Endings

Jan. 15th, 2009 11:23 pm
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
The new globe is still warm to the touch as she sets it down, the images inside churning and fluttering in their own maelstrom of nostalgia.

Yellow gingko leaves stick to the wet soles of his boots as he thumps up the wooden stairs...

Clean white sheets, and dappled sunlight on naked skin, a book fallen sideways in sleep...

Copper hair and freckles and a vine that ran just... so...

Tea and bathwater and roses, and the sound of guitars in the sweet June air...

A tiny christmas tree, and tiny lights against frosty air, and lonely tears...

Bitter weeping stretched on the floor in the cold and the dark...


Somewhere in the Palace, a door slams. And then it slams again. And a third time, as if for emphasis, and the girl closes her eyes wearily. Desire smirks over her shoulder into the display.

"I know. I know."
"I still think it's funny."
"That it took so long to realize it was her I was in love with? Or that it's she who plucks the feathers from my wings and sends me tumbling?"
"Both, I imagine."
"Well you needn't look so smug. It's not like I didn't suffer the same for the Elf."
"Ah, but the Elf still gave you hope. This one burns your city and dances on the ashes."
The girl purses her lips. "Yes, she would. It is her way."
"And what will you do?"
"Nothing, for the time being. There are more things depending on me than this ridiculous circus."
"And what of them?"
Her lip curls slightly as she closes the door of the display case. "Let them stew in it. I've said my piece. If they can live with themselves, they are not the people I built them up to be."
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
She has been standing in the Gallery for some time now, standing as far away from the newly formed frame as possible and yet giving it all of her attention. Despite herself. Her back is turned, but she in her mind's eye she can still see the frame: dull ebony, a torch ablaze, and a single jester's bell. Her heart quails at it.

Eddie appears at her elbow, looking first in confusion at the blank frame she stands purposefully afore, then furtively over his shoulder at the real object of her worried contemplation. "Missstressss?"

She turns, slightly, and sighs.
"I'm alright. Just worried." Her eyes grow distant for a moment. "So many miles, so many lifetimes I have traveled to escape it, to escape them, and yet just as easy as that I am back in their midst again."

The girl starts at some thought, blinks, turns. Exits the Gallery, and makes her way to the Vault of Memories, Eddie flickering by her side. There is a certain basket there in the corner, one mouldering and falling slowly apart but containing a thousand scraps of memory like polished stones that roll about her fingers. She selects one, holds it up to the light.

It is a deep blue, the color of new denim, and the light glances off crystal planes within. If you were willing, we would very much like...
She puts it aside. The next is a deep red, but not what she seeks. Neither is the next. The fourth, a dark gray like wet concrete, is. We'd love to stay, if you'll let us... She sets it aside, near the first.
The next is clear as glass, the one after a dull silver, then greens and blues and oranges, pinks and yellows and purples all follow in their turn, some put aside, some rejected onto a growing pile.

Finally, a small mound growing around her feet, she finds the one she has been looking for. It is an awkward shape, smoothed by time but still lopsided as all the rest she's set aside, and of a bright color like flame against darkness. You should come out and play with us some time...

She winces a little at the weight of it in her palm, the memory growing warm as she studies it. Petticoats rustling, she stands finally, stretching cold limbs and sleeping toes to wakefulness. With a thoughtful backward glance, she Calls a small casket for the memories she's set aside. There are not nearly as many as the mouldering basket contained, but enough to fill the box to the very lid. Into it go all of the lopsided offers, awkward and tentative, direct and subtle. But the last one she holds on to, staring. He was not then who he is now, and they are not now what they then were. The offer is, the girl assumes, null and void. So quickly, quickly, she places the last stone upon the heap in the casket, and closes the lid.

"What do I do?" she asks the Mirror-girl, later.
"Twen-"
"No, no he's not. Not by any way I've counted them before."
"Well then, what are you worried about?"
"I've tried to skirt that group and its... connections for so long. And now that an internal one is broken, I don't want to fall into it and tangle things more."
"He is an adult, you know."
"Yes, and yet, no I don't."
"You cannot take responsibility for his actions for him."
"No, but I can blame myself for my part in them-"
"-if, and you're assuming this, IF summat ill comes of them in the first place."
The girl chews her lip thoughtfully. The Mirror-girl coughs.
"You know, your grandmother used to do this too. We had a term for it then as well."
"Oh?"
"Yes. We called it 'borrowing trouble' then. Nowadays we call it 'investing in Bedlam' because it's what you all do with it these days."
The girl's mouth twists wryly. "If only all of my problems had such a simple root. But I still don't know what to do with this."
"Well then, use discretion."
"Discretion?"
"Keep it a secret, dummy."
She bristles at this, then wilts. "But what of my heart? I am afraid that the same thing will happen as last time, and people will see it blazing out my eyes like some damned beacon."
The Mirror-girl looks troubled, and lowers her eyes. "That, I cannot answer you. You know it as well as I, and we both know how impossible it is to bridle."
The girl sighs, rubbing tired eyes. "I sometimes wonder if it would be better to do without."
"Now just a minute here. Last week you were pining for someone, anyone to lay a hand on you..."
"Yes, but I suppose I didn't specify-"
"So just enjoy it," the mirror-girl snaps, "for what it is, and turn off the brain and just don't do anything stupid."
"Like fall in love with him."
"Hmph. Yes, exactly."
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
There is a shelf in the Vault of Memories, one of those few small spaces that escapes the constant roil of the icons around it. On this shelf perch a few small baubles: a dessicated spider, a dusty dried rose, and a cluster of small glass globes. Each globe sits on a tiny pedestal, a tiny frozen world contained within a grapefruit sized sphere. The girl stands nearby, quietly contemplating the collection.

