and the meet went as well as one could expect when Gabriel had to directly confront his zombie fetch.

I was not expecting the Prince of Whispering Dark to emerge, though. Not that face, not that night sky skin that feels so very good, not the pinpricks of cold stars and brightening hair and endless eyes. I caught sight of him in the bathroom mirror, already there, already drawing out what my Family truly desires and offering to make it theirs, no matter the cost.

I do not know whether it was worse seeing his face in the mirror, or seeing no face like last night.

Perhaps if the Big Brother had been worn I would have rushed to Gabriel when his fetch cut him down. I was half expecting the creature to consume his flesh and feast upon his heart so it could be real. Whatever that is. I have to wonder about that myself, these days. I was not wearing the Big Brother’s face, though. I was wearing the Prince’s, and so drawing Niobe across the field with me to give a gift to my brother, the slaughter of the creature with the face of his sister. It was not to be, though the seeds of terror have been sewn for later use. The Gentry seem to have built feelings into their little puppet, and the Prince and the Consort both vie to be worn when she is met again.

Chaos ensued. It was… confusing. The little fetch with the girl’s face fled to her coo coo’s nest, Gabriel and the zombie both mobbed by adults, blood flowing, shouting, searches, ambulances and then Ms. Stewart collapsed. Time for departure and the Consort snugged so comfortably into place. Calm posture and wry words and laughing tones had Ms. Stewart back to her car with those of us who could walk. And thence to hotel and field surgery. Poor, little Niobe. So proud, so ready with the medkit all these times. We’ll just have to play in blood till it no longer shakes her, and she can have the use she desires.

Gathering my thoughts now as we wait at the hospital, wearing the Consort’s face and making friends with nurses and staff. Its good to make friends. Especially in a strange place, seeking people under guard. And still I am pondering what to do when I find them. Place a pillow over the face of the fetch? Will that slay a zombie, though? Switch out charts and bracelets and send Gabriel home? He is our Family now and sworn, but how he aches, how he yearns for what he had, I can taste it on the back of my tongue. Or do nothing at all but meet and know and speak and shift this burden to the shoulders made of wood and screams of excited children. I don’t know.


A Fragile Immortality Brannen