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."