Snakes and Stones (freewrite fiction #18)
They stood, each on the brink of his own mind, wondering down, trying to think up an answer. From time to time, one would walk to another and whisper in their ear, but still, they would come up with nothing. The more time they spent inside the old stone house, the more real the issue became, so much so they could almost envision Cami Mermont, with her skin made of luscious sapphire and her tormented eyes that recalled unspeakable things. All but one. The man of lights sat outside, on the front step, having scattered all the snakes away, at least for a while. As an outsider, he had no right to take part in the council itself, for that might taint the decision of the Others. And he thought how silly or perhaps how shameful that he couldn’t even remember the memories that had so tormented Cami. It seemed his fate had become interlinked with hers and yet, he didn’t know the first things about her.
There was a tremendous stinging gathering behind his eyelids, as if his eye sockets were burning and perhaps he’d be better off blind. So he sat with his eyes closed shut against the pain, trying to wash the sting away and listening to the soft hiss as the snakes slithered once more around his ankles. Snakes can never be kept at bay for long, much like memories.
From time to time, he heard whispers coming from inside, complaints and bits of advice. He felt his queen, growing angry and restless, but most of all, growing weak. She would not tell the others of the effect these… unfortunate events had had on her household. Didn’t need to, for they all thought they understood, that they could imagine, but the truth was, they could not. They had never been robbed of their dues and even if a mortal had tried to worm his way out from underneath their iron grip, that had only made the game more exciting and they always found a way to bring them to heel.
In the cold air, one question lingered – what is to be done? That seemed to worry the Others far more than what had killed Cami Mermont. They cared little for one human girl. What they did care about was making sure such things never happened again.
He turned to look at them through the open door, pacing around, then standing still, then moving once more, so pompous in their thinking, so serious, as if they knew they were being watched. All his life, or at least all this side of his life, he’d spent admiring the Others, looking up to them. But as he watched them trying to solve the riddle of one simple death, he realized he’d been wrong. They weren’t great or wise, they were old and tired. And their images were made up of nothing but smoke and mirrors. They weren’t real. They directed and they hurt and they fed off the humans’ suffering, but they didn’t truly care about it. Not that he did. He knew better than to play some bleeding heart advocate, for he wasn’t. He was just as heartless as the Others and soon, he would be one of them. All he had to look forward to, he realized, was this. Orchestrating one game after the other, playing for pennies, just so he could stay alive a little while longer.
In theory, he knew that there was more than that to it. Should one of the Others perish, then the universe would be in chaos, but none of them did it to keep the universe from going to shit. They did it so that they could keep at it a bit more, just as humans did, desperate not to perish and find themselves trapped inside a cold after-world that was nothing like the one they’d imagined. It never was.
The man of lights saw he’d been wrong in calling this council, for they had nothing to talk about. They walked the stone slabs, in a fret, and they offered meaningless solutions and they made as if they cared, as if they were affected by this situation, but really, the only one affected was the queen of lies and perhaps she deserved to be. It was a foreign thought, but one he welcomed, for some reason. He’d felt indebted to her a few moments ago, had felt bad for parting in the way they did. His mother, his mentor, his queen. But perhaps she too had grown old and lazy in her silky cage.
The realization left him breathless, for a few terrible seconds, where he felt all the oxygen go out of his lungs, where he became vulnerable once more, wondering how he hadn’t seen it sooner. He should have, he’d had all the information he needed to solve the puzzle, but his eyes had been narrowed, his vision too small.
He let out a long breath, to clear his mind, to make sure his thoughts were in the right order before he went and told… but why would he tell? What would that accomplish? Would the Others choose to help or would they prefer to silence him? By rights, they ought to help put things right, but after all, they didn’t much care and these were delicate matters. You couldn’t very well waft into another’s home and try to put it to order. It was simply not done and the Others wouldn’t be keen on doing it.
They could tear each other to shreds, they had no qualms about that, but treading another’s territory, that would be different and besides, if he went in and spoke to them now, they’d know. It would be like warning the enemy you were coming.
No, he would leave the Others to their council and their petty squabbles, allow them to conclude that there was nothing to be done, no culprit to be found and feel content about themselves, feel satisfied with their findings of absolutely nothing. He couldn’t risk them knowing, for they might try to stop him. For the world did not work by the same iron rules he’d always believed in and they must just decide to protect their sister’s house, even if it was dying, even if it was killing her in the process. An attack on the House of Shadows might next mean an attack on one of their own houses, and thus a danger, a threat that had to be crushed.
And so, he set out for the House of Shadows alone, only he and his car, just as it always had been.
to be continued
Your writing is so well crafted that I'm beginning to wonder if you're actually Neil Gaiman in disguise. Keep it up!
That is possibly the nicest compliment I have ever received. Thank you so much for making my day <3
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