One globe is a welter of light and brightly colored rose petals, of soft green grasses and fuzzy blankets – those first few frozen memories of childhood.
Another sits nearby, flurries of snow, ancient German pines, and flashes of summers spent riding and working with horses.
Nearby, a third globe reflects the dusty golden brown of scorched hills in shimmering heat, splashes of color and texture and the shade of venerable old oaks and walnuts.
It is the fourth that holds her attention now. Unlike the other three, there is movement still in this one: a silvery gray fog twists among giant redwoods, and a strand of golden beach sand twinkles against the deep blue of the Pacific.

The girl picks up the still living memory, cupping it protectively against her. Her cheeks are wet as she looks at it, and she is enveloped in a palpable cloud of nostalgia. Nearby, another globe stands twirling, empty, still forming.

"The Land of the Sainted Cross... I will miss it." She addresses nobody in particular, though at her first words Eddie appears preternaturally at her elbow. A cave forms inside the globe, then a twirling circle of fire, then a glimmer of moonlight on ocean waves appears, followed by the sun on hawk's wings, the dappling of bay leaves, spring jasmine and...

Underneath her clenched fingers the glass grows warm, then hot, then begins slightly to glow as the pressure of so many memories heats and tests the glass. A shimmer begins behind the girl, and it is not until Death's cold fingers are on her elbow that she opens her tight-shut eyes. Her hands are burning on the glass as Death looks silently on at her, but she cannot release them.

"Let go" Death whispers, grasping the girl's wrist. "It's over now."

All at once the girls hands unclench, and she drops the still hot globe, collapsing into a pile of sobbing skirts and bleeding hands before the shelf. Death nimbly catches the globe, shakes something gently from it, and sets it back in place on its stand.

Stooping, She places one cool white hand around the girl's reddened burnt ones, and places something inside them.

It is a redwood cone, small and dark and shriveled against her bleeding palm; no bigger than a thimble, but containing all the potential of its giant parent. It swells and greens as she watches it, the redness and burnt flesh of her hands healing underneath it. Death shoots her a significant look and vanishes.

Still sniffling, the girl walks through her palace to the Great Hall. The hall is silent, empty marble breathing softly the slow pace of the deities that reside there, but the tiny cone takes on an urgent golden glow in her hands. Her eyebrows rise, and she hurries out.

Outside in the garden she stoops, Calling a patch of bare red earth up from underneath the marble paving stones. The earth spills out in a wide circle around her then darkens with her call to Air and Water. Gently, she places the tiny cone within the circle's center and pushes both palms down over it in prayer. There is a rumble, and she turns and walks the few paces to the edge of the circle in the stones.

The tree towers above her by the time she reaches the edge of the circle. It is thick as a carriage, and the branches do not begin until fifteen feet up the red, scraggly-barked trunk. A soft sigh of fog appears around the lower branches, as if it was not so much the fog that grew redwoods, but the redwoods that grew fog. And who could really tell in the City anyway? She looks up at the twinkling of stars between the branches.

"You are my promise, you are my sentry, you are my reminder. I have left it, but I will not forget what I learned in your kingdom."

She takes a breath, inhaling the scent of redwood and remembering the forests she once haunted. And then she turns, and softly returns to her Palace.

The Curse

Mar. 22nd, 2006 12:10 am
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
She lies restively under her counterpane, as she has for some hours now, tossing and turning and watching the dance of the dimmed lights that passes for night in this dayless land of hers. Finally, she sits up in bed with a frown, struck by the sudden realization of the force of her disquiet and paranoia. Something is not right. She closes her eyes, and mentally goes seeking, upstairs and down through hall and passageway, looking for the source of the trouble. When she finally finds it she sighs resignedly, pulling herself out of bed and into a dressing gown to make the long trek to the Vault.

The Vault of Memories itself is a vast room lined with shelves and tables and display stands of every sort and description, with an unending wash of knick-knacks heaped, arranged, and scattered about. It looks as if a Victorian parlor's curio cabinet vomited its contents, and the contents of its relatives, friends, and acquaintances into the room, where they miraculously began sorting themselves. There is a sense of furtive movement to the mass, as new items Become, and shuffle themselves about; indeed, the subtle ebb and flow of items seen from the corner of an eye has unnerved the occasional visitor. Well, that and the constant sursurrus or memory that each thing makes, for each item is an icon, a reduction of a memory frozen in time, and to touch it is to re-live it. It is for this reason that the Vault is well sheilded, but it has happened before that whatever mighty protections exist cannot defeat the slim fingers of memory that reach out to touch their owner.

