Ruby Red and Gentilberry Green: A Fantastical Romance - Part XXX

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

This is the thirtieth part of an ongoing serial. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, and Twenty-Nine.

He felt, vaguely, like he had lost something.

That was all. He couldn’t feel his power, either. Mother had taken it, probably. She would have wanted that.

He wondered why Mother had such power over him even in death. Wasn’t he the sorcerer? The one with the gift to transcend worlds and lives, to carve out his own little spot of eternity in the garbled stream called the Infinite?

Or was it because he had never truly shaken her off? That she had always, somehow, stayed with him, her hand on his heart?

There wasn’t any way to know in the end. Anne was gone. Matilda was gone. Mother was dead, and the one he had now had never really existed to begin with. The other Matilda had stabbed him with…

Necristo glanced down at the sharp black stub protruding from his chest. His blood was blacker than even the stiletto, dark as the fractured sky overhead and stark as the falling stars. Ash and chunks of plaster whistled around his knees. He laughed, then sank into a spasm of choking coughs. It felt like half his throat was about to come up with it, wet as a raw steak.

“I guess this is it, isn’t it? You got what you wanted, Mother. Now this world is dead. My world.”

There was no hatred in his voice, only a strange lightheaded acceptance. He had never really felt worthy of this whole sorcery business, anyway. And he had wanted to die for ever so long…

There was a groan behind him, then a snap and a cascade of cracks as the splintered door gave way. He turned his head, stared tiredly through his matted white hair.

The interworld walkway shone through the door. It was shivering, gasping in spurts, as if the very air in it was about to implode. The door just across was rotting, falling to pieces before his eyes. There was nothing behind it save an empty wall.

And why not? Now that he wasn’t a sorcerer anymore, they’d probably waived the contract. If he went in, then maybe… maybe he could just die with it.

He sank to his elbows and began to crawl.

#####

“Uncle Matt, you have to understand.”

They weren’t falling anymore. That had stopped the instant they had left Annabel's nascent world. They were walking, courtesy of Annabel’s charm, but taking vast floating strides with every step, as if the concept of distance vanished the instant their feet left the ground. The doors to Necristo’s world, all of them, glowed in her sight like small purple suns. The crystalline vistas of the Space Between had changed to a resplendent amber, like the inside of an opal. This made it even harder to see, and much harder to think, and almost impossible to talk.

But she had to. There might not be time after this.

“The way I see it, there’s nothing to understand,” said Uncle Matt. “I’m doing this for Mattie. And she’s not even my Mattie. So…”

Anne took a deep breath.

“Stop,” said Uncle Matt. “You have no idea how hard that last sentence was for me to say.”

“It’s not about that,” said Anne. “I…”

“You love him, yes,” said Uncle Matt. “And you think that makes everything better? Does loving your kidnapper make him less of one, girl? Are you forgetting that he stole your mother’s sister? Do you have any idea, any inkling at all, of just how stupid you sound?”

A spark of the old fire jumped in her soul. She steeled her jaw, letting the flame blossom in her chest.

“You’re right, Uncle Matt! I’m as stubborn as an ass and twice as stupid. I don’t know how to talk to boys, I can’t make small talk to save my life, and when I do talk, I usually end up putting both feet in the milk. That’s why I ended up lying to you. It was a mistake, and I hurt you. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? That’s just another word. Your other aunts and uncles were sorry. They didn’t do anything to help our Mattie. I was the only one…”

“It’s not just him I’ll save, Uncle Matt!” burst out Anne. “It’s not just Necristo! I’ll save Aunt Mattie too, I swear it! Just… even if it’s just her, I’ll…”

He was already in front of her, shimmering. He was there and yet years ahead of her, spread out over the Infinite by centuries, leagues, eons.

“Nineteenth door on the left,” he said. “That should lead you straight to the walkway. And girl?”

She clasped her hands together, suddenly too sheepish to speak.

“Don’t you dare worry about Mattie. Get your man, and leave.”

Before she could call out after him, he was gone. It was like he had used some magic of his own to send him hurtling forwards like a thunderbolt, or turned himself into a rivulet of rain. She remembered, for the first time, that he was a gatefinder himself. A traveler.

He hadn’t needed to come with her at all.

She counted the purple doors twice through and broke into a run. Her charmed feet flew through the aether like a plaintive cry, like prayers in the night.

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