So it is no surprise to the girl that as she approaches the heavy door she witnesses a sickly yellow finger of evil retreating away from her, running now that it knows it's been found out. The jaundiced tracery slips through a minute crack between doorjamb and heavy rounded metal door, vanishing as if to hide. But as she opens the door, the girl knows exactly what is at the heart of her disquiet.

A mobile swings suspended from the center of the room, its myriad pendulums fashioned of bits of sea glass and river rock, irregular shapes sanded smooth and imbued with a single memory each and hung in a spiraling cone of silver wires. A single ribbon hangs at the center of the mobile, forming a still axis around which the other memories rotate. From this ribbon dangles a small silver ring formed of two hands holding a crowned heart, enveloped in that same sickly yellow glow.

"I knew it." She stamps her foot angrily. "I should have got rid of you ages ago."

From thin air she produces a black silken bag, and a pair of heavy shears. A quick snip, and the ring falls into the waiting insulation of the silk held under it, awaiting its proper doom. With it gone, the mobile loses some of its malevolent glow, but continues to swing and murmur to itself under a thin scum of yellow taint. The girl looks at it thoughtfully for a moment, then reaches out and...

Victoria says "hi". An impish purple speck of sea glass, worn smooth with retelling of that single funny, fateful moment.

You can always hide at my house. You can always eat my food. A light blue stone, the sound of falling rain and the soft embrace of fuzzy blankets. She smiles bitterly.

We don't have to. A palm-sized piece of light blue glass, handblown and full of bubbles. The smell of hot chlorinated water and crushed wet grass on a spring night, the moonlight washing over it all.

You know, I think it will make us stronger. A tiny fragment of the inner curl of a nautilus shell, flesh colored and containing the smell of tent nylon in the fall, the sensation of warm skin against skin.

It's closed... We'll have to stay the night on this side of the border and just keep going in the morning. A black stone, veined and traced with northern mud, filled with bitter misfortune, willing martyrdom, and a crushing anxiety, peppered with a fatalistic defeat. The crisp tang of fresh snow on a mountain pass assaults her and she gasps, remembering the book she finished on that long trip home.

This rose never dies, like my love for you. A tiny pewter pendant imbued with rose oil, long since gone stale and sour. The smile on his face at his "victory".

You can do it. I want you to. A charcoal grey stone, streaked with black and green lines of jealousy. The color under his eyes after he spent all night awake, the sense of being hunted and the subtle scent of laundry detergent and the Sunbeam's riding leathers.

Ticket for one, please. A small cold lump that sat in the pit of her stomach for weeks, condensed loneliness and isolation combined with bitterness and regret, salt tears leaving a faint crust about it.

You may not be ready for this, but I am. It's not working. A single black piece of glass, sharp as a scalpel and crackling with the pain and rage of that night. Her fingers come away bloody.

I only used a condom because I thought of you...


The bright red glass burns her hand as she brushes by it, and she snaps out of her reverie, turning away to resist the temptation to stick her hands back into the swirling, tinkling pieces of the mobile. The red welt quickly growing on the back of her hand reinforces that, and although she looks longingly at a few pieces, her resolve stands firm. Quickly now, before it can fade, she takes a boathook from a wall and remembers a canoe trip as a young girl while she pulls the mobile down from its hook. Thinking for a moment, she conjures a box with a tight lid and handles, and slowly lowers the mobile into it. The pendulums clatter now as if in pain as she sets them down, a desperate screaming as if they know what's coming. The lid goes on. The sickly taint is contained.

Slowly, slolwly, the girl picks up the box, gritting her teeth against the knowledge of what she must do, and quickly leaves the Vault. The stairs down into the Catacombs fly under her feet, and soon she is standing by the water's edge, listening to the gurgle of a mineral spring and the near-imperceptible sound of living rock. Before she can lose her nerve, she sets the box in the water, and gives it a shove, watching it float to the center of the slightly undulating pool. She picks up a rock, hefting it in her hand, and lets it fly, eyes closed. A splash. She may have missed the box entirely, but it sinks obediently out of sight; it is her Kingdom after all. Hardly a ripple is left on the surface of the black waters.

Eddie meets her at the top of the stairs, a sleeping draught offered in one spindly hand and a look of consternation on his pointed features.

"I won't need it. I believe I've found the problem, and taken care of it." Eddie opens his mouth to speak, but she continues. "And don't look at me like that. I don't need them, and if I ever do I know exactly where to find them. We are as strangers now."

She takes the black silk bag from a pocket in her dressing gown, and frowns at it as if to stare down her problems.
"Right now, I have more pressing things to attend to. It seems that the legacy of The First continues, and I will not have this cursed thing about me anymore."

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